Volume 17 • Issue 19 | October 01 - 07, 2004

Downtown Express photos by Jennifer Weisbord

Laura Solano, one of Teardrop Park’s architects, with her 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Isabel Barner.

Teardrop Park brings joy to Downtown residents

By Josh Rogers

Lucas slid down the long slide to play in some sand, ran down the hill, climbed a rock or two, but he did not mention the bluestone wall or the months of painstaking work it took figuring out how to position the quarry rocks.
Cut him some slack – he’s only two and he was too busy being one of the first children to enjoy Teardrop Park, which opened Thursday in Battery Park City.

“It’s awesome,” said Debra Murrow, 38, Lucas’ mother. “Sand and water – you can’t go wrong with kids.”

It took Bruce O’Brien and seven of his workers six months to construct the 300-ton wall in Alcove, N.Y. Rocks were piled on top of each other against a concrete wall that O’Brien Stoneworks constructed for the project. Workers had to trim and shape the rocks so they would balance. It took them six months to build the wall up in Alcove. Then they numbered each one, diagrammed how they were positioned and took them down so the wall could be rebuilt in Battery Park City.

“I couldn’t figure out how to do it any other way,” O’Brien, 56, said on the park’s opening day. He has been working with stones for 40 years and he said he nevertheless learned a great deal constructing the wall. The stones are connected with mortar and are anchored as well.

O’Brien loved the fact that the rocks were not smoothed over. “You don’t see many projects where you can see the stone the way it comes out of the ground,” he said.

Many older than Lucas were also enthusiastic about the wall.

“It’s perfect,” said Michael Wolf, who has lived in Battery Park City for 22 years. “It’s stunning,” added his wife, Marti Cohen-Wolf.

“Now we have a reason to wait for it to get freezing,” Michael Wolf added. Water recycled from the adjacent Solaire apartment building drips down the wall and it will freeze in the winter.

Landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, the park’s main architect, said the wall’s icing effect should be visible the first morning after a full night of freezing temperatures.

Tim Carey, president and C.E.O. of the Battery Park City Authority, had the idea several years ago to build a park that gives children a sense of the Catskills — “a glen that would have a sweeping bluestone wall that will weep in summer and turn to ice in the winter,” he said opening day, Sept. 30.

The two-acre, $17-million park also includes about 40 varieties of trees, shrubs and perennials. It is roughly in the shape of a teardrop and the name was picked prior to 9/11; the park is located two blocks from the World Trade Center site, on River Terrace between Warren and Murray Sts.

Van Valkenburgh was one of the jurors who picked the Reflecting Absence W.T.C. memorial design.

He said designing a park in Lower Manhattan helped him realize some of the things that needed to be included in the memorial.

He was committed to “picking a solution that works at street level, so you get more trees and open space for Lower Manhattan.”

Before selecting Reflecting Absence, the jurors asked the memorial designer, Michael Arad, to add a landscape architect, Peter Walker, who added groves of trees to the memorial plaza.

Van Valkenburgh said the developer and architect of the Solaire agreed to reduce the size of the rooftop equipment by six inches, which enables the park’s north lawn to get exactly enough sunlight – four hours – to grow grass that is free of pesticides and insecticides. The Solaire and Teardrop both meet the Battery Park City Authority’s new environmentally friendly requirements, as will the two apartment buildings being built on the park’s corners.

Murrow, Lucas’ mother, who lives a block away from the park said it will likely be noisy in the immediate future, but it was nothing to complain about. “If you can make it through 9/11 you can make it through construction,” she said.

At least one element of the park is still to come — Carey’s pet project, almost literally speaking. About 20 salamanders will be placed in the park for children to discover. He assured visitors they were still in the plan: “Oh, they’re coming.”


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