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New waterfront park to celebrate New York maritime history.

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Riverside South Planning Corporation board member and Municipal Art Society president Kent Barwick, community leaders and residents gathered to celebrate the opening of Phase III of Riverside Park South, the 27.5-acre waterfront park located on the site of a former rail yard which, upon its completion, will connect Riverside Park to the north with Hudson River Park to the south. The addition of three-acre Phase III brings Riverside Park South past the halfway point, with 14 acres completed to date.

"With Phase III complete and Phase IV soon to begin, we are tantalizingly close to the completion of what was once just a dream--27.5 new acres of beautiful waterfront parkland on the West Side of Manhattan," said Commissioner Benepe. "We are grateful to the Riverside South Planning Corporation and to the community for helping us bring this plan to fruition."

Commissioner Benepe sounded a steam train whistle and the Carnival Cruise Lines Legend and the Radisson Seven Seas Cruises Seven Seas Navigator, two cruise ships in port at New York's Passenger Ship Terminal, responded by sounding their horns to commemorate the opening. The commissioner also unveiled the plans for the fourth and final phase of the park, which will include the installation of a restored 1940's Alco S-1 switcher locomotive for children and adults to enjoy. The locomotive is being donated to Riverside Park South by the New York Cross Harbor Railroad of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. This fourth phase of the waterfront section of the park is slated to begin in late 2006. Other park work beginning soon includes the restoration of the historic W. 69th Street transfer bridge into a public pier and ferry landing, and the construction of the Maritime Cafe on the 70th Street plaza in front of Pier I.

Celebrated landscape architect Thomas Balsley continues and expands the Riverside Park design language with historic light poles and World's Fair benches, providing il-World's Fair benches, providing illumination and seating along the main public walkway, and creating a visual border along the West Side greenway. As in Phases I and II, the western edge of the park has a contemporary design, with a curving wooden boardwalk and stainless steel rails, lighting and seating.

Thomas Balsley Associates' Michael Koontz acted as project manager for the third phase, which runs from 65th Street south to the cove area at 62nd Street and features a number of railroad-themed elements inspired by the history of this waterfront site. Riverside Park South is located on the site of the former New York Central Railroad 60th Street Yard. The rail yard, which operated from the 1850's until the early 1970's, was known as the "Lifeline of the City" because much of New York's milk, grain and vegetables were shipped to the yard's piers by barge from the railheads in New Jersey or by rail from the north.

On the grand public terrace, which marks the western extension of 64th Street, large granite seating slabs trace the old pier and rail car alignments. Rail company logos, including B&O and Penn Central, are carved into the sides of the slabs, imitating the boxcars of the historic rail lines which were unloaded in the yard. In the river west of this terrace are the remains of the former Pier D, which was used to offload cargo before it was destroyed by fire in 1971. Part of the twisted steel structure has been left in place as a memento of the yard's maritime industrial history.

Floating above the public terrace is a folded line of metal shade panels that frame the expansive views across to New Jersey. The scale, design and material of these structures suggest the earlier shed buildings and trestle structures that populated the rail yard and piers. The railroad history of the site is also playfully re-created in a children's area, located near the 68th Street entrance to the park.

The river's edge in Phase III of Riverside Park South was engineered to foster diverse ecologies and habitats. A riprap design creates a softer edge, connecting the large expanses of grass, open lawns, terraces, groves and overlooks. This, along with the lower elevations of the boardwalks, allows park visitors to view the river without barriers and even to dangle their feet in the water.

An unusual timber "Solstice" bench is located on an elevated promontory at the western extension of 63rd Street - the original edge of Pier B. An opening in the center of the bench casts a shadow tracking the major solstice times which are etched into the pavement below.

Riverside Park South is a public/private partnership between the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, the Riverside South Planning Corporation and Riverside South developer Hudson Waterfront Associates. Phase HI of Riverside Park South was constructed by Hudson Waterfront Associates at a cost of $8.5 million and is being deeded at no cost to the City of New York as part of the requirements of the city's 1992 approval of Riverside South. The Riverside South developer is required to spend over $62 million on park construction, and the park is expected to be completed within the next decade as construction of Riverside South is finished. The park is designed to accommodate a possible future relocation of the elevated Miller Highway between West 59th and 72nd Street into a tunnel under the eastern edge of the park.
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Title Annotation:New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Aug 24, 2005
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