Riverside Park South
In the 17th century the Riverside Park area was called “Bloemendal,” Dutch for “vale of flowers.” Its rolling topography and river views attracted country estates and farms. The countryside changed to bustling neighborhood after the Civil War (1861-1865), and the construction of the Interborough Rapid Transit subway line in 1902 attracted a surge of residential buildings.
Beginning in October 1851, steam rail service by the Hudson River Railroad followed the shoreline of the Hudson River, connecting to the Bronx and taking passengers as far north as Rensselaer in upstate New York. In 1869, Cornelius Vanderbilt merged the New York Central Railroad with the Hudson River Railroad to form the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. This piece of land was acquired to serve as the New York Central Railroad yard; it was the primary departure, receiving, and classification area for the sole all-freight line on the island of Manhattan. Gantry ramps permitted boxcars to be rolled on and off barges that traversed the Hudson River. In 1939, this yard was one of the two largest privately owned properties in the City of New York. In 1968, the New York Central Railroad merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad (founded in 1863); two years later, though, in 1970, the new Penn Central Railroad declared bankruptcy.
Developers had been eyeing the property since at least 1961; Edward Swayduck, then president of Local 1 of the Amalgamated Lithographers of America, envisioned “Litho City,” intended to be a “self-contained urban community.” His plan never materialized, and in 1984, Donald Trump bought the rights to the property. His initial proposals for “Lincoln West” and “Television City,” including the world’s tallest building, were offered, but never came to fruition. Opposition by community groups and elected officials, as well as economic conditions, prevented the construction of these projects.
In 1991, six non-profit civic groups--the Regional Plan Association, the Municipal Art Society, The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Parks Council, Riverside Park Fund, and Westpride, working with elected officials and city agencies, offered an alternative plan. It reduced the size of the development, proposed moving the elevated highway under a new Riverside Boulevard, and created a dramatic sweep of waterfront park. In 1992, Riverside South was approved by the city on the condition that the developer, Hudson Waterfront Associates, would pay for the creation of a 21.5-acre park and fund its maintenance in perpetuity. Sixteen buildings are scheduled to be erected, and the land along the Hudson River waterfront deeded to the City of New York. Plans to relocate the elevated highway were put on hold in response to concerns by elected officials.
Phase I includes the erection of three buildings and a southern extension of Riverside Park, stretching from 68th street to 72nd street. Phases II through VII will follow as more buildings are erected, extending Riverside Park to 59th Street. This will connect Hudson River Park to Riverside Park, joining the two bike paths to create a greenway from the Battery to 125th Street, part of the Hudson River Valley Greenway that will eventually stretch from Battery Park, Manhattan to Battery Park in Watervliet, in upstate New York.
The park, designed by Thomas Balsley Associates and funded by Hudson Waterfront Associates, retains the industrial flavor of the railroad yard. Angular paths, created out of the old concrete relieving platforms, evoke the old railroad tracks. Abandoned ramps and piers, as well as a rusting gantry, remain as a remembrance of times and technologies past. Among the collapsing structures, an ecosystem flourishes; weeds and wildflowers grow through the wooden planks of dilapidated piers, crickets chirp, birds nest, and mallards and geese float about. On the shoreline, the elevated highway, a giant snakelike pergola, shades arcs of benches and seashore grasses.
A 715-foot long recreational pier, built atop the remains of the original wooden shipping Pier I, stretches out into the Hudson. Standing on the new pier in a brisk breeze, watching the current pass or the sun set, may inspire daydreams of river travel and the busy working waterfront of yore.
Directions to Riverside Park
Know Before You Go
NYC Parks has removed slides in this park due to a manufacturer recall. The manufacture is currently working on an improved design and redesigned slides will be installed as soon as possible.
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- NYC Parks Issues Request For Proposals For Outdoor Café At The 79Th Street Rotunda In Riverside Park