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A Floating Park on Chelsea’s Pier 55

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The Chelsea Piers have a rich history in New York, most notably it is where the Titanic was meant to arrive on April 16, 1912, but only 675 out of the 2,200 were rescued and made it to the piers. In 1907, the RMS Lusitania and RMS Mauretania, the famous luxury ocean liners, docked at the piers before they were completed in 1910 by Warren and Wetmore architects, who also designed Grand Central Terminal. Over the next 50 years the piers were used as a main ship terminal for New Yorkers, immigrants, and soldiers during both World War I and II. However, later in the 1960s, the piers were made obsolete.[1] Today the Chelsea Piers have been repurposed for public and recreational use, and developers are continuing to invest in their transformation.

The Hudson River Park Trust and Barry Diller, philanthropist and businessman, selected international designer, Thomas Heatherwick, to create the floating park on Pier 55. The park, which will be managed by the Hudson River Park Trust, is “set to revitalize a section of the waterfront that has been left abandoned for decades.”[2] The park will be 11,000 square meters (roughly 11,8400 square feet) and will transform the current structural remains of the old pier into a floating park with different elevation levels. Heatherwick Studio explains that the:

“idea evolved to take new concrete piles that would be needed and to continue them out of the water, extending skyward to raise up section of a green landscape … Raising the new piece of park up into the air could not only counteract the windswept quality of the big adjacent toad but also work well with the need for outdoor theatre and performance spaces, as raked seating could be shaped into the landscape to give the audience better views.”[3]

The park will feature over one hundred diverse plants, an outdoor theatre that will sit 700 people, another performance space for 200, and an event space for 3,500 people.[4] The cost of the project is estimated at $250 million, which is $215 million more than originally planned. The planning and execution of the new development has come across multiple hurdles from financing, construction and engineering problems, to ensuring adequate protection for the marine wildlife.[5] However, despite the various problems, construction is resuming and Pier 55 is expected to be complete by 2020.

One of the major goals for the Hudson River Park Trust is to “operate and maintain the park at a high level so that it remains a community asset and economic generator”.[6] Transforming this abandoned space will surpass this goal, while also “[returning the] piers to the prominence they enjoyed during the early 20th Century”.[7]


[1] Chelsea Piers New York. “Chelsea Piers History 101.” Chelsea Piers New York. Available at: https://www.chelseapiers.com/company/history/. Accessed on Sept. 5, 2018.

[2] Young, M. (Aug. 30, 2018) “Thomas Heatherwick’s Iconic Pier 55 Park Begins to Rise Above the Hudson River in Chelsea.” YIMBY New York. Available at: https://newyorkyimby.com/2018/08/thomas-heatherwicks-iconic-pier-55-park-begins-to-rise-above-the-hudson-river-in-chelsea.html. Accessed on Sept. 5, 2018.  

[3] Heatherwick Studio. “Pier 55.” Heatherwick Studio. Available at: http://www.heatherwick.com/projects/spaces/pier55/. Accessed on Sept. 5, 2018.

[4] Ib.

[5] Op. Cit. n2.

[6] Hudson River Park Trust. “About Us.” Hudson River Park Trust. Available at: https://hudsonriverpark.org/about-us/hrpt. Accessed on Sept. 5, 2018.

[7] Op. Cit. n1.

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