Little Island opened at Pier 55 at Hudson River Park on May 21 this spring and has emerged as a popular picnic and hangout hot spot. With most parks in New York City being surrounded by giant concrete skyscrapers and the bustling of honking taxis and impatient drivers, Little Island strives to provide an open-air oasis and a much-needed escape from the claustrophobic walls of quarantine.
“It was our idea to make [Little Island] disconnected from the main Manhattan island, this small island which would have these bridges as links across to it,” said Thomas Heatherwick, founder of Heatherwick Studios, a multi-award winning architecture studio and the design director of Little Island. “The feeling of going across to an island is something that gives you permission to be different and to feel something different and for different things to happen.”
The popular park is lifted above the Hudson River at Pier 55 by concrete plates and is home to 2.4 acres of explorable land and over 350 different species of plants. The park features interactive elements such as a hypnotic, spinning black and white spiral, a metal piano, and a musical instrument playing when you step on the metal plates built into the ground.
Little Island’s popularity forced the park to begin an entrance reservation system. The park is open seven days a week and completely open to the public from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. without a timed entrance reservation. After 12, the park requires that everyone entering must already have a reservation. Popular times include the evening hours, packed with visitors with cameras ready to capture the orange and pink sky surrounding the lifted island.
Tables and chairs are spread out next to three food trucks and a bar serving sandwiches, salads, snacks, fried food, hot dogs, and alcoholic beverages at the park’s center. Stemming from the center, pathways leading to the edges of the island wind up and down different levels of the concrete plates. The back of the island is home to a 687-seat amphitheater, known as The Amph. Upcoming performances include “Island Music Weekend,” “Little Island Storytelling Festival,” and “Little Island Dance Festival.”
Little Island is doing more than just providing an escape. It is also partnering with schools and communities to provide internship and fellowship opportunities. According to the Little Island website, the Little Island Internship Program employs college students with paid on-the-job training and offers opportunities to strengthen their leadership and communication skills.
Little Island is located on Pier55 in Hudson River Park @ West 13th Street and is open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day.
“The feeling of going across to an island is something that gives you permission to be different and to feel something different and for different things to happen.” Thomas Heatherwick