New York’s newest free public park, the $260 million Little Island, largely funded by The Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation, has opened. With more than 350 species of flowers, trees and shrubs, New Yorkers and visitors now have a unique green space, offering new venues for cultural events, and a new intimacy with the Hudson River panorama. The park will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m., with timed reservations required from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. All admission is free.
First announced in 2014, the 2.4 acre park rests on 132 massive concrete tulips, constructed to keep the island from being damaged by high waves. The exterior is supported by a structure made up of 280 concrete piles as deep as 200 ft below the water, which emerge from in between the leftover wood piles of Pier 54 that were largely preserved to maintain habitats for aquatic life, designed by the Thomas Heatherwick studio of Hudson Yards Vessel fame. Half of the piles support the tulips, which bear the weight of the surface structure of the Park; the other pilings support the level that is below the public park area, which contains spaces for the performing artists, food storage and engineering infrastructure.
Little Island includes a 687-seat amphitheater, a central plaza with seating and serving food and beverages, an intimate stage and lawn space, dazzling views of the park, New York City, and the Hudson River.
The landscape designer, Signe Nielsen of MNLA, provided an inspiring experience as visitors walk across the park. Seasonal plantings are varied to provide flowing trees and shrubs, fall foliage and evergreens. 66,000 bulbs and 114 trees have been planted, some of which will grow to 60 feet tall.
Little Island has its own independent arts programming starting in June. Free events for visitors of all ages will foster and support New York City-based artists and performers, including four artists-in-residence — Ayodele Casel, Tina Landau, Michael McElroy and PigPen Theatre Co. under the aegis of producer Julia Kraus.
The majority of events will be free, and ticketed events will be primarily free or low-cost. Six days a week there will be performance and educational programming offering music, dance, circus, spoken word, and more; look for a live-performance return of American Ballet Theatre. Also offered will be free educational programming six days a week, including creative workshops for all ages.
Food and beverage offerings, by Savory Hospitality, are responsibly sourced and support small local businesses of all five New York City boroughs. Three stalls and ample seating and shade will provide sustenance from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily, including wine, beer, and wine- or beer-based cocktails.
Little Island’s main entrance is located at West 13th Street and the Hudson River, at Pier 55. Visitors can arrange a time to visit online at www.LittleIsland.org or in person at the park entrance.