The Little Island in The Big Apple

A billionaire's gift to Manhattan

Nearly seven years and over $260 million later, the public park on New York’s West Side is now open to the public. The vision of Barry Diller to help beautify Manhattan’s Hudson River area is called Little Island (or sometimes Diller Island) and officially allowed visitors on May 21st, 2021. Its 2.7 acres slope up and down, stacked with beautiful flora and featuring a 687-seat amphitheater with sunset views. Foot traffic will be regulated to prevent the park from being overrun. There will be concerts, shows, exhibits and so on to lure people away from the city and on to this gem floating in the Hudson.

Little Island sits on a historic site for New York. Once Pier 54, this is where survivors of the Titanic were brought in 1912 and where the Lusitania set sail. Designed by Heatherwick Studio, the long-awaited project is the city’s newest major public space, showcasing a richly-planted piece of topography above the Hudson. The island is built on the pillars of the old pier and will connect to Manhattan’s Meatpacking District via a walkway. There are no dogs allowed on Little Island, except for service dogs, and no bicycles. No skateboards or scooters or loud music or outside alcohol. Beer, wine, and cocktails are all up for sale on site, along with pastries, snacks, and sandwiches. There are lots of dining tables set up on The Playground, or you can find your own spot somewhere to eat.

“The project began when we were asked to conceive of a sculptural structure to go on a design for a newly enlarged piece of the Hudson River Park promenade. The project was interesting, but we saw the opportunity to create a more engaging experience for New Yorkers and to build on the city’s heritage of inventing exciting new public spaces. Instead, we had the idea to make an entirely new type of pier as a lush rectangular garden island, connected to the land with generous gang-planks as bridges, aligned to the street grid of New York.” says Thomas Heatherwick, Founder of Heatherwick Studio, in Arch Daily.

While New York already has its fair share of parks and attractions it’s always good to keep in mind that Manhattan is basically only 2.3 miles wide from east to west and has to cram in roughly eight million people. One more place to go now that covid looks to be done with is considered a blessing. Jessica Bowers is a New Yorker who took the opportunity to check out the new place. “It was pretty cool to see New York from a completely different angle. And also, being over the water, it was very quiet. Something about being out there deadens the rumbling of the traffic going by, and that’s a rare thing to have in the middle of the city”

Barry Diller and his wife the designer Diane vion Furstenberg will pay for maintenance of the park for the next 20 years. Admission to the park is free.

All photos by Jessica Bowers

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