Manhattan itself is, in fact, a little island in New York. Now, though, there’s an even more island-y island floating in the Hudson just off W 14th St. Dubbed Little Island @ Pier 55 in New York, this water-bound public park had its opening date this past May, just in time for summer 2021. So take your retreat from city life these coming months by stepping into the Hudson and onto Manhattan’s Pier 55.
How did Little Island in New York come to be?
Little Island @ Pier 55 is the brainchild of philanthropist Barry Diller. Since 2013, Diller has been working with Hudson River Park Trust in order to “repair and reactivate” the then defunct Pier 54. Instead of simply rebuilding this space, which had been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, Diller was determined to create an entirely new park for New Yorkers to enjoy in that space. Similar to New York’s High Line, Little Island was conceived to be an intersection of nature and art.
Why does it look like that?
Good question. Little Island park has an avant-garde, aerodynamic kind of look. It was actually designed by an architectural team based in London, the Heatherwick Studio. This studio is responsible for aesthetically futuristic projects in cities all over the world, from Hong Kong to Capetown to New York to Masdar.
For Little Island in New York, Heatherwick Studio took inspiration from the remains of old piers in the Hudson, their remains consisting of wooden beams sticking up vertically from the water, but holding nothing up. The founder of the studio, Thomas Heatherwick, says that this idea “evolved to take the new concrete piles that would be needed to connect to the granite at the base of the river, and to then continue them out of the water, extending skyward to raise sections of a generous green landscape with rich horticulture.”
What to do when you visit Little Island @ Pier 55
What isn’t there to do here? Clocking in at almost two-and-a-half acres, New York’s Little Island is a park worth hours of exploration. With a giant playground for younger visitors, an amphitheater, many overlooks, winding paths and a huge lawn (perfect for picnics), park goers of all ages are welcome.
Additionally, Little Island will be home to two festivals this summer: the Little Island Storytelling Festival and the Little Island Dance Festival. Both of these events have free performances as well as ticketed shows. Along with these festivals, other events, talks, performances and themed evenings are on almost every day. Check out their events calendar to see what’s on when you’re in the area.
You don’t even have to get off the island for a bite, as there’s food available for purchase. Little Island has partnered with local vendors, so you can get a taste of New York while on a completely different island.
Among their current partners, the park is working with The Hungry Gnome, Baldor Food and La Newyorkina. Alcoholic beverages, like wines and locally brewed beers, are also available for purchase. Little Island keeps an updated menu, where you can even find many vegan and gluten-free options. Yes, there is avocado toast.
What to know before your visit
Although Little Island is a public park (meaning it’s free to enter), you may want to bring some extra cash for a cocktail or a snack. However, you can absolutely enjoy yourself without spending a dime. Currently, Little Island is open all day from 6 -1 a.m.
For the sake of COVID-19 safety protocols, park staff are limiting how many visitors can be in the park at one time from noon until the park closes. Therefore, afternoon and evening visitors are encouraged to register for a timed entry reservation. Just choose the date and the time you anticipate arriving online before your trip. Although Little Island requires tickets after 12, it is still completely free to enter. Currently, social distancing protocols are also in effect.
Off W 14th St, visitors are encouraged to arrive via public transportation. It is accessible via subway, bus, bike and car, with directions for all transportation options available on the website. This floating park is also visible from the NYC High Line. So, you can, of course, stop there and enjoy the views of New Jersey while on your railroad walk.
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