New York Times: As you move into the park from Old Fulton Street, an asphalt pathway (which will eventually be surfaced in a powdery gray gravel) splits to wrap around a large grass-covered hill before converging again at the waterfront. Another path leads up to the crest of the hill before cascading down a series of big granite stairs on the other side. The stairs, recycled from slabs of stone that once clad the Willis Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River, look out on a postcard view of the densely packed towers of Lower Manhattan. Lush lawns, places to sprawl out and relax, spread out on either side.
The softness of this landscape is played off against a number of small wild gardens peppered with sweet-gum trees and dogwood shrubs. The trees are tightly packed together so they will create what Mr. Van Valkenburgh calls a “phototropic effect,” their trunks splaying outward as they grow. A series of small water pools, salt marshes and tidal coves, framed by piles of granite rocks, give a toughness to the water’s edge as the park extends to the south. The contrast between highly manicured and wildly unruly landscapes is not just decorative. Mr. Van Valkenburgh said it was partly inspired by a 1973 essay on Central Park by the land artist Robert Smithson, which explored the ways civic and pastoral landscapes interweave. It is also a reflection of newer environmental concerns. The soft curves of the hills, for example, are shaped to direct rainwater into an underground drainage system, where it is stored in giant cisterns and used to irrigate the site.
We visited the park yesterday and it is spectacular. Watch architect Michael Van Valkenburgh’s virtual tour of the park now.