Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has framed Manhattan’s Far West Side as a business district on the verge, just waiting for the right infrastructure. But given New York’s ever-gloomier financial outlook, five proposals for a new avenue connecting that district with Times Square look like infrastructure waiting for a population.
On September 25, the Hudson Yards Development Corporation (HYDC) showed Community Board 4 presentations from five finalists for the design of a park around Hudson Boulevard. This newly mapped street, running west of 10th Avenue from 33rd to 42nd streets, sits directly north of the 26-acre Hudson Yards site, where the Related Companies intend to develop a mixed-use district.
Whatever impact a retreating Wall Street will have on Related’s project, the development team seems intent on making sure the area can grow one parcel at a time. And Hudson Park, as the new, four-acre public space is known, is central to that strategy.
Though the city maintains that it will build out the area up to 36th Street by 2013, the plans appear to encourage piecemeal development, as market conditions warrant. “The park and boulevard will break up the area’s 800-foot-long blocks, creating ideal development sites,” the HYDC said in a statement. “There will be increased light and views and high-profile addresses in what would otherwise be mid-block sites.”
Selected from a field of 18, most finalists have a hand in other transformative projects around town. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, which submitted a design with Toshiko Mori Architect, is designing Brooklyn Bridge Park. West 8, which proposed a scheme with Mathews Nielsen, is reinventing Governors Island. And Work AC, which partnered with landscape veterans Balmori Associates, remade the P.S. 1 courtyard as a farm this summer. The other teams—Gustafson Guthrie Nichol with Allied Works Architecture, and Hargreaves Associates with TEN Arquitectos—either made the shortlist for those projects or have consulted on Hudson Yards.
All the proposals heed the mayor’s call for infrastructure that can survive climate change. Work AC’s design, for instance, highlights the use of rainwater for irrigation, as well as bioremediation of gray water within the park. “In order to make the systems more visible,” firm principal Dan Wood told AN, “we propose a series of brightly painted tubes to carry the water above ground, that also can be bent to create furniture and playground equipment.”
Other designs also make use of green infrastructure. Hargreaves envisions a turf-lined pedestrian bridge offering space for lounging. West 8’s scheme shows linked park areas programmed with art installations and other uses. Van Valkenburgh Associates mound up a series of grassy knolls that seem to cantilever over the sidewalks. All the designs will tie into a 20-acre open space around Hudson Yards.
“In our minds, the density of use at Hudson Yards was similar to Union Square Park,” said Van Valkenburgh principal Matthew Urbanski. “The relationship between the paved areas and the green spaces are informed by the flow.”
Details about the proposals remain somewhat elusive, since the city’s Department of Design and Construction, which will help implement the streetscape, asked finalists not to describe their plans in any way that might lead politicians to pick a favorite before the selection date. And that, department spokesperson John Ryan told AN, will likely occur by the end of this year.