Little Island: New York Has a New Floating Park

10:39 am  |  01.06.2021

New York’s newest attraction is enthroned in the Hudson River: “Little Island”. The public park is slightly larger than a soccer field and is intended to become a green place to relax for New Yorkers – with the best view of the skyline.


The new park is located on the west coast of Manhattan, is around 10,000 square meters, and is accessible via sidewalks from 13th and 14th streets. In addition to meadows and hills, through which walking paths meander, all kinds of plants, and great views of the New York skyline, “Little Island” also has an amphitheater, in which events with around 700 spectators in the open air will be possible in the future.

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The authors of the project are Thomas Heatherwick and Signe Nielsen.

Heatherwick is an Englishman, contemporary design and architecture star. In New York, he built the Instagram hit, The Vessel observation deck and the Lantern House residential complex above the famous High Line promenade with its prominent bay windows.

Signe Nielsen is a landscape architect who has worked on a number of other park projects in New York. Including – the bold project of the Lowline underground park.

Through their efforts, a place has emerged that is bound to appear in the photos of all your friends after their next trip to New York.

The concrete island was designed by the British designer Thomas Heatherwick, whose design and architecture office had already planned and built the staircase “The Vessel”, which opened in 2019 in the Hudson Yards.

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In addition to flowers, trees, meadows, and views of the Manhattan skyline, the facility also offers space for open-air events.

The $ 260 million building was financed by media mogul Barry Diller, who had already financed the revitalization of the nearby, former elevated railway line, the High Line.

At the beginning of the planning for “Little Island” a few years ago costs of around 35 million dollars were expected, but several years of planning and construction time, as well as a cost explosion, drove the construction costs for the “floating island” up.


“Little Island” Now Adorns Pier 54

Where New York’s new island now rises out of the water on stilts, only the rotten pillars of the orphaned Pier 54 protruded from the Hudson River for years. The quay was once an important landing stage for ocean liners of the British shipping company “Cunard-White Star”. In 1912 the “Carpathia” docked here – with more than 700 rescued passengers of the sunken “Titanic” on board.

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Later the pier rusted, today only a rusty steel structure with the inscription “Cunard White Star” reminds of its historical importance.

The island park “Little Island” opened in New York.

Little Island looks very special from a distance, of course. When you visit it is mainly “just” a park, but a very beautiful one! If you walk here, you will find no less than 35 types of trees, 65 types of shrubs, and a few hundred other types of plants. It can rightly be called a green oasis in the Hudson. There are hiking trails that lead to the highest points on the island and offer beautiful views of Manhattan, New Jersey and the river around you. Don’t forget to look out for an arch that leads to the “secret garden”. This garden is full of all kinds of white flowers. Would you like to take a break? There are three grassy areas on Little Island that are great for sunbathing and picnicking.

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There are two stages in the park. There is a 700-seat amphitheater called The Amph for theater, music and dance performances. In the secret garden is a smaller theater called The Glade. All kinds of artists perform here, from bands to street musicians.

The construction of the new park island had dragged on for a few years and was even canceled completely in 2017. Activists protested out of concern for the environment and aesthetic concerns. Only after mediation by the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo did Barry Diller make one last attempt. The stamina paid off: when it opened on May 21, 2021, the park received mostly rave reviews.

Little Island is on the Hudson River Greenway, in a place where only cyclists, walkers, and skaters used to pass. The place is not a tourist hotspot, so there is not so much going on in the immediate area. The park gives this area a nice new look. There are a number of other attractions nearby that combine well with a visit to Little Island. The atmospheric Meatpacking District is close by, as is the Whitney Museum. If you’d like to trade the glass and concrete of Midtown for trees and plants a little longer, start with a stroll on the High Line, then settle in on one of Little Island’s lawns.

If you’re exploring the local area and attractions around Little Island, this park is the perfect place to rest. You can grab a fresh lunch at nearby Chelsea Market and then take it to the park for a picnic. On nice days you can enjoy the sun on one of the lawns and when it is very hot the fresh breeze from the river offers cooling.

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Heatherwick’s other public project, The Vessel, which was a 46-meter observation deck in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards, was closed in January 2021. The decision was made after a young man jumped off the site and died, which was the third suicide at this site since the opening of The Vessel in 2019.

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The design team took extra precautions in Little Island by spending $ 6 million on a fencing system and hiring security to be on duty around the clock at the park.

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