What’s New in Battery Park

After making my way through Greenwich South—or Trinityville, and I’m think of calling it (too many people don’t know how to say “Greenwich”)—I headed to Battery Park. More specifically, I beelined to the New Amsterdam Plein & Pavilion, due to open in early May near the Whitehall Ferry Terminal.

“Plein” is sort of like “plaza” in Dutch, and the plan for this area is “a 5,000 square-foot, carefully programmed space located within The Battery’s Peter Minuit Plaza,” according to the Battery Conservancy‘s website, calling it an “‘outdoor living room’ for spontaneous and scheduled activities, public markets, seating and shade.” It’s designed by Dutch architect Ben van Berkel of UNStudio.

The most striking aspect at this point—and probably always—is the pavilion, a pinwheel-shaped building. Still under construction, it’s going to be pretty cool looking, as you can see from the photos below. The pavilion will function as an information booth (run by the Downtown Alliance) and a snack bar (the concession was awarded to Merchants Hospitality). At night, “the pavilion will be equipped with an electronic facade LED system that allows for a constantly changing light show.” Sounds like gilding the lily, but I’ll wait to see it before disparaging it.

There was also interesting stuff beyond the building. Reader Hudson River had emailed me about a scale-model map of lower Manhattan circa 1660: “It’s adorable—you can see the wall on Wall Street and the canal that was Broad Street, and cute little buildings, including the fort that was where the National Museum of the American Indian is now, complete with tiny cannons on it. Both times I’ve stopped there I have had discussions with other passersby who are equally excited about it. There are also some paving stones with quotes from The Island at the Center of the World.” (That’s the wonderful book by Russell Shorto about how New York City should thank the Dutch for not ending up like Boston.) The stones are great, but as Hudson River says, it’s the bronze map that’s attention-getting. The last photo is by Hudson River. Finally, the Conservancy website promises UNStudio-designed seating and tables, and I assumed the firm was responsible for a most groovy Y-shaped bench that splits to go around some trees, but the Conservancy says the bench is by the Italian company Magis. From this angle it’s very Thierry Mugler. Meanwhile, deeper in the park…. “I know you said you were excited about the carousel,” wrote Hudson River. “I think it’s a cool idea, but do you know they’re cutting down trees there?” (She sent a photo like the one below.) “You can see two fresh-cut ones and an old one in the foreground (this is the area cleared for the carousel). Then I noticed some people putting up a sign about the carousel and started to talk to them about the trees. A guy named Steve from the Conservancy offered to show me what they were doing; claimed the stump in the foreground was from a tree that was damaged and that they hadn’t removed any trees and were going to plant hundreds more. Never said anything about the two other stumps and I forgot to follow up, having a very short attention span lately.” Me too! “Steve says he’s a treehugger (I had admitted to not being one), and he has documented all of the trees there and he claims they’re not being removed. I like the carousel but not sure I like it in this spot; it’s such a beautiful historic space and I don’t like to see it all tarted up like a theme park.” Pat Kirshner, the Conservancy’s director of operations and planning, told me on the phone that, yes, two trees had to be cut down to make room for the carousel. “We would never cut down a tree without carefully considering it and getting Parks Department approval,” she said. What’s more, when they replant the perimeter, they’ll have 140 new trees.

4 Comments

  1. For 2-3 years now there’s been a big billboard-type sign at the edge of the meadow advertising the carousel. It looks like it will be really pretty, but I’d begun to think it was just another project that had lost its funding until I saw the 3 tree stumps in the space. Such a pity! While it will be great to have 140 new baby trees in the park, nothing can replace the huge, old trees that they removed. Whatever they do, I hope they will pick up the pace. This park and the area around it have been under construction for years!

  2. Can you indicate more precisely where these things are happening? We are away for the year and are curious.

  3. great – thanks. continue to love the site. really: great job.