Hudson River Park’s Little Island opens tomorrow

I can’t think of a better a moment to celebrate the emergence of a new Westside park than now, in the spring, after the crummiest of years, and as we finally reemerge from our long, fitful sleep.

Hudson River Park’s Little Island — standing in place of what was once Pier 54 at the base of 13th Street — opens to the public tomorrow morning. And it’s awesome. I’ll get the particulars out of the way:

  • hours are 6a to 1a
  • timed tickets required from noon to 8a till Sept. 30 available here
  • performances start on June 14
  • capacity at all times limited to 800 for now
  • food & drink (including beer and wine) available from trucks on the pier

As a Hudson River Park Trust board member, I am absolutely biased. But no doubt this is one of the most exciting arrivals to the Westside since Governor’s Island was gifted to the city two decades ago (I said this for Pier 26 too, of course). I know it’s not exactly our neck of the woods, but it is a 15-minute bike/30-minute walk upstream and an absolute destination for every visitor you will (start to) have for the next couple years. And like Pier 26, there are a dozen ways to use this park: hang out, see theater, entertain the kids, catch some views, lie on the lawns.

It’s also a killer spot for a breakfast meeting, as my friend Henley noted yesterday when we first saw the café tables on the open plaza. But it is most enchanting at night.

The thanks go to the Trust of course, specifically Tribecan Madelyn Wils, for having the vision to think outside the rectangle, and for bringing in Barry Diller, who gets the second biggest thanks for his thoughtful creativity and for footing the bill of $260 million (and whose non-profit created just for the pier will maintain and program it with arts performances for the next decade). Diller hired Thomas Heatherwick, the British architect who also brought us the Vessel at Hudson Yards (I know). And last but not least, as you will understand when you get to the park, a massive thanks goes to Tribeca’s own Signe Nielsen, whose firm Mathews Nielsen created the lush, flowering and clever landscape.

(The Trust also had to, for years, battle a lawsuit to fight the pier by the City Club and others, and to that crew I give no thanks at all.)

Diller named it Little Island, since it’s a hilly rectangle connected to the bulkhead by two long piers. It’s supported by concrete piles on top of which are the pods that serve as the base of the park, and give it depth for plantings. (Trees that size don’t often appear in brand new pier parks, and they are already providing shade.) When you are on the pier you don’t really sense the pods until you roll around a corner and catch a view of their massive bulk rising from below. But the view of the pier from afar is pure sculpture.

Since it was built as an arts destination, there are three performances spaces: the primary is the Amph, the gorgeous wood amphitheater on the western edge. (You can’t see it unless you walk to the far side of the park.) Then there’s a miniature stage for smaller performances in what they are calling The Glade on the southern edge (it will also host daily art programs at 11a for kids) and the plaza will also be programmed occasionally. There are already four artists-in-residence, and executive director Trish Santini promised that once the programming gets started, there will be impromptu performances like the ones we saw yesterday to provide “surprise and delight.”

The island has a capacity of 2000, but to keep things manageable and comfortable in the time of covid, they are limiting the crowd to 800. I take issue with this — the last thing any of us need right now is to be turned away at a public park — but we will see how that goes.

What else? There are three significant overlooks, one of which is a perch 60 feet over the river that gives a spectacular view of downtown. The eastern most overlook faces the Standard Hotel. And of course the most radical and fun feature: Diller licensed the entire park for liquor, so you can actually sit or stroll in the park, refreshment in hand.

That simple thing went a long way for me toward bringing back the joy of living in this city.

Oh, and don’t miss the bathrooms.



  1. Cannot wait to visit this weekend. I understand your concern about turning people away from a public park. But I for one would have been hesitant to visit in the early days due to crowds – pandemic or not. So I was thrilled that they had established a time ticket system.

  2. I honestly didn’t know anything about this till i read the piece on it in the NYTimes this morning. The details seem very beautiful done, creative, and fun.

  3. And, indeed exciting you’re involved in this fabulous development.

  4. ‘if you build it they will come!’ aptly applies to this creative and exciting new green space for NYC…..only in New York!!

  5. Looks great! Very green and positive and optimistic. Love the little amphitheatre also. Hope to take in some great performances there.

  6. Got tickets for next week. Are Dogs allowed?

  7. Ok, i just drove past it in cab downtown on west side highway and it looked incredible and filled with people.

  8. Watch this being built over the last year on our “pandemic” walks. This is so exciting.
    Big thanks to all involved!

  9. i literally wandered in yesterday morning around 9am at that point no ticket needed.
    as i posted on my own Social, i am so enamored of this amazing little piece of heaven- right nearby in our own side yard!
    hats off to all the players: Barry Diller, Diane VonFurstenburg, Hudson River Park Trust( Madelyn Wils) and our own Signe Nielsen.
    this is truly a wonder.

  10. Went today with a timed ticket and this is really something!! What an addition to the waterfront!! It has been put together really well and provides a lovely place to sit and relax or enjoy the view. There are a couple of food carts which properly fit in to the landscape. The amphitheater will be a must go to place for performances and the way tickets will be distributed is very fair. It holds about 850. I just hope that people respect it and do not damage the beautiful wooden benches. I probably would have chosen a less light color for the tiles around the eating area as I can see them becoming stained as people drop their food and drinks there. Just today there was a worker scrubbing the tiles. The trees and plantings are really well done and some areas of grass are open to the public for a while and then allowed to rest for a few days, which is sensible. This is going to be a big hit.

  11. Went with a friend who had an extra timed ticket. It’s spectacular even on an overcast day. We downtown New Yorkers are very very lucky so close by to enjoy. Very thoughtful touch: walkway goes all the way to very top: no stairs for anyone in a wheelchair or with special needs. Kudos to all.