Field Trip: Pier 76 in Hudson River Park

You scofflaws with wheels no doubt fondly remember the tow pound at Pier 76 — a hulking steel and concrete pier shed behind the Javits Center. It’s now the latest section to be added to Hudson River Park, extending out 600 feet into the river.

If you are thinking “Little Island,” erase those thoughts. Where that is lavish, fanciful and extravagant in every way, this is none of those things. Instead it is scrappy, spare and (relatively) low budget — but really cool in its own right. It is also huge: 5.6 acres and almost as wide as it is long. The project cost the state $20 million for environmental abatement (it was filled with asbestos), repaving and installation of railings and lighting. It opened last night as one of the sites for the Tribeca Film Festival.

It’s best (and really only) feature is the steel skeleton of the pier shed, which was left as a cost-saving measure but in fact makes the space a lot more interesting than if it was just an asphalt slab. (Unfortunately they painted it in NY state colors, which makes it look a bit like…a parking garage.) There are benches scattered about but otherwise it is literally a blank slate for our amusement (it’s safe to say that the stilt walkers and acrobats will not be there every time) and that’s what’s exciting about it. No program! Open space! River breezes! Take your jump rope or rollerblades and definitely a snack — there’s not much nearby in the way of conveniences.

To make a day of it, there’s the North River Lobster Co. right next door — I have never dared, but it gets an A+ for views (report back). Or it’s a short walk to Hudson Yards, where there’s the usual chains (Shake Shack and Sweetgreen but also Bluestone Lane and Blue Bottle Coffee) along with Momofuku’s fried chicken outlet, Fuku, and the Queensyard Café takeout, for the $17 Cobb salad option. Oh, and Van Leeuwen Ice Cream!

By bike: It’s a 20-minute bike, and there’s a Citi Bike station just north of the pier at the ferry terminal right on the water. There’s also one on 34th and 11th.

By train: It’s a mile walk from 7th Avenue so if you don’t want to hoof it, take the 1 to 42nd to the 7 and get out at Hudson Yards at 34th, last stop. Still a treat to use a new station.