In the News: Celebrating Hudson River Park on its 25th

Bob Townley, the founder of Manhattan Youth and the Downtown Community Center, has an op-ed in Crain’s that celebrates Hudson River Park on its 25th birthday. He has been running the organization here in the neighborhood for decades and recalls a time before the park existed.

“Let’s rewind, then, a few decades, to the early 1990s. If you lived in Tribeca back then, and wanted to enjoy a little snippet of summer in the city, you had very few choices,” he writes. “We could see the Hudson, of course, but we couldn’t really access the water, and our pier was taken up first with a decidedly non-charming parking lot and then with a nightclub that was closed during the day and offered nothing for the neighborhood’s children.”

He remembers the moment when Community Board 1 first got notice that folks from CB4 (I was there then!) were organizing to create a park along the Hudson.

“I had just dropped off my laundry at our local laundromat and had my little cardboard ticket. I flipped it over and started sketching what I thought was a distant dream: A large sandbox where children could play. A nice grill where folks could come together and eat. Maybe a mini-golf course. It may sound quaint by today’s standards, but for a community that had no place to go when the temperatures started rising, it seemed like a luxury.”

He shouts out to the founders of the Downtown Boat House and Tribecan Cathy Drew, who founded The River Project — the advocacy and science organization that exists to this day as part of the Hudson River Park Trust — and their contributions to the vision of the park. (The three photos in the post are taken between 1995 and 2000.)

“This transformation is a New York miracle, and it didn’t happen overnight. It took decades of dedication, public-private partnerships, community boards and city and state officials and business owners and neighbors and volunteers all working together, patiently and passionately, to reinvent the west side, one pier at a time.”

Former Gov. George Pataki, who signed the Hudson River Park Act into law in 1998, also has a recollection of those days in an op-ed in The Post — from a more political angle.

“Driving from my office in the South Tower of the World Trade Center along the Hudson to my home upstate… I looked out the window and saw little more than crumbling piers — a wilderness of rust and neglect dotting Manhattan’s West Side. The decay brought back childhood memories, prompting me to ask an aide to figure out who was responsible for all this vast, untended riverside.

“A few days later, the aide reported back: The person responsible, he told me, is you.”

He goes on to explain the horse trading that had to go on in the state legislature — and with the Giuliani administration. The park is on state land south of 30th, and city land to the north.

“To get off the ground, the Park needed a Republican sponsor in the state senate and a Democratic sponsor in the state assembly. And we got them when The Hudson River Park Act was co-sponsored in 1998 by Assembly Member Richard Gottfried (D), Senator Franz Leichter (D), and Senator Roy Goodman (R). Just as complicated, the project required that both the governor and the mayor of New York each agree to collaborate as equal partners to ensure that the city and state met their respective funding obligations. If you know anything about politics, you know that these aren’t minor achievements – particularly considering my often testy relationship with then-mayor Rudy Giuliani.

“25 years after it was collectively willed into existence,” he writes in his last line, “Hudson River Park reminds us that, in New York, being a realist means believing in miracles.”



  1. How does one propose a regulated track on the Hudson. It would be great it would be great revenue for the area. So many schools in the downtown area could benefit and have a place (other than pier 40 in which everyone is fighting for a spot). Track meets and games could be held over the weekend instead of going to the east side or Harlem for a track place.

  2. What a great article! Even more reinforcing for the community to come together to demand for alternatives than the $50B storm surge wall the city/state is proposing. This wall will ruin the experience of the bike lane, cause safety issues due to poor visibility, and has very questionable effectiveness / huge waste of tax dollars

    Lets keep our park for the citizens and ask the govt officials for better plans