Celebrating 25 years of Hudson River Park, Part 2

Connie Fishman and Laurie Silberfeld

Hudson River Park was created by the state legislature 25 years ago, and to celebrate it, I wanted to hear some origin stories from the park’s presidents. Between them, these four people have guided the construction of Tribeca’s waterfront as we know it.

In 1998, the master plan called for 13 piers devoted to public open space, including our own Piers 25 and 26. Then-Governor George Pataki tapped Rob Balachandran to be the park’s first president. Connie Fishman was working at City Hall when the Hudson River Park concept plan was assigned to her to steward on behalf of the city; she was appointed as the Hudson River Park Trust’s first executive vice president a year after the legislation passed. She was then president from 2004 until 2011 and in 2016 came back to the park as executive director of the Hudson River Park Friends, which funded the park’s newest playground at Pier 26, where she is today.

From Connie:

Coming from California in late 1986, I had two very particular pet peeves about New York City, which I otherwise adored: litter and the sad condition of our run-down waterfront. I had no idea that a decade later I would have the incredible luck – clearly a case of “right place/right time” – to get the opportunity to help rectify one of those.

Pier 25 from Hudson River Park Trust

Even though the beautiful Tribeca section of Hudson River Park would not open for another decade, my first connection to Hudson River Park was Pier 25 during the ’90s. At the time it was a slab of asphalt and crumbling piles with some homemade recreation features installed by the intrepid Bob Townley (unofficial mayor of Pier 25) and Manhattan Youth Recreation: a garden hose attached to spiral sprinklers and a make-shift minigolf with used Astroturf and zero obstacles. But what most caught my eye were the beach volleyball courts — a little bit of southern California on the Manhattan waterfront. No, it was not Santa Monica beach or the Pacific ocean, but it made me feel at home in the big city — like I could continue to be myself and still slowly become a New Yorker.

Many events both large and small, personal and professional, and happy and sad took place over the decades at Pier 25, first in its DYI form and later as the beautiful pier that millions of Hudson River Park users love today.

Part of the negotiations for the Hudson River Park Act itself took place while standing on Pier 25 at an elementary school graduation party late one afternoon in June of 1998, talking to the governor’s staff in Albany. As with so many other times over the course of my next 12 years at the Hudson River Park Trust, the park probably got much more of my attention than my family did. But after years of conversations between Albany and City Hall, the Act finally passed in 1998.

A few short years later, 9/11 happened and Pier 25 was once again the locus: it became the pickup location for the barges taking remnants from the Twin Towers to the Staten Island receiving site. The saddest, scariest thing that could happen in Lower Manhattan had come to the park’s doorstep, and Pier 25 was instantly transformed from beloved community pier to an emergency response site. It’s still where I go on 9/11 anniversaries to remember that day and the horrible feeling of a world out of control.

The return of Pier 25 to the community (paid for with federal 9/11 recovery funds) and the ability to change it into a beautiful version of its former self — still with minigolf (18 holes!), beach volleyball, a children’s water playground and lounge chairs with a view of the harbor — is one of the things I most cherish about my time at the Trust.

Looking back, more than half of my career has been working on, in or for the park, either for Hudson River Park Friends or the Hudson River Park Trust. I truly can’t think of a better way to have spent it. These days I’m probably more New Yorker than Californian, but I’ve always thought of Hudson River Park as my way of bringing some of the West Coast to New York City.



  1. What a beautiful story! Thank you for publishing. I always felt the vibes of SoCal, especially the volleyball court, but never knew its origins of conception. Your vision is felt and adored by so many of us from Cali! Sending love and a Happy Healthy New Year to you and yours. Thank you for everything!!!

  2. Such a great story, thank you for sharing. Love hearing the history and how this wonderful park came to be.