Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area is Back in the Business of Fun

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, left, and Fulton Houses Tenants Association President Miguel Acevedo introduced the target demographic to a revitalized Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area. | Photo by William Alatriste, NYC Council

Older children went for their fist splash in a sprinkler area designated for their age group. | Photo by Michael Rock

BY MICHAEL ROCK | Despite forecasts predicting a foggy and depressing Tuesday morning, it turned out to be a beautiful day to go to the playground. Many Chelsea residents welcomed that prospect, and happily congregated in Hudson River Park, on 11th Ave. between W. 23rd and 24th Sts. There, they joined local, state, and national representatives to celebrate the grand re-opening and ribbon-cutting of the revamped Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area.

The original playground opened in 2000. Though popular with neighborhood children, its condition had sharply deteriorated by 2016 — a typical timeframe for such spaces to wear out. “We had lots of drainage issues, play equipment was damaged, the children had given the park more love than it could handle,” Madelyn Wils, CEO and President of the Hudson River Park Trust, told Chelsea Now.

Assemblymember Richard Gottfried agreed. “The original playground was very exciting and innovative,” he noted during his remarks at the August 14 ceremony. “It got worn out, and there were some design concerns, and it became clear we needed to do a new one, and now we have a second exciting playground,” he said, as he beamed not only over the play area’s completion and opening, but also over the birth of his second granddaughter only hours earlier.

Wils also made it very clear that she was hardly alone in working on the project. “In the words of Hillary Clinton, ‘It takes a village to get anything done,’ and this playground is no exception,” she proclaimed. Wils further explained that the first person she contacted regarding the project was New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (whose District 3 area of coverage includes Chelsea). She then discussed fundraising opportunities for the project with Connie Fishman, the Executive Director of the Hudson River Park Friends, who asserted that the project was the Hudson River Park Friends’ “first really big capital campaign.” From there, Wils consulted with neighborhood leaders to determine what they wanted out of the project. In September 2017, construction commenced.

The playground’s pipefish centerpiece. | Photo by Michael Rock

The 17,000-square-foot play area’s centerpiece is an immense, multi-colored wooden pipefish — a species indigenous to the estuary portion of the adjacent Hudson River. Greg Wasserman, a Hudson River Park Friends Board Member and co-chair of the Chelsea Waterside Play Area Capital Campaign, asserted that the pipefish almost never came to be, as it went over their original budget. However, the project ultimately raised it further to $3.4 million, so that they could include the pipefish instead of proposed fire hydrants as an alternative. There is also a sandbox featuring giant oyster shells. MONSTRUM, a Danish playground designer, created both features in what is their debut project in the Eastern portion of the United States.

The playground also has some features of historical significance, including limestone cattle busts taken from a demolished Meatpacking District slaughterhouse, re-worked to spray water. There are also seating blocks made from the granite of Pier 54’s old arch, where the survivors of the Titanic arrived on dry land via the Carpathia, and two water areas. One of the water areas is designed for toddlers between the ages of two and five, while the other is for older kids aged six to 13.

Children and parents alike enjoyed the new Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area. | Photo by Michael Rock

Milla Glick, a ten-year-old resident of Chelsea, was thrilled to be one of the first children to enjoy the new facilities. “I used to play with my friends at my house, now I can play with them here,” she said, in an exclusive quote. “More kids enjoy the new park, because there’s more things to do for older kids as well,” she said.

Congressmember Jerrold Nadler expressed similar sentiments, calling the park “a big boost for morale. Chelsea has wanted a park for a long time,” he told Chelsea Now. “There was a vision for a long time, and now there’s a place for children to come and play under wholesome conditions.”

Johnson agreed. “For many of us… parks are places for respite,” he said. “Without green space, our city would be a lot less welcoming.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman was especially enthusiastic about the new area, telling this publication that it is “a complete reimagination of the old playground,” and praised the decades-long efforts of community advocates to develop Hudson River Park. “My two daughters look forward to using it today,” he said.

As neighborhood children and their caretakers enjoyed the new play area, those behind the project seem optimistic about its future. “I predict by tomorrow, this will be the most widely-used playground in Hudson River Park,” Fishman asserted.

Still, as the Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area has opened on a highly successful note, it should serve as a major draw to the much larger Hudson River Park, which has not yet been completed. “We’re only halfway done with this park. With the support of the committee, I’m sure we’ll get the whole thing done,” said Lowell Kern, the Waterfront, Parks, and Environment Co-Chair of Community Board 4.

NOTE: After the below series of additional photos, see a series of related articles from the Chelsea Now archives.

The first toddler to play in the park’s sprinkler area for younger children. | Photo by Michael Rock

The park’s “oyster shell” sandbox. | Photo by Michael Rock

Foreground, L to R: Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and Madelyn Wils, CEO and President of the Hudson River Park Trust, cut the ribbon to Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area. | Photo by Michael Rock

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson tests out his second slide of the summer, having taken a similar ride at the July 31 reopening of Mathews-Palmer Playground in Hell’s Kitchen. | Photo by William Alatriste, NYC Council

Statuary from a bygone Meatpacking District slaughterhouse has been reworked as an element of the playground. | Photo by Michael Rock

A climbing area and slide. | Photo by Michael Rock

Lowell Kern, co-chair of Community Board 4’s Waterfront, Parks & Environment Committee. | Photo by Michael Rock








Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *