Park-Starved Hudson Yards to Get Three New Green Acres

An old repair shop, one of the many shuttered businesses located where parkland will be established. | Photo by Michael Rock

BY MICHAEL ROCK | When the final crane comes down and its construction phase ends, Hudson Yards will bring a massive influx of office workers, new residents, tourists, and shoppers to a part of the West Side that can still seem unfamiliar and unwelcoming. Despite being the location of Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, a number of transit bus stops, and spectacular views of the river from which the rapidly emerging neighborhood takes its name, abandoned buildings, vacant lots, and minimal mass transit access can easily undermine the area’s appeal. “We are in desperate need of more open space in our crowded neighborhoods,” State Senator Brad Hoylman told NYC Community Media.

Fortunately, long-term efforts to re-develop the neighborhood as a major commercial and residential hub have been especially fruitful, especially after the de Blasio administration made an Aug. 8 announcement that funding for the Phase II of the “City’s Master Plan for Hudson Yards” was approved. One particular element of the approved plan — the addition of three acres of parkland to span 10th and 11th Aves., from W. 36th to 39th Sts. — resonated with those who’ve long sought to increase the area’s amount of public green space.

Robert Benfatto, president of the Hudson Yards / Hell’s Kitchen Alliance, which is dedicated to the development of both neighborhoods, welcomed the announcement. In his time as a district manager for Community Board 4 (CB4), he played a key role in founding Hudson Boulevard Park. “The creation of a park and boulevard — Hudson Park and Boulevard — was contemplated in the 2005 Special Hudson Yard District rezoning,” Benfatto said in an email.

An abandoned inspection station sits along part of what will become three acres of parkland spanning 10th and 11th Aves., from W. 36th to 39th Sts. | Photo by Michael Rock

Despite these proposals, the money necessary to complete Phase II had not been secured until the Aug. 8 announcement. “Now that we have access to further funding to complete the park, I have no concerns,” Benfatto said. “My concern was always getting it completed. The community has very little park land and getting this completed was very important to them.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer expressed similar excitement over the funding. “In both residential communities and office districts, people need well-designed green spaces, and a new world-class business district needs world-class public space,” Brewer told this publication. “This parkland will help tie Hudson Yards together and make it more than just a cluster of towers.”

During her tenure as a city councilmember representing much of Manhattan’s West Side (over a decade before being elected to her current position), Brewer had demonstrated a strong interest in developing the Hudson Yards. “I’ve always believed that when new development happens, the whole community needs to benefit — and in the case of Hudson Yards, that meant new investments in parks, transit, and affordable housing,” she said. “Follow-up is critical. We need to make sure New Yorkers get everything they were promised as part of new development. Without follow-up, you can end up with a set of big towers but IOUs for the rest.”

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, whose District 3 area of coverage includes Chelsea and parts of Hell’s Kitchen, has long made funding for Phase II a “top priority.” “I am very pleased that the City Council was finally in a position to introduce and pass the needed resolution to support the financing for this long desired project,” Johnson said in an email statement. “We can now move forward with the design and construction of this new park, which will someday soon give New Yorkers and people from all over the world an additional three acres of public green space on the West Side to enjoy.”

 Thus far, plans to design the new parkland are in their infancy. “The first third (Block 4) will be mostly green and reflective. The last two portions (Blocks 5 and 6) are in the master plan slated to be a green space and an interactive play space,” Benfatto explained. “However, the specifics are yet to be designed. The design will occur now that there is money available.”

This is not to say there are no concerns about the next steps. At least two elected officials want to ensure that locals will have a major say in the park’s ultimate design. “We know that having a playground integrated into Block 5 or Block 6 will be a community priority,” Brewer said, “But in general, whenever an investment on this scale happens, there needs to be thorough community engagement to identify priorities and test ideas. The plan needs to incorporate the people and stakeholders who will use this space.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman agrees. “We need the public input to design the best park,” he told Chelsea Now, adding, “I’m sure CB4 working with my and other offices will make sure this happens.”

One fixture of the community is excited about the plans to add more public green space to the area. When this reporter informed Hassan (he declined to provide a last name), who operates a halal stand across the street from where the park will be, he was elated. “Anything built here will be good for business. Anything good for business will be good for me,” he said. 

Benfatto was also confident about the benefits the parkland would offer the neighborhood. “I don’t hope, I know [it will be great for the neighborhood],” he said. “Open, green space will be there for the families, visitors, and workers in Hudson Yards — and the more the better.”

Hassan operates a halal stand on 11th Ave. and W. 36th St., just across the street from where some of the new parkland will be. | Photo by Michael Rock

A vacant lot, with the Javits Center visible in the background. Much of the area’s vacant or abandoned space will be revamped, as part of Phase II of the city’s “Master Plan for Hudson Yards.” | Photo by Michael Rock

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