OPINION: Gansevoort park needs both nature and field

BY LYNN PACIFICO | When our mothers told us to go out and play, they might have just wanted us out of the house. But we benefitted from those afternoons in the park — in more ways than we imagined. Science is proving the staggering benefits of spending time in nature for all of us, but especially for children.

But West Village children can actually get a ticket for climbing a tree in the Hudson River Park. This area is lacking a real park, not a manicured garden parkway but a natural area, in which all children, including those who play league sports, can climb a tree and appreciate the wonder and magic of nature.

We have the opportunity to do this with Gansevoort Peninsula. What makes the peninsula so special is that it is land — albeit, landfill — as opposed to the piers in our waterfront park.

Participants at a design charrette for Gansevoort Peninsula considered how to incorporate things like a sports field, a dog run, landscaping, seating and passive recreation areas on the peninsula, which is located south of 14th St. on the Village waterfront. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

This is especially important in Downtown Manhattan where we have so little park and open space. Here we cover our fields with plastic and our new “pocket” parks are being fitted with synthetic turf instead of grass, damaging not only to our ecosystem but also to us and our children.

To turf any part of Gansevoort would be a crime against nature and a missed opportunity for our community. Humans are a part of nature — something we forget. Our time on the ground is made even more valuable considering most New Yorkers live in the air.

We need at least one natural area in the West Village with native trees, wild flowers, bushes, grasses and weeds. (Weeds feed migrating wildlife, and should be allowed to grow where possible.) A nature trail winding through healthy, climbable trees and tall pines with picnic benches under shade trees would be a wonderful respite from the dry, concrete, brick-and-asphalt of our active “denser by the day” city.

A get-down to the water where small boats could be launched would promote water activities and provide a meeting place for boaters.

We also need a sandlot multiuse field since there is none for our community after we lost JJ Walker field 20 years ago. If the Gansevoort field is turfed, the majority of our community will be locked out — again. A multiuse field is needed for people who want to play catch, Frisbee, make snow people or run their dogs during “off leash” hours, etc.

Off-leash hours have been amazingly successful where permitted, mainly in large city parks, but we have smaller parks south of Central Park. The entire city enjoys morning and evening off-leash hours except for Downtown Manhattanites.

Lately, it has become popular to say it’s unsanitary for children to play where dogs play. But, realistically, these are the same pets that sleep in the beds of their owners — adults and children alike — and which are kissed and loved intimately as family members. Having a dog has proven to be healthy on all levels, as well as aiding the prevention of childhood developed allergies. Our ancestors lived with their animals for millennia before disinfectant wipes.

At one time, Gansevoort was the western end of a Native American trail. Back then, the area was used for fishing and planting, but I am sure that folks relaxed and played there as well.

At the new Gansevoort park’s opening ceremony, it would be fitting for the peninsula to be blessed by Lenape tribe members. They could rededicate it to nature — and the “wild,” natural part of it could be regiven its last Lenape name: Sapohanikan.

Pacifico is president, Dog Owners Action Committee

5 Responses to OPINION: Gansevoort park needs both nature and field

  1. Where's the coastal resiliency plan? Trees and weeds are a lot cheaper to replace when the next storm comes than the current virtual-gated community being recreated in HRP. Pity the poor Lenape tribe member who agrees to dedicate anything in Hudson River Park. That would be a soul-crushing gig for any native american.

    • Yes. After hurricane Sandy, the grass pier was open again in half the time it took for the turfed pier to be repaired. I participated uptown in a similar dedication done by native Americans. It was done as an act of reclaiming an outpost in the city – a place to be reminded that we are a part of nature, and an inspiration.

  2. Picnic tables and benches would be a great addition, and maybe chess/checkers tables like other parks. Anything that will invite human interaction back into the fold, and allow people to sit and enjoy the beauty of the Hudson River.

  3. It kills me that my dog is not allowed on ANY grassy areas in the Chelsea area!! Our dog park is all cement and hurts his feet, so he doesn’t run around much in there. When I take him to dog parks further away (a huge subway hassle) he LOVES it and gets to run all his energy out, and loves Central Park, but it’s just such a pain to get to. I really wish there was either a grassy larger dog park in or near Chelsea or an area that allows dogs on the grass, especially because it is cooler in the summer months on dogs paws than the cement.

    • Do you use the chelsea waterside park? If so please contact me through the Dog Owners Action Committee fb page.

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