WEST VILLAGE, New York City (WABC) -- Little Island, a new free public park at 13th Street in Hudson River Park, is set to open to the public Friday, offering a unique greenspace unlike any other in New York City.
The park, one of the first to open in the city since the COVID-19 pandemic, provides serene spaces to explore, new venues for live performances and cultural events, and unique vantage points to view the surrounding area.
Little Island, funded primarily by The Diller - von Furstenberg Family Foundation, is opening as the city prepares for the summer season and after more than a year of restrictions and closures. It adds sweeping space to the popular Hudson River Park, which spans four miles along Manhattan's West Side.
"I hope Little Island will serve as a whimsical oasis for everyone who visits," Barry Diller said. "A place to wander around and be happily surprised at every turn, to lounge and graze the landscape, and to be entertained, educated and stimulated by our programming."
With its own independent arts programming set to begin in June, Little Island will host hundreds of local artists and performers, and offer free programming for visitors of all ages.
Components of the park, nestled among more than 350 species of flowers, trees and shrubs, include a 687-seat amphitheater dubbed "The Amph," a central plaza with seating and serving food and beverages knows as "The Play Ground," an intimate stage and lawn space called "The Glade," and dazzling views of the park, New York City, and the Hudson River.
Little Island was designed by Thomas Heatherwick, of Heatherwick Studio, with landscape design by Signe Nielsen of MNLA.
"It's a joy to welcome the public to this newest area of Hudson River Park, and we are forever grateful to Barry Diller and the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation for their extraordinary contribution to Hudson River Park and New York City overall," acting President of the Hudson River Park Trust Noreen Doyle said. "Bringing a project like Little Island to life took vision, tenacity and commitment from countless people."
The landscape design was led by Signe Nielsen of MNLA and provides a visually surprising and inspiring experience as visitors walk across the park.
The plantings are varied to provide an environment that changes with the seasons, with flowing trees and shrubs, fall foliage and evergreens, and more than 66,000 bulbs and 114 trees have been planted -- some of which will grow to 60 feet tall.
"Every time I come to Little Island, I'm struck by the same sense of wonder," MNLA Principal Signe Nielsen said. "This is an environment made to surprise. I wanted New Yorkers to feel delight and excitement around every turn from the moment they set foot here. When you enter from the concrete of the city, you're immersed in this living, breathing ecosystem full of unexpected corners, hills and overlooks. I can't wait to see New Yorkers experience this special place for the very first time."
The architecture was designed by Heatherwick Studio, and Little Island's distinct exterior is supported by a structure made up of 280 concrete piles that emerges from in between the leftover wood piles of Pier 54 -- which were largely preserved to maintain habitats for aquatic life.
On top of the piles, 132 concrete "Tulips" make up the structure of the park. Each tulip's shape is unique and has a different weight load capacity to hold the soil, lawns, overlooks, and trees.
Arup's New York City team served as the engineering firm, leading the structural development of the park's unique pot structures, along with the design of the park's subsurface and theatrical infrastructure.
Beginning in June, Little Island will host a season of programming to foster and support New York City-based artists, including four Artists-in-Residence:
--Tap dancer and choreographer Ayodele Casel
--Playwright and award-winning director Tina Landau
--Actor, singer, and music director Michael McElroy
--Acting, musical, and storytelling group, PigPen Theatre Co.
They will perform, curate, and direct a range of work over their three-year residency in collaboration with a team of producers, led by Producer Julia Kraus.
The majority of events will be free, and ticketed events will be primarily free or low-cost.
There will be performances and educational programming six days a week, with offerings from music, dance, circus, spoken word, and more. Programming ranges from surprise performances with local performers to special events with renowned New York City arts organizations.
Some of this season's signature events will include:
--A concert with the award-winning Broadway Inspirational Voices
--A Pride weekend celebration with Tina Landau and her many Broadway Friends
--The New York City live-performance return of American Ballet Theatre
--A revival of a Little Orchestra Society's fan favorite program Things That Go Bang!
--A weekend of music from the islands curated by the World Music Institute
Little Island will also offer free educational programming six days a week, including creative workshops for all ages led by Little Island teaching artists, weekly programs from the Children's Museum of Arts and New Victory Education, a Teen Night with The Door, and a Little Library that visits the park on Fridays in partnership with the Free Black Women's Library, Women in Comics and Teatro SEA.
Little Island has ongoing partnerships with local organizations Greenwich House, Hudson Guild, PS 33, The Door, and Westbeth, which include offering free tickets to programming, workshops with teaching artists, and opportunities to collaborate with Artists-in-Residence.
For its food and beverage offerings, Little Island is partnering with Savory Hospitality, which will operate three stalls in the Play Ground, with ample seating and shade. The menu, with items curated for all ages, is responsibly sourced and supports small local businesses representative of all five New York City boroughs.
Food and beverages will be sold from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily, including wine, beer, and wine- or beer-based cocktails created exclusively for Little Island visitors.
The park will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m., with timed reservations required from noon to 8 p.m.. All admission is free.
Little Island's main entrance is located at West 13th Street and the Hudson River, at Pier 55.
For more information, visit LittleIsland.org.
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