The Edge Park
The Edge Park
The Edge Park connects the Williamsburg community to the waterfront, and creates a theater to the river, providing a wide range of opportunities for engaging with the river and its life in many forms. The park features three new piers – East River Ferry pier, the Empire Pier angled and extending towards the Empire State Building, and a sloped pier that takes you down to high tide elevation. The terraced park offers stunning views of the river and city, seating and spaces for gathering as well as reflection, and is packed with native plants that are full of pollinators. The tempo of the project is a reflection of the surging movement of the tidal strait, back and forth four times a day. This dynamism finds its way into the choreography of the pathways which loop and collide, heading out over the water and back through the forested edge. The varied places belie the narrow space of the park and are a tribute to the vitality of the river environment as an activity generator in itself.
The Edge Park is located in Brooklyn, NY, on the East River, where industry used to operate. The two acre site is a part of the Greenpoint Williamsburg rezoning, which required developers of new housing to provide public open space on the waterfront that will result in a continuous promenade along the river and create a gateway to the water from the upland community. The two long blocks between N 5th Street and N. 7th Street were covered with warehouses when work began.
The design intent is to focus attention on the East River and the views to mid-town Manhattan beyond. The Edge is a theater to the water, framing the activity of the “sixth borough” while choreographing the upland ballet of commuters, residents, dog walkers, lovers, kids and families with the daily and seasonal changes of the landscape. The iconic Empire Pier jutting 500 feet into the East River unites Manhattan and Brooklyn via the axial viewshed to the Empire State Building, while the get down pier brings E Sixth St from the heart of Williamsburg down to the water’s edge. The jumble of geometries echoes the surging tides of the tidal straight, and provide a wide scale of places for engagement, from interborough to intimate.
The site was carved back to provide a rip rap edge to lessen the barrier between people and the water. A wooded edge provides shade for the promenade and a living ecosystem that we hope will encourage volunteers to establish. Thus, at the water’s edge, the city grid and the river’s ecosystem converge, mingle, and clash. The streets turn into pedestrian greenways; a garage below one block is topped with a sloping lawn; piers reach gently into the water from deep within the park, and a stone-lined riverbank contrasts with remnants of concrete bulkhead. Blurring the boundaries between land and water in these ways extends the waterfront’s benefits inland. This former industrial site is now 50% permeable with many native plant species, and it is an important part of the LEED Silver rating for the project. This space is a celebration of the new New York—on the edge, a mix of nature and people, ferries and bikes, hub-bub and quiet. It celebrates movement, of people, water, boats, yet shelters places for reflection. It’s an oasis at a crossroads, a microcosm of New York.
Sensitivity to Water
The park is situated behind The Edge residential buildings requiring strong physical and visual access to draw people from the upland neighborhood to the waterfront. North 6th Street continues the city streetscape into the site, with retail shops extending the city across the busy Kent Avenue. Halfway into the site, the street turns pedestrian and incorporates a series of lawns leading people directly from the street to the water, down to high tide elevation. To the south, North 5th Street offers another access point centered on a meadow planting which collects stormwater. This ideal entry point from the bike path that passes out front is further marked with a large erratic found on the site during excavation. Adjacent to this is a key vehicular drop off and pick up point for the new East River Ferry Pier, creating an exchange between the waterfronts in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Within the park, there are many ways to experience the natural environment and the indefinable quality water provides. The three piers are at different elevations, providing different views and sounds on the river, from standing at high tide to being out in the center of the river, with cool breezes and boats and barges passing by. The paths create various loops of circulation, recreation, and relaxation with seating to direct the users towards water. The boardwalk directly along the edge maximizes the contact with the water by replacing the hard edge with a natural rocky edge and providing opportunities to step through the vegetation into the water zone to an intimate seating platform. The Edge Park seeks to bring people to the river and link the ecosystem with the fabric of the community.
The democratic spaces are layered to provide intimate places of refuge as well as open places for gathering. Seating is similarly varied using a palette of city-approved furniture including concrete benches that are extensions of the steps, and city benches and movable chairs and tables, all providing different social opportunities. The custom bench at the rear of the large gathering space at the upland end of the Empire Pier was permitted due to the use of similar size wood slats from other park benches. The park thus provides not only a variety of niches for the riverine animals, but also varied niches for people with various social needs.