As Pier 42 Park Opens on East River, Children—& Adults—Rejoice!

Playgrounds, clean restrooms, clever landscaping and more bring much needed recreational life to the waterfront. A job very well done—with a few opportunities for improvement.

| 08 Jul 2024 | 03:21

There’s a new park in town!

More than a decade in the making, the official ribbon cutting for the Pier 42 recreation area on the East River took place on July 3. Despite the sweltering temperatures, the excitement over the work’s completion, and anticipation of the holiday weekend, kept spirits high.

The project, co-led by the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the NYC Parks Department and the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) brings 8-acres of open space to what was previously a storage facility and represents $33.6 million in capital investment.

Pier 42 is accessible on the southern end at Montgomery Street, and its northern end at Jackson Street, the latter part is also home to the Corlears Hook ferry service stop.

Present for the ribbon cutting were the Lower East Side’s two elected Council Members, Carlina Rivera and Christoper Marte; State Assemblymember Grace Lee; NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue; DDC Commissioner Tom Foley; EDC President Andrew Kimball; and others.

“Parks and recreation open spaces are vital public amenities that enhance and foster vibrant communities,” said Assembly member Lee. “This project at the Lower East Side’s waterfront will provide badly needed accessible and enriching recreational spaces for our residents. I commend NYC Parks, EDC and DDC on completing this much needed project and look forward to enjoying the newly opened spaces with the rest of the community.”

While there was much other deserved praise for inter-agency cooperation, environmental resiliency, quality of life and well-being, words are cheap.

The proof is in the playgrounds, and the other parts of Pier 42. Outside of the controlled confines of press releases, does the project really hold up to a park reporter’s scrutiny?

Thankfully, for the most, it does. While there are a few notable amenities that are missing—and could be added relatively easily— what’s here is choice. The highlights include:

* An amply sized two-part playground, one for toddlers and one for older children, including various slides, climbing equipment and integrated musical geegaws.

* The landscaping is swell. If not “real” nature, it contains real natural elements including a variety of plants and, while shade trees would be welcome, the design seems as inspired as any similar such project.

* There are also powerful (but not too robust) touch activated water sprinklers which drain well, cooling children, their parents and caretakers, as well as a happy array of sculptural sea creatures including seals, walruses, crabs and turtles.

* The ADA compliant men’s and women’s restrooms are top notch, with baby changing stations in both. The posted hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., “open later seasonally.” This last statement is something that needs to be monitored, as 4 p.m. is much too early to be closing in the late spring and summer.

* The four tennis courts, and the soccer field are fine, with the artificial turf of the latter in good condition. Hopefully it will be well-maintained not become, as certain other pitches have, a place where ground rubber pellets cover more ground than green plastic grass.

* As of July 6, only one of the four half-court-style basketball courts—the presence of which are greatly appreciated—has a proper net. One net is largely ripped, and the other hoops have no nets. This needs to be rectified.

It will be noted that the soccer fields and ball courts opened in December 2022, before the rest of Pier 42, and were not a focus of the present ribbon cutting. Nonetheless, the cost of a new basketball net is negligible, while the pleasure it brings is priceless.

Three suggestions, from a reporter who takes parks and playgrounds very seriously:

1. Traditional style monkey bars should be a part of every children’s playground. Every kid loves it and many parents are fond of them too. While more options are welcome, don’t get too dazzled by “innovative” design. Monkey bars are core, our heart and soul.

2. While the fitness area is generally excellent, with a well-chosen mix of equipment, the lack of a traditional pull-up bars is unfortunate. (There is a HealthBeat combination Pull-Up/Dip station which, while welcome, has fewer uses than regular bars.) Again, no need to get fancy: a simple, two or three level pull-up bar station offers immense rewards to many for very little cost in money or in space.

3. While retaining the steel frame of the prior storage facility is a fine aesthetic touch, leaving its skeletal roof open is a mistake. Keep the open sides but with a roof—which a similar facility in Brooklyn Bridge Park does include—Pier 42 would become a brilliant all-weather destination as well.

Rain doesn’t scare us, snow doesn’t scare us, sweltering heat doesn’t scare us—but a little shelter from elements would be welcome and make Pier 42 an even more valuable resource than it already is.