Tag Archives: waterfront

  • The Story Behind Those Charming Gantries

    Throughout the 20th century, gantry cranes were used to transport people and goods to/from barges and ships along New York City’s coasts. At the time that the gantries were built, manufacturing jobs were drawing people from across the world to the Big Apple. As the city slowly became industrialized and more bridges were built, trucks became the main means for moving goods around. Consequently, gantries went out of use by the 1980s.

    Today, you can still spot a few gantries along the city’s waterfront. Two of them are located in Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City and were originally built in the 1920s. These particular gantries were used to lift trains that arrived from Long Island onto barges in the East River to supply the rest of the nation with different goods. Another gantry, located at 69th Street on the Hudson River, was built in 1911 and served as a floating bridge that aided in the transfer of trains from land to water. The train cars were then transported from Manhattan’s Upper West Side to Weehawken, New Jersey by ferries.

    Over the past years, development projects in the neighborhoods around gantries have led to their revitalization. The most popular ones are in Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City and Domino Park in Williamsburg.

    In 1998, the two gantries in Gantry Plaza State Park were repainted black and the words “Long Island” were written across them in bright red letters. The gantries became a main focal point in the redevelopment project along Long Island City’s waterfront, which included the construction of the 10-acre Gantry Plaza State Park. The railroad tracks are still visible in parts of the park, hinting at its history.

    Further south, in Williamsburg, the gantry crane that lifted sugar from ships that arrived from Caribbean plantations was repainted turquoise blue during the construction of Domino Park. The 6-acre park was built on the former site of the Domino Sugar Refinery, which operated there from the 1880s to 2004.

  • The Secret of Coenties Slip

    Most people who have explored New York’s history a bit have heard of The Great Fire of 1835. One of the most devastating fires in the city’s history, it destroyed nearly 700 buildings (including the New York Stock Exchange) in Lower Manhattan, in an area known as the Financial District today. The devastating fire had a huge impact on the city’s development. City planners changed the laws to make new buildings safer, and 23 of 26 insurers at the time were forced to close due to the huge financial losses.

    Located in Lower Manhattan at that time was a now little-known tiny neighborhood called Coenties Slip. It is often seen in drawings or depictions of The Great Fire and was an artificially-created berth for sailing vessels. Old maps reveal what looks like a canal that originates in the East River, where ships and other vessels would load/unload goods and people.

    There were several such slips along the East River, but most of them (including Coenties Slip) were replaced by docks. After the Erie Canal was built in 1825, the slip harbored many of the boats that traveled along the new waterway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes of North America. The land was filled in 10 years later, expanding the southern part of Lower Manhattan. Many new buildings were subsequently built in the area, but were destroyed a few months later in The Great Fire of December 1835. Today, Coenties Slip is located about a block away from the East River.

    But there’s more to this storied corner of Lower Manhattan, which was partly converted into a pedestrian plaza in 2013. You might recognize the area from vintage photographs depicting elevated train tracks between South Ferry and Hanover Square as they unusually wind through Pearl Street in the Financial District.

    During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Coenties Slip became home to a group of now world-famous American artists. These include Robert Indiana, Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly and Chryssa. These influential artists lived and worked in the old seaport district, which was a great inspiration for the various mediums in which they worked.

  • Pier 54 Becomes Diller Island / Pier 55

    The construction of Diller Island (Pier 55), a new park on the Hudson River, is progressing quickly, since it began in the Spring of 2018. The $250 million project was conceived by, and is financially backed by, Barry Diller and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. The public park will float on vessels atop the Hudson River, where the southern tip of the High Line is currently situated. Diller Island will replace Pier 54, where survivors of the Titanic were once brought ashore in April 1912.

    The 2.7-acre park’s playful design is reminiscent of Peter Pan’s “Neverland” and is perched on top of 132 specially crafted concrete pots that are arranged in an undulating, organic form. It was designed by the London-based Heatherwick Studio and New York’s own Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects. The park is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2020 and will offer optimal views of New York’s skyline, while providing spaces for visitors to freely eat, relax and enjoy music and performances.

    The new park will also feature a 700-seat amphitheater for music, dance and theater, as well as two open-air landscaped areas, where performances will be staged. The aim is to offer 51 percent of tickets to the public for free, or under $30, once the arts programming begins in the Spring of 2021.