There’s a big buzz around a little park in NYC right now! The much-anticipated Little Island in Hudson River Park opened to the public on May 21, 2021. It looks very much like something you might find on The Jetsons of my youth. It’s a magnificent greenspace rising from the Hudson between 13th and 14th Streets more than ten years in the making.
What is Little Island?
Little Island is an impressive piece of architecture situated on 132 mushroom-shaped concrete columns. These are set at different levels to create the illusion of a curved leaf floating on water.
Each pile is topped with concrete “petals” that form roughly 19 feet of soil containers filled with flowers, trees, and plants of all kinds. The overall effect is a lush 2.4-acre public playground that seemingly sprouts from the river.
What Can I Do at Little Island?
Little Island combines nature and art in an ingenious setting that is free to the public. Visitors can stroll the grounds for dazzling views or a closer look at this oasis of more than 350 species of plants and flowers.
Families and kids can enjoy free art activities and programs at The Glade with a little help from the Art Cart.
Little Island also houses a 700-seat amphitheater, a central performance space that holds 3,500, and an intimate venue for 200. Most shows and festivals are free, but some ticketed events do require a reservation and online purchase.
How Can I Get There?
You’ll find the park at the former site of Pier 54. It’s accessible by two pedestrian bridges connecting to the Hudson River esplanade.
If you plan to visit, your best bet is to use public transportation. Click the link below for a list of subway stops and bus routes.
A “Little” History
This Hudson River waterfront has a long and unique history. The Lenape of early America camped here seasonally as they hunted, fished, and traded along the water.
As time passed, it grew to be a major port of entry as New York established itself as the crossroads of the world.
Between 1910 and 1935, the famed British Cunard White Star Line operated out of Pier 54. When the Titanic sank in April of 1912, her survivors arrived at the pier aboard the RMS Carpathia.
The Cunard-White Star Building’s steel archway still stands at the foot of the South Bridge entrance.
Following years of neglect and disuse, Pier 54 eventually became a gathering place for the LGBTQ+ community in the early 1980s. It was a refuge for many during a turbulent time. It was so popular that the annual Dance on the Pier became part of Pride festivities for the next 25 years.
In 1998, Pier 54 officially became part of Hudson River Park and continued to serve as a venue for entertainment.
A Big Vision
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy slammed the eastern seaboard and flooded 51 square miles of New York City. Pier 54 sustained heavy damage. In 2013, Barry Diller of the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation “chose to reimagine an entirely new type of public space for New York, one that would create an immersive experience with nature and art.”
He partnered with the Hudson River Park Trust, Heatherwick Studio, and MNLA to bring his lofty vision to life. The Little Island now stands as a testament to ingenuity, whimsy, and many years of hard work!
Be One of the First to Check It Out
If you’ve never been to New York City or you’re a Big Apple regular, you can be one of the first to check out Little Island. It’s open to the public and a MUST-DO!
It currently requires a timed entry reservation from noon until close but no reservations are needed from 6:00 am – 12:00 pm (for all the early birds out there!)
Once you’re in the park, you can stay as long as you like. There’s no need to rush through this marvel of modern design!