Creating the Hudson River Park:

Environmental and Community Activism, Politics, and Greed

“Bringing community members together and enabling them to improve their neighborhoods and play a greater role in public policy and planning has been very gratifying.”

The 4-mile-long, 550-acre Hudson River Park is nearing completion and is the largest park built in Manhattan since Central Park opened more than 150 years ago. It has transformed a derelict waterfront, protected the Hudson River estuary, preserved commercial maritime activities, created new recreational opportunities for millions of New Yorkers, enhanced tourism, stimulated redevelopment in adjacent neighborhoods, and set a precedent for waterfront redevelopment. 

About Creating the Hudson River Park: Environmental and Community Activism, Politics, and Greed

After the defeat of the $2.4 billion Westway plan to fill 234 acres of the Hudson in 1985, the stage was set for the revitalization of Manhattan’s West Side waterfront. Between 1986 and 1998 the process focused on the basics like designing an appropriate roadway, removing noncompliant municipal and commercial activities from the waterfront, implementing temporary improvements, developing the Park’s first revenue-producing commercial area at Chelsea Piers, completing the public planning and environmental review processes, and negotiating the 1998 Hudson River Park Act that officially created the Park. From 1999 to 2009 planning and construction were funded with public money and focused on creating active and passive recreation opportunities on the Tribeca, Greenwich Village, Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen waterfronts.

However, initial recommendations to secure long term financial support for the Park from the increase in adjacent real estate values that resulted from the Park’s creation were ignored. City and state politicians had other priorities and public funding for the Park dwindled. The recent phase of the project, from 2010 to 2021, focused on “development” both in and adjacent to the Park. Fox’s first-person perspective helps to document the history of the Hudson River Park, recognizes those who made it happen and those who made it difficult, and provides lessons that may help private citizens and public servants expand and protect the public parks and natural systems that are so critical to urban well-being.

Tom Fox
(917) 572-7540