New York’s New Green Space: Liberty Park

In the last 15 years, New York has seen a vigorous expansion of new or reinvented public spaces. From the High Line to Brooklyn Bridge Park, these re-purposed spaces from their industrial past have proven to be assets to the city’s hunger for space.

Liberty Park is a reinvented space but for a different reason; the events of September 11th.

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Liberty Park looking to the west.

When the original World Trade Center was created, the former Austin J. Tobin Plaza was a wide albeit barren space that had more concrete than green. Looking at older photos prior to writing this I realized the missed opportunities of that space but for it’s time it was perhaps the gold standard in modernist design. Simple, rational and spartan.

As a result, Liberty Park has two jobs; one is to provide suitable open space to the people who work, live and visit the Lower Manhattan area and two restore a form of public space that was lost due to 9/11 and the creation of the memorial.

Liberty Park combines the site of two former structures from pre-9/11 Lower Manhattan. The first, the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, was the only structure to be destroyed in the 9/11 attacks that was not part of the World Trade Center complex. It also held a separate distinction as the only religious structure to also be destroyed for St. Paul’s Chapel is opposite the site to the est.

The second, the Deutsche Bank Building, had to demolished due to structural damage. I watched over the decade as they slowly demolished the 40-story structure. The three blocks that the two structures existed upon were merged to create a underground parking lot for the new World Trade Center complex.

On top of the parking lot’s entrance is Liberty Park. The park, which opened on June the 30th, was built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and designed by landscape architect Joseph E. Brown. The park, which is approximately one acre, is a much needed portion of green space in an area where there is very little.

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Man Looking at the 9/11 Memorial from Liberty Park.

The park overlooks the 9/11 Memorial and the rest of the World Trade Center campus to the north, the former World Financial Center, now called Brookfield Place, to the west and one of my personal favorite skyscraper’s in Lower Manhattan, 1 Wall Street in the east.

The most unique aspect is the living wall. It’s a wall of plants that is 20 feet high and is mix of periwinkle, Japanese spurge, sedge, Baltic ivy, and Winter creeper. The benches are made of what appears to be wood are nice, wide and comfortable to sit on.

On the southwest corner of the park sits the America’s Response Monument, dedicated to the troops who were part of the Special Forces team that were the first to be deployed in Afghanistan. The image of a man on the horse stems from the unique aspect of Afghanistan’s geography. With no suitable way to get across terrain, 12 members were given horses by local tribesman friendly to the U.S.

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America’s Response Monument

Despite that only two members knew how to ride a horse, the team accepted the idea and with the assistance of the tribes, they drove the Taliban from the area. The fact that a group of 21st century soldiers, using what was thought to be an outdated form of warfare to defeat an enemy showed the strength and agility of the U.S. military.

The memorial, it should be noted is the first memorial dedicated to members of our special forces that will be open to the public, was dedicated in 2011. It initially was placed at Brookfield Place and then shunted next to the One World Trade Center but behind a construction fence. So I’m thankful that it’s in a better spot.

The view will give visitors a new perspective of the memorial but also give residents a place to get away from the hubbub of the memorial below.

A worthy alternative indeed.

 

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Who view’s it best: Brooklyn Vs. Manhattan Bridge

Ok so if you guys remember from last year I did something of a mini series on the best views of the Manhattan skyline. This is a continuation/re-boot of that series. Over the last few months, I’ve been visiting two iconic New York City bridges over the which bridge is better at skyline views. The Brooklyn or Manhattan B

It’s the battle of the bridges

To start, each bridge is unique in their design and their place in the city-scape. They also provide the visitor a different viewpoint of the city, specifically if it is geared towards Lower Manhattan.

Historically, Lower Manhattan was the center of New York until the 20th-century. So both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges reflect that as well as connecting to Downtown Brooklyn which it’s central business district was, much larger in the past.

This post is not to pick a winner, you can decide that for yourself. I’ll be updating the post as time goes on as perspectives change. In the meantime, I will show you what I’ve observed about walking both bridges.

Brooklyn Bridge 

Let’s take a look at the Brooklyn Bridge. The most famous and recognizable of the two. Opened in 1883, the bridge has the unusual aspect of placing the pedestrian walkway both above the traffic and in the middle of the bridge. This maximizes the visual impact a visitor has on the view. To the west, is the new One and Four World Trade Center, with number Three rising. While classic skyscrapers like 20 Exchange Place and 70 Pine, symbols of Roaring Twenties hold court further south and deeper still are Ellis, Governors and Liberty Island.

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Lower Manhattan skyline behind Brooklyn Bridge wires.

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The Manhattan Tower of the Brooklyn Bridge.

To the north, the Empire State Building still dominates the skyline despite new construction that will eventually match or surpass it. The idea that a building would dare to over take the city’s true vertical representation so close is something I will have to grapple with as I get older.

Other landmarks include 30 Rockefeller Plaza, (no I will not call it the Comcast Building still prefer GE or RCA if your an OG), Metlife/Pan Am Building, The Chrysler Building, The New York Life Building, the original Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower, the New York Times Building and lastly 432 Park Avenue.

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Despite holding court in solitude for nearly nine decades, the Empire State Building is getting some taller neighbors.

The Brooklyn Bridge is perfect except for one thing, it’s too damn crowded. When the walkway was built, it’s popularity was underestimated. In fact, a stampede was started less than a week after the bridge opened due to a rumor that the bridge was going to collapse! While a minority of people actually commute via walking on the bridge, tourists and photography lovers such as my self make up the majority of walkers.

To make matters worse, bicyclists have the north-facing side of the walkway and it’s an unpredictable. From bike tours to causal and hardcore bicyclists, accidents can happen. So if you want to get that shot, look both ways and judge the speed of the bike.

While their have been proposals to add more space on the bridge next to the existing pathway, for now they are just proposals so if you truly want a good shot walk it early in the morning or late in the evening once everyone has gone home.

Manhattan Bridge 

Just under a mile to the east lies the Manhattan Bridge. Compared to most bridges that stick to just one color, the Manhattan Bridge has two, blue and white and is an all steel affair compared to the elegant yet contrasting steel and stonework of the Brooklyn Bridge.

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When you have the walkway to yourself #goals

That being said, the Manhattan Bridge was never meant to pretty, it was meant to be crossed, by walking, biking, driving, or taking public transportation. This could be proven in the position of the bridge walkways, for which they are two, one on the north and the other on the south side.

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Views

The south side has some of the most sweeping views of Lower Manhattan. You get everything the buildings, the Statue of Liberty and oh yes there’s that Brooklyn Bridge right in the thick of it.

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Lower Manhattan from the Manhattan Bridge.

The north side has New York’s Housing developments built during the mid-century as slum clearance in the foreground. The Empire State Building and the midtown skyline is in the background. Had the projects not been built, the gradual rise from short to tall buildings would have appeared natural. In order for you to get a sense of that, walk all the way to the Manhattan side of the bridge.

The immediate skyline is also going to change. One Manhattan Square, a new luxury development that replaced a supermarket, is currently going up. It is a deeply unpopular project and has been stopped twice on safety grounds. The fact that a 800+ tall building is being built so close to the waterfront, on reclaimed land, should have been under tighter scrutiny, but somehow this one made it through the needle.

While the Manhattan Bridge’s iconic vantage shot of the Empire State Building under it’s lower arch appears safe, questions about saving such views have come up before with the erection of the Pierhouse on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge. That is something I’ve covered in my previous post on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and it’s views. It seems that history will repeat itself but with a taller and garish building. So time is of the essence to document this soon to be lost view.

One downside to the bridge is the loss of the 360 degree view that the Brooklyn Bridge has over the Manhattan Bridge also with four subway tracks roaring across the bridge it can get very noisy. However, the noise and the lack of visible entry points of the walkway gives the visitor more space and leisure time to savor the view.

But if you want to get higher you can take a cab or a double decker tour bus on the upper level which can give you the 360 degree view you are missing on the lower level. It’s pricey and you can’t immediately get off the bus once you’ve done the round trip but as a former worker of those buses, under the right circumstances, it can be one helluva view.

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The Upper Level view.

So who’s the winner well walk it and comment below.

Follow me on Instagram @ayindestevens for past and present shots of these landmarks and on twitter @AJStevens50 on some unrelated tweets of me getting stuck on the subway haha.