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Public Art + Public Beach

Looking west, David Hammons' "Day's End" and the public beach. Photo: Annik LaFarge, author of On the High Line
Looking west, David Hammons’ “Day’s End” and the public beach

This week the newest park in the Hudson River Park system, Gansevoort Peninsula, opened on the former Pier 52, just south of Little Island and across the highway from the Whitney Museum. I will be writing more about this place, and its long, strange, history, but for now I offer some pictures and a few thoughts.

If you’ve lived in New York City for your entire life, as I have, the idea of a beach in Manhattan is pretty outrageous. I was dubious about this one from the moment it was announced several years ago, but going there on a hot, sunny day and seeing the happiness abounding — in folks of all ages — had a softening effect. This place is a little miracle.

A little girl plays in the sand at Gansevoort Peninsula. Photo: Annik LaFarge, author of On the High Line
A little girl plays in the sand at Gansevoort Peninsula

The best part of Gansevoort Peninsula can’t be experienced through photographs: it’s the sound of the waves of the Hudson River lapping against the rip-rap. Yes, there’s garbage and all kinds of junky stuff washing up with the water, but this is New York City. We expect that. Soon there will be droves of kayakers, paddle boarders and kite surfers stepping off the broad, smooth stones that were placed here for easy launching into the river.

Another thing I love about this park is the way David Hammons’ “Day’s End” sculpture, a work that memorializes the history of the piers in West Chelsea, casts its long shadow across the beach. It’s here, but not here, just like the pier it replaced. And lest you forget you’re in New York City, the park’s designers have helpfully placed a manhole cover at the western edge of the beach, in the boardwalk. See photo below and, as always, click to enlarge the image.

Looking east on Gansevoort Peninsula, with the shadow of "Day's End" crossing the sand. Photo: Annik LaFarge, author of On the High Line
Looking east, with the shadow of “Day’s End” crossing the sand

But my favorite part of Gansevoort Peninsula is its history. Soon I’ll be sharing more photographs, including some rare images I found in the Municipal Archives, and telling the fascinating and truly strange history of Thirteenth Avenue. This park occupies the last patch of the lost avenue, and its history is truly remarkable. More soon.

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