The landscape and urban design workshop as part of wHY - wHY GROUNDS, has tackled the linear site stretching from 53rd to 61st street, encompassing 1.72-acres of public space. The site is exceptional with its views to Roosevelt Island, the Queensborough Bridge, the Queens/Brooklyn waterfront and down to Lower Manhattan.
“We need imaginative responses to public space in cities across America, and New York is no exception. Connecting to the bodies of water surrounding us and enhancing our relationship to the East River is critical to our reality now and our future of resilience, culture and biodiversity,” comments Mark Thomann, wHY GROUNDS Director.
The wHY GROUNDS proposal is driven by the concept of “Three Layers of meaning: Social, Botanical, Cultural” which is executed with an abundant variety of experiences. The design, led by wHY GROUNDS Director and landscape and urban design professor Mark Thomann, ASLA, maintains the linearity of the site. In contrast to the linear plan, the project makes sectional explorations that revolve around two lanes - the slow-lane for plantings and pedestrians and the fast-lane for bikes and runners. Grafted onto these two lanes the plan undulates and creates outdoor rooms, allowing for a varied program, places to rest, a chance to appreciate the views and experience atypical adjacencies.
wHY GROUNDS has explored how the slopes of their proposal can filter noise to enhance the opportunities for the cultural component of the concept. The outdoor rooms are flexible spaces for temporary, pop-up, and permanent programming, from street artists to special events. One of the initial cultural events is the ART LANE artist program, where artists will come together to paint the bicycle lanes.
With ecological awareness at the forefront of thought, wHY GROUNDS’ approach builds on New York City’s vision of reduced emissions. Healthy habitats will thrive below the undulating decks with native, riparian, and river edge plantings. Both above and below the decks, the landscaping palette is designed to balance maintenance, water, shading, and provide biodiversity.
This East Midtown greenway proposal is thoughtful in its design to address the needs of the communities it will serve, and the landscape it will restore to the public. The programmatic function of being able to generate revenue to maintain the park, along with low maintenance planting, helps to ensure the success and longevity of this seventy-million dollar proposal.