Waterfront park ‘floats’ above New York’s Hudson River

A new park that appears to float on pilings above the Hudson River has opened to the public just off the Manhattan shoreline of New York City.

The park, called Little Island but nicknamed Diller Island while under construction, was built with 260 million US dollars (£184 million) from the foundation of media mogul Barry Diller, the former 20th Century Fox chief executive, and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

It joins a string of piers along Manhattan’s west side that have been redeveloped for recreational use over the last 20 years, but its unusual design sets it apart.

Little Island’s flowers, trees and performance spaces rest on 132 concrete pots that the park’s creators call tulip pots.

Visitors to Little Island park tour the grounds and relax on the grass on opening day for the park
Visitors to Little Island park tour the grounds on its opening day (Joseph Frederick/AP)

The pots are set on pilings of different heights, so that paths wind through the 2.4-acre park at a gentle, rolling grade.

The park is reachable by two bridges.

The design is from Thomas Heatherwick, who also created the Hudson Yards climbing structure known as the Vessel, north of Little Island.

Mr Diller, also a major donor to the nearby High Line, has spoken of Little Island as an enchanted forest or a visit to Oz.

“All of it is an oasis of everything fun, whimsical, playful that we can conjure,” he says in a video on the park’s website.

A woman rolls a baby carriage past a series of concrete tulip pots that support Little Island in New York
A woman walks past a series of concrete tulip pots that support Little Island (Kathy Willens/AP)

Little Island will be open from 6am to 1am every day, but there will be timed entry from noon to 8pm at least through until September, executive director Trish Santini said.

Entertainment including musical performances, theatre and dance will start in mid-June, she said.

Producer Scott Rudin, who stepped down from the Broadway League last month over allegations of abusive behaviour, was part of the team planning the performance spaces but “doesn’t have a formal ongoing relationship with the project”, Ms Santini said.

There will be a mix of free and ticketed performances at the park’s 687-seat amphitheatre.

A smaller stage in an area called the Glade will host additional performances.

The amphitheatre at Little Island in New York
The amphitheatre at Little Island (Kathy Willens/AP)

New Yorkers and visitors who walk on the High Line or bike along the waterfront have watched as Little Island was assembled, piece by piece.

The concrete tulips that support the park were fabricated and pieced together in upstate New York and floated down the Hudson by barge, four at a time, Ms Santini said.

Planting started after the massive tulips, which some liken to mushrooms, were in place at the end of 2019.

The park’s landscaping was designed by Signe Nielsen, of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects ,to evoke a leaf floating on water.

It features 35 species of trees, 65 species of shrubs and 290 types of grasses, vines and perennials.

A stairway leads to one of the highest points of Little Island, a new Hudson River Park in New York
A stairway leads to one of the highest points of Little Island (Kathy Willens/AP)

Little Island’s human-made hills provide views of the Hudson on one side and the city on the other, but the park’s carefully constructed topography makes it feel like its own little world.

“I think it’s going to represent for New York a place to come to rest and restore but also ignite their imaginations and remind us all that we’re creative,” Ms Santini said.

“My hope is that people come back time and time again because they realise every time they come there’s always something new and fun to do.”