The unrelenting July heat seemed to momentarily break as we gathered for our Public Space Potluck in Gantry Plaza State Park on July 20th. Few things can compare to the view of the Manhattan skyline all park-goers are graced with while walking past the four piers encompassed by this park. Our trip was enhanced by commentary and a tour by Thomas Balsley, who designed Gantry Plaza State Park.
We choose Gantry Plaza to host our event because it exemplifies the design excellence necessary for a waterfront park in this daunting era of climate change. In our tour of the park, we highlighted the design features that make this site sustainable and safe in spite of super storms and evolving ecosystems.
Resilient design was truly put to the test in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit the park before construction was fully complete. Thomas Balsley recalled, “Sandy had water up to about here [indicating a high water mark on a path] and it really covered the entire park. Our grading plan saved the area. We had made sure that the park self drained and the plant material was resistant or compatible with saline water. The water drained right out of this site after the storm, and the park withstood Sandy.”
Thomas further pointed out other clever designs that hinted at the important history of the park. From the inclusion of blocks made from the same granite as foundations of the oldest buildings in the area, to interpretive signage and the retention of the gantries themselves, these were important design decisions to remind us of Long Island's integral role in nationwide trade. He continued, “We tried to make subtle gestures about the history of this place to illuminate its past and inspire a sense of pride, without being too literal. You will see polished courses of cobblestone that track where the rails used to go, and we created these plate steel eyebeams that used to be timbered for the dock.”
Our shared meal and walk through Gantry Plaza State Park was a beautiful excuse to explore the Long Island City waterfront, while demonstrating the possibilities for bringing historically significant sites into the modern day through innovative design and artful details.
We hope you will join us at our final potluck of the summer. Stay tuned for the event details!
We had made sure that the park self drained and the plant material was resistant or compatible with saline water. The water drained right out of this site after the storm, and the park withstood Sandy.