Riverside Park is a beautiful waterfront public park in New York City’s Manhattan Borough neighborhoods Upper West Side, Morningside Heights and Hamilton Heights. The park consists of a 4-mile (6.4 km) strip of land, between the Hudson River / Henry Hudson Parkway and the serpentine Riverside Drive, with a width between 100 and 500 feet (30 and 152 m).
Riverside Park was established in 1872 by land condemnation, and was developed at the same time as Riverside Drive. It initially ran between 72nd and 125th Streets, during the first decade of the 20th century it was extended northward. When the park was first laid out, the right-of-way of West Side Line of New York Central Railroad blocked access to the water. In the 1930s the train line was replaced with an esplanade and other public facilities under the park commissioner Robert Moses’ West Side improvement scheme. Until the 1980s, when it was revamped and expanded southward as part of the Riverside South development, very few changes were made to the park.
Riverside Park is part of the Greenway on the Manhattan Waterfront, a pedestrian and cycling route around the waterfront of Manhattan. The park is managed and maintained by the New York City Parks and Recreation Department, while the Riverside Park Conservancy supports its operational activities. It is both listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a scenic landmark in New York City.
Riverside Park South
In the 1980s Donald Trump, then the owner of the property of 57 acres (230,000 m2) just south of Riverside Park that had been the Penn Central freight rail yard, wanted to construct a major development with a large shopping mall and the world’s tallest skyscraper. In 1990, met with considerable resistance, and hobbled by his poor financial status, Trump decided to implement a new site plan put forward by six community groups.
The new plan, named Riverside South, included much smaller buildings based around a revised Riverside Park South, extending from 72nd to 59th Streets with a design similar to the original Riverside Park. To expand Riverside Park by 25 acres (100,000 m2), Trump’s proposed shopping mall would be removed, and the elevated West Side Highway would be relocated to grade eastward and buried. A new boulevard on the Riverside will curve over the relocated highway, with the park sloping down the hill. The proposed park would include parts of the old rail yard, such as the New York Central Railroad 69th Street Transfer Bridge. As part of the project, Trump and the city agreed to build a new bicycle path immediately to the south connecting Riverside Park with Hudson River Park.
The first phase of the new Riverside Park South began in November 1998, having been planned by Thomas Balsley & Associates. Phase 1, a portion of 7 acres (3 ha) from 72nd to 68th Streets opened in January 2001 just over two years later. Pier I, part of the railyard, was reconstructed at 70th Street; it retains its original length of 795 feet (242 m), but is 55 feet (17 m) narrower than originally. Phase 2, opened in 2003, includes a section on the waterfront from 70th Street to 65th Street including two plazas on 66th and 68th Streets and a jagged waterfront. Phase 3, which opened in August 2006, runs along the waterfront from 65th Street to 62nd Street. Phase 4, opened from 62nd to 57th Streets along the waterfront in 2007.
The construction of phases 5 and 6, situated between the present and future alignments of the highway, is partly tied to the fate of the relocation of the highway, whose timing is still unclear. However, NYC Parks approved interim and final designs for those two sections; interim park construction began in August 2016. Relocating the highway will require some park rebuild.