NYC’s Coolest Green Spaces
Spring in New York is a vibe. As the first buds start to bloom, the days stretch on and the city’s mojo returns, talk turns to alfresco dining, picnics in the park and the best places to retreat into nature—ideally by the water—in the urban jungle. Lucky for us NYC’s in the midst of a green space revival that’s literally changing the city’s landscape. Soon lower Manhattan will even have its very own beach. Here’s our guide to downtown’s coolest and most lovely outdoor oasis’ to chill, play and soak up some rays this season.
Manhattan’s New Beach
Set to open this summer, Gansevoort Peninsula will be Manhattan’s first official public beach. Located along the Hudson River between Chelsea and the Meatpacking district, while it’s not exactly the Italian Riviera—and sadly you can’t swim—Manhattanites can lounge, sunbathe, picnic, kayak, get active on the large sports field and chill on the sand by the shoreline. Created by James Corner Field Operations, the designer gurus behind the High Line, the 5.65-acre space will have a soft-edged sandy beach (complete with sun loungers and umbrellas), abundant greenery, a concession area, river gym, salt marsh, a promenade and beach walk, kayak access, a picnic area, and 3.5 acres of open ball field space.
High Line Park
In the heart of Manhattan’s trendy Meatpacking District, you’ll find the city’s first above-street-level park. Once a historic freight rail line the defunct tracks were converted into a public landscaped park in 2019 and span 10 blocks north from The Whitney Museum into Chelsea’s arts district and the Hudson Yards. Take a stroll on the High Line to get lost in the lush greenery and get an elevated view over the Hudson River and cityscape, pausing along the way to take in the curated art installations, grab a coffee at the 14th Avenue Passage, enter the Chelsea Market or hang out on the seated steps to marvel at the bustling streets below through a giant glass window at the 10th Avenue Outlook (which you’ll recognize from many a Hollywood movie).
Tompkins Square Park
The green centerpiece of the eclectic East Village—home to artists, radicals, fashionistas and vagabonds—Tompkins Square Park, once the scene of anti-Vietnam War protests in the 60s—today is a quaint, flower-filled hangout. Serving as a kind of town square, the bustling garden park located in the Alphabet City section of East Village is the perfect spot for people-watching, political rallies and enjoying a diverse lineup of live performances including the famed Wigstock Drag Festival Charlie Parker Jazz Festival and the Howl! Festival, which pays homage to the late Allen Ginsberg, a famed Beat writer and poet and longtime resident of the neighborhood. The 10.5-acre square park (as its name suggests) is also equipped with playgrounds, chess tables, a handball and basketball court, and a dog run.
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Also on the Hudson River (sensing a theme yet?) between West Village and Chelsea is the city’s first floating island. A tropical oasis at 13th Street, Little Island is a cute, vibrant green space that’s home to 350 different floral and tree species, an amphitheater that plays host to live performances, art installations, and a central plaza with food and drinks trucks. Head here for a meander amid the fauna and to take in the iconic views over the river and city skyscrapers from the many vantage points. Or just curl up and enjoy a picnic and get a culture fix courtesy of the curated art program which features regular jazz performances, comedy shows, and storytelling events.
Christopher Street Piers
Once a notorious hotspot for gay cruising, The Christopher Street Piers (aka Pier 45) has been transformed into a vibrant outdoor destination. Known as the green beach come spring and summer, the 900-foot-long tiled pier which juts out over the Hudson River off famed Christopher Street, has a long promenade, artful shade structures, spray showers, seating areas, wood decking and an expansive grass lawn where you lay back and chill while taking advantage of epic views of the Statue of Liberty. Or better still, enjoy music and dancing with Sunset Salsa classes, Sunset on the Hudson concerts and Pride events as part of the park’s dynamic and inclusive programming line-up.
WORDS Natasha Silva-Jelly
PHOTOGRAPHY Stephan Kelle