Designing The Edge
Designing the Edge was a pilot project to explore and apply new approaches to New York City's waterfront treatments. The process was initiated in 2002 by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance with a $40,000 grant from the NYS Department of State, and developed in partnership with the Harlem River Park Task Force and NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. Whereas waterfront construction is traditionally driven by the goal of keeping land from eroding into the water, Designing the Edge encouraged interdisciplinary and participatory design to create edges that achieve multiple goals such as improved access, enhanced habitat and stormwater capture.
Using Harlem River Park as a prototype, a process was spearheaded to engage points of view not typically involved in park design. A brainstorming and research phase was added to the design schedule. Three environmental artists, a marine engineer, a marine biologist and an architect joined the Parks specialist in urban waterfront ecology and a planner, MWA staff, the Harlem River Park Task Force, knowledgeable residents, local artists and community leaders to develop an approach that was well suited to the specifics of the Harlem River but also had potential for being used on other waterfronts. The team asked and listened to the local community about how they wanted to interact with the water's edge on their new slice of waterfront open space.
The Harlem River is a tidal estuary connecting the waters of the Hudson and East Rivers. It was developed as a shipping channel in the 19th Century through realignment, landfilling, dredging and bulk-heading processes. Over the past 25 years, the standard treatment of waterfront edges consisted of a paved esplanade with an ornamental steel railing adjacent to a vertical masonry or steel sheetwall (examples include: Battery Park City, Hudson River Park, East River Park and Roosevelt Island). A new challenge is to replace these traditional edge treatments with something dramatically different: something that provides more habitat value; allows safe, recreational and environmentally sustainable use of the water; slows the pace of passing water, reducing scour along the edge and river bottom; absorbs wakes and wave action; and still functions to hold back landfill that supports upland uses. The Designing the Edge treatment in Harlem River Park, was a response to this challenge.
Designing the Edge was completed in the summer of 2009 and includes the following features:
Interested in a more in-depth look at the Designing the Edge process? Click here.