Last September I wrote a blog post entitled “Seeing Art in a Desolate Landscape” which, was about an area along the East River, in Long Island City, Queens that had been raised to make way for whatever project the city had planned for this prime water front piece of land.  I had assumed it was going to be either or both commercial and residential buildings. But, last Wednesday I read in The New York Times of the opening of the brand new Hunter’s Point South Park, on the shores of the East River and a kissing cousin to Gantry Plaza State Park. I then made my plans to visit that weekend.

I woke up Saturday to an almost autumn morning with warm sunshine and cool temperatures. I grabbed the camera and hurried over to this new jewel among the New York City urban parks. I took the #7 train to the Vernon/Jackson Boulevard stop, not the Hunter’s Point stop as one would think. Once on Vernon Boulevard I crossed the street and walked up 51st Avenue toward the East River and Gantry Plaza State Park. I crossed the new Center Boulevard and stood on the spot where the two parks are now joined, with Hunter’s Point South Park on my left.

Remembering the site as I had previously photographed it one year ago, with piles of rubble and other construction debris, this completed section of the park took my breath away. It sparkled and gleamed in the morning sun, like a young beauty at her debut. When entering the park you are welcomed with a sea of seasonal flowers and wet land plants in patches or small gardens and some decorated with old rusted rail tracks; a reminder of when the LIRR picked up cargo from these shores, which was off loaded from ships via the old Gantry’s back in LIC’s industrial hey-day.

Continuing my walk south I came across an enviable doggie run, the likes I’ve never seen before, with sloping hills and an embedded water trough flowing right through the middle of it, so the dogs can take a sip of cool water in between chasing their canine friends and non-stop barking. There was one little pug whose owner had put his ball up in a tree and this energetic furry fellow jumped straight up and down for about 15 minutes trying to retrieve his precious toy.

There is a colorful children’s playground with swings, slides and tunnels to crawl through, bike and running lanes snake throughout the park, a large shimmering green oval Astroturf lawn, and best of all a small sandy “urban” beach! Next to the beach is the cool shaded pavilion, constructed from pleated photovoltaic panels that fanned out in a graceful arc adjacent to the NY Waterway ferry landing.

To me, the best part of the park is the broad clean river promenade with the most fantastic views of the much photographed iconic Manhattan skyline. Along the promenade are cozy little nooks with seats for two or a whole row of angular wooden benches with high wide comfortable backs for lounging in the sun and watching the river’s traffic float by. Below the protective fencing, surrounding the water front portion of the park, the river laps against a strong rocky shore interspersed with sweet wild grasses.

I walked all over the park’s 5.5 acres until I was back at my starting point and then spent some time walking the fishing pier at Gantry Plaza State Park and taking photos of the stalwart black gantries. I climbed down to the water’s edge beneath one of the gantries, carefully balancing myself on the pink granite stepping-stones as I photographed the landscape from a lower perspective.

Walking up 51st Avenue, on my way back to Astoria, I looked up between the apartment buildings and spied 5 tiny planes writing across the clear blue sky and a few blocks further there was a gorgeous grouping of old but still regal row houses, the last hold outs from the turn of the 20th century among the steel and glass giants of the 21st.

Enjoy the photos and if you are in Long Island City you must visit this lovely urban utopia.

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3 thoughts on “Another Urban Utopia

  1. A panoramic and narrated tour of an oasis of urban planning just made for joggers, fishermen, bikers and doggies!!! Great views of a much needed city greenspace which is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. All that makes life leisurely and enjoyable is captured at this great new park. Thanks, Cate, for introducing us to a grand, new venue.

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  2. I so much enjoyed your photo tour of Gantry State Park. Your shots of the skyline and the textual quality of the park’s urban field brings excitement! It appears to be a stimulating place. I like how you have set, through your descriptive narrative, the footprint of the park and its surroundings. Thanks so much for sharing:)

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