NYC Floating Park ‘Little Island’ Is Officially Open

Claire Leaden Claire Leaden

NYC Floating Park ‘Little Island’ Is Officially Open

NYC’s first “floating park,” a $260 million gift to the city from billionaire Barry Diller, finally opened on Friday, May 21!

After five years of construction in the Hudson River and much political upheaval to even get it built in the first place, this magical island park for New Yorkers is ready to be enjoyed by all.

Michael Grimm / Courtesy, Little Island

Colorful renderings promised a picturesque island of whimsy and fun, and the name “Little Island” definitely fits the theme. It is described as “a new public park designed for New Yorkers of all ages to enjoy nature and art” and “an innovative green space featuring open lawns and gentle pathways, community spaces and performance venues.” And now, you can actually see that in person.

The free public park is located at 13th St. within the four-mile-long Hudson River Park (Pier 55), and is one of the first to open in the city since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release.

Michael Grimm / Courtesy, Little Island

The park features lots of green space for lounging, beautiful landscaped gardens with more than 350 species of flowers, trees and shrubs, and fantastic views of the NYC skyline and Hudson River. There are also be community spaces and performance venues, offering educational programs, events and cultural experiences.

The 687-seat amphitheater (“The Amph”) will have its own slate of free performances starting in June, plus there will be a more intimate stage and lawn space called “The Glade.” There’s also be a central plaza with seating and food and beverage options called “The Play Ground.”

“The Play Ground,” Michael Grimm / Courtesy, Little Island

The park was designed by Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studio, who also designed the Hudson Yards Vessel. The shape of the island itself was actually inspired by a “leaf floating on the water.” The structure was made from 280 concrete piles, with 132 concrete “Tulips” on top that all hold different weights.

Michael Grimm / Courtesy, Little Island

Landscape design was by Signe Nielsen of MNLA, who planted more than 66,000 bulbs and 114 trees, some of which will grow to 60 feet tall.

“I hope Little Island will serve as a whimsical oasis for everyone who visits, a place to wander around and be happily surprised at every turn, to lounge and graze the landscape, and to be entertained, educated and stimulated by our programming,” said Barry Diller.

Little Island has also released their “Artists in Residence” who will “perform and/or direct work, curate events and festivals, engage with our community partners, and serve as reviewers for our Perform in the Park submissions program.” They are: tap dancer and choreographer Ayodele Casel, Playwright and Director Tina Landau, Actor, Singer & Musical Director Michael McElroy, and the PigPen Theatre Co. They begin performances in June.

Michael Grimm / Courtesy, Little Island

Most events will be free, and any ticketed events will be either free or low-cost. There will be performances and educational programming six days a week, from music, dance, circus, spoken word, and more.

Here are some stand-outs for the upcoming season!

  • A concert with the award-winning Broadway Inspirational Voices
  • A Pride weekend celebration with Tina Landau and her many Broadway Friends
  • The New York City live-performance return of American Ballet Theatre
  • A revival of a Little Orchestra Society’s fan favorite program Things That Go Bang!
  • A weekend of music from the islands curated by the World Music Institute
“The Amph,” Michael Grimm / Courtesy, Little Island

Educational programming includes: “creative workshops for all ages led by Little Island teaching artists, weekly programs from the Children’s Museum of Arts and New Victory Education, a Teen Night with The Door, and a Little Library that visits the park on Fridays in partnership with the Free Black Women’s Library, Women in Comics and Teatro SEA.”

The park will be open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., though you will need a timed reservations anytime after 12:00 pm (none are needed 6am-12pm). Admission is, of course, free.

Make a reservation or find out even more about programming on their website here!.

featured image source: Michael Grimm / Courtesy, Little Island

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