BY YANNIC RACK
Lower Manhattan now has its very own High Line.
Liberty Park, the long-awaited elevated green space overlooking the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center, welcomed its first visitors this Wednesday.
The one-acre park sits 25 feet high atop the WTC Vehicle Security Center on Liberty St. and includes more than 50 trees, ample seating and a “Living Wall” of greenery along the building’s north façade.
“This is a site for reflection, lunch, passing the time — and it’s got a very unique perspective of the 9/11 Museum and the memorial pools,” said Pat Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, which owns the WTC site, shortly after the park was opened to the public at 11:45 a.m. on June 29.
At the opening, many a visitor could be heard remarking on the similarity to the popular High Line further uptown — and even Foye couldn’t help but invoke the iconic park in his remarks.
“As a matter of fact, if you leave here and walk up Greenwich Street, you’ll hit the High Line,” he said.
Locals were glad to see the facility’s rooftop being put to good — and public — use.
“It was almost just going to be the top of another garage. And with community input, it has become a wonderful green space,” said outgoing Community Board 1 chairwoman Catherine McVay Hughes. “We’re very grateful to have this here.”
The $50-million plaza was designed by landscape architect Stephen E. Brown of AECOM and offers views of the towering 1 WTC. It connects directly Battery Park City’s high-end Brookfield Place shopping center across West St. via the Liberty St. Pedestrian Bridge, which also opened on Wednesday.
“I congratulate the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey on the opening of Liberty Park and Liberty Park Bridge, beginning a new chapter in the history of lower Manhattan,” said Shari Hyman, president of the Battery Park City Authority. “The connective tissue between Battery Park City and the larger Downtown community is now complete, drawing together two neighborhoods in a shared future.”
The park, which will be open 24 hours year-round, includes 19 planters filled with trees, shrubs and perennial flowers. Last month, a sapling grown from the original horse chestnut tree in Amsterdam that inspired Anne Frank as she hid from the Nazis was planted there.
One of the park’s most striking features is the 336-foot long “Living Wall” — a vertical garden that runs along the north façade on Liberty St. to mask its driveways with 22,000 plants.
In addition, the park functions as a green roof for the vehicle security center and has several other sustainable features, including guardrails and benches made of reclaimed teakwood, as well as efficient LED lighting.
Even though some have been anticipating the green space’s unveiling for quite some time, most of the park-goers who came on Wednesday seemed to have just stumbled across the elevated park by chance on its opening day.
“It’s beautiful. It’s so nice that you can look down on everything,” said Sashi Racho, who was visiting the nearby memorial with her brother, in town for a visit from Perth, Australia. “And you can hear the pools, the waterfalls, but not see them. It’s so pretty.”
“Everything looks so beautiful. I had no idea it was opening today,” said Battery Park City resident Sarah Maznavi, who was pushing her 3-week-old son through the park in a stroller. “And it will be even more impressive once they open the Orthodox Church.”
While the park is largely complete, construction continues on its eastern end, where the St. Nicholas National Shrine is being built.
The Greek Orthodox shrine, a Santiago Calatrava-designed reincarnation of St. Nicholas Church, which was destroyed during 9/11, is scheduled to open in 2018.
Miranda Darcy, who lives in New Jersey but is training for her job in the city, was busy taking pictures of the park as it filled with visitors.
“It’s not every day you get to see something like this in NYC on its very first day,” she said, adding that the park felt like nice gesture to a community still shaped by 9/11. “The people down here really deserve it, after what they’ve been through,” she said.