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Pier 35 to attract new tenant to New York: mussels

September 29, 2012

rendering of Pier 35 via

I was fortunate to attend a lecture by renowned Landscape Architect Ken Smith at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum the other evening, and was really excited to hear about one of his projects that is part of the larger transformation of New York City’s waterfront. Ken Smith’s office, along with SHoP Architects and Great Ecology are building an “eco-park” as part of the Pier 35 project on the East River Waterfront, sponsored by NYC Economic Development Corporation. One of the design elements supports mussel habitats, by breaking the seawall with two sloped intertidal habitat slabs. The concrete slabs will be covered with large rocks (attached to steel posts) to encourage the establishment and growth of mollusks and crustaceans.

The creation of this habitat feature coincides with necessary infrastructure work: a deteriorated storm sewer outfall pipe was in need of replacement, and the new artificial mussel bed will be constructed on top of the new pipe. Granted, the proximity of the two means that the mussels are probably not ideal for human consumption, but it’s still an interesting way to engage the park’s users. As Ken Smith pointed out, the public space provides something that is missing in many other waterfront parks: the ability to watch tidal change. In most places, seawalls are vertical objects, when the tide is up, you notice the higher water levels, and when the tides go out, you can notice a visible drop in levels, but rarely can you see the actual changing of the tides. With the sculptural feature integrated into the Pier 35 project, the public can watch the tides come and go, furthering the connection that the waterfront projects all over New York are cultivating between the city and its greater context.

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