Hunters Point South Park to be completed

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The award-winning team of designers who designed the first phase of Hunters Point South Park, is coming back to finish the job. Thomas Balsley presented the plans for the final phase of Hunters Point South Park, which will stretch from 54th Avenue to Newtown Creek., designed by Thomas Balsley Associates, WEISS/MANFREDI with ARUP.

Construction is expected to begin in late summer and be completed in 2018, according to the City Economic Development Corp.

“This will be more contemplative with a lot of elements that are more intimate than the first phase of the park,” Balsley said. “Hunters Point South Park, when it opened two years ago, was all about socializing and bringing people together and building a community with its wide open spaces. When we went to do the second phase we wanted something where you could commune with nature with its high bluffs, quiet paths and tidal marshes, a really exciting place where you could get away from the city and have a picnic under a shady tree.”

The park will offer “exhilarating” views of the Manhattan skyline from a curving overlook that rises 35 feet above the East River. Kayakers will also have access to the water from a boat launch next to Newtown Creek.

“Balsley’s plans 100 percent captured what we were hoping for, what we thought this park can be,” Hunters Point Parks Conservancy Vice President Mark Christie said. “It’s going to be spectacular, a truly great attraction for Queens.”

If there was one drawback to the presentation that Balsley and representatives of NYCEDC gave the Conservancy last week, it was the lack of public restrooms. “I do have an issue with that, yes,” HPPC President Rob Basch said. “We already have a problem on weekends at the bathrooms at LIC Landing. They’re overused and many women have to use the men’s room, but in all I think Phase 2 is going to be a beautiful addition.”

Balsley said the reaction to the design team’s plans for Phase 2was much better than it was when he designed Queens West in 1993 and Gantry Plaza State Park in 1998.

“There was a lot of opposition from folks back then. There was a whole community that didn’t want it,” he said.

Christie remembered.

“The opposition came from hard-working blue-collar types who wanted to maintain the neighborhood’s grittiness and didn’t want development to come and raise their property taxes,” he said. “But they’ve since come to love the parks.”

Balsley is pleased that the NYCEDC chose the co-design of his firm, WEISS/MANFREDI, and Arup to finish the project.

“I’m happy to be a part of the story,” he said. “I was invested emotionally in that park (Gantry). I do work all over the world but that park is closest to my heart.”

He’s also proud of the first phase of Hunters Point South Park which will get the nation’s attention when NBC broadcasts the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks from the venue.

“Oh my God, I can’t wait for that,” Balsley said.

Updated 5:15 pm, June 22, 2015
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