MNLA expertise in waterfront parks can be seen in the 2.5 miles of waterfront that is being transformed in Lower Manhattan.
East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) originated from the Rebuild by Design competition, in which New York City was awarded HUD funding to implement the first phase of the Big U concept. It envisioned an integrated coastal flood protection system around lower Manhattan, spanning 2.5 miles of Manhattan’s east side and includes four parks, an esplanade, and over 60 acres of open space. MNLA joined the team as the Lead Landscape Architect for all open space and park design at the start of the 2014 feasibility phase and our work continues today into construction.
The design for ESCR radically re-imagines the interaction between humans, nature, and flood protection. While historic flood protection forcefully separates people from nature, the design for ESCR weaves flood protection through, above, and below open space offering a multitude of benefits – separation from the adjacent FDR highway, tucking under and supporting recreation courts and ballfields, and fortifying the esplanade at the edges of the East River – all while protecting 110,000 New Yorkers from future seal level rise and flooding. This reimagining of the relationship between flood protection, people, and open space through the integration of the flood protection within open space allowed MNLA to design new multifaceted parks through which the usable, protected area within the parkland is greatly increased.
Resilience runs deep in ESCR. MNLA has designed the parks to succeed at the extremes – from a sunny summer day filled with thousands of people to a level five hurricane passing directly over the city. Every design and construction decision made contributes to increasing the resiliency of the parks and the adjacent communities. As part of the NYC Parks’ open space network, the parks use many of the NYC Parks’ standard materials and plant species to offer continuity and comfort, maintain efficiency, and increase the longevity of the parks. However, the MNLA design and detailing applies these standards in specific ways to increase the overall resilience and responsiveness of the parks. The use of NYC Parks’ standards contributes significantly to their ability to quickly recover and reopen the park post-storm event and for the community to swiftly resume daily life.
The integration of the floodwall within the parks results in dual planting approaches for ESCR. In areas where the park is designed to flood (e.g. Stuyvesant Cove), MNLA designed a plant palette which thrives in both inundated and dry conditions, while in protected areas of the park (e.g. East River Park) MNLA has selected plants known for their ability to survive harsh, salty waterfront conditions. The diverse plant palette for the various environments (floodable through protected) builds an expanded NYC Parks’ plant palette intended for replication and use throughout the city’s waterfronts. The chosen plant species deliver a multitude of ecosystem services. They are selected for their ability to adapt to a wide variety of future climate potentials including withstanding higher maritime winds, absorbing increased precipitation, enduring salt spray in heightened conditions and increasingly extreme events, and surviving inundation during storm events. The dual planting approach and the planting design deliver flexibility and the potential for plant movement over time encouraging the parks to adapt to future climate conditions.