With its miles of coastline, New York City is highly vulnerable to flooding events. And within its dense, urban environment, connections to nature and spaces for habitats are ever-important. As such, an abandoned industrial area in Long Island City along the coast of the East River presented a unique opportunity to develop a vibrant, sustainable space for visitors and residents alike.  

Arup led the revitalization of this previously inaccessible site into an 11-acre continuous waterfront park. In addition to providing impressive public facilities to foster community building and opportunities for solitude and quiet moments, Arup’s infrastructure designs transformed the shoreline into a resilient system of green and grey stormwater infrastructure. These nature-based solutions are designed to absorb floodwater to protect the neighborhood, while also providing habitat for wildlife.  

Hunter’s Point South serves as a model for sustainable urban ecology, born from successful collaboration amongst various stakeholders to reimagine a disused area into a space that allows its community to thrive while simultaneously protecting it. 

Leading sustainable waterfront development 

The design accounts for future flood patterns of the East River with various sustainable features including bioswales, streetside stormwater planters, and the separation of the previously combined storm-sanitary sewer system. The park comfort station, maintenance and office building are LEED-silver certified and include photovoltaic power systems. 

Phase I of the Hunter’s Point South park opened to the public in 2013 and includes a children’s playground, basketball courts, dog run, multipurpose play field and urban beach. Signature architectural elements include overlooks of the East River and Manhattan skyline featuring large elevated decks, sweeping shade canopies and intimate spaces for retreat. Phase 2 opened in June 2018 and offers additional public space. 

The entire development is located on the East River waterfront in Queens and includes up to 5,000 new housing units, 60% targeted to middle-income families. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) is also planning for 100,000ft2 of retail, 50,000ft2 of community space and two schools.

Challenging geotechnical conditions 

Located on reclaimed land in riverside marshes with over a century and a half of industrial and transportation development, the Hunter’s Point South project area posed a number of geotechnical challenges. In addition to the variable and, in places, loosely compacted fill, the site was underlain by soft organic silts that are highly compressible and variable in thickness. Additionally, shallow transportation tunnels reduced the options for structural support of new infrastructure. 

To mitigate post-construction settlement of new constructed roadways and sewers, the ground was surcharged to reduce the compressibility characteristics of the soft silts. Lightweight backfills were also used in places where pile supports of the sewers was prohibited due to the presence of the tunnels. 

Public and agency coordination 

Construction of public works in New York City requires regulatory review by a number of agencies and commissions. Hunter’s Point South required reviews by New York City’s Departments of Environmental Protection, Transportation, City Planning, and Parks and Recreation, in addition to the city’s Fire Department, Metropolitan Transportation Agency, Public Design Commission and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 

Adding to the mix, Arup’s work occurred in coordination with the construction of a new school by the city’s School Construction Authority and the development of new mixed-use towers by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Altogether, over 70 independent parties were consulted or coordinated with through the design stage. 

The final result achieves a new vision for New York’s abandoned industrial waterfronts and serves a model for future sustainable design.