- After rides on fish carousel, guests asked to fund Playscape
- Creative playground will complete redesign of the Battery
The treehouses will provide views of the Hudson River on one side, and densely packed skyscrapers on the other. For those who prefer to stay earthbound, a theater will invite children to mount their own shows.
Guests at the Battery Conservancy benefit Wednesday night were among the first to see plans for the Battery Playscape, the final project in more than two decades of redesigning the 25-acre park at the southern tip of Manhattan, known to tourists as the place to hitch a boat to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island.
These days, there are many reasons to linger, thanks in part to the work of the architecture firm WXY, helmed by Claire Weisz. During the cocktail hour, Weisz spent some time surveying her work, including a curved bench, with Maggie Boepple, president and director of the Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center. WXY was honored with the Battery Medal for Design Excellence.
The Battery contains one of the largest perennial gardens in America, featuring the designs of Dutch horticulturist Piet Oudolf, and an urban farm. Later this month, bright blue chairs designed for the park by Canadian Andrew Jones will arrive, to be used on 90,000 square feet of lawn.
Among the park’s supporters were First Data Chief Executive Officer Frank Bisignano and Saks Fifth Avenue President Marc Metrick, who accepted the Battery Medal for Corporate Leadership on behalf of Hudson’s Bay Company, which has owned Saks since 2013.
The tent was decorated in the colors of the iconic striped blanket made by the oldest company in North America: the Hudson’s Bay Company, whose U.S. headquarters are in Lower Manhattan, a neighborhood that is getting three new HBC stores this year under various banners. Both Manhattan’s western river and the Canadian bay, gateway for the transatlantic fur trade, are named after English seafarer Henry Hudson.
As for what a future explorer of the park will discover: the Battery Playscape’s treehouses will be partly handicap-accessible and connected by rope bridges. There will also be slides, made from granite so children won’t get broiled when it’s sunny, said Warrie Price, the Conservancy’s founder and president. And how about a dune to climb (a nod to the waters surrounding the park)? The designs are by BKSK Architects and Starr Whitehouse.
The evening started with proof of the Conservancy’s ability to execute whimsical and original projects as guests took rides on its SeaGlass carousel, which opened last year. True, some noted the project took years longer than originally anticipated, due to the complexities of execution as well as the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy -- a huge setback for many of the park’s initiatives. Nonetheless, expressions of wonder were plentiful on the grown men in suits who climbed into luminescent fish for a ride, psychedelic light show included.
Grown-up reality returned later on under the dinner tent as Playscape’s builders appealed for funds. Price and Alasdair Nichol, an appraiser on PBS’s "Antiques Roadshow," asked guests to donate $10,000 to buy a bronze panel for the theater (40 are required). Gardens in which to situate the slides were $5,000. There were many takers.
Given the focus on amenities for families --- who’ve been moving to Lower Manhattan in droves in recent years -- some guests brought along actual kids. Battery Conservancy Chairman Bill Rudin, of the New York real estate dynasty, had his granddaughter Elle with him. Artist Michele Oka Doner had two grandchildren in tow. Their personal highlight: getting to see puppeteer Basil Twist, an adviser on the Playscape’s theater, work the wires attached to his creation, Stickman, as it kicked and turned.