Resilience Walking Tou of Hunters Point South: Official Side Event of The UN 2023 Water Conference

FRIDAY, March 24, 2023 

The program description for the tour led by Waterfront Alliance President Cortney Koenig Worrall and Chief Waterfront Design Officer Joseph Sutkowi, along with David Ezer spoke of Long Island City’s Hunters Point as a waterfront development that stands the test of time. located directly across the East River from the United Nations Headquarters building, Hunters Point South is a stunning example of a successful public-private partnership that supports resilience, ecology and access along the waterfront.

As one of the first WEDG (Waterfront Edge Design Guidelines) Verified sites in New York City, the part boasts coastal wetlands, an entirely reshaped shoreline, ferry access, innovative green infrastructure for stormwater, viewing platforms with an incredible view of Manhattan and recreational features. The tour of the park discusses how various features protect the Long Island City waterfront neighborhood and how the park, which was financed by the developments that adjoin it, came into existence.

Over 20 conference attendees gathered on the Manhattan side of the East River to take the New York Waterway ferry across and meet otters gathered at the LIC ferry landing. A short walk north through the first phase of what was then called Queens West led the group to the local branch of the Queens Public Library, designed by Steven Holl, which opened to the public in September of 2019. The group climbed six flights of stairs to a conference area with a great view west to the United Nations Building and Manhattan skyline for a project briefing about the park.

Cortney Koenig Worrell

Joseph Sutkowi

Cortney Worrell described how the Waterfront Alliance developed WEDG®, a science-based voluntary rating system and set of guidelines to address the challenges at project scale of the growing risk of coastal flooding and the complexity of overlapping jurisdictions and land-use policies. WEDG is the gold standard for waterfront resilience and risk reduction. It also maximizes the benefits for ecology and access by inspiring innovation at the water’s edge, serving as a tool for designers, developers, risk and financial professionals, students and educators, as well as communities.

For excellence in waterfront design, Hunters Point  South, a City-owned mixed-use development on the East River waterfront was awarded certification in the WEDG program of the Waterfront Alliance. The 30-acre development provides 5,000 housing units, 60 percent of which are designated as affordable for low and moderate income families. The 11-acre waterfront park was designed by the collaboration of Thomas Balsey Associates (now SWA/Balsley), Weiss Manfredi and Arup. The waterfront park won WEDG designation because of its provision of view corridors and public access, and for consideration of climate change and future sea level rise. Floodable edges and diverse waterfront edge treatments were design features that garnered resiliency points. Ecology points in the WEDG rating system were awarded for the creation of a tidal marsh and the integration of green infrastructure to increase natural filtration of rainwater separation of sewage and stormwater.

Rick Bell added a few comments about the design of the Hunter’s Point Library, a project of the NYC Department of Design and Construction and the Queens Public Library system. He recalled that the two phases of the park design both involved Tom Balsley as the primary landscape architect, though half was done for the State of New York and half for the City of New York. The different clients and the different decades meant that there were significantly different budgets and design expectations.



Joseph Sutkowi led the tour at a brisk pace, stopping at various significant points in a walk north to that shows how the designers – in their words – “weaved together infrastructure, landscape and architecture to transform a post-industrial site into new ecological corridors that anticipate the inevitable patterns of flooding and rising water levels along the East River.” Joseph pointed out how the circular depressed bowl could accept and retain overflow river water during major storms. At other times it provides a level playing surface for a variety of recreational activities.



Joseph also pointed out how the rip-rap stone edge helps mitigate storm surge by breaking down the incoming water and decreasing its velocity. Native vegetation in the park including black gum, willow oak, beach plum, purple coneflower, and seaside goldenrod, among others. They provide vital habitats for native birds and other species and are naturally resilient because they are adapted to local conditions and prevent erosion.



Part of the attraction of Hunter’s Point South as a place to live and its park as a resilient riverside recreation space is its diversity of activity and its accessibility. It is easy to get to from upland communities in Long Island City, close to the #7 subway, and served by two ferry landings. Those on the tour heading to the plenaries and side events on the closing day of the UN 2023 Water Conference simply hopped on to the New York Waterways Ferry.


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