Two-Star Certified Pilot Project

Location: Bronx, New York
Project Size: 1.5 acres
Project Type: Open Space - Park
Site Context: Urban
Former Land Use: Brownfield
Terrestrial Biome: Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests
Budget: $6.8 million
photo by: Matthews Nielsen Landscape Architects, P.C. 

Project Overview

Hunts Point Landing is a significant component of the South Bronx Greenway Master Plan because it will provide public access to the waterfront and links to other bicycle and pedestrian improvements currently in progress. A key project goal is to integrate public recreation with sustainable design practices. The site’s shape (825 feet long by 100 feet wide) derives from its former use as a street and was used to organize program activities that transition from more active and intensively used in the upland sector to more passive and water-based toward the restored shoreline.

Located at the confluence of the Bronx and East Rivers, the 1.5 acre site offers panoramic views; the circulation and topography within the site have been calibrated to ensure that a visitor sees the water and is led to the shoreline upon entering the park. Water-based activities include a fishing pier, kayak and canoe launch as well as a restored shoreline that will become an educational demonstration of the interaction of fresh and tidal waters. The innovative shoreline design has been recognized by NOAA who provided grant money towards construction costs.

Regional Context

Hunts Point Landing is located in the ultra urban environment of the South Bronx in New York City on the Hunts Point Peninsula. Surrounded by industrial, commercial, and residential uses, the Hunts Point Landing site is accessed by local workers and residents from roads laden with heavy duty truck traffic lined by an endless supply of auto part salvage yards.

The Peninsula is defined by the water courses of the Bronx River, East River and Bronx Kill. The shoreline of Hunts Point Landing is heavily affected by tides and due to the proximity to the Long Island Sound, the site can be windy at times, but generally follows the typical humid subtropical climate patterns of the region.

The existing, completely flat site was a dead end roadway that terminated in a rip rap and debris-filled slope at the water's edge. The limited topography is the result of the waterfront portion of the peninsula being created by fill in the late 1800’s for industrial uses.

SITES Features + Practices

Restored Waterfront: Given the site's original, fully hardscaped condition, the most notable site feature is the reconstructed waterfront of intertidal and freshwater pools.

Material Reuse: The existing road, road bed, and sidewalks removed as part of the site demolition were crushed and reused on site as base material for the new hardscape, reducing the amount of material disposed of off site.

The innovative strategies undertaken for Hunts Point Landing were heavily influenced by advocacy efforts. One example of this advocacy involved the identification of the under used roadbed for conversion to a public open space and the subsequent demapping process. The project team fought to convince city agencies to accept the conversion of the roadway which required the relocation of multiple utilities. Had these utilities remained within the project site the required easements/offsets would have prevented the planting of any vegetation, other than lawn, for over 60% of the project area. This matter was further complicated by the parallel effort to obtain approval for the site runoff to be collected in the freshwater pool for treatment instead of being piped through the city system.

Strategies that were implemented due to the climate relate to site temperatures, regional conditions and weather patterns. The first strategy was to provide sufficient shade from shade trees and larger planting due to the openness of the site and the relatively harsh summers experienced in the New York City region. As a four season region, the project team sought to provide seasonal interest through planting selection. The project utilized the planting of evergreen trees for winter screening and habitat, flowering bulbs for spring interest, flowering trees and shrubs for summer shade and enjoyment and vegetation with a variety of fall colors and textures to promote use of the park year-round. As a coastal city, New York has regular storm activity which impacts the tidal wetlands. Wave attenuation boulders were included in the tidal marsh to prevent erosion caused by these storm events.

The most serendipitous material on site are the granite stones from the Willis Avenue Bridge, located three miles from the project site. The reconstruction of this bridge made available an extensive amount of historic granite that was used on site for the construction of the upland overlook and amphitheater. One of the stones was engraved to identify it as a reused local material.

The incorporation of the stainless steel mesh into the overlook railing provided a consistent, minimally obscured view out from the shoreline, while utilizing a material that will stand up to the harsh marine environment. For this reason, high grade stainless steel was also utilized for the pier railing, overlook railing, and decorative entry face for its strength, aesthetic, and resistance to salt and rust.


The ultra urban siting of Hunts Point Landing required a years-long series of approval processes, reviews and permitting. Approvals and permits were required from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, The New York State Department of Environmental Protection, the New York State Department of Transportation and the New York City Department of Transportation. Additionally, funding sources for this public project resulted in the requirement to meet Buy America provisions.

These requirements limited the project team's ability to pursue a series of SITES credits due the documentation and quantification processes requiring either cost breakdowns or the specification of proprietary materials due to limitations set forth by the public process and procurement rules.

Through the establishment of a versatile project team the major goals and objectives were able to be fully addressed throughout the design process. Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architecture served as the prime but were further assisted by a team that included marine engineers, structural engineers, ecologists, civil engineers, and graphic designers. This contingent shared a desire to establish a restored waterfront condition, public access, on-site treatment of stormwater, educational opportunities and the establishment of habitat.

Maintenance + Stewardship

It was Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architecture's desire throughout the design process that Hunts Point Landing will serve as a precedent for the future development of urban waterfronts. The project team hopes to elevate the standards for quality of waterfront access and shoreline restoration as well as spur continued restoration of habitat. 

Site Challenges

There were multiple constraints applied to the project as a result of the dense urban environment. There was interest in providing more open space in the Hunts Point neighborhood. Staggering health statistics identified this area of New York City as having the highest rate of diabetes, which is largely preventable by maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. Providing open space to this community would foster healthier lifestyles through accessible, safe, and sustainable environments. The design team had the vision to see a dead end roadway as a sustainable, educational, community open space. This required that the public roadway be de-mapped, no small feat, and that all subgrade utilities be relocated from beneath the park. The latter was a requirement of the extensive web of city and state approvals required for the realization of this project. The contamination of the soils and degraded shoreline condition were also major challenges throughout the design, approvals and construction process.

Project Goals + Successes

The goals and objectives for this project were established during the master planning of the South Bronx Greenway. The focus of the plan is to provide links to public open space at the waterfront, which is almost fully lined by industrial uses, making the water inaccessible. Establishing connectivity for residents and local workers alike was a major consideration throughout the design process. Local workers at the distribution centers, food markets, scrap yards, and other industrial workplaces outnumber the local residents.

An additional goal was to further efforts to restore a natural shoreline and aquatic habitat to support native flora and fauna. The entire shoreline of the Hunts Point Peninsula has been altered by rip rap, sheet pile or bulkhead throughout the industrialization of the area. The conversion of the dead end roadway maximizes the use of the waterfront site by providing an active recreation destination via bicycle, walking, canoeing and kayaking. The future linkages to other greenway sites will further promote a more active lifestyle for local residents who currently have limited access to open space. Through the inclusion of the amphitheater for public gatherings, interpretive signage, wayfinding graphics, and storage space for community outreach programs, Hunts Point Landing also promotes educational uses of the site.

Hunts Point Landing was submitted as a pilot project because the project team believed it would prove to be a good case study for sustainable practices in ultra urban environments. The project design was complete prior to acceptance into the pilot program and therefore the Guidelines had no influence on the design.

Several beneficial conditions have already been identified throughout the construction process. The site has been attracting the attention of local workers, residents, public service employees as well some unexpected visitors, including horseshoe crabs, clams, cats, and a number of bird species. The site is already being viewed as a respite from the adjacent bleak, industrial uses by the varied end users.

The design and layout of the fishing pier and the elevation of the Upland Overlook also provide great views out toward the East River and Long Island Sound that project beyond the site shoreline and allow for views from unique vantage points that are not achievable from other areas of the Peninsula.

Lessons Learned

Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects believe that each project is unique and demands an appropriate, individualized response.

Project Team

Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects
Signe Nielsen, RLA, FASLA, Principal
Molly Bourne, RLA, ASLA, Senior Associate
Terrie Brightman, RLA, ASLA, Landscape Architect

Dewberry - Civil / Structural Engineering
John Miller, PE, PP, Senior Project Manager

Halcrow - Waterfront Engineering
Domenica Stasiak, PE, Structural Engineer
Kenneth Lew, Marine Engineer

HDR - Environmental Science and Engineering
John Roebig, PhD, RLA, Senior Professional Associate

Urban Engineers of New York
Oscar Bustos, PE, Resident Engineer

Galvin Brothers, Inc. - General Contractor
Brian Giordano, Superintendant
Jesse Herron, EIT, Project Manager

Russell Design - Signage and Graphics
Anthony Russell, President and Creative Director
Tricia Solsaa, Director of Environmental Graphics

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