STUYVESANT TOWN — As debate continues over how the East River waterfront greenway will be developed, one success story is celebrating a milestone. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Stuyvesant Cove Park.
The park, which occupies about two acres of riverfront where East 20th Street meets the FDR Drive, has had several past lives. It was once a concrete manufacturing plant and a parking lot.
At one point during the 1980s, the land was slated to be turned into five residential towers that would have been built out onto the water and known collectively as Riverwalk.
“For years, our community has wanted a park along the river,” said Joy Garland, executive director emerita of the Stuyvesant Cove Park Association.
“When we heard about [the towers,] we said, ‘No, this is not what we want.’“
The community banded together and formed an organization called Citizens United Against Riverwalk, Garland said. And in the end, their lobbying efforts succeeded in convincing the city to opt for a park instead of more apartments.
Now, Stuyvesant Cove Park is full of native plants and is home to the city’s first stand-alone, solar-powered building, Solar 1, which serves as a green-energy education center.
“It shows that nature is alive and thriving in New York City—an urban area—and that people come to the park to be renewed by what nature offers,” Garland said.
Daisy Hoyt, the manager of Stuyvesant Cove Park, said she constantly sees picnickers, walkers and runners in the park.
“It’s not very well-known in the city in general, but I think there's a lot of people in the neighborhood who use it on a regular basis,” Hoyt said.
On Thursday, the park had a steady stream of visitors. Women pushed strollers along the meandering path. Teenagers clustered around the railing overlooking the East River, and joggers and bicyclists cruised down a dedicated two-lane path alongside the FDR.
Some, like Susan Field, have lived in the area long enough to remember what it looked like before Stuyvesant Cove Park existed.
“Before it was here, it was awful. You wouldn’t even come over here,” said Field, who has lived across the street from Stuyvesant Town for 25 years.
“It was just kind of dirty and nasty,” she added.
But on Thursday, she was sitting facing the East River with her dog Pepper at her feet. She said she has started coming to the park more often recently, about once or twice a month.
She and her husband like to walk through the park and talk, said Field, a Protestant chaplain at New York University.
But she said she also comes to pray and to spend some time outside with Pepper.
Ron Reineke, a retired Vietnam vet who was born and raised on East 24th Street, sat and smoked as he stared out at the seaplanes taking off and landing in the East River.
Thursdays, Fridays and Mondays are big days for the planes, he said, surmising millionaires traveling to and from the Hamptons were the cause.
“I call him the Red Baron,” Reineke said, gesturing toward a bright red plane chugging along in the water.
Currently, there are no events planned to celebrate the park's 10th anniversary, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be, Garland said.
Two years after the park was built, community members, donors and elected officials held a dedication ceremony for it, said Garland.
She has a photo of the event in her home, and she laughed as she recalled how everybody stood, scissors at the ready, just waiting to cut the ribbon.
“We’re very lucky to have that park,” Garland said.