Freeman Plaza East and Freeman Plaza North, on Varick and Broome streets, are nestled between the four lanes of honking traffic that merge into the tunnel. While that might not seem like an ideal place to relax on a chaise lounge and enjoy a respite from city life, officials believe the new green space will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
"During the day, there's virtually no traffic going in and out of the tunnel," said Ellen Baer, president of the Hudson Square Connection Business Improvement District, which funded the new parks through a public-private partnership. "People were really amazed at how congenial the space was."
The small triangular patches of land, known collectively as Freeman Plaza, had long been fenced off by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that manages the tunnel.
The BID began talking to the Port Authority several years ago about opening the spaces to the public, Baer said.
Freeman Plaza West, on Hudson Street, already existed, but the new Freeman Plaza East, on Varick Street, and the tinier Freeman Plaza North, on Broome Street, were unveiled on Wednesday afternoon. They were built at a cost of $125,000, with donated plantings from Trinity Real Estate. The Parks Department planted nine new trees, the Port Authority replaced the fencing and the space was designed by Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects.
Baer hopes the parks will serve the more than 43,000 people who work in Hudson Square, including many in creative industries.
"Creative people really like to have an opportunity to get away from their computers, let the thoughts move around in their head," Baer said.
David Ortiz, 35, who works in a building nearby, said his coworkers enjoy using Freeman Plaza West, which has lime green cafe tables and chairs, and they sometimes hold meetings there.
"I just wish they had grass," Ortiz said, gesturing at the small rocks that cover the ground in the plaza, which is lined with memorials to Port Authority police officers who died on 9/11.
Two French tourists also stopped in the park Wednesday afternoon after a stroll down Hudson Street.
"It's very nice, a cool place to eat," said Leonor Eger, 22.
The new Freeman Plaza East offers elevated platforms for seating, chairs, cafe tables and chaises in matching bright chartreuse metal, and cherry trees. Several of the chaises have "Hudson Square is figuring it out" printed on them.
The slogan is part of a larger campaign by the BID, called "Hudson Square is ______." The BID has been asking the companies based in Hudson Square to fill in the blank, and posting the answers on flags around the area.
"We're figuring out how to use spaces that once seemed inaccessible, but now are accessible to people," Baer said, explaining the slogan.