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New Connections and New Beginnings: A Look Back at 2020 in HRPK

In the Park, in NYC and around the world, this was a year unlike any other. As we look back at 2020, we’re taking stock of how this year challenged us to connect to our community in new ways and to provide an essential open space to New Yorkers when we’ve needed it most. We’re also looking back at some exciting beginnings in the Park that plant hope for the year to come and beyond.

Finding New Ways to Connect

Bringing Our Community Together Virtually

Providing engaging and diverse programming that everyone can access and enjoy is a cornerstone of Hudson River Park’s role in our community. To continue providing our popular events safely this year, we launched our annual lineup of cultural, fitness and environmental education programs virtually for the first time — and more than 100,000 of you tuned in to dance, laugh, learn and savor the music with us.

We were able to bring some of our riverfront favorites to your home — including Sunset Salsa, which brought in more than 3,000 viewers each week on average, Sunset on the Hudson, which drew nearly 12,000 music lovers this summer, Healthy on the Hudson, Jazz at Pier 84, Bollywood & Bhangra and Hudson RiverKids

The virtual format granted our River Project scientists and environmental educators new ways to bring the Hudson River to science lovers of all ages, and more than 21,000 of you learned with us this year at Ask a Scientist, Live from the Field, Hudson RiverWalks, Backyard Bioblitz and more. Our first ever virtual SUBMERGE Marine Science Festival enabled us to share the dynamic fieldwork of our scientists and partners from around the region as we never have before. And our weekly at-home STEM Activities for budding scientists delivered hands-on opportunities to conduct experiments and learn about our local environment away from the screen.

Expanding the diversity and accessibility of our offerings, we offered more bilingual programs than any season before, and for the first time, we were able to include ASL interpretation for SUBMERGE. During this inaugural virtual season, we saw our audience expand across the world, reaching people in places as far away as South America and Europe, and we look forward to growing this virtual community with ongoing virtual programs in 2021. You can check out videos from this fabulous season of programming, on-demand here

Engaging Volunteers in the Park and Online

In mid-June we welcomed our first volunteers of the year back into the field with enhanced health and safety precautions in place, and in limited numbers. The help of our Neighborhood Gardeners, Green Team participants and Corporate Members was especially impactful as our essential Horticulture staff played catch-up to keep our gardens clean, green and growing after limited staffing during New York State on Pause this spring.

For the first time this year, we took part in virtual volunteer programs with Corporate Members ViacomCBS and Colgate-Palmolive that helped us translate environmental curricula into Spanish and Mandarin, review our IT systems and outreach materials and more.

Overall, 255 volunteers contributed 994 hours to virtual projects, horticulture support, shoreline cleanups and oyster restoration efforts. We’re grateful to these dedicated members of our community as well as our Volunteer Program’s Presenting Sponsor, Citi, and Supporting Sponsors, Colgate-Palmolive and New York Cruise Lines, for helping us keep our volunteer community connected in support of our shared backyard. 

In the words of longtime HRPK volunteer, Christine S.: “Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for the camaraderie. Thank you for letting us play in the dirt. And we’ll be back in the spring, guaranteed.”

Supporting Sustainability in Our Community

HRPK Compost Drop Off Tomatoes

This fall, during a challenging year for composting in NYC, we reopened and expanded our Community Compost Program drop-off sites, offering our community 10 locations to bring their food scraps. Our Park Over Plastic initiative wrapped up a two-year study on the effectiveness of the program with social science group Knology, and we continue to make progress in eliminating single-use plastics throughout the Park. This year all single-use plastic soda and water bottles were removed from Park vending machines and replaced with aluminum cans. We look forward to continuing to grow these sustainability initiatives in the year ahead.

Providing Essential Green Open Space 

Throughout 2020 — especially this spring, when our city faced days of unprecedented difficulty — the Park has provided an essential outlet for stressed New Yorkers to maintain emotional and physical health. During this time, Hudson River Park has been everything to our community: our gym, our backyard and our connection to nature.

As we look back on 2020, we want to share special gratitude and appreciation for the essential Park workers who have kept Hudson River Park clean, green, safe, beautiful and open for everyone — ensuring the Park has remained a source of wellbeing and renewal for all of us.

We are also grateful to everyone who showed their support to HRPK during this challenging year. Whether you attended the Park’s first virtual UnGala, supported as a member, made a donation or dedicated your time as a volunteer, your support is vital to helping keep our four miles thriving. (You can support the Park by making a donation to Hudson River Park Friends — all gifts will be matched through December 31 by our generous Friends Board).

New Beginnings and Looking Ahead

Opening Pier 26, Our First New Pier in a Decade

On September 30, we officially opened Hudson River Park’s Pier 26 — the first major public space to open in Manhattan in 2020 — and it has quickly become a beloved destination for New Yorkers. The pier’s design was inspired by the historical Hudson River landscape and features plenty of places to play, relax and enjoy amazing views as visitors discover local ecology. We were especially proud to bring 2.5 acres of new green, open space during a time when we all rely on public, outdoor space more than ever. 

One of Pier 26’s most unique features is its 15,000 square-foot Tide Deck, visible year-round from the pier’s upper level observation deck. Located at the western end of the pier, this engineered rocky tidal marsh creates an immersive and educational river ecology experience for Park patrons and a supportive environment for local wildlife. So far, we’ve hosted guided tours for the public and small student groups on the Tide Deck to experience this unique environment.

We look forward to the ways Pier 26 will continue to capture the imaginations of all who visit and provide relaxation and enjoyment. And in the year ahead, there is so much more to look forward to. Pier 26 is the first of several major projects currently underway in the Park to reach completion.

Introducing Hudson River Park’s River Project

This year, we announced a new name and look for our growing environmental research, science and education initiatives — Hudson River Park’s River Project. This reflects an expansion of education and research in HRPK and the culmination of a strategic alliance between the Park and the original River Project founded by marine scientist Cathy Drew 30+ years ago.

In addition to engaging our community through a season of virtual programs, our River Project scientists were able to continue conducting research focused on our 400-acre Estuarine Sanctuary, including our ongoing fish ecology survey, environmental DNA testing, marine debris cleanups, Citizen’s Water Quality Testing Program and the Pier 32 oyster study. Notably, this season our team’s microplastic research was also published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, an international, peer-reviewed science journal.

Looking ahead to 2021, we hope to re-open the Pier 40 Wetlab, a flow-through aquarium that houses native Hudson River species, and look forward to offering additional socially-distant tours of the Pier 26 Tide Deck if public safety conditions allow. No matter what, we look forward to bringing you interactive ways to discover marine science and the Hudson River.

Saying ‘So Long’ to 2020

Here in Hudson River Park, we’re certainly ready to say “so long” to 2020 (although we rolled with it), and we appreciate all of you who keep our shared backyard a place of welcome, activity, discovery and respite. We look forward to continuing to grow with our community during the brighter days ahead.