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The New Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area is Open… and It’s Awesome!

On Tuesday, August 14, we officially reopened Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area, and this playground’s innovative redesign is already making a big splash—just ask the kids playing in its interactive fountains!

The water features for the kids to play in Chelsea Waterside Play Area in Hudson River Park

Opened in 2000, Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area was Hudson River Park’s first playground, and after more than a decade and a half of enthusiastic use, this beloved neighborhood mainstay needed some TLC. The beautifully redesigned play space is, as Hudson River Park Trust’s President and CEO Madelyn Wils remarked, “the culmination of the Trust’s outreach and consensus building within the community and would not be possible without the tremendous support from our local elected officials, Hudson River Park Friends and our many partners.”

Designed to awaken the imagination of children of all ages and invite exploratory play, the playground takes its inspiration from its location’s ecology and history. Intrigued? You’re not alone! The new Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area has been generating major media buzz and is quickly becoming a recreation destination for NYC families.

Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t miss visiting this summer (and beyond!):

1) Two words: Giant. Pipefish.

At the heart of the new playground, you’ll find a yellow and navy pipefish winding around a giant wooden pile. Kids can scramble, climb, swing and slide through this impressive 22-foot structure, truly getting up close and personal with a native Hudson River species. The pipefish is the first piece to be installed on the East Coast by visionary Danish firm MONSTRUM—and according to Time Out NY, the newly renovated Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area is every kid’s dream.


Pipefish slide and oyster climbing area in Chelsea Waterside Play Area

2) NYC history meets playtime.

Giant limestone cow heads salvaged from 20th century meatpacking plants, granite seating blocks repurposed from Pier 54 and ornamental cartouches preserved from the old West Side Highway aren’t just links to the neighborhood’s past—at Chelsea Waterside they become features for climbing and water play.

The large limestone cow heads pour water down to the kids in the Chelsea Waterside Play Area

3) Imagination in action!

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), the landscape architects responsible for the new play area, as well as much of our nearby Chelsea parklands, designed the space to inspire unscripted play. “There is an inherent need for children growing up in the city to have better access to nature and all of the freedom that comes from un-prescribed exploration,” explained MVVA’s Scott Streeb. “Chelsea Waterside Park strives to provide a transformation from the urban into a natural realm where children can choose their otherworldly adventures.”

Kids enjoy climbing around the pipefish slide at Chelsea Waterside Play Area

4) Making a splash.

With several weeks of NYC summer still to come, this new playground helps everyone beat the heat with features specially designed for toddlers and for older kids. Chelsea Now reported that Milla Glick, a ten-year-old resident of Chelsea, was thrilled to be one of the first children to enjoy the new facilities. “I used to play with my friends at my house, now I can play with them here. More kids enjoy the new park, because there’s more things to do for older kids as well,” she said.

Sprinklers around the water area in Chelsea Waterside Play Area

5) Sustainable design, horticultural bounty.

Along with new construction, the play area incorporates new trees like Northern Catalpa, AccoladeTM Elm and Wireless Zelkova that will add to the tree canopy, lending shade and cover from nearby traffic. In addition to creating an immersive natural experience, the playground is designed with environmental sustainability principles in mind. Allowing kids at play to control fountain spray allows for imagination and discovery as well as water conservation on quieter days. MONSTRUM’s pipefish is constructed with durable Robina wood, built to last 50 years, and incorporating repurposed local materials like the cow heads and cartouches recycles these artefacts for the next generation of New Yorkers.

Close up of the colorful pipefish slide

“These unique play features will replace Hudson River Park’s oldest play equipment and provide limitless opportunity for recreation and imaginative play for thousands of New York City children,“ said Connie Fishman, Executive Director of Hudson River Park Friends, extending “warmest thanks to all its donors and supporters.”

Elected officials and Park President cut the ribbon opening the Chelsea Waterside Play Area

US Congressman Jerry Nadler, NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, NYS Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, NYS Senator Brad Hoylman, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Community Board 4 Co-Chair Lowell Kern, Hudson River Park Friends Board Member Greg Wasserman and Capital Campaign Co-Chair Melissa Wasserman, all supporters of the Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area, celebrated this momentous ribbon cutting. This exciting day was made possible by the support of our generous Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area Capital Campaign supporters, Playground Committee, the Community Board 4 Waterfront Parks & Environment Committee, the Chelsea Waterside Park Association and Fulton Houses.

After more than two years of community input, fundraising, design and construction, we are overjoyed to cut the ribbon and see this incredible play space come to life as intended—with smiles, wonder, laughter and play.