How the big trees got to New York’s new Little Island park

Off the west facet of Manhattan, sitting in the Hudson River, is a new New York Metropolis public park referred to as Little Island. The $260 million pet venture of businessman Barry Diller options 2.4 acres of tree-lined pathways, an amphitheater, and a meals courtroom. The concept for Little Island started almost a decade in the past, although it simply opened to the public at the finish of Could. You’d be forgiven for considering it’s been round longer. The park juts out of the river on concrete tulip-esque columns, and jutting out of the park itself is an array of trees—and never skinny saplings secured with stakes into the floor. These trees look as in the event that they’ve already lived right here for a while, and that was by design. 

[Photo: Signe Nielsen/courtesy Little Island]

Dotted alongside the hills and valleys of Little Island are 114 trees that change in form and top, from slender and tall to squat and stretched out. The outcome, notes panorama architect Signe Nielsen, is that “the park doesn’t appear like it was simply planted yesterday.” Quite than the 2- to 4-year-old saplings usually used to line New York Metropolis sidewalks, the trees all through Little Island are roughly 30 to 50 years outdated.

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[Photo: Michael Grimm/courtesy Little Island]

Early on in the planning of the park, building for which first started in 2015, Nielsen knew she had to fastidiously think about the trees that will be essential to its design. She had already designed a lot of parks on waterfronts, so she knew to choose trees with small leaves (they’re much less possible to get shredded by the wind that comes off the water). She additionally did a listing of all the trees in Hudson River Park, the 4-mile-long stretch of park on Manhattan’s west facet, of which Little Island is one function, to see which species have been thriving.

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[Photo: Michael Grimm/courtesy Little Island]

As a result of the park is constructed on concrete constructions that rise out of the water, Little Island’s trees could be extra vulnerable to decrease temperatures. Some trees on hills have styrofoam beneath their roots (filling these areas with soil might have been too heavy for the concrete piles, so styrofoam pads the hills); others are in soil proper inside concrete slabs, which implies they’d be uncovered to chilly from above and beneath. Quite than getting trees appropriate to New York’s local weather zone—Zone 6 on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s map of plant hardiness—Nielsen downgraded, deciding on species tolerant of temperatures in Zone 5, which is the local weather zone for Albany, New York.

Little Island’s 114 trees have been sourced from three suppliers, all specialists in high-caliper trees (tree measurement is denoted by caliper, a measurement of the diameter of the tree trunk): Halka Nurseries, which has two 1,300-acre farms in southern New Jersey; Ruppert Nurseries, a 600-acre wholesale tree grower in northern Maryland; and Hammell Nurseries, which spans greater than 1,000 acres in jap Pennsylvania.  There are 35 species of trees all through the park, together with crimson oaks, Japanese cedars, October Glory crimson maples, and zelkova “Inexperienced Vase” trees. 

As a result of the trees had to be transported, and since they have been already so mature with large root techniques, timing for his or her planting was essential. Nielsen describes the multitude of issues for each tree: “Was the tree dug at the proper season? Did it get sufficient root mass? Throughout the time it was put into its burlap bag and the time it got placed on the truck, was it nicely watered? How a lot time was it out of the floor? How lengthy will it spend on the truck? How lengthy was it between the time the tree was delivered to the website and we got it in the floor? There are such a lot of steps alongside the manner that may lead to an issue.” She credit her panorama contractor, Brightview, with coordinating all of those factors.

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[Photo: Michael Grimm/courtesy Little Island]

Little Island basically is uncommon for a public park, because it was privately funded. That funding helped pay for the extravagance of those extra-large tree plantings. “I wouldn’t usually suggest to a public shopper that they put in 10-inch-caliper trees since you might get 10 different trees for the price of 1 tree, and smaller trees are a bit extra foolproof when it comes to digging and transporting and planting,” Nielsen says. However even with the splurge on bigger trees, they have been nonetheless a small extravagance in contrast to the remainder of the multimillion-dollar venture. Of the $260 million Diller spent, Nielsen estimates that the plant materials—which incorporates roughly 400 species of foliage, together with shrubs, grasses, vines, and perennials—price about $6 million.

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[Photo: Michael Grimm/courtesy Little Island]

The park has helped revitalize what some have referred to as the “once-derelict” west facet of Manhattan, the place the waterfront was full of commercial ports. Little Island is constructed on high of the pillars of the former Pier 54, a historic ship port (the Lusitania departed from that pier in 1915). However the the pier fell into disuse, and was additional destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Plans for Little Island started in 2013, although the constructing of the park was fraught with yearslong authorized challenges.

As soon as these roadblocks have been handed, there was the precise problem of constructing the park, and getting the trees into the floor was its personal feat. When out of the floor, trees are dropping water, which might harm their probabilities of survival. Nielsen remembers a 12-inch-caliper maple or oak that weighed roughly 20,000 kilos when it arrived on the website. The following day when it was picked up by crane to be planted, it had misplaced 6,000 kilos of water weight.

“If that tree had not been planted instantly, its roots would dry out and it could endure,” Nielsen explains. There’s nonetheless an opportunity one thing might occur to the trees in the park—an infestation, illness, a lightning strike—however fortunately they’re below a two-year guarantee. “The trees are the single-largest funding of the complete panorama, and I feel they’re additionally massively visually necessary to the website, so their care and feeding, so to converse, is a particularly excessive precedence,” Nielsen says. 

There’s little question getting all these trees onto Little Island was a feat, however there’s additionally little question to Nielsen that it was value it: “Panorama [is] what individuals expertise and odor and stroll via and contact and love [about] a spot, particularly a park.”