The best things come to those who wait—and it’s with that in mind that Great Ecology is pleased to announce that Pier 35, on the East River Waterfront, is now open! The East River Waterfront Esplanade soft opened in late 2018—but fully opened to the public in April of this year. The project, was led by SHoP Architects, with landscape architecture design from Ken Smith Workshop, ecological consulting from Great Ecology, and engineering from HDR and ARUP. The site includes a new eco-park and urban beach, dubbed Mussel Beach, which was influenced by the pre-industrial East River shoreline and provides habitat for a variety of aquatic species, notably blue and ribbed mussels.
Great Ecology was instrumental in providing scientifically-based design recommendations for the habitat creation feature of the park, including the intertidal shellfish habitat. As part of our role in this project we developed a grant, submitted by NYC Economic Development Corporation, which funded a two-year intertidal shellfish habitat creation study. Great Ecology staff evaluated biotic and abiotic factors at the Site, which included water quality testing, pollution sources, and oyster survivorship and recruitment monitoring to determine whether shellfish could survive and flourish at the chosen location. A “habitat slab,” designed by Ken Smith with Great Ecology’s design guidelines, was installed in 2012 and recruitment of young shellfish onto the slab has already started, which means visitors to the park can see how the East River waterfront aquatic species have been colonizing the habitat slab.
Restoring and revitalizing shellfish habitat to the East River, which was once home to massive populations of shellfish, is a lofty goal—but one worth pursuing as shellfish act as natural filters. Their presence can improve water quality and offers an excellent indicator of ecological health. This innovative project serves as a pilot for sustainable waterfront development in New York and New Jersey and earned the 2009 Design Award of Excellence from the Public Design Commission of NYC and the 2019 Best New Infrastructure award from MASterworks. The Pier 35 ecopark and urban beach opened to the public in April 2019.