Nestled in a corner of the Chelsea Waterside Park, a mere hop, skip and jump from its 11th Avenue entrance is a children’s oasis like no other in New York City.  Opened in 2000 under the guidance of famed landscape architect Thomas Balsley, the playground has since brought frolic and glee for a generation of sons, daughters, moms, dads, grandparents and care takers.
Balsley not only created a safe haven by combining tall swirling walls with dense foilage, he also loaded it with imaginative sand lots, giant bubbly water-spouts and many crawling, climbing, swinging, sliding, and hanging experiences that children of all ages will remember for the rest of their lives.
   In keeping with Balsley’s above guidelines, the playground is in the process of a major renovation. When realized, this special venue will continue to provide free fun for the families in the Chelsea community.

The Redesigned Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area opened on August 14th!

The redesigned Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area celebrated its official opening on August 14, 2018 with a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by Hudson River Park Trust and Hudson River Park Friends. Elected officials, community leaders and park supporters gathered to mark the occasion, and children of all ages joined the fun, making inaugural explorations through the new playground.
    Originally opened in 2000, the Chelsea Waterside Park water playground was well-loved by the neighborhood, but after more than a decade and a half of continuous and enthusiastic use, the playground was in need of a major renovation. The redesign by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates has not only returned this beloved recreational space to neighborhood families, it also has brought local ecology and history into the play experience, delighting the childhood imagination while cultivating a sense of history, nature, and community.
    The centerpiece of the reimagined playground is a colorful 22-foot tall climbing structure shaped like a pipefish – a species native to HRPK’s 400-acre Hudson River estuarine sanctuary – curled around a large pier-piling slide. Giant stone 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 have been transformed into features for climbing and water play. Interactive water features for toddlers and older kids will keep children cool in hot weather, and the kid-controlled flow helps with water conservation. For additional park highlights see Hudson River Park’s blog: 5 Reasons Why You Can’t Skip Visiting.
     At the ribbon cutting, Hudson River Park Trust President and CEO, Madelyn Wils and Hudson River Park Friends Executive Director, Connie Fishman
thanked elected officials for securing capital funds to contribute to the new play area. Chelsea Waterside Park’s Capital Campaign Co-Chairs, Greg and
Melissa Wasserman were on hand to thank the generous donors and supporters that made the $3.4 million renovation possible. Elected officials in attendance included US Congressman Jerry Nadler, NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, NYS Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried and NYS Senator Brad Hoylman. Community leaders from the Chelsea Waterside Park Association attended, including Chelsea Waterside Park founder Robert Trentlyon. Community Board 4 members and representatives of the Hudson River Park Friends Playground Committee, who were closely involved in the public design process, joined in the ribbon cutting.
    “Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area was one of the first playgrounds within the Hudson River Park, and it has become a key part of growing up in Chelsea,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “I congratulate the Hudson River Park Trust, Hudson River Park Friends, and the many elected officials, companies and individuals who have helped create this fun and creative play space.”
    “I am so excited this play area is re-opening for our community," said NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson. "I’m in awe of its design, which captures
so much of what makes our neighborhood unique. From the climbing structure modeled after the Hudson River’s pipefish to the inclusion of 100-year-old busts salvaged from a former slaughterhouse not far from here, this playground will be a welcoming space that honors both our nature and history. This play area will bring joy to the children of Chelsea and beyond for decades to come.”
    "Congratulations to the Hudson River Park Trust and the Hudson River Park Friends!” said NYS Senator Brad Hoylman. “The new Chelsea Waterside
Park Play Area is a beautiful tribute to local history and the community effort that built the first playground in the Hudson River Park. I'm extremely
pleased to have helped fund the new play area along with my government colleagues and am excited to bring my own kids soon to experience the delightful new play features that will help inspire them to learn more about the Hudson River. "
    “Public parks are a public trust, and it’s our responsibility to continually invest in them, renew them, and make them the free, accessible recreation spaces that all New Yorkers deserve.” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “This one-of-a-kind playground will delight kids and their families

with smart design, play spaces featuring water and sand, improved seating and shade. I thank the Hudson River Park Trust and Friends and the public
and private funders who made this renovation possible.”
    We look forward to years of enthusiastic climbing, sliding, exploring and splashing in the Chelsea Waterside Park Play Area.


Playground Will Get Transformed

 It's official! A well-attended groundbreaking ceremony on October 3rd signaled the beginning of the rebuilding of the Chelsea Waterside Park water playground. Everyone involved in this re-imagining of a popular and "loved to death" playground, according to Madelyn Wils, President and CEO of Hudson River Park Trust, was on hand to say a few words before putting shovels to soil. The area will be expanded to 17,000 square feet and the firm of landscape designer Michael Van Valkenburg will bring NYC history into the space through the reuse of architectural salvage elements. Construction starts immediately, with a goal of completing the new playground in time for a Spring 2018 ribbon cutting. —Zazel Loven 


Waterside’s Childrens Playground  
Among Neighborhood Sites Explored By PS 11 

The author’s “Hands on History” program at PS 11 introduces students to Chelsea’s rich past along with lessons in preservation.

For 7 years, I have run an after-school program at PS 11 Elementary School (320 West 21st St) called ‘Hands On History: Preserving the Past in the Present.’  The program, originally inspired by the Victorian Society of New York, has been rewarding to me, as it instills a sense of community pride in the children and their parents. As a Chelsea native, I have not only fought for the preservation of our neighborhood’s embattled heritage, but also opposed changes to our cherished open public spaces, such as 

those at the Chelsea Waterside Park and the Clement Clarke Moore Park.
    Throughout PS 11 elementary school year, children study the history of how New York evolved from a Dutch settlement known as New Amsterdam into the city it is today. Every Fall many students sign up for the ‘Hands On History’ after-school program, in which children are led on a  year-long journey to Chelsea’s yesteryear. Historical images, power points presentations, and neighborhood tours turn into lively discussions about our community connections between the present and the past.

A Teacher’s Apple Gets Peeled
‘Hands on History’ starts with each student peeling an apple on a small cast iron apparatus, circa 1881. They push the apple onto a sharp drive shaft and then turn a crank handle causing the apple to slowly spin and get peeled. It illustrates the past’s ingenuity of using no electricity, or fuel other than

the power of the human arm to complete a function, now done by machines.
They also tour their school, an edifice of historical significance. PS 11 was designed by Public School Superintendent C.B.J. Snyder, and opened in 1926.
Many of Snyder’s innovations, including fireproof building materials, large classrooms with huge windows, multipurpose spaces, and age appropriate recreational areas are still designed in schools today. The school’s coal chutes long abandoned attract much attention.

‘Hands on History’ Goes Afoot
The program mixes class sessions with field trips.  For example, photographs and film footage of the original 1910 Pennsylvania Station, demolished in 1963, is shown to the children followed by a discussion about the public outrage, including many from Chelsea, led to the 1965 Landmarks Law. The group then go on a field trip on this lesson visits Penn Station’s concourse of the LIRR, where artist Andrew Leicester’s life sized “Ghosts Series,” five monumental terra cotta bas relief murals, show fallen columns and sculptures that the students can both see and touch.
    The ‘Hands on History’ program at PS 11 has it hands full.  Chelsea not only boasts three Landmarks and Historic Districts, but also many examples of adaptive reuse, including the Chelsea Piers, originally dating from 1910, the

former freight trestle, now the High Line Park, the Terminal Warehouse building, the Rubin Museum of Art, and the Chelsea Market.
The program’s highlights include:
    —Exploring the Chelsea Market, originally the bakery complex of The National Biscuit Company (Nabisco), birth place of the Oreo (1912). The children learn that Nabisco came up with the process of per-packaging their goods in waxed
paper in order to retain crispness and “crackling.” The word “crackers” became a word known across the globe.
    —Visiting the Hopper-Gibbons House at 339 West 29th St., Manhattan’s only remaining stop on the underground railroad that provided shelter to runaway slaves seeking freedom.
    — Touring 163 Ninth Avenue and 337 West 20th Street where Samuel Bath Thomas, an Englishman immigrant, first baked muffins on a griddle instead
of in an oven. They are still called Thomas’ English Muffins, today.
    —Visiting the "Chelsea Firehouse" where No. 323 West 21st Street restored firehouse, circa 1864, had horses, not trucks pulled tanks of water.
    — In the Gansevoort Market Historic District, children are armed with magnets to help locate cast iron doorways, facades, and details. They use  

paper and crayons to make rubbings of the Cook & Radley foundry mark of the Murray Hill Iron Works, established in 1867. The foundry was responsible for facades across the city.
    —Throughout Chelsea, the children examine the cast iron banisters of old row houses decorated with pineapples, and foot scrapers called mother’s helpers. Student learn that the pineapple is a traditional symbol of welcome. The pineapple becomes a visual and edible theme throughout the program.

Chelsea Waterside Park Field Trip
By the end of the year, ‘Hands On History’ students have learned a great deal about the Chelsea waterfront of the past, and how much of it has

been reclaimed and re-purposed during the last 30 years. The last session is a field trip to Chelsea Waterside Park where children concentrate on just having fun! 

Renovation Update

Friends of Hudson River Park, in partnership with the Hudson River Park
Trust, launched the capital campaign in early 2015 to fund the Play Area 
 restoration. The work will begin in the fall of 2017, with the completion expected by the summer of 2018.

To date, $3.4 million has been raised to improve the play area, with help from: the newly formed Hudson River Park
Playground Committee, especially President Catherine Juracich; the
Capital Campaign Co-Chairs Melissa
& Greg Wasserman; elected officials
including NYS Assembly Member Gottfried, NYC Council Member
Corey Johnson & Manhattan Borough
President Gale Brewer; Douglas Elliman
Realty, LLC, and more.

CW Play Area redesign went through a rigorous and inclusive public process, and the plans were designed by MichaelVan Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.
• The beautiful and innovative new design for the Chelsea Waterside Park expansion will include water features and safer play space for all of our community children.