Manhattan’s Emerald Necklace, also know as the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway—is planned to be a continuous loop of walking/biking paths interconnecting all the parks around the perimeter of the island.
Updated info: New York City’s oldest standing bridge, The High Bridge over the Harlem River at 173rd Street, opened in 1848 to carry water from Westchester to Manhattan. Modified in the 1850 with greater capacity and a brick walkway it has been closed for many years.
Since the 1970’s New York City has slowly been stringing the entire Manhattan waterfront into one 32-mile circular greenway know as the “Emerald Necklace.” While it’s not totally completed, the Emerald Necklace is already a terrific place to bike, rollerblade, picnic, or just relax and enjoy the sun setting over New Jersey.
From Washington reviewing the troops at Battery Park to the deploying of WWII battleships from Chelsea Piers, Manhattan’s southwestern waterfront has been a cornerstone of American history. However, by the 1960’s this area had fallen into disrepair. Landfill from the construction of the World Trade Center created the 92-acre Battery Park City and set off a revitalization that slowly spread northward.
In the 1990’s a trust was founded to begin the development of Hudson River Park.
The park now boasts a five-mile bike path and redeveloped piers hosting recreational activities including fishing, kayaking and even trapeze classes. Bikes can be rented at Pier 84—at 44th Street—for all day indepentent exploration or guided bike tours. Many free summer events including Stars of Tomorrow, River Flicks (for kids and grown ups) and River Rocks are available.
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum— housed in the Intrepid Aircraft Carrier— is docked at Pier 86 off 46th street. Admission to the
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and many other New York City attractions including a two hour cruise where you can view the museum and lower Manhattan are all part of the New York CityPass. Take the full island cruise—which is where many of the pictures illustrating this article came from—to view all the parks mentioned in this article.
The 323-acre Riverside Park—Frederick Law Olmsted landscapes stretching four miles from 59th to 155th street—includes the city’s only public marina at 79th. 134 acres and 22 modern recreational facilities were added to the park between 1937 and 1941 by the designers Gilmore D. Clarke and Clinton Lloyd. Handball, basketball, tennis, volleyball, softball and football fields and courts are available.
Riverside Drive provides views of the Hudson River while many historical monuments including Grant’s Tomb and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument are located in Riverside Park.
Northern Manhattan has provided the most recent addition to the Emerald Necklace. In 2001 Fort Washington Park was extended along the waterfront to 155th street. Fort Washington Park was named for the ill fated Fort Washington located on what is considered to be the highest natural point in Manhattan—230 feet above the Hudson River.
The George Washington Bridge—completed in 1931—crosses the Hudson River near the middle of the park. The bridge was designed by Cass Gilbert who is better known for his design of the Woolworth Building and Minnesota State Capital.
Fort Tryon Park—a collaboration by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., the son of one of the creator’s of Central Park—extends from Fort Washington Park north to Inwood Hill Park at Dyckman Street.
The Cloisters is probably Fort Tryon Park’s best known feature, but there are also many paved paths and beautiful views to both the west across the Hudson River and East across the East River from its high rocky terrain.
196 acre Inwood Hill Park covers Manhattan’s northwestern tip and is bounded by the Harlem river Ship Canal to the north and Payson Avenue and Seaman Avenues to the East. The last natural forest and salt marsh in Manhattan, fascinating geologic formations, views of the Henry Hudson Bridge and a large cove—Henry Hudson Cove where he is said to have anchored his ship while exploring the area—are a few interesting features of Inwood Hill Park. Inwood Hill Park does not allow cycling.
The Harlem River Speedway a section of the greenway refurbished and reopened in 2003, runs along a late 19th century horse racing track from 163rd to Dyckman Street.
A string of some of Manhattan’s oldest parks run along the East River from 54th to 125th streets. Although most of this waterfront has been parkland since the early 19th century, it, like the Western Manhattan waterfront, suffered from the on-going fiscal crisis of the 1970’s. This prompted the beginning of a strong volunteer movement that cleaned up and eventually expanded the park areas and continues today.This area includes the Bobby Wagner Walk running along the FDR highway and graceful Carl Schurz Park, home to Gracie Mansion. It’s another great place to walk or bike, fish or, in fall, watch the crew teams row from the boathouse on 96th street up to the Harlem River.
It’s not quite finished, but soon the East River Waterfront Esplanade will connect Battery Park and the U.N. with one greenway. Parts of it, including South Street Seaport and the brand new East River Park extending up to 18th street, are already popular spots. The city has developed a park at Stuyvesant Cove and a path for bicyclists, walkers and other recreational users along the rest of the East River.
by Mary Armstrong