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WTC Garden Legacy

I love visiting Battery Park City in New York in any season. Here's a sampling of the gardens you will see if you walk through this extraordinary 36-acre open space district.

When the first World Trade Center was built, 92 acres of new land was created around the western tip of lower Manhattan, primarily from the landfill excavated during construction of the Twin Towers. Battery Park City was built on this land, and over the years 36 acres of protected open space has given rise to a series of grassy parks and gardens, with a beautiful waterfront promenade (think Paris) connecting all of it. I recently toured the area with my landscape design class at the New York Botanical Garden and discovered the breathtaking legacy of the first World Trade Center in this vibrant part of New York City.

The Esplanade (top row of photos) is a wide promenade that runs the length of Battery Park City along the Hudson River, ending at historic Battery Park and Castle Clinton at the southern tip. From here there are views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the New Jersey skyline. The Battery Park residential complexes are set back from the waterfront, while parks and gardens line the entire pedestrian path.

My favorite park is the Irish Hunger Memorial (Vesey Street and North End Avenue) because it transported me to Ireland in the middle of New York City (second row of photos). One city block is taken up by this rural Irish landscape with an abandoned stone cottage, stone walls and fallow potato fields. You can walk up a winding path through the sloping field and into the stone cottage. Designed to memorialize the Great Famine, the whole park sits on a sloping limestone plinth, which you can see if you walk around to the back of the Memorial. Here there’s a visitors center and alternate entrance through the stone cottage. It was designed by artist Brian Tolle and contains stones from each of Ireland’s 32 counties.

The northernmost park, Nelson A. Rockefeller Park, has the widest lawns of any park along the waterfront. People were picnicking and playing catch, and I saw public art pieces including a collection of permanent bronze sculptures by Tom Otterness (third row, left). Kids love these sculptures, but so do adults.

Another favorite of mine is Teardrop Park, a two-acre park nestled between buildings (between Warren Street and Murray Street, east of River Terrace). It was designed by the famous Dutch landscape architect Michael Van Valkenberg and features a gigantic wall made of stacked bluestone quarried locally. I also love the winding paths and quarry-like feeling of this park, with its naturalistic water slide and other water features for children (third row, middle and right).

Walking south from Teardrop Park, Winter Garden is where the World Financial Center resides. It’s a good place to go indoors if you are trying to get out of the heat or cold (I’ve done both), depending on the season. Standing behind a soaring glass façade (bottom row) you can view the marina and plaza just outdoors, and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. Water taxis arrive and depart from here too. You can find restaurants and shops throughout the area.

Click here for a map of the entire area which shows the locations of all the parks in the 36 area open space:

I love visiting Battery Park City in New York in any season. This is just a sampling of the things you will see if you walk through this extraordinary 36-acre open space district, which for me will always be a positive living legacy of the first World Trade Center.


Dorian Winslow is the president of Womanswork, and is passionate about making the best products on the market for women who garden and work outdoors.

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