Rising between 25 and 70 feet above sea level, four man-made hills on the southern tip of New York City’s Governors Island opened to the public in July, one full year ahead of schedule. Dubbed The Hills, the new attraction boasts walking paths, recreational opportunities, and full 360-degree vistas of New York Harbor. And while the Hills offer strong aesthetic value and public space for outdoor activities, they also provide a resiliency measure to protect the island against rising sea levels.
The first phase of construction for the island, which can only be accessed by ferry, was completed in 2014 and consisted of 30 new acres of park and public spaces; an upgrade to Soissons Dock, the only vehicular landing on the island; transfer bridges and approach platforms at the dock; reconstruction of the seawall and the island’s drainage system; restoration of potable water and electrical distribution systems; and stabilization of historic buildings.
As part of a joint venture, STV is providing resident engineering inspection and design review services for the implementation of the Governors Island Park and Public Space Master Plan. In addition to changing 10 acres of flat land into rolling hills that would have Julie Andrews singing like it was 1965, the island’s Master Plan also calls for over 75,000 new plantings, which includes 42,963 shrubs and 2,960 trees.
In creating the hills, STV saved in construction costs by using terraced, mechanically stabilized earth and lightweight fill rather than going the more traditional route using deep soil mixing methods. In addition to the monetary savings, this method also reduced the overall weight on the underground utilities and sea well.
Included in the four hills are Grassy Hill, which is the first to be seen when approaching from the park; Slide Hill, which includes four slides built into the hill itself, including a 57-foot long slide that is the longest in New York City; Outlook Hill, which features “The Scramble,” a shortcut cutting straight up the hill constructed from blocks of granite from the seawall the Army placed in the harbor when they expanded the island in 1905; and Discovery Hill, which features a site-specific work of art from British artist Rachel Whiteread.
With The Hills completed, the next step of the Master Plan for Governors Island calls for improvements to Picnic Point and the 2.2 mile promenade.
West 8 provided design services for the island’s transformation.