After five years of construction, landscaping, and legal delays, the $260 million, Barry Diller-funded Hudson River park known as Little Island opened to the public last Friday morning. Throughout the weekend it operated at full capacity, which means about 1,000 people at a time.
Some treated Little Island as an Instagram-friendly novelty, while others were in full day-in-the-park mode, settling down on the lush lawns with blankets and books and picnics. Either way, the early reviews from the extremely NYC crowd were almost entirely positive.
"I like to be the first," said Keith Randall of Jackson Heights, who was hanging with his buddy near the Southeast Overlook when we spoke on Friday afternoon. "I want to beat the hype. I want to make the hype. And I love it here! The landscaping and urban design is spot on," he said. "Just like when the High Line opened up... One thing I love about New York, this city knows how to do new things."
West Village resident Laurie Griffith was an instant fan of the space as well. "I've been walking past it for months, so it's exciting to finally get in," she said. "I love it! I think it's beautiful, way beyond my expectations." And Mister Anderson of Long Island City agreed — "I saw it all over social media, and I like the concept... I thought it was very architecturally innovative. I'll definitely be back."
As far as rules and regulations go, no dogs are allowed on Little Island, with a service animal exception. No bicycles either, which makes sense given the park's narrow, twisty pathways. No skateboards or scooters, no smoking (as at all parks), and no amplified music, though this appeared to go largely unenforced if you kept the volume reasonable.Outside alcohol is also forbidden, but plenty of folks were imbibing BYOB-style with discretion. It's worth noting that alcohol is allowed anywhere except atop the Southwest Overlook, which soars 60 feet over the water; as one Little Island Ranger explained, "It's the highest part of the park."
If you'd prefer to keep your party legit, beer, wine, and cocktails are all for sale on site, along with a wide variety of pastries, snacks, and sandwiches. There are lots of dining tables set up on what they're calling The Playground, or you can find your own little nook somewhere to eat.
In addition to lounging and feeding yourself and your social media feed, there are some interactive elements at Little Island, and there will also be performances in the Amph.
"It's beautiful!" said Jarnell from Midwood. "It's like a breath of fresh air, something new to do, especially since everything is opening back up and everybody's vaccinated and all that good stuff." She added, "Growing up in the city, hanging out at the pier down the street... this is totally different from what I was used to seeing back in the day."
Little Island is located at Pier 55, across from West 13th Street, and is now open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily. Timed entry reservations are required, and sell out fast (admission is free). That said, on Friday afternoon hundreds of walk-ups got in with only about a 15-minute wait, though on Saturday night they stopped admitting those without reservations by 9 p.m. Free live performances begin on June 13th.