Hudson Parkway Piers Offer Reprieve from Concrete Jungle

The piers interspersed along the West Side like Pier 63 and Pier 64 provide green oases to city dwellers


For a low-budget, adventurous college student like me, exploring the Hudson Parkway by foot or bike has provided the perfect combination of city and nature. While Central Park offers an escape from the concrete strips of New York City, the Hudson Parkway exposes nature’s resilience to urban structures, such as the protruding root systems that lift up cobblestone or the vines that consume fence wiring. The Hudson Parkway offers not a competition but a cohabitation of nature and city dwellers. 

Each day, visitors migrate to the westernmost end of the island, crossing over the congested West Side Highway and reaching the winding pedestrian, bike and geese lanes that the parkway offers every city dweller.   

Whether you head north or south from the 60th Street entrance to the parkway, you will encounter grassy areas and piers jutting into the Hudson River. Each area presents a unique connection to our city, but Piers 63 and 64 give every New Yorker, and tourist, a green oasis for community and privacy. 

Traveling southbound via the Hudson Parkway, just past the conspicuous Frying Pan boat stationed in the harbor, you will eventually arrive at Pier 63 and 64.

Pier 63

Pier 63 offers open and communal space for all Chelsea residents and visitors who venture into the grassy bowl adjacent to Chelsea Piers and at the foot of the Hudson River. 

The entrance is dark as trees huddle together, lining the eastern periphery of the lawn and forming a distinct three-shaped border. The openness of the lawn seems mythical as you enter from the highway side. Visitors emerge from a dark hidden abyss. Only a few small slabs of concrete smushed into dirt and mulch residue bridge the busy bike lane and the open lawn. The small trail then guides you, uncovering a figure-eight-shaped lawn that hosts groups of friends, couples, families and dogs as an audience to the flowing Hudson River. 

The slanted hills outside of the lawn slope down to the open, grassy middle of the bowl. Visitors propped on the slopes are in danger of kids who take advantage of the hills and roll themselves down the sides into the luscious middle. Dogs bounce along the hills, allowing their momentum to propel them past their canine competitor that trails behind, wagging its tail. 

The openness of the lawn invites a communal experience of relaxation and conversation. The bowl of the lawn connects visitors to each other, to the river and to the sky, while the hills and the trees block the nearby city life. 

Pier 64

At Pier 64, a green stretch of perfectly manicured grass greets you. In contrast to Pier 63, the grass seems stronger and more resilient to the groups of visitors who lay out their synthetic picnic blankets or to active individuals warrior-posing on their yoga mats. 

During the summer, the grassy strip became a weekly yoga studio where hundreds of New Yorkers met for free sunset yoga, sponsored by lululemon. 

The sunsets along the western coast of Manhattan are already unbeatable. However, it is this pier’s elevation at “15 feet above the bulkhead” that makes the location ideal for catching the fiery orange sun rays that roll over the Hoboken skyline and paint the river with pink and orange hues. 

While the towering skylines of downtown Manhattan and Hoboken appear in front and to the side of this pier, the tunnel of English oaks draws all the attention. Dozens of trees line the edges of the rectangular lawn, creating a barrier between the concrete pedestrian walkways and the restful grass. The oaks also provide shaded areas for picnicgoers to read their latest book with maximum relaxation. The breeze of the river wisps through the branches of the oaks, rustling its leaves while muting the beeps of the highways, barks of the dogs and surrounding conversations—and providing a more private environment in an open public area. 

The small rectangle of grass coddles each visitor, and the oaks shield them. 

These piers are just two of many green spaces on the Hudson River Parkway that snake along the west side of Manhattan. There are many more green spaces to explore up and down the west side, inviting New Yorkers to an intimate collaboration of pedestrian and cyclist-dominated paths, waterfront views and the grassy oases of the parkway.