A Landscape Makeover Against Flood Devastation in Lower Battery Park City

Detail from rendering of proposed landscape design for Wagner Park, with raised lawn above buried flood barrier and a new pavilion. Rendering by Battery Park City Authority and AECOM

Jan. 20, 2020

Battery Park City’s fight against future flooding will be giving the lower part of the neighborhood a new look and a bit of a lift, literally.

The proposed protections, a complex connection of barriers planned to wrap around the southern end of the neighbhorhood, are meant to guard against anticipated sea level rise and “100 year” storm surges that could occur by the 2050s. They are among four projects that the Battery Park City Authority is undertaking to protect the entire neighborhood against future flooding.

At a public meeting last week, representatives from AECOM, consultants to the Battery Park City Authority, presented Community Board 1 with their latest plans for protections at The Battery, Pier A Plaza, Wagner Park and the Museum of Jewish Heritage. They call for a combination of deployable barriers in the form of flip-up gates and flood walls both buried and permanently exposed.

Held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, this was the fourth public meeting on resiliency plans for the south neighborhood, and while the design is still in development, major changes are unlikely, said Gwen Dawson, the BPCA’s executive vice president for real property. Acknowledging concerns about the visual impact of some of the measures, she said, “We’ve come up with the best solution that we can. I’m not sure that there is another way of addressing this without slowing down if not outright stopping the project.”

Demolition and early construction is expected to begin at the end of this summer and early fall with completion sometime in 2022. With the cost of design and engineering yet to be determined, a Battery Park City spokesman could only put the projects price tag “in excess of $100 million.

Below is an illustration of the types of devices that will be installed in the various parts of the neighborhood. Numbers (+18', etc.) indicate the height of flooding above sea level that the barrier is meant to guard against. All images are from the presentation by AECOM and the Battery Park City Authority.




At The Battery, most of the flood wall would be buried in a landscaped berm between split segments of the bike path. “It maintains a lot of the park character,” said AECOM landscape architect Hogan Edelberg. In doing so, he said, new spaces are carved out for trees and larger plantings. An exposed wall on either side of the park entrance, just east of the bottom of West Street, would form what Edelberg called a “gateway that emerges from the Battery berm.



A newly landscaped plaza with terraced seating would be created in front of the Pier A Harbor House, shown at left in the rendering below. During a stomr event, flip-up gates across the raised upper plaza would seal against new, permanent columns (seen in the rear, near Battery Place) when deployed in order to create a continuous flood barrier. For the first time, the plaza would have trees and shade.



Big changes will be coming to the park, among them a raised central lawn, sloping walkway along Battery Place, new gardens and an extension of the esplanade that will allow direct access to Pier A. A newly designed pavilion is also part of the plan.

Buried below the raised lawn and “performative” terraced gardens (so named because they collect storm water from the park) will be a flood barrier and storm management system. “Underneath your feet you have no indication that you have a buried flood wall beneath you,” Edelberg said. 




The redesigned pavilion would be shifted closer to Battery Place, allowing for more lawn space. Like the current building, it would have a restaurant, and large public roof terrace. There would also be a portion of the building that the architect, Gabriel Smith of Thomas Phifer & Partners, called an environmental classroom and community gathering space. Below are views of the pavilion as seen from Battery Place and within the interior looking north.  



Protections around the museum will include flip-up barriers and an 8-foot glass-topped flood wall, partially screened by plantings. (One portion of it is indicated in the rendering below.) “The point is,” Edelberg said, “that it’s really hiding behind the landscape as much as possible.”