Sparking Adventure and Learning, Science Playground Opens in Tribeca

As kids traverse through the 30-foot-long Atlantic sturgeon-like structure, they pass stylized representations of the animal's major organs. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Jan. 24, 2024

No sooner had the gate swung open than Hudson River Park’s long-awaited Science Playground, with its two giant wooden sturgeon, was alive with kids, climbing and crawling, slithering and sliding everywhere.

The playground, located between Tribeca’s Piers 25 and 26, opened on Tuesday.

The whimsical play equipment, with explorable fish innards, climbable “seagrass,” jumpable “eggs,” and other engaging features, is meant to further the park’s goal of connecting visitors to the river habitat, especially its creatures. 

“This is so imaginative and gives so much adventure,” said Hudson River Park Trust President and CEO Noreen Doyle, who was on hand to watch kids romp through the play space for the first time. “And then obviously, it brings in our serious habitat mission, but in a fun way.”

“It’s fun when the wildlife and the fish are bigger than us, to really play with that scale,” added Carrie Roble, who heads the Trust’s River Project. “It makes you think, what is the importance of these fish?”

Kids can move and explore through one end of the sturgeon to the other, Roble explained, “so you’re really seeing the internal anatomy as though you are a shrimp or an organism that it ate, all the way to the end, where you can slide down a huge slide.” 

The play structures are modeled after the short-nosed sturgeon and its bigger cousin, the Atlantic sturgeon, both endangered. The latter—80-feet long, 40-feet tall and weighing 6 tons—is equipped with stylized, labeled representations of its major organs, and inscribed with what 9-year-old Annie Ziegler, a PS 89 student, called “cool fun facts” about the fish. Annie, who had made her way from inside one end of the fish to the other, said she planned to come back “a lot.” “It’s very fun,” she said. “There are a lot of obstacles.”

“I think what’s good about it is that there are some spaces that are kid-exclusive just because they’re so tight,” said Mark Cousin, who was watching Jane, his 3-year-old, explore the playground. Though that might be a problem for some parents or nannies trying to get their kids home, Cousin added, “most kids like having a little bit of a hiding place, a little bit of naughtiness of being independent and unseen.”

The play structures are designed by Olin, the landscape architects for Pier 26, and were fabricated by the Danish firm MonstrumHudson River Park Friends, the Trust’s nonprofit advocacy and funding partner, raised nearly $4 million for construction of the play area, with former Friends’ Chair Mike Novogratz providing a $1.3 million match for private donations, with additional funds from elected officials. A future Hudson River Estuarium, now in design, is expected to be built in the now-empty lot on the playground’s north side.