The bell of a buoy sounds, storm clouds are visible in the distance, the temperature drops and the breeze picks up as the visitor rounds the Island’s southern tip. Gone are the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn waterfront. Ahead, as if viewed from a vantage of a ship’s prow, is a vast expanse of sea and sky. Ferries to Staten Island and working ships and tugboats travel through the Harbor. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge stretches in the distance.
Cormorants fish from pilings and seagulls drop crab shells on the Great Promenade. Waves crash on the rip rap protecting the Island, and the Statue of Liberty soars in the horizon. The City’s smells and sounds, even the cultivated landscapes of Liggett Terrace and the Island’s Historic District, seem far behind.
The design of the South Prow showcases the view, the natural changes of weather and the exploration of a habitat at the intersection of saltwater and freshwater.
SOUTH PROW OVERLOOK
As the Great Promenade rounds the South Prow, it splits into two levels. The Great Promenade’s upper level curves inward to form the South Prow Overlook, which is elevated seven feet above the Wetland Gardens and picnic grounds.
Visitors may linger on the South Prow Overlook, sitting on the edge above the Wetland Gardens or a bench under the shade of a tree. Bicyclists might continue on the curving paths towards the Play Lawn. With new buildings possible just to the east of the Overlook, there could be a lively intersection between the park and public spaces and new activities.
From the South Prow Overlook, the Wetland Gardens and Picnic Grounds unfold like a carpet of water-loving plants and green lawn framed by the blue- gray water, sky and Statue of Liberty beyond. The elevation creates a new perspective on the sea and sky, a 180° view that complements the 360°
views afforded by a tour of the Grand Promenade or a walk to the top of the Hills.
The lower level pathway bends around the Island’s edge at grade with the eastern Promenade, allowing bicyclists and pedestrians to pause, lean against the promenade railing and smell the change in the wind and the brine of the sea. With the smell of the sea and plants, the harbor water cresting over rocks in storms and the seasonal visits of seabirds, the South Prow provides a hospitable setting for the three acre Wetland Gardens. To create a habitat for water-loving plants, part of the South Prow is carved away behind the seawall to access the naturally occurring brackish ground water at the Island’s low-lying tip.
Fresh storm water is collected from elsewhere on the Island to feed into the Wetland Gardens. Brought together and modulated in the Wetland Gardens, the mixture of brackish and fresh water nurtures a variety of water-loving plants like narrow-leaved cattail, black rush, seaside goldenrod, and sea lavender. The goal is that over time, the area will take on the attributes of a wetland system in terms of consistency in soil saturation and plant selection.
Visitors can get close to these plants and the variety of birds, insects, and waterfowl they support by walking on the path that traverses the Gardens or sitting on its edge for closer observation and smell of this habitat. Migratory birds stop by from the Atlantic Flyover. Landfill that was once home to military warehouses and trucks welcomes a broader array of species. Children can touch (and even eat!) plants like sea asparagus, watch birds, and learn about the habitats of the Harbor.
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