SWA/BALSLEY announces that Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park – one of New York City’s most ambitious parkland developments in decades – has been awarded a 2020 ULI New York Awards for Excellence, in the “Excellence in Civic Development” category, and a ‘Special Recognition’ Award for Excellence in Design. A design collaboration between SWA/BALSLEY and WEISS/MANFREDI, with ARUP as the prime consultant and infrastructure designer, the park’s integrated design weaves together infrastructure, landscape, architecture, and art; and presents a new model of urban ecology and a prototype for innovative sustainable design.

The ULI New York Awards for Excellence recognizes outstanding development projects in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors across New York State that best exemplify ULI’s commitment to responsible land use and creating sustainable, thriving communities. The 2020 award winners reflected the best-in-class development in ten categories: office development, market-rate housing development, affordable housing development, mixed-use development, repositioning or redevelopment, hotel development, retail development, institutional development, industrial development, and civic development.

For the 38th Annual Awards for Excellence in Design, the New York City Public Design Commission members selected eleven winning projects across all of New York’s five boroughs that exemplified “how a foundation in good design can achieve civic projects that serve communities, inspire neighborhood pride, and provide durable and resilient spaces for New Yorkers,” per a press statement released by the office of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. This year’s award was dedicated to the designers and artists responsible for creating temporary spaces that provided the public with safe recreation and essential health services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The global crisis has highlighted the vital role that safe and accessible public spaces play, and the importance of social and environmental resiliency to meet the challenges of today and our future. Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park & Streetscape was awarded a Special Recognition Award, for its innovative and sustainable design.


© David Lloyd/SWA, courtesy SWA/BALSLEY and WEISS/MANFREDI


Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park aspires to be a transformative project for both Queens and New York City as a whole. Two hundred years ago the site was a series of wetlands, however, after years as an industrial hub and rail station, all signs of its ecologically rich history were eliminated. By focusing on designing a park, streetscape, and infrastructural system that is innovative and aspirational, the park weaves together new relationships between architecture, landscape, and engineering to create a place of both ecological rejuvenation and active recreation.


The park’s design embraces the site’s diverse historical identities and serves as a new model for waterfront resilience and sustainability by implementing a “soft” approach to protecting the water’s edge from floodwaters. A continuous meandering causeway, elevated slightly above the river, offers a walk along the river’s edge and protects nearly an acre of newly established wetlands. The design also leverages the site’s dramatic and varied topography with a shaded grassy promontory, a new island reached by a pedestrian bridge, a kayak launch, exercise and picnic terraces, a collection of intimate “break-out” lounges off the pathways, and a dramatic cantilevered overlook that hovers 25 feet above the wetlands and offers panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline. A new multi-use green grassy oval and an adjacent canopy structure define the most generously open part of the site and serve as key pieces of resilient landscape infrastructure. The oval was designed to be inundated during flooding events and detains water which drains back to the river. This green is framed by a continuous path and pleated steel shade canopy on the south side which follows the curve of the oval and offers shelter for a ferry stop and a concession building. Sited adjacent to a new school, public library, and an emerging residential development of 5,000 permanently affordable units, the park provides a public front door and new open spaces for recreation at the heart of a growing community. Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park leverages its layered histories and spectacular assets to establish a new, resilient, multi-layered recreational and cultural destination.

About Thomas Balsley, FASLA and SWA/BALSLEY 

Recipient of the prestigious ASLA Design Medal in 2015, Tom Balsley is a landscape architect whose visionary work focuses on transforming the margins of the city—from the industrial edges of derelict railyards or neglected waterfronts to the discrete scraps of land overlooked in the urban grid. Regardless of the scale, his design is imaginative and impactful, resulting in vital, dynamic places that integrate nature, teem with public life and inspire civic pride. Highly acclaimed projects in New York City include Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park and Gantry Plaza State Park, Riverside Park South, Peggy Rockefeller Plaza, and Balsley Park, the latter named after him by the City in recognition of his longstanding contributions to its public realm. An embrace of the public process, reflecting his belief that collaborative processes elevate the quality of design, is integral to Balsley’s approach. His firm, Thomas Balsley Associates, became SWA/BALSLEY in 2017.

A selection of high-resolution photography can be accessed here.

Media Contact: Christina Allan