Lots More Lawn in Wagner Park Redo, a Response to Critics Cries

Jim Dine's "Ape & Cat (At the Dance)" sports a small sign of protest in Wagner Park on Aug. 16, the day that the Battery Park City Authority agreed to include more lawn in its redesign plan for the park. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib 

Aug. 19, 2022

When a redesigned Wagner Park reopens after two years of flood barrier construction, there will be 12,800 more square feet of lawn than was in the current plan—a plan that its critics had strongly opposed.

The Battery Park City Authority made that announcement last Tuesday in response to a call by community activists and elected officials, who had railed against what would be the loss of about half the lawn space that now occupies the popular 3.5 acres.

The park is expected to be closed for construction in late September or October, BPCA officials say.

The Authority publicly released the news shortly before a 6 p.m. “Save Wagner Park” rally, organized by the Battery Park City Neighborhood Association, to protest the planned loss of lawn area and call for a halt in the scheduled demolition. 

“They’re here at the table now,” City Councilman Christopher Marte said at the rally. “Let’s take their good faith effort. Let’s work with them and let’s try to get this resolved.”

“This is an amazing win for the lawns, but it’s not over,” said Community Board 1 Chair Tammy Meltzer.

In particular, objections also have been raised over the demolition of the pavilion, and the design of its replacement, which will be on higher ground and set back closer to Battery Place. Among the complaints about the new building is the loss of a view of New York Harbor that can now be seen from street level on the Battery Place side. In an Aug. 15 letter to elected officials, BPCA president and CEO B.J. Jones wrote that unlike changes to the lawn configuration, reworking the pavilion design would “require significant revision and delay to the project. As a result, we do not believe it would be prudent to alter the design of the Pavilion building at this time.” But Jones said the Authority remained open to “jettisoning the concept” of a restaurant in the pavilion “for another purpose altogether.” Some had asked for expanded community space in the building.

The Authority said in a statement that the addition of lawn space—a 74% increase—was made possible by “reducing a portion of the space allocated to gardens under the current design, as well as nearly 7,000 square feet of hardscape, which was originally included to ensure universal accessibility throughout the elevated portion of the park.” The new design allows for a net increase of 91 trees—139 altogether—but with the current 48 coming down.

A year ago this summer local residents formed the Battery Park City Neighborhood Association to stop a plan by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo to put a monument to essential workers in Rockefeller Park. Their protests, along with opposition from Community Board 1, led the BPCA and Cuomo to first relocate the planned monument near the Irish Hunger Memorial, and then scrap the idea altogether.


“This [process] reminds me of exactly the same thing,” said Britni Erez, a member of the neighborhood association and leader of the Tuesday rally. “It just seems very haphazard.” Erez said she expects her group to call a community meeting of stakeholders and experts to respond to the latest plan.

Once completed, the redesigned park will be part of a planned flood barrier system (one of three such projects by the Battery Park City Authority) meant to help protect Lower Manhattan from future storm surges and sea level rise.