Goodbye to Today's Wagner Park. Two Years of Resiliency Redo Lies Ahead

Wagner Park, in undated photo, at the southern end of Battery Park City. Its lawns are a big draw for sunbathers; its views of New York Harbor attract many tourists. Photo: Battery Park City Authority

Mar. 27, 2022

Enjoy Wagner Park, while you can. 

Beginning this summer and for the next two years, the popular 3.5 acres at the southern end of Battery Park City, with its sweeping views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty, will be fenced off for reconstruction. Once completed, the redesigned park will be part of a planned flood barrier system (and one of three such projects by the Battery Park City Authority) that will help protect Lower Manhattan from future storm surges and sea level rise. A raised, new pavilion is also part of the rebuilding plan. 

The park adjacent to the Museum of Jewish Heritage will also be fenced off, but the building can remain open, said Laura Gray of the LiRo Group, one of two contractors in charge of the work. “We’re working with them to minimize impacts to their operations as much as we can,” she told a recent meeting of Community Board 1’s Environmental Protection Committee. 

The Battery Place sidewalk also will be closed, with pedestrians rerouted to a protected walkway on the street, next to the sidewalk. A bus stop will be moved.

Once transformed, the park will be elevated up to 12 feet, with raised central lawn and terraced gardens, and an extension of the esplanade that will connect to Pier A. Buried below the lawn and gardens will be a flood barrier and a drainage system for managing flood waters. The new pavilion would be raised 11 to 12 feet and entered on the second floor, with approaches from the north and south by way of long, sloped walkways. (Gigino at Wagner Park, housed in the current pavilion, is expected to return.) Flood protections around the museum will include flip-up barriers and an 8-foot glass-topped flood wall, partially screened by plantings. 

The Wagner Park remake is part of the Battery Park City Authority’s South Battery Park City Reconstruction, which also includes a raised Pier A Plaza to the south, with newly landscaped terraced seating and flip-up flood gates. That work is expected to start in the fall and end in July 2024 along with the Wagner Park reconstruction, an Authority official said.

Wagner Park is not only known for its pristine lawns and gardens and dramatic vistas. It is also the site of a host of activities and performances, from catch-and-release fishing and drumming circles to River & Blues and the Battery Dance Festival. The Swedish Midsummer Festival and Dance, held in July and drawing thousands, will likely be the last program there before the park closes. (In June, a site specific opera is planned for the soon-to-be demolished pavilion.) All events that occurred in Wagner Park will take place in other parts of the park, an Authority spokesman said.

Following more than a dozen public meetings, hearings and workshops during the planning process for the rebuilding, were eager to commence South Battery Park City Project construction, Nicholas Sbordone, the Authoritys director of communications and public affairs, said in a statement. In the face of larger and more intense climate events, delivering the vital protection for Lower Manhattan is more important than ever. Community engagement will continue thoughout construction, he added.

At the Environmental Protection Committee, it was suggested that the Swedish festival may be the time to ceremonially say so long to the Wagner Park that many know and enjoy.

“I find it very emotional,” said the committee’s co-chair, Wendy Chapman. She said on a recent visit she approached some sightseeing tourists in the park. “I told them, take a lot of pictures, because this is all going away.”