Frederick Law Olmsted and Robert Moses’s Priceless Riverside Park

Riverside Park is a one-of-a-kind piece of infrastructure, seamlessly bringing together park, highway, railway and river.

In 1914 Robert Moses, who would become the park- and highway-building czar of New York City, was taking a ferry across the Hudson River from Manhattan’s Upper West Side. As he looked back at the receding shore he could see Riverside Drive, a curving tree-lined boulevard that fronted a sinuous line of grand mansions and stolid apartment houses. Below lay the boulder-strewn slopes of Riverside Park.

It wasn’t much of a park in 1914, rudely gashed by a rail line that ran along the waterfront with clattering trains belching dense coal smoke and carrying reeking livestock to slaughter.

Less than 25 years later, Moses could cruise the Hudson River and see the fragments of Riverside Park knitted together in rounded slopes and swales of trees and lawns that descended in gentle terraces. Stone walls retained those terraces and buried the rail line, making room for an auto parkway lined with greenery along the water’s edge.

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By James S. Russell | July 31, 2015

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