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Teardrop Park

Landscape Performance Benefits

Environmental

  • Eliminated 60 tons of stone waste, 80 gallons of diesel, and 1,776 lbs of carbon by constructing a full scale mock-up of the Ice-Water Wall at the quarry, ensuring that no extra stone was shipped to the job.
  • Achieved 99.5% establishment of the 3,260 woody trees and shrubs planted at Teardrop by calibrating factors in the manufactured soils such as load bearing capacity, water retention, drainage and nutrient levels.
  • Maintains healthy levels of nitrogen without the addition of any nitrogen fertilizer and encourages 30-50% greater root development by regularly performing biological soil tests and balancing soil microorganisms through compost tea application.
  • Eliminates potable water use for lawn irrigation, saving an estimated 90,000 gallons of water and $385 annually by recycling greywater from the adjacent Solaire Building.

Social

  • Counters nature-deficit disorder by providing open-ended nature play for an estimated 200,000 children a year, with 72% of those observed engaged in physical activity and 69% enjoying constructive, dramatic, and functional play.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.

  • Project Type

    Park/Open space
    Playground

  • Former Land Use

    Greyfield

  • Location

    Teardrop Park
    Park Place West

    New York, New York 10282

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  • Climate Zone

    Humid continental

  • Size

    1.8 acres - Teardrop North0.5 acres - Teardrop South

  • Budget

    $17 million - Teardrop North

  • Completion Date

    2006 - Teardrop North; 2010 - Teardrop South

Experiencing natural environments is widely recognized as an important part of early childhood development, and yet most urban playgrounds have banished plants in favor of equipment. Teardrop Park is designed to address this gap, offering adventure and sanctuary to urban children while engaging their minds and bodies. Site topography, interactive water fountains, natural stone, and intimately-scaled plantings contribute to an exciting inner world of intricate textures, intense scale differences, and precisely choreographed views, all nestled in Battery Park City.

  • Specific features, like the Ice-Water Wall, the Marsh, the Water Play rocks, and the stone Reading Circle reinvent the idea of nature play in the city, celebrating the expressive potential of natural materials.
  • All stormwater at Teardrop North is captured on site for use in the planted areas. Drip irrigation is used to minimize evaporation and water loss.
  • The adjacent Solaire building captures its greywater for re-use in the lawn areas of the park with a storage capacity of around 6,000 gallons, more than the 5,000 gallon/week peak irrigation needs of the lawn.
  • The park’s design includes fully organic manufactured soils and maintenance regimes that avoid pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides.
  • All 3,000 tons of stone was obtained within 160 miles from the site.
  • The blue stone wall was assembled first at the quarry with stones used as-is and fit on site. The stones were then numbered, disassembled, transported, and reassembled, thus avoiding waste by-products and unnecessary transport of extra stone.
  • Over 16,870 plants and trees were planted at the park, with 88% of them native to New York State. Each plant community is carefully calibrated to microclimate and manufactured soil.
  • Heliostats are used to reflect light into Teardrop South, brightening and improving the occupancy of what might otherwise be a cool and shady space.
  • As a general rule, only materials that do not contribute to hazardous waste or have harmful byproducts as the result of their production were specified. The project team chose to use HDPE (high-density polyethelene) piping throughout the project, and this has become the new Battery Park Conservancy standard. All site sealants and paints are specified as low-VOC.
  • Many recycled materials were used throughout construction: the rubberized play surface was made from recycled tires; all concrete in the park has a fly ash additive; erosion control materials are made from recycled plastics; organic soil components included the municipal leaf compost and biosolids, a recycled municipal waste product.

Challenge

Solar analysis indicated that the residential towers that were to define the corners of the park would create tremendous shade, since each ranged from 210 to 235 feet in height. Wind studies indicated that the east/west corridors through the park would experience strong, cold, and desiccating winds off the Hudson River while the areas between the buildings would be more protected. Due to the shade and wind, temperatures could drop sometimes 10°F below other locations in the city, complicating the design goal of creating sanctuary for urban children.

Solution

The combined constraints of water, sun, and wind influenced the park program, as well as the kinds of plant and ecological communities that could be created. For instance, recognizing that the northern half of the site would have the longest hours of sunlight on any given day, the designers made this the location for the Lawn Bowl, whereas play areas for small children were placed in the shaded and wind-protected areas. At Teardrop South, heliostats “borrow” from the surrounding environment, using reflected light to activate and brighten what might be a cool and shady space.

  • By drawing construction documents after the Ice-Water Wall mock-up was completed, $51,600 was avoided in surplus material and delivery costs alone. Additionally, to fit, shape and install on site, it is estimated that construction would have taken 4 times as much machining and labor. Instead, the 1st half of the Ice-Water Wall was completed at Teardrop in 5 days after 5 months of planning. The stone masons were allowed 4 months to complete all work and instead finished in 1 month, a quarter of the allotted time.
  • Using greywater from the adjacent Solaire building to irrigate lawn areas saves an estimated $385 annually in potable water costs.
  • After testing, it was discovered that water collected from the Solaire building was too saline to use for irrigation, so a reverse osmosis (desalinization) chamber was installed near the south side of the park. After desalinization, this water is added to the settling tanks for irrigation use.
  • While the entire irrigation system is metered when drawing from the city water supply, the greywater and stormwater storage tanks are not, making it difficult to calculate the reduction in water use at Teardrop North. At Teardrop South a meter was added during the installation of a 10,000 gallon stormwater storage tank to measure savings.

Benches: Kenneth Lynch & Sons
Poured-in-Place Play Surface: Sureplay International
Pavers: Hanover Architectural Products
Pole Lights: BEGA/US Architectural Lighting Fixtures and Products
Water Feature: Tri Palm International, LLC

Project Team

Client: The Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City Authority, Battery Park City Parks Conservancy
Landscape Architect: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.
Artists: Ann Hamilton, Michael Mercil
Play Consultant:
Natural Learning Initiative
Lead Engineer: ARUP
Geotechnical Engineer: Rutledge Consulting Engineers
Lighting Designer: Cline, Bettridge, Bernstein Lighting Design
Turf Consultants: A. McNitt Consulting, Pennsylvania State University Agronomy Department, John Stier - University of Wisconsin
Fountain Designer: R. J. Van Seters Company
Soil Scientist: Pine and Swallow Environmental
Irrigation Consultant and Designers: Northern Designs
Architectural Lighting Consultants: U:Lighting
Natural Light Consultants: Carpenter Norris Consulting, James Carpenter Design Associates
Quarry/Stone Consultant: New York Quarries
Onsite Masonry Oversight: Betsy Hoffman, Hayden Hillsgrove

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architects were the prime consultant, responsible for organizing the project team and overseeing design from initial concept through construction administration.

Case Study Prepared By

Research Fellow: Kristina Hill, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Virginia
Research Assistant: Michael Geffel, MLA Candidate, University of Virginia
Aug 2011

Topics

Soil creation, preservation & restoration, Water conservation, Carbon sequestration & avoidance, Waste reduction, Recreational & social value, Operations & maintenance savings, Efficient irrigation, Greywater reuse, Native Plants, Reused/recycled materials, Trees, Play

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