Volume 73, Number 6 | June 9 - 15, 2004

Rain’s a damper on Park Day — but summer awaits!

By Heather Paster

Villager photos by Robert Stolarik

Clockwise from above, kayakers at Pier 26; a group rows in a historic Whitehall-style boat, built by the Floating the Apple program at Pier 40; and a unicyclist juggles on the park’s esplanade.

Hundreds of people ignored the less-than-perfect weather to celebrate the annual Hudson River Park Day along the Lower West Side waterfront of Manhattan. The activities kick off the park’s “Take Me to the River Festival,” a full summer schedule of free concerts, dances, movies, barbecues, swims and fishing and boating events.

Sunday’s events started with a 5K walk/ kayak paddle. Approximately 15 people walked while 10 kayaked through the morning mist. “You get wet kayaking, so the rain is not really a deterrent,” said Zin Alkhalil, a volunteer at the Downtown Boathouse on Pier 26 in Tribeca.

New York Trapeze School offered free swings starting at 10:30, but had to shut down for safety reasons after rain started an hour later. The batting cages, miniature golf and boathouse remained open and free to visitors. On Pier 40, at W. Houston St., visitors were able to participate in free boat rides on historic ships and the Circle Line.

Children enjoyed an art program that offered everything from painting to printmaking to clay works. “The Guitar Man From Central Park,” David Ippolito, performed at the Christopher St. Pier. Jugglers, puppeteers, storytellers and face painters entertained families.

Hudson River Park Day concluded with an evening concert by Rooney and two other bands, Ozma and Straylight Run, at Pier 54 at W. 13th St. The California-based band Rooney has been gaining national recognition with their appearance on Fox’s “The O.C.” and NBC’s “Today Show.” The Hudson River Park stage has attracted other national acts such as the White Stripes, Ashanti, Natalie Cole and George Benson. Grammy Winner Koko Taylor will be performing in mid-August on the same pier at the fifth annual “Blues, Barbecue and Fireworks Festival.”

Chris Martin, Hudson River Park Trust vice president of marketing, was pleased with the turnout. “Given the weather,” he said, “it went extraordinarily well. We are looking forward to seeing people the entire season.”

For the past nine years, the boathouse at Pier 26 has been offering free kayaking throughout the summer as well as classes and three-hour weekend tours around the Statue of Liberty. “Today wasn’t a huge turnout, but on sunny days, we’ll have over 100 people,” added Alkhalil. Last year 14,000 people signed kayak release waivers, which are valid all season. Anyone who can swim is eligible to take out a “sit-on-top” kayak. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult or guardian. Be prepared to get wet.

Starting in July, Piers 54 and 25 will host outdoor movies throughout the summer. Children’s classics like “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “Beetle Juice” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” will screen on Friday evenings at Pier 25, at N. Moore St. in Tribeca, while a lineup of horror flicks like “Scream,” “The Ring” and “Attack of the 50-Foot Woman” will be showing Wednesday evenings at Pier 54 in the Village. Generally movies start around 8-8:30 p.m., or when it gets dark.

There are also free Sunday night tango and swing dancing and dance classes with live bands at Pier 25, free fishing and, for the brave of heart, Hudson River swimming races.

Check the Web site, www.hudsonriverpark.org, for movie dates and times and the full schedule of summer events in the park.

“Hudson River Park Day is one of my favorite events of the year because it gives visitors a chance to sample all the park has to offer,” said Connie Fishman, the Trust’s president. “Whether it’s listening to great music, going out in a kayak or taking a swing on the trapeze, Hudson River Park is the place to be for fun and excitement this summer.”

The Hudson River Park Trust is a partnership between New York State and the city. The self-funded park is the first project of its kind in the state. Stretching from the Battery in Lower Manhattan to 59th St. along the Hudson River, the 550-acre park (which includes the river out to the end of the piers) is the city’s largest open-space development since Central Park. Once completed, it will include 13 public piers. The Greenwich Village segment, between Clarkson and Horatio Sts., has already been completed.

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