Haven on the Hudson'It doesn't feel like New York. It's green, there's water, it's open.'
Sometimes you don't need to travel far to get away. Such an escape exists for New Yorkers right on the island of Manhattan.
Within the past decade, Hudson River Park has become a respite for city dwellers, providing open space, recreation and a bit of quiet. The park encompasses 550 acres and extends along the scenic Hudson River from West 59th Street down to the Battery at Manhattan's southern tip. But it's on Pier 25 where artist Jayson Atienza and his wife, Annie, an event planner, regularly take time to unwind from their busy careers and reconnect with each other.
"My wife and I love walking through to clear our heads and when we want to brainstorm ideas," Jayson says. "We came up with a lot of concepts here." In fact, the creative couple devised their wedding's "save the date" card while playing on the swings at the children's playground.
Jayson says of being out on the pier, "It doesn't feel like New York. It's green, there's water, it's open." But there's also plenty to do. The couple will sometimes play a round or two of mini golf, for instance. Pier 25 also boasts basketball courts, sand volleyball courts, boat moorings and a skate park, which is open to skateboarders and in-line skaters. The Lilac, a historic steamship, and the 105-year-old tugboat Pegasus both call Pier 25 home and are open seasonally for visits. (Be sure to call before visiting, since parts of the pier were damaged by Hurricane Sandy and may not have reopened yet.)
Sometimes the Atienzas will head farther north into Hudson River Park — as far as Chelsea Piers — but most often they enjoy tucking back into their neighborhood of Tribeca, which extends from Canal Street south to Vesey Street and is bordered on the east and west by Broadway and West Street, respectively. Their favorite local stop is Laughing Man, a coffee shop owned by actor Hugh Jackman, where Jayson regularly orders the store's signature drink, the Flat White.
The neighborhood is known for celebrity residents — including couples Beyoncé and Jay-Z, and Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin — as well as playing host to the Tribeca Film Festival, which was established after the September 11 terrorist attacks to promote the cultural and economic revival of Lower Manhattan.
Restaurants range from the stylish and upscale Nobu and Tribeca Grill to the casual and contemporary, including Kutsher's Tribeca — an offshoot of the Catskills' Kutsher's Country Club, featuring modern Jewish-American fare — and Blaue Gans, with its traditional Austro-German cuisine. For date night, the Atienzas like Megu, a chic Japanese eatery with an outsize menu. Then they'll head to Ward III or the Raccoon Lodge for drinks.
But for Jayson and Annie, there's nothing like being close to the water out on Pier 25, away from the bustling streets. Later this year, the adjacent Pier 26 will offer additional respite, with new features that include a boathouse, a dog run and quiet seating areas with those spectacular westward water views the Atienzas have come to cherish.
"It's nice to hear yourself think," Jayson says.