NYC Architect Unveils Park Proposal for Jersey City’s Sixth Street Embankment

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Sixth Street Embankment Jersey City
Formerly known as the Harsimus Branch of Pennsylvania Railroad, the elevated rail line built in 1902 once carried goods through Downtown Jersey City. Photo by Chris Fry/Jersey Digs.

A long-running legal saga hoping to turn an abandoned rail line into open space might not be headed for a quick conclusion, but that isn’t stopping one architecture firm from sharing what they think a potential park on the land should look like.

Formerly known as the Harsimus Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad, an elevated rail line built in 1902 once carried goods through Downtown Jersey City to and from the waterfront. The structure eventually became obsolete and shipping giant Conrail decided to sell the six blocks of properties to local developers Steve and Victoria Hyman during the early 2000s.

A lengthy court battle with Jersey City over the land has ensued, but Mayor Fulop announced back in October last year that a settlement has been agreed upon in principle between the parties. Under the deal, New York-based Albanese Organization would pay to acquire the properties along with development rights to build two towers on the eastern end of the Embankment.

6th Street Embankment Jersey City Redesign
A SoHo-based architecture firm, has now revealed a few ideas for the parcels that would combine into what he dubs a Jersey City Arts Line. Rendering courtesy of Jorge Mastropietro Architects Atelier.

The city would be deeded control to the remainder of the Embankment under a conservation easement free of charge and be responsible for building out the greenspace. Buenos Aires-born Jorge Mastropietro, who heads a SoHo-based architecture firm, has now revealed a few ideas for the parcels that would combine into what he dubs a Jersey City Arts Line.

6th Street Embankment Jersey City Redesign Map
Aerial overview. Map courtesy of Jorge Mastropietro Architects Atelier.

“Working on projects in and around Jersey City for quite a few years now, we believe that we are a part of this big community,” the firm says. “With the Embankment left untouched, we took a step forward to rethink our outdoor experience.”

Mastropietro’s proposal is designed with minimal intrusion into its surroundings and would designate six zones along the Embankment’s sections. They include blocks dedicated to sculpture, painting, literature, dance, theater and film, and music.

6th Street Embankment Jersey City Redesign Rendering 2
Communal gathering spaces. Rendering courtesy of Jorge Mastropietro Architects Atelier.

A stroll through Mastropietro’s proposed park would provide a place to relax, a platform for locals to exhibit their skills, and spaces to appreciate art in a place that is near nature. The plans envision multiple free-standing kiosks that would allow families to participate in art lessons organized by the community.

6th Street Embankment Jersey City Redesign Rendering
Sections to display art. Rendering courtesy of Jorge Mastropietro Architects Atelier.

The different sections in the proposal would be connected via walking trail cuts through the existing landscape. The park would include several plazas and activity zones along with water retention ponds that would be utilized to reduce storm water runoff and help to improve the air temperature and quality during summer.

6th Street Embankment Redesign Jma Design
Sculpture garden. Rendering courtesy of Jorge Mastropietro Architects Atelier.

“We live in an era where the outdoor time spent is either amidst traffic or tall structures with minimum interaction with nature nor direct sunlight,” Mastropietro wrote when revealing the plans. “Our proposal elevates us from the chaos on the ground and transports us to a space that is surrounded by green foliage and provides us with an opportunity to connect back with nature and stay healthy.”

While officials haven’t yet weighed in on Mastropietro’s proposal, his Jersey City cred is notable. He has designed projects along Central Avenue in The Heights, worked on low-rises in Paulus Hook, and developed 54 Bright Street and the living moss mural that adorns the building. He previously worked under Rafael Viñoly, who is behind the design for Hudson County’s new courthouse that’s currently under construction.

The firm behind the design is looking to keep the conversation going about the Embankment’s potential future and can be found on Instagram at the handle @jorgemastropietroatelier.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Don’t think the art spaces are a good idea for many different reasons. Who has access to them? How much time will be allocated for individual or group use? What kind of art will be displayed? Who decides what’s not appropriate or too radical? What if it rains? Seems like it will be waste of space in the cold weather months. What about people who to go a park and don’t want to look at art, art making, or painting? Why should they be imposed upon in a public place?

    One can make the park itself be a work of art. The Chelsea High Line is the best example for that.

  2. Clears away too many of the existing trees, in my opinion. Nothing wrong with opening it up for recreational purposes, but a greenspace should be green.

  3. Agree with above…keep it as green as possible. Carve paths through what is already up there. Love the arts, but is this park really the place for a dance floor, etc? Would love to get up there and feel as if I’m walking on a path through a woodsy retreat, that’s what we really need….something that feels like wilderness.

  4. Add art programs and whatnot to the pre-existing green spaces and parks in JC. There’s so much wonderful nature on top of the Embankment. It’s its own little ecosystem. We should make structural repairs needed to keep it safe and then leave it alone. Not everything needs a human touch.

  5. What this provides is a through way enhanced by some beds and art squares explicitly for the Albanese Organization’s towers. It makes a park for tower residents. The park will be provided and maintained at TAXPAYERS EXPENSE. The High Line group programs with community input and has strict conflict of interest provisions in its bylaws. Arts money from city funds will be budgeted for these organizations, institutes and bureaucracies.
    The highline has extensive data very applicable to this project. They will not be interested because the Albanese people will want to discourage utilization. For example, the High Line has found that its green “beaches” are so popular they must be closed for maintenance and repair frequently. Do you think the Albanese towers residents want to walk through and see half naked city residents and their kids sunning on beach towels? NO. How about Hot Latin Jazz concerts? NOT LIKELY. Political rallies? Memorial Day bagpipes? Shaved Ice stands? All summer ice cream trucks?
    What do you think?

  6. There is nothing that I like about this! It looks like a students design project, with no thought given to practicality. Do the designers have any education or knowledge at all about parks and plants? I agree with all of the above comments, too.

  7. I like the concept of providing communal spaces with some utilitarian purpose along the way to afford opportunity for contemplation, communal gathering and relaxing. And it does not have to be the trees vs those spaces as folks here seem to argue. A gazebo once in a while is a beautiful thing and that’s how I read this. This is a concept to discuss imho.

  8. I agree with Hubert. This is clearly just an idea of one way to use the embankment. I’ve lived on 4th street for a few years now and We this would be a great communal park. It doesn’t have to be exactly what’s there I’m sure it can be mixed with some of what the folks above said about leaving more trees and less intrusion. I like the water features and the amphitheater space I think this is a good start

  9. Like most others here, I totally agree that this design feels way too manicured and self-conscious; it reminds me of those awful concrete “public places” built everywhere in the 1960s and 1970s that are so desolate now. For those who haven’t done so, you really should check out the Embankment Coalition’s proposed design on their website, as it seems a lot closer to what (almost) everyone would like to see.

  10. This proposal could be anywhere there is a long, narrow site to develop. It also lacks any kind of singular design statement and just looks like they plunked down every idea they could think of.

    Sadly, there appears to be absolutely no reference to the site having once being a railroad with a long history. Historical context (not imitation) is important. It is what links us to the past and this proposal is sorely lacking in that respect.

    Think for a minute about what makes the High Line the success that it is: Namely that it’s design is rooted in the original function of it’s location (a rail line) and reinterprets it in a modern way.

    This proposal contains none of that. Further, it appears to clear cut most of the mature trees that have grown atop the embankment to make room for a lot of hardscape area which most would agree we have too much of already.

    To a very great extent, NATURE has already “designed” most of what an ‘Embankment Park’ should be. The focus should be on making it accessible for people to enjoy the shade, the quiet and a chance to get just a little bit closer to “urban nature”. And like the High Line, any design interjections to make it a park should at least have some reference to what was once there.

    Sorry, but in my opinion, this “eyewash” proposal is a lot of form over substance.

  11. As a resident that lives adjacent to the Embankment park, the clearing of trees would be a sad loss for wildlife that call the Embankment their home. It is a natural barrier for city noise and some of these trees and natural wildlife have grown to be 50+ years in size.

  12. Way over done and, most likely, way too costly to build and maintain. I don’t want my tax dollars spent on a design that some design firm can use to show they are ‘cutting edge’. Trees, grass and benches along a meandering path should do the trick. We don’t need an outdoor ‘showplace’ to rival the Highline. We don’t have the tourist traffic, just neighbors looking for a quiet respite.

  13. Thanks for all the comments.
    First I need to clarify that we were not hired by anybody to produce this concept.
    I found myself and my team idle during the time of COVID-19. I used to live around the embankment and started thinking about what it could be. I noticed during this unprecedented time, how people use open space and art to cope. I welcome any conversation here. Because we are trying to understand how the world will change after COVID-19 and how to bring urban open spaces into our new life.
    If you want to see more about our concept, please visit: https://issuu.com/jmapc/docs/6th_street_embankment_park_-_arts_line

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