The Battery, formerly known as Battery Park, is a 25acre public park located at the southern tip of Manhattan Island in New York City facing New York Harbor. It is bounded by Battery Place on the north, State Street on the east, New York Harbor to the south, and the Hudson River to the west. The park contains attractions such as an old fort named Castle Clinton; multiple monuments; and the SeaGlass Carousel. The surrounding area, known as South Ferry, contains multiple ferry terminals, including the Staten Island Ferry's Whitehall Terminal as well as boat launches to the Statue of Liberty National Monument.
The park and surrounding area is named for the artillery batteries that were built in the late 17th century to protect the settlement behind them. By the 1820s, the Battery had become an entertainment destination, with the conversion of Castle Clinton into a theater venue. During the mid-19th century, the modern-day Battery Park was constructed and Castle Clinton was converted into an immigration and customs center. The Battery was commonly known as the landing point for immigrants to New York City until 1890, when the Castle Clinton immigration center was replaced by one on Ellis Island. Castle Clinton then hosted the New York Aquarium from 1896 to 1941.
In 1940, the entirety of Battery Park was closed for twelve years due to the construction of the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel and the Battery Park Underpass. The park reopened in 1952 after a renovation, but then subsequently went into decline. The Battery Conservancy, founded in 1994 by Warrie Price, underwrote and funded the restoration and improvement of the once-dilapidated park. In 2015, the Conservancy renamed the park to its historic name of "the Battery".
The area was originally occupied by the Lenape Native Americans, though Dutch settlers populated the area as part of the settlement of New Amsterdam in the early 17th century. The Dutch referred to the southern tip of Manhattan as "Capske Hook" or "Capsie Hoek", the term coming from the Lenape word "Kapsee", meaning "rocky ledge". Capske Hook was originally a narrow, hilly ledge that extended northward to Broadway, which at the time was a Lenape trail. In 1625–1626, the Dutch built Fort Amsterdam atop of a hill at the site of the present Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. However, the fort was largely ineffective, despite several attempts at reconstruction. The British took over the settlement in 1664 and renamed the defenses Fort James. An artillery battery was installed at the fort in 1683, from which the Battery got its present name. The fortification would later be renamed several times more, before the British settled on the name of "Fort George" by 1714.
The Battery did not fire any additional shots until 1776 during the American Revolutionary War, when American troops commandeered the fort. The Americans failed to prevent the British from sailing up the Hudson River, though. Following the British landing at Kip's Bay on September 15, 1776, the Americans had abandoned the fort, and the British took Lower Manhattan. At the end of the war in 1783, the Battery was the center of Evacuation Day celebrations commemorating the departure of the last British troops in the United States; the event was later commemorated with the erection of a flagstaff. By 1788, Fort George had been demolished, and debris from the fort was used to expand the Battery. The fort itself became the site of Government House, an executive mansion intended for U.S. president George Washington, though never actually used for that purpose.
In 1808–1811, just prior to the War of 1812, the West Battery was erected on a small artificial offshore island nearby, to replace the earlier batteries in the area. At the time, the shore at the Battery was a relatively flat edge. The West Battery was never used, and following the war, the artillery battery was renamed Castle Clinton. When Battery Park's landmass was created, it encircled and incorporated the island. About 3acre were added to the park area in 1824. Meanwhile, Castle Clinton was turned over to the city government, which turned the structure into an entertainment venue. It subsequently served various purposes, including as an immigration and customs center as well as an aquarium.
By the 1840s, members of the city's elite were publicly calling for the construction of a new large park in Manhattan. Proponents said that the park would serve three purposes: abetting good health, improving the behavior of the "disorderly classes", and showcasing the refinement of the city's elite. At the time, Manhattan's seventeen squares comprised a combined 165acre of land, the largest of which was the 10acre park at the Battery. Two sites were considered for a large park: Jones's Wood, and the present site of Central Park. An alternate suggestion was to enlarge the existing Battery Park, a move endorsed by most of the public. However, the expansion of Battery Park was opposed by wealthy merchants who deemed the proposed enlargement to be dangerous to maritime traffic, and they obtained the opinion of a United States Navy lieutenant who agreed with them. As a compromise, New York City's aldermen also voted to expand Battery Park to 24acre. Ultimately, the plans for the large park would result in the construction of Central Park.
The relatively modern Battery Park was mostly created by landfill starting from 1855, using earth from street-widening projects in Lower Manhattan which united Castle Garden's island with the "mainland" of Manhattan. The original shoreline is roughly the modern-day park's eastern boundary at State Street. On State Street, the former harbor front and the northern boundary of the park, a single Federal mansion, the James Watson House, survives as part of the Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
By 1870, there were plans to improve Battery Park and Bowling Green, which were seen as having degraded substantially due to overuse. Paths were to be laid through both parks, intersecting with a plaza to be built outside Castle Clinton. City Pier A, located immediately north of Castle Clinton, was commissioned in 1886 and completed two years after. The building originally housed the New York City Board of Dock Commissioners and subsequently was used as a fireboat station until 1992.
Elevated and subway lines
Several elevated railroad lines or "els" were being built to Battery Park by the late 19th century, but they were controversial for several reasons. Because the els were originally pulled by steam trains until 1902, this caused substantial pollution at Battery Park. The New York Elevated Railroad Company opened the Battery Place elevated station at Battery Place, on the park's northern end, in 1872. This was followed by the opening of the two-track South Ferry elevated station at the park's southern end in 1877. New York Elevated Railroad agreed to beautify Battery Park as a condition of being allowed to construct the station, but the elevated station's construction soon prompted opposition among people who wanted the elevated tracks removed.
A larger four-track station was built nearby in 1879, serving the Second, Third, Sixth, and Ninth Avenue Lines. In 1883, the state legislature established a committee to examine the process through which permission had been granted to construct the elevated station. The following year, New York Elevated proposed to extend the platforms of the Battery Place station over Battery Park because the platforms were too short to accommodate four-car trains. Another plan, which would have created elevated track loops over Battery Park, was rejected in 1887 as being unlawful. Other unsuccessful plans to build elevated tracks over Battery Park were proposed in 1889 and 1891.
By 1900, the els were considered a nuisance, and there were calls to destroy the segments of elevated tracks that ran directly over the park, though this did not come to pass for another fifty years. In 1903, a state assemblyman proposed a bill that would give the elevated railroad companies the exclusive rights to build a rail terminal at Battery Park, precluding the construction of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT)'s underground subway. The bill was not passed. By that time, the IRT Lexington Avenue Line, the Joralemon Street Tunnel to Brooklyn, and the South Ferry subway terminal were being built directly under the park. The South Ferry station opened in 1905, while the Joralemon Street Tunnel opened in 1908.
Another early method of transportation was by streetcars, which stopped at Battery Place and traveled up both sides of Manhattan Island. These streetcar lines terminated at South Ferry and included what are now the bus routes. The streetcars were eliminated by 1936, though only some were replaced by buses.
The New York Aquarium used to be housed in Castle Clinton (image before 1923)
By the 20th century, the quality of Battery Park had started to decline, and several new structures were being proposed within the park itself, though most plans faced opposition and were not built. For instance, in 1901, a large memorial arch to honor United States Navy soldiers was proposed within the park. Another monument, to steamboat operator Robert Fulton, was proposed in September 1905 by Gustav H. Schwab. There was also a bill to construct a playground in the park, which was vetoed in 1903. Opposition to structures in Battery Park was such that even the construction of the IRT subway under Battery Park was opposed by the Manhattan parks commissioner. Other proposals included a 1910 plan to expand the Aquarium into Battery Park, and a proposal for an athletic jogging field the following year. Furthermore, during World War I, there was a plan to construct a federal government building on the site, but this was withdrawn after the U.S. government found new premises following opposition to the project.
Proposals to redesign Battery Park continued through the next decade. An expansion of the New York Aquarium within the park was announced in 1921, and a new memorial plaque was unveiled the same year. By 1926, a group called the Battery Park Association had formed a committee to study ways to improve the park. In 1928, it was proposed to remove the els from Battery Park. The following year, an immigrants' memorial was proposed within Battery Park, and the park itself was proposed for reconstruction into a formal vista.
In 1940, Battery Park was partially closed for the construction of the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel, and the aquarium was shuttered. Subsequently, several plans to modify Battery Park were proposed. A design competition to rebuild Battery Park was hosted in 1941, and a plan to replace Castle Clinton with a Fort Clinton memorial was also brought up. During the park's closure, its northern end was used to store debris. A second tunnel, the Battery Park Underpass, started construction in 1949. The following year, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel opened, and the South Ferry elevated station was removed after the closure of the last elevated line leading to the station. After the underpass was completed in 1951, the park was re-landscaped and expanded by 2acre, and it reopened in 1952. In Battery Park's new layout, it contained a landscaped esplanade, a raised waterfront terrace, and an oval lawn with a playground. Various statues, formerly scattered across the park, were rearranged in patterns. The reconstruction of Battery Park had cost roughly $2.38 million.
Several memorials opened through the mid-20th century. Peter Minuit Plaza and a Coast Guard memorial were both dedicated in 1955, and the East Coast Memorial was dedicated in 1963. Additionally, a 2500ft "space needle" with office and commercial space, twice the height of the Empire State Building, was proposed for the Battery in the 1960s, while discussions were ongoing on where to put the additional earth created from the construction of the World Trade Center. The building would have been placed partially on landfill adjacent to the Battery. The "needle" was never built, and the earth was used as landfill for the creation of Battery Park City, just to the north of Battery Park. By 1971, Battery Park was so dilapidated that a U.S. representative from Missouri, Richard Howard Ichord Jr., called the litter-ridden park "a national disgrace" and proposed that two National Park Service employees be hired to clean up the park. Castle Clinton was restored several years later, and reopened in 1975.
In 1982, Battery Park and multiple other "historic waterfront sites" were designated by the government of New York State as part of a zone called "Harbor Park". The other sites included South Street Seaport in Manhattan, Liberty and Ellis Islands in New York Harbor, Fulton Ferry in Brooklyn, and Sailors' Snug Harbor in Staten Island, which were to be linked by new ferry routes. The Harbor Park legislation was part of a city proposal to create a larger tourist destination out of these sites, focused chiefly around New York Harbor's history. The "park" was opened in July 1984.
Restoration and 21st century
SeaGlass Carousel, opened 2015
Battery Park City was constructed as a luxury waterfront neighborhood through the 1970s and 1980s. The success of the development resulted in attention and new funding for Battery Park projects, such as $5 million for a garden near Castle Clinton. In 1988, governor Mario Cuomo and mayor Ed Koch announced a $100 million plan to construct two new parks in Battery Park City and rearrange the park at the Battery as part of a new Hudson River waterfront park system. Part of the waterfront park system had been completed previously, but the new proposal would complete the system of parks. Within Battery Park, the Battery Park City Authority would add new entrances and redesign the park to give clearer views of the Hudson River.
However, by the 1990s, Battery Park was worn down, and many of the nearby residents and tourists shunned it altogether, except when taking boats to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The New York Times said of the park, "Some benches are broken, all need repainting. Where grass should be, there is dirt and litter. A sign with a map and guide is so smeared with graffiti it is unreadable. There are potholes on the asphalt where people line up for boats to the Statue of Liberty." The nonprofit Battery Conservancy was created in 1994, and one of its first actions was to create an architectural plan for the park, and renovating it for $30 million. In 1998, the administration of mayor Rudy Giuliani announced a $40 million initiative to renovate Battery Park. The restoration project, based on similar successful projects at Bryant and Central Parks, called for the relocation of the Battery's 23 statues, as well as an expansion of Castle Clinton. Much of the funding was to be raised privately, and at the time, this was thought to be a minor obstacle since Battery Park was neither as high-profile as Central Park, nor as worn-down as Bryant Park.
One of the first renovation projects to commence was the reconstruction of the park's seawall and promenade at a cost of $5.5 million. Although Battery Park was used as an emergency staging site following the September 11 attacks in 2001, construction on the upper promenade continued largely uninterrupted, and it opened in December 2001. The Battery Bosque, a new landscaped garden, opened in 2005.
Some restoration projects were undertaken in Battery Park in the 2010s, including the addition of a community garden, the renovation of a promenade, and the construction of the SeaGlass Carousel. By June 2012, a third of the park was being cordoned off for these construction projects, though the park itself remained open, serving 10,000 to 15,000 daily visitors. In October of that year, Hurricane Sandy caused severe damage to the area, submerging the park under salt water for several hours. the Battery Conservancy restored the wooded areas within Battery Park, as well as added gardens and green patches to mitigate the effects of future storms. Though the SeaGlass Carousel was left largely intact during Hurricane Sandy, its opening was delayed. Following the storm, the attraction was supposed to open in late 2013, but did not actually open until August 2015.
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation restored the park's original, historical title of "The Battery" in 2015. By the following year, the Battery Conservancy had raised $46 million in private funding over its 22-year existence, as well as $92 million in city funding. The conservancy planned to use these funds to make additional improvements to the park. These projects included the Battery Oval, which opened in 2016, as well as a 1.4acre playground called the Playscape, which has been proposed to open in 2020.
Around the park
To the northwest of the park lies Battery Park City, a planned community built on landfill in the 1970s and 1980s, which includes Robert F. Wagner Park and the Battery Park City Promenade. Battery Park City, proposed in 1966, was named after the park.
Battery Park contains the Battery Bikeway, a component piece of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, a system of parks, bikeways, and promenades around Manhattan Island. The bicycle path was completed in late 2015 and consists of terracotta pavings near the waterfront, adjacent to a 20ft pedestrian walkway. The bikeway contains three connections to other parts of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway:
- A bike path originates on the northern side of the Battery and runs parallel to the West Side Highway to its west. North of Battery Park City, the bikeway continues into Hudson River Park, which extends up the Hudson River shoreline.
- Another bike path exits the Battery from the northwest and runs directly on the shore of the Hudson River through Battery Park City.
- At the Battery's southeast end, the bikeway continues as the East River Greenway, which runs next to FDR Drive.
Across State Street
to the northeast is Bowling Green
, as well as the old U.S. Customs House
, now used as a branch of the National Museum of the American Indian and the district U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Peter Minuit Plaza abuts the southeast end of the park, directly in front of the Staten Island Ferry's Whitehall Terminal
at South Ferry
Under the park
The Battery Park control house, a landmark subway entrance at the edge of the park, which provides an entrance to the Bowling Green subway station
CC BY-SA 4.0
The Battery is surrounded by several pieces of transportation infrastructure:
- The Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel, opened 1950, carries vehicular traffic to Brooklyn.
- The Battery Park Underpass, opened 1951, carries vehicular traffic from the West Side Highway to the FDR Drive.
- At the New York City Subway's old South Ferry station, opened 1905, the former Interborough Rapid Transit Company's Broadway–Seventh Avenue and Lexington Avenue Lines have a balloon loop to enable trains to turn around and switch between the two lines. It closed in 2009 following the opening of a replacement subway station, but was temporarily placed back into operation between April 2013 and June 2017.
- The South Ferry subway station on the Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line , opened 2009, created a new free connection with the BMT Broadway Line's Whitehall Street station , which was formerly a separate station. The two stations comprise the South Ferry/Whitehall Street subway complex. The new Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line station was closed and sustained severe damage following Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The new station did not reopen until 2017, during which time the old loop station was used.
- The Bowling Green subway station, opened 1905 and serving the, is at the northeast corner of the park. Its original entrance, or "Control House", is an official city-designated landmark. Tracks leading south of the station go to both the old South Ferry station and to the Joralemon Street Tunnel, which skirts the park before traveling under the East River.
Discovery of wall
In late 2005, New York City authorities announced that builders working on the new South Ferry station had found a 45ft remnant of a stone wall dating to at least the 18th century. After archeological analysis, the wall was widely reported to be the oldest man-made structure still in place in Manhattan. Four walls and over 250,000 individual artifacts were found, and a portion of one wall was placed on temporary display inside Castle Clinton. Another, long portion of the wall was embedded permanently into the entrance to the newly constructed station, at the same depth below street level as originally discovered.
Robert Tierney, chairman of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, said that the wall was probably built to protect the park's original artillery batteries. The remains were described as "an important remnant of the history of New York City".