15 Years In The Making: Hudson Yards Is Open For Business

March 15, 2019 - 1:35 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Phase one of the largest private real estate development in U.S. history opened in New York City on Friday.

It’s been more than a decade in the making, but the new Hudson Yards made its public debut to much fanfare with Sesame Street's Big Bird helping CNN's Anderson Cooper cut the ribbon on the new development.

The developers of Hudson Yards, which sits along the West Side Highway between 30th and 34th streets, are calling this the "New West Side." Approximately $25 billion was poured into this mini-city, where you could live, work, eat and shop. It features six gleaming towers total -- the tallest standing at 1,296-feet -- with over 100 shops, one of them being New York City's first-ever Neiman Marcus, and 4,000 apartments. There's also the highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere. 

“Basically, if we think it’s important to city life, we want to try and incorporate it here at Hudson Yards,” says Jay Cross, president of Related Hudson Yards. "So it is a city within a city."

But, it’s not just the shopping that should attract visitors. Part of the site is open space and is designed as an attraction unto itself.

Cross says he hopes people will also be attracted to the new public square and gardens, featuring 28,000 plants and 200 trees. He even compares it to a European palazzo.

“The paving pattern became important, the way in which the soft landscape worked with the hard landscape. The intimacy became important because these are big buildings surrounding the space,” he explains. "It had to be a great public space like Central Park or Bryant Park that people liked to go to and just naturally went there when they had spare time."

Cross tell WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell that at the center of the 5-acre park is a piece of public art called “Vessel.” 

“We thought if the artwork was monumental enough that it in itself would be the destination,” he said.

The circular beehive-shaped structure consists of 154 staircases and 80 landings. It is 150-feet tall and built for climbing. As Haskell explained, think of it as part public art, part observation deck and part exercise equipment.

"This is like nothing else in the world. It's unique, you can't experience this anywhere," said project developer Stephen Ross during a tour of the "Vessel." Ross wanted a tourist draw at the center of the project, something like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. "I said early on I wanted to create a 365-day Christmas tree. You're looking at it."

Cross calls the entire project an engineering marvel. The development was built on a platform over an active rail yard and was done while the 30 tracks were active.

“It’s not so much you’re building a table on which you sit the buildings, you’re building a table that has 200 legs, which are the caissons, and the legs all have to go down between the tracks,” Cross says. 

This was the brainchild of former Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Construction began about six years ago after his push for a West Side football stadium failed.

When Ross first started working on Hudson Yards in 2008 the U.S. was in the midst of a recession.

"But we always believed New York was the greatest city. It would survive and it would continue to be the greatest city," Ross said. "We saw this as a great opportunity."

Hudson Yards opened Friday to great fanfare, but was not without its opponents, WCBS 880's Mack Rosenberg reports.

Critics say only about 10 percent of those 4,000 apartments will actually be affordable and the New York Times reports that a New School analysis says developers of Hudson Yards have reportedly received $6 billion in tax breaks. That's double what Amazon would have gotten if it built a second headquarters in Queens.

Developers say Hudson Yards will fork over $19 billion to the city's GDP and create thousands of jobs.

"I've awlays believe that the most important thing we can do for New Yorkers is create jobs at every rung of the economic ladder," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. "Anybody worried about the future vitality of New York should look no further than the transformation that's happening right here."

Half of the 28-acre mini-city is completed.  Phase two of the project should begin next year with a platform above the yards to the west and be finished by 2025.