A proposal for a 122-acre park on the site of the old Pennsylvania Central rail yards was developed as a collaboration between artists Mel Chin, Joyce Kozloff, Mary Miss and Fred Wilson with the landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburg and Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. This group was hired by the Riverside South Corporation, a consortium of neighborhood and environmental groups working with developer Donald Trump on the last long piece of open space along the Hudson River in Manhattan which runs from 54th to 72nd Streets. The artists’ interest was to create a self-sustaining park where the processes of cleaning water, rehabilitating soils and reusing existing structures might transform the infrastructure of this old industrial site into a place that brings a new awareness of the connection between the built and natural environment, between our history and the future.
“Between 1990 and 1991, she was invited to collaborate with other artists and designers on a twenty-eight-acre park in the abandoned Pennsylvania Central rail yards in Manhattan. The land itself was intriguingly and even intractably complex, with an inheritance of old deteriorating piers, the overbearing presence of the elevated Westside highway, and the impending advent of Trump’s monolithic towers. The supportive coalition that brought the South Cove into existence did not exist at Riverside South, where the artists risked becoming pawns on a chess board controlled by powerful players. They were working within a Donald Trump project unfolding against a backdrop of deep skepticism capably wielded by Upper Westside residents. Ironically, her work, bred in a Manhattan basement and nurtured Downtown in alternative galleries, supported the communitarian interests of Westsiders. Had the sketch ideas, which involved using the old piers as part of a low-lying wetland, ever progressed to a final design, the work here would have served to attract an unacceptable mega project. Miss’s vision could have been misused as a tool by an unscrupulous developer. Even though her approach was robust and even virile, thriving on the complexity that inheres in most urban properties, Miss’s capacity to transform a site was remarkably susceptible to all the forces that converge on a piece of city land. Aware that their contribution to the development was, in Miss’s phrase, “window dressing,” she and other artists finally withdrew from the project. ”After years of lobbying to have a place at the table, to be able to help shape the public domain and the culture, seeing the artist as an activist not just a respondent, one is faced with the brutality of power and politics.”
– Joseph Giovannini in ‘ Mary Miss’. Princeton Architectural Press, New York 2004