Peter Minuit Plaza: Old New Amsterdam Gets a New Public Space

Peter Minuit (1580-1638), the director-general of New Netherland who in the summer of 1626 famously purchased the verdant island of Manhattan from Native Americans, now has an intermodal transportation hub in his name next to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. Good for Minuit, pronounced like the French word for midnight. It's a spiffy place, this 1.3 acre Peter Minuit Plaza, with its New Amsterdam Plein and Pavilion, a gift from the Kingdom of the Netherlands on the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival in New York. At the ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, May 12, a day of resplendent clear skies, officials extolled the new plaza as a particularly fine example of intergovernmental and interagency collaboration, in this case among the Battery Conservancy, NYC Department of Transportation, NY Parks, and the MTA.

Peter Minuit Plaza
Peter Minuit Plaza. The Battery.

The "plein," or outdoor public plaza, is surfaced with a handsome granite and quartz stone surface and surrounded by beds of seasonal flowers - tulips for now, appropriate for the old settlement. Those arriving by boat, train, bus, foot, or bike will find the space congenial for resting or chatting, perhaps swapping favorite stories or complaining about their journeys. In addition to the Staten Island Ferry, the R subway stops here, and the plaza is linked to the Battery Bikeway and pedestrian walkways. The curving steel canopy for the bus loop adds to the sense of dynamic movement at the plaza. The park's curvy zipper benches by WXY are particularly attractive and comfortable.

Peter Minuit Plaza
benches and seating area, Peter Minuit Plaza

The white pavilion, designed by Ben van Berkel of UNStudio Amsterdam, looks like a cross between a pinwheel and flower blossom, somewhat impermanent, as if it could spin too fast and blow away. For something probably less than the 24 dollars that Minuit paid for the island, commuters may purchase food and drinks at the pavilion's Merchants Market and then take their places at the chairs and tables in the adjoining seating area. The food service will be available every day, early morning till well into the night. The pavilion will also house the Alliance for Downtown's visitor information booth. At midnight each night, in honor of Minuit, the Pavilion will bask in a colorful light show.

Peter Minuit Plaza
New Amsterdam Pavilion, Peter Minuit Plaza.

Peter Minuit Plaza
Tulips, Peter Minuit Plaza

Peter Minuit Plaza
An intermodal plaza, the space functions as a meeting ground for those arriving
on foot, on boat, on train, on bus, or on bicycle

In addition to seasonal flowers, the Dutch-ness of Peter Minuit Plaza is celebrated with a bronze relief map of New Amsterdam as well as with historical texts about the early Dutch history of the area, printed on irregular flat pavement pieces and written by Russell Shorto, the author of the thrilling The Island at the Center of the World. In his book, Shorto writes of Minuit, a businessman who volunteered to travel to the New World:

"He is one of those figures of history for whom everything we know about him makes us wish we knew more. He had no military training, but he was an individualistic, take-charge sort who would affect the course of history in more ways than one."

View Peter Minuit Plaza in a larger map

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from May 12, 2011, a sunny day in the New World. See this set on Flickr WOTBA for more images.

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