Gantry Plaza State Park: The Complete Guide

View of Midtown Manhattan from Gantry Plaza

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Gantry Plaza State Park

Address
4-09 47th Rd, Queens, NY 10007, USA
Phone +1 718-786-6385

Gantry Plaza State Park bends along the shoreline of the Queens waterfront in Long Island City. Its award-winning design, complete with landscaped gardens and native grasses, has transformed a former industrial space into a flourishing public park with tremendous views of Manhattan. The park's 12 acres sit on the East River, with curved steps that lead down to a plaza and then out to four themed piers. The resurrected piers, old shipping lifts, and restored gantries—once used to load and unload rail car floats and barges—represent the city's historical past as a major shipping port. Today, the park's four sections—Gantry Plaza, the Library, the Fields, and the Piers—each offer a unique experience for visitors looking to enjoy a former dockyard turned urban oasis.

Things to Do

Most people visit Gantry Plaza to take in the iconic views of Midtown Manhattan, and to stroll along the paved pathways, admiring the historical relics. The park's plaza contains a stage that hosts seasonal concerts and shows. And, the surrounding gardens, which contain native grasses, like spartina and miscanthus, and perennials, like iris and hibiscus, are worth taking a gander at, too.

The park contains four themed piers, with each pier representing a different park activity. Pier 1 is the "overlooking pier," Pier 2 is the "café pier," Pier 3 is the "sunning pier," and Pier 4 is the "fishing pier." Some of the piers are outfitted to suit their theme, with café tables and bar stools on Pier 2, wooden chaise lounges on Pier 3, and a fish cleaning station, complete with a sink and a disposal area, on Pier 4.

Seasoned athletes will enjoy a visit to the park's field area, as it contains basketball courts, an art-deco playground with a skyline view and colorful rubber flooring, handball courts, tennis and racquetball courts, a running track, and grassy areas for lounging and playing frisbee. The field section also has a multipurpose sports field with AstroTurf, perfect for a game of pickup soccer, football, or lacrosse.

Currently under construction in Gantry Plaza is a massive public library, designed specifically to highlight the park's city view. Stairs rise up from the open arrival space and are bordered by reading tables in ascending sections. Odd-shaped windows will allow readers to peek up through the building and see the sky. Once complete, this space will also have attractive gardens and thoughtful spaces to unwind with a good book.

Best Hikes & Trails

Since Gantry Plaza State Park is a reclaimed urban-industrial space, there are no formal trails, per se. However, a paved and wooden walkway lines the waterfront, making the park a good spot for a leisurely stroll with a view. Other paved paths dissect the interior of the park, linking the four park sections together. All paths have little to no grade and can be ventured on by those looking for a workout, a romantic sunset stroll, or something in between.

Water Sports

Throughout the summer and fall, two city-based paddling groups, Long Island City Community Boathouse (LICCB) and HarborLAB, host kayaking programs at the floating dock at Gantry Plaza State Park's Pier 4. Programs include activities like kayaking and tandem kayaking. The free programs provide life jackets for all who attend and reservations are not needed.

You can also launch your own kayak or paddleboard from the floating dock at Pier 4 and head out onto the East River for a float or paddle. Check the tide chart before you go, as mid-tide, when there's little current, is always best for paddling.

Where to Stay Nearby

Along with the revival of the industrial waterfront in Queens came the gentrification of the surrounding area. Now, the waterfront here boasts hip cafes, artisanal restaurants, and trendy hotels to fit any budget. Opt for a no-frills stay just around the corner from MoMA PS1 (a satellite location of New York's Museum of Modern Art), a chic hotel close to Midtown, or a classic stay, just over the bridge in Brooklyn.

  • Lic Hotel: The Lic Hotel is close to everything, including Gantry Plaza State Park, several museums, and Midtown Manhattan. Choose from a full, queen, king, or double twin XL room, or a family suite, all with en suite bathrooms, a vanity, and a flat-screen television. Complimentary breakfast items are served in the lobby, and a rooftop picnic area allows you to take in the surrounding city views.
  • Ravel Hotel by Wyndham: Just a short ride away from three of the New York metropolitan airports, Ravel Hotel offers a city escape, complete with an on-site fitness center. All rooms and suites come with free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen television with cable, a mini-refrigerator, a mini-bar, and a safe. Some rooms even feature a private balcony, like the Premier King City View Room. This hotel is fully handicap accessible and accommodates pets for an extra fee, as well.
  • The Box House Hotel: Located in the trendy Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, the Box House Hotel is right over the bridge from Gantry Plaza State Park, allowing you to experience the best of both boroughs. Choose from standard rooms, suites, penthouses, or loft-style apartments in this factory building turned hotel. Everything about this stay is authentic, including the custom in-room furniture and the fully retractable rooftop venue, perfect for hosting a party with its marble bar.

How to Get There

Gantry Plaza State Park can be accessed by car, subway, train, bus, or ferry, depending on where you're coming from, and it's just inches from the Midtown Tunnel off the Long Island Expressway (LIE). Westbound traffic can take Exit 15 off the LIE, and then turn right on Van Dam Street. Next, take a left on 49th Avenue and continue to the park. Accessing the park from the eastbound lane is trickier. Exit at Borden Avenue, then turn right, and right again on Vernon. Then, take a left on 49th Avenue.

If you're coming over the Queensboro Bridge or via Queens Boulevard, turn south on 21st Avenue, then turn right on Jackson Avenue. Next, take a right on 48th Avenue (just past MoMA PS 1), and then turn left at the corner by the Citylights Building. Lastly, take a right on 49th Avenue.

Train 7 of the New York City Subway line stops at Vernon Boulevard/Jackson Avenue. Take this route, then walk west two blocks to Gantry Plaza (in the direction of the Schwartz Factory smokestacks). The G Train brings you to 21st Street/Jackson Avenue. Walk three blocks west to the park, once you get off the subway.

The Long Island Railroad Station (LIRR) at Borden Avenue and 2nd Street is a close walk for those coming in by train. Just walk north and over to the park. The bus lines B61 and Q103 stop at Vernon Boulevard/Jackson Avenue. And, you can also take a ferry to and from the terminal at Borden Avenue, as well as water taxis that go back and forth to Manhattan.

Accessibility

New York State Parks strives to provide universal access to all of its parks and facilities. That said, they are constantly making accessibility improvements at Gantry Plaza State Park. Currently, the walking paths on Gantry Plaza, and some of the piers, are wide enough to be accessed by those in a wheelchair. However, the park system recommends contacting the park directly before visiting, so that you have a clear expectation of their offerings before you make the trek.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Gantry Plaza State Park is open from dawn until 10 p.m. daily, year-round.
  • Gantry Plaza is the premier venue in Queens for watching the annual Macy's 4th of July ​fireworks show, as the Chrysler Building on the other side of the river reflects the show. Get there early by taking the 7 Train and walking a couple of blocks, rather than fighting for a parking spot.
  • Swimming, littering, and open fires are not permitted at the park.
  • Dogs are welcome in the park—on- and off-leash—in one of the park's two dog runs. The first run is located on the corner of 48th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard, and the other is on Center Boulevard between 46th and 47th avenues.
  • Dogs are prohibited on all grass, gardens, fields, landscaped areas, and piers. However, from March 1 through September 1, Pier 1 allows leashed dogs from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., and from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • A maximum of two pets per person are allowed in day-use areas, and pets need to be on a leash no more than 6-feet in length.
  • Large gatherings can only be conducted on park grounds with a permit.
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Gantry Plaza State Park: The Complete Guide