In April 2001, Phase I of Riverside Park South, a 7-acre section from 72nd to 68th Street was officially opened to the public. One of the most unique features of this first section of the new park is the recreational pier. Pier I and most of Riverside Park South were originally part of the abandoned Penn Central railyard between 59th and 72nd Streets. Reconstructed to its original length of 795 feet, the pier has been narrowed considerably and is now only about 55 feet at its widest part where it once was wide enough to fit four parallel railroad tracks. Most piers are built perpendicular to the shore, but Pier I, along with its old neighbors Piers B, D, E, F and G as well as the nearby gantry, were built at a 55-degree angle to the shore to facilitate the transfer of rail cars from their tracks to a waiting barge. Only pilings remain of Piers B, D, E, F and G, but the ninety-five year old gantry remains standing today.
Although Pier I is no longer used for its original industrial purpose, it does continue to serve the community well. Park users can now fish off the pier, or just sit and enjoy the river views. The pier also plays host to many events and activities in warmer weather. In the summer, you can watch movies under the stars, and in the fall, you can bring the family to Riverside Park South’s annual West Side County Fair.