New pedestrian entrance on the horizon for Wave Hill

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Big changes are on the way for Wave Hill — and visitors could see those changes as early as next year, but more likely the year after that.

The 28-acre public garden is in the midst of designing a pedestrian entrance on the southern side of the property, separating pedestrians and cars, meaning both won’t have to share the existing West 249th Street and Independence Avenue entrance much longer. The new entrance will be located at the southern part of the garden.

The city’s cultural affairs department is making the new entrance possible with $2.7 million earmarked for the design and construction of not only the walkway, but for an upgraded Wave Hill visitor parking lot as well. Approximately $1.5 million will go specifically toward construction with the rest spent on design consulting fees and administrative costs.

The work will come later rather than sooner as the project is still in its design phase, according to Michele Rossetti, the garden’s vice president and chief operating officer. But once it moves forward, she adds, construction will take about a year.

Wave Hill has looked to make changes to its entrance since at least 2012, but it wasn’t until late last year before approvals were finally received by both Community Board 8 and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. 

“There hasn’t been any kind of pause or delay, it’s just that this is a long process,” Wave Hill spokeswoman Martha Gellens said.

“Safety” is the operative word the garden uses to drive the project. The new pedestrian entrance is expected to help eliminate the competition between cars and walkers at the main entrance, especially during major events, and will come complete with a new admission kiosk with room for three workers. It also will accommodate school and tour groups.

“It’s about the safety of our visitors,” Mary Weitzman, Wave Hill’s director of marketing, said. “That’s the No. 1 reason to do this from the very beginning. Parking is very congested, so obviously separating pedestrians from all of the vehicular traffic will make everybody safer.”

And Wave Hill hasn’t forgotten visitors who need wheelchair access. The new pedestrian entrance and admission kiosk will be ADA accessible.

The first thing visitors see through the current entrance is the decades-old parking lot. But a new southern entrance will allow future visitors to instead get first impressions of Wave Hill’s greenery.

There’s a lot to take in as the garden — formerly part of a mansion or two — has been around since 1843 and is now home to various plants, an art gallery, and various cultural events on its grounds.

“Now it’s going to be (a) simple (question of) ‘which way to go in,’” Gellens said. “I think that will be reassuring for first-time visitors who don’t know the property at all.”

With a new entrance on the horizon, the Wave Hill team hopes a pedestrian entrance will enhance the experience of the garden. Especially when they catch a glimpse of the Hudson River.

“You’ll still end up at what we call our ‘a-ha’ moment where you are overlooking the Pergola (Overlook) and the Palisades,” Rossetti said. “So you’ll still have that ‘wow’ moment, and it makes it more gracious, welcoming, and a better experience for people not to be mixed in with cars when they enter.”

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