With all of its natural islands, one might ask why New York needs another one - especially a man-made one? But the recently opened Little Island, located at Pier 55 Hudson River Park at 13th Street, is not only a work of visual art but a magnificent array of peaceful landscaping, community spirit and artistic inspiration.

This $260 million project is a gift from wealthy businessman Barry Diller. It covers 2.4 acres packed with enough trees to keep a dendrophile happy.

"What was in my mind was to build something for the people of New York and for anyone who visits—a space that on first sight was dazzling, and upon use made people happy," Diller said.

Little Island was born from an idea that the hurricane Sandy damaged Pier 54 could be repurposed as a public space that would contain a combination of art and nature. Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (MNLA) took on the seemingly impossible task of designing the park using Mother Nature as his inspiration. There is a whopping 114 trees growing on the man-made structure with hundreds of other fragrant shrubs and floral species.

LittleIsland 4
Photo credit Michael Grimm

This was all the brainchild of MNLA's Signe Nielson who envisioned an immersive experience from the start. "The pier’s landscape will be a sensory delight in all seasons and times of day.”

She adds: “The lifted corners of the pier create distinct microclimates that reveal themselves through color, texture, light and shadow."

Photo credit Michael Grimm

Before Neilson could realize her vision atop the structure, there had to be something to work with. That duty fell to UK-based Heatherwick StudioThomas Heatherwick says he didn't want to remove the damaged piles from the antiquated pier that had survived years of abuse.

Photo Credit: Michael Grimm

"We wondered if the identity of our new park and performance space could emerge from the water, just like these structural piles, but without needing to add any slab on top," Heatherwick explains. "This idea evolved to take the new concrete piles that would be needed to connect to the granite at the base of the river, and to then continue them out of the water, extending skyward to raise sections of a generous green landscape with rich horticulture. Fusing at they meet, these 280 individual piles come together to form the undulating topography of the park, angled perfectly for performance and theatre spaces. Once complete and open to the public in 2021 the result should be a unique and thrilling landscape over the water for everyone to enjoy.”

Aside from the glorious landscaping and artistic visual essence, Little Island is also a performance venue with a diverse catalog of upcoming celebrations. From performance art to music festivals, most events are free to the public but some require a reservation.

LIPigPen Theatre Co. performs in the Amph Photo courtesy of Little Island
Photo courtesy of Little Island

For its inaugural year, Little Island has created its own dance festival which runs from September 15 through September 19, 2021. This huge event will have exhibitions throughout the island with performances at theatrical on-site venues, The Amph, The Glade, and The Play Ground.

On Sept. 15, The House of Xtravaganza will give a free performance at 10:15 pm.

Photo Credit Liz Ligon

Food is also a big part of the visitor's experience. Items are sourced from local vendors and range from small bites to casual meals.

Credit: Doug Young

As for maintenance, that will fall onto the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation for the next two decades so New Yorkers won't have to worry about cost.

Little Island is now a part of the New York experience and it looks to be a worthy addition. One can always find natural and man-made beauty in the city's architecture and scenic landmarks, but now it can be experienced on the ocean with an immersive concept that transports guests to a slower, more accepting world.

For more information on Little Island including reservations for special events click HERE.

Header Photo Credit: Michael Grimm

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LGBTQ+ Healthcare Issues

The Dobbs decision, otherwise known as the court case that overturned Roe v. Wade, has resulted in confusing medical situations for many patients. On top of affecting access to abortions for straight, cisgender women, it presents heightened risks for LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole. Flipping the switch on reproductive rights and privacy rights is a far-reaching act that makes quality care harder to find for an already underserved community.

As the fight against the Dobbs decision continues, it’s important to shed light on the full breadth of its impact. We’ll discuss specific ways that the decision can affect LGBTQ+ healthcare and offer strategies for overcoming these challenges.

How the Right to Bodily Privacy Affects LGBTQ+ Healthcare

When the original Roe v. Wade decision was made, the bodily privacy of people across the United States was protected. Now that bodily autonomy is no longer guaranteed, the LGBTQ+ community must brace itself for a potential loss of healthcare rights beyond abortions. This includes services like feminizing and masculinizing hormone therapy (particularly for transgender youth) that conservative lawmakers have been fighting against this year, as well as transition-related procedures. Without privacy, gender-affirming care may be difficult to access without documentation of sex as “proof” of gender.

As essential services for the LGBTQ+ community become more difficult to access, perhaps the most immediate effect we’ll see is eroding trust between healthcare providers and LGBTQ+ patients. When providers aren’t working in the best interest of patients — just like in cases of children and rape victims denied abortions — patients may further avoid preventative care in a community that already faces discrimination in doctor’s offices.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t Just a Women’s Issue

While the Dobbs decision is often framed as a women's issue — specifically, one that affects cisgender women — it impacts the transgender and non-binary community just as much. All people who are capable of carrying a pregnancy to term have lost at least some ability to choose whether or not to give birth in the U.S.

For transgender and non-binary individuals, this decision comes with the added complexity of body dysmorphia. Without abortion rights, pregnant trans men and some non-binary people may be forced to see their bodies change, and be treated as women by healthcare providers and society as a result.

The Dobbs decision also opens up the possibility for government bodies to determine when life begins — and perhaps even to add legal protections for zygotes and embryos. This puts contraceptives at risk, which could make it more difficult to access gender-affirming care while getting the right contraceptives based on sex for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Overturning Reproductive Rights Puts IVF at Risk

Queer couples that dream of having their own children often have limited options beyond adoption. One such option is in vitro fertilization, or IVF, which involves implanting a fertilized egg into a uterus.

While IVF isn’t directly affected by the Dobbs decision, it could fall into a legal gray area depending on when states determine that life begins. Texas, for example, is already barring abortions as early as six weeks. To reduce embryo destruction, which often occurs when patients no longer want more children, limits could be placed on the number of eggs that can be frozen at once.

Any restrictions on IVF will also affect the availability of surrogacy as an option for building a family.

How Can LGBTQ+ Individuals Overcome Healthcare Barriers?

While the Dobbs decision may primarily impact abortion rights today, its potential to worsen LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole is jarring. So how can the community be prepared?

If you’re struggling to find LGBTQ+-friendly providers near you, using telemedicine now can be an incredibly effective way to start developing strong relationships with far-away healthcare professionals. Telemedicine eliminates the barrier of geography and can be especially helpful for accessing inclusive primary care and therapy. Be sure to check if your insurance provider covers telemedicine.

If you’re seriously concerned about healthcare access in your area — especially if the Dobbs decision affects your whole state or you need regular in-person services that may be at risk — it may be time to consider moving now. While not everyone has the privilege to do so, relocating gives you the ability to settle in areas where lawmakers better serve your needs. However, this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly, so preparing and making progress on a moving checklist now can help you avoid issues later.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t LGBTQ+-Friendly

The Supreme Court of the United States has proven the power of its conservative majority with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, the effects of the Dobbs decision don’t stop at affecting cisgender women’s abortion rights. In states with bans, it also leads to forced birth for trans men and non-binary individuals. Plus, the Dobbs decision increases the risk of other rights, like hormone therapy and IVF, being taken away.

Taking steps now, whether it’s choosing a virtual provider or considering a move, can help you improve your healthcare situation in the future.