Shoveled and drilled from a former rail depot, Hudson Yards is now a repository for shiny things instead: Dior, Tory Burch, and Cartier are all part of the megalith, which also boasts new restaurants, office buildings for L’Oréal and Tapestry, and 14 acres of urban gardens. (In the surest sign of its longevity and popular appeal, two critics from one publication have already shit on it.)
Behind the sparkling steel sits a vast network of women who made Hudson Yards happen, including lead architects, real estate executives, small business owners, ecologists, master chefs, and more.
Below, meet seven of them and learn about their contributions to the world of Hudson Yards.
MARIANNE KWOK, HUDSON YARDS DESIGN DIRECTOR
“Living in New York, it’s such a huge responsibility to try and get it right,” says Kwok, the senior architect at KPF in charge of Hudson Yards’ two commercial skyscrapers. “Knowing your friends and family and peers will be visiting, it’s really important to do everything we could to make Hudson Yards into a vibrant and really great part of the city. But also knowing that people are going to work in these buildings, and your design can make their jobs more enjoyable—more beautiful even—that really spoke with me. When the [Tapestry Inc.] team explained how the Coach designers worked, and their creative process—that was greatly appreciated. It gave us common ground” to build a new kind of skyscraper. “We made an atrium for them. We gave them terraces. We engineered a place to do creative work. That meant a lot.”
It also changed New York’s iconic skyline, something Kwok doesn’t take lightly. “As New Yorkers, we use buildings to navigate where we’re going. The fact that I get out of the subway, look up to see where I am, and see towers that we designed? That my kids can point to the buildings and say, ‘My mom made that’—it’s always a thrill.”
STACEY FEDER, HUDSON YARDS CMO
“It wasn’t a happy coincidence that I got this job,” says Feder, who oversees marketing and events development for Hudson Yards. “I was very vocal about wanting to do it. I had a good toolkit from all my other career experiences,” including developing the Time Warner Center and Boston’s Faneuil Hall, “and as a lifelong New Yorker, I wanted to help build a new part of the city.”
As CMO, the Bronx native was adamant about bringing major fashion houses together with smaller businesses in one space. “Shopping is supposed to be fun,” she says, “But it’s also the only true way to support the stores and the designers you love. The fashion community at Hudson Yards has blown my mind a little bit in terms of what’s possible,” including in-store facilities for meditation, naps, and lactation. “They’re changing my perception of what shopping really means.”
But even before stores like Fendi and Forty Five Ten open for business, Feder has made her passion a family affair. “My daughter and her entire Girl Scout troop came this week to meet the engineers and builders who made this place. She’s seven, and she’s getting to see it all from the beginning.”
AMY LIN, FOUNDER AND CEO OF SUNDAYS NAIL STUDIO
Sunday Nail Studio
“Before I signed our Hudson Yards lease, I’d heard a lot of stereotypes about huge companies and big hierarchies,” says Lin, whose salons feature non-toxic polishes and essential oil blends in their treatments. “But working with the women of Hudson Yards is a totally different experience. Their marketing team, their PR team—They believe in pulling together and getting everything done in a really open, direct way. I really appreciate and enjoy that relationship.”
Sundays Nail Studio
Lin’s latest nail studio will feature space for clients to meditate, wind down with tea and a mindfulness library, or chat with each other in between treatments. “We’ll still maintain the sense of being a corner shop, because that’s who we are,” she explains. “But now, it’s like we’re going from a studio apartment to a one bedroom. We’re here to get a little bit bigger, and make a bigger impact on our neighborhood.”
SERENA NELSON, HUDSON YARDS LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT
“Both my children have been to Hudson Yards in utero,” says Nelson, who began working on the project in 2012. “It says a lot about the corporate culture that I’ve had two sons and had the support and teamwork of other women, especially people like Charlotte Barrows, the whole time. It’s an incredible team but it has to be, because the scale of this work is unreal. We’re building a brand new park.”
Among the innovations Nelson has built into the design: native New England tree species and “a carpet of horticulturally expressive plants to create a more robust soil system to support butterflies, birds, bees, and insects.” (She’s also had to engineer a subterranean cooling system to keep plants from getting overheated by NYC concrete.)
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to have a hand in shaping New York City,” Nelson says, “But it’s also been great to introduce sustainable practices, like using perennials, which renew themselves and fortify their own root structure. It will give the public spaces tons of color, but also make them ecologically stronger for all of us.”
JAMILLA OKUBO, ARTIST
“A lot of my work stems from exploring my cultural identity,” says Jamilla Okubo, the 25-year-old artist who debuts a new installation this month at Hudson Yards. “Specifically, exploring storytelling through textiles. So I decided to use a fabric that’s popular in East Africa, especially on the coast like Tanzania and Kenya.”
Okubo reprinted the traditional pattern on 21 feet of vinyl, then created an interactive mural with mirrors embedded in the fabric “trees.” It’s based on the African proverb, “When there is no enemy within, the enemy outside cannot hurt you,” which is also the piece’s title.
“A lot of women love to shop, so I figured, if they’re already here, why not give them something empowering to talk about?” says Okubo. “To me, the message of the piece is, be whoever you want to be, look however you want to look. Don’t let anybody else tell you how to live your life. Don’t let anyone else tell you how to look like a woman.”
Those enamored of Okubo’s mural might pop into Hudson Yards’ new Dior store—the artist collaborated on one of the label’s coveted Lady Dior bags last year.
JENNIFER TUHY, HUDSON YARDS CFO
“If there’s anything I learned from working in the [development] industry, it’s to not be afraid of taking risks, and always stepping up to a challenge, even if it seems huge.”
That’s why when the position of Hudson Yards CFO came up, she took a leap and took the job. “I knew the actual project would be a lot of work,” says the New Yorker, “but the surprise was how many existing conversations and plans I had to jump right into—like getting into a car that’s already moving.”
She’s now driving that car, so to speak, as she drives all financial and accounting aspects of the largest private real estate development in US history. “It means you get to work with everyone—architects, realtors, designers, HR—you and your team are connecting all of them. I don’t think it’s about being a man or a woman, necessarily,” she adds, “but you need to be a great listener and someone who really trusts teamwork.”
ANYA FERNALD, BELCAMPO CEO AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD EXPERT
“We’re purpose-driven and women led, but that doesn’t really matter if the food isn’t amazing,” says Fernald, who brings her Belcampo Meat Co. from California to New York for the first time at Hudson Yards. “We know people are going to be shopping and exploring on their feet all day, so we have a lot of amazing lean protein bowls, a great Tom Kha Gai bone broth soup, things that are rich and satisfying, but also light.”
Belcampo Meat Co.
Of course, if you want one of Fernald’s famous (and sustainable) burgers, that’s on the menu, too. “We’re here to revolutionize meat for the well-being of people, plants, and animals,” Fernald says, “But we live and die by the quality of our ingredients, the quality of our food, and also the quality of the people in this company… With chef culture, I’m so used to being the only woman in a room full of bros. But Belcampo attracts a very diverse staff, with lots of women but also more people of color, more people in the LGBTQ community. We want our restaurant to feel inclusive. We also don’t party—I don’t ever want my team or my guests thinking they have to do shots with me in order to be part of the family.”
Shots of bone broth? Different story.
Faran Krentcil Editor at Large, ELLE.com "Her beauty and her brain go not together." —William Shakespeare