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Gov. Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani formally opened the first stage of Hudson River Park on Sunday, dubbing it "the Central Park of the 21st century."

The newly completed section of the park is about 1,000 feet long and consists of a simple grassy median and a row of benches from which to view the New Jersey skyline. Construction on the project's second phase, which will extend the park from West 11th street to Gansevoort Street, is to begin in December.

Plans for further construction will continue through five phases. Eventually, the project will extend for five miles from Battery Park City to West 59th Street and will include 13 piers, beaches and balconies for fishing.

Work on the 500-acre park is scheduled to last through 2003. The shorefront property facing New Jersey was designated a state park last year, with the bill signed into law by Pataki.

So far, the city and the state have committed $200 million to the project.

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