Thirteenth Avenue was built in 1837 on landfill along the Hudson River, becoming the western-most avenue in downtown and lower-midtown Manhattan. An 1891 map published by G. W. Bromley shows Thirteenth Avenue heading north from 11th Street to around 29th Street, where it merged into 12th Avenue.
In the early 20th century, New York wanted to build longer piers along the Hudson to accommodate bigger ships such as the RMS Lusitania and the RMS Titanic. However, the United States government, which controls the bulkhead line, refused to allow longer piers to be built. The shipping companies were reluctant to build longer piers further uptown because existing infrastructure such as the tracks of the New York Central Railroad and the 23rd Street ferry station were already in place downtown. To solve this problem, the city took the unusual step of removing the section of landfill on which Thirteenth Avenue ran south of 22nd Street so the Chelsea Piers could be constructed to handle the liners.
A small section of the landfill north of Gansevoort Street, the West Washington Market, was left as an exception, becoming what was known as the "Gansevoort Peninsula", later the location of a salt-storage facility of the New York City Department of Sanitation, across West Street from Gansevoort Street. The small space between Gansevoort Street and Bloomfield Street, and the approximate place where Thirteenth Avenue once ran, was used as a parking lot for garbage trucks and employees' vehicles. An adjacent stretch of cobblestone is all that remains of the original Thirteenth Avenue, which has apparently been de-mapped by the city. It does not appear on the official Geographic Information System map, but does appear on Google Maps. Proposals have been made for a sandy beach, or for a garbage transfer pier.
In 2016, the city began demolishing the Department of Sanitation building as part of a plan for the creation of a new public park on the land. In January 2019, it was announced that the 5.5-acre (2.2 ha) park – which will be developed by the Hudson River Park Trust – will be designed by James Corner Field Operations, which designed the High Line elevated park in Manhattan and Domino Park in Brooklyn. The space will include a public art project to be commissioned by the Whitney Museum, and Manhattan's first public beach. The construction of the park is expected to cost $900 million and take two years, with completion expected in 2022. The construction will be funded by New York state, New York City, and private interests, as well as $152 million secured by the Trust through the sale of air rights. When finished, the park will be the largest single greenspace in the 4-mile (6.4 km) long, 550-acre (220 ha), Hudson River Park.
13th Avenue as seen from the north in 2008, with World Financial Center in background