With the possibility that the state Legislature could reconvene to hold a special session in November or December, the effort to find a solution for Pier 40 is gearing up once again in earnest. As we report this week, a coalition of local youth sports leagues, working with an architect, has proactively created an innovative and potentially workable design to both preserve the pier’s sports fields and current uses while generating revenue for Pier 40 and the entire Hudson River Park.
Also, David Gruber, the new chairperson of Community Board 2, has decided to take the bull by the horns and hold a forum later this month at which ideas for the pier and for raising funding for the park can be presented to the community and discussed.
Both the new Pier 40 Champions plan and the C.B. 2 forum are encouraging. It’s critical to have community involvement and buy-in on whatever happens with Pier 40 and with Hudson River Park, in general.
Right now, the youth sports leagues are the constituency that most heavily uses the massive West Houston St. pier and that is most invested in and concerned about the pier’s survival. So it’s fitting they’re trying to take the lead on the issue and steer the conversation.
The Champions plan has a lot to like. It preserves the pier’s central courtyard playing field. It adaptively reuses three-fifths of the existing pier shed, while actually opening up more of the pier to park use. It maintains the pier’s parking, a popular amenity for Downtown residents that provides steady income for the park.
The plan’s major element, however — two new buildings — is not actually on the pier, but located on parkland just east of it. It’s a twist on a design scenario done earlier this year by consultants that proposed putting 600 to 800 units of housing directly on the pier. Although the buildings in the Champions plan are still 15 stories tall, their square footage is 50 percent less than that in the earlier study, so there would be about half as many apartments.
The Hudson River Park Trust is crunching the numbers to see if the Champions plan can work financially, in terms of supporting the park, and we’re eager to see the figures — as well as the response by the larger community to this plan.
C.B. 2’s Gruber deciding to hold a forum on Pier 40 and Hudson River Park on Mon., Oct. 29, is a smart move. Gruber tells us he plans to invite Madelyn Wils, the Trust’s president, to the forum, as well as Douglas Durst, chairperson of Friends of Hudson River Park — who recently proposed his own alternative idea for a high-tech campus and parking, but no housing, on Pier 40. Others on the invite list are Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried, state Senate Democratic nominee Brad Hoylman and state Senator Daniel Squadron. Tobi Bergman will present the Champions plan.
Residential use for the pier was pushed hard earlier this year by the Trust, but there simply wasn’t sufficient community education and involvement about the initiative. There’s no question Pier 40’s situation is dire and urgent, but this is a major project that can’t be rushed through without more broadly involving local residents — and Gruber is correct to recognize that fact and address it. Good things will come from making this process more community-inclusive, as it should be.
In addition, next month, the first community outreach meeting on a Neighborhood Improvement District proposed for the blocks bordering Hudson River Park will be held. This is another idea that can help the park raise funds — through small tax assessments on property owners — to improve the park and surrounding blocks.
It’s difficult — often incredibly difficult — to reach consensus on development projects in Greenwich Village and the Lower West Side. But the stakes here are too high to do otherwise.