Back to Pier 40

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.

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4 Responses to Back to Pier 40

  1. Good to save the interor fields in their entirety of course but will they be as available or will hours and light be limited to suit the residents of the surrounding apartments?

    The heart and soul of the field space has been pick-up games. Not the organized leagues that increasingly lay claim to the space. Will pick up games survive all this organization and development? WIll the leagues share nicely? No money is involved– just pure sport and health and good social influences.But with likely restrictions on hours and space, wont they be squeezed out?

    15 stories is way too high. Better to broaden their footprint and lower their height by half.

    • you bring up some good points…use of the fields have gone up to midnight in order city residents to make use of the fields for sport and recreation. this includes lights and lets face it- enthusiastic sounds of players and spectators.
      Does anyone really believe that putting a 800 family HIGH RENT luxury apt complex directly adjacent to these PUBLIC amenities will not have an effect on the hours of operation or other complaints from these families who will be paying above market rents to live there? Maybe not the first year but hey rules can be changed…especially if it will mean that in order for these rents to remain above market they may need to "adjust" access to this "public park". You remember all those "public parks/areas" we gave over to developers to maintain security and maintenance in midtown and oh say Lower Manhattan promising public access?

  2. and save the parking …theres just not enough space on the streets to handle the amount of cars that park there

  3. Unfortunately your first paragraph does not accurately describe the "concept" advocated by Tobi Bergman and his group Pier 40 Champions. They DO NOT "preserve the current uses" allowable by the Hudson River Park Act.
    In fact Mr. Bergman and his group are quite up front about amending the long fought restriction of housing in the act.
    A position he shares with Madelyn Wils the currant President of the HRP as the only viable option.

    And then you go on to say in the same sentence…."while generating revenue for Pier 40 and the entire Hudson River Park." Sounds great so it preserves the current uses..WRONG…and since both Mr. Bergman AND Ms. Wils who's "impression" of it… (as if she wasn't actively involved in developing this "very innovative way of looking at this issue"—her words) still need to look at the numbers.
    Perhaps you are just parroting the talking points of Mr. Bergmans lobbyist/PR firm or Ms. Wils as she has sold you.
    You are right to call for more dialogue but the situation is not as dire as Ms. Wils or Diana Taylor's alarmist "Shut it DOWN NOW" flailing to put up 15 story 700-800 family above market residential tower on the park.

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