Leagues make pitch for more funding and fields for Pier 40

Photos by Tequila Minsky Bearing team banners and giant baseballs and waving pennants, Little Leaguers marched from the Christopher St. Pier to Pier 40 on Saturday morning for Greenwich Village Little League’s opening day. Above left, Sophia Spero sang the national anthem as the young baseball players patriotically doffed their caps and put their hands over their hearts. Below right, Tobi Bergman, the leader of the Pier 40 Champions coalition of local youth leagues, praised the pier’s “beautiful fields,” but said they won’t be there forever “unless changes are made and something is done to bring in more money.”

Photos by Tequila Minsky
Bearing team banners and giant baseballs and waving pennants, Little Leaguers marched from the Christopher St. Pier to Pier 40 on Saturday morning for Greenwich Village Little League’s opening day. Above left, Sophia Spero sang the national anthem as the young baseball players patriotically doffed their caps and put their hands over their hearts. Below right, Tobi Bergman, the leader of the Pier 40 Champions coalition of local youth leagues, praised the pier’s “beautiful fields,” but said they won’t be there forever “unless changes are made and something is done to bring in more money.”

marchpier-40--8111BY PAUL BUFANO  |  Hundreds of children and adults wearing bright orange shirts and jerseys chanted, “Save Pier 40!” Saturday morning as they marched alongside baseball mascots and drummers to celebrate the Greenwich Village Little League season opener.

The march through the Village section of Hudson River Park was also intended to address the looming financial problem facing Pier 40. The huge Houston St. pier is in disrepair and in dire need of money for a fix-up. As a result, the local youth leagues had proposed building a pair of 22-story luxury residential towers at the foot of the pier to finance its maintenance and development.

Photo by Tequila Minsky  A mom and a potential future Little Leaguer joined in on the hike and all the hoopla for Pier 40 on Saturday.

Photo by Tequila Minsky
A mom and a potential future Little Leaguer joined in on the hike and all the hoopla for Pier 40 on Saturday.

However, the leagues, as a coalition called Pier 40 Champions, recently failed to gain the necessary political support in order to proceed with the plan. So now the question is, Where does the money come from?

marchpier-40--8091Tobi Bergman, president of P3 (Pier Park & Playground Association) — a member of the Pier 40 Champions coalition of youth leagues — said that all possibilities have to be explored now that housing isn’t an option anymore.

“Just eight years ago this spot was used as a parking lot for trucks. But some families said they knew of a better use for it and that’s how these beautiful fields came about,” Bergman said. “But sadly these fields won’t be here forever unless changes are made and something gets done to bring in more money.”

marchpier-40--8093

The Hudson River Park Trust, which operates the park, says it needs more funds and is starting to operate at a deficit. A notice the Champions recently sent local youth league parents said that $25 million is needed now “to complete essential repairs this year to keep the pier open,” and that another $25 million is needed “to add more fields next year to respond to the overcrowding crisis caused by the Lower Manhattan population boom.”

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Noted Bergman, “There are a variety of limitations with what can be built, as well as what the community wants — so hopefully we don’t end up with a low-end compromise in the end. We live in an environment that is entirely built up and commercialized, so if we can’t find a great solution for Pier 40, then we as a community have failed.”

The Trust has rebuilt several other Hudson River Park piers for recreational use, but Pier 40 is different because of its massive size. The Trust wants a private developer to come in and redevelop it, add some commercial uses and repair a roof that is partially crumbling and fix up the pier’s corroding metal support piles.

marchpier-40--7968Local politicians, including Assemblymember Deborah Glick, state Senators Brad Hoylman and Daniel Squadron and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, have publicly opposed housing at Pier 40. But, by the same token, all the local politicians, including Glick, are committed to the key pier’s restoration and preservation.

Glick said that because there are very few places for youths to play team sports on the Lower West Side, she’s going to work to keep the fields at Pier 40 and to build more fields throughout the 5-mile-long Hudson River Park.

“There are many ways that Pier 40 can bring in money, some of which include art or cultural institutions, restaurants and even office space,” Glick said in a phone interview earlier this week. “Those are some of the things that could enhance the park and could generate the $10 million for the field to be maintained. In the end, we are dealing with a park, and the notion that parks can always be self-supporting is a wrong notion.”

Glick didn’t attend last Saturday’s Pier 40 march.

Borough President Scott Stringer, who was at the event, said that while he’s also against housing at Pier 40, he’s not going to rest until Pier 40 is stabilized for the community.

“This is a place for the community where you can walk in and realize how truly amazing it is,” Stringer said. “Today is about enjoying baseball and the season to come, but also about knowing that work is being done to make sure this tradition continues for years to come. It’s critical for our children to have this area for sports, so I’m going to work to make sure it’s preserved forever.”

George Vamvoukakis has two sons who play in G.V.L.L., and said with the housing option out, organizers are going to have to be creative to raise the necessary money.

“I never really thought about what could be done to bring in money, but I do think about how much my boys love playing here,” Vamvoukakis said on Saturday morning. “They just have so much fun here, and whenever they’re heading over, they just smile the whole way. Having a place where children can enjoy baseball and play competitively is great, and I know it’s not just my kids who feel that way.”

James Dinh, 15, a sophomore at Léman Manhattan Preparatory School, said it would be terrible to lose Pier 40 because countless kids depend on it.

marchpier-40--7993“When I was younger my middle school would come here, and then after school it was a place that we all came to hang out,” Dinh said. “It’s such a popular spot because there really aren’t many places to hold a baseball league in Manhattan. This is where I’ve always had fun, this is where I’ve met my friends and this is where I want to be. I really do have so many memories here, and I’ll do anything to keep it from going away.”

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8 Responses to Leagues make pitch for more funding and fields for Pier 40

  1. So Glick favors office space in the park but not residential? That's some logic –

    • The logic is that offices could occupy the existing low-rise pier sheds as opposed to high-rise residences sprouting on the shoreline. There is also the lower cost infrastructure of office use compared to residential, which would make that more feasible and faster to accomplish. It is logical.

  2. I hope there's a good reason why Pier 40 stabilization/rehabilitation is not being paid for by the commercialization of this: http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2012/12/05/pier_57s

    • HRPT's mission is to clean up the waterfront for the continuing development and gentrification of the far west side, at the west vilage, at Hudson Yards and Hudson Square and to commercialize as much of the park as possible, with the goal that revenue and increasing property taxes will flow to individuals and the city's general tax coffers. The park is a loss leader. A pretty flower to attract development. There is no park, especially a really fancy one on the edge of a tidal basin that can "pay for itself". How can a tree, or a field of grass pay the salary of gardeners and administrators? Impossible. The Park Act with, it's concept of commercial "nodes" is doublespeak. Chelsea Piers is a 4 block long "node" As for Pier 57, it's not had any controversey (nobody plays soccer there) and it's been 5 years in development, and not expected to make any real money for the park.

  3. The fact that Assemblymember Glick was not at this event says everything you need to know. Unavailable to the community, on a weekend, at the most important event, in front of the most deserving and active group, at the most endangered and enormous location in the district. Which they well publicized up front, as urgent. Either she is afraid to face the Pier 40 Champions and make a commitment to them, or afraid to make an statement at all with specifics. In either case, Pier 40 Champions have been abandoned, and need to get over their electoral reticence, and their personal proximity and friendship with and to Assemblymember Glick, and start thinking that a new Assemblymember MUST be part of a Pier 40 plan. She has been there nearly 20 years and has not gotten it done. It is time to look to the future.

  4. It is not feasible to build housing on Pier 40 and that concept has been abandoned. The Wils/Bergman plan is to build housing in the Park west of Pier 40. Building housing in Parks is an excellent idea for developers. Unfortunately by the time the Park Act is amended, the project plan is amended, the zoning is changed, and the three public processes these entail are complete, it will be too late for Pier 40.

    • Thank you Mr. Durst, for stepping forward with a feasible, common sense proposal. One hopes you are continuing to develop and refine your concept rather than leaving the next steps to HRPT. The saying "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" applies at pier 40; PP3 wants more play fields. HRPT wants maximum profits. If there isn't a compromise of those demands from each party, it will be too late.

  5. The picture of the mom with her baby strapped to her back–it's adorable. It radiates cuteness.

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