By Lincoln Anderson
Seven months after Hurricane Sandy knocked out electricity in Hudson River Park, the park’s Greenwich Village section was still without power as of this week.
As a result, Park Enforcement Patrol officers have been closing the park every day at dusk, fencing the entrances off with movable metal gates.
Not only has this deprived people of use of the park in the evenings, but it’s caused the adjacent bike path to become seriously overcrowded at night, flooded with joggers who can’t use the park’s esplanade, who the cyclists in turn have to swerve around.
But on Friday, according to a spokesperson for the Hudson River Park Trust, the park’s Greenwich Village section could finally have electricity restored, in which case it would be back open for use in the evenings until the park’s usual 1 a.m. curfew.
It’s good timing, since the weather is finally warming up and park usage is increasing.
After the park’s transformer at Pier 40 was ruined by the hurricane, the Trust ordered a new one. However, the spokesperson explained, the new transformer’s arrival has been delayed, since Sandy’s impact was so widespread.
“We are working on getting permanent power,” he said, adding, “The whole Eastern seaboard has been ordering new transformers.”
In the meantime, the Trust plans to install a temporary transformer so that power can be restored A.S.A.P.
“We’ll swap out the rental with the new one when we get it in,” he said.
“By Friday, anything east of the bulkhead should be open,” he said, referring to the so-called “upland” portion of the park, east of the Hudson River’s edge. This would include the park’s riverfront esplanade, meaning it will be open again for joggers in the evening, so they won’t have to use the bike path.
The spokesperson said, however, that he wasn’t sure if the park piers — including the popular Christopher St. Pier — would also have power back as of Friday evening. It sounded like they might not, and it wasn’t immediately clear when the piers would be getting their lights back on.
As for the bike path that runs next to the park on its eastern edge, it is actually under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Transportation, and does have its lights back for the most part.
Once the Trust gets its new transformer, it plans to situate it at a higher elevation. The old transformer was installed with much of it belowground, where it was susceptible to severe flooding, as happened in Sandy.
This Wednesday morning around 1 a.m., the stretch of the upland park from Canal St. to Pier 40 at Houston St. did have its lampposts working. But north of Pier 40, the park was completely dark. The upland park’s lights were out. The small blue lights atop the bollards on the park’s esplanade railing were out. The Christopher St. Pier, Charles St. Pier and Jane St. Pier were all dark. The park building at Christopher St. was without visible power.
Along the blacked-out esplanade near Bethune St. a few couples were quietly hanging out together, on a park bench and by the railing. But otherwise the place was deserted. The railing’s blue bollard lights were glowing very dimly for about a block in this section, but were otherwise not working throughout the Village segment. However, light could be seen glowing through the windows at the top of the park building near the children’s Jane St. Pier.
Gansevoort Peninsula, where a city Department of Sanitation facility is located, had its electricity. Chelsea Piers, of course, has its lights back, and the park’s Chelsea section north of it was also illuminated brightly early Wednesday morning. But south of the W. 30th St. Heliport several blocks of the park’s Chelsea section were again without power and dark.
As for why some park sections had light and others didn’t, a PEP officer in an S.U.V. parked on the bike path north of Chelsea Piers, just said it’s the park’s “wiring.”