Volume 76, Number 8 | July 12 - 18, 2006

Trust will try again to land a developer for Pier 40

By Albert Amateau

Three years after the collapse of a request-for-proposals process to redevelop Pier 40 for commercial uses and public recreation, the Hudson River Park Trust is drafting a new request for proposals.

Connie Fishman, president of the Trust, the state-city agency planning and building the 5-mile-long park between Chambers and 59th Sts., told the Trust Advisory Council on June 28 that the new R.F.P. would be ready by the end of the summer and presented to the advisory council for review.

The advisory council, created by the state Hudson River Park legislation to provide nonbinding review of Trust action, includes representatives from the Trust board of directors, Community Boards 1, 2 and 4, elected officials and community activists.

For the past three years, Pier 40, the 14-acre, three-story pier at W. Houston St., has been given over to interim uses. On the first level there is a large artificial turf playing field on the central open courtyard, as well as other indoor recreation space. The Trust’s offices are on the second level and a small field and public seating are located on the third level. The third level also accommodates most of the pier’s public parking, though some parking is located on the walkway ringing the inside of the pier’s second level.

The first request for proposals was dropped in June 2003 after disputes over the feasibility of rival proposals, including an aquarium and a complex of art galleries. The uncertain economy less than two years after the World Trade Center attack was also a factor in the decision to defer the project. Fishman became president of the Trust in January 2004.

State legislation mandates that at least 50 percent of Pier 40’s area be devoted to public recreation, and the Trust has indicated that the new R.F.P. would call for keeping the ground-level playing field currently located in the central courtyard.

Regarding Pier 63 at the end of W. 23rd St., Basketball City’s continued occupancy of the pier will come before Federal Bankruptcy Judge Burton R. Lifland on July 13, Fishman said.

Basketball City filed for bankruptcy on June 9 putting an automatic stay on the Trust’s move to evict them as the prime tenant of Pier 63. The Trust responded a week later by asking the stay to be lifted on the grounds that an order evicting Basketball City had been issued long before the bankruptcy was filed. Fishman said that the New York Police Department’s Mounted Unit, which occupies the ground floor of Pier 63 as a subtenant of Basketball City, has indicated that it would leave the pier at the end of the year and move to the city auto tow pound on Pier 76.

The Trust wants to begin converting Pier 63 as part of the riverfront park. Friends of Hudson River Park and Chelsea Waterside Park Association, two civic groups advocating for the park, have joined the Trust’s legal effort to evict Basketball City. Daniel Alterman, attorney for the two groups, issued a demand in April that Basketball City and the police Mounted Unit get off Pier 63.

Basketball City, which operates several full-size basketball courts under a flexible bubble on the roof of Pier 63, said in a Bankruptcy Court filing that it wants a “soft landing” on the eviction issue. But the Trust replied that Basketball City had ample opportunity for a soft landing and had pursued two vain appeals of a court-ordered eviction since its lease for Pier 63 expired in 2004.

Regarding Pier 57 at W. 17th St., Fishman said the Trust last month accepted a report that the Witkoff Organization has deep enough pockets to redevelop the pier without the Cipriani Group, which pulled out of the project in May.

“At least 95 percent of the Pier 57 proposal will be the same as the original joint proposal with Cipriani. Witkoff has shown they’re financially capable without Cipriani,” said Fishman, although she would not make public the financial details of the Witkoff report.

Nevertheless, Ed Kirkland of C.B. 4, chairperson of the Pier 57 Working Group, told the advisory council that the group had serious reservations about the proposal. He said a Witkoff presentation made last month by Laurie Beckelman — who was Landmarks Preservation Commission chairperson under former Mayor Ed Koch — left too many questions unanswered.

The working group is concerned that Witkoff has not yet studied the potential impact on the park and on neighboring streets of traffic generated by the proposed banquet hall and event space on the ground floor, Kirkland said. But Fishman replied that a traffic impact report would be included in the project’s environmental impact statement. The Pier 57 Working Group also faulted the Witkoff Pier 57 plan for failing to provide public space at the end of the pier, Kirkland said.

C.B. 4 will hold a public forum on Pier 57 at 6 p.m. Thurs. July 20 at the Fulton Senior Center, at 119 Ninth Ave.

The city’s proposal for a marine transfer station at the end of the Gansevoort Peninsula in Greenwich Village provoked negative comments at the advisory council meeting from neighborhood advocates and representatives of Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried.

The 8-acre landfill projection into the Hudson River between Gansevoort and Little W. 12th Sts. is included in the Hudson River Park Act and any nonpark use would require an amendment to the legislation. Glick and Gottfried, a co-author of the 1998 park legislation, have said they would not support a nonpark amendment.

The peninsula is currently used to park city garbage trucks and to store road salt. The proposal to truck recyclables to the peninsula was first made public in 2004 when Community Board 2 voted against the plan. The proposal came up again last month when the City Council reviewed the city’s proposed 20-year Solid Waste Management Plan. The Gansevoort waste transfer station is a tentative proposal and is not written into the 20-year plan. An alternative proposal to transport garbage and recyclable waste by rail is also under review, according to Lee Grodin, an aide to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Last year, the Friends of Hudson River Park filed a lawsuit that ended in an agreement that the city would remove its current Sanitation uses from Gansevoort Peninsula by 2012. The agreement calls for the city to pay the Trust $21 million rent for its occupancy of the peninsula and increased payments if the department remains after 2012.

But the agreement refers only to current Sanitation uses and would not preclude the transfer station.

Moreover, a recent New York Post article said that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has asked the city to allow a concrete plant to be built on the peninsula for use during the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site. However, Fishman said that except for a brief inquiry no one has contacted the Trust about the concrete plant.

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