Volume 76, Number 54 | June 6 - 12, 2007


Governor can’t ignore Pier 40

When Eliot Spitzer became governor five months ago, he took responsibility for about 735 public authorities, in addition to all of the state agencies directly under his control. No governor could put his or her stamp on 735 so quickly. Authorities were originally designed to shield decision makers from parts of government and the public. But Spitzer should move the Hudson River Park Trust to the top of his priority list.

Here’s why: Trip Dorkey announced two weeks ago he was leaving as Trust chairperson, and the state-city authority is pushing forward in its search to name a Pier 40 developer. June 19 is the deadline for the public to comment on the plans that have triggered overwhelming opposition in the Village, Hudson Square and Soho, Tribeca and Battery Park City.

As Spitzer considers candidates to replace Dorkey, he, above all, must look for someone who can develop a good relationship with the passionate citizens interested in the waterfront, who is committed to open government and has the development knowledge needed to get the rest of the park built, despite soaring construction costs.

The final Pier 40 decision will not be made for many months, if not years. But once the Trust’s new board is in place, there will be a temptation for board members to pick a plan behind closed doors. However, there are many ways to delay or defeat a misguided plan.

Related Companies and Urban Dove/CampGroup, the developers under consideration for Pier 40 at W. Houston St., have shown flexibility, to their credit. But neither plan is satisfactory now. Excluding the public while these adjustment discussions continue is unacceptable.

Related proposes the more radical change to the pier and Downtown — a $626 million entertainment complex while retaining the pier’s playing fields and parking. Related has improved the project by phasing construction to keep the fields open during redevelopment; adding field space; and reducing the number of traffic lanes into the pier. But it’s still a project that will overwhelm the park and neighborhood, and no one knows how much of the unknown revenue that the project will generate will be needed to maintain the park. Related’s vice president admitted their traffic plan needs work — we’d be alarmed if he thought otherwise.

Urban Dove plans to expand the existing fields and parking, adding revenue-generating recreation and youth space. There are still questions about their team’s resources and whether they will commit enough money to repair the pier.

The latest design plans are available at hudsonriverpark.org. Readers must register their thoughts online or via mail by June 19.

The Trust revealed more financial details to us about Pier 40 last week. But until the governor, mayor, the Trust’s new board and, just as important — the public — have a sense of how much revenue is needed to maintain the park into the foreseeable future, no one can decide what is best. Saying “the sky’s the limit” will mean less of the park’s green will be grass.

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