West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 19 | October 10 - 16, 2007


Trust should explore a new partnership

The Pier 40 Partnership is offering a new approach to maintaining and redeveloping Pier 40, the W. Houston St. pier that is of critical importance to the community.

Reflecting the reality of today’s Village, Tribeca and Chelsea, this new group’s 20 core members include very wealthy individuals in finance and dot.coms. Their children go to local schools — public and private — and play baseball and soccer on Pier 40.

Like most of their neighbors, the Partnership parents vehemently oppose The Related Companies’ $626 million proposal to redevelop the 14-acre Hudson pier into a Downtown entertainment destination, with Cirque du Soleil, the Tribeca Film Festival, swank restaurants, a music hall and more. They can’t fathom the traffic this plan would bring to the neighborhood and park — an estimated 7,400 visitors per day, 2.7 million per year.

The Hudson River Park Trust’s impetus in requesting private developers’ proposals for the pier is to have the developer fund the pier’s repair and ongoing maintenance over a long-term lease of at least 30 years. The Trust says the pier needs more than $20 million in work in the next three years. Related has offered to invest $35 million into Pier 40 — some of it for repairs but also to add reinforcement to support all the structures it would add to the pier.

Whether Related would even pay any more rent to the Trust than what the pier’s current parking operation generates — $5 million to $6 million annually — is unclear. The Trust has stipulated it won’t accept less.

The Partnership would fund the pier’s renovation, too — paying to fix the pier’s leaky roof and corroded support pilings. They say they can raise $30 million. They already have commitments from two individuals for $10 million and $2 million. If financial support at this level were indeed obtained for pier repair, it could change the Pier 40 equation and allow other more community-supported solutions to emerge.

These concerned parents want to protect the environment for their children that has evolved in the last few years at Pier 40 since the interim courtyard sports field was built. They don’t want the field moved to the roof, thousands of tourists or Las Vegas-style attractions.

They’re not sure yet what they would add to the pier under what they call “incremental development”: perhaps an arts center or a maritime museum.

The Trust should seriously investigate this opportunity — now — while these folks still have kids batting and booting balls on the pier.

Perhaps Deputy Mayor Doctoroff, the Trust board’s vice chairperson — with a history of financial dealings with Related C.E.O. Steve Ross — supports Related’s plan, but the community resoundingly does not. The Trust’s new chairperson, Diana Taylor, exudes a new openness, so we’re hopeful that community-minded solutions, like the Partnership’s, will be taken seriously.

Private citizens mobilized to save a treasured community asset, the Partnership offers an intriguing alternative to the Pier 40 massive-development dilemma.

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