Volume 77 / Number 28 - December 12 - 18, 2007
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A crowd of 3,000 people waited to get into the new Apple Store on W. 14th St. last Friday.

Pier plans are honed as process comes down to wire

By Josh Rogers

There are new details about all three plans for Pier 40’s future.

The Pier 40 Partnership, the newest group to enter the picture, will propose stacking cars in the existing garage space to increase parking revenue on the 14-acre W. Houston St. pier, which has Downtown’s largest playing fields. The Partnership is made up of local parents who are raising money for the pier. The group is likely to propose several recommendations made at a recent meeting of block associations to discuss the pier — indoor recreation space, a school or an arts center, according to the Partnership’s Rich Caccappolo.

CampGroup and Urban Dove, which submitted their “People’s Pier” plan a year ago, is no longer planning to charge nonprofit organizations for the pier’s smaller, rooftop field, and this field may now be expanded from 110 feet to 130 feet wide. They have also provided additional financing documents to the Hudson River Park Trust in response to Trust concerns about the plan’s viability, and would add an additional $8 million to repair the pier.

The Related Companies has made relatively minor changes to its plan, according to Partnership members who met with Related four times. The development firm refused to consider eliminating any of five revenue-generating components of their plan — a Cirque du Soleil theater, a movie theater, banquet hall, concert hall or retail shops. Related did say they would add ivy as wind protection for the pier’s proposed roof fields and remove a large sign they were planning to add at the front of the pier, according to the Partnership.

“We tried very hard to get Related to understand why the community opposed their plan and what we wanted changed,” said the Partnership’s Fred Wilson. “They just couldn’t do it. It’s not that they didn’t want to — it’s just the financial burdens of [their] $625 million plan.”

Joanna Rose, Related’s spokesperson, did not confirm or deny the Partnership’s account, but did say Related made unspecified changes.

“We are pleased with the progress we have made working with the Pier 40 Partnership, which has already resulted in improvements that will make a more responsive project for the community,” Rose wrote in a statement to The Villager last week.

In the spring, Trust staff said there were traffic problems with both the Related and People’s Pier plans, and a Related executive acknowledged their plan needed to be changed. The Partnership said Related did not mention any traffic changes in the recent meetings, nor did Rose in her statement.

Jai Nanda, founder and executive director of Urban Dove, said his team is now considering a pedestrian bridge or other ways to separate pedestrians from traffic. They have already added landscaping and reduced the size of the car turnaround in front of the pier, which Nanda thought would also have some safety benefits. His team’s plan includes adding space for a day camp and indoor recreation to the pier’s parking and field space.

The Partnership is likely to suggest indoor recreation, too. Wilson said they worked on their own plan because of widespread concern that CampGroup/Urban Dove did not have the money to proceed.

“We have picked up on a lot of skepticism on the Trust’s staff, its board and community groups about the viability of the ‘People’s Pier’ plan,” he said.

Wilson said he likes the ‘People’s Pier’ plan and he thinks the Partnership would be willing to help them if the Trust thought a combined effort was the best solution.

Nanda and Mark Benerofe of CampGroup said they are open to entering into a formal agreement with the Partnership if the details can be worked out.

In response to Trust concerns raised in the spring, the ‘People’s Pier’ team submitted documents showing they could raise the $160 million needed to build their plan, including $25 million in equity, Nanda said. He felt the group satisfied all of the Trust’s financial questions at a meeting about a month ago.

“They asked pointed questions, so it did seem like they were still considering us,” he said.

The Partnership plans to submit its plan on Mon., Dec. 17, and the Trust hopes to make a final decision at the end of January. The group has hired HR&A Advisors, Inc., the economic consulting firm that worked on the High Line park plan.

Caccappolo said the Partnership, which includes some wealthy members, would be able to cover short-term financial “holes” needed to repair the pier until the revenue plans were fully in place. The group wants to give the Trust a low-impact plan to continue the sports uses, rather than run the pier itself, he added.

Members are still crunching the numbers, Caccappolo said, and they are not sure if an art center would generate enough money or if the city would be willing to pay some of the pier’s repair costs to build a school.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick said she had concerns about private individuals raising money to influence plans for a public park, but given the alternatives and the Partnership’s civic-mindedness, the group may be the best option.

“If I can work with private folks who want to keep public space for public use — rather than sell it off to a developer, which is public space for private use,” Glick said, “I don’t really have the same problems.”

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