Volume 77 / Number 33 Jan. 16 - 22, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


We turn toward Quinn on Pier 40

At the end of the month, the Hudson River Park Trust is scheduled to make a decision on the development of Pier 40 that will have vast implications for the development of the Hudson River Park and the entire Lower Manhattan community. The choice is between two starkly different paradigms: One is to turn over the 14-acre W. Houston St. pier to The Related Companies, one of the nation’s largest developers, to build a $626 million mega-entertainment complex with a circus, a movieplex and sports fields. The other is to turn over the pier to a nonprofit conservancy that will solicit private money and bond money to maintain sports fields and parking, while adding art galleries and a school.

The community through its community boards, park advisory groups and civic and neighborhood associations has been clear: The Related project is unacceptable, even with its latest adjustments. It is still plagued by massive adverse traffic and bikeway impacts, and will change the pier and the Village in ways that will be detrimental to our neighborhoods for generations to come. Related’s scheme would attract thousands of visitors to the pier each day.

The Trust is in a bind. Its August 2006 request for proposals produced only two proposals, both flawed — Related’s, anchored by Cirque du Soleil, and “The People’s Pier” by Urban Dove and CampGroup, featuring a day camp, school and sports uses. The Trust has an organization and park that need regular revenue, and a pier that urgently needs structural repairs. It needs to find a credible and acceptable approach to these challenges, and it does not have forever to figure this out.

The Pier 40 Partnership arose in response to the threat of a Related takeover of the pier and, under enormous time pressure, produced a top-flight study. Its report showed that there is feasibility and great interest in a different approach, but the Partnership clearly cannot do it all by themselves. Our elected leaders at all levels, however, can make this plan a success if they join together to realize the opportunity the Partnership has outlined.

At the state level, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried can join Assemblymember Deborah Glick in throwing their support behind the Partnership’s plan. At the city level, Council Speaker Christine Quinn — whose district includes the pier — can facilitate the passage of the eventual plan through the city’s uniform land use review process.

Former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff and Mayor Mike Bloomberg can use their clout and leadership through the Economic Development Corporation and other agencies to help provide viable economic support and contact with banks and bond underwriters to back the plan.

Borough President Scott Stringer should make it clear to his appointees to the Trust board that they are there to represent the community interests. Virtually every local group involved with the waterfront opposes the Related plan.

Though we opposed his aborted recent idea to rename the park for former Governor Pataki, we were heartened to see Governor Eliot Spitzer show interest in the park. Spitzer can further help by joining the growing swell of support for the Partnership’s proposal.

Our elected leaders must help Diana Taylor, the Trust’s chairperson, and the Trust not only to solve the Pier 40 issue, but find the remaining $120 million to $150 million to complete the whole park from Chambers St. to 59th St.

This is an opportunity for Quinn, above all, to help pull all the parts together. The community looks to her for support to save the pier from becoming an extravagant entertainment destination, and to help support the groups that will contribute to creating a low-impact but viable alternative. She needs to tell the Trust she supports the Partnership’s alternative — and, in the strongest terms possible, that Related’s proposal is unacceptable. Speaker Quinn, the community will remember your leadership on this pivotal issue.

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