Volume 77 / Number 37 - Feb. 13 - 19, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

EDITORIAL

End Pier 40 R.F.P.

In an ongoing exercise in futility, the Hudson River Park Trust’s board of directors recently failed to end the Trust’s second unsuccessful request for developers, or R.F.P., process for Pier 40.

After a year and a half on this latest attempt, it’s time for the Trust to end the agony and close the R.F.P.

The state-city park authority must now move ahead with a new approach: the community-initiated, park-friendly proposal of the Pier 40 Partnership — and that can only happen once the current R.F.P. is concluded.

It’s clear by now that the two respondents’ proposals to the current R.F.P. are deeply, irreparably flawed. The more problematic, of course, is the one by The Related Companies. This major, national developer’s $618 million megaplan would radically remodel the W. Houston St. pier into an entertainment extravaganza, packing Pier 40 with an 1,800-seat Cirque du Soleil theater, 12-screen movieplex and other commercial magnets.

Related’s plan would draw 2.5 million annual visitors — many via car — while surely sparking the surrounding area’s transformation into “Las Vegas on the Hudson.”

Beyond this completely unacceptable impact to the pier, park and community, Related has failed to meet a key required condition of the R.F.P. — that respondents present a financial plan based on a 30-year lease, as mandated by the Hudson River Park Act. Related’s plan is based on a 49-year lease, which requires amending the park act. This violation must disqualify Related outright. Our local state legislators have repeatedly said they will never amend the park act to give Related a 49-year lease; they reiterated this position two weeks ago in a letter to Trust Chairperson Diana Taylor. Council Speaker Christine Quinn also wrote Taylor, supporting the legislators in opposing a 49-year lease.

As for the competing People’s Pier plan, the Trust has publicly stated it considers it financially unviable.

In their letters, the elected officials expressed support for a way to redevelop the pier that, in our opinion, is the only viable option: the Pier 40 Partnership’s idea of a nonprofit conservancy financed by tax-exempt I.D.A. bonds supported by the pier’s more than $5 million in annual parking revenue.

The Partnership just wants to preserve the pier as a valuable community facility, not pump it as a cash cow, like Related. In Related’s plan, the more commercial uses piled onto the pier, the more revenue goes into Related’s pockets. The Partnership’s tenants, by contrast, would be a school and a Visual Arts Market — low-impact uses the community accepts; together with parking, these uses would generate sufficient revenue to fix and maintain the pier, plus help the rest of the park. That’s all we need.

A failure by the Trust to close the R.F.P. process by the end of March would be deeply disappointing, not to mention absurd. It’s simply senseless to keep plans in consideration that are illegal, unviable and/or unpalatable.

It’s incumbent on the Trust to move forward in a new and positive direction with the one approach that will work: The Pier 40 Partnership plan.


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