Community’s ship finally comes in on pier walkway
By Albert Amateau
Lower East Side residents and visitors have a new waterfront promenade and event space with spectacular views.
Known to old-timers as the “banana pier” because it was where United Fruit Company landed Chiquita bananas, Pier 36 is part of the long East River pier complex that extends from Clinton to Jackson Sts. where the Department of Sanitation and the Office of Emergency Management occupy the pier sheds.
In a quest to open up the East River waterfront to the public, Community Board 3 and the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs, working with Sanitation and the city Economic Development Corporation, were able to free up the promenade on the waterside of the pier sheds.
“Now it’s a people’s pier,” said Tom Parker, a member of Community Board 3 and of the board’s Arts Task Force.
A Department of Parks sign on a fence marks the promenade entrance on Montgomery St. and a blue arrow painted on the pavement, with blue waves painted on the Jersey barriers, lead to the promenade.
“We opened on May 22 for the Brooklyn Bridge fireworks when we had 30 or 40 people,” said Susan Stetzer, C.B. 3 district manager. “On July 4 we had about 300 people watching the fireworks. But it’s still the best-kept secret in town and we’re working to let people know that it’s open.”
The 16-foot-wide promenade stretches 1,200 feet along the river and ends just north of one of the city’s four Olafur Eliasson public-art waterfalls. In fact, if the wind is blowing right, you can feel the spray from the one on Pier 35, just south of the newly opened promenade. Across the river, you can see the waterfalls at the Brooklyn Bridge and, off in the distance, you can see the Governors Island waterfall.
There are picnic tables and sun umbrellas along the promenade, and soon there will be more.
“We hope to have yoga classes, tai chi and arts classes here on Fridays and Saturdays,” Parker said. Serious about the arts program on Pier 36, the community board has hired an intern, Elizabeth Laytner, a recent Tufts University graduate, to coordinate it. Laytner can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’ve had a lot of inquiries about a graphic arts program, and we hope to have a line of easels along the riverfront for painters,” Parker said. “Elizabeth has been talking to someone who can bring a group of 60 people to give a hula hoop demonstration.”
“We’re not sure yet, but we hope to have Greenmarket farmers here on weekends,” Stetzer added.
The Pier 36 promenade will be open until Oct. 5 this year. Meanwhile, E.D.C., which controls the Pier 35-42 complex, is negotiating with Basketball City for a lease of the O.E.M. shed. The community board has voted to recommend approval of the Basketball City lease with the understanding that the promenade will again be open to the public after Basketball City completes the conversion of the O.E.M. shed, Stetzer said.
“It’s a great resource for the Lower East Side with its diverse population,” Stetzer said of the new promenade. “There are 164,000 people in the Community Board 3 district, according to City Planning.”
The public program on Pier 36 became a reality as a result of the close cooperation of the board and the Community Affairs Unit of the Mayor’s Office, the Seventh Police Precinct, the Department of Parks and Recreation and other city agencies, Stetzer said.
“Lolita Jackson is Community Board 3’s best friend,” she added, referring to the Manhattan director of the Community Affairs Unit, who worked closely with the board to open the Pier 36 promenade.
The community board also has been getting great help on the project from Michael Murphy, assistant commissioner of Sanitation and Kevin Barry, Sanitation’s district director of operations, who is in charge of the department’s facility on the pier, Stetzer said.
“It’s been a real partnership with all the agencies,” she said. “But the community is leading the program.”