Volume 78 / Number 8 - July 23 - 29, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since

After Pier 57 R.F.P. sinks, another one is floated

By Albert Amateau

Pier 57, the former city bus depot on the Chelsea waterfront that served as a holding pen for protesters arrested in the summer of 2004 during the Republican National Convention, is up for grabs again.

The Hudson River Park Trust sent a new request for proposals, or R.F.P., to potential redevelopers of the pier, located between W. 15th and 16th Sts., on June 30. The return date is Oct. 17.

This is the second time around for Pier 57, which — in terms of sections of Hudson River Park projecting into the river — is third in size after Pier 40 and Gansevoort Peninsula.

The earlier R.F.P. in 2004 resulted in the selection of the Witkoff Group/Cipriani Organization’s proposal over plans by two community-based groups and Chelsea Piers Management. But Cipriani dropped out in May 2006 and Witkoff withdrew at the end of last year.

As in 2004, the Trust this time has included a statement by the Pier 57 Community Working Group about what neighbors and local elected officials would like to see on the pier, which has a footprint of about 110,000 square feet and floor space totaling 470,600 square feet on two floors, plus a basement and an unenclosed roof.

“The community’s input regarding the proposals will be a factor in the Trust’s deliberations regarding the selection of a developer,” the R.F.P. says.

Ed Kirkland, a Community Board 4 member and a waterfront advocate, said this week that the community was able to update the statement to include current concerns about the project.

“We were most concerned about traffic, which has gotten much worse since the first R.F.P.,” Kirkland said.

The pier is not listed in the Hudson River Park Act as among the income-producing nodes of the 5-mile-long Hudson River Park, nor is it restricted to park uses only. Yet, it is generally expected to produce income to support the park.

The R.F.P. says the project’s goal is to enhance use of the park and that it must respect the historic structure of the pier, completed in December 1954 after the original Grace Line Pier burned in 1947.

The community statement notes that crossing the West Side Highway on foot is confusing and suggests a pedestrian bridge that would connect the pier at 16th St. to the High Line. The statement also urges developers to take into account traffic, loading and parking for the pier.

The project must include a public walkway around the pier’s perimeter, the R.F.P. says. The Trust will also look for proposals that promote energy efficiency and green building practices.

The Trust is maintaining a list of interested commercial subtenants and other potential occupants — presumably nonprofit cultural agencies — that do not want to take a master development role but are nevertheless interested in Pier 57. Subtenants’ letters of interest will be forwarded to the responding development teams, but the Trust will not have a say about their acceptance or rejection.

“The design of the redeveloped Pier 57 should reflect its prominence within Hudson River Park and its role in the industrial waterfront of the last century. … It should also provide opportunities for the public to see and connect with the Hudson River,” the R.F.P. says.

Chelsea Piers Management, which operates the sports and entertainment complex on Piers 59-62 on a lease from the Trust, is expected to respond again to the new Pier 57 R.F.P. Chelsea Piers executives did not respond to a telephone request for a comment on the project.

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