Volume 79, Number 41 | March 17 - 23, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Scoopy's Notebook

Koch: Dave will step down:
Last week we reported that former Mayor Ed Koch had told us he predicted Governor David Paterson would resign by Mon., Mar. 15. Well, that deadline obviously has passed, and Paterson is still hanging in there, despite ongoing investigations into his conduct. So we asked Hizzoner if he wanted to set a new E.T.A., or rather E.T.D., estimated time of departure, for Paterson. “I have no new date,” Koch said on Tuesday. “I believe when they find a way to give him immunity from prosecution, he will step down.” Last Friday, Koch convened a gathering of good-government groups intent on cleaning up Albany. See Page 11 in this week’s issue for his talking point about it.

Initial impressions, part II:
Julie Shapiro, a reporter at our sister paper Downtown Express, tells us that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver got a kick out of our special Scoopy investigation last week into his missing middle initial. Pulling Shapiro aside at a recent Downtown event, Silver quipped, “Did you hear I was a deprived child? My parents didn’t give me a middle name.”

Pier 40 plans?
A new idea for the Lower West Side waterfront could soon be taking root, namely, a Greenmarket for the massive, 14-acre Pier 40 at W. Houston St. The concept emerged from two polls of West Village residents conducted by the weekly WestView newspaper asking what uses for the pier they favored most. George Capsis, the paper’s publisher, filled us in last week on what he is dubbing the “Green Pier” plan. Basically, he said, his grand vision is that Pier 40 could someday become nothing short of “the world’s largest green pier.” For starters, though, the idea is to have a Greenmarket inside the pier’s courtyard, on its northern, or sunny, side. Eventually, he said, if it proves successful, the Greenmarket could expand around all four sides of the artificial-turf-covered, courtyard sports field, and also possibly set up on the loading dock ringing the field, as well. In winter, the vendors could move inside the pier shed. “If it all fills out, it will be the largest green pier in the United States,” he boasted. Asked about the youth sports leagues that currently use the sprawling sports field so heavily, Capsis downplayed any negative impact the Greenmarket might have on them — though he couldn’t resist taking a dig at what he termed the “private school kids” that dominate the pier. “The soccer dads, all of these private schools that now own the pier during the day, they’re very nervous that the plan will erode their use of the pier,” he said. “They feel that it’s going to invade their turf. When you think about it, you have a handful of people on the field — [but] you have thousands of people in the West Village. These facilities have to be shared. I think they’ll freak out, I think they’ll resist it,” he predicted of the “soccer dads.” “These are not P.S. 3 and P.S. 41 kids — these are private school kids,” Capsis asserted. Recalling the massive turnout by parents and their kids two years ago to oppose the Related/Cirque du Soleil megadevelopment plan for the pier, he asked, “Did you go to the rally? That cook got up there,” he said referring to Mario Batali, who spoke at the event, adding that the celebrity chef’s children don’t go to public school, either. Meanwhile, Capsis noted his own son, who went to P.S. 41, had to climb over the school’s fence just to use its playground in the evenings. “No, I’m not sympathetic to them,” the WestView publisher said of the youth sports leagues. “Remember all those hearings? They had all the kids there. They all aped for the cameras. The soccer leagues had them all trained. They were bused in! Bused in, literally!” Anyway, Capsis said, even if Pier 40 becomes the world’s largest green pier, “The soccer kids will still be there, be assured.” Yes, still there — just on the pier’s wind-whipped roof, which is where he thinks their field should be, noting that his polls also favored this idea. Even though Pier 40 is off the beaten track and far from mass transit, Capsis thinks a Greenmarket would draw shoppers, mainly because so many of those, yup, darn soccer dads and moms pick up their kids in their S.U.V.’s. The soccer parents could do their shopping, and then pile their fruits and veggies, along with their private school kids, into their S.U.V.’s and drive right home. A Greenmarket would have almost no cost for the Hudson River Park Trust to set up and operate, while it would generate some, but probably not much, revenue for the park: Each vendor would pay a $75 daily fee for a 10-foot-by-10-foot stall. Capsis said the people actually selling the produce could be local residents, an added attraction at a time when many are struggling to find work. Capsis stressed, however, that the “Green Pier” vision — though indeed ultimately colossal — would be “incremental” at first, starting slowly. And he added that, really, he doesn’t want to rile the soccer dads. (For the record, we asked a prominent Pier 40 sports pop for his thoughts on the “Green Pier” plan, but he declined comment.) The Greenmarket, Capsis explained, would have a trial period, and if nobody came during the first year, then the idea would likely be scrapped. He has convinced Arthur Schwartz, chairperson of Community Board 2’s Waterfront Committee, that it’s an idea worth trying. Schwartz has listed “Greenmarket at Pier 40?” on the agenda of his Mon., March 22, committee meeting, at Village Community School, 272 W. 10th St., starting at 7 p.m. Schwartz, who — ahem — just happens to be on WestView’s masthead as the paper’s “Community Editor,” said he genuinely thinks the “Green Pier” proposal could work. The meeting will feature a report on a tour of the pier that Michael Hurwitz, director of the city’s Greenmarket program, will take on Wed., Mar. 17, with Capsis; Schwartz; Noreen Doyle, the vice president of the Trust; and Paul Ullman, a Trust board member who has been helping lead the effort to find compatible, low-impact, revenue-generating uses for the pier. Schwartz said he envisioned Pier 40 becoming a modern-day incarnation of the old Gansevoort Market that used to be on Gansevoort Peninsula until the mid-20th century, a place where one could buy not only produce, but fresh fish, too. Schwartz said having a Greenmarket would create a new “use group” on Pier 40 (beyond sports leagues, which don’t really produce revenue), which could help attract other commercial tenants, increasing the pier’s cash-generating capacity. “It’s a low-cost version of what YoungWoo’s doing at Pier 57,” he said, “with lots of booths and little artisans, like a permanent street fair.” Schwartz said he imagines the Greenmarket being open weeknights and weekends. “There isn’t any other immediate plan for any other use there,” Schwartz said, “so why not try something?” He’s got a point. As we should have mentioned at the start, for those not familiar with the ongoing saga, Pier 40 is literally crumbling and needs millions of dollars in repairs. Yet the Hudson River Park, which the pier is a part of, is supposed to be financially self-supporting, which is why commercial uses are needed in the first place — to raise funds to fix up the pier’s rusting pilings and rotting roof. Two past efforts by the Trust to find developers to overhaul the structure have failed, due to staunch community opposition and the fact that the pier’s lease isn’t long term, making it financially unattractive. ... Meanwhile, in a desperate bid to nip Capsis’s grand green plan in the bud, Pat Shields — a member of the Bedford Downing Block Association — is floating a counterproposal for a Pier 40 stadium (yes, you read that right, a stadium) to be home to “a modest and traditional, English Premier League-style Major League Soccer franchise.” The stadium, as Shields — a former Division III soccer player at Kenyon — puts it in his written pitch, “would be available at times to the public.” Gee, thanks! To develop this sports edifice, he says, all that’s needed is to find “a group of U.S. and international luxury box lessees, raise $150 million from them, assist pier development, and attract M.L.S. ownership, with neighborhood and political priorities in place.” Yeah, sure...sounds simple enough. The pier, Shields says, could feature “live M.L.S. matches or giant HD screenings of Champions League and other international cups.” There would be fields on two levels, plus two trams traversing a giant arch overhead— “It could be our London Eye-type attraction,” Shields muses. “And this isn’t the riverside, oversized Jets stadium project,” he adds. Hmm... . On second thought, maybe better start with the “incremental” approach...and eat some Brussels sprouts. ... Although their plans are wildly divergent, Capsis and Shields do share one thing in common, having long used the long-term parking at Pier 40 — though Shields recently sold his car. P.S., while we might have poked a little fun in this column, there’s no question that fixing up Pier 40 is a critical issue, and must be done, quickly. And, who knows, a Greenmarket could very well be part of an incremental solution. Ullman, in particular — as a Trust member trying to think outside the box — is doing his utmost to find compatible uses for the pier, while we know that Capsis, who partly started his newspaper over the whole Pier 40 issue, also has the pier’s best interests at heart.

 

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