B’ball City scores its financing
By Albert Amateau
Bruce Radler, who has been trying for nearly 10 years to open a seven-court Basketball City franchise on Pier 36, popularly known as the “Banana Pier,” on the East River, has finally got his game together.
Radler and the city announced on Oct. 18 that financing for the $13 million project was in place.
Construction on the 65,000-square-foot sports center on the pier at Montgomery St., formerly occupied by the city Office of Emergency Management, is expected to begin within 30 days. Completion is expected in six to nine months.
Although Our Waterfront, a coalition of Lower East Side neighborhood groups, has opposed the project on the grounds that the fees for a private sports center would keep out low-income residents, Community Board 3 approved the project after Radler agreed to provide reduced fees for neighborhood residents and free court time for nonprofit neighborhood groups and local schools.
In addition, Radler agreed to hire local residents for some of the jobs the project creates.
“I comfortably feel that we will far and away exceed what we’ve committed to the community,” Radler told Crain’s New York Business.
Assemblymember Sheldon Silver, whose 1993 lawsuit blocked the city from converting Pier 36 into a gas station for city vehicles, and C.B. 3 last month called on the city Economic Development Corporation to earmark the rent from Basketball City to maintain other Lower East Side waterfront sites. The annual rent is $150,000, plus a percentage of gross income above a threshold amount.
“We’re pleased that Shelly Silver has asked for Pier 36 money to go to maintaining the public waterfront,” Victor Papa, president of Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, said. “I’ve been talking with Radler, and from the kind of guy he is, I don’t have any reason not to believe him,” said Papa. “The only problem is that agreements with private operators who lease public facilities like Pier 36 are practically nonbinding. So we have to rely on the good faith of the private entity. But we do have the help of Silver and other elected officials to act as watchdogs,” said Papa.
Basketball City formerly operated under a bubble tent on top of Pier 63, at W. 23rd St., for nine years until it was forced to leave in September 2006 when the pier became part of Hudson River Park. Basketball City also operates sports facilities in Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Irvine, Cal.
United Fund Advisors arranged the financing for the Pier 36 project using a federal tax credit program intended to spur development in low-income areas. The city will contribute $2.7 million for heat, ventilation, plumbing and structural costs. Basketball City will put in about $8 million to build the courts, featuring composite wood floors and solar panels for green energy.
The courts will be on a single floor and accommodate volleyball, badminton, dodge ball and indoor soccer. The facility will be home court for 28 public high schools that do not have their own gyms. Basketball City will also provide free public access to the promenade along the pier’s waterside edge.