Volume 74, Number 20 | September 22 - 28 , 2004

Villager file photo by Elizabeth Robert

Jogging and walking by the water in Tribeca in Hudson River Park. Lawns will replace asphalt when the actual park is built.

Trust expects funds for Tribeca segment of Hudson Park

By Albert Amateau and Josh Rogers

The head of the Hudson River Park Trust says she expects that by November the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. will authorize the money to build the Downtown section of the Hudson River Park.

“We anticipate development of that segment of the park with money from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. — we’ll know by November,” Connie Fishman, the Trust’s president, said at a Sept.13 Community Board 2 Waterfront Committee meeting.

The Trust has applied to the L.M.D.C. for $70 million to build the section of the park between Houston and Chambers Sts. The section includes rebuilding two piers in Tribeca, adding boat and kayak docks, children’s play areas, a place to study river life, a dog run, tennis courts, a bird sanctuary in a field of old pier piles and keeping the existing skateboard park and beach volleyball.

Fishman mentioned the L.M.D.C. funding at C.B. 2’s Waterfront Committee meeting while discussing a plan to move the park’s trapeze school from Tribeca to Pier 40, near Houston St.

“We’re trying not to evict [the trapeze school] and we’ve located a place on the east side of the roof of Pier 40,” Fishman said. She described the trapeze school’s summer seasons in the park as “hugely successful,” but said it would be necessary to move the trapeze from its present location when construction of the Tribeca segment of the park begins.

Others will also have to move from the Tribeca waterfront when construction begins: Manhattan Youth, which runs after-school programs, the historic Yankee Ferry, the Boathouse and River Project, which studies marine life.

Jonathan Conant, director of Trapeze School New York, told the Waterfront Committee that he wants to move the trapeze to the roof of Pier 40 where the school could operate all year round under a specially designed, 120-ft.-by-66-ft. tent. The committee voted unanimously to recommend that the full board approve the project.

In its present location in the open at ground level, the trapeze school has the added benefit of providing entertainment for passersby and frequently attracts crowds of park visitors watching students as they fly through the air with the greatest of ease.

“The only disadvantage of the Pier 40 rooftop will be that people can’t watch it,” said Tobi Bergman, a Waterfront Committee member.

The roof of the 14-acre, three-story Pier 40 has a small soccer field but most of the roof is used as a for-profit parking facility. However, the entire pier is to be redeveloped at some point in the future with at least half its total space devoted to park use and the remainder commercial. Meanwhile, the pier courtyard, formerly leased for truck parking, is being converted to interim use as a playing field. The field is slated to open in a few months.

The trapeze school tent would occupy space that currently accommodates 40 cars that could be moved to other space on the roof, Fishman said.

The tent, designed by FTL Design Engineering Studio, would be as light and transparent as possible. “The fabric is like Saran Wrap with white dots on it,” Nicholas Goldsmith, principal in FTL, told Waterfront Committee members.

The school has a 30-day renewable lease for its present location, which would be cancelled when the Trust begins the Downtown segment of the park. The school would have the same kind of 30-day renewable lease for the Pier 40 roof location, which the Trust could also cancel when the redevelopment of the entire pier begins, Fishman said.

Fishman’s comment about the expected L.M.D.C. money for the Tribeca park segment came as welcome news to Al Butzel, president of the Friends of Hudson River Park. Butzel said Fishman’s comment coincided with what he has been hearing up until now. “They have told us that something is coming,” he said.

Over the last year, Butzel has had several discussions with aides to Gov. George Pataki and with Dep. Mayor Dan Doctoroff about the park. Both the Trust and the L.M.D.C. are joint state-city agencies.

Butzel said the Trust is proceeding as if it will have the money to build the Tribeca section of the park and should be ready with the government applications once the money is approved. He thinks construction could begin a few months later.

In the spring, Butzel began hearing $46 million of L.M.D.C. money would be authorized for the park. In June, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council agreed to put $31 million more into the park, but Butzel said that was dependent on matching money from the state. Funding for the Downtown section could likely be $46 million from the L.M.D.C. and $12 million each from the city and state, Butzel said.

So far, only the Greenwich Village section of the park and a bikeway, built by state Department of Transportation, have been completed. About $130 million is needed to build the rest of the 5-mile park, which stretches to 59th St. An effort to get federal funds through the Water Resources Development Act is ongoing.

An L.M.D.C. spokesperson said the agency does not comment on what its board may decide to do in the future. The board’s next two meetings are tentatively scheduled for Oct. 14 and Nov. 10.

Asked whether the L.M.D.C. is planning to authorize money for the park’s Tribeca section, Madelyn Wils, a member of both the L.M.D.C. and Trust boards, said, “The L.M.D.C. looks favorably on this project, but nothing is happening yet.”

The L.M.D.C. was created with federal money to help Lower Manhattan rebuild after 9/11 and it has about $860 million left to spend on a competing group of Downtown projects. Asked if final decisions on allocating the rest of the funds would be made within the next year, officials at the September board meeting would not say. But Deputy Mayor Doctoroff indicated it would likely be less than a year.

“It’s important we provide clarity what the future of Lower Manhattan will look like and I think we’re getting very close to doing that,” Doctoroff said at a press conference after the September L.M.D.C. board meeting.

Butzel, in a telephone interview, said he is hopeful there will be enough park money to rebuild Pier 25 1,000 ft. into the water and adjacent Pier 26 by 800 ft., providing new waterfront views to park visitors. The Trust has been considering rebuilding only the remaining open portion of Pier 26, in order to accommodate the Downtown Boathouse and The River Project if it did not get enough money. But park advocates want the pier rebuilt as close to its original size as possible. The wooden piers will deteriorate over time if they are not rebuilt.

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