Volume 74, Number 36 | January 12 - 18, 2005

Pier 40 field of dreams now real, P3 president steps down

By Lincoln Anderson

Saying it’s “mission accomplished” for the Pier 40 sports fields, Tobi Bergman on Tuesday told The Villager he has resigned as president of Pier Park and Playground Association, or P3, the group created in 1996 to advocate for more youth sports fields in Greenwich Village.

“I have resigned as president of P3 and Barry Lafer has been chosen as my successor,” Bergman said. “I will stay on as co-chairperson of P3’s board of directors, a voluntary position. I got involved almost a decade ago with the primary goal of getting the fields built at Pier 40. I didn’t expect it to take so long. But with the fields soon to open, I’m ready to move on to other things.”

Bergman is a past president of the Greenwich Village Little League and former director of recreation for Central Park and is a current member of Community Board 2.

Bergman said he has “a couple of different possibilities” for what he plans to do next, but didn’t elaborate.

Lafer is G.V.L.L.’s current president. He had been working part time for P3 but now will be working for P3 full time, Bergman said.

The Hudson River Park Trust-led process last year to find a private group to redevelop Pier 40 saw a variety of proposals, including the world’s largest oceanarium, an art gallery complex, a Home Depot superstore and waterborne FedEx operation. All the plans included sports fields, a priority for a vocal local constituency of parents with children in youth leagues. The Trust ultimately decided not to pick any of the developers, and an interim plan for sports fields has led to the creation of a massive artificial-turf field in the 14-acre pier’s courtyard, whose opening is imminent, according to Chris Martin, the Trust’s spokesperson. Martin said finishing some required electrical work is all that is holding up the fields’ opening.

“What our project was was to get the ballfields,” Bergman said. “I’m confident that as the pier gets redeveloped, it will keep the existing ballfields or have equivalent ballfields.”

In April 2003, following the removal of eight members of Board 2’s Waterfront Committee by then C.B. 2 Chairperson Aubrey Lees over the “appearance of conflict of interest,” the borough president’s general counsel determined that only Bergman had a conflict of interest, specifically, in voting on issues before the committee pertaining to Pier 40’s redevelopment. C&K, which then operated the pier’s parking and other commercial uses, paid P3 a monthly financial allowance — as a result of a lawsuit by local youth sports leagues — and the B.P.’s general counsel termed this a “business/financial relationship.”

Bergman said his stepping down as P3 president was not influenced by that conflict of interest ruling.

“It has nothing to do with conflict. I’m not being asked to resign,” Berman said. “I want to move on.”

Asked if P3 still gets a monthly payment from the pier’s new parking operator — the Trust replaced C&K with another operator at the beginning of last year — Bergman, speaking Tuesday night, said he was too busy to get into it at that moment but would be willing to discuss it later.

Although it seemed P3 might someday run the new Pier 40 ball fields, the Trust plans to operate them.

“We at one point put forward that we were willing to do that,” Bergman said. “But the mission of P3 has always been to increase access to sports fields, not to run them. The fields at Pier 40 were part of that mission.”

Another future park/sports space P3 advocated for is the parking lot on Hudson St. between Clarkson and Leroy Sts. Drilling by the Department of Environmental Protection for a water shaft to the new 3rd City Water Tunnel is beginning on the parking lot, which, after the shaft is complete, will be handed over to the Parks Department. P3 hopes to turn the lot — located across from G.V.L.L.’s main ball field, J.J. Walker — into a space for youth sports.

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