Volume 74, Number 38 | Jan. 26 - Feb. 1, 2005

Board 4 still waiting for ship to come in at Pier 57

By Albert Amateau

Community Board 4 has decided not to support either of the two remaining proposals for the redevelopment of Pier 57 and is urging the Hudson River Park Trust to require the two rivals to resolve issues of traffic congestion, public open space and respect for the historic integrity of the 50-year-old West Side pier.

The community board, whose district includes the 300,000-sq.-ft. pier at 15th St., outlined its concerns in a Jan. 11 letter to Trip Dorkey, chairperson of the Trust, the city-state agency building the 5-mile-long riverfront park between Chambers and 59th Sts.

The community board’s decision not to choose between the proposals submitted by Chelsea Piers Management and by the developer Steve Witkoff with the Cipriani Organization restaurant group is in contrast to the Pier 57 Community Working Group, which last month voted to support the Witkoff-Cipriani Italian-themed proposal, Leonardo on Pier 57.

However, the Working Group, which includes community board representatives plus local elected officials and members of waterfront advocacy groups, had concerns about the vehicle access for the large catering and event space proposed for Leonardo on Pier 57.

The community board letter said it shared those traffic concerns, noting that “some members have questioned whether traffic plans are even feasible without causing major problems on Route 9A [the West Side Highway] and for the surrounding park.”

The traffic concerns focus on a large paved area in front of the pier designed to accommodate heavy traffic for major events at the 70,000-sq.-ft. banquet-and-event space in the Witkoff-Cipriani proposal. The proposed three lanes and large pickup and drop-off area would allow no space for the park in front of the pier and barely provide for a walkway, the community board said.

An alternative that calls for bringing vehicles down ramps to the floor of the caissons — giant boxlike structures that support the pier — might work if there were two full lanes in the center of a drop-off/pickup area on a caisson floor, the letter said. Restrictions on traffic or providing parking/waiting areas outside the park might also be required, the letter said.

The Chelsea/Clinton community board also urged the Trust to consider the historic aspect of the issue, especially since Pier 57 has recently been listed on the State and National Historic Registers. The Chelsea Piers proposal to add a third story to the two-story pier for a tennis center “would diminish its historical value and increase the bulk of a structure that already overshadows the park,” the board letter says. However, both Chelsea Piers and Witkoff-Cipriani have said they would comply with requirements of the State Historic Preservation Office.

The community board also told the Trust that neither proposal has enough public open space, free of commercial uses, on the upper level of the west end of the pier, which overlooks the river. “It is impermissible in a public park for the best views to be reserved for patrons of upscale athletic facilities, whether tennis [Chelsea Piers] or swimming [Leonardo],” the board letter said.

The Trust board of directors meets Jan. 28, but Pier 57 is not on the agenda, noted Chris Martin, the Trust’s spokesperson. Julie Nadel, a member of the Trust board of directors, said board members are considering holding a discussion meeting on the issue in March.

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