Volume 74, Number 45 | March 16 - 22, 2005


A new approach is needed for Pier 40

A new marketing study for Pier 40 seems to cover some of the same ground from the pier’s failed development process in 2003.

Under the Hudson River Park Act, space equivalent to half the footprint of the 14-acre pier at the end of W. Houston St., must be left for public recreational use. Following the Hudson River Park Trust’s failure to pick any of the developers from the last process, an interim artificial-surface sports field was built in the pier’s courtyard and should open this spring.

Something like this field might be incorporated into an enhanced park in the pier’s final redevelopment. The question is what will the other 50 percent of the pier be?

Bay Area Economics’s marketing study offers 10 feasible options, including an aquarium, marina, educational facility; public market — such as the flower market — a meeting-and-event facility; and artists’ and hobbyists’ spaces. To the relief of many in the surrounding communities, the study rules out big-box retail, concluding these stores would be profitable but never win community approval.

Yet an oceanarium faced community opposition before — many feeling it would draw too much traffic — and there’s no reason to believe this would change. Also New York University submitted a proposal before — which wasn’t even a finalist — for sports fields, classrooms and seminar rooms. But if N.Y.U. really felt the pier was desirable, one would think it would have put forth a more serious proposal.

B.A.E. notes the Trust could decide to develop the pier on its own, if the Park Act were changed. This idea is worth considering. The current long-term parking on the pier is something the community wants to keep, which the Trust has acknowledged. The parking alone brings in a few million dollars for the park each year. At some point one has to ask: isn’t this a sufficient amount of revenue? And if so, shouldn’t the Trust try to develop the pier into a park on its own?

If the only two components are the park and parking, the project is far simpler and cheaper. And residents of Soho, Hudson Sq., the Far West Village and Tribeca don’t seem to be crying out for uses other than those on Pier 40 — active and passive recreation and parking. Really, another study is needed to examine the feasibility, and break down the costs, of the Trust’s designing and building a full-fledged Pier 40 park on its own.

This page has repeatedly called for the Trust to release a financial plan for the 5-mile-long park to give an accurate picture of how much revenue each commercial pier is expected to generate for the park, which is geared to be self-sustaining. The Trust has never done this, which hinders efficient planning for the park as a whole, and for Pier 40 in particular. More to the point, if the financial bar were lowered, perhaps some uses with less negative impacts would emerge.

All we know now is that if things don’t change and the Trust issues a request for propsals in a few years we could find ourselves in the same position as before, with a failed Pier 40 process on our hands.

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