L.E.S. residents mutiny over Pier 42 kayak plan

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC  |  Pier 42 plans presented at a recent Community Board 3 meeting roused anger from Lower East Side residents who want a pool and not a proposed area for kayaking.

After Noriko Maeda of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects gave her presentation of the trees, shrubs and plants that may populate the waterfront for the project’s phase one, residents expressed their unhappiness with a proposed kayak area.

“We are a community that is tired of being disengaged, disenfranchised by everyone else and being ignored,” Nancy Ortiz, president of the Vladeck Houses Resident Association declared at C.B. 3’s Parks, Recreation, Cultural Affairs, Landmarks & Waterfront Committee on Oct. 21.

“This is the first time we are seeing this,” she said. “Kayaking does not fit the demographics of our community.”

Pier 42, between Gouverneur and Jackson Sts., received more than $10 million in funding from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in March 2012. Lawrence Mauro, the Parks Department’s program manager for Lower Manhattan projects, said there has been extensive community outreach.

“We’ve handled this progressively, step by step,” Mauro said. There have been several meetings with C.B. 3 for both direction and approval, he said.

Ortiz said later in a phone interview that with all the projects — and meetings — going on in the Lower East Side, including about Pier 42, the “Big U,” and the general waterfront plan, it is hard to keep track. But one thing is clear: The community does not want a kayaking area.

One of the reasons Parks wants a protected area for teaching kids to kayak, Mauro said, is to expose them to the water during educational programs.

“They could learn about the river, learn about the ecology, learn about what’s in the river in a supervised way,” he said.

C.B. 3 has already approved the Pier 42 master plan. Mauro said that the committee was only voting on phase one, which currently does not include any of the proposed amenities, such as a playground, concession stand, an area where residents could watch movies, roller-skating rink and the kayaking area.

Phase one includes taking down most of the pier shed, lead and asbestos abatement, removing toxic soil and the pavement, painting and planting trees and shrubs to make the area safe and green, Mauro said. The overall plan to build out the site would cost more than $90 million, he added.

“I lived in Smith Houses for 38 years, I never saw anybody with a kayak,” said Anne Johnson, a C.B. 3 committee member, to loud clapping and an “Amen!” at the meeting. “I also remember that we absolutely said there had to be a pool — somehow.”

Aixa Torres, president of the Smith Houses Tenants Association, agreed with Johnson and said C.B. 3 should table the issue.

“We want a pool. We need a pool,” Torres said. “This is what our community needs.”

The committee passed a resolution approving the phase one plan.

Later, in a phone interview on Oct. 25, Torres said that she would picket if there is kayaking.

“We don’t want it,” she said. “We have the same right as someone in Tribeca.”

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