Planning Pier 40’s future

At the 2016 Friends of Hudson River Park Gala at Chelsea Piers, from left, Scott Lawin, the vice chairperson of the Friends, right, posed with Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, center, and Mike Novogratz, chairperson of the Friends' board of directors. Villager photo

At the 2016 Friends of Hudson River Park Gala at Chelsea Piers, Scott Lawin, the vice chairperson of the Friends, right, posed on the “green carpet” with Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, center, and Mike Novogratz, chairperson of the Friends’ board of directors. Photo by Lincoln Anderson

BY SCOTT LAWIN | Late last year, the City Council approved the Hudson River Park Special District, which will allow the Hudson River Park Trust to sell some of Pier 40’s air rights for $100 million to the developers of a planned project on the site of the St. John’s Terminal. Critically, this exchange will allow the Trust to repair the currently deteriorating piles that hold up Pier 40, and save the pier and its ball fields, which are used by so many in the community.

But fortifying the infrastructure of Pier 40 is just the first big step in a larger effort to ensure the pier not only serves the community, but provides a steady funding stream for its own long-term survival, as well as to help support the overall care of the entire park — just as was envisioned when the park was founded in 1998.

The Hudson River Park Act decreed that the park’s commercial piers should serve as the primary economic engines for the operations of the public park. Except for Pier 40, the other commercial piers are all located north of our neighborhood — for example, Chelsea Piers and Circle Line. Villagers and Tribecans are fortunate to enjoy many of the park’s recreational piers right in our backyard, but we need to recognize our responsibility to the park and for Pier 40 to pull its weight in terms of future revenue.

Therefore, this next phase in Pier 40’s evolution presents us, its neighbors, its Little League and soccer players — the parents who’ve raised children on a steady diet of weeknight games and practices and weekend tournaments on the Hudson — with a golden opportunity to help shape the future of the pier — and the park itself. It’s a role that will impact future generations of park users, young and old.

In past years, myriad plans and uses for Pier 40 have been proposed. We’ve heard about stadiums, aquariums, museums, Cirque du Soleil, robotic parking, big-box stores, luxury residential towers and more. Many agreed that those uses didn’t make sense for Pier 40 or the neighborhood. Now, however, we have the opportunity to talk about what does make sense and help shape the future of the pier. What sort of projects would be the most beneficial, but have the least impact on the neighborhood? What type of development would be most compatible with the ball fields? Should all the pier sheds remain, or should the structures be realigned? How can we create more open space for the community but still generate enough revenue for the park?

These are challenging questions. But as the park’s primary users — its neighbors and biggest supporters — we should be the ones to help drive the conversation. We have an opportunity, right now, to work with local sports leagues, Community Board 2, our local politicians and the Trust to craft a blueprint for Pier 40 that makes sense for all of us. Given all the failed proposals over the last 15 years, we need to ensure that the next one is successful.

My colleagues at Friends of Hudson River Park and I hope you’ll join the discussion to make sure it reflects the needs of the broader community, and of the park we love so much. A strong and sustainable Pier 40 means a strong and sustainable Hudson River Park. That’s a legacy we can all be proud of shaping.

Lawin is vice chairperson, Friends of Hudson River Park 

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