Long-stalled Pier 35 ‘eco park’ finally opens

At the ribbon-cutting of the Pier 35 eco park last week, from left, 82 Rutgers Slip residents Elaine Hoffman, Linda Matias and Trever Holland, Councilmember Margaret Chin and Seth Myers, executive vice president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation. Photos by Sydney Pereira

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | After years of delays, the “eco park” at Pier 35 is finally here.

On Wed., Dec. 19, the city’s Economic Development Corporation formally opened parts of the park, which will include 28,000 square feet of public open space. The project is designed by SHoP Architects and Ken Smith Landscape Architects with Hunter Roberts Construction Group.

In the spring, a canopy with “porch swings” at the Lower East Side pier’s edge will open, and vines will be added to a wall separating the eco park from its abutting neighbor, Pier 36, which the Department of Sanitation uses as a garage for its trucks.

“It’s a porch to the river,” said Catherine Jones, SHoP’s Pier 35 project director.

At the water’s edge, what appears to be a pile of mossy boulders is actually a carefully crafted “mussel beach” to attract blue and ribbed mussels — an ecology-focused feature funded by the Department of State.

“You can actually see the water come in and out [during high and low tide],” said Ken Smith, of Ken Smith Landscape Architects. “It’s an experience most New Yorkers don’t get to have.”

Plans to renovate the pier near Jefferson St. were first announced in 2009. But years of delays, partly due to financial troubles of contractor Trocom Construction, pushed back the project. Trocom’s eventual bankruptcy led to delays at other city projects, too, including at Chinatown’s Forsyth St. Plaza by the Manhattan Bridge, DNAInfo reported in 2016.

“It’s about time that they fixed it,” said Elaine Hoffman, vice president of the  tenants association at 82 Rutgers Slip.

“We used to spend our time under the F.D.R. The kids use to come, used to hang out, and used to play,” Hoffman recalled. “I hope it just stays like this. I hope they take care of it,” she said of the refurbished pier.

The Parks Department is responsible for the site’s maintenance.

Hoffman said she’s happy to be able to see the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges from the pier — particularly since the view from her home has been blocked by the recently built One Manhattan Square, an 800-foot-tall condo building.

This pile of mossy boulders is actually a “mussel beach,” meant to attract the bivalves, in the hopes that they will create a Lower East Side colony there.

But despite ongoing tensions and lawsuits in the Two Bridges area over the development of mostly market-rate towers and fears of displacement and gentrification, real estate honchos from One Manhattan Square joined with neighbors for the celebratory morning.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Christina Medina, a senior sales executive at Extell Development. “I’m excited. It’s going to add a lot of value to this waterfront that was neglected for a while. It’s inspiring.”

Friends of Pier 35, a grassroots park steward group, will program the space to ensure it benefits Two Bridges residents.

“In an area starved for open space, we are thankful for the many advocates who have fought over the years for an equitable and accessible waterfront park,” Trever Holland, co-founder of Friends of Pier 35 and a member of Community Board 3, said in a statement.

Councilmember Carlina Rivera said, “We’ll be improving our coastline in the years ahead and much of it will be inaccessible during renovation. So the community needs as much alternative open space as it can get.”

Open space is an ongoing issue for Lower East Siders. Though residents welcomed the completion of Pier 35, a bit north of there, much of East River Park is expected to be offline during an expectd three-and-a-half-year renovation. But many are skeptical the city can complete such a large open-space project within that time.

“Will East River Park resiliency plan suffer same delays?” Tommy Loeb, a member of the Lower East Side’s Grand St. Democrats, tweeted after Pier 35 had finally been opened.

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