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BY CYNTHIA MAGNUS | Music concerts and other events with amplified sound may or may not continue next summer at the Hudson River Park’s Pier 26, depending on whom you ask and where you check. Tribeca residents who live opposite the pier say that recent concerts have rocked their world — and not in a good way.
After enduring what they say was intolerable noise from the Pier 26 rock concerts in July, and from earlier Heritage of Pride events in June, Tribeca tenants and community representatives want more input with the Hudson River Park Trust about Pier 26 programming.
Some want remaining concerts in the ten-show summer series on the pier to be canceled unless a remedy is found.
The Trust has a contract for ten shows with The Bowery Presents production company and cannot cancel scheduled slots or refuse to book open dates, Madelyn Wils, H.R.P.T.’s president and CEO, said in a July 24 interview.
Wils said the fee-based concerts are a temporary feature on the pier while the Trust works to develop other amenities there. She said they generate $9,500 per show in lease fees, plus a percentage of the sponsorship sales, and that this helps pay for the park’s free programming.
Wils distinguished the pride events from the concert series as ones the Trust did not co-produce, and said H.R.P.T. has yet to evaluate whether the events should return to the pier next year.
Heritage of Pride management is more optimistic, though, and is soliciting volunteers for next year’s rally on June 27 at its new “home” Pier 26, according to its website.
Diane Lapson, president of the Independence Plaza North tenants association, and a Community Board 1 Quality of Life Committee member said that during the June 30th pride Dance on the Pier, “When Cher was on I heard every word she said — I was able to tell what shape her voice was in.”
Angry Tribecans had spoken out at a July 18 C.B. 1 Quality of Life Committee meeting also attended by Heritage of Pride managing director Chris Frederick, and the commander of the First Precinct, Capt. Brendan Timoney.
Frederick acknowledged his group should have communicated better with neighbors, but added tearfully that not holding the event would be a “disaster,” because Heritage of Pride could not survive without the ticket revenue.
Longtime Independence Plaza resident and community activist Liz Berger (distinct from Downtown Alliance president Liz Berger) told the committee that during the July 17 Specials concert, the walls in her 36th floor Harrison St. home were shaking. She also suggested the possibility of moving the stage to face west toward the river.
Wils, also a Tribeca resident and former C.B.1 chairperson, said she requested the engineer for the band “fun.”, who played on July 22 and 23, to lower the volume to 80 decibels from the allowable 85. She said, “I live in the community, I want people to be happy.” Wils explained that repositioning the stage to face the river is impossible, though, because of egress liability.
Philip Brandt, a 200 Chambers St. resident who had attended the July 18 C.B. 1 meeting, disagrees that it’s too late to rework the concert series — “I renegotiate contracts all the time,” said the Royal Bank of Canada financial advisor, now community activist. “This is not the Ten Commandments.”
Residents at Independence Plaza said that any reduction in the volume output has not improved conditions.
Berger and others signed up for a Dept. of Environmental Protection technician to come take an in-home noise reading during the July 22 concert. Police permits allow decibel levels up to 85. A D.E.P. spokesperson said that they were given access to one apartment on July 22 and the decibel level was 70 during the concert.
North Moore St. resident Grazia Vita said the D.E.P. technician who came to her 17th floor home on July 22 said the reading during the concert was 76 decibels. She says the July 26 concert was just as disruptive and that the series has become professionally as well as psychologically injurious. An artist with a home studio, Vita, said she was unable to conduct business calls that night.
Berger said her experience with the D.E.P. technician was a burden in itself, and she had not been asked if a tech could stay for the entire concert. “It was a giant drag to have him there for four hours.”
Berger is also concerned that large scale paid events at Pier 26 will mean limited access to adjacent free areas.
Wils reminded C.B. 1’s Tribeca Committee July 10 that the Trust had notified them in April about the series and that the committee had been “game” for trying it. She said, “If it doesn’t work out we won’t do it next year.”
Lapson said last week that if the plan had come to the Quality of Life committee it would have been recognized as a potential noise issue. “I think the Tribeca committee looked at it as a cultural event,” she said. “I.P.N. residents have always had a problem with sound.”
Wils acknowledged last week that the configuration of the buildings with the river that carries noise presents a “physics question.”
Quality of Life committee chairperson Patricia Moore said of the current situation, “If people are disturbed — regardless of the allowable decibel level — if people cannot come home from work and relax, then something concrete needs to be done.” Moore will meet with Lapson and other stakeholders.
Lapson says she is cautiously optimistic about working with H.R.P.T. “I’d like to think we can solve it.”