$30 million needed for pier-park w/o Home Depot

By Lincoln Anderson

C&K/Durst’s revised plan for Pier 40 would include large fields on top, smaller retail stores, art and cultural spaces and 2,000 parking spaces – if $30 million in outside funding can be found for the $115-million plan.

Following the pattern started the previous week, the community was thrown still more surprises in the Pier 40 redevelopment process at last Monday night’s public hearing. It was announced that Forest City Ratner has dropped out of the running. Then, C&K Properties/Durst Organization presented a new proposal that replaces a previous plan for a big-box store with an arts and cultural complex, plus a $30 million rooftop park – that would be funded by someone else other than the developer.

About 150 people turned out at the Manhattan Developmental Center, at 75 Morton St., expecting to hear the final two of the four development teams vying for the right to redevelop Pier 40 as part of the Hudson River Park and operate it under a 30-year lease. The hearing was sponsored jointly by Community Board 2 and the Hudson River Park Trust.

Neighbors had feared the massive traffic impact from three big-box stores in the Forest City Ratner plan, and the Trust, the waterfront park’s governing agency, was not a fan of big-box stores in the park, either.

Developer Bruce Ratner told Downtown Express several months ago that he thought destination retail was the only way to generate enough money to finance the park, but he was not planning to put any pressure on the community to accept big box stores such as Ikea and Costco.

Joyce Baumgarten, a Forest City Ratner spokesperson, said last week, “In order for the project to be viable it needed to have a certain amount of retail…. We had said all along that we weren’t going to fight with the community.”

Ben Korman, a principal in C&K Properties, which has operated the pier’s parking garage on a lease from the Trust for the last seven years, presented a revised plan conspicuously lacking a 120,000-sq.-ft. Home Depot-type hardware big-box store — the anchor commercial tenant of C&K/Durst’s previous plan.

Before joining with Durst, C&K had another plan, a waterborne FedEx system for the pier, but FedEx scuttled the plan in January. Korman said after a four-month extension of the deadline to pick a developer for Pier 40 was granted, they had time to reconsider their proposal and arrived at a plan that doesn’t rely on a big-box store, thus eliminating the associated traffic impact.

The Trust is scheduled to select a developer by June 15, but also has the option of making no selection. The other two development teams under consideration are Bob Fagan, Abe Lesser and Louis Stahl who are proposing a $130-million plan with a large park on top, a big-box store, Greenmarket and 1,800 parking spots; and Cheymayeff, Sollogub and Poole, whose $265-million plan includes a large space for fields, an aquarium, sports museum and 3,400 parking spaces.

Korman said they envision an arts and cultural center at Pier 40, at the foot of W. Houston St., seeing it as a “natural extension” of four nearby artistic neighborhoods, Chelsea, the Village, Tribeca and Soho.

The plan calls for eight to 10 arts and cultural spaces, including museums, theater/performance spaces, education facilities and video studios; these spaces will be located on the pier’s second floor. There will be 15 rooftop gardens, some with arts installations, ringing the pier’s rooftop; each of the interior arts spaces could be linked by stairs to these gardens, at 8,000 sq. ft. each, which Korman assured will be “magnificent outdoor spaces.” The plan’s architect is Philippe Robert, based in Paris.

The arts and cultural spaces would pay “a reasonable rent” that allows them to generate revenue to support the park, Korman said. Audience members wanted to know how much rent the plan would generate for the Trust, but Connie Fishman, the Trust’s vice president, said those financial details couldn’t be revealed now; after consulting with the Trust’s counsel, Laurie Silberfeld, Fishman said she wasn’t sure if these figures could be revealed at a later point in the process, either.

Korman said he has assembled “a sizeable list” of arts and cultural organizations interested in being tenants, but that discussions can’t start until a developer for the pier is selected; at that point, they would identify the interested parties. He said they want “a mix of already well-established museum and cultural uses.”

The plan would include 100 percent coverage of the pier’s footprint with park and open space, which would allow for fields large enough for teenagers to play regulation baseball games. A total of 260,000 sq. ft. of sports fields would be on two levels. A soccer field would be on the pier’s second level; two full-size, non-overlapping baseball fields would be on the pier’s third-floor rooftop, on the pier’s north side.

The fields were designed in consultation with local youth sports advocacy group Pier, Park and Playground Association, a group that C & K helps fund as part of a lawsuit settlement, and the Greenwich Village Little League, Korman said. There would also be a 25,000-sq.-ft. indoor sports space that would be commercially operated; but the type of sports that would be played there is not set yet.

Korman said C&K/Durst won’t operate the ballfields or park.

“The park is not ours,” he said. “We don’t have any revenues projected coming from the park. We always projected giving it to the Trust.”

The project’s total cost is $115 million. However, a key point, and in something none of the other developers have proposed so far, Korman said C&K/Durst would only foot $85 million, while getting someone else to fund the $30 million cost of constructing the park on the pier.

Who will pay this $30 million? Korman said it could be the city or state or the private sector and that groups like the Friends of Hudson River Park could help raise this sum, for example, in three installments of $10 million over three years.

Other elements of the plan include a TV and film museum and on the first floor, a 2,000-car parking garage, 1,600 spaces of which will be for long-term parking with 400 spaces left “flexible.”

Carol Feinman, a public member of Board 2’s waterfront committee, asked if other than the gardens, there was plain quiet park space such as “a nice grassy area where people can have a picnic.”

Patric O’Malley, an architectural consultant to C&K/Durst, said that there are some long grassy connecting lawns on the pier and that 11 of the 15 gardens can be considered passive space. In response to another question on whether the gardens could be taken out of the plan by whoever raised the funding for the park, Korman said they are integral to the concept.

Korman said the plan includes 50,000 sq. ft. of retail space, which he said would not attract as many cars as previous big-box plans for the pier, where the stores were anywhere from 120,000 sq. ft. to 150,000 sq. ft.

Regarding the need to raise millions of dollars to build the rooftop park, some in the audience enthusiastically said that if the community got involved in the fundraising they would have more say in the park’s development. George Capsis of the Charles St. Association proposed a conservancy for the park along the lines of the Central Park Conservancy.

“Why shouldn’t we in Greenwich Village who are going to enjoy this park pay something for it?” he asked. “Because the community is creating this ‘agora for the arts’ we will have a say in how it’s going to be developed.”

Thanking Capsis for initiating the idea, Arthur Schwartz, the board’s former waterfront committee chairperson, said it was time to again raise the issue of public money going into Pier 40 as a way to minimize the impact of any commercial development on the pier.

Robin Shanus, a former public member of the waterfront committee, told the audience bluntly that “it’s not going to happen” unless they commit to raising the money for the park.

But the need to fund the Pier 40 park independently didn’t leave all in the audience feeling confident about the future of the park on the pier in this plan. Stu Waldman, a member of the Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront and also of the Pier 40 Working Group, expressed concern that to get the funds the developers might resort to bringing in a big-box store again.

“If you don’t get this $30 million, have you withdrawn the big-box proposal, or will you go back to big box?” Waldman asked.

Korman’s answer was inconclusive: “As far as I’m concerned for our plan, big box is off the table,” he said, then added, “But it doesn’t mean we won’t come back to it.”

“The Trust is looking for another $200 million to finish the park and they can’t get it,” Waldman said later, returning to the issue. “We’re speculating that $30 million will be easy to raise.”

“This is like warm and fuzzy development,” said one man. “You saying you’re going through the interest of the community and we go along with you.”

One audience member asked what would happen if only $15 million is raised; would only half a park get built?

“You’re digging into details,” said Korman. Several times he noted the plans being shown were not final.

“This is somewhat ideal,” he said at one point. “What we wanted to do was open up the discussion.”

Korman said if they don’t get the $30 million to build the park, they don’t think their plan will be selected.

Another meeting will be held Wed., May 14, at 6:30 p.m. at Manhattan Developmental Center, 75 Morton St., for public comment on the revised Pier 40 plans. Jonathan Greenberg, director of business at Housing Works and a planning assistant to Councilmember Alan Gerson, has come up with a plan for Pier 40 in collaboration with local parks activist Jim Brennan. Greenberg, who is working on the pier issue in his capacity as a Village resident, said their Open Access Plan avoids any big impact from stores or other uses. They will present the plan at the May 14 meeting.


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