B.P.C.A. moves closer to buying Pier A

By Jane Flanagan

Downtown Express photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

Pier A

The takeover of Pier A by the Battery Park City Authority moved one step closer to reality this week after Community Board 1 gave the idea unanimous support.

The partially-renovated Pier A has been mired for years in a legal battle between the developer of a $30 million renovation and the city over funding. While the decade-long battle waged on, the landmark 1880s building, located in a prime spot in Battery Park, sat empty.

A sale to the authority, a state-controlled agency, will help the city close its budget deficit.

It’s not clear what obstacles the lawsuit between the city and the developer, Wings Point Associates, poses to the authority’s wish to takeover the property, but Carey does not seem worried. He said that if the authority buys Pier A, renovation would begin quickly.

“We’ll get it done,” he said.

The authority came before the full board Tuesday seeking a green light for its plan to go before the New York State legislature for a $150 million increase in its budget cap so it can issue a bond to finance the deal. In addition to Pier A, the authority also hopes to buy the strip of land that is part of the Hudson River Park and runs contiguously along its eastern border, from just north of Chambers Street to Battery Park.

The authority’s Michael Ketring said the Hudson Park land was included in the deal to insure the B.P.C.A. received equal value. He said by law, the Hudson River Park Trust would maintain ultimate jurisdiction over the land, but the authority would continue to oversee the area adjacent to West St., including the west end of the ballfields and the P.S./I.S. 89 yard.

The original renovation of Pier A by Wings Point, a Long Island Developer, called for a restaurant, catering hall and retail shops. Recently, however, the National Parks Service has expressed interest in using the first floor as a waiting area and security screening for Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island ferry passengers.

Carey appears to be supportive of the Parks Service plan.

“It makes a lot of sense,” he said, but added that it was too soon for him to be making any commitments.

Other potential features of the renovated building would be a second floor visitor’s center for New York State Parks, he said. Another proposed nearby feature is a replica of an historic canal boat that would be anchored in the narrow strip of water between Wagner Park and Pier A. It would serve as a stationary museum and run by the Ernie Canal Heritage Commission. Visitors would learn about the historic role these boats played in transporting goods between New York City and upstate.

All this still leaves room leftover for retail or professional offices, and Carey said either are possible.

At the moment, the building is only 30 percent renovated, and he expects an additional $16 million will be required to fix the structure alone. That does not include the fixtures and other needs of specific tenants.

Carey said the authority hopes to come before the state legislature as soon as possible and to float the bonds in the fall. A design would be drawn up soon after and bids sent out. As for how long it would be before the first visitor set foot in a fully renovated Pier A, Carey said he couldn’t say. Referring to the fact that the pier has been vacant at least three decades, for one reason or another, he said, “It’ll take a lot less than 30 years. I can tell you that.”


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