Pier A sale awaits legislation in Albany

By Jane Flanagan

Lower Manhattanites will have to wait until at least September to find out whether they will see life anytime soon at Pier A.

The partially renovated building, former fireboat building, is surrounded by scaffolding and car-advertising billboards and sits just south of Wagner Park at the northern tip of historic Battery Park. An attractive landmark structure, Pier A has sat dormant for the past decade caught in a legal battle between a developer and the city over funding.

Recently, the Battery Park City Authority said that it would buy Pier A from the city. To do so, however, the authority, a state-controlled agency, must first get funding approval from Albany. It will not come now until at least September.

With the tumult over budget woes in the state legislature at the end of last session, several pieces of legislation did not make it to the voting block, including Pier A.
“It was all set to go to the Senate,” said Yvonne Morrow, an aide for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “But they left after midnight and certain pieces of legislation were not approved. This was one of them.”

The authority is asking the state legislature to increase its budget cap by $150 million so that it can issue a bond to finance the deal. A sale to the authority, a state-controlled agency, would help ease the city’s budget problems.

What the purchase means for the developer, Wings Point Associates, is not clear. For his part, Tom Ickovic, Wings Point’s C.E.O., said he is not troubled by the potential sale.

“The city can sell it, it doesn’t effect our lease,” said Ickovic who holds a 49-year lease. He even kind of likes the idea, he said.

“We have a very good relationship with the Battery Park City Authority,” said Ickovic, who said he’s worked with the authority in the past. Ickovic also recently brought on a partner to help develop Pier A.

The authority did not return calls for comment in time for Monday’s deadline.

Ickovic also recently brought a new lawsuit against the city – this one over use of the pier. After 9/11 the city seized control of Pier A to use for emergency ferry service. The service is being run by New York Waterway, which Ickovic objects to.

“New York Waterway is making millions a year off of Pier A,” said Ickovic.

Ickovic said he was happy that the pier was being used for emergency service in the months after the tragedy, but that New York Waterway should no longer be profiting to this degree, he said.

City officials, citing pending litigation, said they will not discuss this or the original lawsuit.

The Pier A ferry barge is expected to be removed in November when the World Trade Center PATH station reopens.

Regardless of what’s to come, Wings Point and the authority seem to have similar plans for the building. Both seem amenable to the National Parks Service hopes to use the first floor to screen passengers for the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Ferry. The second floor would contain a parks visitor’s center, and the remaining space would have some type of retail or possibly be used for professional offices.

In addition to Pier A, the authority also hopes to buy the strip of land that runs contiguously along its eastern border, from just north of Chambers Street to Battery Park. It is part of Hudson River Park and would continue to be managed by the Hudson River Park Trust.

Jane@DowntownExpress.com


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