Pier plan endorsed
C.B. 2 committee endorses plan for Pier 40

By Lincoln Anderson

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

C.B. 2 members Lawrence Goldberg, left, David Reck, center, and Mark Rosenwasser considered the options for Pier 40 last week.

After hearing community input, followed by a lengthy deliberation among themselves, Community Board 2’s waterfront committee last Wednesday night endorsed C&K Properties/Durst Organization’s redevelopment plan for Pier 40.

Called River Green, the plan includes baseball fields and gardens on the pier’s roof; soccer fields, an arts and cultural center and TV and film studios on its second level; and car parking on the ground floor.

C&K/Durst is the same development group Board 2’s former waterfront committee endorsed in late February before Aubrey Lees, the board’s chairperson, intervened and removed eight committee members and reformed the committee.

Board 2 will vote on the waterfront committee’s recommendation at its full board meeting this Thursday, at New York University School of Law, 40 Washington Sq. S., Room 110, 6:30 p.m.

As part of a four-month deadline extension approved in February, three of four of the developers competing for the pier project revised their plans; the fourth developer, Forest City Ratner, dropped out. C&K/Durst changed its anchor tenant from a big-box Home Depot store to an arts/cultural center; the developers of Oceanarium retained their idea of building the world’s second-largest aquarium on Pier 40 but increased sports uses on the pier’s roof, changing them to noncommercial and adding small sports museums; Park and on the Pier group added a Home Depot big-box store.

The developers presented their new plans to the community on April 28 and May 5.

The Hudson River Park Trust, the state-city organization overseeing the five-mile-long park of which Pier 40 is a key section, faces a June 15 deadline to pick a developer for the four-and-a-half-block-long W. Houston St. pier, or pick none and opt for an interim-use plan. The Trust will consider C.B. 2’s resolution before making a decision.

Under the Hudson River Park Act, the equivalent of at least 50 percent of the pier’s 15-acre footprint must be for park or other open use.

At last Wednesday’s waterfront committee meeting, committee chairperson, Don MacPherson, first gave local groups and individuals a chance to give their input “and vent their spleen,” as he put it, on the plans and the process.

Tobi Bergman, president of Pier, Park and Playground Association, a Village-based youth sports advocacy group, and a member of the previous waterfront committee, said P3 could work with any of the three remaining developers to get sports fields on the pier’s roof. However, he said, River Green’s proposal that the $30 million park component of their $115 million plan be funded by someone else was “unacceptable” and he also expressed concern about the possibility a big-box Home Depot store could still be included in the River Green plan.

Bergman urged the committee to make a pick, noting, “It would not make sense for the community to put in so much work over so many months and then not make a pick.”

Arthur Schwartz, the committee’s former chairperson until his removal by Lees, also urged the committee to make a selection to send a message to the Trust that the community is for something being done on the pier.

“I think the board has to recognize that there is a major chance the Trust will do nothing,” he said. “That would be a major loss to the community.” Schwartz said Oceanarium’s accommodations to free sports uses on the pier were “heartening” but that the traffic impact from millions of people (he said 4 million a year would be a realistic number) visiting the aquarium would be too great.

Afterward, Schwartz said he’s heard the Trust is already moving forward with an interim plan for tennis bubbles on the pier’s roof. Chris Martin, the Trust’s spokesperson did not return calls for comment.

Noting the hugeness of the project and of its potential impact on Greenwich Village, Stu Waldman of the Federation to Preserve the Greenwich Village Waterfront advocated an interim plan and not picking any developer. He feared C&K/Durst would revive their plan for a big-box store.

“We’re talking about the single largest development this community has ever seen,” Waldman said.

Waldman recalled he backed the Home Depot before when it seemed there was no alternative as the previous deadline had loomed.

“I’m embarrassed to say I said it, but that’s what can happen in this process,” he said.

Jessie McNab, a member of the West Village Committee and a Wesbeth activist, objected that in all the revised plans for the rooftop park youth sports fields have been increased.

“One thousand children will get three-quarters of the space and the 20,000 to 40,000 adults will get one-quarter of the space. That’s not exactly fair,” she said of the third-floor roof area. There needs to be space for “old fogies and middle people,” she said, adding, “let’s stick with the plan we have in front of us — parking.”

Some members of the waterfront committee proposed backing none of the plans, but MacPherson stressed he felt it was important for the committee to make a recommendation.

After they had gone around the table, it was clear about two-thirds of the committee supported C&K/Durst. A resolution was then hashed out in support of the River Green project but with some conditions including a requirement that C& K not switch back to its big box plan.

When a show of hands was requested, 10 supported C&K/Durst, four supported Oceanarium and one supported Park on the Pier. According to Board 2’s bylaws, votes of public members and appointed members are given equal weight.

David Reck, the committee’s vice chairperson, said he was for “none of the above.” Although he called Oceanarium “gorgeous” and felt it would be “marvelous to go in,” he said it was a “nonstarter” because of opposition from the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the Coney Island aquarium; he called Park on the Pier “not exciting;” and was concerned about the unfunded $30 million park in C&K/Durst’s plan.

Jim Smith, Lawrence Goldberg and MacPherson said they preferred the Oceanarium. because it’s “beautiful” and the “most creative,” adding that he’d rather walk over on a Sunday and visit the Oceanarium than buy floor tiles at a Home Depot.

Mark Rosenwasser was one of the members for River Green (C&K/Durst), saying that as someone in real estate, he often goes with his gut feelings and that he felt Korman’s plan was most in line with what the community wants. “Ultimately, it’s going to come down to trust,” he said. “I trust him.”

In a new development, Korman told Downtown Express last Friday that they have ruled out a big-box store for their plan. When he was presenting C&K/Durst’s revised plan to the community on May 5, Korman had hedged in his answer when asked if a big-box store was an option if the arts/cultural plan didn’t work out. But now Korman says there will be no 120,000-sq.-ft. Home Depot or any store of such size.

“I want to clarify, we have no idea of going back to any kind of hardware with big-box retail,” he said. “If the Trust says this [arts/cultural center plan] is not going to work, we’ll have to go back to the drawing board. The big box is off. We will not bring with big-box retail again — or any other traffic-generating destination uses..”
C&K/Durst still may consider adding another commercial tenant to help generate revenue for the park; Korman mentioned a relocated Flower Market as a possibility.

Korman said there are two ways they can address the need for generating revenue for the park: convince the Trust to reduce or even eliminate the need or reduce the cost of their project. Also, he feels the gardens would naturally lend themselves to corporate sponsorship.

Cohen and Korman have run the parking garage and other uses, such as FedEx, on the pier for the last several years under a lease from the Trust, generating $4.5 million a year for the Trust.


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