Volume 19 • Issue 9 | July 14- - 20, 2006

Rendering of Pier 25 design, top.

How green will Tribeca’s park be,how long was the wait?

By Josh Rogers

The dirt Gov. George Pataki and other officials shoveled last week on Pier 25 was just a prop to symbolize construction of the Hudson River Park’s Tribeca section, but after years of delays, real work is actually underway.

A few days later, as cyclists and joggers went by the pier and would-be trapeze artists practiced in the air, few visitors to the temporary parts of the park knew much about the permanent plan that includes rebuilding piers, building a playing field, planting trees and adding a nature area.

“I have lived here for 12 years and I have seen so many plans revised 100 times,” said a 36-year-old Battery Park City resident, who declined to give her name. “I don’t believe anything until I see it — ground zero is the perfect example.”

She hoped the Tribeca part of the park ends up looking something like the completed Village section to the north, although a few others stopped for interviews did not want to see a repeat of the manicured lawns.

“Trees are good — as long as they don’t make it too chi-chi,” said Paul Rubin, a Tribeca writer who returned to the neighborhood four years ago after moving out west in 1970. He was out walking Hubert, his large and amorous Alaskan malamute, and hoped to be able to let the dog run free on the piers (a dog run is planned nearby, but leashes will be required for the rest of the park).

The Tribeca section is now scheduled to open in 2009 and Pataki said there will be no more delays. “It’s going to be [done on time],” he told Downtown Express. “It’ll be open for 100 years. People had no access to the water for longer than that.”
He told the audience at the July 6 ceremony that his favorite parts of the plan are the beach volleyball courts and kayak boathouse, which were on Piers 25 and 26 before they were closed at the end of last year for construction. “I first got to know my wife pretty well playing volleyball on the sand in Long Island,” said the governor, who has also kayaked down the Hudson to Tribeca.

The piers are gradually decaying and would have had to have been closed eventually.

Downtown Express photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

Above, Stefan Pryor, left, Lower Manhattan Development Corporation president, Kevin Rampe, L.M.D.C. chairperson, Dep. Mayor Dan Doctoroff, and Gov. Pataki on the pier last Thursday to celebrate the start of construction of the Hudson River Park’s Tribeca section, funded by the L.M.D.C.

Pataki has spoken enthusiastically about the Hudson River Park for most of his administration, although he has never been able to secure all of the money needed to build it. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he set up the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which became responsible for disbursing $2.8 billion in federal funds to help Downtown rebuild. In November 2004, the governor said the L.M.D.C. would provide the money needed to build the $70 million Tribeca section, but by that time he had given the mayor 50 percent control of the corporation and the city and state were negotiating over how to spend the remaining $800 million.

Dep. Mayor Daniel Doctoroff joked about the delay at last week’s ceremony on Pier 25. “We all knew all along the money was in the bag — we just didn’t want to tell you too soon,” said Doctoroff, who is also vice chairperson of the Hudson River Park Trust, the state-city authority building the park.

The standoff is likely to mean most of the pile work rebuilding the piers will be pushed back by more than two years after the date when Pataki said the money was coming. The Trust can only work in the water in warmer weather and must stop by Oct. 31 under its permit.

“The majority of the pile work will be done next season, said Marc Boddewyn, the Trust’s vice president of design and construction. The Trust closed the Tribeca piers at the end of last year, evicted the historic Yankee ferry from the park, and began preliminary work clearing structures like the Downtown Boathouse, River Project and mini-golf course. They suspended work a few months ago waiting for the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development to sign off on the L.M.D.C. grant.

Boddewyn said work cutting the pier decks began about two weeks ago and they should be removed by the end of August. The Trust is talking to contractors about the pile work for Piers 25 and 26 and has not decided how much work it wants to do this season.

He said the goal is to open as much of the section as soon as possible and the area from Laight St. to just north of Tribeca at Pier 40 possibly could open by fall 2007. There will be two basketball courts, the existing tennis courts and a nature walk with beach grass and cedars that Boddewyn assured would not be chi-chi.

“This will be different than the Village section,” he said. “It will have less lawn and it’ll be more raw — wonderful.”

Pier 25, which was used to transport the rubble collected at the World Trade Center site, will be extended to 1,000 feet, several hundred feet longer than it had been in recent years. There will be an artificial turf field and a new playground. A mooring field for boats, a more elaborate mini-golf course and a snack bar will return. Pier 26 will have a boathouse, a center to study marine life — and a restaurant. In the upland area closer to the bikeway/walkway, there will also be a skateboard park.

Groups like Manhattan Youth, the Downtown Boathouse and River Project, which ran many of the piers’ programs, have said they want to return when the piers reopen. Chris Martin, the Trust’s spokesperson, said the operators would be selected under a formal request for proposal process and all will be picked well after the new year — probably about seven months before a specific operation will be ready to go.

Veterans of the battles to build a waterfront park were hopeful last week about the park’s Tribeca section. Robert Trentlyon, appointed nearly two decades ago to the West Side Task Force by Gov. Mario Cuomo, said things should proceed smoothly now because it won’t be easy to stop for economic downturns.

“I think so,” he said. “I feel very confident there is a lot of momentum. Politically, [the park] is so used, no one will dare stop in the middle.”

Josh@DowntownExpress.com


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