Volume 20 Issue 3 | June 1 -7, 2007

Downtown Express photo by Milo Hess

Contractors were driving piles for Tribeca’s new Pier 25 Wednesday.

Trust hints Tribeca boathouse design could expand

By Skye H. McFarlane

The murky waters surrounding the design of Tribeca’s Pier 26 are beginning to clear. After three meetings between Community Board 1 and staffers at the Hudson River Park Trust, Downtown waterfront advocates have a better idea of what is possible at the pier, which is currently under reconstruction.

Over the winter, boaters and board members inspected the Trust’s plans for the Tribeca pier, which has long been slated to house a boathouse, a river study center and a food concession. The detailed plans, however, caused a furor among waterfront advocates, who objected to the size of the boathouse (too small) and the restaurant (too big). They were also angry that the river study center had been removed from the current construction plans because the Trust had decided to choose an operator before designing and building the facility, also known as an estuarium.

Then, this spring, the Trust revealed that due to skyrocketing construction costs and a smaller-than-usual budget allotment from the state, there is no longer enough money to build out the park features in Segment 3. The segment runs from Chambers St. up to Pier 40 and includes Piers 25, 26 and 32. Mindful of the budget shortfall, C.B. 1 asked the Trust to attend a series of working meetings at which waterfront advocates brainstormed ways to fix the problems at Pier 26 without causing unacceptable delays and cost increases.

On May 21, C.B. 1’s Waterfront Committee passed a resolution outlining a plan for changes to the pier. The resolution calls for widening the boathouse by 12 feet and turning the planned restaurant space into an estuarium facility. It also establishes fundraising for the pier amenities as a long-term goal for the community board. The Trust said it will not issue an official response to the resolution until it is passed by the full board. However, the Trust’s architects provided information on the time, money and effort it would take to implement each of the committee’s ideas.

There was much debate among boaters and board members over how to best get an estuarium back on the pier — where the River Project ran a grassroots educational center for nearly two decades before the aging pier was demolished. The one point that everyone agreed upon was the need to have a boathouse wide enough to store and maneuver two rows of kayaks, which can reach 18 feet in length. The current boathouse design, at 42 feet wide, was based on 14-foot kayaks.

“The 54-foot boathouse is a must,” said committee chairperson Julie Nadel at a Pier 26 Task Force meeting on May 17. “We have to have a boathouse that’s big enough to store the boats.”

Of the ideas brainstormed by the task force, the 54-foot boathouse seemed to get the best reception from the Trust. While some ideas for putting the estuarium in the restaurant space elicited vocal objections, the state-city authority’s architects from Mathews Nielson piped up to say that they could probably widen the boathouse without delaying construction on the pier.

Because the piers are already more than a year behind schedule and because construction costs industry-wide are rising at 1 to 2 percent a month, the Trust warned against making any changes that would halt the current pile driving. Major changes to the weight or location of the structures on the pier, the architects said, would require new engineering studies and new pile layouts. If the construction crews can’t finish driving piles before the Nov. 1 moratorium on in-water work, they will not be able to build the pier deck during the winter, thus putting the project another six months behind.

“On a pier that’s this long, it’s all that you can do to finish all your piles before you have to stop working on November first,” said Connie Fishman, president of the Trust.

Since the restaurant and the boathouse are designed as a joined structure, Trust architect Signe Neilson said that the boathouse could likely be widened without new piles, so long as the weight of the structure doesn’t change dramatically. The same could not be said about the Task Force’s idea to redesign the restaurant space as a permanent estuarium. Since a high-tech river center would have large water tanks for fish, it would weigh considerably more than a restaurant and thus need more piles.

Some task force members said it would be worth it to lose another six months of construction time if it would mean getting a full-fledged estuarium back on the pier. But in the end, members asked the Trust to determine what sort of estuarium features could be added to the restaurant space without delaying construction. As a seasonal establishment with little access to parking or public transit, some members said, the restaurant would be unlikely to generate significant revenue anyway.

Fishman said that the Trust does not have any estimates for how much income the restaurant is expected to generate, since revenue would depend on what type of restaurant occupied the spot. She did clarify that any revenue generated by the 3,400-square-foot restaurant would have to be spent in the Tribeca segment, as per a stipulation in the $70 million Lower Manhattan Development Corporation grant that is currently funding part of the Segment 3 construction.

Pier 40

In other Hudson River Park news, the C.B. 1 Waterfront Committee on May 21 passed a strong response to the redevelopment proposals for Pier 40. The resolution condemned both proposals as well as the large-scale R.F.P. process that produced them.

“The Related plan is too big and the Camp Group plan involves a private monopoly on public park land,” said committee member Mark Costello, who is also president of the Downtown Little League. “The process was flawed and the process was foisted on us.”

The committee also asked for a clearer outline of how much money it will cost to repair the aging pier and how much money the Trust needs the pier to generate annually in order to pay for park maintenance. Noreen Doyle, the Trust vice president, said that the cost of repairing the pier would depend on what the developer intended to put on the pier and on how long the repairs were expected to last. She said that the Related proposal — a high-impact mix of shops, theaters and restaurants — had budgeted about $35 million for pier repairs.

As for long-term revenue, Doyle said that the pier must generate no less than the $5 million per year it currently makes from the parking facility. She said that park maintenance, with 40 percent of the park built, currently costs $14 million per year. If what is built in the future costs roughly the same amount to maintain as what has already been built, that would put maintenance at $35 million per year, plus inflation, once the park is finished.

The C.B. 1 resolution also criticized Related’s plan to close the Pier 40 fields during construction, but subsequent to the meeting, the development firm announced it had changed its proposed construction phasing schedule to allow the pier’s equivalent field space to remain open during construction.

Downtown Express is published by Community Media LLC. 145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013
Phone: (212) 229-1890 | Fax: (212) 229-2790 | Advertising: 646-452-2465 | © 2007 Community Media, LLC

Written permission of the publisher must be obtainedbefore any of the contents of this newspaper, in whole or in part, can be reproduced or redistributed.