downtownexpress.com
Volume 20 Issue 22 | October 12 - 18 2007

Editorial

Trust should explore a new partnership

The Pier 40 Partnership is offering a new approach to maintaining and redeveloping Pier 40, the W. Houston St. pier that is of critical importance to the community.

Reflecting the reality of today’s Village, Tribeca and Chelsea, this new group’s 20 core members include very wealthy individuals in finance and dot.coms. Their children go to local schools — public and private — and play baseball and soccer on Pier 40.

Like most of their neighbors, the Partnership parents vehemently oppose The Related Companies’ $626 million proposal to redevelop the 14-acre Hudson pier into a Downtown entertainment destination, with Cirque du Soleil, swank restaurants and more. They can’t fathom the traffic this plan would bring to the neighborhood and park — an estimated 7,400 visitors per day, 2.7 million per year. Even the Hudson River Park Trust and Related acknowledge that there are problems with the traffic plan.

The Trust’s impetus in requesting private developers’ proposals for the pier is to have the developer fund the pier’s repair and ongoing maintenance. The Trust says the pier needs more than $20 million in work in the next three years. Related has offered to invest $35 million into Pier 40 — some of it for repairs but also to add reinforcement to support all the structures it would add to the pier.

Whether Related would even pay any more rent to the Trust than what the pier’s current parking operation generates — $5 million to $6 million annually — is unclear.

The Partnership would fund the pier’s renovation, too. They say they can raise $30 million. We hear they already have commitments of $12 million. If financial support at this level were indeed obtained for pier repair, it could change the Pier 40 equation and allow other more community-supported solutions to emerge.

These concerned parents want to protect the environment for their children that has evolved in the last few years at Pier 40 since the interim courtyard sports field was built. They don’t want the field moved to the roof, thousands of tourists or Las Vegas-style attractions.

The Trust should seriously investigate this opportunity — now — while these folks still have kids batting and booting balls on the pier.

Perhaps Deputy Mayor Doctoroff, the Trust board’s vice chairperson — with a history of financial dealings with Related C.E.O. Steve Ross — supports Related’s plan, but the community resoundingly does not. The Trust’s new chairperson, Diana Taylor, exudes a new openness, so we’re hopeful that community-minded solutions, like the Partnership’s, will be taken seriously. She said she will consider all options before making a decision.

But Taylor also told us it is a “big if” whether the Partnership can raise the money it claims it can and she is concerned about putting Pier 40 in jeopardy. A little skepticism about the Partnership’s fundraising capabilities is prudent, but the park’s long-term prospects would be in greater risk if the Trust pushed through a plan that is opposed by thousands of its users.

Private citizens mobilized to save a treasured community asset, the Partnership offers an intriguing alternative to the Pier 40 massive-development dilemma.





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