Volume 20, Number 37 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Feb. 8 - 14 , 2008

Pier A lines will not be liberating, say some B.P.C. residents

Pier A is being floated again as a launching point for ferries to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, but Battery Park City residents are afraid tourists will dominate the area.

At Tuesday’s Community Board 1 B.P.C. Committee meeting, Tom Goodkind said he wanted the space to be more than just a holding pen for tourists waiting to get on the ferries.

“I would like to see amenities,” he said. The Battery Park City Authority, which just received rights from the city to develop the pier, has two options, Goodkind said. The authority could tailor it to tourists or use it to promote a 24/7 community — and Goodkind was clear about which option he wanted.

Linda Belfer, chairperson of the committee, agreed. “I foresee crowds overwhelming that space,” she said of Pier A as a ferry hub.

The board’s concerns arose after Leticia Remauro, spokesperson for the authority, described a potential plan for the pier. Remauro envisioned tourists buying ferry tickets on Pier A in a building that would also house security clearance, a newsstand, a restaurant and a souvenir shop. But she emphasized that the authority has not made any decisions.

Before creating a plan, the authority is meeting with the potential tenants who had been in conversation with Wings Point Development Corporation, which leased the landmark pier in 1997 but made little progress and turned it back to the city. Meanwhile, divers are checking the safety of the pier’s structure and determining how much weight it can bear. The authority also issued requests for proposals for an architect and a retail consultant.

The authority will complete its plan for the site later this year, and then it will take an additional three years to finish the project, Remauro said.

The Battery Conservancy has long advocated moving the tourist ferry lines, which require cumbersome security, out of Battery Park’s sight lines to the harbor.

The security structures in Battery Park “obstruct the great views and sense of movement along the historic waterfront,” said Warrie Price, president of the conservancy, in a phone interview. “They are a barrier to true enjoyment.”

At the meeting, Remauro reassured the board that the crowds in Battery Park would not be as severe on Pier A because Statue Cruises, which runs the ferries, is changing its ticketing procedure. Statue Cruises, a division of Hornblower Cruises and Events — a California-based company that also runs boats to Alcatraz Island — took over the Liberty Island routes in July, displacing longtime ferry operator Circle Line.

Statue Cruises uses online ticketing and has other plans to reduce waiting times. Rather than forcing ferry riders to line up hours in advance of their departure time, Statue offers tickets for specific ferries, enabling riders to leave the pier and roam around Downtown, returning to the pier in time for their departure. This will significantly reduce the crowds and also benefit local museums and businesses, Remauro said.

The board remained unconvinced.

“I just don’t see the Battery Park City Authority assisting with tourism,” Goodkind told Remauro.

At its March meeting, the committee will discuss what it wants to see at the pier.

— Julie Shapiro

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