By Julie Shapiro
Connie Fishman, president of the Hudson River Park Trust, had such good news to share with Community Board 1 that she couldn’t wait until she was at the front of the room to make her announcement.
As she stood to give a presentation on the park’s funding Monday night, Fishman grinned and said: “I’m $42 million richer than I was yesterday.”
The new state budget granted the Trust $20 million in capital funds and an additional $1 million from an environmental protection fund. The city had already promised to match at least $20 million in state money, and Fishman expects the city to kick in the additional $1 million match as well. The Trust will split the money between the Tribeca and Chelsea sections of the park, with each receiving $21 million.
“This year was a record, making up for last year,” Fishman told C.B. 1. Last year, the Trust received only $5 million from the state, delaying work.
Under the most recent schedule, the park work would have finished at the end of 2009 or the beginning of 2010, but the reduced state funding last year slowed the project, Fishman said.
“Now we can make up for the time we may have lost,” she told Downtown Express. The Trust has not yet crafted a new schedule with a revised completion date.
The funding allocation was a turnaround from last month, when then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer tied the Trust funding to the sale of land near the Javits Center.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver pushed for the park funding to be switched to the budget and got Gov. David Paterson and State Sen. Majority Leader Joe Bruno to agree.
The infusion of funds will allow the Trust to build all of Pier 25, which will include docking for historic ships, a playground and open space. The money will also cover the portion of the upland park that runs from Pier 25 south to Stuyvesant High School.
Last year after the budget was passed, C.B. 1 members were surprised to learn from the Trust that rising construction costs meant it no longer had enough money to rebuild any of the popular Pier 25 amenities.
The new state funding also means that the Trust will be able to redesign the boathouse on Pier 26. The community raised concerns about the current boathouse design, saying it would not be big enough to store full-size kayaks.
Before the Trust demolished Piers 25 and 26, the Downtown Boathouse offered free kayak rentals on Pier 26. Jim Wetteroth, founder of Downtown Boathouse, told Downtown Express last year that the Trust’s new boathouse is 30 percent smaller and 9 feet narrower than the old one and would not be able to store kayaks more than 14.5 feet long.
The budget windfall does not give the Trust all the money it needs to complete the park. Next year, the Trust will need $9 million each for the Tribeca and Chelsea sections. Fishman called the amount “modest” and expected the state and city to allocate it.
The $9 million for the Tribeca section will cover building the boathouse on Pier 26 and building the upland park from Pier 25 north to Laight St.
The original plan for Pier 26 also included a restaurant and a maritime education center, called an estuarium, but the $9 million would not cover either building, said Chris Martin, Trust spokesperson. The River Project ran an estuary education program on the old Pier 26 but the Trust would issue a request for proposals before selecting a new operator for the center.
Next year’s budget also will not include money for Pier 32, which the Trust was going to turn into a bird sanctuary or “eco-pier.” Martin added that the budget decisions are not yet final.
The Trust is completing work on the upland park from Laight St. north to Pier 40. Fishman hopes to open the esplanade and boardwalk by late June or early July this year.
The Trust finished pile-driving for Piers 25 and 26 late last year, and is now pouring concrete for the pier decks. Pier 25 is nearly complete, Fishman said. After May 1, the Trust can restart in-water work, adding fender piles to the piers.
Once Pier 26’s base is finished, it could sit idle while the Trust waits for the money next year to build the boathouse. In the past, community members have requested that the Trust temporarily open the bare-bones pier to the public, so the pier gets some use.
“We’re open to listening to the community,” Martin said. “But whether or not it’s safe remains to be seen.”