Hudson Park Trust nears decision on Pier 57
By Albert Amateau
The advisory council of the Hudson River Park Trust recommended this week that the development of Pier 57 be awarded to Leonardo at Pier 57, a partnership of the Cipriani restaurant group and The Witkoff Organization.
The committee report to the Dec. 2 Hudson River Park Trust directors meeting followed the recommendation of the Pier 57 Working Group established by the Trust to help the advisory council choose between the rival proposals by the Leonardo group and Chelsea Piers.
The degree to which [the Witkoff-Cipriani team] has exhibited his willingness to work with and respond to community concerns has impressed the council, said Judy Duffy, president of the council and assistant district manager of Community Board 1.
Chelsea Piers, which operates the sports and entertainment complex on Piers 59, 60, 61 and 62 just north of the 300,000-sq.-ft Pier 57 at15th St., went on the offensive earlier in the year by commissioning Sam Schwartz, a traffic consultant and former Department of Transportation official, to study the Witkoff-Cipriani proposals traffic implications.
Schwartz, who writes the Gridlock Sam column for the Daily News, found that the Leonardo project would cause unprecedented congestion on the West Side Highway, have a negative impact on the Hudson River Park bikeway and walkway and make it harder to get in and out of the sports and entertainment complex, which Chelsea Piers been operating for the past 11 years.
In response, the Witkoff-Cipriani group hired Philip Habib, a traffic consultant who has done studies for several major government and private projects, to counter the Schwartz report.
Habib declared that Schwartzs conclusions were based on grossly exaggerated assumptions about the number of people who could attend the Leonardo banquet-and-event space at the same time, misunderstanding of the Witkoff-Cipriani parking plans and failure to consider revisions that Witkoff has submitted to the Trust.
Nevertheless, the council acknowledged that the Witkoff-Cipriani plan posed traffic concerns associated with a proposed 100,000 sq. ft. banquet and event space, the largest such space in the city.
Duffy said the council was concerned about a large paved area in front of the pier where traffic in and out of the event space could interrupt the park walkway and bikeway.
But Duffy added that the council commended the Witkoff-Cipriani team for improving its proposal after consultation with the Trust staff and the working group composed of elected officials and waterfront advocates. The proposed inclusion of Pier 63 Maritime, a public dock now on the north side of Pier 63 on the Chelsea waterfront, in the Witkoff-Cipriani plan was an important revision, Duffy said.
The council was also impressed with the Witkoff provision of a large basin for historic ships, a floating swimming pool just south of Pier 57 and expanded public space on the pier.
Connie Fishman, president of the Trust the state-city agency planning and building the five-mile riverfront park between Chambers and 59th Sts. said the Trust staff is not yet ready to decide which of the two rivals should redevelop Pier 57. But a decision is expected early next year.
Fishman told the Trust directors that a draft report by a marketing consultant, BAE [Bay Area Economic], on the future of Pier 40, is nearly complete. It just lacks three or four interviews and when its complete, well send it out to the directors and the community for review, she said.
Meanwhile, completion of the Pier 40 turf courtyard and rooftop fields and promenade is expected this winter, Fishman said.