Pier 36 Repairs Could Begin Next Month; But Who’s Picking Up the Bill? (Updated)

Pier 36 aerial shot from promotional video.

Pier 36 aerial shot from promotional video.

In the past few weeks we have been trying, without much success, to find out what’s happening at Pier 36. A routine inspection triggered load restrictions on the pier, which, in turn, led to the temporary closure of Pier 36’s docking operation and the cancellation of some events at Basketball City.

The Economic Development Corp. (EDC) manages the pier at the behest of the Department of Small Business Services. Its inspectors determined that some of the piles supporting the pier have been damaged, but there hasn’t been much clarity about the extent of the damage and what it will take to make repairs. An EDC official paid a visit to Community Board 3’s parks committee meeting last week to answer questions about the situation.

Alex Gomez is an assistant vice president who leads EDC’s pier inspection program. He noted that the restrictions put in place are impacting Basketball City (2 of 7 courts are out of commission), a Department of Sanitation garage and NYPD and fire department facilities. Worries about the stability of Pier 36 also prompted the city to close the dock area, which has become a heavily used tour boat landing spot in warm weather months. The pier apron, he said, had been shut down out of concern that it couldn’t support cars and trucks.

pier 36 tour boat

Gomez said EDC would be looking, within the next month, to hire a contractor to make repairs. They hope to complete the first phase of the project by October, said Gomez, “so that (the Department of) Sanitation can have their salt trucks ready for the snow season.” The damage has likely been caused by marine borers, tiny creatures that eat away at the wooden piles that support New York City’s piers. The  degraded piles will need to be covered with some type of protective material. Gomez could not say how many piles are damaged and what repairs might cost.

He did, however, suggest that a more elaborate rehabilitation project is anticipated. Once the initial reinforcements are made, Gomez said, “Then we will start another phase (phase 2) of repairs in order to address the load restrictions at Pier 36.” CB3 District Manager Susan Stetzer asked, “What is phase 2 and what is the timetable for that? Gomez responded, “I am not privy to that information. It all depends on the funding availability for this pier.” He went on to explain that the various pier users (including Sanitation, NYPD and FDNY) would need to allocate capital funding in order for the larger rehab project to move forward.

Just to the south of Pier 36 is Pier 35, which is one day destined to become a marine park. But the project has been plagued by years of construction delays. Another EDC vice president, Morgan Jones, said crews have been able to make deliveries to Pier 35, in spite of the stability issues on the neighboring pier. He said the city anticipates completing the Pier 35 recreational area this coming fall.

We have asked EDC for a more complete explanation of the Pier 36 rehabilitation project, including cost estimates. We’ll let you know what we hear.

UPDATE 5/21 A spokesperson at the Economic Development Corp. tells The Lo-Down that phase 1 of the rehabilitation project has been awarded to Skanska, a global construction firm that has handled many different municipal projects along New York City’s waterfront. A cost estimate is not yet available. Phase 2 of the project, the spokesperson explained, is still in the “planning phase.”