Photo via @TwoBridgesTower Twitter.
The New York Times called it, “yet another symbol of reckless socializing during the pandemic.” Last Saturday night, August 1, a party boat known as “The Liberty Belle” departed Pier 36 on the Lower East Side in violation of city and state COVID-19 regulations. Alerted by a local tenant leader, authorities arrested two promoters when the boat came back ashore, and issued a summons to the captain.
At around 8:20 p.m., Trever Holland of the Two Bridges Tower resident association tweeted, “So a packed Liberty Belle party boat just departed from Pier 36 on the LES waterfront with no apparent social distancing or mask requirement. Who has jurisdiction over these floating nightclubs?” He tagged local elected officials and the 7th Precinct.
According to New York’s Sheriff’s Office, about 170 people were on board. Officers took two promoters, Ronny Vargas and Alex Suazo, into custody, accusing them of violating city and state social distancing orders as well as operating an illegal bar on board.
There’s an undated notice on the website of Empire Cruises, which operates The Liberty belle, which reads, “Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the Emergency Executive Order by the City of New York, as of March 16, 2020, we have been forced to cease our operations until further notice.” The company has not commented publicly about the August 1 incident. Gothamist reported that the boat allegedly did not have a permit to serve alcohol. Deputy sheriffs all of the alcohol on board. The captain was cited for failing to display a proper id number for the vessel.
The Saturday night episode was widely reported and caught the attention of Governor Cuomo, who said “How a charter boat could put together a crowd on deck and leave. It’s disrespectful, it’s illegal, it not only violates public health, it violates common decency.”
Abuses at Pier 36 are nothing new. Back in 2017, we reported about this issue when residents went to Community Board 3 to complain about rowdy party boats using the pier behind Basketball City.
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.
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.”
Three weeks ago, we reported that the marina at Pier 36 had been shut down after a routine inspection detected some stability issues. The situation is now causing Pier 36/Basketball City to cancel large-scale events.
The organizers of the New York Bike Expo announced yesterday that they had been forced to move the huge May 4-5 event to Pier 12 in Brooklyn. “Due to unexpected maintenance at Pier 36,” a press release read, “we were unable to obtain a permit to hold the event at Basketball City, where (it)… has taken place for six years.” Every year, the Bike Expo attracts 60,000 visitors.
When we stopped by the pier the other day, a gate leading to the marina remained padlocked. Several notices posted on the fence from tour boat operators indicated that they’d moved to other piers.
Basketball City runs a 70,000 square foot events center at Pier 36, while BillyBey operates the marina. The entire facility is overseen by the city’s Economic Development Corp. (EDC). A city spokesperson previously indicated that the inspection had turned up damage to the piles supporting the pier apron. Today the spokesperson reiterated what we were told March 28, that there’s “a load restriction on Pier 36.”
We are still awaiting answers to other questions today. It’s unclear whether all Pier 36 events have been canceled, or only events using the outer walkway alongside the East River. The Nike GO NYC 5K is supposed to end up with a big private party at Pier 36 this coming Sunday. It remains to be seen whether it will end up moving to another facility.
Crews working on the long-delayed park at Pier 35 have typically used the outer deck of Pier 36 to move trucks and heavy equipment into place. They’re now accessing the pier directly from South Street. The pier stability issue could potentially lead to even more delays.
The upside? Locals regularly complain about the tour boat activity and the large crowds descending on Basketball City for events. At the moment, they have a reprieve. On the other hand, Lower East Siders know what can happen when there are East River pier stability problems. Remember the 10-year closure of portions of East River Park?
The marina at Pier 36 has been temporarily shut down after a recent inspection.
As you may know, a private company, BillBey, has a contract for docking services at the pier. Tour boats use the area in back of Basketball City (near Montgomery Street), mostly in warmer months.
During a routine inspection, contractors noticed damage to the piles that support the pier apron (that’s the area on the outer edge of the pier). The city’s Economic Development Corp., which oversees Pier 36, instructed BillyBey to stop operations until a more detailed examination can take place. An EDC spokesperson says a “live load restriction” was placed on the apron. A full engineering report will be available in a few days.
When we visited the site yesterday, a metal gate leading to the East River was locked. The situation is not impacting Basketball City, which is continuing to schedule events.
The partial closure of Pier 36 is having some impact on construction of a long-delayed park at neighboring Pier 35. There was no activity there during our visit yesterday. The EDC spokesperson said new options are being evaluated at Pier 35. The two piers have separate structures.
We’ll let you know when we learn more.
Are your kids crazy about Legos? If so, you might want to head to Pier 36 this weekend for Lego Live NYC, an extravaganza featuring those enduring building blocks.
There will be building contests, demonstrations, themed play zones (Star Wars, Minecraft, etc.) and character appearances. Pier 36/Basketball City will be filled with 4.6 million Lego bricks.
The show opens at 3 p.m. today and continues through Sunday. Tickets are not cheap ($30), and the event is expected to sell out. Pier 36 is located at the end of Montgomery Street at South Street. More details here.
Pier 36, December 2016.
During the past couple of days, we have heard from local residents who are outraged about a huge event returning to Pier 36/Basketball City this coming weekend. It’s the Satmar Hassidic sect’s annual dinner for 10,000 people. At about this time last year, the group descended on Pier 36 (at Montgomery Street). Residents complained about gridlock on South Street and and on other streets, about people parking on sidewalks and blocking fire hydrants.
On Wednesday, the 7th Precinct’s Community Affairs Office sent an advisory to people in the general area of Basketball City. This year’s dinner will take place tomorrow (Saturday) evening. According to the 7th Precinct, the organizers of the Talmudical Academy event obtained permits to close streets and to allow parking on Gouverneur and Water streets.
Residents of Gouverneur Gardens and the Vladeck Houses are fuming about the disruption. Here’s a flyer posted on the Vladeck tenant association Facebook page:
Following last year’s event, Basketball City’s mangers and representatives of the NYC Economic Development Corp. (which operates the pier) went before Community Board 3 to discuss ongoing crowd control problems at the facility. In June, the firm producing a large NBA awards show at Pier 36 went to CB3’s parks committee with a crowd management plan. But the Satmar organization did not do that. Community Board 3 only hear about the dinner this week.
December 2016 event at Basketball City.
Mark your calendar. Monday, June 26 (one week from today) will be an excellent day to stay far away from South Street. At a recent meeting of Community Board 3’s parks committee, organizers of the first-ever NBA Awards Show detailed their plans for the star-studded event at Basketball City/Pier 36. Bottom line: NYPD’s anti-terror squad will have this area of the Lower East Side on lockdown.
Not only will most of the NBA’s top stars be in attendance, but there are performances scheduled from Drake and Nicki Menaj. The show will be broadcast live on TNT.
Josh Shull from Dick Clark Productions, which is orchestrating the show, appeared at last Thursday evening’s committee meeting. He was joined by Basketball City owner Bruce Radler and representatives of the NYC Economic Development Corp., which oversees operations at the East Side pier. They tried to appease frustrated community residents, who have watched in dismay in recent years as Basketball City has transformed into a large-scale events destination.
Basketball City/Pier 36, Dec. 21. A gathering of the Satmar Hasidic organization caused major parking and traffic problems.
The organizers say that the NYPD, concerned about recent global acts of terrorism, has insisted on a “safety perimeter” around Pier 36. They will be closing the area Between Montgomery Street to Rutgers Street along the East River, subjecting all vehicles to searches. Montgomery Street below Cherry Street will also be restricted. Streets will be shut down from 5 p.m.-midnight. There will be a check point, complete with bomb sniffing dogs, at Pike Street. Pedestrians won’t be allowed to walk on South Street, not even on the north side of the block. Red carpet arrivals will take place from 6-8 p.m., with the show beginning at 9. Up to one-thousand guests are expected.
Susan Stetzer, Community Board 3’s district manager, acknowledged that Basketball City gives back to the community (Radler offers scholarships and sponsors basketball camps and makes donations to local non-profits). She added, however, that CB3 — in endorsing Basketball City’s lease at Pier 36 years ago — “never supported it to become an events center.”
One woman in the audience noted that cars have been ticketed and towed following previous events at Basketball City. “Are you going to take care of our tickets?” she asked of the Dick Clark Productions rep.
Marc Richardson, a local tenant leader, saId, “We don’t want any more street closures! You should be confining your events to your own property.” He also alluded to longstanding gripes about Basketball City’s takeover of Pier 36, even though the area had been designated as a community facility (the basketball center is not open to the general public). “You should be finding a way to bring back more to this community,” said Richardson.
In the end, event organizers promised to post signs in the neighborhood giving residents ample warning about next Monday’s event.
Photo courtesy of two Bridges Tower.
It was a chaotic scene last night at Pier 36/Basketball City, where the Satmar Hasidic sect was hosting a huge dinner. There was gridlock on the streets surrounding the large events space as the drivers of school buses, tour buses and private cars looked for parking spaces.
We’ve been hearing from residents in the area, who were not at all pleased when “no parking” signs went up in public spaces around Basketball City a couple of days ago. An email to community leaders from the 7th Precinct indicated that 10,000 people were expected and that the “city (administration) granted (the organizers) permission to put ‘no parking’ signs up on multiple streets in the area… There will be a huge police presence at the location.” The event was expected to go until 1:30 a.m.
Nancy Ortiz, tenant leader t the Vladeck Houses, has been asking questions about the event all this week. We drove around the area with her last night. Her observations to us in a text message this morning: “Building ramp entrances on Water Street were blocked, hydrants were blocked on Water and Gouverneur streets, exhaust from idling buses was wafting into apartments, car alarms were going off from 10 p.m.” Ortiz said, “It was just a mess. This is mayoral patronage, affecting the quality of life for residents and community.”
According to the “News in Satmar” twitter feed, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer was among the guests.
— News In Satmar (@NewsInSatmar) December 21, 2016
Local residents have been sending us photos. Via Facebook, Y Ay Sin, noted: “It’s a shame what’s going on at Basketball City tonight. They took up all the public parking and blocked all the sidewalks for a religious event! Montgomery Street, Water Street and Gouverneur Slip, plus no sidewalk space for anyone to walk.”
William Coloma sent along photos that showed cars parked on sidewalks and blocking fire hydrants. He complained to 311 last night but received a reply stating, “The police department responded to the complaint and with the information available observed no evidence of the violation at that time.”
UPDATE 8:50 a.m. Coloma points to the following item that popped up around midnight on the @NyCityAlerts twitter feed. An officer was struck by a vehicle.
UPDATE 4:52 p.m. According to the 7th Precinct, the driver who struck the officer was not an attendee of the Pier 36 event. He’s going to be all right. The officer, from 83rd Precinct detectives squad, hurt his hand and leg.
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NADA 2015 at Basketball City.
Once again this year, the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) is returning to Lower East Side for its spring art fair. Details were announced today for the May 5-8 event at Basketball City on Pier 36.
There are more than 100 galleries represented from around the world. But, as in past years, the neighborhood is well represented. LES galleries in the mix include: 11R, Nicelle Beauchene, Bodega, Feuer/Mesler, Jack Hanley, Hester, Invisible Exports, Lyles & King, Essex Flowers and the Abrons Arts Center.
You can find out more information on NADA’S website, and we’ll have details as the art fair approaches.
If you’ve wandered down to Pier 36 near Montgomery Street in the last few weeks, you might have seen this enormous yacht docked behind Basketball City.
Pier 36, which includes the Basketball City complex, is getting into the boating business. Not everyone is overjoyed.