State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver released a press statement a short time ago calling on the city to dedicate revenues from Pier 36 to the “maintenance and upkeep of the East River Esplanade.” A private company, Basketball City, has leased a portion of the pier (located near Montgomery Street), but due to construction delays has not yet opened its new facility. The statement from Silver’s office said:
For too long, this waterfront has suffered from a lack of attention and is just now beginning to realize its true potential. In a letter to the city’s Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky, Silver, along with Community Board 3 and other local officials, asked that the lease payments from Basketball City be set aside for the maintenance of the Esplanade. “My neighbors on the Lower East Side deserve the same excellent waterfront parks that have been built elsewhere in the city,” Assemblyman Silver said. “By dedicating the revenue from Basketball City to the upkeep of the Esplanade, we can make sure that the East River waterfront becomes a premier destination and a world-class park for a neighborhood in dire need of new open space.”
Controversy has swirled around Pier 36 for more than 20 years. In the early 90’s Silver successfully sued the city, assuring that the pier would be “permanently dedicated for use by the community as a community recreation facility.” In the last couple of years, several community groups have criticized the decision to award the Pier 36 contract to a private firm, fearing Basketball City would fuel gentrification along the waterfront. In June, the city announced it intended to use another section of the waterfront, Pier 42, for parking. At one point, they had intended to build n urban beach on the pier, but those plans have been temporarily abandoned due to a lack of funding.
Under the terms of the lease, the news release noted, ‘the more revenue generated by Basketball City, the larger the payments to the city. “The more successful Basketball City is, the brighter the future for the East River Park Esplanade as a whole,” Silver said.’ Presumably, these funds could only be used for maintenance, not to build new facilities along the East River.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said it is high time for the city to pay more attention to te East Side. “When (they weren’t) ignoring the waterfront altogether, (they were) asking Lower East Side residents to shoulder more than their fair share of public infrastructure… Let’s not go backward. The East River Esplanade needs a stable, dedicated source of revenue and lease payments from Basketball City provide an opportunity to secure long-term funding.”
State Senator Daniel Squadron added,“there’s no doubt that revenue from Basketball City must go back to the community and help complete and maintain the East River waterfront. The revenue will provide much-needed funding to a community that is often left behind and allow the Lower East Side to be a part of the development of a 21st century world-class Harbor Park.”
Council Member Margaret Chin said. “the city has spent a great deal of taxpayer money to improve the East River waterfront, and now it is a wonderful community resource. Keeping the revenues generated from that resource here, to cover the ongoing costs of maintenance, will be an excellent way to continue this community benefit, and to ensure that Basketball City plays a role in supporting this neighborhood.”