This morning, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. is expected to vote in favor of allocating $14 million for the creation of a new park at Pier 42, just north of Montgomery Street. The news broke Thursday night and was confirmed in a Friday afternoon news conference by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and State Senator Daniel Squadron.
The money will be used to demolish a 600 foot dilapidated shed and to stabilize the pier. The total price tag for the park is expected to exceed $40 million. Standing on the pier, Schumer said the rest of the money “could potentially come from additional LMDC financing if it becomes available, or from the city.” Squadron added that he hopes the shed will have been knocked down by “this time next year.” He suggested a park could be a reality in about five years.
Several years ago, the city detailed plans to build an urban beach and boat launch on Pier 42. But citing a lack of money, officials put the proposal on hold last year and began using the area for parking and storage. Schumer, Squadron and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said Community Board 3 will be tasked with coming up with a new concept, one that meets the current needs of the neighborhood. “It should be a bottom up, not a top down process,” Schumer asserted.
They also emphasized the broader significance of moving forward with the project. Sandwiched between East River Park and Piers 35 and 36 (which are also being refurbished), the Pier 42 face lift would create a continuous green-belt around all of Lower Manhattan.
Two years ago, a coalition representing low and middle income tenants living along the East River called on the city to find money for Pier 42. Just last month, CB3 passed a resolution making funding for the pier its top budget priority. Friday activists representing most of these groups came together to celebrate a big victory for the neighborhood. Also present: City Councilmember Margaret Chin and Judy Rapfogel, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s chief of staff.
As the elected officials and community activists spoke, they looked out on Basketball City, a privately run facility that is being built inside Pier 36. The waterfront coalition has never been enthused about the project, because they say it’s not a true “community recreation facility” serving the residents who live on the Lower East Side. The new Pier 42 planning process offers an opportunity to move on from the Basketball City battle.
Anne Frederick of the Hester Street Collaborative (a coalition member) was enthusiastic about the funding announcement. In the past, her organization has helped lead neighborhood “visioning” workshops to create new public spaces (in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Luther Gulick Park and the Allen Street pedestrian malls). She’s hoping to stage some events on the pier in the near future to get people in the community thinking about the possibilities. Frederick mentioned the possibility of art installations. This past summer, Hester Street went on tour with “Waterfront on Wheels,” an interactive visioning tool.
In a statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “the closer you get to finishing a puzzle, the more every last piece you put in place matters. I want to thank Chuck and Dan and everyone else whose work has been so crucial in directing these dollars to help complete the East River Waterfront Park and the transformation of Pier 42. “