Last night, members of Community Board 3 and local residents got their first look at master plan proposals for a large new park in the works at Pier 42. Two options outlined by Signe Nielsen of Mathews Nielsen, an architectural firm hired by the city, would transform the eight acre parcel into a multi-use expanse featuring grassy lounging areas, recreational sports facilities, a mini-eco-park and kids’ play areas.
The city intends to build the new green space in phases. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. has provided $16 million in funding out of $60 million the entire project is expected to cost. Last night, Nielsen emphasized that the dock and pilings on which a large abandoned shed sits is in “very poor condition” and will need to be completely rebuilt. She described two proposals — one in which the entire deck is reconstructed — and another in which it’s only partially rebuilt.
The “partial deck concept” was favored by most, but not all, members of CB3’s parks committee last night. In this plan, sections of the deck would be removed but a modified version of the shed would be retained, creating a partially protected environment for, perhaps, film screenings in warm weather months and an ice rink in the winter. There would be three lawn areas, a plaza at the entrance to the park on Montgomery Street, a kayaking area, playground, marsh along the river and a promenade. A water play area would be built into the hillside, there would be landscaping creating a buffer between the park and FDR Drive, bike paths would run along the exterior of the park and closer to the water and there would be a small concession on the north end.
In the “full deck option,” many of the same features would be included but the shed would be torn down and the pier would be completely rebuilt. Rather than three smaller grassy areas, there would be one large lawn in the middle of the park, as well as a beach area next to the playground. The marsh site in both plans would include an eco-study area and a small natural habitat, allowing park visitors to “interact with the river.” A boardwalk would lead to East River Park, just to the north of Pier 42. There would be some docking available for historic vessels but the city does not anticipate establishing ferry service in the area.
Completely reconstructing the deck would obviously be costly. Lawrence Mauro, a Parks Department official, pointed out that the “partial deck” alternative would enable designers to spend more money on facilities and programs rather than on infrastructure and engineering.
A couple of residents raised concerns about safety at the park entrance. Mauro indicated his agency is working with the Department of Transportation but that new traffic signals and other pedestrian and bike safety measures would not be considered until the park is operational, and engineers have the chance to evaluate traffic patterns. There were also questions about funding for maintenance. Mauro said the Parks Department expects new allocations from the city to pay for upkeep of the new facility. Residents asked about protecting the park from future hurricanes and rising waters. Nielsen said her firm has studied the impacts from Hurricane Sandy and is taking into account what kinds of foliage survived the storm. Mauro added that parks along the East River were actually very resilient. There were few lasting impacts due to Sandy, he said.
Designers are now figuring out just how much can be done with $14 million; $3 million has already been spent on the planning phase of the project. Mathews Nielsen will return to the community board in July with more detailed plans. The Parks Department hopes to take the proposal to the Public design Commission in August.
Last weekend, a section of Pier 42 was opened for interim use. You can read more about that here.