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City is “Closing Out” Contract With Pier 35 Construction Firm; Screen Wall Woes Continue

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Pier 35 rendering, 2009.
Pier 35 rendering, 2009. SHoP Architects.

We have more today on the long-delayed effort to create a new recreational area at Pier 35, near Rutgers Slip. Last week, representatives of the NYC Economic Development Corp. (EDC) went before Community Board 3’s parks committee to offer a status report. Pier 35 is part of the East River Esplanade project, which the EDC is overseeing.

At the meeting, EDC Vice President Lusheena Warner said the city has now pushed back the completion of Pier 35 until early 2017. The Lo-Down was told last summer that the delays were due to problems creating a dramatic “screen wall” intended to shield the waterfront park from a sanitation facility to the immediate north. Back then, the EDC anticipated a spring of 2016 opening. The screen wall is still a problem. The city has now made the decision to end its contract with Trocom Construction, the project manager, and to issue a new Request for Proposals (RFP). Here’s how Warner explained the situation last Thursday night:

At the completion of Package 3 (the portion of the Esplanade project from Pike Slip to Pier 35), we’re actually going to be closing out our contract with our current contractor. I think we’ve spoken to you before about Pier 35. It has that really elaborate screen wall. So we want to make sure the contractor we’re working with is equipped with the skills to really deliver the project… We’re going to issue an RFP in the coming months – in the next one to two months I would say… That will be to bring a new construction manager on board to oversee the construction of Pier 35 and also Package 4 (the portion of the esplanade from Catherine Slip to Pike Slip). We really want to deliver this beautiful open space for you guys.

esplanade map

Pier 35, March 2015.
Pier 35, March 2015.

In followup inquiries to the EDC’s press office, we attempted – not very successfully – to learn more information. It’s still not very clear to us why replication of the screen wall has proved so challenging. A spokesperson said that a new contractor would have been brought on board to complete Package 4 in any case. While acknowledging that the city’s decision to find a new construction manager for Pier 35 was related to the screen wall difficulties, the spokesperson would not elaborate, saying only that it’s a complex and specialized project. The original Trocom contract was worth $25 million but, we were told, the company will only be paid for the portion of the job it completes. The city is not in litigation with Trocom.

The screen wall is not the only issue delaying Pier 35. The esplanade revamp includes the upgrade of a water main running along the East River. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) wants the new pipe embedded in the street, as opposed to the park. After the bids went out for the project, officials said, DEP decided it also wanted a new kind of steel piping installed. Warner explained, “We have been in conversations with DEP on the design of the water main. Those conversations are not finalized as of yet, so in order for us to move forward and start the construction on that we really have to get DEP sign off.”

The good news? EDC officials said Package 3 is nearly done. Just a few elements, including some irrigation equipment and a bridge to Pier 35 await completion as the weather improves.

The city announced plans for Pier 35 in 2009, saying it would be a “destination pier with landscaped open space and an innovative ecohabitat restoration project called the EcoPark.” A 1,000 foot recreational area directly south of the pier – featuring exercise equipment, plantings and seating – opened last spring. As reported yesterday, local residents have complained that the new area has been taken over and damaged by skateboarders.

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