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:
Once upon a time, the city envisioned creating an “urban beach and boat launch,” something like the rendering posted above, on Pier 42. Last week, however, NYC’s Economic Development Corp., detailed plans that are considerably less ambitious. David Quart, EDC vice president, told CB3 the city intended to temporarily use the pier (at the end of Montgomery Street) for public parking and to park vehicles being used for movie shoots.
A basketball tournament held on Henry Street yesterday wasn't just about the game. It was also meant to keep the pressure on Basketball City, a for-profit gym that has been awarded a long-term lease at Pier 36. Two groups, GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side) and Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, are negotiating with Basketball City for free and discounted access for the community to the facility.
The organizations fought the city's decision to award the lease to a corporation, citing a legal agreement requiring the pier to be set aside for a community recreation center. Now they're trying to make sure Basketball City is accessible to low and middle income residents in the neighborhood.
Yesterday's event (delayed one day due to the rain) was originally supposed to include a march to the pier. But Victor Papa (Two Bridges) and Damaris Reyes (GOLES) announced that, as negotiations continue, the march was being put on hold. But Reyes said they would reserve the option of "taking to the streets," if the talks stall. Basketball City has expressed an interest in working with the community. Reyes has said she's encouraged by their willingness to have discussions, but is looking for specific commitments. Here's a brief video from the tournament, held at the Henry M. Jackson Playground:
The fight over Pier 36 on the East River – raging since the Dinkins Administration – is heating up once again. This month, neighborhood organizations began new talks with Basketball City, the private company granted a 20 (plus) year lease for part of the pier. They want assurances that the community will have access to the facility, that membership fees will be discounted and that the company will hire local residents.
The organizations, including the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), fought a long battle to keep Basketball City from occupying the waterfront. Citing a 1994 agreement requiring Pier 36 to be “permanently dedicated for use by the community as a community recreation facility,” they opposed the city’s decision to go ahead with a lease to the for-profit company (a bid was first submitted in 1996). But, with support from Community Board 3, the deal went through — although promises were made that Basketball City would provide certain free and discounted services to the community.
Now, as Basketball City makes plans to refurbish a section of the pier for an opening later this year, the groups are determined to make sure they get what was promised. Two Bridges recently sent a letter to supporters saying, “…the whole affair demonstrates an egregious indifference to the youth and families of our community.” It urges residents to contact elected officials and community board members and sign an online petition. The organizations are planning an “All-LES Basketball Tournament” on August 29th at the Henry M. Jackson Playground on Henry Street. A flier for the event says, “The City is taking the People’s Land… and turning it into a huge private gym.” It continues, “All we need is two hoops, some pavement and a ball.”
But even as the groups mobilize their supporters, they have already held one meeting with Basketball City owner Bruce Radler, and more negotiations are scheduled. Contacted by The Lo-Down, Radler said he was surprised by the letter, given the fact that talks are ongoing. He emphasized that part of Basketball City’s mission is to “give back to the community” and he’s committed to honoring the promises that were made. Radler acknowledged, however, that the details still needed to be worked out.