Published: October 1, 2012
Publication: WestView News
By Arthur Z. Schwartz
First the good news (no matter what George says on page 1): Pier 40 will not be closed,
and large sections will be open for business for the next five years. I repeat. The “immediate collapse” of the Pier has been averted. The Trust has already contracted to spend $9 million this year, and voted last week to spend another $3.6 million to do a fix which will last five years.
This “fix” will shore up the roof, stop debris from falling, and fix one elevator and one
staircase. It is not the permanent fix the roof needs, nor will pile deterioration be addressed, but it will end talk, for now, of a shutdown.
Yes, the New York Times got it wrong.
This solution is a tribute to efforts by Trust President Madelyn Wils to tone down the
rhetoric of crisis surrounding the solutions which MUST be found.
So how do we find a solution that will do the trick and be accepted by a majority of our
community? (Nothing will ever be accepted by everyone!) Two approaches are being taken, one thoughtful and designed to build consensus, and the other built on some “moral” principle which eschews consensus building.
The first is the effect by the Greenwich Village Little League and the Downtown United
Soccer Club and other sports groups to have lots of people work together, through an interactive website called Pier 40 Champions, to design a future for Pier 40 which gives a 50-year fix rather than a 5-year fix. This effort has four principles: (1) to bring in $10 million per year revenue to Hudson River Park, (2) to preserve the greatest percentage of open space, especially recreational space on the pier, (3) to find a solution which impacts the bike path and the surrounding park as little as possible, and (4) to create a means by which the Pier can be stabilized for the long term – which means a repair for the piles and the rest of whatever base structure remains. No option is rejected out of hand, including residential housing. A $200,000 study generated by the same leagues indicated that residential construction is the best alternative, but the groups have now opened the process to our creative, opinionated community and hired an architect to come up
with designs based on public input.
Their goal, in the end, is to come up with a Pier Plan which is adopted by the Trust,
permitted by law (laws which may need to be amended) and which developers then bid to create. No wide-open alternatives: a park plan which stakeholders (and the leagues are the biggest stakeholders in our community) agree on and which a developer would have to adhere to.
Then there is what I’ll call the “Occupy” approach. Assembly Member Glick has taken a
moral stand against residential development on Pier 40. The Assembly Member – who voted “No” on the Hudson River Park Act legislation, which created the Park – is now saying “No” to the most promising solution, without offering any alternatives. And she is willing to go it alone. Here is what she said in her most recent newsletter:
“While I’m willing to fight this battle on my own, I need support
of the community. If you would like to join my effort to keep the
Park free of luxury housing then please contact my office.”
So far, the Assembly Member’s crusade has gathered the same tired souls who opposed
building the Park in the first place. At public hearings about the Park’s future, we have seen people who were last seen opposing the Park plan at hearings over the Park’s Environmental Impact Statement. They helped delay the Park’s construction for years, but did not succeed.
The image the Assembly Member’s announcement brings to mind is the pitching of tents
in the middle of Pier 40. Occupy Pier 40! Stop housing! Alternative solutions? “Not
necessary.” Community support? “We know best, the community will eventually see our
wisdom. We are changing the conversation.” The children and adults who want to play here? “We are saving them from the future residents who will oppose ballgames on the ballfields and shut down night baseball and soccer. It’s now or later.”
It is sad when an elected representative threatens to go it alone, no matter where the
community majority stands. If she were fighting the death penalty or voter suppression, I would say “right on.” But housing on the waterfront? From the Assembly Member for the northern end of Battery Park City, where a beautiful park and housing mesh very well? Going it alone – or with a small group of diehard adherents – may have inspired the world last fall. I don’t think it will do the same at Pier 40. But an Assembly Member who won’t budge could stand in the way of a solution. Or the community may just have to figure out how to rebuild Pier 40 around her tent – just like we did in 1998, when the Hudson River Park Act was adopted.
Arthur Schwartz is the male State Democratic Committee Member for Greenwich Village, SoHo, and Tribeca. He is Chair of the Hudson River Park Advisory Council and Co-Chair of the Community Board 2 Parks and Waterfront Committee. The views he expresses are his own.