Show the images!
We were glad to see Madelyn Wils at Community Board 2’s Waterfront Committee meeting Monday night, presenting the results of the recent consultants’ study on Pier 40.
Wils, the Hudson River Park Trust’s president, laid out the basic facts of the study, as we have already reported them in this newspaper — namely, that of various development scenarios analyzed, it turns out that about 600 market-rate rental apartments and a modest-sized, 150-room hotel — a so-called “boutique hotel” — offer the best combination, at least in terms of high revenue for and low impact on the pier and park.
Again, as we’ve previously stated, it’s incumbent on the Trust to show transparency. The Pier 40 study was commissioned and funded by P3 and Downtown youth sports leagues that use Pier 40, including G.V.L.L., DUSC and Gotham Girls FC — but so far the study has remained “confidential.” Few have seen it other than the Strategic Task Force members who are brainstorming on ways to improve the park’s finances.
It was a good step for Wils to make the presentation — to lay out the self-financed park’s dire economic straits and make the case for why new ideas for Pier 40 should be explored — ideas like residential and hotel use, which currently aren’t allowed under the Hudson River Park Act.
However, we were a bit surprised that the Trust president didn’t show the “massing studies” that accompanied the report; these rudimentary designs showed “concepts” of how several 15-story residential towers or even one 30-story hotel tower could be situated on the pier. We’re told by Arthur Schwartz, the Waterfront Committee’s chairperson, that Wils told him she was concerned the images could be easily “manipulated” were they shown publicly.
In an official statement, a Trust spokesperson said there was a lot of ground to cover, in terms of explaining the study and the park’s situation, and that they didn’t want to “overwhelm” people by showing the massing studies.
But we think the Trust definitely should present these images at the large meeting planned on Thurs., May 31, at St. Paul’s Chapel, 209 Broadway (between Fulton and Vesey Sts.), starting at 7 p.m. This meeting will include a report on the state of the park’s finances, an overview of the Pier 40 study, and a discussion of possible legislative changes — we hear 14 are being contemplated — affecting Hudson River Park.
In fact, the images show how the West Houston St. pier can be “opened up” by removing the unsightly “doughnut” pier shed that rings it. By placing, for example, towers on the pier’s northern edge, 80 percent of the pier’s footprint can be opened up for use as playing fields. Where there are now no “view corridors” to the water, there would be under this scenario. The images clearly and effectively depict this.
If the park’s legislation is to be changed, the process certainly needs to be transparent. Let people see what the results could be.
The question is how many people will turn out at next Thursday’s meeting? There were only about 20 at Monday’s C.B. 2 Waterfront Committee meeting. When the Trust tried to redevelop the pier a few years ago, it was the local youth sports leagues that led the opposition to The Related Companies’ “Vegas on the Hudson” entertainment complex. Right now, the youth leagues are taking a “wait-and-see approach” toward the latest study.
Pier 40 needs $100 million worth of work to repair and stabilize it. Not only are its playing fields extremely heavily used, but the revenue the pier provides to Hudson River Park from its parking operation is critical to the park’s well-being.
We all have a stake in — and concern about — this pier’s future. The only way this process will fly is if the community and Trust are on the same page. The only way that will happen is if the community is allowed more into the process. Show the images.