The September 17, 2012 edition of The New York Times includes an editorial calling on state legislators to work together to save Pier 40 and Hudson River Park as a whole.
Referring to Pier 40 as “one of the largest sources of Park revenue” that is now in danger of “being claimed by the river,” the editorial endorses legislative changes to the Hudson River Park Act to expand allowable uses for Pier 40 and extend lease terms beyond 30 years.
Though there are several solutions on the table, the editorial continues, “…the worst alterative would be to do nothing.”
A Pier to Pay for a Park
Published: September 17, 2012
New Yorkers cherish their access to the piers and green spaces that make up the Hudson River Park, which stretches from Pier 99 near 59th St. to Battery Place. Established by state law in 1998, the park gives urbanites a chance to stroll along one the nation’s great rivers.
The park was initially underwritten by the city and state with the understanding that, in time, there would be enough commercial development to help pay for its upkeep. The problem now is that one of the largest sources of revenue — Pier 40, which has a huge parking garage that has generated about one-third of the park’s maintenance budget — is crumbling.
Bits of the roof are falling, stairs are rusting, pilings are decaying and the Hudson River Park Trust, which runs the park, is closing unsafe areas — including one of three playing fields. City, state and park leaders will have to figure out a way to save this pier from being claimed by the river.
They will also have to devise new uses for the pier that will guarantee a steady stream of revenue. Under the law, half the 15-acre site must be public space or play areas and the other half commercial ventures. But the law should be liberalized to expand the kinds of development permitted on the pier and to extend the term of the leases, now limited to 30 years.
Two earlier proposals — including one for a retail complex and theater housing Cirque du Soleil — have been defeated mostly by community opposition. Park advocates and the deputy mayor for economic development, Robert Steel, believe the law should be broadened to include such possibilities as office space, a hotel or other developments.
Even if the law is changed to allow more commercial uses, any new proposal would have to address issues of height, noise, traffic, as any major development proposal would, as well as conform to the original vision of the park as a place primarily for public enjoyment. But the worst alterative would be to do nothing.
State legislators, like Assembly members Richard Gottfried and Deborah Glick, whose districts include large parts of the park, should figure out a way to save Pier 40. Without it, the park itself could be in peril.