$38 million worth of green for Tribeca park


By Josh Rogers

It’s been mostly quiet on the western waterfront lately, but Hudson River Park Trust officials hope to resume construction on the park’s Tribeca section in a month.

Connie Fishman, the Trust’s president, said last week that construction should begin soon on the riverside area between Pier 40 at Houston St. and Laight St. The state-city authority’s board agreed at its Jan. 25 meeting and awarded $38 million worth of contracts to Weeks Marine Inc. and Padilla Construction to rebuild Pier 26 and build the upland park area between the bikeway-walkway and the beginning of the piers.

The upland area, which will be plush with grass, flowers and bushes according to renderings, could be finished by the middle of 2009. Weeks began rebuilding Pier 25 last year but work was limited. It took awhile for the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development to approve $70 million of Lower Manhattan Development Corp. money for the Tribeca section. After last summer’s Queens blackout, Con Edison halted the park work for several weeks to ensure its underwater equipment near the piers was protected.

The park’s water construction can only be done between May and October. Fishman said work rebuilding the piers should begin in the spring and they could be ready to reopen at the end of 2009.

The Trust needs an additional $20 million to build the Tribeca section and Fishman told Trust board members that none of it had been secured yet. “I might be able to tell you that April 1,” she said in reference to the deadline for approving the state budget.

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Fishman said the Trust was reviewing all car entry points to the park with cycling groups in response to the Dec. 1 tragedy in which police say a drunken man drove his car on the bike path for over a mile before killing a cyclist near Pier 40. The Trust plans to make new safety recommendations.

Henry Stern, a Trust board member and the former city Parks Dept. commissioner, said the Trust should stay in contact with the district attorney’s office and act as an advocate on behalf of the victim, Eric Ng, 22.

“It’s an outrageous crime,” Stern said.

He said when he was commissioner, two welfare workers were killed in a Bronx park while working for the city and it took the Parks Department’s monitoring of the case to ensure the prosecution was pursued vigorously.

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Fishman said work building park space in Battery Park City would begin in the spring near West St. between the World Financial Center and W. Thames St. Parts of the path will be closed during construction, but bikers and joggers will be able to use the adjacent service road as a detour.

The Battery Park City Authority will manage the field and active recreation in this section of the park and the Trust will be responsible for the passive park space.

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The board meeting was the first for Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s first appointment to the Trust, Carol Ash, the state’s new parks commissioner. She recalled her advocacy work in 1998 on the Hudson River Park legislation, co-written by Franz Leichter, a former state senator and current Trust board member.

“I remember the early days when Franz’s office was grand central to getting the legislation through,” Ash said.

“You should know he’s been taking credit ever since,” joked Trip Dorkey, the Trust’s chairperson before adding, “and well he should.”

Ash remained quiet for the rest of the meeting.

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Lawrence Goldberg, a Trust board member, asked Fishman where things were with his idea to extend city bus routes west to the park. Fishman said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s bureaucracy moves very slowly, but in the past, she has worked well with Lee Sander, the M.T.A.’s new chairperson, and that might open things up to consider route changes.

Seeing a half-full glass, Goldberg said it sounded like he would be hearing something soon.

“You’ll hear,” Fishman said, “but you’ll be a little grayer.”