City announces makeover plans for Pier 42

BY ALINE REYNOLDS  |  As the crumbling East River waterfront continues to receive a makeover, one particular portion is in for a significant overhaul thanks to a government grant approved last month.

The city’s wish to revamp Pier 42, located between Gouverneur and Jackson Streets, didn’t seem plausible in 2010, when officials announced that the funds to launch the project simply weren’t available. But just last month, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation approved $14 million for the pier’s redevelopment.

“The good news is that’s enough to really get started in a big way,” said NY State Senator Daniel Squadron, who along with US Senator Chuck Schumer helped to secure this financial sum. “The bad news is, we’ve gotta get started and make it so great that we can pull in the rest of the dollars we need to do a full build-out of Pier 42.”

The project will entail demolishing an abandoned shed to pave way for a community-friendly waterfront amenity, the specifics of which have yet to be determined, according to Lawrence Mauro, program manager of the city Parks Departments’ Lower Manhattan projects. Mauro, along with Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro and project manager Douglas Nash, appeared before Community Board 3 last Wednesday, Feb. 22 to give an overview of the scope of the project. In the spring, the Parks Department will hire a design consultant to brainstorm ideas with the community and help see the plans to fruition.

“This pier shed sits right at the fulcrum of a turn in the river that basically blocks the entire view south,” said Mauro. “This really will have a transformative effect on connecting each one of these different [East River waterfront] projects to all come together here.”

A main goal of the Pier 42 project, Mauro explained, is to provide better access to the waterfront at Montgomery Street – something several neighborhood residents in attendance complained about.

More generally, the residents stressed the need for continued community input at the process moves forward.

“It won’t work unless everybody really participates,” said C.B. 3 District Manager Susan Stetzer.

Removing the shed and thereby enhancing visibility of the waterfront is an “exciting idea,” Stetzer added. “I know people want to propose programming, which I think is another great idea,” she said. “Hiring and creating jobs for our community is very important.”

While most community members weren’t set on a specific plan, some were, such as Smith Houses Resident Association President Aixa Torres.

“I want an Olympic-sized pool,” said Torres, an amenity she said the Lower East Side community is sorely lacking. “I’m diabetic – need to go to a pool, and I haven’t been going.”

Castro encouraged more specific input from the community. “We want this process to start with you,” he said.

The project is slated for completion at 2016, but Parks Department officials are shooting for an earlier completion date.

“Everyone is promising to help us drive this at a quicker pace than our normal, realistic city procurement and design timeframe is,” said Mauro. “We try not to over-promise, but we are aggressive.”

The Parks Department will appear again before C.B. 3 in April to solicit further feedback on the plan.