Floating films, marinas and rooftop parks for pier


By Albert Amateau

West Side neighbors and waterfront activists had mostly good things to say last week about the three competing proposals for developing Pier 57 at a public forum co-sponsored by Community Board 4 and the Hudson River Park Trust.

This is the second time around for redeveloping the Hudson River pier at 15th St. The earlier proposal by the Witkoff Group/Cipriani Organization fell apart in 2007.

“We’re getting it done right this time,” Connie Fishman, president of the Trust, the state/city agency building and operating the 5-mile-long riverfront park between the Battery and 59th St., said at the Feb. 12 meeting in Chelsea.

The consensus at the forum was that the new shortlisted proposals submitted by The Durst Organization and C & K Properties, The Related Companies and Youngwoo & Associates were less grandiose than the earlier plans and were more appropriate for the park setting and the adjacent neighborhoods.

Representatives of the three developers emphasized their projects’ public space and rooftop parks. They highlighted their plans’ cultural uses, their commitments to small business and community uses and the lack of major venues that would attract more than 1,000 people at a time to an event.

“The community has done a wonderful job,” said John Stackhouse, a Chelsea resident who recalled that he used to dive off the pier as a youngster. Pam Wolfe, a member of the Chelsea Waterside Park Association, said the efforts of the Trust and the Trust’s Community Advisory Pier 57 Working Group were “impressive.”

But Marcy Benstock, director of the New York City Clean Air Campaign and a longtime critic of the Trust, denounced plans for the pier and for any building over the river.

She contended that none of the plans for Pier 57 could be financed without taxpayers’ dollars, none were “truly water dependent” and “none would survive the next big hurricane.”

Benstock, the leader 20 years ago in the successful effort to defeat the proposed $4 billion Westway landfill project along the Hudson on the grounds that it would endanger the survival of striped bass, called for opening the Chelsea pier to the sky and the sun.

“It’s not too late to save the marine environment,” Benstock said.

Pier 57, built in 1952 after the original burned in 1947, floats on three huge caissons, empty concrete boxes that have been used to park vehicles. The pier formerly served as a city bus garage and was used as a holding pen for protesters arrested during the Republican National Convention in 2004.

Pier 57 is one of the park’s few piers intended for commercial uses whose revenues will help pay for the entire park’s operation and maintenance. The Trust’s request for proposals called for “park and water enhancing uses along with public space in addition to a public walkway around the pier perimeter.”

Representatives of the three prospective developers acknowledged that the current economic troubles would complicate realization of the projects, but said they were confident in their ability to deliver.

Shops, films, fewer cars

The Youngwoo project, with the least parking space (150 cars) and the lowest estimated cost ($191 million) might be characterized as “Pier 57 Light.”

Gregory Carney, a principal partner along with architect Young Woo, the development company’s founder, said, “We wanted an authentic local New York City destination…bringing the neighborhood into the waterfront and connecting to its history. Keep it simple, but a bold design — not a mall.”

Youngwoo’s plan for the pier rooftop calls for a 2-acre, passive, public open space of about 83,000 square feet, with the Tribeca Film Festival providing programs mostly open to the public and free, with some private events and concessions.

The film festival would lease a 10,000-square-foot rooftop amphitheater and would establish a permanent outdoor venue for the festival and other cultural programs.

An entertainment/restaurant/retail area would occupy 30,000 square feet on the roof of the pier’s head house.

Youngwoo’s proposal calls for a single public “street” with a pedestrians-only entrance from 15th St., with a ramp up to the second story and two grand staircases to the rooftop.

Philips de Pury & Co., a Chelsea gallery, would conduct a Contemporary Culture Center with about 90,000 square feet, with galleries, cafes, music performance space and an art library.

On the second floor, the Youngwoo plan calls for about 150 small shops occupying shipping containers, where craftspersons could fabricate their products early in the day and sell them during the high-traffic evening hours.

An Underwater Discovery Center would occupy the western caisson of 30,000 square feet, serving as an education center or an entertainment venue or both.

The sides of the pier would have small seasonal slips for kayaks and other small craft.

Children’s Museum, performances, marina

The Durst/C & K Properties proposal, put forth by Ben Korman of C & K and the architect Stan Eckstut, has the nonprofit Project for Public Spaces as an adviser for open space, and the participation of The Children’s Museum of Manhattan, which would occupy 58,000 square feet on the two-story pier.

“We anticipate that the Children’s Museum would have a presence on all the public levels of the pier,” Korman said.

The Durst/C & K project, with an estimated $330 million budget, calls for an exterior roof garden with an amphitheater with a total of 23,000 square feet of public space. About 43,000 square feet of rooftop space would be for commercial leases.

The exterior public space at grade, including the perimeter walkway, would total 56,358 square feet. Interior public space would include markets, fairs, exhibits and performances that could take place at different times. The Durst/C & K project would have a live music-and-restaurant venue of 56,000 square feet and an events space of about 32,000 square feet.

The Durst/C & K plan calls for parking for about 200 cars in the caissons, with tunneling connecting the caissons. But Korman said the tunneling was included as a possibility and could be dropped. The single vehicle entrance would be as it is now on 15th St.

On the pier’s north side, Durst/C & K calls for a marina with slips for more than 70 small private vessels and a historic vessel. On the south side, the project envisions docking for a water taxi landing, visiting tall ships, excursion boats, fishing boats and historic vessels. Durst owns New York Water Taxi.

Boating, films, event space

The Related Companies project, put forth by Anthony Fioravanti, boasts the services of Field Operations, the landscape architect firm engaged on the High Line park project, designing a 3-acre rooftop park.

The Related Companies project, with an estimated $353 million budget, would have parking for 520 cars in the caissons, employing elevators in an automated system that would eliminate running motors in the parking area.

Among the major uses would be film theaters with a total of 63,000 square feet of space. A food marketplace covering 53,000 square feet and other retail, restaurants and cafes covering about 31,000 square feet are also in the mix. The Sundance Film Festival has expressed an interest in a role in the film theaters, and Florent Morellet, who ran Florent restaurant for many years in the Gansevoort Market, has expressed an interest in the Related Companies project, Kenneth Himmel, a Related partner, told the meeting.

Himmel emphasized Related Companies’ experience in multiuse projects, including the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle.

The Related project includes a 91-slip marina on the north and south sides of the pier for large and small vessels, including space for historic ships and a kayak launch and possibly a ferry slip. Renderings of the project show a floating dock that extends north and south at the west end of the pier and would serve to calm the waters of the north and south marinas.

Related’s rooftop park envisions about 48,000 square feet of public space, a pool deck and cafe, an 8,000-square-foot events space and a shared deck of 33,000 square feet that would have private programmed events 40 percent of the time, public programmed events 40 percent of the time and unprogrammed public use the rest of the time.

Parking was a concern at the forum last week.

“I don’t understand the need for private vehicles on the pier,” said Sam Keghlian, a lifelong Chelsea resident.

Makrand Bhoot, a Community Board 2 member, wanted assurance that any project would be environmentally sustainable. Mary Habstritt, preservation chairperson of the Roebling Chapter of the Society for Industrial Archeology, called for provisions for berthing historic ships.

A.J. Pietrantone, executive director of Friends of Hudson River Park, a community-based advocate for the riverfront park, said the Friends would not comment on the proposals at this time. Douglas Durst, co-chairperson of the Friends, is president of one of the proposed developers, and John Doswell, of the Friends’ Working Waterfront Committee, is associated with the Durst/C & K proposal. Moreover, James Capalino, a member of the Friends’ board of directors, is associated with the Related Companies’ plan.

In addition to the two-hour forum last week, the record for public comment will be open until April 14. The Trust will be meeting with its Community Advisory Group’s Pier 57 Working Group, as well as the sponsors of the three plans, before it makes a final selection sometime in the spring. The winning plan will undergo an environmental impact study and the city’s uniform land use review procedure, known as ULURP, which takes up to 18 months.