Lower East Side kayak idea doesn’t float at C.B. 3

Rendering of the proposed landscaping at Pier 42.
Rendering of the proposed landscaping at Pier 42.

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC  |  Pier 42 plans presented at a recent Community Board 3 meeting roused anger from Lower East Side residents who want a pool and not a proposed area for kayaking.

After Noriko Maeda of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects gave her presentation of the trees, shrubs and plants that may populate the waterfront for phase 1, residents expressed their unhappiness with a proposed area for kayaks.

“We are a community that we are tired of being disengaged, disenfranchised by everyone else and being ignored,” Nancy Ortiz, president of the Vladeck Houses Resident Association, said at C.B. 3’s Parks, Recreation, Cultural Affairs, Landmarks & Waterfront Committee last month.

“This is the first time we are seeing this,“ she said. “[Kayaking] does not fit the demographics of our community.”

Pier 42, between Gouverneur and Jackson Sts., received over $10 million in funding from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in March 2012. Lawrence Mauro, program manager for Lower Manhattan projects for the Parks Department, said that there has been extensive community outreach.

“We’ve handled this progressively step by step,” said Mauro. He said there have been several meetings with C.B. 3 for both direction and approval.

Ortiz said later in a phone interview that with all the projects — and meetings — going on in the Lower East Side, which includes Pier 42, the “Big U,” the blueprint, it is hard to keep track, but nonetheless the community does not want a kayaking area.

“One of the reasons why we wanted to bring an enclosed area where you can teach kids to kayak,” was to expose children to the water during educational programs, said Mauro. “They could learn about the river, learn about the ecology, learn about what’s in the river in a supervised way.”

C.B. 3 has already approved the Pier 42 master plan and Mauro said that the committee was voting on just approving phase 1, which as of now does not include any of the amenities proposed, such as a playground, concession stand, an area where residents could watch movies, roller skate rink and the kayaking area.

Phase 1 includes taking down most of the shed, lead and asbestos abatement, removing toxic soil and the pavements, painting, and planting tree and shrubs to make the area safe and green, said Mauro. The overall plan to build out the site would cost over $90 million, said Mauro.

“I lived in Smith Houses for 38 years, I never saw anybody with a kayak,” said Anne Johnson, committee member, to loud clapping and an amen at the meeting. “I also remember that we absolutely said there had to be a pool — somehow.”

Aixa Torres, president of the tenant association for the Smith Houses, agreed with Johnson at the meeting and said that C.B. 3 should table the issue.

“We want a pool. We need a pool,” she said. “This is what our community needs.”

The committee passed a resolution approving the phase 1 plan.

Later in a phone interview, Torres said that she would picket if there is kayaking. “We don’t want it,” she said. “We have the same right as someone in Tribeca.”