Making the most of park setbacks

Community Board 1 members vowed on Nov. 27 to make metaphorical lemonade at Pier 26 – turning setbacks into time to perfect the community’s vision for the pier, which is supposed to host a new boathouse, a restaurant and an estuarium.

With plans for the boathouse on the back burner due to a lack of funding and plans for the estuarium under fire over a perceived lack of a public process, the Hudson River Park Trust is once again rethinking its redevelopment plans for Pier 26 in Tribeca.

In the meantime, Community Board 1’s Waterfront Committee decided to form a sub-committee task force to spell out what Downtown residents want from the project and share that information with the Trust.

Of particular concern is the boathouse, which Downtown Boathouse founder Jim Wetteroth said he feared will be built for form, not function — a mistake he sees at other Hudson River Park piers.

“The dock is too high, for one thing,” Wetteroth said of the boathouse at Pier 96, built by the Trust at 56th St. “It was built to win some design award, not to serve the boating community.”

Wetteroth had said previously that taking out design frills like curved walls, heat and bathrooms would also make the Pier 26 project more feasible financially. The Downtown Boathouse, which currently operates out of Pier 40 at Houston St., ran a bare-bones but highly popular boathouse at the old Pier 26.

Committee chairperson Julie Nadel, who also sits on the Trust’s board, agreed that functionality should trump “state of the art” on the Trust’s list of priorities. Nadel reassured committee members that the boathouse will be built, saying that the Trust has always had to scrape together money and that they would find the funding eventually.

“In a way we’re lucky that [the Trust] is doing us last,” Nadel said. “We have a chance to see the mistakes upriver and correct them.”

— Skye H. McFarlane