Return of Tribeca’s boathouse likely to survive budget axes


By Julie Shapiro

When Connie Fishman showed Community Board 1 the design for a brand-new Pier 25 Monday night, she knew the design itself wouldn’t surprise anyone.

“This is the same graphic that you’ve been seeing for several years now,” said Fishman, president of the Hudson River Park Trust, “except that now we’re finally building something.”

Thanks to a $21 million allocation from the state and city last year for the Tribeca section of the park, work on Pier 25’s amenities will start this spring, after the Trust finishes awarding contracts in March, Fishman said. The pier will feature a mini-golf course, sand volleyball courts, a playing field, historic ships, a Water Taxi stop and the largest playground in Hudson River Park (and the only with swings). Immediately upland from the pier, along the esplanade, a skate park will rise.

Building Pier 25 near N. Moore St., and the esplanade south of the pier toward Stuyvesant High School, is fully funded and will cost about $25 million, Fishman said. Pier 25, which the Trust closed in 2005 along with the adjacent Pier 26, could reopen as soon as the fall of 2010. The Trust received wide acclaim last summer for opening the first part of the park’s Tribeca section, from Laight St. up to Pier 40.

But the picture for next year’s budget, and the remaining unfinished sections of the park, including Pier 26, is less rosy. Nearly a year ago, Fishman said she hoped for $9 million each from the city and state for the Trust’s 2009-2010 budget, but the state and city now plan to allocate only $5 million each, Fishman said this week.

And last week, Mayor Bloomberg cast some doubt on that money when he said that he was talking with the state about shifting park money to fund Governors Island operations this year. But Andrew Brent, a mayoral spokesperson, suggested this week that park money is not likely to be used for the island.

“While we’re looking at everything, including other obligations that could conceivably provide the necessary funds, there are no plans to take money from Hudson River Park for Governors Island or to ask the state to do so,” Brent wrote in an email to Downtown Express.

Fishman said “we help Governors Island all of the time, just not with money.”

She said the expected $10 million will all go to the Tribeca section of the park, and she hopes to have some money left over from the Pier 25 work as well, since construction costs are falling. If the $10 million comes through, the Trust would use it to build a boathouse and food concession at the base of Pier 26. If the $10 million gets cut by too much, the Trust will instead build the less expensive dog run and lawn on the esplanade between Laight and Hubert Sts.

“It would be nice to finish off Pier 26,” said Bob Townley, chairperson of C.B. 1’s Waterfront Committee. “It was a great amenity.”

Townley ran youth programs on Pier 25 for his nonprofit Manhattan Youth before the Trust demolished the pier.

Even if the Trust moves ahead with the Pier 26 boathouse, which was used by hundreds of kayakers, the rest of the pier will remain a blank slate for the time being. Long-delayed plans for a maritime education center, called an estuarium, are still on hold until a sponsor steps up with money. The state has said it would not provide the capital funding needed to build the estuarium. The Port Authority once committed $10 million to the project, of which $5 remains.

“It’s not enough,” Fishman said of the $5 million. “But it’s way better than having nothing.”

The Trust will look to private companies and educational institutions for additional money, Fishman said. Once the estuarium has money and a design, the design for the rest of the pier will follow, including a lawn at the end of the pier with seating, a path around the pier’s perimeter and gardens with a water feature near its base.

Townley asked if the Trust would consider temporary uses for Pier 26, rather than having it sit empty for years. Fishman replied that temporary often becomes permanent, and it’s harder to demand money for a permanent design when a temporary one is already in place.

As the Trust awards contracts for the Pier 25 construction, Fishman is thinking about a theme for the new mini-golf course.

“Even though we like the idea of a Hudson River course, that may not be that much fun if you’re 10 years old,” she said.

To get the future patrons of the course involved, Fishman may solicit ideas in a kids’ design charrette, then challenge local landscape architects to incorporate the ideas. The Trust has not yet issued a request for proposals for an operator.

One element of the park’s design that is indefinitely on hold is Pier 32, an “ecological pier” once envisioned as a home for birds.

“The birds always get the shaft,” Townley said as his committee laughed. “And now they’re not going to get anything with that plane thing going on.”