River park is four-fifths finished but needs funds


By Noreen Doyle

Thank you once again to The Villager for this important opportunity to provide an update on Hudson River Park’s progress for your readers.

The Greenwich Village section of Hudson River Park was the first to open, in 2003, an enormous relief valve to park-starved residents of the West Side. As a stand-alone public space, the Greenwich Village piers, lawns and esplanade were wonderful and immediately popular; but in isolation, they did not provide much sense of the overall scale and vision of Hudson River Park. This pattern continued in subsequent years as we opened five new piers and additional upland park areas in Lower Manhattan, Tribeca, Chelsea and Clinton. People came, played and relaxed; but for many, Hudson River Park consisted of the nearest stop to their home.

With the opening in 2010 of the largest, contiguous park area in Chelsea and fabulous, fun Pier 25 in Tribeca the first week of this month, Hudson River Park has reached the 80 percent completion mark. Eleven of the minimum of 13 public piers promised by the Hudson River Park Act are now a reality, and the park really does offer something for everyone. In addition, in and around the park, the Trust has helped a number of agencies and institutions — the Intrepid Museum, the Fire Department, the Police Department and the Department of Environmental Protection — with rebuilding additional piers and bulkhead, using additional dedicated funds.

So what’s next? The answers mostly depend on identifying more funding. Now that the Pier 26 boathouse/cafe contract has been awarded, we must await next year’s state and city budgeting processes before we will know what we will be able to tackle and when.

We have just submitted an application to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation for funding to help complete the missing link in the Tribeca upland area between Laight and N. Moore Sts. Separating bike and pedestrian traffic in this area is a high priority, as is building the long-awaited Tribeca dog run.

The Trust has reserved $5 million in Port Authority funds and $335,000 (with an equal match from the Trust) from the New York Department of State for construction of an “estuarium” — an environmental research and education center. We estimate we will require at least another $10 million to complete this important structure. In the meantime, together with our colleagues at the state Department of Environmental Conservation and City University of New York, we presented a concept for interim science programming on a portion of Pier 26 to Community Board 1 last month. The idea was well received and CUNY is now in the early stages of identifying funded research projects that would be interesting and suitable for a public environment.

Near the park’s northern border at W. 59th St., the Department of Sanitation will soon be vacating Pier 97, freeing this pier for park construction. We are ready to demolish the old pier and rebuild the new pier primarily using funds secured by Friends of Hudson River Park several years ago.

We would also like to begin the vital upland link from 39th to 43rd Sts. bordering Circle Line Cruises and World Yacht, provided sufficient funds can be identified. Currently occupied by a parking lot and trash facility, this congested area would be transformed through creation of an attractive esplanade, seating opportunities and landscape.

The challenges we face are not unique given the competing demands for limited public construction dollars, and our parallel need to keep operating income as robust as possible — even without a long-term solution to the conundrum at Pier 40, at West Houston St. These are two reasons why our board of directors is exploring how a broadened, private fundraising role for Friends of Hudson River Park might best be accomplished while we also continue to seek city, state and federal funds for new park construction. Given how many people use and love the park — a number that grows each and every year — it’s the perfect time to work with the Friends on moving forward together to care for and complete Hudson River Park.

Doyle is executive vice president, Hudson River Park Trust