Schools, a pool, art? Floating possibilities for yet another pier

By Heather Murray

Two developers who have already tried and failed to win the right to develop Pier 40 at W. Houston St. have answered the Hudson River Park Trust’s second attempt to secure a successful bid for Chelsea’s Pier 57, the Trust’s other prized West Side waterfront parcel currently up for grabs.

The Durst Organization, in a partnership with C&K Properties, as well as The Related Companies both threw in their hats once again, along with Young Woo and Associates, a smaller developer best known in the community for the W. 25th St. Chelsea Arts Tower building.

The Trust is currently reviewing the proposals and has declined to comment so far. But spokesperson John Marino said that some information would be released as soon as this week. Reached for comment, all three companies declined to comment on the proposals, saying that the Trust had asked them not to speak to the press.

Arthur Schwartz, a member of the Friends of Hudson River Park’s board of directors, said he hasn’t seen the proposals yet, but expects Durst/C&K’s to be more closely aligned with the community’s needs than Related’s.

Along with Schwartz, other members of the Friends’ board — which fundraises for the park — are Friends co-chairman Douglas Durst, C.E.O. of the Durst Organization, and Ben Korman, a principal of C&K Properties.

Schwartz added that Durst “has been a major contributor to the Hudson River Park and done a lot to eliminate unwanted uses.”

Schwartz is personally hoping for more community amenities — including schools and low-cost art, dance and theater spaces — and less traffic generated under the new proposals for Pier 57. Earlier this year, there had been some discussion of including operations for The New School in the Durst/C&K proposal, but Schwartz said he wasn’t sure that was still on the table.

The New York Observer reported recently that the Durst/C&K proposal includes moving the Children’s Museum of Manhattan from W. 83rd St. to Pier 57, which a spokesperson for the developer confirmed but refused to elaborate on.

Michael Kramer, a Chelsea resident and former vice chairperson of Community Board 4, was a principal of the Original Ventures team that bid on Pier 57 back in 2003, but was cut after being deemed financially risky by the Trust. He said he and his associates were left disillusioned.

“We were skeptical we would get fair consideration for our ideas,” he said. Original Ventures, a nonprofit consortium, including the Hudson Guild settlement house, the National Maritime Historical Society and Riverkeeper, had proposed creating a Hudson River Performing Arts Center at the pier. Kramer said the consortium decided not to bid again, because “we realized we were up against the large development groups and didn’t think the Trust would find our proposal financially worthy.”

Kramer also questioned whether the Durst/C&K proposal could be considered a conflict of interest because of the company directors’ presence on the Friends of the Hudson River Park board.

Ed Kirkland, head of the new Pier 57 Working Group, composed of local elected officials and park advocates, said he hadn’t seen the proposals yet but expected to soon.

“We’re looking for a happier process than Pier 40,” he said.

Robert Trentlyon, a longtime Chelsea waterfront advocate and C.B. 4 member, wasn’t sure what Related would be proposing, but said, “I gather that Cirque de Soliel will not be presented.” He was referring to Related’s failed Pier 40 plan, noting Pier 57 wouldn’t provide enough space for that full plan.

Pier 57, located between 15th and 16th Sts., contains roughly 300,000 square feet of built space.

“I was surprised there weren’t more than three proposals that were financially eligible,” Trentlyon added. “We’ll see what we can do with these three.”

He noted that both the Working Group and the Trust are dedicated “to getting something done on Pier 57,” and that community members were disappointed when the Witkoff Group withdrew its proposal at the end of last year. Witkoff’s plan originally included Cipriani restaurant group, which had pulled out as a partner before Witkoff scrapped the project entirely.

Trentlyon already knows what he would like to see: an outdoor swimming pool.

“Pier 57 would be a great place for a pool,” he said. “We have a lot of kids in Chelsea.”