Things to do: Fishing, films…and finishing the job


By Noreen Doyle

Daffodils and tulips are blooming, baseball bats are whacking at Pier 40 and Chelsea Waterside Park, and schools are visiting outdoor classrooms along the river. It must be spring in Hudson River Park. Thanks to The Villager for giving us this opportunity to fill you in on what we’ve been doing here over the last six months.

If you’re a regular visitor, you already know that the park’s population explodes anytime the sun comes out, but you may not know about all of the free programs that the park offers for you and your families.

Hudson River Park’s Environment and Education Department makes its staff and facilities available to teachers interested in offering on-site programs focused on the Hudson River environment. We are proud to have recently received our first grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop professional teacher workshops and materials in partnership with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Environment and Education Department is also partnering with Friends of Hudson River Park for several events, including the family-oriented Spring Festival at Pier 45 (Christopher St. Pier) in Greenwich Village on April 24. We are also coordinating volunteer opportunities through our “Clean Sanctuary Campaign”: Starting in May, park patrons can help us clear trash from the river one Saturday morning each month.

We are again planning a full slate of summer events. Reservations are currently being accepted for our popular summer camp programs. Existing camps may register to attend free workshops in: Big City Fishing, Recreation, and Plankton & Water Quality. We also offer walking tours focused on Hudson River Park’s gardens and history. Visit www.hudsonriverpark.org for more information.

Also on tap is our 18th consecutive year of free outdoor summer events. The “Take Me to the River” celebration will include concerts, movies, dancing and even boxing at Piers 45, 54 and 84. For the second year, the park will also host several special film and other events organized by FIERCE — the L.G.B.T.Q. youth empowerment group — in partnership with Friends of Hudson River Park. Beginning in May, you will find our full calendar, including movie titles and musical acts, on our Web site.

Understandably, people interested in the park often focus on Pier 40, at West Houston St. It’s the pier that pays for many (about 40 percent) of the park’s operation costs, not to mention serving as home field for countless sports programs for children and adults from all over the city. Preserving this income stream while also stabilizing the pier’s deteriorated structure are two of the Hudson River Park Trust’s top priorities.

The Trust remains aggressively engaged in trying to develop a solution to this complex puzzle. We appreciate the efforts of elected officials, community leaders and others to join us in this process. While the going sometimes feels slow, it’s worth observing that all of this dialogue has resulted in some real progress in the past year. No, we still don’t have $100 million to repair the pier, but there is now broad consensus that the scope of the necessary repairs is enormous, and that the Trust will likely need to directly address the repairs in some way, given the current financial climate. People have also been willing to engage in some constructive, out-of-the-box thinking about everything from various uses for the pier to bonding to other funding options, all of which was once considered heretical.

But the park is not all about Pier 40, of course. In just a few weeks — sometime before Memorial Day — we will be opening the Chelsea section of Hudson River Park. It’s a magnificent landscape that I hope you’ll all take the time to explore. Construction is continuing in Tribeca and Lower Manhattan, too. In the fall, we will be opening Pier 25, at North Moore St., and the upland area connecting to Stuyvesant High School. To the south, the state Department of Transportation is currently implementing the permanent “Segment 2” design east of Battery Park City, in conjunction with their ongoing Route 9A work. In Chelsea, thanks to a large donation from Council Speaker Chris Quinn, we will begin repairing the Chelsea Waterside Park field this summer, in time for the fields to reopen for soccer season this fall. And at the northern end of the park, we anticipate demolition of Pier 97, at W. 57th St., later this fall, the first step in rebuilding that pier for public use.

Not to be forgotten, the development of Pier 57, in Chelsea at W. 15th St., is still on the horizon. The Trust and Young Woo & Associates continue to hash out the details of this complex transaction worth hundreds of millions of dollars in eventual capital improvements to the park. This process will be ongoing during the coming year, with preliminary work getting underway on the environmental, land use and other critical permitting issues associated with the pier’s redevelopment.

Like everyone else in New York State, we are awaiting word on the state’s budget. This year, we are hoping to receive enough funding to complete the Pier 26 boathouse in Tribeca and build the missing park link between N. Moore and Laight Sts., but we understand that times are tough. We remain grateful to the state, city, Lower Manhattan Development Corporation/U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Congressmember Jerrold Nadler for all of the previous funding that will enable Hudson River Park to reach the 80 percent completion milestone by the end of this year.

Doyle is vice president, Hudson River Park Trust