We turn toward Quinn on Pier 40

At the end of the month, the Hudson River Park Trust is scheduled to make a decision on the development of Pier 40 that will have vast implications for the Hudson River Park and all of Lower Manhattan. The choice is between two starkly different paradigms: One is to turn over the 14-acre W. Houston St. pier to The Related Companies, one of the nation’s largest developers, to build a $626 million mega-entertainment complex and sports fields. The other is to turn over the pier to a nonprofit conservancy that will solicit private money and tax-free bond money to maintain sports fields and parking, while adding art galleries and a school.

The Downtown community has been clear: The Related project is unacceptable, even with its latest adjustments. It is still plagued by massive adverse traffic and bikeway impacts, and will change the pier in ways that will be detrimental to our neighborhoods for generations to come. Related’s scheme would attract thousands of visitors to the pier each day. Although they have been working on their plan for over a year, they still do not know if it feasible with a 30-year lease – as is required by state law.

The Trust is in a bind. Its August 2006 request for proposals produced only two proposals, both flawed — Related’s and “The People’s Pier” by Urban Dove and CampGroup, which no longer seems to be under consideration because of its financial uncertainty. The Trust has a park that needs regular revenue, and a pier that urgently needs structural repairs. It needs to find a credible, acceptable approach soon.

The Pier 40 Partnership arose in response to Related and under enormous time pressure, produced a top-flight study. The Partnership report has attracted broad community interest and looks feasible, but the group clearly cannot do it all by themselves. Our elected leaders at all levels, however, can make this plan a success if they join together to realize the opportunity the Partnership has outlined.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn — whose district includes the pier and who enjoys a good relationship with the mayor — can facilitate the passage of the eventual plan through the city’s uniform land use review process. Former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, the Trust’s vice chairperson, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg can use their clout and leadership through the Economic Development Corporation to help provide viable economic support.

Borough President Scott Stringer should make it clear to his appointees to the Trust board that they are there to represent the community interests. Virtually every local group involved with the waterfront opposes the Related plan.

Our elected leaders must help Diana Taylor, the Trust’s chairperson, and the Trust not only to solve the Pier 40 issue, but to find the remaining $120 million to $150 million to complete the whole park.

This is an opportunity for Quinn, above all, to help pull all the parts together. The community looks to her for support to save the pier from becoming an extravagant entertainment destination, and to help support the groups that will contribute to creating a low-impact but viable alternative. She needs to tell the Trust she supports the Partnership’s alternative — and, in the strongest terms possible, that Related’s proposal is unacceptable. Speaker Quinn, the community will remember your leadership on this pivotal issue.