By Holly Dutton
Hudson River Park officials are calling for a change in the law to help revive the beleaguered Pier 40.
“We are spending more on the pier to keep it open than we are getting in revenue,” said Hudson River Park Trust CEO Madelyn Wils. “It’s the complete antithesis of what the [Hudson River Park] Act was made for.”
Established in 1998, the Act was created to allow parking, retail and entertainment as the Pier’s primary uses. It prohibits residential use and leases of more than 30 years.
Despite the regulations, Community Board 2 recently considered two visions for the future of the waterfront site that could include apartments and expanded sports facilities.
Pier 40 Champions, a group formed by representatives from eight youth sports programs that operate at Pier 40, has proposed constructing two residential towers on the pier’s uplands, renovating the existing fields, and adding more fields where there are currently parking spaces, according to The Villager. Building the apartment towers would finance restoration of the pier.
Meanwhile, developer Douglas Durst presented a plan to renovate the pier and create three levels for parking, retail, and playing fields, with offices around the perimeter. The rooftop would be extra recreational space.
But Wils said both ideas are not official proposals and are both not viable. “Both of those ideas — neither one is legislatively possible under the Hudson River Park Act,” she said.
She said the HRPT welcomes ideas from the community and recognizes that amendments to the Trust’s guidelines are the answer.
“We’re always listening to people in terms of ideas,” said Wils. “At this point, I think we need a change in uses here, so that there’s an ability to move forward with something.
“If we can reach some agreement with the legislators, Mayor and Governor on additional uses for Pier 40, we’ll do that,” she said.
Electrical problems the complex sustained during Hurricane Sandy dealt a huge blow to the already struggling complex. “Our substation pretty much has ceased to exist,” said Wils. “We weren’t able to revive our transformers, we’ve had to rebuild a lot of pieces in the substation. At this point, we’re actually looking at potentially rebuilding it because there’s very little we can revive at this point. ”
Tenants in the office space at the complex are still using generators for power, and the sporting fields have had to be closed at dusk due to lack of lighting.
Parking revenue generated from between 1,700 and 1,800 spaces at the complex make up 50 percent of the pier’s yearly revenue, figures that were impacted in the immediate aftermath of the storm last fall.
“We obviously had some initial issues right after the storm, but generally it’s fairly consistent,” said Wils of the revenue. “The revenue is down from a few years ago, but it’s not substantially down from the hurricane.”
There are still a host of problems at the pier, including the crumbling stairs, roof, and the piles supporting the pier, which Wils said will have to be addressed in the next few years.
“We have very, very serious issues,” she said. “It’s a full-time job. We don’t have funds to fix everything.”