Luxury Dining Yacht Christened at Cash-Strapped Pier 40

By Mathew Katz on June 26, 2012 3:52pm 

Diana Taylor, chairwoman of the Hudson River Park Trust, at the christening of the Hornblower Infinity at Pier 40 on June 26, 2012.
Diana Taylor, chairwoman of the Hudson River Park Trust, at the christening of the Hornblower Infinity at Pier 40 on June 26, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

WEST VILLAGE — If Pier 40 crumbles into the Hudson River, at least it'll have a fancy lifeboat.

Diana Taylor, chairwoman of the Hudson River Park Trust and the girlfriend of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, christened one of the city's fanciest new luxury yachts at the beleaguered Pier 40 on Tuesday.

The Hornblower Infinity, a 210-foot, 1,000-person fine dining boat, will host dinner parties and private events from the pier's north side starting in July. The boat will join its sister ship, the Hornblower Hybrid, which has operated from the pier for several months.

Taylor, who also sits on the board of Friends of Hudson River Park, was named as the ship's "ferry godmother."

"I love boats, and I've always loved boats my whole life," Taylor said before smashing a champagne bottle against the ship's hull.

"I have never been a godmother to a boat before."

Both boats will provide the Hudson River Park Trust with roughly $110,000 of rent through the end of the year, a much-needed but relatively tiny revenue stream for the underfunded park, which faces a projected $80 million deficit over the next 10 years.

"It's a small piece of the puzzle, but a welcome and well-intended revenue stream," said Madelyn Wils, the trust's president.

The trust recently sought state permission to increase commercial uses for the park, including clearance to consider a condo development on Pier 40, though legislation to amend the current Hudson River Park Act stalled in Albany this month.

The cash would go to much-needed infrastructure repairs to the pier itself, which has a crumbling roof and corroded steel pilings.

"Piers need use to stay alive," said Terry MacRae, chairman and CEO of Hornblower Cruises & Events.

"We're paying a lot of rent — that helps maintain the pier."

Originally built in 1991 and called the Monte Carlo, Hornblower retrofitted the Infinity with two wind turbine power generators — not to mention the 1,925 square feet of dance floor space.

Pier 40 may not be a permanent home for the huge yacht — the park has put out a request for proposal for up to two companies to apply to take over the dock for up to nine years starting in January.

MacRae said that Hornblower will be in the running for the coveted spot.

"As the pier grows, we'd like to grow with it," he said. "We do have plans for that as the market allows."

One of the Infinity's first public sails will fall on the Fourth of July. The boat will host a $175-per-ticket "Red, White and Cruise" fireworks-watching event, complete with dinner buffet and an open beer and wine bar.

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