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Rising Sea Levels Force Battery Park City Walkway to Move

BATTERY PARK CITY — Rising sea levels are forcing the Battery Park City Authority to modify a piece of public art that has been in place for over 20 years.

The quay on the north side of South Cove — a wooden-plank walkway that brings people down to the water's edge — has deteriorated after years of being pummeled by salt water and debris.

Authority staff said that the average high tide in South Cove has risen "significantly" over the past 20 years and is now flush with the walkway, meaning it often gets flooded with water. And even before the water rose, the walkway still required frequent maintenance, the authority said.

Now, rather than continuing to spend thousands of dollars a year maintaining the walkway, the Battery Park City Authority plans to replace it with a new structure built 1 foot higher, out of the waves' reach.

"Rather than just sinking money into [the existing] situation, the entire deck will be replaced," said Gayle Horwitz, president of the Battery Park City Authority.

On Tuesday morning, the authority's board approved a nearly $500,000 contract to replace the walkway, a handrail and some adjacent electrical equipment. The project will raise the damaged electrical equipment out of the water, hopefully solving the problem of malfunctioning lights around South Cove, the authority said.

The work will begin in the early fall and should finish by the end of the year, the authority said.

Mary Miss, the artist who designed South Cove with Susan Child and Stanton Eckstut in the 1980s, is working with the Battery Park City Authority on the renovation.

"Although I regret having to do this, maintenance over the years has been an ongoing problem because of the wave action on the structure," Miss said in an e-mail to DNAinfo.

Miss said on her website that one of the major ideas behind the South Cove design was that it "offered the possibility of getting close to the water, actually hearing it, smelling it, getting wet."

The rest of South Cove, including another wooden path that curves out over the water at a slightly higher elevation, will remain untouched, Miss said.

Marilyn Adams, 52, a Staten Island resident who works in Battery Park City, was relaxing on the cove's wooden deck Tuesday afternoon when told of the plans.

Adams said she was glad the work would not begin until the cooler fall months, when it is less pleasant to sit by the water, but she would miss being so close to the lapping waves when the walkway is raised.

"It'll be a little less private," she said.