By Julie Shapiro
BATTERY PARK CITY — The long-troubled Pier A renovation will result in a 'plainer' plaza after the project lost both its general contractor and construction manager earlier this year, delaying the project four months and slashing its budget.
The Battery Park City Authority is in charge of the city's $30 million overhaul of the landmark pier building at lower Manhattan’s southern tip. In addition to restoring the crumbling 124-year-old building and finding a new use for it, the Authority was also supposed to construct a plaza around the building as a much-anticipated public amenity.
But there was never any money specifically set aside for the plaza — the Authority planned to just use left over money from other pieces of the Pier A project.
A couple of months ago it looked as though the Authority would have several million dollars in the bank for the plaza, but now that money will likely go to pay a new general contractor, said Battery Park City Authority President Jim Cavanaugh at the Authority’s board meeting Tuesday morning.
“We’re going to scale back plans for the plaza,” Cavanaugh said. “It will just be a much plainer plaza than we had hoped.”
Cavanaugh sounded frustrated that the city's Economic Development Corp. would not consider kicking in additional money to build a nicer space.
“We’re expected to provide the plaza, but we were not given the money to do it,” Cavanaugh said. “We’re going to do our best.”
An EDC spokesman declined to comment on the plaza funding.
The Pier A project suffered two setbacks earlier this year when the Authority removed construction manager PHB Catalyst Group, and the general contractor, Mc Gowan Builders, left. The Authority quickly brought in the LiRo Group to manage the project but had to publicly solicit a new general contractor, a lengthy process that is not yet complete.
Fernando Mateo, a recently appointed member of the authority’s board, criticized staff for not foreseeing difficulties with Mc Gowan. The company initially presented a bid 44 percent lower than the next lowest bidder, which could mean they did not understand the complexity of the work or intended to collect more money in change orders later, Mateo said.
“It raised a red flag,” admitted Anthony Woo, the Authority’s vice president of construction.
Mc Gowan ultimately raised its cost estimate from $5.2 million to $6.9 million, but left this spring over objections to pieces of the project.
A spokesman for Mc Gowan did not respond to a request for comment.
The Authority hopes to have a new general contractor on board by early next month but expects to pay more than Mc Gowan was charging.
Meanwhile, the Authority has narrowed its search for a tenant to four potential candidates and hopes to turn the building over to one of them by August or September 2011, four months later than planned.