By Julie Shapiro
TRIBECA — A temporary maritime education center could open on the new Pier 26 as soon as 2012.
The center will likely host scientists from the City University of New York, who will conduct experiments in the Hudson River, said Ronald Spalter, deputy chief operating officer for CUNY. CUNY also hopes to work with local nonprofit The River Project to teach visiting schoolchildren and members of the public about the scientists' research.
"We want to bring people from the city to [Pier 26] so they can understand what science means and how it plays a role in their lives," Spalter said at a meeting of Community Board 1’s Waterfront Committee Monday night. "It’s a perfect match."
The center would be a low-cost placeholder until the Hudson River Park Trust raises at least another $10 million to build a long-planned permanent, maritime science center, called an estuarium, on the pier.
The trust already has $5 million and some planning money for the estuarium, but it could take years for the rest of the money to come through, said Noreen Doyle, executive vice president of the trust.
In the meantime, the trust will likely allow CUNY to use the space on the pier that would otherwise sit empty, Doyle said. But the trust will not provide a building and may not even be able to give CUNY electricity.
Fortunately, CUNY students are already designing an 800-square-foot off-the-grid green building as part of the US Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. That building could later be reassembled on Pier 26 and serve as CUNY’s headquarters there, Spalter said.
The center would join a boathouse and a cafe that are also opening in 2012 on the pier.
Members of CB1’s Waterfront Committee were pleased to hear of the project Monday night, though some worried that the permanent estuarium would never get built.
"Every time we talk about it, it seems to disappear farther away," said Joe Lerner, a committee member.
Still, committee chairman Bob Townley called the proposal "wonderful."
"I hope you can pull it off," Townley said.