By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — The team redeveloping Pier A unveiled new renderings this week, offering a first glimpse into the pier's planned oyster bar and other new food venues.
When the 125-year-old pier at Manhattan's southern tip reopens — which could happen as soon as the summer of 2012 — most people will enter on the ground floor, where they will pass through a visitor center that opens up into a large space with several moderately priced dining options. Eateries will include an oyster bar, a boutique hot dog station and a fried-seafood counter, the developers told Community Board 1 Tuesday night.
Financial District restaurateur Harry Poulakakos will run those eateries, along with a more formal sit-down restaurant on the second floor and a catering and event space on the third floor.
"A location like this deserves the very best effort possible," said Danny McDonald, a Poulakakos partner. "It has to feel as authentic and historic as the building itself."
McDonald said he wants the entire venue to be open to the community, so people can use the seating and public restrooms on the first floor even if they don't buy anything. McDonald plans to hold free or inexpensive readings and performances in the upstairs event spaces during off-peak times, to draw local residents.
"You should be able to walk through the space and not be urged to consume," McDonald said.
Outside the building, historic ships and visiting private vessels will dock on the south and east sides of the pier, said Tom Fox, founder of New York Water Taxi, who is working with the Poulakakos family.
There isn't enough space for boats to pull up on the north side of the pier, so the developers will invite students from the New York Harbor School to grow oysters there, Fox said. The oysters will likely be invisible from the surface of the water, so Fox said he hopes to rig up cameras that will allow visitors to see them from the pier.
The plaza that encircles the pier will also host the annual oyster festival that the Poulakakos family now holds on Stone Street — though McDonald reassured CB1 members that all the bivalves offered for sale will come from cleaner waters than New York's harbor.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, Battery Park City Authority President Gayle Horwitz defended the Authority's decision to pick the Poulakakos family to develop Pier A rather than putting an Italian-American museum there.
Horwitz said her chief objection to the museum was that it would not offer as much public space as Poulakakos' plan.
"You would have to pay admission [to the museum]," Horwitz said. "That was something that was front and center in [our] decision on an operator."
Horwitz added that the Authority's decision was also based on finding an operator that would generate money for the city — likely an easier feat for a restaurant and catering hall than for a museum.
Horwitz's explanation did not satisfy John Fratta, a CB1 member and Little Italy activist who is leading the charge for the museum. When told of Horwitz's comments after the meeting, Fratta argued that the neighborhood already has a Museum of Jewish Heritage — which also charges admission — so it's only fair that the authority recognize Italians, too.
"This is clearly a slap in the face to our community," Fratta said Wednesday. "We're not going to let this go."
The development team plans to return to the community board in September to make a more detailed presentation.