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Construction Leaves Pier A Open to the Elements, Preservationists Say

By Julie Shapiro | December 13, 2011 8:23am
Uncovered windows at Pier A, shown on Dec. 9, 2011.
Uncovered windows at Pier A, shown on Dec. 9, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Workers restoring the landmarked Pier A building have removed nearly all of the historic structure's windows, leaving the structure open to potentially damaging wind and rain, concerned residents and preservationists say.

George Calderaro, a Battery Park City resident and Community Board 1 member, spotted the unprotected windows while biking past Pier A two weeks ago and said he became "extremely concerned about it."

"This is a city, state and national landmark that is being egregiously mishandled," said Calderaro, a member of the Historic Districts Council board, who worked for the city Landmarks Preservation Commission in the 1990s.

Alex Herrera, director of technical services for preservation group the New York Landmarks Conservancy, whose office overlooks Pier A, said he would have expected crews to seal the building during construction.

"It's open to the elements, which is not good," Herrera said. "The windows should be sealed with plywood or something to keep the birds from coming in and to keep rainwater from coming in and damaging the interior joists and structure."

"You wonder how they're taking care of it when you see something like that," he said.

On a recent visit, DNAinfo found that most of the windows were left unprotected, and the tall arched bays around the pier's base were also uncovered and exposed to the elements.

The Battery Park City Authority, which has a long-term lease on the 125-year-old pier building at lower Manhattan's tip and is restoring it using $30 million from the city, defended its construction practices.

BPCA spokeswoman Anne Fenton said in an e-mail Monday that there was no cause for concern.

"The windows are being removed, repaired and reinstalled," Fenton said, "This process is not in any way [causing] further damage to the building."

Before the authority took over the city-owned structure in 2008, Pier A had been closed to the public for more than 20 years and sat crumbling behind a construction fence.

Once the repairs are complete, restaurateur Harry Poulakakos is planning to convert the pier into an oyster bar and catering hall.

Preservationists hailed the new plans for the building, including millions of dollars in repairs, but now some are concerned that the lack of protective covering during the replacement of the windows could cause even more damage to the previously neglected pier.

Roger Byrom, chairman of CB1's Landmarks Committee, said the Landmarks Preservation Commission should follow up to make sure the building is not being harmed.

"They should know better and carefully protect this important building during reconstruction," Byrom said in an e-mail.

In response to the concerns, a spokeswoman for the Landmarks Preservation Commission said the agency would look into the status of the project.

"Pier A appears to be an active construction site," the spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

"That said, we are working to confirm where the project stands."

The Pier A project has faced several setbacks, losing both its construction manager and its general contractor in 2010.

Then, earlier this year, the Poulakakos family replaced Rogers Marvel Architects with Green Light Architecture as the designer for the renovated building.

A Poulakakos spokeswoman declined to comment on the reason for the change, but said the overall design for the pier remains the same.

A Battery Park City spokeswoman did not comment on the project's budget or schedule.

Pier A opened in 1886 as headquarters for the New York Harbor Police and the Department of Docks. The Fire Department took over the pier in 1964 and used it as a workshop and fireboat station.

At the far end of the pier is a clock tower that rose in 1919 as the country's first World War I memorial.