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Landmarked Pier A in Worse Shape Than Originally Thought, Officials Say

By Julie Shapiro | January 4, 2012 2:50pm
Pier A's structure is rotting, officials said.
Pier A's structure is rotting, officials said.
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Battery Park City Authority

BATTERY PARK CITY — The cost of the massive redevelopment of Pier A has ballooned and the project is slated to run behind schedule, as officials have discovered that the rotting landmark is in worse shape than initially believed, they revealed this week.

The overhaul of the 126-year-old landmarked building will now cost taxpayers $36 million, up from $30 million, and the pier will not reopen to the public until at least the middle of 2013, Battery Park City Authority officials said.

"There was a great deal more rot … than we had anticipated when the project started," said Gwen Dawson, senior vice president of asset management for the authority, at a Community Board 1 meeting Tuesday night.

"There was a significant amount of water damage, rot and structural deterioration," she said.

Crews working on Pier A are still continuing to find rot, Dawson said, which means that the work could be delayed even further.

The authority took over the crumbling pier from the city in 2008, after it had sat empty and exposed to the elements for more than a decade.

The authority is painstakingly preserving the pier and adding modern mechanical systems, so the Dermot Company and restaurateurs Harry and Peter Poulakakos can turn it into an oyster bar and catering hall.

After discovering rotten wooden beams and other problems, the authority brought in new consultants and ultimately decided to spend the extra time and money to comprehensively repair the building, replacing much of the roof and adding new siding, gutters and insulation.

"While it may have seemed slow at times, it was the right thing to do," said Gayle Horwitz, president of the Battery Park City Authority. "The right thing is not always the expedient thing."

The authority hopes to finish the restoration and mechanical work by the fall of 2012 or the end of the year at the latest, and then Dermot would take over and begin construction on an $18 million fit-out of the restaurant and catering hall. That work will take an additional nine to 12 months, a Dermot representative said.

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.

Some residents and preservationists had expressed concern recently about workers leaving Pier A's many doors and windows open to the wind, rain and waves during the ongoing construction, but Kevin Harney, principal at Stalco Construction, said Tuesday that he was careful to keep the building's wood as dry as possible.

Harney said it actually would not be safe to dry the wood entirely, because it is so old that it would be prone to warping or splitting. Instead, he keeps the wood at just the right level of moisture to avoid both mold and drying.

Harney said Pier A is one of the most complicated and meticulous construction projects he has ever done.

"This has been a tough one," he said. "We've had a lot of obstacles."