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West Side Residents Debate Revenue Options for Hudson River Park

LOWER MANHATTAN — Possible funding for repairs to crumbling infrastructure in Hudson River Park, and eliminating a projected $80 million deficit over the next 10 years, could come from revenue generated by residential development, retail or a hotel on Pier 40.  

Elected officials, local leaders and residents from neighborhoods along Manhattan's west side crowded St. Paul's Chapel Thursday night to weigh in on changes to the state legislation that governs the park being sought by the Hudson River Park Trust and a study the group commissioned regarding new ways to bring in more money. 

Though the park running from West 59th Street to Battery Park draws 17 million visitors a year, it isn't pulling in enough funds to support its operations and repair crumbling piers, Trust president Madelyn Wils said. 

Residential development, retail and a hotel are on the table for Pier 40, new uses of which are being weighed by the Hudson River Park Trust.
Residential development, retail and a hotel are on the table for Pier 40, new uses of which are being weighed by the Hudson River Park Trust.
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"The intention of the park was to be self-sustaining," she said. "Pier 40 was meant to support the park but it's not bringing in sufficient funds." 

The Trust is seeking changes this month to the 1998 law that kicked off redevelopment of the area. Modifications to the Hudson River Park Act would allow hotel and residential development, and longer commercial lease terms. 

A study commissioned by the Trust weighs revenue-generating potential against the additional traffic that various types of development of Pier 40 would create. New residential and hotel construction would bring in the most money and create the lowest amount of new traffic, the study found. 

Study constraints for development of the pier included reserving at least 50 percent of the pier for open space, limiting the height of any development to 15 stories and preserving or replacing recreational fields. 

But many worry that the Trust's fundraising push could compromise quality-of-life for West Side residents.

State Assemblywoman Deborah Glick acknowledged the need to bring in revenue but cautioned against building high-end residences. 

"I just don't think that what we're lacking is luxury housing development," she said. 

Instead, she urged consideration of a plan to tax West Side property owners to raise as much as $10 million per year. 

Community Board 2 chair Brad Hoylman asked the group to look at public funding to complete and repair the park, similar to the city support Governors Island has received. 

"I think we as West Siders need to figure out where that money is going and get our share of it," he said. 

Community Board 4 chair Corey Johnson also spoke in favor of bringing in public funds. 

"The city and state need to step up and fund the completion of the park," he said. 

Community Board 1 chair Julie Menin urged the Trust to consider the impact of any development on Downtown traffic. 

Occupy Wall Street and anti-fracking activists also spoke, urging the Trust not to grant an easement to the natural gas company Spectra to run a pipeline under the park, with an endpoint at Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District. 

The Trust will continue to look at fundraising solutions this month, said Arthur Schwartz, chair of the Trust task force on funding.