The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Pier 40 Development Forum Stirs Park Space Passions

HUDSON SQUARE — A developer and an alliance of community sports groups presented two competing plans for the redevelopment of crumbling and cash-poor Pier 40 Thursday night, attracting more than 200 athletes and locals who said they want to preserve west side recreation space no matter what redevelopment option city officials pursue.

Douglas Durst and representatives of the Durst Organization, one of the city's largest developers, detailed a plan that would fund the Hudson River Park by creating new office and retail space on the three-story, 15-acre pier located on the Hudson River at West Houston Street and re-situate the sports fields.

The rival plan by the coalition of local youth athletic leagues called Pier 40 Champions would expand recreation space and generate income by building two 22-story residential towers on what is now a parking lot.

An "adaptive reuse" confined to the current structure of the pier would attract creative and technology companies that are already flocking to Hudson Square and bring in much-needed funds, Durst said.

"You can develop Pier 40 while developing the revenue of the park," he told a standing-room-only crowd dotted with "Save Pier 40" buttons advocating the Champions plan.

Tobi Bergman, part of the Champions group, told forum attendees that his group's designs to connect the pier to the rest of the park would at once bring in money and create additional recreation space as the Downtown population rises.

"The same amount of field space is not going to be enough," he said.

Alexander Berscheid, founder and player on the Downtown soccer team Zum Schneider FC, said he and many of his uniformed teammates attended the forum to back the Champions plan.

"We wanted to show how important it is to the local community that the plan have more ballfields, not commercial offices," he said.

Charlie Sewell, coach of a baseball team at the Lab Middle School in Chelsea, said he supported the Champions option because it seemed to be best for young athletes.

"The development should minimize the impact on the kids," he said.

The Hudson River Park Trust, which manages Pier 40, will ask the state legislature to change laws prohibiting residential use on the pier, president and CEO Madelyn Wils said.

"We are proponents of opening up the Act to as many uses as possible," she said.

A study commissioned by the Trust — which faces a projected $80 million deficit over the next 10 years — shows the Durst plan could have more financial risk than the Champions plan, the Villager and the Wall Street Journal reported about documents the community paper was first to obtain.

According to the Journal, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank analyzed the two proposals and found the Durst plan would generate about 25 percent less than Durst had predicted for office space and 50 percent less than the projected for retail.

A spokesman for the Durst Organization disputed the Newmark report, arguing it was commissioned to refute the Durst proposal. 

"With nearly 100 years in New York City real estate, we stand by our assumptions," the spokesman said. "What should be questioned is the math in the [Champions'] housing proposal, which is overly optimistic."

The Durst plan would give $10 million in rent to the Trust in the complex's first year open, according to the group's presentation.

The Champions option, the Villager reported, would also pay $10 million to the Trust annually.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer attended the forum and promised locals their concerns would be heard.

Hoylman, the former chair of Community Board 2, drew cheers when he said he will refuse to support any plan with high-end housing.

"Public space for luxury housing? I'm just not going to do it," he said.

Glick also cautioned locals to think through the pluses and minuses of both plans.

"Two 22-story buildings will have your kids playing in shadows," she said.

Regardless of which development option is adopted, elected officials and locals need to move fast to repair Pier 40, which has seen 30 years of debates about redevelopment, Village resident Wayne Kimbell said.

"The pier is going to fall in the river and we're going to say 'Why didn't we do something?'"