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Liu Shoots Down Bid to Use Affordable Housing Cash for Pier A Overhaul

By Irene Plagianos | August 19, 2013 9:25am | Updated on August 19, 2013 11:42am

BATTERY PARK CITY — After years of delays and millions of dollars in cost overruns, there may be another hitch in the overhaul of Pier A.

Comptroller John Liu has rejected the Battery Park City Authority's plan to pay for $5 million in extra construction costs at the pier using funds that would otherwise go toward building affordable housing in the city, Liu said in a recent letter to the authority.

Rather than allowing the Battery Park City Authority to foot the bill for finishing repairs to the plaza surrounding the formerly dilapidated pier, Liu wants the city's Economic Development Corporation, which owns the pier and has already paid $30 million to revamp it, to kick in the extra cash.

The EDC's refusal to put in another $5 million to complete the project forces the burden onto the Battery Park City Authority, effectively sucking money from the authority's reserves, which are supposed to be dedicated to affordable housing, Liu said.

“After over a decade of Pier A delay and decay under EDC’s leadership, it is highly unfortunate that EDC intransigence could cost the affordable housing community several million desperately needed dollars," Liu wrote in his July 30 letter. “We therefore can not agree to the inclusion of $5 million for the Pier A plaza in the BPCA capital plan.”

The BPCA declined to comment.

EDC officials said the project is the Battery Park City Authority's responsibility, so the authority ought to fund the plaza construction.

But Liu said the EDC should be the one to pay to for the plaza because of the agency's “historical responsibility for Pier A and its significant unrestricted fund balances.”

Liu added that at the very least, the EDC and Battery Park City Authority should split the $5 million needed to finish overhauling the pier, which the authority has been repairing for the past several years.

It was not immediately clear whether Liu's rejection of the authority's funding plan could further delay the entire Pier A project, which is scheduled to open in May 2014.

The landmarked, city-owned pier was left abandoned behind a fence for more than a decade before the Battery Park City Authority took it over in 2008 and announced plans to renovate it and open an oyster bar and catering hall inside it.

But the project faced numerous setbacks, including the discovery that the pier's wooden structure was rotting to the wind and floodwaters that inundated the pier during Hurricane Sandy.

The extra work bumped the budget up by millions of dollars, an increase that was partially covered by the project's contingency fund. It also delayed the pier's opening by about two years, Battery Park City Authority officials said.

The three-level pier's new interior is set to be built by a team of developers and restaurateurs including the Poulakakos family, who will pour $18 million into the project. The space will also house a tourist information center and will be ringed by a public plaza big enough to host annual events including an oyster festival.

The 127-year-old pier was built as headquarters for the New York Harbor Police and Department of Docks and later housed an FDNY fireboat station. The clock tower on the pier's far end was built in 1919 as the country's first World War I memorial. After years of delays and millions of dollars of cost overruns, there may be another hitch in the $35 million overhaul of Pier A.