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Sunset Park Could Lose Part of its Only Public Pier Under City Plan

By Nikhita Venugopal | July 21, 2014 5:23pm | Updated on July 22, 2014 12:24pm
 A collaboration between the Economic Development Corporation, Vane Brothers Company and BillyBey Ferry Company could cut public access to the 58th Street Pier in Sunset Park.
Pier Near 58th Street in Sunset Park
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SUNSET PARK — The only publicly accessible pier on the Sunset Park waterfront might be partially closed to the community if a proposed deal between the city and a marine services company is signed.

The Vane Brothers Company is in talks with the city’s Economic Development Corporation to use the south side of Pier 4 in the Brooklyn Army Terminal to store empty bunkering barges.

The proposal would allow the Baltimore-based marine transportation business to “license and improve” about 1,000 linear feet of the pier near 58th Street, as well as one row of parking along the pier, according to a public presentation shared with DNAinfo New York.

Vane Brothers would invest between $400,000 and $500,000 into the south side of the pier, those familiar with the plan said. The investment would include installing “fenders” — infrastructure that would allow vessels to safely dock — along the south side, turning the pier into a “swing space” for staging boats and light fuel barges, they explained.

The ferry landing for Seastreak, which travels between Brooklyn Army Terminal, Manhattan and the Rockaways, would need to be relocated from the south to the north side of the pier under the plan.

Vane Brothers is hoping to take over part of the pier later this year. The company did not respond to a request for comment. 

From the mouth of the Gowanus Canal to 65th Street, the pier at 58th Street is the only point of public access to the water, said Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer.

The proposal, first reported by Home Reporter last month, allows for the north side and very end of the pier — a little more than half the entire space — to remain open to the public.

"The proposed Vane Brothers deal will allow a company that supports the broader maritime industry in New York Harbor to expand operation, while simultaneously providing investment into BAT Pier 4, bringing new community-serving boating opportunities to Sunset Park," EDC spokesman Chris Carroll said in a statement Tuesday morning.  

"We appreciate this community's desire to balance industrial uses with public open space, and we look forward to continuing the discussion about the types of public activities they'd like to see at this Pier, as well as welcoming them into the brand new Bush Terminal Park in the near future," he said.

There are few public amenities along Pier 4, which currently features walkways, benches for pedestrians and rows of vehicle parking, Laufer said. Local fishermen often cast their lines along the edge of the pier, as well.

The Economic Development Corporation and DockNYC — a partnership between BillyBey Marina Services and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance operating six NYCEDC waterfront sites — hopes to bring more community programing and facilities to the pier's north side, but details of such a plan are “up in the air,” said Ryan Chavez, infrastructure coordinator for UPROSE, a nonprofit environmental justice. 

RELATED: TIMELINE: Waterfront Haven Opening Soon at Sunset Park's Bush Terminal

In June, after CB7’s full board meeting, community members formed the 58th Street Pier Ad Hoc Committee to address concerns with the proposal and the pier’s use, Laufer said.

The committee, which held its first meeting last week, is currently in talks with the city and DockNYC, and has neither openly supported nor opposed the proposal as of yet. The proposal is as-of-right and requires no discretionary action by the City Planning Commission or Board of Standards and Appeals.

DockNYC did not return a request for comment. 

Sunset Park’s need for more open public space has been an issue in the neighborhood for several years. Residents have long waited for the opening of Bush Terminal Piers Park on the waterfront, and it's possible they could lose part of their access to Pier 4 before the park opens. 

Maintaining a balance of maritime and public use in the mixed-use development for the pier was important to the city and to Sunset Park, which has strived to preserve its industrial waterfront, Chavez noted.

However, “taking half of the public waterfront access away is not contributing to the balance,” he said.