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Community Divided as Plans for Beer Garden on Pier 62 Push Forward

By Gwynne Hogan | November 9, 2015 2:05pm
 The park wants to open a beer garden on Pier 62 run by Merchants Hospitality.
The park wants to open a beer garden on Pier 62 run by Merchants Hospitality.
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Courtesy of the Hudson River Park Trust

CHELSEA — Plans for a beer garden on Pier 62, currently home to a skate park and carousel, are once again pushing through the permitting process, sparking tensions between Chelsea residents.

Some welcome the idea, while others are concerned about the loss of yet another public space to private interests.

“It’s exactly the type of use that would draw me and my friends in,” said Anthony Borelli, 45, who spoke as a Chelsea resident and a member of Hudson River Park Trust Board of Directors.

Borelli, who lives on 35th Street, said he often walked through the park with his dog. “This would be a good reason to stop and enjoy the scenery.”

Plans for a beer garden have come before the community in different iterations before, dating back several years.

In 2014, the Hudson River Park Trust signed a five-year lease for the space with Merchants Hospitality, that runs 14 restaurants and a handful of hotels and residential properties in the city.

Merchants had planned to unveil the beer garden this summer, but couldn't secure the permits it needed in time, according to the trust.

They went back to the drawing board and agreed to nix bleacher seating, decrease capacity from 300 to 200, and open the space to anyone, even if they don't buy anything, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, according to a letter written to the community board.

The process began again at a Nov. 5 community board meeting.

A beer garden would "activate one of the most underutilized areas of the park," wrote Madelyn Wils, president of Hudson River Park Trust in a letter to the board. 

She referenced community desire for a beer garden citing a study the trust commissioned in 2012 where surveyors questioned 1,288 park users from September to October.

There were "several mentions of a beer garden," the study says, though it does not specify how many.

Despite the modifications the beer gardens latest form, many who turned up to a Thursday community board meeting worried that not every inch of the park needed to be "activated" and that some peace and quiet might be a good thing.

Tenant leaders from nearby apartment complexes, state senator Tom Duane, as well as a handful of other Chelsea residents are against the beer garden.

"One man's 'underutilized' is another man's sanctuary," said Pamela Wolff, 80, a long-time Chelsea resident and community activist who was part of the push to turn waterfront in to a public park in the 1990's. 

And many Chelsea residents expressed concerns about losing yet another slice of public land to a private enterprise.

"This is a precious public space," she said Inge Ivchenko, a tenant leader from the London Terrace Gardens apartments, speaking on behalf of the complex. "This is not an business opportunity."

Merchants Hospitality will submit its application for a liquor license at a public hearing on Tuesday night.

Manager Richard Cohn of Merchants Hospitality did not return a request for comment immediately.