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Local Politicians Flat on Pier 62 Beer Garden Plan

By Gwynne Hogan | November 18, 2015 5:17pm
 The Hudson River Trust Park wants to put a restaurant with a full liquor license on the quiet Pier 62.
The Hudson River Trust Park wants to put a restaurant with a full liquor license on the quiet Pier 62.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

CHELSEA — Local elected officials are joining in the community outrage over the Hudson River Park Trust's plan for a 200-person beer garden at Pier 62 — one of the park's quietest piers, they said.

State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, State Senator Brad Hoylman, City Councilman Corey Johnson and Borough President Gale Brewer have expressed concerns about the trust's plans for the pier that are marching forward despite fervent community opposition.

“We have to push back as a community because I think a lot of developers and businesses see the park as a money making opportunity,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “The public doesn't like to see communal spaces privatized and monetized...[It] runs counter to what a lot of people have fought to achieve which is a stretch of peaceful relatively quiet part of the park.”

Councilman Corey Johnson seconded Hoylman's concerns and said he's been pushing for more green space in his district, not less. 

"I don’t believe the proposed 'Biergarten' on Pier 62 is in line with community priorities," Johnson said.

The proposed restaurant would share the pier with a skate park and a carousel and would take up the interior wooded section of the pier, leaving the walkway around the exterior still part of the public park, according to mockups in the proposal. 

The specifics of the plan for a beer garden first came before the board in March when the operator Merchants Hospitality, who signed a five-year lease in April of 2015, applied for a full liquor license that would hold 300 people.

The community board rejected the plan and Merchants and the park trust went back to the drawing board agreeing to get rid of bleacher seating, to decrease capacity to 200 people and to allow anyone into the area from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday., according to a letter written to the community board by trust president Madelyn Wils.

The park trust had decided that that area of the pier was "underutilized" and that a restaurant would "activate" that area of the park, Wils wrote.

"While we know that some people love Pier 62 because it is such a quiet place, for us, the general absence of people on the entire western portion of Pier 62 means that the space is not functioning as it was intended," Wils wrote.

Merchants began its application for a second time last week at a public hearing where many Chelsea residents turned up to voice their concerns about the beer garden.

The application comes before the full community board in early December and the board's recommendations will be sent to the State Liquor Authority who will ultimately determine whether to grant Merchants a liquor license on the pier.

Merchants Hospitality could not be reached for comment.