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$100M Deal Isn't Enough to Save Pier 40's Future, Residents Worry

By Danielle Tcholakian | November 24, 2015 3:58pm
 An appraisal by the Empire State Development Corporation apparently concluded that $100 million from Atlas in exchange for 250,000 square feet of air rights from Pier 40 would cover badly needed repairs at the pier.
An appraisal by the Empire State Development Corporation apparently concluded that $100 million from Atlas in exchange for 250,000 square feet of air rights from Pier 40 would cover badly needed repairs at the pier.
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DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian

HUDSON SQUARE — The roughly $100 million that would go toward repairing Pier 40 through a deal to redevelop St. John's Terminal is not enough money to fix it properly, residents said.

Developers Atlas Capital Group and Westbrook Partners propose paying the Hudson River Park Trust $100 million for 200,000 square feet of development rights ("air rights") zoned for construction on Pier 40.

That deal would allow them to increase the size of their project, which includes a five-building complex of luxury condos, senior housing, affordable housing, retail and either a hotel or an office building, across the West Side Highway at the St. John's Terminal.

It would also help rescue Pier 40, which is rapidly crumbling and in need of extensive repairs to the underwater piles supporting the pier.

But those who work with youth sports programs that use the pier's ballfields and other facilities worry that the $100 million deal won't do enough to ensure the pier's future.

"Speaking from a youth sports perspective, this facility provides space for literally thousands of children year-round," said Andrew Zelter, father of four and the president of Downtown Little League, at a public hearing last week at Department of City Planning headquarters.

The hearing was held to let the public weigh in on what City Planning should consider when assessing the environmental impact the development will have on the neighborhood.

"[The proposed development's] 1,586 residential units will only bring more users into the park," Zelter continued, "and it's absolutely critical, I think, that we expand our consideration beyond what is needed today to what is needed to sustain this park going forward."

Zelter said his organization alone serves some 1,200 kids.

Dan Miller, a past president of Greenwich Village Little League who lives on West and Leroy streets, said he will lose south-facing light due to the St. John's Terminal development.

"I'm willing to lose my morning light," Miller said. "But I want to make sure that City Planning understands that thousands of kids from soccer players to lacrosse players to baseball players use the pier on a daily basis.

"It's crucial that City Planning understand the importance of the pier because without it, New York City downtown is unlivable."

And Tony Ruscitto, a member of the Little League's board of directors, said his "only question or concern was the sustainability of Pier 40 once the $100 million is exhausted."

Robert Dobruskin, the director of DCP's Environmental Assessment and Review Division, said he believed that the sustainability of the sports facilities would be "something that will be covered" in the upcoming review of the potential project.

DCP has so far been asked to consider how the development will impact local schools and access to emergency services, among other factors.

Local elected officials have requested "a comprehensive list of all repairs needed for Pier 40 and their associated costs," according to written testimony read by Assemblywoman Deborah Glick. "We would like confirmation that the repairs for Pier 40 that can be achieved through this project will be sufficient to ensure adequate future access for decades to come."

Hudson River Park Trust spokesman James Yolles said such a list does not yet exist, but confirmed that the $100 million is just enough to address the critical need of repairing the underwater piles that support the pier.

"This is a 52-year-old pier that was built for 50 years of use so pretty much everything needs to be replaced," Yolles said.

The city will continue to take written public input until Nov. 30. Comments can be emailed to Robert Dobruskin at rdobrus@planning.nyc.gov.

A draft version of the the "scope of work" document detailing what the project entails and what the environmental analysis will assess is available online.