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NYC Youth Sports Groups: Budget Won’t Suffice to Redevelop Pier 40

16 Dec, 2015

By: Tracey Schelmetic

In its heyday, New York’s Pier 40 served as the passenger terminal for the Holland America line’s busy operations in New York City. Since it fell out of use as a passenger terminal in the early 1980s, it has been a lot of things: an overflow parking structure, a commercial warehouse, and a storage space for trucks and buses.

 In recent years, a number of developers have presented plans for the site. One plan for redevelopment included an entertainment complex featuring movie theaters and Cirque du Soleil performances. Another plan would have turned Pier 40 into a branch of the Guggenheim Museum, and yet another involved the building of a big box store on the site.

But it’s on to a new life. The site, now designated as part of Hudson River Park – currently serves dual purpose as a parking facility and the site of a multi-purpose sports facility with a main field occupying the former cargo level. The fields are heavily used by area youth sports leagues and clubs, and their supporters say that new developments may endanger the site’s sports functionality.

In October, developers Atlas Capital Group and Westbrook Partners jointly proposed paying the Hudson River Park Trust $100 million for 200,000 square feet of development rights (otherwise known as "air rights") zoned for construction on Pier 40. Plans for new development include a five-building complex of luxury condos, senior housing, affordable housing, retail space and either a hotel or an office building, linking the site with property across the West Side Highway at the St. John's Terminal.

Area residents, however, have voiced concerns about the park’s future as a hub for youth sports leagues, as well as the project’s impact on local school and emergency services, according to New York real estate news Web site TheRealDeal

“Speaking from a youth sports perspective, this facility provides space for literally thousands of children year-round,” said Andrew Zelter, president of the Downtown Little League, at a public hearing in mid-November at New York City’s Department of City Planning headquarters.

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

"I'm willing to lose my morning light," said Miller. "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,” he said.

Specifically, critics of the proposed new development say that the budget  – about $100 million – is not enough to save the Pier 40 site and fix it up properly, according to DNA Info’s Danielle Tcholakian. For starters, it’s not nearly enough to repair the underwater piles that support the pier structure.

Local planning 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."

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