December 6, 2012
By Mathew Katz
CHELSEA — The proposed redevelopment of the Hudson River Park’s Pier 57 earned enthusiastic support from Community Board 4 Wednesday, setting the stage for a massive transformation of the waterfront space between West 16th and 17th streets.
The plan, which require significant zoning changes, would transform the vacant pier into a vibrant marketplace with open space, restaurants and stores.
“We want to try to create a cultural hub around food and fashion and film and art,” said Greg Carney of Youngwoo & Associates, the firm hired by the park to redesign the pier.
The Hudson River Park, which receives no public funding, generates much of its cash from commercial rents. If approved, the overhauled pier could become a significant moneymaker for the financially ailing park.
Current designs for the pier include a large “creative market space” made up of smaller merchants — all operating out of re-purposed storage containers.
Carney said he also hopes to bring a cooking school to the pier, in addition to numerous restaurants.
“We envision a lot of food as one of the main uses,” he said.
“We’d love to see rooftop farming built into the concept — maybe one of the restaurants works farming into their menus.”
The overhauled pier would have roughly 305,000 square feet of rentable space, park officials said, along with an open rooftop space that will be used by the TriBeCa Film Festival for outdoor screenings and other cultural events.
The project would also create more accessible open space along the waterfront, including the popular jogging and biking path that runs through the Hudson River Park. Bikers and runners would also have access to changing rooms inside the complex, Carney said.
For the most part, Community Board 4 and local residents were happy with the plan. At its meeting on Wednesday, only one member of the public spoke during a public hearing on the zoning changes.
Board members did voice their concerns about the possibility of big-box retailers and hotels opening on the site, but officials from the Hudson River Park said that would not happen.
Members also hoped that the final zoning change would include written restrictions on the building’s bulk.
“The present development is fine, but by changing the zoning, you open the doors for bigger development in the future,” said Lee Compton, co-chair of the board’s land use committee.
The board’s other fear was that the park could eventually change the Hudson River Park Act to allow for larger-scale development, such as a condo building, on the pier. The park and its supporter are currently seeking similar changes for the property at Pier 40.
“If they can do it there, ultimately they can do it anywhere,” Compton said.
The zoning changes now head to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office for his recommendation on the proposal, and will eventually need approval from the City Council.