Sunday, January 29, 2006

So Long, Pier 64

Note the evening of the following day - inspired by BlogChelsea's success in finding a historical photo of Pier 64, I dug further in Google than I had before & found this moment in the history of the pier. Also found this, which gives a south-to-north view of the sites from Battery Park up to the north end of the Hudson River Park, with brief descriptions of each pier combining history and planned uses - similar to website's Hudson Piers Virtual Tours but more concise & at first glance perhaps a little better researched. Just thought I'd share those links before turning in. May not get in much in the way of posts this week, kinda busy with the non-virtual world!

Well, from the barge parked alongside, and the orange netting festooning the upper levels, it looks as though they're getting ready to tear down the old piershed at Pier 64. I went paddling yesterday & right at the end I took a ton of pictures because they are very efficient at dismantling things once they get going. My friends were very patient & waited for me to go for a post-paddle dinner, I was just afraid that, if we have any bad weather that precludes paddling next weekend, the whole thing might just be gone - I'd been meaning to take a last set of pictures & suddenly there's no more time.
Afterwards, reviewing the shots on the way home, I found myself sort of wishing that they could have figured out a way to leave a little more rust in the Hudson River Park - it's a nice park but everything's so shiny and new. This piershed - well, if they'd gotten to it earlier, it...coulda been a contender (to borrow a line from a movie that this piershed always makes me think of) but there were people who wanted it to go, too, and while people were debating, the elements were working away above and the gribbles were munching away below and eventually the debate was rendered moot because it would have cost a ludicrous amount to even make it safe, let alone useful. Still - I will miss the old ghost that's marked the start and "home again" for so many paddles, and sheltered so many classes I've taught & personal practice sessions from the wind & the waves.

Still, although I do wish the Hudson River Park could have kept a little more in the way of nods to the history of the area as a genuine working waterfront, there's more to this story than just a lack of interest in preserving history (aka useless nostalgia, it's all how you look at it...) it's absolute desperation on the part of Chelsea residents for a real waterfront park. Way way way back when, when people were first looking at revitalization of the North River piers, there was a proposal for an anchor for such activity that was shopped here & there along the waterfront - well, Chelsea said "OK" when all the other candidates said "NIMBY!", and that's what put the Chelsea in Chelsea Piers. One thing Chelsea folks found very appealing was a promise of a certain amount of square footage of waterfront public space. In the proposal, Pier 62 looked like it was going to be a park. That turned out to be a skatepark - which is great for the kids, but hardly the quiet waterfront retreat that a lot of Chelsea residents envisioned. The public "passive recreation" (that's the park's term for quiet areas to sit & watch the river go by) space proper turned out to be a walkway that runs around the perimeter of the Chelsea Piers complex - basically a sidewalk that faces the river. Then the park started construction down in Greenwich Village, and there's some nice stuff being put in down there, where there wasn't much of anything; Chelsea got something called the Chelsea Waterfront Park, which is much nicer than you might think a park bordered by freeway is, but the fact is you can't really see the water from it...well, this piershed is going down because a group of Chelsea residents got fed up with such treatment & started actively demanding that they get a waterfront park that's actually on the water - understandable even if I would've liked to see this old relic turned into...say...a giant boathouse where anybody that wanted to keep a boat could pay some money and keep a boat, instead of space always feeling like it could be pulled out from under you at a moment's notice (that's looking less possible now, thank goodness, but there have been times when the fate of the barge where I keep my boats has appeared to be hanging from a VERY slender thread)!
That's at least the story I've pieced together from various board meetings I attended back in my Manhattan Kayak Days - please note that I could be WAY off base! However it all came about, I expect that it will end up looking something like the Christopher Street Pier (seen in rare deserted condition on a very rainy day in this post, and will be a similarly pleasant place to hang out & catch some rays - and that will be really nice for the long-deprived residents of Chelsea. Still hard not to get a little nostalgic, though, when for the last seven years or so, this view has meant the beginning & end of so many journeys.

and here's a bonus shot for being patient with my sniffling...the whole reason I took my camera was 'cause I knew the Rosemary Ruth was going to be lurking about somewhere in the harbor - it was a powerful ebb yesterday, and they were approaching Pier 63 just as my friends & I were coming in at 4:30, finishing a 3-hour paddle - I spotted them actually just after I took the last picture and bolted down to get some nice schooner-at-sunset photos - well, I think this was the best one & I thought I'd share it, just for a nice upbeat finish -

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