Thursday, February 01, 2007

CB 1 Estuarium Report (Pier 26, Tribeca)


On February 5, 2007, the Pier 26 Task Force of Community Board One met to discuss the proposed estuarium at Pier 26. This is the outline of agreement that came out of that meeting:

1. THERE ARE FOUR ESSENTIAL ESTUARIUM FUNCTIONS – Based on research into other marine research facilities/estuariums, and from discussions with people familiar with this subject, the task force determined that the estuarium should provide for the following four activities:

Scientific research
Educational programming
Exhibit display
Community interface

For more details on these four functions, see attachment written by Dr. Jeffrey Levinton, Ecology and Evolution Department, Stony Brook University.

2. ACCESS – The public’s access to the river through use of this facility is very important. The estuarium -- its building, management, and programming -- should allow the public maximum contact with the Hudson River, allowing for:

Visual access into the facility from the outside – The building should be constructed to have an indoor/outdoor feel, similar to how the River Project was set up, open to the outdoors in season. (Task Force suggestions: doors that open wide to the bikeway/walkway; utilizing the ‘City Fish’ concept; using glass or other transparent material in the construction of the building).

River access -- floating docks and other get-downs allowing people near or into the water, and for scientists to take measurements, etc., as well as to provide access to the living marine exhibits.

Facility/building access -- the estuarium should be kept open to the public and be easily available to the scientists and educators who will come there. This facility should be maximally open in season (approx. April to November) however it should continue to operate for scientists and for limited public use in the winter months as well.

3. “HIGH TECH BUT LOW KEY” -- The estuarium should focus on science that can be done on-site (water sampling, specimen handling, observation, etc), allowing for the use of technology but not dominated by its use. Provisions should be made to accommodate a temperature controlled area for lab work as well as shed for instrumentation-observatory, with instruments that are mounted to take continuous data on the river (temperature, salinity, turbidity, etc.). Heating of the facility could be partial.

4. PEOPLE FRIENDLY SCIENCE -- The public should have the opportunity to observe the work of marine biologists and other scientists working there. A model employed by the Task Force was that of the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan, where scientists work excavating and observing on-site, with the public able to view such activities without interfering in the research.

5. SUSTAINABILITY -- Environmental considerations should be taken into account in the design of the new building. This could include features such as solar panels, passive heating panels and/or a green roof. Some Task Force members said this building could become a model for sustainability and that grant and other money could be available for such a project. Also, the building should also be practical, where form follows function, where feasible.

6. COMMUNITY ROOTS -- The Task Force felt that the estuarium has its roots in the community and it must be managed by a community-based organization with proven experience in marine biology that can grow as the facility grows. Whatever group is selected to run the estuarium, it should have a track record in managing similar facilities and working cooperatively with local communities.

7. ORGANIZATION IN CHARGE AS CARETAKER -- The organization managing the estuarium was viewed by the Task Force as a kind of caretaker for the building and its activities and it is not viewed as a ‘closed shop.’ It is expected that this facility would have many partners in its use -- it is important to the Task Force that visiting scientists can work there, and educators and the public can visit there, with ease. The Task Force considers the estuarium to be a marine field station to serve all three constituencies and each group should be afforded equal status. Balancing these activities is the role of the managing organization.

8. FLEXIBLE FENDERING FOR VESSELS -- Vessel access is needed for visiting vessels and environmental ships, including the Science Barge, Sloop Clearwater, and other vessels.

9. ESTUARIUM’S IMMEDIATE ENVIRONMENT -- The Task Force considered the benefits of studying, preserving and encouraging the growth of the native flora in the area around Pier 26 and it was determined that the outdoor spaces should be designed with the consideration of their role as Hudson River shoreline habitat. This would provide additional educational opportunities and would enhance the experience for visitors.

10. GROW ORGANICALLY -- It was agreed that the estuarium should start out small and grow ‘organically’ -- as other scientists and institutions come to use the facility, it can be expanded to accommodate those uses rather than attempting to anticipate all future uses in advance. This is viewed less as a ‘state of the art’ facility than an outpost on the river to study the estuary. Also, returning some form of what was there before the pier was torn down, even on an interim basis, was important to the Task Force.

Note on the pier structure itself: Since Pier 26 is not being rebuilt to accommodate the estuarium in any way, and is being rebuilt as a ‘generic’ pier, opportunities are lost to make it more useful for marine biology and research.

Reported by Julie Nadel, March 1, 2007

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