Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pier 40 vote tomorrow - Cirque du Soleil, or grassroots?

Interesting post on the Hudson River Watertrail Association's NYCKayaker list today from one of the members of the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club.

I'm so out of the Hudson River Park scene these days, it feels like another country. Not missing the politics much, either.

But I thought this one was worth posting about here, since it's pretty major - seems that tomorrow the Hudson River Park Trust votes on the fate of Pier 40. M. provided a link to Streetsblog, which has an excellent post with asynopsis of the situation and links to various newspapers that have covered the story.

Pier 40 is the largest pier in the Hudson River Park (non-boating NYC residents may recognize it better if I call it "that hulking sky-blue thing at the end of Houston)". If I'm recalling correctly , it was built sometime in the 60's to the most modern specifications of the times - including some sort of unique galvanic system to protect the pilings (oh, how I WISH I had time to research right now, aesthetically the pier is no charmer but I think the construction details are pretty interesting - but it's a busy week at work & I've got things I have to finish tonight, don't really have time for even this, let alone anything I can't provide off the top of my head). It was expected to make the owners a lot of money as it was going to be far more efficient than the older piers - except that they hadn't quite figured in airplane travel taking off the way it did (pardon my pun)(no, don't, there's no excuse).

This is going to be a very interesting vote because as I've mentioned here before, there are 2 competing proposals. One from a group of NYC residents who would like to see the pier retain something of it's current character (particularly the playing fields where I understand an awful lot of kids have an awful lot of non-couch-potato fun) - the other is basically the owners of the Cirque du Soleil, who want to turn it into a year-round performance center where people can go pay scads of money to sit on their duffs & watch other people be amazing. No, I know that's not fair, I do hear they are great & I'd love to see one of their shows sometime - just ahem maybe not somewhere where their having a performance venue maybe means that there will be that much less affordable access to active recreation for everyday people in the area.

From a boating point of view, the current manifestation of Pier 40 (which like Pier 63 was never meant to be permanent, but which like Pier 63 a lot of people kinda like) houses a full-service kayak shop with lessons & storage, New York Kayak Company, a branch of the volunteer-run not-for-profit Downtown Boathouse (they offer free sitatop kayaking in the embayment all summer there), and a branch of Floating the Apple, another nfp that builds & rows classic wooden Whitehall dories. There was also usually a mooring field there in the summertime - on that, I know no details. I don't know where all of these stand right now or what will happen, but there have been an awful lot of people getting on the water out of Pier 40 & I'm sure they've all been following this very closely.

Let's hope that whatever happens, they all get more considerate treatment than the paddlers of Pier 63.

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