Saturday, June 03, 2006

Pier 63 - A Better Explanation!

This is for Chosha, who asked for "Summary? Crucial quote? Main point?" concerning that NY Times article, which may have vanished into the archives. This made me realize that although I think a lot of the people who read this blog are returnees, they may not necessarily have quite ever gotten the full Saga of Pier 63. So here it is!

The main thing to know about Pier 63, in relation to this blog, is that the barge at Pier 63 is where my trusty Romany and my poor old fourth-hand surfski reside, along with a whole lot of other kayaks belonging to the group known here sometimes as "the Rustbucket crew", "the Pier 63 gang", and the subset recently christened "The Adventure Squad". Other residents of the barge include New York Outrigger (Manhattan's home for Hawaiian-kine outrigger canoe paddling), New York Kayak Polo, and Manhattan Kayak Company. MKC provides the rental storage space & water access that enables me to do pretty much all the paddling I do in the NYC area. Like most NYC residents, I do not have a car and although my Brooklyn "lily pad" has closets that most NY residents would envy, there's not quite room for a sixteen-foot sea kayak, so take away my riverside storage and that would make my life in New York a lot less pleasant. Seriously, without all my river stuff, I don't know if I'd still even be in New York City.

Anyhow - Pier 63 Maritime is actually a "car float" - a big barge designed to bring boxcars across the river. People don't always realize that it's a barge, but it is. The company that runs the barge is a subtenant of Basketball City. In the picture above, see the big white bubble-topped building? That bubble houses basketball courts. The ground floor houses a stable, which is a crucial part of the story. Pier 63 sublets office space from Basketball City in the north end of the building, and MKC sublets office space from P63. The real landlord, though, is the Hudson River Park Trust.

The main thing about this whole setup is that it was always supposed to be temporary. It's very clearly written into the Hudson River Park Act that the piershed at Pier 63 is to be demolished. Basketball City moved in with that understanding. The barge came to be because a clause in the subtenant lease requires all subtenants of the Park must provide a certain amount of waterfront access. With the Pier 63 building being actually built on pilings, this was going to involve some rather expensive cantilevered thingummy being built out over the river behind the building - but then, according to barge legend, John Krevey, the owner of the barge, approached Basketball City management with the proposal: "Rent me your loading dock and I will solve all your public access problems". They did so, and shortly thereafter a tugboat-owning friend of John's was shepherding the barge into position, the spuds were dropped to moor it in place & there you have it!

There have been a number of tense moments for the barge and the denizens thereof since then, but through everything, everybody involved always knew that the entire arrangement was not going to last forever.

For all that, though, Basketball City has done their level best to stay there as long as they possibly could. They have been dragging the whole process through court for ages - apparently they lost their last appeal & the Trust would now like to enforce the departure deadline of June 7th!

Making things even more interesting is that bit about the ground level of that bubble-topped building being a very nice stable. Around the time that Basketball City was going into business, somebody else got the idea that what Chelsea needed more than anything else in the world was a really exclusive stable - thus was born the Chelsea Equestrian Center.

Turned out somebody got the wrong idea, though. The center eventually went bankrupt & the horses were all spirited out in the middle of the night one night. The beautiful box stalls and the indoor and outdoor arenas sat empty for some time - then Basketball City found a new subtenant - a New York Police Department equestrian unit (seeing as one of the parking lot attendants and I caught a burglar at Pier 63 one night during the time when the stable was vacant, I LIKE having these folks there!).

In addition, although Basketball City is a for-profit corporation, they do provide a valuable community service in that a whole lot of local public school teams get to play basketball there for free...

So, the whole I-don't-even-know-whose-side-to-be-on setup is -

On the one side, you have the Hudson River Park Trust, frustrated by tenants who went into the tenant relationship fully aware that it was temporary, and that eventually they would have to leave to but nevertheless digging their heels in & resisting going when it's long past the time they were originally supposed to go, sitting on land that a lot of Chelsea residents are extremely eager to see turned into a place where they can go sit under a tree & watch the river roll by...

on the other hand, you've got the Trust evicting police horses and a place where schoolkids play basketball -- and of course the Basketball City people are playing that aspect to the hilt.

Caught in the middle of all of this, it seems like the owner of the barge is just trying to lay low & not make waves (pardon my pun).

Fact is, it's June 3rd; the eviction notice that was served a couple of weeks ago gave a date of June 7th; at this point, no one seems to be lifting a finger (or a hoof) in the direction of leaving. Plus, the rumours du jour are encouraging as far as the barge getting to stick around for a while even if the on-site offices have to close.

In the slightly more distant future, there's a lot of talk of the barge moving a few piers north.

But for now, everything's up in the air, and we'll just have to wait & see how it all comes out. One of the points I hope has become clear, here, though, is that pretty much describes how the situation has been since at least as far back as 2004 - and even before then, we all knew that at some point in the not-so-distant future, things were going to change.

Closing now with a sigh and a shrug. Ah well, why watch soap operas when it's so much more fun to live one?

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