New York Times Gets It Right on Pier 40

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

When Hudson River Park was established in 1998, it was funded by the State and City with the understanding that it would eventually be self-sustaining. But the park’s waterfront location has presented far greater maintenance challenges than initially expected, and the financial stability of the park, as well as its completion, is in jeopardy.

To date, up to a third of the park’s maintenance budget has been covered by public parking revenues from a deteriorating garage on Pier 40, located at the western end of Houston Street and home to several local sports leagues. Pier 40 itself is rotting, and damage to its garage has closed off portions of the profitable parking area. Emergency funds from precious reserves have to be tapped to stabilize this situation, but such stop-gap fixes are not a long-term answer.

Today’s New York Times editorial page calls on the State to broaden the legislation governing the types of development permitted at Pier 40, as well as Pier 76, to balance maximizing revenue generation with minimizing traffic and commercial impact on the park.

NY4P has publicly presented the same argument. It is unlikely that a single silver bullet will solve Hudson River Park’s financial crisis, so it is imperative that those who care about the park’s immediate and future sustainability explore a range of approaches to generating additional revenue for the park. We don’t yet know what the answer is – it’s impossible to be certain without seeing actual proposals and balancing what the market will bear with what the community and other key stakeholders will support – but what is certain is that the more flexibility the law allows in that conversation, the more competition it will generate, and – we hope – the more creative options stakeholders will have to collectively consider and choose from.

Parks and open spaces are essential public services that contribute to the economy, environmental health and livability of New York. As such, we firmly believe they should be publicly funded, and that public access and use are paramount. In today’s constrained budgetary climate, however, innovative financing strategies that tap private sources of funding to create, improve, and maintain our parks are increasingly necessary to augment public dollars. It’s important to remember that such public-private partnerships need not be inherently threatening to the public nature and users of our parks if they are thoughtfully developed and regulated.

As The Times concluded:  
“Even if the law is changed to allow more commercial uses, any new proposal would have to address issues of height, noise, traffic, as any major development proposal would, as well as conform to the original vision of the park as a place primarily for public enjoyment. But the worst alternative would be to do nothing.”

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