When you’re biking over the Williamsburg Bridge, do you ever think about heading down to see what’s under it? Probably not that often, at least to the south–it’s long been a desolate mess of neglected buildings and there’s no easy way to get near the water.
But, like the rest of New York, new investments are changing the landscape. Plans for a new community-driven park on the East River waterfront edged forward Friday after the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation voted to allocate $12 million dollars to fund phase 1a, joining $16 million already acquired back in 2012.
The project would provide access around Pier 42 from Cherry Street to Montgomery Street, between the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. The pier has a long history of activity– it was originally a newsprint terminal, then became a banana importer. But New York’s role as a port city eventually slowed down and the pier was closed and inaccessible from 1987.
But back in 2008 the East River waterfront began to be eyed for redevelopment. Local community groups, worried that the plans around Pier 42 looked too high-end, got together under the banner “Paths to Pier 42” to pitch their own vision for a park that would meet community needs. For the past few years they’ve kept the pressure up by cleaning up a temporary park area and “activating” the space with free programming, like summer and fall waterfront celebrations and artist workshops. They even have an audio walking tour around the area.
US Senator Charles E. Schumer and State Senator Daniel Squadron have also repeatedly pushed to get the funding moved forward. Now that they have enough for the initial stage, the next step in phase 1 (after clearing up the space) is to build out a one-acre playground with a water play area and “comfort area.”
The groups behind Paths to Pier 42 were definitely heartened by the news. “The LMDC’s additional funding is a big win for the Lower East Side,” said Dylan House, community design director at Hester Street Collaborative, one of the key groups leading the push for Pier 42 Park. “As construction begins on the first phase in the next year, that community vision will start to be realized. This additional funding is critical in continuing to move the project forward and will help continue the transformation of Pier 42 into the People’s Park.”
Of course, there’s still a ways to go before we can all bike down on a whim to a cool new park–the total cost of the project is estimated to be in the $90 million range. The project is also far behind schedule–it was supposed to begin construction this spring, but the latest intel is that it won’t begin until 2017. In any case, look forward to more community programming this summer to get a taste of what’s to come.