Today, the non-profit Hudson River Park Trust (HPRT) organization won approval to sell its Pier 40 air rights to the St. John’s Terminal redevelopment on 550 Washington Street. The subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises voted in favor of the idea to transfer the $100 million of air rights from Pier 40 on the Hudson River to the 1.7 million-square-foot development; revenue from the deal will allow the trust to carry out vital repair work to the pier.
The subcommittee voted five to one in favor of the air rights sale with council member Jumaane Williams voting against. Williams argued that the affordable housing program within the St. John’s Terminal scheme “did not go deep enough” and fully tackle the affordable housing issue within the area.
Speaking to The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) after the vote, Council member for the 3rd District Corey Johnson said he was “excited” for the future of the St. John’s Terminal redevelopment. “This project has been going on for years and it’s got better and better throughout the process and I think we achieved an extraordinary amount for the community,” he said.
25 percent of the housing units within the development (reportedly, 1,500 in total) will be “permanently affordable” while Johnson also said that the project will bring a “much needed” supermarket shopping facility to the far west side.
Pier 40’s revenue—mostly generated by the almost 2,000 vehicles that use the pier for parking—currently accounts for approximately 30 percent of the HPRT’s funding. Writing for AN, architect and critic Michael Sorkin described this as a “truly idiotic use for one the city’s most wonderful sites.” The site does, however, host a well-used and much-cherished array of sports fields (all located on one area of artificial turf) where soccer, football, baseball, lacrosse, and rugby are all regularly played. Conditions on the site, though, are deteriorating with field lighting and markings as well as structural piles for the pier in need of repair.
Later in the day, the Land Use Committee also approved the project twelve to one, with Williams again voting against. Williams argued that more needed to be done to combat inequality and homelessness in light of Ben Carson’s selection to lead Housing and Urban Development (HUD); the former neurosurgeon once described public housing as a “mandated social-engineering scheme,” and a policy of a “communist” country.
Meanwhile, Hudson River Park President and CEO Madelyn Wils said in a statement emailed to AN:
Pier 40 is a treasured community resource and an important revenue generator for Hudson River Park. Today’s votes move us one step closer to ensuring that the urgently needed repairs to the pier’s piles will be made, and the pier will stay open. Under a newly strengthened deal, the full $100 million will be guaranteed to the park before the developer can pull the special permit.
Once the funding is secured, we must also make sure Pier 40 serves as a revenue generator for the entire park. We thank the City Council for acknowledging today that the remaining development rights on Pier 40 should be used on the pier itself in a future redevelopment.
Thanks to Council Member Johnson, all of our local elected officials, the de Blasio administration and Community Board 2 for their hard work and leadership over the past year on this critical issue for Hudson River Park.
The full city council will vote on the matter on December 15.