A few years ago, the Hudson River Park Trust evicted the Downtown Boathouse from Pier 26 in order to make way for a brand new pier, similar to the one we moved into up at Pier 96. We knew we'd likely be back, but, in the short term, that left us without an actual Downtown Boathouse location.
Then I heard we were moving a few kayaks to the south end of Pier 40. Of course, typical buracracy delayed the permit that would have allowed us to put a dock down for months and months. That meant that we started our Pier 40 program in 2006 midway through the summer. It started very slow. Construction around Pier 40 meant that you needed to walk halfway past the whole Pier to figure out how to get to us. The neighborhood saw the demolition at Pier 26 and thought we were gone for good. They didn't know anything about the "Downtown Boathouse" as an organization...they just knew about the free kayaks at 26.
Little by little, we started to get more and more traffic to Pier 40. I was there helping to run the program there every weekend. When we started up this season, we hung a big kayak by the jogging path with an unmissable arrow.
People climbed over concrete planters to get to us rather than figure out how to go around. Regulars to 26 started returning.
Pier 40, with only 15 kayaks, no trips, no classes, skyrocketed in popularity.
What also happened was that the whole Pier became a destination. We took people out for a paddle who otherwise couldn't get into the sold out trapeze school on the roof. We took kids out after the soccer games they played on the fields indoors, or runners who normally didn't think much about what was going on inside the pier, and previously just ran around it. Pier 40 became even busier than our main location uptown.
And now, the Hudson River Park Trust is voting this Wednesday on one of two commercialized proposals for the development of Pier 40. The only politician who seems to be on the side of the people is State Assembly Member Deborah Glick. She wrote an editorial regarding the Related Companies' proposal:
"Unfortunately, Related’s latest proposal for Pier 40, though it has improved from previous versions, remains one for a mega-entertainment center, complete with Cirque du Soleil as the anchor tenant, a huge banquet hall, 12 movie theaters and several large restaurants. Such large-scale uses do not belong on a pier in the midst of a park and bear no relationship to the park. Uses like Cirque du Soleil are not water-dependent and serve no local need. They could be just as easily — and more appropriately — located on 42nd St. or 52nd St. Related’s latest plan, which is expected to draw 2.7 million visitors each year to Pier 40, would substantially impair the park’s ability to serve as a safe and quiet respite, since it would bring large numbers of vehicles across the busy bike lane, endangering walkers, runners and bikers. In addition, the proposal would only add to the area’s congestion issues, running counter to the city’s traffic mitigation efforts in Lower Manhattan."
There's already a major movie complex right down the street, by Battery Park. And Cirque du Soleil? I doubt that most of the 20,000+ people who went kayaking with us last year can afford the Cirque du Soleil ticket price. Plus, most of those people would probably have more fun if the trapeze school were given room to expand and they could fly through the air themselves versus paying more to watch other people do it.
Plus, last time I checked, we're supposed to be building a PARK, here right? Isn't that what it's called? Hudson River PARK. Go ask a five year old what belongs in a park. I don't think he'll answer banquet halls, movie theaters and restaurants.
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