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Neighbors Await Pier 35's Makeover, Bemoan Skateboarders

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Pier 35 remains a vision on the horizon. Plans to renovate the Lower East Side pier into an eco-park have been pushed back several times over the last couple years. Among the reasons cited for the delay: Hurricane Sandy; the need to screen an unsightly shed at Pier 36; and, now, negotiations between agencies on where to weave a water main underground. But the New York Economic Development Corporation (NYEDC) announced at a Community Board 3 meeting last night that construction on the pier and "package 4" of the East River Waterfront Esplanade (which spans from Catherine Street to Pike Slip) could start in the fall. That means package 4 could be finished by 2016, and Pier 35 could re-open in early 2017.

Those who attended the meeting didn't seem shocked by the revised timeline, but were instead rankled by a new menace that has arrived on the lower Manhattan section of the East River Waterfront Esplanade. Residents might be content to sit on the esplanade, nearly complete save for minor details last year, and watch Pier 35 slowly transform as the clock counts upwards. But there are the skateboarders.

The city lists 19 public skate parks within its limits, including two in Manhattan: at Riverside Park and one just a kick-flip away at Coleman Playground on Cherry Street. But neighbors huff that unruly skateboarders far and wide and their cycling counterparts have descended on the lower part of the esplanade as though it were the epicenter for the extreme—flying by seniors, wearing down new infrastructure by "grinding" and (literally) tearing it up.

"It's for the public, but it's made a skate park," said Peter Mei from Park Slip. "The weather's getting nice. It's only going to get worse." The way it was described, the skaters leave little room for people to relax and, when approached, respond in a venomous way. "We waited far too long for something we can enjoy," said Daisy Echevarria, a member waterfront resident advocacy group TUFF-LES. She said she asked the skaters where they lived and learned they had come from uptown and other boroughs.

The residents called for "No Skateboarding" signs and more police enforcement. The city says its already done those things and has put down "skate stoppers"—described as any variation of items that block the "flow" for skating—but the materials were removed. The EDC has a new plan to weld the skate stoppers down. A parks enforcement captain promised more police presence. "We're going to be [having] even greater enforcement and focusing on the scourge throughout the city," he said. "We'll hit them in the morning. We'll hit them in the evening."

A lot of comments were also directed at an unwanted bocce ball court, part of the new layout of the esplanade. Community board member Anne Johnson laughed, and said, "Bocce is an Italian thing. There used to be a lot of Italians living in the neighborhood. And that's how long this damn project has been going on."
· All Pier 35 coverage [Curbed]
· All East River Waterfront Esplanade coverage [Curbed]