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New Plans Revealed for Pier 57's Rooftop Park

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Resurrecting a long-dormant pier to provide a new, publicly accessible rooftop park is no easy task. And when that park is not only meant to be a quiet oasis, but also meant as a space for bustling events (like film screenings and exercise classes), that task becomes Herculean. However, at last night's Community Board 4 meeting, the team of YoungWoo & Associates and RXR Realty were determined to show that they could accomplish those seemingly conflicting goals with their updated design of Pier 57, a.k.a. the "SuperPier." Stating at the outset that the rooftop designs were limited by Pier 57's designation as a "historic pier"—meaning there could be no trees on the roof or shade structures and green showing from certain angles, Greg Clancy of RXR unveiled some interesting ways to get around those restrictions.
The forthcoming park's 1.8 acres now includes a total of 13,399 square feet of green space, more than 3,000 square feet than the original proposal. The designers, !melk landscape architects and Handel Architects, accomplished this with planter islands (which are deep enough and wide enough to serve as seating) and vegetated walls in addition to a conventional lawn. The walls will be made of three different plants—Fallopia, Clematis and Hydrangea—blooming at different times of year. Shade will be provided by sheets made of a sail-like material, whose shape can be customized by park officials; there are smaller mini-shades that visitors can insert into concrete seating at 60 different points throughout the park. The advantage of the two types of shades is that they are moveable structures that will not interfere with sightlines on a permanent basis.

In fact, the entire theme of the park is flexibility in both form and function. There are permanent seating areas, like the wooden stadium seating that Clancy described as "inspired by movie theater design," with a lawn at its center (fitting, since the Tribeca Film Festival will eventually use the space for film screenings). There's also seating that can be moved around to accommodate different activities, whether it's a concert or a shuffleboard game.

At the center of the park will be a restaurant pavilion surrounded by a glass enclosure that can open and close. The glass will be green to match the façade of the building and fitted with LED lights; these will also be tucked under the concrete seating areas to create a "moon lighting" effect. Clancy reassured the committee members that the light throughout the park would be set at the dimmest possible setting allowed by law in public areas. Overall, the park can accommodate 2,600 people.

Committee members largely thought the park's design looked fine but were far more concerned with how the park would sound. The fact that the restaurant's glass enclosure would open into the park and the park itself could feature loud, boisterous events made many in attendance uneasy. "If you're drunk and ready to party it's great; if you're not it's an assault," said Jean Daniel Noland, land use committee chair. In response, Clancy stressed the design elements that would absorb sound—the planters surrounding the East Pavilion (where activities would be held) are covered with a woody material; they've also hired an acoustic consultant to help with the sound design process. While Noreen Doyle, Executive VP of Hudson River Park Trust, emphasized the "self-regulating" nature of the restaurant—patrons and building occupants wouldn't want their meal spoiled by too much noise either—but committee members weren't convinced. "All it takes is one person with a speaker to ruin the entire atmosphere for everyone else," said committee member Brett Firfer.

Christine Berthet, committee board chair suggested that "occupational guidelines" be set up for the restaurant or exercise classes so it doesn't impinge on quiet, passive space. Towards the meeting's end the committee voted in favor of writing a letter to the designers thanking them for the presentation and also laying out their concerns, which also included accessibility during the four weeks of the year when specific events would make open use of the park difficult or impossible.

Not all the committee members were put off by the possible sound pollution: Katherine Consuelo Johnson was happy that her child would have someplace fun to spend their time. "I have a teenager and it's really hard to find a place for them to hang out," she explained. Committee co-chair Delores Rubin also reminded everyone that the pier had languished for years serving no one and now these designs were "bringing it back to life."

Hudson River Park Trust, which is in charge of the environmental review of Pier 57's re-development will hold a public hearing in the fall with a 60-day public comment period.—Kizzy Cox
· All SuperPier Coverage [Curbed]