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West Village Residents Still Hesitant Over Pier 40 Development Deal

Some are concerned that the deal will set a bad precedent for the neighborhood

As the fight over the fate of Pier 40 continues, some West Village residents expressed hesitation over a development deal for the crumbling pier at a community meeting at the New York City Fire Museum. The transfer of air rights from the waterfront area would allow for the large-scale redevelopment of St. John's Terminal across the street.

The organization that controls Pier 40, the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT), agreed to transfer more than 200,000 square feet of air rights to Westbrook Partners and Atlas Capital Group for $100 million—a deal that would allow the developers to convert the St. John's Terminal site into a five-building project with thousands of apartments (both market-rate and affordable), retail, and a hotel/office. (It's been about nine months since these plans have been updated so the specifics of the redevelopment may very well have changed.)

The huge, contentious project is currently making its way through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), and the transfer of rights won't be valid until that hurdle is cleared, but some West Village residents fear that this might set a bad precedent. In addition to the 200,000 square feet of air rights agreed upon, Pier 40 still has more than 400,000 square feet of air rights to offer; neighborhood residents are worried that without some kind of law to regulate these sales, developers could siphon off these air rights in the future to build bigger projects like St. John's.

"If this is going to go through, we need to make sure we turn the spigot off," Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Historic Preservation Society, said at the meeting on Monday. "If any approvals are granted, we need to ensure that future air rights aren't transferred into this neighborhood. We need to demand permanent protections." Others expressed concerns about the height of the St. John's Terminal buildings, as well as the possible burden it would place on the neighborhood.

However, representatives for the HRPT argued that repair work on Pier 40 was critical, and that the $100 million would be spent entirely on fortifying the 3,500 piles that currently hold up the pier. The reinforcement project would take about four years to complete, and already the HRPT has secured $1 million from the developers across the street to begin the preliminary work. If the ULURP is successful, the rest of the funds will be gradually released over the next few years.

Residents expressed enthusiasm for the repairs—they want to see the Pier's ball fields and rowing club (the Village Community Boathouse) maintained—but they're worried about the overall cost to the neighborhood. Madelyn Wils, the CEO of HRPT, said the organization was committed to maintaining Pier 40 as a community facility, but couldn't promise what might happen under future administrations if the current proposal didn't go through.

The meeting on Monday night was convened by the Pier 40/St. John's Terminal Working Group and was packed beyond capacity, filling out the third floor of the Fire Museum. The full community board (Manhattan Community Board 2) will vote on the transfer of air rights later this month.