South Street pier approved

Pier 15, as envisioned by EDC. Image: SHoP Architects PC.

Part of EDC’s East River waterfront plan fell within historic district. The NYC Economic Development Corp. and SHoP Architects PC presented a plan before Landmarks on March 17, 2009, to reconstruct Pier 15 in the South Street Seaport Historic District. The reconstruction is part of the City’s East River Waterfront Esplanade and Piers project, which is planned to stretch for two miles from the Battery Maritime Building to East River Park. The plan intends to make lower Manhattan’s eastern waterfront accessible and appealing to pedestrians. Since Pier 15 fell within the South Street Seaport Historic District, the design required Landmarks’ approval.

Architect Gregg Pasquarelli presented the plan, explaining that the pier would consist of two levels, with a maritime education center and cafe on the lower level, and the upper level devoted solely to recreational space. The upper level floor would be constructed of wooden slats with half-inch spacing, allowing light below. Three lawns would be planted on the upper level, and amphitheatre- type seating would be installed for viewing the river. Pasquarelli claimed that the City had a history of two-level recreational piers, and the two levels allowed for maritime and recreational uses.

A representative of the New York Landmarks Conservancy voiced support for the proposal, stating that the Conservancy recognized the need for redevelopment of the area, and that the proposed design related well to its surroundings. The Municipal Art Society’s Melissa Baldock praised the design for creating boat docking and open space. Manhattan Community Board 1 also submitted a letter recommending approval.

The Historic District Council’s Nadezhda Williams spoke in opposition, objecting to both the “piecemeal” consideration of the area’s redevelopment and the design and character of the proposed pier. Williams called the project “overdesigned,” and stated that “greenery does not belong on a pier in a historic district.”

Commissioners responded positively to the proposal. Commissioner Diana Chapin called the proposal “a very sensitive way to enliven the waterfront,” and a “modern reinterpretation of a recreational pier.” Commissioner Margery Perlmutter found the most important preservation aspect to be drawing people toward interaction with the waterfront once more. Commissioner Libby Ryan disliked the lawns on the second story, and Commissioner Roberta Washington found the project lacked any significant connection to the past. Nevertheless, the measure passed seven to one, with only Washington voting no.

LPC: South Street, Manhattan (Advisory Report# 09-6967) (March 17, 2009).

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