Divers will descend into the Hudson River next week as part of an ongoing construction effort to restore the Sinatra Park pier.
The park at 5th Street and Sinatra Drive was closed after a portion of the pier collapsed in September of 2009. Construction began in March, starting a long-term $7.7 million effort to restore the park to its previous condition, according to Brandy Forbes, the city’s director of community development.
“In order for it to be safe it had to be restored,” said Forbes. “We couldn’t allow people on there knowing it had collapsed underneath.”
Sinatra Park’s facilities include a waterfront walkway, a gazebo, and soccer field. Forbes said that the turf along the field was recently rolled back to allow room for construction.
“This problem [shipworms] has become much more significant than it may have been ten years ago.” – Community Development Director Brandy Forbes
“One of the biggest aspects of the job is the restoration of the seawall itself,” said Forbes, adding that divers will be putting on the finishing touches this summer.
Forbes also said that the divers, who will be working only several feet down in the water, will have to work around the changes in tide.
“The most critical part is to get that structure [the pier] stabilized and rebuilt before they can do any of the final work,” said Forbes. “So that’s what they are focusing on right now.”
Forbes and Mayor Dawn Zimmer acknowledged the lengthy process associated with the restoration of the park. Forbes said that permits had to be obtained from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which took roughly a year. Permission then had to be obtained from the Army Corps of Engineers before a construction company could be contracted.
“I fully recognize the hardship for Hoboken residents to not have as much field space as we truly need,” said Zimmer. “I’m very pleased this project is moving forward and we’re hopeful we can get it done ahead of schedule.”
Beware the shipworms
Forbes explained that the pier’s collapse could essentially be attributed to Teredo worms, or “shipworms,” which tear away at wood-based structures like the Sinatra Pier.
Forbes explained that in recent years, the DEP has required that the Hudson River be held to higher cleaning standards, which ironically led to an increase in shipworms.
“These things have been thriving in [cleaner waters],” said Forbes. “[That’s why] we put sleeves around [the wood] and pour concrete around it. They don’t eat through the concrete structures.”
“This problem [shipworms] has become much more significant than it may have been ten years ago,” Forbes added.
In fact, town officials explained that many waterfront property owners are now taking measures to ensure their structures are protected from shipworms.
“When it collapsed, the city went through a process of evaluating the entire waterfront over that concern of whether [their property] is structurally sound,” said Forbes. “Some of the private property owners are taking measures to improve some of their structures.”
Zimmer explained that during past construction projects, the city was often at the mercy of the contracted companies as to whether they would finish their projects in a timely fashion.
“We had a real challenge of completing Pier C [Park construction],” said Zimmer. “There was nothing [in the contract] to get the contractor to finish the job on time. If we [chose to] pull the contract away from them, it’s hard to get somebody else to finish the project because they don’t want to take on the liability.”
Zimmer explained that for this particular contract, a “liquidated damages clause” was inserted to ensure that the contractor is motivated to finish the job in time. According to the contract, the clause holds that if the contractor fails to complete the work by December 21, the company must pay a fine to the city each subsequent day.
“I was adamant this would be in here,” said Zimmer. “If they don’t finish by December 21, they have to pay $1,500 dollars a day.”
Zimmer later added that she is hopeful Sinatra Park will be finished by fall.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.