While final plans and the start of construction are a ways off, the designs for Pier C Park on the city's waterfront are proceeding, according to city officials.
Pier C was the broken pier that used to jut into the Hudson River from Third Street. Last summer, contractors razed the decrepit pier, and now there are plans to build an approximately 2.5-acre park with the Port Authority's money. For perspective, Pier A Park, with which residents are familiar, is just about 5 acres.
According the project manager Peter Arato of Michael Van Valkengurgh Associates, the project will likely be completed sometime in 2005.
What is planned?
Monday night, the Pier C Park steering committee hosted a forum to update city officials and the public on the progress that the hired landscape architects are making on the park's design.
According to Landscape Architect Matthew Urbanski, a principal of Michael Van Valkengurgh Associates, professionals and city officials are one-third of the way through the design and development phase. The plans presented Monday were a wish list of everything that officials and planners would like to see on the site, but budgetary issues very well could force some deletions.
The proposed design is an asymmetrical park with many curves and angles and most of the park's landmass running parallel to the shoreline. The park is planned to be attached to the shore only through walkways.
The main walkway, or promenade, connects the park to Sinatra Drive and the waterfront walkway, and is currently slated to be extended east from Fourth Street.
The floating marsh
As visitors walk onto the promenade, walking away from the shore, to their immediate right there are plans for a floating marsh, a kind of protected cove, with floating plant life intended by the planners to attract birds and wildlife. Another reason for the floating marsh is to give the feel that the park is connected to nature. At this point there are tentative plans for boardwalks to transverse the marsh at several locations, but it is unlikely that people will be able to actually walk upon the floating marsh, said Urbanski.
Walking past the marsh, still walking away from shore, on the left is planned a "pavilion" with several large grass sitting areas. The highlight of the pavilion is planned to be a grass area that looks out at a 40-foot by 25-foot movie screen planned to be built thirty feet in the water.
The screen in the preliminary plan is slated to be made of metal mesh that can be seen through when movies aren't being shown. When it is the summer, or spring, a screen of fabric could be draped over the mesh to create a surface for a movie to be shown.
According to city officials, the pavilion would be the perfect location for the city's wildly popular "Movies Under the Stars" series. According Geri Fallo, the city's coordinator of cultural affairs, over 1,000 people often attend the event that is held every Wednesday in the summer.
Also in the pavilion, there are slated to be restrooms, and storage space for equipment.
The architects said if people were packed into the lawn like in a movie theater, it would be possible to fit 1,200 people in the space, but because of the nature of outdoor seating with blankets and picnic baskets, the total capacity could be much smaller.
For the kids
Standing in the middle of the pavilion facing south, visitors will be looking at a path that leads to a series of playgrounds for children of different ages. According Urbanski, the playground area is planned to be divided into sections for three different age groups: Toddlers up to age two, preschoolers ages two to five, and elementary school students ages five to twelve.
For the older children, they are planning an almost 10-foot tall "magic mountain" climbing apparatus made of wood and climbing stones. At the end of the playground area there are plans for a round water park area, with fountains and water spraying devices.
Jutting even further into the Hudson
Just to the east of the water play area, the plans show a sandy beach and volleyball courts that jut into the river on a round extension of the pier.
North of the volleyball courts are plans for a 700-foot fishing peer. The pier will be approximately the same length as Pier A Park, according the current diagrams.
Who's paying the bill?
The demolition of the old and rotting Pier C and reconstruction expenses for the new pier park will be paid for by the Port Authority. The Port Authority has already handed $80 million to the city to help redevelop the southern waterfront in an effort to fulfill a congressional mandate to try and breathe new life into the area.
According to Environmental Services Director Cassandra Wilday, the city's director of community development, the Port Authority has allotted $23 million for the Pier C project. After demolition, the city still has approximately $19 million to reconstruct and create a park on the new Pier C.
The status of Pier C, the broken pier that used to jut into the Hudson River from Third Street, became a hot topic in December of 2000 when former Mayor Anthony Russo announced plans to fill it with a municipal swimming pool made out of a hollowed out barge.
Wilday said Monday that the floating pool is still a possibility somewhere along the Hoboken waterfront, but might be unlikely at the Pier C site.
She said that the pier is too small, and the large barge would not be appropriate. But she added the city is investigating other possible locations for the pool and that it was premature to announce where those locations might be.
She also said that getting the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to approve the docking of a pool barge might be challenging. The DEP has to approve any project that is built over the Hudson River.
No ballfields - here, anyway
According to Wilday, building a pier is so expensive that it is not cost effective to use almost the entire surface area for one element, such as a soccer field.
"The cost of this 'land' is so high that there is really no way that we can use it for an athletic filed that needs a huge area and only serves a small portion of the population," she said. "We need to get the most we can out of these very expensive square feet."
She added that shortly the city will announce its open space acquisition plan. While she did not give many specifics, she said that city officials have "talked about a softball field in the northwest [area of town]."
The next steps
According to Urbanski, the next step is to reconcile the budget and decided how much of the current plan can be afforded. He said that it is his hope that the planners can keep all the elements, but he admitted that it is a challenge to get everything on the wish list to fit in the budget.
After the plans are completed, the planners will begin the permit process, where the city will approach the DEP and the federal Corp of Engineers for approval. Arato said that process should begin within the next two months.
At that point the architects will create construction and bid documents. The city will then have an open bidding process and construction can begin.