Community concerns dominated a Monday, November 17 meeting of the Community Board 7 58th Street Pier AD HOC Committee, which had come together to discuss the changes being made at the pier as a result of a three-year license granted to Vane Brothers through the DockNYC initiative.
The goal of the change is to increase waterfront access for shipping purposes, and involves the construction of infrastructure to dock empty barges at the pier, eliminating public access to approximately 1,000 feet along its south side, including the pier’s ferry landing, which would have to be relocated to the north side.
The committee, led by Chair Cynthia Gonzalez, was joined by Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and residents of Sunset Park, who discussed the plan, concerns regarding losing space and scenic views, air and noise pollution and the lack of communication between the community and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
“We have such a beautiful view there and opportunity. We have the open space,” said Gonzalez. “It’s just such a breathtaking view from that pier that any obstruction on that, I just feel like it’s killing me personally. I understand the city wants to generate revenue and that EDC that controls that pier feels there is this great opportunity to bring in money but I’m just hoping that if anything comes out of this committee, it will be options to having those fuel tankers parked there.”
Menchaca echoed Gonzalez’s sentiments and brought a copy of a letter he wrote to Kyle Kimball, the president of EDC, encouraging the corporation to be more collaborative and open with the Sunset Park community. While, he said, “The EDC can do this without any real approvals, we want to make sure that we have a community process that allows for conversations on how we would like EDC to continue.”
Gonzalez was also miffed by the lack of information. “There was no community involvement in this plan that I know of. I didn’t hear about it until (CB 7) Chairperson Dan Murphy announced it at a board meeting and it was shocking to me because I would think that we deserve more respect in this community where EDC could’ve come and made a presentation about a plan.”
During the meeting, Menchaca’s Chief of Staff Lee Wellington discussed some potential positives of the situation. “Maybe we can do something beautiful with it,” she said. “We know this is going to happen. How do we make it happen in a way that is actually going to benefit this community, both the maritime side and the community side?”
“Our Sunset Park community has historically supported maritime jobs on the waterfront, while also emphasizing the need for public access,” Menchaca wrote. “In fact, one of the goals set out in CB 7’s 197-a plan [a city-authorized, community-created plan for the growth and development of a specific area] is to maximize waterfront access and open space opportunities in combination with industrial and waterfront redevelopment.”
“This pier is special because it allows for this maritime use,” he added. “It’s our small businesses that work here and our maritime community. Everyone is a stakeholder in this.”