Sunset residents lobby for improvements for the 58th Street Pier

With Vane Brothers reportedly pulling out of controversial plans to utilize Sunset Park’s 58th Street Pier to moor empty fuel oil barges, neighborhood residents now would like to see something there that would benefit those who live in the community.

The pier represents the neighborhood’s only waterfront access, and Sunset Parkers had objected vociferously when the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) negotiated a four-year lease with Vane; that, however, seems to have been stopped in its tracks, according to a story in Crain’s Insider.

It’s not official, however. “We have heard nothing from EDC,” said Jeremy Laufer, the district manager of Community Board 7, in whose catchment area the pier is located.

Nonetheless, residents have stepped up to the plate, listing ideas how the pier could be used to enhance the quality of life for residents – beginning with an environmental education center, the brainchild of Sunset Park Restoration (SPR), which also has posted an online petition created by SPR board member Hector Santiago to gather community support.

Peggy Breen, also a member of SPR, made major contributions to the proposal using her architectural design skills, working with Tony Giordano, executive director of SPR.

“When Tony and I were discussing it recently, the thought of an environmental education center sounded promising,” said Breen. “As we brainstormed, I threw out using an old train as the center and he countered with using a trolley.  I loved the idea and, as a professional space planner, a vision started to form in my mind.  But for it just to be an education center when it could be so much more seemed restricting, so I offered to do up some conceptual plans for the pier.”

Breen designed plans for a harbor that included a playground, a water taxi, a space for fishing and picnic tables for families that would allow them enjoy views of the Manhattan skyline.

Giordano was impressed with the design Breen created and hopes these ideas will soon come to fruition. “Peggy did a great job and not only gave us a starting point, but also a vision for the future,” he said, calling the concept, “The first step in a multi-staged effort to extend community involvement with the pier.

“We would hope that the fairly inexpensive structure would be a first step, followed by volunteer programming sharing with visitors the history of the working waterfront,” Giordano went on, adding that SPR members are already putting together lists of green technology items that can be used on the pier.

“I am very hopeful that someday [the plans will] come to fruition,” said Breen. “The people of Sunset Park should have a place to enjoy the harbor. In fact, my vision is that the entire New York City area enjoy this pier and that it has many visitors.”

EDC did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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