NEW YORK—Once defined by a ruddy abandoned warehouse behind a chain-link fence, Pier 42 is about to blossom. New Yorkers can get a peek at what’s to come as the Pier 42 waterfront park opens for interim use on May 3.
The East River Waterfront stretches nearly the full length of Manhattan, and includes large portions of Brooklyn and Queens. Yet, while the good folks of New York City are technically islanders, the waterfronts are often inaccessible.
Pier 42 was built as a newsprint terminal in 1967, and closed in 1987 when it was used for importing bananas, according to the Paths to Pier 42 website. It has remain unused and closed off from residents ever since.
“There are all these great things happening all along the waterfront, and pier 42 has just been this abandoned shed blocking community access to the waterfront,” said Amy Spitalnick, communications director for New York State Senator Daniel Squadron.
Yet, things began changing in 2008. The Lower East Side Waterfront Alliance rallied residents in the Lower East Side and Chinatown and set out to form their own plan for the waterfront.
The plan became reality in November 2011, when Senator Squadron and Senator Charles Schumer announced they secured $16 million to take the warehouse and parking lot that is Pier 42 and turn it into a waterfront park.
The community will play a strong role. According to Spitalnick, “Part of that deal was that the park would be planned and designed in tandem with the community.”
“We don’t know exactly what it will look like, because the community will be the ones who decide,” she said.
Things will start small when Pier 42 opens on Saturday. It will open a section of the pier while development continues elsewhere. The opened section will be resurfaced enough for locals to enjoy the picnic tables.
In the long term, however, Pier 42 will become part of a “continuous green ribbon around Lower Manhattan, connecting the East and West Sides and providing the Lower East Side and Chinatown communities with much-needed space,” according to a press release.
“Having access to the waterfront, no matter which community you live in, is such a necessity in a city like New York City,” Spitalnick said.
“I think this has been a long time coming,” she said.