HELL’S KITCHEN, NY — Park-deprived Hell’s Kitchen could get a new outdoor space in the near future once the NYPD vacates its tow pound on Pier 76, and members of the neighborhood community board got a tantalizing sense this week of what the pier’s future could look like.
A state law passed in 1998 that created Hudson River Park required the city to “use best efforts” to relocate the tow pound to make way for an open space. More than 20 years later, the unsightly shed still covers the pier — but the state upped the pressure this spring through a budget provision requiring the city to push the NYPD out of the pier by Dec. 31, or else pay millions in fines.
While it isn’t clear how soon that will happen, leaders of the Hudson River Park Trust are now hopeful that the tow pound’s departure will leave a “blank canvas,” allowing the expansive pier to be redeveloped into a temporary outdoor space while the city brainstorms a longer-term plan.
In a presentation Thursday evening to Community Board 4’s parks and waterfront committee, Hudson River Park leaders and architects outlined a number of interim uses for an empty Pier 76, saying it could host outdoor concerts, food festivals, public art, dancing lessons, roller rinks and more.
The pier, which stretches between West 36th and 37th streets, is 725 feet long and 300 feet wide — larger than a typical city block. The 250,000-square-foot space would be among the largest of Hudson River Park’s network of waterfront open spaces.
“The need here is incredible,” said Lisa Switkin, an architect from the firm Field Operations, referring to the “dearth of open space” in the surrounding neighborhood.
Basil Seggos, the state’s Commissioner of Environmental Conservation, told the board that the main goal was to “get the shed down” as quickly as possible before any long-term transformation.
Board member Leslie Boghosian Murphy suggested that the pier could become an outdoor performance space and host some of the neighborhood’s theater troupes who have gone without work for months during the pandemic’s Broadway shutdown.
Once construction begins on a permanent transformation of the pier, the park trust plans to lease out part of the property for private use, including a possible office building, in order to raise revenue for annual upkeep.
In a statement, State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents the neighborhood, said he did not know when the NYPD would vacate the space, but urged the city to act fast.
“New Yorkers deserve to have this pier in the Hudson River Park available for open space rather than used as a rent-free dumping ground for cars by the NYPD,” he said. “We want a park, not a parking lot.”