In the new State budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo has pledged $50 million to complete the Hudson River Park, which was originally slated for completion in 2006. But this offer comes with a large string attached: his political sparring partner, Mayor Bill de Blasio, must match this with $50 million in City funding.
This total of $100 million has been described by both the Governor’s and the Mayor’s representatives as being sufficient to “finish” the park, but this appears unlikely. Although the Hudson River Park Trust (HPRT) estimates that some 77 percent of its original plan is now complete, it also projects that the total price tag to finish the remaining portions at approximately $617 million.
That noted, the HPRT has other significant sources of revenue. A large new residential and retail complex will soon rise on the site of St. John’s Terminal, a former rail freight facility adjacent to Pier 40 (straddling Houston Street, stretching from Vandam to Clarkson Streets). This project would not have been possible without a transfer of 200,000 square feet of air rights from Pier 40, for which the HPRT is being paid $100 million. This payout is expect to cover most of the cost of rehabilitating the underwater supporting structure of Pier 40, which has been deteriorating for decades. Work on shoring up the Pier (estimated to cost $104 million) is expected to begin later this year.
Moreover, significant additional air rights remain within Pier 40. Although it would be difficult for HPRT to sell these to another developer outside of the Park (its enabling legislation bans transfers more than one block away from the waterfront), these rights could allow the development of new space on the pier itself. The Trust plans to preserve the current, recreational uses of Pier 40, which serves as an athletic facility for many local sports leagues, while also adding commercial uses, which could include offices, retail space, or a hotel.
The Trust also expects to derive significant revenue from the imminent redevelopment of Pier 57, near 15th Street, where Google has signed on as an anchor tenant. The planned office-and-retail complex, which will encompass 480,000 square feet of space, which will eventually contribute several million dollars per year to the HRPT’s balance sheet.
In the longer term, HRPT hopes eventually take over Pier 76 (in the West 30s, adjacent to the Javits Convention Center), which currently functions as the New York City tow pound. This facility currently encloses 245,000 square feet, and adjoins an upland, open-space area of another 55,000 square feet. From this total, the Trust hopes to create slightly more than 178,000 square feet (or just over four acres) of new parkland, while setting aside 122,000 square feet for commercial development.
At the Park’s southern extremity, HPRT officials have spoken publicly about the possibility of selling unused air rights from the Park’s Tribeca section to any possible redevelopment of the Borough of Manhattan Community College Campus.
Overall, the Trust estimates that is already has commitments for approximately $426 million of the $617 million it will need to complete the Park in the next ten years, or some 69 percent of the total. These have come from sources such as air rights sales, private donations, and appropriations from the City and State.
The remaining gap of $189 million, or 31 percent of the total cost, would be more than half bridged by the $100-million allocation that the State and City are now contemplating. But, with a remaining deficit of almost $90 million, this subsidy would not, by itself, quite live up to the billing of “finishing the Hudson River Park” that the Governor and the Mayor have boasted of.
Wherever the funding to complete the Park comes from, however, allocating resources to HPRT appears to be a sound investment. A 2016 analysis from the Regional Plan Association (RPA) concluded that the $720 million allocated to the Hudson River Park since construction began in 1998 has yielded $1.121 billion in indirect economic benefits for New York City (as well as another $305 million in similar benefits for the State as a whole), while new building projects adjacent to the Park represent one-fourth of all the newly created square feet of property in Manhattan built between 2000 and 2014. During those years, RPA also concluded, property tax contributions within the Hudson River Park neighborhood grew 28 percent faster than in Manhattan as a whole. The same report also noted that the Park directly generates more than 3,000 full- and part-time jobs — a figure that is projected to swell to approximately 5,000 jobs over in the next few years.
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