Pier A Needs Millions in Structural Repairs
Pier A, at Battery Park City’s southern border, needs more than $3 million in structural work, according to the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA). In a discussion at the agency’s October 19 board meeting, BPCA vice president for real property Gwen Dawson said, “our long term lease with the City for Pier A obligates the Authority to keep the pier in good and safe order and condition,” and noted that “repair and restoration work is required for the underside of the structure.”
“This work includes concrete elements of the exterior of the pier, along with damage to deteriorated structural steel components, and the protection of timber piles that are adjacent to the structure,” she added.
Ms. Dawson summarized negotiations with Trevcon Construction, leading to an agreement for a 12-month contract. She asked the BPCA board to approve spending $3,020,000 for this work, which it did, unanimously and without discussion.
Pier A was constructed in the 1880s to house the NYPD’s Harbor Patrol. In 1959, the FDNY’s Marine Unit took over. Ten years later, Pier A was slated for demolition, but protests by the Fire Department and preservationists saved it. By 1975, the structure had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places; two years later, it was designated a City landmark.
In the late 1980s, developer Wings Point Associates took control, and by 1992 had ushered out the Fire Department. For ten years, Wings Point worked on the property with grand plans to reopen it as a public space, but renovation slowed and came to a halt, and Wings Point turned over the lease to the BPCA in 2008.
BPCA engineers soon discovered that its supporting columns were seriously compromised, which necessitated years of repair work, costing more than $30 million.
In 2011, structural rehabilitation of Pier A was deemed sufficiently close to completion to being recruiting new commercial partners to operate it. That year, the BPCA awarded a 25-year lease (with minimum annual rents starting at $750,000) to a partnership led by renowned Poulakakos restaurant family to create an oyster bar, restaurant, beer garden, and catering facility within the 30,000-foot, multi-level dock. At the time, these tenants hoped to open the facility as soon as the following summer. But further construction delays precluded a debut that year, and the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy (which flooded the pier) in the fall of 2012 caused more than a year of further postponements. Additionally, the BPCA spent $6 million renovating the plaza in front of Pier A.
When it finally opened in 2014, the tavern and eatery struggled to gain traction with local residents. By 2018, the operators had stopped paying rent to the BPCA and had fallen more than $1.7 million into arrears the following spring. The BPCA responded by renegotiating the facility’s lease, cutting its rent obligations by 36 percent.
But the next year, the Covid pandemic took hold. The operators of Pier A collected more than $1 million in a loan from the federal paycheck protection program, based on their representation that the money would be used to save the jobs of 45 employees. But by October, Pier A had closed permanently. The following month, the operators were sued by a lender for more than $18 million in unpaid principal and interest.
Last November, the BPCA filed suit against the operators, seeking $8.6 million in back rent, unpaid interest, and other damages. Both of those legal action are ongoing.