In a rare victory for public parks over commercial development, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would have allowed increased office space on Hudson River Park’s Pier 40. The bill would have allowed developers to build up to 700,000 square feet of new buildings reaching as high as 88 feet tall on the pier, which currently serves a popular play spot with sports fields, a commercial parking lot, and administrative offices for the entire park.
As the largest pier in Hudson River Park and one of its largest sources of revenue, Pier 40 has long been a contentious topic among community members and city officials. Currently generating 30 percent of the park’s budget, Pier 40 is caught in the awkward position of being a neighborhood gem of public space and the park’s cash cow. Revenue from the ill-fated office buildings would have gone to funding the park’s operations. However, other commercial piers, such as Pier 57, remain and will soon house office space for Google and City Winery. Both are set to also contribute to park costs.
“We crafted a measure to try to balance their needs for what they claim is their need for development and our strong belief that we had to protect the playing fields at Pier 40,” said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who sponsored the bill but supported Cuomo’s veto, in an interview with Gothamist. “This wasn’t something where anybody was particularly happy about the compromises we were making,”
This isn’t the first time Pier 40 has been at the center of the tug-of-war between developers and community advocates. In 2016, the city council approved a massive air-rights transfer from Pier 40 to the St. John’s Terminal redevelopment across the street for $100 million. The local Community Board 2 had rejected the recent proposal to bring office buildings to the pier.
“Money is always the rationale to develop sites in Manhattan, hence the lack of open space, green areas, parks or recreation space. We have so few remaining parcels available for community use,” Cuomo wrote in the veto memo. “The one thing we are not making any more of in Manhattan is open space, and this must be protected.”