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Chelsea Piers squeeze play in battle to reclaim road space for cyclists, pedestrians and joggers

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | They put pressure on Chelsea Piers to reclaim public space.

Community Board 4 and the Hudson River Park Advisory Council are both using the opportunity of the sports complex lease renewal as leverage to fight for more turf for pedestrians and cyclists – and less for movie trailers, as well as cars and taxis for revelers – in front of the waterfront destination site. In short, Chelsea Piers should not be ‘locked down’ to its current configuration, in terms of the outer carriageway, they argue.

Groups like Transportation Alternatives and the publication Streetsblog, among others, strongly support this effort.

The Hudson River Park Trust board could make a call on the issues – both the lease and the use of road space – when it meets this Thursday, May 19.

As anyone who has driven past Chelsea Piers knows, there is certainly plenty of empty road space ahead. The complex, in fact, has three lanes full of asphalt on the outside. In stark contrast, however, the Hudson River Bike Path is here at one of its narrowest points, making it difficult, if not dangerous, for cyclists to try to pass runners and cyclists over slow on the way. Meanwhile, the pedestrian sidewalk directly opposite Chelsea Piers could also be widened and made more usable.

Chelsea Piers is currently looking for a longer term lease. However, its operators do not want to give up the outdoor road space that the complex currently controls.

In a letter to CB 4, Chelsea Piers wrote: “As we have explained Chelsea Piers is a very busy complex and it is simply not possible for us to eliminate an access route at this time without seriously damage our existing businesses.”

Additionally, Chelsea Piers plans to spruce up its waterfront walkway on the west side of the complex, which it says will alleviate concerns about the east walkway.

“We continue to firmly believe that the significant investment we have promised to create a more inviting waterfront pathway will, in itself, significantly improve the functioning of the east facade by redirecting pedestrians west as the preferred route,” Chelsea replied. Piers. .

The resort has, however, left the door open to reassessing the pavement situation at a later date and – assuming such a day comes – letting CB 4 be involved in the process of redesigning the space and “improving public access”. This would of course depend first on “a change in traffic conditions” at the dock, the operators noted.

Chelsea Piers produced a transport study by AECOM to support her argument that she cannot cede any space at this time.

However, Hudson River Park Advisory Council member Tom Fox, in particular, was skeptical of AECOM’s findings and so independently commissioned another company, BFJ, to do their own analysis of the report.

Fox is also the former president of the Hudson River Park Conservancy, the predecessor of the current Hudson River Park Trust, and is therefore familiar with the original plans for Chelsea Piers from the 1990s. He says Chelsea Piers altered the plans in such a way that the space that should have been dedicated to film and television production, among other things, was given over to the country house (gym and soccer fields) and the bowling alley.

In a presentation to the park’s advisory board, Fox said: “As you may know, I was involved in the initial lease negotiations for Chelsea Piers, and in 1996 Chelsea Piers received consideration from the Department of Transportation of the state and Governor Pataki to construct three of the vehicular lanes on the east side of the building to facilitate access to and from the Chelsea piers.

“It was do not complies with the final environmental impact statement [F.E.I.S.] for Chelsea Piers or Route 9A [West Side Highway] and the significantly reduced cycling and pedestrian improvements planned for this area.

Fox cited a 1996 Chelsea-Clinton News article describing “community shock and opposition to the taking [of road space].”

“The extra lane for car traffic was not needed then and it still isn’t needed,” Fox said.

A large space dedicated to parking inside Chelsea Piers, like these parking lifts, is instead, in some cases, used to store construction materials and materials, as shown above. (CFB)

According to the veteran waterfront activist, the BFJ study “confirms that the observations and requests of the Advisory Board and CB 4 for lane removal are valid”.

Fox added that “a review of the original EIS documents and Chelsea Piers promotional brochures indicated that a number of new uses have been added to the Chelsea Piers complex – the pitch and the bowling alley – and some supporting uses at film and television production slated for the headboards migrated to support the trucks frequently parked on the frontage road.

In fact, although not mentioned in the AECOM study, Fox said parking occupancy at the Chelsea Piers headquarters has been reduced from the originally planned 355 spaces to less than 300. some of the parking spaces are used for operational maintenance equipment. , such as bathroom trailers, a scissor lift, forklifts and a Zamboni.

On top of that, Fox noted disapprovingly, “A number of parking spaces on the height [parking] the racks at Pier 59 are occupied with building materials, indicating that parking supply exceeds demand. Additionally, “significant numbers” of small trucks, buses and vans (30 feet in length or less)” were observed parked on the frontage road, for extended periods of time, while there were parking spaces available. on the docks,” Fox said.

The park defender added that the Chelsea Piers ’emergency access’ argument doesn’t hold water either, since the longest fire trucks at 42ft wouldn’t be able to navigate the piers anyway due to obstacles.

According to Fox, “BFJ expressed surprise that a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) study to analyze strategies and actions that reduce traffic and parking loads at the Chelsea Piers complex has not been implemented. work.”

Fox further recommended that since congestion pricing is planned for Manhattan south of 60th Street, which may well impact traffic volume at Chelsea Piers, now is the time, in fact, to do a CT study.

According to BFJ, there are two preferred alternatives for redesigning the frontage road outside Chelsea Piers. The first is to reduce the three lanes to two two and center them in space, which would allow for a widening of the current sidewalk in front of Chelsea Piers and a widening of the cycle path. The second option is to move the remaining two lanes to the west, which would allow for the addition of another 11 feet on the east side of the frontage road for a pedestrian path and possibly a widening of the bike path.

“In conclusion,” said Fox, “the argument that the frontage road at Chelsea Piers should be three lanes wide is not supported by the facts, and a two-lane frontage road, together with a modified car park management and TV/film support functions, will meet the traffic and parking needs of Chelsea Piers.

As for the Chelsea Piers lease, the complex is targeting a “non-banking standard” duration of 25 to 30 years.

According to Chelsea Piers, “the longer lease term is necessary to support the long-term capital debt which underpinned the initial development of Chelsea Piers and enabled significant and ongoing reinvestment in pier buildings, facilities and services. 12,000 piles that make up the pier foundation – $80 million in pile repair work [has been done] over the past 10 years. This requires periodic capital debt refinancing which is only possible with a longer lease term.

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