Not Quite a Continuous Ribbon Of Green Yet, But a Chunk of Pier 42 Will Open This Spring

Pier 41, in better times. (NYPL)

Pier 41, in better times. (NYPL)

The abandoned banana warehouse on Pier 42 isn’t going anywhere in the coming months, nor is the parking lot stretching out in front of it, but New Yorkers will be able to get a little closer to the East River starting May 4. A piece of Pier 42—about a third of the total footprint—will be open to the public for the first time ever.

The Lower East Side pier and its decaying banana warehouse are slated for better, greener things—namely, a $16 million makeover whose appearance has yet to be decided by the public and Mathews Nielson landscape architects.

But State Senator Daniel Squadron and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who secured the funding for the redevelopment, have described the future park as being the missing section needed to create “a continuous green ribbon around Lower Manhattan, connecting the East and West Sides and providing the Lower East Side and Chinatown communities with much-needed open space.”

“Pier 42 is finally transforming from a blighted, abandoned warehouse into a beautiful open green-space for children, families and individuals on the Lower East Side,” said Mr. Schumer in a statement about the interim opening.

Well, not quite yet. The green will remain conspicuously absent this summer, but at least New Yorkers will be able to feel river breezes on the backs of their necks. The empty lot on the north side of the pier footprint will be paved over and railings and park benches installed to facilitate picnics (though none of the ants-and-blanket variety) for an interim park.

Programming, specifically a “Paths to Pier 42,” series of art, educational, and design installations along the East River waterfront is intended to give residents something to enjoy before the grass comes in (the neighborhood dogs will just have to wait).

“In only a few short months, families will be able to enjoy a picnic on the pier or a walk along the waterfront,” said Mr. Squadron in a statement. “This interim recreational use on Pier 42 is a big step forward as we build the real, world-class waterfront park for which we’ve long fought and complete a Harbor Park—a central park for the center of our city.”

The community planning, design and construction process to transform the entire pier—to be overseen by the Parks Department—is expected to take considerably more time than the mini spruce up. The redevelopment is being paid for by funds secured for Lower Manhattan in the wake of 9/11. So although a paved lot is a long way from the big, green park intended for the pier, it should come as a welcome improvement for neighborhood that is well-known for grit, but not for actual dirt, trees, rocks or nature. That, and it will be finished long, long before the neighborhood’s other great green hope—the Low Line.

kvelsey@observer.com