The Hudson River Trust Is Doing Great Things Downtown

So naturally, it's attracted naysayers

A photo by Billie Ward. (This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Please provide attribution and a link back to this web page in a manner that associates the image with the image credit.)

Bike Path, Hudson River Park. (Photo: Billie Ward/ Flickr)

Riding along the bike path in Hudson River Park several weeks ago, we noticed that the three tennis courts just below Houston Street were being renovated. This week, a giant mirror-like Nike-swoosh decal appeared, taking up much of two service boxes. And on the chain-link fencing separating the courts were Nike-branded windscreens.

A call to the Hudson River Trust, which manages the 550-acre park, revealed that the Nike sponsorship is the first yearlong, park-wide sponsorship the Trust has ever undertaken. The Trust receives no city money for the operation of the four-and-a-half-mile-long park. So it is dependent upon donations and sponsorships. Interestingly, the on-court branding will disappear after a few days, but light pole banners will remain. Other Nike-branded promotions in the park will focus on running, soccer and cross-training.

‘Downtowners have been battling inappropriate development for so long they lost the ability to differentiate a gift from a liability.’—Jonathan Russo, Greenwich Village preservationist

Some $883 million has been invested in new park construction and facilities, provided equally by the city and state since the Trust’s creation in 1998. Last year’s operating budget included $38 million in revenues and $29 million in expenses. Showing an operating surplus is always a good thing, and all too often, elusive.

Several months ago, the Trust announced a plan to build a 2.7-acre performing arts venue, called Pier 55, on a newly built pier near 18th Street. Almost the entire cost of the project was to be paid by private donations, with $133 million in funding to come from Barry Diller, the media entrepreneur whose Frank Gehry-designed IAC headquarters would stand just across the highway. New York City would be contributing only $17 million to the project.

Unfortunately, the City Club of New York—a so-called good government group—has opposed the project, saying it looks like “something that Walt Disney might put just off of a Caribbean island.”

Jonathan Russo, a long-time Greenwich Village resident and preservationist, told the Observer, “Downtowners have been battling inappropriate development for so long they lost the ability to differentiate a gift from a liability. It’s understandable, but in this case… sad,” said Mr. Russo.

Diana Taylor, the chair of the Trust, has a long track record of smart decisions serving the public interest. The Trust has done a terrific job creating, renovating and maintaining the park. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and push through the Pier 55 project.

The Hudson River Trust Is Doing Great Things Downtown