Pier 42 was built on the East River waterfront in 1967 as a newsprint terminal, later importing bananas for an affiliate of Dole. It was the last operating cargo pier in Manhattan, closing in 1987. Since then, the pier has been unused and inaccessible to residents nearby.
In 2005, the NYC Economic Development Corporation launched a plan to dramatically redevelop the waterfront of the Lower East Side and Chinatown, yet the plan was not viewed as sensitive to the local community’s needs. In response, Hester Street Collaborative (HSC) worked with the O.U.R. (Organizing & Uniting Residents) Waterfront Coalition to develop and conduct a visioning process to incorporate community participation and input into the renovation of this important public space. HSC compiled the results of this visioning process in a document called “The People’s Plan for the East River Waterfront.” Released in 2009, “The People’s Plan” presented a different vision for Pier 42, one embraced by nearby community members. Shortly afterward, funding was secured to kick start the process for converting Pier 42 into public parkland, including a “community master planning” process.
Today, HSC continues to use “The People’s Plan” to advocate for the City’s inclusion of the community’s needs for accessibility, health and quality of life, cultural diversity, safety, and community autonomy in the space’s redesign. Between 2011 and 2013, HSC conducted a series of workshops, called the Waterfront on Wheels, to engage local residents around envisioning the future for public park space specifically on Pier 42 of the East River waterfront. The Waterfront on Wheels is a portable, scale model of the Lower East Side Waterfront built onto a bike trailer that is used as an interactive teaching and input gathering tool.
Paths to Pier 42
Since the long-term master planning process will take several years, the LES Waterfront Alliance and its partners the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, State Senator Daniel Squadron, and the NYC Dept of Parks & Recreation, are using art and design to catalyze and sustain public engagement around the renovation of Pier 42. Summer 2013 marked the start of Paths to Pier 42, a series of temporary programs that give residents access to the Pier, increase foot traffic along corridors between the waterfront and neighborhood, serve as recommendations for the full capital renovation plan, and address the vulnerability of the waterfront due to climate change and storm surges.
During each year of Paths to Pier 42 programming, The Lower East Side Waterfront Alliance & Lower Manhattan Cultural Council invite five artists and designers to participate in a community driven, site-responsive project development process for the temporary activation of Pier 42. Artists and designers develop ideas for temporary projects that directly engage the site and community in which it is located, working with community based organizations and residents of the Lower East Side and Chinatown. An advisory committee including over 30 representatives of local tenant associations, arts and community organizations, key government agencies and elected officials, as well as consulting architects, designers, and artists, works with Paths to Pier 42 organizers, artists and designers to inform the planning and realization of projects.
Future of Pier 42
Matthews Nielsen Landscape Architects, working with NYC Parks, has produced a unique design for the future waterfront park on Pier 42, with an emphasis on providing passive recreation space, soft barriers to storm surges, marine habitat, and ecological education opportunities. It will also include a playground, a concession/comfort station, picnic lawns and an improved bikeway. The master plan was approved by Community Board 3 and the NYC Public Design Commission last winter, and phase 1 of construction, including removal of the shed, may begin as early as 2016.