The NYPD has until the end of the year to relocate a tow pound on Pier 76 in Hell's Kitchen to make way for the pier's redevelopment, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday.
Some 250,000-square-feet of space on Pier 76 would be handed over to the Hudson River Park Trust—a transfer that has been a part of the west side park's master plan for more than two decades. Half the pier would be used to generate revenue for the park, while the other half would be park space.
"The redevelopment of this valuable land will maximize underutilized green space and recreational and market potential with the possibility of connecting regional landmarks like Javits and the High Line," Cuomo said in a statement.
Cuomo's announcement comes days after he vetoed legislation that would have paved the way for 700,000 square feet of office space on Pier 40, a pier that houses ballfields, a parking garage, and some administration offices for the Trust. The tow pound transfer and recent amendment veto regarding the two Manhattan piers are aimed at protecting open space on the waterfront, according to Cuomo.
"There is only a precious limited amount of green space left for community use, and we have to make sure we are protecting and preserving it on Pier 40 and Pier 76 and are carefully balancing the park's financial needs with protection of green space," Cuomo said.
"Money is always the rationale to develop sites in Manhattan, hence the lack of open space, green areas, parks or recreation space," Cuomo said in a veto memo regarding the Pier 40 amendment, noting the city and state would continue funding the park.
The Trust's financial strategy overall remains unclear after plans for 88-foot-tall office buildings on Pier 40 were scuttled. Cuomo is requesting the park now come up with an improvement plan for the pier, which the Trust has long said is crumbling into the Hudson River.
If the strategy requires amending the 1998 act that created the park, "they should present such requests by May 1st to be considered prior to the end of the legislative session," according to a release from the governor's office. The Trust did not say whether it would request legislative change, but a spokesperson said they were looking forward to figuring out "a comprehensive solution for Piers 40 and 76."
Pier 76's redesign has "been a long-time goal" of Community Board 4. In a letter to the NYPD and Department of Design and Construction in 2011, the board was inquiring on the status of the tow pound's relocation. And in November, a neighborhood group sued the NYPD over the matter. The tow pound, in operation since 1977, processes about 195 vehicles per day, according to a city presentation to the board obtained by THE CITY. The board's newly-minted chair Lowell Kern welcomed the news.
"I believe that the governor intends to facilitate the move of the NYPD off Pier 76. Can it be physically done in a year?" Kern said. "I have no clue. Do I think it is going to happen much sooner rather than later? Absolutely."
"Hopefully it's going to be an empty pier open to our imagination," Kern added, noting a demand for more ballfields, but also the need to balance that with passive space on the waterfront. "What the governor has given us is a fresh start."
Both commercial development and public open space are envisioned for the future of Piers 40 and 76, seen as "the final, most substantive challenges to the Park's initial development phase and long term sustainability," according to February 2019 financing plan.
Though Cuomo has given the police department until the end of the year to relocate, the tow pound's new home has not been determined.
"The NYPD has been exploring options to relocate the tow pound in order to make the area available for development," NYPD spokesperson Jessica McRorie said in an email, exactly what she told THE CITY in November. City staffers told Community Board 4 in October that a report would be issued in February regarding the tow pound.