North 5th Street Pier
Remains Off-Limits For Now
More than three years have passed since the Department of City Planning's Greenpoint-Williamsburg Rezoning Proposal was officially adopted, and in that time, the Land Use and Waterfront Plan has made an incredible impact on the two neighborhoods - particularly Williamsburg. Walk anywhere in Northside Williamsburg between Bedford and the East River, from North 14th to the Bridge, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a block that's gone untouched by new development.
Everywhere you turn, the neighborhood is dotted by recent demolitions, active (and stalled) construction sites, and newly-occupied residential buildings. In the 11211 zip code, according to permits aggregator site Everyblock, in the forty months since the rezone was approved, 129 applications for new buildings have been reviewed by DOB, and perhaps even more telling: in the same period, 239 demolition permits have been processed in the 'Burg. A modern day Rip Van Winkle, having awoken in the Bushwick Inlet weeds and taken a walk down Kent Avenue would conclude we were in the midst of a real estate gold rush, not a mortgage meltdown.
What does all this have to do with the North 5th Street pier? Simply put - in its first three years, the rezone has been a boon to developers and property owners. But a key component of the plan, designed to provide some benefit to the little guy (you know, the folks who live here) - the Waterfront Access Plan - has so far (beyond meetings and renderings) GONE ENTIRELY UNREALIZED.
Before the commenters jump all over us, pointing out last summer's opening of East River State Park, recall that that parcel had been held by State Parks long before the rezone was ratified. As we understand it, that park would have happened either way. Don't get us wrong - the park is great (when it's open, and if you don't have a dog, or a skateboard, or a tripod, or forget to dismount your bike...). But its not part of the rezone.
All the benefits of the rezone touted to existing residents (and exhaustively fought for by community groups): waterfront greenway, additional open space, enlarged parks, visual corridors - have all languished while builders run roughshod over the neighborhood streets and sidewalks (and morning sleep) of local residents.
Opening the East River pier at Northside Piers to the public will be the first little giveback to the community, and that's why we've grown impatient. The pier has been complete with shiny railings, decorative lighting, and even a funky sculpural "shade structure" for months now. Several inquiries of Toll Brothers staff have produced the same general story (paraphrasing):
'The ball is in the city's court now. NYC Parks has to take over operation before it can open, and the insurance people are concerned about the liability of letting the public pass through the potentially unsafe Tower Two construction area en route to the pier.'We reached out to Phil Abramson at the Parks Department Press Office. His assistant regarded us skeptically, then told us to email him. Which we did - three times since August 20th - and received no replies.
A well-informed source says that the interested parties (the city, Parks, even Toll Brothers) all want the pier opened - at least on weekends - asap; but that Saturday construction hours, plus a barge-mounted crane that would be easily accessible from an unmonitored pier - are likely to keep the jetty off-limits until at least November.
And so for now, we're left where we started - dodging cranes and concrete pumpers on nearly every block; awaking at 6 am to the sound of pile-drivers and semi's full of rebar parking under our windows; and awaiting delivery of some small payback from a rezoning plan that's obviously been a jackpot to developers.