Posted on November 28, 2021 at 12:28 PM by West Sider
By Joy Bergmann
Some Community Board 7 members and residents are reacting with dismay to the proposed design of a new dock house that is expected to rise two stories above the Hudson River at 78th Street, blocking lines of sight and imposing a âindustrialâ aesthetic on one of the most popular stretches of Riverside Park.
“All the grace of East Berlin 1975”, “clumsy”, “parking lot for the rotunda”, “too harsh and modern” and “the most disappointing piece of municipal architecture I have ever seen”, were among the highlights. criticisms shared at CB7 Parks and Recreation Committee meetings in June and November.
The planned 6,000 square foot facility is more than five times the size of the current dock house and a key part of the NYC Parks Department’s $ 90 million total reconstruction of the West 79th Street Boat Basin, a marina complex built in 1937. City says the project will tackle deteriorating and dangerous infrastructure battered by age and storms like Hurricane Sandy; increase the number of berths while improving seaworthiness; adhere to climate resilience guidelines as river levels rise; and modernize the wharf to conform to a âfully expanded programâ.
What exactly this program entails was not discussed in the meetings, nor in the presentations in June and November. [View those slides here and here.]
But floor plans for the interior of the wharf indicate that the City estimates the program requires three showers, three toilets, a laundry room, locker rooms for men and women, storage space, a break room, a bathroom. conference, office support room, open office, marina support space, flexible marina space and areas for utilities like electrical, mechanical and telecommunications. In addition, near the glazed west side facing the river, there will be a client area and a dedicated area for the dock captain of the boat basin, a Parks role that is staffed 24/7.
These facilities include the upper level of the dock house which sits on a jetty of 9 foot support columns, lifting it up as purported protection against storm surges and rising waters due to climate change.
A shipping source told WSR that a lot of interior amenities would likely enhance the marina’s appeal to transient ship operators calling in New York. Parks also said he wanted to increase educational opportunities and expand marine research partnerships in the region.
While all of this may explain the size jump from the existing 815-square-foot dock cabin, some residents still wonder why the design looks so unappealing.
Technical requirements necessarily took precedence over aesthetics, said Stephen Frech, senior project manager at infrastructure consulting firm Moffatt & Nichol, which works with the City’s Economic Development Corporation. [EDC], the City’s main agency for reconstruction on behalf of Parks, which has ultimate responsibility for the initiative.
“We are developing this in a high energy flood zone B,” Frech said. âOne of the main goals of the project is to offer a resilient, long-term, sustainable and climate-friendly solution. “
âI would like nothing more than to make this look lighter and more open,â added Vadit Suwatcharapinun, an architect from B. Thayer Associates, the project’s design firm. “But we have to balance what is going on in terms of the program inside the building as well as the respect of the energy code which becomes more and more strict from year to year.”
So, is the most recent dockhouse design a done deal? It seems to be approaching this status.
As the project team told CB7 in 2019, the 1930s Robert-Moses-era site has already been too altered to fall under the remit of the Landmarks Preservation Committee.
And at the November meeting, Frech confirmed that the City’s Public Planning Commission [PDC] had accepted the revised design. âYou are basically ready to move with this. Is that correct? “Asked Committee co-chair Barbara Adler.” That is correct, “said Frech.
Not so fast, says Gail Dubov, president of the 83rd Street Block Association.
Dubov told WSR she “turned around” when she saw the proposed design, saying too many stakeholders have so far “bowed to the bureaucracy,” allowing something akin to to an “Amazon warehouse” to move into construction at taxpayer expense and become “a rust” on the Hudson River view for decades to come.
âIt’s horrible,â Dubov says. “We are fortunate to be building something beautiful that enhances the marina, the park and our river experience.”
Dubov reached out to the office of board member Helen Rosenthal, securing a meeting on November 30 to voice his concerns and hopefully inspire some changes to the design. âIt’s time to stop tiptoeing and start screaming,â she said.
“The proposed wharf looks like the headquarters of a WWII POW camp commander,” said Ed Bacon, a 51-year-old resident of Boat Basin, before being forced to relocate last fall. due to Parks’ security concerns with the Marina. Bacon believes a one-story dock house would fit better into the park environment and offered a new approach ready for climate change. âTo cope with the rising waters, a floating barge could be used as a base. It should also eliminate some design constraints.
Beyond appearances, the plan raises multiple logistical questions, Bacon explains. Among them: the placement of the dock house further south of the Rotonde. “All boaters’ supplies and provisions will need to be carried about a block from the plaza while avoiding walkers, runners and bikers,” he said. âWe all want the best marina to be developed and for defects to be eliminated during the design process, not during the construction process when changes will be costly. “
Officials said the scope of the marina’s new docks and berths may be down from their original 2019 plan, but the project’s budget remains the same: $ 89.2 million, of which $ 60 million. $ 9 million from the New York mayor’s budget and $ 28.3 million from FEMA, the federal emergency management agency. Agency. At around the same time of construction in 2023, the New York Department of Transportation will lead a $ 200 million renovation of the neighboring 79th Street rotunda on behalf of the Parks Department; The price of this project has jumped $ 50 million since it was first announced in 2018.
WSR contacted Riverside Park Conservancy for their opinion on the Wharf House. A spokesperson responded: “Riverside Park Conservancy was not part of the design process and we are looking at this proposal in detail.”
At the end of the November CB7 Parks Committee meeting, Julia Melzer, EDC’s project leader, said the team would return in the spring with a design update. No one has promised drastic changes.
The committee co-chairs said they would update CB7’s January 2020 letter to Parks explaining their current position on the project. WSR requested a copy of this letter, but received no response from CB7.
The Parks Department has a dedicated e-mail for those wishing to obtain more information or to be weighed: [email protected]