The Field Of Dreams Nightmare
Back in the spring of 2005 I wrote a post about an amazing thing, brand new baseball and soccer fields popping up on the west side of manhattan in the middle of Pier 40. As I said in that post:
I am not sure who to thank for this gift from the urban planning gods but it was just great to walk onto these fields and watch the kids play ball today.
These indeed are the field of dreams. Beautiful green fields that our kids can play on almost year round, when there isn't snow on them. And fields are a precious thing in New York City, a place where land values are so high that anything that can have a building on it does.
And for reasons related to money, business, development, and politics, these fields are going to go away if we don't do anything to stop it. My community, Greenwich Village, is in a near riot over this. I've seen a bunch of controversy in the village over the years; the renovation of Washington Square Park, the development of the meat market and the far west village, the never ending takeover of the village by NYU, etc, but I think this one just might be bigger.
Because everyone who has kids (and most who don't) can agree on this one. We need ballfields for kids and these are amazing fields. Sheltered by the wind and cold by the structure of Pier 40, they are large and open and airy. You can't believe the amount of action these fields get. On a weekend day, there will be several games going on at the same time on these fields from dawn to dusk.
The Hudson River Park Trust (an amazing organization by all accounts) is seeking to redevelop Pier 40 as part of the fantastic park they are building along the Hudson River from Battery Park to the Upper West Side. Apparently Pier 40 has structural issues and needs to be renovated. But the City, State, and Trust don't have the money to do that. So they've put out an RFP so that developers can come in with plans to fix it up. And of course, the developers need commercial vehicles so that they can pay for all of this. The RFP and the two proposals that have been made are up on the web.
The proposal that seems to have won the day is from Related Companies, a large developer that wants to turn Pier 40 into a huge entertainment complex that some have dubbed a downtown Lincoln Center and others have dubbed "Vegas On The Hudson". Their plan is to fill the Pier with entertainment and dining and to leave two small soccer fields on the roof.
There are so many problems with this plan I don't know where to start. But first and foremost, losing all the baseball fields and getting two small soccer fields on the roof where we used to freeze watching our kids play soccer just isn't a great choice. You really have to see the current fields to understand how painful this loss would be.
But we'd lose the fields entirely during the redevelopment process which is going to take years. And the whole idea of turning what is currently an essential community resource into a entertainment hub just seems so wrong. Have the people behind this idea ever been to the village? It's an entertainment hub already.
We don't need more theaters in the village. We don't need more restaurants in the village. We don't need more development in the village. We need ballfields for our kids. And we are going to lose them.
A nightmare for our field of dreams.