Paths to Pier 42 is a series of art installations and public programming to activate and increase access to Pier 42 while it awaits permanent transformation into a new public park. Installations and events on site serve to model activities that will take place on the waterfront once it is fully redeveloped, while providing access and enjoyment in the interim.
Until full renovation is underway, Paths to Pier 42 programming will make the future park site accessible to the public. Starting each spring, a group of selected artists participate in biweekly events to develop installations in collaboration with neighborhood residents. Through meetings with advisory committee members and community build days, public participation begins in April and continues through related programming on site through November.
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 (read the New York Times article on Pier 42 here). Since then, the pier has been unused and inaccessible to residents nearby.
Between 2008-2009 the Lower East Side Waterfront Alliance engaged community members in the Lower East Side and Chinatown in order to develop a community vision for the East River waterfront and Pier 42, creating an alternate proposal to the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC)’s plan for redevelopment. The EDC’s plan, which included proposals for high-end uses for this public land, was not seen as responsive to community needs and had the potential to increase the pace of gentrification in the neighborhood.
The resulting community plan, titled “A People’s Plan for the East River Waterfront,” 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.
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.
Paths to Pier 42 is made possible by The Surdna Foundation and the New York Community Trust and by generous donations from Build it Green NYC, New York Restoration Project and Solar One. In addition, this project was funded by an agreement awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission in partnership with the New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program.