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The Battery Park City Authority approved $11.1 million in construction contracts for the renovation of the picturesque Pier A Wednesday.

It is redeveloping the three-story landmark at the southwestern tip of Manhattan with $30 million from New York City and, according to a story by Julie Shapiro in today's edition of "hopes to turn it over to a tenant next year."

The authority is slated to finish underwater repairs to the pier, which is just to the south of Battery Park City, this April and then plans to start the core and shell work. The article said that "the contracts have come in under budget, which left the authority with extra money to design the public plaza around the pier."

"Charles Urstadt, vice president of the B.P.C.A. board, raised the concern that the authority would lose money on Pier A," according to the article, "but the authority's president, Jim Cavanaugh, said the city was bearing the risk of the project. The city has directed the authority not to spend any money beyond the initial $30 million, and the city is the one responsible for the debt service on those funds, Cavanaugh said."

The authority is seeking tenants to occupy Pier A, including possibly a restaurant or catering hall, but the city will have to approve the rent and terms of any deal.

Prospective tenants have until Feb. 16 to submit their proposals to the authority for consideration.

The pier was built in 1886 and for many years it was used by the city's Department of Marine and Aviation and the Department of Ports and Terminals in 1960 it began to be used as home for the city's wonderful fireboats, which shot multi-colored sprays into the harbor's air on special occasions such as the first arrival of major ships. Its clocktower was not erected until 1919. It is a memorial to veterans of the First World War and it is one of only two clocks on the eastern seaboard to mark "ship's time," which means that the bell tolls not to mark the hours but the shifts, meals and chores aboard a boat.

Sadly, the pier has not been used for many years and had fallen in to disrepair.

In August, 2008, the authority was about to sign a 49-year lease with the city to restore the pier and convert it to retail and ferry uses, but the State Historic Preservation Office expressed concerns over the preservation of the interior.

The National Park Service had negotiated to move the ferries to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to the pier, but those negotiations ended last year when the service began planning to move the ferry services to the Battery Maritime Building in Battery Park.

A November 26, 2009 article by Patrick McGeehan in the New York Times noted that "The crumbling Victorian pier, which once was home to the fire department's marine operations, has been an albatross to city officials for decades." "More than 10 years ago, when Rudolph W. Giuliani was mayor, the city gave a 49-year lease to a developer who was supposed to restore it.

That plan stalled and the city wound up paying about $8 million to end the lease in 2007. The developer was known as Wings Point Associates, represented by William Wachtel, a Manhattan lawyer who owns part of the New York Waterway commuter ferry service, and had began rehabilitating the pier, but the project became bogged down in a legal dispute with the city.

Wings Point had planned to transform the top floor of the 32,000 sq. ft. structure into a "tavern-on-the-water" type events-catering hall and use the south pier for its own harbor tours, water taxi service to South Street Seaport and morning and evening New York Waterway commuter ferries. The second floor and portions of the ground floor will be used for a harbor museum experience and other facilities.
Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.