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Lights! camera! a job! Pier 94 can make movies - if developer Vornado lives up to its promises

A state-of-the-art film and TV studio could be on its way to Pier 94, courtesy of Vornado—but Hell’s Kitchen locals have been demanding that the developer first deliver on its decade-long site promises.

View public spaces at Pier 94 around the new television and film studios. Photo: Vornado Realty Trust

The Vornado Realty Trust — the prolific name in Midtown West, where they are currently leading the controversial redevelopment of Penn Station — presented their vision for a 212,000-square-foot film studio on W54th and 12th Avenue. The studio will rival the 200,000-square-foot space of the popular Silvercup Studios in Astoria, which includes 84,000 square feet of sound stages (including a 100-seat live studio similar to the neighboring studios). daily offer NEP Studios), 56,000 square feet of production offices, and 72,000 square feet of production support space.

In addition to the studios, the developer has outlined plans to connect Clinton Cove (home of the Manhattan Community Boathouse and recently restored “Bottle” installation) with Hudson River Park including the new Citi Bike Station, waterfront access, river viewing deck, and public restrooms. The green project will also add 1,550 local construction jobs and 678 operational jobs once complete, Vornado has committed to working with the Hudson River Park Trust on the general section of the project.

But while the concept of new Hollywood studios and captivating films could be a boon to the West End, members of the Manhattan Community Council 4 (MCB4) were skeptical of its successful implementation, given Vornado’s checkered history with the docks of the Hudson River.

Plans for new film and television studios at Pier 94 include Clinton Cove. Photo: Vornado Realty Trust

Work has continued on the site since 2006, when the Economic Development Corporation of New York City (EDC) and the Bloomberg Administration began looking for a developer. Vornado, which acquired a 99-year lease in 2009, initially acquired Pier 94 as well as the adjacent Pier 92 for the purposes of developing a Javits Center-style conference center. Perhaps in reference to the endless efforts to build the city, Curbed’s cheeky title declared the project “Project Already Happening: Vornado Redoing Pier 94.”

After the sidewalks were damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, an EDC routine inspection in 2019 deemed Pier 92 unusable, forcing Armory Art Show to cancel its planned use of the space. Vornado, who has argued that pavement maintenance is the responsibility of EDC, stopped paying rent for the space in May 2020, although they stated on the MCB4 call that they have since resumed payments. In response to the deterioration, Vornado says they plan to raise the structure at Pier 94 by 8 feet, both to comply with the city’s flood zones and to contain 100 parking spaces.

A view of Pier 94 this week from Clinton Cove. Photo: Phil O’Brien

MCB4 members have expressed concerns that Vornado’s star-eyed future plans for Pier 94 could distract from the real-time issues present in both places. MCB4 member Lowell Kern stressed that either EDC or Vornado urgently needed to address critical structural issues at the nearby Pier 92 before building a multi-million dollar complex on Pier 94, “otherwise the Pier 92 would just sit there and rot away and float away to New Jersey.”

In a letter to EDC from MCB4, President Jeffrey LeFrancois wrote: “Vornado has disappointed the West Side community by failing to meet its obligations with respect to Piers 92 and 94 for years. Now, Vornado is seeking a third renewal of its permit. However, it only wants a renewal her lease on Pier 94, giving up the uninhabitable Pier 92 and throwing that problem back on to New York City taxpayers.” MCB4 Vice President Leslie Bogosian Murphy added, “We’re looking forward to a new and improved Pier 94, complete with promised and long overdue public amenities, but we can’t let Vornado walk away from its Pier 92 commitments.” Vornado’s plans currently identify Pier 92 as an ongoing trade fair and part-time cruise ship site, although no additional details on the project are provided in the proposal.

MCB4 claims that in the decade when the Piers 92 and 94 were under Vornado’s supervision, requests for public restrooms at Clinton Cove (in association with the Hudson River Park Trust) and a revised vehicle traffic plan to prioritize pedestrian and cyclist safety has yet to be implemented. , despite the fact that the Hudson River Greenway is the busiest bike route in North America.

LeFrancois wrote: “In connection with the initial Vornado permit application in 2009, again in 2017 as part of Vornado’s first renewal application, MCB4 provided Vornado with a list of requirements that the community had in order to support Vornado applications. Vornado never fulfilled any of these orders. LeFrancois and the board noted that although Vornado failed to implement the required items, they would still be granted a renewal permit in 2020.

Pier 94 has been the venue for several events including the New York Fashion Week fashion show in September 2014. Photo: Phil O’Brien

“Once again, Vornado has failed to meet its obligations to MCB4 and the community,” LeFrancois wrote. “The board acknowledges that this is in part because the supporting columns for Pier 92 have eroded, making use of this pier unsafe. But this requirement has been in place for some time and Vornado has only proposed its most recent plan, to the TV and film studio at Pier 94, on the eve of the permit’s expiration.” .

The board said they would consider supporting Vornado’s permit renewal and project approval if developers address the above questions as well as implement additional community spaces and transportation options.

Bogosian Murphy said, “The privilege of leasing this prime piece of New York City waterfront real estate comes with the responsibility to properly maintain it. Our position is that Vornado assumes structural maintenance of the quay as do other operators along the river. All too often, we see the city devaluing itself in negotiations with private developers. We hope EDC understands the value of this beautiful piece of Hell’s Kitchen and makes it profitable for all involved.”

Pier 94 could become a TV and movie studio with public amenities if Vornado’s plans continue. Photo: Phil O’Brien

The story of these sidewalks has seen many twists and turns. In 1964, Pier 94 was designated by the city as the new Cunard Line terminal with a special celebration on the Queen Mary. In 2001, the docks served as a family help center for New Yorkers to gather and wait for information about loved ones missing after 9/11. He told Franco of the next chapter of this saga: “To go on…”

W42ST has reached out to the Vornado Realty Trust for comment. We haven’t received a response yet.