Thursday, April 06, 2006

In the News: Plans for Pier Bogged Down in a Dispute With the City

As our waterfronts continue to undergo revitalization many businesses are beginning to take advantage of potential opportunities to provide a residents and tourists with a wide variety of water-based activities. However, in some cases the deterioration of piers, bulkheads, and pathways leads to challenges for both City officials and local business owners. One of the fastest growing industries on our waterfronts is the transportation and eco-tourism business. Several companies are currently offering "Harbor Tours" to those interested in seeing the NY metropolitan region in a different light. Unfortunately, in the case of the New York Waterway Tours, a dispute over the condition of Pier A in downtown Manhattan has led to uncertainty for the future of their water-based tourism business writes the NY Times. JB

April 6, 2006
By Patrick McGeehan

For nearly two decades, city officials have hoped to see Pier A, a historic landmark at the northern edge of Battery Park, revived as a tourist attraction on the downtown waterfront. But the latest attempt to make commercial use of the 120-year-old pier is bogging down in a dispute between the city and an ambitious ferry operator.

The operator, New York Waterway Tours, planned to start offering hourly harbor cruises from the pier next week. But the city's Economic Development Corporation has refused to grant permission to reopen the pier, which is leased to a company controlled by one of the owners of the tour-boat operator.

The man behind the plan for the harbor cruises is William B. Wachtel, a Manhattan lawyer with designs on reviving the city-owned Pier A as a transportation center. He hopes it will serve as a hub for commuters traveling to and from New Jersey as well as tourists to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

His efforts are being closely watched by competitors in the city's small but contentious ferry industry.

"Circle Line continues to support efforts to upgrade Pier A, and though we have seen activity of a sightseeing business, we are not aware that it has received approval from appropriate agencies," said J. B. Meyer, the president of Circle Line Harbor Cruises, another tour operator.
Mr. Wachtel controls Wings Point Associates, which is leasing the pier, and the BillyBey Ferry Company, which he created a year ago to bail out the struggling operator of the Waterway ferries. BillyBey owns half of the Waterway fleet and half of an excursion business, New York Waterway Tours.

Last week, workers for the tour company started gearing up to start hourly cruises of the harbor from the pier. A schedule for the cruises, beginning April 14, appeared on Waterway's Web site and a trailer that would serve as a ticket office appeared at the edge of Battery Park. Other boat operators reported seeing boats making test runs from the pier. A spokesman for the United States Coast Guard, Petty Officer Mike Lutz, said yesterday that the Coast Guard had granted a permit to Waterway for excursion cruises to operate from Pier A beginning around April 14.


NYC Economic Development Corporation

New York Waterway Tours

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