Tuesday, May 13, 2014

India Street Pier - Greenpoint Ferry Landing

One point perspective looking down the India Street Pier
India Street Pier
I love Greenpoint but it seems to sometimes get the short end of the stick when it comes to public transportation. Almost three months have passed since the piers supporting the gangway to the floating dock at the East River Ferry Landing failed and there still isn't any sign of a new gangway. The broken ferry landing got me thinking about the India Street Pier, which is landing's home, and the Greenpoint waterfront. After all, the pier and soon to be transformed waterfront have a past.


Historic photo of barge terminal at the end of Dupont Street at the East River
Barge Terminal at Dupont Street (courtesy of Brooklyn Pix)
Once upon a time the Brooklyn waterfront was bustling with shipping and manufacturing centers like the Greenpoint Terminal Market and Chelsea Fiber Mill. Piers used to be located all along the waterfront but after the decline of manufacturing and shipping, many piers were not maintained and eventually began to collapse. Some of these collapsed piers can still be seen decaying along the East River. One such pier was the India Street Pier which has since been rebuilt for use as a Ferry Landing. 


Rainbow from India Street Pier - Morning After Hurricane Sandy
After the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy began to recede it was difficult to tell if anything along the edge of the waterfront had been damaged since the piers and bulkheads have been crumbling for years. The dark horizontal band beneath the skyline is the collapsing pier at the end of Green Street.


North Brooklyn has always had a shortage of parks relative to the rest of the borough, so when the India street pier fell into disuse after manufacturing and shipping declined in New York, Greenpointers turned it into a makeshift park. During the 1980s and 90s local residents would fish, sun bathe and socialize on the crumbling pier.[1] The pier became a poor mans waterfront park; however, it was not safe to play there. When the city began to clean the pollution from the East River, parasitic marine borers that feed on wood pilings returned to the improving waterways. Piers began collapsing all over the city and officials began to fence off abandoned piers.[2] After the India Street Pier was fenced off in 1995 holes were promptly cut into the fence and a neighborhood organization called Friends of India Street Pier was created to advocated for the cleaning, refurbishment and continued use of the pier.[1] However, problems persisted as the the structural integrity of the pier continued to decline. On May 13th of 1997 a 20 foot section of the India Street Pier collapsed sending 7 people into the East River. All seven people were rescued but the city fenced off the pier once more and residents were told told to stay off it or risk being arrested for trespassing.[2] In 1998 another section of pier collapsed, killing a man who had been fishing when he was sent into the East River along with debris from the pier.[3] The pier was eventually rebuilt in July of 2011 as part of a deal the city made with a developer, and today serves (or is supposed to serve) as the East River Ferry Landing in Greenpoint.

India Street Rocket (mural by Eve Biddle)
Welcome to Greenpoint Mural showing period working class people
Welcome to Greenpoint Mural
Antiquated Giant (mural by Chris Soria)
Mural of red brick wall painted on gray cinder block wall
Knock Knock (mural by Robert Seng)
Mural of an abstract sound system inspired by Native American potlatch ritual
Super Duper Sound System (mural by Joshua Abram Howard)
Mural featuring patterns of boats people and water
Untitled (mural by Ali Aschman)
In conjunction with the pier opening, local artists were commissioned to produce murals along the wall of one of the buildings en route to the pier. If you look up the June 2009 Google Street View of India Street between West Street and the pier you can see the artists at work on their murals.


References:
  1. Cohen, Mark Francis "Greenpoint's Endangered Hampton" New York Times. 16 June, 1996.
  2. Rohde, David "As Old Piers Crumble, Fans Rally for a New and Safer One" New York Times. 1 June, 1997.
  3. Liff, Bob "Nonprofit status aids pier group" Daily News. 31 March, 1999.

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