Chelsea Piers

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Chelsea Piers as seen from the air. Pier 62 is on the left, with the driving range of Pier 59 partially visible on the right
Chelsea Piers from the West Side Highway
Golf club entrance

Chelsea Piers is a series of piers on the West Side of Manhattan in New York City in the Chelsea neighborhood, on the northern edge of Greenwich Village and the Meatpacking District. They were a passenger ship terminal in the early 1900s that was used by the RMS Lusitania and was the destination of the RMS Titanic.[1] The piers are currently used by the Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex. Pier 59 is home to the Chelsea Brewing Company, the only micro-brewery in Manhattan. The new complex includes film and television production facilities, including those for CBS Sports Network and Food Network, a health club, a day spa, the city's largest training center for gymnastics, two basketball courts, playing fields for indoor lacrosse and soccer, batting cages, a rock climbing wall, and dance studios. In addition there is an AMF Bowling center, a golf club with multi-story driving range, and two full sized ice rinks for skating. The complex also includes a marina for mooring private boats. Principal owner is Roland W. Betts.

After the collapse of the World Trade Towers due to the September 11 attacks, EMS triage centers were quickly relocated and consolidated at the Chelsea Piers (and the Staten Island Ferry Terminal).

History[edit]

Gansevoort Peninsula[edit]

Historically, the term Chelsea Piers referred to the luxury liner berths on Manhattan's west side from 1910 to the 1930s. Most of the major trans-Atlantic liners of the day docked at the piers and they played pivotal roles in the RMS Titanic and RMS Lusitania disasters.

With luxury liners such as the Titanic becoming bigger and bigger, New York City was looking for a new luxury liner dock in the early 1900s. The Army, which controlled the location and size of piers, refused to let any piers extend beyond the existing pierhead line of the North River (the navigation name for the Hudson River south of 30th Street). Ship lines were reluctant to build north of 23rd Street because infrastructure was already in place, including the High Line Rail line and a train station near the river at 23rd Street.[2]

New York City solved the problem in an unusual way — it actually took away a block of land that was once part of Manhattan. The land was the 1837 landfill that extended Manhattan to 13th Avenue. The controversial decision included condemning many businesses. The city was unable to condemn the West Washington Street Market and was left to remain landfill. The market ultimately closed and the dock was converted to a sanitation facility that was used to load garbage barges headed for the Fresh Kills Landfill. The only section of 13th Avenue that remains is behind the sanitation facility, now a parking lot for sanitation trucks. The landfill is now called the Gansevoort Peninsula.

Terminal design[edit]

The new piers were designed by the architectural firm of Warren and Wetmore, which has also designed Grand Central Terminal. Under contracts let by the New York City Department of Dock and Ferries, the Chelsea Section Improvement, as it was officially called, replaced a hodgepodge of run-down waterfront structures with a row of grand buildings embellished with pink granite facades and formed the docking points for the rival Cunard Line and White Star Line.

Lusitania and Titanic disasters[edit]

While every trans-Atlantic ship of the era visited the piers, with the exception of RMS Titanic, the two most memorable moments for the pier were with the Lusitania and Titanic.

The RMS Lusitania left her Cunard Pier 54 before being torpedoed and becoming the rallying cry for American involvement in World War I.

The RMS Titanic was destined for the White Star pier 59 when she sank. Survivors were rescued on Cunard's RMS Carpathia. The Carpathia dropped off the Titanic's lifeboats at Pier 59 before going back south to Pier 54 where she unloaded the passengers and survivors. Thousands of people assembled at the dock to greet the ship.

In July 1936, the Chelsea Piers were the point of departure for Jesse Owens and the United States Olympic team as they left for the Summer Games in Berlin, Germany.

Daniel Mannix demonstration[edit]

During the summer of 1920, a dramatic rally was organized on July 31 at the White Star Line docks. This was to send off Daniel Mannix, the Irish born Archbishop of Melbourne, Australia who had been outspoken on the English rule in Ireland, and successfully led anti conscription campaigns during WW1. A reported 15,000 New Yorkers turned up at Pier 60 at the foot of West 20th street to make sure Lloyd George would allow Mannix passage to Ireland.[3][4]

Cargo terminal[edit]

After New York moved its luxury liner piers to the New York Cruise Terminal between West 46th and West 54th Street in 1935 to accommodate bigger ships such as the RMS Queen Mary and the SS Normandie, the pier became a cargo terminal. During World War II the piers were used to deploy troops.[2]

The piers had a catstrophic fire in 1932(Pier 54) and 1947(Pier 57) that destroyed some of the south piers. New construction resulted in new cargo piers used by the United States Lines and Grace line.

Westway demolition plans[edit]

In the 1980s, plans circulated to replace the West Side Elevated Highway with an at grade highway going along the West Side south of 42nd Street. The plan called for the highway to run over demolished piers. Pier 54 was actually demolished in 1991 although the archway entrance (along with the White Star and Cunard signage) was retained. The plan (dubbed the Westway) was abandoned after court cases said the new highway would jeopardize striped bass.

Recreation usage[edit]

Following the demise of Westway, development of the West Side Highway evolved into two parts: a public/private partnership that evolved into the upper piers being used for recreational purposes. The southern piers are now part of the Hudson River Park while the northern piers make up the Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex.

Construction of Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex began on July 12, 1994 in ceremonies attended by New York Governor Mario Cuomo, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger.[1] Chelsea Piers Connecticut, the first expansion project of Chelsea Piers, was built in Stamford, Connecticut. The facility opened in July 2012.

In popular culture[edit]

The RMS Carpathia at Pier 54 after the RMS Titanic rescue
  • Shows in the Law & Order franchise have been filmed in Chelsea Piers. Both Law & Order and spinoff Law & Order: Criminal Intent were produced on stages here for their entire runs. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit moved into the space occupied by the original series after its cancellation in 2010.[5] On September 14, 2004, a road leading to Pier 62 was renamed "Law & Order Way".[6]
  • Sky Rink has the only year-round ice skating rinks in Manhattan.
  • Twenty-five movies have been filmed at Chelsea Piers.
  • The Chelsea Piers Golf Club was featured in the 2010 Hollywood release "The Other Guys," including a high-speed chase scene through the piers and a helicopter landing on the Golf Club's driving range.
  • Directly opposite Chelsea Piers is the Venus (mural): a ten story high mural painting by New York artist Knox Martin on the south side of Bayview Correctional Facility at 19th Street and 11th Avenue. This mural is now mostly hidden by the construction of the Jean Nouvelle residential building.[7]
  • The Apprentice filmed three episodes at Chelsea Piers, including 2 finales.
  • The first four seasons of Spin City were shot in studio D on Chelsea Piers.
  • Chelsea Piers is the broadcast headquarters for CBS Sports Network.
  • Pier's 54,56,and 57 was the one of the main settings for the 1980 classic Times_Square_(film)

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°44′50″N 74°0′35″W / 40.74722°N 74.00972°W / 40.74722; -74.00972