Pier 57

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Coordinates: 40°44′36″N 74°00′33″W / 40.743396°N 74.009196°W / 40.743396; -74.009196

Pier 57
Location Corner of 15th Street and Eleventh Avenue (West Side Highway), New York, NY 10011
Built 1952
Architect Emil Praeger
NRHP Reference # 04000821
Added to NRHP August 11, 2004

Pier 57 is a long pier located in the Hudson River on the west side of the borough of Manhattan in New York City. Built in 1952, it sits at the end of West 15th Street on Eleventh Avenue, just south of the Chelsea Piers sports complex.


Consisting of two stories above the waterline, the pier also has a concrete basement resting on the riverbed, and an Art Deco-style metal enclosure at the west end with a sign reading "MARINE & AVIATION" and displaying the identifying designation "PIER 57". The long sides of the structure are each topped with a line of continuous "burton" cargo handling frames, which allowed freight to be easily transferred to and from ships docked at the pier.

The pier is notable for being underpinned by three separate submerged buoyant concrete caissons, which are spanned by long steel girders supporting the building above. Designer Emil Praeger of the firm Madigan-Hyland had created similar structures as part of the American military effort in World War II, including temporary breakwaters that were used as part of the D-Day invasion. The caissons were constructed in 1951 and 1952 inside diked enclosures drained of water near Haverstraw, New York and after completion were floated down the Hudson to the site. The two largest concrete caissons are 360 feet (110 m) long, 127 feet (39 m) wide and 33 feet (10 m) high, and weigh as much as 27,000 short tons (24,000 t), but float because they weigh less than the 47,000 short tons (43,000 t) of water that they displace.[1] Their buoyancy supports 90% of the pier's weight, with the riverbed supporting the rest.[2] Dubbed "The World's Most Modern Pier", it was hailed as an innovative structure, being fireproof, extremely durable and immune to many of the problems that had historically plagued wooden waterfront construction.

At the time of its construction, Pier 57 was the largest dock building effort ever undertaken by the City of New York.[3] During construction, a gasoline fire at the site killed 2 workers and injured a third. Final construction costs totaled $12 million. The designers were awarded the Architectural League of New York's Gold Medal in Engineering for this innovative design in 1955.[4]

History and use[edit]

From its opening in 1954, the pier served as a terminal for shipping and storage of cargo for the Grace Line, replacing a prior wooden structure that had burned to the waterline in 1947 in a spectacular fire that lasted 2 days.[5] The company sold its shipping business in 1969. From 1971 until 2003, Pier 57 housed the Hudson Pier Bus Depot for the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA).[6]

About one year after the NYCTA vacated the pier, Pier 57 was temporarily utilized as a detention center during the 2004 Republican National Convention, when approximately 1,200 anti-RNC protesters were arrested and sent to a makeshift detention/processing center at Pier 57. Over 1,800 were arrested during the entire event, giving rise to the nickname "Guantanamo on the Hudson" for the temporary facility. Medical activists reportedly treated many people held at Pier 57 for chemical burns, rashes, and infections that resulted from direct, prolonged exposure to the motor oil, asbestos, and other contaminants from its days as a bus garage.[7][8]

In recognition of its historic engineering significance, the structure was placed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2004,[9] but since that time it has been completely disused. Past proposals for re-use have included a 2004 competitive process pitting an extension of the nearby Chelsea Piers sports complex against "Leonardo at Pier 57", an Italian cultural center that was to be operated by Cipriani S.A..[10][11] However, an investigation by the DA's office sparked by an anonymous tip regarding financial irregularities caused the Cipriani team to back out and scuttled the process.[12]

In 2009, the Hudson River Park Trust selected Youngwoo & Associates to redevelop the site.[13][14] The current concept, dubbed the SuperPier after a nickname given to the structure in a 1952 Popular Mechanics article includes a retail shopping environment based on salvaged steel shipping containers and re-use of the roof and concrete-encased basement space below the waterline, as well as incubator office rental spaces for start-up companies. The office spaces will be developed and leased by RXR Realty.[15] The developer's current estimates project a spring 2017 re-opening for the site.[16]

In 2015, it was officially announced that a new multi-use food market would also be opened on the ground floor. Headed by Anthony Bourdain, the market would include more than 100,000 square feet of vendors, restaurants and a rooftop beer garden.[17]


  1. ^ Dunlap, David W. "Pier 57 Goes Down in History as a Place Where Concrete Floats", The New York Times, August 8, 2016. Accessed August 8, 2016. "Even though the larger ones weigh 27,000 tons, they displace about 47,000 tons of water, far more than their own weight."
  2. ^ "Pier 57's construction was an engineering marvel". The Villager. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  3. ^ https://www.hudsonriverpark.org/assets/content/general/11HRP001M_FEIS_07_Historic.pdf
  4. ^ The Record Reports: Meetings and Miscellany (PDF), Architectural Record, 1955, p. 18, retrieved December 16, 2015 
  5. ^ "Once-Neglected Pier 57 Prepares for Its SuperPier Moment". Curbed. 2014-01-17. Retrieved 2014-08-04. 
  6. ^ David W. Chen, Hoping for a Waterfront Makeover Just South of Chelsea Piers, New York Times, October 15, 2003, section B, page 6
  7. ^ "Lawyers Guild, NYCLU Collecting Information on infamous Pier 57 jail". New Standard News. 2004-09-06. Retrieved 2014-08-04. 
  8. ^ "Policing Protest: The NYPD's Republican National Convention Documents". NYCLU. Documents released 2007-02-21 and 2007-05-16. Retrieved 2014-08-14.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. ^ "AssetDetail". Retrieved 31 March 2016. 
  10. ^ "Trust considers two plans for Pier 57". Downtown Express. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  11. ^ "Chelsea Piers Development Update". Curbed. 2004-05-21. Retrieved 2014-08-04. 
  12. ^ "Pier 57 process is barely afloat three years later". The Villager. 2007-01-02. Retrieved 2014-08-14. 
  13. ^ "Young Woo and Associates - SuperPier NY". The Real Deal New York. 1 December 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2016. 
  14. ^ "Pier 57 / LOT-EK + Young Woo & Associates". ArchDaily. Retrieved 31 March 2016. 
  15. ^ "Pier's Developer Looks for a Creative Tenant Mix". The New York Times. 2013-09-13. Retrieved 2014-08-04. 
  16. ^ http://superp.vaesite.net/__data/9aeb6c5e8cf088bc40aef4de60f9a236.pdf/
  17. ^ "Anthony Bourdain's Food Market Takes Shape". The New York Times. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2016. 

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