Chelsea Piers is a series of piers in Chelsea, on the West Side of Manhattan in New York City. Located to the west of the West Side Highway (Eleventh Avenue) and Hudson River Park and to the east of the Hudson River, they were originally a passenger ship terminal in the early 1900s that was used by the RMS Lusitania and was the destination of the RMS Titanic. The piers replaced a variety of run-down waterfront structures with a row of grand buildings embellished with pink granite facades.
The piers are currently used by the Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex. The Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex is a 28-acre waterfront sports village located between 17th and 23rd Streets along Manhattan's Hudson River. This privately-financed project opened in 1995. Situated on Piers 59, 60 and 61 and in the head house that connects them, the Complex features the Golf Club, a multi-story driving range; the Field House, which contains numerous sports and training facilities; Sky Rink which has two full-sized ice rinks; the Chelsea Piers Fitness health club; and Bowlmor at Chelsea Piers, a bowling alley. The complex also includes several event centers; the Studios film and television production facilities; and the Maritime Center marina for mooring private boats.
Historically, the term Chelsea Piers referred to the luxury liner berths on Manhattan's west side from 1910 to the 1930s. With ocean liners such as the Titanic becoming bigger and bigger, New York City was looking for a new passenger ship dock in the early 1900s. The Army, which controls 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 New York Central railway line and a ferry station near the river at 23rd Street.
New York City solved the problem in an unusual way by actually taking away a block of land that 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.
The new piers were designed by the architectural firm of Warren and Wetmore, which 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.
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. The two most memorable moments for the pier were with the Lusitania and Titanic. The RMS Lusitania left her Cunard Pier 54 in 1915 before being torpedoed by German submarine U-20. 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.
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.
A luxury liner row was built between West 44th and West 52nd Street to handle larger liners in the 1930s. 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. The piers had catastrophic fires in 1932 and 1947 that destroyed some of the south piers. New construction resulted in new cargo piers used by the United States Lines and Grace line.
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. The superstructure of Pier 54 was demolished in 1991 except for the archway entrance (along with the White Star and Cunard signage). The plan (dubbed the Westway) was abandoned after court cases said the new highway would jeopardize striped bass.
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 the 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. The complex opened in August 1995. Chelsea Piers Connecticut, the first expansion project of Chelsea Piers, was built in Stamford, Connecticut. The facility opened in July 2012.
After the collapse of the World Trade Center due to the September 11 attacks, EMS triage centers were quickly relocated and consolidated at the Chelsea Piers and the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal. The EMS triage center was shut down and disassembled on September 12, 2001, due to a lack of need. An ad-hoc volunteer disaster recovery site was run from Chelsea Piers through September 16, 2001. Volunteers assisted with resources for ground zero recovery volunteers: sleeping area, food, and cell phones.
Piers 54 and 55 are being combined into one structure that will be completed in 2020. The new structure will contain a park.
Pier 54 at RMS Titanic and 1915 RMS Lusitania maritime disasters, when it was used by the Cunard Line. It is now part of Hudson River Park. The piers themselves are at Little West 12th Street and the Hudson River in the Meatpacking District/Greenwich Village neighborhood. The pier was also used for troop ships during World War II. After the war it was used as part of the W. R. Grace and Company and United States Lines freight operations., part of the historic Chelsea Piers, is associated with the 1912
In 1998 the piers became part of the Hudson River Park. Since then they has been used for concerts and other events. In 2005, it was the site of The Nomadic Museum's art exhibit housed in shipping containers. Pier 54 was finally shut down in 2011 after it started to collapse.
Plans arose in November 2014 for a new park designed by Heatherwick Studio, with estimates of the 2.3-acre (0.93 ha) park between $130 million and $160 million. Major backers included Barry Diller and Diane von Fürstenberg's joint foundation, which contributed $100 million to the project with plans to give up to $130 million. The city and state vowed to give $17 million and $18 million, respectively. The park, a partnership between Diller and von Furstenberg's foundation, the city and state, and Hudson River Park Trust, was to float completely above the water, resting on 300 concrete pillars. If the project were approved, construction was to begin in 2015 and end in 2018 or 2019. The project was provisionally known as Pier 55, and was to be built between the sites of Pier 54 and 56. Plans for the pier were scrapped in 2017 due to legal trouble and cost overruns, as the budget had gone over $200 million by then.
In October 2017, the proposal was revived in exchange for Governor Andrew Cuomo agreeing to complete the remaining 30% of the incomplete Hudson River Park. Cuomo provided $50 million for the park in April 2018, but with the condition that the city raise a matching amount. Construction of the structure began the same month. The park would be supported by 132 pot-shaped structures suspended above the water, and would include a 700-seat amphitheater. A symbolic cornerstone was laid in December 2018, by which time the structure was proposed to be significantly completed by 2020. The new estimate for the project was $250 million. In 2019 the project was renamed Little Island.
25 movies have been filmed at Chelsea Piers.
Several TV shows have been filmed here:
Chelsea Piers was the broadcast headquarters for CBS Sports Network.
View of Chelsea Piers and Venus Mural
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