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A Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood group is dragging the NYPD to court with one message: Get your tow pound off the pier, now!
Locals filed a lawsuit against the police department last week in an effort to get a court order forcing the police to shut down and move its huge West Side impound lot off Pier 76, promised two decades ago as parkland.
The NYPD has made moves recently to study ways to close the tow pound and replace it with facilities elsewhere, THE CITY reported last month.
But that’s not good enough for the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association. In a suit filed against the city Nov. 15, the group says the department should have been long gone from the pier.
City Law Department spokesperson Nicholas Paolucci said the city has reviewed the legal papers and will respond to the suit, adding, “we do not believe the claims have merit.”
20 Years and ‘Zilch’
In the Hudson River Park Act, passed in 1998, the NYPD was charged to employ “best efforts” to relocate the tow pound so it could be incorporated into the waterfront park. Nearly two decades later, it’s clear the Police Department has failed, the suit says.
“We’ve given them 20 years and they’ve done zilch,” said Kathleen Treat, the association’s president and a plaintiff in the case. “It’s time.”
Treat, who has lived a short walk to the Hell’s Kitchen waterfront for 30 years, said the neighborhood has changed drastically, morphing from a deserted industrial area to a family-friendly area bursting with new residents.
“The community is growing,” she said. “It used to be nothing but abandoned rail houses and now it’s people — people with children, growing kids, teenagers who need to play basketball.”
The tow pound has been operating on Pier 76 since the 1970s. When it ceases operations there, per state law, half the four-acre pier is slated to be used for new park space and half for a development from a range of possibilities that include a school or production studio.
The NYPD is working with other city agencies to find a way to operate without the West Side Highway lot for impounded vehicles. The review constitutes the first meaningful step to shut down the pound since the 1998 act was passed.
Policing the Police
Even so, Arlene Boop, the attorney representing plaintiffs, said she doesn’t trust the NYPD to see the effort through. For years, all she and others have seen from the police is “a great deal of reluctance” to relocate — and said it’s time to force the issue.
“If there’s no pressure on it, the chances of it just wallowing are so high,” she said.
The lawsuit claims the city and NYPD are in violation of the Hudson River Park Act in their failure to move the tow pound.
Spokespeople for the NYPD and the city Law Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The effort to study the relocation from Pier 76 is part of a year-long survey pushed by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson — the local representative for Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea — addressing how NYPD lots are being used citywide.
City Hall officials have said consultants from Dattner Architects, who are conducting the study, will have recommendations to share by the end of this year.
For Treat, a new park can’t come soon enough. She’s hoping for an “active park” with space for sports teams to practice and play.
“If it’s big enough for a soccer field, that’s what we should have,” she said.
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