She Has a Plan for Pier A, and Relieving The Battery's 'Incredible Burden'

Warrie Price, founder and president of the Battery Conservancy outside Pier A, now vacated indefinitely by its tenant, Pier A Harbor House. "When we heard the restaurant was no longer going to function there I called the Battery Park City Authority right away and made my pitch," Price said. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Mar. 26, 2021

“It’s a heartbreak,” Warrie Price said as she walked along a path of The Battery, eyeing with dismay a big white tent, its massive size blocking sweeping views of the harbor.

For Price, founder and president of The Battery Conservancy, that 12,000-square-foot structure—the security screening facility for tour boat passengers to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island—has been a blot on The Battery since the National Park Service installed it after 9/11.

“Of all the work we did on Castle Clinton, the promenade, these exquisite gardens everywhere, and then to be presented with this monstrosity!” exclaimed Price, who for the past 27 years has spearheaded the dramatic transformation of this once dilapidated park.

Now, Price is seizing on what she sees as a way to get rid of the building and restore about an acre of public space along the waterfront. The solution, she insists, is the recently vacated Pier A, the historic 1886 structure that stands close by, between The Battery and the southern end of Battery Park City.

Pier A Harbor House, the pier’s tenant, shut down indefinitely in October, and Price wants to replace it with the screening center. The first floor, she suggested, could offer visitors a more inviting place to queue while waiting to be screened, with lively displays about the area’s history and local attractions. “It’s certainly going to be a much more enhanced wait than walking through that white plastic tent,” she said.

The upper floors and outdoor walkway and seating areas would remain open for public use, she said. Boats would load at Pier A and disembark “into this beautiful paradise of plants” at one of the slips in the park. Tickets would no longer be sold in Castle Clinton but at other locations with hand-held devices.

Now is the time, Price said, to dust off the city’s long-abandoned city plan to turn the pier into a tour boat landing and visitor center. That plan, which she had already worked on, fell through years ago after a developer failed to deliver on a restoration project for the derelict pier, formerly a fireboat station. Finally restored by the city, the pier was turned over to the Battery Park City Authority in 2008, which eventually chose to lease it to a commercial tenant.  

Pier A Harbor House, which opened in 2014, has a lease with the Battery Park City Authority through 2038. Though closed, its tenant status remains uncertain, said Nicholas Sbordone, the Authority’s director of communications and public affairs. “Pier A is subject to a contract with obligations to be resolved among the existing parties,” he told Community Board 1’s Waterfront, Parks and Cultural Committee, where Price made her pitch this month. “We’re not at a point where we can make decisions about future use,” he added.

Neither the National Parks Service, which operates the screening center, nor Hornblower Yachts, owner of Statue Cruises, responded to requests for comment.

In the meantime, as tourists trickled into the screening tent that before the pandemic had processed more than 4 million visitors a year, Price stood nearby, imagining how things could be different once times returned to normal. 

“We have to come back better,” she said. “We have to open these views, we have to treasure this historic monument of the castle, and Pier A’s history.” 

“The pier,” she added, “has had a history of service and purpose. It’s time to go back to that.

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Warrie Price makes change for the better happen

If anyone can make a change for the better then we know Warrie Price will make it happen. I look forward to reading how the  Pier A Harbor House is our new visitor center with beautiful displays of the area’s history.



A win-win

What an excellent suggestion for dealing with the screening and utilizing the Pier A building, it's a win-win.



A fabulous idea

What a fabulous idea to use Pier A for a loading space for tours! I've dined there when it was an upscale restaurant and felt it was underused. Most of the upper rooms were empty. Ms Price's plan makes it possible for tourists and locals to come and see the sites (and have a bite with perhaps smaller more reasonable cafe and dinner spot) either before or after boarding



No better use for the pier

The proposal by Warrie Price is terrific.  I can't think of a better use for the Pier.  Of course, I am not privy to the legal situation with the current lessee but perhaps part of the space can still be used as a restaurant—and probably do better financially if its in the same building as the reception activities. I am sure BPC would be happy to have part of the pier producing income.