The Hudson River Park must generate more revenue

TALKING POINT

 

By Diana L. Taylor, 

Robert K. Steele, Paul A. Ullman,

Pamela Frederick, Franz Leichter,

Jeffrey Kaplan and Lawrence B. Goldberg

Over the last 18 months, the Hudson River Park Trust hosted a series of task force meetings attended by all the local elected officials or their representatives and many experienced urban planning experts, representatives of the three community boards and other community groups, environmental experts and parks professionals. These meetings were highly structured, transparent and thoughtfully designed to find common ground with respect to the park’s challenges and needed changes to the Hudson River Park Act, which created and governs the park.

The original idea behind the creation of the park was that public money would create it and commercial revenue would sustain it. And the city and state have been incredibly generous to the park over the last 13 years, funding nearly $350 million in capital construction.

But it is important to understand the scale of the task. With 5 miles of property, we still have a long way to go to fulfill the promise of creating the park in all the communities it serves. We have forecast that we will need an additional $15 million per year to support the park’s operations and capital maintenance by 2022, and another $250 million to actually complete the park — not including additional ball fields on Pier 40.

Despite the many good ideas generated during these many meetings, the idea to allow residential development at Pier 40 dominated the conversation. The political battle associated with this one potential revenue-generating use eclipsed the progress we made on other possible changes to the park act, and obscured the point of the original discussion — which is that the park is not generating enough revenue to maintain itself.

The critical benefit residential development brings is that it generates the most revenue while occupying the smallest footprint, with vastly less vehicular and foot traffic impact than any alternate use. It was because of this combination and the failure of past high-impact proposed uses that a community group, the Pier 40 Champions, invested in a concept plan and came up with a novel approach that no one else had considered.

However, we do not wish to see the conversation halted over one specific use. We seek a productive environment where good ideas and their financial and cultural impacts can be intelligently discussed. We want and need to hear from our local elected officials about what ideas they believe can work and what should be done to secure the future of the park. If our state or city representatives really believe that government should be responsible for funding the upkeep and repairs required, then our representatives need to work with us to create or identify that funding stream. The recent announcement of open space money allocated from the Hudson Square rezoning for Pier 40 future repairs was a useful and very welcome step in the right direction.

The Trust board has undertaken revenue-generating initiatives both directly and indirectly through our fundraising partnership with Friends of Hudson River Park. We have high hopes for private fundraising and volunteer involvement, and Friends have already demonstrated their dedication by raising (post-Sandy) more than $300,000 to repair the playground at Pier 25 in Tribeca. Our initiatives also include asking the neighbors of the park to support a neighborhood improvement district (NID), where residential and commercial property owners along the length of the park would contribute a small amount to the annual care of this great asset to us all. We ask for community support since this idea ultimately rests with a decision by the City Council.

The Trust board strongly urges our local political leadership to allow the Hudson River Park Act to be significantly amended. It is only with flexibility within the act that the park can get the most revenue from our designated commercial nodes, thereby allowing us to create and maintain the most field space and the most open parkland for all of our West Side neighbors.

We have been trying very hard to find real solutions. The problem is simple: We do not have enough money coming into the park to maintain it. But the solution is not so simple. We look to our elected leaders and our community to work with us to find a path forward sensibly and cooperatively.

The signees are all members of the Hudson River Park Trust board of directors

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5 Responses to The Hudson River Park must generate more revenue

  1. "public money would create it" — the park is not created until Pier 40 is ready. Public money should and must pay to fix the pier. Anything less is a broken promise. Once the pier is on sound footing, the other financial considerations are doable without changing the HRP Act.

    And better yet, how about reducing overhead by having a park with just grass and trees and paths? Money saved is money earned… and that's ongoing savings. We don't need world class or state-of-the-art parkland; we have a beautiful river! Skip all the fancy architecture, design and landscaping, so that when the next Sandy comes along, we don't have to listen to the Trust and Friends crying about needing even more of our money to replace things that should have never been in a flood zone to begin with.

  2. First we need new leadership on the Trust Board.
    Diana Taylor has served on the Trust Board since 1999 and served as Chair of the Trust Board since 2007.
    It's past time new leadership is entrusted to serve the community and this park.
    The position of Chair is supposed to change every two years but the political fallout of naming a new chair while her
    deep pocketed "boyfriend" continued to reign in his extended term as mayor has been problematic.
    With a new election upcoming it is imperative that a new chair is named and Ms. Taylor can sit pretty within her newly formed Trust-heavy Friends of Hudson River Park.
    The Trust lacks diversity and accountability.
    It is under their lack of leadership that plans for increasing revenue were never implemented or planed.
    The fact that Ms. Taylor and Madelyn Wils MADE residential their option from day one of Ms. Wils appointment-and frankly the reason she was hired from her job putting residential on parklands at the EDC -and then squandered time and money to attempt to build luxury apartments was foolish.
    Time for the elected officials to take a serious look at this entire board and frankly Ms. Taylor might do the right thing and resign.

  3. Dear Directors,

    Appreciate the letter.

    You have certainly seen over the years my arguments for Major League Soccer.
    While that opportunity has passed, I still believe deeply that a scaled down, revenue producing soccer arena,
    for professional men and women, (North American Soccer League or USL, and the new National Women's Soccer League, perhaps as one parent entity?) is the appropriate answer for Pier 40. Consistent with current use.
    Space created for this partner would be used 300+ days a year by the public, a perfect compromise for this difficult situation. I believe it can be done easily on less than 50% of the pier, perhaps as little as 40%.

    An obvious high probability of filled seats, and multiple sources of revenue, all from a single commercial partner. Tickets, TV, luxury box, advertising, concessions. A diverse and behaved demographic, contrary to the bleats of the uninformed. Do NOT underestimate soccer's ascent, neither as a US pro sport, or as a core need of families and children at Pier 40 and in the Pier 40 Champions group.

    I believe funds for this can be raised in a manner allowing the public to participate as shareholders, in the manner of the NFL's Green Bay Packers, the Barcelona Football Club, or even in a manner the Boston Celtics. Funding pier repair, franchise creation, and park sustenance all at once. It is as pure a solution as Pier 40 is likely to get, and it would be historic, and worthy of New York City. Why not "Immigrant Women's and Men's Soccer Club" in Greenwich Village? ISC.

    Let's put together a group of community professionals, neighbors, soccer enthusiasts and marketing pros, lawyers, architects, security professionals and politicians to vet it. There is no reason not to have a soccer working group, with transparency and commitment.

    We start with the first charrette or working group, make it soccer specific. If it can fly, it moves forward, if it can't it can't. The usual voices with no alternative will pronounce it impossible from the beginning, but if it gets a fair and thorough hearing, at the very least, it can be the model for process going forward, an inspiration for others to quit their complaining and bring their ideas to the table. And who knows, maybe it is the right one, and we strike compromise gold early. I believe it is possible with this idea, and am prepared to back it up with organizing time, in service to my community, and to Pier 40.

    This can be done, and with community priorities in place. I hope we can begin with an informal gathering where a mic can get passed around for a few hours, and the aforementioned working professionals can talk about the possibilities. It's post Sandy, we know what has to be done now. If the Board puts together a date and a place, (in May?) with the intent being specific to this idea, I will begin immediately to seek out experts and community to contribute.

    Please contact me through the blog: http://www.nycmls.com/posts

  4. The Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) so blandly referred to here is a flawed concept and an abuse of the Business Improvement District Law. Contrary to statements made in public meetings, the HRP Park maintenance money from the NID will not be passed through to the Hudson River Park Trust as a block grant and can be held back in a reserve fund if the NID Board does not approve of the HRPT requests for any or all of the money in any given year. In addition, if the NID builds pedestrian bridges over Route 9A in the northern section of the Park (including perhaps to the Cruise Passenger Piers), as detailed in the draft NID District Plan, the debt service for them takes precidence over all other budget items, even the money earmarked for Park maintenace.The NID plan also envisions "beautifying" the historically accurate industrial flavor of the western parts of Tribeca, Soho and the West Village and beyond and could weaken local control of our neighborhoods. Before you decide you support the NID because they tell you it's an easy, low impact way to help HRP, read the plan (http://www.hrpnid.com/district-plan/) and visit Neighbors Against the NID(www .http://nohrpnid.blogspot.com/) to learn more.

  5. Nicole Vianna

    Here are working links of the comment above:
    http://www.hrpnid.com/district-plan/ http://nohrpnid.blogspot.com/

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