Trust must improve its communication and transparency

TALKING POINT

BY DEBORAH J. GLICK | I read “The Hudson River Park must generate more revenue” (talking point, by Diana Taylor et al., March 28) with interest, and am pleased that the Hudson River Park Trust board of directors seems to be willing to move beyond the proposal for residential development at Pier 40. And while it’s true that the task force created by the Trust was attended by local elected officials and community board chairpersons, as well as others with direct interest in the park, the agendas were developed by the Trust and reflected the Trust’s desired changes to the Hudson River Park Act, most notably the desire to allow residential development within the park, which they pressed for vigorously against strong objections.

Whether or not we agree that the best way for parks to be funded is to require them to generate funds for their own upkeep, regrettably that is the structure that was set in the legislation creating the Hudson River Park. Unfortunately, the Trust has curiously undermined aspects of the law that would have provided the park with more funding. For example, recognizing a need for ongoing income, the park’s founding legislation includes a requirement that the passenger ship terminal, at W. 52nd St., share revenue with the park on an ongoing basis. The revenue share was to be 15 percent for the first five years, and then increased to 20 percent. In view of the focus on the park’s finances it was an unpleasant surprise that the Trust agreed in 2006 to waive those revenues for 20 years, without any public hearing as required by the legislation. It’s not clear how much money has been lost, but it is a well-documented fact that there has been a dramatic increase in commercial activity at the passenger ship terminal.

Another opportunity to create a funding stream for the park was lost when the Trust did not heavily lobby Trinity Real Estate during the recent Hudson Square rezoning process. There is no doubt that the Hudson Square community will view the Hudson River Park as a neighborhood amenity, and it is likely that real estate interests will sell apartments on that basis. While I, and others, pushed for ongoing contributions to the park to be a cornerstone of the rezoning agreement, the Trust and the city administration showed an unwillingness to link the two projects. It should be noted that the paid facilitator for the Hudson River Park Task Force was also associated with the Trinity application for the rezoning of Hudson Square, but resigned when it became apparent that there was a glaring conflict of interest. Fortunately, when the rezoning came before the City Council, Speaker Quinn did get a one-time contribution for Pier 40 to help pay for the repair of the roof but I found the Trust’s lack of support on this issue to be surprising.

Now the Trust is actively pursuing a neighborhood improvement district (NID) that would provide a new revenue stream by taxing those living close to the park. While I am glad that the Trust is pursuing a revenue stream that is not reliant on inappropriate development, I worry that it is undercutting its own efforts by excluding two neighborhoods on the horizon, Hudson Square and Hudson Yards. These neighborhoods will bring thousands of new residents, many of whom are likely to be children, to the neighborhood and yet they would not be party to the NID or required to make any other sort of financial contribution to the ongoing operations of the park.

While the Trust’s talking point in The Villager continues to focus on the benefits of residential development, even as they recognize that the focus on residential has proven to be a regrettable distraction, I remain hopeful that we can turn the page and move forward. In order to do so, the Trust needs to commit to a more communicative process that includes the general public, if we are to see an appropriate collaboration between the Trust and the West Side neighborhoods that use the park. Thus far, the task force route has proven to be an inside game that lacks transparency and does not allow for stakeholders to vet any ideas before the public; it is my hope that we can now work together with the public to come up with viable and appropriate solutions to help sustain our park.

Glick is assemblymember, 66th District

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10 Responses to Trust must improve its communication and transparency

  1. Thank you, Ms. Glick, for standing up for the voters of this area. You are on the right side, so please keep fighting for us. I only regret that I'm not able to vote for these Trust folks — so undemocratic! — seems like there's some cleaning house that needs to be done.

  2. This response purports to start off as an olive branch to the Trust, but turns instead into a spanking and a victory dance. Assemblymember Glick has prevented housing, (but so did we all), and now she is laying the groundwork to undermine the proposed NID, all with no alternatives of any kind in place. Let's face it, this letter is filled with blame, coming from an elected leader whose own body is facing one indictment after another, all after a sexual scandal paid for with taxpayer dollars. You would think given that fact, a little humility would have been in order here, maybe even an public invitation to a private summit to clear the air between them. Or at least an idea or two. Instead, nothing. Again, we are forced to ask, how could a decision of the financial magnitude of the 2006 ship terminal waiver have been made by the Trust, transparent or not, without the knowledge of our Assemblymember? Her job is to know that, and to have stopped it, and we must confront the fact now more than ever that we are being poorly served. Why blame the Trust for failing to lobby for rezoning contribution from Hudson Yards? Does this Assembly office not have the power and the initiative to lead on that? Particularly if her contention is that the Trust will not do so? This relationship between our Assemblymember and the Trust shows no sign of progress, or potential. The community has to come up with, and fund, our own idea for Pier 40 and the park, because we are not going to get help from them. This is an impasse, and Assembly District 66 needs to begin to look to the future for a more dynamic leader. We need an innovator. A progressive with Glick's ideals, but with a far, far more fore-thinking, aggressive, and entrepreneurial manner of leadership. It is time for a change. http://www.nycmls.com

  3. There is no doubt that the Hudson River Park is an amenity, and a great one. It is beautiful, safe and clean. That costs $$$$$$$. The neighborhood needs to hear more about the NID proposal, the precedents for maintaining
    our other city parks in this manner, the map delineating the 'neighborhood', and the estimated % of population outside these boundaries using the park.
    It would be a difficult proposal to swallow for the neighborhood without further discussion.

    • If the current "commercial nodes" aspect of the Act stays in place, there is no reason the right commercial partner can't be found in time to prevent the need for an NID, but urgency must be the order of the day. To have both the commercial aspect of the park and Pier 40 put in play AND have an NID is an absolute abdication of government/park fiscal responsibility. Why must we allow commercial use, AND pay for the park's ongoing operations via an NID? The commercial use can at least be done in a way beneficial to community as with the soccer arena I've been suggesting. An NID is arbitrary, no matter how you look at it. If BOTH of them end up in existence, it's an absolute disgrace, and a political failure.

  4. And, for the record, this movement among locals to suggest that the use of a riverfront park in lower Manhattan is somehow going to be able to be curbed, so that people from outside the neighborhood, other boroughs, or other visitors or tourists don't use it, or must use it less is simply ridiculous. Oppose the NID if your problem is paying for what others use, but let's get over this impossible and parochial assertion. It's tedious. Offer a different solution. The clock is ticking on Pier 40.

  5. Nicole Vianna

    @Patrick Shields: I can't speak for everyone who opposes the NID, but for myself and those I am allied with, the issue has nothing to do with paying for what others use. In fact, one of our points is that instead of arbitrarily deeming an area responsible for the Park, since it is a public good it should be treated as one and converted to a public park funding stream under either the NYC or NYS Parks departments. And no one has suggested that the use by those not in the NID be restricted in any way, but I appreciate the creativity it took to come up with such a beautiful straw man to make us look both mean and silly! Our actual objections are laid out publicly at http://nohrpnid.blogspot.com/

    • I've thoroughly read through your links since the beginning, but again I insist (and I have said this consistently and since 2003), that:
      1.) No individual or organization, and certainly no politician in this community, has either come up with a plan to eliminate the Trust and reclaim the park for the Parks Department, or even suggest that it is in any way possible,
      and
      2.) Come up with an financially viable alternative (other than a soccer arena, which I believe is) within the scope of the Trust, that is non-housing.
      "Stop the NID" says nothing about "How to Get This Done". Do you have a plan in place, or do your allies, to eliminate the state law that is the current Trust Act, and replace it with a New York City Parks funding mechanism? A plan for the New York City Parks Department to take over the Hudson River Park? Because that is what you're talking about. An unbelievably tall order. Is any Assemblymember, State Senator, or City Council member, or even Mayoral or Council candidate saying it is possible? Bring proof of that back to these pages. Show me ONE elected official who is willing to say the Trust can be eliminated. One. While I support it as an ideal, I see it as a long ago dead political impossibility. If it were possible, Deborah Glick and the other Assemblymembers would have gotten it done by now. They haven't, they never bring it up, not one has addressed it as a possibility since the beginning of this fiasco. And unless you have some top secret plan in place, it is dead as an idea. What you see as me looking for a straw man, is actually me challenging people with big ideas about the park to back up their ideas with specific plans. Financially viable, politically possible, real, detailed, plans. The kind of plans that get things built.
      And also regarding the straw man issue: my response was to posts in these comment sections. No creativity, nothing made up. People in this section, usually anonymous, argue consistently in the "we'll have to pay for what 'outsiders' use" vein. Like I say to everyone, stop arguing for what you're against or who you want to stop, and tell me what you're for, and how it can get done. At some point, and soon, some compromise consensus must be made. There's going to be a lot of anger as this moves forward, so we might as well get down to business. When those pilings are repaired and there is a sustainable partner in place, with green space and youth fields, we can all forgive each other. In the meantime, Pier 40 must be treated as in imminent danger.

  6. Nicole Vianna

    Also, the clock may be ticking on Pier 40, but the NID isn't and will never be a solution to that problem. According to Madelyn Wils, President and CEO of HRPT, the NID money can't be spent for capital improvements on the part of HRP that's on state land, which is everything below 34th St. The draft District Plan also doesn't envision any capital improvements on the NYC part of the Park, but it does point out the need for pesdestrian bridges to be built over 9A in the northern section of the Park and envisions a study for that sort of safety improvment. The NID, if estabished, will be able to borrow and the debt service for a pedestrian bridge or 2 could potentially eat up all of the NID budget earmarked for the Park (the District Plan states that debt service takes priority over all other budget items).

    Everyone should read the draft plan to get a full understanding of what is planned — it's not just money for the Park, and in fact, contrary to what has been said in public meetings, even the money for the Park won't just be turned over to HRPT as a grant. The plan is at http://www.hrpnid.com/district-plan/

  7. Glick was wise not to show up at the little league opening. She is reviled by most parents in the league and neighborhood. Classic politician who blames others for the problem, says no to every new idea, and then will take credit when someone comes in with a solution. Or she'll just raise taxes. Congrats, we all lose

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