Hudson Park bill allows air-rights transfers, longer leases, boat ticket tax, restaurants, carousels

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | As the State Legislature’s session drew to a close, a sweeping bill to modify the Hudson River Park Act in a variety ways was quietly passed by both the Assembly and the state Senate.

The bill was approved by the Assembly 96-5 on Thursday around noon.

Then, after a marathon session that began Friday and turned into an all-nighter, the bill finally came up before the Senate on Saturday morning, and at 5:18 a.m. was passed unanimously 57-0.

The governor’s signature is still required, though his approval is expected.

The bill’s sponsors were Richard Gottfried and Deborah Glick in the Assembly. In the state Senate the sponsor was listed simply as the Rules Committee.

Approval of the bill will allow the Hudson River Park to sell unused air rights for development up to one block inland of the West Side Highway — with the proceeds from Pier 40’s air rights specifically earmarked for that pier’s sorely needed repairs; to extend the lease terms for commercial uses in the park to 49 years, and in some cases, for larger developments, up to 99 years; for the city to give Pier 76 fully to the Hudson River Park Trust; for the imposition of a surcharge of up to $2 on tickets for all commercial vessels (entertainment, sightseeing, day or dinner cruises), which embark or disembark within the park, with this tax paid directly to the Trust; for a heliport terminal to be built within the park, though not on land but on a floating structure in the Hudson River; and to allow Pier 54 to be rebuilt wider than its original footprint.

Said Gottfried, “The bill is certainly a compromise. It does several important things for the financial viability of the park and for the quality of the park. However, most of the provisions relating particularly to Pier 40 or Pier 76 were deleted [from the bill’s final version]. We will hopefully take up issues relating to those piers next year. I felt it was better to do that than enact some very inadequate provisions that would then be very difficult to change in the future.”

The bill doesn’t allow things at Pier 76 that Gottfried favored, such as hotel and residential use, and at the same time doesn’t permit something that Glick wanted at Pier 40, commercial office use. Local youth sports leagues last year put on a major push to change the park’s legislation to allow residential use on or next to Pier 40 — feeling it was the best way to ensure funding to fix up the sports pier. However, lack of political support sunk that idea.

“The provision allowing the Trust to sell unused development rights of the park to adjoining properties can potentially provide considerable revenue for the park,” Gottfried said.

lights back on

About two weeks ago, the Hudson River Park Trust restored electrical power in the park’s Greenwich Village section. Hurricane Sandy devastated the park’s electrical infrastructure, much of which had been located belowground and was susceptible to flooding. Photo by Lincoln Anderson

“At Pier 76,” the assemblymember continued, “the bill will require that once the tow pound is removed, the city will turn over the whole pier to the park, not just half of it. That means the whole pier will be subject to the Hudson River Park Act’s protections. When the pier is transferred to the park, at least half the pier must be devoted to open-space park use. The remainder can be used for park-commercial purposes (a tighter restriction than would apply to the pier if the city kept it), and any revenue will go to the park.

“The bill also provides for moving the 30th St. Heliport off the land and out into the river,” Gottfried noted, “where it will have less detrimental impact on park users and the community.”

Furthermore, the bill expands allowable revenue-generating uses at the park’s designated commercial piers to include restaurants, media and film studio facilities, commercial amusements, performing arts, schools and educational facilities.

For state Senator Brad Hoylman, satisfaction at the bill’s passage was tempered by what he criticized as a lack of transparency in the process.

“The amended Hudson River Park Act isn’t perfect,” Hoylman said, “but it provides critical new sources of revenue to facilitate the park’s completion, operation and maintenance, and on balance it’s good for my constituents, many of whom are among the millions of people who visit Hudson River Park each year.

“That said,” Hoylman continued, “I am disappointed by some of the provisions, and particularly by the lack of transparency or opportunity for public consultation on major portions of the bill.

“Recognizing the park’s urgent need for new sources of revenue, and the momentum behind the proposed legislation that emerged late last week, I worked to negotiate the best possible bill for the communities that I represent,” Hoylman said. “I’m grateful to the Assembly staff who worked on the bill for being responsive to many of the concerns that I raised, including eliminating a plan to permit residential use on Pier 76 and ensuring that any air rights transfers be subject to public review.

“I am particularly happy,” he added, “that the legislation facilitates the preservation of Pier 40 and its sports fields and ensures the entirety of Pier 76 will be incorporated into the park.”

Said Hoylman, “In particular, Assemblymember Glick skillfully negotiated many provisions of the final bill that I support, including allowing adaptive reuse of Pier 40 for new commercial or educational purposes, but not luxury residences or hotels; ensuring that revenues from the sale of development rights from Pier 40 will be used for critical infrastructure improvements; and preserving historic elements from the White Star Line on Pier 54.”

The freshman state senator also wasn’t too pleased at the all-night session, calling it a “scandalous” way to pass bills. The legislators were kept going through the night with cold cuts and pizza, he said.

Glick hailed the legislation as ensuring that inappropriate private development will not occur in the park, while at the same time providing the Trust with some new financial mechanisms to maintain the park’s upkeep.

“I have always believed that less development was appropriate for the park,” Glick said, “and I am pleased that this legislation strikes a balance between financial support and protecting public space. In particular, I am glad that any sale of the air rights from Pier 40 will directly be used to repair and secure Pier 40’s infrastructure — thus ensuring that playing fields utilized by children and adults will continue to exist for generations.”

The idea for a surcharge on commercial vessels using the park was originally Glick’s, and she claimed it could bring in $1.5 million for the Trust annually.

The legislation also provides for the preservation of historic elements — such as the surviving remnants of the pier-shed structure — at Pier 54, where the Carpathia arrived with survivors from the Titanic in 1912.

“This is not just New York history, it is world history and it is now secured,” Glick declared.

Matt Borden, Glick’s chief of staff, told The Villager, that the bill represented a compromise between things that Glick and Gottfried each wanted.

“There won’t be a change of lease terms [beyond 30 years] at Pier 40, so there won’t be inappropriate development [there],” he noted. “At Pier 76, there won’t be a giant ferris wheel or hotel or residential. And this would codify the air rights of Pier 40 to be sold one block east.”

Basically, Borden said, “Gottfried can’t have what he wanted at Pier 76, and Glick won’t get what she wanted at Pier 40. Gottfried wanted a ferris wheel, hotels and residential at Pier 76, and Glick wanted adaptive reuse at Pier 40.”

Although the bill does allow commercial office use at Pier 57 only, this would be for incidental use, for example, such as connected to artisanal food manufacturing on the pier. Otherwise, just as before, commercial office use remains prohibited in the park, including at Pier 40, meaning the plan for adaptive reuse of the massive West Houston St. pier’s three-story shed structure for a high-tech office campus by Douglas Durst couldn’t fly.

“It doesn’t have everything that we want,” Borden said of the bill, “but it ensures that there won’t be inappropriate development in the park.”

Before the Assembly voted on the legislation, Madelyn Wils, the Trust’s president, sent out a letter to politicians and park advocates, stating, in part, “Last night the Assembly and Senate each introduced a bill to amend the Hudson River Park Act, enabling legislation in line with many items discussed and introduced by the Hudson River Park Task Force over the last year and a half. Although it doesn’t represent all of the issues debated during the many hours and days that we spent together, it provides many significant and important additional rights, plus some language clarifications that will allow us to improve our bottom line and help support the park‘s viability into the future.”

Wils also noted that authorizing Pier 54 to be allowed to be built beyond its historic footprint “will allow for securing [a] significant donation to be used toward development of Pier 54 as a world-class public programming space.”

It’s been rumored that Barry Diller, husband of legendary fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, would make a multimillion-dollar matching grant to contribute to Pier 54’s renovation. Widening the pier will make it safer for big public events, especially in terms of people being able to easily enter and exit the pier, according to the Trust.

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6 Responses to Hudson Park bill allows air-rights transfers, longer leases, boat ticket tax, restaurants, carousels

  1. Dick Gottfried ,My Assembly member, as Failed us and Betrayed the community by grandfathering in the Heliport in HIS DISTRICT.
    Gottfried's quote To reporter Dana Rubenstein of Capital New York:
    “In theory if things don’t work out well, it could either stay for a longer time or we might need to change the law to put in a deadline,” Gottfried acknowledged, when I asked him if, in theory, the heliport could stay in place in the middle of Hudson River Park forever.
    After years of litigation to enact the Hudson River Park Act and remove an illegal business from the park-the abhorrent Heliport-Madelyn Wils and the Hudson River Park Trust put into this legislation the ability for the heliport to remain EXACTLY WHERE IT IS…..the is no language in this bill requiring the heliport to move….UNLESS ALL PARTIES AGREE to move to some other location.
    So after winning in court Dick Gottfried caves into Mike Bloomberg and his girlfriends demand to change the Act's legislation to allow the heliport to remain exactly where it is.
    AND Dick Gottfried wants to build housing in his districts parkland and is looking forward to the Jan session to once again change the legislation to build luxury housing in a flood zone.
    How about you fix the water fountain on Pier 84 which has not worked for 2 years already and stop representing developers interest only.
    No community input but his OWN INTERESTS.
    SHAME on Gottfried who has sold out the park once again.
    THANK GOD this is the end of the NID now.

  2. Thanks for the help with the union busting in the Hudson River Park, HKRes.

    HKRes, your usual anonymous and vitriolic posting has made more clear than ever that both Glick,
    AND the basic lack of understanding of local politics and budgeting by anonymous blogger types and
    neighborhood meeting attendees, are both equally the problem.

    Dick Gottfried could have been a hero and a visionary, but
    had to be a pragmatist because of the combination of loud voices
    and no economically viable non luxe housing alternative ideas.

    Glick blocked soccer, lumping it in with housing inappropriately.
    Gottfried would have gone for it.

    He gave up more in his district in this new law, and risked more,
    in order to get ANY kind of deal done. Difficult. But leadership.
    In my opinion, he simply got tired of having to answer to the George Capsis's and HKRes's of the west side,
    people with a lot to say and ZERO alternative plans or funding ideas in a situation which
    was codified in law a long time ago and wasn't going to be undone, (the HRPT).

    Open your eyes, HKRes. A heliport on the water? Floating? He has pushed the heliport off the mainland
    and onto the river where it will be politically and structurally more impossible to continue in perpetuity.

    You, HKRes, and YOU, George Capsis, and many others like you, have helped to bring this
    unbelievable and dishonest, (and stealth, Glick and Gottfired and Rosenthal) result about by not organizing and coming to your representatives with viable alternatives.

    "No", is boring and useless, unless with an alternative. "Yes", with a creative and viable alternative is heroic.
    I count you, particularly with your continuously anonymous stance, along with Glick, in the former camp.
    I count Gottfried in the middle. Trying to be heroic, but being prevented from being in the latter camp
    by whiners with clout.

    That is what, and who, you are, HKRes. An anonymous whiner with no solutions.
    Those of us who care about Pier 40 are resigned to having to respond publicly to cowards
    like you. You, and others like you, are the responsible parties, equally with our elected officials.
    Responsible for this grand giveaway.

    And ironically. we have to respond to you, when we don't even have the opportunity to respond to our elected representatives, on this matter, at this time. All we have left is Cuomo, and he will sign it unless there
    is mass outrage immediately.

    You, HKRes, and Deborah Glick, and sadly, and most unexpectedly right now, Dick Gottfried, are all the same. Just from different angles.

    And, HKRes…the NID??
    Really? Are you dense?
    What is better, property owners four or five blocks deep paying a minimal tax and continuing to have sway,
    or a very few well connected property owners within a block being given valuable air rights at a fire sale??

    When people put their names on the opposition is when things get prevented.
    When people put their names on the alternative, the idea, is when things get done.

    HKRes, you are as complicit in this deal as Deborah Glick, Linda Rosenthal, and Dick Gottfried.

    A 49 to 99 year moratorium (see the second to last paragraph of the bill) on union action of
    any kind if there is any hotel, meeting or hospitality development??

    Thanks, HKRes, Deb Glick, Linda Rosenthal, Dick Gottfried, and the HRPT, for your UNION BUSTING.

    Patrick Shields
    Union Member
    Greenwich Village

  3. This is all great news. Strong steps were taken to preserve the livelihood of the entire park organization and provide public space to everyone living nearby.

  4. To The Villager:
    Kudos to Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Senator Brad Hoylman for once again warding off the misguided, often-revived push to amend the Hudson River Park Act to allow residential development in our waterfront park. Although some may dislike the permission for air-rights transfers, I am grateful to our two legislators in finding other funding sources for our park.
    Absent (and lamented by Senator Hoylman) was transparency. Proposed legislation that can fundamentally affect our precious open waterfront has to be reviewed by the community, not hidden from public view until it is done. When the Hudson River Park Act was enacted in 1998 it was only after many public hearings and committee reports.
    Senator Gottfried has already announced that "provisions relating particularly to Pier 40 and Pier 76" will be on the block next year. Let our legislators and our governor pledge now that proposed future amendments to the Act — especially concerning these piers — will be reviewed by the public, not decided behind closed doors.
    Jonathan Geballe
    District Leader, 66th Assembly District (Part A)

  5. line 4 should also read "proprietary interest". Thanks for the heads up, b
    PS

  6. This is precisely why government officials are barred from engaging lobbyists to affect legislation and someone should look into the illegal lobbying activities of the Trust in the same way they did at NYC's EDC involving the projects Ms. Wils worked on there. Who was the lobbyist? Who paid him? Who called the shots? Who benefited? This paper should help the community find these answers with some serious reporting.

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