Source: Hudson Park NID doesn’t need Durst, and is still alive


Developer Douglas Durst is no longer involved in the effort to create a Hudson River Park Neighborhood Improvement District.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Reports of the Hudson River Park NID’s death have been greatly exaggerated — at least according to one well-placed source.

According to the source, who requested anonymity, the Friends of Hudson River Park on Monday will announce that the effort to create a neighborhood improvement district for the park is still alive and kicking.

“Very much so,” he said. “We’re redoubling our efforts.”

Scott Lawin, the Friends’ vice chairperson, who is also the chairperson of the NID Steering Committee, will make the announcement.

On Mon., June 24, just two days after the New York State Legislature approved sweeping changes to the Hudson River Park Act, it was reported that Douglas Durst, the former chairperson of the Friends, had pulled out of the effort to create a first-of-its-kind NID — basically set up along the lines of a BID, or business improvement district, but geared toward raising funds for the park.

Last year, Durst resigned from the Friends over differences with the Hudson River Park Trust on how to redevelop Pier 40. Nevertheless, Durst had continued spearheading the Friends’ effort to create the special-tax district.

The taxing district’s boundaries would include the Hudson River Park and several blocks inland, stretching the length of the park from 59th St. to Chambers St.

The Legislature’s modifications last week to the 1998 park act upheld the pre-existing ban on commercial office use, except for allowing incidental commercial office use at Pier 57 to support, for example, possibly artisanal food shops and the like at the W. 17th St. pier, which is to be redeveloped with retail and food shops.

However, at least for now, Durst’s hope of transforming Pier 40’s massive three-story, pier-shed structure with an adaptive reuse plan for a high-tech commercial office campus, has been stymied.

What’s more, in another significant change to the park act, the Trust can now start selling off the park’s 1.6 million square feet of unused air rights (equal in total square footage to about 5½ Trump Soho condo-hotels) which could be used up to one block inland from the park.

Under one possible scenario, part of Pier 40’s existing “donut”-shaped shed could even be torn down, freeing up air rights that could then, in turn, also be sold across the highway — making it even more unlikely that Durst, or anyone else for that matter, would be able to redevelop the air rights-depleted pier.

Arthur Schwartz, vice chairperson of the Hudson River Park Advisory Council, said that at the group’s meeting this past Monday, Matthew Washington, Durst’s special projects manager, announced Durst was pulling his energies — and, significantly, his funding — out of the NID effort.

“Durst is pissed,” Schwartz said, “major-pissed.”

Echoed the source, “He didn’t get the adaptive reuse and he’s pissed.” However, he clarified, “Durst didn’t pull out his money. He was helping with the cause — and now he’s not.”

Jordan Barowitz, Durst’s director of external affairs, said his boss was traveling and unavailable for comment.

The park-loving developer’s withdrawal led some immediately to declare the NID effort is over. A.J. Pietrantone, who stepped down as Friends of Hudson River Park’s executive director a few months ago, but had, like Durst, stayed active in the Friends’ effort to push the NID, told The Villager the special tax-assessing district is going nowhere at this point. The proposal hasn’t even been submitted to the city’s Department of Small Business Services yet, the first step in the city’s review process toward approval, he noted.

“Until development [from the sale of the park’s air rights] is quantified, you can’t ask people to pay into a NID,” Pietrantone stated.

How much money the development rights could actually generate for the park is still unknown, since, as Trust officials admit, no formal study has been done. However, David Reck, former chairperson of Community Board 2’s Land Use and Zoning Committee, told The Villager that as recently as just a few years ago, the going rate for air rights was $600 per square foot, which would be extremely lucrative for the Trust.

Reck added that a special zoning district would be needed to legally transfer air rights across the highway. And, in fact, the Trust has said that this would be the plan — to create a district similar to the Grand Central Special District and the Chelsea Special District.

But Reck was extremely leery of the air rights transfer plan — which was approved, along with the rest of the park act changes, in complete “radio silence” by the Assembly and state Senate, without any notification to the community beforehand, much less any opportunity for community review.

“It’s Westway — massive development along the waterfront,” Reck said, recalling the controversial highway-in-a-tunnel mega-project with accompanying development. Villagers vehemently battled the hated highway scheme for more than a decade before it was finally defeated in 1985.

“This is Westway,” Reck declared of the park being allowed to make air rights transfers. “This is what they always wanted, and now they’ve got it.”

Opposition to the NID had been building among local residents, some of whom object to being forced to pay a tax to fund the park, and disagree with the siting of its eastern border.

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21 Responses to Source: Hudson Park NID doesn’t need Durst, and is still alive

  1. Concerned Neighbor

    This is just sad that the Friends is going to continue pushing an idea that will just lead to more embarrassment for Madelyn Wils and the embattled Trust. They seriously expect community boards and elected officials to support another Westway that had no public input and a first of its kind park tax? There will be mutiny and it can’t be good for the park in the long term. I’m sure it’s tough for the egos on the steering committee to admit they’re facing a losing battle, but hopefully they’ll realize they are making a complete mockery of the park and their own organization.

  2. Prove You Need It

    HRP Trust and FoHRP should show what they've done to trim the Park budget and raise private funds before they push for a PERMANENT tax on the Park's neighbors. How much do all the "free" programs cost the Trust and if money is so tight, why not scale them back or start charging fees that cover the costs? Why are the Trust's FT salaries and benefits way up in the new budget? How much has Friends raised and transferred to the Trust in their last fiscal year? The new Act has lots of new direct revenue for Park operations like the sightseeing boat surcharge, a reduction in insurance costs (because you and I as taxpayers are now indemnifying the Park) and opportunities for new development that will increase revenue in the future, besides the air rights sales that everyone's talking about. Open the books and make the case instead of just telling us you'll shut parts of the Park unless you get the NID.

  3. Those of us who worked hard to expose the unfair tax assessments this plan was about to foist on unsuspecting residents feel vindicated by our efforts. It looks like cooler heads prevailed at the Trust, particularly with some creative thinking when it comes to alternate sources of funding. For the record, thinking outside the box was a key suggestion when the NID was announced.

    • So you'll trade unfair tax assessments for yourself, for overdevelopment for all of your neighbors, all along the west side along the river? Sounds pretty self serving.
      Explain to us please, what is creative, new, or alternative about the age old practice of air rights transfers…it's business as usual for real estate developers.
      Even Doyle says it's two years before any quantifying or action can take place.
      The sum total of what has happened here is:
      1.) Pier 40 just became more endangered because the can got kicked incredibly far down the road,
      2.) A scenario has been set up where the well connected will pay below market value for this ONE TIME ONLY
      air rights transfer.
      We need to fight this. A combination of a small soccer arena and Durst's adaptive re-use plan with part of the shed torn down, gets it done, better and faster, with more economic security, and transparency. And keeps the entire economic engine to one location.
      This is Glick saying no to housing and just moving it across the street. A hail Mary, a hypocritical gesture, and a stealth maneuver this community needs to reject now before it is too late. All the while hailing it as a great personal victory. She has failed to deliver a single alternative plan in all these years, or to signal one which she might be inclined to support, then turns around at the end, and in darkness and silence, with 100% lack of community input or notification, delivers a gift to waterfront developers.
      That is the act of a veteran politician who does not plan to run again. I hope the Villager asks her that question. It matters, and we deserve to know.

      • Prove You Need It

        Patrick, the NID wasn't and couldn't be (unless the tax was 10 times larger) a solution to the Pier 40 problem; it was meant to fund the Trust's Battery Park City envy and concurrent mismanagement of the operating budget for HRP. The bits and pieces of immediate (tourist tax) and future operating revenue (longer leases, Pier 76 transfer and development), if accompanied by some old-fashioned real-world revenue (instead of expense wish-list) based budgeting, make the NID unnecessary. Pier 40 and the air rights… a totally different issue.

    • So you are implying that the Trust is no longer behind the NID then?
      Perhaps never were…or just playing Douglas Durst for his money as he and the other property owners sought to aid HRP.
      Good to know….cause Ms. Wils has been spinning tales and two faced stories to every park constituent since she was hired away from the lobby scandalized EDC by Diana Taylor to specifically put luxury residential housing in the Park as she did in other NYC parks in her portfolio.

  4. I've never argued for the NID here or anywhere else, do you think you are educating me? My focus has always been on the "old fashioned real world revenue". Do you have a plan for that revenue, or will you just say the words, with no plan attached, like everyone else, especially Glick's office? You seem to be comfortable with the air rights transfer as a solution. If you have no actual revenue plan attached it is most certainly not a "totally different issue"; air rights is fallback to be totally relied upon. I'm arguing it is both misguided and insufficient, a one off for repairs at best. A giveaway, when a compromise for a decent and appropriate commercial partner on the pier is a better, and more permanent solution. Air rights transfer is no different than having luxe housing on the pier, and it is a purely political gesture to say otherwise. You oppose the NID, and believe air rights to be somehow unrelated, then tell us an old fashioned revenue idea. One idea, just one…any one…

    • OK, I'll bite, but suggest that calling attention to the track record of an elected official does not constitute an "attack". My answers to the issues you have raised…

      1.) Why should we be reliant on the largesse of donors, particularly considering what that will mean for
      private use of the park (see Bryant Park, see High Line, see Central Park). There will be a quid pro quo which will diminish public use. To suggest otherwise is a lie.
      2.) Why hasn't Glick's office, in twenty years on the job, ALREADY assured the passenger ship terminal fees, or the share of property tax increase share? These are issues I have been arguing she has failed on, and I don't think it is in the best interests of this community to continue to give her second and third chances. She said herself the earlier iteration of passenger ship fees was negotiated away from the park by the HRPT without her knowledge. HOW could that have happened without her knowledge or consent, or community approval? She has yet to address this question.

      Her response to her own failures is to enact a law behind our backs, tendering air rights we must be unwilling to allow.

      I, for one, have lost confidence in this legislator I used to enthusiastically support, and have voted for, many times, to get a fair price for air rights. She failed to prevent the creation of the HRPT and create a straight up public park, she failed to save Saint Vincent's, she has failed to prevent NYU and Trinity, and Trump from overrunning this community.

      There must be no more free pass for our Assemblymember on this, or any development related issues. I am certain I am not the only community member who has lost faith in her ability to play offense effectively when it comes to the big ticket items affecting this community most directly. These air rights should be used for school expansion, for affordable housing.

      How can you possibly offer blind faith given the track record? I ask you to take a harder, more comprehensive look at the reality, and not presume this community will "just get" a fair deal. This transfer must be stopped.

  5. Having followed this issue for several years now, it's easy to see that this has become monied ideas vs. more monied ideas. All of these $ increases will, as always, just get passed on to the owners in increased property values and then along to the renters over time. With no physical changes to itself, this park has become a place that only the wealthy will be able to enjoy. We're about at the point when this area was better of as a bunch of run down piers full of bois out sunning. I hope that the former-bohemian movers & shakers are proud of themselves. I'm sure that many are about to accomplish the thing they swore they'd never let happen when all this begin. very sad indeed.

    • Or you could open your eyes and look at the park, as it is, above and beyond the current politics and funding issues. A triumph. A park usable by all, rich and poor, which kept the very waterfront from being developed. A lot of compromises have been made along the way, and more will, but to suggest that it was better before, when its very existence was threatened, is exactly the kind of grandiose and lazy statement coming from both sides of this debate.

      Which has prevented alternative ideas worthy of compromise from getting a fair hearing, or even being presented. Neither the "I knew Jane Jacobs" crowd, nor the hard core development right has advanced an acceptable compromise idea. A small soccer arena, done in conjunction with a partial Durst adaptive re-use of remaining shed, suggesting that 40-45%% of the pier could be used for this type of development, saving 55-60% and tearing down that portion of the shed for better views, has literally been the only plan forwarded.

      Everything else has been philosophical and neighborhood bluster, leaving the air rights result to be done, in secret, by frustrated politicians who are tired of their own constituents. Appropriately tired of, and angry at us, for failing to bring them a consensus.

      We have to stop this deal, but we can't do it if we don't do our part, so tell us your funding idea, "Guest". Easy to lay blame, but where is your solution? At least Durst stuck his neck out, knowing full well that his own industry would mock him for trying to find compromise with this neighborhood.

      We still have time for a better solution than this giveaway, but the community has to gather and make a decision on something, and take it to our elected officials. It's either that, or a generation of air rights, development, and new preservation battles all along the west side.

      I'll start. Again. How about we tear down the southern 60% of the shed, co-develop the northern 40% as an arena, which I will lead the fight to finance and build as a soccer franchise, allowing Durst to develop the remaining shed, which can be used to physically support part of the arena. I have detailed this in many venues and with much detail.

      Then use the air rights where they ought to be used. To allow public schools along the west side to build higher, as well as other expansionist community uses in Tribeca, Soho, Chelsea, and Hell's Kitchen.

      • Well, I'd start with sinking Pier 40, saving hundreds of millions of dollars and creating a nature estuary. Next, I'd do away with all the fancy landscaping and eliminate the staffing that came with it. Grass is more than good enough. Then, I'd replace the bloated HRP Trust with one overseer, saving even more $ annually. At that point, docking, vending and rental fees could pay for what's left — a passive, simple, beautiful park. No surrounding property taxes are increased; no nid taxes are needed; no decades of paying interest on debt; and the $-gated community is avoided. You don’t need a big funding idea, if you don’t have a big spending problem. Think outside of the money box. This does not include a soccer stadium, so I’m sure you won’t like it, but you can’t say it’s not a viable alternative as you requested.

        • So, "Guest" you would:

          1.) Take away the current children's sports use which was fought for so hard,
          2.) abolish the possibility of enhanced green space on the square footage that is the existing pier,
          3.) sink Pier 40, causing environmental disaster in the Hudson,
          most of all,
          4.) assume you can create "a nature estuary" in a river with the massive flow of the Hudson, in the Pier 40 location.

          All the while arguing for "docking, vending and rental fees" , in a park run by one person. All the way from Chambers to 59th. With no revenues, or a plan to replace the HRPT with city park structure.

          Yes, that is thinking outside the money box (hear my sarcasm?). But, I will say it is not a viable alternative. In fact, a pipe dream so far from economic reality that Marx would have howled and called on you to get up in front of the group and explain. But you won't, and therefore;

          I will say also, that it is the same type of anonymous idiocy, from people like you, and HKres, which has:

          1.) Prevented any serious discussion of Pier 40 alternatives,
          2.) Caused your elected officials to react to the likes of you, rather than people with prudent ideas.
          (shame less on you than on the electeds for not spending more time seeking alternatives, than on "seeking consensus" where there was never going to be any.)

          Shame on you (anonymous), shame on HKres (anonymous), shame on Glick (ineffective and stealth), and most of all, shame on Gottfried, for taking the lead on a giveaway to developers, rather than taking the lead on a difficult compromise, and seeking ( and then championing) alternatives.

          I put my name on it, Glick put her name on it, Gottfried put his name on it (Hoylman middle grounded, in prior Glick fashion, after the fact, so we sadly see what is coming with him), but the usual suspects here, offer nothing.

          When you put your names on your ideas, and show up at your neighborhood meetings and say so, then you are real participants in this debate. Until then, you are social media clowns. CLOWNS, cartoons, with no identity, no cause, and only self gratification as a goal. You care about the park? Put your name on your argument. I'm a window cleaner and I argue with my name, always. You are cowards, to be dismissed, because something real is at stake.

          It is high time for The Villager to not abandon, but embrace, public principle, by having a Pier 40 / HRPT forum of identifiable arguers only. To promote the public good which is currently being threatened.

          Because of the current state, there has been no robust debate of alternatives, live, or online. Villager, please, take the lead.

          • Dude, now your just sounding like a bully off his rocker. I'm happy to debate ideas here, but you don't deserve any more than that. I've shown up at the meetings and spoken up, and will continue to do so. I don't know who you think you're calling out, but you're way off base.

            All I'm advocating for is a simpler park without all the rich-people amenities, so it does not result in a defacto gated community. I've used the park much longer when Pier 40 was NOT an athletic field than since it has been, so don't act like it's been that way since the Dutch arrived. I don't believe sports teams deserve anymore consideration for how the park is used or financed than anyone else. And I don't believe restoring Pier 40 is worth the $$$ millions.

          • Not buildng a multi-million dollar park that will raise property values and render the area a playground for only the rich IS a serious idea. Keeping the park simple and beautiful without nids, and taxes and air-rights is not a pipe dream. I'm sorry if that makes you crazy, but it's no worse than a soccer stadium that few in the area will use, will bring in outsiders who will trash the neighborhood, and no around here supports. I may be dreaming, but surely no more than you.

          • As usual, the hypocritical closed mindedness of certain Greenwich Villagers. Saying a soccer arena will "bring in outsiders who will trash the neighborhood". Outsiders? Did you really say that? Are you the arbiter of who is allowed to come in and out? If that's not a gated community mentality I don't know what is. It seems only those acceptable to you (and many others who share the same sentiment) ought to be allowed to enter our borders.

            And you clearly know nothing about soccer, it's demographic, or popularity. Soccer has become the core sports tenant at Pier 40. Thousands of players use it year-round, and visit this community, incident free. Can you say the same thing about the Halloween Parade, and Pride weekend? These are massive exercises, FAR larger than the go to the game and then go home sports idea. That's the fact, in clear and verifiable opposition to your personal and seemingly xenophobic claim.

            A commercial (possibly sports) partner on the pier, BECAUSE that is what the law has allowed, has always been a better compromise, a proven solution. Sports franchises are all over the world, it's a routine business, and a far more creative and appropriate solution than the same old same old giveaway to developers.

            Add to that the fact that the arena would be less than half of the pier, (as required, the rest would be green and passive use space) and usable by the community the vast majority of the year, also tells me that you have neither read nor understood what I have written about it over the years. It was, and is, a far better solution than a massive park-wide real estate giveaway.

            Lack of this community carrying an idea like this forward has now cost us big time. The result will be a huge real estate giveaway to the very developers Glick has sworn she opposed. A pinpoint and hypocritical turnaround. A one time, downwardly negotiable, backroom deal type windfall, whereas I pitched both funding repair, and ongoing revenues, all keeping the damage limited to the pier. And with public ownership to boot.

            Today I'm being called a "bully" here, just as Glick called me to my face yesterday "rude and disrespectful". The reality is that what are ought to be hearing is the urgency in my voice, and hearing it for what I am saying it is, rather than what you seem to be perceiving it to be.

            It's a clarion call to stop and defeat a last minute and stealth deal, which will affect this community in perpetuity.

          • Patrick Shields

            Not true. You're calling for the destruction of the massive park space which is Pier 40, and calling it "a simpler park". And you don't expect a strong reaction? Bully? No, I'm reactionary toward what has just happened. This community has just been bullied, because we have become complacent. And part of the problem is that our legislators do not feel their careers are anti-community decisions are threatened by anonymous postings.

          • Patrick Shields

            correction: careers "OR" anti-community decisions…

  6. Deborah Glick, Dick Gottfried and Brad Hoyleman embarrassed themselves with this legislation that was a sweetheart deal to the development deals Trust Board Members Joe Rose and Mike Novogratz and in keeping the heliport in the park and allowing Madelyn Wils and her other members of the EDC that she has hired at Hudson River Park to sell off air rights at insider prices. The Trust and now Friends under Mike Novogratz and Diana Taylor is just a pay for play organization.

    • It's so sad, considering that you have a pro-park bent, than you prefer to make yourself clownish, predictable, and ultimately insignificant, with your comments. I look forward to the publication in Greenwich Village which advances the debate without anonymous TMZ/paparazzi type bloggers like yourself.

      • Truth hurts go back to your blog and refrain from personal attacks on commenters.
        Talk about predictable! Brahhhhhh

  7. It's time for that kind of action here. The open nature of discussion of The Villager is appropriate, and appreciated, but the dire condition of Pier 40 and the recent actions of our elected officials scream for action and debate. It means that the time for calling out basement dwelling anonymous posters like yourself is at hand, for any type of serious debate to begin. I call again on The Villager to have separate forums. One where the anonymous can play in their sandbox with their accusations and vitriol, and one where people with ideas and identities can engage is serious debate. Nothing undemocratic about it if you allow the anom's a place to play. Just one forum please Villager. It in no way prevents those who wish to remain anonymous from engaging in whatever it is they do here. Too much is at stake here, and a robust and serious debate of actual ideas and alternatives is needed now. As it stands it is a lot of people standing around waiting to come to the next meeting to shoot something down. Our elected officials are about to start a process of selling precious public air rights because we have not come to them as a community with a demand for, and consensus on, an alternative we ourselves have devised.

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