This is a plan that can save our community’s park

BY MADELYN WILS  |  As a longtime resident of Tribeca and someone who has been involved with Hudson River Park since it was just an idea, this park has been a godsend for my children, my neighbors and the entire West Side.

Now, as president of Hudson River Park, it is my job to make sure the park fulfills its promise as an inspiring public space by figuring out ways to grow, maintain and nurture it for generations to come.

The New York State Legislature’s recent passage of the Hudson River Park Act amendment has created a number of opportunities to help us do this. What currently seems to be getting the most attention is a provision allowing the park to transfer a yet-to-be-determined number of air rights across the West Side Highway to generate much-needed revenue.

In supporting this approach, which has many precedents across the city, lawmakers recognize the importance of the park to our community, as well as the predicament in which we currently find ourselves. The park was conceived more than 15 years ago as a self-sustaining entity that would generate revenue from its commercial piers for its operations, rather than receive public funding. However, the condition of Pier 40, community desire for less development within the park, and other factors have prevented this from happening.

As is now well known throughout the community, significantly more revenue is needed to complete construction of remaining public areas and to maintain the entire park into the future.

At the same time, we understand the fear that the idea of transferring air rights is a harbinger of future development.

We do not believe that is the case. Instead, it is a chance for the park finally to benefit from whatever development does take place — and as we have all seen since the first section opened in Greenwich Village 10 years ago, billions of dollars in development has and will continue to occur across from the park. Although the park has greatly contributed to the West Side’s transformation, the park has received no financial benefit.

Though the legislation would allow for the transfer of air rights one block east of the park, it only allows this to happen through a very public city zoning process. This means once the state legislation is signed into law, the park will still have no air rights to transfer until a lengthy land use review process is completed. That will include review by the community boards and the borough president and City Council approval. This process will likely take at least two years.

That is why over the past several months, the Hudson River Park Trust has met with community boards, neighborhood associations, local elected officials and others with a stake in our communities to commit to an open and transparent process. Though we have no formal role in next week’s Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation forum, we will of course attend to listen and, if asked, clarify the facts.

Hudson River Park’s mandate focuses solely on ensuring the park is completed and well maintained. Decisions about where any future air rights may be created or used remain with the city and its Department of City Planning. At the successful completion of the land use review process, only then will it be possible to transfer a prescribed amount of development rights. The process will dictate in detail where the air rights in the park may be transferred from and which areas of the park will benefit from any new resources created.

History clearly indicates that every advancement at Hudson River Park was born out of a shared process between the community and government. Without an extensive and collaborative process, efforts fail. The same is true now. If some development rights can be transferred off the park’s designated commercial piers, that will reduce development in the park and may be an elegant solution to helping complete and care for the park.

We understand the concern about overdevelopment being expressed in some parts of the community. But because the park and our communities should support each other, we ask that we work together constructively as planning proceeds and avoid being led down roads where facts do not matter.

A strong public process is what created this unique public space that has made our communities more livable. The same commitment to collaboration and transparency will ensure we can save it.

 

Wils is president and C.E.O., Hudson River Park Trust, and former chairperson, Community Board 1

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4 Responses to This is a plan that can save our community’s park

  1. How is this not just creating luxury amenitites for rich folks? Can't we just have a simple park that costs less to finish and maintain?

    How is over $100 million to fix one pier good fiscal policy? Without that one issue all other park funding is very easily solved.

    Isn't this just going to incease nearby property assessments and raise taxes, which will be passed along from property owner to renter over time, forcing out long-time tenents and creating a metaphorical gated-community for the rich?

    I might have believed her more, if she hadn't said, "We do not believe that is the case." Even someone who knows as little as I can see that this will be at least a minor "harbinger".

  2. A great solution after years of trying everything else. NIMBY folks need to deal with the facts and accept a "tradeoff" to fund and improve the public space. Residential development beats shopping malls 100 times out of 100.

  3. With all due respect to Ms. Wils, and with an understanding of the economic difficulties faced by the park,
    this is an opinion which should have been tendered to the community prior to even the writing of the bill.
    To suggest that this community simply swallow what it had no hand in, and may well oppose, is disingenuous.

    You continue to tell us that "many people" were aware and that there were "many conversations". Who, and with whom, and when? Who wrote the bill, who initiated the bill. We have not had a single satisfactory answer to these questions.

    There are compromise driven, rational and professional people in this community who have had as much difficulty with those who continue to argue for the impossible as you have, yet the Trust, and our Assemblymembers chose stealth and deception over transparency, assuming we will fall into line. We will not.

    That this bill lies on the Governor's desk without our assent is an insult. They would never have done this on a matter relating to women, schools, or LGBTQ. There would be outrage.

    To the Governor, I say, you must either veto or sign. Stand for this bill publicly with your signature, or veto it and allow the community to continue push for some compromise a majority can accept. To allow it to become law without signature will be remembered politically; it would have been a weak and eminently political response we will not allow you to simply walk away from. Ignoring it is no different than the actions of the electeds. No more end arounds.

    Real estate development, the old fall back, represents a lack of both imagination and willingness to change direction and seek a different compromise. The fact that it is a one time windfall should have stopped it in its tracks. This park needs guaranteed ongoing future revenues. Has there ever even been a discussion of whether air rights can be leased, or of any alternative?

    The excuses and explanations for this bill are words we have all heard before, and we all know what happens in the real world, after it moves forward. Let's not kid ourselves or allow ourselves to be assuaged. This is a bad bill with no guarantee of success, which was done in the dead of night. A clear signal of desperation, and desperation leads to bad deals for communities.

    Today is your last chance to let the Governor know it is unacceptable:

    CONTACT THE GOVERNOR:
    Contact the Governor's office by phone (518) 474-8390.
    Or via online link: http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContac

  4. Let's be clear Ms. Wils, you came to this position from Bloomberg's Economic Development Corporation where your portfolio included the entire waterfront. That included Willett's Point and Coney Island. A quick internet search will reveal the problematic relationship you had with the communities involved as well as the results of the State's investigation of illegal lobbying efforts by the EDC during your tenure. The Attorney General's report admonished the EDC engaging in illegal lobbying. Which you appear to have gotten away with in your present job. You were appointed by Bloomberg's girlfriend to your current position to carry the same "Luxury housing is the only solution" model to the detriment of all other ideas, lying to the community and sowing distrust within the park's advocates and communities within Hudson River Park as well as lack of transparency process.
    Your "Legislative Task Force" was a sham that had no real involvement in developing the legislation in question or public report. Neither Glick or Gottfried can recall for the record who put the language into this legislation.
    Gottfried even speculates in The Villager as to who put the Heliport back onto parkland-possibly indefinitely-in this legislation. And you want us to trust the public ULURP process after the fact.
    How did that work out of the community regarding Chelsea Market, St. Vincent's and small businesses in Willet's Point.
    Your Vision and Park progress ends at your beloved TriBeCa and office at Pier 40.
    This Bill was YOUR doing Ms. Wils and it was a gift to the Two members of your Trust Board.
    The one, who's company stands the most to gain from this lucrative legislative gift bag, who you and Ms. Taylor orchestrated to leave the Trust and now chairs the parks fundraising.
    I'm sure the PR Firm that you have engaged at the taxpayers expense will continue to supply letters like this in your name, hoping to polish your record of stewardship.
    I hope Mayor-Elect DeBlasio and Borough President Brewer can no put a more diverse Trust Board together and that you will feel encouraged to seek a better fit for your abilities.

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