Let’s embrace this key moment for Hudson River Park

BY PAUL A. ULLMAN  |  This week the governor signed the amended Hudson River Park Act. This piece of highly negotiated legislation was born out of the twin needs to address the park’s well-documented financial difficulties and to better manage its future care and growth.

New and longtime Downtown residents like myself should embrace this legislation as an important opportunity to protect the park we love while giving the community a voice, and revenue participation, in the inevitable future development that will take place throughout our neighborhoods.

The new legislation does much more than potentially convey future air rights. For example, it allows the Hudson River Park Trust to develop Pier 76 under strict guidelines that mandate 50 percent of the pier’s footprint be used for parkland and 50 percent for restricted commercial use. Because new revenue from the pier will be directed to Hudson River Park, the city will be under more pressure to finally remove their ridiculous tow pound.

As an observer and participant in the often-acrimonious conversations about how to fund the park in general and Pier 40 in particular, I can say that the revenue that can conceivably be raised through the mechanisms included in the amended Park Act may be our last, best chance to avoid financial crisis. To those who might welcome such a crisis as a way to force the city and state to come to the park’s rescue I say: Make that bet with someone else’s park — not mine. I remember what Central Park was like in the 1980s.

This legislation was born out of extensive, exhaustive and comprehensive discussions hosted by the Trust that included every conceivable slice of the park’s various constituencies. And, yes, air rights were discussed, as were many other potential revenue sources. No legislation can possibly satisfy every constituency, but this amendment gives the park a fair-minded and potentially innovative path to deal with our park’s funding, which, I am sure everyone would agree, is a very complicated urban policy puzzle.

For the potential air rights transfer, the legislation grants the community a role in determining if the benefits of developing inland make sense when balanced against the income opportunity. That possible income would go directly to the development and maintenance of the park.

With that money, we can finish the 30 percent of the park that is still incomplete, and we can also shore up Pier 40 and ensure it remains predominately a destination for youth and adult athletic leagues.

The question is whether our community will embrace this moment. “No way” has become a common mantra in the face of anything that might involve new development, or indeed change. Those of us in the Village know that the “just say no” approach hasn’t served us very well to date — St. Vincent’s and N.Y.U. are prime examples. Instead, we should take our new seat at the table and help give our neighbors the streetscape and the landscape they deserve and that the legislation intends.


Ullman is a board member, Hudson River Park Trust, a Greenwich Village resident and a park user

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5 Responses to Let’s embrace this key moment for Hudson River Park

  1. Paul, there will be an ongoing debate about what to do about the air rights provision now that it is law, but I will take issue with your contention that the community's firm opposition to proposals by NYU and St. Vincent's is what led to those outcomes. What led to those outcomes were very bad decisions by elected officials and the undue influence of real estate interests over the public process — which is also, by the way, what we don't want to see happen with the use of air rights from the Hudson River Park. Andrew Berman, Executive Director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

  2. "highly negotiated legislation" – since when? if you can't acknowledge dead-of-night laws, then the rest of your op-ed lacks any credibility.

    "bet with someone else’s park — not mine" – as a 25+ year regular user of this park, I find this highly insulting. but more importantly, what saved Central Park from the 80s – air rights? No, it was a not-for-profit conservancy that raised donations. why not here? I'm sure there are many rich people – a lot more than in the 80s – who would love to have a part of the HRP named for them.


    • cont…

      Requiring over $100 million to repair Pier 40, I just don't understand why the "athletic leagues" (such a small % of park users) deserve such largess at the expense of others who use the park All Year. Can't you see the inequity?

      I also find the “No way” strawman to be incredibly insulting. I say Yes, Yes to a more simple park that is less expensive to repair and maintain, and Yes to a park that doesn't raise property values and tax assessments that’ll be passed on to renters, forcing them out, so that what is left is a luxury amenity for the rich – enough of this Bloombergian thinking!

  3. "we should take our new seat at the table"? What table might that be exactly? If the answer is that anything that is shoved down our throats has to be either accepted with fake "negotiations" designed to make the citizenry falsely believe that they have had a voice in what happens, (think: "ULURP") or else we don't get even the appearance of a say, I say it is all over. This thing was put together in the middle of the night without public input. PERIOD! What! are you suggesting that some 'make nice' appeasement negotiations would have resulted in saving the hospital or stopping the NYU plan? What are you smoking, Mister?

  4. Lets START Mr. Ullman with your contention that this piece of legislation was "highly negotiated".
    By Whom? By Ms. Wils and Deborah Glick?
    And who did put that Heliport back on parkland with this legislation? Was there public discussion there? No one seems to know…although the Trust's PR firm and the Heliport are the same high priced firm….
    By the Chairman of the Friends of Hudson River Part TRUST Mike Novogratz who's Hedge Fund bought the adjoining property to Pier 40 while he was on the Trust Board then by your own vote became chair of the Friends and stands to make an enormous profit with whatever comes of more of your closed door dealings—er I mean Ms. Wils personally selected Task Force which was closed to the public and press?
    This is just not true:
    "This legislation was born out of extensive, exhaustive and comprehensive discussions hosted by the Trust that included every conceivable slice of the park’s various constituencies."
    Your financial stewardship of the park is seriously in doubt as you failed in your position on the Trust Board to put into place financial plans for the park's future.
    Your personal concern has always been your own back yard- PIER 40.
    We need a more diverse Trust Board and one the entire community can Trust.
    ULURP is NOT the seat at the table. And the fact that the Trust and Deborah Glick pushed the Act in front of the Governor's face to sign on the same night that the COMMUNITY was meeting to discuss the midnight air rights sale legislation was yet another indication that this was nothing but a grab bag of goodies for the Trust Board Members and their associates once again.

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