Volume 73, Number 26 | Oct 29 -Nov 04, 2003

Glick takes the gloves off on rink

By Lincoln Anderson

Villager photos by Lincoln Anderson

Assemblymember Deborah Glick listening to Trust officials answer questions about the rink, a design of which is next to her, on Thursday night.

In hockey lingo, Assemblymember Deborah Glick took the gloves off at last Thursday night’s Community Board 2 full board meeting. She came out swinging at a plan by the Hudson River Park Trust to build a $2.3 million ice-skating rink in the park at Spring St.

“I am deeply, deeply troubled by the process — or lack of process — about the skating rink,” Glick told the board members prior to the vote, calling it a “fast-track process” and “rushed through in a process that is mind-boggling.”

One could say Glick got the better of the face-off. Her power play may have helped sway some of the board’s members, resulting in the full board overturning the resolution of its Waterfront Committee and instead passing an alternate resolution supporting exploring putting an ice-skating rink in or on Pier 40, just north of the proposed site.

The Trust is now also reportedly looking in Board 1 for an alternate site.

C.B.2 voted 18 for and 15 against, with one abstention, for the alternate resolution, written by board members Elizabeth Gilmore, Honi Klein and Shirley Secunda.

Nevertheless, the Trust has already fenced off an expansive area and posted construction signs where the rink is planned. A line of concrete jersey barriers that had run down the middle of the space has been removed, and a construction trailer and construction materials — bundles of metal rebar and a skid of two-by-fours — moved into the site.

The Trust’s board of directors had been about to vote on the rink on Oct. 9, but pressure from Glick and others persuaded the Trust to postpone its decision. Subsequently, the Trust reached out to C.B. 2’s Waterfront Committee to hold a public hearing on the rink on Oct. 20, after which the committee approved the rink by a vote of 7-2.

However, prior to its resolution being thrown out by the board, Glick said of the board’s Waterfront Committee — assembled by past C.B. 2 chairperson Aubrey Lees after a contentious purge of the committee last winter: “all good people — but maybe they haven’t had the institutional memory of what has gone on on the waterfront over the years.”

One of Glick’s biggest concerns is that the rink, to be shoehorned between the park’s esplanade and bikeway, will actually spread into the esplanade, narrowing it from 30 ft. to only 12 ft.

To decrease the width “when we already have too many people and not enough space on that promenade is shocking,” Glick said.

Other park activists like Al Butzel, executive director of Friends of Hudson River Park, are also distressed at the potential of the esplanade’s being slimmed, fearing it would be a “bottleneck.”

Instead, Glick suggested it might be appropriate to put the rink on Pier 40.

The board’s alternate resolution additionally noted that the majority of the audience members present at the Oct. 20 Waterfront Committee public hearing were against the rink and that music for the rink “would be a public nuisance at the proposed location, but would be appropriate at Pier 40” and recommended more study about the rink’s operating costs and admission fee structure.

Glick urged the board not to abdicate its review role under the Hudson River Park Act, which requires a 30-day notice and public hearing when a significant change is proposed for the park: “We have damn little protection in that legislation, which is why I was against the legislation,” the assemblymember said. “Demand that the process be adhered to — or it will come back and bite you. If this board doesn’t hold [the Trust] to the process on this particular facility — shame on you, because I told you,” she warned.

Trust gone wild

Speaking on Monday, Glick said of the Trust, “They are acting like a renegade agency at this point.”

Maggie Jones, president of a new park group, Young Friends of Hudson River Park (an offshoot of Friends of Hudson River Park) for people under age 40, told Board 2 the rink’s design looked “cheap” despite its big cost, and would ruin an opportunity to build “something really beautiful here.”

“I don’t see why we’re building another rink when we have one at Chelsea Piers 18 blocks away,” Jones said.

Bill Hine, a public member of the board’s Waterfront Committee, said he was “very much for [the rink] but it’s in the wrong place.”

“Why here?” asked board member Jo Hamilton, of the Spring St. site, noting that when the park was designed, commercial activities were supposed to be on Pier 40 and other “commercial nodes,” like Chelsea Piers, while the rest of the park was to be open public space.

However, Connie Fishman, the Trust’s vice president, who attended the meeting with Chris Martin, the Trust’s spokesperson, responded that the rink will be a “money-losing operation” and so not really a commercial activity.

“So that’s how you’re getting around it,” Hamilton said.

Fishman said they are looking at other public ice-skating rinks, like the one at Riverbank State Park in Harlem, which charges low fees, around $4.50 or $5.50, for ideas on pricing. But others questioned the logic of adding something that will drain revenue from a park supposed to be financially self-supporting.

Fishman also said geotechnical testing has proven that not all areas are suited for what was originally planned, forcing the Trust sometimes to switch a spot that was designated for passive recreation to active recreation or vice versa.

According to Butzel, the park’s master plan design guidelines from 1997 call for passive recreation at the proposed rink site. “It says ‘undulating lawn and gardens,’ ” he said, reading from the plan on Monday, during a telephone interview.

As to how the rink, originally planned for Pier 25 at N. Moore St. in Tribeca in Community Board 1, wound up north of Canal St. in Community Board 2, Fishman said it was because there aren’t many sections of the park in Tribeca wide enough for such a large rink or with an adequate electricity supply nearby.

The project just “crept north,” Fishman admitted. In September, right before the Trust’s board was to vote on the issue, the Trust presented the plan to Board 1 for review, having “spaced out,” forgetting the site was in Board 2, Fishman said.

Fishman admitted that the process of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which is funding the $2.3 million project, was “very expedited.”

However, on Monday, Glick said she suspected another reason why the rink migrated north: The Trust plans a $16 million, 280-boat marina at Pier 25. Glick said, despite what the Trust is claiming, if there is enough electricity at Pier 25 to support a marina, there should be enough for an ice rink.

“They didn’t put [the rink] down at Pier 25, because they have something else planned there,” said Glick.

There were also concerns that car traffic going in and out of Pier 40’s nearby parking garage would pose a safety risk to children going to the rink. The Trust’s design includes adding a small traffic island in front of the garage, forcing the cars to drive counterclockwise, which the Trust says would increase safety.

Another complaint was the unesthetic chain-link fence encircling the rink in the Trust’s design. Fishman said they are looking into whether the facility would be safe at night without a fence.

Fishman said the Trust would start out operating the rink, see how it goes and then decide whether to bring in an outside operator. In the summer, a different surface could be put down to allow roller-skating, volleyball or basketball, she said.

What’s the big rush?

Fishman said the rink would be completed for this winter’s skating season.

But Klein, who was at Monday’s Waterfront Committee meeting, noted that Martin and Mark Boddewyn, the Trust’s vice president for design and construction, had said then that the work would start in November and finish in March, leaving just one month for ice-skating.

So hurrying to build the rink was “moot,” Klein said.

“If it can’t happen this season, why are we rushing into this?” asked Hamilton. “We’ve got time.”

Brad Hoylman said the board should respect Glick’s plea to oppose the plan, noting, “An assemblymember rarely has made as impassioned a speech as we heard tonight.”
However, Sean Sweeney, a board member from Soho, was glad the L.M.D.C. wants to allocate funds in Board 2.

“It’s kind of nice to see the L.M.D.C. giving some money north of Canal St. for once,” Sweeney said. “If we don’t use this money now, we’ll lose it. We’re looking a gift horse in the mouth.”

The following day in a phone call to The Villager, Glick elaborated on the idea of putting the rink, or possibly more field space, on Pier 40. Since the L.M.D.C. funding zone extends up to Houston St., Glick pointed out, the $2.3 million for the rink could be used on the half of Pier 40 that lies south of Houston St., for example, to expand the existing artificial-surface sports field on the southeast corner of the pier’s rooftop or to put the ice rink on Pier 40, either inside or outside.

Lawrence B. Goldberg, a member of the board and president of the Hudson River Park Advisory Council, said as an attorney he felt the Trust had violated the procedural due process required in the Park Act by not giving 30-day notice before a public hearing, but that he still supported the rink.

“It would have been very nice when my daughter was young to have someplace to take her skating,” Goldberg said. “You’ve got to say, ‘What’s good for the community?’ ”

Martin did not respond to e-mail or phone queries as to whether the Trust plans to go ahead with the project now that Board 2 has voted against it.

However, at an Oct. 27 meeting of Community Board 1’s Waterfront Committee, Fishman said, “The way we read it now is that [the rink] shouldn’t be anywhere on Pier 40.” Fishman said the Trust is now looking at possible locations south of Pier 40 in Community Board 1 for the rink. Fishman also acknowledged that the rink should not extend onto the esplanade. She was questioned about electric power for the rink; she said there isn’t enough electricity for even a temporary rink right now for anywhere else in the park other than near Pier 40, but that when the park is built there will be enough electricity for a permanent rink.

Lees: We looked bad

Speaking Monday, Lees, now the board’s Parks Committee chairperson, took a slapshot at Glick’s diatribe, “I think it was ridiculous. What’s wrong with a little rink on the waterfront? I was disappointed for the kids of the neighborhood — who could establish an ice-hockey league. Now it’ll probably be withdrawn because they don’t want to deal with the nuts on Community Board 2. It was debated like it was a toxic waste site or like the Kimmel Center was being plopped down in the park.”

The park’s Segment 3 in Community Board 1’s Tribeca contains several recently added recreational uses, including a skateboard park, batting cages and trapeze school. However, these are all interim uses, unlike the ice-skating rink in Board 2, which is being proposed as permanent.

“I think it’s a much bigger issue when it’s permanent,” said Julie Nadel, a Trust board of directors member. “It ratchets up the stakes 10 times.”

Nadel said she was concerned about what she termed the vagueness of the Trust’s business plan for the rink.

“I could see this being a big money drain on the Trust,” she said.

Following Board 2’s vote, the Hudson River Park Advisory Council was set to vote on the ice rink at its meeting Tuesday night.

Butzel noted that the Park Act’s provisions for community review are extensive. Whenever there is a significant addition to the park, the Trust must hold a public hearing; the C.B. 2 Waterfront Committee public hearing doesn’t qualify, Butzel said, since it must be held by the Trust. Futhermore, Butzel referred to a section of the Park Act, where it states that for any significant changes to the park plan, the Trust must “solicit and consider the opinions of Manhattan Community Boards 1, 2 and 4, the City Planning Commission, the Hudson River Park Advisory Council, the elected officials representing the communities bordering the park and community groups and other interested parties.” Following the notice, the Trust must then allow 60 days for response.

Wils: No Board 2 mandate

Asked on Monday if she thought the Trust should respect Board 2’s vote, and delay construction of the rink or consider putting it on Pier 40, Madelyn Wils, a Trust board of directors member and chairperson of Community Board 1, said the vote was no mandate, “I know it was a very close vote,” she said. “The board was basically split. Certainly the Trust has to listen to the board. But this was not an overwhelming vote.”

Told Glick thinks the $2.3 million in L.M.D.C. funds could be used on Pier 40, Wils said she thought Pier 40 was above Houston St., adding, “I’m not going to get into that conversation. If that’s what she says, that’s what she says.”

Also, Wils said, if the Trust is going to issue a new request for expressions of interest for private developers for Pier 40, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot to expand interim uses on the pier.

Wils said she personally doesn’t have strong feelings about whether the money is used to build a rink, but said, “The idea of doing this was to get something the people could use. It was something that was discussed last year as a small rink by Stuyvesant High School. It got moved. It got bigger. How it got to be what it is, I can’t really say. It was originally a Board 1 project. It was to give something to the kids in Lower Manhattan who had suffered so much. A lot of people forget — we still have a 16-acre hole. We’re still working our way towards rebuilding.”

Wils said when the rink was first proposed a year ago at Pier 25, its price tag was only $350,000 and it was an interim use.

Glick was unhappy to hear Wils qualify Board 2’s vote as “split.” Glick said some people surely voted against the alternate resolution because they didn’t want to be “against a recreational facility and getting money,” making the fact that the board voted against the rink even more significant.

Connor: Study is needed

State Senator Martin Connor, whose district contains the pier, said Board 2’s vote should be respected. “I’ve been troubled by the skating rink from day one, because it sounds like an amenity, but I wonder how viable it is,” Connor said. “There once was a skating rink at the World Trade Center but it went bust. And then to hear [this planned rink] was a permanent structure. I agree with the community board.

“Process-wise, it was kind of offensive that they didn’t run it by the right community board,” Connor said. But he stopped short of calling the Trust a “renegade” outfit, like Glick. “I’m not ready to say they’re running away with the park,” he said.

Connor said a study should be done to see if there’s a demand for a skating rink. He said he couldn’t support the idea of putting the rink on Pier 40 without a study.

Councilmember Chris Quinn, whose district contains Pier 40, and Borough President C. Virginia Fields, who appoints three of the Trust’s board members, could not be reached for comment by press time.


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