Volume 75, Number 18 | September 21 - 27, 2005


Downtown questions for Mike Bloomberg and Fernando Ferrer

Anthony Weiner’s decision last week not to campaign in a possible runoff with Fernando Ferrer establishes the November mayoral election as a head-to-head contest between Ferrer, the Democratic nominee and former Bronx borough president, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg. It is now time for these two major candidates for City Hall to outline in detail their plans for Lower Manhattan.

There are many critical issues facing our neighborhoods, and we want the candidates to clearly state where they stand on them. One major issue is overdevelopment: What are the candidates’ positions on, for example, the embattled dorm project planned at the site of the old P.S. 64/former CHARAS/El Bohio; the rezoning of the Far West Village — which Bloomberg’s administration is supporting, but which the community says does not go far enough — and the community-led 197-c rezoning of the East Village?

We want to hear the candidates’ own ideas about the proposed Washington Square Park renovation and Union Square restaurant pavilion plan — both of which were advanced by the Parks Department under the mayor’s administration and both of which have come under heavy fire.

Making a commitment to fund the completion of the Hudson River Park, finding a way to start the ball rolling at the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area after decades of inertia — these are also things on which we want the candidates to reveal their thoughts.

And, of course, there’s bar overproliferation — would the candidates back creation of a City Liquor Authority, for example, to put the authority on liquor licenses where it belongs?

In addition, four years after the 9/11 attack, not enough progress is visible at the World Trade Center. Governor George Pataki must shoulder much of the blame for the delays, but part of the problem is that Bloomberg seemed content to take the lead on the Jets stadium and West Side development and cede control over Lower Manhattan’s future to the governor. The next mayor must reinsert city government into a more powerful, and focused, role in Lower Manhattan, but voters need to hear how the candidates specifically intend to do this.

What about transportation? How does the proposed rail link connecting Downtown with J.F.K. Airport and the L.I.R.R. fit in with other big-ticket transportation projects such as the Second Avenue subway, extension of the 7 Train, East Side Access and Jerry Nadler’s rail freight tunnel? Which should have priority? How hard and effectively will the next mayor lobby Washington and the state for his prioritized projects?

Fernando Ferrer has shown flashes of shortsighted, misguided feelings about Lower Manhattan, but he deserves a chance to outline his vision and clarify his remarks. And we want to hear more about his ideas on issues affecting the Village, Chinatown, Chelsea, Gramercy, Soho, Little Italy and Downtown’s other varied neighborhoods.

Voters want to hear answers to these questions. Bloomberg and Ferrer have seven weeks before the election, but they should start talking about Lower Manhattan today.

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