Volume 75, Number 20 | October 05 - 11, 2005

Editorial


A councilmember on a winning streak

If anyone ever doubted the impact a councilmember can have on local issues, events of last week showed just how much one councilmember can achieve through negotiations and through the city’s ULURP process.

The councilmember we refer to is Alan Gerson, who represents Lower Manhattan’s District 1. In the span of one week, negotiations Gerson had been working on for the Washington Square Park renovation and Clemente Soto Velez management structure both came to fruition. Also, through the city’s uniform land use review procedure, Gerson achieved major concessions from the Minskoff organization regarding control of construction noise at a sensitive Tribeca area-building site.

As this page detailed last week, Gerson has reached a compromise agreement with the Parks Department on many of the contentious issues that had been threatening to derail the planned $16 million Washington Square renovation. Gerson heard the community’s copious criticisms of the plan and he brought them to Parks, with the condition that he could pull his funding for the project if Parks refused to play ball. Some key issues are still unresolved, namely the height of a proposed new wrought-iron fence around the park and a drastic overhaul of the park’s central plaza area that would include moving the fountain and raising the plaza to ground level. But Gerson has opened the door and hopefully Parks will now finally hear the community’s desires that the park’s fundamental character not be destroyed by an overly quaint and fussy renovation.

As for the Clemente Soto Velez Center on Suffolk St., the ongoing artists’ conflict that has dragged on there for six years looked irresolvable. Yet, Gerson, working with mediators and lawyers representing both sides, crafted a consensus document to make C.S.V. an artists co-op to be managed by a board of directors elected by all members of both of the building’s artists groups, C.S.V. and Artists Alliance, Inc. Gerson’s agreement looks fundamentally sound to us.

On Site 5B in Tribeca, where Edward Minskoff Equities is building a large new building next to P.S. 234 with its 700 students, Gerson adeptly used the ULURP process to put in conditions forcing the developer to mitigate noise at the construction site so it won’t adversely impact the school. In textbook manner, Gerson showed how the ULURP review of a development property can be wielded to extract maximum community concessions — in this case, putting students first, and costing the developer millions of dollars.

We think Gerson’s fine efforts last week need to be acknowledged. He’s managed to resolve some thorny and thoroughly daunting issues. In the case of Washington Square, the process is unfinished and ongoing, but he has gotten the Parks Department to move away from an entrenched position to one of negotiation and compromise, and hopefully more of the same will be forthcoming. Through his ongoing efforts, we hope that this important project can finally begin with a maximum of community support.

Keep up the good work, Alan!

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