Volume 75, Number 45 | March 29 -April 04 2006


Don’t limit speech on Trust; do keep noise down off pier

The Hudson River Park Trust’s effort to put a new code of ethics document in place for its directors, employees and staff is a perfectly good idea.

Limits on gifts to board members — such as, for example, paying to take a director out to dinner — are perfectly sensible, and exist at all levels of government. Similarly, a two-year restriction on former board members appearing at Trust board meetings — while debatable — is in line with like regulations for former city employees intended to keep them from lobbying government after leaving the public sector.

However, a proposal to ban Trust board members from speaking to parties outside the board and staff on pending matters before the board strikes us as going too far and having nothing to do with ethics.

The Trust is compelled to adopt ethics guidelines under the New York State Public Authorities Accountability Act. However, limits on board members’ speaking outside the Trust have been tacked onto the boilerplate ethics rules by the Trust staff’s legal team and are being supported by the Trust’s board chairperson.

We think limiting board members’ speech is a movement in precisely the wrong direction. Not only would it obviously be a limit on freedom of expression, but would restrict the amount of information the public would be allowed to know about the park and its various issues and projects. While we certainly don’t support board members adversely impacting contract negotiations, we feel they have a right to speak out on pressing issues affecting the park — from the Yankee Ferry’s fight to stay in the park to crowd-control plans for gay youth.

In short, more communication, not less, is what’s needed. We’ve always called for the Trust to be more transparent about all its activities, especially its long-range plans. Ethics are fine, but don’t cut speech.

On another Hudson River Park issue, after five months of meetings and earnest brainstorming, the effort to find a solution to the problem of Christopher St. and nearby streets being deluged with young gay park users in the warm weather has concluded — at least for now. Community Board 2 has agreed to keep Pier 45’s curfew at 1 a.m., and to provide amenities on the pier, so that the youth won’t need to walk back and forth through the Village so much. FIERCE!, the gay youth organization, is proclaiming victory, though still plans to advocate for a later curfew of 4 a.m.

However, the real victory will be if FIERCE! and the Christopher St. Patrol and other community groups can work together to help keep down the noise. The real victory will be if, after June 30, everyone can say that this plan was a success. FIERCE! says it has accepted C.B. 2’s challenge and will work to get the youth to self-police to control noise and rowdyism. But let’s not declare victory just yet. We all know that it will take a real and sincere effort on both sides to make this work.

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