Ecosystematic is the way to go
Three development stories affecting Downtowns future are coinciding right now. Its instructive to consider them in relationship to each other for insight on how best to proceed in shaping our communitys future.
Our recent interview with John Sexton, president of New York University, showed he indeed genuinely seems committed to a long-term strategic space planning initiative. The university is now selecting an urban planning or architecture firm as a partner to craft a 30-year growth plan. This plan will include everything from recommendations on how N.Y.U. can better use its existing space to how it must heighten its respect for its surrounding community in terms of its development plans.
The new design partner will take nine months to create the long-range plan. Were eager to see the findings and are glad N.Y.U. is at last taking this course of action. With N.Y.U. working with Borough President Scott Stringers N.Y.U. Task Force, we hold out hope the university will learn a new approach to co-existing in what Sexton so rightly calls a fragile ecosystem.
But two other projects being proposed just dont work ecosystematically, to use Sextons term. The citys approval on Tuesday of Donald Trumps 42-story condo-hotel project on Spring St. in Hudson Square stands to spark a dramatic change in this neighborhoods environment. The main issue, however, is that this project does not pass the smell test. Everyone except the Department of Buildings, that is knows this tower is going to be used residentially, thus slipping through zoning regulations in the manufacturing-zoned district. Changing the ecosystem is one thing but doing so in such a blatantly wrongheaded way is deplorable. This project demands a public review. Yet there was none.
Trumps condotel is only blocks away from Pier 40, where another large-scale project Related Companies Cirque du Soleil and Tribeca Film Festival extravaganza also threatens to impact the surrounding neighborhood.
Again, we must ask: Is the Hudson River Park Trust thinking ecosystematically? The community is united against anything that brings significant auto traffic and swarms of tourists to the pier. And the population using the pier for sports is growing sharply.
As weve said for years, the Trust must be far more transparent about why it wants so much revenue from Pier 40, and about its overall financial plans for the park. Governor Spitzer would be well served to direct the Trust to become more open in its operations. The secrecy must end.
Clearly, the Related plan as construed would not be healthy for Pier 40s youth sports ecosystem. As of now, the best option, it seems, would be not to change the piers current mix of activities. If anything, local parents and children want even more athletic fields on the pier.
The verdict is still out on N.Y.U.s planning initiative. In nine months, well see what theyve come up. Although this plan will ultimately be judged by its results, we choose to be optimistic. The city and Trust, meanwhile, must think, yes, more ecosystematically about Hudson Square and Pier 40.