West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 4 | June 27 - July 3, 2007

Hoylman plans to retool committees, continue reform

By Lincoln Anderson

Four years ago, Brad Hoylman ran for chairperson of Community Board 2 and lost in a close election to Jim Smith. Board members who voted against Hoylman — who was then 37 and had only been on the community board four years — advised that he could use a bit more “seasoning.”

Smith won re-election the next year, then — following the tradition at C.B. 2 — stepped down. Hoylman again considered a bid for chairperson, but the board had become deeply factionalized between pro-nightlife business-owning members and anti-bar residents from Soho and Hudson Square. Not wanting to get sucked into a potentially divisive election fight, Hoylman opted out, saying, “There’s always next year or two years from now.”

Two years later, Maria Passannante Derr is now stepping down after her term as C.B. 2 chairperson.

Now, as they say in the N.B.A., it’s finally “Hoylman’s time.”

Over the years, Hoylman has shown skill as a consensus builder and for not making enemies, unlike some other board members. As a result, the stars were finally aligned for Hoylman, who ran unopposed for election last Thursday night.

A former Rhodes scholar from West Virginia, Hoylman, who is openly gay, has lived in the Village 15 years, and currently resides in the central Village. He is general counsel for the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit organization composed of 200 CEOs from the city’s top business firms that seeks to enhance the city’s economy.

Hoylman has long been considered a rising political figure, and becoming C.B. 2 chairperson is seen as an important step for his political future.

He ran in a crowded field for City Council in Lower Manhattan’s District 1 in 2001, finishing second to Alan Gerson. A past president of Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats political club, for the past year Hoylman has been the Village’s male Democratic district leader — the party’s lowest elected office, an unsalaried position.

It’s speculated that Hoylman will try to succeed Council Speaker Christine Quinn in Council District 3, covering the Village and Chelsea/Clinton, when term limits force her out of office at the end of 2009.

However, after at last becoming C.B. 2’s chairperson last week, he said he’s not looking that far ahead.

“I’m really focused on the community board right now — one job at a time,” Hoylman said firmly. His term starts July 1.

A group of 50 volunteers appointed by the borough president — with half the appointments based upon local city councilmembers’ recommendations — the board issues advisory, but influential, opinions on issues from land use and community planning to sidewalk cafe permits and bar liquor licenses. One of New York City’s 59 community boards, C.B. 2 covers Greenwich Village, Soho, Noho, Hudson Square, Little Italy and part of Chinatown.

C.B. 2 is facing some major development issues, the biggest of which, in Hoylman’s view, is the St. Vincent’s Hospital plan. Hoylman attended the recent Greenwich Village Block Associations forum at which the hospital absorbed some surprisingly harsh attacks from neighbors; some even suggested St. Vincent’s should move out of the Village, rather than build a new tower on its O’Toole Building site and sell the rest of its hospital campus for residential development.

“I think people need to take a deep breath — and continue to express their concerns,” Hoylman said. “Some very dramatic outcomes have been expressed — but no plans have been presented. Some neighbors are very fearful of the worst-case scenario.”

Yet, Hoylman said, the opinions expressed at the forum might not reflect “broader public opinion as a whole.”

“I think they expressed their concerns appropriately. And when you begin negotiation, that’s where you come from generally,” he said of the strident tones. At the forum, Hoylman advised St. Vincent’s officials that the hospital should do more to make its case.

“St. Vincent’s needs to educate the community as to its importance as a medical institution — to dispel the argument that it could just move away and there would be no impact on the health of the city,” Hoylman said. “Certainly, a needs assessment might show it. I personally do feel it is important,” he added of the Greenwich Village hospital. “It is an overstatement and an exaggeration that the hospital could move away uptown and nothing would change in the Village in terms of health needs.”

Hoylman added of the G.V.B.A. forum: “In my opinion, it was very well run. You may not like what you hear at meetings like that — but those opinions are out there.”

On another key issue, Washington Square Park, Hoylman said, “I think we’ve had a breakthrough.” At last week’s C.B. 2 meeting, aides to Quinn and Gerson read a joint letter from the councilmembers announcing that the Parks Department finally has agreed to re-present to the community the designs for the square’s renovation.

“I think for the last year we’ve been in kind of a quagmire as to what the plans are — lawsuits and not knowing how to proceed,” Hoylman said.

Personally, Hoylman said, “I, for one, think it’s silly to move the [Washington Square] fountain, but I’m not a designer, so I’ll defer. No one is going to agree to every part of the plan, but I think most people agree that the park needs renovation.

“At least when the community sees the plan, we’ll know how to proceed,” he added. Hoylman said the idea to remember in this case is: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and the good thing here is that the park is being renovated.”

As for how he’ll lead as chairperson, Hoylman said he sees the position as “a glorified referee.”

“In many ways, my opinion doesn’t matter,” he noted. “It’s the opinion of the committees and the whole board that matters.”

Hoylman said he hadn’t appointed any committee chairpersons yet. He said he plans to create a new Chinatown Committee.

“That’s a neighborhood that tends to get neglected — I think we’ll learn a lot,” he noted.

Hoylman will combine the Environment Committee with the Public Health and Safety Committee — and hopes energy sustainability will be a mission of this committee.

He plans to split the Waterfront and Parks Committee in two.

“I think it’s a possibility that if a new Hudson River Park Trust chairperson is appointed, the whole Pier 40 process could be restarted,” he noted, saying the Waterfront Committee may have a lot of work to do regarding redevelopment plans for the 14-acre W. Houston St. pier. Hoylman expects the board to have a resolution on Pier 40 by next month.

(Arthur Schwartz, the current Waterfront Committee chairperson, last week said the committee probably won’t support either of the two competing Pier 40 redevelopment proposals.)

Hoylman also will combine the Social Service and Youth committees.

The Street Activities Committee will now be the Street Activities and Film Permits Committee.

“We have more street fair applications than any board in the city — well over 100,” Hoylman said. “I think many people feel they’ve been inundated by them. We need a way to assess their impact.” As for filming, he said, “It’s obviously good for the city, but we obviously want to do what we can to lessen the negative.”

Other critical development issues, according to Hoylman, include designation of the South Village Historic District, the New York University Strategic Planning Initiative (long-range plan), the Gansevoort Peninsula marine-transfer station proposal and The New School’s planned building at 14th St. and Fifth Ave.

“Speaker Silver spoke out strongly in the media against amending the law to use Gansevoort for recycling, which should hearten opponents of the plan,” Hoylman said.

Of the New School building on 14th St., designs of which have portrayed it as glowing pink or purple at night, Hoylman said, “I think it’s going to be — should we say — open to debate.”

On the horizon, Hoylman said, is a possible rezoning of the rest of Hudson Square and “a big [subway] fan plant somewhere along Seventh Ave. S.” Hoylman said NYC Transit isn’t saying yet where the disruptive project will occur, and that an environmental impact statement is being done.

Asked about former board member Bob Rinaolo’s having concealed a conflict of interest ruling from the board for 18 months, Hoylman said, “That period was bumpy. I think that we’re better for it, in that the standards are more clear.” Borough President Scott Stringer didn’t reappoint Rinaolo to C.B. 2 after Rinaolo’s latest two-year term ended in April.

Hoylman said Stringer, now in his second year as borough president, has been “a breath of fresh air. New ideas are pouring out of his office — on arts, planning issues,” he said. “So, we as a board have a lot to live up to in this period of reform.”

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