Diana Taylors opportunity in Hudson Park
The Hudson River Park Trust needed a new leader and we welcome the appointment of Diana Taylor to be the new chairperson of its board. Her experience in banking, in high finance and in the park will serve her well as she figures out how to get some number well over $130 million, the current low estimate to build most of the remaining elements of the 5-mile-long park.
Taylor, a Trust board member since 1999 and former superintendent of the state Banking Department, was moved up to be Trust chairperson by Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer last week. She knows getting more money for the park is the top priority, and we were pleased when she told us this week that she sees the need to reach out to the community before park decisions are made.
Taylors first order of business should be to reject the advice from some to pick a Pier 40 development plan next month. Even if one of the two competing, flawed plans could somehow get city and state approval, despite the overwhelming community opposition probably a long shot such a victory would be empty since it would undermine the overall effort to get the park built. How can the Trust convince Washington, Albany and the City Council to invest more in the park when it is fighting with the parks users and local legislators at the federal, state and city level?
The Trust staff and one of the developers previously acknowledged to us that there are problems with both plans and that changes to the plans are likely. If significant changes are made, these should be presented to the public again, well in advance of a Trust vote.
The Pier 40 Working Group, composed of representatives of Downtown community boards, elected officials and waterfront groups, has pointed out problems with the Pier 40 plans and has recommended an incremental approach to developing the pier. The group points out that the Trust generates more money now for park maintenance costs almost $6 million a year from the piers parking than it is likely to get if it lets Related Companies, apparently the favored developer, convert the pier into an entertainment destination. Although some Trust members attacked the working groups report, these members did not dispute the reports contention that both development teams are offering about $5 million in annual rent for the pier.
Yes, this huge W. Houston St. pier needs repairs probably the most costly and immediate need is an estimated $14 million to fix the roof but that isnt a reason to rush a decision. The least expensive repair plan would be to keep the current uses, and that appears to be the highest revenue plan, too.
The thousands of people who love the park and use it every day hold the key to getting the rest of it built. Taylor has the chance to get things right in the park and on the pier and we hope she seizes the opportunity.