Volume 77 / Number 30 - Dec. 27 - Jan.2, 2007
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

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EDITORIAL

Some wishes at the new year

Winter is upon us, 2007 is almost over, and so once again we turn our thoughts to New Year’s wishes of the community kind.

As in recent years, development and park projects figure prominently on our wish list. Development is a constant factor and force in the city, with the power to totally reshape our communities, for better or for worse. Park projects also have potential to overhaul our landscape.

For starters, the contentious Washington Square Park renovation leaves us wishing for a number of things: namely, that the final project will indeed improve the park without compromising its famous freewheeling spirit; and, perhaps even more important, that future park projects will proceed with far greater community involvement and transparency by the Parks Department. Since Parks is set upon aligning Washington Square’s fountain with the arch, we eagerly look forward to the department informing us about fascinating archaeological finds — like Colonial-era remains — that turn up in the digging.

On the St. Vincent’s Hospital/Rudin project, we welcome St. Vincent’s bold and farsighted project to revitalize itself to provide world-class healthcare to our community well into this new century. But we think Rudin’s planned “bookend” Seventh Ave. residential building is too big and that there is room for negotiation on its height and bulk.

As for New York University, while we admire President John Sexton’s ambitious vision and new openness, we don’t think his stated goal of squeezing another 3 million square feet of facility space into the university’s so-called Washington Square campus core can work. We’d like to see N.Y.U. site its new facilities and relocate some of its graduate schools outside of the Village area. We sincerely hope N.Y.U.’s soon-to-be-released, long-range planning study by SMWM recognizes the limitations on N.Y.U.’s growth in the Village/East Village/Union Square area.

On the proposed three-district Department of Sanitation garage on Spring St., we hope the city realizes this would be, by definition, a “regional facility” under fair-share guidelines, requiring extra review. The precedent was the Lower East Side’s Pier 36, where Assemblymember Sheldon Silver successfully sued the city in 1993, arguing the pier was a “de facto dumping ground” for city operations.

Also on the subject of garbage, we wish for the city to seriously consider alternative sites to Gansevoort Peninsula — a key part of Hudson River Park — for a marine waste transfer station, such as Pier 76 at W. 36th St.

Additionally, on the Hudson River Park, we emphatically hope the Hudson River Park Trust’s board of directors reject Related Companies’ Cirque du Soleil Pier 40 plan at their Jan. 31 vote. We trust for the Trust to seriously consider the new Pier 40 Partnership’s ideas — about which we will be commenting more soon. Furthermore, we think outgoing Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff — known for his cozy relations with developers, and Related, in particular — should step down from the Trust’s board and be replaced by Amanda Burden, City Planning commissioner, who has shown community sensitivity, such as in the East Village/Lower East Side rezoning. Pier 40, the park, in general, and the whole Lower West Side need intelligent planning.

As for the L.E.S./E.V. rezoning, we await its imminent approval, capping building heights and removing the community facilities bonus, preserving the East Side’s low-scale landscape. Taller heights will be allowed on some larger streets, but, unfortunately, these tradeoffs seem necessary for city approval — plus, to attain the maximum height, affordable housing will be required. We’d like the city to afford the same protections to the Bowery and the Third and Fourth Aves. corridors, where glitzy new hotels are sprouting. Speaking of hotels, the city must keep cracking down on illegal hotels and tenant harassment. The city should also review and learn from its flawed decision to approve the totally inappropriate, noncontextual, 42-story Trump Soho condo-hotel in relatively low-rise Hudson Square. Finally, we hope the mayor’s congestion-pricing plan wins approval, reducing traffic and increasing mass-transit revenue. Tolling the East River bridges should remain in strong consideration.


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