Volume 74, Number 29 | November 24 - 30, 2004

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

A bike rider and his dog get some exercise in the Tribeca portion of Hudson River Park

Pataki: L.M.D.C. funds will build Hudson Park’s Tribeca segment

By Josh Rogers

Governor George Pataki said Monday during his semi-annual report on Downtown’s post-9/11 progress that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will fund the Tribeca section of the Hudson River Park.

Officials have been saying for months that $70 million from the L.M.D.C. was likely, but the Hudson River Park Trust’s president, Connie Fishman, said she did not hear some money was coming until just before Pataki’s Nov. 22 speech at the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park City, site of all four of the governor’s Lower Manhattan progress speeches.

Fishman said more discussions with the L.M.D.C. are needed as to what and how much the Pataki-created agency is funding, but the governor’s announcement means construction on the delayed project could begin by the middle of next year under the most optimistic schedule.

She said as Downtown’s residential population continues to increase, better park spaces for families are needed.

“They need a place to play as well as a place to work and the riverfront is the best and most easily accessible place available,” Fishman said in a telephone interview.

Allocating the L.M.D.C. money for the park has the support of Community Board 1, Councilmember Alan Gerson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who asked the corporation to fund the park at the agency’s board meeting two weeks ago.

At his speech before the Association for a Better New York, Pataki said: “Through funding from the L.M.D.C., we will be able to complete the Tribeca section of the 5-mile, 550-acre park and provide the community with even more recreational space and access to the river.”

The park plan includes rebuilding all 1,000 or so feet of Pier 25 at N. Moore St. for a children’s play area, volleyball courts and a mini-golf course, and about 900 feet of Pier 26, just to the north, with a marine study center, kayak center, large plants and a green lawn. The piers already host many of those uses, but the piers are deteriorating and permanent structures need to be built to replace them.

Fishman said about half the park’s costs goes toward rebuilding the piers. The plan also includes trees and plants on the mainland part of the park and a bird sanctuary viewing area created among old pier piles in the water near Canal St. The recently opened tennis courts will remain near Spring St., but the skateboard park at Hubert St. may be moved to a nearby location, Fishman said.

After the L.M.D.C. board approves funds for the park, she said it will likely take between four and six months to get the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to issue final environmental and funding approval. HUD has final say on all development corporation money, which was approved by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks.

It will take about two and a half years to build the Tribeca section. Fishman said the Trust will work out a construction phasing plan and that some of the existing uses on the piers may be able to temporarily relocate. Those include Manhattan Youth, which runs afterschool and summer day camp activities on Pier 25, and the River Project, which studies marine life at Pier 26 near the Downtown Boathouse, which has kayaking programs.

Allocating the park money will leave less than $800 million in L.M.D.C. funds remaining. Pataki said he would work with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to come up with a plan by March on the best way to use the rest of the remaining funds.

“As we develop the allocation plan, we must engage the public so all voices are heard,” Pataki said.

This line did not mollify advocates who have criticized Pataki and the L.M.D.C. for not spending more money on affordable housing and job-training programs.

“If the governor at this point does not have a grasp of what the needs of Lower Manhattan are, he’s living in a hole,” said Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs New York, which has tracked L.M.D.C. expenditures closely.

The agency had $2.8 billion of federal money and the largest expenditures to date include $750 million to repair utilities damaged on Sept. 11, 2001, $300 million for a rent subsidy program to encourage residents to move and stay in Lower Manhattan, $225 million to buy the Deutsche Bank building across from the W.T.C. — in order to demolish it — and develop site plans for the complex’s redevelopment and $200 million for business retention programs.

Damiani said the L.M.D.C. and other monies spent on corporate retention in some cases went to companies whose executives were later quoted as saying they were not planning to move out of Downtown.

“We’re giving money away to corporations that say they would have stayed in Lower Manhattan anyway when the needs of low- and moderate-income families are being ignored,” she said.

Pataki released a report Monday prepared by Appleseed estimating that L.M.D.C. investments have led to $2.1 billion of economic impact in the short run and will contribute $1.3 billion each year.

The governor said the biggest priority for the remaining L.M.D.C. money was to help pay for the $350 million W.T.C. memorial construction costs, followed by the undetermined W.T.C. cultural building costs. He announced that all four of the living U.S. ex-presidents would serve as honorary members of a new foundation to raise money to build and maintain the W.T.C. memorial.

Other big projects under consideration are improvements to the East River waterfront, from the Battery Maritime Building to the south end of East River Park on the Lower East Side.

Pataki also announced that he and Mayor Bloomberg had just signed executive orders setting up a Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center to coordinate the numerous projects planned south of Canal St. or southwest of Rutgers St. The mayor and governor will pick an executive director to head the center.

Carl Weisbrod, president of the Downtown Alliance and an L.M.D.C. board member, said it’s “critical” for the businesses he represents and for residents to have one place to coordinate all the billions of dollars worth of building and street projects once they are underway.

“It’s absolutely essential to have a full coordination of these various construction projects,” Weisbrod said.

The center is to remain open through 2010 and will oversee all projects in the geographic area that are valued over $25 million and any that require work involving Downtown’s streets or highways.

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