Volume 74, Number 34 | December 29 - January 04, 2004


The year that was

It’s hard to believe, but another year has flown by.

News stories that held Downtowners’ attention in 2004 typically included such issues as development, quality of life, parks and controlling institutional expansion.

Development stories included the ongoing battle to save the Far West Village from becoming a wall of luxury, glass-walled high-rises. Preservation-minded residents are saying it’s “the 11th hour” for the Far West Village and calling on the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the endangered 14-block area a historic district. Legendary activist Jane Jacobs’ return to the Village earlier this year seemed perfectly timed to reenergize the neighborhood to not give up the fight.

On the East Side, the plan for a new mega-dormitory on E. Ninth St. is being fought by community members who want the old school building there restored as a community and cultural center.

New York University was praised for deciding to put its new genomic research center into existing buildings on Waverly Pl. instead of constructing a new building. But the university was criticized for continuing to block transfer of the LaGuardia Pl. and Mercer St. “strips” from the Department of Transportation to the Parks Department.

The university and community also clashed over a community-based proposal to landmark the I.M.-Pei designed superblock south of Washington Sq., the university rejecting the idea because it includes landmarking the Morton Williams supermarket, the university’s primary development site.

Major renovations are in store for both Washington Sq. Park and Union Sq.’s north plaza. The transformation of the High Line into an elevated park is moving forward.

The intensity in Greenwich Village surrounding Hudson River Park cooled down this year, without any Pier 40 development process going on or surprise ice-skating rink proposals. A massive, interim Pier 40 artificial-turf courtyard field should be ready for use soon. Chelsea was where the Hudson Park fireworks were this year, with a somewhat contentious Pier 57 development process, with two finalists now remaining.

The largest project with the largest potential impact, the proposed West Side stadium and Hudson Yards redevelopment project, continues to be the subject of community concern.

The housing success story of the year was the West Village Houses’ Mitchell-Lama residents’ deal making the complex an affordable, non-eviction co-op.

The loss of favorite shops A. Zito & Sons, Jon Vie and others saddened patrons. Sometimes, the cause of their closing was the Atkins Diet — more often, rent increases.

Jodie Lane’s death on an electrified Con Edison junction box horrified the city, leading to legislation being passed insuring Con Ed keeps its street facilities safe.

Of course, there was the divisive presidential election and the Republican National Convention — with protesters’ fight to rally on the Great Lawn, preemptive arrests of protesters and detentions at “Guantanamo on the Hudson” — all of which we are finally about recovered from. Frustration over a war in Iraq that to many seems unwinnable was an unsettling reality.

What a year it was. Well, here’s looking forward to 2005!

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