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The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, when it finally closes up shop, has a chance to leave a lasting legacy that other agencies across the country could look to should they be charged with rebuilding and revitalizing a city and community.
But lately, the city/state agency created to help rebuild Lower Manhattan after the Sept. 11 attacks seems to be dropping the ball.
The most recent case in point is the exclusion of Community Board 1 Chair Julie Menin from the panel which will oversee the disbursement of $17 million earmarked for cultural and community enhancement grants.
Menin was appointed to the L.M.D.C. Board of Directors by then Governor Elliot Spitzer, and sat on the panel that doled out the first round of such grants in 2007. She would add enormous expertise to the committee vetting the large number of proposals. We believe not including her on this latest panel withdraws local expertise exactly at the moment that it is needed, and is an ill-advised decision, at best.
At worst, it is another example of backroom dealing and petty vengefulness.
Menin has staked out an independent position on the board, and has driven the agenda at critical junctures. She, and Community Board 1, were instrumental in forcing the L.M.D.C. to identify all of its remaining funds, and pushed to earmark these funds for specific needs in Lower Manhattan. She successfully challenged the utility companies who were threatening to gobble up a portion of those funds for repairs that did not fall under the initial plan of action approved by the federal government. She has insisted that L.M.D.C. set in motion a sunset plan, because its agenda is mostly completed.
In short, she has shown a lot of leadership on this board and has undoubtedly ruffled some feathers.
The L.M.D.C. statement about Menin’s being removed from the grant advisory panel saying that the Mayor and the Governor have appointed new members to us smacks of obfuscatory backroom maneuvering and simply adds up to the L.M.D.C. trying to pass the onus for a non-transparent decision onto their political patrons. This will probably backfire, as it should.
It should also be noted that we are not the only ones who feel this way. A letter was sent to both the Mayor and the Governor last week, signed by elected officials including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Borough President Scott Stringer in addition to others, that demanded Menin be appointed to the panel. As they put it, “…it is inconceivable that a panel on community enhancement would be composed without any community representation.”
In a nutshell, if this is the last hurrah for the L.M.D.C., it will no doubt be viewed as a sad and troubled late chapter in the agency’s history. And that is not how we believe this agency, which has done so much for this community, should be remembered.
The Governor and the Mayor should undo this decision, although it remains to be seen if they had anything to do with it in the first place.