Lessons of 2011

The last year was filled with significant news stories in New York like Occupy Wall Street, the election of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the passage of the gay marriage law, and the Zadroga 9/11 Healthcare Act.

In Lower Manhattan, though, one major news story provided a road map for the next year, while serving as a testament to the past decade: the tenth anniversary of September 11 and the opening of the National Memorial at the World Trade Center site. That event signaled to the world, the nation and to New Yorkers, especially those that live or work Downtown, that hard work, performed collaboratively by dedicated groups and individuals, could result in a rebirth of a neighborhood and a renewed spirit.

During the ten years there were periods where a promised feeling of progress seemed neglected and the neighborhood’s rebuilding seemed in jeopardy. Much of that was due to the extraordinary complex alphabet soup of agencies that all have a hand in Downtown development.

Ten years later, with the National Memorial open and with 1 W.T.C. rising 80 stories above the ground, progress is clearly visible and the next year should be spent looking at the agencies that played a vital role then, but who should now start closing up shop.

Some of this work is already underway in the form of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey preparing to absorb the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. New Port Director Patrick Foye should make this a top priority and demand it happen in a speedy and transparent process.

Foye’s predecessor, Chris Ward, in an interview with the Downtown Express two months ago, pointed to the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center as another agency he believed could sunset, and we agree. The L.M.C.C.C. was essentially created to oversee and coordinate all of the different agencies involved in getting us to where we are today. But today, the Port Authority and existing city and state agencies can clearly coordinate and implement all construction activities. The role of the L.M.C.C.C. has been dutifully carried out.

Other issues that made the news in 2011 and we would like to see addressed in the next year are the Dept. of Education ‘s rezoning process for schools, and the personnel changes that occurred at the Battery Park City Authority.

As for the Dept. of Education, better forecasting is needed, and Chancellor Walcott should look to Community Board 1 and Speaker Silver’s School Overcrowding Task Force, rather than the Community Education Council, for demographic data needed to tackle  overcrowding in Lower Manhattan schools. The data on which to project future needs are simply more accurate.

We know what has to be done: we must build more schools. If this fact is not realized then the crisis will stymie Downtown residential growth, upend parents and their children’s lives, and result in more crowded classrooms.

And the Battery Park City Authority, which existed well before 9/11, was a major player in the rebirth of the Lower Manhattan. It too, however, should now recognize all of the great work it has performed pre-and post-9/11 and begin the arduous task of closing. A very carefully thought-out sunset plan should be established and implemented in such a manner that doesn’t result in the management public relations disaster and chaos that we have seen following the latest round of layoffs.

We call on City Comptroller John Liu, who was given the task by Mayor Bloomberg in 2010 to examine the feasibility of bringing B.P.C. into the structures and agencies of N.Y.C., to seriously examine this possibility and issue a report.

All of these suggestions are meant to serve a single purpose: to ensure that the greatest story of 2011, the rebirth of a neighborhood, can continue, cost-effectively and unencumbered by now unneeded layers of bureaucracy, into the future.

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