What’s next, Hudson River Park?

Hudson River Park was full of debate and activity the last week. Some Tribecans voiced opposition to the proposed park tax or Neighborhood Improvement District.   Downtown Express photo by Milo Hess

Hudson River Park was full of debate and activity the last week. Some Tribecans voiced opposition to the proposed park tax or Neighborhood Improvement District. Downtown Express photo by Milo Hess

Map of the Tribeca and Hudson Square sections of the proposed NID.

Map of the Tribeca and Hudson Square sections of the proposed NID.

BY JOSH ROGERS | No one would ever confuse liberal Tribeca with a hotbed of the modern Tea Party movement, but nevertheless some neighbors are beginning to use phrases like “no taxation without representation,” more and more.

Tribeca rises against park tax

The west side of the neighborhood is objecting to a proposed tax that would help fund maintenance of the Hudson River Park.

The business improvement district, the Hudson River Park Neighborhood Improvement District or NID, would be roughly within three blocks of the park, and extend well beyond Tribeca, from Chambers St. up to 59th St.
One of its opponents, Nicole Vianna, does not buy the argument that waterfront property is more valuable, particularly in light of Hurricanes Sandy and Irene.

“They all had damage from Sandy,” Vianna said of western Tribeca. “Are people saying ‘oh please, can I buy in an area that’s been flooded twice in two years?’ ”

Vianna and many of her neighbors came to last week’s Community Board 1 meeting to voice opposition, and will undoubtedly be at the board’s next Tribeca Committee meeting, Wed. Feb. 13, at 49-51 Chambers St., 6 p.m.

The committee’s chairperson, Peter Braus, is a member of the NID’s sponsor, Friends of Hudson River Park, and defended the proposal at last week’s meeting.

“I am certainly opposed to the public paying for a park,” said Braus. “I’d love nothing more than if Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Cuomo opened up their checkbook tomorrow and paid for the whole thing. But guess what folks? It ain’t going to happen.”

He pointed out that the tax, 7.5 cents per square foot of property, would work out to be only about $100 a year for a 1,000 square foot condo when you include a building’s common areas.
“For a lot of people who live in this neighborhood — $100 per year is not a hardship… If you could say to everyone who uses the park, ‘you kick in a $100…and the park will be in better shape,’ I don’t know too many people who would say, I’m not going to do that.”

One may be his neighbor and colleague on the board, Tricia Joyce.

“Maybe there’s a box we all drop a dollar in and there’s your $17 million,” she said, referring to the estimated number of visitors.

She called it “capricious” that only some visitors would pay for the upkeep.

“This is a park that people bike through that live in Brooklyn and Harlem and Staten Island,” she said. “This is a destination park now. It does not only serve the people in the community.”

A.J. Pietrantone, who is leading the NID effort as executive director of the Friends group, said about half the park’s visitors live nearby and “we have to draw the boundaries somewhere.”

Opponents point out that the proposed district excludes much of Hudson Square because that is already part of a different BID, and that commercial and home renters would pay the tax indirectly. A co-op building would only get one vote toward representation, but condo owners would each get one vote.

Pietrantone said that’s tied directly to the legal differences between the two types of buildings.

He said the NID would generate $10 million to help with the park’s upkeep. About $1 million to $1.5 million would be used to improve and maintain the plantings that are technically just outside of the park — along the bikeway and in between Route 9A. Overall, about 40 percent of the funds would go to projects outside the park.

Community Board 1 gave initial approval to the plan in December, but it will get a more formal presentation later in the year, assuming the proposal is certified by the city Departments of Small Business Services and City Planning.

In addition to Joyce, a few C.B. 1 members voiced skepticism about the proposal last week, so it’s not clear if the board would endorse the plan again.

The affected community boards and the borough president will have advisory votes before it heads to the City Council for final approval.

Pietrantone said he thinks the plan will get to the Council by fall.

Councilmember Margaret Chin, who represents Tribeca, has supported BIDs in Chinatown and Soho, but has not yet taken a position on the NID.

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4 Responses to What’s next, Hudson River Park?

  1. Please come to the TriBeCa Cmmittee this Wed, 3/13 at 6 PM, whether you're in favor of the NID or not. We will have a full discussion and hear all viewpoints.

    • Mr. Braus,
      It was cited in CB2 meeting notes (dated Feb 22, 2013) that "the park currently experiences an operations deficit of $7mm annually which is expected to increase over time". Yet The Improvement District has stated only 60% of the proposed assessment revenue will be actually be dedicated to the operation and maintenance of the Hudson River Park and the remaing 40% towards efforts "outside the park." (improving safety at crossings, providing supplemental maintenance to neighborhood parks and grants to local community organizations).
      If funds are so desparately needed for inside the Park – hence this proposed assessment – why allocate almost half elsewhere?

  2. Andrew Johnson

    Really Peter Braus? Then why did you insist on letting Friends of HRP have most of the air time last night? Many residents came expecting that their views would be heard. You even invited all of us in your comments above and at the CB1 Full Board Meeting. Yet you didn't bother to book a larger room and showed your true colors with your nasty admonishments to people such as "Shutup!" "Get out!" "Sorry, you're not going to speak."

    It was APPALLING and it is a disgrace to this city and the community board process that someone like you is allowed to the chairman of an important CB committee. You should hold yourself to a higher standard and recuse yourself from leading all future discussions of the NID given your clear conflicts of interest.

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