Construction center to keep top staffers as talks to save it continue

Joe Simenic, the L.M.C.C.C.'s executive director, will remain in place at least through the first week of January as talks to keep the center open continue. Downtown Express photo by Sam Spokony.

Joe Simenic, the L.M.C.C.C.’s executive director, will remain in place at least through the first week of January as talks to keep the center open continue. Downtown Express photo by Sam Spokony.

BY SAM SPOKONY | Following a Dec. 24 meeting at which elected officials pushed for the continued operation of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, it was agreed that the command center’s top two officials will remain in place through the New Year, according to a spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver ― even as discussions over the center’s possible termination continue.

Joseph Simenic, the construction center’s executive director, and Robin Forst, the deputy executive director, will remain active, the Silver spokesperson said. The command center will also hold its regularly scheduled project coordination meeting on Jan. 7, as Downtown Express previously reported. It’s not clear how much longer Simenic and Forst would remain without a new agreement.

The command center currently employs three staff members, so it would seem that the third one ― Mark Paquiz, director of construction coordination and environmental compliance ― will be forced to vacate his post within the next several days. The center also currently employs six consultants, and two sources said it hasn’t yet been decided whether ― or in what capacity ― they will continue through the New Year.

Its current annual budget is $1.8 million.

Hours after the Dec. 24 meeting that brought Silver and the other electeds together with Pat Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Silver released a statement praising the Port, although the open-ended nature of his statement showed that the command center’s overall future is still unclear.

“I am heartened by a commitment from the Port Authority to keep key L.M.C.C.C. personnel in place as discussions concerning the future of the L.M.C.C.C. continue,” said Silver. “I will keep working to ensure that the core mission of the L.M.C.C.C. — providing crucial information about construction projects to Lower Manhattan residents and giving them a forum to express quality-of-life-concerns – is continued.”

A Port spokesperson declined to comment on the meeting. The authority has still not given any statements in support of continuing the command center’s operations. Instead, the Port has previously said it is focused on finalizing a“transition plan”that would phase L.M.C.C.C. out of existence.

Community Board 1 Chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes, who was also present at this week’s meeting, said in a Dec. 26 phone interview that the meeting’s outcome was“a step in the right direction,” although she added that“a lot of questions still need to be answered.”

Earlier this year, C.B. 1 passed a resolution stating that the termination of the command center ― which oversees all public and private construction projects below Canal St. that are worth more than $25 million ― would be“devastating” for local residents, business owners and developers.

The construction center was originally planned to be terminated on Dec. 31, once its executive orders from the governor and mayor expire. There’s still no word yet on whether there’s any chance of a renewal of those orders, which were first renewed in 2011 following the command center’s formation in 2004.

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