Volume 17, Number 47 | April 15 — 21, 2005

L.M.D.C. plan for Greenwich St. includes new park area, commuter bus garage and street extensions to be financed with residential buildings on new development sites.

L.M.D.C. releases money report

By Josh Rogers

The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. released guidelines Wednesday for spending its remaining $750 million or so to help Downtown — disappointing at least a few agency critics who were hopeful the corporation was becoming more open to considering projects such as job training and 9/11-related heath ailments and emotional problems.

City Councilmember Alan Gerson said it was “disgusting” that the L.M.D.C. was not considering “operational funding” for projects when there was still people in need of mental health care because of the attacks. He was pleased to hear that a public forum was scheduled for April 27 but he said in addition, L.M.D.C. officials should meet and negotiate with local elected officials about the best way to spend the rest of the federal money approved to help Downtown rebuild.

In separate telephone interviews, Gerson and David Dyssegaard Kallick of the Fiscal Policy Institute said L.M.D.C. money should also be used for job training.

Joanna Rose, the development corporation’s spokesperson, said the public has a chance to change the priorities. “It’s a draft document,” she said. “We are looking for community comments.”

It is still not known how much of the remaining money will be used for the W.T.C. site although officials have previously said it is likely to be several hundred million dollars. L.M.D.C. board member Roland Betts and Kevin Rampe, agency president, have left open the possibility that some of the money, which is in the federal Community Development Block Grant program, could be used for infrastructure to support the private offices at the W.T.C. The report continues to leave open that possibility, although Dep. Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, who has influence over half the state-city’s agency board, and some advocates have criticized using any of the money for office space.

The report says the L.M.D.C. board’s priorities for the money are the World Trade Center memorial and cultural center, W.T.C. site infrastructure, a rail link to the Long Island Rail Road and J.F.K. Airport, Lower Manhattan revitalization projects and “planned high-impact, large-scale off-site initiatives.”

One of those initiatives, Greenwich Street South, was well received at a Community Board 1 meeting Tuesday night. The plan, which would require up to $125 million in L.M.D.C. money to cover some of the costs, would deck over the entrance to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and would add park space, a commuter bus garage and create a safe East-West walkway in an area dominated and obstructed by the tunnel, a parking garage and Route 9A (West St.).

“You basically have to run for your life when you get near the tunnel area,” said Bill Love, a board member who lives in the south part of Battery Park City and walks through the area to work every day. Under the plan, a curving pedestrian bridge would be built over West St. near Third Pl. leading to a curving pathway through a park to the Rector St. 1,9 and N,R subway stations.

Walking toward Battery Pak City the sloped “park would take you up to a pedestrian bridge,” said architect Claire Weisz who worked on the plan with H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture. The bridge would replace the temporary bridge at Rector St. and officials said they thought it would still be close enough to B.P.C.’s largest housing complex, Gateway Plaza, to still be convenient for those residents.

The 90-foot garage would have an automatic stacking device for buses, and drivers would be able to retrieve vehicles in about three minutes. On weekends, the garage could serve tourist buses visiting the W.T.C. memorial. An additional acre of open space that could be used for tennis courts would be over the garage, said Weisz. The plan includes extending Morris St. and Edgar St. to Battery Park City.

Five development sites near Greenwich, West, Edgar and Morris Sts. would be used for about 2.6 million square feet of residential development and would provide hundreds of millions of dollars to help finance the project. The $125 million L.M.D.C. component would help pay for the garage.

Councilmember Gerson, in a report he sent to the L.M.D.C. last fall, recommended using some of the money for a bus-parking garage. Most of the eight-acre area is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Madelyn Wils, former chairperson of C.B. 1 and a development corporation board member, told her former colleagues the Greenwich St. plan was a worthwhile project.

New view of the walk toward Battery Park City near Morris St.

She said there have been preliminary discussions with the M.T.A. about buying the garage it owns. “The M.T.A. won’t want to be a property owner, they will want to sell this property,” Wils said.

Part of the garage will have to be demolished but officials hope to retain 1200 – 2000 car spots in the new plan. Wils said only about 600 spaces are used regularly now.

Catherine Hughes was particularly pleased to hear the buses would no longer be seen or smelled if the plan were done.

“If you stand there for 60 seconds on a summer day you feel completely covered in grit,” she said. When she wants to go to B..P.C., She often walks out of her way for safety reasons.

She said her top priorities for spending the L.M.D.C. money are Greenwich St. South, improving the East River bikeway/walkway, Park Row improvements in Chinatown and money to help the Borough of Manhattan Community College clean Fiterman Hall, which was badly damaged and contaminated by the collapse of the W.T.C. buildings.

Other projects under consideration include $70 million to build the Tribeca section of the Hudson River Park, a cultural center in Chinatown, a community center, and money to help smaller arts and community groups.

Stefan Pryor, L.M.D.C. senior vice president, said agency studies of improving the Fulton St. area have had to be revised and are not ready to be released. He said 9/11-related transportation money could legally be shifted to street projects such as Greenwich St. and Park Row, but that was not very likely since most of the money has been allocated, and that even if the $900 million being saved for a possible West St. tunnel is not used, the rail link would probably be a higher priority.

Fiscal Policy’s Kallick said some of the off-site plans have merit but he is concerned too much of the money will go to “nice environments for upper middle class people.” He wants more to go to preserve and build affordable housing Downtown, a frequently voiced concern.

He said he was dismayed the rail link is listed as a L.M.D.C. priority when that has not scored well in public polls and forums. Link proponents say the $6 billion project will spur office development and create all kinds of jobs – a priority of Kallick and other advocates.

Many details of the public forum at the Customs House at One Bowling Green have not been released yet, but Kallick hopes the L.M.D.C. board will attend and the public will have a chance to learn the costs of the competing projects and be able to vote on spending priorities.

In a press release issued in conjunction with the report, L.M.D.C. officials cited the large number of public hearings the agency has had since its formation at the end of 2001.

“There has been lots of public meetings on the design and very few opportunities for public input about the remaining funds,” said Kallick,

The agency held a series of residential workshops about priorities in the summer of 2003.

“From our inception we have continuously turned to the public for their input and the release of this draft plan demonstrates our ongoing commitment to ensuring that everyone affected by the attacks of Sept. 11th has a chance to have his or her voice heard,” John Whitehead, L.M.D.C. chairperson said in a statement.

The L.M.D.C. plans to have the report available at www.renewnyc.com by April 14 and will be taking written comments through May 1.

Josh@DowntownExpress.com

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