Volume 17, Number 52 | May 20 - 26, 2005


Putting Downtown back on track

Last week’s announcements by Gov. George Pataki are steps in the right direction to revive Downtown rebuilding efforts. By putting his right-hand man in Lower Manhattan to oversee everything, the governor, perhaps for the first time, is addressing the problem of competing bureaucracies and jurisdictions. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. was supposed to serve that function, but the governor never gave John Whitehead, L.M.D.C. chairperson, or any of the agency’s presidents ultimate control, so their successes were real but limited.

No one doubts that Cahill speaks for the governor and so long as Pataki prevents his other appointees from making end-arounds when they lose disputes, the new arrangement can work.

This is not just a state show. The city continues to have an important role and we agree with the majority of New Yorkers who, according to a recent poll, want Mayor Mike Bloomberg to be more active in the planning.

Hopefully, Cahill will be able to stop the Downtown drift. At the top of his list is getting Goldman Sachs to build a new headquarters in Battery Park City. This looked like a done deal one year ago, but Pataki was slow to recognize that the proposal to build a West St. tunnel was a major roadblock to the Goldman deal and by the time he did, the investment bank had backed out. The decision has sucked out virtually all optimistic air Downtown and the easiest way to get it back is to convince Goldman to stay and build in Lower Manhattan.

The governor made several other positive announcements Thursday. The L.M.D.C. will spend $220 million on Hudson and East River waterfront park improvements – two projects that will make life better Downtown and as such are smart economic development ideas.

Pataki is right when he says the World Trade Center memorial is a top priority, but that does not mean his plan to spend almost half the L.M.D.C.’s community development money, $300 million, on the memorial and cultural buildings is wise. The WTC Memorial Foundation has just formed and given its board of A-list C.E.O.’s, it should be able to raise the necessary funds. We could be wrong about that, but shouldn’t we see if people like Michael Eisner, David Rockefeller and former Presidents Bush and Clinton are capable of raising $500 million on their own before we say they aren’t and spend community development money instead?

One glaring omission from Pataki’s speech was affordable housing. The L.M.D.C. set aside $50 million for housing nearly two years ago, but because city officials have been slow to come up with a plan, inexcusably, the money continues to sit there.

Taste of Tribeca

This Saturday many of Downtown’s finest restaurants will once again donate their food and enviable cooking skills to P.S. 150 and P.S. 234 for the annual Taste of Tribeca on Greenwich St. We encourage people to attend this wonderful event as we do the many creative fundraisers put on by all of our local schools including P.S. 89 and I.S. 89 in Battery Park City. Eat well, for the cause!

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