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

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Gov. Pataki greets John Cahill, his deputy who is now overseeing and coordinatin Lower Manhattan rebuilding efforts. In between them is Stefan Pryor, whom Pataki promoted to be president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

Pataki unveils spending plan

By Josh Rogers

Gov. George Pataki last week outlined how he wanted to spend the remaining $1.4 billion in federal money to help Lower Manhattan recover from 9/11.

About $700 million will be saved by not building a vehicular tunnel under West St. and it will go to help rebuild the World Trade Center site, Pataki said at a press conference Thursday, following his semi-annual progress report on Lower Manhattan to the Association for Better New York.

He also has a plan for the remaining $735 million or so under the control of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., a federally-funded, state-city agency the governor created at the end of 2001. Pataki said he and the mayor agreed to spend $300 million on the W.T.C. memorial and cultural center, $150 million on improvements to the East River waterfront, $70 million to build the Tribeca section of the Hudson River Park, $36 million for surface transportation projects, $15 million to demolish and rebuild the Borough of Manhattan Community College’s damaged Fiterman Hall, and $190 million for a range of projects including cultural projects away from the W.T.C., parks, a new K-8 school on Beekman St., and retail store improvements.

Some advocates had argued against using any of the L.M.D.C.’s Community Development Block Grant money on a Downtown rail link to the Long Island Rail Road and J.F.K. Airport, and Pataki said the owners of ground zero, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, would put up an additional $1 billion for the $6 billion rail project. The Port had been negotiating with the L.M.D.C. for money to help with the site’s expensive infrastructure costs and the $1 billion for the link roughly matches the proposed L.M.D.C. memorial costs and the West St. tunnel money now slated for the site.

Pataki, who shares control of the P.A. with the New Jersey governor, said he was “very optimistic that New Jersey will be supportive” of an additional $1 billion to go with the Port Authority’s previous commitment of $540 million.

The governor’s speech was intended to show that reports of Downtown’s rebuilding delays have been greatly exaggerated. He said a new design for the Freedom Tower would be released next month to satisfy the security concerns of the N.Y.P.D., and he announced that his top deputy, John Cahill, would oversee Lower Manhattan and “lead and coordinate” all rebuilding efforts of the L.M.D.C., Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Port Authority, Empire State Development Corp., state Dept. of Transportation, and the Battery Park City Authority.

Cahill’s new assignment means the L.M.D.C. will play less of a coordinating role. “The L.M.D.C. was always viewed as an interim agency,” Pataki said.

Cahill has moved his office from Albany to the 20th floor of One Liberty Plaza, across the hall from the L.M.D.C. Pataki also announced Stefan Pryor had been promoted to be the new L.M.D.C. president to replace Kevin Rampe, who had announced his pending resignation from the development corporation a few weeks ago.

The governor’s spending plan is similar in some ways to the priorities of Community Board 1, which also favors money for the waterfront plans, a new school, off-site cultural facilities and the rail link. But this week, C.B. 1 passed a resolution that also called for using private money rather than community development money for the memorial and $50 million for affordable housing.

David Dyssegaard Kallick of the Fiscal Policy Institute, which like C.B. 1 also favors a privately-funded memorial and affordable housing money, said: “It’s disappointing that they have to use [community development money] for the memorial. We always hoped and assumed the money would be raised privately.”

One hundred million dollars of the memorial money will be transferred directly to the WTC Memorial Foundation and $200 million will be a challenge grant for the foundation to match with private donations.

Kallick also said he was troubled because Rampe and other L.M.D.C. officials have been saying that some of the W.T.C. site infrastructure money could go to support the private offices in addition to the memorial and cultural center.

Cahill told Downtown Express that the money once slated for the West St. tunnel would be used for security provisions at the site, and would not go for the offices. The site plan requires an elaborate underground system of loading truck ramps and cooling and heating equipment needed for the memorial, cultural buildings, offices and train station.

One of the least surprising parts of the money plan was for the Hudson River Park, which Pataki said last November would get L.M.D.C. money.

“This is wonderful,” Connie Fishman, president of the Hudson River Park Trust told Downtown Express. “It means we can keep developing the park. The Tribeca segment will be a fantastic amenity for the community.”

The plan includes rebuilding and extending Pier 25 to 1000 feet and Pier 26 to about 800 feet. Fishman said the new piers will have a children’s playground and more plant life in addition to the current uses, which include mini-golf, beach volleyball, a kayak and canoe boathouse, a marine life study area and an historic vessel, the Yankee Ferry.

“A new bigger shiny playground – more people will use that,” said Bob Townley, executive director of Manhattan Youth, which has leased Pier 25 from the Trust and its predecessor for 10 years.

Townley said he is concerned because it will take three years to build the Tribeca segment and his group will lose an outdoor space for day camp and after-school. In addition, Manhattan Youth allows the local elementary schools to have free graduation parties on the pier and private birthday parties for $100 “that includes mini-golf and a bucket of lemonade. These type of events we have done for the last 10 years — they are a thing of the past .”

He said some of the pier’s casual atmosphere will be lost. “Now I can go down on a Saturday morning and garden and sit around – that’ll come back but for three years it won’t.”

Fishman said the new park will still welcome Townley’s youth activities, but the Trust would manage the pier, rather than lease it to Townley. She said free school graduation parties would likely resume.

Fishman had hoped to begin construction on the park a few months ago, but with the delay in the funding decision, she said it made sense to keep the piers open this year and wait for the pile-driving season to begin next spring. The new park section should be finished by the fall of 2008, she said.

The $70 million does not include a proposed bird sanctuary near Canal St., site of Pier 32, and Fishman said she hoped to raise $4 million for the “eco-pier” from private environmental groups.


Josh@DowntownExpress.com

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