Volume 18 • Issue 36 | January 20 - 26, 2006

Goldman finalizes deal for library, rec center

By Ronda Kaysen

Rendering of the Goldman Sachs headquarters under construction on West St. between Vesey and Murray Sts.
Goldman Sachs reached an agreement with Community Board 1 to give the neighborhood $4.5 million for a library and community center, bringing months of protracted negotiations to a close.

The agreement finalized a May 2004 deal to provide $3.5 million for a new Battery Park City public library branch and $1 million for a Tribeca community center. The amenities are part of a new Goldman headquarters development in Battery Park City.

“This is very important for the children of the community in all of the Lower Manhattan area,” C.B. 1 chairperson Julie Menin said in a telephone interview.

Goldman agreed to contribute $1 million toward a new community center, which will be part of a development on Warren and Chambers Sts. The 28,000-sq.-ft. center, run by Manhattan Youth, a non-profit after-school and summer program for children, is in the midst of a $2 million capital campaign and will open in 2007.

“We feel a special obligation that Goldman Sachs and Community Board 1 put in our hands the tools to open Lower Manhattan’s first community center,” said Manhattan Youth executive director Bob Townley in an e-mail to Downtown Express. Townley is also a member of C.B. 1.

The 10,000-square-foot library will be the first for the 9,000-resident neighborhood. It will be housed in Site 16/17, another new Battery Park City building, and is relying on Goldman dollars to fund it.

The deal with Goldman has been fraught with complications. In April, Goldman withdrew its plans to build its new headquarters at West and Murray Sts., citing World Trade Center security concerns. Last summer, the city and state reached a deal with the investment bank to bring the 43-story tower back to the neighborhood, promising Goldman additional bonds and financial incentives. The bank will receive nearly $1.75 billion in financial incentives from the city and state to build the $2.4 billion tower. No additional amenities were offered to the community in the new agreement, but the amenities from the original agreement remained intact.

Negotiations between the community and Goldman to formalize the agreement have been painstaking. The two groups spent months debating language in a Memorandum of Understanding. Board members balked when Goldman insisted C.B. 1 agree to a confidentiality clause. Eventually the two sides refined the language so it would not conflict with the board’s sunshine and open meeting laws. However, some board members still worried about the clause, which Menin insisted “had no teeth.”

“What if Goldman doesn’t feel that way?  Do you think that Goldman litigators will have ‘no teeth’ if you as a board member freely discuss their deal?” wrote board member Tom Goodkind in an e-mail to fellow board members and Downtown Express. “What if they interpret this confidentiality clause differently than us?”

One non-voting public member, Liz Pappas, resigned in protest.

Goldman ultimately abandoned its efforts to reach an M.O.U. on Tuesday evening. Instead, the investment bank sent Menin a letter of agreement and the board responded with a resolution outlining the details. The letter included no mention of a confidentiality clause.

Andrea Raphael, a Goldman spokesperson, confirmed that the investment bank sent Menin a letter. “We are committed to the amenities,” she said. “We’rre committed to working with the community and the community board and we’re pleased with this.”

Much of the agreement with the community takes into consideration the residential neighborhood surrounding the new headquarters. Goldman agreed to put into place a black car management plan. It will also keep the community abreast about construction plans. An elementary and middle school, P.S. and I.S. 89 on Warren and West Sts., is adjacent to the development. Goldman will also work to assure that the pedestrian bikeway and walkway remains open during the construction period, which began in late November. The building is expected to open in 2009.

Although the building and its atrium will be closed off to the public, the Pei Cobb Freed & Partners-designed tower will house 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space, and the firm agreed to consider residential and building occupant needs when leasing the space.

Goldman also agreed to discuss allowing the community to use its conference center, although the investment bank has repeatedly expressed its desire to close the building off entirely from the public because of security concerns.

Ronda@DowntownExpress.com


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