Volume 19 • Issue 10 | July 21- - 27, 2006

Art Commission snubs C.B.1 over West St.

By Janet Kwon

Community Board 1 says the city Art Commission is stonewalling them on why the art group rejected plans for parkland along the West Side Highway.

After months of silence from the commission, the board’s Battery Park City Committee has already sent two letters to the commission with no response. C.B. 1 wants to establish communication with the mum commission to discuss designs for sections of parkway along the southern stretch of Route 9A.

“We usually don’t respond to community board letters…we pass them onto the commissioner …and include in a project file,” said an Art Commission official who declined to give her name.

The state Department of Transportation worked in conjunction with the B.P.C. committee to create these designs, which proposed activity stations, rock and sculpture gardens and trees between First, Second and Third Pls.

In March of this year, however, the commission rejected these designs. In a private letter they sent to state D.O.T., the commission stated that these plans go against the broader surrounding décor of the area. Instead, the commission suggested that the D.O.T. work with various artists in planning for the park spaces.

“We don’t know what the Art Commission found objectionable with our previous plan. We don’t know what they’re thinking,” B.P.C. Committee chairperson Linda Belfer said at a July 11 meeting, where members voiced their frustration of the empty park spaces. Since the committee’s letters were met with silence, members brainstormed ideas to create conversation with the group of 11 mayoral appointees.

Committee member Barry Skolnick suggested contacting the mayor’s Community Assistance Unit with the issue, in hopes of getting through to the commission. The C.A.U.’s responsibility is to address community concerns. Skolnick stressed that this matter is exactly the kind of issue that the C.A.U. should tackle.

Others suggested contacting Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer to see if he could urge the Art Commission into cooperating — or just urging them to open the lines of communication with the B.P.C. Committee. Without communication with the commission, plans are at a standstill.

“If you leave it too long, nothing is going to happen with First, Second and Third Place,” said Belfer.

“When you walk down that stretch, it’s an empty and desolate space,” said Jeff Galloway, a committee member and a Battery Park City resident.

Fellow committee member Anthony Notaro chimed in, “It’s a very large and uninviting place. It’s a shame that nothing is done with it.”

“The money and the opportunity are still there — but the window of opportunity has passed… our schedule doesn’t allow to hire an artist and whatnot,” said Chris Cotter, an urban design director of the state D.O.T. who is working on the broader Route 9A renovation.

Silvia Alvarez, the Art Commission’s spokesperson, wrote in an email to Downtown Express that the commission’s meetings are open to the public where people are “welcome to attend and give testimony.” She implied the commission had no plans to respond directly to C.B. 1. She said that the agency’s agenda is posted on their Web site five to seven days in advance, which gives the public a chance to prepare comments to bring to their meetings.


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