downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 | Issue 33 | December 15 - 21, 2006

Editorial

Governor Pataki and the Hudson River Park

The lower part of Manhattan, like most of New York City, is heavily Democratic. Despite the last 12 years that have seen two Republican mayors, this is not a particularly fertile ground for Republicans to pick up votes.

Yet a Republican governor, George Pataki, during those dozen years, has immeasurably improved this area’s quality of life by shepherding through the Hudson River Park.

Three years after being elected, Pataki oversaw the passage of the Leichter-Gottfried Hudson River Park Act, allowing the waterfront park project — stalled for decades — to finally begin.

Eight years later, the 5-mile-long park is one-third complete. The work is being managed by the state-city authority created by the act, the Hudson River Park Trust.

Pataki has held up his end of the park’s funding, committing $150 million, with the city matching this amount. He pushed Mayor Bloomberg to agree to use $70 million of Lower Manhattan Development Corporation money for the park’s Tribeca segment, where construction began this year.

When the riverside park is finally complete the whole project may wind up costing $1 billion. Yet, for now, the park is on healthy footing and still progressing.

Yes, there have been missteps and misdeeds, and we didn’t hold back on our criticism of them. There was the failed Pier 40 redevelopment process — though maybe in retrospect it was for the best, leading to the highly popular sports fields on the pier and preservation of long-term parking for the community.

The recent attempt to bypass a bidding process to operate an estuarium in the park’s Tribeca section smacked of cronyism. The Trust’s heavy-handed eviction of the historic Yankee Ferry from the park raised questions as to whether it understood the importance vessels have to a waterfront park and if it had any sense of history. This after all is a ship that shuttled thousands of new immigrants from Ellis Island to Lower Manhattan.

That said, it’s hard to fault much about this park or the governor’s guiding role in its creation. The Greenwich Village segment, opened in summer 2003, is a huge success. And the bike greenway running the park’s length is among the nation’s busiest.

The expansion and growth of the many wonderful homegrown activities on Tribeca’s Piers 25 and 26 would not have happened without the Trust’s allowance and in some cases encouragement.

The governor has rightly hailed the Hudson River Park as the Central Park of the 21st century.

Many have contributed to setting this park on the right path, but it’s largely due to the governor’s steadfast vision that it has happened. Pataki might not have picked up too many votes here, which makes his accomplishment even more laudable. He is nearing his final days in office and we will have more to say about the governor’s Lower Manhattan legacy. The Hudson River Park has been one of his greatest achievements and we thank the governor for reclaiming a once-derelict waterfront that will be enjoyed for generations.

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