Volume 19 Issue 5 | May 4 -10, 2007


Losing faith in Hudson Park’s Trust

On a nice day, tens of thousands of people go to the Lower Manhattan bank of the Hudson River to sit, run, cycle, play sports or maybe just to get a sense that there is a place in Manhattan with an open space feel that stretches for miles — a place only a short walk from the skyscrapers and congestion. Most of these people find a way to enjoy the park without ever uttering the words “upland area,” “passive recreation,” or “R.F.P.” — words common to the government officials working on the Hudson River Park.

Official jargon is not the reason we got in the funding mess we are in, but a little more plain talk along with a better understanding of the park’s value could have helped prevent the problem. The reason there is no money to build any of the actual park elements of the Tribeca section is that construction costs continue to skyrocket. Had the Hudson River Park Trust let the public know this sooner, help could have been included in the state budget passed a few weeks ago.

Connie Fishman, the Trust’s president, suggested at a Community Board 1 meeting that having a new governor without a long history of park support was part of the problem, but Fishman ignored her most powerful ally. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been one of the strongest advocates for the park’s Downtown section and is one of the three key players in Albany. Fishman did not even contact him about the shortfall during this year’s budget negotiations.

Every dollar lost in Albany is doubled, since the city has always matched the state’s commitment to the park. With construction costs rising one to two percent a month — 12 to 24 percent a year — these blunders are expensive.

Instead of obfuscating, Fishman should be clear with the public. She told us last week there was no money to build park features on Piers 25 and 26, which were razed by the Trust last year because they were to be rebuilt bigger, stronger and better. Our heart sinks when we recall the beloved old piers dismantled for a new park that we fear will be antiseptic modern and that is already running into financial problems. This week, she revealed to C.B. 1 that there is also no money for the trees, flowers and benches for the narrow “upland area” north of Laight St., contradicting what she implied a week before.

The Trust has the money to rebuild the Tribeca piers without anything on them. Tuesday was the first day of the short construction season and the Trust’s contractors were not driving piles or observed doing any work in the water. Last year valuable months were lost because of bureaucratic delays by the city, state and federal government.

The Trust will need a minimum of $120 million — probably a lot more — to complete all sections of the park. It is currently considering an ill-advised mega plan on Pier 40 to accommodate a multi-theater shopping and entertainment complex without ever doing a basic budget analysis of how much revenue it needs on the pier and the rest of the park. On Pier 26, the planned restaurant is so large that the boathouse — assuming it is ever rebuilt — will be too small to fit many of the kayaks that used to use it.

The Trust must change its practices. Too much has already been lost. Money is the least of it.

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