Volume 20 Issue 3 | June 1 -7, 2007
The L.M.D.C.under Spitzer
Last September when it was clear Democrat Eliot Spitzer was going to be our next governor, Republican Gov. George Pataki announced that the Downtown rebuilding agency he created, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., would be closing up shop.
Spitzer voiced no objections to disbanding a corporation he had called an abject failure during the campaign. But a funny thing happened on the way to the closing the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development said theres still a few hundred million dollars worth of federal money floating around the L.M.D.C. and we want someone overseeing the money.
Gov. Spitzer took what may have seemed like a lemon to him and made a little lemonade. In April he announced that his economic development leader, Avi Schick, and David Emil, former Battery Park City Authority president, would run the L.M.D.C. for him.
There are two good reasons the L.M.D.C. is sticking around. One is the aforementioned money. The other is a need for a cultural center at the World Trade Center.
The L.M.D.C. has about $200 million in unallocated money. In addition, the corporation has more money coming to it and owns two properties at the new W.T.C. site the former Deutsche Bank building and the Milstein parking lot on Liberty St. Deutsches insurers will owe the L.M.D.C. money for the demolition cost overruns and institutional memory will be an important asset for what undoubtedly will be a contentious fight.
We are also early enough in the W.T.C. memorial construction process to at least hope that the $45 million the L.M.D.C. set aside for possible cost increases will not be needed.
More 9/11-related money is needed in Lower Manhattan to help small businesses survive during the next few years of rebuilding construction and to stabilize a growing population in need of more schools and other amenities. Having one agency responsible for the money enables the public to hold government accountable.
Of all the power players included in the rebuilding negotiations over the last five years, the L.M.D.C. has also been the only consistent advocate for a cultural center. We are pleased to report in this issue that an arts center is one of Emils top priorities.
We renew our call to replace the museum space cut out of the plan by Pataki with arts space in the office buildings. The proposed Performance Arts Center must finally become a priority. Now that the Signature Theater has been bounced out of that building, the plan to build Signature in Fiterman Hall nearby must be fast-tracked.
Julie Menin, Community Board 1 chairperson and another consistent advocate for the arts, also deserves a seat on the L.M.D.C. board because the community must have a seat at the table. L.M.D.C. board member Madelyn Wils, who was C.B. 1 chairperson when she was appointed in 2001, has been one of the corporations most active and effective board members and there is no reason she should have to make way for Menin. There are vacancies on the board.
Patakis idea that Lower Manhattan residents were entitled to only one voice was absurd and should be rejected by Spitzer. We encourage the governor to appoint Menin and give strong consideration to retaining Wils.