Volume 20 Issue 4 | June 15 - 21, 2007

Wils lands job managing city’s development plans

Downtown Express photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

Madelyn Wils outside her new Lower Manhattan office

By Josh Rogers

Madelyn Wils had some advice for Community Board 1 members two months ago: if they want to get more involved with rebuilding plans, they should work more with the city. This week she took her own advice.

Wils, a Lower Manhattan Development Corporation board member and the former C.B. 1 chairperson, started Monday as the new executive vice president of development and planning for the city’s Economic Development Corp.

“There are a lot of interesting projects in the pipeline and my goal is to move them forward as much as possible,” Wils, a Tribeca resident, said in a telephone interview. “I’ve always been interested in planning and development and moving projects forward and getting results.”

She will be overseeing projects all over the city but one of the major items on her agenda will be the development of Lower Manhattan’s East River waterfront, a project that she has worked on for almost a decade as C.B. 1 chairperson and L.M.D.C. board member. The city is now renovating the area with a $150 million grant from the development corporation.

The agency’s 16-member board is split between appointees of the governor and mayor. Wils, who was appointed to the L.M.D.C. board by Gov. George Pataki on the recommendation of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, said it is likely Gov. Eliot Spitzer will ask her to leave since her allegiance is now to the city. So far Spitzer has only made one appointment to the board, chairperson Avi Schick, who is also president of the Empire State Development Corp. There are currently no vacancies on the board, which still has two former senior aides to Pataki, Kevin Rampe, the former L.M.D.C. chairperson and president, and Robert Balachandran.

Wils, 51, was president of the Tribeca Film Institute, the non-profit component of the Robert De Niro film empire, until she left in 2006.

As C.B. 1 chairperson, Wils helped negotiate deals to make the Battery Park City ballfields permanent, and to build a school annex for P.S. 234 and a K-8 school on Beekman St. In 2005, Virginia Fields, then the Manhattan borough president, abruptly ended Wils’ reign by not reappointing her over the objections of many Board 1 members.

Julie Menin was elected to replace Wils two months later, and tensions surfaced between the two soon after.

Wils had set up a non-profit, Friends of Community Board 1, which had about $500,000 available when she left the community board. Menin and others remaining on the board asked for a say in the money raised in the community board’s name, prompting Wils to change the name of the group to Friends of Lower Manhattan.

The two eventually agreed to include C.B. 1 members on a panel to award $125,000 in Friends’ grants.

When asked if she expected any problems dealing with Menin, Wils said: “I will be available to all community leaders in all five boroughs…. From my point of view, I am going forward. I have no issues right now. I personally have never had any issue [with C.B. 1].”

Menin did not immediately return a call for comment.

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