Volume 20, Number 33 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Dec. 28, 2007 - Jan. 3, 2008

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C.B. 1 dispute over East River waterfront plan

A resolution criticizing aspects of the $150 million East River Waterfront plan sailed through the Community Board 1 Waterfront Committee in November but hit rocky ground at the full board meeting earlier this month.

The resolution states that C.B. 1 will not approve the plan until several changes are made to Pier 15. The committee wants more continuous open space on the pier’s top level, more interior space on the bottom and a clearer focus on the pier’s purpose of maritime education and use. The resolution also requests additional river access points along the waterfront as a whole.

The resolution easily passed in the committee with one abstention, but was tabled at the full board meeting after C.B. 1 chairperson Julie Menin raised concerns about the wording and tone of the resolution.

“It reads very negative and I’m not comfortable with it,” Menin said. “I don’t want to delay [progress on the waterfront].”

Menin wanted to change the wording so that rather than disapproving the plan, the board would approve the plan contingent on certain changes. The East River Waterfront project represents one of the biggest allocations from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and being too critical of the plan could send the wrong message, said Menin, an L.M.D.C. board member.

C.B. 1 member Michael Connolly agreed with Menin, and suggested that the resolution include a list of specific aspects of the plan that the board likes.

Nadel replied that the board likes several aspects of the plan very much, and she included the committee’s approval of the esplanade in the resolution.

Menin reminded the board that the plan has already gone through ULURP (uniform land use review procedure). “We’re not being asked to approve,” she said, so disapproving would be inappropriate.

The debate came near the end of a three-hour meeting. After a flurry of raised hands and comments, Bill Love, a board member, suggested holding over the discussion until January, giving the committee time to rework the resolution. The board voted to table the resolution, with Nadel and fewer than 10 other board members dissenting.

Nadel had hoped to provide the Economic Development Corporation with the board’s feedback sooner than next month, she said. In the meantime, she has spoken with Madelyn Wils, executive vice president for planning and development at the E.D.C., former chairperson of C.B. 1 and a longtime champion of the East River project.

“They are reworking Pier 15,” Nadel said. “It is overdesigned. They got the message.”

After the meeting, Nadel said she was surprised that Menin wanted to table the resolution. “It came out of the blue,” she said.

Menin will come to the Waterfront Committee meeting at the end of January, where the committee will edit the resolution.

“It’s a very easy fix,” Menin said after the meeting. “It’s not the substance at all.” She wants the resolution to be clearer about the criticism of Pier 15 as opposed to criticism of the plan as a whole. The resolution as written would have been inconsistent with years of previous community board resolutions, she said.

— Julie Shapiro

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