Pataki should pony up for Hudson Park
Over the last few years, there has been only one person in a position of significant power who has consistently spoken of the need for the Hudson River Park: Gov. George Pataki. Before 9/11, after 9/11, virtually anytime the governor has gotten within a stones throw of the Hudson River, he has gushed about the prospects for the park a beach on Gansevoort has always been one of his favorite details.
This is why it was quite disappointing that Pataki left out any mention of the park two weeks ago in what was a largely praiseworthy speech on Lower Manhattans progress. Prior to the 2001 attack, Pataki assured reporters that he would find the money to build the entire riverside park, which goes from The Battery up to 59th St. The first large section of the park opened in the Village this summer and it gives walkers, joggers and cyclists a sample of how great the park can be.
Long ago, New York State and City committed $200 million to build the park. Its a large investment but unfortunately it represents only about half of what is needed to build it.
When Pataki comes Downtown, even more often than he talks about the park, he likes to say that he has vowed to make sure that Lower Manhattan is made better than it was on Sept. 10, 2001. The park is a good place to start.
Pataki, in response to 9/11, created the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which has about $1 billion to invest in special projects below Houston St. There are many worthy projects the L.M.D.C. is considering below Houston St., but the $70 million needed to build the Downtown section of the park is one of the worthiest. It is hard to see how this section of the park will be built without the L.M.D.C.
The governor should direct the L.M.D.C. to approve payment of most if not all of the needed park funds quickly. The park would attract more families and businesses to Lower Manhattan, raising real estate values, as well as tax revenues to both the city and state.
Now it is Lower Manhattans turn to get its park. We say this even though we understand the money will be funneled through the Hudson River Park Trust. The Trust, a state-city agency, has frankly performed terribly since the Village section of the park opened this year. It botched the Pier 40 developer search process, jeopardizing the prospects to get really spectacular park space on the parks largest pier. Having failed to move forward with permanent plans for the 16-acre pier, it has dawdled on its legal requirement to convert at least half of the pier to park space. The Trust should commit to a date by which they will expand the field space on the pier to meet the 50 percent requirement. We reiterate our criticisms of the Trusts inadequate public review process with respect to building an ice rink near Pier 40.
The Trust has also floated the idea of building a large marina between Pier 25 and Stuyvesant High School. We think a marina could be an excellent addition to the park, but before we could support that location, we and the residents and students who live and study right near the site must have assurances that a marina would not be disruptive to their lives. If not, then other marina locations, such as the area between Pier 32 at Canal St. and Pier 40 near Houston, should be considered. A riverside park would be incomplete without a marina.
Boats belong in the park and the Trust should see to it that registered historic vessels like the Yankee Ferry at Pier 25 are not driven out by a strict interpretation of park law. Given the Trust does not have the funds to hire ship keepers 24 hours a day, it seems the only feasible way to keep the Yankee in the park is to allow the ships new owners to live there, just as they tacitly allowed Jimmy Gallagher and his shipmates to restore the boat over the last 13 years.
We salute Gallaghers hard work rebuilding this jewel in our backyard. He helped make Pier 25 into a special place with a small-town feel and we wish him well now that he has sold the boat in search of lifes next adventure. We hope to see him back real soon and when he returns to Tribecas waterfront, perhaps even with a new boat restoration project, we hope he pulls in to find a new park with lots of boats and the Yankee, docked with its live-in crew in Tribeca, where it belongs.