Volume 21, Number 34 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 2 - 8, 2009

Under Cover

Safety plan, finally
Developer Milstein Properties has spent the last four months avoiding presenting a safety plan for the residential towers it is building at Sites 23 and 24 in Battery Park City. The rationale was that the Department of Buildings had not approved the safety plan, and Milstein did not want to present an unapproved plan to the community.

But it looks like that’s changing.

George Arzt, spokesperson for Milstein, promised Tuesday that the firm would share its plan with Community Board 1 on Jan. 6 regardless of whether it is approved by then.

“The safety plan is not yet approved, but we think that will come momentarily,” he told UnderCover. “We will present what we intend to do.”

C.B. 1 threatened last month to ask the city to stop work on the project if Milstein didn’t present at least an interim safety plan at the Jan. 6 meeting. The community is particularly concerned about the construction because it is adjacent to the B.P.C. ballfields, and some residents said they have recently seen the cranes swing over the fields.

“It would be an absolute outrage if they didn’t show up,” said Linda Belfer, chairperson of C.B. 1’s B.P.C. Committee. “We’ve urged them every month to come and every month they’ve put us off.”

Kate Lindquist, spokesperson for the D.O.B., said the agency would review Milstein’s safety plan, which has undergone revisions, “in the coming days.”

. Belfer appreciates Milstein’s promise to show up but won’t be happy until it actually happens.

“I’m glad that they are apparently coming,” she said.

Landmark surprise
The city Landmarks Preservation Commission slammed General Growth Properties’ plans for South Street Seaport this fall, even though L.P.C. staff had earlier given the impression that the plans would not require such drastic revisions.

“The city was surprised,” a city official told UnderCover on condition of anonymity. “They expected it to go through and it didn’t.”

As recently as the day before the Nov. 18 hearing, L.P.C. staff assured the city Economic Development Corp., which strongly supports the project, that the commission would have largely positive feedback. That impression was reinforced by Bob Tierney, the commission’s chairperson, who briefly stopped in during the pre-hearing meetings between L.P.C. staff and General Growth. Mayor Bloomberg appoints all the commissioners, but Tierney is the only one who draws a salary.

Before the November hearing, Michael McNaughton, a General Growth V.P., and Gregg Pasquarelli, principal with SHoP Architects, said they thought the only real sticking point with the L.P.C. would be the design of the new boutique hotel and retail buildings on Pier 17. But it turned out that the commissioners had a much bigger problem than expected with the move of the historic Tin Building.

“The staff is the staff and they’re different from the commission,” said Lisi de Bourbon, spokesperson for the L.P.C., explaining the disparity. “I’m sure the staff couched it, that this is what we think they might do but we can make no guarantees.”

The city and G.G.P. are still pushing plans for the site forward, though G.G.P.’s struggle to refinance its $27 billion in debt make the future uncertain. The company’s stock closed at $1.20 Tuesday, and Reuters reported that Pershing Square Capital Management, a major G.G.P. shareholder, was betting on General Growth filing bankruptcy.

Trust in improvement
The Hudson River Park’s long-term financing remains in doubt, two searches for pier developers failed this year and Pier 40 is in danger of eventually sinking in the water, but the Hudson River Park Trust’s P.R. firm just put out a press release celebrating the Trust’s “banner year in 2008.”

To be fair, the release does celebrate real accomplishments like opening the first part of the park’s Tribeca section, finishing the AIDS memorial in the Village and completing 50 percent of the riverside park. Maybe we just have higher expectations for the Trust than they have for themselves. In the holiday spirit, here’s wishing them and the park a happy 2009.




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