Volume 22, Number 01 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 15 - 21, 2009


F.D.I.C. decision to leave Lower Manhattan makes no sense

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s decision to pay any price to abandon Lower Manhattan is wrong on so many levels it is hard to know where to start. The agency’s stated reason for looking for a Midtown spot — shortening the commute for some of its suburban workers — made us think that Vice President Joe Biden is the ideal person to step in and reverse this absurd idea.

Biden used to commute almost daily to Washington from Delaware to spend more time with his sons, so he understands what a long commute really is. The president has also asked him to keep a close watch to prevent wasteful spending, and the F.D.I.C.’s desired move to Midtown is a good place to start.

The president appoints the members of the corporation’s board, and even though its funds come from banks, the money is to give individuals assurances that their bank accounts are secure. The last thing cash-strapped banks need now is to be funneling money for unneeded expenses.

As we report this week, the F.D.I.C. excluded Lower Manhattan in its search for 100,000 square feet of office space. Midtown rents are about $25 a square foot more than Downtown, so the F.D.I.C. is prepared to pay about $2.5 million more each year to be near Grand Central Station or Penn Station – note to F.D.I.C.: it’s physically impossible to be near both. By not even considering staying near strategic locations like the Federal Reserve and New York Stock Exchange, the F.D.I.C. said it was prepared to pay any price to leave.

As we have said before, the federal government needs to spend many more dollars on mass transportation for economic and environmental reasons, and its historical neglect for new Lower Manhattan transportation rail lines has led to the steady decline. For the feds to now rush out the door because of a problem it helped create is the height of arrogance.

We have a few questions:

Isn’t the F.D.I.C.’s mission to stabilize the financial system and didn’t the federal government invest $20 billion to help the Financial District recover after the attack on the United States on 9/11?

Doesn’t the F.D.I.C.’s disparaging of Lower Manhattan undermine federal, state and city efforts to revitalize Lower Manhattan and attract and retain private firms?

Doesn’t Downtown have great transportation connections — PATH, ferries and subways — to New Jersey, Brooklyn, Staten Island and even Midtown?

Aren’t there plenty of out-of-work, highly-skilled financial sector executives who would be happy to replace any F.D.I.C. employee whining about spending an extra 20 minutes on a commute from Westchester or Long Island?

The answer to each is yes of course. That’s why U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Sen. Daniel Squadron and the Downtown Alliance are all fighting this move. No lease is signed yet so there is still time.

Mr. Vice President, admittedly we were dismayed to hear your recent remarks about the swine-like flu, which sounded like an attempt to scare straphangers away from the subway. New Yorkers don’t scare that easy and we presume you weren’t trying to shut down the city. We’ve thought of a way you can make it up to us. Get the F.D.I.C. to stay Downtown, sir, and we’ll call it even.









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