Volume 22, Number 14 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Aug. 14 - 20, 2009

Ripped from our headlines:

Aug. 20, 1990

By Jere Hester

This week in 1990, Manhattan’s West Side was getting ready to house the “largest and greatest waterfront park in the world” by the year 2000. Of course, reporter Jere Hester was referring to Hudson River Park. The construction was burdened by delay and conflict as the former West Side Waterfront Panel, a community organization formed by Gov. Mario Cuomo, struggled to fully develop plans and raise funds for a 4 and a half-mile park that would stretch all the way to 59th St. The group was criticized by other community activists and advocates for relying too heavily on funds from developers, and not seeking out more public funding for the $500 million dollar project,

Panel chairperson Michael Del Giudice emphasized the group’s progress and refused to entertain the idea of asking the government or mayor for more money, considering they had already gotten a commitment of $200 million from the city and state during a fiscal crises. Kathryn Freed, who later became a councilmember, was described as a “Tribeca community activist,” worried the community would get “screwed” and demanded something in writing.

The plan called for a 200-acre park with an esplanade, tennis courts, basketball hoops, playing fields, and major restoration of the rapidly deteriorating piers. Cuomo had appointed the panel to explore the possibility of extending the walkway 154 miles up the Hudson to the Mohawk River. At the time, the economy was deflating, and many hoped that the plan would boost the economy…but as Hester wrote almost 20 years ago, the panel’s plan was “iffy at best.” They considered everything from raising the real estate tax assessments of waterfront properties (an idea that recently surfaced again) to scaling back on the $185 million dollar pier rehabilitation plan.

On September 1999, Hudson River Park’s first permanent section opened in Greenwich Village. Part of the park’s permanent Tribeca section opened last summer, and the rest is scheduled to open at the end of next year.

Prepared by Helaina N. Hovitz



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