Volume 23, Number 13 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | August 4 - 10, 2010
Con Ed might have to share L.M.D.C. dollars
BY Aline Reynolds
After last week’s Lower Manhattan Development Corporation board meeting, Community Board 1 Chair Julie Menin was ecstatic. Menin, who also serves on the L.M.D.C. board, has been fighting to have additional funds released for needs in the Lower Manhattan community.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Menin. “We have a $200 million banner victory for Lower Manhattan today. It’s one of the greatest days for Downtown.”
Specifically the L.M.D.C. board voted to amend the partial action plan governing $200 million in funds that were to go exclusively to utility companies such as Con Edison.
Pending approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the funds will now be available for other uses including: affordable housing, education, infrastructure, open space, quality of life, transportation and economic development and cultural facilities. A portion of the money, however, may still end up in the utility companies’ hands.
A 30-day public comment period, which began this week, allows for stakeholders to issue statements in response to the L.M.D.C.’s decision. The plan will then go to H.U.D. for review and approval. Menin is urging all community members and groups to submit letters of support during the comment period.
“This is all designed to keep moving things we have in front of us, forward,” said L.M.D.C. Board member Bob Lieber, former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development. “We’re moving full speed ahead with this, we just have to finalize the language.”
As for the utility companies, John Bonomo, director of media relations at Verizon, said, “We’ll take it one step at a time,” in response to the possible re-allocation.
Verizon has received approximately $185 million to date in compensation from the L.M.D.C. and believes they are still entitled to another $45 million.
“We think that since Congress earmarked funds to reimburse utilities for out-of-pocket expenses, money should be used for that purpose first,” said Bonomo. “Any money that remains once the utilities have been reimbursed could appropriately be used for other purposes.”
Verizon will be issuing such a statement to L.M.D.C. during the public comment period.
Con Edison, who has publicly challenged the idea that the money could go to other uses, believes at least $186 million is owed to them for work done post 9/11.
“I think our position has been made pretty well clear - that our customers should be reimbursed first for the costs that were incurred following the 9/11 terrorist attacks,” said Michael Clendenin, director of media relations for Con Edison.
Clendenin added that the company will be reaching out to the L.M.D.C. about the outstanding claims for costs incurred related to construction in the area after 9/11.
“We’re fighting for our customers, because we believe that’s what the money was intended for,” Clendenin said.
Con Edison is “cautiously hopeful” they will be paid the entire sum. If the utility company is not given the $186 million, Clendenin said, “The only other way to recover the money then would be through [an increase] in rates.”
Menin, though pleased with the board’s decision, knows the issue is not fully resolved.
“This is not to say Con Edison won’t put a fight,” said Menin. “My view is all of the $200 million should be going to revitalize the downtown community.”
She only wishes the board vote would have happened sooner.
“This should have happened a couple of years ago. Why should any business downtown have gone out of business in the interim? That’s not what was intended. Now, we have to make sure downtown groups know about this so that they can apply for the money,” she said.