Volume 20, Number 42 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 13 - 19, 2010
L.M.D.C. holding public sessions
BY Aline Reynolds
Now that the announcement has been made, the public will finally be able to weigh in on what Lower Manhattan projects they believe are worthy of federal funding. The only problem is a date has not yet been set for such an opportunity.
At the October 6 L.M.D.C. board meeting, Chairman Avi Schick announced that a public session would be held in the coming weeks to solicit input on the allocation of $200 million.
“At the same time,” Schick said, “the staff will be working to develop budgets and try to turn these recommendations into something more substantial that the board can consider and vote on.”
Board members were divided into three groups – cultural and community; economic development and housing; and infrastructure and open space – to decide on the allocation of the funds. Each of the groups has met at least once in the past month to discuss specific recommendations.
“I do not think it’s sufficient,” chimed in L.M.D.C. board member and Chair of Community Board 1 Julie Menin after listening to the proposals. “There needs to be an [Request for Proposals] for the remaining uses of community money.”
“It shouldn’t be a group of five or six people sitting in a room, deciding how this money should be spent,” she continued. Soliciting input from the various groups that will be applying for the funding, she added, is “how we’re going to get the best proposals.”
Menin specifically mentioned the need for community feedback on expanding affordable housing throughout Lower Manhattan.
“I think what we want to do is encourage groups… to be able to perhaps broaden the catchment area beyond Chinatown to the whole catchment area of Lower Manhattan to come up with creative ideas to build more affordable housing Downtown.”
“With respect to housing, we’ll certainly work with the city… to get as broad a set of recommendations and proposals as possible,” Schick replied.
Neither he nor any other L.M.D.C. official would comment on the R.F.P. process.
Of the $200 million, $19 million has been slated for utilities, assuming the Empire State Development Corporation is able to successfully negotiate with the various companies. L.M.D.C. would not comment on the matter.
The $17 million pool of grant money offered by the L.M.D.C.’s Community and Cultural Enhancement Program is closer to being distributed among nonprofit cultural and community groups.
The R.F.P. for the $17 million was released two weeks ago. The L.M.D.C. then hosted its first public meeting on October 5, where nearly 150 people representing 80 different groups showed up to learn more about how to apply before the November 5 deadline.
Groups are allowed to submit multiple programs, but they’re only entitled to funding for capital and programming expenditures. Those that appeared at the meeting included Manhattan Youth, N.Y.C. Police Museum, Project Rebirth, the Battery Park Conservancy, the National Museum for American Indians and Three Legged Dog.
“Clearly, we’ve identified a need that the Lower Manhattan community has,” said Schick.
Schick said he hopes the L.M.D.C. can “get the money out as soon as possible,” once it establishes a committee to review the submissions of the applicants.
Dance New Amsterdam, a nonprofit dance organization that is a candidate for the funds, is in great need of financial help. The group is facing a $3 million debt and over $500,000 in rent arrears.
“If we get L.M.D.C. funds to help us stabilize our programming, we can use our earned revenue to pay back the debt which then in the long term will make us stable,” said Kate Peila, D.N.A.’s executive director.
The group has recently faced eviction, “but it’ll be reinitiated in court if we don’t find a common ground that the landlord and D.N.A. can agree with,” Peila said.
Manhattan Youth, a nonprofit community center, would like to be able to expand its programming for youth and seniors.
“We’re the largest nonprofit Downtown, and we would use these funds to do great work in a variety of [programs],” Townley said.
Another public meeting is scheduled for Friday, October 15, according to L.M.D.C. spokesperson John Delibero.
“We’re trying to help them with their applications to make the process as transparent as possible,” he said.