Volume 20, Number 40 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | DEC. 29, 2010 - JAN. 5, 2011
Looking back, looking forward
Before we even realized it, the end of another year has snuck up on us.
And so it’s time to reflect on some of the major, ongoing stories that occupied us in 2010 and that will assuredly top our story list once again in 2011.
At Community Board 1’s full board meeting on May 25, chair Julie Menin moderated a mob scene that foreshadowed a summer full of protests illustrating the best and worst of the democratic process. What began as an “as-of-right” local zoning issue concerning a needed community center here in Lower Manhattan spiraled into one of the nation’s most dominant and divisive issues of 2010.
A single floor in a proposed 15-story building became branded as the “Ground Zero Mosque” and Lower Manhattan was dragged into the fray of Islamic prejudice and a disturbing sense of nationalism.
Our mayor shined, however, when, at a press conference with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop and flanked by religious leaders of all faiths, he reminded all of New York and beyond of the tolerance and open-mindedness that we have forever embraced, cherished and been known for, the world over.
In the New Year, we extend a welcome hand to the proposed Park 51 Islamic Community Center and believe it will be a needed benefit to our community.
“Hole in the ground” being filled in
After three governors and two mayors, the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site began to show marked progress in 2010. Today, Tower One is beyond the halfway mark. Last week a “survivor tree” was planted at the site of the future National 9/11 Memorial, joining over 100 other trees that have also been planted and that signal the return of the first sign of life to the site. The progress would not have been possible had Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey not reached an amicable agreement and began working together toward the common goal of returning Lower Manhattan to its prominent position in the world of business and enterprise. May this progress continue into 2011, culminating in the cathartic opening of the Memorial on 9/11/11.
Sun setting for Downtown agencies
This year we called for two major Lower Manhattan agencies, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Battery Park City Authority, to begin seriously considering shutting their doors. Both agencies have done commendable jobs in accomplishing their goals and both are only a few steps away from being able to hang the “mission accomplished” banner.
However closing these agencies should be carefully planned and the community should be involved in every step of the process. We look forward to being able to celebrate their accomplishments in an even greater fashion in 2011 when their jobs are officially over.
Barring another blizzard, the former Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty Street, the future site of Tower 5, should be completely demolished by February. Once demolished the eyesore that has been a constant reminder of the 9/11 attacks will be gone. Not gone however will be the fact that two lives were lost in an accident that was totally avoidable. State Senator Daniel Squadron introduced legislation in Albany to make sure such an accident never happens again and we applaud him for that. In the New Year we look forward to putting the saga, and the tragedy, of 130 Liberty behind us for good.
As part of New York University’s ambitious growth agenda, the university seeks to add 6 million square feet, including up to 2 million on its two South Village superblocks.
N.Y.U. simply must scale down its superblocks plans. Yes, perhaps on some architect’s table somewhere it might somehow have appeared that a fourth tower could be jammed into the landmarked Silver Towers complex. But Architect I.M. Pei, Silver Towers’ designer, and his partner, Henry Cobb, recently made it emphatically clear that it was the wrong spot for a new tower. Yes, N.Y.U. can build “as of right” on its Morton Williams supermarket site. But any development there must be reasonably sized and contextually designed
This past year was devastating for Lower West Side healthcare with St. Vincent’s Hospital’s closing. The health-needs assessment now underway is, in our view, required to make the best case for whatever level replacement health facility we can hope to get, from a full-service hospital on down. Lawsuits aren’t working. And the recent New York Post report that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is mulling buying the St. Vincent’s site and restoring a hospital is, so far, unsubstantiated. Political wannabes have been exploiting this emotional issue; what we need instead is cooperation and a realistic appraisal as to what’s truly achievable.