Volume 20, Number 35 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 12 - 18, 2010

C.B. 1 chair sets 2011 goals

BY Helaina N. Hovitz

For the upcoming year, Community Board 1 chair Julie Menin has plans for everything from new schools to commemoration ceremonies. She serves on six government and civic boards, including the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation and the board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and Menin is planning to advocate for more community needs in 2011.

At the last L.M.D.C. board meeting, Menin pushed for a Request for Proposal to make sure that remaining funds are spent on meaningful projects for the community. Menin would like to see $30 to 40 million allocated to affordable housing, to which a pot of $12 million has already been designated.

Approximately $100 million has already been allocated to the Performing Arts Center at Ground Zero, and Menin is currently working to create a separate 501c3 for the center so that additional fundraising can begin. Menin feels that the center is imperative in assuring that the five million tourists projected to visit the memorial later this year will spend time in the community. She believes the center will serve as an anchor for visitors coming into Lower Manhattan to stay, dine, shop and see the sights. It is important to move the project forward as quickly as possible, she said, as its construction will instantly create thousands of much-needed jobs.

“When our city faces a 9.2 percent unemployment rate, our priority should be to try to create jobs,” said Menin. “A large infrastructure project like the Performing Arts Center will do that.”

Menin spearheaded the development of P.S. 276, the new K-8 school in Battery Park City. Now that the school is up and running, she’s back to working with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office to create another one. Some believe Menin puts too much emphasis on new schools, but she is not easily swayed.
“We’ve had people who’ve disagreed with the priority I’ve put on new schools, and me and my colleagues have been called a bunch of soccer moms, but that’s not going to stop me,” she said. “People know I’m always going to make it a priority.”

Lower Manhattan is still short 850 seats for students, so with the continued cooperation of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office, C.B. 1 will pursue the Peck Slip post office site as a location for another new school. Numerous discussions between the post office, the School Construction Authority, Sheldon Silver’s office and C.B. 1 are already underway.

The board is currently fighting to get the available space at the Tweed Courthouse to serve as incubator space for the next new school, or as an entirely new school after P.S. 276, the Spruce Street School, moves into its permanent location. The Department of Education initially agreed to allocate the space to P.S. 276, but recently announced that they want to bring in a charter school instead.

In anticipation of the ten-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks, the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum Foundation Board that Menin serves on is now focusing on its pedestrian circulation plan. Five million visitors are expected to visit the site, and Menin has raised concerns as to how they will move through the community. She has already set up a meeting for February 14 so the Foundation can present plans for circulation flow, access and connectivity to the board.

Over the next few months, Menin plans to initiate a series of discussions with the community board to determine the best way to commemorate the actual day.

“It’s a somber anniversary,” she explained. “We have a 16-acre hole in our neighborhood, and we’re the only ones who have been attacked twice by terrorists.”

Department of Homeland Security funds were cut yet again this year, as they have been in previous years, and the board has been researching the issue and working to find ways to ensure that the City gets its fair share.

“Since Lower Manhattan is at the top of the terrorist target risk list, we have to make sure we’re getting the maximum proportional funding,” Menin said. “Why should the state of Wyoming receive more per person than the city of New York in certain categories when the risk is obviously greater here? We are survivors, and always have to keep in mind that Lower Manhattan is the number one terrorist target in the country.”

Nobody knows exactly what 2011 will hold for Lower Manhattan, but residents can expect Menin to come full force when fighting for the community, the only way she knows how.

“You have to be forceful, and you have to come prepared with solutions,” Menin said. “You have to be willing to have strong opinions driven by a strong sense of justice, and be unwilling to back down from them.”

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