Volume 20, Number 43 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | March 9 - 15, 2011
L.M.D.C. board will vote on slashing staff
BY John Bayles
At its upcoming March 31 meeting, board members of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will vote on whether or not to slash the city-state agency’s staff by 50 percent and initiate a plan to close up shop within the next four to five years. Currently 29 people are employed at the agency.
The move comes as a number of projects the agency has been in charge of overseeing have either been finished or are near completion.
Peter Davidson, executive director of the Empire State Development Corporation, the L.M.D.C.’s parent agency, said on Tuesday the decision to reduce staff is a proposal he is “in favor of” and that “the state is in favor of.”
“A number of the things the L.M.D.C. is responsible for, are no longer required,” said Davidson.
Three areas of achievement Davidson mentioned were the demolition of the former Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty, which was completed last month. He also pointed to the resolution of the situation with utility companies such as Con Edison and their need for reimbursement for services performed post 9/11, which to date has been resolved. And the final goal the agency has met, according to Davidson, is the allocation of the funds from the two Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, totaling $2.783 billion.
“It’s time to say, ‘job well done, but job is over,’” said Davidson.
The agency to date still has $700 million in funds, but Davidson said that sum has already been allocated to a variety of programs throughout Lower Manhattan, such as the W.T.C. Memorial, W.T.C. Performing Arts Center, the East River Esplanade, Transportation, Affordable Housing, and Economic Development.
Davidson said the remaining staff would serve the sole purpose of overseeing the allocation of the $700 million.
“We take very strongly the fiduciary responsibilities we have for overseeing the federal funds,” said Davidson. “Every grant that goes out requires a great deal of work.”
Under the guidelines established by H.U.D. every grant released by the L.M.D.C. has to be monitored for three years. A pool of $17 million, for example, has been earmarked for cultural and community enhancement. The Request for Proposals for those funds was issued by the agency last year and over 255 different organizations applied.
Julie Menin, chair of Community Board 1, sits on the L.M.D.C. board and is one of six people who will oversee the allocation of those funds. She has long been pushing for the agency to decide on a sunset plan, but also acknowledges the work involved in assessing grant applications. She said the L.M.D.C. staff went through the applications to eliminate any organization that did not meet the criteria and now there is a “master list.”
“The top priority now is to get the money out without any delay,” said Menin.
But to Davidson’s point, doling out the funds does not mean the end of the agency.
“Every allocation is board approved,” said Davidson, “and is subject to certain conditions. That’s why we will have to continue to have staff on board.”
A recent column in the New York Post by Steve Cassidy, city fire-union president, suggested that some of the L.M.D.C. money be allocated for emergency services in lieu of looming budget cuts to the city’s fire departments. Davidson however acknowledged that such a scenario does not fall under the purview of the Proposed Action Plan outlined by H.U.D.
If the L.M.D.C. were to reallocate funds for security concerns, the L.M.D.C. would have to reduce allocations from programs such as Performing Arts Center and the West Thames Bridge, a scenario that does not sit well with local community elected officials.
“The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation was created to help our neighborhood recover from the devastation of 9/11,” said State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “The remaining funds should be spent in a way that strengthens and continues to rebuild our community, which is still feeling the effects of that tragedy.”