The fight for Hudson River Park green
Gov. George Pataki said Wednesday that it was time to renew our commitment to making Hudson River Park the world class park it must be. We couldnt agree more and we hope Pataki soon finds a way to build the rest of the park either by authorizing the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. to spend the $70 million needed to build the Tribeca section or helping secure other federal money for the plan or both.
Pataki, also spoke of the need to transform the Pier 40 parking lot courtyard into large fields for baseball and soccer as part of his third major address on Lower Manhattan progress over the last year. This plan was already in the works and is expected to be finished later this year.
But that still leaves the rest of the park. For years there has been growing concern among park activists that the funds for the parks construction were running low. Now, the parks funds have almost run out.
Going back to previous administrations, the city and state pledged $100 million each for the park, and that money was allocated. Last summer, the Greenwich Village segment of the park, costing $59 million, was opened; thus far, it remains the only section of the five-mile-long park to have been built.
There is money left to construct some Uptown portions of the park, which stretches from Chambers to 59th Sts., but there is none on hand to build the Downtown sections in Tribeca, Battery Park City and Chelsea.
However, things have started to look brighter since January, when Connie Fishman took over as president of the Hudson River Park Trust, the organization building and operating the park. Most notably, the Trust has reached out for federal funding in a major way. The Trust along with Friends of Hudson River Park, the parks chief advocacy and lobbying group prevailed upon Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki to get Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer to request $115 million for the park in the Water Resources Development Act.
Seeking to obtain federal funds is a departure for the Trust, which in the past was reluctant to do so. The Trust, and others, including the Friends, feared the possibility a lengthy environmental impact study would be required to get federal funds. However, the Army Corps of Engineers assessment four years ago, when reviewing whether to issue permits for in-water work for the park, that a full E.I.S. wasnt needed indicates a federal E.I.S. would likely not be required if WRDA funds are indeed allocated.
We hope Senators Clinton and Schumer will do everything in their power to secure as much of the requested $115 million as possible.
Things were looking bleak for Hudson River Park for a while. But if the WRDA and L.M.D.C. funds come through, the outlook will change 180 degrees. We hope Congress and the L.M.D.C. can appreciate the how this project will benefit New Yorkers, and move to make the park a reality.
Manhattan Youth needs to stay open
Two weeks ago, we recommended an outline for how the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. should spend its remaining $1 billion in federal Community Development Block Grants. What we did not know at the time was that one of the most important institutions in our community, Manhattan Youth, was in danger of closing its community center at 55 Warren St. at the end of May.
It will take only one tenth of one percent of the billion for the youth organization to find a temporary home for three years, when Manhattan Youth expects to move into a new rec center at Site 5C.
Manhattan Youth will be able to keep its after-school and day camp programs running at the local schools, but the free teen programs on Warren St. will have to end without a new temporary space. The group has applied for $1.2 million from the L.M.D.C. to keep his programs fully operational. We would be hard-pressed to find another Downtown expenditure that could accomplish so much with so little money and we implore the L.M.D.C. board to approve this application at its May meeting so that the teens of Lower Manhattan continue to have a safe, fun and rewarding place to go.