Volume 17 • Issue 17 | SEPTEMBER 17 - 23, 2004

L.M.D.C. park money is coming, Trust says

By Albert Amateau and Josh Rogers

The head of the Hudson River Park Trust says she expects by November the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. will authorize the money to build the Downtown section of the Hudson River Park.

“We anticipate development of that segment of the park with money from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. — we’ll know by November,” Connie Fishman, the Trust’s president, said at a committee meeting of Community Board 2.

The Trust has applied to the L.M.D.C. for $70 million to build the park from Houston to Chambers St. The plans for this section include rebuilding two piers, adding boat and kayak docks, children’s play areas, a place to study river life, a dog run, tennis courts, a bird sanctuary off the water. The existing skateboard park and beach volleyball courts are likely to be in the park as well.

An L.M.D.C. spokesperson said the agency does not comment on what its board may do in the future. The board’s next two meetings are tentatively scheduled for Oct. 14 and Nov. 10.

Al Butzel, president of the Friends of Hudson River Park, said he was happy when he heard Fishman’s comment and that it coincided with what he has been hearing up until now. “They have told us that something is coming,” he said.

Over the last year, he has had many discussions with aides to Gov. George Pataki and with Dep. Mayor Dan Doctoroff about the park. Both the Trust and the L.M.D.C. are joint state-city agencies.

Butzel said the Trust is proceeding as if it will have the money to build the Tribeca section of the park and should be ready with the government applications once the money is approved. He thinks construction could begin a few months later.

In the spring, Butzel began hearing $46 million of L.M.D.C. money would be authorized for the park. In June, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and the City Council agreed to put $31 million more into the park, but Butzel said that was dependent on matching money from the state. He said a likely scenario to get the Downtown section built would be $46 million from the L.M.D.C., and $12 million each from the city and state.

The L.M.D.C. was created with federal money to help Lower Manhattan rebuild after 9/11 and it has about $860 million left to spend on a competing group of Downtown projects. Officials at the September board meeting would not say if it would take more or less than a year to make decisions on the rest of the money, but Dep. Mayor Doctoroff indicated it would likely be less.

“It’s important we provide clarity what the future of Lower Manhattan will look like and I think we’re getting very close to doing that,” he said at a press conference after the development corporation’s board meeting.

Butzel, in a telephone interview, said he is hopeful there will be enough park money to rebuild Pier 25 1,000 feet into the water and adjacent Pier 26 by 800 feet, providing new waterfront views to park visitors. The Trust has been considering building only a small piece of Pier 26 to accommodate the Downtown Boathouse and The River Project, if it did not get enough money. The piers will deteriorate over time if they are not rebuilt.

Fishman told C.B. 2 waterfront committee members that she anticipated getting L.M.D.C. money at a meeting to explain a plan to move the park’s trapeze school from Tribeca to Pier 40, near Houston St.

“We’re trying not to evict [them] and we’ve located a place on the east side of the roof of Pier 40,” Fishman said.

Others will also have to move during Tribeca construction: Manhattan Youth, which runs after-school programs, the historic Yankee Ferry, the Boathouse and River Project, which studies marine life.

Jonathan Conant, director of Trapeze School New York, told the C.B. 2 waterfront committee on Sept. 13 that he wants to move the trapeze to the roof of Pier 40. where the school could operate all year round under a specially-design 120 by 66-ft. tent.

The move has the support of the Trust, whose headquarters are on Pier 40 at Houston St.

The waterfront committee also likes the idea and voted unanimously at the meeting to recommend the new permanent location be approved by the full board at the end of this month.

Fishman described Trapeze School’s summer seasons in the park as “hugely successful,” but said it would be necessary soon to move the trapeze from its present location.

In its present location in the open, at ground level, the trapeze school has the added benefit of providing entertainment for passersby and frequently attracts crowds of park visitors watching students go through their paces.

“The only disadvantage of the Pier 40 rooftop will be that people can’t watch it,” said Tobi Bergman, a waterfront committee member.

The roof of the 14-acre three-story pier has a small soccer field but is used mostly as a for-profit parking facility. However, the entire pier is to be redeveloped at some point in the future with at least half of its total space devoted to park use and the remainder commercial. Meanwhile, the pier courtyard, formerly leased for truck parking, is being converted to interim use as a playing field.

The proposed new location of the Trapeze School New York tent currently accommodates 40 cars that could be moved to other space on the roof, Fishman said.

The proposed trapeze tent, designed by FTL Design Engineering Studio, would be as light and transparent as possible. “The fabric is like Saran wrap with white dots on it,” Nicholas Goldsmith, principal in FTL, told waterfront committee members.

The school has a 30-day renewable lease for its present location, which may be cancelled when the Trust begins to build the Downtown segment of the park. The school would have the same kind of 30-day renewable lease for the Pier 40 roof location, which the Trust could also cancel when the redevelopment of the entire pier begins, Fishman said.

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