Volume 17 • Issue 18 | SEPTEMBER 24 - 30, 2004


Site 5B and 5C: Giving a lot to get a lot

Some of Lower Manhattan’s most important needs were included in an agreement between the city and the Downtown community, signed two weeks ago. Downtown will get a new elementary and middle school, a youth recreation center and a school annex for overcrowded P.S. 234 in exchange for accepting two huge Tribeca development projects that won’t be as humongous as they may have been otherwise.

Dep. Mayor Dan Doctoroff signed the agreement this month with Lower Manhattan Councilmember Alan Gerson, who included in the negotiations two important community leaders – Madelyn Wils, chairperson of Community Board 1 and Bob Townley, executive director of Manhattan Youth, the group slated to run the rec center.

By signing the deal, Mayor Bloomberg’s office recognizes that even after 9/11, Lower Manhattan thankfully remains the fastest growing part of the city and this population is in dire need of residential amenities to keep up, particularly with school and recreation space.  This was not some giveaway to an affluent, political-savvy community, but a partial remedy to what would have been an urban planning mistake.

And make no mistake, the community gave away a lot. The day after the agreement was signed, Gerson and his Council colleagues approved one of the two residential projects, a 300-foot tower behind P.S. 234 on Site 5C that will also include the school annex and rec center. The tower will cast shadows on Washington Market Park, schoolyards and the Battery Park City ballfields. In addition to this project, under the agreement developers can build three towers across the street on Site 5B – 370 feet, 200 feet and 135 feet.

The deal in all likelihood means that the open-space feel of West St. between Chambers and Murray Sts. will no longer seem part of low-rise Tribeca, but will become a part of the Financial District-World Trade Center area. Let’s not forget Scott Resnick, the Site 5C developer, was once willing to build half as tall as he gets to build now under the agreement, for less money and without Liberty Bonds.

That was before the 2001 attacks, but the Tribeca residential market is as strong as it was then. About 50 years ago, the city took over the 5B and 5C land under an urban renewal plan that was supposed to benefit the community.

Gerson told us two weeks ago that the community should expect the city to have acquired a new school site before it recommends approving the larger Site 5B project. We agree. We’d also like to see recognition that all this noise and construction will be scheduled to minimize the effects on the six nearby schools – P.S. 89, P.S. 234, I.S. 89, Stuyvesant High School, the Borough of Manhattan Community College and St. John’s insurance college. And the Dept. of Education must begin a discussion with Downtown over the complicated and sensitive zoning issues for the new schools.

Florence close to home
Since Sept. 11, 2001, people all over the world have done countless things small and large to help Lower Manhattan. The Splendor of Florence festival opening Thursday is large. Remarkable paintings from the Uffizi Gallery will be on display, there is an exhibit at the Winter Garden, as well as concerts, family events and panel discussions.

This festival would not be possible without the cooperation of one of the world’s jewel cities – Florence – a place that helped Downtown before when a Florentine business group adopted Tribeca after 9/11 — and many Downtown players including two large firms, Brookfield Properties, whose arts and events program brought the festival here, and American Express, which seems to sponsor every great arts event in Lower Manhattan. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. is one of the many groups that also chipped in money – wisely so because this festival will bring people Downtown.

We encourage visitors to sample our fine restaurants while they are here — plenty of Italian choices. For all of us, this festival is a must see, and it’s cheaper than Alitalia.

Downtown Express is published by
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