Trust must reveal its financial plan
The latest flare up over the Hudson River Park involves not Pier 40 at W. Houston St. on the Lower West Side, the big controversy of last year, but another pier, Pier 57 at W. 15th St. in Chelsea. By preemptively rejecting two of four development groups plans for the pier, the Hudson River Park Trust has, once again, raised the ire of some local politicians and park activists.
Although Chelsea is north of our coverage area, Hudson River Park goes from the Battery up to Midtown and funding to build the rest of the park remains in doubt. Decisions made in Chelsea will have effects to the south, and for that matter, the rest of the city.
The crux of the Pier 57 issue is a lack of clarity at least to those not on the Trusts staff about financial specifications for this pier, as well as other piers in the park. When plans were originally drawn up for Hudson River Park, it was unknown if the M.T.A. would remove its buses from Pier 57. The buses did recently vacate, their departure hastened by the piers poor condition.
Yet, whether this pier should be a so-called commercial node to generate revenue for the park was never decided in early planning. Now, we hear revenue-generating ability is the main criterion for the developers under consideration and the justification for dropping the two plans with nonprofit groups and keeping the plans by Chelsea Piers and Cipriani.
To avoid the kind of turmoil seen in the Pier 40 process which failed to result in the selection of a developer and to better include elected officials and the community in the planning process for this public, taxpayer-funded park, it would behoove the Trust to issue a financial plan detailing what exactly is expected from each pier in the park.
Until now, the development process for the parks piers has been largely piecemeal reminiscent of spot zoning on land. Instead of such a seat-of-the-pants process, it would be far better to have a clear financial plan available to those concerned about the parks future, to guide the development and use of the piers, especially. This financial plan is an essential tool. Local politicians, notably Assemblymember Deborah Glick, have repeatedly called for the release or creation of such a plan, to no avail. As a public body dealing with a neighborhood extremely involved and concerned about every facet of this park, the Trust owes it to the community and to itself to issue such a financial plan, which should also include the parks full benefits.
As Downtown celebrated the opening of the magnificent Teardrop Park in Battery Park City Thursday, we are once again reminded that parks are not only pretty they are economic stimulants. One reason B.P.C. is a success story is because of the quantity and quality of the neighborhoods parks.
With the entire Tribeca segment of the Hudson River Park still awaiting funding, primarily from the L.M.D.C., the Trust has not been forthcoming on the question of the parks finances, particulary on the commercial vs. non-commercial use of various piers to be developed and on how much tax revenue is expected from the parks commerical activities. This is no way to plan a world class park. It is only with this information that the communities concerned now it is Chelsea at Pier 57, but Tribeca is next can have meaningful input into the Trusts planning and decisions about our public waterfront park.