Volume 17 • Issue 34 • Jan. 14 - 20, 2005


Skepticism needed for Tribeca development expansion plan

It’s not often in New York City government that community boards get real power – the ability to approve or stop a project. Boards serve an invaluable function and often can convince agencies and developers to change their plans, but they almost never get the final say. Community Board 1 is likely to find themselves in just such an unusual position soon.

Developer Edward Minskoff wants to increase the size of a proposed residential development on a city-owned Tribeca lot across the street from P.S. 234. Under an agreement signed by Dep. Mayor Daniel Doctoroff and Councilmember Alan Gerson last September, Minskoff must get C.B. 1 approval before he can add to the size on the lot, known as Site 5B. He wants to increase the streetwall on Warren St. dramatically from 70 to 135 feet and bump up the tower at Warren and West Sts. by 12 feet to 382 feet. C.B. 1 should be very reluctant to approve this change without getting a substantial return from Minskoff.

Warren St. faces the school and is a block away from Washington Market Park. These are some of the community’s most valuable resources and they would all benefit from more light and air. Minskoff would have to put in more money to a proposed recreation center across the street at Site 5C if he is allowed to build bigger, but he has been fuzzy on the amount up until now and appears unwilling to put in more than a few million dollars toward a much needed center in exchange for building more luxury apartments in one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods.

Before the restrictions on the Washington Market Urban Renewal Zone expired a few years ago, Sites 5B and 5C were going to be less than 200 feet. Meanwhile, there is still no site yet for the eastside K-8 school that was also part of the Doctoroff-Gerson agreement. The community has already given away a lot and before Minskoff gets any more, he needs to put a lot more on the table.

Given a rare power, Community Board 1 should make sure it does not give away too much in a quest to get too little.

Open the memorial’s doors

The board of directors of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation regrettably held its first meeting behind closed doors this month. This organization will own and operate the memorial to the 2,800 people killed on Sept. 11, 2001 and Feb. 26, 1993. It shouldn’t even matter that taxpayer money will be used to build part of this memorial on publicly-owned land, and that the W.T.C. site’s cultural buildings will also be owned by the Foundation. This new institution must not operate in secrecy.

The Foundation is obviously in its earliest stages, does not yet have a president, and can quickly make up for its first few missteps. The Foundation must work to make the process more democratic by institutionalizing community outreach and feedback into its deliberations.

The impressive group of Foundation directors, which has a monumental fundraising task in front of it, will only gain legitimacy by letting the sun shine in.

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