Volume 17 • Issue 36 • Jan. 28 — February 3, 2005

From the Editor

Reading the school tea leaves

Few things make us happier than the fact that Lower Manhattan’s population continues to grow. It’s concrete proof that Downtown is a desirable place to live. More people need more schools, community centers and parks. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Councilmember Alan Gerson and Madelyn Wils, chairperson of Community Board 1, understand that. And yes, so does Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

In December 2002, Bloomberg outlined a sensible, comprehensive plan to aid and encourage Downtown’s residential development. The Bloomberg administration has also set aside $44 million for a Lower Manhattan school.

So what to make of the recent news reports that Bloomberg is blocking the school until Speaker Silver goes along with the mayor’s dream of a $1.2 billion stadium on the West Side of Manhattan?

On first glance, the reports seem plausible – Mike wants the stadium badly so why wouldn’t he be putting the screws to Shelly on the school? Maybe there is a little pressure going on, but Silver insists there is no linkage, and we’re inclined to believe him. Bloomberg is already on record as favoring the school and at the end of the day, even if he were inclined to backstab Downtown – and we don’t think he is – the mayor doesn’t want to go to the voters this fall having to explain why in essence, he reneged on a promise to the residential community hardest hit by 9/11. Silver says Bloomberg is weighing the costs of building a school in Bruce Ratner’s project on Beekman St. and will have an answer soon.

We hope so, and we encourage the mayor to identify the best site for the school quickly and to get it built.

Reasonable development near the waterfront

From Tribeca, to Hudson Square up to Greenwich Village, the Far West Side is under the threat of over-development. In the Village, the latest is that renowned artist and apparently aspiring developer Julian Schnabel plans to add a nine-story addition to his three-story residence, a former carriage house, on W. 11th St. near Washington St. Anyone can see that such a tall building, midblock, in a low-scale area would stick out like a sore thumb. Talk about lack of aesthetic appreciation.

Additionally, the project seeks to take advantage of the community-facilities zoning allowance — permitting another story to be added — by including medical offices on one floor. While medical offices technically do meet the requirement for the allowance, it’s a safe bet these offices would be for high-priced practices that most neighbors wouldn’t be able to afford.

The fact is, we simply aren’t hearing enough from City Hall on preserving Downtown’s West Side. Residents are pushing for a plan to landmark the Village’s waterfront area and Tribecans are fighting a proposal to allow skyscrapers along West St. in the northern part of the neighborhood. Officials with the Landmarks Preservation Commission and City Planning Dept. should be working closely with neighbors to protect the lower West Side before it starts looking like Miami Beach on the Hudson.


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