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


Silver-mayor school talks near end

By Josh Rogers

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he expects Mike Bloomberg to tell him soon whether City Hall will back a new K-8 school in Lower Manhattan and he denied reports that the mayor has linked the school to the quest to build a stadium on Manhattan’s West Side.

“The community wants it done yesterday — I want it done yesterday, but I will accept waiting a reasonable amount of time,” Silver said about the school. “We’re running out of time very quickly.”

Silver, in a telephone interview Jan. 27, said Bloomberg and his staff have been meeting with developer Bruce Ratner this week about the costs of building a school in the proposed residential tower on the parking lot on Beekman St. between Nassau and Gold Sts.

He said he asked Bloomberg about rumors that the school and other Lower Manhattan projects are being delayed until Silver supports the stadium. The possible linkage was first reported in The New York Times. Silver said Bloomberg has been negotiating in good faith and gave assurances that the issues are not linked.

Bloomberg and his aides did not comment on the school negotiations.

During a meeting with publishers of community newspapers last Friday, the mayor, who is running for reelection this year, did speak about the political ramifications of supporting the stadium. Bloomberg acknowledged that Silver had a veto in effect over the stadium by controlling one vote on the Public Authorities Control Board. Bloomberg said it is a win-win situation for him. If Silver blocks the stadium, the mayor would get credit for fighting hard for a worthy project, and if the speaker supports it, Bloomberg and city residents would benefit with a revenue-generating sports and convention center, at least according to Bloomberg’s analysis.

Silver said he will withhold a decision on the stadium until there is a formal financing plan before the P.A.C.B. Gov. George Pataki’s Empire State Development Corp. first must approve the financing mechanism before Pataki can put it on the control board’s agenda, Silver said. The stadium, which is supported by Pataki, would be the Jets’ home field and the setting for the 2012 Summer Olympics if New York wins the Olympic competition this July. The city and state would pay a combined $600 million for the stadium, to add to the Jets’ $800 million offer, and Bloomberg estimates the public investment would be recouped by generating added tax revenues.

Silver outlined his concerns about the stadium. They are: the stadium plan depends on revenue from 24 million square feet of new office space that Silver and other Downtown advocates fear will compete with the offices being rebuilt in Lower Manhattan; the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will not get fair market value for the stadium land at a time when the agency is strapped for cash to maintain fares and build a Second Ave. subway; and the stadium will add to traffic and congestion problems.

Both the stadium and the school “should rise or fall on its own merits,” Silver said

He said if a school in the Ratner building proves to be too expensive, then the mayor should either come up with a Lower Manhattan alternative quickly or be willing to tell Downtowners that he doesn’t think a school is a high enough priority.

Despite the attack of the Twin Towers, Lower Manhattan continues to be the fastest growing part of the city and Bloomberg and Pataki have both been supportive of a new school Downtown. Last fall, Dep. Mayor Dan Doctoroff signed an agreement with Councilmember Alan Gerson in which Gerson agreed to support residential towers on two city-owned sites in Tribeca in exchange for a community recreation center and a school annex for overcrowded P.S. 234 on one of the sites and a City Hall commitment to do its best to find a school site on Downtown’s East Side.

Right after the letter was signed, Gerson and his fellow councilmembers approved the plan for the apartment towers, rec center and annex for Site 5C, located behind P.S. 234.

Madelyn Wils, chairperson of Community Board 1, who joined Gerson in the Doctoroff negotiations, said if the East Side school is not secured, the mayor’s office will have a tough time winning approval for Site 5B, the larger Tribeca lot which is across the street from P.S. 234.

“As far as I’m concerned we have a deal,” she said. “If we don’t have a deal, then we have some issues on 5B….I would hope that the mayor feels Lower Manhattan is important enough to stand on its own merits.”

Under the agreement, C.B. 1 has the power to veto the additions developer Edward Minskoff wants to make to the proposed Site 5B towers. Even if Minskoff backs away from increasing the size of the buildings, the City Council is unlikely to approve the 5B plan unless Gerson supports it.

Gerson said he does not think the mayor has linked the stadium to the school and he supports Silver in his negotiations with Bloomberg.

Silver said Ratner and his staff have said on several occasions that a school can be built in the developer’s Beekman building. “Bruce Ratner told me he can do it,” Silver said.

Ratner did not return a call for comment. A Ratner spokesperson did not deny Silver’s account, but would only confirm that the issue was under discussion.

The not-yet seen Frank Gehry-designed apartment tower at Beekman St. will have facilities for NYU Downtown Hospital, owners of the land, and once was to include Pace University. Pace pulled out of the deal when Ratner upped the price.

The city has set aside $44 million in its capital budget for the school and there has been talk of using as much as $25 million in Lower Manhattan Development Corp. money for the project. Wils, who is also a L.M.D.C. board member, said she was hopeful that L.M.D.C. money won’t be needed for the school given the long list of other projects competing for the remaining $820 million.

Josh@DowntownExpress.com


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