Volume 17, Number 39 | February 17-23, 2005

A construction coordinator at last

This week Gov. Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg named the person who will have a big role in determining whether the redevelopment of Downtown is successful or not. We welcome the appointment of Charles Maikish, who will be the executive director of the newly created Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, which will manage all of the projects Downtown valued at $25 million or more.

Maikish worked at the Port Authority for 28 years, leaving in 1996 as director of the World Trade Department to take real estate jobs at Columbia University and J.P. Morgan Chase. He comes to the new job with the needed experience, stature and respect to do it well. A whole slew of agencies, authorities and developers have big plans for the area and unless there is someone coordinating it all, Downtown could easily be overwhelmed if each entity pursues its vision without regard to what the octopus’ other hands are doing. It is essential the redevelopment of Downtown proceed expeditiously. It is just as important that Lower Manhattan remain a livable and workable place while it is rebuilt.

No one wants to see residents or businesses flee as the renderings are made into reality. That’s where Maikish comes in. He will be responsible for making sure the construction schedules, pile driving and street and security closures either south of Canal St. or southwest of Rutgers St. are coordinated in a rational way. He and his staff will have to make sure residents and workers have access to timely information so they know what is going on today, what will happen tomorrow, next week and next month.

Communication is vital to the success of the construction center. Maikish has clear direction to consult with important groups such as Community Board 1 and the Downtown Alliance, which represent the residents and businesses of Lower Manhattan. We encourage Maikish to reach out beyond these two able organizations. There will be projects that have a severe effect on particular sections of Downtown and we expect to see Maikish and his staff meeting with block associations, tenant groups and condo boards when appropriate.

Some construction plans and projects are well underway, and we suggest he quickly put in a call to developer Scott Resnick, who has just started building the Site 5C residential tower behind P.S. 234. To his credit, Resnick has been meeting recently with residents, parents and school leaders to talk about the project, but Maikish’s input would be welcomed as there are many issues of concern. Many of the construction projects under the command center’s purview will have direct effects on schools and part of its responsibility should be to be aware of times of the year and the day when schools can least afford to endure excessive noise and to try and schedule construction work accordingly.

Important details about the center are still to come. It is good that Maikish will be reporting directly to the governor and mayor, but that probably won’t be enough to prevent bureaucratic turf wars and disputes along the way. Hopefully, Maikish’s leadership will be able to resolve these inevitable conflicts. A budget or financing source for this important center has not yet been determined and that needs to be done quickly.

For all of our sakes, we wish Maikish and his staff-to-be only the best and pledge to help them inform Downtowners about what is happening in our neighborhood.

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