Volume 17, Number 44 | March 24 - 31, 2005

From The Editor

East Side, West Side, waterfront needs and L.M.D.C. money

Wanting to replicate the success of Hudson River Park, the city is putting forward a major plan to upgrade the East Side waterfront from the Lower East Side to the Battery.

The plan includes a host of welcome improvements including rebuilding Pier 15 for park and boat space, redesigning the esplanade and finally connecting the East and Hudson River’s bike and walkways. More trees and even a beach is planned. Fifteen glassed-in pavilions to be used for concessions and community space may also help make the F.D.R. less unsightly and grim.

The big question, however, is will the money be there? The cost of the East River revitalization plan is pegged at $150 million, up to $65 million of which would be used just to build the esplanade. The city is hoping much of this money will come out of the remaining $800 million of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s post-9/11 rebuilding funds, known as Community Development Block Grants. The governor and mayor are expected to release a report soon outlining how the L.M.D.C.’s final funds will be spent.

The East River project is a truly valuable one that will improve the quality of life of Downtowners. This strip of waterfront has long been neglected and is sorely in need of attention.

Similarly, we’re still hoping the L.M.D.C. will allocate $70 million for construction of the Hudson River Park’s Tribeca segment.

The community development money should also go to other essential projects including affordable housing, the new K-8 school on Beekman St., a Chinatown cultural center and other neighborhood improvements, a library and recreation space. The L.M.D.C. has also studied improvements to areas east and south of the World Trade Center site, along Fulton and Greenwich Sts. Both neighborhoods need a boost and if the plans for those two places will mean significant improvements and they are affordable – and we hope and expect to see those plans very soon – then they will also be worthy of C.D.B.G. money.

With all of these important projects, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Community Development Block Grants should not go to the W.T.C. memorial. Gov. George Pataki and many others are absolutely right when they say the memorial is the first priority, but we agree with Councilmember Alan Gerson, who argues for funding the memorial with other money. As important as the memorial is, it is not community development. It should not be competing with park plans and street improvements. Are we the only ones who think there would be something wrong if, for example, we were to scale back plans for a parking garage to find enough money for the memorial?

A high-profile board of directors at the new World Trade Center Memorial Foundation is beginning to raise money for the memorial and cultural center. The president and Congress also need to provide a separate funding stream to help pay for a memorial honoring the 3,000 killed Sept. 11, 2001, including those at the Pentagon.

The memorial can, must and will be built. Community development money is needed for the Lower Manhattan community.

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