I have just had one of the best conversations I have ever had with a politician and that politician is Dick Gottfried, the youngest every elected member of the New York State Assembly (only 23 when he started in Albany).
I called him as we were fighting to close the July issue in which he has an article (right over there on this very page). His Chief of Staff, Wendi Paster, had generously sent me an e-mail in which Dick tried to explain why his bill, to allow the Hudson River Park Trust to sign not a 29 year lease but a 49 year lease to possibly build a 600-750 luxury apartments and a 150 room hotel on Pier 40 to save it from falling into the Hudson and pull HRPT out of a deep financial hole, had not been voted on.
Dick explained that the staff of Speaker Sheldon Silver has been attempting to get consensus on the wording from the several politicians whose districts paralleled the park, but evidently, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick balked at residential housing. This delay caused the bill not to be printed in time, hence it never made the floor and was never voted on.
So what now? It is possible that there might be a December session if there are some major issues that the Governor or the Speaker feel require a vote (this happened two years ago) but if not, it will not come to a vote until March 2013. If it becomes law, then the Board of the Hudson River Park Trust may engage a firm, as they have twice before, to write a Request for Proposal and with it, invite developers to submit proposals. These will be presented to the community and the community board for discussion and a vote; of course the final yes/no vote is by the HRPT board.
Madelyn Wils at the meeting in St. Paul’s Chapel moaned that this is a two-year process. The winning developer would need to draw final plans with a few more review stages. In addition, there is the time needed to acquire the one or even two billion dollars from Chase. Dick explained that the developer’s proposal would have to go through the standard ULURP (Uniform Land Use Revive Process) i.e. be discussed by the Community Board, approved by City Planning, receive consent from the Borough President and finally be approved by the City Council. This is all before the developer starts work on what will most likely be a two-year project. Consequentially, we are talking about three years before construction starts and two years after that to finish or five years.
Dick offered that the engineering report gave perhaps five years before the corrosion to the steel pilings would cause it to be condemned so they could conceivable make it. However, this is the West Village and those who will oppose luxury apartments will not only be Deborah Glick but a practiced chorus who feed on opposition to anything that will benefit the one percent. Gottfried did hold out some hope. The bill will ask for $15 million and he agreed, if Albany saw that a big developer was selected, that they would vote some money to keep things together until the developers money could take over.
Earlier in the afternoon, I called the Department of Health in Albany to ask about the Certificate of Need, an application by a health corporation or even a community to ask for new services or even a new hospital. If the West Village can convince Albany that after 161 years of having a hospital we continue to have a need, this document could be used to attract a medical corporation to build one. (Beth Israel/Continuum has just jilted NYU for Mt. Sinai and perhaps the jilted suitor wants revenge.) The City and State could give a hospital corporation 2 of its 14.5 acres and the hospital would join with a developer to pay for the repairs of the pier and the construction of a high revenue use. Dick kept reminding me during our conversation that other uses besides luxury apartments had been proposed and perhaps we can lure NYU to the pier to build at least part of their expansion on it.
What I am suggesting is that the official agreement by Albany, that a hospital is needed just blocks away from where one stood for 161 years and the gift by the City and State of Pier 40 space to build that hospital, might short circuit the approval process so we may have a hospital, three ball fields and revenue for the Park in three years and not five or never.
Dick Gottfried has offered to sit down with Dr. David Kauffman and talk about it.