By Jim Fouratt
The public hearing of the City Planning Commission regarding the St. John’s/Pier 40 proposal was a day-long experience. Arriving at 9:45 for a 10 a.m. hearing, I was #69 on the public roster. Sitting there I listened and learned that authors of the Air Rights Bill had chosen not to appear and answer questions the Commissioners may have asked.
Deborah Glick, the Bill’s author, provided a statement that said she was “flabbergasted” at the height and infrastructure impact of the proposed village complex. What she did not say was that the reason we were all there to react to this monster plan was because of her Air Rights Bill. Glick had failed to ask for any public input before introducing the stealth bill. Glick had not consulted with Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Historical Society (GVHS) about establishing certain criteria to be met prior to an applicant participating in an Air Rights auction. This is just one more strong example of how Glick, in 24 years in Albany, has consistently left the input from her constituents out of her political practice. Councilperson Corey Johnson was willing to address the elephant in the room. He asked “Why the City and the State were unwilling to step in and intervene in the fiscal problems of upkeep in a public park paid for by taxpayers?” Why was it being left one more time for the real estate industry to rescue the city at a price?
I finally got to give my testimony at 4:10.
“Thank you for allowing me to speak. My name is Jim Fouratt, a resident of Greenwich Village since 1961. I am a candidate in the Democratic Party State Assembly Primary on September 13th. I wish to note for the record that my opponent Deborah Glick, the author of the very flawed Hudson River Trust Air Rights Bill, has not elected to appear in person at your very important public hearing to answer any questions you may have. Nor has Assemblymember Richard N. Gottfried, the Bill’s co-author with Glick. Nor has a supporter of Glick and the Bill, State Senator Hoylman.
I will try not to repeat any of the very sound ideas that have been brought forward in this hearing by members of the Greenwich Village Historical Society playing a leadership role in opposition to the huge building on Washington Street. Once again, Andrew Berman, GVHS Executive Director, spoke about justifying the need to landmark the entire historically rich South Village, and of the contributions of community members and elected officials. I concur with GVHS positions. I will also ask you to consider carefully the testimony of Councilperson Johnson, and Borough President Brewer (I currently serve on Brewer’s senior advisory committee)—remarks they made in person. I am going to speak to you as a low fixed-income senior (social security) with a life-long involvement in the culture business and community organizing. Like many of my fellow seniors in the CB2 area who live in rent regulated apartments, I am a senior who is currently under eviction siege from landlords hell-bent on making rent regulated apartments in walkup buildings into fair market apartments.
I have heard much discussion today about the space that 750 parking spaces will take up. As I am sure you well know the entire Lower West Side does not have a full service hospital since the conversion of St. Vincent’s into luxury condos by the Rudin real estate corporation. I am an editor at Westview News, a community newspaper. The publisher, George Capsis, has continually raised the issue to elected officials, CB2, community members and in particular developers about including a hospital where space potentially would allow. This project is one of the few spaces where this could happen. If you actually approve this proposal after consideration of all of the suggestions the public has made, we suggest strongly that you call for the inclusion of a full-service hospital. It certainly would be a perk for the complex’s residents and the community.
I want to also say that senior housing should not be the size of modern prison cells. It is not enough to include senior housing if you have not talked to senior advocates first about senior needs—including space. Access to public transportation is essential, as is ensuring that affordable food and recreational services are available for all seniors and all families in the surrounding neighborhood.
I am unclear as to the definition of what constitutes affordable housing in this project as listed in the plans for this complex.
I will close by asking you to reject the creation of the Hudson River Trust Zone, that would allow the Trust to have an unrestricted ability to auction off the air rights of the entire Hudson River Trust. The shortsighted bill authored by Glick and Gottfried allowed no public input into the criteria that must be met by any participant in air rights auctions. This means that we the people can only react to a proposal after it is made to you, City Planning Board, by a developer. If only the public had been involved in this process before Glick’s bill was proposed and passed, a lot of time, money and stress could have been avoided.