I would like to respond to the article entitled “The Ego Fight for Diller Island,” published in the June issue of WestView News. The amendment to the Hudson River Park Act in June 2013 was not passed by Assemblymember Deborah Glick alone, but by the entire New York State Legislature by a vote of 135 to 7, with all New York City legislators supporting it. Assemblymember Richard Gottfried was the lead sponsor, with Deborah Glick and Helen Rosenthal as co-sponsors. New York State Senator Brad Hoylman also supported it. To the best of my knowledge, not one New York City councilmember or other City official opposed it. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, however, did oppose the amendment because of the huge transfer of air rights from the park to upland historic areas; this would allow buildings of unlimited height to dwarf the neighborhood. An arbitrary and little-understood provision of zoning law, known as TDR, or Transfer of Development Rights, subverts and vitiates the basic purpose of zoning, to define and protect the character of neighborhoods. In the case of the four-mile-long Hudson River Park, development or air rights can be transferred from the park to the West Village without any statutory limits on the amount of floor area dumped on a zoning lot over and above that which is otherwise permitted.
The June article praises the defunct and fortunately defeated Interstate Westway which “…would have allowed West Villagers to walk on the grass to the shore of the Hudson River…” In fact, it would have created a massive development of high rises built far out into the river, blocking access to it and overshadowing the West Village. The buried Westway would have required a surface access highway and access ramps leading down to a tunnel that would have become the greatest storm sewer in Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy. The park we have now is a great achievement, which brings pleasure to thousands of walkers, joggers, and sitters who enjoy spectacular unobstructed views of New York Bay.
Where we need the grass now is on Pier 40, which claims to have enough disposable air rights to create a series of high rises upland while continuing to maintain the largest parking garage on the West Side, blocking views of and access to the river for three blocks.