Old Senate Adage—“Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste”
Oh, wow, I pick up the Saturday August 18th Times and bang there’s a big spread on Pier 40 with a bunch of photos. How did it get there? Did Times reporter Lisa Foderaro see my WestView article in the August issue or Lincoln Anderson’s article in The Villager? Or did Hudson River Park Trust management call the Times to say, “Hey, have we got a story for you. Pier 40 is going to cost us more to fix than it’s making in parking fees and we are running on our cash reserves with no near hope of new income so we are going to close it down and 1,600 cars are going to have to find a new home in the once quaint but now permanently auto encrusted streets of the West Village.”
Assembly member Deborah Glick suspects the threat to close the pier is a ploy by a desperate HRPT management to win a concession to build residential housing on the pier. (Friends of Hudson Park ex-ecutive director A.J. Pietrantone acknowledged that HRPT has been working with the Times writer “for some time” and that it has retained the media-manipulation firm SKDKnickerbocker, the same firm that is being used by Bill Rudin and that most likely contacted the Times writer.)
The collection of piers linked by a promenade and bike path is by default owned by the City and State and has had its own board of directors ever since the federal government pulled out of a plan that would have eliminated the decaying piers and built underground highway with a park over it. With Westway defeated and $2.1 billion in federal funds gone, the City and State were stuck with the aging piers subject to corrosion, parasites and wind and wave action and opted to turn them into a “park,” but maintenance on a forreal park is cutting grass, not replacing a caving roof and 3,600 corroding steel pilings at a cost of $125 million.
The money to actually build the park—the so-called capital budget—is voted on each year by the City and the State and that number has diminished with the economy. (That is why after 15 years we have still have unfinished piers.) However, the day-to-day operations, what HRPT calls the maintenance budget, was projected to come from leasing some of the piers like Pier 40 for parking and other limited uses, and although parking revenues have diminished they still generate a third of the annual budget, or $5 million a year.
Chairwoman of the Park and intimate of Mayor Bloomberg, Diana Taylor is reported as saying that if the decision were up to her she wouldn’t spend another dime on the pier, but if she as Chairwoman does not make the decisions who does? The park has a 13-member board with five members (including Taylor) chosen by the Governor, five chosen by the Mayor and three chosen by the Borough President. We still have some of the original drafters of the act that spelled out how the park would be financed serving on the board and influencing these decisions. Former State Senator Franz Leichter (a board member) and State Assemblyman Dick Gottfried who co-sponsored the act and wanted to keep the park for recreational uses but agreed to allow entertainment and retail to attract a commercial developer now both have agreed to introduce a new law that would allow building apartments, hotels and office buildings. The problem is the earliest date to get a vote is possibly at a special session in November or December but more likely not until March 2013 by which time Pier 40 will probably be closed because of a lack of money to make repairs.
Adding to the problem Assembly member Deborah Glick is opposed to apartments but is willing to consider offices and it is unlikely that a bill can be introduced without her agreement as to the wording.
The three major sports groups using Pier 40 soccer fields paid Tishman Construction $150,000 to come up with an optimum solution. Tishman offered 600 to 800 apartments as the most profitable with the least amount of traffic.
This writer has offered that if given a choice most West Villagers would vote for a new hospital on Pier 40 and we have also suggested the NYU expansion could take place on the pier with the least disturbance to the community. So we have several choices:
1. 600-800 luxury apartments
2. Office towers
3. A soccer stadium
4. The NYU expansion with an annex to NYU Langone Medical Center
5. A hospital sponsored by a profitable corporation like Hospital Corporation of America.
However, who is going to choose? Will it be Chairwoman Diane Taylor, will it be President and CEO Madelyn Wils, or will it be the ever-changing and unpaid board of directors?
The fact that HRPT has gone to the Times means we have run out of money and options. I find it outrageous that HRPT is now blaming community opposition for its failure to select a developer in two Requests for Proposals continued on page 5over a ten-year period.
HRPT wants to precipitate action by threatening to dump 1,600 cars into West Village streets but the only two people who can act are the Mayor and the Governor because they ultimately “own” the park and only they can take emergency action.
We have just learned that the Hospital Corporation of America has demonstrated that you can make a profit running a hospital with an emergency room where waiting time is measured in minutes not hours.
So the “emergency” is not that we will have to close down a garage but that for the first time in 161 years the Lower West Side of Manhattan is without a hospital.
The Mayor and Governor can make money available to supplement an investment by a hospital corporation to build that hospital and begin immediately by making needed repairs to Pier 40.
Again I ask:
What do we want?
An office tower? 800 luxury condos? Or a hospital?