The Friends of Hudson River Park, a nonprofit, has begun the public process required for the creation of a business or neighborhood improvement district. Such districts have the right to assess a tax on property owners within their boundaries. By law, the district can't be formed if more than half of these property owners object.
While the formal boundaries of the improvement district have yet to be determined, they would loosely encompass all the property owners along what will ultimately be a 550-acre park, west of Hudson Street and 10th Avenue. The area could include 1,700 properties, and the tax assessment would apply to both residential and commercial properties.
A Hudson River Park neighborhood improvement district would likely rival the size of the Downtown Alliance, which has a $13 million tax assessment, the largest in the city. The Friends of Hudson River Park say it hopes to generate an assessment between $5 million and $10 million annually.
Although members of the steering committee say the assessment to any single property owner would be modest, they expect to face some resistance. "No matter what you do in New York, there's opposition," said Douglas Durst, a prominent landlord who is helping organize the improvement district.
Since the first business improvement district was established in 1984, 64 have been created in New York. All strive to supplement existing city services, be it through sanitation or programming.
On March 3, A.J. Pietrantone, the executive director of the Friends of Hudson River Park, sent a letter to the Department of Small Business Services announcing the first step in the public outreach process—the circulation of a district needs survey to area property owners.
Mr. Pietrantone sent the letter on behalf of the Neighborhood Improvement District Steering Committee, a group that includes Julie Menin, chairwoman of Community Board 1, and a number of area landlords, including Mr. Durst, chairman of the Durst Organization; Lisa Silverstein, senior vice president at Silverstein Properties; and Two Trees' head, Jed Walentas.
"I think we have come to accept the fact that because of the pressures on government funding, the private sector needs to play a role in maintaining parks the way we want them to be," Mr. Pietrantone said.
Hudson River Park is part of a new model for parks development, one that relies on revenues from privately run concessions within the park as well as tax assessments. It is an evolution of the sort of public-private partnership pioneered by the Central Park Conservancy and Prospect Park Alliance in the 1980s. Both are nonprofits that operate government parks relying, in part, on private donations.
The Friends of Hudson River Park maintains that because the park has bolstered real estate values in the area, it makes sense for those who have profited from those increased values to give back to the park. According to 2008 Friends report that used data analysis by the Regional Plan Association, "Approximately 20% of the value of properties within the first two blocks of the Greenwich Village section of the Hudson River Park can be attributed to the park."
"You've got all of these residential developers who have developed buildings all along the park…and when you look at their marketing brochures, they market access to Hudson River Park," says Ms. Menin.
The park was conceived following the 1985 demise of Westway, a controversial proposal to construct an underground highway off the West Side of Manhattan and build on top of it.
It was not until 1998 that the Hudson River Park Act was approved, allowing the city and state to appropriate $200 million toward the creation of a 550-acre park. The Friends of Hudson River Park took shape the following year.
According to Mr. Pietrantone, the park needs another $160 million for its completion, and is expected to be finished by 2018 at the earliest. The improvement district's assessment would also go toward improving access to the park, creating park-like areas in places where the park is narrower and perhaps augmenting the care of the city parks within the district's bounds.