Hudson River Park Trust president Diana Taylor at last years gala. Mayor Bloomberg's longtime girlfriend helped raise $ 2. 5 on Thursday for Friends of Hudson River Park, while her boyfriend refuses to allocate govement funds needed for the park.
At a fundraiser at Pier 57 on Thursday evening thrown by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's longtime girlfriend, Diana Taylor, to raise money for Friends of Hudson River Park, the auctioneer is actor Hugh Jackman; Goldman Sachs is being honored; and the props include a 16-foot decorative tree, according to the Wall Street Journal.All of the trimmings mask a hard truth for the Hudson River Park Trust and Ms. Taylor, the trust's chairwoman: The park faces a financial crisis, and her efforts to right its books face steep challenges, including opposition to her vision for the 550-acre waterfront park.
Ms. Taylor is hoping the gala will raise $2 million for the park, which has been credited with helping drive the rejuvenation of Manhattan's West Side. Even if she reaches her target, the trust—a nonprofit group that maintains and runs the park—would still be millions of dollars short, according to park board members. It is running a $7 million deficit, and the gala is timed close to the one-year anniversary of superstorm Sandy, which caused $30 million in damage to the park.
"We need people to realize the park is internally funded," Ms. Taylor said in a rare interview. "[People] look around and say, 'Of course it's getting money from the government,' but we're not. It has to be funded by the people who can afford it, frankly. And it's an effort. And we're going to get there."
Complicating matters for Ms. Taylor is that Hudson River Park represents one of Mr. Bloomberg's lasting legacies—public parks funded long-term by private money. The policy has helped new parks spring up across the city, but some parks advocates are critical, saying Hudson River Park's financial struggles shows that government is needed.
Geoffrey Croft, president of the nonprofit group NYC Park Advocates, said he wondered whether Ms. Taylor had done enough to lobby Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire, to help save the park. "If anyone has influence over the one person who could change things, it would be her," he said. "But Bloomberg has shown us time and time again: He does not want to fund parks."
A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg said the administration has made "historic investments" in public parks resulting in 850 acres of new parkland. Mr. Bloomberg has tapped his personal fortune to help the Hudson River Park Trust, said people familiar with the matter. Mr. Bloomberg is set to speak at the gala Thursday night, according to his public schedule.
The park's finances have tested the resolve of Ms. Taylor, a former banker and bank regulator who doesn't shy away from the occasional photo opportunity but has long been more comfortable calling shots behind the scenes. On a recent morning in her West Village office, she was busy plotting the details of Thursday's gala, down to who sits where.
"The secret," she said, "is everyone who gave any money at all has to feel really, really important…and be seated at the front."
On a larger scale, Ms. Taylor and other park directors are looking elsewhere for money, including the controversial route of developing Pier 40 at the west end of Houston Street for commercial revenue to offset operating costs.
Previous development plans for Pier 40 have met stiff political resistance, but Ms. Taylor has high hopes for the park's economic future. In 10 years' time, she said she wants to see "restaurants, art galleries, and activities…people like to do and spend a lot of money [doing]."
It should be a place where, she said, one could take a visiting U.S. president and say: "Look at that! It's gorgeous."
Ms. Taylor has drawn criticism for her vision for the park. Douglas Durst, the developer who resigned from a Hudson River Park fundraising group over disagreements with the trust's plans, said: "Restaurants and art galleries don't get you to $30 million." He has his own ideas for Pier 40.
Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, the Lower Manhattan Democrat who blocked the trust's previous development plans, called the trust's fundraising efforts thus far "disappointing, considering some of the well-connected people on the board."
Others say Ms. Taylor has the right mix of social grace and financial common sense for the task at hand.
"She's warm and friendly," said Jean Shafiroff, a philanthropist who works with Ms. Taylor at the New York Women's Foundation. "But she's a businesswoman. She knows how to get a job done."
The future of Ms. Taylor's efforts are clouded somewhat by the election of a new mayor and her boyfriend's exit from office on Jan. 1. Asked how the next mayor should handle developing the shoreline amid issues related to climate change, she said: "The current mayor has a plan, and [the next mayor] should follow that plan."
And if he doesn't? "I'll let you know in a year," she said.
New York Post - October 4, 2013
The Wall Street Journal - October 2, 2013 - By Mike Vilensky
The Real Deal - October 03, 2013