Friday, May 16, 2014

Electeds Say Deal To Transfer Unused Development Rights To Pay For Pier 40 Repairs Is News To Them

Pier 40, part of Hudson River Park,  is deteriorating and the government has refused to pay for the repairs which has created a mess.  (Photos:  Richard Perry/The New York Times


By Geoffrey Croft

Assemblymember Deborah Glick sent out a press release this afternoon titled, SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON PIER 40 AND THE HUDSON RIVER PARK after the NY Times revealed that the Cuomo administration and park officials struck a tentative agreement with a developer to transfer unused development rights from Pier 40 to the St. John’s Terminal Building across the West Side Highway in return for more than $100 million that would be used to rehabilitate the deteriorating pier.    

The press release stated that the local elected officials were united in opposing a General Project Plan (GPP) that would silence the community's voice.  Six officials -  Congressman Jerry Nadler, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, State Senator Brad Hoylman, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Councilmember Corey Johnson wrote to both Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio on May 1st, spelling out their strong opposition.

"A GPP would completely usurp local zoning and local input from the community and is in no way condoned by the Hudson River Park Act," the release states. 

"It is the same land use procedure that brought the Barclays Center to the Atlantic Yards, despite widespread disapproval from that community." 

The release also included a letter (below) elected officials sent more than two weeks ago outlining their unified opposition to any such plan. 

"There was no response from the Cuomo Administration to this letter. Apparently, they felt a NY Times article would suffice in alerting the community and their elected representatives to what they should expect.  Active engagement by the local community may not be preferable to the developer, but it is an important process, by which all voices are heard, and is the hallmark of democracy." 

A deal to develop the St. John’s Terminal Building, left, could fund the repairs at Pier 40. 

May 1, 2014

Governor Andrew Cuomo
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Mayor Bill de Blasio
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Dear Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo,

As elected officials who represent Manhattan's West Village neighborhood, we are becoming increasingly concerned about the possibility that the State and the City are working towards the adoption of a General Project Plan (GPP) to transfer air rights from Pier 40 in the Hudson River Park to the St. John's Building at 550 Washington Street. Such an action would enable air rights from the park/commercial pier to be transferred to a property across the West Side Highway without going through New York City's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). This would demonstrate a blatant disregard for our community, and deny the local community board and local elected officials a real voice on what will no doubt be a controversial proposal. 

The idea of a GPP has been a non-starter from the moment it was first introduced to local elected officials as a possibility in the fall of 2013. We are all strong advocates of increased funding for Hudson River Park. However, the state legislation that was enacted in 2013 and codifies the Hudson River Park Trust's ability to generate revenue through the transfer of air rights was predicated on the premise that local zoning laws would dictate the process. This was to ensure that resources would be made available to the Park but not at the expense of local input.

A GPP would be in direct violation of this principle and would rightfully enrage the community, which would be effectively left powerless through this process. Any lip service paid to the needs of the community would only be that, as the local officials who have a formal role in the ULURP process, the City Council Member and Borough President, will have no binding authority when it comes to negotiating any agreement, or voting on whether to approve the proposal.

Furthermore, if a GPP is being considered, it is difficult to understand why. This action would obviously create enormous benefit for the developers of the transfer site, and would provide the Park with a quick infusion of capital, but it is highly unlikely that the value of the air rights would decrease during the time needed for a transfer mechanism to be established and a proper ULURP process to take place. In fact, there is a great chance that time will only increase the value of these air rights leading to even more money for the Hudson River Park.

Active engagement by the local community may not be preferable to the developer, but it is that sometimes messy process, in which all voices are heard, that is the hallmark of democracy. And most importantly, it ensures that government takes actions that accurately reflect the wants and needs of its citizens.

If a GPP moves forward, we will actively oppose it.  The public process must unfold in the way that it is designed to, and failure to do so is extremely bad precedent.  Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to discussing this issue further.

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