Just when you thought that Community Board #2 couldn't get more complicated, enter the Department of Investigation. In a rare showing of equanimity, neither mentioned nor shared with the Full Board, the Chair of Community Board #2 and its Executive Committee apparently discussed a subpoena issued for all documents related to the Waterfront Committee and its deliberations during 2003 under the tutelage of Arthur Schwartz.
While Schwartz is currently the Chair of Parks, Waterfront and Open Space -- a title that seems to convey the impression that he's calling the shots on most of the external world in CB2's territory -- he was only the Chair of Waterfront in 2003, before he was summarily removed during the "Saturday Night Massacre" by Board Chair Aubrey Lees.
Her actions were spurred on by rumors of inside deals and financial coziness. In fact, the entire Waterfront Committee was disbanded as was the Pier 40 Working Group.
The theory at that time speculated that there was too much "friendship" between the developer, the Chair, and members of the Waterfront Committee who were charged with making recommendations to the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) as to which selection was preferred by the community after extensive review. The Korman/Durst plan seemed to have the inside track and was ultimately selected by the community anyway but was then rejected by the Trust. Schwartz actually sued the Trust over its rejection of the Korman plan but later withdrew the lawsuit.
What bothered some people was the fact that Korman was already the operator of the parking concession (a $5 million dollar per year operation), was friendly with Schwartz and needed support from Community Board #2 to get the nod from the Trust. Durst, the financial partner of the Pier 40 development team was a member of Friends of Hudson River Park (FOHRP), a respected watchdog group that supports the waterfront and its development and Schwartz was also a member of the FOHRP Board. For some, there just seemed to be too many interlocking interests.
So, why is all of this being resurrected again now?
The Korman/Durst plan was rejected by the HRPT and since that time some beautiful new ball fields have been installed at Pier 40 at a cost of $5 million dollars. This was agreed upon by the community after extensive hearings at Community Board #2, after Schwartz's ouster and prior to the election of the current Chair, Maria Derr.
Derr and Schwartz share a law office and were mutual supporters in the Board Chair elections. And, since Schwartz is now the high mucky-muck of everything in the Board #2's external universe, including Parks, Waterfront and Open Space, he is once again poised to be in the position to make the decision regarding Pier 40.
And, guess what was just issued?
That's right rangers, the new RFP for Pier 40. The classy moniker for the HRPT's announcement that it is now again ready to receive proposals for the development of the pier. This is a bid request for a 14 acre property in lower Manhattan. Modest estimates would place this puppy in the $250 million dollar category with no problem. There's a lot of room for fuzzy thinking in those numbers.
As Yogi Berra once said, "It's Deja Vue all over again."
With the shenanigans that have lately been going on at Board #2 with the Nightlife crew who took over the Board leadership and looking to shore up its connections at the Chamber of Commerce and the Nightlife Association -- following the money is something that members of the community are a little leery about. And, with the serious effort made by the current Board leadership at character assassination -- including using the talents of PR undercover operative Allen Roskoff -- it's not surprising that the issue has once again reared its ugly head. Anonymous letters, smears against David Reck (Derr's opposition candidate in the election), and attacks heaped upon community activists - make a cogent argument for some disgruntled downtown resident to want an investigation to be initiated.
The financial report on Treasurer Roscia Sanz and Chair Maria Derr's watch has been the subject of much consternation and has caused such a stir that records have been requested by the Borough President's office as a result of their being too little, too late provided to the Full Board. The sums in that matter were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Pier 40 RFP, controlled now by the same people, involves hundreds of millions of dollars. Somebody is uncomfortable about the situation.