Wednesday, December 20, 2006

'Tis the Season

For all of the cranky people out there, this was a spectacular week.

The main question for those of you Downtown rangers is “What’s the rush?”
As in, hey Mr. Mayor, why rush in pushing Trump SoHo (at Spring and Varick in Hudson Square) on to completion after the deal of the Art (as in Con Art) has shown itself to be a residential tower in disguise as a Hotel.

As of right development can make you want to hide the real deal. Hotels go very high – because City Planning has been asleep. Condos go low – like only 8 to 10 stories.

After discovering Bones, as in the humankind, a stop work order was initiated by the Department of Buildings – only to be rescinded today so that the Donald can get back to work selling condos, oops, no Hotel/condos. All 45 stories – which, had he told everyone that he wanted to sell straight condos – he would have been lucky to get maybe, say, 8 stories. An FAR of 5 is about right normally.

So, you can see where a little subtlety (or even lying) might be useful.

There’s no subtlety for Commissioner Lancaster ( Department of Buildings ) or her boss, Mayor Bloomberg. Where a full archeological investigation might have otherwise ensued, we have a stop work order that lasted roughly one week.
That’s after all of the signals out of the Trump organization saying, “HELLO, we’re building a condo here!”
– but that was completely lost on Lancaster and Bloomberg, however.

Gives you a warm feeling when you think about how closely the City and Trump work and play together – at the expense of the residents Downtown.
Politicians keep forgetting about this area having the fastest residential growth in Manhattan. As in votes!

Speaking of building, Pier 40 is now about to have its future reconsidered – again.
The Hudson River Park Trust, the agency responsible for the redevelopment of our Hudson River shoreline, has now begun the process of reviewing plans submitted for the final development of Pier 40, at the foot of Houston Street.
Only four plans were received as a result of the RFP (request for proposal), which was sent to at least 300 potential developers. Of those four received, only two are serious entries – The Related Companies “Pier 40 PAC” (Performing Arts Center), featuring Cirque du Soleil – and CampGroup’s “Pier 40 – The People’s Pier” which primarily features ball fields, a pool center and an educational complex. Both entries have extensive plans and financials that are credible.
The RFP had a few ground rules. Among them were two requirements: that parking would remain and that ball fields would be part of any plan.
The “Pier 40 Working Group” under its Chairman Arthur Schwartz (who is also Chair of Community Board #2’s Parks and Waterfront Committee, will recommend a plan (or no plan) to the Trust Board once it has finished its review of the proposals.

Moving along On the Waterfront we find that a curious phenomenon has graced its development. It seems as though the Port Authority in its wisdom has authorized something like $5 million for the Beacon Institute to run the Pier 26 Estuarium when, in fact, the Board of Directors of the Hudson River Park Trust has not yet voted to designate any entity, Beacon or otherwise, to run the Pier 26 estuarium, and no process has yet been determined to select a developer for this site.
But, that didn’t stop the Port Authority from adopting a resolution. To wit:

RESOLVED, that the resolution adopted by the Board at its meeting of October 19,
2006 authorizing the Executive Director to enter into one or more agreements with the
Hudson River Park Trust and/or another appropriate entity, pursuant to which the Port
Authority was to provide up to $10 million toward the development of the new Urban
Estuary Center to be constructed on Pier 26 within the boundaries of the Hudson River Park
in Lower Manhattan, be and it hereby is amended (i) to reallocate $5 million of the funds
authorized for that purpose toward the reconstruction of Pier 86 in Manhattan, the berthing
site of the U.S.S. Intrepid (Intrepid), and toward the cost of repairing the Intrepid’s hull, and
(ii) to provide that the remaining $5 million of such funding for the Urban Estuary Center be
allocated by the Hudson River Park Trust and/or another appropriate entity for the study of
Hudson River estuary preservation strategies by a consortium of educational institutions led
by the State of New York and the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries (Beacon
Institute) pursuant to the Strategic Plan and Conceptual Design 2006 prepared by Gensler on
behalf of the Beacon Institute;

It appears that as Pataki waves good-bye on Trigger like Hop-Along Cassidy, his buddy-environmentalist John Cronin will be left behind like Tonto with a 3 year old firm (Beacon Institute) and $5 mil to make the rounds of potential employers. With the Port Authority as the financial conduit to push the job by funding the money, the question is, do environmentalists take Cronin seriously and does the Trust want to be told what they’re going to say before they say it? In roughly 10 days Trigger could break a leg and Tonto would be left holding a bag of horseshit.

Back on land, the natives on Community Board #2 are a little miffed about items that keep disappearing before they hit the Full Board for consideration and a possible vote. Democracy is a fleeting concept on Board #2.

Like the Board #3 resolution, the one that was approved at Board #2’s Zoning committee Chaired by Doris Diether managed to get lost on its way to the Full Board.

When you consider the fact that the resolution had to do with grandfathering restaurant and bar use in order to limit further liquor licenses, you kind of get the feeling that the Bar Boys & Girls (Rinaolo, Panson, Derr, Mouquinho, Maggio, Diaz) might have sidelined the resolution before it got any real consideration.

This gives Humbug a bad name.

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