Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Downtown Dilemma

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.
Voltaire (1694 - 1778)

Making decisions on the waterfront are just as difficult now as it was for Brando’s character in On the Waterfront. And, the old ILA was notorious but today is a group of Teamsters who are trying to keep passenger ships in Manhattan as well as save their livelihoods on Pier 92.
Lucky Luciano was the man that ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) finally made a deal with when they needed an anti-sabotage ring on the piers. In return, Luciano got a better deal than Dannemora.

Some of those thorny decisions still plague residents who are trying to keep Pier 40 away from the developers. The newest threat if Pier 40 were not to be developed as “Vegas-on-the-Hudson” by Related comes partly from the frustration among Hudson Square residents with the Department of Sanitation’s plan to build in a few locations. A fourteen story garage at Spring and Greenwich Streets has generated a major amount of heat with residents in that location and the “Steering Committee,” as they are known has developed plans for Hudson Square and proposed several alternative sites.
At the same time, the Gansevoort Recycling plan, which includes a transfer station that Bloomberg and Doctoroff were pushing, may get some new attention in Albany at the beginning of next year.
The problem with the recycling plan and the DSNY building is the following dilemma. As a result of the settled lawsuit brought by the Friends of Hudson River Park several years ago, DSNY has to be off the Gansevoort Pier by 2012 and was supposed to move to the UPS site – on Greenwich and Spring. If they cannot move off Gansevoort they violate the terms of the settlement or they move to where the Steering Committee doesn’t want them to move.

This is how the idea of Pier 40 as a quasi-garage for garbage trucks came to pass recently. The problem with that solution is that a tremendous amount of community opposition is expected – since the Trust just spent $5 million for ball fields and the consensus is that the pier should be a park, not a substitute garage for sanitation trucks. It’s bad enough that Downtown is inundated with diesel smoke, the kids don’t need to breathe it while they’re playing soccer or baseball.
A major part of any solution needs to involve Pier 76, where there is room for lots of parking and is not directly part of a residential neighborhood.
Turning Hudson Square into a parking garage for DSNY makes as little sense as turning Pier 40 into a garbage truck facility.
Hudson Square, SoHo, the West Village may have some manufacturing zones – which need to be changed – but the trend towards residential use is undeniable. It should not be forced into an ugly bastardization of this potential future by encouraging numerous hotels, hotel-condos and DSNY facilities.

As Doctoroff moves off into the sunset in January – rumored to have been awarded the keep-your-mouth shut post as head of Bloomberg media – we look beyond the horizon. Perhaps he’ll hook up with Karl Rove and write a book on “Development Strategies for a neighborhood without zoning” or make a deal with Trump to build a 75 story Disney tower in the Hudson River Park.

The head of HPD (Housing Preservation and Development), Mr. Sean Donovan, has moved on.
HPD, a city agency, DHCR, a state agency and our very own Buildings Department, are among the major agencies involved with housing in Manhattan. Landlord abuse of tenants has risen to a crisis level and Deborah Glick (Assembly), Christine Quinn (City Council), as well as Scott Stringer (Borough President) have been active in different ways to address this issue.
Stringer has pushed for more affordable housing, Glick has been pushing for controls on “phony demolition” and landlord abuse and Quinn has recently introduced legislation to curb harassment of controlled and stabilized tenants.
In addition,Brad Hoylman, Chair of Community Board #2, has weighed in on these issues and is planning to hold hearings at the beginning of 2008.

As the Trump Godzilla (Trump SoHo) project reaches for the last few floors of its 45-story height, the stories have unfolded about the developer himself.
As a hard money lender (higher interest, shorter terms, and not a bank) described him, Trump is known in the trade as a Five Per center. He puts his name on a deal and the money guys and developers come in and do the “The Real Deal.” Trump doesn’t have any money in the project, he basically skims off the top for lending a moniker that, god help us, connotes “something” that people have been taught to want. Americans deserve what they get. With a Five Percenter who has to run a T.V. career to help promote his carnival barker antics, the Forbes article that placed his net worth at $150 million seems closer to the truth.
And, in this case, the “stories” are a little dicier than usual. Apparently, one of the major players in the Bayrock company who handled the development with money rumored to have come from Dubai, is a character know as Sater.
Trump, who normally has a good memory, does not remember rubbing elbows with someone who was the focus of a recent New York Times piece. Sater is currently known as Satter and apparently has been around the corner a few times – from the Soviet Union to Brighton Beach – via the Central Intelligence Agency and Wall Street – stopping off long enough to be accused of laundering some money. He currently identifies himself as real estate executive and does business with The Donald.

The whole project has smarmy written all over it – and it would be interesting to see how it would all play out if the “condo” part of hotel-condo were rendered illegal. The SoHo Alliance is betting that will happen.

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