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February 28, 2013 By Steven E. Greer, MD
After attending the CB1 meeting on February 27th, where numerous well organized Tribeca citizens spoke against the proposed NID tax to fund the Hudson River Park Trust, the event on February 28 in the CB2 district could not have been more different. Although the meeting as packed with hundreds of people, almost no one was even aware that the NID proposal even existed. It was only at the end, when elected state officials spoke, that the NID was discussed.
The prime objective of the meeting was to have the two teams representing the two major proposals to pay for renovations of the Pier 40 ballfields complex face off. On one side was Team Durst, represent developer Doug Durst, who until recently, ran the philanthropic arm of the Hudson River Park Trust. Mr. (The NID tax is also the brainchild of Mr. Durst, according to his teams’ media relations person with whom we chatted.) The Durst plan will be the easiest to build, and not require new laws in Albany to alter the HRPT Act that current forbids residential building on the park. Durst would overhaul the existing building and add spaces for commercial offices and retail shops.
The opposing plan, Team Champions, ostensibly thought up by a group of youth sports leagues called Champions, but mostly led by billionaire Michael Novogratz (not present, and who took Mr. Durst’s space on the Friends of HRPT), would require action in Albany to allow for residential building of two apartment buildings between the bike path and West Side Highway. According to opponents, the controversial buildings would cast long shadows for much of the day, and would obstruct the view of existing building in Tribeca. Proponents, such as Tobi Bergman, head of Champions, say that residential buildings are a more certain bet, given the many failed attempts to build commercially on Pier 40, and would generate more revenue.
The large room of parents and stakeholders cheered equally loud for both plans. The Champions supporters do not want to shut down Pier 40 and lose the ballfields for up to four years of construction of the Durst plan. They also do not seem to trust Durst due to previous promises made and cancelled on other projects, according to some people we spoke with from Champions. Durst supporters do not want residential buildings on the park.
However, the room seemed far less sophisticated (to say the least) about the NID tax than the CB1 crowd the night before. Since the NID is being championed by the Durst group, will this detract from Durst supporters once more people realize that a possible tax will come with the plan?
After the two groups presented, some of the elected officials spoke. Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and State Senator Brad Hoylman were the main voices. Notable no-shows were State Senator Daniel Squadron, anyone from mayor Bloomberg’s team, and anyone from Governor Cuomo’s staff. After being somewhat noncommittal in the press prior to this meeing, Glick and Hoylman now openly oppose the Champions plan due to the residential building. They feel that it would be a slippery slope, and soon the entire park would be devoured by private condos.
Only at the end of the meeting, after no questions were asked from the audience about the NID tax, did Glick bring it up. She mentioned the pros and cons, to little interest of the room.