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March 13, 2014- Opinion By Steven E. Greer, MD
The newly elected Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer recently formed a “Task Force” to halt the progress of the Howard Hughes Corporation development planned for the Seaport at Pier 17. The appointed members were the usual suspects, such as Community Board 1’s (CB1) Jeff Galloway and Catherine McVay Hughes. However, the CB1 role was downplayed, with majority of the task force members being actual elected officials or members of the community.
The goals of the “Seaport Working Group” task force were ill-defined. Statements in the press indicated that it would help create a “master plan” for the Seaport area, but what does that mean? What is the real purpose of this task force other than to give the appearance that the elected officials are listening to the small vocal opposition to development?
To answer those questions, one must look at other Downtown “task forces” and “advisory committees” created by the CB1 and electeds.
The Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) has an “Advisory Council” chaired by CB1’s Bob Townley, who also generates revenue for his companies by operating the food vending stations on Pier 25 and other parts of the HRPT. The HRPT Council was created by the same state law that created the HRPT, with a membership of up to 51 people.
What has it accomplished?
The HRPT is a crime ridden crumbling park. Despite Wall Street Titans and billionaires on the board, the park is still a mess. A young woman was brutally raped in broad daylight near Pier 25. Large patches north of Pier 40 area no-man’s land. The new Pier 26 has a restaurant that was built violating state law and is now a stalled project. Recent attempts at using the pier for music concerts resulted in community outrage.
Where was the HRPT Advisory Council when all of these plans were being made?
Another task force created Downtown is State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s “School Overcrowding Task Force”. This too has been ineffective. Recently, the City DOE reneged on promises and failed to build a single new school below Canal Street. However, the task force was effective at fooling the local press into giving Mr. Silver good PR, making him seem to be a leader who cares.
In Battery Park City, the feckless CB1 has tried for many years to restrict the new Asphalt Green community center with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), drafted in secret by CB1’s Jeff Galloway, that would have created a large group of local small-time wannabe power brokers to essentially prevent competition with Bob Townley’s nearby Manhattan Youth community center. As a result of BatteryPark.TV reporting, the MOU was shot down and seems to be in dormancy.
Back to the newly created Seaport Working Group, can anything but delays and unnecessary layers of bureaucracy expected from this task force? Stay tuned.