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11U.N. Greenway Gap Update

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  • ssbaker305
    Nov 6, 2013
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      Well, I attended this meeting last night.
      Although there were new permits and new designs - which had nothing to do with the designs presented at the two charrettes since the last meeting on this topic - in many ways it felt like a meeting of two years ago, the last time a meeting was focused on closing the U.N. gap.  Solow Corporation is up against a Nov. 15 deadline, and will need a 3-year extension.  Their related development of the old Con Ed site has been delayed, their lawyer said, by litigation over design and impact of their 40-50 story buildings.

      Bottom line: they are still looking to raise $200m, and this will have to be done in stages, completing the 1-mile gap from the ends in, like some slow-growing plants of the type to line the center divide between bike lanes and pedestrian lanes.  It still involves the UNDC, selling off 1 & 2 U.N. Plaza (or, maybe refinancing them, a new wrinkle), and, of course, getting UN consensus to build on Robert Moses Park - a development still opposed by Tudor City Association at the meeting.  The EDC point person was asked if there was a back-up plan should such agreement fail to materialize.  There isn't one, she said.  So, afterwards, I again offered my group, Common Ground-NYC's, Plan B - a 14.6% Land Value Tax, over 10 years, on all property east of Second Avenue, between 38-61, that would raise the necessary $200m (see attached).  At least the $200m figure has not changed, perhaps suspiciously, given the cost of these kinds of long-term projects and interest charges, which can run up to half the cost if borrowing is involved (one of my other hats is as NY Coordinator for the Public Banking Institute.  A Public Bank could essentially cut infrastructure project costs in half, since interest costs would return to the Public that owned the bank.  See the first two videos with state-banking bill sponsor Assembly member Sandy Galef and me here: http://newthinking.blogspot. com/ for more on how this works).  We should take this cost projection with a large amount of East River salt since it hasn't been raised in several years.  As was said in the meeting, they are only in the design stage...still.  Much of the delay, I was told when I asked, is due to the need to raise funds along the way.  In contrast, Common Ground-NYC's proposal would involve a few months of community buy in, passing a new Special Improvement District (S.I.D.) designation law, with a defined area for the S.I.D., and it would then start raising money almost immediately, AND, crucially, not depend on U.N.'s plans or agreements (or, taking over Robert Moses Park, either).  This is not as radical as it may sound - part of the financing for the #7 train extension to the Javits Center was financed this way, the head of the Land Use subcommittee reminded me before the meeting last night.

      The last section, the middle, of the Gap is not expected to be completed until 2025.  How many of us will still be riding our bikes by then?  They say this is a large project, but so was the Empire State Building and that, famously, took 18 months, OK a bit more for planning and financing, but still, we seem to have gone backwards on the efficiency train after nearly a century.  Even the rebuilding of the WTC tower (aka Freedom tower) downtown, despite all that controversy, will be completed long before the Greenway gap, and they both started at roughly the same time.

      I saw many familiar faces at the meeting, and am CCIng some of them at their request, or just to keep them in the loop.  Ellen Imbimbo, Waterfront subcommittee chair (see below), told me that TA has been kept informed all along.  For some reason, they haven't announced anything about these negotiations in their Reclaim magazine, in the Manhattan subcommittee meetings (going by the minutes), or in any kind of email announcement, though there have been all sorts of other kinds of announcements.  I can't hazard a guess why this would be, unless they don't want to depress us by how long this project will take.

      That's my update for now, and probably for a while.  Given the slow progress, it doesn't look like there will be much more to report for some time of concern to this group (a new park at Asher Levy should come around 2015).  I'll be collecting Social Security by the time this is completed, assuming, of course, that Washington doesn't totally implode the country by then.

      Respectfully,

      Scott Baker, Ride Leader and Volunteer at East Coast Greenway Alliance (we do an annual Circle Manhattan by Bike Ride, including all the gaps!  Look for it next Spring/Summer on TA's events page); President of Common Ground-NYC; NY Coordinator for the Public Banking Institute; Senior Editor, Opednews; Blogger, Huffington Post.

      On Saturday, November 2, 2013 4:26:44 AM UTC-4, Scott Baker wrote:For those still following progress on the Greenway, I've been in touch with the head of the Waterfront Subcommittee of CB6 (now combined with the Land Use subcommittee) after following up on an invitation to the East Coasst Greenway Alliance by the UNDC. 

      There is an upcoming meeting next Tuesday you might want to attend.

      Quoting Ellen Imbimbo now:

      ...Some developments since the last time we talked: 

      • The Waterfront Committee was blended into Land Use and it’s now known as Land Use & Waterfront. 
      • Within the last month or so, UNDC made a presentation to the LU&W Committee about their plans for the UN building.  They hope to certify the project and get the ULURP clock started before the end of the year.  The presentation being referred to in Patrick Jordan’s outreach email is likely the same presentation.
      • On November 6, EDC will be making a presentation to the LU&W Committee regarding plans for the esplanade from 38th Street to 60th Street .  That, too, is referred to in Patrick’s email (the City-State $200 million agreement).   The meeting is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 6 at the Art & Design H. S., 245 E. 56th Street (between 2nd & 3rd Avenues) in the Auditorium.  It is, of course, open to the public.

      EDC is also doing extensive outreach and will hold another community working group meeting regarding the esplanade design in the near future.  It is my understanding that TA is an invitee to these meetings and has attended.

      In view of the above, believe that UNDC, EDC, CB6, etc. are doing all they can to keep the community informed and participating.    I do hope you’ll be able to attend the meeting on November 6. 

      Best regards,

      Ellen

      I'll be at the meeting.  Anyone interested in the East Side Greenway should also attend.

      I have no idea
      why either TA or this Manhattan subcommittee has chosen not to publicize these developments, and to focus instead exclusively on on-street bike lanes.  This seems to be an opportunity for us to become involved in the process, regardless.
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