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Squadron: Lower Manhattan Needs Pier 42 Park

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This morning, members of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation board allocated $100 million for a performing arts center at the World Trade Center, $20 million for a bridge at West Thames Street in Battery Park City and $15 million for improvements at the Battery Maritime Building.

As the “ayes” rolled in and the dollars were doled out upon each vote, State Sen. Daniel Squadron sat quietly at the table, making a somewhat unprecedented personal appearance by an elected official that even Squadron characterized as a “high level of pushiness.”

He attended to champion a project that hasn’t been quite as lucky as those preceding him on the agenda: a park and recreation area at Pier 42 along the East River at Montgomery Street. The LMDC board was created eight years ago to direct the dispensation of more than $2 billion in federal funds meant to rejuvenate lower Manhattan in the wake of Sept. 11. The board is nearing the bottom of its bank account, and Squadron and other Lower East Side officials and neighborhood advocates are hoping to shake loose about $45 million for Pier 42 before the last check is written.

“We’re getting to that point where the pot is finite, and it’s a good time to step back and say, ‘What are the iconic projects?’” Squadron told the board when he finally took the floor. “It’s time to step back and really take stock, and when you do that, Pier 42 really rises to the top of the list.”

In a press conference yesterday, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez and other local officials joined Squadron and community advocates in backing the proposed park. A representative of Schumer’s office also was on hand this morning to lend support to Squadron’s request, and Community Board 1 chairwoman Julie Menin, a member of the LMDC board, also chimed in. “When you look at the west side waterfront, and then you look at the east side, they are very disparate, and it’s inequitable,” Menin said.

Squadron and other supporters argue that the Pier 42 project would provide a good balance to the performing arts center and other expensive public amenities that have sprung up along the Hudson River side of Manhattan in the last decade. While several board members expressed support for completing the vision of a “continuous ribbon of green around Lower Manhattan,” not everyone was as supportive as Menin.

“This round of funding was the first time we’ve had to make really hard choices; up until now we’ve had the luxury of saying, ‘Let’s fund what’s good,’” said board member Carl Weisbrod. “There’s a limit to what we’re going to be able to fund going forward.”

LMDC President David Emil was slightly more encouraging, telling Squadron that he and his staff would help in the search for funds, even though there is not $45 million remaining in any one pot under his organization’s control. “Money is shorter now than it was an hour ago,” Emil said.

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