Community Board 1 held a joint meeting of its Tribeca and Waterfront committees last night in order to hear the Friends of Hudson River Park’s proposal for a Neighborhood Improvement District. What that means: If you live or own a business west of Hudson Street, you could end up paying what is essentially a tax.
The park needs money because the Hudson River Park Act, which established the park, dictated that the park must be self-sustaining; unlike most other parks, it receives no state or city support for maintenance and operations. Until now, the revenue from the commercial aspects of the park (such as Pier 40 parking) has been enough, but the park has begun drawing on reserves. The view ten years out is that the park will have an annual need of around $11 million (more) dollars.
Another wrinkle: The Hudson River Park act prohibits the Hudson River Park Trust from spending money outside the park, which wouldn’t necessarily be a huge issue except the state has handed over the Route 9A medians to the city, but the city hasn’t accepted them, so they’re entering a state of disrepair. Traditionally, we were told at the meeting, because the medians (and the plantings therein) fall beyond what the city normally deals with, they get passed along to an organization such as Friends of Hudson River Park.
So how much would you have to pay? It depends on the size of your apartment (if you own—and again, this is only for those who live between the west side of Hudson Street and the Hudson River), because it’s 7.5¢ per square foot. The Friends of Hudson River Park seems to think that landlords won’t pass along the assessment to their tenants but will for commercial tenants.
The park’s waterfront location makes it somewhat fragile, so maintenance is likely to absorb much of the funds that are raised. One member—and I’m including it here because I strongly agree—feared that the influx of funds would lead to “mission creep” versus staying focused on the park. Indeed, the Friends say that beyond maintenance and operations, they’ll use the Neighborhood Improvement District revenue for “neighborhood needs”—projects like pedestrian bridges and crossing guards (sigh), street furniture (really?), signage to/from the park (no one has ever asked me how to find the park, and I get asked directions daily), as well as “promotion of the park and businesses.” Helping nearby “Friends of” groups—such as Friends of Bogardus Garden—was also discussed as a possibility.
This is the outreach phase, with public meetings to come in the fall and winter; the Friends of Hudson River Park needs to demonstrate that at least 50% of those being assessed support the plan.
The park has utterly changed this neighborhood and many others, and a Neighborhood Improvement District strikes me as a logical way to address many of the park’s financial issues, especially (a) given the relative wealth of the west side, and (b) the park’s number of visitors is likely to increase from an already impressive 17 million annually once the city’s bikeshare programs starts July 31.
My only other quibble, then, is why stop at Hudson? Take it to W. Broadway, at least. And why stop at Chambers? The folks on Warren and Murray use the park as much as anyone.
Herewith, a bunch of slides from the presentation. Click them to read the text (I added the text in read, in case that’s not obvious):