Re: Proposed Amendment of the Zoning Resolution relating to Article VIII, Chapter 9 (Special Hudson River Park District), N160308ZRM
I urge you to ask the City Council to postpone the November 1 hearing on the above-mentioned proposal for air rights transfers from Pier 40 to Washington Street. Express your opposition to this dangerous proposal because it not only oversimplifies a tremendously complicated public policy problem, it symbolizes bad public policy and undermines confidence in government.
The proposal establishes a dangerous precedent of minting air rights over piers and public waterways to facilitate luxury development. It even does so in a high-risk flood area. While we understand that enabling legislation may have been passed by Governor Cuomo to specifically promote this deal, the unusually secretive planning process - revealed by DNAInfo's FOIL requests - makes the deal appear to be mostly about manipulation of air rights in favor of hyper-density rather than a project undertaken to further the public good.
The case highlights the fact that the city’s present regulatory process for managing air rights is deficient in the extreme. There is no framework for assessing the cumulative impact of these transfers on neighborhoods “receiving areas.” And in this case, the process has brought about secretive horse-trading between powerful interests that undermines public confidence.
The poor judgment shown by City Planning and Hudson River Park Trust to rush this through makes it clear that the existing system for regulating air rights is too weak. Under the current system, air rights transfers produce multiple noxious effects that damage the wider public good and the long-term welfare of city residents. These include destruction of the city landscape, mismanagement of waterways, the placement of excessively tall buildings on low and mid-rise blocks, over-building in flood-prone waterfronts, and the blocking of public light, air, and views. None of these issues are managed in the current regulatory process which amounts to a mere set of bureaucratic procedures.
Our city needs a moratorium on air rights transfers until a better system for regulating air rights transfers can receive the public debate that a meaningful democracy deserves.
Accommodating the mega-projects of developers is not the way that we should fund Hudson River Park, which has become an albatross around the city’s neck. The proper solution would be to seek changes in the park's underlying enabling legislation to permit management of the space as a state or city park. Until that happens, the stewards of the park are going to continue to overwhelm the city with outrageous schemes to fill their ever-increasing deficit, schemes that only create more problems than they solve.
Given the documents obtained by DNAInfo from City Planning and the Hudson River Park Trust (see DNAInfo, "How the St. John's Deal was Done"), we are convinced there are also serious issues of due process and manipulation of the land-use process that need judicial review. In addition, the City Planning Commission's documents on this question (see http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/about/cpc/160308.pdf) are filled with missing information related to plans, maps, and attachments. This oversight has prevented civic organizations from studying this massively important issue in anticipation of a hearing.
Postpone the hearing scheduled for Nov. 1 for several weeks after the presidential election. That would give time for a meaningful public discussion of this proposal and its potential unintended negative consequences.
We urge you to testify and object to this proposal.