Trump deals a crooked hand on hotel-condo

Volume 19 • Issue 12 | August 4 – 10, 2006


L.M.D.C.’s record of achievements and blemishes

The L.M.D.C.’s announcement last week that it will be closing up shop in a few months gives us reason to reflect on its record. This state-city authority became such an integral part of Lower Manhattan that we undoubtedly will have more to say about them in the coming weeks and months, including the outstanding monetary questions growing from our news article in this issue. We’ll take a broader view this week.

Even though there is now some World Trade center construction activity, the site still looks like a hole in the ground and will for some time. It is easy to blame the L.M.D.C. for this, but as we have said in the past, the chief culprits are Pataki, who pulled the strings at most of the agencies and institutions involved in Downtown’s rebuilding; the Port Authority, who procrastinated building the W.T.C. eastern “bathtub”; and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who mostly sat on his hands on W. T. C. issues in his first term.

The corporation however, must take considerable blame because the damaged Deutsche building still haunts the site. It bought the albatross building two years ago and has not yet come up with an approved plan to take the contaminated structure down.

The L.M.D.C. has much reason to be proud though. When many of our scarred neighbors were moving away, the agency’s $300-million rent subsidy program helped stabilize our community and attracted many new young residents Downtown. Fortunately, a good number of these newcomers were able to afford to stay when the two-year incentives ran out and Lower Manhattan continues to be the city’s fastest growing area. The agency’s push to improve both the East and Hudson River waterfronts will have long-lasting effects.

There were times the L.M.D.C. was justifiably criticized for not consulting with the public, but overall its record exceeds most public authorities and agencies. We can’t imagine the Port or anyone else being willing to go to meeting after meeting as the L.M.D.C. did, only to be pummeled by one competing stakeholder or another. It popularized an outstanding public forum system – large presentations, followed by small group discussions that are documented. Whether used for thousands in the Listening to the City W.T.C. site forum in 2002, or for hundreds in the neighborhood workshops in 2003, the format worked well and should be duplicated for future projects.

Developing the site’s “master” plan and picking a memorial were enormously complicated endeavors and it was more difficult for the L.M.D.C. because it did not have jurisdiction over the site. Pataki made it harder by undermining the corporation at a few key moments – overruling the L.M.D.C.’s site selection committee by going with Daniel Libeskind’s plan over the Think team’s Towers of Culture; and most egregiously, caving to family members by removing a cultural building and two museums from the plan.

The L.M.D.C. has made mistakes along the way and we may very well see more before it closes, but considering all the competing groups and agencies involved, the unprecedented task before it, and given its connection to such wrenching tragedy and emotion, Downtown is probably a better place because of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

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