Trust C.E.O. is expected to resign


By Josh Rogers

Robert Balachandran is expected to announce he is leaving as president and C.E.O. of the Hudson River Park Trust at the Trust’s board meeting this Thursday, according to sources.

Rumors that Balachandran will be leaving the state-city agency responsible for building the riverside park have intensified since last week when The Villager reported that he is planning to take a job with Bear Stearns investment firm.

Reached in his office on Tuesday, Balachandran declined to comment on any of the rumors, but he said nothing to deny them either.

It has been a turbulent period for the Trust. After the first 10 acres of the park opened this summer in the Village, the Trust abruptly ended its search for a developer to convert Pier 40 into park space with some commercial activity. The Trust has also come under fire because it tried to open an ice rink in the park before consulting with Community Board 2. The rink is one of the short-term improvements Gov. George Pataki sees as a way to help Downtown recover from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. But Assemblymember Deborah Glick and park activists say that under the Hudson River Park Act, the rink qualifies as a “significant” change to the original park plan and thereby required an extensive community review process.

According to one source, Pataki and James Ortenzio, who until recently was the Trust’s chairperson, were looking to move Balachandran aside for quite some time because he had not been aggressive enough mobilizing forces to build the rest of the park. About $200 million is needed to build the sections north and south of the Village. Some park advocates have been pressing Pataki to use $70 million of Lower Manhattan Development Corp. money to build the Downtown section.

The source said Connie Fishman, the Trust’s vice president, is likely to get the interim position as president and C.E.O. but that she might hesitate taking the permanent post given the continued uncertainty about the park’s future. The source said Pataki might also not be comfortable with Fishman because she came to the Trust from Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s administration.

The Trust’s board meeting will be Nov. 20 at Pace University, 1 Pace Plaza, Schimmel Center for the Arts, multipurpose room, at 4 p.m.