With a saga as long and drawn out as the financial situation of Hudson River Park, it's no surprise that a plan for some sort of salvation would face serious opposition. A bill passed Albany last month that would allow the penniless park (currently running a $7+ million deficit) to sell unused development rights to help pay for repairs and maintenance. Supporters of the bill say they expect Governor Cuomo to sign it, but in the meantime, parks advocates have found plenty to criticize about the plan. The Journal reports that a "particular sore point" is the apparent conflict of interest of two members of the boards that oversee the park.
Mike Novogratz, chairman of the Friends of Hudson River Park, is also a principal at Fortress Investment Group, a company that has a stake in the three-block long St. John's Terminal Building at 550 Washington Street. The property has been touted as a prime development site for years, and the owners, and therefore Novogratz, could benefit nicely from the air rights plan. Novogratz says he wasn't involved with the air rights legislation or the purchasing of the terminal, which just happened last December. Still he admits that iIt certainly doesn't look great." A government transparency advocate put it slightly differently: "If you have an influential developer on a board whose property adjoins the park then that raises red flags instantly."
The other person is Joseph Rose, one of 13 members of the Hudson River Park Trust. He is a partner at a company that owns a building near 30th Street that the Journal says could "theoretically benefit" from an air-rights deal. However, a spokesman for Rose's company said that they will not seek additional development rights from the park.
If the air rights plan is fully approved, it's still unclear how many development rights could be sold or how much they would cost. Additionally, all sales would have to be approved by City Planning and City Council.
· Hudson River Park Plan Is Questioned [WSJ]
· Hudson River Park coverage [Curbed]
Photo of Hudson River Park by Joel Raskin/Curbed Flickr pool