Community Board 1 (CB1) has completed its annual statement of District Needs and Budget Priorities, which is submitted every 12 months to the City government, to help set the agenda for policy and spending in the coming fiscal year.
“Reacting to problems is important,” reflects Board chair Anthony Notaro, “but CB1 has a heritage of forward thinking and planning. This agenda is big but so important and Lower Manhattan deserves the best we can do.”
The document is divided between proposals for capital and expense spending, with the former focused on “hard” assets like new buildings (which are expected to deliver benefits for years to come), and the latter emphasizing the cost of operations, such as salaries and supplies, which are confined to a single year. Both sets of proposals are for the City’s 2019 fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2018.
On the capital side, CB1 is asking the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs to provide funds to improve the headquarters of two existing Lower Manhattan museums (the South Street Seaport Museum and the Police Museum), while also creating a new performing arts center at Castle Clinton, in the Battery. The panel also wants the City’s Department of Environmental Protection to expand existing “green” infrastructure (such as bio-swales and greenbelts), along with other technologies to treat and manage wastewater. CB1 is also asking the same agency to replace or upgrade water mains throughout Lower Manhattan, some of which are centuries old.
From the Department of Education, CB1 is asking that plans for 1,000 new elementary school seats south of Canal Street be included in that agency’s upcoming five-year capital plan. The community board also wants funds to expand Millennium High School, the Harbor School, and the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School.
The City’s Department of Transportation is the focus of 11 requests, ranging from improving the open spaces beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, to traffic studies in the Financial District and World Trade Center area, to the reconstruction of multiple streets throughout the community.
The Parks Department is being asked to build a community center east of Broadway, along with ballfields, active recreation space, and unstructured open space.
The Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency is urged to provide funds for, “short- to medium-term resiliency infrastructure in anticipation of future extreme weather events,” while also closing the funding gap in the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency plan, which has left Downtown (more than five years after Hurricane Sandy) essentially as unprepared for flood and storm waters as it was in October, 2012.
The City’s Economic Development Corporation is importuned to continue the transformation of Governors Island with, “a new plan to create a 24/7 community with even more public parks, nonprofit tenants, restaurants, and 5 million square feet of new commercial, office and education space,” along with funds for the maintenance of historic buildings and the Island’s decrepit infrastructure. CB1 asks the same agency to, “improve and modernize security infrastructure and devices in the vicinity of the New York Stock Exchange.”
Lastly, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development is being petitioned to create more affordable housing in Lower Manhattan, and the New York Public Library is called upon to build a new branch on the east side of the district.
In addition to the capital requests outlined above (which focus on new spending), CB1 is also asking for continuing financial support for ongoing projects, such as completion of the East River Esplanade, improved bicycle and pedestrian connections in front of the Battery Maritime Building as well as between the Esplanades along the Hudson and East Rivers, playgrounds and restrooms in the Battery, parks at Elizabeth Berger Plaza and Peck Slip, and support for the West Thames pedestrian bridge.
On the expense side of the ledger, CB1 wants support for programs at the South Street Seaport and Police Museums from Cultural Affairs. The Department of City Planning is asked to assign staff to a land use and zoning study of Tribeca, with an eye toward limiting the proliferation of sidewalk cafes. The same agency is also urged to study the impact of controversial Water Street Zoning Text amendment (which will allow building owners to enclose arcades to created new retail space, and private some public plazas) on open space in Lower Manhattan.
CB1 wants the Department of Environmental Protection to assign enforcement personnel around the clock to issues like air quality, noise pollution, and illegal idling by vehicles such as trucks and buses. Helicopters and construction vehicles would also receive heightened scrutiny under this proposal.
Also on the enforcement front, the Department of Buildings is invited to assign personnel for day, night and weekend inspections of construction sites, and to enforcement of privately owned public spaces (POPS), where building owners are required to provide public amenities, in exchange for permission to have erected larger towers than otherwise would have been legally allowed.
The City’s Department for the Aging is requested to continue funding for ongoing programs operating at three senior centers within CB1: Independence Plaza North, Southbridge Towers and St. Margaret’s House, while also providing funds for a new senior referral center.
CB1 is suggesting that the City’s Department of Homeless Services increase funding for mental health and outreach to the homeless population in Lower Manhattan.
The Department of Sanitation is implored to increase the number of crews assigned to local trash pickup and graffiti removal, as well as those policing enforcement of regulations about commercial waste.
The Department of Transportation is exhorted to repair and maintain cobblestone streets in Tribeca that have been rebuilt in recent years, as well as to undertake traffic studies focused on three locations: South End Avenue, West Street, and the Holland Tunnel area.
The Parks Department is being asked to supplement maintenance in the Hudson River Park, while also funding maintenance and security (by Parks Enforcement Patrol officers) at the Battery.
CB1 wants the City’s Department of Youth and Community Development to fund after-school and recreational programs through Lower Manhattan.
The Economic Development Corporation is called upon to help with maintenance on Governors Island.
The New York Police Department is the recipient of four requests: to provide traffic personnel at a series of intersections along West and Canal Streets; to step up quality-of-life enforcement (with a focus on disruptive bars and clubs, tour buses, illegal parking, and street vendors); to assign more crossing guards at local schools (on a more consistent schedule); and to increase monitoring and enforcement at around illegal street encampments.
The New York Public Library is asked to restore funding at Lower Manhattan branches to its 2008 levels (after which the financial crisis caused draconian cuts that have never been fully offset), in order to increase the number of days and hours that each branch is open/
CB1 recommends that the Office of Recovery and Resiliency fund a study and cost-benefit analysis of the proposed New York Harbor Storm Surge Barrier, which would be designed to protect all of Lower Manhattan.
And finally, the City’s Office of Management and Budget is urged to increase CB1’s annual budget to $400,000 — a request that, if approved, would mark the community board’s first increased allocation in two decades.
“When you look at all the accomplishments that CB1 has effected and what we have our vision set on, it’s clear that this Board takes our community’s needs seriously and is committed to positive change,” observes Mr. Notaro. “So often you hear, ‘someone should do…” I believe that CB1 has adhered that call with their time, energy and leadership. We can’t do it alone; we need as many residents and businesses as possible to pitch in and point out the problems — real and potential — and come up with options and solutions.”