New dangers for the Hudson River

New dangers for the Hudson River

New dangers for the Hudson River

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The decades-long fight to protect the lower Hudson River in New York City from habitat destruction and overdevelopment has heated up with several recent developments: (1) Amendments that enormously weaken the state law governing the area passed the NY State legislature in the dead of night on the last day of the session, June 22. Gov. Cuomo should veto this outrage; call him at 518-474-8390. The new amendments allow more development in and on the river in the very area where super storm Sandy ravaged the city; (2) a proposal to tax nearby property owners for a Neighborhood Improvement District could provide a stream of revenue for complex borrowing schemes to pay for damaging in-water development; (3) the appalling evidence of Sandy’s storm havoc and likely future storms along the coast escalated the human, environmental, and economic stakes of ruinous overdevelopment in the lower Hudson area. It’s a deadly triple play that is converging in the old Westway area of Manhattan’s Hudson River.

Westway was a four-mile, $4 billion proposed interstate highway and development project to be tunneled through landfill in the Hudson River from Battery Park City to 59th Street. It was defeated in 1985 in courts and Congress, and the area’s value as an extremely valuable fishery habitat was established. The money ultimately went mostly towards subway improvements.

After Westway’s defeat, a public/private authority, the Hudson River Park Trust, was given jurisdiction over the 490 acres of river and 60 acres of adjacent land. HRPT is not a regular government body: it is an authority, an entity with no democratic face. A former NY governor defined an authority as “something above democracy; that’s why it was invented by the politicians, to keep people away from the operation.”

HRPT has spent $300-400 million so far to rebuild derelict piers where development might be sited. Green public space and bike paths occupy the 60 on-land acres. HRPT claims that present lack of funding demands that the legislation be weakened and that the NID money be approved. New York environmentalists oppose the amendments to the HRPT law Memo of Opposition. They also oppose the NID, hoping to protect the irreplaceable natural resources and to keep the water and waterfront from view blocking building that will be more vulnerable to climate change-fueled storms.

Timing is tight. Friends of the Earth asks your help to ask Gov. Cuomo to veto the bad legislation. Also, please  email Robert Walsh, Commissioner of NYC Department of Small Business Services ([email protected]) and ask him to reject the proposed NID. Ask City Council members to do the same.

By Bunny Gabel

For more information: Bunny Gabel, [email protected], New York Friends of the Earth representative.
Photo credit.Wusel007, Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons