Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dustup at Community Board 1 Waterfront Committee.

OK. Tonight I actually sort of wish I was a real journalist. Because then I could justify staying up all night researching Al Butzel, the Friends of the Hudson River Park, the Committee to Protect Our Parks, and a certain sanitation garage in the Hudson Square area. Unfortunately I'm not, so it's got to be nutshell version & then to bed.

The reason I'm suddenly interested in non-boathouse stuff is that made for one very exciting Community Board One meeting tonight.

Connie Fishman, president of the Hudson River Park Trust, didn't show up & didn't want to send Noreen, the vice president who I have mentioned here from time to time in conjunction with my frustration over lack of public notice about park-related meetings. Apparently no one else on the Trust is qualified to speak about the Pier 25-26 situation. They'll invite Connie to the next one on April 30th but that took a lot of the point out of that agenda item for tonight. In the meantime, they'll refine the specific questions they want to ask, and maybe start listing ideas for how to get some interim uses going there (since the current timeline involves Piers 25 & 26 being under construction until 2009 at the VERY soonest).

Al Butzel and Yvonne Morrow were the last people on the agenda (the first ones were East River Park planners - I got there a bit too late & was sitting outside for that one so can't speak to what happened there). They were there to ask CB1 to support their Committee to Protect Our Parks, which apparently already has a fair number of supporters. Their speil all sounded pretty good, although the organization sounds incredibly incestuous (typical for waterfront politics) - their stated goal involved keeping the Hudson River Park land as park, rather than allowing the legislation to be changed to allow for a marine transfer station for recyclables to be built on the Gansevoort Peninsula, and for Pier 99, the pier I've always referred to as "the garbage barge pier" to be expanded to handle a lot more garbage.

Currently, the Sanitation Department is using the Gansevoort Peninsula as a garage. They're supposed to clear out but haven't given any sign of doing them.

Al, working through his Friends of the Hudson River Park, had organized a batch of community people & park folks to sue Sanitation to get them out. They had their plaintiffs, and I guess the Committee to Protect Our Parks is a wider coalition of groups & politicians supporting the lawsuit.

Catch is - New York City is a BIG city and we make A LOT of garbage. That takes transfer station & truck garages & there's just no way around that. Seems there were a series of negotiations between the FOHRP and Sanitation & eventually a deal was cut that Sani would get to build an enormous garage in the Hudson Square area.

The meeting got exciting because the question was posed - "Who speaks for this organizations, and what's the decision-making process?" Al said that they had meetings, and emails would be sent around -

well, there was a gentleman there who lives in the area where the settlement said that Sanitation could build their garbage truck tower & he began to ask some extremely direct questions about just how open the decision to build this thing was. According to him, a number of the plaintiffs who FOHRP had claimed to be acting on behalf of felt that they were misled or not properly notified of the size of this thing that was now landing in their neighborhood.

Turned into a bit of a fracas. No actual fisticuffs, but Al was called a liar; Al then started getting visibly tense and called the detractor a liar in return, the detractor said his neighborhood didn't deserve this thing, Al said maybe the detractor deserved it, somebody asked if Al had a thing about CB2 to say that, Al said "Maybe I have a thing about Dave", and at that point pretty much all hell broke loose, people were yelling, Robert's Rules were flung to the winds, until finally Julie started calling for order & loudly suggested that the motion to support the Committee to Protect Our Parks be tabled until the next meeting. Enough board members heard here to vote in agreement & that was the end of the meeting.

The unbelievably contentious end to the meeting.

Anyways. Wow. Next to that, boathouse politics are pretty tame.

Of course I only have what I heard tonight, but the decision-making & notification process Al was describing did sound less than ideally transparent. Lots of money & lots of political connections involved there too - that's where I think the people in charge of a group really do need to make sure that they are actually representing the people they claim to be representing & that all of those people are kept completely informed & have ample opportunity to express their opinions - and have those opinions listened to & respected.

In this case, clearly there are people who don't feel they were treated with that repect.

Anyways. Exciting. Haven't been to a meeting where people were actually yelling at each other since I don't remember when.

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