Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Governor Patterson Suspends State Funding Of Construction Projects For Budget Crisis, Exempts Roosevelt Island's FDR Four Freedoms Park - Why?


The NY Post, NY Times and NY 1 are reporting that Governor David Patterson is suspending hundreds of New York State funded construction projects. According to the NY Post:
Gov. Paterson moved on two fronts yesterday to shore up the state's teetering finances: halting hundreds of state-funded construction projects and freezing another $2.1 billion in school aid.

The emergency actions came as the state approached another fiscal year -- its 26th since 1980 -- without a balanced budget.

Paterson officials said the lack of a 2010-11 spending plan by the April 1 deadline would mean the end of the road for some 500 building projects not funded by federal stimulus money.

Ongoing projects facing shortfalls in state aid include the $407 million effort to repair and expand the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, which carries I-95 over the Harlem River, and plans to reconfigure the Long Island Expressway's interchange with Route 110 in Huntington.

Paterson's extraordinary fiat might keep other projects from starting altogether, such as the $75 million plan to build a highway connection for the Army's base at Fort Drum near the Canadian border. Bids for the project were due to be let tomorrow....
According to NY 1:
...For now, only projects paid for with federal stimulus funds will move forward. The rest will have to wait until the state Legislature and the governor come up with a spending plan.

However, any project that addresses emergency health and safety needs will be exempt from the suspension.
How does this suspension of NY State funded construction projects impact the $4 million in State funding allocated to the proposed FDR Four Freedom Park Boondoggle on Roosevelt Island?

When I learned of the suspension of NY State funded construction projects my sentiments echoed this tweet from Value Everything:
Great! Does this mean they'll stop the FDR Memorial on Roosevelt Island? http://bit.ly/9f0xvE I hope so, cause it'll be ugggggly!
So I inquired of Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) President Steve Shane how this will impact Roosevelt Island's proposed FDR Four Freedoms Park as well as any other Roosevelt Island project including the Tram Modernization.

Mr. Shane replied:
I am advised that the Governor's announcement will have no impact on the State appropriation for the FDR Four Freedoms Memorial.
followed by:
Also, zero impact on Tram modernization project. Money already in ESDC's and RIOC's account.
I responded:
I do not mean to be sarcastic or snarky in any manner but what "emergency health and safety needs" does the FDR Four Freedoms Park meet in order to be exempted from the Governor's construction project suspension?
Mr. Shane answered:
I have no idea, but it is not on the suspend list.
I then received the following RIOC Advisory:
Due to construction, South Point Park will be close until further notice.

Sincerely,

Roosevelt Island Operating Corp Advisories Group
and asked Mr. Shane:
Is the closure of Southpoint Park due to construction for the FDR Four Freedoms Park? If so, shouldn't any construction wait until you are sure that the Governor's suspension of State funding is confirmed, otherwise the Park is needlessly closed.
who answered:
There are two projects going on. One is Phase II of the Southpoint Open Space project (aka Green Rooms/Wild Gardens) and the second being the FDR Four Freedoms project. The State funding is confirmed.
This is just an additional instance of what appears to be special consideration being given for the politically connected FDR Four Freedoms Park Memorial Boondoggle. For example this happened just yesterday. I asked Mr. Shane:
During the RIRA Town Hall meeting last Wednesday, you indicated that the FDR Four Freedoms Park Memorial agreement has been finalized, in escrow, it's release from escrow imminent and when it was released from escrow RIOC would make the agreement public. Has the agreement been released from escrow and if so, can you forward me a copy so that I may post on Roosevelt Islander blog.

Also, has the FDR Four Freedoms Park Memorial been approved by the NYC Design Commission? I have been trying to confirm that NYC Design Commission has approved the project but have not been able to do so yet. If it has not been approved, does that have any impact on the agreement between RIOC and FDR Memorial promoters?
Mr. Shane sent the material requested and added in regard to the approval by NYC Design Commission:
no, it was not and no it was not required to be.
In reply, I asked:
In response to your answer below, why does the FDR Memorial Project design for Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park not need to be submitted to and approved by the NYC Design Commission? According to the NYC Design Commission's web site:

... The Design Commission reviews permanent works of art, architecture and landscape architecture proposed on or over City-owned property. Projects include construction, renovation or restoration of buildings, such as museums and libraries; creation or rehabilitation of parks and playgrounds; installation of lighting and other streetscape elements; and design, installation and conservation of artwork.,,,

Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park is certainly NYC owned property, notwithstanding the City's lease of Roosevelt Island to NY State. For such an important change to NYC waterfront open space park land, why shouldn't the appropriate designated NYC agency that reviews similar projects review the proposed FDR Memorial Park? Indeed, supporters of this Project have claimed that this Project is not just a Roosevelt Island park, but one for the entire City, State and County. If, as claimed, the FDR Memorial Park is such a high profile and prominent addition to New York City open space Park Land, shouldn't a Project of such importance be reviewed by the NYC Agency that is charged with and trained to review it's appropriateness for the proposed location? If not, what makes the FDR Memorial Project so different?

Further, in a matter primarily, if not solely concerning Roosevelt Island residents, you recently sought a RIOC Board resolution waiving the necessity of any required approval by the Design Commission for the Manhattan Tram Station re-design. In a matter such as the proposed FDR Memorial at Southpoint Park, which is claimed by RIOC and other supporters to be of great City, State and national importance, it would seem as though approval of the NYC Design Commission is more warranted or at least, RIOC should attempt to get a formal waiver of the Design Commission's approval. Whether one supports or opposes this particular project, all should agree that proper legal procedures should be followed. To not do so appears arbitrary and capricious, given previous practice.

Also, please remember a similar occassion when you incorrectly claimed that a RIOC Board resolution was not required to approve the FDR Memorial and later decided to proceed with a formal vote on the matter. Perhaps this is a similar occasion...
Mr. Shane responded:
Up to you to pursue. We have been advised that there is no such requirement.
and:
we went through the Design Commission's jurisdiction in connection with the Tram. They asserted no jurisdiction over facilities on Roosevelt Island. Indeed, were one to follow your logic, everything here would be required to be submitted to the DC, a most awkward and administratively difficult result.
followed by me:
If the FDR Four Freedoms Memorial is of such City, State and National importance as supporters assert, then the NYC Design Commission might reasonably be anticipated to assert jurisdiction assuming they know about the project.

My logic does not require every Roosevelt Island project to be submitted to the Design Commission, only those that meet this criteria:


... The Design Commission reviews permanent works of art, architecture and landscape architecture proposed on or over City-owned property. Projects include construction, renovation or restoration of buildings, such as museums and libraries; creation or rehabilitation of parks and playgrounds; installation of lighting and other streetscape elements; and design, installation and conservation of artwork.,,,

Very few Roosevelt Island projects meet these criteria - other than the landmarks.
Finally, Mr. Shane:
I am advised that the Four Freedoms Memorial was submitted to the Design Commission for a "courtesy" review last April 27 as the DC did not think it had jurisdiction. At that time, the project was without objection and reportedly received kudos.
Why a "courtesy" review of this project and not a full public hearing by the New York City Design Commission? No idea but the FDR Four Freedom Park certainly seems to be on some sort of "unique" track particularly when you consider the 41 existing NY State Parks and 14 Historic Sites that are planned to close due to the budget crisis yet this non-existent Park is being funded to the tune of $4 million in State Funds and another $4.5 in NYC funds for what is purported to be only the first of three phases totaling at least $45 milion? Given that we are in the Passover Season, perhaps one can paraphrase and ask:
Why Is the FDR Four Freedoms Park taxpayer supported project different from all other taxpayer projects?
Why indeed?

Below are the recently completed documents regarding the FDR Four Freedoms Park including
  • Funding Agreement Between RIOC and New York City
  • Development Agreement Between RIOC and Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedom Park LLC (FDR LLC)
  • Letter Agreement Between RIOC and FDR LLC and
  • Escrow Agreement Between RIOC, FDR LLC and JP Morgan Chase
Funding Agreement NYC RIOC 2010

Development Agreement RIOC FDR 2010

Letter Agreemnet RIOC FDR 2010


Escrow Agreement RIOC FDR JP Morgan 2010

37 comments :

Anonymous said...

It is a lot of money. When will RIOC "find" money for more benches
at the bus stops and along the East promenade

Anonymous said...

Seems like you are on a mission to put the "Kabosh" on the FDR Memorial Park. Many of us other residents think it's going to be great.

Spencer said...

Having South Point Park developed will only make the Island better.

And, at least by my reading, if the DC "reviews permanent works of art, architecture and landscape architecture", then indeed everything on the island would be under their jurisdiction if it's considered city property. I mean, what on the island is not architecture or landscape architecture?

Anonymous said...

I am with the last two commentors. We should be lucky that the funds are still available. The park will do only good to the island. We can all agree and disagree on how it is going to look in the end and we will never come to an agreement.

Let them build the park and we all will reap the benefits.

Anonymous said...

So they don't have money to repair bridges, but have money to build this monstrocity?

"The park will do only good to the island." What good? We'll lose trees and get cement and beton.

Yes, I'd rather have more benches and other improvements which benefit residents like repairing Motorgate which has broken lamps and destroyed elevators on the north side.

Anonymous said...

To the poster above: it is a matter of opinion and taste if the park is a monstrosity or not. Me and many others actually like it. You obviously don't. That's great.

The good for the island is about having the attention in form of tourism, for example. I am very sure the local businesses, for example, are looking forward to having the monument. It's a reason for tourists to stay a little longer than just taking the tram over and the subway back.

The financing of the FDR monument, as we probably all know, is rather complex and saying that "I'd rather have benches" ignores that point. It is not like they can just take that money and use it for something else.

Anonymous said...

Presumably RIOC could have committed less money to the FDR monument and kept more of the money for the Island infrastructure . But NO it is like talking to the deaf.
Will the inhabitants in Southtown give up parking spaces so the tourists can come ?

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is a right or wrong when it comes to the memorial. It's not about being deaf. It's about being convinced that the right thing is being done. None of us will know if the memorial is going to be a success or not. Only time will tell.

I personally am glad that it is being built. It would definitely put RI on the map. Is this a bad thing? Maybe but most likely not.

Step two: make RI car free! Parking problem solved.

Anonymous said...

To the poster from April 1st (8:29): RIOC is not paying a dime for the FDR Project. That money has been raised by the FDR Memorial folks.

People are so quick to blame the RIOC for everything. They're not perfect, but they've done a pretty good job of beautifying this island over the past couple of years.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the poster above. RI looks so much better than it used to be just a few years ago. The RIOC is, IMHO, doing a very good job considering all the red tape it has to deal with (well, I guess you could say the RIOC is part of the red tape).

While not perfect I think Shane is doing an outstanding job. Let's work together with him and not against him.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time believing that anyone who regularly goes to South Point Park can reasonably say what is missing is a huge granite wall and trees to block the view.

I don't think anyone is against developing the park. But one would think there was a better alternative to the Kahn design.

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