Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. After siphoning Battery Park City surplus revenue in an effort to close the State’s budget deficit, Governor Paterson has decided to dissolve the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) citing years of ineptitude in running the disbursement of funds allocated to the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan after the September 11th terrorist attacks.
One could easily agree that little has been seen from the LMDC– but might also argue that the dissolution of the organization might be a heavy handed option for a community still reeling from the after effects of 9/11 nearly a decade later. Although the LMDC will not be completely shut down, the Governor is proposing cutting the organization by 85% from 35 fulltime staffers to 5.
This is cause for some concern for residents of Lower Manhattan but especially Battery Park City being that the LMDC is the owner and responsible agent for the dismantling of the former Deutsche Bank building, a behemoth skeleton of a visual reminder of how much work is left.
From its inception in 2001 from government and by then Governor George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the intent of the LMDC was to “work closely with the private sector to determine a proper market-driven response to the economic and infrastructure needs of Lower Manhattan, as well as with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to identify the appropriate redevelopment of the World Trade Center site.”
According to the LMDC’s website, some of its core responsibilities include city operations, communications, community relations, construction mitigation, environmental compliance, fraud prevention, small business development and marketing. Dissolution of the LMDC could affect our community in the following ways:
1. Safety and infrastructural hazards
As if it’s not dangerous or confusing enough to cross the West Side Highway to reach the subway, how will a 5-person team be optimized to make sure that our safety is maintained during the construction at Ground Zero?Â The implementation of crossing guards in our area, although fiscally insufficient, was still a step in the right direction. With all the confusing bridge detours being built and constantly changed — who will notify us of these changes? High winds during the winter also pose a serious safety risk during construction, if the falling glass panes from Goldman Sachs’ construction site can be used as an example.
2. Dismantling of the Deutsche Bank Building
The history of the former Deutsche Bank building post 9/11 has been riddled with corruption and safety concerns. From the issues surrounding the decontamination of the building to the safety of the workers dismantling the building, who will be accountable if something goes wrong? According to the LMDC, concerned residents can call a hotline to report incidents at the site as to avoid what happened on August 18, 2007 when a fire spread through the site killing 2 firefighters.
3. Environmental Compliance
The progress reports that are issued by the LMDC are important for our community as the demolition affects the health of the air we breathe during its decontamination. Although most of us probably haven’t even seen one of these reports — it’s important that they be maintained in order for us to be aware of the hazards that might exist during the demolition.
4. Small Business Development
The lack of business real estate means the lack of foot traffic of businessmen and women, which translates into the decimation of small businesses in our area. As we roll into our 9th year of waiting for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site — who will help the small businesses that residents rely on in this underserved area? Although disbursements of small business grants have been slow from the LMDC — there is still almost $800 Million dollars of yet to be disbursed funds. These funds were meant for the development of Lower Manhattan distributed through the LMDC. When the governor dissolves the LMDC, what will happen to that funding?
These are four compelling reasons as to reconsider dissolving the LMDC. If the organization needs less ineptitude and better people to run it — why restructure and re-organize the LMDC instead? There must be a better option for the betterment of a still embattled Lower Manhattan.