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Consensus plan still subject of contention.

Louis Coletti, president of the New York Building Congress and a member of the advisory panel that helped forge the recently agreed upon plan to rebuild 270 acres of Manhattan's West Side Waterfront, said he was shocked and angered to see continued opposition to the plan.

New York State Governor Mario Cuomo and New York City David N. Dinkins last week signed a "memorandum of understanding" on a 1990 proposal to revitalize the waterfront, from the Battery to 59th Street, by creating a 40-acre ribbon park bordered by a proposed new highway and three sites designated for commercial or residential development--the Chelsea piers, Pier 40 and near the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center

The agreement, which is essentially the recommendations made by the West Side Waterfront Panel in 1990, establishes the Hudson River Park Corporation, a subsidiary of the Urban Development Corporation, to oversee the plan. The chairman would be Michael Del Guidice, who headed the West Side Waterfront Panel . Tom Fox, the head of the Neighborhood Open Space Coalition, a parks advocacy group, and another member of the waterfront panel will be the director. Barbara Fife will be vice chairman. The city and states parks commissioners will serve on the corporation as well as two private citizens--one chosen by the mayor and one governor. The governor will appoint five members.

Coletti was a member of a group of representatives from civic and environmental concerns, real estate, construction and labor that advised the waterfront panel. (The Real Estate Board of New York also had a representative on the panel.)

There were no "surprises" in the agreement, said Coletti. Prior to the official presentation of the recommendations, he said, each point was discussed with the panel. There were also public hearings before the recommendations were finalized.

"There were significant compromises made by real estate and construction in this plan," Coletti said. "... For those people to come back and say it's runaway development is outrageous to me."

Some elected officials and community and civic leaders says that what is supposed to be a plan for a park will lead to "unwanted" and "inappropriate" private development. People also fear that the coordinating body will write its own bylaws and usurp the protections of the City Charter for land use.

Senator Franz Leichter, whose district contains the entire West Side waterfront north of 13th Street, said, in a statement, that if the true goal was to build a park, UDC, would not have been put in charge. The state agency, he asserts, is "geared toward commercial projects and notoriously unaccountable to the public."

State Senate Minority Leader Manfred Ohrenstein, said: "The task force did a terrific job, but the process they set up is not one that is politically wise."

One civic leader, ColeKi said, told reporters that the plan would have a 40story hotel.

"There's no hotel in the plan," Coletti said. "That's absolutely inaccurate."

At the suggestion of modifying any zoning laws, Coletti insisted, "You can't. The city has a charter."

And while the specific development and design plans have not been ironed out yet, Coletti said, there are guidelines for density and height for consistency.

UDC officials have said the park and the highway can proceed without the private development. And work on the bike path may begin shortly.

The agreement, Coletti said, was a significant step forward for the waterfront and the city.

"This is a major historic step forward," he said. "The West Side and waterfront of the West Side has been a topic of generations."

Visions for this waterfront plan began in 1985 when the 1971 Westway plan--to build a large park, housing and commercial development on top of Hudson River landfill and to construct a super highway below--was finally aborted. The West Side Waterfront Panel was formed in 1988 by Cuomo and former Mayor Koch to develop a plan for design and financing of the waterfront. Their conception of the waterfront, which is what was agreed upon last week, was submitted 18 months later.
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Title Annotation:certain elected officials plus community and civic leaders of New York, New York oppose Manhattan's West Side Waterfront development project
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:May 27, 1992
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