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Community Board 1 votes against new Hudson River landfill

November 21, 2007

Community Board 1 voted last night that "additional landfilling is a ruinous public policy and should not be considered under any circumstances in Battery Park City, including South Cove, Hudson River Park, or any other location in the city."

The vote was taken in response to a recent proposal by Charles J. Urstadt, the former chairman of the Battery Park City Authority, that a 2,000-foot-long section of the Hudson River waterfront north of Battery Park City should be the site of a landfill that would almost duplicate the landfill development at Battery Park City, which is widely regarded as one of the world's finest waterfront urban developments.

Four members of the board voted against the resolution and two abstained but the number voting in favor of it could not be determined since the board's district manager, Noah Pfefferblit, only asked for a show of hands and did not announce the tally. The number of hands raised in favor of the resolution, however, was clearly a vast majority of the board members present. Earlier in the evening, he did take one roll-call vote on a different matter with the result of 33 to 18, but when someone pointed out that there are only 50 members on the board a second vote was taken with the result of 22 to 18.

The resolution maintained that when the Authority was created in 1969 it had a mandate to create "a distinctive mixed-use neighborhood that middle income residents could afford." "This original promise," it continued, "has not been kept and Battery Park City is steadily moving towards a complete makeover with predominantly market rate rentals and luxury private apartments dominating the housing market there, including the recent controversial evictions at 333 Rector Place."

In their great book, "New York 1960, Architectural and Urbanism Between The Second World War and the Bicentennial," (The Monacelli Press, 1995), Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman noted that "low-cost housing advocates were angered that only 1,266 of the 21,000 housing units were earmarked for the poor" in the Harrison, Conklin and Johnson plan that was released in April, 1969. That plan called for spectacular hexagonal skyscrapers skybridges and megastructures.

In November, 1979, Alexander Cooper and Stanton Eckstut released a new plan for Battery Park City that has been closely followed and is notable for its handsome esplanade, continuation of the city's street grid and design guidelines that sought to foster designs based somewhat on neighborhoods like Riverside Drive and West End Avenue.

The resolution noted that Federal courts and Congress cut off funding for the Westway project that would have created waterfront parks on the Hudson River, mostly because of concerns by Marcy Benstock that striped bass in the Hudson River might not like an altered environment.

The Community Board's resolution said it "does not believe that, in the 21st Street, the benefits of landfilling, however gloriously described by its vocal advocates, outweigh the serious fiscal, public safety and environmental impact it would have on local communities and the City as a whole." "The reality of global warming," it continued, "is already putting coastal communities at risk, and with the creation of more landfill to build additional structures, would further increase those storm and flooding damage hazards, in addition to endangering the river's living marine resources."

The resolution did note that "Historically, until the end of the 19th Century, some peripheral land mass for lower Manhattan was created by landfill, and remarkably, much of the early landfill came from the City's garage."

The resolution did not make any mention of some spectacular landfill projects in Dubai.

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