Parks funding is something of an obsession around these parts, particularly those open spaces The Observer has deemed libertarian parks, spaces ranging from Brooklyn Bridge Park to the High Line, which are either built or maintained with outside funds. On the one hand, these parks might never have been created without private investment.
On the other, it shows a troubling lack of respect and appreciation for the public trust—where would the city be if the same we-just-can’t-afford-’em attitude of today persisted in the past? Central Park, Prospect Park, Pelham Bay Park, even the controversial work of Robert Moses, would any of it have happened if it had been undertaken by private interests?
Hudson River Park, first proposed in the 1980s, launched a decade later and by all accounts the first libertarian park, has been facing funding shortfalls for years now, hindering the ability of parks officials to finish construction of many of the piers and maintaining the ones it has already redeveloped.
A year ago, they floated the idea of selling off board seats and naming rights to generate funds. That effort has failed to generate the necessary moneys, many hundreds of millions of dollar, and so the park is now digging into its original charter, hoping to alter what can be built, how and seeking the ability to release bonds to raise funds. According to The Journal, Hudson River Parks’ efforts are receiving a mixed reaction in Albany.
Trust officials said the 1998 Hudson River Park Act signed by Gov. George Pataki puts too many restrictions on lucrative commercial development that would give it a revenue stream to pay for maintaining the park. In addition to the power to issue government-back bonds, the trust wants greater freedom to do mixed-use development and to offer leases longer than the current maximum of 30 years.
“Nobody knew at that time what it would cost to maintain a park in the water because they were never built before,” said Madelyn Wils, president and chief executive of the Hudson River Park Trust. “We are completely hamstrung.”
A task force has been convened by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, in whose district parts of the park lies, to figure out what can be done for the park. “It’s pretty clear that the park needs new financial resources,” Assemblyman Richard Gottfried told The Journal. He is a member of the task force and one of the original champions of the park plan.
As anyone who has enjoyed the growing park in recent years can attest, it has been a boon for the west side of Manhattan. So here is a novel idea: why not fund it from the general fund? Then again, that would rob money from some other cash-strapped part of the state or the city. Where did all the money go? Not to parks, that’s for sure.