Published: July 1, 2014
Publication: WestView News
By Arthur Z. Schwartz
After Pier 40 Air Rights Debacle and Lies .
As the Pier 40 air rights drama unfolds, there will be many fingers pointed. The saga is full of secret deals and a lack of “transparency.” In fact, as WestViewgoes to press no one, not even The Times, has a copy of the secret deal between the owners of the St. John’s Building, Hudson River Park Trust, and the Empire State Development Corporation.
The problems have their roots in a secret bill passed by the Assembly and then the Senate late last June. The Hudson River Park Trust Advisory Council and Community Board 2 held public hearings and attempted to open up the process. Assembly Member Glick chided the Council and CB2 for not holding even more hearings, and then sponsored a bill that was never reviewed publicly at any sort of public hearing. The idea of selling air rights had been floating around, but a public discussion would have generated a serious reflection about process—such as requiring public hearings prior to a sale, open votes at the Trust Board, and adherence to New York City’s Uniform Land Use Land Review Process (ULURP).
The bill we got—the bill Debra Glick was prime sponsor of—had large holes, holes large enough to drive a truck through. There was no discussion of which piers air rights could come from; this question involves, potentially, millions of square feet. There was no requirement that the air rights sale bear any relationship to the ULURP process. The resultant buildings were to be subject to City zoning, but zoning requirements don’t in and of themselves involve a public process.
One of the most curious public expressions of the past few weeks was an assertion by Assembly Member Glick that her bill required adherence to the ULURP public process. But that is not accurate. The bill says nothing about the ULURP. And because there is no legislative history, and because there was no debate, there can be no argument made that the legislature “required” that the ULURP process be used when it required adherence to “NYC zoning.”
Now someone blew open the secret MOU by handing a copy to Charles Bagli at the New York Times. No one wants to take responsibility and Bagli (as is his right) won’t talk. But all signs are that the leak came from the Mayor’s direction and that his staff let it go because after initially going along with the state-run General Project Plan at Pier 40, they got cold feet. Once it became public, Deborah Glick took the lead in denouncing the process and, when she could, denouncing Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) President Madelyn Wills.
But Deborah was being disingenuous. Deborah Glick knew about the MOU for months. Deborah Glick read it and approved it months before it went public. Several people involved in the process have confirmed this. Even some of her staff knew about the OPP MOU. When Deborah Glick went public in the Times, she was covering her behind. She knew about the MOU and agreed to keep it secret from the community! There was no way the Governor and HRPT were going to sign that deal without Deborah’s consent.
For me this is the last straw. Deborah Glick has represented the Village in the Assembly for 24 years. Over that time she has been largely ineffective.
There has not been one major piece of legislation over 24 years whose principal sponsor and adherent was Glick.
Deborah Glick voted NO on the creation of Hudson River Park and has never lobbied heavily for funds to complete park construction.
Deborah Glick did nothing to stop the closing of St. Vincent’s and the construction of ultra-luxurious condos in its place; she was absent from efforts to get the Health Commissioner to approve a takeover by Mt. Sinai and she never went to Bankruptcy Court to oppose the sale.
With Deborah as Assemblywoman, our community went from being a reasonably priced home of artists and actors, to the most expensive neighborhood in New York City.
Deborah rarely is part of the forward political thinking in this community. She supported Hillary Clinton against Barak Obama, Chris Quinn against Bill de Blasio, and Dan Squadron against Leticia James.
Perhaps the biggest source of embarrassment is Deborah Glick’s slavish allegiance to Sheldon Silver. Last year, when Silver made a deal to cover up and use public money to pay off staffers who had been groped by Vito Lopez, Deborah said NOTHING, even while her sisters in the legislature spoke out.
Now some who like Deborah Glick say she did a good job getting the State to sell the City a building at 75 Morton Street which will house a new middle school. According to these fans, Deborah landed the building. But this just isn’t true. 75 Morton Street was worked into the deal which also saw City Council approval of the Rudin’s St. Vincent’s project. As a palliative, former Speaker Christine Quinn had the City Council approve purchase of 75 Morton Street from the State. It had nothing to do with Deborah Glick. And then it took the State 18 months to effectuate the transfer. Why? Because our Assemblywoman is powerless and couldn’t push it faster.
How much of an educational advocate is Ms. Glick? In April, as part of the budget, the legislature passed another middle-of-the-night bill. This one took away Mayor de Blasio’s power to deny charter schools, no matter how affluent, free space in an already occupied public school (called a “co-location”). The bill also gave charter schools the power to reject space offered by the City and to pick their own space with the City footing the bill – with a price tag of up to $40 million per year. Our State Senator, Brad Hoylman, voted “No.” But Glick voted “Yes.”
Twenty-four years ago, Deborah Glick ran around our neighborhood and called on longtime progressive leader Bill Passannante to retire. “Time for new blood,” Glick said. Well, that time has come again. It is time for Deborah Glick to join her friend Tom Duane in retirement. The Village needs some new ideas and new energy in the State Assembly.
And some honesty!
Arthur Schwartz is the Democratic District Leader for the East, West, and Central Village.