NEW YORK—U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and New York state Sen. Daniel Squadron stood with a collaboration of Lower East Side community members and organizations to call on the Lower Manhattan Development Corpoation (LMDC) to fund the Lower Manhattan Ribbon Park Project.
The plan is to connect the East River Park to Battery Park with the development of Pier 42 and create a continuous “green ribbon” across the lower Manhattan waterfront.
“One of our greatest resources is our waterfront,” Schumer says. “Sadly, in New York, we’ve neglected our waterfront. I go to Chicago and I see what a beautiful waterfront they have and what they have done to combine environment and recreation and jobs. And it makes you weak that we haven’t done that here in New York.”
Schumer says redevelopment plans for the area have been held off because it used to be such a busy port, but now there is an opportunity.
He adds that the west side of Manhattan has seen a complete revitalization with the Hudson River Park, and it’s created jobs and economic development along with beautifying the strip.
Downtown Brooklyn has seen the same benefits with the development of their waterfront as well.
“Why shouldn’t the same thing happen here on the Lower East Side?” Schumer asks. “When you develop a waterfront, you not only create great recreation but you provide hope, economic development, and jobs, and we know how desperately the people who live in these buildings need jobs. It’s a win-win-win.”
Squadron said the community has long needed more open, green space for recreation, and better access to the river.
"Completing this park will mark a vital step toward a unified harbor park—a Central Park for the center of our city," Squadron said.
Schumer say the two things that have held off economic development in the past are: one, people disagreeing on the plan, and two, no money.
As for the plan, Chinatown Tenants Union Director Esther Wang says they have been pushing to develop the area into a park for years.
“Immigrant and working-class neighborhoods—not just the upper east side or Chelsea—deserve and need world class parks as well as community space,” she said.
Damaris Reyes, executive director of Good Old Lower East Side and a resident of the area, added that a public place for families to play and hold events would mean so much to communities of the lower east side and Chinatown.
Susan Stetzer, district manager of Manhattan Community Board 3 said the park has long been a very high priority that the board has pushed for, and that this is a dream come true.
As for the funds, LMDC and Community Board 1 member Julie Menin said there is up to $270 million left of the $700 million federal grant Congress allocated separately specifically for the redevelopment of lower Manhattan.
“This is such an important project,” Menin said. “This will create a lot more jobs, connect the east side to the west, it is important to use LMDC funds for job creation and large infrastructure projects, particularly in this tough economic climate.”
Schumer says that there are many smaller projects the LMDC is also looking at, but a project like this is the kind that Congress intended the funds to be used for.
“LMDC has the funds,” Schumer says. “We want them to think large and grand and long term.”
Menin says that according to the LMDC, the redevelopment of Pier 42 would take $45 million and leave enough funds to complete other projects, such as the $100 million the LMDC plans to use to fund the Performing Arts Center.
The LMDC will begin discussion on Monday morning as to where the remaining funds will go, but Menin says the voting may not take place for a few more months.
Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Two Bridges Council, and Asian Americans For Equality voiced their approval along with other residents of the area.
“It’s something New York should have done decades ago, reviving our waterfront,” Schumer added. “It’s never too late.”