Downtown Arts Center, Pedestrian Bridge and East River Park Get $137 Million Boost
By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — A downtown performing arts center, a new pedestrian bridge and an East River park are all on the way, thanks to $137 million in new grants from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.
The largest grant that the LMDC board voted on Monday morning is $100 million to construct the performing arts center at the World Trade Center site, in hopes of finally getting that long-delayed project off the ground.
"It’s high time that we do it," said Avi Schick, chairman of the LMDC. "[The arts center] will be a great lasting program…to stand at the center of what has been rebuilt downtown."
The LMDC also gave $20 million to a pedestrian bridge over West Street at West Thames Street and $17 million to finish pieces of the East River Waterfront, including the path in front of the Battery Maritime Building.
The federal 9/11 recovery money for the three grants was originally supposed to go to utility companies like Con Edison, but the LMDC decided earlier this fall to share some of the funds with other downtown projects.
The money allocated Monday likely will not be enough to complete any of the projects, but Schick said he hopes the grants will convince other funding partners to step up.
At Monday’s board meeting, State Sen. Daniel Squadron called on the LMDC to add another $45 million to the East River Waterfront grant, to fund an overhaul of Pier 42.
The pier, between Gouverneur and Jackson streets, is now used for parking, but Squadron and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer hope it could become a new community space, perhaps with lawns and a sandy beach.
"The East River esplanade won’t be fully realized without Pier 42," Squadron said Monday.
LMDC President David Emil said he would work with Squadron and Schumer on their ideas for the pier, but, Emil added, "Money is getting short now."
The utility fund was the last major pot of federal money the LMDC had, but more funds could trickle in from previous grants that have not been spent, or from ongoing litigation related to the Deutsche Bank building demolition.
The allocations the LMDC made on Monday will now undergo a 30-day public comment period, and then the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development will likely approve them.
The LMDC also shifted money on Monday to create a $4 million program to encourage start-up businesses downtown and moved closer to spending an existing $12 million affordable housing fund.
In addition, the LMDC is in the process of reviewing applications for a separate $17 million in grants to community and cultural organizations downtown. The LMDC received 265 applications this month requesting over $170 million and hopes to make the final decisions by March of next year, Schick said.
"We have hard choices before us," Schick said, "but on the other hand we will be able to fund some fantastic things."