Tax on Properties Near Hudson River Park Would Be 'Modest,' Proponents Say

By Mathew Katz on November 16, 2012 1:26pm 

WEST VILLAGE — People living near the Hudson River Park could soon see an extra charge on their annual property tax bill that proponents touted as "modest" Thursday while discussing the proposed plan.

The Hudson River Park Neighborhood Improvement District would create much-needed funding for the cash-strapped park, which projects an $80 million deficit over the next 10 years.

Under the proposal, residential property owners would be taxed an extra 7.5 cents per square foot per year, with commercial property owners paying twice that, backers said at a public hearing on the tax plan Thursday night.

For residential owners, that would amount to roughly $45 a year for a 600-square-foot studio, or about $75 per year for a 1,000-square-foot two-bedroom apartment. Public housing and non-profit property owners would be exempt from the tax.

The NID would encompass properties up to three blocks away from the waterside park, located roughly between Chambers and West 59th streets, and as far east as Hudson Street in the Village and 10th Avenue in Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen.

A.J. Pietrantone, executive director of Friends of Hudson River Park, said that because the NID would encompass such a large swath — running along the park's roughly 5-mile stretch — each property owner’s share would be fairly small.

“The advantage of having such a large district is the ability of having a relatively modest assessment and have a significant financial impact on our objectives,” he said at the public hearing.

Pietrantone explained that the district would be administratively lean and spend at least 60 percent of its proposed $10 million annual budget on “park conservation and stewardship.”

“Our goal is to keep the park in the best working condition,” he said.

The cash would also go toward improving pedestrian access to the park, enhancing gardening along the West Side Highway, connecting the riverside park to other nearby parks, and fostering better relations with community groups

On top of its budget deficit, the Hudson River Park is forecasting major repair costs in the coming years, most notably for Pier 40, which is sinking into the Hudson River.

Supporters of the tax said it would help bring financial stability to the park that its own studies show will significantly increases the value of surrounding properties.

“I think that an assessment of $37.50 for a 500-square-foot apartment, that’s a tip at a dinner,” said Raul Larios, a Hell’s Kitchen resident on the NID’s steering committee.

“It’s so low, it’s such a small tax assessment, that it’s a no-brainer.”

Those supporters were met by a chorus of opposition from both nearby residents and local businesses — especially those who were recovering from extensive damages caused by Hurricane Sandy.

"You need to think about what you have, how you rebuild it, and how that will minimize the cost on us," said business owner Novac Noury. "We were hit by the storm, too."

Bunny Gabel, who's lived on Jane Street since 1973, said that she loved the park but feared the cash will end up going toward rebuilding piers that have commercial uses — ones that could be damaged by flooding like what came with Sandy.

"Of course we love the strip that is the park, but we don't need to throw money into the river," she said. "Protect the river. Reject the tax."

For Katy Bordonaro, whose said her entire living room and kitchen were demolished in the storm, it would be just another bill.

"The regular tax rates are going up and now this is on top of them," she said. "I'd rather just have direct government-run and funded parks."

Thursday's meeting was the first of three in the coming weeks. Any potential NID plan would eventually need to be approved by the City Planning Commission and City Council.

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