By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Con Edison is escalating a tug-of-war with the downtown community over $150 million in post-9/11 recovery funds.
Con Ed Vice Chairman John Banks wrote a letter on Monday in which he staked Con Ed’s claim to the money and opposed Community Board 1 Chairwoman Julie Menin’s proposal to give the funds to community groups in the neighborhood for projects such as an arts center.
“It would be inappropriate and contrary to Congress’s intent to transfer funds for any non-utility purpose,” Banks wrote in the letter to the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which DNAinfo obtained.
The LMDC has already paid Con Ed $164 million in federal recovery funds to reimburse them for repairs to infrastructure damaged by the 9/11 attacks, but the utility company is seeking an additional $174 million, Banks wrote.
At a community meeting earlier this year, a Con Edison official threatened to raise utility rates if the LMDC money goes to a different use.
Menin believes Con Edison has received plenty of money already, and she said the utility company was wrong to tie the recovery funds to rate increases. She wrote a letter last week to the state Public Service Commission, which oversees Con Edison, asking the commission to investigate Con Ed’s threats.
A spokesman for the Public Service Commission said the agency was reviewing Menin’s request. A spokeswoman for Con Edison declined to directly address Menin’s concerns.
Menin, who is also a Lower Manhattan Development Corp. board member, is urging the LMDC to take action on the utility money at its meeting this Thursday.
Menin said the remaining $150 million could help fund the World Trade Center performing arts center, affordable housing, new schools and small business assistance downtown.
“There are so many worthy projects this money could go to, and to tie it up in perpetuity is unconscionable,” Menin said on Tuesday.
The LMDC did not respond to a request for comment.