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Hudson River Park Tax Bid Could Affect More Properties

By Mathew Katz | August 12, 2011 4:16pm
Pier 54 in Hudson River Park. The Hudson River Park Trust hopes to modernize and improve the area for concerts.
Pier 54 in Hudson River Park. The Hudson River Park Trust hopes to modernize and improve the area for concerts.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

CHELSEA — A proposed tax plan to raise money for cash-strapped Hudson River Park may affect more property owners than previously thought, according to the group spearheading the fundraising efforts.

Friends of Hudson River Park says the area for the levy or tax would stretch roughly seven-tenths of a mile, about three to four blocks, from the shore of the river and extend into the West Village.

The area would be even wider in Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen, a decision that was reached after consulting with neighborhood leaders, the group said.

The plan — which has to be approved by the City Council before it can go forward — had previously only included a two block-wide strip located directly next to the park, which runs from Battery Park City to 59th Street. It would have assessed a small fee of about five cents per square foot on property owners in order to raise up to $10 million a year.

The tax is part of a proposed business improvement district that would help raise funds for the Hudson River Park Trust, which was facing a $10 million budget gap in May.  Some of the deficit, caused largely by efforts to rehab Pier 40, has been erased by delaying projects.

Details for the plan are still in the works, according to Friends of Hudson River Park executive director A.J. Pietrantone.

"We’re looking at it as a way of both providing some dedicated funds for capital management and also to link surrounding neighborhoods to the park," Pietrantone said.

The organization, dedicated to completing the park, has been consulting with local officials and community boards to tailor the area that would be covered by the proposed business improvement district for each neighborhood.

While some parts of the greenspace in the West Village are easily accessible by pedestrians, much of the northern part of the park is cut off by the West Side Highway.

Pietrantone said much of the funding from the proposed district would go to to specific improvements that would make much of the north end of the park emulate the vibrant areas in the West Village.

That would include repainting crosswalks and creating walkways in and out of the park. It would also include restoring some dilapidated piers.

"We do not have a financial plan yet," he said. "We would look to have a balance of fairness among the communities."

But some community leaders are worried that the money wouldn't be spent to improve park space. Bob Trentlyon, founder of the Chelsea Waterside Park Association, said he's concerned that the leadership of the proposed district would be business leaders.

"What are they doing with the money?," he asked. "Is it all going to the trust to be spent in the park, or is some of it going to special projects that they might like?"

Community Board 4 President Corey Johnson said that the Friends has consulted with him, but that a similar proposal for the High Line Park faced community backlash years ago. The plan was scrapped, and funding for to complete the High Line eventually came from private sources.

Early Friday morning, a section of Hudson River Park near the Meatpacking District was swarming with runners and bikers.

David Davies, of Chelsea, was walking by the rusted-out Pier 54 with his 3-year-old son, Hunter.

"I think any improvement is important, especially for kids," he said.

"Besides," he added. "People around here can probably afford to pay for it."