Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Councilman Gerson Delivers over a hundred petitions to LMDC office

At 1:00pm today, NYC Council Member Alan Gerson, NYC Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., public advocate candidate Norman Siegel and residents, community leaders and business owners from Chinatown, rallied at the offices of the Lower Manhattan Development (LMDC) Corporation to demand that LMDC funds allocated for the NYC Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Redesign of Chatham Square be withheld, based on widespread community disapproval of the plan.

Council member Gerson delivered a petition to the LMDC, signed by the boards of directors of several local residential buildings including Chatham Towers, Chatham Green and Southbridge Towers, representing over 5500 residents. Over 140 local businesses also signed the petition demanding the embargo of the funds. The Chatham Square Redesign has been formally rejected by Community Boards 1 & 3, and is “untested, unpopular and unsafe,” according to community leaders, who have created an alternative plan, which was vetted by a professional traffic engineer, Brian Ketcham.

The planning process for Chatham Square was initiated by the LMDC in 2003 to address issues of traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, increasing public space as well as re-establishing the connections that were cut off when Park Row was closed. Subsequently, a sub-recipient agreement allocated $30,690,000 in LMDC funds to the project, none of which has been invoiced yet.

Gerson, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Lower Manhattan Redevelopment, said “The NYC Department of Transportation must listen to the concerns of the community before it proceeds with major traffic reconfigurations. The Chatham Square area community is united in its opposition to this misguided plan, and we will do everything in our power to stop it from moving forward. The Lower Manhattan Development
Corporation has an excellent track record of stewarding federal funds.

It was demonstrated clearly at a City Council joint hearing that the NYC Department of Transportation is in violation of several community input requirements of the sub-recipient agreement. Therefore, the LMDC has a fiduciary responsibility to demand that the community review process fulfill the contractual agreement before funds are disbursed.”

NYC Council Transportation Committee Chairperson John Liu said, "We convened a joint oversight hearing on February 5 to examine the City's proposed Chatham Square Reconfiguration. Despite substantial objections from area residents and businesses to the plan, including formal resolutions from Manhattan Community Boards 1 and 3 rejecting the plan, the City had indicated the project will move forward. Chairperson Gerson and I had called for a full community review of the DOT's plans, including a six-month breathing-period delay in the plans to commence construction, because little information and opportunity for feedback has been afforded to the community. The City cannot disregard the community objections and outcry formally submitted today by way of petitions."

“I fully support this petition, and hope that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will heed the call by the community and elected officials to reconsider its funding of the Chatham Square / Park Row Improvement Program,” said New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. “This ill-conceived plan, developed by the City, has completely failed to take community concerns into consideration. Furthermore, if it moves forward, small businesses in Chinatown will loose significant amount of business at a time when they can least afford it. If the City will not step in and address these concerns, then I urge LMDC to take immediate action and stop this program from moving forward.”

Community leader Jeannie Chin said, “The LMDC must follow their own charter mandate in considering the tremendous effect that the reconfiguration of Chatham Square would have on the lives of thousands of residents and businesses surrounding Chatham Square and on the thousands more who use this critical major cross-town intersection in Chinatown and Lower Manhattan. With three other nearby cross-town streets shuttered either for reconstruction or permanently -- Fulton Street until 2014 and Park Row/Pearl Streets -- one cannot begin to imagine the traffic congestion, air quality and emergency access issues that our community will face in the next 4-5 years. We challenge the DOT to examine the community alternative and the LMDC to look before funding this white elephant.”

Several other community leaders including Danny Chen, Jan Lee and Margaret Chin also spoke passionately against the proposed traffic plan. Gerson then carried the petitions to the LMDC.

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