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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Is Anyone Watching Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer?

and no-bid contracts?

It's High Line robbery! City Controller Thompson rips park concession plan as 'back-room deal'
BY Erin Einhorn, DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU, Thursday, July 9th 2009, 4:00 AM

MANHATTAN'S dazzling new park in the sky was sucked into the mayor's race yesterday.

City Controller William Thompson, who hopes to unseat Mayor Bloomberg, condemned a lucrative no-bid city contract that would give a politically connected group exclusive rights to sell food and merchandise on the High Line park.

"It almost appears to be some sort of back-room deal," said Thompson, who called for a competitive bidding process and ordered his delegate on a city contracting board to vote against the deal. "We have seen this again and again and again from this administration, and almost every time New York City could have gotten a better deal."

The Daily News reported yesterday that backers of the nonprofit Friends of the High Line have lavished campaign contributions on city officials, including more than $100,000 for Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Three board members including High Line Founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond have publicly endorsed Bloomberg's reelection, appearing on a list of gay and lesbian New Yorkers who support Bloomberg.

They are connections that Thompson said may have affected the plan to put the group in charge of food concessions.

High Line Park, aerial view

"I don't think it hurt," Thompson said.

A spokesman for Bloomberg's reelection campaign called Thompson's objections "transparently political."

"It's ironic given that he has taken tens of thousands of dollars from lobbyists and others with business before the city," said Bloomberg campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson.

The mayor's office says the deal is the natural outgrowth of a partnership with Friends of the High Line, which raises money to run the day-to-day operations for the park in the path of a former elevated train line. It will use the proceeds from the food concessions to pay for maintenance.

The deal "will improve this world-class amenity," said mayoral spokesman Jason Post.

The contracting board, called the Franchise and Concession Review Committee, voted to authorize the city Parks Department to negotiate a 10-year, no-bid contract with Friends of the High Line to run all food concessions on the elevated park and the city streets just below it.

Thompson's was the only no vote. The other votes came from four Bloomberg delegates and a rep for Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

Reader Comment:

kvasir Jul 9, 2009 8:11:12 AM
'tens of thousands' is different than $100,000. quinn is the most corrupt pol in a long time because she has the help ,and payment, of the mayor. the gays in her district and her extended group are more interested in being gay than in being nyer's.

In a Manhattan Minute
The High Line Park Opens

by: Carmen Boon | 6/8/2009

Today, Borough President Scott Stringer joined Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, US Representative Jerrold Nadler, and Friends of the High Line Co-Founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond to open the first section of the High Line, the highly-anticipated, new public park built on top of a 1930s-era elevated rail line.

The High Line is the first public park of its kind in the United States, built 30 feet above Manhattan’s West Side. The opening of the first half-mile section of the High Line is the culmination of more than three years of construction and ten years of planning.

"Over years, many diverse segments of our city and our country embraced this exceptional project and I am so excited that we all here today to celebrate the opening of this uniquely inspired, community-minded initiative that will bring new life to the whole west side of Manhattan," said Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer. "Open public space is a cherished entity in New York, and the High Line will help everyone appreciate the outdoors and the beauty of our city. I am honored to be able to support its creation and want to thank Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Former City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, the City Planning Commission, Friends of the High Line Board, Community Boards 2 and 4, preservationists, open-space advocates, design professionals and community-minded individuals and businesses from New York for making it happen."

The High Line’s design is inspired by the wild, self-seeded landscape that grew up naturally on the High Line when the trains stopped running in 1980. It retains the original railroad tracks from the industrial structure and restored steel elements including the High Line’s signature Art-Deco railings. An integrated system of concrete pathways, seating areas and special features blend with naturalistic planting areas to create a singular landscape.

Access points to the High Line from street level are located at Gansevoort Street, 14th Street, 16th Street, 18th Street and 20th Street and will be open during the park's operating hours, from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM. The High Line's landscape is fully ADA-accessible, with an elevator at the 16th Street access point, and another at 14th Street to open in July. Visitor access may be limited during the High Line's first summer season due to the anticipated high volume of visitors and the High Line's limited capacity, as well as ongoing construction and horticulture work. During this opening season, visitors will be directed to enter the park at the Gansevoort Street access point, unless an elevator is needed.

To read the New York Times story click here.

June 8, 2009, 2:52 pm
First Phase of High Line Is Ready for Strolling
By Robin Pogrebin, The New York Times

Standing on a newly renovated stretch of an elevated promenade that was once a railway line for delivering cattle — surrounded by the community activists, elected officials and architects who made the transformation happen — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg cut a red ribbon on Monday morning to signify that the first phase of the High Line is finished and ready for strolling. (Panoramic view here and a map above).

Calling the High Line, which opens to the public on Tuesday, “an extraordinary gift to our city’s future,” Mr. Bloomberg said, “today, we’re about to unwrap that gift.’’ He added, “it really does live up to its highest expectations.”

The first portion of the three-section High Line, which runs along the Hudson River from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. There are entrances at Gansevoort Street (steps) and at 16th Street (elevator); exits are located every few blocks.

The second phase of the project, which extends to 30th Street, is under construction and expected to be completed by the fall of 2010. The third phase, up to 34th Street, has yet to be approved.
Librado Romero/The New York Times A view along the newly opened High Line public park.

The High Line project is something of a New York fairytale, given that it started with a couple of guys who met at a community board meeting in 1999 — Joshua David, a writer, and Robert Hammond, a painter — and discovered they shared a fervent interest in saving the abandoned railroad trestle, which had been out of commission since 1980 and was slated for demolition. Thus began a decade-long saga that involved rescuing the structure from demolition by the Giuliani administration and enlisting the Bloomberg administration in its preservation and renovation.

Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, called the project “a great West Side story.”

City Council speaker Christine C. Quinn described it as “a miracle of perseverance,” and said “the idea could easily have gone into a file, ‘great ideas that will never happen.’”

With all the bureaucratic hurdles the project had to overcome, it was perhaps no wonder that so many representatives of different arms of local government were there for Monday’s celebratory news conference, including Amanda M. Burden, the city planning commissioner; Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner; and Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York. Also present were two couples who have been the project’s major benefactors Diane von Furstenberg, the fashion designer, and her husband, the media mogul Barry Diller, and Philip Falcone, a hedge fund billionaire, and his wife, Lisa Maria Falcone.

The landscaped walkway, designed by Field Operations and Diller Scofidio & Renfro, includes more than 100 species of plants that were inspired by the wild seeded landscape left after the trains stopped running, the Mayor said. He added that the High Line has helped usher in something of a renaissance in the neighborhood; more than 30 new projects are planned or under construction nearby.

These include a new home for the Whitney Museum of American Art, designed by Renzo Piano, which will anchor the base of the High Line at Gansevoort. The Mayor announced on Monday that the city was finalizing a land sale contract with the museum.

The first two sections of the High Line cost $152 million, the Mayor said, $44 million of which was raised by Friends of the High Line, the group that led the project.

All of the speakers’ comments echoed the triumphal — and perhaps somewhat incredulous — subject line of an email put out by Friends of the High Line right after the festivities had concluded: “We did it.”

Manhattan DA candidates should compete to crack down on City Council scandal
Errol Lewis, Daily News, Sunday, July 19th 2009, 4:00 AM

New York's season of scandal heated up with the conviction of Miguel Martinez, who abruptly resigned from his upper Manhattan City Council seat and days later pleaded guilty to stealing $106,000 in public money.

The handsome 39-year-old pol will spend at least five years in federal prison pondering the sick folly of his crimes, which included pocketing funds earmarked for children's arts programs and housing for the poor.

Martinez joins two thieving Council staffers, one of them the chief of staff of Brooklyn councilman Kendall Stewart, who last year pleaded guilty to stealing $145,000 that was supposed to help schoolchildren.

The Stewart aides, Joycinth Anderson and Asquith Reid, each face up to 20 years when they are sentenced this fall.

We're nowhere near finished with the Council corruption probe, but it seems clear that the city Department of Investigation and the U.S. attorney's office could use some help in rooting out the crooks at City Hall.

Don't get me wrong: DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn (pictured at right) and acting U.S. attorney Lev Dassin (pictured at right) are doing a great job of uncovering corruption at the Council.

In June, they charged Richard Izquierdo Arroyo - the nephew of Bronx councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo and grandson and chief of staff to Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo - with embezzling $200,000 in public money.

But the probe has been going on for two years now, and we're long overdue for an update on the explosive allegation that triggered the current probe: The acknowledgment by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn that over $17 million in Council discretionary funds were allocated to non-existent organizations.

With fewer than 60 days to go before the all-important Democratic primary election, most voters will head to the polls without knowing for certain whether their favorite Council candidate should be making laws or making license plates.

Manhattan voters, who are due to select a successor to retiring District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, should insist that all three candidates for the office promise to create a special, permanent division of the Rackets bureau just to watch over the Council's disbursement of money.

The sad truth is that it's a full time job - one that not all of Gotham's district attorneys take seriously.

Consider the high-profile political corruption cases in the Bronx in recent years. Ex-Sen. Guy Velella and former assemblywoman Gloria Davis each went to jail in unrelated bribery cases.

In both instances, it was Morgenthau, the Manhattan prosecutor, who brought the charges, not Bronx D.A. Robert Johnson.

Morgenthau, in fact, has displayed a delightful penchant for jumping into public corruption cases that some believed fell outside his New York County jurisdiction. In 1986, at the start of the last major municipal scandal, Morgenthau publicly clashed with then-U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani over who should take the lead in chasing down accused chiselers in public office.

And decades before that, in 1968, Morgenthau - who was U.S. attorney at the time - got into a feud with local prosecutors over who should lead the corruption case against the city's water commissioner.

We need more of that fire. Prosecutors should be shouldering one another aside in a citywide competition to find, bust and prosecute every one of the crooks in the council.

Each of the three candidates for Manhattan D.A. - Leslie Crocker-Snyder, Richard Aborn and Cyrus Vance Jr. - should vow to watch the Council like a hawk. They might even propose legislation explicitly requiring Council members to report discretionary expenditures to the prosecutor's office.

It just might head off the next scandal - or, even better, convince petty crooks to ply their trade somewhere besides City Hall.

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