Time to get rid of the LMDC
Sunday, January 26, 2003
By David Dyssegaard Kallick
Lou Tomson, who made his name as a top aide in
Gov. Pataki's first term, is stepping down as president of the
Lower Manhattan Development Corp. This only reinforces the notion
that the LMDC's role has been mainly about politics, not
The time has come for the corporation to step
aside and put the control where it belongs: with the elected
government of New York City.
LMDC was conceived by Pataki and Mayor Rudy
Giuliani after 9/11 as a game of keep away from Mark Green, the
mayoral candidate then leading in the polls. Now that the
political show is over, the right place for city planning to be
is in city government.
Last month, Mayor Bloomberg offered his "Vision
for Lower Manhattan" that laid out the first comprehensive look
by an elected official at what the area has been, and could be,
for the city.
The plan has great strengths. It begins to view
lower Manhattan in relation to the needs of all New York
communities. But it should be expanded to include a greater focus
on jobs, especially for low- and moderate-income workers. There
is still $1.3 billion that was designated by Washington for
economic development. With the unemployment rate at an alarming
8.4%, it should be put to use now generating jobs for out-of-work
The mayor's vision also expands housing in lower
Manhattan, but he needs to make a more explicit guarantee that
the area not just be rebuilt for the rich. And the city needs to
establish an overarching transportation plan, then get some
projects in the pipeline that can improve the city and put people
to work today.
The LMDC did take a helpful step by soliciting the
nine architectural plans now on view at the Winter Garden.
Particularly good for the city would be those that allow for
gradual development of the World Trade Center site according to
market demand and civic opportunities. But the LMDC doesn't have
the authority or the resources to carry out these or any other
The city should be the initiator of master plans
for lower Manhattan. The development should adhere to city
building codes and go through the normal city review process,
with City Council oversight and input from the City Planning
Commission and other relevant agencies.
Throughout the rebuilding process, there's been a
lot of talk about transparency without a matching reality. The
time has come for the city to negotiate directly with the Port
Authority for ownership of the Trade Center site.
City government is accountable to the voters who
will be most affected by the rebuilding of lower Manhattan. So
put it in charge. What better way to reaffirm our commitment to
democracy in the face of terrorism?
Kallick is senior fellow of the Fiscal Policy
Institute and coordinator of the Labor Community Advocacy Network
to Rebuild New York. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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