WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, formed nearly 10 years ago to help that portion of the city recover from the 9/11 attacks, could be around for at least another three years, officials said.
Following the attacks, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and then-Governor George Pataki formed the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and independent subsidiary of New York State’s Empire State Development Corporation.
Peter Davidson, who sits on the LMDC board and is executive director of its parent, the Empire State Development Corporation, said that as the LMDC has spent down its resources, it has cut its staff.
But Davidson added it will be in existence for at least three years after it awards its last grant. “That's pursuant to our HUD funding” Davidson said.
Still, the LMDC has had its share of controversy over the years. It hired Bovis Lend Lease for the de-construction of the old Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty Street that resulted in a fatal fire that killed two firefighters and injured more than 100 in 2007. It also resulted in protracted litigation.
The latest LMDC controversy is centered around its balance sheet.
As the LMDC closes in on the 10 year mark, it has awarded or earmarked about $2.4 billion of the $2.8 billion it received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Parks, schools and non-profits like New York Public Radio, the Battery Dance Company and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum have all been beneficiaries.
LMDC Chairman Avi Shick said the agency has helped set the stage for Lower Manhattan's rebound as one of the City's fastest growing residential districts, ticking off a list of where the money has gone, “$420 million dollars for economic development, almost $300 hundred million dollars for housing, almost $300 million dollars for parks, $160 million plus dollars for cultural and community projects, $54 million dollars for transportation and $50 million dollars for education.”
Just how much money is left, however, is open to debate. At the last meeting, LMDC officials said $600 million was earmarked, but not spent. State officials said that $400 million fell into that category, and that only $50 million remains.
The agency has just announced another $17 million dollars in cultural grants earmarked for local arts and community projects.
The funding of a performing arts center near the One World Trade complex has been a top priority for Local Community Board One, but the board has been concerned the project would get squeezed out as LMDC’s resources were drawn down.
Davidson said there are still plans to fund a performing arts center, but it is conditional on the creation of a non-profit board and at least a half-dozen philanthropists making major financial commitments to the project.
“If those two conditions are met, that will allow for the release of the $100 million dollars from the LMDC,” Davidson said.
But Community Board Chair Julie Menin thinks the public needs more informatioin. “The public needs to understand what remains at the LMDC,” Menin said. “Where is this money, and what are the plans to disseminate it?”