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Waterfront access main difference in Trump, Parks plans for Ferry Point

Trump golf course eyes waterfront expansion

Ron Lieberman and Joe Roediger of the Trump Organization presented a plan to expand the Ferry Point golf course at a Monday, November 14 Community Board 10 public hearing. A rival plan from NYC Parks and Recreation for the same site was also presented.
Bronx Times
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Two proposals for the waterfront at Ferry Point Park - one that carries the new president-elect’s name – were presented to Community Board 10 Monday night.

Each plan carries a very different vision of what the undeveloped waterfront land will be used for and who will be allowed to use it.

A proposal by Trump Links at Ferry Point golf course, rejected by the de Blasio administration last month, called for the expansion of the 17th and 18th holes into 19.5 acres of waterfront property just north of the Whitestone Bridge.

In exchange the company would develop the remaining piece of land into a passive recreation park/wildlife sanctuary on their dime.

The developer has also requested an unprecedented 20-year extension to its current 20-year lease to counter the improvement’s $15 million price tag.

Executives from Trump Links petitioned the board to show their plan regardless of the mayor’s decision, hoping to sway public opinion.

Trump Links manager Joe Roediger told the dozens of people tightly packed into the Ft. Schuyler Home’s meeting room for the hearings that the expansion would create a more attractive course that could lure a major golf tournament and whatever financial windfall associated with it to the city.

“It would be all of you that would benefit from it,” added Trump Organization executive vice president for Management and Development Ron Lieberman, a former parks department revenue commissioner. “That would be a major golf tournament, creating jobs for everybody.”

As a trade-off, Roediger said Trump Links will make improvements to the portion of the park below and to the west of the Whitestone Bridge, including the repair of the two staircases, the asphalt walking path and the area that surrounds the 911 memorial.

When asked if he would repair the non-operational lights at the park, he said that was not part of the proposal.

Roediger said he wanted to see a public/private partnership, and insisted the proposal was the right thing to do for the city.

He said the competing parks department proposal was not safe for an active passageway, but should instead be a wildlife sanctuary that can be used by students and scout groups for educational excursions.

The main caveat, he said, was the preserve would not be open to the public.

Instead, it would be available to enter by appointment only.

“We will provide them with hard hats so they are not in danger,” Roediger said. “We think that is a much better use of the property, and at the same time we are preserving this entire waterfront and bringing it back to its natural environment.”

Board members asked when that preserve could be accessed, since tee times run from early morning until dusk.

They also asked if hard hats were enough protection from airborne golf balls, and in a moment of levity, one pondered whether a large fence or wall would be more appropriate.

“There will be no wall,” Lieberman said as the audience roared in laughter.

Roediger also stressed towards the end of the hearing that the plan was not a formal proposal and had not been submitted to the community board for review.

Bronx Parks and Recreation Commissioner Iris Rodriguez Rosa and parks staff presented their $10.7 million plan, which called for an open passive park on that same 19.5 acres that includes a tidal marsh and provided scenic views in harmony with the adjacent golf course. It would also eventually connect to the western part of the park that was slated for a facelift.

“We consider passive to be something you can enjoy, that you can walk by and look at and enjoy the views, and not limit the access of the public, so the public can at any time access it,” Rosa said.

The parks department plan already had funding lined up and shovel-ready plans ready to go if the project was approved by the board.

When asked if their plan was submitted to counter Trump’s plan, Parks officials said Trump Links management were aware of their plans for the passive park before the course had even opened.

They also stressed that contracts were already in place to fix the restrooms, synthetic turf soccer field and staircases on the western side of the park long criticized by residents.

Trump Links was completed in May 2015, just a month before Donald Trump announced his run for president.

The project was completed after years of false starts and delays by several earlier develpoers at a cost of approximately $260 million to the city on the site of former garbage dump.

Trump Links, which also operates numerous golf courses in the United States and abroad, won a competive bid to manage and maintain the course after the previous developer went bankrupt.

Trump Links starts sharing revenue with the city after the fifth year of the lease.

CB 10 chairman Martin Prince said the west side of the park was his board’s main concern, since it was much more heavily used.

He said there was still a lot of information needed to make any sort of recommendation.

He urged the Trump representatives to submit an impressive plan for the underfunded west side that would compensate for losing the waterfront on the eastern side if they wanted to get the board’s blessing.

Prince also made it clear that should the board reject the parks plan, the funding set aside for the project would be pulled.

And even if the Trump Links plan was approved, he said the park would still not be up to the standards residents wanted.

Park and Recreation Department chief revenue Accountant David Cerron told the audience the Trump proposal was rejected and not brought before CB 10 earlier because it restricted the public’s access to the waterfront city land.

“The agency generally has to be supportive of the plan that is bring offered before we come to the community board.” Cerron said. “In this case, it was reviewed and we didn’t believe what was being proposed was in line with our goals and our initiatives for the waterfront.”

Board members and other community members who spoke cited longtime neglect by the parks department and its failure to rebuild a restroom at the park despite years of complaints as major reasons they were for considering Trump’s proposal over spending city money.

Board member Bob Bieder said he worried adding another park area would lead to another underfunded park area in the borough.

“I don’t see the City of New York increasing our budget here in the Bronx, because they never do,” Bieder said. The maintenance budget is always a problem for us.”

That sentiment was echoed by Joanne Sohmers of the Ferry Point Civic Association, who also favored the Trump Links plan.

“We know the parks department doesn’t take care of the west side of the park, “Sohmers said. “So to trust them to go through with (developing) that area they are discussing…how can we trust them?”

One of the few residents who spoke against the Trump plan was 45th Precinct Community Council member John Doyle, who said there was no concrete proposal on the table like the one parks and recreation submitted.

The plan, he added, also didn’t fit the main mission of the board – to serve the community.

“Is it really in the public interest to expand this golf course and extend their contract another 20 years?,” Doyle said. “This will not be maintained forever or in perpetuity.”

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at acusano@cnglocal.com.
Updated 5:07 pm, July 9, 2018
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