The 'NID': Opinions from Both Sides

A Neighorhood Improvement District is proposed as a means of supporting Hudson River Park through property assessments. The Trib welcomes opinions on the NID, which will be posted online and, as space allows, included in our March issue. Write to:


The proposition that the Park has raised property values may be true for river/park view properties, but is less likely in the eastern half of the NID zone.

To the Editor:

The proposal to fund Hudson River Park's operating budget with a business improvement district (cunningly renamed as a Neighborhood Improvement District for this purpose) is fatally flawed, primarily because it is unfair and undemocratic, and therefore must be rejected.

The BID funding structure is based entirely on taxpayer entities. The assignment of one vote per tax lot makes sense in a BID where the vast majority of the buildings are commercial, but would create a wildly undemocratic situation in the case of the Hudson River Park Neighborhood Improvement District (HRP-NID) because of the high concentration of residential buildings in the zone. If the NID is implemented, co-op shareholders will be disenfranchised relative to condominium owners and residential tenants will be completely disenfranchised. For example, take three identical 20-unit multifamily buildings, one of which is a condo, one a co-op and the last a rental building where all of the units have been decontrolled under the NYC rent control laws and the owner has the ability to pass on the NID assessment. Each of the condo owners pays the assessment and in return get one vote, each of the co-op owners pay their share of the assessment on their building and together share a single vote, and the rental tenants pay their share of the assessment on their building but do not get a vote because the building's vote belongs to their landlord.

In addition to being undemocratic, the NID assessment is unfair because it is a Park user fee applied only to residents of the NID zone. One can easily imagine the shock, outrage and disgust that would have met a proposal to institute an admission or user fee to fund HRP. But that's exactly what the NID assessment is, except instead of applying to all visitors, it only applies to the owners and residents of the NID zone. In fact, the promotional materials distributed by the Friends of Hudson River Park to garner support from residents in the zone essentially says as much, "Without your support, the Park you use as your gym, playground, concert venue and haven to escape could disappear."

The proposition that the Park has raised property values may be true for river/park view properties, but is less likely in the eastern half of the NID zone. For example, it is much more likely that the West Broadway and Hudson Street corridors from Chambers Street to Duane Street increased in value due to the renovation of Duane Park, the greening of Bogardus Triangle, the creation of Bogardus Plaza and the transition of the Cosmopolitan Hotel from an SRO to a tourist hotel.

Further, using prior increases in property value to argue that property owners have a duty to "give back" a portion of their gains in the form of the NID assessment sounds great, but is really fairly unsupportable. The most obvious counter-example is owners who have recently moved into the zone and thus paid the increased price for their home. They have no gains to "give back" but will still be charged the assessment.  In addition, increases in property values are also already partially given back by owners via increases in their New York City property taxes and at the time of sale to both New York City and State via the Real Property Transfer Tax, the Real Estate Transfer Tax and "Mansion" Tax, and income taxes levied on capital gains. How can it be fair to add an additional charge to nearby property owners to support a Park used by tens of thousands of other New Yorkers and visitors each year?

Lastly, the deceptively cozy name. How can a neighborhood span parts of three Community Boards, three City Council Districts, two State Senate Districts and three State Assembly Districts and still be considered a neighborhood? How can an undemocratically elected  executive board fairly balance the needs and priorities of both residents and commercial property owners over such a large area? It can't, and shouldn't. Another, more fair method of funding HRP's operating costs must be devised.

Nicole Vianna

16 Hudson Street



“If approved, the Hudson River Park would be one more beneficiary in a trend of neighborhood support now well established in New York City.

To the Editor:

It might surprise many parkgoers to learn that Hudson River Park is not park of the New York City Parks Department and receives no city or state tax dollars for annual maintenance.  While the capital funds to build the park came from the federal, state and city governments, the funding to maintain the Park comes from commercial properties within the park – a model conceived as a way to create significant public open space without adding more burden to state and city budgets. And for the past decade and a half, that model worked. 

However, as the park has expanded and piers have been renovated and opened to the public, the revenue from commercial nodes has not kept pace. For example, while Pier 40’s parking operation has provided crucial revenue to the park (and invaluable field space for sports teams) its deteriorating infrastructure puts that revenue source at risk.  

One of the original financing concepts for the park is now back on the table for Westside residents – a Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) for Hudson River Park.  The Hudson River Park NID would be funded by the residential and commercial property owners closest to the park. Residential contributions would be based on square footage; a 1,000-square-foot apartment would contribute $75 a year. The fund would then be used for Hudson River Park maintenance as well as other neighborhood uses, such as maintaining the median in the highway, ensuring safe crossings to the park, and enhancing neighborhood streets.

If approved, the Hudson River Park would be one more beneficiary in a trend of neighborhood support now well established in New York City. Central Park has been run by a nonprofit since 1998; the Madison Square Park Conservancy has run parts of the park’s maintenance operations since 2001; Bryant Park has been managed privately since 1988. Closer to home, Battery Park City was built in 1980 with an agreement that fees collected from each residential and commercial unit maintain its 36 acres of public park land.  Our own Duane Park – the second oldest park in all of New York City – is entirely supported by the Friends group that resurrected it in 1995.

In all these cases, neighbors have agreed to support their public open spaces with private dollars, knowing how valuable they are both to their lifestyle and their property value.

Hudson River Park has drastically changed how Westsiders use the waterfront. It was only 15 years ago (the park was created by a state act in 1998) that there was no bike path, no promenade, no Pier 25 and no Pier 40 – in short, no access to the river at all.  The direct support of neighborhood residents along the park in the form of the Hudson River Park NID can provide badly needed maintenance funds for the park we love for generations to come.

Tribeca residents who embrace this concept, and who want to play a direct role in supporting Hudson River Park and enhancing the neighborhood’s connection to the park, should speak in favor of the NID at the public hearing on Tuesday night at Downtown Community Center. A Hudson River Park Neighborhood Improvement District has the potential to put the park on solid footing, and allow it to thrive for years to come.

Pam Frederick

Pam Frederick, a Tribeca resident, is on the board of the Hudson River Park Trust.


Given the relentless upsurge of New York City real estate taxes in this neighborhood the last thing we need is another tax.

To the Editor:

I very much believe in voluntary neighborhood support for parks and other amenities and that is precisely why I am opposed to the Hudson River Park Neighborhood Improvement District.

As I understand the situation, there would be nothing voluntary about paying an NID assessment.  It would be required by law and as such would amount to an additional tax on Tribeca residents.  Given the relentless upsurge of New York City real estate taxes in this neighborhood the last thing we need is another tax.

More importantly, the NID tax could jeopardize the very organizations the community has voluntarily supported.  I’m sure I’m not alone in having a limited budget to fund my contributions to the Bogardus Garden, Duane Park, the Church Street School for Music and Art, and the ACE neighborhood cleanup program.  If the NID starts taxing me it threatens my ability to continue to contribute to organizations I have supported for many years, and thus threatens those organizations themselves.

Harry Johnston

16 Hudson Street


“Is it reasonable to single out 8,000 tax-lot owners and require them to pay for an amenity that is enjoyed by a far wider circle of visitors?”

To the Editor:

It all sounds so innocent. We have a wonderful park that runs along the Hud­son River and we want to make sure it stays that way. A nice-sounding group called Friends of Hudson River Park sends you a letter saying that if you and your neighbors agree to pay a modest fee to support a new Neighborhood Im­provement District (NID), all will be well. “Without your support,“ says this letter, “the Park you use as your gym, playground, concert venue and haven to escape could disappear.” Yikes, sign me up!

However, this simple-sounding proposal for a Hudson River Park NID raises serious issues of fairness and, if approved, would result in bad public policy.

Unfortunately, public knowledge in Lower Manhattan about this proposal has been very limited. The initial round of public meetings that took place in the late fall were not advertised in community newspapers and the Tribeca meeting had only about 20 residents in attendance.The Friends group is now seeking wider participation by expanding its mailing list and advertising the public forums to be held this month.

Here’s the background. In 1998, the New York State legislature passed a law creating the five-mile-long, 550-acre Hudson River Park and placing it in a trust. The city and state each agreed to contribute about $169 million toward the park’s creation but mandated that in the future the park must be self-sustaining. 

In other words, the largest open space project in Manhattan since the construction of Central Park was created with no assured means of funding its annual expenses. This is the crux of the problem that the NID was designed to help solve.

To date, efforts to create commercial development at certain approved areas within the park have failed to generate enough revenue to pay for the park’s ongoing costs. Private fundraising has also been inadequate to the task at hand. As a result, the Trust and its fundraising sidekick, the Friends, have decided that the way out of this conundrum is to levy a small tax on everyone who owns property several blocks east of the park. (Most commercial landowners would be able to pass along the tax to their tenants; residential owners cannot.) The NID, as currently proposed, would run from Murray Street at the southern end to 59th Street at the northern tip. Once implemented, this assessment would generate about $10 million a year.

The proposed NID is a departure from the 67 Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in the city because those are, as their name implies, generally created by businesses to support commercial zones. If this NID is approved, it will be the first time that ongoing maintenance of one of the city’s major public parks will depend significantly on a tax paid for by nearby residents. As parks increasingly become seen as a luxury, not an essential public good, expect to see more efforts to shift the burden onto residential taxpayers.

While there has been little public discussion of the proposed Hudson River Park NID, there are many thorny issues that deserve consideration. The first is one of fairness. The owner of a 2,000-square-foot apartment, for instance, would pay about $150 a year. A business with the same square footage would pay at twice that rate, or $300. While some consider these sums modest, there’s an important principle at stake. According to the Friends’ literature, the park receives 17 million visits a year; 400,000 people use its recreational facilities. Is it reasonable to single out 8,000 tax-lot owners and require them to pay for an amenity that is enjoyed by a far wider circle of visitors? It does not help that the lines of the NID seem somewhat arbitrary: in some areas, the NID extends four blocks east of the park, in others, two or three.

The Friends organization insists that property owners in the NID should pay because they benefit the most from the park’s existence. It cites a 2008 economic study produced by the Regional Plan Association that concluded the park has added about 20% to the value of properties within two blocks of the park. What the Friends’ literature does not include from the RPA study is this statement: “While the figures given above are impressive, and while the 20% value added correlates closely with other studies of how parks add value, it is probable that other factors besides the Park itself contributed to the value increases.”

The Friends’ argument also ignores the fact that increases in property values are already captured in higher property taxes paid to the city by these landowners, amounting to double taxation on this particular group. (Full disclosure: the author is one of these property owners.)

Ironically, if the RPA were to repeat its study in today’s post-Sandy world, the results might be completely different. Recent stories in publications like The New York Times indicate that real estate prices are falling and potential buyers are shunning areas near the river that are now perceived to be far riskier investments. The result could be a double whammy: Property owners near the river could see the value of their real estate investments decline at the same time as they are assessed an additional tax that their neighbors, farther away from the river, escape.

By casting such a wide net over so many disparate neighborhoods and keeping the assessment capped at what many deem a nominal rate, the Friends group may be betting there will be little unified opposition. At a recent meeting of the Friends’ advisory council, heads of community boards representing Lower Man­hattan, the Village and Chelsea, indicated that their organizations have either en­dorsed the proposal or expect to shortly. The proposal then goes before the City Planning Commission and the City Council. The Friends hope to get their approval in the spring, with the first tax revenues flowing to the Trust by 2014.

Before approving the plan, the City Council must be satisfied that at least half the property owners affected by the NID are in favor. That is why it’s so critical that neighbors attend the final round of public meetings. (The Tribeca meeting is Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Downtown Community Center, 120 Warren St.) At these meetings, residents should encourage Friends to redouble its efforts to identify other revenue streams. If they don’t like what they hear, residents should contact their City Council representative or consider starting their own online petition.

Sarah Bartlett

Sarah Bartlett is a longtime Tribeca resident and director of the Urban Re­porting program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.