Published: October 2, 2011
There is now a potential solution to both problems. The plan, strongly promoted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, would involve an agreement to provide land for a new United Nations tower and generate money for the city to build an esplanade from 38th to 60th streets.
Under the proposal, the city would allow the tower to be built on a portion of a playground on 42nd Street just south of the United Nations campus. In exchange, the city would get at least $65 million. This move would also allow the city to sell two buildings nearby that it currently leases to the United Nations. Sales of those properties could raise up to $200 million to pay for the new esplanade and other city projects, including a new playground at 23rd Street.
There is a hitch, of course. The transfer of the playground land, authorized by state lawmakers, requires state and local politicians to sign a memorandum of understanding with the city by Oct. 10. If they cannot agree, the United Nations could build on its own campus, where it is exempt from city land use laws. The city would also lose financing for its new projects.
In recent weeks, some opponents have stepped up their criticism of the project. Many in the neighborhood are worried that a new building would block their view of the East River. Those objections and political maneuvers should not be allowed to stand in the way of adding much-needed public space along the river.