Critics say Hudson River Park air rights plan fails “smell test”

July 23, 2013 10:00AM

A state bill that allows private money to flow into the coffers of Hudson River Park is being criticized by activists who claim developers both championed the measure and will benefit the most from it, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The legislation allows the public park to raise funds by selling air rights to nearby property owners, who critics point out includes the park board’s chairman, Mike Novogratz of Fortress Investment Group. Fortress controls the nearby former St. John’s Terminal Building, a three-block development site that could be one of the largest beneficiaries of an air rights deal.

Novogratz pushed for the bill but told the newspaper he had not been aware of the air rights provision nor had played a role in his company’s purchase of the building, considered a prime site for luxury apartments.

Board member Jonathan Rose is a partner at the Georgetown Group, which owns a site on 30th Street that would be eligible for an air rights transfer. Rose’s firm is not looking to secure air rights, a spokesman said.

The activists insist, though, a conflict of interest could not be denied.

“I find it questionable that two principals are direct beneficiaries,” said Tom Fox, who helped oversee the park’s creation. “It just doesn’t pass the smell test.” [WSJ]  – Hiten Samtani