Vol. 16, No.14  July  3 - 16, 2003


Legislature Approves Filter Plant in Park
Pataki Has Final Say


At around 3 a.m. on June 20, the state legislature passed legislation that could allow the city to build a controversial water filtration plant at Mosholu Golf Course in Van Cortlandt Park, if Governor Pataki signs the measure into law. 

The vote brings full circle a previous effort by the city to build in the park three years ago. That push was stalled when the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled that the city could not disrupt the park without the consent of the state legislature. At that time, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said that, as is customary with such issues in the legislature, he would defer to the member whose district the project is in. In this case, that's Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a vocal opponent of the city's plans.

This time though, the city sweetened the deal by promising members of the Bronx' 
Assembly delegation that it would include $243 million for park improvements all over the borough in the package. Bronx Democratic Party Chair Jose Rivera, who is also an assemblyman, supported the deal. 

Of Bronx members of the Assembly, only Dinowitz voted against the legislation. However, the vote, which was 78 to 68, was much closer than expected. Dinowitz said he may have even won if only the votes of those physically present in the chamber were counted. In the Assembly, members can be marked present for the day by swiping their I.D. cards at the beginning of the day. If they are not present when a vote is taken anytime the same day, it is counted as a "yes" vote. 

In the Senate, the vote was much more lopsided at 51-10. However, most Bronx senators voted against the bill, including Guy Velella, a Republican, and Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat.

Pataki has not made clear why he has not yet signed the legislation. His office did not return a call for comment by press time, but his spokesperson told the Daily News last week that he had "concerns" about the bill. The spokesperson added that the governor wants to "ensure that legislation protects the residents of the Bronx before deciding whether to sign it."

Dinowitz and many local residents and activists believe the construction project, which is to be built under Mosholu Golf Course in Van Cortlandt Park over at least five years, will inundate the area with dust and noise and make the southeast corner of the park, where children play and families picnic, virtually off limits because of the conditions at the adjacent construction site. 

There are likely to be lawsuits filed by parks groups, perhaps centering on the contention that the city failed to complete the proper environmental and land use reviews prior to selecting the site 

Though disappointed, Dinowitz said it was only the latest wrinkle in a saga that has spanned more than a decade. 

"I don't look at this as the end of the road but the end of another chapter and the beginning of a new one," he said. 

Ed. note: The city is simultaneously pursuing approval of another Bronx site along the Harlem River near Fordham Road, as called for in an agreement with the federal government. There will be a public hearing on that site in the rotunda of the Bronx County Building, 851 Grand Concourse on Tuesday, July 8 at 6 p.m. For more information, call (718) 590-6124.

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