Gotham Gazette

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New York City Council STATED MEETING - June 12, 2003

New York City Council Stated Meeting Report

Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated Meeting to introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Searchlight covers these meetings and posts a summary of the bills passed.

STATED MEETING - June 12, 2003

Quote of the Day:
"Imagine for a moment that they were going to build a $1.5 billion project four times larger than the World Trade Center in the middle of Central Park: Do you think for a moment that anybody in Manhattan would accept that?" - Bronx Councilmember Oliver Koppell voting against a water filtration plant in the Bronx.

Meeting Summary:
The New York City Council gave its support to a controversial water filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The council's action allows the State Legislature and Governor George Pataki in Albany to approve the plan.

The massive underground plant will be built under the Mosholu golf course and will filter water from the Croton Reservoir, which provides about 10 percent of the drinking water in the city.

The plant was first proposed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the late 1990's and generated heated political debate. Some environmentalists argue that the water does not need to be filtered; parks advocates say it should not be built in limited green space; and residents of the north Bronx fear years of construction, noise, and dust. The plan was abandoned in 2001 because it lacked support of elected officials and the state Court of Appeals ruled that state legislation was needed to use parkland.

Recently, Mayor Michael Bloomberg revived the plan by offering two concessions. The city committed $240 million for building and improving parkland in the Bronx and the city's Department of Environmental Protection agreed to do an environmental impact study. The mayor was thus successful in winning support from some Bronx officials such as Borough President Adolfo Carrion and State Assemblyman Jose Rivera.

However, Bronx Councilmember Oliver Koppell, who represents the neighborhoods surrounding the park, said the plant should not go forward, arguing that of the three potential sites for the plant, only one is located inside a city park. (The other proposed sites are along the Harlem River and in Westchester). Koppell said the community had not been properly consulted and warned other council members that it set a precedent for future development projects.

"I tell you, members, in every one of your districts the city can come in here now and take parkland for whatever they want claiming it is the cheapest way to build and you won't be able to stop it," said Koppell.

Council Speaker Gifford Miller, who supports the plan, said the city was under a court order from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to proceed and that it was the most cost-effective location.

The council approved the project by a vote of 44 in favor, 4 against, and 2 abstentions. (Council members Oliver Koppell, Pedro Espada, Jr., Charles Barron, and Al Vann voted "no." Allan Jennings and Gale Brewer abstained from the vote.)

The major vote of June 12 was supposed to be the city budget. But with negotiations between the mayor and council ongoing, the vote was delayed another week.

As part of its budget negotiations, the council approved a resolution calling for two weeks free of sales tax - one in the week of Labor Day and one the week of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The council also wants to bring back the exemption for clothing under $110 by June 1, 2004. The tax-free clothing exemption was rescinded as part of the recent budget agreement reached with lawmakers in Albany.

The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for June 17.


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