Progress is being made on mapping out the future of a high profile derelict lot on Grant Street. I wrote about the plight of this lot in July – Assemblyman Sean Ryan’s office has been putting some pressure on the billionaire owner to either sell the lot, or develop it. Ryan has been pushing for a short term plan, and a long term plan.
Incredibly, Ryan’s message has been heard, and the property owner has retained the services of a couple of community liaisons – Brian Rusk of Entercom, and Leonard Sciolino of Gurney, Becker & Bourne. Last evening, a community meeting, organized by People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH), was held at the site in question, where neighbors were asked to fill out comment cards, prompting them to state:
- What they want to see happen with the corner lot
- What they don’t want to see happen with the corner lot
As for the meeting itself, Sciolino fielded questions from the audience, adding that the owner was not interested (at this time) in selling the property, but that he was willing to work with neighbors to come up with a plan for the site. Sciolino also noted that the lot had been cleaned up after a gas station was torn down years ago – the tanks were removed at that time. That was good news to hear.
Earlier on, Ryan stated that this process came about after phone calls to the owner, John Catsimatidis, went unanswered. After applying more pressure, Catsimatidis eventually seeded the property with crabgrass, which showed Ryan that he was being responsive. Ryan stated that while the seeding of the grass was a nice gesture, it was by no means acceptable for the short or the longterm. Short term, he wants the concrete barriers removed that surround the property, and a garden planted. Longterm, he wants Catsimatidis to work with the community to build a significant project that will better the whole of the West Side.
Now that we have Rusk and Sciolino as the local faces of the project, there is a collective sigh of relief. No longer is there a man hiding behind a mask – there is a tangible countability. Rusk and Sciolino, being two upstanding members of the community, say that they will do their best to ensure that a process is in place that will help to get this corner back to being a productive asset of the West Side.
Using this fallow lot as an example, Ryan stated that it is no longer acceptable for property owners to hold communities hostage. It’s time for commerce, not speculators. Grant Street needs more shopping, more retail… more walkability. This corner lot is not going to be a million dollar parcel in ten years, and if Catsimatidis thinks it is, he’s nuts. I believe that Rusk and Sciolino want to see something great happen with this corner, because they live here. They also understand the local real estate climate, which will help to get the ball rolling on this project, whatever the ultimate use might turn out to be.
One thing is certain. The community is now watching this lot to see what will happen, and people are expecting great things.