Last night, the Common Council held a special meeting the sole purpose of which was to authorize Mayor Kamal Johnson to enter into a license agreement with Hudson Cruises for the use of the docks at Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. Council president Tom DePietro scheduled the meeting to take place just fifteen minutes before the informal meeting of the Council was to begin because, as he said a good twenty-five minutes into the meeting, he thought it would be a "pro forma meeting." It was no such thing.
resolution, mayor's aide Michael Chameides said Hudson Cruises was offering a higher amount of funding for the City--$3,400--and would assist in installing and removing the seasonal docks. He also said they were offering a reduced cost for programming and free rides to the lighthouse during Waterfront Wednesdays.
Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) commented, "We've had problems with this operator before," mentioning that Hudson Cruises "caused trouble" and "used the dock as if it were their private dock." He then asked Chameides, "Why this [proposal] and not one submitted by the Sloop Club?"
In responding, Chameides cited the highest cash amount, the most programming, the option of providing lower cost programming, and a different set of programming and a variety of programming (Hudson Cruises has three different boats). By comparison, the Hudson Sloop Club offered $2,000 in cash and offered to function as an "events coordinator."
Alderman Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) pointed out that last year Hudson Cruises had received a $1,200 grant from the Tourism Board to pay its docking fee to the City. Alderman Rebecca Wolff (First Ward) observed, "It sounds like the Sloop Club is offering more community programming." Alderman Malachi Walker (Fourth Ward) expressed the desire for a plan that incorporated both Hudson Cruises and the Sloop Club." Chameides responded, "Sounds like a good idea, but I wasn't able to make it work in the time allowed."
After the meeting had run almost twice as long as intended, Alderman Tiffany Garriga moved to go forward with the vote. There were five votes against approving the resolution (Garriga, Rosenthal, Jane Trombley, Wolff, DePietro) and six votes in favor (Eileen Halloran, Calvin Lewis, Merante, Dewan Sarowar, Malachi Walker, Shershah Mizan). The resolution was approved, but that was not the end of it.
Three hours later, at the end of the informal meeting, Wolff brought up the issue again, arguing that the Council didn't have adequate time, and the Council not the mayor's office should have made the decision about who would use the docks. She also said she wanted to revisit the concept of a shared dock. Peter Bujanow, commissioner of Public Works, explained that the selection had been made in a formal RFP (request for proposal) process, and "anything you do has to be in the context of the RPF." Collaboration, he said, was not in the RFP. Jeff Baker, counsel to the Council, noted that this was a license agreement not a lease agreement, so the Council did not have to be the body making the decision.
Chameides advised, "If the Council wants to take longer and look at the two proposals, it will just be longer before the docks are in the water."
DePietro asked a couple of times, "Who would change their vote?" Merante seemed to intimate he might when he complained about the "time crunch" and suggested, "Hudson Cruises can offer more money because they got Tourism Board money last year."
In the end, it was decided that Wolff would lead a study to reassess the proposals submitted.
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