2004-10-15 / Front Page

Communication Failure Could Cost Tribute Pk

A communication breakdown is jeopardizing the deal between Tribute Park planners and a union that is supposed to donate thousands of dollars in time and materials, according to a liaison to the parties.

Brian Gillespie, member of the Tile, Marble and Terrazzo Local Union 7 told The Wave this week that he’s now embarrassed by a deal he helped strike between artist Patrick Clark and the union in the name of the long-awaited September 11 memorial.

After meeting with Clark nearly half a year ago, Gillespie, a Rockaway resident, brought Local 7 President Charles Hill to see Tribute Park – and forged an agreement that included a marble and manpower donation valued at about $40,000, Gillespie said. Union members were eager to volunteer, and apprentices began to gather and cut materials. Now, with marble stockpiled and workers wondering if they’ll ever be called on to contribute, Gillespie says he can’t get Clark on the phone and hasn’t talked to him in months. The workers Gillespie rallied want to know what’s going on, and he is in the awkward position of not having answers for them, he said.

Clark, meanwhile, says the Chamber of Commerce has tied his hands by withholding about $4,000 in funding for the columns that will support the park’s glass dome, which he designed and will build when the time comes. John Lepore, President of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce, dismissed Clark’s statements and said Clark has already been paid nearly all of the money he is owed for the entire project, despite having completed just one-third of the work. “He has been paid sufficient funds to proceed beyond this point,” Lepore said, adding that he is hoping to speak with Gillespie, for the first time, immediately.

Stored at Clark’s Beach 117 Street home and studio this week were boxes of colored glass chips and pieces of a large wooden mold for the dome as well as the dome’s original floor which, after review by the city’s Art Commission, will be featured separately in the park. Clark said he couldn’t proceed because he has no room to store the dome once it is assembled.

The apparent disagreement between Clark, the featured artist, and Lepore, who became project-leader when former Chamber Executive Director Liz Sulik departed for a public relations job, is evidence of the friction that was rumored to exist between the men who say they have different responsibilities to the project. The source appears to be money and control. Clark has also criticized Lepore for not hiring a project manager and for making concessions to the numerous agencies that have overlapping jurisdiction at the site. Lepore stopped at calling Clark “a passionate artist,” who has a very significant yet limited role.

Gillespie, who chose to become involved because he has skill and union connections that can help both men said, “[The union and I] just want to know where we stand.”

Tribute Park Progress

The day when the transformation of the Tribute Park site swings into fast-paced construction productivity – resulting in what promises to be a stunning September 11 memorial – is “tantalizingly close,” Chamber of Commerce President John Lepore said this week despite the communication breakdown with Local 7.

Lepore, who met last week with the Tribute Park Committee, said that the rock revetment separating the park from the shoreline was completed one week ahead of schedule. City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. recently worked closely with the Department of Parks and Recreation on an alternative floor to Clark’s dome after the city Arts Commission requested that the floor the artist designed and partially fabricated be made a separate feature in the park. Parks’ original substitutes were unacceptable to the committee.

The much talked about helical screws – anchors for the dome – will be installed within two weeks, Lepore said.

From that point, the weather will determine how quickly Parks contractors will pour a concrete walkway and add other basic elements, said Lepore. The engraved bricks, which are being stored locally, can then be laid. Also being stored at the Chamber office are about 50 miniature replica bricks belonging to families or individuals who have not picked them up yet.

“We have a need to finish this park; People want to see it done,” Lepore told The Wave. Consistent with his assertion that the past delays were a result of having “many regulatory hands” involved, he said the on-site construction will move very quickly once it gets underway. He described the project as “two and a half years of planning for three weeks of work.”

The Tribute Park project has crossed several hurdles, which caused long periods of delay, including the revetment reconfiguration required by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and before that a full review by the city Art Commission, which brought significant changes.

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