2005-01-28 / Front Page

Tribute ParkPoised Or Mired?

By Brian Magoolaghan

Tribute Park – now almost four years in the making – is either poised for success and possible completion in 2005, or mired in endless negotiations with the city’s Art Commission, depending on who you ask.

After a closed-door meeting held in the Chamber of Commerce office last Friday, word spread that Arts was making unreasonable demands of the community’s Tribute Park coordinators, but the executive director of Arts says that’s false.

Chamber of Commerce President John Lepore, perhaps the person most familiar with the project, was unable to comment this week, according to his office. Others went on the record, and their comments raise several important issues, and cover the emotional spectrum.

“It’s disgusting that [Tribute Park] could take this long, and it’s disgusting that the Art Commission would allow it to take this long,” a frustrated City Councilman Joe Addabbo Jr. told The Wave this week. He described Arts as both “a powerful entity” and “a big hurdle.” And, he said, negotiating with Arts is not always fruitful.

“The bottom line is... you either follow [Arts’ recommendations] or you don’t, and if you don’t, you won’t move forward,” said Addabbo.

Joanie Omeste, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, said the negotiations with Arts are related to the columns, which will support a major element in the park. She characterized the negotiations as “productive,” and said a resolution could come soon.

Patrick Clark, the artist behind the park’s design, lambasted Arts this week calling them “rich socialites with too much time and too much money.”

“They were outraged that they were not involved in the first place. Now they want to stick their fingers everywhere,” he added.

Originally, community coordinators tried to build the park under the guise of a community garden, in a failed attempt to escape an Arts review.

Jackie Snyder, Arts’ Executive Director, told The Wave the latest trip back to the drawing board was triggered when unapproved amendments to the park plans were discovered on January 10, said city spokesperson Silvia Alvarez.

“The Commission applauds the community for reclaiming this site and thanks them for their responsiveness,” says an Arts document obtained by The Wave.

Dan Mundy, hired late last year to coordinate the project, sounded confident and said construction “should move along pretty fast once the weather breaks.”

He described himself as “satisfied” with the progress he has made since coming onboard, but declined to comment specifically on the rumored friction between Arts and the local coordinators.

“That’s not going to hold us up. It has nothing to do with construction – it’s cosmetic,” Mundy said.

Meanwhile, Clark vowed this week that he would not accept any more tinkering with his design.

“I’m not going to stand for any more changes unless they’re good improvements,” he said.

Clark also opened up on his estrangement from the project referencing his “little falling out with [park coordinators].”

“They don’t invite me to anything any more,” Clark lamented, suggesting that his criticism of Chamber of Commerce President John Lepore and others for making too many concessions to Arts and the Department of Parks and Recreation, and his own willingness to speak with the press candidly led to his exclusion from meetings.

One of the consequences of the Arts review, and Clark’s alienation from the day-to-day operations, is that he had to call off an agreement with the Tile, Marble and Terrazzo Local Union 7 that would have brought a $40,000 donation of marble and labor to the project. The Wave first reported that the donation was in jeopardy in the October 14, 2004 issue under the headline “Communication Failure Could Cost Tribute Pk.”

The project will be the peninsula’s only public park listing all of the residents that died in the September 11 attacks.

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