Fireworks and a message of unity on July 4th

Fireworks on the East River (Photo by Edward O’Rourke)

By Sabina Mollot

On July 4, thousands gathered at Waterside Plaza to view the fireworks from windows as well as outdoor areas on the complex. This year, with the barges centered solely on the East River from 24th to 41st Streets, the complex got an even more enviable viewpoint than usual. The roughly 25-minute display sponsored by Macy’s showcased 2,200 effects per minute from each of the five barges.

The event even drew a visit from Mayor Bill de Blasio who stopped by before the fireworks to discuss immigrant rights on Independence Day. He spoke about the travel ban and how if people are feeling disenfranchised by the Trump administration, they could fight back by remembering that New York is an immigrant-friendly place.

De Blasio, who began by saying it was his first time visiting Waterside, called it “pretty amazing. I’m seeing everything good about New York City in one place.”

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Town & Village co-hosts City Council debate at Waterside Plaza

On Thursday night, an evening of debate among the candidates running to replace Dan Garodnick in the City Council was held at Waterside Plaza. The event’s hosts were Town & Village newspaper, the Waterside Tenants Association and Waterside management with the event taking place outdoors. A story covering the views of the various candidates on affordable housing, small businesses, issues affecting seniors, and the sanitation garage the city plans to build at the Brookdale campus, is forthcoming. Scroll down to see some photos from the debate, where all seats on the plaza were filled with a mixed crowd of community residents and candidates’ supporters.

Richard Ravitch, owner of Waterside Plaza and former lieutenant governor, makes opening remarks. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Crowd at the debate

Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal, event co-host

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See Dan run for mayor… maybe

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Council Member Dan Garodnick (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

For months now, Councilman Dan Garodnick would only say he’s exploring his options when asked what position he’s now fundraising for. But according to a Saturday item in the New York Post, Garodnick is “seriously considering” running for mayor. Citing unnamed sources, the paper said he is “50-50” about running. Garodnick didn’t return our call requesting comment, nor did Waterside Plaza owner/former lieutenant governor Richard Ravitch, who the Post said Garodnick had spoken to about his thoughts about running. In February, Politico also ran a story about how he’d been speaking with donors, consultants and others about possibly throwing his hat in the ring.

It’s been expected that Comptroller Scott Stringer will run for mayor at some point, when and if charges are brought against Mayor Bill de Blasio for his fundraising tactics. Former mayoral candidate Christine Quinn has also been a rumored candidate. However, at this time, de Blasio’s most serious opponent seems to be Republican developer Paul Massey.

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‘Sully’ films at Waterside

Clint Eastwood directed a newly white-haired Tom Hanks in a scene for “Sully” about heroic pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger at Waterside last Wednesday. (Photo via Waterside Plaza blog)

Clint Eastwood directed a newly white-haired Tom Hanks in a scene for “Sully” about heroic pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger at Waterside last Wednesday. (Photo via Waterside Plaza blog)

By Sabina Mollot

Last Wednesday evening, residents of Waterside Plaza got a sneak peek of the upcoming film, “Sully,” when director Clint Eastwood and actor Tom Hanks shot a scene at the property. Between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m. the scene was shot between 40 Waterside Plaza and the Water Club just north of the complex.

Hanks is playing heroic pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who calmly saved his entire crew and over 150 passengers during a crash landing in the Hudson River in 2009 after the plane’s two engines failed. The incident became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson,” and the film is based on the autobiography, Highest Duty, by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow. The scene at Waterside called for a newly white-haired Hanks to jog alongside the East River.

Following the one-day shoot, a post about it appeared on the Waterside blog.

The post read, “The film crew used our Community Center as their green room so remember next time you visit for an event, you could be sitting in Clint Eastwood’s empty chair!”

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Local bird’s-eye 4th of July

Fireworks, as seen from Waterside, lit up the night on July 4th. (Photo by Tobias Batz)

Fireworks, as seen from Waterside, lit up the night on July 4th. (Photo by Tobias Batz)

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, July 4th, with four of Macy’s barges lined up from 23rd to 37th Streets over the East River, residents at Waterside Plaza enjoyed a particularly enviable view of the fireworks this year.

Throughout the evening, with access limited to residents and their guests, between 5,000 and 6,000 people lined up along the outdoor plaza.

Thousands more lined up just north of Waterside’s towers along the car-free FDR Drive. Another fireworks display took place further downtown near the Brooklyn Bridge. Before the sky filled with the familiar flash and boom though, at Waterside, festivities also included a barbecue on the plaza for residents and various kids’ activities.

During this time, Town & Village spoke with residents to ask about what July 4th has been like there over the years.

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Ravitch wants senior housing built at Brookdale site

Waterside Tenants Association president Janet Handal and Waterside owner Richard Ravitch at a Tuesday meeting (Photo by  Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Waterside Tenants Association president Janet Handal and Waterside owner Richard Ravitch at a Tuesday meeting (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Waterside’s owner and developer Richard Ravitch revealed on Tuesday that he would like to see the bookend parcel of the proposed sanitation garage on East 25th Street become housing for seniors.

Ravitch discussed the issue at a meeting held by the Waterside Tenants Association, saying that some kind of affordable housing option would be the most compatible use of the Brookdale site for the community.

“There’s no reason that the interests of the landlord should be different from those of the people at Waterside,” he said.

Ravitch, who’s an octogenarian himself, said that he has been talking with nonprofit organizations to come up with a plan for some kind of development that would offer both housing and services for seniors, although nothing is solidified at the moment. He emphasized that what he would like to prevent is a tall commercial building on what is now the CUNY Brookdale site, and would prefer the addition of services for tenants at Waterside.

“Having services that are easily accessible for the elderly is an important part of what we would like for the community,” he said. “Some tenants have lived here since the beginning, which is why I feel so strongly about it.”

He added that another one of his concerns, even more specific to Waterside Plaza residents, is the fate of the footbridge over the FDR Drive that connects the property to East 25th Street. He said that there is a possibility that the property is put to competitive bidding and if that happens, the possibility of making the bridge accessible seems even more uncertain.

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Richard Ravitch spells out how to get things done

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Richard Ravitch at Waterside’s 40th anniversary celebration (Photo by Sabina Mollot)


By Sabina Mollot

Waterside Plaza owner and developer Richard Ravitch, the former lieutenant governor of New York and one-time chair of the MTA, recently penned a memoir on his life as a public servant and builder that is also a cautionary tale about fiscal management. Now 80, Ravitch was at the forefront of reviving New York’s financial heartbeat during the 1970s, and tried to do the same for the MTA, almost getting shot in the process. He stood up for the financial well-being of tenants living in the homes he built while facing the realities of what it costs to develop and maintain regulated housing. Ravitch also ran for mayor and has served in numerous government advisory roles.

In April, he released his biography, So Much to Do ($27, Public Affairs), which has already had a second printing in New York. Recently, after returning from a literary tour, Ravitch talked with Town & Village about his book and his experience dealing with the effects of government borrowing while also attempting to fund services vital to New Yorkers…

What made you write your book?

I was asked by the publisher to write a biography after I left Albany. I was encouraged by a number of friends not to write a personal history as much as to write about my feelings on public service. It’s amazing to me that more hasn’t been written about New York City in 1975, the near bankruptcy of the city. I’ve never done it before (written a book) and I’m not going to do it again.

Do you think that would happen now or is there too much partisanship to resolve a financial crisis in the city today?

Back in the 1970s, you would get the government to work across party lines much more than they do today. I think it is tougher (now) but a major, major crisis tends to produce better results than a non-serious crisis. Is that what it takes? People have been talking about Detroit for 60 years, but it was only when they were on the brink of bankruptcy, that rich people started writing checks and everyone agreed to take something less than what they were entitled to. That’s the problem. If we wait for a total crisis, it’s much harder. I think in government, there’s too much borrowed money that’s being used to balance the budget.

How would you compare the politics of today to the politics of the 70s?

I think the press was a lot more vigilant in those days, which is good for democracy. The collapse of the print media had a very negative impact on politics. (As a public figure) I got more press coverage (on Waterside when it left Mitchell-Lama in 2001) than I wished I had. (In June, Ravitch made a donation to the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism for the creation of a one-week fellowship program. The program trains reporters on fiscal issues so they can keep a more watchful and understanding eye on budgets and government spending.)

What got you into public service?

I always had an interest. I grew up in a family that loved Roosevelt and had an interest in public service. (I also knew) that I wanted to make some money and bring up a family. I loved (business) and being involved in building thousands of affordable apartments in New York and Puerto Rico. It satisfied my need to do totally useful things. I consider myself to be very lucky. I have 13 grandchildren and money to be comfortable and help them.

Do you prefer public service or business?

I prefer public service. I feel like being in business made public service easier. I could tell politicians where to go in public service. Even when I ran a lousy campaign for mayor in 1989, I never found it a (negative) experience.

Would you run for office or serve again if asked? I’m 80 years old. I think it’s safe to say I won’t be asked to (be in office) and I won’t volunteer. Any regrets from your time as lieutenant governor under David Paterson? None at all.

What is your opinion of Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan?

I don’t know how he intends to execute it, where he’s going to get the resources. I hope he knows. It’s commendable. What would encourage more building of affordable housing as opposed to just glass luxury condos? Financial incentives. They exist, but they don’t exist as much as they used to. A lot of the (incentives) were limited in a 1986 tax reform bill in Washington. Only public subsidies can bring (new development) to affordable levels (with current mortgage costs.) Real estate tax exemptions or Section 8 vouchers or the equivalent. (Currently) they’re not enough. Subsidies limit the profit of real estate developer as they should, but the subsidies should go over and above the tax benefits and they’re in short supply right now.

And you don’t think that will change any time soon?

No I do not.

At Waterside, when the settling tenants (those living there before the Mitchell-Lama program expired) wanted to renegotiate their yearly rent increase, you negotiated. Do you think other owners err by not wanting to work with tenants and having matters end up in litigation?

(Tenants’ increases went down from 7.5 percent to 4.25 percent. The Waterside Tenants Association had retained counsel after management initially declined to budge on a recession-era rollback, but ended up negotiating with management out of court.)

You have to understand. Waterside is not just a business for me. It has been a part of my life for 50 years. I care a lot about the tenants. I didn’t think their request was totally unreasonable, when you consider the circumstances with so many elderly people on fixed incomes. In my case, compromise with the tenants, even though they had no legal right to challenge the percent they paid under the agreement we signed in 2001, was the right thing to do. You were there at the 40th anniversary. We had a happy group of tenants. So the answer is I can’t speak to what other landlords do. I can only speak for myself.

How much of a percentage of tenants are at Waterside are settling tenants?

Settling tenants make up 30 percent of the population.

Do you have an opinion on the ongoing discussions between the city and CWCapital to maintain some affordability at Stuyvesant Town?

I don’t know the details, so I shouldn’t comment.

Do you feel like you accomplished more when you worked behind the scenes as an advisor or when you held official titles?

I accomplished more when I ran the MTA and the UDC (New Your State Urban Development Corporation) than I did (behind the scenes), because I had a specific public responsibility. That was much more demanding of me and much more satisfying.

Is there anything else you want to say about your book or fiscal crises in general?

I think the main message in the book is the quote from Plato. “If you’re not prepared to engage in politics, be prepared to be governed by inferior people.” That’s the most important thing.

Remembering Roy Goodman and more civilized days in Albany

Roy Goodman in a photo that ran in Town & Village in 1977

Roy Goodman in a photo that ran in Town & Village in 1977

By Sabina Mollot
On June 3, 2014, Roy Goodman, the Republican New York State senator who represented part of the East Side of Manhattan, including Stuyvesant Town, for 33 years, died at the age of 84.
According to his daughter Claire Pellegrini-Cloud, Goodman’s death at a hospital in Danbury, Connecticut, was most likely caused by pneumonia.
He had also, for around a decade, been battling Parkinson’s and relied on a wheelchair to get around. His death came as a surprise however, since he’d been active and was just returning home to Manhattan from a trip to see one of his six grandchildren graduate from Harvard. He also attended a number of other events at Harvard, his alma mater, recently, including an awards dinner. On the way home from the graduation trip, an aide noticed that Goodman’s hands were turning blue and called 911. Goodman was admitted to Danbury Hospital on Thursday night, but wound up taking a turn for the worse over the weekend.
“He was surrounded by family up until the last moment,” Pellegrini-Cloud said. “It was a peaceful death.”
Throughout his lengthy political career, Goodman was known for his socially liberal views. He was a supporter of women’s rights, from protection against domestic violence to the right to choose, as well as of LGBT rights and services for people with HIV/AIDS when the disease was just coming into public awareness. He also fought for tenant rights and affordability and was instrumental in the prevention of Riverwalk, a towering luxury development that would have cut off ST/PCV residents’ access to the waterfront and blocked their views of the river. While tackling the city’s fiscal crisis during the 1970s, he still pushed for continued funding of the arts. He also worked on city charter revision and ran the State Senate’s committee on investigations.
Though he left office over a decade ago, with his passing, former colleagues have been wistfully noting the official end to an era when Republicans and Democrats enjoyed a far less contentious — and far more productive — working relationship.
Since his departure from office in 2002, when he was succeeded by Liz Krueger, there have been no Republicans elected anywhere in Manhattan.

State Senator Roy Goodman (left) with Vincent Albano, chairman of the New York County Republican Committee, in a 1979 Town & Village photo

State Senator Roy Goodman (left) with Vincent Albano, chairman of the New York County Republican Committee, in a 1979 Town & Village photo

At that time, noted Pellegrini-Cloud, Goodman was disappointed at the sharp right turn his party had taken, and that “people couldn’t rise above personal vendettas to work together. He was very solution oriented.”
She added that this attitude extended to Goodman’s family life. When she was growing up, Goodman would make sure each of his three children, Claire, Randolph and Leslie, got equal airtime at the dinner table. When there were disagreements, “He would say, ‘Let’s not be so quick to judge that person. Let’s see it from their point of view,’” said Pellegrini-Cloud.
Meanwhile, she disagreed with a detail in a recent story in the New York Times, which first reported on Goodman’s passing, that said her father was seen by some as a snob.
“He was known for mixing it up with anyone,” she said. “Yeah he used flowery language, but he was a great believer that the average person could understand that. Why dumb it down?”
Steven Sanders, the Assemblyman who represented the ST/PCV area for 28 years (25 of those alongside Goodman) recalled working with the senator to fight Riverwalk as well of another development farther north in Tudor City. That Harry Helmsley project would have destroyed residents’ park space. Sanders, on the morning of his wedding day, heard that a bulldozer had come to the site, and promptly headed over there to join the tenants in forming a human chain. Goodman, meanwhile, managed to secure an order from a judge to stop work despite it being a weekend.
He also recalled how due to legislation sponsored by Goodman in the Senate and Sanders in the Assembly, the cost of major capital improvement rent increases (MCIs) for tenants was reduced.
“Since MCIs as we know are paid in perpetuity, the cumulative savings for tenants became hundreds of dollars in each year,” Sanders said. They also worked together with the owner of Waterside Plaza, Richard Ravitch, and the Waterside Tenants Association to create an affordable housing contract for tenants at the complex when its Mitchell-Lama contract expired in 2001.
He also recalled how back in the 1980s, he and Goodman, along with then Town & Village Publisher Charles Hagedorn and Bill Potter, then the general manager of Stuyvesant Town, would meet for lunch every few months. The spot was usually Capucines, a restaurant on Second Avenue at 19th Street that recently closed.
“It was social and an occasional discussion of some community issues,” said Sanders, who is now the only surviving member of that group. “Imagine that… Republicans and Democrats, and the representative of the landlord Met life along with the publisher of the Town & Village joining together as colleagues.”
But, added the former assemblyman, who left office eight years ago, “Roy and I come from a different time. That notion of governing seems to have been lost. Politics has been exceedingly contentious. It’s all about winning and losing. We had our tussles every two years when I supported my candidates and he supported his, but then we’d have a drink or lunch and we would do community work for our district. We will not see his like again.”
Krueger, whose first run for office was against Goodman, said she remembered her opponent’s humor when he ultimately defeated her.
“His graciousness and good humor were on full display from that campaign’s beginning to its end, when, victorious after a six-week recount, he jokingly dubbed himself ‘Landslide Goodman,’” she shared in a written statement last week.
According to a Times article, he had a similar attitude when he lost a mayoral race in 1977 to Ed Koch.

Roy Goodman (right) with Frank Scala in a 2006 campaign  flier for Scala’s Assembly run

Roy Goodman (right) with Frank Scala in a 2006 campaign flier for Scala’s Assembly run

Frank Scala, the president of the Vincent Albano Republican Club, was a friend of Goodman’s and had his endorsement when he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Assembly in 2006 during a special election.
This week, Scala pointed out that most people living in ST/PCV are unaware of Goodman’s involvement in the creation of Stuyvesant Cove Park a decade ago.
While still in office, he’d allocated $1.2 million for its construction. “If it wasn’t for Roy Goodman the park wouldn’t have been built,” said Scala.
Goodman had also encouraged Scala to revive the Albano Club after it had been inactive for years.
In 1981, Goodman became the Republican New York County Committee chair and remained in that position for 20 years.
After leaving office, he served as CEO for the United Nations Development Corporation and was a participant in a handful of organizations supporting the arts. Up until the time of his death he lived on the Upper East Side, where he grew up, the grandson of Israel Matz, founder of Ex-Lax.
In an interesting coincidence, Goodman’s death occurred within 24 hours of the time his wife of over 50 years, Barbara, died eight years ago.
On both days, Pellegrini-Cloud remembered there being loud, violent thunderstorms, and only after the more recent one, she spotted a rainbow.
“I like to think it was my dad’s stairway to heaven, going to join Mom,” she said. “It was incredible.”
Condolence visitation for Goodman was held on Sunday, June 15 from 6-8 p.m. at Frank E. Campbell, 1076 Madison Avenue at 81st Street. The funeral service was on Monday, June 16 at Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue and 65th Street. The burial was private.

Waterside celebrates 40th anniversary

By Sabina Mollot

On Thursday night, hundreds gathered at Waterside Plaza for a celebration of the complex’s 40th anniversary that included a concert by the George G. Orchestra, dancing under the stars and a fireworks display over the East River.

Waterside owner Richard Ravitch, between schmoozing with tenants and local politicians, said he never could have imagined the evening’s landmark celebration when, close to 50 years ago, he was trying to convince city officials that the building of a four-tower complex east of the FDR Drive would be a good thing.

“Never in the world,” he said. But he kept pushing for the plans and eventually succeeded in getting federal legislation passed so that Waterside’s buildings could be constructed directly over the water.

“(Mayor) Lindsay was excited about this,” recalled Ravitch. For a while, he noted, Waterside also rented apartments to the FBI “so they could eavesdrop on North Korea.” These days, Waterside is home to 4,000 people, including 200 employees of the United Nations, and there are also two onsite private schools, United Nations International School and British International School of New York.

Over the years, Ravitch said the biggest challenge of running the property is staying on top of its upkeep.

“If you do this responsibly, you have to preserve the infrastructure, even if it means less money in your pocket.”

Ravitch lives uptown rather than at Waterside, explaining, “Every time I raise the rent, some tenants get… unhappy. So it’s never a good idea.” Tenants seemed receptive to the landlord on Thursday though, even greeting him with cheers when he addressed the crowd briefly to discuss the history of the complex and the land it was built on.

He noted the fact that Waterside, the first property to be built east of the FDR Drive, was designed by Lewis Davis, whose son Peter Davis is today the general manager of the property. When introducing him, Ravitch said, “When I was dabbling significantly in public service, I knew I’d have to find an extraordinary person who could raise tenants’ rents, but remain beloved by tenants. That person turned out to be the son of the genius who designed Waterside.”

Ravitch also had words of praise for Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal. Though he admitted she “gives me agita several times a year,” he also called her a tough leader for tenants.

He then went on to discuss how long before Waterside was even a concept, the area that now houses the four-tower complex was an important part of international history. In the 1940s, when the United States was trying to help the British with supplies, the ships they were delivered in, which could not return to the U.S. empty, used rubble from the ground in English city of Bristol as ballast. That rubble was then emptied in the area that now houses Waterside before the ships would take on more supplies. Waterside management was made aware of this bit of history a couple of years ago through the English Speaking Union and now has a plaque on the Plaza to commemorate it.

Also joining Ravitch to discuss the history were a couple of special guests, Edwina Sandys, the granddaughter of Winston Churchill, and Ava Roosevelt, the widow of William Roosevelt, David Roosevelt’s half-brother. Local politicians also appeared at the event, including Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Council Member Dan Garodnick and Council Member (and borough president Democratic primary winner) Gale Brewer.

Along with the brief ceremony, the evening included complimentary hot dogs and burgers grilled outside on the Plaza, music, dancing as well as dance performances by the Syncopated City Dance Company, a video tribute to the complex and entertainment for kids.

Waterside turning 40

 

Waterside Plaza

Waterside Plaza

By Sabina Mollot

Waterside Plaza, the four-tower complex on the East River owned by former Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch, will celebrate its 40th birthday on Thursday, September 19.

A party will be held outside on the plaza with music, food and a video tribute, and according to management, “ a few surprises.” Originally, the event was scheduled for September 12, but was postponed due to the weather.

This week, Ravitch spoke to Town & Village about the years leading up to the property being built. At that time, he had a major challenge on his hands when presenting the idea of a development to be constructed directly on the water to the city and the public.

“Everything about it was revolutionary,” he said. “It was a social experiment. We were going to have families of various incomes. We didn’t know we’d have to get a law passed by Congress to make it doable (to build on the river).”

Additionally, he recalled, residents of nearby Peter Cooper Village were opposed to the idea, over concerns new buildings might block their own views of the river.

Waterside is situated east of the FDR Drive between 25th and 30th Streets. To build the complex, 2,000 concrete pilings were placed 80 feet into the bed of the river. Each tower ranges from 31 to 37 stories and all together, there are 1,470 apartments.

The designer of the buildings was Lewis Davis, whose son Peter, coincidentally, is now the property’s general manager. Along with closeup views of the river, Waterside has doormen, a gym with a pool, a landscaped plaza for the use of the public where summer concerts, movies and dance performances take place and a retail strip. Two private schools are also located onsite, British International School of New York and United Nations International School. Waterside was for many years in the Mitchell-Lama program. It expired in 2001 and today, some residents pay market rent while others, who lived there before 2001, live under a “settling agreement,” which gives them a rent increase of 4.25 percent every year.

The towers as well as a number of adjoining townhouses are home to 4,000 residents and Ravitch called it “a wonderful community” due to the award-winning architecture and the diversity of the tenant population. (Two hundred are United Nations employees and residents come from 62 different countries.)

“It’s a little further away from the subway than some people would prefer, but that’s the only reason everybody doesn’t clamor to be at Waterside,” said Ravitch.

To deal with the transportation issue, a few years ago, Waterside began offering free shuttle bus services to tenants to local subway stops.

While residents and management sometimes clash over issues, Ravitch said overall the tenants have been happy with the way the place is run and currently, their real only beef is with the city. This would be over plans to build a sanitation garage across from the pedestrian bridge from Waterside over the FDR Drive to First Avenue and 25th Street.

When asked for his take on the garage, Ravitch, who at one time headed the MTA, said, “I’ve spent so much of my life in public service… so if the city says they’re going to have a garage there, I can’t argue with it.” Instead, he said the city needs to take the residents into consideration when building it directly across from the property’s main entrance and exit.

“When you have 4,000 tenants and two schools directly involved, there should have been more consultation,” he said. He also said the city shouldn’t build in the parcels of the property located west and east of the garage site. “Those should be community uses.” In a related issue, Ravitch called on the city to make the pedestrian bridge, which is public property, handicapped accessible.

Janet Handal, who’s the president of the Waterside Tenants Association, also weighed in on the development’s landmark anniversary.

Recalling the effort that went into getting the place built, Handal, who moved there in 1974, said, “It shows you the finesse of Richard Ravitch in putting it all together and Lew Davis, too. The guy really wired this and it was not an easy thing to wire. It’s a great community, a beautiful place. It’s like a small town really.”