Ms. Hughes has long been a voice for downtown residents and workers
There are many stakeholders who work diligently to ensure Lower Manhattan’s place as one of the most vibrant and viable locales in the country. But among the many elected officials, business owners, developers, and other local leaders, few have the personal commitment of Catherine McVay Hughes.
A member of Community Board 1 (CB1) since 1997, Ms. Hughes has long been an influential voice for downtown residents and workers. After all, her family has lived one block from the World Trade Center since 1988, making her an expert on downtown’s rebuilding history -- as well as a trusted liaison between her neighbors and the many public and private redevelopment officials, whose decisions affect her family’s daily life.
Ms. Hughes’ background has made her especially cut out for her Lower Manhattan advocacy. She holds degrees in civil engineering and business administration, and has experience in finance and public-issues activism. It’s this diverse professional path that has led her to hold several key positions in the local community, including serving as Vice Chair of CB1, Chair of its WTC Redevelopment Committee, and advisory board member for the WTC Health Registry, WTC Environmental Health Center, and Gouverneur Healthcare Services.
We asked Ms. Hughes three questions about her work and her home neighborhood.
What are some of Community Board 1’s most important charges during the WTC rebuilding process?
Hughes: Community Board 1 is critical to maintaining as transparent a process as possible for, and demanding accountability in the rebuilding of the WTC site. Our role is now more important than ever, since there really are no other regular forums for the public to address questions in public view to the key players -- including the Port Authority, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York State Department of Transportation, Silverstein Properties, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center (LMCCC), and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
We need to be vigilant on making sure that those who have the power to rebuild do the right thing and follow through with their promises, while maintaining timetables and budgets, and considering the needs of the community that live and work around the largest construction site in the densest city.
What are some of CB1’s successes in collaborating with downtown’s redevelopers?
Hughes: CB1 successes at the WTC are only as good as the collaboration we have with our dedicated elected officials and the key stakeholders that span both the public and private sectors.
For example, early on in the redevelopment process, we testified at hearings on the importance of using the latest trends in green construction practices for the redevelopment of the WTC site. And now we have one of the largest green construction projects in the country. Not only for the final constructed WTC complex, but also during the construction process through the use of environmental performance commitments (EPC’s)-- which are monitored by the LMCCC, an agency whose creation and continued existence we have supported.
One major environmental measure now being used is ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel combined with retrofitted construction equipment -- something tested here first and now being used everywhere. Since CB1’s district is one of the most densely populated areas of the city, safe, green construction practices and enforcement are critical. Now the various developers and agencies are communicating and building better and more safely. Another example is the city’s emergency-notification program, called “Notify NYC,” which was largely in response to CB1 and public demand. That system too has been copied by other major cities.
What’s the best part about living in Lower Manhattan?
Hughes: We have the luxury of being surrounded by a gorgeous waterfront with the best parks and bicycle paths. In addition, our historic neighborhood, which has many landmarks and unique architecture, has some of the best restaurants in the world, while having ready access to a terrific public transit system that takes you to everything else that makes New York City so great -- even to CB1’s own Governors Island! After 9/11, when we were out of our homes for a while, our family and neighbors couldn’t even imagine living anywhere else besides the creative capital of the world.