Q&A with BPCA

A Preview of Tonight's Open Community Meeting: Safety and Affordability Are on Residents' Minds

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The Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) will host an “Open Community Meeting” tonight (Tuesday, November 14), from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, at Six River Terrace (opposite the Irish Hunger Memorial and next to Le Pain Quotidien restaurant). Residents are urged to attend, hear a presentation from Authority staff on their vision for the community, and seek answers to questions that are crucial to the futures of all who lives here, such as resiliency, affordability, and security.

The Broadsheet asked a cross-section of elected officials, community leaders, and residents to frame suggestions and pose questions for the Authority to answer at tonight’s meeting. Here are their responses:

City Council member Margaret Chin: "How are negotiations progressing in regards to ensuring long-term affordability for families and seniors at Gateway Plaza?"

City Council member Margaret Chin: “How are negotiations progressing in regards to ensuring long-term affordability for families and seniors at Gateway Plaza?”

City Council member Margaret Chin notes that, “in the wake of the October 31 terrorist attack in our neighborhood, I joined other local elected officials last week to ask the Authority to install bollards in front of the P.S. 276. I appreciate the BPCA’s prompt response in granting this important request to ensure the safety of our children. However, the bollards at P.S. 276 would be only a temporary solution to the concerns of parents in our community. What permanent solutions is the BPCA considering to keep students safe from a similar terrorist attack?”

Ms. Chin also asks, “how are negotiations progressing in regards to ensuring long-term affordability for families and seniors at Gateway Plaza?” Finally, she observes that, “St. Joseph’s Chapel is a neighborhood treasure, which serves a devoted group of parishioners as well as the larger community. Can you provide an update about negotiations with the Archdiocese and the LeFrak Organization to save St. Joseph’s Chapel from closure?”

 State Assembly member Deborah Glick" "We need more information about additional steps being considered to protect the waterfront around the Robert Wagner Park and the Esplanade area."


State Assembly member Deborah Glick” “We need more information about additional steps being considered to protect the waterfront around the Robert Wagner Park and the Esplanade area.”

State Assembly member Deborah Glick wants to BPCA to provide an update about, “additional steps being considered to protect the waterfront around the Robert Wagner Park and the Esplanade area.”

State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou says, “I understand that the Authority has been working with partners to enhance security after the West Street attack. Can the Authority report on their short- and long-term security improvement plans, including measures to bolster protections near our schools, community centers, and high trafficked areas? It is critical that a comprehensive security study be held for the neighborhood.”

State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou: “It’s been five years since Hurricane Sandy hit lower Manhattan. What measurable improvements has the Authority brought to improve resiliency for Battery Park City?”
Ms. Niou also observes that, “it’s been five years since Hurricane Sandy hit lower Manhattan. What measurable improvements has the Authority brought to improve resiliency for Battery Park City?”

State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou: "It's been five years since Hurricane Sandy hit lower Manhattan. What measurable improvements has the Authority brought to improve resiliency for Battery Park City?"

State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou: “It’s been five years since Hurricane Sandy hit lower Manhattan. What measurable improvements has the Authority brought to improve resiliency for Battery Park City?”

Finally, she says, “housing affordability was one of the top concerns raised at the recent Gateway tenants’ meeting. Can the Authority report on the steps being taken to address these concerns? It is critical that we protect the families and individuals that helped shape our neighborhood.”

State Assembly member Brian Kavanagh, who recently won the special election to take over the State Senate seat vacated in August, says, “first, I want to thank the BPCA, Allied Universal, and the community for their quick and strong response to the terror attack on Halloween. As I work on getting to know this community better, I would like to hear updates on the Authority’s resiliency plans, how it plans to give voice to local residents in major decisions, how it plans to keep the community affordable, and what ideas BPCA has regarding the roles local elected officials can play in achieving these objectives. I’d also like to hear about the status of conversations regarding community use at Asphalt Green and construction of the bridges over West Street.”

State Senator-elect Brian Kavanagh: "How does the BPCA plan to give voice to local residents in major decisions?"

State Senator-elect Brian Kavanagh: “How does the BPCA plan to give voice to local residents in major decisions?”

tomgoodkind_1984Cropped

Tom Goodkind

Anthony Notaro, the chair of Community Board 1 (CB1), raises questions regarding the operations of Battery Park City Parks. “They do a great job with programming, but what is their strategic plan for landscaping maintenance and renewal, since our parks are aging?”

He also wants to know, “is there a plan to improve the security device at the Liberty Street ramp?” This is a reference to the unsightly metal barricade that has controlled access to this site since Battery Park City reopened after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Mr. Notaro also notes, “it’s not clear who controls what streets in Battery Park City’s north and south neighborhoods, and who maintains them. (This refers to the overlapping jurisdiction over the neighborhood’s streetscape, shared between the BPCA and the City’s Department of Transportation.) “Do we make 311 calls for everything?” Mr. Notaro asks, noting that BPCA chairman Dennis Mehiel, “has suggested that in the past, but there’s some confusion.”

CB1 member Tom Goodkind (who is an advocate for the City of New York taking over management of Battery Park City, and dissolving the BPCA), raises a series of concerns: “On parks maintenance, the Authority removed the executive director, Tessa Huxley, who initiated and stewarded parks and recreational programs for us. Looking at security, the Authority also dismissed our Parks Police, who had the ability to issue summons and enforce. About housing, we’ve heard of no successful effort on to assist condominium unit owners with financial problems due to the State ground rent situation, and we’ve heard of no success in efforts to assist long-term renters, whose stabilization or affordable housing is expiring. And in terms of representation, no one on the BPCA board lives in our community, and the community cannot elect people to that board.”

“If we were part of the City,” Mr. Goodkind continues, “elected officials would represent us, laws would be enforced to make our community safer, and we would be living under housing laws that seek to preserve affordability. In what way, specifically, does the Authority believe it can do a better job at managing our area than the City of New York?”

Maria Smith, a public member of CB1, says, “the issue of security is of utmost concern in our neighborhood. We have the awful distinction of being the only area in the City that has been the site of three terrorist attacks. I would like to see more New York Police Department patrols, and an enforcement force that can write and issue summons, and is trained in looking for anomalies. Whether that means bringing back the Parks Enforcement Patrol, or hiring peace officers, some enforcement personnel need to supplement the Allied Universal safety ambassadors.”

Gateway Plaza resident and community leader Ninfa Segarra says that the three new members recently appointed to the BPCA by Governor Andrew Cuomo, “are an opportunity to recalibrate their relationship with the community,” and urges the Authority, “to continue their talk in public on what to do with excess revenue.” She also asks about the current status of two design initiatives: the resiliency project at Wagner Park and the traffic safety proposals for South End Avenue. Finally, she wants to know, “the role of Allied Universal security personnel in a crisis, and how can we foster more communication with the community?”

John Dellaportas, the president of his condominium board on Rector Place, asks whether Battery Park City Parks is willing, “to adopt a more community-friendly approach to saving old trees, as opposed to the chainsaw-first approach historically used. In Savannah, Georgia, for example, where I was recently visiting, a hearing is required before a tree can be cut down. And then, if the decision is made to cut it down, signage is placed on the tree explaining the decision.”

Maryanne Braverman

Maryanne Braverman

And Maryanne Braverman, who is active in the leadership of the Battery Park City Seniors group, as well as the grassroots organization, Democracy for Battery Park City, has a series of financial questions about the BPCA. “What bond debt has the BPCA issued, when, and under what terms? Under what circumstances would the Authority issue more bonds?”

She also asks, “what are the financial terms of the agreement between the BPCA and Asphalt Green? There are lots of protestations lately about working together and making space available for community use. But, let’s understand the ‘dollars and sense’ involved, as requested by Tom Goodkind at a recent meeting of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee.”

“I’d also like hear from the BPCA’s chief financial officer,” Ms. Braverman continues. “We, who live here, pay a premium and should be fully apprised of the financials — in the same way that condominiums have annual meetings for the ownership to understand the financials of their buildings.”

She also asks, “what is the background for our current payment obligations and what is needed to get our leases extended beyond the expiration date in 2069? With real estate tax deductions in jeopardy, continuing increases to the PILOT [payment in lieu of taxes] will really hurt.”

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