Bob Townley, the founder and executive director of Manhattan Youth, as well as a member of Community Board 1 (CB1), is proposing that the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) form advisory council of stakeholders and residents to foster a better relationship with the community.
At its monthly meeting on April 26, the board discussed a resolution calling upon the Authority to allow public questions and comment during its board meetings. This resolution was drafted in response to an April 4 letter in which a coalition of five elected officials representing Lower Manhattan called upon the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) to allow public comment at meetings where decisions are made, affecting the lives of people who live or work within the community.
In that letter, State Senator Daniel Squadron, State Assembly member Deborah Glick, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council member Margaret Chin, and U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler wrote to, “urge the BPCA Board to include a public comment session during its meetings, and to ensure the public portion of the meeting is conducted in one continuous block before executive session. Allowing public comment is an important part of public engagement.”
The elected officials also pointed out that a broad range of comparable government agencies, such as the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the Trust for Governors Island, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, invite questions and comments from the public during their board meetings.
This prompted CB1’s Battery Park City Committee to pass, on April 5, a resolution observing that, “greater communication and the opportunity for the BPCA Board to hear directly the concerns and questions of their stakeholders is critical in fostering transparency and better informing the Board’s discussions and decisions,” and demanding that, “the BPCA change its Board meeting process to allow for a public comments session at each of its meetings.”
At CB1’s full meeting, on April 26, this led Mr. Townley to suggest that, “what the BPCA needs is what the Hudson River Park Trust has, along with a number of these entities, which are advisory committees, where their people come, and there’s a dialog and a give and take.”
This was a reference to the Hudson River Park Advisory Council, which is mandated by the enabling legislation that created the Park, and the Trust that operates it. By law, this panel contains up to 50 members, who represent community boards adjoining the park, as well as local organizations with an interest in, or relationship with the Park.
Mr. Townley added, “I’m not a big fan of allowing the public to speak at the board meetings of these authorities. If you want to do it, you can do it. It doesn’t rock my boat. But I’m not interested in facilitating a meeting where people can start yelling at the Authority, and then it’s, ‘time’s up, you gotta go,’ and they go away. I take a very different, more collaborative approach on this.”
Tammy Meltzer, who serves on CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, said, “we need to ask for what we can get for now. The BPCA is under no compulsion to do anything, and it’s not written into their rules to have an advisory group. Nor have they shown any inclination to even want to hear us.”
CB1 member Marc Ameruso then proposed a resolution calling for the BPCA to be disbanded entirely, “and replacing it with a more local community-oriented entity to be determined by and with hearings.”
Anthony Notaro, chair of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee deferred consideration of this point, saying, “that is a resolution that our committee will take up at some point,” in the meantime calling for a vote by the full board on the resolution about public comment at BPCA board meetings, which passed by a margin of 31 votes in favor, with two votes opposed and two abstaining.