Affordable Housing Developer Takes the Helm
The board of the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) has a new chairman. On October 25, Donald Capoccia, a real estate developer who has served on the Authority’s board since 2011, was elected to serve as chair by the other members of the board.
Acting Chair Martha Gallo began the discussion by saying, “the next item on the agenda is my favorite item: the election of board chair. I think most of you know, as vice chair of the board, I stepped in as the acting chair,” when former BPCA chairman George Tsunis was appointed by President Biden to serve as the American ambassador to Greece in 2022.
“I would like to nominate Don Capoccia as the board’s new chair,” she continued, before summarizing a list of his professional accomplishments: “He’s the managing principal and founder of BFC Partners, a real estate development and building company that’s been involved in planning, development, and construction of some 12,500 units of housing in New York City, with the combined value of $4.5 billion dollars.”
“Mr. Capoccia and BFC have focused predominantly on the production of affordable, mixed-income and workforce housing,” she added, “as well as large-scale, mixed-use projects like Essex Crossing and the Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights. Don has also served on a number of not-for-profit, public benefit and public authority boards for New York City and New York State. He seems qualified for this chair position.”
“We’ll see,” Mr. Capoccia replied in a tone of mock skepticism, which drew laughs from the other board members. He added, “you won’t have to miss Martha. She’s still going to be here in her role as vice chair.”
In addition to serving on the BPCA board, Mr. Capoccia has a record of long-standing support for a broad range of non-profit organizations, focused on issues ranging from affordable housing and the arts to LGBTQ advocacy.
Early in his career, in 1999, he courted controversy by acquiring City-owned lots on the Lower East Side and demolishing the treasured community gardens there to erect new housing. Seventeen years later, he regained the good will of that neighborhood’s residents when a new community garden, which he helped create, opened nearby.
BFC Partners has constructed housing in other emerging neighborhoods such as East Harlem and Downtown Brooklyn. In 2017, Mr. Capoccia was named a Hero of the Harbor by the Waterfront Alliance for transforming neglected Brooklyn waterfront property on the East River into Schaefer Landing, a successful mixed-use development that foresaw the importance of waterborne transit and included a ferry landing years before NYC Ferry was launched.
Mr. Capoccia has had his share of disappointments. The Empire Outlets discount mall at the Staten Island waterfront, spearheaded by BFC Partners, opened in 2019 but struggled financially throughout the pandemic and entered foreclosure in 2022. It was sold last month to Goldman Sachs for $10 million. Empire Outlets had received more than $100 million in taxpayer support.
Mr. Capoccia has been cited as a prodigious political donor, with public records documenting that he has contributed in excess of half a million dollars to candidates of both parties since the year 2000.
All members of the BPCA board are appointed by the Governor. Mr. Capoccia is, like all other current members of the Authority’s board, serving an expired term. (His appointment lapsed in 2016.) As a practical matter, board members at State authorities often continue to serve after their terms have expired, until they are reappointed or replaced by the governor.