Three State lawmakers representing Lower Manhattan have introduced bills in both houses of the Albany legislature that would require the governor to appoint Lower Manhattan residents to a majority of seats on the board of the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA).
State Senator Daniel Squadron and Assembly members Deborah Glick and Yuh-Line Niou are sponsoring identical measures in their respective chambers. These bills, introduced in the Senate and Assembly (as S130 and A4002, respectively) in January, stipulate that, “if the membership of the corporation is such that less than a majority of the members are residents of the community district in which battery park city is located, any appointments made shall be of residents of the community district in which battery park city is located. Appointments shall continue in such a manner until a majority of the members of the corporation are residents of such community district.”
In this passage, “corporation” refers to the Authority, “membership” and “members” refer to the BPCA’s board of directors, and “community district” refers to the boundaries of Community Board 1 (CB1), a collection of neighborhoods encompassing 1.5 square miles, bounded roughly by Canal, Baxter, and Pearl Streets, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Thus, although this proposed law would not necessarily achieve the goal, long sought by community leaders, of installing residents of Battery Park City on the Authority’s board, it would still require that a majority of the BPCA’s board seats go to people residing in Lower Manhattan. By forcing Governor Andrew Cuomo, who controls the BPCA, to appoint area residents to the the agency’s board, this law would likely give the local community a greater voice in decisions made by the Authority, which is the de facto government for the 10,000-plus people who live on the 92 acres of landfill between West Street and the Hudson River.
Presently, local representation is limited to a single member of the BPCA’s board, Martha Gallo. Moreover, under current law, there is no legal requirement that even one of the seven BPCA board seats go a somebody who lives in Lower Manhattan.
The bills introduced at the start of this year’s legislative session closely echo the language of similar measures considered by the Senate and Assembly in 2016. In last year’s session, the Assembly version of the bill passed easily and by an overwhelming majority, but the law stalled in the Senate, where a Republican majority blocked it.
At the time of the 2016’s measure’s introduction, a broad coalition of elected officials representing Lower Manhattan endorsed the push for residents to be appointed to the BPCA’s board. “The Battery Park City Authority board plays a significant role in the daily life of this community, and the community should have a significant role in the BPCA board,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler. “On issues ranging from recreational facilities to public safety, the Battery Park City Authority board has failed to include the Battery Park City community in its decision-making,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Building a BPCA board that is more accountable to and inclusive of the residents of this community is a worthy goal.” City Council member Margaret Chin said, “increasing community input in the decision-making process is critical to the health of any democracy. Battery Park City is no different. This legislation to increase local representation on the Authority’s board will ultimately lead to greater transparency and accountability.”