Niou and CB1 Push Longer Leases, Caps on Cost Hikes, and a Voice for Residents
State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou: “This bill is vital to protect affordability and facilitate the diversity of Battery Park City. The Authority is a State-owned entity, created by the legislature, and therefore it is vital that we in the legislature put a check on that entity by ensuring that they renew the leases and keep rent increases moderate.”
State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou has introduced a pair of bills in the Albany legislature that closely track recent resolutions by Community Board 1 (CB1), and address a trio of issues that have long vexed local leaders.
The first of these measures answers two related concerns: First, it would compel the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) to modify its ground leases with residential condominiums so that hikes in ground rent would be limited to those approved by the City’s Rent Guidelines Board (RBG) for rent-stabilized apartments. (In cases where the current ground leases provide for rent hikes smaller than those authorized by the RGB, the lower amount would apply.) Second, the same bill would additionally extend the ground lease for each building by 99 years, to the year 2168.
These provisions speak to the exotic nature of property ownership in Battery Park City, where homeowners, landlords, and developers do not own outright the land they occupy, but instead lease the space (through June 2069) in exchange for yearly payments of ground rent, as well as so-called “payments in lieu of taxes” (PILOT). Concerns about this arrangement have grown acute in recent years, as more residents have come to realize that, under the current terms of the ground lease, their homes may disappear in 47 years, as ownership of all the real estate in Battery Park City reverts to the Authority. Unless the terms of this lease are modified or extended, for condominium owners, it may mean that their property is effectively confiscated, while renters might face the prospect of eviction. Both owners and tenants could be rendered homeless under this scenario. Neither of these outcomes is a foregone conclusion, but would be subject to a decision by the BPCA and support from the City about how to move forward.
Long before the current lease expiration in 2069, however, all 18 condominium buildings in Battery Park City are facing a series of “fair market value” (FMV) resets of their ground rent—a dozen buildings will undergo this change in 2042, while the rest will face it much sooner. These FMV resets will boost the annual ground rent of each building to six percent of the value of the land on which each building sits, as if that land were being sold for development, rather than leased. For several years, the BPCA has acknowledged that such FMV increases would be unpredictable and unaffordable, and the Authority has spoken publicly about its efforts to expunge these resets from the ground lease of any condominium. But this has yet to result in any change to the lease terms for any condominium.
Given that the sale value of each building lot in Battery Park City is currently well in excess of $100 million (and is likely to be much higher in 2042), this will inevitably translate into ground-rent increases of millions of dollars per year for every building, which will trickle down to each homeowner as tens of thousands of dollars per year in additional common charges. Such a development will inevitably trigger a wave of foreclosures and property abandonments as the cost of owning such units exceeds their market value. In the meantime, the perceived risk of ruinous ground rent escalations is already exerting downward pressure on the sale prices of condominium units in Battery Park City.
Ms. Niou, who is also a candidate for the State Senate, said, “this bill is vital to protect affordability and facilitate the diversity of Battery Park City. The neighborhood is unique in that the land all of the buildings stand on is leased from the Battery Park City Authority, and soon enough that lease will be up. The Authority is a State-owned entity, created by the legislature, and therefore it is vital that we in the legislature put a check on that entity by ensuring that they renew the leases and keep rent increases moderate. We want to make sure that the families living in 3,900 condominium units across Battery Park City don’t get displaced, and this bill is the best way to do that.”
Ms. Niou’s bill about ground rent increases and the ground lease expiration corresponds to a resolution enacted by CB1 last June, which “implores the BPCA to extend all ground leases to 2168 and eliminate the FMV reset clauses and replace [them] with a fixed schedule or fixed percentage increase of buildings’ ground rent.”
Justine Cuccia, chair of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, said during a discussion of this resolution that “condo owners are asking for our help to bring to light the urgency associated with the ground-rent situation. The Homeowner’s Coalition, the Battery Alliance, and individual owners have all asked for help. The ground leases for all 18 condominiums must be amended to protect affordability.”
“Conversations about affordability often focus on low-income residents,” she noted. “But we’re talking about middle income residents—about people who bought their homes decades ago and are now on the edge, financially. These people are survivors of both World Trade Center attacks, who came back to renew and rebuild Battery Park City. These are people who are now, in many cases, suffering from—in some cases dying from—cancers and lung diseases related to September 11, 2001. They need help to age in place; in some instances, to die in place.”
Justine Cuccia, chair of Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee: “The BPCA already collects several hundred million dollars per year. Any talk of further increases is simply unconscionable and unacceptable. We need legislation that requires the BPCA to roll back the amount of money they collect from the condominium owners in this neighborhood, so that residents can remain in the community they helped to build.”
CB1 member Bruce Ehrmann, a real estate professional, added that, “Battery Park City is notorious for its ground rent. It has become a cautionary tale for every other, similar community, like Brooklyn Bridge Park,” where residential buildings also occupy leased public land. “This is an ongoing disaster that is almost incurable, because it was set up so badly.”
Ms. Cuccia added, “the BPCA already collects several hundred million dollars per year. Any talk of further increases is simply unconscionable and unacceptable. We need legislation that requires the BPCA to roll back the amount of money they collect from the condominium owners in this neighborhood, so that residents can remain in the community they helped to build.”
A spokesman for the Authority declined to comment on pending legislation but noted, “in recognition of the numerous homeowners in the neighborhood with low or moderate incomes, we are actively exploring innovative options to protect these residents from ground rent increases they cannot afford. However, the Authority’s existing ground leases with condominium buildings generate funds needed for critical City services, including affordable housing, and we take our fiduciary responsibilities seriously. As a matter of policy, we cannot responsibly discount the market value of public assets for the benefit of a select group of New Yorkers, particularly when these condominium owners on average have among the highest incomes in the City.”
The second bill sponsored by Ms. Niou in the State Assembly would require that a majority of the BPCA’s board of directors be comprised of residents from the community. Ms. Niou’s proposed law would require that the Governor (who appoints the Authority’s board) choose from people whose primary home is in the community to fill at least four seats on the Authority’s seven-member board.
Ms. Niou said, “I drafted this bill in consultation with the residents of Battery Park City, who are upset that they do not have a voice in the operation of their neighborhood. The BPCA was designed to facilitate the development of the site. But now that the community is fully developed, it is necessary that the Authority be modified to best maintain and protect the land and support the established community. No one is better suited to understand and address the needs and issues experienced by the Battery Park City community than the residents themselves. It is therefore necessary that their voices be duly weighted in the board of directors.”
A BPCA spokesman noted that the Authority’s enabling legislation charges it with the power “to acquire, construct, improve, enlarge, operate and maintain” the 92-acre development site, responsibilities that remain in its mission statement.
Ms. Niou’s second bill also takes its cue from a resolution enacted by CB1, in December, which noted that, “the BPCA Board should be comprised of individuals who will view their mandate as extending beyond simply being stewards of public funds, but who will also engage with the community with the objective of maintaining and enhancing the affordability and quality of residential and commercial life.”
Precedent for such an arrangement can be found nearby, on Roosevelt Island, which is very similar to Battery Park City. That planned community in the midst of the East River is also governed by a State agency, the Roosevelt Island Operation Corporation (RIOC), and residential buildings there also occupy land leased from the State. Under State law, five of the seven members of the RIOC board must be residents of Roosevelt Island.
During the CB1 discussion of this bill, Ms. Cuccia (who is also a candidate for the State Assembly) said, “the people of Battery Park City have been struggling for years to gain a voice in decisions that affect all of our lives, and a meaningful role in how we are governed. With this community facing gravely serious challenges like resiliency, affordability, and the 2069 expiration of the ground lease, this bill will be a significant step forward.”
(Editor’s Note: Ms. Cuccia is related to the reporter who wrote this story.)
To the editor,
[Re: It Would be an Abomination; Local Leaders Consider Pragmatic and Aesthetic Aspects of CobblestonesApril 25, 2022]
To use such an environmentally unfriendly material as asphalt is a throwback to 1950’s thinking.
1). It is impossible to make any surface 100% safe for walkers. At some point people must take their own responsibility as to where they are going. Suggestions: As a public aid, one possibility would be to put concrete paths in the middle of long cobblestone stretches, and to have similar paths at both ends of streets. For vehicles/bikers, etc., signage could be placed at entrances of streets with simple appropriate warnings.
2). In addition, asphalt would increase the ‘heat island’ effect even as we are trying to reduce it. To even consider using an environmentally unsound petroleum product such as asphalt is truly beyond belief!
To the editor,
[Re: Two Decades Later, What about the Children? April 22, 2022]
Thank you for your very informative article. It is encouraging that another effort is being contemplated by the City to contact and track the school children of 9/11. As a group, they have been very difficult to reach. However, it is certainly not true that nothing has been done previously to locate these children. In fact, very active outreach has been conducted among the survivor community since, well, almost 9/11.
Among these efforts have been a succession of projects by 9/11 Environmental Action that included bringing clinicians at the WTC Pediatric Program to downtown events to meet and educate the parents of affected school children. In addition, three times, with extra push from Congressman Nadler, the Department of Education has sent mailings to former students’ households. Included was an email to parents from Mayor Bill de Blasio that was translated into 14 languages.
And there is the outreach done by StuyHealth, which has pioneered the use of social media to reach 9/11-affected students near and far.
I hope that the “lessons learned” in the work of these and other groups will be built upon in any new efforts to contact and help young survivors. I encourage Borough President Mark Levine and Council member Christopher Marte and their staffs to learn about the good work that has been done by community organizations, the WTC Environmental Health Center, and the WTC Health Registry over the years, as well as the challenges these efforts have faced, so that they can best work with the community on next steps in reaching young survivors.
9/11 survivor, local resident, former co-chair of the WTC Environmental Health Center’s Community Advisory Committee
To the editor,
I always look forward to reading what Mathew Fenton writes. He is a treasure for downtown residents. Thank you for serving and informing the community.
‘It Would Be an Abomination’
Local Leaders Consider Pragmatic and Aesthetic Aspects of Cobblestones
Community Board 1 (CB1) is weighing whether to recommend that the City tear up historic cobblestone streets in Tribeca and resurface them with asphalt. A resolution debated at the Board’s March meeting notes that the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) rebuilt seven local cobblestone streets more than a decade ago, and observes, “it almost immediately became apparent that the cobblestone work on these streets was poor, as they began to deteriorate, including loose blocks, disintegrating mortar, and emerging depressions.”
Taxpayers Will Contribute $150 Million in Subsidies, Plus 24-Hour Ferry Service
The administration of Mayor Eric Adams is moving ahead with the plan to build a Center for Climate Solutions on Governors Island. On Thursday, the Trust for Governors Island issued a request for proposals (RFP) to the four finalists designated by City Hall (as one of Bill de Blasio’s final acts of Mayor) in the competition to combine interdisciplinary research on climate change with education in a single physical hub. Universities from around the world were invited to submit proposals in the first stage, called a “request for expressions of interest.” A dozen plans were submitted, and four of these were deemed worthy of moving to the final round.
All of the finalists are partnerships, with each team led by a major university: the City University of New York, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. That quartet was invited on Thursday to expand and refine their initial ideas in the second (and final) round of the competition, the RFP.
Borough President and Council Member Want City Agencies to Document Outreach to Former Lower Manhattan Students at Risk of September 11 Illnesses
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and City Council member Christopher Marte are partnering to hold a pair of City agencies accountable for outreach to people who were students, teachers, or staff members at schools near the World Trade Center during the 2001-2002 school year.
Recognizing the Inevitability of Climate Change Impacts, Battery Park City Action Plan Aims to Make Neighborhood Carbon-Neutral by Mid-Century
The Battery Park City Authority has released its Climate Action Plan, which aims to transition by 2040 to 100 percent of the community’s electric power coming from renewable energy sources, along with a 99 percent reduction in transportation emissions by 2050.
Fanciful and mythic, timeless and of the moment, this celestial tableau depicts early morning harbinger of summer constellations with planets on the move in late April through early May, 2022. Notice the two unlabeled dots on the lower left of the diagram, above the horizon near the “E” and under the Great Square of Pegasus. The smaller point of light represents planet Jupiter, the larger is Venus. They are approaching each other. Find details below.
Illustration: Judy Isacoff/StarryNight 7
Enjoy spectacular morning stargazing: refer to the diagram, above. Radiant planet Venus appears in the east as if a great star rising in the darkness at daybreak, captivating as the rising Sun but without the need to look away from its steady light. Venus and Jupiter appear closer to one another each day. Look as often as possible to see the distance between them shrink. Be present especially on the mornings of April 29 through May 2. Their closest approach occurs April 30 and May 1, a spectacular planetary conjunction not to be seen again until the year 2039.
Open the following resources for ways to be a part of assuring a healthy Earth Day every day, and protecting dark skies for the vitality of all living beings.
On October 1, 1937, Wolfgang Jung purchased 178 acres of land in Southbury, Connecticut for the German-American Bund to build a Nazi camp. The residents of Southbury fought back against this Nazi invasion of their town. Organized by the Reverend M.E.N. Lindsay, the Reverend Felix Manley, and town leaders, the townspeople established a zoning commission whose first ordinance forbade land usage in the town for “military training or drilling with or without arms except by the legally constituted armed forces of the United States of America.” Join us for a discussion between Rebecca Erbelding, historian, archivist, and curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Ed Edelson, former First Selectman of Southbury and the author of Lois’s Story: A Young Girl’s Inspiration Helps to Stop Hate and Fear; Arnie Bernstein, author of Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn & the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund; and Melinda K. Elliott, president of the Southbury Historical Society, moderated by Rabbi Eric Polokoff, founding Rabbi of B’nai Israel of Southbury. The program will be accompanied by a virtual screening of the documentary Home of the Brave: When Southbury Said No to the Nazis. Free; suggested donation of $10.
In a coda to the four-part Construction History series led by Thomas Leslie and Donald Friedman, the Skyscraper Museum adds a special lecture by Alexander Wood that will focus on George. B. Post’s Mills Building, at the corner of Broad Street and Exchange Place, completed in 1882. The construction of tall buildings in New York in the late 19th century transformed the business of building. Wood will explore how architects, general contractors, and subcontractors organized construction to meet the needs of speculative real estate development and worked together to build more efficiently within a congested urban environment. Using new construction methods, techniques, and equipment, a new generation of professionals, manufacturers, and contractors became major players in the city’s building industry for decades to come. Free.
On an autumn morning in 1849, Henry David Thoreau stepped out his front door to walk the beaches of Cape Cod. More than 150 years later, Ben Shattuck retraces Thoreau’s path through the Cape’s outer beaches—the first of six Thoreau walks taken by Shattuck. Along the way, Shattuck encounters unexpected characters, landscapes, and stories, seeing for himself the restorative effects that walking can have on a dampened spirit and uncovering insights about family, love, friendship, and fatherhood, and understanding more deeply the lessons walking can offer through life’s changing seasons.
Steeped in history, the capital city of Lima, Peru will welcome us with beautiful colonial vestiges of the Spanish occupation. Follow virtually in the footsteps of Manuel Bautista Perez, a key member of the “secret” Jewish community of Lima who was accused of being Jewish in 1635 and later killed by the Inquisition in 1639. Which begs questions that our tour guide will address about the Inquisition of Lima and the “Autos de Fe” (rituals of public penance.) Join the Museum of Jewish Heritage and Our Travel Circle for this special tour of one of the oldest non-indigenous communities in Lima, Peru. $36.
Lunchtime webinar with renowned journalist and master storyteller Roger Lowenstein, who will discuss his revelatory financial investigation into how Lincoln and his administration used the funding of the Civil War as the catalyst to centralize the government and accomplish the most far-reaching reform in the country’s history.
Meeting of the Board’s Audit & Finance Committee (12:30pm)
Meeting of the Directors of the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy (2pm)
Meeting of the Members of the Authority (2:10pm)
Video recordings made available for post-meeting access via the BPCA website. A public comment period will be scheduled during the Meeting of the Members of the Authority. Anyone wishing to participate in the public comment period should submit their comments via email to email@example.com no later than 5:30pm on the day prior to the meeting. Comments should be no longer than two minutes in length, and may be read into the record during the livestream broadcast.
Chinese literature can offer readers an extraordinary window into China, but for newcomers to this rich and complex world, where does one begin? Today, learn about the Guide to Contemporary Chinese Literature, an authoritative 300-page bird’s-eye view of Chinese fiction since the middle of last century. This roundtable event brings together three contributors to the Guide: Paper Republic co-founder, Eric Abrahamsen, and two essay authors, Ping Zhu and Dylan Levi King.
Zoom lecture presented by Catherine Prescott & Mary Tsaltas-Ottomanelli. This installment of Tavern Tastings explores the history of whiskey: its creation, rise in popularity during the 18th century in North America, and how its role in the economy of the burgeoning United States incited a rebellion. Free; suggested donation of $10.
On Saturdays and Sundays, visit the exhibitions and the ships of the South Street Seaport Museum for free. At 12 Fulton Street, see “South Street and the Rise of New York” and “Millions: Migrants and Millionaires aboard the Great Liners, 1900-1914,” and at Pier 16, explore the tall ship Wavertree and lightship Ambrose.
Available for PT/FT. Wonderful person, who is a great worker.
Worked in BPC.
$2.00 per notarized signature.
Lower Manhattan Greenmarkets
Greenwich Street & Chambers Street
Every Wednesday & Saturday, 8am-3pm
Food Scrap Collection: Saturdays, 8am-1pm
Open Saturdays and Wednesdays year round
Bowling Green Greenmarket
Green Greenmarket at Bowling Green
Broadway & Whitehall St
Open Tuesday and Thursdays, year-round
Market Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Compost Program: 8 a.m. – 11 a.m.
The Bowling Green Greenmarket brings fresh offerings from local farms to Lower Manhattan’s historic Bowling Green plaza. Twice a week year-round stop by to load up on the season’s freshest fruit, crisp vegetables, beautiful plants, and freshly baked loaves of bread, quiches, and pot pies.
Fulton Street cobblestones between South and Front Sts. across from McNally Jackson Bookstore.
Locally grown produce from Rogowski Farm, Breezy Hill Orchard, and other farmers and small-batch specialty food products, sold directly by their producers. Producers vary from week to week.
SNAP/EBT/P-EBT, Debit/Credit, and Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks accepted at all farmers markets.
Today in History
SS Ideal X carried 58 containers on her first voyage in 1956. Today’s container ships carry up to 24,000 containers, measured as 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs). The largest container ship ever to visit New York Harbor was the 16,000-TEU CMA CGM Marco Polo,which docked at the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal on May 21, 2021. Marco Polo carried household goods destined for the shelves of Lowes and Walmart.
1478 – Lorenzo de’ Medici, Italian statesman and patron of the Renaissance culture, is attacked, with his brother Giuliano during High Mass in Florence Cathedral, by members of the Pazzi family, who wished to displace the Medici family. Known as the Pazzi Conspiracy, the plot failed even though Giuliano was killed. The Pazzi were banished and the Medici were strengthened.
1607 – English colonists make landfall at Cape Henry, Virginia.
1721 – A massive earthquake devastates the Iranian city of Tabriz.
1803 – Thousands of meteor fragments fall from the skies over L’Aigle, France; the event convinces European scientists that meteors exist.
1865 – Union cavalry troopers corner and shoot dead John Wilkes Booth, assassin of President Lincoln, in Virginia.
1937 – During the Spanish Civil War, Guernica is bombed by German Luftwaffe.
1956 – SS Ideal X, the world’s first successful container ship, leaves Port Newark, New Jersey for Houston, Texas.
1958 – Final run of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s Royal Blue from Washington, D.C., to New York City after 68 years. It was the first U.S. passenger train to use electric locomotives.
1962 – NASA’s Ranger 4 spacecraft crashes into the Moon.
1964 – Tanganyika and Zanzibar merge to creat the United Republic of Tanzania.
1986 – A nuclear reactor accident occurs at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union (now Ukraine), creating an environmental catastrophe.
2018 – Bill Cosby found guilty of drugging and assaulting a woman; he received a sentence of 3 to 10 years. In 2021, his conviction was overturned.
121 – Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor (d. 180)
1785 – John James Audubon, ornithologist and painter (d. 1851)
1822 – Frederick Law Olmsted, American journalist and designer, co-designed Central Park (d. 1903)
1894 – Rudolf Hess, Egyptian-German politician (d. 1987)
1914 – James Rouse, American real estate developer; built South Street Seaport Marketplace in the early 1980s. (d. 1996)
1917 – I. M. Pei, Chinese-American architect, designed the National Gallery of Art and Bank of China Tower. (d. 2019)
1478 – Giuliano de’ Medici, Italian ruler (b. 1453)
1489 – Ashikaga Yoshihisa, Japanese shogun (b. 1465)
1940 – Carl Bosch, German chemist and engineer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1874)
1970 – Gypsy Rose Lee, American actress, striptease dancer, and writer (b. 1911)
1984 – Count Basie, American pianist, composer, and bandleader (b. 1904)
1989 – Lucille Ball, American model, actress, comedian, and producer (b. 1911)
2016 – Harry Wu, Chinese human rights activist (b. 1937)