Lower Manhattan’s Local News
Render Unto de Blasio?
Municipal Think Tank Urges City to Weigh BPCA Takeover
The City’s Independent Budget Office (IBO), a publicly funded agency that provides nonpartisan information on critical issues confronting the City, is proposing that the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio consider a municipal takeover of Battery Park City.
This recommendation hinges upon the unique, hybrid nature of the community, which was built on acreage newly created from landfill in the 1970s. This unusual situation arose because the freshly created site straddled complicated jurisdictional boundaries. The portion of the new land closest to West Street (the previously existing waterfront of Manhattan) would protrude roughly 500 feet to the bulkhead line, which traditionally fell within the jurisdiction of a local municipality — in this case, New York City. But Battery Park City’s 92 acres extended beyond this demarcation, a full 1,000 feet into the Hudson, to what is known as the pierhead line, a legal boundary beyond which artificial structures may not be built into navigable waters. That extra length customarily fell within the purview of the State.
This raised the question of which arm of government would own the new (and very valuable) land: the City or the State? Charles Urstadt, the founder of the community — who served as the first chairman and president of the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) — cut this Gordian Knot by deeding the inner (landward) 500 feet the project to the City of New York, while the State of New York kept title to the outer half. He then re-split the difference by having the State (in the form of a newly created BPCA) cede its interest to the City, but lease the entire parcel back from the City for 99 years.
But in these negotiations, the City insisted upon an escape clause: The municipal government would have the option, at any time, to cancel the 99-year lease and take full possession of Battery Park City’s 92 acres, in exchange for one dollar, plus assumption of the BPCA’s outstanding debt, which currently totals more than $1 billion.
In the meantime, the BPCA acts on the City’s behalf by collecting property taxes (in the form of Payments in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT) and ground rents. The latter form of payment results from 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.
For decades, this option has been a moot point, because the City reaps an annual windfall from the BPCA’s excess revenue (totaling roughly $200 million in 2019), for which it is required to do nothing in exchange, while the Authority looks after the operational details of running and maintaining the community. For this reason, City Hall has had little incentive to consider exercising its right to acquire Battery Park City. And while some local leaders and elected officials advocated for this option years ago, when relations between the community and the BPCA were at their most contentious, these calls have subsided as the rapport between the Authority and residents has improved.
But the IBO now calculates that dissolving the BPCA would yield the City an extra $70 million per year, over and above the current annual payout of $200 million, after a two-year transition period. “City revenue would increase by guaranteeing all surplus income would flow to the City without requiring the Authority’s approval,” predicts IBO analyst Elizabeth Brown. “Following the satisfaction of past agreements and based on recent budgets, this could total about $70 million annually, above what the city now receives as a transfer of PILOT revenue in as little as two years.”
Ms. Brown continues that, “proponents might argue that Battery Park City differs little from other City neighborhoods — it receives similar services, and its residents, in effect, pay the same taxes. Now that the neighborhood’s construction is complete, the BPCA is unnecessary and the City should have exclusive control over the revenue it produces. While the City already receives most of BPCA’s excess funds, the state-controlled BPCA board can and has at times allocated funds to fill State budget gaps to the detriment of the City. If the City realizes efficiencies by combining BPCA and City operations, revenue would increase. The City would also have the right to sell land now leased through ground leases to private developers.”
She continues that, “opponents might argue that Battery Park City is one of the City’s best-maintained neighborhoods thanks to its dedicated funding. Residents and business moved to the area, often paying higher rents due to the ground-lease structure, in exchange for its amenities. If funds were distributed City-wide, local maintenance would suffer — particularly hurting the neighborhood’s many parks. They also might argue an ownership change is unnecessary: BPCA is already required to transfer most of its surpluses to the City and the remaining funds cannot be spent without the City’s approval.”
Largely absent from this analysis is the impact that such a move would have on the financial outlook of the people who live in Battery Park City. The prospect of maintaining affordability (both for renters and condominium owners) is largely contingent on the possibility that the BPCA will agree to renegotiate the leases for these buildings, and agree to forgo a series of ruinous increases in ground rent enshrined in the original contracts, dating (in most cases) from decades ago. This appeal is rooted in politics and policy: the perceived value of maintaining middle-class affordability, rather than allowing the community to devolve into an enclave of unalloyed wealth.
Such a possibility would likely become more remote if the City took direct control and ownership over the community. Given the relentless budget pressure faced by City Hall, precisely the opposite imperative would almost certainly come to the fore: the need to cut expenses, while collecting the maximum possible revenue.
In the alternate scenario outlined by Ms. Brown, “to sell land now leased through ground leases to private developers,” the prospect of financial relief would shift from improbable to impossible. If private investors took ownership of the land beneath the residential buildings in Battery Park City, there would be no realistic basis whatsoever for residents to ask for (or expect) concessions on the terms of ground leases. Such investors would have every incentive (and legal right) to extract the utmost profit from their property.
But while ongoing BPCA stewardship over the community may represent the best of all possible options for residents on several levels, there are also limits on how much accommodation residents can expect from that agency. At the February 5 meeting of the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1, Authority president B.J. Jones was asked about the appropriate balance between maximizing BPCA revenue, and preserving affordability. He replied, “it we cut back too much on what we collect, there’s always the chance that the City will exercise their one-dollar option,” he answered.
‘Blinded by Greed’
Tenants at Another Financial District Building Seek Class-Action Status in Suit Against Landlords
The wave of Financial District tenants going to court to demand restitution from years of illegally high rent gathered further momentum last week, when tenants at 90 West Street filed court papers arguing that they are entitled to rent stabilized leases for as long as they live in the building, because the landlord did not provide this benefit (as legally required) in the past. In a story first reported by the Real Deal, the same suit also asks the court to appoint an independent monitor with the power to audit and amended leases (without the landlord’s consent) to conform the legally allowed rents.
Ban on Broker’s Fee Will Impact Lower Manhattan More Than Other Communities
A new analysis from PropertyClub.com, an online real estate marketplace that eliminates middle-men for landlords, brokers and managers, indicates that Lower Manhattan renters will gain more than those of most communities from the recently announced ban on tenants paying broker’s fees.
Eyes to the Sky
February 18 – March 1, 2020
Crescent moon, planets to bedazzle the dawn, dusk
The most alluring two weeks in the Moon’s cycle are about to begin. Each morning this week, one crescent moon after another – one more delicate than the one before – drops down a slanted ladder sketched by three planets in the southeast. The celestial drama of the waning moon and planets unfolds at dawn within twenty degrees of the southeast horizon.
On Wednesday, red Mars, not very bright at 1.19 magnitude, will be in view above brightest Jupiter at -1.93m, a crescent to its right. Next morning, the 20th, a fingernail crescent appears just below modest Saturn at 0.64m.
To observe Mars and Saturn, be positioned by 5:45am at a location with a clear view to the southeast horizon. The moon and Jupiter may be visible until about 6:15am.
An intermission between acts is expected at great performances. The New Moon, when the moon is dark, occurs on the 23
rd. Act II, the celestial drama of the waxing moon with the goddess planet, unfolds at the opposite time of day above the opposite horizon. The new cycle begins close above the western horizon following sunset on Monday, the 24
th when sunset is around 5:30pm. Gaze into the sunset glow soon after 6pm to find a fine crescent of light. The brilliant Evening Star, Planet Venus at -4.17m, shines 40 degrees above the horizon. Venus is increasing in brilliance and climbing higher in the sky every evening. Coincidentally, our moon appears more robust and higher in the sky each day. They meet on the 27
Opportunities to Participate
Teens and educators conduct citizen science
February 17 – 23, March 14 – 24 ongoing
April 4 & 5, 2020 Northeast Astronomy Forum http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/neaf.html
April 2 & 3 Northeast Astro-Imaging Conference http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/neaic.html
A Plan to Warm Up the Frozen Zone
Alliance Readies First Steps in Master Plan to Balance Beauty with Security Around Stock Exchange
The Downtown Alliance is preparing to implement the first phase of a master plan unveiled in May, 2018, which aims to transform the “frozen zone” — a 3,000-feet security perimeter surrounding the New York Stock Exchange, which has enclosed (and limited access to) 19 acres of the Financial District since shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. To read more…
Higher, Wider, Handsomer
City Council Announces Design Competition to Improve Pedestrian Access to Brooklyn Bridge
The City Council has partnered with the Van Alen Institute (a New York nonprofit architectural organization, dedicated to improving design in the public realm) in sponsoring a contest to incubate fresh ideas for better pedestrian access to the Brooklyn Bridge. To read more…
City Plans to Raise Esplanade in the Battery to 11 Feet Above Waterline
Among the myriad of resiliency projects that are now in the planning stages for various parts of Lower Manhattan, the City is planning to raise the level of the waterfront Esplanade in the Battery to an elevation 11 feet above the current waterline. To read more…
Retrofit and Restoration
Centuries-Old Aesthetics to Converge with Cutting-Edge Technology at Historic Seaport Warehouse
Trinity Church has purchased a historic warehouse in the South Street Seaport district, which it intends to convert into a four-family residence, while also adhering to the environmentally rigorous “passive house” standard. The building, at 245 Water Street (between Peck Slip and Beekman Street), was originally built in 1836, after a fire destroyed the previous structure on that lot. The building was put up by the firm of Hendricks & Brothers, who operated cooper mines in Newark, but had their offices in Lower Manhattan. The family, who had anglicized their names from the Henriques of their native Spain, had been in the cooper business for generations, selling to customers like Paul Revere and Robert Fulton.
The building bade farewell to its commercial and industrial legacy in 2008, when it was initially converted into a two-family residence. But Joshua Levine, the owner for several years, put the property on the market in early 2019, asking $12.82 million. Last August, Trinity Church negotiated a price of $12.3 million and took possession. To read more…
6 River Terrace
Crafternoon: Mardi Gras Masks
New York Public Library
All materials will be provided. First come, first served. For children ages 3 and older. New York City Public Library, Battery Park City branch, 175 North End Avenue.
Community Board 1 Personnel Committee
Screening and Discussion. Voices from the Frontline: Can China Eliminate Poverty?
Community Board 1 Executive Committee
Community Board 1 – Conference Room 1 Centre Street, Room 2202A-North
“Write Me” Storytelling Workshop
Museum of Jewish Heritage
The film Write Me focuses on tattoos – an aesthetic choice for some, but a permanent reminder of harrowing past events for survivors of trafficking and the Holocaust. This series hopes to effect positive change by engaging diverse communities in conversations on art, social justice, history, and current events. 36 Battery Place. Free https://mjhnyc.org/events/write-me-storytelling-workshop/
Longtime Residents, Neither Rich Nor Poor, Face an Uncertain Future Downtown
The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio has released an updated version of its Where We Live NYC affordable housing plan, which contains some striking insights about Lower Manhattan.
The report finds that between 25 and 30 percent of all local rental units are rent stabilized, while market-rate apartments comprise between 35 and 42 percent of all units. To read more…
Today in History
Wednesday February 19
356 – Emperor Constantius II issues a decree closing all pagan temples in the Roman Empire.
1674 – England and the Netherlands sign the Treaty of Westminster,ending the Third Anglo-Dutch War. A provision of the agreement transfers the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam to England, and it is renamed New York.
1807 – Former Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr is arrested for treason in Wakefield, Alabama and confined to Fort Stoddert.
1859 – Daniel E. Sickles, a New York Congressman, is acquitted of murder on grounds of temporary insanity.
1878 – Thomas Edison patents the phonograph.
1884 – More than sixty tornadoes strike the southern United States, one of the largest tornado outbreaks in U.S. history.
1942 – World War II: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs executive order 9066, allowing the United States military to relocate Japanese Americans to internment camps.
Photos and information culled from Wikipedia and other internet sources
Cruise Ships in New York Harbor
Arrivals & Departures
Sunday, February 23
Anthem of the Seas
Inbound 5:30 am (Bayonne); outbound 3:00 pm
Port Canaveral, FL/Bahamas
Inbound 6:15 am; outbound 3:30 pm
Port Canaveral, FL/Bahamas
Inbound 9:15 am; outbound 4:30 pm
Sunday, March 1
Anthem of the Seas
Inbound 5:30 am (Bayonne); outbound 3:00 pm
Port Canaveral, FL/Bahamas
Inbound 6:15 am; outbound 3:30 pm
Port Canaveral, FL/Bahamas
Many ships pass Lower Manhattan on their way to and from the Midtown Passenger Ship Terminal. Others may be seen on their way to or from piers in Brooklyn and Bayonne. Stated times, when appropriate, are for passing the Colgate clock in Jersey City, New Jersey, and are based on sighting histories, published schedules and intuition. They are also subject to passenger and propulsion problems, tides, fog, winds, freak waves, hurricanes and the whims of upper management.
Ars Gratia Communitas
Battery Park City’s Annual Art Exhibit
Battery Park City’s annual art exhibition opened on Sunday, January 26.
The art will be on view at
75 Battery Place, weekdays,
January 27 to March 27,
2PM to 4PM (no viewing on 2/17).
People visiting should check in with our security desk on the ground floor, where they will be directed to the elevators to the 4th floor. The receptionist will direct them to the show.
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades ~ Respectable Employment ~ Lost & Found
NEED A PERSONAL ASSISTANT?
ORGANIZED, RELIABLE, KNOWLEDGEABLE.
LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR AVAILABLE
FOR BABYSITTING OR TUTORING
17 year old young man, lifetime resident of Tribeca and BPC.
Went to PS 234, Lab Middle School and currently attending Millennium HS. This summer was a Councilor at Pierce Country Day Camp. Excellent references.Very experienced with kids under 10.
Available for weeknight and weekend baby-sitting and tutoring middle-schoolers in Math or Science. Please contact Emmett at 917.733.3572
IT AND SECURITY SUPPORT
Experienced IT technician. Expertise in 1-on-1 tutoring for all ages.Computer upgrading & troubleshooting. Knowledgeable in all software programs.
James Keirstead firstname.lastname@example.org
347-933-1362 References available
CERTIFIED HOME HEALTH AIDE SEEKING
Full-Time Live-In Elder Care
I am loving, caring and hardworking with 12 years experience. References available. Marcia 347-737-5037 email@example.com
NOTARY PUBLIC IN BPC
$2 per notarized signature Text Paula at 917-836-8802
ELDER CARE NURSE AIDE
with 17 years experience seeks PT/FT work. Refs available Call or text 718 496 6232 Dian
Available starting September for PT/FT.
Wonderful person, who is a great worker. Reference Available
Available for PT/FT elder care. Experienced. References Angella
EXPERIENCED ELDER CARE
Able to prepare nutritious meals and light housekeeping
Excellent references 12yrs experienced 347-898-5804
Call Hope firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to place a listing, please contact email@example.com
The Greek Calends
After Two-Year Hiatus, Work to Resume at St. Nicholas Church
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on January 2 that a newly formed non-profit organization will raise funds and underwrite the completion of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, within the World Trade Center Complex.
The building, designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava (who additionally created the nearby Oculus, also in the World Trade Center) is slated to replace the histo precious parish church that fell among the victims of September 11. To read more…
They Didn’t Get the Memo…
Much-Touted Crackdown on Placard Parking Not All It Was Cracked Up to Be
Amid much fanfare, multiple City agencies recently announced that they would take part in a crackdown on illegal parking by government employees, whose personal vehicles bear placards that allow them to leave their cars blocking bus stops, crosswalks, fire hydrants, bike lanes, and lanes needed for use by fire trucks and ambulances.
By Tuesday, it appeared that dozens of law enforcement personnel who work in Battery Park City hadn’t heard, or perhaps knew better.
Recalling Five Points
Epicenter of a Notorious Slum Proposed for Commemoration
In 1831, the City government considered a petition that warned, “that the place known as “Five points” has long been notorious… as being the nursery where every species of vice is conceived and matured; that it is infested by a class of the most abandoned and desperate character.”
A decade later, Charles Dickens, visiting New York, wrote of the same Lower Manhattan neighborhood that had inspired the petition, “what place is this, to which the squalid street conducts us? A kind of square of leprous houses, some of which are attainable only by crazy wooden stairs without. What lies behind this tottering flight of steps? Let us go on again, and plunge into the Five Points…. To read more…
Death Came Calling at the Corner of Wall and Broad Streets, in Lower Manhattan’s First Major Terrorist Attack
As the noon hour approached on a fall Thursday morning in 1920, a horse-drawn wagon slowly made its way west down Wall Street toward “the Corner,” the high-powered intersection of Wall and Broad. Its driver came to a gentle stop in front of the Assay Office, where stockpiles of gold and silver were stored and tested for purity. But theft was not his motive.
Cass Gilbert and the Evolution of the New York Skyscraper
by John Simko
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