A local resident is urging the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) to recommit to the reputation for environmental sustainability that the community earned in 1990s and early years of the 21st century, when it become one of the first developments in the nation to erect “green” residential and office buildings.
At the April 13 Open Community Meeting hosted by the Authority, Gateway resident Maureen Koetz asked BPCA chairman Dennis Mehiel about, “the green building regulations that the BPCA put in place in the 1990s. Buildings from before that time not were subject to those kind of requirements. To what extent will the Authority, as part of sustainability planning, revisit the way these buildings are currently maintained and upgraded?”
She continued, “you’re aware of the fact that a 1983 vintage building has not been effectively upgraded for going on four decades, and most of the tenants now have a burden shift on the energy cost because of that. Because we are forced to use more energy than we would like, we are contributing to global warming.”
Ms. Koetz added, “there’s influence in the provisions of your ground leases. There’s actually legal compulsion for certain kinds of upgrades and compliance and condition management.” This material is familiar to Ms. Koetz, a former deputy assistant Secretary of the United States Air Force, where she oversaw a global real estate portfolio of military bases and was designated that service’s chief sustainability officer. “What might you consider doing about using ground lease provisions to green out the community,” Ms. Koetz asked the BPCA chairman.
Mr. Mehiel responded, “that’s a good question. We have one major site, Gateway Plaza, where certainly we’re aware of very, very difficult conditions with respect to windows and heating systems and costs cascading down onto tenants.”
“The ground lease has been up for renegotiation,” Mr. Mehiel continued. “These ground leases go out quite a few years, but they have different points along the line where the numbers can change. And what that provides is a circumstance where owners will come to us sometimes, years in advance of a reset, because they need to do something with financing.”
In the case of Gateway, Mr. Mehiel noted, “we have spent the last two years in an arduous negotiation. We are hopeful we can get to a conclusion where all those windows are going to be replaced. But the broader question that you raise is a good one and I’d like to take that under advisement and get personally better informed about where we might have leverage beyond Gateway. What other buildings have problems that could be rectified in a reasonable way?”
Ms. Koetz responded, “there is also federal money tied up in Gateway, which trips a lot of wires that may give us more leverage.”
Simon Bryan of IGY
In another part of the discussion, focusing on North Cove Marina, that facility’s manager, Simon Bryan predicted that this season, the anchorage will host a larger number of super yachts than in years past. This prompted Ms. Koetz to ask, “what’s going to happen to our greenhouse gas profile if we start attracting a lot more yachts and very large motorized boats? Yachts are some of the most polluting sets of machinery still left on the planet. Sailboats are wonderful, but motorized yachts are terrible polluters.”
Mr. Bryan replied, “we’re not focused entirely on mega yachts. We’re going to attract a balance. We do take the environment very seriously, which is why we are introducing waste recycling this year.”
Ms. Koetz pressed the issue, asking, “is there some large-scale sustainability planning going on to identify this and track it?”
At this point, Mr. Mehiel interjected, “that’s an excellent suggestion and we should respond to that.” He then offered to have BPCA staff set up a meeting with Ms. Koetz to discuss these issues.