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June 21, 2012 By Steven Greer
On June 19th, the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) convened a meeting of the board. The new Chairperson is yet to be nominated by Governor Cuomo yet some very important annual financial decisions were made in the vacuum of leadership. One issue voted on was whether to pay The Alliance for Downtown New York (Downtown Alliance) $632,000.
Gayle Horwitz, CEO of the BPCA and also board member of the Downtown Alliance, led the discussion (see video) summarizing the proposal to pay an annual $632,000 to the Downtown Alliance, despite the fact that Battery Park City is not part of the geographic district of the Downtown Alliance and the payments being optional. Horwitz explained the services provided by the Downtown Alliance and encourage the board to vote in favor of the payment.
The services provided to BPC by the Downtown Alliance, according to Horwitz, are:
- Supplemental security from the Washington Street NYPD substation that sends officers on scooters and three-wheel patrol cars
- The River to River festival
- “Economic development”
- The Downtown Connection bus service
Of those services, Horwitz focused on the bus service as the biggest contribution from the Downtown Alliance to BPC. In reality, there is very little additional police security presence in BPC from the substation, no sanitation assistance, no tourism assistance (nor would BPC residents want tourism), and no economic development assistance of any significance derived from the Downtown Alliance.
Regarding the Downtown Connection bus service, a small percentage of each bus making the rounds is filled with BPC residents (see our future stories on this topic). The MTA also provides redundant bus service.
Seeming to recognize the low “bang for the buck” that Downtown Alliance provides BPC, board member Donald Capoccia asked CEO Horwitz whether the BPCA could demand more services prior to any “checks going in the mail.” Horwitz replied, “A great example of (additional services they provide), during the Hurricane (Irene) preparations, I actually called over to (Downtown Alliance and they provided buses for evacuation).”
BPCA’s Horwitz had made calls to commercial tenants withing BPC, such as American Express and Brookfield Properties, asking them pay BPCA to offset the $632,000 payment, and has received “push back”. New BPCA board member Martha Gallo, also having served on the board of the Downtown alliance, seemed supportive of the payments, but also noted that many large corporations, such as Goldman Sachs or American Express, already pay to Downtown Alliance, in addition to the tax levy that funds the majority of the Downtown Alliance budget.
The 2011 audited report for the Downtown Alliance states that the revenue taken in was $16,673, 650 and that 33% of that went to pay for salaries ($5,441,698). In 2009, the President of Downtown Alliance, Elizabeth Berger, earned $230,000. The website lists more than 40 full-time staff and numerous contract agencies receiving more than $1,000,000. For example, in 2009, the sanitation contractor was paid $1,670, 951. The private security company was paid $1,443,480, and the transportation company was paid $1,209,619.
In the June 19th BPCA presentation, the Downtown Connection bus was the primary service provided to BPC. If the cost of that service in 2009 is similar to the 2013 cost, then the BPCA will be funding half of that bill.
Battery Park City apartment owners, renters, and commercial operations pay some of the highest rents in New York City. Decisions, such as this one to voluntarily give the Downtown Alliance a check that amounts to nearly 4% of the total revenue for Downtown Alliance, despite the entity not being in the same geographic district as BPC, is just one example of the misuse of our taxpayer dollars.