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April 18, 2013- By Steven E. Greer
In response to BatteryPark.TV oversight stories (see below) questioning the legality of awarding six-figure grants to non-profits unrelated to Battery Park City, the BPCA board debated on April 16th whether to continue those practices. The two largest block grants go to the Downtown Alliance bus shuttle (at $632,000 per year) and to Bob Townley’s Manhattan Youth community center in Tribeca (at $224,563 per year). However, only the free bus service was discussed as a concern.
BPCA President Demitri Boutris announced, “The Chairman (Dennis Mehiel) ordered me to freeze all giving (to nonprofits presumably)”. It is unclear whether the Downtown Alliance bus funding and Manhattan Youth funding will also end. Mr. Boutris said, “There is a history of questioning those expenditures (to the Downtown Alliance)”. The board agreed to reassess the entire situation and update the Chairman at a future date.
Board members Fernando Mateo and Martha Gallo suggested that the large corporations in BPC, such as American Express or Goldman Sachs, should contribute funding to the Business Improvement District (BID) in Battery Park City, since their employees benefit from the bus services. The corporations currently do not consider their companies to fall under the BID jurisdiction.
In addition to having concerns over the bus service costs, board member Mateo, who does not live in or near Battery Park City, also has concerns about “Spending the city’s money” on the $30 Million proposed West Thames bridge. (It is the BPCA’s cash reserve, not the city’s) Given Mr. Mateo’s public record of pushing the BPCA to spend on donations to his pet charities and minority construction projects, it seems that Mr. Mateo views the BPCA largess of funds as a piggy bank for the city rather than for reinvesting the funds into improving BPCA infrastructure or lowering lease (taxes).
We asked the BPCA and Downtown Alliance to clarify the fate of the bus service and are awaiting a reply from the BPCA. The Downtown Alliance wrote, “As I suggested earlier, for the most detailed understanding surrounding the BPCA board conversation on this topic, it would be best to discuss with someone from BPCA. Thanks, Nicole”