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November 17, 2011
By Steven Greer, MD
The Battery Park City Authority hosted the first town hall in ten years on the evening of November 17th. Chairman William Thompson was not present and speaking for the authority was CEO Gayle Horwitz. Both Mr. Thompson and Ms. Horwitz are the source of controversy relating to their handling of firing 19 BPCA staff without notice, as we have previously reported.
Unlike congressional town halls seen in the news over the last few years whereby constituents directly asked questions, Ms. Horwitz screened the questions by reading from written cards submitted by the audience. There were a few topics that were repeatedly raised by the residents in the audience that received applause after the questions were discussed.
Dog feces, urine, and the smell created by it all on South End Avenue in front of the Gateway Plaza shops seemed to be the biggest concern of the meeting. Residents of South BPC know too well that the sidewalk in front of the Gristedes, the ice cream shop, pizza shop, etc, is the favorite spot for dog owners living in Gateway Plaza to let their pets relieve themselves. Even when the excrement is not visible, the smell is pungent and disgusting. Multiple residents pointed out that other regions of BPC have building owners that diligently power wash the sidewalk, and that the owners of Gateway Plaza are far less fastidious. Ms. Horwitz stated that she would communicate with the Gateway Plaza representatives about possibly power washing the sidewalk more frequently. No promises of more stringent PEP enforcement were offered.
In addition to this problem area on South End Avenue, other residents complained about an overall increase in dog feces being spotted throughout BPC over the last six months. Dog association representative, and member of CB1, Jeff Galloway, along with another dog association member, dismissed the problem as being caused by a GI “illness” going around amongst the pet community. It was not clear whether they were joking at first, but they were indeed serious. Tess Huxley, manager of the Parks Conservancy and the staff who deal with problems of this nature offered no tangible solution to the problem.
The other problem raised that drew significant applause was an apparent infestation of rats all throughout BPC, particularly Wagner Park and the West Thames Park. Ms. Horwitz and Ms. Huxley offered no immediate solution to this problem and proposed bringing in a “rat expert” doctor to discuss the problem further. New trash collection centers south of West Thames Street were discussed as one measure already taken to reduce the open bags of tempting trash/food for the rats.
Speeding electric mopeds driven by food delivery men that whiz by pedestrians on the sidewalks and nearly collide with them was another common complaint. Ms. Huxley of the Parks Conservancy who manages the PEPs, and Ms. Horwitz, both seemed unaware of the problem and emphasized more what was legal for the delivery men to do rather than what the delivery men were doing wrong which could be ticketed by PEPs. They did not promise to begin ticketing the kamikaze drivers.
Will Brookfield Properties really save the beloved marble stairs in Winter Garden, as they have promised, was a question raised by activist Justine Cuccia. Apparently, artist renderings of the new construction about to take place show plans of the new Winter Garden sans stairs, in a possible bait and switch. CEO Horwitz vowed “To my dying breath” to not let Brookfield pull a fast one and demolish the staircase.
The problem of tour buses illegally parking on the streets of BPC was also complained about by several residents. Ms. Horwitz made no mention of the achievements made by BatteryPark.TV that have virtually eliminated this problem on North End Avenue. Ms. Horwitz made vague statements about how she is working with the First Precinct to encourage ticketing, and offered up her email address for anyone to send photos of the buses.
The problem of the noisy and polluting New York Waterway ferry boats was raised by a resident. Ms. Horwitz made mention of the Port Authority that runs the slip, but made no mention of the efforts by BatteryPark.TV that seem to have completely ameliorated the problem, assuming the company does as it promised and replaces the old diesel engines with newer ones.
Resident Adam Pratt gave a five-minute statement about his abuse by the PEPs earlier this year and his desire to see the PEP force dismantled. BatteryPark.TV will have more on that story.
Given that many BPC residents are renters or live in rent-controlled Gateway Plaza, they most important issues relating to the BPCA seemed of little concern. The sky-high land lease taxes paid by building owners to the BPCA, that in turn create the highest monthly fees in the city for apartment owners making their units un-sellable, were addressed by a resident. No tangible reductions or changes were promised by the BPCA board, to no one’s surprise.
Lastly, as we reported in our separate story, the 800-pound gorilla on the room was the mass firings of 19 BPCA staff by Ms. Horwtiz. She simply refused to address that matter whatsoever, stating, “This meeting is for community issues, not staff matters.”
A community board member suggested that the polluting New York Waterway ferry boats should the be evicted from the WFC Vesey Street slip until they replace the engines? Do you agree?
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