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July 8, 2013- by Steven E. Greer, MD
BatteryPark.TV has learned that the key staff member of the BPC Parks Conservancy in charge of the daily upkeep of the Irish Memorial, Mr. Tom Birch, has recently quit in disgust. He was unhappy with the new leadership of the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) which controls the parks conservancy. Also quitting was Human Resources manager Randy Tancer.
We have previously reported on the decline of the parks and memorials within BPC. The Irish Memorial has had a hole in the wall from a car crash for nearly a year, with no repairs planned anytime soon. The grass and plantings are now brown and dying. At a recent Community Board 1 meeting, spokespersons for the BPCA were unable to even recall the names of the contractors hired to repair the Irish Memorial, if in fact any have even been contracted.
Sources have told BP.TV that the team which built BPC Parks over the years, and maintained them at such high levels, has been systematically dismantled and replaced by fewer, less trained, staff. For example, the new Executive VP of Operations is now Anne Fenton. She was previously the communications person for the unpopular CEO and President Gayle Horwitz.
After Gayle Horwitz’s abrupt departure related to Asphalt Green scandals, Ms. Fenton was promoted to the executive level of “Executive VP of Operations” by the new President, Demetrios Boutris, and given a $45,000 raise, to $145,000. However, Ms. Fenton has no training or experience in “operations” for a small city or park. Her background is in politics, serving as press secretary for Bill Thompson when he ran for mayor in 2009 (Mr. Thompson was also the Chairman of the BPCA until his abrupt resignation coinciding with political campaign donation scandals). Prior to that, she was a spokesperson for two Bronx Borough Presidents. Ms. Fenton has her college degree from Fordham University in 1992.
Meanwhile, numerous veterans of the BPCA and its parks conservancy have been forced into early retirement. Carl Jaffee, for example, was the Harvard-trained lawyer with tremendous “institutional memory”, according to the Chairman Dennis Mehiel, and handled many of the complex lease deals for the BPCA. Sources tell us that he was pushed out. More recently, the long-time planner of special activities and concerts in the parks, Ms. Sidney Druckman, was also convinced to take early retirement. Also forced out was the head of operations for the parks conservancy, Vince McGowan.
Recall, the ousters described above are in addition to the 19 staff fired under the Thompson/Horwitz regime of the BPCA.
The reasons for the head count reduction is not primarily cost cutting. The BPCA has a budget surplus in excess of $150 Million each year. Sources tell us that a strategic decision has been made to transition most of the parks maintenance and outsource them to contractors, despite contractors taking longer to accomplish the work, often with cost overruns. The upside to contractors is that each one usually delivers a campaign contribution to state or city officials with political ambitions.