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June 28, 2014- By Steven E. Greer, MD
BatteryPark.TV obtained the fiscal 2014 budget for the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA). It was approved by the Chairman of the Board and CEO, Dennis Mehiel. A small portion of the total BPCA revenue is supposed to go toward capital expenditures to maintain the infrastructure.
The total revenue of the BPCA for F2014 is projected to be $241,325,000. All of that revenue comes from property taxes paid by the residents and businesses within the 92-acres of Battery Park City. However, only $28,111,777, or 11.6%, will be kept and spent on the community of BPC. The remaining $142,027,000 will be given away to the city, ostensibly to spend on affordable housing.
As if it is not egregious enough to spend only 11.6% of local taxpayer dollars on their community, the BPCA seems to be pulling a bait and switch, and not spending the money. Of the list of construction projects in the budget that will use the $28 Million set aside, almost none of the projects have begun, and the year is halfway over.
The child playground and electrical boxes located on the plaza north of Gateway, overlooking the marina, are still projects with little progress. As a result, no running water is flowing to the playground summertime water showers, or nearby dog run. The police memorial below is also out of order.
The BPCA intentionally delayed work on those project until the 2013 hurricane season was out of the way, in order to prevent any embarrassing flooding one year after Hurricane Sandy. It is unclear why the BPCA is still stalling. Since the BPCA is planning on receiving $1.4 Million in insurance payment to cover the $2.2 Million cost, that could be the reason.
$1.5 Million was also budgeted to repair the “South Electrical Grid”. The status of that project is unknown.
$2.5 Million was set aside to repair and maintain the Irish Memorial. None of that work has been initiated, and the RFP process is not even underway. This BPCA administration has consistently shown no interest in promoting the Irish Memorial.
The incomplete West Thames grass field stainless steel fencing was supposed to received a higher fence and other work, for $150,000. There are plans underway for that.
$750,000 was budgeted to repair the restaurant building and arch in Wagoner Park. That project is not underway.
$400,000 was budgeted for a mystery “River Terrace Crossing”. That project has not begun.
Several costly projects in the 2014 budget have been initiated, but they seem to be black box mystery programs that send cash to outside consultants and cronies of the BPCA.
$1 Million was spent to work on a “Storm mitigation pilot study” with the federal government. Why is the BPCA paying for that and not the city or federal government?
Another $1.2 Million was spent on an “infrastructure study”. Why? How was this contract decided?
$200,000 was spent on a “study” to make South End Avenue safer. However, this caused real plans by the City DOT that were ready to be executed this Spring to be cancelled.
$1.5 Million has been spent and wasted to “investigate” the cause of a roof leak at the Asphalt Green community center. Why is the building owner, Milstein properties, not paying for this?
The various bridges that span the West Side Highway are being constructed and maintained by the BPCA, rather than the city. Why?
The bridge at Liberty Street leading to the Port Authority’s Liberty Park is being funded by $4.4 Million of BPC tax dollars. The Tribeca bridge by Chambers is getting $350,000 in work. $7.5 Million was released to pay for the planned West Thames pedestrian bridge.
In a controversial move being investigated now by the New York State Civil Rights Department, after a BPCA whistleblower reported it, is the spending of $760,000 on computers, websites, and IT. Kirk Swanson, the man who used to be in charge of the contracts process for the BPCA, was recently fired, and alleges that these contracts did not go through the proper legal RFP steps.
$3.5 Million was budgeted to pay for a money pit of a project at the Parks Conservancy headquarters on Battery Place. It was designed to be heated by a geothermal well, which never worked properly. The BPCA is doubling down and going to make it work.
As a pure pork project, $750,000 will be spent on the Skyscraper museum. This is a poorly attended “museum” that is funded by the BPCA for unknown reasons.
There are very few construction projects of the 2014 budget that are both underway and also benefiting the community. The playground in Rockefeller Park was renovated. The esplanade lighting was fixed. The ballfield electrical box was flood-proofed. Sinkholes on the ground were repaired, and the piles that hold up the esplanade are getting a $14 Million upkeep.
Robin Forst, the newly hired BPCA community liaison and communications expert, explained, “Our budgeted capital program for 2014, as described to the Board, is aggressive. The timetables for some projects are dependent on the schedules and priorities of other entities, for example bridges, Route 9A frontage etc. Thus, even though projects are budgeted for a particular fiscal year, they are not always done during that timeframe because of scheduling or other unanticipated events.”
What happens to the budget that was supposed to go toward repair projects but is not spent in that fiscal year? Does the community get that money, plus the normal amount on top of that for the next budget? Or, is the amount that is supposed to be spent on the community just a bait and switch to make it seem as if the BPCA is really spending locally, rather then sending all of your tax dollars to remote parts of the city?