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September 25, 2013- In the Downtown Express, an amateur journalist reported that a mystery agency of “New York State” had forced the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) to make draconian cuts to various cultural programs within Battery Park City. The author used the word “probably” and “likely”, and failed to list any sources from the state.
The article was misleading. In fact, no significant cuts will be made, and no programs will cease to exist, with the exception of one.
This is what we have learned. Governor Cuomo’s office was unaware of any state agency recently forcing the BPCA to do anything regarding cuts. Assembly Speaker Silver’s office was not involved either, according to a staffer. We learned that the BPCA’s Anne Fenton was making calls to organizations and saying that an “investigation” was the reason the BPCA was forced to put a stop to small grants on the order of $2,000 (The full list of charitable donations can be found in the 2012 budget we obtained by FOIL.).
In 2010, the Inspector General report of the BPCA listed inappropriate grants to charities as a violation (see page 10). More recently, a small investigation by JCOPE was initiated regarding the grants to Manhattan Youth.
The Downtown Express listed the Poet’s House as being a victim of the cuts. In fact, the building of the house is BPCA property and the staff are paid by various grants unrelated to the BPCA. Staff at the Poet’s House were unaware of any new BPCA cuts.
The article also mentioned that $212,000 in BPCA support of Brookfield Properties performing arts program was cut. That is misleading since new fees from the luxury shops moving into Brookfield Place will now pay for the cultural events. The 2013-2014 season of the ice rink, for example, will be located on the Brookfield plaza by the Winter Garden. Overall, the quality of the programs should actually improve as the BPCA outsources this service.
The Downtown Express article goes on to speculate that “probably” cuts will be made to other BPCA properties, such as the Skyscraper Museum and Jewish Museum. Sources familiar with the BPCA executive office find those claims to be almost inconceivable.
Most notably, the article fails to mention the 800-pound gorilla of all cuts, which is the cessation of $750,000 of free money handed over to TriBeCa’s community center, Manhattan Youth, run by Bob Townley (a similar article about the cuts in the Broadsheet also makes no mention of the Manhattan Youth cuts).
The decision to cut off the grants from the BPCA to charities was made many months ago, in April, by the former president of the BPCA. On September 24th, the BPCA board discussed the results of the recent state audit and officially decided to cut off the charitable grants.
Friends of Bob Townley and his Manhattan Youth (i.e. The Broadsheet publisher Robert Simko, Anthony Notaro, and many members of the CB1) have made it known that they plan to use the upcoming September 28th BPC Block Party as a venue to explain the injustice of the BPCA cuts, and to demand restoration of funding.
(This story was updated September 27th when the BPCA board meeting video was posted on the archives site. At the beginning of the meeting, the board discussed the issue of charitable grants)