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January 23, 2015- By Steven E. Greer, MD
The MarinaGate saga that ended yesterday in the eviction of Mike Fortenbaugh, 20-year operator of the North Cove Marina, to be replaced by large donors to Governor Cuomo, revealed a problem far larger than a small marina dispute. The BPCA board meeting on January 22nd, led by Chairman and CEO Dennis Mehiel, an ultra-wealthy fundraiser for the Democratic party, documented on public record video just how unaccountable is the BPCA, staffed by appointed, un-elected, officials who make the most important decisions for the community.
Despite letters from every local elected official who represent Battery Park City, the BPCA plowed forward, ignoring the cries of thousands of residents, and went ahead and kicked out Mike Fortenbaugh anyway. Chairman Mehiel actually had the nerve to play the victim, complaining that the press had dragged his 148-foot mega-yacht into the discussion. He seemed choked up over the harsh comments from the peasants about him.
Enough is enough. The people of BPC pay the highest taxes in the city and create a $200 Million tax surplus each year that is siphoned off by the state and city to be spent elsewhere. Meanwhile, the residents have no say in that money. The BPCA board is comprised of cronies handpicked by the governor. There is no oversight of the Chairman as he uses the BPCA as an engine to create political favors for the governor’s donors.
Some tangible changes needs to result from the egregious Un-American governing displayed by the BPCA board. They cannot be allowed to ignore the elected officials any longer.
There will soon be three vacant BPCA board seats when Frank Branchini’s term expires. He lives in New Jersey and is ineligible to serve on the BPCA board. Two other seats have sat vacant for a long time.
The community needs to press State Senator Daniel Squadron, who sits on the committee that approves the gubernatorial appoints to state authorities, and demand that three BPC resident fill those spots.
The people chosen should reflect the real values of the community, be employed full-time, and not have served on the Community Board 1 within the last five years. They should be chosen by a town-hall process, nominated by the community, then officially appointed. Also, Speaker Sheldon Silver should have no input in the process given his arrest by the Department of Justice for alleged corruption.
Coincidentally, after writing this essay, I was informed that the local officials drafted a letter demanding that the BPCA appoint BPC residents to the vacant seats. Read below.
January 21, 2015
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo,
Governor of New York State, NY State Capitol Building, Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
We write to you as the local elected representatives for Battery Park City, which is currently subject to the administration of the Battery Park City Authority. Recently, there has been great community dissatisfaction regarding the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the North Cove Marina. This is why we previously wrote to Chair Mehiel on December 29, 2014 requesting that he strongly consider the resolution passed by Community Board 1 calling for the withdrawal of the RFP, to which we have yet to receive a response.
The current situation raises larger issues over local representation. We believe that it is a matter of urgency and necessity that the Battery Park City Authority Board reflects the local community. Currently, only one of the members of the Board lives in the local community. Given that the Board has direct administrative and decision making powers normally assigned to municipal government, we believe that the majority of the Board should be made up of members who represent the local community. On January 31, 2011 Speaker Silver and Senator Squadron sent a letter urging more community representation on the Battery Park City Authority Board as part of the state appointment process. We ask now that you take advantage of current vacancies and appoint additional residents to the Board as soon as possible.
Additionally, we request that moving forward, major Authority decision-making, including RFPs, incorporate local input, the same way that city agencies often solicit the input of local stakeholders and advocates in advance of the drafting of an RFP or making other major planning decisions.
In the past few years, Battery Park City has entered a new era and its mission has evolved. With the completion of the final development sites in northern Battery Park City, it is no longer the mission of the Authority to guide development in the neighborhood but to foster vibrancy and preserve local community benefits. We believe that this new mission cannot be achieved without adequate local representation and a broader process of community input into the administration and governance of the neighborhood. We thank you for your consideration of this vital matter.
JERROLD NADLER Member of Congress, NY-10
GALE A. BREWER Manhattan Borough President
DANIEL SQUADRON State Senator, 26th District
MARGARET S. CHIN Council Member, 1st District