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September 19, 2012 By Steven E Greer
With the departure of the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) President and CEO Gayle Horwitz, and the similar unexpected departure of Bill Thompson as Chairman, the opportunity has arisen for some much needed reforms within the BPCA. For years, Gayle Horwitz has hosted dog and pony show “Town Hall” meetings, then proceeded to completely ignore the concerns of the community. In lock-step, some of the puppets on the Community Board 1 have been complicit enablers of the BPCA hand that feeds it. As a result, a long laundry list of problems in the BPCA await resolution by the new Chairman Dennis Mehiel and his boss Governor Cuomo.
BatteryPark.TV has compiled a list of the most urgent and important issues that the majority of the community would like to see addressed. The list is ranked according to importance and ease of resolution.
Better representation on the BPCA board:
Since the creation of the BPCA, there has never been a Chairman or CEO who actually lives in Battery Park, and the supporting board of cronies have also not lived in BPC, with the exception of an occasional person. Most recently, Robert Muller, who supposedly lived on Rector Place, finally moved full time to his Upper East Side pad.
To appease the growing critics of this “taxation without representation” problem, a new board member who lives in BPC was appointed: Martha Gallo. However, that does not make an ounce of difference in how the BPCA will make decisions. The new Chairman, Dennis Mehiel, does not live in BPC either.
BatteryPark.TV urges Mr. Mehiel to appoint the new President/CEO from within the ranks of the residents of BPC, or require the new CEO to move here. It is far too easy for the President/CEO to ignore the community on issues, such as dog urination stench from the sidewalks if she never has to walk in it herself. It is far too easy for the President to cut sweetheart deals with landlords, ignoring the residents, if they do not live in one of those buildings.
Stop lights at West Thames and Rector:
BatteryPark.TV assisted in the process of having new stop lights installed at the Shake Shack crossing on Murray Street, and the intersections of Murray and North End Avenue. A worse problem persists in the southern “slums” of BPC at the intersections of West Thames and Rector Place and South End Avenue. The wide West Thames needs to have a landscaped median installed as well to prevent unsafe U-turns by people looking for parking spots and ignoring pedestrians.
Better patrolling by the PEP with more use of judgment and common sense:
The problem of incompetence amongst our Parks Patrol Enforcement (PEP) squad was brought to the forefront when BatteryPark.TV exclusively reported on the assault of resident Adam Pratt in the winter of 2011. Some staff changes were made, and that case is now in federal court as a civil rights violation matter. Although major improvements have been noted, the same patterns of behavior persist.
Recently, the PEP ganged up and handcuffed another person who was simply on the grass lawn with a small dog, then refused to hand over his ID, all very reminiscent of the Adam Pratt incident. Also, BatteryPark.TV is now exclusively reporting that our own PEP staff paid to patrol only BPC are taking long excursions on their golf carts to the nearby parks south of Pier A, where the war memorials and Statue of Liberty boats are located. Those PEP are allegedly harassing dog owners over frivolous leash matters, and a summons was recently appealed in court by lawyer Mike Devereaux.
Meanwhile, the PEP refuse to patrol the West Thames grass field, due to disputes between President Gayle Horwitz and the Hudson River Park Trust, so that field is still being vandalized by unsanctioned soccer mobs wearing cleats, and dog owners (mostly from the Financial District) are allowing dogs to urinate on the lawn killing the grass. The PEP also refuse to patrol the sidewalk of South End Avenue claiming they do not have jurisdiction, which is false.
A better bank that serves the unique needs of BPC:
Currently, there is only one bank branch in all of BPC: the Chase on South End Avenue. For residents who desire a bank that is not part of the “Too Big to Fail” class, with better customer service, they have to walk to Tribeca. Also, due to flood zones and approaching termination of lease deals with the BPCA, more and more banks are not offering mortgages for apartment sales.
BatteryPark.TV has walked the length of BPC with a CEO of a small regional bank scouting out areas for potential branches that they could open. BPC deserves a better bank.
A better grocery store:
The two Gristedes serving BPC consistently sell perishable goods after the expiration date, and the quality of their prepared food is woefully inadequate. BPC deserves a “Fairway” or a “Trader Joe’s”.
An outdoor exercise path:
When sidewalk scaffolding is installed in the area, something interesting happens. Several people who live in BPC begin to use them as pull-up bars. One man even has an elaborate routine with dumbbells. With the extensive parks and fields in the area, a top-notch series of outdoor exercise stations can be easily installed. Men, women, and children of all ages can benefit.
Changes to Pier A plans:
The money pit at Pier A is running over budget and behind schedule under the leadership of President Gayle Horwitz. Moreover, the plans by the developers to turn it into a party cruise destination, whereby 300-passneger drunken partiers will load onto dinner boats, is upsetting the neighbors. The original plan for Pier A was to make it a public space, and Community Board 1 member John Fratta had tried to make it an Italian heritage museum to compliment the Jewish and Irish museums in the area. Somehow, Gayle Horwitz’s BPCA assigned the rights to the Poulakakos family, without proper public meetings and input.
With a new governor and new leadership at the BPCA, and with the construction still at the early stages, Pier A can still be converted into a more quiet and peaceful museum or open space. The new BPCA President should consider this.
Under the poor management by Canadian conglomerate Brookfield Properties, the only retail clothing that remains in BPC are the Banana Republic and Ann Taylor. With the new Goldman Sachs and expensive new apartment buildings, there exists a strong demand for better retail, preferably not located within the WFC. The Goldman-Sachs-owned Conrad Hotel space would be better able to manage a quality retail store in the remaining units that it has left to lease.
A cultural arts and music venue:
With the new restaurants, Asphalt Green, and fine parks, and new celebrity residents, the remaining component still missing in BPC is any form of quality performing arts entertainment. BPC needs a Joe’s Pub or Lincoln Center Jazz type of facility where the best bands and other acts can perform. Again, the remaining units in the Conrad Hotel building would be ideal. BatteryPark.TV is forming a private citizen “Arts Commission” to promote this cause. In fact, a space filler of an art gallery is already set up at the corner of Vesey and North End Avenue.
Various gripes with LeFrak:
Numerous gripes by the tenants at Gateway Plaza with the LeFrak corporation remain. Most of these problems were actually created by deals between the BPCA and LeFrak, such as the permissioning to allow Gateway bill residents for electricity rather than directly by Con-Ed, with accusations of over-billing by Gateway to offset rent stabilization breaks. The BPCA should address these complaints.
Dog sewage in the streets:
After the exclusive reporting on the problems of dog urination creating a sewer on the sidewalks of BPC and killing plants, significant progress has been made in hotspots near Gateway.
New infrastructure projects:
The temporary footbridge at Albany street is hideous and is taking up valuable square footage of real estate in the park that could be used for community gardens. The permanent footbridge planned for West Thames needs to be constructed. In addition, the wide, straight, and poorly designed “Pataki Highway” south of West Thames can be converted into new dog runs or playgrounds. The BPCA has hundreds of millions in revenue surpluses to fund these projects.
Stop giving away our money:
Speaking of BPCA surpluses, the most important issue impacting Battery Park, that bizarrely receives the least attention, is how the region is used as a bank ATM for withdrawals by organizations outside of Battery Park City. New York City, The State of New York, and smaller entities like the Downtown Alliance, all receive the revenue generated by BPCA leases. At the same time, there is no elected representation at the BPCA. This is literally “taxation without representation” and must come to an end.
I agree we are in a unique situation with people making decisions about our neighborhood who are neither elected nor live in this
area. We need Local people on BCPA !! The alternative is to
organize ourselves and start a movement that the city take over BPC as allowed in the agreement. This way our needs will be represented by elected officials AND we can start to Normalize our Pilot charges so our common charges are reduced. Thirty Years is long enough to be soaked with high fees. It is someone else’s turn to be the pot of gold for others to use.
If this change does not happen – lets see if we can organize ourselves to make these much needed changes a reality.
Horwitz also let South Cove go to ruin. Several years ago, South Cove was ringed by purple lights at water level and blue lights on the poles surrounding the cove. One by one, they burned out and were never replaced. There are now ZERO blue and purple lights along the eastern edge of the cove. The South Cove lights were part of a permanent public art exhibition, but Horwitz let it all waste away. Maybe the new admin can do a better job.
I would also add that in addition to serving as an ATM for other government entities, we subsidize the use of two amenities that residents from FIDI and Tribeca enjoy. Asphalt Green and the Battery Park fields are expensive amenities. The fields are used by everyone downtown. Fees for the soccer league and little league are the same regardless of where you live, which means non BPC residents enjoy the low fees of a community amenity, but did not have to foot the bill for construction etc. The membership rates are the same for everyone at Asphalt Green, but BPC residents again subsidized the construction and will subsidize any potential financial loss. Non BPC residents should have a slightly higher rate for using these amenities.
To Amy Greenberg
Good point. Thank you for the post. Please forward our story to your friends and share on social media.
The Opinion story and comments on what our residents want. They are spot on!
Our first task is to restore the dignity and design integrity of the esplanade so well conceived by the original masterplan / landscape architects. Gayle & co had little understanding of or appreciation for it. May I add…
1. South Cove lighting
As Eddie mentions, one of the least onerous on the to-do list should be to restore the blue and purple lights in south cove.
2. Rat population – poor design, poor operations and poor PEP fishermen enforcement
– Use design to alleviate the rat problem that, as long time residents of BPC know, increased exponentially with the tree / ‘rogue’ vegetation implanted just north of the marina between the winter garden and water line. While trees are nice and ‘green’, their haphazard uninformed use and the addition of the huge smoking sand containers used for garbage disposal has taken rather than add to the experience of the esplanade. The dialogue between the winter garden and the river as framed by the two sculptural lighting elements; a picture perfect view visible at one time through the atrium / grand staircase all the way to the water has been lost. A panoply of low maintenance sustainable landscape design vocabulary can still be used to reduce the heat island effects while restoring the design experience.
– Landscape design can either encourage or help curtail the rat population which thanks to the same rogue vegetation chosen in the Pataki highway has been responsible for the rat surge. Use the Pataki highway to create the adult playing grounds/outdoor exercise stations. We have a children playground, a dog playground, how about an adult playground there?
– The fishermen’s miss-use of the grounds needs to be halted. The PEP has been ineffective in both patrolling and ‘fining offenders.
– Collect garbage in the evening after 6 pm and before 11 pm rather than let it fester all night.
We do not need more meetings on rat problems. Let’s start here. Alleviate the heat-island issues creatively, install innovative program ideas s.a adult the fitness/playground program, and address rat problems all at once with very little means.
2. Restore or replace the art piece at the north end of south end avenue at the round-about.
3. Use of Pier A. I was stunned to learn about the agreement for its use (more rats on the way). A landmarked building should be used for a more dignified purpose s.a the Italian heritage museum. Have we not learned lessons from the eighties? Just take a look at the poor program / food court at the seaport now thankfully being reconsidered. We can change this and it is the right time to act.
4. Longer term value-added programs: the derelict pier 40. How about a true urban farm building with zero energy? How about the first non-chlorinated public pool in Manhattan and home for the free downtown boathouse kayak program. There are sponsors and budgets for pilot projects that can be had if the right channels and pitch is used.
It would be easier to get our message across to the powers-that-be if they themselves resided in BPC and had a feel to its design intent. As Anderson says, we can make a difference: “Parks by the people and for the people”.
Once again thanks to Battery Park TV more information is shared. Agree with all the points and want to see more community involvement in making these points offered come to fruition.
There is a Battery Park City Authority board meeting Tuesday, 9/25 at 10:00 AM. This is from the BPCA website:
“Notice of Meeting – Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @10:00 AM
Notice is hereby given that a meeting of the Members of the Battery Park City Authority will take place on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 10:00 a.m., at the offices of the Authority, One World Financial Center, 24th Floor, New York, NY 10281.
Battery Park City Authority is a public benefit corporation. Member meetings and committee meetings are open to the public for observation but not for direct participation. The press is welcome to attend the meeting.”
It should be interesting given all that has transpired after the past 2 weeks and thankfully we had Battery Park city tv reporting because none of the local papers accurately told the story.
Lefrak is overcharging the rent stabilized apartments thru the electric bills. My electric bill was 400 last month despite fact i work all day and barely turn on my heat. Its obviously illegal yet no politician is willing to step in. Ilost all my food in the hurricane but unlike con ed persons, i wasnot granted the 400 reimbursement. I do not understand how it is legal to overcharge rent stabilized apartments by “making it up” in their electric bill. The new tenants would never stand this o they have insulated their apartments and given them energy efficient units. I have mold growing all over my bathroom yet no one will fix it. What the new tenants should understand is my apartment and those of the other rent stabilized decaying apartments are next to theirs.
I am a recent tenant at Gateway, displaced from Long Beach due to hurricane Sandy. After losing my nearly all of my possessions, being evacuated, and nearly 4 months in a hotel, I choose to take up residence at 355 South End Avenue.
Tomorrow, Friday, March 22, 2013, I will be here 5 weeks. To say that this experience is frustrating is putting in mildly. On my first 3 days of tenancy my apartment- a one bedroom had ZERO HEAT.
It was a holiday weekend and I had moved on the Friday and Saturday. By the time we had everything in and turned on the heat, I noticed that the living room heater was not blowing any air whatsoever. Friday and Saturday, I was forced to stay at my hotel.
By Sunday, having no way to contact management till Tuesday, I was able to have the doormen get someone upstairs to “replace the unit” with one that blew lukewarm air. I was “told’ that “that is how these units work.” That was day 3 of my residence.
Since then I have had a dangerous hole in my terrace which a family member nearly broke their ankle on, a foul order of paint or turpentine each time I shower and the steam/heat hits the bathroom, neither the front door nor the terrace door opened properly, a backed up kitchen sink, electric sockets that don’t work and a baseboard heater in the bedroom which unbeknownst to me, was not controlled by the electrical unit, has no independent switch and had been running 24 hours a day for over 1 month, until a worker used a screw driver to shut it off last week.
Upon 13 days of residence, I received a bill for my electric usage of $218. Of those 13 days, I actually stayed in the apartment 7 days. Of those 7 days, 12 hours a day I was out of the home…how in the world can my electricity for 13 days be $218. I shutter to think what my bill is going to be at the end of this month, particularly since the baseboard had been running continuously.
Although, the office is aware of these issues and they have in fact addressed several of them, the foul odor, the hazardous terrace hole and the insane electricity bill have yet to be remedied. I was forced to pay another ½ month rent for March 1, having moved in 2/15. Despite the fact that their website say “new tenants receive ½ month free on all on bedrooms” and that my space was heat free and is still hazardous, this advertised special was not honored.
I am now seeking the services of an independent air quality specialist to see what poison, carcinogen or lead, I might be inhaling daily from the fumes in my bathroom.
Be rest assured, this is far from a “rent controlled” apartment and with the money the building has already received and my anticipate yearly rent and additional $6,000 yearly ($500 monthly) electric bills, this apartment should have not be rented in this condition.