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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.