B.P.C.A.: Time to wind it down

Volume 20, Number 47 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 17 – 23, 2010


B.P.C.A. has finished its work

Last week the Inspector General’s office released a report detailing financial improprieties on the part of the Battery Park City Authority. While alarming, the charges did not seem to us to rise to the level of major malfeasance on the Authority’s part, but they did indicate some careless management and sloppiness.

Julie Menin, chair of Community Board 1, immediately called for the sun-setting of the Authority. She is right, but the report itself is not justification for saying goodbye to the Authority; it is only cause to think about the role of the Authority moving forward.

While the Battery Park City Authority has done more than a commendable job developing its 92 acres, its job is, for the most part, finished. Minus Pier A and the Millstein properties adjacent to the Battery Park City ball fields, almost 100 percent of Battery Park City has been developed. The B.P.C.A.’s mandate is over.

The Authority succeeded in its mission and will no doubt be chronicled and looked at as an example of successful, and even enlightened, urban planning. It has worked hard to create an oasis within a concrete jungle, a place that tourists and residents flock to on sunny days in order to take in the spectacular parks, walks, and views; and a wonderful place to raise a family.

Mayor Bloomberg recently reiterated his call for the city to take over the Authority. When he first made this announcement back in April, many residents feared that the neighborhood, by being lumped in with other neighborhoods in the city, would lose its special character, its amenities, and the comfort the Authority offers in terms of management. But there are numerous desirable neighborhoods throughout the city that attract residents and visitors based on their amenities, and they do not have, or need, their own governing entity.

On the charges in the Inspector General’s report, it is a legitimate concern of those who struggle to make ends meet, and pay their taxes in this tough economic environment, that a governmental authority is careless with taxpayer money. There have really never been strong incentives to run a tight ship at the B.P.C.A., because the Authority has been rolling in money, with its operating costs covered under its agreement. Many honest, dedicated, and talented people have worked there, and still do, but over the years it has also occasionally been a dumping ground for political hacks. In spite of all that, the Authority did a fine job.

The real financial impropriety is the fact that the Authority, with its 60 employees and $30 million in operating costs, has become an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. Today it is vastly overstaffed for the slim agenda remaining, and in a time of fiscal austerity, this is a luxury we can ill afford.

It is time for Battery Park City to be integrated into Downtown, and integrated into the city. The entity worth funding in the long run is the Conservancy for purposes of upkeep and management of the magnificent plantings along the esplanade and the wonderful parks. The work remaining at Pier A could easily be tucked under the wing of the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

In many ways the B.P.C.A. has been a great partner for the community. Tim Carey was always open to discuss matters and make changes requested by the community, as have been other leaders. There are beautiful parks, schools, a ball field and a soon-to-be a community center.

But it is now time to begin thinking about a definitive timeline to phase out the B.P.C.A. We call on Governor-elect Cuomo and Speaker Silver to work with Mayor Bloomberg and Controller Liu to come up with a plan to successfully integrate this great neighborhood into the rest of Downtown and New York City.

To the B.P.C.A. we say, “Job well done.”