Battery Park City (BPC) residents gathered on the Battery Park City Esplanade while others attended by Zoom—all fighting for security— the security to stay in their homes.
The banner on the wall reads “Stop Upward Rents for every ground surge in Battery Park City” where fifty BPC residents and political activists rallied last Friday to address the dire situation to save Battery Park homes. Despite numerous requests for the Battery Park City Authority—the New York State public benefit corporation that overseas BPC’s land lease—to begin good faith negotiations with homeowners, so far there have been no concrete steps in this direction.
Renters, owners, or developers of BPC do not own the land where the buildings sit. The government agency the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) leases the space— which expires 2069— for yearly “ground rent” remittances. Additionally, “payments in lieu of taxes” (PILOT) are assessed, determined by municipal tax assessors and passed directly to the City by the BPCA.
At the rally Justine Cuccia, founder of Democracy 4 Battery Park City (democracy4BPC.org), emphasized how the people can’t afford increases and they can’t afford to leave either. “We need certainty now—we can’t wait! The Battery Park City Authority AND the Comptroller and Mayor must come to the table,” she said.
The Authority, on its own, cannot commit to changes in ground rent or PILOT. City Hall, the recipient of these collections must also consent.
In the long-term, ownership of the land ultimately will revert to the state.
In the short-term, several of these buildings have ground leases that contain “reset” clauses, slated for the near future, whereby their payments will jump causing common charges to rise by thousands of dollars per month for each apartment in such buildings.
Thousands of Battery Park City homeowners will be unable to pay these increased common charges, and as well, will be unable to sell apartments for which the resale value will have dropped.
“Time is running out. Without swift, decisive action, a wave of bankruptcies and foreclosures is coming to this neighborhood,” says Chris Marte, City Council candidate who was co-host of the rally. “ We demand that the BPCA begin earnest negotiations with homeowners in BPC.”
“BPC units should stay affordable!” said Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, reminding everyone that the history of BPC was supposed to be affordable housing.
Via Zoom, John Dellaportas co-founder of the Battery Alliance (www.savebpc.org), which offers a 5-point plan to fight for what will keep homeowners in their homes, also spoke.
With an activist stance, Maria Smith, Battery Point resident addressed the assembled, “Rent strike works.” Adding, “It’s a long fight. We stayed through and past 9-11, and rebuilt. We stayed through Hurricane Sandy, through COVID. With no relief, we should stop paying (rent)!”
Smith repeated the necessary actions that other speakers put forth, “We need conversations between the condo owners, the Battery Park City Authority, the Mayor and the Comptroller.”
Downtown Independent Democrats President Richard Corman said, “The taxes that BPCA homeowners are paying the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) – Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) and Ground Rent – are increasingly unaffordable. In addition, because of the timing of the expiration of the underlying BPC leases, there is no clarity around the future tax levels. Homeowners are increasingly unable to afford the costs and unable to sell with the uncertain future of the property.
Their demand is simple: BPCA should come to the table to negotiate this future in good faith.
“BPCA is currently engaged in negotiations with several condominium buildings on renewal of their ground leases,” said BPCA Spokesman Nick Sbordone. “Ground rent reset provisions that threaten the economic stability of Battery Park City’s residential buildings, agreed to many years ago, are of serious concern to us and Battery Park City homeowners alike. Negotiations with those buildings whose renewal dates are most imminent are ongoing, and it is our hope that their outcome will advance our shared priorities of greater predictability and economic security in Battery Park City.”
Updated at 12;12 p.m. on April 28.