Covering Battery Park City

B.P.C.A. picks auditing firm:
After not having an internal auditor for months, at its meeting on May 10, the Battery Park City Authority Board of Directors voted to hire an outside firm to serve as the Authority’s auditor of internal functions.

The New Jersey-based firm of WithumSmith+Brown has been retained for three years at a cost of $477,000 to perform internal audits. The fee will cover 950 hours of auditing work per year.

The position of internal auditor at the B.P.C.A. was formerly held by Roy Villafane, who retired in the wake of the New York State Inspector General’s report in November 2010 criticizing the Authority for wastefulness, favoritism in compensation and promotions and sloppy internal accounting practices. Villafane was not replaced.

On March 31, the B.P.C.A. issued an R.F.P. for an outside firm to audit the Authority and the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy. Of the two qualified firms that responded, WithumSmith+Brown was selected based on the firm’s resources, experience and strong recommendations from other clients. WithumSmith+Brown has more than 400 employees, of whom more than 250 are C.P.A.s. It has worked for federal, state and city agencies as well as for corporate clients.

Previously, the internal audit function had cost the Authority $300,000 a year, mostly for salaries.

“Not only do we get the job done for less money, but we get a far better job,” said Robert Mueller, a member of the B.P.C.A. Board of Directors and head of the Audit Committee.

The contract with WithumSmith+Brown will specify that the three principal people on the team who were named in the response to the R.F.P. will, in fact, be the ones who are on site at the Authority. The contract will also say that the firm must employ 7 percent minorities and 5 percent women-owned businesses for the engagement.

A matter that came up at the May 10 Board meeting showed the urgency of having a functioning auditor. The LiRo Group, which the Authority had hired to work on the construction of Teardrop Park South, had a signed copy of a $95,000 amendment to its contract but the Authority did not have a signed, executed copy of this agreement. It was stated at the meeting that although the work had been done, the Board of Directors had never approved the expenditure.

Gayle Horwitz, B.P.C.A. president, said that she didn’t want to perpetuate the problem by not bringing it to the Board’s attention. She described it as “a clean-up action,” and said she didn’t know where the system had broken down.

“This is disturbing, to put it mildly,” said William Thompson, Jr., chairman of the Authority. “It’s like one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.”

Horwitz replied that, “Because of these types of situations, we know we need to take a fresh look at all of our internal controls.” She indicated that the newly hired auditing firm would make that a priority.

Battery Park City entrepreneur:
Battery Park City resident Roberta Souza, 30, already is an owner of two restaurants on Pearl Street and just opened another restaurant at 23rd Street and Third Avenue. Souza, who was born to a single mother in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, came to New York at the age of 17. Her mother, Antonia, a chef, had preceded her here.

“The first thing I did was go to school to learn English,” said Souza. She also got a job as a coat checker at a midtown restaurant called Giovanni’s. Next she enrolled at Borough of Manhattan Community College, where she studied business management. During college, she continued to work as a coat checker, this time at Beckett’s in the Financial District.

Ronan Downs, who owns Beckett’s, “believed in me,” said Souza. He kept promoting her. By the time she was 25, she was managing another of Downs’ restaurants, the Stone Street Tavern. At 26, in partnership with Downs and Alex Ramirez, she opened her own restaurant, Burger Burger, at 77 Pearl St.

At the time, Goldman Sachs’ headquarters was right across the street, and Souza said that Burger Burger was an instant success. Next came Pizza Pizza, also on Pearl Street.

In March, Souza in partnership with Downs and with the owners of Mad Dog and Beans, also on Pearl Street, opened Tap Room 307, which serves 42 kinds of draft beer from all over the world. “My life is work,” Souza said, but she seems to relish it.

“I’m trying to create an empire!” she said. She wasn’t kidding.

Burger Burger and Pizza Pizza are open daily. They deliver. For details and menus, go to www.burgerburgerny.com and www.pizzapizzanyc.com

Birds and fish:
An astonishing number of birds live in or visit Battery Park City and at least 30 different kinds of fish live in the Hudson River, just off Battery Park City’s seawalls. On Saturday, May 21, the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy is offering a chance to learn about both the birds and the fish. Bird watchers should meet in Wagner Park at 11 a.m. for a stroll through the park with a naturalist — binoculars and field guides provided. Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in Wagner Park, the Conservancy’s master anglers will show how to cast a line into the river (with barbless hooks to minimize injury to the fish and participants). Fish are placed in saltwater tanks for observation before being returned to the river. Along with fishing, kids can work on fish-related art projects (materials provided) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and watch a puppet show about the Hudson River estuary. Called “At the Turning of the Tide,” it starts at 12:30 p.m. All activities are free.

In memoriam:
Judy Karnas: Isolated from the rest of Manhattan by West Street, Battery Park City is like a little town where many people know each other. When someone departs, they are missed. So it was that when Judy Karnas, a member of the TriBattery Pops, died on May 14, the band’s conductor, Tom Goodkind, wanted to let everyone know that she had passed on, and what a special person she was.

“Judy Karnas had lived at Independence Plaza North for decades and sold many local residents their apartments,” he wrote in an email. He said that Karnas had worked at Douglas Elliman and that her best friened was Carla Rupp.  “They are both founding members of the TriBattery Pops,” he said.

“Judy came up to me eight years ago when I first started the band and said, ‘I’ve always wanted to be in a band,’ he recounted.  “So, knowing we needed a French horn and an alto sax, I asked her what she played and how good she was at reading music. ‘I don’t play anything,’ she answered. I told her that was just perfect! ‘You are now our tambourine player.’”

Goodkind said that Karnas came to every practice and show during the next seven years and loved to talk about the community and about the band. She “leaves a tremendous void in her passing,” he said.

To comment on Battery Park City Beat, or to suggest article ideas, email TereseLoeb@mac.com

By Terese Loeb Kreuzer