Thompson’s set to lead Battery Park City Authority

By Julie Shapiro 

Bill Thompson moved one step closer to taking over the Battery Park City Authority last week when the state Senate approved his appointment to the authority’s board.

Governor David Paterson tapped Thompson to lead the authority two weeks ago. Now that the Senate has confirmed the appointment, the other authority board members are expected to elect Thompson chairperson of the authority at their next meeting on March 29.

Thompson, who declined an interview request last week, is replacing Charles Urstadt, who founded the Battery Park City Authority 42 years ago and recently served as acting chairperson, after former Chairperson James Gill stepped down last month.

“Well, I’m out of work,” Urstadt said in a phone interview. “I’ve been bumped. That’s the way it goes. No surprise — it’s inevitable.”

Urstadt’s term expired at the end of 2009 and Gill’s expired a year earlier. Another two board members’ terms also expired recently, so Paterson may add up to three more members to the seven-member board. He has already floated Latino activist Fernando Mateo for one of the seats.

Paterson said in a statement that Thompson is a “proven leader…[who] worked tirelessly” as city comptroller. “I look forward to working with him in making New York City and Battery Park City a better place to live, work and raise a family,” Paterson said.

Thompson, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor last fall, also won positive reviews from state Senator Daniel Squadron, who represents Battery Park City.

“Having someone of Bill Thompson’s stature and record is very important,” Squadron said after last week’s vote. Squadron was particularly pleased with Thompson’s commitment to keeping Battery Park City affordable for current residents and to keeping the promise that the neighborhood’s surplus funds go toward building affordable housing in the city.

As comptroller, Thompson oversaw some of the authority’s funds and pushed the mayor to use them for affordable housing. That position set him at odds with Paterson last year, when Paterson proposed using B.P.C. money for the state budget.

At a meeting of the Senate Corporations Committee two weeks ago, Thompson sounded open to a compromise suggested by Squadron that would allow the state to use some B.P.C. money for this difficult budget cycle, but would create an ironclad commitment to affordable housing in the future.

Thompson also implied that he would support the B.P.C. residents who are currently trying to renegotiate their ground rents with the authority. 

“Making sure Battery Park City stays affordable…I would say is my first priority, and continuing to make sure the people in that neighborhood are provided for,” Thompson said at the Feb. 24 meeting.

Thompson also said he planned to take a “top-to-bottom” look at the Battery Park City Authority to make it more efficient.

Thompson has already said he may run for mayor in 2013, which means he would not be able to serve his entire six-year term on the Battery Park City board.

Community Board 1’s B.P.C. Committee is hoping to see more active community residents appointed. One authority board member, Robert Mueller, is a Battery Park City resident, and Squadron said he agreed that more qualified and active residents would be a good addition.

At the Senate Corporations Committee meeting, Thompson acknowledged he did not know the neighborhood “intimately,” but said he looked forward to learning more.

After the committee O.K.’d his appointment, Thompson leaned over to shake Squadron’s hand.

“See you in the ’hood,” he told the senator.