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New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver deserves a thumbs up following last week’s news that the deal he brokered with 11 Battery Park City condominiums and the Battery Park City Authority to reduce ground rents by a whopping 35 percent between 2012 and 2042 had been approved. It is a deal that results in a savings of approximately $280 million to B.P.C. residents and owners of the affected condos. The deal, by removing the ground rent uncertainty, should also help condo owners obtain or renew mortgage financing for these properties.
It should be noted that the B.P.C.A., legally speaking, did not have to entertain such a deal. But the Speaker provided strong advocacy for his B.P.C. constituents, and he continues to work to make sure that affordable housing in Lower Manhattan does not go the way of the dinosaur.
The news of the deal comes during a heated debate currently taking place in Albany. The current law governing rent regulation is set to expire in just a few weeks. There has been a push at the local level in recent months, including demonstrations as well as city council hearings, to ensure the law does not expire and is strengthened.
The ground rent deal in B.P.C. goes against the apparent deregulation forces at work that would hope to make Lower Manhattan the exclusive enclave many believe it already is. But, contrary to that notion, not everyone who lives in Lower Manhattan, or in B.P.C., is wealthy.
The initiative shown by both Speaker Silver and the boards from the 11 condominiums to ensure that the neighborhood remains affordable for not only the people who reside here now, but for newcomers wishing to call the area home, is worthy of praise.
Once again, we are compelled to question the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in its recent actions, which we believe prove that the agency’s time has come and gone.
On Monday evening L.M.D.C. President David Emil appeared before the Community Board 1 World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee to present what was supposed to be an accurate and transparent accounting of the remaining federal funds allocated for the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan. It was almost one year ago to the day that he appeared before the same committee and revealed that there were substantial funds which were yet to be allocated for their programmed purposes. The result of that presentation was beneficial to Lower Manhattan — various sums of money were eventually directed to the needs of the community.
But on Monday, Mr. Emil let the community down. He was not prepared and was unable to clearly state the facts that the community needs to know.
For example, while he did manage to go through each and every category the agency has set up to disburse the allocated funds, he was unable to answer the simple question of what was his agency’s annual operating budget.
We understand Mr. Emil has not been involved since day one. To know how every dollar has been spent is not what we expected. We did however expect a level of transparency we believe this community deserves.
The committee asked Mr. Emil to return with exact numbers. We hope that he does so in a manner that reflects the integrity of an agency that should go down in history as a major component of the revitalization that has occurred since 9/11.
Furthermore, this latest misstep should signal the urgent need for the city and the state to implement a sunset plan for an agency that is rapidly becoming no longer an asset to taxpayers, but a burden.