B.P.C.A. ignores letters from former presidents

BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER | Two former presidents of the Battery Park City Authority wrote letters to William C. Thompson, Jr., the current chairman, and to the board of directors protesting the abrupt layoffs of 19 people on Nov. 9, but neither Thompson nor Gayle Horwitz, president of the Authority, has responded.

James Cavanaugh, who was president of the Authority from 2005 to 2010 and left his role after a report criticizing the Authority was released by the Inspector General’s office last fall, said that two board members had contacted him, thanking him for the letter he sent and expressing a willingness to consider some of the points he made. “I’m personally convinced that most of the board members did not know of the manner in which this was done,” he said, “and quite possibly did not even know what would be done. It simply does not square with what I know about those board members having worked with them for quite some time. It’s just not who they are.”

Timothy S. Carey, who was president and C.E.O. of the Authority from May 1999 to June 2005, said that he had had no replies to the letter that he addressed to Mr. Thompson and the board. He said that he was surprised. “It’s rather unprofessional. One would think that if one wrote a letter to a public entity, one would receive some sort of notification saying thank you for your letter. We’ll take a look at it. But I heard nothing.”

Cavanaugh said that Thompson would have had to sign off on firing the officers. “Only the chairman can fire officers of the Authority under the by-laws,” he said. “Many of those who were fired were officers of the Authority. Either he knew what was happening or the by-laws were violated.”

Cavanaugh went on to say, “I’m not aware that ever in the history of New York State has something like this happened. It’s an unfortunate first. Normally when State agencies lay people off, there is an announcement that layoffs will have to occur. People with seniority are generally given the opportunity to offload less seniority. There’s an orderly process. People don’t feel there was an orderly process here. For the people who were fired, it’s hard to see that there was any rhyme or reason. The Authority has two construction projects that are both running significantly behind. That would be Pier A and the Community Center. They’re both delayed and yet they terminated the only two people in the construction department who had engineering degrees. I think people are asking why, if the Authority is going to be spending millions of dollars of public funds, they don’t have a single engineer on staff anymore or a single architect.”

Cavanaugh said that he had been talking to some of the people who were laid off and they were hoping the board would respond to their pleas for help. “They’re disappointed that the next board of directors meeting has been put off twice,” he said. Cavanaugh said there was no board meeting in November and that there supposedly will be one in December.

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16 Responses to B.P.C.A. ignores letters from former presidents

  1. These bunch of overpaid bureaucrats are complaining they were fired from "jobs"!u00a0 Typical nonsense.u00a0 These were positions in an Authority that was set-up by NYS to develop the land in Battery Park City.u00a0 This job is done and there is no land left to develop in BPC — hasn't been in years.u00a0 It's not like these were teachers or policemen fired, these were temporary jobs.u00a0 It's amazing that in a time of austerity, these bureaucratsu00a0 think they should continue to be paid just for being present.u00a0

    • There is a lot of construction still going on in Battery Park City, and it will continue to go on for years. Right now there are four major projects: Pier A, the Community Center on North End Avenue, 2 World Financial Center, where Brookfield Properties is redoing the southern wing and the Winter Garden, and the Conrad Hotel and shops along the alley separating the hotel from Goldman Sachs headquarters. As Cavanaugh points out in the article, there is now no one on the Battery Park City Authority staff with an engineering or architecture degree that could ride herd on these projects. All were fired. In addition, the Authority is responsible for maintaining Battery Park City, including permitting of events, keeping structures such as the seawalls in good repair, making sure that the roads and sidewalks are maintained, maintaining the parks and gardens, and organizing the many events and programs (most of them free) for residents and for anyone who wants to participate. The people who were fired were not "overpaid bureaucrats." They worked very hard on behalf of this community. Moreover — since you mentioned austerity — in the last year, the Authority has hired people who are still on staff: an in-house lawyer, who reputedly earns $200,000 a year, a secretary, who is said to be earning $75,000 and an assistant to the BPCA president, who earns more than $100,000. Two of these people (plus the president of the Authority, Gayle Horwitz), previously worked for BPCA chairman Thompson when he was the New York City comptroller and/or when he was running for mayor.

  2. Temporary jobs?u00a0 You really must have had no or very little knowledge of what happened here.u00a0 Do a little research and dig a little deeper instead of just shaking your first in the air about the bureaucracy.

  3. Imagine if a Wall Street firm made millions more than expected, then turned around and fired, without notice, the very people who helped make those profits possible. Imagine if one of those fired was a career employee just a few months short of retirement, and the reason she was short is that she had to take time off for an organ transplant, and now she has no health insurance. Well it wasn't a Wall Street firm that did that, it was Bill Thompson at BPCA. Oh, wait a minute: Bill Thompson is now the Chief Administrator of Siebert, located at — you guessed it u00a0– 100 Wall Street. Welcome to the world of the one percent.

  4. Apparently, you have very little knowledge of history.u00a0 The Authority where these people worked was set-up as a TEMPORARY agent nof the State for land development.u00a0 Yes, land development is a TEMPORARYn job with a beginning and end, and all of the land in BPC is developed — nperiod.u00a0 nnWho maintains the land in Battery Park City is an entirely ndifferent issue.u00a0 The State's intent was not to empower this Authority nindefinitely to tax the citizens and businesses of Battery Park City.u00a0 This is why we have ELECTED GOVERNMENT, so there is accountability for fiscal and social conditions.u00a0 The nAuthority is not an elected, let alone a representative governing body, and the time has come for it to go away, starting with a reduction of its role.u00a0n nnnThe Wall Street Journal reports it 100% correctly, that "going forward …there should be a reduced role for the authority".u00a0 nu00a0n nhttp://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204012004577070402037187854.html?KEYWORDS=battery+park+city

    • If you look at the mission statement for the Battery Park City Authority, which is on the web atu00a 0http://www.batteryparkcity.org/page/page11.html you will see that the mission was — and is — not simply land development.u00a0nnThe mission statement says, "There is anrecognition that, as development of new parcels is completed, the importance ofnmaintenance within the mission will become more significant." It also lists performance measures, and these include "Adaptnoperations/build environment to changing needs ofncommunity/tenants/residents"u2028and "Maximize opportunities for M/WBE participationnin BPCA contracts and development projects." This means that the role of the Authority in BPC is NOT finished. There is still a lot of construction going on. There is a need for maintenance. There is a need to ensure that minorities and women get a fair share of the contracts. However, all the people in charge of construction and of M/BWE were fired.nnI think there is agreement that downsizing of the Authority was inevitable — but the people who were fired, some of them after having worked for the Authority for decades, were given no notice, no severance and no help in making the transition. The timing was also cruel — right before the holidays, when it is especially difficult to find new work. Some of these people were within a few months of retirement after years of service, and now will not be able to retire. And some, pragmatically, are now too old to find other employment.u00a0nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnPerhaps you think all of that is okay. I don't.nnThe Authority earned $12.5 million in 2011 more than anticipated, so the layoffs could not have been motivated by dire economic considerations. In addition, several people have been hired within the last year, and it is likely that more new hires are on the way. These layoffs didn't serve to make the Authority smaller and leaner. You will probably see that they just paved the way for new personnel.

      • BPCA has legal status to exist (and unique position to collect fees and ntaxes by fiat), because it was created through an act of State law.u00a0 A mission statement is not anything legally binding, it's a statement of purpose from management about what the organization *wants* to be.u00a0 What organization wants to fold?u00a0 Very few, if any!u00a0 Management always has incentive to KEEP PAYING itself and their employees.u00a0 Do you really think an organization created for a limited purpose, like BPCA, is any different?u00a0 Of course it *wants* to expand its mission!!!!u00a0 nnYou keep differentiating between staff and management.u00a0 Reality is that BOTH staff AND management need to go!u00a0 We need to hold management to account.u00a0 Of course, if management is on the right path, then staff should be downsized first, and then management ought to go in time too.u00a0 If past and current management failed to communicate to staff that their jobs had a shelf life, that is not a price the community should have to shoulder, and in the current economic climate, the urgency for the firings is greater.u00a0 Kudos to management!nnMany people in the community are struggling to afford their homes, and BPC has the highest taxes and fees of any community in theu00a0 City.u00a0u00a0 I highly doubt a majority of citizens would vote to keep BPCA's layer of bureaucracy in place if it meant lower taxes and fees and equivalent services — which IS possible.u00a0 nnBe glad management is starting to cut the fat at the Authority, and rather than look backwards, let's keep the focus and pressure on management to cut MORE and keep to the original spirit of the law that led to its existence in the first place.

        • As was previously noted in these comments, the BPCA management has added personnel this past year: an in-house legal counsel earning around $200,000 a year, an assistant to the president, earning more than $100,000 a year, a secretary earning $75,000 a year. There are certain to be additional hires in the near future.nnYou characterize the people and positions who were cut as "fat." Construction continues in Battery Park City. There is now no one on the BPCA staff with an engineering degree or an architecture degree who can supervise this construction. Pier A and the Community Center are behind schedule. Construction on South Cove is behind the announced schedule. There is no one left on the staff to make sure that the contracts meet M/WBE goals. There is no senior person to handle human resource issues. There is no one left to supervise operations. Fat?????nnIn any event — as has previously been noted in these comments — if the staff had to be cut, it was done in a very harsh way that was not only cruel to those who were let go but demoralizing to those who remained. This was poorly handled. And there is a huge difference between a discussion of what the role of the Authority should be and whether it should exist at all and a discussion of how employees were treated in these layoffs. If they had to be fired, they could have been given notice, severance pay and counseling — and those who were within months of retirement after decades of service could have been allowed to finish out their time so that they would have health care and a pension. The Authority made $12.5 million in 2011 more than anticipated. There was enough money in the kitty to treat those who were laid off with compassion. This is not what happened.

  5. I have no doubt when there was a job to do, the people who worked here did a good job.u00a0 But that job (land development) is done.u00a0 The project has moved on, and now the time has come for the Authority staff to move on.u00a0 The people of Battery Park City cannot afford to support a bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy, even though the Authority staff may be nice and worked hard.u00a0 If the staff did not know that they were working for an organization that was set-up for a temporary job, then they should be blaming the leadership who failed to make this clear to them when they were hired.u00a0 nnu00a0There is already a governing agent to maintain the Battery Park City community, and it's called the City of New York.u00a0 I agree that the leadership positions at BPCA, including the President, eventually need to go away as well, and the steps to downsize this organization, certainly suggests steps are being taken in right direction.u00a0 Next step is to turn governance over to the City and completely eliminate all Authority positions.

    • I think you would find that many people who live in Battery Park City are very glad that the Authority exists to pay particular attention to this community and its needs. The parks and gardens of Battery Park City are among the most beautiful in the city and are maintained by a dedicated staff of horticulturists under the jurisdiction of the Authority. The programming in Battery Park City for everyone from infants to seniors is phenomenal — particularly since most of it is free. These amenities are not just for BPC residents. Everyone in the city enjoys them. Since Battery Park City is right next to the World Trade Center and is, for other reasons, a magnet for tourists, the community has special needs in the way of security and maintenance. The Authority looks after both of these. And since BPC is built on landfill in a particularly windy part of the island, there are special maintenance considerations having to do with the seawalls, the buildings and vegetation u2014 plus when construction is in progress, special precautions that need to be taken. The Authority looks after all of that. u00a0nnWhether or not the Authority should continue to exist and what role it should have in BPC if it does exist are separate discussions from the recent layoffs and how they were handled. Nineteen people were fired without notice, without severance pay and without human resources counseling at a time of year when they are unlikely to find new jobs. Some of the people who were fired were in jobs that are still needed. They will either have to be replaced with consultants or with new staff. I don't see how the way this was handled can be condoned even by those who think the Authority is useless.

      • "I think you would find that many people who live in Battery Park City nare very glad that the Authority exists to pay particular attention to nthis community and its needs."u00a0 What evidence do you have to support this statement?u00a0 nnWouldn't a majority in the community rather eliminate BPCA's layer of bureaucracy in exchange lower taxes and fees?u00a0 I'd wager residents would also be more than happy to let the City spread the costs of managing PUBLIC parks tou00a0 ALL City residents and pay a fraction of what they pay today.u00a0u00a0 u00a0 n

        • The evidence? The people who live in Battery Park City voted with their feet. They CHOSE to live here — even though they could have gotten larger apartments elsewhere for the same or less money. (This goes for owners and renters.) Many people displaced on 9/11 chose to return. And why? The list would probably include the beauty of the parks and gardens, the beauty of the river and the esplanade, the quiet compared with the rest of the city, the sense of community, the relative safety, the extensive free programming for people of all ages, neighborhood amenities such as the library and the greenmarket, neighborhood sports activities for kids..and more. Much of this exists because the Battery Park City Authority finances and supervises it. It would be easy to dismiss the Authority's role as a useless layer of bureaucracy. That is not the case. In other parts of the city when something goes wrong, people call 311 and hope they get a response. In Battery Park City, there is immediate accountability. Anyone who lives in BPC and doesn't value what this neighborhood offers made the wrong choice and should move. There is a price for living in BPC. That is understood — or should be understood. The Battery Park City Authority helps to make the neighborhood what it is.

          • These comments not only reflect a basic ignorance of the NYS Authority law granting the Authority its limited powers, but also show poor judgement.u00a0 People should move rather than hold government accountable for quality of life?u00a0 First, go back a read some history — there is no such principle in any democratic form of government called "immediate accountability" — in fact, this concept itself is an oxymoron.u00a0 The hallmarks of democratic government are that it is deliberative and participatory.u00a0 There is neither deliberation with nor participation of the people of Battery Park City in the Authority's governance or business.u00a0 When BPC was a development area, immediacy made sense.u00a0 People smart enough to live in the area understand the difference between a development area and a full-fledged community, and this transition has been made.u00a0u00a0 nu00a0 u00a0 u00a0 nSince these and other basic facts fall outside your grasp, here is the NYS Authority law, which clearly spells out a limited role for the Authority.u00a0 Suggest reading this, because nowhere in the law are there powers granted of an indefinite nature, including any function of a permanentu00a0 bureaucracy OR permanent rights to collect taxes/fees.u00a0 Such language is missing, because the law intended the Authority to have a beginning and an end.u00a0 The end is now here.nnn nhttp://law.justia.com/codes/new-york/2006/public-authorities/idx_pba0a8t12.htmlnnnnnnnnu00a0u00a0u00a0 n

  6. Do a little research and dig a little deeper yourself about the crook Jim Cavanaugh.u00a0 The State Inspector General already caught him red handed during his tenure at the Authority, but he's already back to his same old tricks up in Yonkers.u00a0 The Authority is a haven for these jokers, and it's time to shut it down!u00a0

  7. Take a look at the salaries during Thompson's tenure as Comptroller (just posted at See-Through NY).u00a0 The place filled with political cronies, all of Horwitz' favorites got raises in 2008/2009 (check out the woman who headed Banking) and then gigantic raises as they went out the door in December 2009 to pump up their pensions or as a "thank you" for supporting her.u00a0 Since she didn't have too many fans, I guess those people did need to be rewarded.u00a0 She couldn't get a job after leaving the Comptroller's Office and now she's making a gigantic salary as BPCA president, a job for which it is hard to figure out her qualifications–other than being Thompson's gal.u00a0 This firing incident is totally consistent with her previous M.O. and that's why Thompson keeps her around.

    • Cuomo was supposed to be doing a "comprehensive review of all the agencies and all authorities to nsee how we can streamline and reorganize to reduce costs while providingn the services we need to survive."u00a0 See http://www.dnainfo.com/20101124/downtown/andrew-c… of BPC should be demanding a comprehensive review of the BPC Authority to "streamline and reorganize to reduce costs"!!!

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