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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.