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Trouble at Gateway Plaza: Every elected official with a toehold in Lower Manhattan showed up at I.S. 276 on Thurs., May 17 for a meeting sponsored by the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association to discuss leaky windows and walls, astronomical electric bills and runaway rents at the oldest residential complex in Battery Park City. With more than 1,700 apartments, Gateway Plaza is also the largest.
“The problem is that this building was built almost 30 years ago,” explained Glenn Plaskin, vice chairman of the Tenants Association. “It literally leaks air. It’s not just the windows. It’s the metal mullions on the inside of the windows that freeze over and are uninsulated. In addition, there are non-insulated metal panels on the exterior of the building so that in the winter you freeze if you don’t put on the heat.
Adding insult to injury, Plaskin added, tenants are paying for the structural defects in the form of steep electric bills.
Jeff Galloway, a member of the Tenants Association Board of Directors, said that he often has a $600-a-month electric bill in the winter for his two-bedroom apartment. “We’ve had reports from more than one tenant where they have gone away for a month and turned everything off, including the refrigerator, and come home to a $200 electric bill,” he said.
Under an arrangement established when Gateway Plaza was built, the LeFrak Organization, which owns and manages the building, buys electricity in bulk and then passes the cost on to the tenants. “There’s a contract between the landlord and the Battery Park City Authority that governs how they’re entitled to sell electricity to the tenants,” said Galloway. “The B.P.C.A. performs audits periodically. We have access to them and we’re trying to study them to determine the extent to which the landlord is complying with the agreement. We still don’t have the full answers that we need.”
Galloway said that New York State Senator Daniel Squadron’s office has been helping to unravel the question of exactly why the electric bills are so high. “It’s possible that everything is being done according to the contract and that the problem is the windows and the walls, and that’s why we pay these astronomical fees,” Galloway said.
Another problem at Gateway is that rents are going through the roof. People who lived there prior to summer 2009 are protected by a rent stabilization agreement that is good through 2020, but new tenants are subject to market-rate rents. Some of them have reported rent increases of 25 percent.
“People are reluctant to remain in a community if they don’t have rent protection or ownership,” said Galloway. “We’re concerned that the character of Gateway is slowly changing and over time will continue to change if rent protections leak away. It decreases the neighborhood feel of a place if people are going in and out like a revolving door.”
Galloway said that the Tenants Association expects to work with New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on the rent stabilization issue. Silver’s office brokered the 2009 agreement that protected Gateway Plaza’s tenants at that time.
Galloway estimated that between 100 and 200 people attended the Tenants Association meeting, which ended with a “town hall” session in which they were invited to ask questions, make comments and air their grievances.
“The point of the meeting wasn’t to solve the problems,” said Plaskin. “It was to draw attention to them.”
Shearwater and Ventura: Most of the magnificent ships of OpSail and Fleet Week will have departed by Wed., May 30, but not all of them. Two historic sailing ships, Shearwater and Ventura, can be found from mid-May to mid-October in Battery Park City’s North Cove Marina. Both were in the OpSail parade of ships.
The ships, made up of teak decks and mahogany-paneled staterooms, are national landmarks and offer public sails out onto New York Harbor.
Shearwater is a classic Maine schooner that was launched in May 1929 as a luxury vessel owned by Charles E. Dunlap, a prominent industrialist. She can carry up to 48 passengers and goes out seven days a week to show people the Statue of Liberty, the Hudson River’s dramatic sunsets and the New York City skyline at night. On Sundays, there are Champagne brunch sails and wine-tasting sails.
Ventura was commissioned in 1919 and launched in 1920. Her first owner was George Baker, one of the founders of the First National Bank of New York (a forerunner of Citibank). He also gave most of the money to found Harvard Business School and paid for Columbia University’s Baker Field.
Ventura can carry up to 25 passengers. She offers public sails of New York Harbor on Friday nights, 6:15 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday afternoons, 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The rest of the time, she is used for private functions including sleepovers. From 9 p.m. on Friday nights to 10 a.m. the next morning, one or two couples can rent her to sleep aboard in either North Cove Marina or at anchor near the Statue of Liberty.
For more information about Shearwater, visit www.manhattanbysail.com or call (212) 619-0907. For more information about Ventura, go to www.sailnewyork.com or call (212) 786-1204.
No news is no news: Parents who are anxiously awaiting news as to when Asphalt Green Battery Park City might open, so that they know if there will indeed be a summer program there for their children, will have to continue to wait. A spokesperson for Asphalt Green said, “Ask the Battery Park City Authority.” Three e-mails and two telephone calls to the B.P.C.A. went unanswered. In addition, there was no answer from the B.P.C.A. about whether the Authority will be issuing a Request for Proposals for an ice skating rink this year. An R.F.P. went out last year, but there were no takers.
For a brief period, Battery Park City had an ice skating rink. It was on the ball fields between Murray and Warren Streets, West Street and North End Avenue. The opening of the rink in November 2009 was marred when a large pane of glass fell from the neighboring Goldman Sachs building, then under construction. On Jan. 28, 2010, a big piece of plywood fell from the Liberty Luxe building, also under construction, while children were skating.
Neither of these events was good for business. The operator, Rink Management Services of Virginia, asked to be released from its six-year contract, and the B.P.C.A. agreed. In February of this year, Rink Management sued Goldman Sachs, Tishman Construction and Milstein Properties, the developer of Liberty Luxe.
So perhaps the all-season artificial turf that currently makes up the ball fields will have to satisfy local residents’ sports cravings for the foreseeable future. It’s easy to see why ice skating rink operators might prefer to open elsewhere!
To comment on Battery Park City Beat or to suggest article ideas, e-mail Terese Loeb Kreuzer directly at TereseLoeb@mac.com.