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BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER | Fed up with the delayed opening of the Asphalt Green Battery Park City community center, two Lower Manhattan mothers decided to start an online petition demanding that the center’s developer, the Battery Park City Authority, “stop the unnecessary bureaucratic delays.”
To local residents’ dismay, the B.P.C.A. hasn’t yet announced a new opening date, originally set for November 2011.
The petition, addressed to B.P.C.A. President Gayle Horwitz, was posted online the afternoon of Fri., July 27. Within a week, it garnered 245 signatures.
Tribeca resident Erika Teresko, who launched the petition with B.P.C. resident Liz McCabe, said she hopes the B.P.C.A. will have an “open discussion” with the petitioners. “Everyone is sitting around with no information,” she said.
The B.P.C.A. has attributed the delays to a lack of proper permitting from the city. “If it’s a matter of permits, let’s get [New York State Speaker] Sheldon Silver’s office involved and get this done,” Teresko said. “But there are rumors swirling around that the Battery Park City Authority is in litigation with Asphalt Green and that they don’t want them to be the ones who are running this facility.”
The B.P.C.A. didn’t respond by press time to the Downtown Express’s request for comment on the petition.
Teresko voiced her objection to the secrecy. “I just want to get this out in the open,” she said. “If there is litigation going on, what is the litigation about? If there are issues with the city, let’s get some help to contact the city and get them out here to do the inspections.”
McCabe said she frequently walks past the site of the community center, at 212 North End Ave., and recently observed construction had stopped. “If you call B.P.C.A. and ask why, there are never any answers,” she said. “If there’s something legitimate, you say what it is. When people don’t give answers, that’s when my suspicion goes up.”
McCabe attended the B.P.C.A.’s Board of Directors meeting on July 31 in the belief that Asphalt Green would be on the agenda, but it was not discussed in the public part of the session. The last hour of the meeting was in executive session for board members only. “If there is litigation involved,” she mused, “maybe it was discussed there.”
McCabe also attended Community Board 1’s July 31 full-board meeting to solicit help in finding out what’s happening with the center. She had not previously attended a community board meeting, but said that this would not be her last one. “I’m personally going to keep after this until we get some kind of answer,” she promised.
People who have signed the petition mentioned a number of reasons for doing so. “My family joined and paid money well over a year ago,” commented Bettina Teodoro. “The community deserves an honest explanation for the delay in opening.”
Another petitioner who requested anonymity believes the delays in opening the new facility “are driven by behind-the-scenes, back-room local tactics, which are frustratingly not transparent to the community and are definitely not benefiting the community at all. The fact that the delays are driven by small, entrenched special interest groups or individuals wielding power is really ridiculous given the size and purpose of the project.”
The petitioner also commented that the B.P.C.A.’s contract with Asphalt Green, which was signed by former B.P.C.A. chairman James Gill and president Jim Cavanaugh, is not to Gayle Horwitz’s liking — perhaps because of the revenue splits entailed — and that she is deliberately delaying the community center’s opening in the hope that Asphalt Green will choose to sever the contract.
McCabe, who with her family had signed up last year for a charter membership, said she had also heard that rumor. “Why make the community suffer?” she asked.
“I don’t want my money back. I want the facility opened.”
Teresko and McCabe sent the petition to the B.P.C.A. on Mon., July 30. As of Tues., Aug. 7, they hadn’t received a reply.
“To not address the petition at all after receiving it, I think is irresponsible,” Teresko said. “I just feel that everyone’s passing the buck, and no one is really providing any answers.”