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BY ZACH WILLIAMS | For members of Community Board 1, talking with the Battery Park City Authority is itself success.
Authority President Shari Hyman spoke at the June 3 meeting of C.B. 1’s Battery Park City Committee, saying she was committed to neighborhood outreach. While she offered few specifics on how the authority may help C.B. 1 in addressing outstanding issues of affordable housing, infrastructure and quality of life issues within B.P.C., committee members expressed optimism that the hiring of community liaison Robin Forst for example would help reverse a relationship which has deteriorated in recent years.
“We argued lots of times, disagreed many but at the end this was developed into a wonderful community. And we observed that in very recent times the Battery Park City Authority had literally exited the public arena and there was no dialogue, no understanding of what was going on there,” Anthony Notaro, committee co-chairperson, said at the beginning of the meeting.
Hyman outlined her experience during her first appearance ever before the committee. Appointed in January to her current post by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, she has served in recent years as commissioner of the New York City Business Integrity Commission, city director of business acceleration and other municipal positions. She attended the meeting ostensibly to respond to a report, released late last year, detailing committee grievances with the authority.
“I wanna start the dialogue, answer some of your questions tonight and just let you know that we are interested in having a dialogue,” she said at the end of her opening statement to the committee.
Questions about what the authority can do to retain local affordable housing units, promote disaster readiness, quell excessive ferry noise and divert more neighborhood funds back into the local community all elicited responses from Hyman that discussion had or would commence with relevant stakeholders.
“As much as we have stopped doing the development per se, the mission is still the same right? Our programs and the maintenance of infrastructure, so our focus is the same: to maintain world class community parks, to increase our programming where we can where there’s opportunity. I know we already have a great series but there is always more we could do,” she said.
Legal parameters limit the authority’s control over funding for community groups as well as its ability to pressure neighborhood landlords to better accomodate rent-stabilized residents. Hyman said that the authority must wait on the findings of the state attorney general before negotiating a response to reported evictions at 41 and 42 River Terrace.
Several board members said that while they understood such limitations, the authority should become a partner in directing residents’ concerns through the proper official processes. Efforts to get New York Waterway to better control noise from its Hudson River ferries must continue to go through elected representatives such as State Senator Daniel Squadron, though the company has yet to respond to them, according to Hyman.
“It’s not our jurisdiction but we are happy to help facilitate,” she said.
Asked what her specific priorities have been as president this year of an organization overseeing more than $344 million in revenues, Hyman told the Downtown Express that she has not been on the job long. However, she has not deviated from her predecessors, she added.
Committee member Tom Goodkind said the presence of an authority president at the meeting was “a good first step,” and he encouraged her to take a more active role on affordable housing issues, likening the River Terrace buildings to the “Grapes of Wrath.”
The authority, he said has “their eyes on the street. It’s their job more than anyone else to inform their bosses about the horrendous things that are going on in this community.”