Downtown Express file photo by Patrick Hedlund
New Battery Park City Authority board member Bill Thompson suggested that he is open to renegotiating ground rents, which will sharply increase for many condo owners in the coming years.
Thompson move to B.P.C. board is official
By Julie Shapiro
Bill Thompson moved one step closer to taking over the Battery Park City Authority this week when the State Senate approved his appointment to the authority’s board.
Gov. David Paterson tapped Thompson to lead the authority two weeks ago. Now that the Senate has confirmed the appointment, the other authority board members are expected to elect Thompson chairperson of the authority at their next meeting March 29.
Thompson, who declined an interview request Wednesday, replaces Charles Urstadt, who founded the Battery Park City Authority 42 years ago and recently served as acting chairperson, since former Chairperson James Gill stepped down last month.
“Well, I’m out of work,” Urstadt said in phone interview Wednesday morning. “I’ve been bumped. That’s the way it goes. No surprise — it’s inevitable.”
Urstadt’s term expired at the end of 2009 and Gill’s expired a year earlier. Another two board members’ terms also expired recently — Lynn Rollins and Andy Shenoy — so Paterson may add up to three more members to the seven-member board. He has already floated Hispanic activist Fernando Mateo for one of the seats, but the Senate has not yet acted on that appointment.
Paterson said in a statement that Thompson is a “proven leader…[who] worked tirelessly” as city comptroller. “I look forward to working with him in making New York City and Battery Park City a better place to live, work and raise a family,” Paterson said.
Thompson, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor last fall, also won positive reviews from State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who represents Battery Park City.
“Having someone of Bill Thompson’s stature and record is very important,” Squadron told Downtown Express after Tuesday’s vote. Squadron was particularly pleased with Thompson’s commitment to keeping Battery Park City affordable for current residents and to keeping the promise that the neighborhood’s surplus funds go toward building affordable housing in the city.
As comptroller, Thompson oversaw some of the authority’s funds and pushed the mayor to use them for affordable housing. That position set him at odds with Paterson last year, when Paterson proposed using B.P.C. money for the state budget.
At a meeting of the Senate Corporations Committee last week, Thompson sounded open to a compromise suggested by Squadron that would allow the state to use some B.P.C. money for this difficult budget cycle but would create an ironclad commitment to affordable housing in the future.
Thompson also implied that he would support the B.P.C. residents who are currently trying to renegotiate their ground rents with the authority. Many B.P.C. buildings are slated to receive sharp rent increases in the next few years and hope the authority will agree to mitigate them.
“Making sure Battery Park City stays affordable…I would say is my first priority, and continuing to make sure the people in that neighborhood are provided for,” Thompson said at the Feb. 24 meeting.
Thompson also said he planned to take a “top-to-bottom” look at the Battery Park City Authority to make it more efficient.
Thompson has already said he may run for mayor in 2013, which means he would not be able to serve his entire six-year term on the Battery Park City board.
With so many seats opening up on the authority’s board, Community Board 1’s B.P.C. Committee is hoping to see more active community residents appointed. One authority board member, Robert Mueller, is a resident of Battery Park City, and Squadron said he agreed with the community board that additional qualified and active residents would be a good addition.
At the Senate Corporations Committee meeting last week, Thompson acknowledged that he did not know the neighborhood “intimately,” but he said he looked forward to learning more.
After the committee approved his appointment, Thompson leaned over to shake Squadron’s hand.
“See you in the ’hood,” Thompson told the senator.