Liu says mayor wants to take over Battery Park City
By Julie Shapiro
After grabbing Governors Island and Brooklyn Bridge Park from the state, Mayor Bloomberg has now set his sights on a new acquisition: Battery Park City.
Bloomberg’s office asked Comptroller John Liu earlier this year to study the feasibility of taking over Battery Park City, which is now under the state’s jurisdiction, Liu told reporters at his office Thursday morning.
“The mayor has sought to regain control of Battery Park City,” Liu said.
The city has long had the option of acquiring Battery Park City from the state for just $1, and Liu’s comments confirmed speculation that the city has begun to seriously consider doing so. Liu said he had not decided whether the takeover would be beneficial to the city.
“We’re certainly examining the pros and cons,” Liu said. “Not all the issues are fleshed out yet.”
The biggest advantage of a takeover is that the city would receive all the revenue that flows from the neighborhood each year in property taxes and ground rents. On the other hand, the city would also have to assume the neighborhood’s $1 billion in debt and would face additional maintenance responsibilities.
Liu said he wanted to hear from Battery Park City residents and commercial tenants before he made a recommendation.
“No decision is imminent,” he said, “but obviously my office is going to listen to the concerns of all parties involved very thoroughly.”
The mayor’s office did not immediately comment.
Charles Urstadt, the founding chairperson of the Battery Park City Authority, has been advocating the city’s takeover of the 92-acre property for over a year. Urstadt argues that the $1 billion in debt should not be an insurmountable obstacle, because the city could sell the neighborhood’s commercial property.
“This is good news,” Urstadt said Thursday when told of the comptroller’s comments. “It would be for the benefit of the city.”
Gov. Paterson removed Urstadt from the B.P.C.A. board last month, perhaps because of Urstadt’s consistent calls to disband the authority, whose members are appointed by the governor.
If the city moves forward with the takeover, Urstadt has several recommendations: First, the city should keep the B.P.C. Parks Conservancy, which maintains the neighborhood’s public spaces. Second, the city should standardize the ground rents that B.P.C. property owners pay on top of the equivalent of city property taxes. Finally, the city should provide generous severance packages to the B.P.C.A. staffers who would no longer be needed to run the neighborhood.
“Those are all very doable items,” Urstadt said.
Bill Thompson, the new chairperson of the B.P.C.A. and former city comptroller, could not immediately be reached for comment.