Volume 16 • Issue 54 | June 4 - 10, 2004

Pataki moves B.P.C.-Javits plan forward

By Elizabeth O’Brien
With Albert Amateau

Governor George Pataki introduced legislation on June 3 advancing the controversial plan to commit $350 million in Battery Park City excess funds towards the expansion of the Javits Center in Midtown.

The bill would authorize the planning, design and financing for the extension of the convention center, one aspect of the city and state plan to redevelop the Far West Side that also involves the construction of as much as 28 million square feet of office space and a stadium for the New York Jets football team.

Pataki’s move comes one week after the city’s Independent Budget Office released a report saying that the city had not used $600 million in excess Battery Park City revenue for affordable housing, as outlined in a 1989 agreement. Critics charged that the excess revenue should not be used for West Side development when the city’s original plan for the money remains unfulfilled.

“The intent of the Battery Park City agreement was clearly to create affordable housing,” said Joe Weisbord, staff director of Housing First!, which requested the budget office report, in a statement. “With a worsening crisis for low, moderate and middle-income New Yorkers, we must seize this opportunity.”

The Battery Park City Authority is a state entity on city-owned land. The authority pays its excess funds to the city in lieu of property taxes.

The city acted within its rights to divert excess Battery Park City funds into the general city coffers, said Doug Turetsky, a spokesperson for the Independent Budget Office. A loophole in the 1989 agreement allowed the city to use the excess Battery Park City funds to “maintain fiscal stability…or existing city services” as the city found necessary, according to the budget office report.

A spokesperson for the mayor said the city had actually spent more than $5 billion on affordable housing in the last 10 years, so taxpayers should not be concerned about whether the money comes from one pot or another.

“At the end of the day, what we’re interested in doing is creating more affordable housing, and we’ve been able to do that tenfold than if we used the $600 million,” said Jordan Barowitz, the spokesperson.

Tim Carey, the president and C.E.O. of the Battery Park City Authority, declined through a spokesperson to comment on the use of the authority’s excess revenue to finance the expansion of the Javits Center.

Tom Goodkind, a member of Community Board 1, said he felt the neighborhood was unfairly taking the blame for the city’s affordable housing problem. “Money is fungible, but as a Battery Park City resident, I don’t want to be tagged with a political albatross,” he said.

Community Board 1 has also voiced concerns that the development of the Far West Side will channel resources away from the revitalization of Lower Manhattan. Board members passed a resolution last month recommending that construction on the Far West Side be deferred until the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site is complete.

The expansion of the Javits Center will bump the center’s ranking from 18th to fifth among the nation’s convention facilities, according to the governor’s office. It will increase the exhibit space from 760,000 square feet to 1,100,000 square feet, create an estimated 10,830 new permanent jobs, and add an estimated $53 million in combined annual tax revenue to the city, the governor’s office said.

The state’s $350 million contribution toward the expansion will come from restructuring existing Javits Center bonds and using federal advanced refunding legislation, the governor’s office said. The expansion will occur in two phases, and construction is expected to begin in spring 2005.

Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff said at a June 3 City Council hearing on the proposed New York Sports and Convention Center – the stadium part of the convention center expansion – that the Battery Park City funds would finance only the northern expansion of the convention center, not the stadium. He said that the move would also require approval by the State Legislature and the city Comptroller.


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