Volume 17 • Issue 23 | Oct. 29 - Nov. 4, 2004

B.P.C.A., residents wonder about agency’s future

By Ronda Kaysen

The Battery Park City Authority, the state agency that oversees the development and management of Battery Park City, may soon enter a new — and far less influential — phase. After the request for proposal for the last undeveloped plot of land is released in January, and after the remaining six undeveloped sites are built out, the authority’s primary job – to develop the 92-acre neighborhood built atop the debris left from the building of the World Trade Center – will be complete.

All but three sites — Sites 3, 23 and 24 — have designated developers, and once the R.F.P.s for Sites 23 and 24 at the west end of the ballfields are released in January, the authority will be one step closer to finishing its development. Although it will take an act of the state legislature — which created the authority in 1968 — to dismantle it, the city could decide at anytime to pay off the authority’s bonds and assume management.

“We’re getting towards the end of our mission,” said Leticia Remauro, vice president for community relations at the authority, at a Community Board 1 Battery Park City committee meeting in October. “Once [Sites] 24 and 23 get built out, we’re finished.”

No one, not even the authority, expected the development to be completed so quickly. Until the real estate boom of the mid-1990s, development in the West Side neighborhood was slow moving. But the demand for residential and commercial property in the late 1990s accelerated the neighborhood’s development. The 9/11 collapse of the World Trade Center put development of the last commercial lot in doubt until Goldman Sachs agreed to move to Site 26 earlier this year.

“I don’t think anyone thought we’d get rid of Site 26,” Remauro said of the parking lot site near the movie theater. “When the Goldman Sachs building happened, that took away the last thing that would have delayed the build out.”

For some local residents, the potential end of the authority signals not only an end of an era, but an end of a powerful advocate for their community’s needs. “I’m very upset that it’s coming to an end because [authority president] Tim Carey and his staff have been very responsive to the neighborhood and made wonderful things happen,” Linda Belfer, a 24-year Battery Park City resident and C.B. 1 member, said in a telephone interview.

Other administrations, according to Belfer, have been less responsive to the community’s needs, slighting residents’ concerns and showing little interest in securing amenities for the community. “Let’s just say that some of the administrations were not at all responsive to the neighborhood,” said Belfer. “There were years that we found ourselves involved in major fights.” Belfer remembers one such fight, over a wall at Wagner Park, as particularly brutal.

Under Carey, appointed by Governor George Pataki, the authority became the first agency in the city to require all new developments to meet environmental “green” standards.

The authority also created the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy, a non-profit arm that maintains the community’s park space. Anthony Notaro, chairperson of C.B.1’s Battery Park City committee, thinks the conservancy will become a more dominant player in the authority once the development mission is complete. “The conservancy is going to be a major part of the future” of Battery Park City, he said in a telephone interview. “Everybody really loves the work that they do. They’ve maintained the area in such a beautiful state.”

Carey said during an interview this summer that under one scenario, the authority could disband but the conservancy would remain.

Once the final plots are built, Battery Park City’s concerns will be similar to those of Manhattan’s other numerous neighborhoods. As the managing body, the authority addresses neighborhood’s public transportation, parking and quality of life concerns. Because Battery Park City is a planned community — unlike most Manhattan neighborhoods — it has been able to prepare for many of these problems in ways that other neighborhoods have not. Still, an official body of some sort may be needed to insure that these issues — and any other problems that arise in the future — are addressed.

In other neighborhoods, that official body is the city, a possibility that does not sit well with some residents. “For a long time now the city has not been terribly responsive to the problems of residents in various places,” said Belfer. In the case of a city-managed neighborhood, the residents will have to assume a more active role in the community. “We will not drop the ball in terms of being a watchdog and negotiating with the city if anything needs to be rectified,” she said, citing the community board and the Gateway Plaza tenants association, of which Belfer is president, as two important watchdogs.


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