Battery Park City

by John Bandler

Battery Park City (BPC) is a unique area in Lower Manhattan, New York City, with unique issues of governance and cost for homeowners and residents. This page summarizes some basic information which took me many years to figure out and compile. Your learning can be accelerated with this webpage, and there are links on where to find additional information.

Battery Park City duck pond

This article covers:

  • Issues for owners and residents in BPC
  • About the BPCA and their non profit
  • The Battery Park City Homeowners Coalition (BPCHC)
  • Pending legislation
  • Advocacy and groups
  • Laws and regulations
  • Witty conclusion
  • Links throughout and at the end.

Issues of owners and residents in BPC

Some of the main issues owners and residents in BPC face are:

  • Proper representation on the board of the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA)
    • The BPCA is a uniquely constituted governmental authority with a board appointed by the governor. If no board members reside in BPC, are they properly considering the interests of BPC owners and residents when making governmental decisions?
  • Uncertainty about what happens to a building when the ground lease agreement with BPCA expires
  • Uncertainty about what happens in BPC when the BPCA enabling legislation expires
  • High ground rent/lease to BPCA
  • High payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) (this is paid to BPCA and forwarded to NYC, as BPC owners pay their share of city taxes)
  • The usual issues facing anyone living anywhere, including big city issues.

Costs in BPC buildings include:

  • Ground lease (rent) to BPCA. BPCA owns all the land, buildings lease it from BPCA.
  • Payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT), essentially NYC property taxes paid through BPCA and then forwarded to NYC.
  • Other typical building expenses.

Ground lease

In BPC, each building has its own contract (ground lease) with BPCA, as BPCA owns the land. That contract has a duration and thus expiration, and specifies the building ground rent, and increases in the rent. As a ground lease approaches expiration, that increases uncertainty for the building and owners. Payments to BPCA for the ground rent and facilities fees could be about 15% of budget.

BPCA uses this ground lease for expenses to maintain BPC, to service its debt, and capital improvements, especially to the world-renowned public space in BPC. All of NYC and tourists are able to enjoy the fruits of this investment.

Negotiations are ostensibly occurring now between representatives of BPCHC and the BPCA to try reach an agreement for the ground lease of 18 residential condo buildings in BPC. BPCHC has criticized the BPCA for not negotiating in good faith.

PILOT (property taxes)

Payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) are essentially property taxes that condo owners pay their building, their building pays to BPCA, and BPCA forwards to NYC. Payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) through BPCA could be 50% of a building's budget. These taxes are set through NYC government, and BPCA essentially collects and forwards the funds.

Thus, BPC apartment owners pay property tax like other homeowners. It is the ground lease which is an additional expense and uncertainty.

Battery Park City Authority (BPCA)

The BPCA manages BPC. Technically BPCA is a New York State public-benefit corporation. It has a board appointed by the Governor, staff, and is a unique governmental agency. BPCA has a close relationship -- essentially co-joined existence -- with a non-profit called the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy Corporation (BPCPCC).

BPCA has a lot of information on itself website at  https://bpca.ny.gov/. As basic information about themselves, their website states:

Established in 1968, the Battery Park City Authority was charged with developing and maintaining a well-balanced community on the Lower West Side of Manhattan, in place of where deteriorating piers once stood in the Hudson River. Battery Park City has achieved worldwide acclaim as a model for community renewal. Through a public/private partnership between the Battery Park City Authority and private developers, this planned community has become a blueprint for successful urban development.
See https://bpca.ny.gov/about/who-we-are/

The BPCA is established and chartered through a New York state law sometimes called the enabling legislation (see next section).

BPCA has done many wonderful things in BPC, which has many excellent green spaces for all to enjoy. People from all over the city -- and indeed the world -- make good use of this beautiful space. There are many wonderful dedicated employees caring for the community spaces.

BPCA has also been criticized, for example:

  • Board representation. The BPCA is governed by a board and executive officers. See https://bpca.ny.gov/about/leadership/. There is no requirement that any BPCA board members reside in BPC, and currently two members own property in BPC but it is uncertain if they reside in BPC. The New York State Legislature has passed a bill requiring the Governor to name BPC full-time residents to a majority of the BPCA Board seats. This would provide better representation of residents and better align the board with other government service residency requirements.
  • BPCA use of taxpayer dollars to arguably advocate against homeowner / taxpayers within BPC.
  • Whether BPCA is negotiating in good faith (or even negotiating at all) with the BPCHC.

Battery Park City Parks Conservancy Corporation (BPCPCC)

The Battery Park City Parks Conservancy Corporation (BPCPCC) is a non-profit corporation that ostensibly manages the parks. However, it is essentially a coextensive organization with the BPCA, an unusual arrangement (through not necessarily a fault of BPCA). The name BPCPCC does not exactly roll off the tongue so it is abbreviated in various ways which adds to the confusion, coupled with a defunct website and filings that are missing from the NYS AG public portal.

Warning: minutiae follows so feel free to skip to the next section. Normally, separate legal entities means they are separate. And non-profits must follow special rules. Here, there is a confusing and awkward relationship of an ostensible non-profit and a public-benefit corporation that is essentially a government entity. This relationship may not be BPCA's fault, but a product of the enabling legislation. That said, BPCA might be able to utilize the non-profit status differently or make certain things clearer.

  • BPCA refers to this nonprofit entity within their Rules and Regulations as the "Battery Park City Parks Corporation" and informally as "ParksCorp." Neither name seems fully accurate or consistent with what they call it elsewhere.
  • BPCPCC was previously publicly known and identified itself as the "Battery Park City Parks Conservancy", and once had a website of bpcparks.org but that site is no longer operable and redirects to the BPCA website.
  • Agenda items on the BPCA website refer to it as the "Battery Park City Parks Conservancy", and presents official IRS filings calling it the "Battery Park City Parks Conservancy Corporation".
  • A review of NY public records via the NYS Attorney General and NYS Department of State show the official name is "Battery Park City Parks Conservancy Corporation", with  EIN/Tax ID 13-3449909, website
    www.bpcparks.org (which now redirects to BPCA website), with President and CEO BJ Jones, and a board that is coextensive with the BPCA board.  Their last filing available on the NYS AG site was the 2017 Char 500 and IRS 990 filed in June 2019. (The absence of recent filings initially made me think the non-profit was defunct and no longer filing, but that is probably not so).
  • This non-profit is still going, but for whatever reason the more recent filings are not available online via the NYS AG website.
  • Some searching reveals more recent Char 500 and IRS 990 draft filings on the BPCA website. For example:
    • BPCPCC 2018 Char 500 and IRS 990 filings for 2018 filed April 2020 here.
    • BPCPCC agenda of 4/28/2021 and draft 2019 Char 500 and IRS 990 documents here.
    • BPCPCC agenda of 4/27/2022 and draft 2020 Char 500 and IRS 990 documents here.

Pending legislation regarding BPC relevant to these issues

Pending legislation has no force of law unless and until it becomes a law. For a bill to become a law it must be passed by the NYS Senate and NYS Assembly and then signed by the Governor. Keep that in mind as you read about these proposed laws.

NYS S9031A/A10371A (2021-2022) seeks to expand the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) Board of Directors from seven members to nine members and requires that a majority of board members be primary residents of Battery Park City.  This bill passed both houses of the State Legislature in June 2022 and is awaiting the governor’s signature. 

The links to the Senate and Assembly versions of this bill are:

NYS S9032B/A10414A (2021-2022) seeks to extend the Battery Park City ground rent leases from 2069 to 2119 and clarifies some confusion on whether income limited senior citizens and disabled people qualify for rebates on the ground rent they pay to the BPCA.  This bill passed both houses of the State Legislature in June 2022 and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

The links to the Senate and Assembly versions of this bill are:

Advocacy to elected and unelected officials

As always for government decisions and action, individual and group advocacy can help. Please consider the mode of advocacy and discourse that we want in our country and try to live up to it, especially in these times (more context later). Also, consider that everyone has limited bandwidth, prioritize your advocacy effectively (more later).

Some relevant elected officials are listed below. Please stay on top of upcoming elections and district changes.

If you are a citizen and eligible to vote, please exercise your right to vote. We are in the midst of election cycles and district changes, the below information will change soon.

  • NY Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou
  • NY Assembly Member Deborah Glick
  • NY State Sen Brian Kavanagh
  • Governor Kathy Hochul (appoints the BPCA Board)
  • Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine
  • NYC Council member Christopher Marte
  • U.S. Congressperson Jerry Nadler

BPCA officials are not elected but part of their duty is to serve the BPC community, their information can be found on their website.

Advocacy groups

Battery Park City Homeowners Coalition (BPCHC)

The Battery Park City Homeowners Coalition (BPCHC) represents all BPC condos in negotiations with the BPCA. BPCHC is the only group authorized to negotiate on the behalf of buildings with the BPCA and it is doing so.

BPCHC helped negotiate the 2011 ground lease amendment. Pat Smith is the BPCHC board president, and he and other coalition board members have been working hard on this important task, donating their time to the cause.

The BPCHC has made statements and provided supporting information indicating that:

  • The BPCA has not been negotiating in good faith with BPCHC and BPC buildings.
  • The BPCA has not put out fully accurate information about facts relevant to the negotiation and the merits of each side.
  • The BPCA spent taxpayer money to lobby the taxpayers against BPCHC (and while doing so presented inaccurate or distorted facts).

Other groups that advocate or represent the BPC community.

Advocacy revisited

I think we should be mindful of what is happening elsewhere in the country. Other places, government workers and officials are being threatened and harassed, even assaulted physically. We saw the U.S. Capitol attacked, heard how poll workers were threatened, harassed, and taunted, and it is all too common to see public servants mistreated.

None of that has happened here to my knowledge. But I did once view a webpage where a personal insult was made about a BPCA official. I thought the insult was unseemly and also did not serve the cause. This type of speech while insulting and cruel is probably protected by our Constitution, and in the context of other discourse and action in this country, it may seem like no big deal.

But we should be mindful that our words matter, and we can strive to set a positive example for political discourse and advocacy. Our words should call to facts, logic, reason, and justice. We should forgo insults and never attempt to incite hatred or contempt or worse.

As you survey the wide swath of elected and appointed officials in this entire country over the past six years, our local NYC and BPCA officials are mostly decent people trying to do their jobs as best they can. Reasonable people will always disagree, some decisions may even be bad, and some people might not be right for the job. But we should moderate our own discourse for the sake of good society and good government. Also for the sake of advancing the BPC cause and properly representing BPC.

Prioritizing your advocacy

Consider also how to prioritize your advocacy. Government officials are busy, hear from many constituents, and need to make difficult decisions and compromises.

There are two issues on the forefront, clearly defined, with a window of opportunity for prioritization:

  1. Ground lease negotiations, and
  2. BPCA board representation.

There are many other issues that are murkier and could dilute and distract from focus on these two issues. Make your own choice, but if you value the above two issues, consider focusing on resolving them first before turning to other issues.

Laws and regulations

BPCA enabling statute

The BPCA enabling statute is known as the "Battery Park City Authority Act" and is found in the Article 8 of Title 12 of the New York Public Authorities Law (NY PBA), which is found in Chapter 43-A of New York's Consolidated Laws. This might be cited as NY Public Authorities (PBA) Article 8, Title 12, §1970 et seq.

If I were going to lay out where this law fits into the maze of other statutes, it might be:

  • New York's Consolidated Laws
    • New York Public Authorities Law (NY PBA) (Chapter 43-A of New York's Consolidated Laws)
      • Article 8 (Miscellaneous Authorities)
        • Title 12 (No title or "Battery Park City Authority")
        • Sections 1970-1988 (§1970 et seq. or §§1970-1988)

Links:

Parks Rules and Regulations

Conclusion and disclaimers

This article is for your initial information and to get you started. I don't warranty accuracy and I don't promise that I am an impartial person on this issue (though I tried to write this impartially). This is a draft and work-in-progress, please report any suggestions or corrections (including citation formats). Do your own research and consult reliable sources and then form your own opinion and take your own appropriate action based on facts and reason. This is about the issues, laws, and facts, and no endorsement or criticism of any individual, official, candidate, or advocacy group is implied.

Some very knowledgeable people helped me learn much of this information and some have corrected and improved my initial work -- so they get a good amount of credit for what is right. If anything is not accurate that falls on me (not them) but also remember I have disclaimed liability.

Additional reading

See links above within the article (a few are repeated below) plus a few more.

This article is hosted at https://johnbandler.com/battery-park-city. Copyright John Bandler. This is still a work-in-progress, please report any suggestions or corrections, and do your own research.

This article will not be made available on Medium.com.

Originally posted 9/12/2022, updated 9/30/2022.