Governor Paterson’s proposed budget deficit reduction plan includes a $300 million raid on the coffers of the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), which would be required to issue new bonds and send the proceeds to Albany. But BPCA board member Charles Urstadt and former authority spokesman Avrum Hyman have a better idea, which they describe on the op-ed page of today’s New York Times:
As two of the officials who helped carry out Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller’s 1967 mandate to build a Lower Manhattan community on landfill in the Hudson River, and considering the unquestionable success of what he proposed evident in today’s vibrant Battery Park City, we believe that New York City, which has a little-remembered option to buy the entire property for $1, should hand over that dollar bill. Let’s finally make Battery Park City, with its 10,000 or so residents and 92 acres of businesses, housing and beautifully maintained green spaces, a part of the city to which it really belongs.
After repaying the $1.1 billion in bonds issued by the authority, Urstadt and Hyman suggest, the city could sell the commercial leases on Battery Park City for $2 billion—a profit of nearly $1 billion. Furthermore, they assert the city could run the Battery Park City development, including park maintenance, for just half the $30 million a year the authority now spends on operating costs. And, finally:
In addition, the development’s unused South Cove could be filled in for $20 million; the resulting land could be used for an iconic 2-million-square-foot building that would both mark the entrance to New York Harbor and net the city what we estimate would be $480 million in land value and $20 million per year in additional payments in lieu of taxes.
This is the kind of far-sighted and imaginative thinking New York needs if it is ever to fully recover from the current financial crisis. By contrast, Paterson’s shortsighted budget plan comes with a massive opportunity cost for the city, not to mention the authority.
The ball is now in Mayor Bloomberg’s corner.