By Konrad Putzier
Nine years after proposing that the city buy back Battery Park City, veteran city planners Charles Urstadt and Avrum Hyman have renewed their campaign for the deal.
On March 5, New York’s mayor Bill de Blasio received a check for $1 with a memo that read: “To buy back BPCA”
The check was from Urstadt, and the acronym referred to the Battery Park City Authority, which manages the high-rise development built on landfill in the Hudson River. According to Urstadt, all it takes to buy back the site is a mere $1.
Along with the check, Urstadt sent the mayor a letter co-written with Avrum Hyman in which he laid out his case, first made in a New York Times op-ed in 2005.
They explained that when the city transferred the title to the land to the Authority in 1979, it included a provision that allowed it to buy it back from Battery Park City for $1.
The authors argue that the city should use that option for two reasons.
First, they claim the Authority has an annual net income of $167 million and that revenue from the site far outweighs the cost of its debt obligations.
This means the city would gain a new source of income that it could spend – for example – on affordable housing.
Second, they argue that the Battery Park City Authority has become a “political dumping ground for Albany and a salary source and way-station to a pension for many of its employees” and should be abolished.
Scrapping the BPCA, the authors claim, could save around $15 million in unnecessary expenses.
Urstadt and Hyman were among the officials tasked by then-governor Nelson Rockefeller with creating Battery Park City in the late 1960s.
Urstadt served as the New York State commissioner of housing and community renewal under Rockefeller, and later went on to run the REIT Urstadt Biddle Properties.
Avrum Hyman was Urstadt’s deputy commissioner at the time, and later served as the BPCA’s spokesperson.
The Mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.