Volume 79, Number 22 | November 04 - 10, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


B.P.C. bucks
Battery Park City, built on city public land more than 30 years ago — actually on landfill from the original Twin Towers construction — was always going to bring more affordable places to live in New York City. Originally, two-thirds of the apartments were going to be for middle- and low-income people, but 20 years ago, the state and city promised to use money from neighborhood ground rents to build affordable housing around the city.

It didn’t work out that way. Mayors more often than not used an “emergency” loophole and diverted the money to the general revenue stream. Although this was wrong, at least the city money was used to help pay for essential city services and presumably staved off painful cuts, such as teacher or police layoffs. But now, Governor David Paterson is proposing an unprecedented state raid on the housing fund to secure $300 million to help fill a $3 billion budget deficit. Fifty million dollars would be a direct raid, and $250 million would be from bonds issued by the Battery Park City Authority, which would then be unable to pay as much into the fund with a higher debt service.

The authority, whose board is made up of gubernatorial appointees, shares control of the fund with Mayor Mike Bloomberg and City Comptroller Bill Thompson. The two mayoral candidates did not agree on much this campaign, but the pair teamed up four years ago to once again use the money for affordable housing, directing $130 million to build and preserve below-market apartments. They have indicated resistance to the state request, but they may compromise with Paterson, particularly since the governor should be able to pressure the authority to sit on the money. The fund is expected to reach $400 million by the spring.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and state Senator Daniel Squadron, whose districts include B.P.C., want to use the money for the state deficit, although they also hope for a long-term housing commitment. Given that Albany funding is often seen in terms of Upstate-Downstate tradeoffs, it is a little disheartening that these two Downtowners are so ready to accept a raid on the city funds. The state is in dire shape, and it may be the least bad option to send some of this money to Albany. However, if it must be done, the state’s debt to the city should not be ignored, and there must be a real, permanent commitment to keeping more housing affordable.
It’s expensive enough to live in the city without politicians conspiring to make it harder.          

Brooklyn Banks

One of Lower Manhattan’s quirky treasures, the Brooklyn Banks, is going to close for at least a few years in order to allow for extensive renovation work on the Brooklyn Bridge and its ramps.

The area has been a nationally known skateboard park for four decades. It was saved from extinction five years ago.

Views may differ on the graffiti at the Banks, and there’s definitely room to make it safer for boarding and biking stunts, but it would be a shame to lose this Downtown cultural landmark.

A safe bridge obviously is essential. But the Department of Transportation should discuss the park closure with the Banks’ leaders to see if there is a way this small area can stay or be moved during the long renovation project. We hope it can.

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