State Senator Daniel Squadron has called on the Battery Park City Authority to allow for public comment at their meetings, reanimating a long controversial topic for both residents and the Authority.
The current system allows for residents to submit written comments and permits elected officials to speak on their behalf. Residents can also submit comments up to 24 hours following a meeting for inclusion in that meeting’s minutes.
Squadron, who expressed his views during an address to the board earlier this month, called this system “woefully inadequate,” and urged the board to allow community members to share their perspectives directly.
Squadron called attention to the fact that the majority of the board do not reside in Battery Park City, and that for this reason, “it is especially important that local residents be allowed to share their local perspective with the Board at these meetings.”
He went on to list a sample of complaints the board might hear if they allowed for community comment, including concerns about transparency and the need for fair housing. Squadron also listed 22 government organization that allow for direct public comment and benefit as a result.
“The operations of these organizations are not diminished by greater public participation; they are enhanced. I strongly urge the Board to follow these examples, reconsider its previous decision, and allow the public the opportunity to directly address the board at Authority meetings,” Squadron said.
A spokesman for the Authority, Nick Sbordone, said in a statement that the current method does allow for public engagement despite what Squadron had to say.
“Unlike the public comment sessions of some other boards, where individuals (usually with a pre-imposed time limit) read statement after statement to members who sit silently and without discussion, our policy provides for actual engagement between the public’s elected representatives — on any matter those representatives feel appropriate to discuss — and the BPCA Board in an open forum.”
This is not the first time complaints about transparency have been directed at the Authority, nor is it the first BPCA has faced controversy. In the past they received complaints after cutting the Park Enforcement Patrol in favor of a private security force, which reportedly failed to stop two BPC teenagers from being assaulted just one day after their contract was signed. Points of contention also include the disposition of North Cove Marina, which was given over to a mega-developer last year at the expense of a popular sailing school without consulting the community.
Sbordone, though, said community members has several channels through which they can communicate with the Authority. He mentioned quarterly Battery Park City Open Community Meetings, social media, staff engagement with residents, and Authority officials’ presence at Community Board 1 meetings.
Anthony Notaro, CB1’s chairman and the former chair of the board’s Battery Park City Committee, said he agreed with Squadron’s suggestions.
“We support the idea of more openness and public comment,” he said.
Squadron and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick have introduced legislation in their respective houses requiring a majority of the BPCA board to be residents of the area, specifically those who live within the boundaries of Community Board 1.
Notaro said he is in favor of more representation on the board, and hopes that Squadron’s comments will get through to the BPCA.
“We’ve called on them in the past but they didn’t change,” he said, “I hope they do but only time will tell.”