Battery Park City is owned and managed by the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), a public-benefit corporation created by New York State under the authority of the Urban Development Corporation. Excess revenue from the area was to be contributed to other housing efforts, typically low-income projects in the Bronx and Harlem.
Under the 1989 agreement between the BPCA and the City of New York, $600 million was transferred by the BPCA to the city. Charles J. Urstat, the first Chairman and CEO of the BPCA, noted in an August 19, 2007 op-ed piece in the New York Post that the aggregate figure of funds transferred to the City of New York is above $1.4 billion with the BPCA continuing to contribute $200 million a year.
Much of this funding has historically been diverted to general city expenses, under section 3.d of the 1989 agreement. However, in July 2006, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Pataki, and Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. announced the final approval for the New York City Housing Trust Fund derived from $130 million in Battery Park City revenues. The Fund aims to preserve or create 4,300 affordable units over the next three years. It also provided seed financing for the New York Acquisition Fund, a $230 million initiative that aims to serve as a catalyst for the construction and preservation of more than 30,000 units of affordable housing Citywide over the next 10 years. The Acquisition Fund has since established itself as a model for similar funds in cities and states across the country.
Battery Park City is bounded on the east by West Street, which insulates the area from the Financial District of downtown Manhattan. To the west, north and south, the area is surrounded by the tidal estuary of the Hudson River.
The development consists of roughly five major sections. Traveling North to South, the first neighborhood, the "North Residential Neighborhood," consists of high-rise residential buildings, a large hotel, Stuyvesant High School and a mall (currently occupied by a movie theater, restaurants and a discount store for leather goods and accessories). Former parkland in the area is being converted into high-rise buildings.
Immediately to the South lies the World Financial Center, a complex of several commercial buildings occupied by tenants including American Express, Dow Jones & Company, Merrill Lynch and Deloitte & Touche. The World Financial Center's ground floor and portions of the second floor are occupied by a mall; its center point is a steel-and-glass atrium known as the Winter Garden. Outside of the Winter Garden lies a sizeable yacht harbor on the Hudson known as North Cove.
South of the World Financial Center lies the majority of Battery Park City's residential areas, in three sections: "Gateway Plaza", a high-rise building complex; the "Rector Place Residential Neighborhood" and the "Battery Place Residential Neighborhood", mostly low-rise building complexes. These neighborhoods contain most of the area's residential buildings, along with park space and various types of supporting businesses (supermarkets, restaurants, movie theatres.) Construction of residential buildings began north of the World Financial Center in the late 1990s.
Today, about 10,000 people live in Battery Park City, most of whom are upper middle class and upper class (54.0% of households have incomes over $100,000). When fully built out, the neighborhood is projected to have 14,000 residents.
Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s the area adjoining today's Battery Park City was known as the Greek quarter; an even more captivating reminder of the ethnic past is the former St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church which was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
By the late 1950s, the once prosperous port area of downtown Manhattan was occupied by a number of dilapidated shipping piers, casualties of the rise of air transport. The initial proposal to reclaim this area through landfill was offered in the early 1960s by private firms and supported by the Mayor. This plan became complicated when Governor Nelson Rockefeller announced his desire to redevelop a part of the area as a separate project. The various groups reached a compromise, and in 1966 the governor unveiled the proposal for what would become Battery Park City. The creation of architect Wallace K. Harrison, the proposal called for a 'comprehensive community' consisting of housing, social infrastructure and light industry. The landscaping of the parkspace and later the Winter Garden was designed by M. Paul Friedberg.
In 1968, the New York State Legislature created the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) to oversee development. The New York State Urban Development Corporation and ten other public agencies were also involved in the development project. For the next several years, the BPCA made slow progress. In 1969, it unveiled a master plan for the area, and in 1972 issued $200 million in bonds to fund construction efforts. Landfill material from construction of the World Trade Center was used to add land. Cellular cofferdams were constructed to retain the material. By 1976 the landfill was completed; in many cases, the pre-existing piers were simply buried. Construction efforts ground to a halt for nearly two years beginning in 1977, as a result of city-wide financial hardships. In 1979, the title to the landfill was transferred from the city to the Battery Park City Authority, which financially restructured itself and created a new, more viable master plan, designed by Alex Cooper and Stanton Eckstut
During the late 1970s and early 1980s the site hosted Creative Time's landmark Art on the Beach sculpture exhibitions. On September 23, 1979, the landfill was the site of an antinuclear rally attended by 200,000 people.
Construction began on the first residential building in 1980, followed in 1981 with the start of construction on the World Financial Center. Olympia and York, of Toronto, was named as the developer for the World Financial Center in 1981, who then hired Cesar Pelli as the lead architect. By 1985, construction was completed and the World Financial Center saw its first tenants.
Throughout the 1980s, the Battery Park City Authority oversaw a great deal of construction, including the entire Rector Place neighborhood and the river Esplanade. It was during this period that current City Planning Department Director Amanda Burden worked on Battery Park City. In the early 1990s, Battery Park City became the new home of the Stuyvesant High School. By the turn of the century, Battery Park City was mostly completed, with the exception of some ongoing construction on West Street.
Current residential neighborhoods of Battery Park City are divided into a north and south section, separated by the World Financial Center Complex. The southern section, extending down from the Winter Garden, is the more densely populated region, containing Gateway Plaza, and Rector Place apartment buildings. The northern section, although still under very large construction, consists entirely of large, 20-45 story buildings which are all various shades of orange brick.
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks had a major impact on Battery Park City. The residents of lower Manhattan and particularly of Battery Park City were displaced for an extended period of time. Parts of the community were an official crime-scene and therefore residents were unable to return to live or even collect property. Many of the displaced residents were not allowed to return to the area for months and none were given government guidance of where to live temporarily on the already crowded island of Manhattan. With most hotel rooms booked, residents, including young children and the elderly were forced to fend for themselves. When they were finally allowed to return to Battery Park City, some found that their homes had been looted. Upon return the air in the area was still filled with toxic smoke from the World Trade Center fires that stubbornly persisted until January 2002.
More than half of the area's residents moved away permanently from the community after the adjacent World Trade Center towers collapsed and spread toxic dust, debris, and smoke. Gateway Plaza's 600 building, Hudson View East and, the then Parc Place, now Rector Square were punctured by airplane parts. The Winter Garden and other portions of the World Financial Center were severely damaged. Environmental concerns regarding dust from the Trade Center are a continuing source of concern for many residents, scientists, and elected officials. Since the attacks, the damage has been repaired. Temporarily reduced rents and government subsidies helped restore residential occupancy in the years following the attacks.
After the events of 2001, residents of Battery Park City and Tribeca formed The Tribattery Pops. The “Pops” have been Grammy nominated and are the first lower Manhattan all volunteer community band in a century.
Since then, real estate development in the area has continued robustly. Commercial development includes the Goldman Sachs Group World Headquarters scheduled for occupancy in 2009. Goldman Sachs is seeking gold-level certification under the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program by incorporating various water and energy conservation features. Several residential projects are underway, including LEED buildings which cater to the environmentally conscious.