Opening Date for Asphalt Green Is Once Again Uncertain

The gym floor of the Battery Park City community center was removed as a result of flood damage. The swimming pool is still waiting to be emptied. Photo by Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Battery Park City residents eager to start working out or swimming laps at Asphalt Green—recently targeted to open early this month—might want to put away their gym shorts and goggles for a while. Flooding from Sandy has complicated contract negotiations and left the center once again without an opening date.

“There were financial assumptions about [Asphalt Green’s] pre-opening costs and how that was going to be allocated between the Authority and Asphalt Green because there is a sharing of that expense,” Battery Park City Authority Chairman Dennis Mehiel told the Trib on Tuesday. “The pre-opening expenses now are in somewhat disarray.”

The Battery Park City Authority had announced just days before the storm that it had come to a resolution over protracted contract negotiations with operator Asphalt Green and hoped to have a contract signed and the $55 million center open by Dec. 1. The center, built and furnished by the Authority, was originally slated to open in November 2011.

Part of the uncertainty now, Mehiel told the Trib, is whether Asphalt will be able to open in time to operate its summer camp, a “critical component” of its ability to make a financial go of it.

“If it turned out that they couldn’t do that, it would cause a material change to the financing,” he said.

If Asphalt is able to run its summer camp, he said, contract concessions negotiated before the storm will remain “close” to where they were. The changes, made in closed-door meetings between the Authority and Asphalt Green were aimed at eliminating substantial financial risks for the Authority. Mehiel said in October that the original contract, negotiated under the leadership of former BPCA president James Cavanaugh, would have left the Authority on the hook for any potential losses sustained by Asphalt Green—an estimated $1.2 million in the first year alone.

Asphalt Green’s marketing director, Christina Klapper,  did not return a request for comment

Although the extent of the damage is uncertain, flooding on the ground floor and basement of the center—which was completely constructed and furnished—has affected the heating system, swimming pool and gym floors.

“There are a lot of things, too, that are interdependent on each other,” Authority spokesman Matthew Monahan told the Community Board’s Battery Park City Committee Tuesday evening.

For example, in order to replace hardwood floors damaged by flooding, the space must be heated to a certain temperature. Heating the center depends on boilers, which may have to be replaced and then re-inspected by the Department of Buildings. Depending on the extent of the damage, other areas of the building may also need to be re-inspected, said Authority executive assistant Anne Fenton. The Authority had claimed last year that many of its delays were due to the arduous city permitting and inspection process.

The Authority will also need to empty and clean the Olympic-sized swimming pool.

“There are 180,000 gallons of water that are going to have to be drained out of the pool,” Monahan said.

The Authority is about two to three weeks away from completing a thorough assessment of the damage, Mehiel said at the Authority’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, in response to a question during the meeting from BatteryTV blogger Steven Greer.

“Until we know those dates we don’t know the financial implication of that damage either to ourselves or to Asphalt,” Mehiel said.