With Revised Contract BPC's Asphalt Green To Open on Dec. 1

Battery Park City Authority chairman Dennis Miehel, left, announces a resolution to contract negotiations with Asphalt Green, which has advertised its opening, right, for nearly a year. Photos by Carl Glassman / Tribeca Trib

The long-delayed community center in Battery Park City, run by Asphalt Green, is set to open on Dec. 1.

That’s the goal, said Authority Chairman Dennis Mehiel, who announced Tuesday morning a conclusion to protracted negotiations over revisions to an agreement with Asphalt Green. 

The changes, which have been verbally agreed on but not yet signed into effect, would eliminate substantial financial risks for the Authority. Mehiel said 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.

“I think the contract was negotiated in good faith. I think everybody was honest about it,” Mehiel said Tuesday at a meeting of the Authority’s board of directors. “But I’ve got to confess to you, I think they were a little smarter than we were and they got a deal that was quite favorable.”

Mehiel said it became urgent to settle the negotiations over the center, which has long been fully furnished with gym equipment and has two swimming pools filled with water, before it was too late.

“The equipment is all there sitting idle,” said Mehiel, who replaced William Thompson as chairman in June.  “If you let it sit long enough it will not work when you go to turn it on. It’s just a cardinal principle. The asset will deteriorate if it is not being used and maintained.”

The announcement by Mehiel came as issues over the delay and operations of the center had grown increasingly divisive in the community. In the last few days, one group held a rally calling on the Authority to renegotiate the contract so that use of the ball fields by Asphalt Green—or another operator—would have little or no impact on local sports leagues and by Manhattan Youth, which uses the fields for its summer camp. Another group met to rally support for the center to open immediately under the existing contract with Asphalt Green.

Asphalt Green’s executive director, Carol Tweedy, and its marketing director, Christina Klapper,  did not immediately return a request for comment.

"I'm thrilled,” said Liz McCabe, a Battery Park City parent who has been an outspoken advocate for a speedy opening of the center with Asphalt Green as the operator.  “I was very optimistic that it was going in this direction and I think that the chairman Dennis Mehiel was really masterful in pulling this all together from what was a dead stop."

Bob Townley, director of Manhattan Youth, which is said to be losing field time for its summer camp, declined to comment on the impact of the new contract. Schedules of the community sports leagues will not be affected, Mehiel said. The Authority will retain control over the ball field scheduling, and in an effort to alleviate community concerns, will be issuing three-year permits to current users—up from current one-year permits.

The Authority has also negotiated set hours for community use of the center’s auditorium, which the Authority will be in charge of permitting.

Bill Bialosky, president of the Downtown Soccer League, said he is pleased with the multi-year permits, but still has concerns about the long-term use of the field. As proposed in a 2010 memorandum of understanding crafted by the community board, but never signed by the Authority, Bialosky would still like to see a committee of stakeholders and local representatives created to oversee the ball fields.

"We worry that the next chairman who comes along may not be community-minded," Bialosky said. "We wold like to see some bigger resolution that becomes more of a concrete roadmap for the future."

"But maybe that's a concern for later down the line," Bialosky added, "and for now we should just celebrate getting the center open for use."

The majority of the changes, however, appear to be financial.

Under the original contract, the Authority would have been responsible for all of Asphalt Green’s operating budget, as well as its utilities and repair of the facilities and equipment. In turn, the Authority would have received 60 percent of any profit generated by the center.

The proposed new terms make Asphalt Green responsible for its own operating budget. The Authority will pay for utilities, but capped at what Mehiel estimates to be 60 percent of what the Authority would have paid under the previous terms. The Authority will still be responsible for maintaining and repairing the center’s facilities—but only for the first three years.

After Asphalt Green has been open for six years, the Authority will receive a percentage of the center’s revenue. Mehiel did not specify what that percentage would be.

“If they don’t hit their projections, and in consequence the revenue stream that we are going to receive is less than 90 percent of what is anticipated, they are going to have to write a check to make it up,” Mehiel said. “if they cannot or do not write the check, their lease will be terminated.”

Because the center is being subsidized by the Authority, Battery Park City residents will now also receive a discounted membership rate, Mehiel said.

“It’s as good as we are able to do with what we confronted,” Mehiel said.