The decision kicks out longtime operator Michael Fortenbaugh, who has run the beloved Manhattan Yacht Club and sailing school since 1994 in the Battery Park City marina. In October, the BPCA put out a Request for Proposals for an operator, as Fortenbaugh’s 10-year lease was set to expire in December 2014.
The BPCA’s unanimous vote came during an unusually packed and heated public meeting Thursday morning. Community members intermittently erupted in loud boos, as BPCA Chairman Dennis Mehiel explained the board’s decision. Mehiel addressed the outpouring of community support for longtime BPC resident Fortenbaugh, and the concerns that the BPCA’s selection process was not transparent enough and did not take into account community needs.
“You are very critical stakeholders,” Mehiel said addressing the crowd. “But at the end of the day, we have to do what is the right thing to do.”
After the vote, shouts of "you're disgusting" and "you're awful" were heard from the crowd.
Mehiel said the BPCA valued Fortenbaugh’s longtime work at the marina, but ultimately the best decision for the community was choosing Brookfield, which owns the surrounding office buildings.
The company will pay $4.5 million over the course of a 10-year lease at North Cove and will invest in upgrading the marina, home to many mega-yachts. Brookfield will also host sailing and community programs.
"It's easy to get mad at Brookfield because they have a lot of money," Mehiel said, but he added that the money can help improve Battery Park City.
Brookfield declined to comment in advance of the vote.
Many local residents and Manhattan Yacht Club members have run a months-long campaign to support Fortenbaugh, with rallies and a petition that’s gathered nearly 3,000 signatures.
Last month, Community Board 1 passed a resolution in support of Fortenbaugh and asked that the Battery Park City start a more transparent RFP process to select an operator.
Local elected officials, including Councilwoman Margaret Chin and state Sen. Daniel Squadron, sent letters to the BPCA in support of redoing the RFP.
At Thursday's meeting, Mehiel said BPCA's board took those concerns into consideration, but added that the board wouldn’t be swayed by the political pressure in favor of one bidder to “preserve his economic interests." The crowd responded with boos.
Choking back tears after the meeting, Fortenbaugh said he was proud of the work he had done for the community.
"I'm sorry the Authority has totally discounted what we've done, and has discounted the community," he said.
He said he plans to start a new sailing school and yacht club across the Hudson River in Jersey City. It will open April 18.