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Battery Park City Board Allows Public Comment at Meetings After Pushback

By Irene Plagianos | October 20, 2016 4:24pm
 The Battery Park City Authority will now allow the public to comment at its board meetings.
The Battery Park City Authority will now allow the public to comment at its board meetings.
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DNAinfo/ Christian McLamb

BATTERY PARK CITY — Public pressure has led to public comment at the Battery Park City Authority.

After a months-long push led by State Sen. Daniel Squadron, the BPCA — the state agency that oversees the neighborhood — has agreed for the first time to allow members of the public to directly address the board during its monthly public meetings.

The BPCA, a seven-member board, which has only one member who lives in Battery Park City, had never allowed any public comment at its board meetings, a longtime point of contention for locals who feel they need better representation of community needs.

After community pushback, the BPCA, in June, slightly amended the public comment policy, allowing elected officials the chance to speak at public board meetings on behalf of residents, while the public could submit comments in writing to the board.

READ MORE: Not Allowing the Public to Speak at Meetings is Better for the Public, BPCA Says

But starting with his first chance to speak to board members for his constituents, Squadron emphasized that the new rule was "woefully inadequate." Elected officials did not need to filter public comment and the public should have the right to speak at monthly meetings, he told the board, just as nearly two dozen other state and city agencies allow.

Squadron continued to push the board on the issue at every monthly meeting since June.

Board members finally voted unanimously to officially change the public comment policy at their monthly board meeting Wednesday.

“Today we’re glad to further expand the avenues of participation at Battery Park City Authority Board Meetings with a full public comment period at every session,” said BPCA Chairman and CEO Dennis Mehiel. “And as we proceed I look forward to striking the appropriate balance between taking public input and transacting other Board business as effectively as possible."

Monthly board meetings will now allow for a half hour of public comments, limited to two minutes per person— and up to 10 people. Those that want to comment must email the BPCA at boardcomment@bpca.ny.gov by 5:30 p.m. before the meeting, and state what meeting agenda topic he or she will be addressing, or any other general topic.

Meeting agendas will be available on the BPCA website 48 hours before the board meeting, the BPCA said.

“For months I’ve worked with community members and colleagues on a simple request: to allow the community to publicly comment directly on public issues that directly affect the Battery Park City community," Squadron said in a statement. "The Battery Park City Authority Board unanimously agreed to allow direct public comment, and release board meeting agendas in advance — instituting our request."

The new policy will be in effect for the November board meeting.