It’s been a big summer for Battery Park City. Construction of an ecologically friendly condo tower built by the Albanese Organization has been humming along; Milstein Properties announced it would develop a nearby plot; and in August, the sales office for Sheldrake’s Riverhouse opened its doors. It’s all business as usual in condo-happy downtown Manhattan. Yet this activity on the 92-acre flank of the borough marks the end of something: Those are the last pieces of residential Battery Park City that will be built. In other words, the city’s longest-running development project is about to be done. “Our mission has been winding down,” says James F. Gill, chairperson of the Battery Park City Authority, which manages the community.
It took only four decades. In 1966, Governor Nelson Rockefeller announced plans for a mini-community made up of housing, commercial buildings, and outdoor space atop landfill, much of it from the construction of the World Trade Center. But the project proceeded in fits and starts, delayed by the city’s fiscal woes and wrangling over the original vision. The first apartment building wasn’t finished until the early eighties. Even a decade ago, says Corcoran broker Victoria Terri-Coté, who lived there then, the neighborhood wasn’t exactly coveted. It seemed too suburban, planned, un–New York. Most people who called the area home were young Wall Streeters who just wanted a place to crash.
But the neighborhood has settled in. Excellent public schools persuaded families to stay, as did the slow arrival of restaurants and other services, says J. Christopher Daly, whose company is building Riverhouse. The newer buildings in the complex, which have more larger apartments, are also better suited to families. The city’s first ecofriendly rental, the Solaire, went up there (every tower since then has had to be “green”). The resultant community has become a little-known cash cow for the city, as the rent on the towers’ land leases goes toward affordable housing—which isn’t anywhere around here, because BPC residents are now paying full market rates—roughly $800 per square foot for older apartments, and topping $1,000 per square foot for newer ones—for the newly discovered privilege of living there.