Re: NYC Sailing School May Lose Lease
Mark...text of the article below.
Dipping into the murky waters of the Hudson River was part of the fun when Diana Tandia’s 10-year-old son, Mohamed, learned to sail on a small boat within sight of Lower Manhattan.
“It’s a bonding thing, getting dirty in the water, eating lunch together,” Ms. Tandia said this week, as she recalled her son’s sailing camp at North Cove Marina, in Battery Park City.
For 20 years, a Battery Park resident, Michael Fortenbaugh, has been a presence at the marina, running an adult sailing school and yacht club with shared boats, and more recently the junior sailing camp that Ms. Tandia’s son attended, a rarity in New York City. Supporters call it a populist outpost, populist for Manhattan anyway, where children can learn to sail for about $400 a week during the summer.
But Mr. Fortenbaugh’s days at the marina may be over. His contract to run the marina expires Dec. 31, and he has been told by the Battery Park City Authority, the agency that controls the land the neighborhood sits on, that he can continue to keep his boats there for 60 more days, but must relinquish control of the marina, which he interprets as a sign that his contract will not be renewed.
The headquarters of the Manhattan Yacht Club, which owns the small boats that Mr. Fortenbaugh uses in his instruction programs. Credit Michael Appleton for The New York Times
Mr. Fortenbaugh and his supporters have been trying to rally public sentiment by casting his fight as a David versus Goliath battle between a small-business man and community resident against influential real estate and yachting interests.
One of those bidding against Mr. Fortenbaugh for the license to run the marina for the next 10 years is Brookfield Property Partners, which owns the glossy five-building complex around the marina and is in the process of installing new restaurants and high-end stores like Michael Kors and Hermès. Under Brookfield’s proposal, the marina would be operated by Island Global Yachting, which runs luxury-yacht marinas in places like St. Thomas, V.I.; Turks and Caicos; Montauk, N.Y.; and Newport, R.I.
A vote on the contract was scheduled this month, but postponed until January because of a lack of a quorum.
The marina was built about a quarter-century ago but fell into distress after the Sept. 11 attacks, when Lower Manhattan was a disaster area. Mr. Fortenbaugh took it over, and helped make the marina a destination for big yachts that also anchor in fashionable places like Newport and Nantucket, a luxury counterpoint to the school he continued to run.
“He has the megayacht crowd coexisting with the guy-next-door crowd,” said James Cavanaugh, who was president of the authority when Mr. Fortenbaugh received the contract; both are on the board of the New York Harbor Sailing Foundation, the nonprofit that sponsors the sailing camp. “The thought that he’s now going to be shown the door, it just doesn’t seem right.”
Mr. Fortenbaugh said that while he was in an enviable location, his business was still a small one. Last year, he said, he took in $1.3 million in revenue and paid $300,000 to the authority, a fixed rent agreed upon years ago. He said he had proposed, for the next contract, to bring in new revenue through events like a sailboat show, and to raise his rent to about $400,000. (His adult sailing operations are for profit, and junior programs are nonprofit.)
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Mr. Fortenbaugh has drummed up support among his sailing school and yachting club members, who rallied at Battery Park City on his behalf on Monday.
It is not clear whether anyone besides Brookfield and Mr. Fortenbaugh’s group has submitted an offer, since the bids have not been made public.
The authority’s request for proposals recognizes the appeal of Mr. Fortenbaugh’s sailing school by requiring the winning bidder to provide a “reasonably” priced sailing school of comparable size, though it does not define reasonable. A promise of community-based programming, including opportunities for children and teenagers “at every income level,” is worth 15 percent of the score to win the contract.
The authority also suggested some improvements that an operator more deep-pocketed than Mr. Fortenbaugh might have an easier time carrying out, like a wave-attenuation system that would protect boats from rocking.
“The North Cove Marina is a public asset and the Battery Park City Authority operates it for the benefit of the community and all New Yorkers,” the authority said in a statement. “A competitive bid process was required to select the marina’s licensee through 2025, and included commitments to ensure enhanced public access to the waterfront and the continuation and improvement of existing marina programs, including a sailing school.”
Mr. Fortenbaugh says he believes that Brookfield and its partner, Island Global, are better positioned to win the contract because of their financial and political clout. Both Brookfield and Island Global’s chairman, Andrew Farkas, have been generous donors to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who appointed four of the five Battery Park City Authority members, and Mr. Cuomo once worked for Island Capital Group, also run by Mr. Farkas.
The governor’s office said on Monday that it had been told that the authority was going to seek new bids for the marina, as is standard when a license expires. The office said it was not aware of any details of the bidding until The New York Times asked about it.
“The authority ran a comprehensive procurement process based solely on the merit of the applications and with zero input from the governor’s office,” it said in a statement.
A spokesman for Island Global declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Brookfield, Melissa Coley, confirmed that the real estate company was bidding for the marina, but would not provide further details about the bid.
The authority’s request notes that Lower Manhattan is a fairly affluent area, serving 310,000 office workers with an average annual salary of $117,000 and 61,000 residents with average household income of $204,000. But Mr. Fortenbaugh said that in the end, the marina had its limitations. “We know that it’s a parking lot for boats,” Mr. Fortenbaugh said. “It’s a seasonal business. Somebody could come in and offer these pie-in-the-sky things that don’t reflect reality.”