The Battery Park City Neighborhood Association was formed in June 2021 when Governor Cuomo and the Authority tried to pave over ten to twenty percent of the green space, cut down mature trees and replace them a concrete Essential Workers Memorial.
We protested. Our community united and the BPCNA formed. We we able to #PausetheSaws. It resulted in an apology by the Authority and we thought they learned their lesson.
One PS89 mom, an essential worker who was a scientist doing research on COVID diagnostic solutions, had to watch Governor Cuomo's weekly COVID briefings for her job. Upon seeing the announcement for an Essential Workers Monument in Rockefeller, she posted a note to a PS89 parents WhatsApp chat on a Thursday. From there, the message got forwarded around multiple WhatsApp chats - usage of WhatsApp chats by parents ballooned during COVID as parents were doing zoom school.
By Friday, member of the PS89 PTA created a new chat - just formed to Save Rockefeller Park - and the #PausetheSaws movement started. On Saturday, construction equipment started rolling into Rockefeller and the first protest was called for Saturday afternoon.
Monday morning at 6am, when bulldozers were planned to start cutting trees, parents and their kids came out, walked through the fences, parked their strollers next to the trees and put down picnic blankets. Moms brought their babies out and breastfed next to the trees, kids played soccer, local businesses donated popsicles and free baby music classes were held - under the trees they use to traditionally hold classes.
Families camped overnight to safe guard our trees and park. The Authority (Nick Sbordone) told parents "don't worry, go home, we will not do anything overnight," not knowing that the construction workers had told them they had directions to cut the trees in the middle of the night as soon as the people left.
We realized then the Authority could not be trusted.
Parents, seniors, neighbors and community members stood guard. It was not just Battery Park City residents, but people from across Lower Manhattan who use and love Rockefeller Park.
Elected official joined the community and called on Governor Cuomo and the Authority to find a new place for the Essential Workers Memorial. The then-chairman, George Tsunis, came out to meet the community and realized the place they were putting the memorial was too important to the community to use. He persuaded the Governor to find a new location and became the hero. We still wonder where the one BPCA residents on the Authority board, Martha Gallo, was during all of this. How come she did not know this was a bad a idea?
Nonetheless, two weeks later, the Authority issued an apology to the community and created an Alternate Siting Committee to find a new location for the Essential Workers Memorial. Then, Cuomo was kicked out of office and the Memorial never found a home.
What was left was a new neighborhood association, the BPCNA, and a community that was united with eyes open that the Authority could not be trusted to be proper stewards of our parks and green spaces.