By the 1950s, the once-prosperous Port of Lower Manhattan had fallen into disrepair following the funneling of sea traffic to Port Elizabeth in New Jersey. In the early 1960s, private businesses, with the support of Mayor Robert Wagner’s administration, proposed landfilling and redevelopment of the area in an effort to revitalize the blighted neighborhood.
In 1966, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, after reaching a compromise with several other groups interested in developing the area, announced the proposal for what is now Battery Park City in a planned community at the southwestern tip of Manhattan.
Two years later, the State Legislature created the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) to oversee development of the neighborhood, working with the Urban Development Corp. and several other public agencies on the project. In 1972, the landfilling process began, using material from construction sites around the area.
Although developers completed the landfilling by 1976, officials put the project on hold as the city dealt with dire financial problems.
But in 1978, Mr. Grunstein played a key role in jumpstarting the stalled redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. He helped create the subdivision plan, embodied in the Mapping Agreement he drafted and negotiated, and financeable ground lease form used by the BPCA that enabled redevelopment of the land.
A year later, the City – still grappling with severe financial issues — transferred the title to the land to the BPCA. A new plan, designed in 1979 by the architecture firm Cooper-Eckstut, incorporated the development into the existing infrastructure.
Soon after, redevelopment of Lower Manhattan blossomed. The first residential complex was built in 1980, followed by the completion in 1985 of the World Financial Center – home to the offices of companies such as Merrill Lynch and American Express. Development of the neighborhood continued throughout the 1990s, with the construction of more than 30 residential and commercial buildings.
According to the BPCA, Battery Park City is now home to 17,000 residences, 52 shops and services, 36 acres of green space, 20 works of public art, three schools and two hotels. It is also home to the Irish Hunger Memorial, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the New York City Police Memorial, the Skyscraper Museum and Poets House.