Battery Park City Authority President to Head WTC Retail for Westfield

Shari Hyman on Thursday at the window of her office that overlooks southern Battery Park City. She said Sept. 28 will be her last day with the authority. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Sep. 14, 2017

Shari Hyman, president and chief operating officer of the Battery Park City Authority, is leaving her post at month’s end to oversee Westfield’s sprawling retail operations at the World Trade Center and Fulton Transit Center.

The Battery Park City Authority planned to announce her departure on Friday.

Hired by Westfield as vice president of the World Trade Center Property Group, Hyman, 51, said she will be in charge of the roughly 345,000 square feet of retail space in the World Trade Center Oculus, 4 World Trade Center and, still under development, 3 World Trade Center, as well as the Fulton Center.

In an interview with the Trib at her office on Thursday, Hyman said it is too soon to speak in detail about her new job. “The focus is making the experience better and working on everyday issues that come up,” she said. “I just don’t know what those are yet.”

With 20 percent of the World Trade Center storefronts empty, according to The Real Deal, and a mounting e-commerce assault on brick-and-mortar retail, the challenge could be formidable. “The learning curve will be high and I’m looking forward to the challenge of learning it and understanding it and figuring out what needs to be done,” she said.

A lawyer who began her career as an assistant district attorney, Hyman joined the authority in 2014 after serving in the Bloomberg Administration, first fighting strip clubs, illegal hotels and knockoff merchandise bazaars as director of the Office of Special Enforcement, and later cracking down on corruption-plagued industries as head of the city’s Business Integrity Commission. But during that time, she said, she also became interested in economic development, parks and city quality of life, “beyond looking at bad operators.”

“Coming to the the Battery Park City Authority,” she said, “allowed me to start to focus on those areas that I discovered that I really liked while working for Mayor Bloomberg.”

Assessing her three-and-a-half years at the authority, Hyman recalled the challenge of building a better relationship with residents. “When I took over, there was a complete cutoff between the community and the authority,” she said, “and we’ve really worked to push for it and keep a dialogue going to lessen the tensions.”

Some of those tensions arose over the termination of Michael Fortenbaugh as the popular operator of the North Cove Marina, the replacement of Park Enforcement Patrol officers with private security and the departure of Tessa Huxley as director of the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy which, under Hyman, merged its operation with the authority.

“I was surprised by how aggressive people were over certain issues,” she said. “Did I expect some pushback? Sure.”

To help improve community relations, Hyman noted, she expanded the parks programming that had largely been geared to small children to include teens, seniors and others. Quarterly public meetings with authority executives were established and, at the urging of vocal residents, the public now can speak at board meetings. Community members have been given a voice in decisions about cycling on the esplanade and proposed revamping and resiliency measures for Wagner Park.

“People [at the authority] are listening more, now that it’s not just a wall of pushing,” Hyman said. “There’s serious consideration for things that are brought up and dialogue helped. No question about it.”

“Battery Park City has thrived as a result of Shari’s efforts,” BPCA Chairman Dennis Mehiel said in a statement, speaking of Hyman’s impact on the authority and the neighborhood.

Hyman’s eyes widen and her face brightens when she talks about the neighborhood’s parks, especially the West Thames lawn—“my favorite thing”—which she can see from her office. Rain used to turn the field into a muddy mess before she ordered it resurfaced with artificial turf. “I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to look out the window and see people using it. All sorts of people and so many people at the same time, in pretty much complete harmony.”

“Robert Moses talked about parks being the great equalizer and they really are,” Hyman noted. “So for me, looking at how we can better the access to parks and better the experience, that is what I’ll miss the most.”