BPC Chief Denies 'Problem' with Exiting Parks Conservancy Head

Dennis Mehiel, chairman of the Battery Park City Authority, at the authority's July 29 board meeting, and Tessa Huxley, outgoing executive director of the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy, in 2012. Photos: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Jul. 29, 2015

“The idea that I had some particular problem with Tessa is just unfounded,” said Battery Park City Authority Chairman Dennis Mehiel, responding on Wednesday to reports that he is “pushing out” Tessa Huxley, 62, the much-admired executive director of BPC’s Parks Conservancy since its inception in 1988.

Speaking briefly to reporters following a meeting of the authority’s board, in which Huxley’s name was not mentioned, Mehiel would not say directly why Huxley was leaving. He said it was his “understanding” that Huxley was “headed for retirement.”

“She can certainly speak for herself,” he said of Huxley, who has not responded to requests for comment.

Asked whether she may be restricted from speaking on her behalf due to possible negotiations over terms of her retirement, Mehiel said, “You’re delving into specific personal matters that we never ever ever discuss about anybody, let alone Tessa.”

Mehiel was terse but laudatory of Huxley’s 27 years with the authority, overseeing Battery Park City’s 33 acres of immaculately maintained parks and gardens. “She’s wonderful, she’s done a great job,” he said.

(The authority later issued a statement by its president, Shari Hyman, announcing Huxleys upcoming departure. We gratefully acknowledge Tessa's performance and dedication to her work, and know that the innovative processes she has institutionalized over the past quarter century will continue,” the statement said.)

On Monday, the New York Post reported that Mehiel “wants to boot” Huxley because, according to one unidentified source, “he had it in for her.”

The news was met with dismay by those who have long admired Huxley’s dedication to the parks and their many programs. She and her staff are credited with rapidly and tirelessly restoring the parks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Several of Huxley’s supporters spoke out at a Community Board 1 meeting on Tuesday, July 29, and attended the BPCA board meeting the next day.

Paula Galloway, who runs the Battery Park City Dog Owners Association, told the community board that Huxley has been “instrumental” in keeping Battery Park City beautiful, and compared her departure to the authority’s recent removal of Michael Fortenbaugh as operator of the North Cove Marina.  “You do a great job, you’re fantastic, and then you get canned.”