Pirate sails! Fortenbaugh accuses IGY of industrial espionage in its bid to take over North Cove’s sailing school

File photo by Milo Hess Michael Fortenbaugh (inset) ran the sailing school at North Cove Marina for 20 years until he was ousted at the end of 2014 when the BPCA handed the marina contract to Brookfield properties, which promptly outsourced the work to IGY, whose chairman is one of the largest contributors to Gov. Cuomo, who appoints the BPCA’s board.

File photo by Milo Hess
Michael Fortenbaugh (inset) ran the sailing school at North Cove Marina for 20 years until he was ousted at the end of 2014 when the BPCA handed the marina contract to Brookfield properties, which promptly outsourced the work to IGY, whose chairman is one of the largest contributors to Gov. Cuomo, who appoints the BPCA’s board.

DOWNTOWN EXPRESS EXCLUSIVE — BY COLIN MIXSON  

North Cove Marina manager Island Global Yachting tricked former Battery Park City sailing school operator Michael Fortenbaugh into giving IGY an all-access tour of his New Jersey sail club to help prepare its own winning bid to run new sailing programs at the marina, the salty seaman alleges.

Fortenbaugh said he welcomed IGY Regional Director Simon Bryan for a visit to his Manhattan Yacht Club in New Jersey after Bryan dangled the prospect that he might be invited to take up his old post at North Cove, where he ran popular community sailing programs for two decades before IGY took over the marina in 2015 as a subcontractor for Brookfield Properties, which now holds the operating lease.

But shortly after the commodore showed Bryan around, briefed him on how he runs his programs, and even allowed Bryan to take photos of his gear, IGY announced on Jan. 5 that it had cut a deal with Brookfield to operate its own sailing school at the BPC marina.

“If they had said they were going to do their own sailing school, we wouldn’t have been so open,” said Fortenbaugh.

After Florida-based Offshore Sailing School announced in November that it was scuttling the sailing program it had run at North Cove for the past two years, Fortenbaugh — and many BPC sailing buffs — hoped this would be a chance for the beloved commodore to return to his home port to run the sailing school, an amenity which is required by the marina’s operating lease.

Indeed, when Byran reached out to Fortenbaugh last October — before Offshore’s exit was even made public — the IGY exec requested the grand tour of the commodore’s New Jersey sailing school with the suggested intent of courting Fortenbaugh for a return to North Cove.

“When [Bryan] came to me, he was giving us the impression he wanted to talk to us about the possibility of our coming back to North Cove,” Fortenbaugh said. “His exact words were, ‘You look like you have a really nice setup, I suppose you wouldn’t be interested in coming back to North Cove?’”

Following his overture about moving back across the Hudson, IGY’s regional director questioned Fortenbaugh for more than an hour, asking him about his operation and his experience at North Cove, before requesting a tour of Manhattan Yacht Club, during which time he took numerous photos of the club, Fortenbaugh said.

During the tour, Bryan specifically asked to be shown certain well-known amenities that formerly served North Cove when Fortenbaugh was there, including a floating clubhouse, called The Classroom, and the club’s yact, Arabella. In retrospect, Fortenbaugh said he can only conclude that Bryan’s suggestion of a return to North Cove was a false pretext to cover a mission of industrial espionage, he said.

“He was very well briefed. He knew about our floating clubhouse we used to have at North Cove, he asked to see our Arabella. So, he had been briefed by somebody,” said Fortenbaugh. “In the end, Brookfield never gave us any offer, and they’re creating their own sailing school in-house, so there’s no other way to look at it than he was coming over to see how we do it.”

Fortenbaugh said he was flabbergasted when Brookflield announced at a Community Board 1 meeting last week that it would handle the sailing-school program at North Cove in-house. He called the decision “a farce” and blasted IGY for its lack of experience running a boating academy.

“IGY is a mega-yacht company,” Fortenbaugh said. “They have no experience running a sailing school.”

IGY did nor respond to requests for comment, but a spokesman for Brookfield said that IGY did assist the company in interviewing prospective sailing-school operators, but didn’t address Fortenbaugh’s accusations of trickery and illicit reconnaissance, saying only that it believed the decision to keep the sailing school in-house was best for the community.

“Collectively, we evaluated ten potential operators, including the Manhattan Yacht Club,” said Brookfield spokesman Andrew Brent. “Ultimately, Brookfield decided that a single organization running the marina and sailing school would make for the most successful, streamlined, economically sound, and community-responsive program possible.”

Ironically, that’s exactly what North Cove enjoyed for a decade with Fortenbaugh — until his unceremonious ouster two years ago.

Fortenbaugh operated the sailing school at North Cove since the mid-1990s, and he took over management of the entire marina as well in 2005, after he answered a call from the Battery Park City Authority for plans to revitalize the marina in the wake of 9/11. But the BPCA declined to renew his lease at the end of 2014 — much to the consternation of the commodore’s devoted fans — and handed the marina contract to Brookfield Properties, which runs the nearby high-end shopping center Brookfield Place.

Brookfield then promptly sub-contracted the management of the marina out to Island Global Yachting — whose chairman, Andrew Farkas, is one of the largest contributors to Gov. Cuomo, who appoints the BPCA’s board. It was IGY that outsourced the required sailing program to Florida-based Offshore Sailing School, which bailed on the job after two years.

In another whiff of irony, Brookfield’s statement announcing its decision to have IGY operate the new sailing school pointed to Bryan’s close working relationship with Offshore while it operated at North Cove, suggesting that he’d learned enough from observing that operation to run his own program.

“IGY Regional Director Simon Bryan has been intimately involved with the sailing school for the past two years and will remain so going forward,” a statement from Brookfield read.

Despite Fortebaugh’s criticisms, Brookfield won cautious support for its decision from some members of  CB1’s Battery Park City Committee with promises to work with community members and seek input from BPC residents on running the program, according to committee member and CB1 chairman Anthony Notaro.

“The fact that Brookfield and IGY are willing to work with us, I think we can work through some of these issues,” said Notaro. “I think it’s a reasonable alternative.”

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