Gettysburg College has graduated a member of the Manhattan Power 50, a list that represents the “50 people in Manhattan who are key players in the world of New York politics and government.” His name is BJ Jones ’94, the president and CEO of the Battery Park City Authority.
Jones grew up in the town of Gettysburg, yet as a young man did not plan to attend his mother’s alma mater.
“Even though I had a strong connection to Gettysburg College my whole life, I never thought I’d be a student there; that is, until I started my college search in earnest and found the competition wanting,” Jones said.
He desired an academic home that would grow his passions. A musician with a desire to study business and remain active in community service, Jones soon recognized his ideal opportunity to pursue those passions was at Gettysburg College.
“Gettysburg offered me everything I wanted in my varied areas of interest,” he said.
Jones studied management while singing in the College and chapel choirs, participating in a student community service group, playing in the band, and working in the Admissions Office as a tour guide. He and his friends even managed to win a student talent competition four years in a row.
On one of his campus tours, Jones met Janet Michael ’96, who would become a lifelong friend. In truth, Michael stumbled into the friendship when she tripped into the tour group. Recalling their first meeting, she said, “I was mortified. It’s funny to look back now because I couldn’t have known then what a profound influence that trip and my future friend would have on my life. BJ is a constant source of inspiration. To say that he is the most industrious, brilliant, and creative person I’ve ever met feels like an understatement.”
Michael’s chance encounter with Jones inspired her to become a Gettysburg tour guide herself and led to a deep friendship that has remained strong over 26 years. “I am so grateful to Gettysburg for the treasure of BJ Jones. It’s wonderful to watch him blazing new trails in a highly accomplished career.”
Highly accomplished, indeed. In January 2018, Jones was named the leader of the Battery Park City Authority, where he is charged with developing and maintaining a community on the Lower West Side of Manhattan that houses 13,500 residents, 36 acres of park lands, 10 million square feet of commercial space, and 4 public schools. The community is young, celebrating its 50th anniversary this past year.
“In my new role as leader of this vibrant place, I look for opportunities,” said Jones, who called Battery Park City a “small town” in the middle of downtown Manhattan. “The community has lots to work with and lots of good people to do good things for. I see opportunities to address housing affordability, resiliency in the face of climate change and sea level rise, energy efficiency, and the preservation of the character and community of this neighborhood.”
At Gettysburg, I was able to cultivate a lot of different strengths, interests, and relationships, which really helped establish a foundation that served me well in my approach to work, friendship, and professional relationships.” -BJ Jones ’94
Prior to being named president and CEO, Jones was vice-president of administration, overseeing internal operations as well as cultural and educational programming in the parks of Battery Park City.
Though Jones’s professional commitment to public service spans more than two decades, his personal commitment has been lifelong. “I’ve always been interested in public service, which was informed by my parents, who were public school teachers. My career has always been connected to government in some way.”
He started his career as a consultant for KPMG in the firm’s State and Local Government practice, later transitioning to the public sector to serve in several roles for Mayor Bloomberg’s Administration in New York City, including Assistant Commissioner of Strategic Planning and Implementation at the Department of Buildings and, later, Deputy Director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations.
Jones credits his experiences at Gettysburg College for setting a strong foundation for his career success. “At Gettysburg, I was able to cultivate a lot of different strengths, interests, and relationships, which really helped establish a foundation that served me well in my approach to work, friendship, and professional relationships,” he said. “For example, in my biology courses, I learned to think critically, realizing there is more to things than what meets the eye. Through the management department, I learned so much about leadership and through music, I developed that critical creative piece.”
When asked about the Manhattan Power 50 list, Jones said, “I was pleasantly surprised. I still find it hard to believe, even though I’ve always had a drive connected to public service. I’ve never really thought about milestones like that. I’m just trying to do a good job. If there is anything that I consciously try to do, it’s be an example of a good public servant and take the public trust seriously.”
By Katelyn Silva