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News and Events
in Lower Manhattan
Volume 6, No. 9  June 20, 2019   

"I look forward to seeing what HHC's consultant has to offer, but I urge them to prioritize the needs of the community and to work within the context of the existing built environment. Too-tall towers in the Historic District are a no-go."
      -  Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer commenting on The Howard Hughes Corporation's announcement that it had hired a consultant to create a master plan for the properties that HHC controls in the South Street Seaport

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Clipper City is a replica of a ship that was built just before the Civil War for hauling lumber. It now offers cruises of New York harbor. (Photo: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2019)

Terese Loeb Kreuzer, editor
It is possible to find peace and tranquillity in New York City, and I'll tell you where. Book yourself a ride on the South Street Seaport Museum's 1885 schooner Pioneer for a cruise around New York harbor.

, the most historic boat still working in the harbor, was built to carry cargo between various communities on the Eastern Seaboard. Now, passengers like you are her cargo from May to October. On board, you will be offered the opportunity to help hoist her sails and will find out how heavy they are. You don't have to do this. You can just watch others do it. Then you can settle in for two peaceful hours.

One of things that makes them peaceful is that no one is staring at their cellphones. Instead, they're looking at the other sailboats and the cargo ships, the tugboats and the ferries, they're admiring the Statue of Liberty and the necklaces of bridges over the East River, they're watching the gulls and cormorants and terns. Without cellphones, the passengers may actually be talking to each other! Under sail, there are no motorized sounds to distract from the clang of buoy bells and the hiss and slap of water against the boat.

Under a blue sky on a sunny day, this is a return to the cradle - pretty close to bliss.

Pioneer's harbor cruise goes past Governors Island, and that's another place to find peace and tranquillity, at least in theory. Nolan Park, a short walk from the Soissons ferry landing that connects Governors Island with Manhattan, is the place to look for an expanse of lawn shaded by tall trees. Picnic tables have been installed around the lawn for those who prefer not to sit on the grass.

Dating from the 19th century, when Governors Island was an outpost of the U.S. Army (later to be replaced on the island by the U.S. Coast Guard), the Commanding Officer's Quarters face Nolan Park. Ringing the park are 15 charming, yellow houses that were built between 1845 and 1902 for senior officers and their families. During the summer, many of these buildings house exhibitions of various kinds, all of them free.

This would be the epitome of a peaceful, even bucolic, setting just hundreds of yards away from Manhattan and Brooklyn except for one thing. Tourism helicopters loop around the island six days a week at the rate of one or two a minute. They make so much noise that sometimes it's necessary to halt a conversation until they pass.

An agreement reached in 2016 between the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the helicopter tourism industry banned all Sunday flights from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport at Pier 6 and was supposed gradually to reduce the number of tourism helicopter flights on other days until, by 2017, they were to be 50 percent of what they had been in 2015.

This agreement was supposed to be monitored, triggering a further reduction in tourism flights if it were breached.

Whether any of this has happened, I can't say. I do know that on a recent Saturday, the helicopter noise was deafening. It would seem to be time to look at this agreement again and to enforce it or replace it, especially since we have recent evidence from the helicopter crash on June 10 that helicopters are not just annoying. They can be dangerous.

Terese Loeb Kreuzer
(For information about how to book a harbor cruise on the Pioneer, click here. For information on Governors Island ferry access and programming, click here.
Photos: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2019)

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Mimi Raygorodetsky, an associate at Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, giving a presentation to Community Board 1's Land Use Committee about the brownfield cleanup program at 250 Water St., a site in the South Street Seaport that is owned by The Howard Hughes Corporation. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
A press release from The Howard Hughes Corporation dated June 7, 2019 announced that HHC had hired Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, an architectural, interior design, engineering and urban planning firm, to come up with a plan "for the continuing evolution of Seaport District properties." HHC stated that this move was "part of a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to urban planning within Manhattan's historic Seaport District."
If HHC expected that this announcement would elicit whoops of joy from the Seaport community, they were not forthcoming. Skepticism would be more like it.  
HHC, a real estate developer based in Dallas, Texas, had acquired a controlling interest in much of the historic South Street Seaport in 2010 and had had nine years in which to think about and produce a master plan. However, despite repeated requests from Community Board 1 and other Seaport stakeholders, none was forthcoming.  
HHC management might have thought that this 10-square-block area of Lower Manhattan would be ripe for money-making development. However, the last nine years have not been tranquil. They have pitted HHC with its visions of glassy, mega-towers and luxury retail, against a community that, for the most part, treasured its maritime heritage and its 19th century architecture.  
The June 7 press release seems to declare a truce. In laudatory terms, it says that Skidmore, Owings & Merrill "will work with HHC and local stakeholders to create a compelling vision that respects the area's character, its local community and the dynamic role the Seaport has played throughout New York City's history."  
The press release also says that "A key objective of this planning strategy will be to ensure a sustainable future for the South Street Seaport Museum."
HHC promises that working with SOM, it "will soon begin meeting with local stakeholders and hosting dedicated public forums in order to create a plan that is responsive to community members and preserves the historic character of this distinctive neighborhood
while guiding its growth and revitalization."
Apparently, "soon" means sometime this year. "We are currently concluding the formulation of the community engagement plan and anticipate holding community forums this year," said Cristina Carlson, the HHC vice president for corporate communications and public relations.
"SOM is a well respected firm and the fact the both they and HHC say they will engage the community is very positive," said Anthony Notaro, chairperson of Community Board 1, in response to the press release. 

Some members of Save Our Seaport, a grassroots organization consisting primarily of South Street Seaport Museum volunteers and former staff, were not so sanguine. "They hit all the high notes and buzz words in their press release," said Michael Kramer, a member of SOS's steering committee.  
Kramer believes that the reason that HHC is now discussing a master plan for its Seaport holdings is that a year ago it spent $183 million to buy a property at 250 Water Street from the Milstein family and has met spirited community resistance to its vague plans to develop that parcel. Beneath the asphalt of what was a parking lot under Milstein ownership lies a cesspool of industrial waste created in the 19th century when the site was used for the manufacture of mercury-filled thermometers, among other products. As long as the site is capped and undisturbed, the mercury isn't hazardous. That would not be true if it were to be excavated. Two schools - the Peck Slip School and the Blue School - adjoin the site. Many of the parents are up in arms. So are many of the residents of Southbridge Towers, which is nearby.
Even if the site could be developed, it is zoned for nothing taller than a 12-story building. The Howard Hughes Corporation insists that it has no definite plan for the site.
"We're told that they spent $183 million without a plan!" said Kramer incredulously. "It does seem like overkill to hire a powerhouse firm like SOM to just design a 12-story building."
The HHC press release specifically mentions "a particular focus on the surface parking lot at 250 Water Street."  
"I look forward to seeing what HHC's consultant has to offer," said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, "but I urge them to prioritize the needs of the community and to work within the context of the existing built environment. Too-tall towers in the Historic District are a no-go."

 - Terese Loeb Kreuzer 
Parents and children from the Peck Slip School and the Blue School participated in a demonstration on May 16, 2019 protesting The Howard Hughes Corporation's plans to develop a lot at 250 Water St. that was once used for manufacturing and which is known to be contaminated. (Photo: Michael Kramer) 


Bits & Bytes
  Governors Island's new ferry went into service on June 15. It travels between Governors Island and the Battery Maritime Terminal at 10 South St. At first, the service will be only on weekends. The ferry can hold up to 400 people. (Photo: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer) 
"Eleven Madison Park Vets Plot a Restaurant in a Historic Three-Story Tribeca Townhouse,", 6/18/19. "A sommelier and a chef with significant experience in NYC's fine dining scene are teaming up for a new, three-floor restaurant in a historic Tribeca townhouse," says "Dustin Wilson and Austin Johnson - the former Eleven Madison park wine director and ex-chef at Michelin-starred Frenchie in Paris, respectively - are eyeing the property at 1 White St., which John Lennon and Yoko Ono once used as the address for "Nutopia," a conceptual country made up by the famous couple in 1973. Wilson and Johnson's new, yet-to-be-named restaurant appeared before Manhattan's Community Board 1 last month seeking a full liquor license for the space, which is 560-square-feet per floor." The restaurant will be "fine dining" but the menu is still being discussed and an official timeline has not yet been set for opening. For the complete article, click here.

"9/11 first responder who testified with Jon Stewart now in hospice care,"
New York Post, 6/19/19. "The cancer-ridden NYPD detective who shared emotional testimony last week in support of reauthorizing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund is now in hospice care," the New York Post reports. "Luis Alvarez, who responded to Ground Zero, shared the tragic news on Facebook that there 'is nothing else the doctors can do to fight the cancer.' .... Last week, Alvarez told a House Judiciary subcommittee that he was there to testify despite having his 69th round of chemotherapy scheduled for the very next day. 'You made me come down here the day before my 69th round of chemo and I'm going to make sure that you never forget to take care of the 9/11 responders,' he told lawmakers at the time, with former 'Daily Show' host Jon Stewart by his side." For the complete article, click here.

"Farm to Skyscraper Crown Shy brings uncommon finesse to Fidi,", 6/16/19. Grub Street reports on "Crown Shy, a large, deceptively ambitious restaurant that opened a couple of months ago off the spiffily renovated, landmarked lobby of an old Art Deco tower [at 70 Pine Street]. ... There are plenty of carefully conceived vegetable options on the menu at first glance (charred carrots, crunchy cauliflower florets, servings of meticulously stacked romaine), and partners Jeff Katz and chef James Kent are veterans of disciplined, shipshape restaurants around town (Katz is managing partner of Del Posto; Kent was the chef de cuisine at Eleven Madison Park)." For the complete article, click here.

"World Trade Center's Oculus Skylight Likely Won't Be Fixed Before 9/11 Anniversary,"
Wall Street Journal, 6/9/19. "The retractable skylight at the $3.9 billion World Trade Center Oculus in Manhattan is unlikely to open this year on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks," says the Wall Street Journal. "The $32 million skylight, which is supposed to open each Sept. 11 anniversary, started leaking in the fall of 2018. Officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the public agency that owns the 16-acre World Trade Center site, believe that a rubber seal that runs along the skylight ripped during its opening and closing on the 2018 anniversary. Since then, the agency has spent more than $30,000 sealing leaks with waterproof tape that runs in strips along the 355-foot skylight." For the complete article, click here.

"Long-awaited lower Manhattan pedestrian bridge will open this fall,", 5/30/19. "The West Thames pedestrian bridge near the World Trade Center, which has been in the works for nearly a decade, will finally open to the public," says The Real Deal. "This week, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) announced its plans to open the 230-foot bridge to pedestrians in the fall, and name it after Robert R. Douglass, one of the founders of the Alliance for Downtown New York, which pushed for the rebuilding of lower Manhattan after 9/11. ... The bridge's installation faced several roadblocks over the years, including a weld defect last August and funding issues back in 2010, when it was initially poised to be installed. NYCEDC finally broke ground on the project in 2016." For the complete article, click here.

"New Governors Island CEO named,"
Crain's New York Business, 5/22/19. "Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that Clare Newman, executive vice president of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp., would cross the Buttermilk Channel and become president and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island," says Crain's New York Business. "Newman replaces fellow de Blasio appointee Michael Samuelian, who last month announced plans to leave his post at the nonprofit as part of what appears to be a broader overhaul of the organization's leadership. Newman will take over stalled efforts to rezone two sites for development on the 172-acre island's southern shore. Former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen is slated to replace the trust's board chairman, Carl Weisbrod, and Politico reported in April that she had pushed Samuelian out." For the complete article, click here.

"The West Village's Pier 40 could be home to a new 700K-sf commercial development,", 6/3/19. "Pier 40 in the West Village could be partially redeveloped soon," says The Real Deal. "New legislation could let the pier develop as much as 700,000 square feet of commercial office space, according to Crain's. The law that sparked the park's creation in 1998 included a provision to let it sustain itself with funds from commercial sites, and a new amendment would allow its owner - the Hudson River Park Trust - to enter into a lease with a developer for up to 49 years with a potential 25-year renewal. Structures could not be more than 88 feet tall, and public open space would have to make up at least 65 percent of the project. The Hudson River Park Trust is not totally on board with the plan's limitations. The group wants to increase the limit on office space from 700,000 to 880,000 square feet and doesn't think a 49-year lease would appeal to developers." For the complete article, click here.

"World Trade Center officials, contractors, involved in 'pay to play' scheme: officials," Daily News, 5/29/19. The Daily News reported that "Unqualified contractors hired to rebuild the World Trade Center wined, dined and pampered a building manager to get the lucrative gig, state Attorney General Letitia James said Wednesday. The Attorney General's office indicted the building manager and two contractors for the 'pay to play' scheme, where the unqualified contractors allegedly received the state-funded jobs after showering the manager with Florida golf trips, sports tickets, luxury car service rides and expensive meals." For the complete article, click here.

"AIG looks to sell Downtown headquarters,", 5/28/19. "Insurance giant American International Group is looking to sell its Financial District headquarters ahead of a relocation to Midtown," the Real Deal reports. "AIG is shopping its 31-story office tower at 175 Water Street for sale with an asking price near $275 million, sources told The Real Deal. As part of a sale, AIG is looking to do a short-term leaseback with the new owner through the end of 2021 as the insurance company relocates offices to the Rockefeller Group's 1271 Sixth Avenue." For the complete article, click here.

Letter to the editor
Outside the Deutsche Bank building on July 14, 2009. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
To the editor:

On May 31, Crain's New York Business reported that the Deutsche Bank site at 5 World Trade Center will be sold to become, most likely, a residential complex designed for maximum financial return. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority have finally reached an agreement to split the proceeds, although they are currently declining to provide the text of the agreement to community organizations and advocates.

On Wednesday, June 19, the LMDC held a public comment hearing on a series of eminent domain actions at the World Trade Center, including seizing some of the land under Liberty Park.

The full implications of this eminent domain action are unclear because the LMDC has not provided a coherent explanation in their announcement, which itself has not been very well publicized.

The public meeting only took place because the New York State eminent domain law requires a public hearing. Hence, it is conceivable that this may have been the only opportunity for the public to comment on the 5WTC plans or their financial context, namely what the City should receive in return for allowing LMDC and the Port Authority to seize this land.

Todd Fine
Esther Regelson

From the editor:

This is the link to the article from Crain's New York Business referred to in this letter, discussing the sale of the Deutsche Bank site at the World Trade Center:
"Warring agencies reach deal to sell final World Trade Center site," Crain's New York Business, 5/31/19. Two state agencies that had been embroiled in a yearslong impasse over how to develop the last site at the World Trade Center appear to have resolved their differences and are planning to bring the parcel to market.

The Port Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. have reached a deal to release a request for proposals in the coming months for 5 World Trade Center, several people involved or familiar with the negotiations between the agencies told Crain's.

The parcel, which can accommodate over 1 million square feet of commercial or mixed-use development, could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars and is expected to draw attention from developers interested in raising an office, hotel or apartment spire, or a tower that could include all three uses.

The agencies would split the proceeds, but what percentage each would get is unclear. For the complete article, click here
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Downtown bulletin board
The kayaking season at the Downtown Boathouse on Pier 26 in Hudson River Park is now in full swing with kayaking on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The Downtown Boathouse also offers free kayaking on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Governors Island. The Downtown Boathouse is run by volunteers. Kayaking is free (no experience required). For more information, click here. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Third public meeting of the South Battery Park City Resiliency Project: On June 24, the third public meeting of the South Battery Park City Resiliency Project will take place at 6 p.m. Place: 6 River Terrace. This meeting will include updates on the ongoing design and engineering process with design firm AECOM, as well as a Q&A session. Background and supporting materials are available from the Battery Park City Authority including the presentation from the BPCA's previous public session, which took place on March 2, 2019. To see it, click here. The Battery Park City Authority maintains a page on its website devoted to the resiliency projects that it is currently managing. For that information, click here.

BPC resilience assessment workshop: Following up on a survey that the Battery Park City Authority recently distributed called "Building a More Resilient Battery Park City," the BPCA held a collaborative resilience assessment workshop on June 19 to leverage the insights and knowledge of Battery Park City stakeholders. The purpose was to examine resilience-building opportunities and challenges in Battery Park City including the identification of additional actions and the improvement of existing actions. 

Whitney Museum will be open daily in July and August: The Whitney Museum of American Art at 99 Gansevoort St. will be open to the public seven days a week during the months of July and August. Ordinarily closed on Tuesdays, the Museum will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, beginning Tuesday, July 2. Extended hours continue on Friday and Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. until 10 p.m., and Friday evenings are pay-what-you-wish from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The Museum's summer exhibitions include Spilling Over: Painting Color in the 1960s and the 2019 Whitney Biennial. This summer, the Museum will host a wide variety of events connected to the Biennial, including performances by Biennial artists Laura Ortman, Las Nietas de Nonó, and Ellie Ga as well as a conversation with Beta-Local, a Puerto Rican non-profit run by Biennial artist Sofía Gallisá Muriente and artists Pablo Guardiola and Michael Linares.

On June 28, the Museum will debut The Whitney's Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965, presenting beloved works by artists associated with the Whitney, including Elizabeth Catlett, Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Jacob Lawrence, Joan Mitchell, Alice Neel, Georgia O'Keeffe, and others. The show also features a panoramic installation of Calder's Circus that dramatizes its narrative arc and major recent acquisitions of works by Mary Ellen Bute, Ed Clark, and Norman Lewis. For more information about the Whitney, click here.

Open Call for Seaport Community Mural Project: The Office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM) have announced an open call for mural designs to be applied to structures that are part of the Interim Flood Protection Measures (IFPM) program that will be installed along South Street in Manhattan's South Street Seaport neighborhood. The Open Call isn't just limited to professional artists  - anyone may submit a design, which will be printed on vinyl banners and attached to the IFPM. Winning proposals will receive $1,000.

For more information on the project and how to apply, click here. The submission deadline is July 15, 2019. (Applications sent by mail must be postmarked by July 12, 2019.)

Connection bus service changes:  Changes to the Downtown Connection bus service started on May 27 and will continue through the end of the summer season. Buses are running on a temporary limited route near The Battery to prevent the misuse of buses by aggressive ticket sellers. For more information, click here.

Ferry schedules: On Monday, May 20, the summer schedules for NYC Ferry routes went into effect. These routes serve the Lower East Side, South Brooklyn, Rockaway, the East River, Astoria and Soundview, with connecting buses in the Rockaways and midtown Manhattan. As of May 20, ferries to and from Pier 11 at Wall Street and Governors Island are running on weekends . Also on May 20, NYC Ferry began serving the Brooklyn Navy Yard, with a new stop along the Astoria Route. For more information, click here.

Most of the Downtown Post NYC bulletin board listings are now on the Downtown Post NYC website. To see the bulletin board listings, click here.

calendar CALENDAR: June 2019
Spotlight: River to River Festival 

Poets House at 10 River Terrace in Battery Park City is one of the institutions that will be participating in "Night at the Museums," part of the River to River Festival. During "Night at the Museums," Poets House will have free book giveaways and family-friendly activities.
(Photo: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
River to River Festival:
The River to River Festival returns to Lower Manhattan from June 18 to June 29 with free performances and events daily.

Yoko Ono gets star billing with "The Reflection Project" and "Add Color (Refugee Boat) (1960/2019), the largest public exhibition ever of the artist's work in downtown New York. For "The Reflection Project," five of Yoko Ono's works have been placed in locations throughout Lower Manhattan including Fosun Plaza, the Fulton Center, the Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center and in the South Street Seaport. "Add Color (Refugee Boat)" has previously been exhibited in Japan, Greece, England and Germany and initially consisted of a small boat placed in an empty space. The public was invited to paint thoughts, ideas and hopes on the walls, floor and boat. For the River to River Festival, it has been installed at 203 Front St. in the Seaport District where visitors are invited to add to its overlay of messages. The installation is open from noon to 8 p.m. daily.

For more information about River to River Festival events, click here.

Night at the Museums:
As part of the River to River Festival, "Night at the Museums" returns on June 25 between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. This event showcases Lower Manhattan's cultural institutions and historic landmarks. This year 14 museums, historic sites and tours will be participating by offering free admission and special tours. All museums and historical sites are within walking distance of one another.

Participating museums and historic sites include: The African Burial Ground National Monument, China Institute, Federal Hall National Memorial, Fraunces Tavern Museum, Lower Manhattan Tours, Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, National Archives at New York City, National Museum of the American Indian-Smithsonian Institution, National September 11 Memorial Museum, NYC Municipal Archives Visitor Center, 9/11 Tribute Museum, Poets House, The Skyscraper Museum and the South Street Seaport Museum. For more information and for assistance in planning a route, click here.
For more calendar listings, go to the Downtown Post NYC website. Click here.
Federal Hall National Memorial stands at the junction of Broad and Wall Streets on the site where George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the United States on April 30, 1789. During "Night at the Museums," there will be National Park Service Ranger-led tours on the hour from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. as well as a special lecture by Professor Jamie Warren at 6 p.m. Visitors can also pick up a copy of the Bill of Rights as well as other giveaways. (Photo: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


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Editor: Terese Loeb Kreuzer

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