News and events in Lower Manhattan
Volume 6, No. 46, July 13, 2021

"‘The monument is an outward call to conscience and to responsibility."
— Mary, McAleese, President of the Republic of Ireland on July 15, 2002 at a dinner preceding the dedication of the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City, which took place the next day
Letter from the Editor: The Governor's BPC memorial
Protests escalate against the Essential Workers Monument
Bulletin Board: Free Grab-and-Go breakfast and lunch; Wetlab look-ins on Pier 40
Calendar: Films at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City

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COVID-19 CASES IN NEW YORK CITY: As of July 11, 2021 at 6:25 p.m.
943,536 confirmed cases * 33,455 deaths * 4,771,716 vaccinated in NYC

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MASTHEAD PHOTO: July 4 fireworks over Jersey City and the Hudson River.
(Photo: ©Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2021)

The Irish Hunger Memorial at the corner of Vesey Street and North End Avenue has been in Battery Park City for about 20 years so it's likely that few people now think to ask "Why is it here? Are there a lot of Irish people in Battery Park City?"

That is what many people did ask when the Irish Hunger Memorial was first discussed and the plans first surfaced. The simple answer is no — there aren't an unusually large number of Irish people in Battery Park City — but the question is irrelevant.
The Irish Hunger Memorial.
(Photo © Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
The Irish Hunger Memorial is in Battery Park City because George Pataki, the governor of New York State from 1995 to 2006, had a grandmother who was born in Ireland. In 1999, accompanied by his mother, by his son, and by Tim Carey, the president and CEO of the Battery Park City Authority, Gov. Pataki visited the church in County Louth, Ireland, where his great-grandparents had been married in 1867.
As a wag from The Irish Echo wrote in an article entitled "Feast Precedes Famine Tribute" (Feb. 16, 2011), "Pataki admitted to a road-to-Damascus-like experience while visiting his mother's family home in County Louth. 'Why not a Great Hunger memorial in Manhattan?' he thought while sitting on a stone wall."

The Irish Times was somewhat more respectful in an article entitled "A Field in New York That is Forever Ireland," published on July 20, 2002, four days after the finished Irish Hunger Memorial was unveiled. The article stated that "The memorial was very much the brainchild of the state's half-Irish Governor George Pataki. Indeed, he claimed on Tuesday the memorial idea had come to him on holiday on his mother's family farm in Louth with the Battery Park City Authority's CEO, Tim Carey. The two men pushed through its $5 million funding, and his association with the project will certainly do Pataki no harm in the Irish community in the November elections, despite his (American) Republican colours."

On March 15, 2001, Gov. Pataki and Mary McAleese, President of the Republic of Ireland, had broken ground for the memorial on a half-acre site. The plan was to have the memorial finished by St. Patrick's Day of 2002, but the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center intervened.

President McAleese was with Gov. Pataki again for the dedication, which was a splendid affair. On July 15, 2002, the evening before the public opening of the memorial, the governor hosted a party at the Embassy Suites Hotel (now called the Conrad Hotel) where, as Mayo Ireland reported ("Irish Hunger Memorial Celebration Dinner"), the guests included foreign ministers, church and government leaders "such as Michael Bloomberg, Rudolph Giuliani and Ed Koch, and literally hundreds of Irish and Irish-American notables. The Governor's mother, Margaret, was also present for the occasion."

On July 16, the actual day of the dedication, Mayo Ireland described a day "blessed with glorious sunshine....Before the official unveiling there was a special mass celebrated at 10 a.m. in the Embassy Suites Hotel...After the mass, the 69th Regiment provided an honour guard leading the dignitaries to their places for the official dedication...The official dedication ceremony was followed by a spectacular celebration of music, arts and culture by more than 100 leading musicians, actors and dancers from the United States and Ireland."

Unfortunately, as I reported in Downtown Post NYC, by April 2003, the memorial had to be closed for repairs. "The materials holding the structure together were literally washing away because of poor drainage," I wrote. "A composite material used for the pathway became slippery when wet. The BPCA spent $250,000 to fix these problems."

But that was not the end of the construction and drainage problems. Irish Central reported on Dec. 9, 2015, "The Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City in New York is in complete disrepair and will cost $5.3 million to rehabilitate, according to the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA). That is more than it cost to build, which was $5 million."

The BPCA board of directors meeting on Dec. 4, 2015 where this issue was discussed was reported as "acrimonious."

The Irish Central article continued, "Hearing the new price tag, new board member Hector Batista asked, 'why do we have to do this? Why can't there be something else there?'"

BPCA Chairman Dennis Mehiel replied that the board had considered doing away with the memorial — an idea that was rejected — moving it in order to "reclaim that piece of grass" on "which additional commercial or residential space" could be built — an idea that was also rejected because there was nowhere else to put it — or perhaps selling air rights to recoup some of the money that was being invested in the memorial."

Except for the expenditure of $5.3 million, none of this came to pass.

Now, more than 20 years after the groundbreaking for the Irish Hunger Memorial, it has grown roots in Battery Park City. Many people visit it and admire it. And it continues to bear a message about the cruelty of hunger. "The monument is an outward call to conscience and to responsibility," President Mary McAleese had said at the dedication, "daring us, challenging us to care about the stranger in far off lands who is dying right now of hunger, who is wondering does anyone care and who despairs for his or her children and their future."

— Terese Loeb Kreuzer
The Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City has been planted with vegetation from County Mayo in Ireland, where the famine that killed a million people between 1845 and 1852 originated. (Photo: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
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George Tsunis (lower left), Chairman of the Battery Park City Authority, addressing the members of Community Board 1's Battery Park City Committee during a discussion of the Essential Workers Monument that has been proposed for Battery Park City. July 7, 2021
At a grueling, five-hour-long meeting on July 7, George Tsunis, Chairman of the Battery Park City Authority, met with members of Community Board 1's Battery Park City Committee to discuss a proposed Essential Workers Monument.

Most of the members of the Battery Park City Committee were outraged as were most of the members of the public who spoke during the meeting.

On June 25, via a local news outlet, they had heard for the first time that New York State was about to break ground on a "huge monument" for the "Rockefeller Park lawn." The monument had been commissioned by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to honor the hundreds of thousands of essential workers who had put their own lives on the line and the lives of their families so that everyone else who lives and/or works in New York State could be safe and cared for during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tsunis correctly observed that "facts are relevant in this process" and that "where there is a vacuum of information, people come to conclusions that are not accurate."

Judging by the comments and by a preliminary version of a resolution drawn up by the Battery Park City Committee, there was inaccurate information in abundance. The resolution condemned the placement of the monument, the design of the monument, the fact that it was going to be in Battery Park City at all and the "secretive" process by which the monument was said to have been designed and sited.

"I have three obligations here," Tsunis said. "The first is that we have a process so that people feel they are heard and respected. The second is to make sure that there's a lot better communication going forward. The third is that residents have a priority here BUT we also have an obligation to honor our essential workers who sacrificed so much."

One of the Battery Park City Committee's biggest complaints was that no one from Community Board 1 had a seat at the table while the Essential Workers Monument was being designed and sited by the heads of 23 labor unions. In fact, the Committee claimed ignorance that anything of the sort was happening.

"In January at the Battery Park City Authority board meeting, the chairman had announced in open session that we were in the preliminary stages of planning an Essential Workers Monument in Battery Park City in Rockefeller Park," said Nicholas Sbordone, Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the BPCA. Sbordone mentioned that Gov. Cuomo announced at that time that there would be an Essential Workers Advisory Committee.

"Which we were not invited to!" said Justine Cuccia, chair of CB1's Battery Park Committee.

The committee complained in a draft resolution that the advisory committee had "never held a single public meeting and never solicited input from residents, CB1 or elected officials."

Bob Schneck, a Community Board 1 member, replied to this comment by saying, "I've been involved with several monuments of various types and they were always done with people who weren't like [those] in the Community Board. I've never really seen anything quite like that. So we're making a demand that's really not the norm and I don't think it really was tried to be behind closed doors."

There was a misapprehension on the part of Community Board 1 and indeed on the part of some elected officials that Gov. Cuomo had been high-handed in proceeding with this monument without public input. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said, for instance, "We have a process — if you want to change anything about public land you have to go through land review. This situation has no consultation and no procedure."

That would be true of New York City-owned property but does not apply to property controlled by New York State. Battery Park City is a State-owned entity. What happened vis-a-vis the commission, design and siting of the Irish Hunger Memorial is a case in point. Gov. Pataki could do anything he wanted in this regard — and he did. Gov. Cuomo was also free to proceed without community input.

Another frequently heard complaint from the committee and the public was that there are already too many monuments in Battery Park City.

"The Battery Park City community is already overburdened with more monuments and memorials than any other in the City of New York or the State of New York including the Irish Hunger Memorial, the Police Memorial, the Mother Cabrini Memorial and the Hurricane Maria Memorial — a situation lately made worse by Governor Cuomo's recent spree of memorial building which has resulted in 'monument fatigue,'" a draft resolution complained until more slightly more temperate language was advised, although still with the same sentiments.

This accusation is now at least 20 years old. An article in The New York Times, "Memorial to the Hunger, Complete with Old Sod," dated March 15, 2001, wrestled with the question "Is this 92-acre landfill [meaning Battery Park City] turning into a necropolis? That article continued, "It's far from becoming a mausoleum," said James E. Gill, chairman of the Battery Park City Authority, which commissioned the [Irish Hunger Memorial] and will pick up its $4.7 million cost. Battery Park City is or will be home as well to the Skyscraper Museum, the Museum of Women, 30 acres of parks, two schools and more than a dozen large artworks, among large office towers and apartment buildings." (Editor's note: The cost grew to $5 million before the Irish Hunger Memorial was unveiled and the Museum of Women was never built. Also, BPC has 36 acres of parks and gardens, not 30 acres.)

George Tsunis conveyed an offer to CB1's Battery Park City Committee that the Essential Workers Monument be built either on what is now the volleyball court just south of North Cove Marina or on a strip of land between the Irish Hunger Memorial and 300 Vesey St.

The Committee considered neither of these alternatives to be satisfactory.

After approximately four-and-a-half hours, George Tsunis took his leave, shaking everyone's hand before he walked out the door. The Committee stayed on for another 45 minutes or so to draft a resolution to be presented to Community Board 1's full-board meeting on July 27, 2021.

In the meantime, on Friday afternoon (July 9) the Battery Park City Authority issued this statement from Tsunis:

As planned, this week — and as recently as Wednesday night — the Governor’s office and Battery Park City Authority have continued to hear from the community, take in feedback, and make changes based on that feedback regarding the new essential worker monument scheduled for completion later this year. After many long and productive conversations, we are still so excited to celebrate and memorialize the essential workers here in Battery Park City. We look forward to sharing the updated plans for the monument.”

And this afternoon (July 12) at 4:30 p.m. there will be a rally at the Irish Hunger Memorial opposing the Essential Workers Monument plans. It will be led by U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler. If it doesn't rain.

— Terese Loeb Kreuzer

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Bulletin Board
Two historic forts on Governors Island, Fort Jay and Castle Williams, have re-opened to the public. Visitors can explore the spaces through self-guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. National Park Service Rangers will be on hand to share information and answer questions. For more information, click here. (Photo: Visitors inspect a model of Castle Williams that has been installed in its courtyard. © Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
In-home COVID-19 vaccine update: In-home COVID-19 vaccinations are now available to all New Yorkers ages 12 and older. For more information and to schedule a vaccination appointment, click here or call (877) 829-4692.

Downtown Boathouse opens Governors Island season: The Downtown Boathouse is now offering free kayaking at Pier 101 on Governors Island on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the last boat going out at 3:30 p.m. The Boathouse has also started offering kayaking on Wednesday evenings from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at its main location on Pier 26 in Hudson River Park (just north of North Moore St.). For more information, click here.

Free Grab-and-Go breakfast and lunch: Free “grab and go” breakfast and lunch in this year’s “Summer Meals” program are available to all New Yorkers at about 400 sites on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. No registration, documentation, or ID is required. For a map of the NYC Dept. of Education’s list of locations, click here. For more details, click here.

Wetlab look-ins: The River Project's flow-through aquarium on Pier 40 in Hudson River Park houses dozens of species of fish and invertebrates caught within the Park as part of an ongoing ecological survey. The Wetlab is a rotating live exhibit as animals are released throughout the season to ensure that their behaviors are minimally impacted. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, join River Project staff for a tour of the Wetlab and get answers to your questions about local wildlife. Tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays take place between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. and on Sundays, at 11 a.m. All guests to the Wetlab must wear masks and observe social distancing. For more information, click here.

Perks for getting vaccinated: Covid-19 vaccination sites run by New York City are offering a variety of gifts and rewards for getting vaccinated. Among them is a chance to win $2,500. Each week during July, there will be 10 winners. For more information on the perks and for a list of City-run vaccination sites, click here.

Skyscraper Museum reopens: Beginning July 15 The Skyscraper Museum at 39 Battery Place will reopen its public galleries on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Admission will be free, at least through January. The hours will be noon to 6 p.m. Visitors will be able to see the museum's long-delayed SUPERTALL! 2020 exhibition, now renamed SUPERTALL 2021! which presents a survey of 58 supertalls worldwide. The exhibition will also showcase a dozen recently completed towers that represent some of the most stunning new forms and innovative approaches to structural engineering around the world today. The Skyscraper Museum's virtual lecture series WORLD VIEW presented talks by the principal designers of these extraordinary projects. You can watch these programs on the museum's website or YouTube channel. For more information about the museum, click here.

NYC public libraries reopen: All available locations in the New York Public Library system, which serves Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, reopened almost to pre-pandemic levels on July 6. Some libraries in the system are unavailable because they are under construction or need repairs. All other locations offer unlimited browsing, desktop computer use, laptop loan and general library use, including open seating. Outdoor programs are being planned throughout July. In-person public programs and classes will begin to be rescheduled at various times in July. Pre-pandemic hours are expected to resume on July 19. Check for the most up-to-date hours. Masks remain mandatory at all NYPL locations.

Governors Island ferry access: Access to Governors Island is by ferry, with timed ticket reservations required. Governors Island's Brooklyn ferries serve two locations on weekends: Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Atlantic Basin in Red Hook. (Enter near the corner of Pioneer and Conover Streets and enjoy PortSide NY's Pandemic Pop-Up Park near the landing.) Ferries run daily from Lower Manhattan. The ferries are always free for kids 12 and under, for seniors 65 and up, for residents of NYCHA housing, for military servicemembers, Governors Island members, and for everyone on weekends before noon. Learn more about Governors Island ferries and book tickets by clicking here.

Late hours on Governors Island: From July 4 weekend through Labor Day weekend, Governors Island is open to visitors until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Ferry service has been expanded to accommodate the later hours. Many of Governors Island’s food vendors are offering evening food and drinks as part of the expanded nighttime hours. Blazing Saddles bike rentals has expanded bicycle availability until sunset. Additional late-night vendors, activities and special programs will be announced throughout the season.

Lower Manhattan Greenmarkets: There are Lower Manhattan Greenmarkets in Tribeca (at Chambers and Greenwich Streets) and at Bowling Green, City Hall, the Oculus and the Staten Island ferry. GrowNYC asks that shoppers wear a face covering inside the market space and maintain a six-foot distance between themselves, Greenmarket staff, farm stand employees and other customers. Dogs and bicycles should be left at home.

Click here for a list of the fruits and vegetables now in season.
Many of the Downtown Post NYC bulletin board listings are now on the Downtown Post NYC website. To see the bulletin board listings, click here.
Spotlight: Films at the Museum of Jewish Heritage
The Museum of Jewish Heritage at 36 Battery Place in Battery Park City is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The Lox Café is open during museum hours.
(© Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
On July 9, a Hasidic man wearing traditional Jewish garb was attacked in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn by "an unknown assailant" according to a New York Police Department report. The report said that the attacker "made anti-Jewish statements and assaulted the man in broad daylight, in front of at least one witness." New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the attack "anti-Semitism, plain and simple. It's abhorrent and unacceptable, and these hateful attacks have absolutely no place in New York." He called for the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to offer assistance in the ongoing investigation.

This was the second time in recent months that Cuomo has publicly asked State Police to work on an anti-Semitism-related issue. In late May, he directed that security be reinforced at Jewish institutions throughout New York City following a number of violent incidents targeting Jews.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust at 36 Battery Place is among those institutions. Since the museum opened in 1997, its mission has included raising awareness of how anti-Semitism has played out in the past and how to recognize it and defuse it.

For the next month, the Museum of Jewish Heritage will be showing films related to Jewish life and culture and in some instances to the Holocaust. The series includes popular films that are high in entertainment value such as "Dirty Dancing," "The Sound of Music" and "Cabaret" as well as lesser known films.

The films are being screened in the museum's newly renovated Edmond J. Safra Hall. Tickets are $5 for museum members and $10 for non-members. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

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Editor: Terese Loeb Kreuzer

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