News and events in Lower Manhattan
Volume 6, No. 41, April 9, 2021

"If a building is good, it tells you something. Even the stupidest, most banal glass building that has really zero character tells you a story. It's a very short story which says 'I have nothing to tell you.'"

    - Architect, Daniel Libeskind

Letter from the Editor: The visibility of time
Landmarks Preservation Commission again nixes 250 Water St. tower plans
Letter to the Editor: Why latest Howard Hughes tower proposal should be rejected
Summer plans for South Street Seaport Museum's Pioneer and W.O. Decker
Bulletin Board: Bird walks in The Battery; Hudson River Park seeks volunteers
Calendar: Museum of Jewish Heritage and Annual Gathering of Remembrance

COVID-19 CASES IN NEW YORK CITY: As of April 7, 2021 at 5:33 p.m.
857,266 confirmed cases * 31,598 deaths * 2,434,003 vaccinated in NYC

Go to for breaking news and for updated information on facility closures related to COVID-19 

MASTHEAD PHOTO: A mourning dove in Hudson River Park.
(Photo: ©Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2016)

I've met architect Daniel Libeskind three times. The first time was in Berlin; the second time was in Toronto and the third time was in his studio in Lower Manhattan.

When I say that I "met" him, I mean that in the first two instances, I met him indirectly. I'm guessing that I met him in Berlin in 2002 or 2003. I visited the Jewish Museum Berlin which is next to the 18th century Prussian Court of Justice building. The two are connected by an underground passageway through which visitors enter the Jewish Museum. This museum, which opened to the public in 2001, was the first of Libeskind's designs to be built.

I remember some aspects of that encounter vividly. I remember climbing a long stairway with little on either side of me to tell me where I was going or where I was coming from. And I remember walking down a long, dark hallway with a lighted exhibition case on my right side. It contained artifacts — personal possessions, as I recall, of great value to the owner but not intrinsically valuable. The hallway ended in a tall, concrete tower, unlit except for a narrow window high up in the wall, empty of furnishings or ornamentation, unheated and uncooled. It was like a prison from which there was no escape. And I remember angles and jagged lines everywhere, as though the building had been slashed.

I didn't know then what I know now — that Libeskind had been born in Lódz, Poland to Holocaust survivors and that many of his relatives died in the Holocaust. The building that he designed caused me to experience the disorientation, fear and sorrow of the Holocaust. I felt it physically, which is what he intended.
The next time that I met him was on May 31, 2010 at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada. Libeskind designed an extension for an existing museum, again employing jagged shapes but this time, instead of being threatening, they glowed from within. They suggested a fierce force of nature — the kind that
could form mountains or crystalline deposits. And in fact, the museum has an outstanding mineralogy gallery. But what I most remember is climbing a staircase where the angles of walls, ceiling, stairs, hand railings, windows and light intersected in constantly changing ways. I felt as though I were walking through sculpture. I took a picture of the staircase. When I met Libeskind in his studio a few months later on July 19, 2010, I showed him the photograph. He said he liked it.

And I liked him. I was there to interview him for an article. I forget where it was published.

I was thinking about him today for two reasons. On March 3, 2021, the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City, sponsored a conversation between Libeskind and architecture critic Paul Goldberger. It was recorded on video and can be screened on You Tube. Libeskind said — and I'm paraphrasing — that architecture has to do with memory and storytelling. "If a building is good, it tells you something," Libeskind said. "Even the stupidest, most banal glass building that has really zero character tells you a story. It's a very short story which says 'I have nothing to tell you.'"

Libeskind mused on this some more. "We live in many cities — cities of amnesia — where we don't have anything to remember, where there's nothing to orient us to something bigger than our own egos, where we walk through sort of a meaningless consolidation of structures that has very little impact on our soul....It's about a soul. It's not about transactions. It's not about ideology. It's about the sense of communion with people of all sorts and being able to live together in a meaningful way."

Goldberger replied, "Much of what you're saying could be an argument for historic preservation. It could be an argument for keeping older buildings in a city and showing what Lewis Mumford very memorably referred to as 'the visibility of time' when he said that in a city, time becomes visible."

Libeskind agreed.

This got to me because I've been thinking a lot about the South Street Seaport Historic District and why I, and many other people, find it important to preserve it — not piecemeal but intact. Time is, indeed, visible there, in the handmade bricks, the faded fishmonger signage, the hotels that catered to sailors and salesmen, the remnants of the sorting machinery used in the coffee warehouses, the sites of some infamous bars and brothels, the walls covered with 19th century graffiti, the ceiling beams charred by 19th century fires, and on and on. It's all there still but could so easily be damaged or destroyed.

Heated debate has been raging for years as to what should be built on the one acre lot at 250 Water St. In line with Libeskind's thinking, I ask of the current proposals, "What story do they tell? What story will they tell in time to come about the South Street Seaport Historic District? What story will they tell about us and about what we value?"

Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Architect Daniel Libeskind. July 19, 2010. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
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(above) A map of the South Street Seaport showing the location of the 250 Water Street lot and of the John Street lot where an addition to the South Street Seaport Museum is being proposed. (below) A rendering of the proposed tower and podium for the lot owned by The Howard Hughes Corporation at 250 Water St. in the South Street Seaport.
A city block in the South Street Seaport known as 250 Water St. is bounded not only by Water Street but by Beekman and Pearl Streets and by Peck Slip. Structures on this one acre lot could have their choice of addresses. But 250 Water St. has been the moniker of record at least since 1979 when Milstein Properties bought the lot for $5.8 million. For nearly 40 years, Milstein tried to develop the property but was met with litigation and ultimately with downzoning. Finally, in June 2018, Milstein sold 250 Water St. to The Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) for $180 million.

Although almost 43 years have passed since Milstein purchased 250 Water St., nothing has yet been built on the lot and it's quite likely that nothing will be built on it in the immediate future. The Howard Hughes Corporation's first and second proposals to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for a tower and other structures at 250 Water St. were met with "No action." That leaves the door open for Howard Hughes to return to the LPC with a third proposal.

Forty-three years is a long time to be expending energy and money fighting over a one acre lot. However none of the participants in this struggle seem ready to throw in the towel.

When HHC bought 250 Water St., it said that it had not decided on what to do with the site. That seems highly unlikely considering the price tag. However HHC proceeded to spend more money not only on that site but on its other Seaport holdings by hiring Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) "to advance a forward-looking plan for the continuing evolution of Seaport District properties," as an HHC press release announced on June 6, 2019. "SOM brings highly relevant expertise to this important commission and 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."

After cogitating on this for a year-and-a-half, HHC and SOM came up with a proposal for two towers on the 250 Water St. lot, each of them 37 stories tall (a height of 470 feet). One possible obstacle was that since 2003, the lot has been zoned for a maximum height of 120 feet. HHC said that it would achieve the additional height by transferring air rights from the New Market building site and the Tin Building site, both of them on South Street. HHC doesn't actually own those air rights. They belong to the city, however HHC seemed confident that this problem could be worked out.

HHC said that its request for additional height was necessitated by its plan to include 100 affordable apartments in the towers in addition to 260 market-rate apartments, and by its promise to endow the financially struggling South Street Seaport Museum with $50 million, dependent on HHC's ability to purchase the requested air rights.

At a hearing on Jan. 5, 2021, the Landmarks Preservation Commission torpedoed the Howard Hughes proposal for 250 Water St. LPC said that the towers would overwhelm the mostly four- and five-story buildings in the Seaport. At the same time, the Commissioners largely praised a related proposal for an extension to the South Street Seaport Museum to be built on John Street. HHC was proposing that it provide a design for this extension although the money to actually build it was not on the table.

So it was back to the drawing boards for Howard Hughes and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. On April 6, 2021, HHC and SOM returned to the Landmarks Preservation Commission with a proposal for a smaller tower and some tweaks as to where it would be positioned. Saul Scherl, President for the Tri-State region for The Howard Hughes Corporation, opened the proceedings by saying that "Our proposal continues to deliver many of the public benefits that we believe will help ensure that the South Street Seaport Historic District remains and retains its essential character and cultural significance."

The tower would only be 27 stories tall, he said, and would be moved to the Pearl Street side of the lot where it would "not be readily apparent from the many viewpoints within the historic district."

The only problem with that is that the zoning still remains what it was — for a building with a maximum height of 120 feet.

Along with the proposed height of the tower, the benefits to the community would be downsized, Scherl said. There would be 70 affordable apartments, not 100, as previously and the proposed endowment of $50 million for the South Street Seaport Museum was no longer being mentioned. What was now being promised was "a substantial funding package to provide financial stability to the South Street Seaport Museum."

Speaking for the South Street Seaport Museum, Capt. Jonathan Boulware, its President and CEO, continued to be grateful. In an article in Crain's New York Business published on April 5, 2021, he said "The Museum urgently needs to secure recurring revenue to keep its doors open and continue carrying out its mission and duty as a steward and interpreter of the historic district. It needs an infusion of funds to stabilize itself in addition to the federal money available from FEMA, with which it can reopen its galleries and once again present its precious 28,000 artifacts to the public. The museum was founded to codify the historic elements of the South Street Seaport and preserve New York's earliest history. Now the Museum, which makes the district what it is, faces demise. The Landmarks Preservation Commission has the power to save it, by viewing this district holistically. If the Seaport Museum dies, the South Street Seaport Historic District as we know it will die with it."

The only problem with that is that the Landmarks Preservation Commission is not empowered to consider community benefits when deciding whether to issue a certificate of appropriateness. It is only supposed to consider architectural integrity.

On April 6, the LPC heard from 77 speakers who supported the Howard Hughes proposal and 53 who opposed it. The Commission received 500 letters opposed to the 250 Water St. plan outlined by HHC and 10 letters in support of it.

A petition from the Seaport Coalition was signed by 8,500 people opposed to the HHC plan. The Seaport Coalition is an all-volunteer group of New Yorkers who want to revitalize the South Street Seaport Historic District in a way that preserves its inherent character as the public steward of New York City's maritime history.

"After nine hours of testimony, we thank the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commissioners who sent The Howard Hughes Corporation's proposal for a 250 Water Street tower back to staff for further revisions," the Seaport Coalition said in a press release. "'It is still inappropriate,' remarked LPC Commissioner Michael Goldblum."

If The Howard Hughes Corporation comes back to the LPC with a revised proposal, the Commission has two options: If the LPC considers the changes to be significant, it can schedule a new hearing where the public again has a chance to comment. If the changes are not considered to be significant, the Commissioners will consider the new submission and leave the public out of the dialogue.

"The passage of time will bear on everything," said Elaine Kennedy, a member of the Southbridge Towers board of directors. "I don't think that HHC has the time to go through nine different design incarnations for the Water Street lot like Milstein did." The Howard Hughes Corporation could build a 120-foot-tall tower right now. The zoning would permit that. "Saul [Sherl] has been heard to say he would just build as of right at some point," Kennedy said. "We can only hope that is true but I doubt it."

— Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Buildings on Beekman Street in the South Street Seaport Historic District show the low-rise character of the neighborhood. Most of them date from the 19th century and still have signage reflecting the centuries during which the street was part of the Fulton Fish Market. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer 2016)
Letter to the editor
The parking lot at 250 Water St. in the South Street Seaport as it looked on July 4, 2019. The Howard Hughes Corporation has the right to erect a 120-foot-tall building on this lot but for several years now has been trying to get the Landmarks Preservation Commission to permit the erection of a much taller building. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
To the editor:

Almost a half century ago, the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the South Street Seaport as a New York City Historic District. As the Designation Report said, the historic district celebrates a relatively small area that established New York City as the dominant port in America and, therefore, its dominant financial center. It is unique because of that history, and because of its beauty and charm. Importantly it is one of the few historic districts that has significance for the entire City; it is a place that unites us.

The Report recorded that a strong common characteristic of the District is the uniformity of its scale. It is defined by “the small-scale brick buildings that contrast dramatically with the soaring skyscrapers nearby.” The Report also noted that the designated area included a significant number of empty potential sites. Nothing in the Report suggested that these should not be built upon. But everything suggested that what might be built should be compatible with the character and scale of the district. It was not designated with a view to allowing creeping infusion of “soaring skyscrapers” to spoil its character, even at its outer borders. To the contrary, the designation contemplated a distinct line between an extremely important historical era and the quite different tempo, excitement, modernity and awesomeness of today. To mix them would be to diminish both. To honor the line would be to promote both.

The Report also credited the South Street Seaport Museum with the enormous contributions it had made toward preserving the District and perpetuating its character.

The Museum should be nurtured in every reasonable way — but not at the expense of the District’s essential scale and character.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is a great institution. It also has, by law, a limited scope. Its duty is to designate aesthetically and culturally important sites to be preserved, and to allow improvements and even new construction provided they are appropriate and consistent. To that end, it must abide by its legislatively established limits. It may and must consider appropriateness and consistency in terms of aesthetic and architectural issues and the goal of maintaining character and scale. It cannot properly make decisions on the basis of what is politically or socially desirable.

The Commission’s reputation, and therefore its strength, depend on its unfailing dedication to preservation and restoration. To reach a decision on the basis that it will result in a large endowment to an important constituent of the District at the price of compromising (to say the least) appropriate standards for scale and design in the District, can only result in a damaging compromise of the Commission’s own stature and its powers.

Approving the currently proposed height and bulk for a structure at 250 Water St. would establish a legal precedent that would have to be followed in the future. When developers, who will have seen the Commission bend, propose the next South Street Seaport project, and the one after that, and after that, each could point to the Commission’s approval of the 250 Water St. project and the binding precedent it established. If the Commission argued that each prior project was unique and couldn't be compared to the last, the Commission, sadly, would lose because the winning argument would be that the Commission had abandoned the past.

The current proposal, like the last, is inappropriate. It should be rejected.

Michael Gruen

From the editor:
We welcome letters to the editor. We reserve the right to edit them for clarity and length. Send them to
The South Street Seaport Museum's 1885 schooner Pioneer sailing on the Hudson River. Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer
New York Harbor aficionados have been missing their boats. These are not just any boats. These are boats with a history — the 1885 schooner Pioneer that was built in Marcus Hook, Pa. to serve as a cargo sloop and the jaunty, yellow tugboat, W.O. Decker, built in 1930 to service businesses on Newtown Creek, the waterway that separates Brooklyn and Queens.

"We're hoping to see both the schooner Pioneer and the W.O. Decker sailing this summer," said Capt. Jonathan Boulware, president and CEO of the South Street Seaport Museum. "The specifics are still being developed."

Pioneer was the first of only two sloops to be built with a wrought iron hull. After 10 years of service in the Delaware Bay, she was re-rigged as a schooner for easier handling.

Since December 2019, she has been in Albany at the Scarano Boat Builders, undergoing extensive work, which has included new bottom plating, new ballasts and a new engine. This has been made possible by funds from restricted support.

"Pioneer probably won't be back in New York until early July," Boulware said. When she does return, given the pandemic, she won't run a regular roster of public trips. He expects that Pioneer will offer charter sails and public sails for special groups such as South Street Seaport Museum members and volunteers.

W.O. Decker is in the South Street Seaport. Boulware said that she's undergoing some maintenance but is "in really great shape."

Decker was originally steam powered before being refitted with a 175 hp diesel engine. In 1986, she was donated to the South Street Seaport Museum. She was added to the National Register of Historic Places in September 1996.

Like Pioneer, W.O. Decker probably won't begin harbor trips until July.

Boulware said that the South Street Seaport Museum's volunteer program, which is so crucial for the maintenance of the museum's ships and for many other museum tasks will restart in "a couple of weeks." Because of the pandemic, there will be a limited number of slots available on any given day. For more information, email

— Terese Loeb Kreuzer

In October 2020, Malcolm Martin, Fleet Captain and Master of the Pioneer, wrote on the South Street Seaport Museum's website about Pioneer's history and the repairs that are now in the final stages of completion. To read what he had to say, click here.
The South Street Seaport Museum's tugboat, W.O. Decker, which was built in 1930 to service businesses on Newtown Creek. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
Bulletin Board
Although in temperate climates, some Canada geese can and do live year round, others migrate to the northern sections of North America in the spring, seeking to return to the place where they were born for mating and nesting. Migrations can be as long as 2,000 to 3,000 miles. Canada geese typically fly at a speed of 40 miles per hour but can go as fast as 70 miles per hour with the help of a tailwind. They are capable of flying up to 1,500 miles in a single day. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
Bird walks in The Battery: The spring migration is in progress when birds fly north from their winter to their summer homes. During this long and arduous journey, many birds stop in Lower Manhattan to rest and recuperate. Led by Gabriel Willow, an educator with NYC Audubon, The Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan is offering bird walks on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning on April 21 to showcase the diversity of migrating birds that find food and habitat in what is the nation's largest perennial garden.

Willow, an experienced birder and naturalist, is well-versed in the ecology and history of New York City. He has been leading walks for NYC Audubon for more than 10 years, guiding new and experienced birders in all five boroughs and beyond.

To protect visitors from the spread of COVID-19, the number of participants in each walk is limited to fewer than 15 people. An RSVP is required for participation. Participants must wear a mask at all times while in The Battery, maintain a distance of at least six feet from staff and other park visitors, refrain from sharing binoculars or other materials and stay home when feeling sick. Anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 after participating in a program must contact The Battery staff.

Bird walks begin at 8 a.m. and end at 9 a.m. The meeting place is the Netherland Memorial Flagpole in The Battery at the intersection of Broadway, Battery Place and State Street.

For more information about The Battery, click here.

To sign up for a bird walk, click here.

Hudson River Park seeks volunteers: The arrival of spring means the beginning of the volunteer season in Hudson River Park. Volunteers work with the park's horticultural staff to help keep the park clean, green and beautiful. All green thumbs are welcome to sign up (no experience necessary), enjoy the outdoors and give back to our shared backyard. Capacity is capped to ensure safe social distancing. Hudson River Park's Saturday Green Team dates start April 10. Click here to see the full calendar, and learn about other volunteer opportunities.

Become a member of Hudson River Park: Members of Hudson River Park's Friends with Benefits program enjoy VIP opportunities, discounts at local businesses and more ways to enjoy the Park while helping it thrive. Hudson River Park is not part of NYC Parks — programming, maintenance and operations rely on private support. Join today! For more information, click here.

Battery Park City 'Wild': Battery Park City is home to many kinds of wildlife. Among them are numerous species of insects, including native pollinators, that inhabit BPC's gardens and lawns. More than 100 species of resident and migratory birds use BPC as a safe haven along their journey. BPC's green spaces provide the food and habitat these animals need. Wildlife in BPC does not benefit from human interaction.

If you encounter a wild animal, please:
   •   Observe from a distance (both for your safety and the animal's).
   •   Do not feed it.
If the animal you encounter appears injured or distressed, contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) at:
   •   (718) 482-4922 Monday - Friday
   •   (877) 457-5680 Saturday - Sunday
To learn more click here.

New York State income tax filing deadline extended: The Department of Tax and Finance extended the New York State income tax deadline to May 17. This aligns with the federal decision to do the same and provides New Yorkers still coping with the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic ample time to file.

Domestic travel quarantine lifted: Beginning April 1, domestic travelers to New York State will no longer be required to quarantine. However, anyone entering New York State from abroad will still have to quarantine or test out of quarantine.

Indoor fitness classes resume: As of March 22, indoor fitness classes in New York City are allowed to resume at 33% capacity. Participants are required to wear masks and to sign in with contact information. An article in The New York Times published on March 22 outlined some of the Covid-infection hazards of indoor fitness classes and what facilities and class participants should be doing to minimize them. "Ideally, a group class should be held in a room with open windows and doors on opposite sides of the room to allow for cross ventilation," the article observed. "A classroom with only one entrance and no windows — a common situation in many gyms — probably does not have adequate ventilation to keep you safe. Adding several portable air cleaners to a space that lacks more doors or windows could help." To read the article, click here.

Open enrollment period for uninsured New Yorkers extended: Through May 15, 2021, New Yorkers without health insurance can apply for coverage through NY State of Health, New York's Official Health Plan Marketplace, or directly through insurers.

Extending the Open Enrollment Period will help to align New York with the federal Public Health Emergency which was recently extended. This extension allows anyone eligible for Qualified Health Plan insurance additional time to enroll for coverage in 2021 and means that enrollment remains open for all NY State of Health programs, which is especially important during the ongoing public health emergency. Coverage start dates will vary: Enroll by March 31: Coverage starts May 1. Enroll by May 15: the coverage starts June 1.

Anyone eligible for other NY State of Health programs such as Medicaid, Essential Plan and Child Health Plus can enroll year-round. As always, New Yorkers can apply for coverage through NY State of Health online at, by phone at (855) 355-5777, and by connecting with free enrollment assistance.

For additional information on NY State of Health insurance options during the COVID-19 emergency click here.

For NY Department of Financial Services information and resources during the COVID-19 emergency, click here.

Interim Covid-19 guidelines from the CDC: Now that more than 32 million Americans have been completely vaccinated, on Monday, March 8 the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) issued new, interim guidelines. If you are fully vaccinated (defined as two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of the J&J vaccine) you may:
   •   Hang out indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
   •   Gather indoors with UNvaccinated people from one other household without masks, unless someone in that household is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness.
   •   If you are vaccinated and come into contact with someone who has COVID, you no longer need to quarantine or get tested unless you have COVID symptoms.

The CDC urges that even the vaccinated continue to wear masks, practice physical distancing and continue with hand-sanitizing measures. It also recommends the vaccinated avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings. Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (don’t forget that there’s still a chance you can catch COVID even if you’re vaccinated; it’s likely to be a less severe case, but still best to be careful).

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.
Gifts and Snacks from Té Company

It's never too late to give someone (or yourself?) a gift. Té Company's tearoom at 163 West 10th St. is open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for tea and snacks to go. In addition, you can order tea and cookies (plus other gifts) online, For more information on Té Company, click here.
Spotlight: Museum of Jewish Heritage
"Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away" includes hundreds of personal items such as suitcases, eyeglasses and shoes that belonged to survivors and Auschwitz victims.
(Photo: © Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
Only a few more weeks left to see the Auschwitz exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City

The exhibition "Auschwitz: Not Long Ago. Not Far Away" opened at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City in May 2019. It will close on May 2, 2021.

The exhibition of more than 700 original objects and 400 photographs was assembled from over 20 institutions and museums around the world. It is the most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the history of Auschwitz and its role in the Holocaust ever presented in North America.

At Auschwitz between May 1940 and January 1945, one million Jews and tens of thousands of others were murdered. Victims included Polish political prisoners, gypsies ( properly called "Sinti" and "Roma"), Soviet POWs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and those the Nazis deemed “homosexual,” “disabled,” “criminal,” “inferior,” or adversarial.

Most of the people who were deported to Auschwitz were systematically murdered. Those kept as prisoners were stripped of their names, assigned numbers, and subjected to forced labor and brutal — frequently deadly — conditions. Much of the world remained silent in the face of Nazi horrors.
What happened at Auschwitz is incomprehensible in its cruelty. The temptation is to look away. But it would be wrong to do that. Auschwitz must be remembered not only to honor the victims but to record for posterity what made Auschwitz possible. Never again.
The exhibition explores the dual identity of the camp as a physical location — the largest documented mass murder site in human history — and as a symbol of the borderless manifestation of hatred and human barbarity. People were deported to Auschwitz from all over Europe. Of these barely 400,000 were actually registered and imprisoned in the compound. The vast majority — approximately 900,000 people — were gassed and cremated within hours of arrival.

And yet survey after survey has shown that many people, especially Gen Z and millennial Americans, have never heard of the Holocaust or think that the number of Jews who were killed has been exaggerated.

"Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away" includes hundreds of personal items such as suitcases, eyeglasses and shoes that belonged to survivors and Auschwitz victims. Among other artifacts are concrete posts that were part of the fence of the Auschwitz camp; fragments of an original barrack for prisoners from the Auschwitz III-Monowitz camp; a desk and other possessions of the first and the longest serving Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss; a gas mask used by the SS; Picasso’s Lithograph of a Prisoner; and an original German-made Model 2 freight train car used for the deportation of Jews to the ghettos and extermination camps in occupied Poland.

Equally shocking, the exhibition contains artifacts and photographs that depict the world of the perpetrators — SS men who created and operated the largest of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camps.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage at 36 Battery Place, is open Sundays through Fridays. Timed entry tickets are available for "Auschwitz: Long ago. Not far away." All tickets must be reserved online in advance of your visit. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.

A drawing by David Olère in the exhibition "Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away" dates from 1945 and shows Crematorium 3. Olère was a Polish-born painter and sculptor who lived much of his life in France. On March 2, 1943 he was deported to Auschwitz where he became a Sonderkommando at Birkenau and was forced to empty gas chambers and burn the bodies. Olère began to draw at Auschwitz during the last days of the camp. His drawings were his testimony to those who didn't survive. He sometimes depicts himself in his drawings as a ghostly, witnessing face in the background.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a Holocaust survivor, being interviewed on the plaza in front of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City where a German National Railroad freight car had just been installed. It is part of the museum’s exhibition, “Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away.” This freight car, which would have been packed with 80 to 100 people, was one of many that the Nazis employed to transport people — most of them, Jews — to Auschwitz. The exhibition opened to the public on May 8, 2019. With more than 700 artifacts, it is be the most comprehensive Holocaust exhibition about Auschwitz ever presented in North America. The exhibition will close on May 2, 2021.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
Annual Gathering of Remembrance

Every year, the Museum of Jewish Heritage holds an Annual Gathering of Remembrance, bringing together thousands of people to say: we will never forget. We owe it to our people, ourselves and our children to insist that when we mourn the millions of people who were murdered and comfort those who suffered, we tell their stories with the utmost respect for their human dignity. It is a powerful answer to the Nazis' thwarted ambition.

This year’s virtual gathering in observance of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) will take place on Sunday, April 11 at 2 p.m. Featured speakers include Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff; U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer; Elisha Wiesel, son of the late Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel; Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer, Museum Trustee and Holocaust survivor; and more.

To register for the Annual Gathering of Remembrance, click here.

Attendance is free but a donation of any amount is appreciated. It will help fund the museum's exhibitions, student field trips, and other educational programs. Help the Museum of Jewish Heritage to ensure that future generations never forget the history and lessons of the Holocaust.

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Editor: Terese Loeb Kreuzer

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