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DOWNTOWN
POST NYC 
 
News and Events
in Lower Manhattan
 
 
Volume 1, No. 3  Dec. 20, 2013
WELCOME
Ten years ago, I moved to lower Manhattan and almost immediately started reporting on this community. I was standing in line at the post office to buy stamps - at that time, we had a post office in the Cunard building at 25 Broadway. 
 
I loved standing in line at that post office. It originally had served as the steamship company's ticketing hall, opening in 1921. Under a ceiling that soared 65 feet above my head, I stared at paintings of sailing ships, carvings of starfish, dolphins, shells and sea monsters and maps of the world. Then I learned that the post office was planning to close that location; the public would no longer be able to see one of Manhattan's great interiors. I wrote about that for a local newspaper. 

Since then, lower Manhattan has proven to be an endless source of fascination because of its history, architecture, politics, parks, museums, marine environment, restaurants, shops, diversity and interesting people. 
 
You will find reporting about all of that in Downtown Post NYC, which will be emailed to you on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. If you like it, please share it. If you have comments or questions, email editor@downtownpostnyc.com. - Terese Loeb Kreuzer
 
BATTERY PARK CITY AUTHORITY OPERATING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

 

Dennis Mehiel, chairman of the Battery Park City Authority.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Something is going on at the Battery Park City Authority, including significant personnel changes and perhaps other major changes, but the B.P.C.A. is refusing to provide any information on these matters to Community Board 1 or to the press.  

 

More than two weeks ago, on Dec. 3, Kevin McCabe, whose title is "assistant to the president" of the B.P.C.A., did respond to an email from this reporter asking about personnel changes.  

 

"[Matthew] Monahan and [Anne] Fenton are leaving on December 31st as a result of an organization realignment," he said in the email. "They are providing transition support for the next several weeks but are not responding to the daily flow of events; hence I am the current point of contact for these matters. [Phyllis] Taylor is also leaving at year's end, however this is not due to the realignment. She has decided to take a position in the private sector; a move we were made aware of before we instituted the structural changes within the organization."

 

Monahan had been senior vice president in charge of public information and Fenton had been deputy chief operating officer. Taylor was an executive vice president, general counsel and chief administrative officer.  

 

The B.P.C.A. had scheduled a board of directors meeting for Tuesday, Dec. 17. The day before it was supposed to take place, it was cancelled.

 

An email to McCabe as to why it was cancelled and whether it would be rescheduled went unanswered. That email also asked whether Monahan, Fenton and Taylor were being replaced, if so, who was making the hiring decisions and whether there were other staffing changes at the B.P.C.A.

That, too, went unanswered.  


The Battery Park City Authority is a New York State Public Benefit Corporation created by the New York State legislature in 1968 to administer 92 acres of landfill in the Hudson River. Battery Park City is currently home to around 14,000 residents, Brookfield Office Properties, Goldman Sachs and other businesses and a growing number of retail stores. Around a third of Battery Park City consists of parks and gardens.

"We have now been the bystanders to five presidents at the Battery Park City Authority," said Anthony Notaro, chair of Community Board 1's Battery Park City Committee at C.B. 1's full board meeting on Dec. 19.  "The last two were gone in the middle of the night. We no longer have community relations or public relations folks there and even when they were there, they never came to our meetings."

Previously, on Dec. 3, this matter had been discussed at a C.B. 1 Battery Park City Committee meeting.

"The relationship between the B.P.C.A. and the Community Board has been strained for the last year, if not more," Notaro said at that time.

He asked the committee to discuss what the mission of the Authority should be.

 

Committee member Ninfa Segarra, a former New York City deputy mayor, replied that the mission as stated on the B.P.C.A. website was clear. It included construction but also the maintenance of a balanced community of commercial, residential, retail and park space.

She also said it was clear from the B.P.C.A.'s backing off from funding the Stuyvesant High School Community Center (a move that has now been reversed) and from cutting off funding for a variety of community projects and institutions, that the current administration was not interested in a dialogue.  

 

"If there isn't an ability to talk to them, it's very harmful to the community," she said. "They'll continue to do secret deals about who knows what. Right now, if you go on the website, it's not even clear as to who's there anymore. They haven't had, as far as I know, a current board meeting where they talk about personnel. All of that affects their credibility, and when their credibility is affected, it affects the community including the discussion about whether the new [mayoral] administration would be taking over Battery Park City."

 

Segarra was referring to a provision in the original charter for the B.P.C.A. that would allow the City of New York to purchase it for one dollar if it also assumed the B.P.C.A.'s debt obligations.

  

Committee member Tom Goodkind said that he didn't think that would be such a bad idea. "I don't think that Battery Park City would become an awful place if these people were to sunset," he said. "I've lived here for 25 years. I do not see their purpose anymore."

 

Other committee members did not necessarily agree with him, although they did not dismiss the idea out of hand.

  

"I think we have to try to find as many avenues as we can to try to lock them down and at least figure out what's going on there," said Segarra.  

 

Notaro reiterated that the communication between C.B. 1 and the Authority was very poor.

 

"My view has recently been that we're a bystander to them and not a stakeholder," said George Calderaro, vice chairman of the C.B. 1 Battery Park City Committee. 

 

Paul Goldstein, district manager for New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, said that Silver had discussed that with B.P.C.A. chairman, Dennis Mehiel.

  

The committee has decided to draft a white paper with a needs assessment and a description of what it believes the relationship should be between the community as stakeholder and the Authority.

All "ideas are on the table and our committee will face that over the next couple of weeks," Notaro said. - Terese Loeb Kreuzer 
 

 

Ninfa Segarra, Tom Goodkind, George Calderaro and Anthony Notaro of Community Board 1's Battery Park City Committee. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


South Street Seaport Museum
 GIFTS AND HOLIDAY CARDS AT SOUTH STREET SEAPORT MUSEUM
The South Street Seaport Museum's shop, Bowne & Co. Stationers at 211 Water St., carries an intriguing assortment of journals, papers, writing implements and cards. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

The South Street Seaport Museum has been in limbo since the Museum of the City of New York pulled out as manager on July 5, 2013.  While the museum waits for a savior to become its new steward, holiday shoppers can do their part by stocking up on gifts in the museum's stores. One of them, a pop-up store called "Ship Shop" is at 14 Fulton St. The others - Bowne & Co. and Bowne Printers - are at 211 and 209 Water St. Woodcarver Sal Polisi, who works on commission, has a workshop at 207 Water St.

"The proceeds directly benefit and support the museum and its operations," said the museum's interim president, Jonathan Boulware.

Robert Warner presides over Bowne & Co., as he has for much of the past 19 years. The building dates from the 1830s; it was once used to manufacture stoves. Visitors to the cozy store with brick walls and beamed ceiling are greeted with the smell of incense when they walk in.

"It's a peaceful space," said Warner. "It has a nice gravity to it."

He has stocked it with an abundance of beguiling journals, papers, posters, rubber stamps, writing implements and cards, many of which were printed on the museum's 19th-century letterpresses.

Rubber stamp sets at Bowne & Co.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
Journals range in price from $5 to $30. Rubber stamp sets are $15 to $25. Vintage metallic thread imported from France is $20 to $30 a spool.

"Everything is so lovely and unusual," said Andrea Wolff, a Brooklyn Heights resident who was visiting the store for the first time. "And it smells great!" She bought a vintage postcard for $2 and said she would be back.

Next door, printers Ali Osborn and Gideon Finck turn out cards, postcards and posters working with antique type on antique presses. They have Christmas tree postcards printed from old typographic ornaments for $3 and notecards for $5.

"We have a poster that says, 'We Print On' above a graphic of water," said Osborn. "It's a joke, because we print on Water Street." That poster is 12" x 16" and sells for $20.

Bowne Printers also does custom work, using a customer's designs or creating something fun and imaginative from the museum's huge collection of antique type.
Shell necklace and driftwood at Ship Shop. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Ship Shop, the pop-up shop at 14 Fulton St., is run by artist Christina Sun, whose charming drawings of boats decorate the walls and are also available as cards, magnets and tea towels. Sun makes delightful ship models as well, painting them in cheerful colors. Ship models start at $5. Tea towels are $25. Drawings cost $30 to $100.

Ship Shop also carries scarves, bags, jewelry made from shells and beautiful fish sculptures made of driftwood by Will Knoeller, a mariner and woodworker from Greenport on the North Fork of Long Island.

"I met him when I was selling at the Greenport Maritime Festival," said Sun. "He was walking around with a big, wooden haddock under his arm, with a price tag on it. It's now in our window. I have four of his pieces in the store, all from found objects such as driftwood and metals." The haddock costs $375. A smaller driftwood fish sculpture is $100.

Ship Shop may close on Dec. 24, or it may be open through New Year's. That is still being worked out.

All of the South Street Seaport Museum shops are open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. except for Christmas Day and New Year's Day, when they are closed. - Terese Loeb Kreuzer


A fish made of driftwood and metal is for sale at Ship Shop, the South Street Seaport Museum's pop-up shop at 14 Fulton St. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


DOWNTOWN IN THE NEWS


Fritz Koenig's "Sphere" in Battery Park as it looked in 2011. On Wednesday, the "Sphere" was moved. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

"Scarred 'Sphere' is Moved, but Doesn't Go Very Far," New York Times, 12/19/13. The fate of Fritz Koenig's "Sphere," battered during the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001, has been under wraps for a year and a half. On Wednesday, the "Sphere" was moved from the position that it has occupied in Battery Park since March 2002. But it didn't go very far. It was relocated closer to Castle Clinton to accommodate renovations in the park. For the story, click here.

"In $1B deal, Citi moves HQ downtown," Crain's New York Business: "Financial services giant Citigroup signed a deal Thursday morning to relocate its global headquarters to lower Manhattan," Crain's reports. "The move will shift the bank's center of power from 399 Park Ave., where it has been based for decades, to Greenwich Street, where Citi signed a more than $1 billion deal to renew its lease and gut-renovate a twin-building complex that it already occupies, 388 and 390 Greenwich St." For the story, click here.  

 


Bits & Bytes
JAY FINE'S SANDY PHOTO AT THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK
Superstorm Sandy, lower Manhattan. (Photo: Jay Fine) 

Battery Park City resident Jay Fine took many dramatic photos of Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. A few months ago, the Museum of the City of New York held an open call for Sandy images. Fine was among more than 900 amateur and professional photographers to submit work for possible inclusion in an exhibit called "Rising Waters."

Since only a small number of those submissions were displayed in the exhibition, the museum is now holding a special viewing of some of the other photos. One of Fine's photos will be shown in "Rising Waters 2.0," a presentation of never-before-seen Superstorm Sandy images from 500 photographers.

Only on display for one weekend - Friday, Dec. 27 to Sunday, Dec. 29 - the viewing will be in conjunction with the "Rising Waters: Photographs of Sandy" exhibition.

The museum is located at 1220 Fifth Ave. (at 103rd Street). For more information on hours and admission fees, click here
 
New York Cares coat drive 
New York Cares, which runs volunteer programs for 1,300 nonprofits, city agencies and public schools, is conducting its 25th annual coat drive. Coats that will be distributed to needy New Yorkers can be dropped off at any New York City police precinct or at scores of other locations citywide from now through Feb. 7. One of those locations is in Battery Park City at 393 South End Ave. Another is Room 503 at 49 Chambers St. For a complete list of collection sites and hours, click here.  

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

To the Editor:
(Re "Floodproofing South Ferry Station Will Mean Building on Parkland," Downtown Post NYC, 12/18/13): There is nothing historical about Battery Park. It is simply landfill from various Robert Moses projects. (Castle Clinton used to be out in the harbor, connected by a causeway.)

Perhaps the MTA facility may be unsightly, but perhaps it can be incorporated into the Staten Island Ferry terminal, or something that would equally diminish its footprint.

Thanks for good Downtown coverage, as always...

Robert Rustchak

From the Editor:
Thank you for your reminder that much of Battery Park is landfill (and for your praise of our Downtown reporting). You are correct that Castle Clinton used to be out in the harbor -- but landfill in Battery Park predated Robert Moses by around 150 years. According to the Parks Dept., in 1788 Fort George (on the site of what is now the National Museum of the American Indian), was razed and the rubble was used to expand the Battery. More landfill extended the park in 1823, and again between 1853 and 1872. For more information about the history of Battery Park, click here.

We welcome Letters to the Editor. Email them to editor@downtownpostnyc.com, including your full name and contact information.

CALENDAR: Week of Dec. 16

Dec. 18-Dec. 22: "Family Furniture," the world premiere of a new play by A. R. Gurney at The Flea theater, described as "a coming of age tale about a family and one certain summer when everything shifts." Gurney has been writing plays for more than 50 years, among them, "The Cocktail Hour," "The Grand Manner" and "Scenes from American Life." The Flea, 41 White St. (between Broadway and Church Streets). Wednesday-Sunday, 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 3 p.m. Tickets, $15-$70. Lowest price tickets available on a first-come, first-served basis. www.theflea.org  
 Dec. 20: The U. S. debut of the Maria T. Balanescu Quartet led by Romanian virtuoso violinist and composer Alexander Balanescu. Artist website: www.balanescu.com/ Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts, Pace University, 3 Spruce St. Time: 7: 30 p.m. Phone: (212) 346-1715. Tickets, $35.  
 
Dec. 21: Holidays on Wall Street. Led by Wall Street Walks, take a holiday-themed walking tour of Wall Street sponsored by the Museum of American Finance, 48 Wall St. 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. Tickets, $15, include museum admission. Phone: (212) 908-4110.
Dec. 22: Compline by candlelight. Trinity Choir singing Benjamin Britten's "There is no Rose." St. Paul's Chapel, 209 Broadway. Time: 8 p.m. Free. 

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Editor: Terese Loeb Kreuzer

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2013