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News and Events
in Lower Manhattan
Volume 1, No. 15  Jan. 17, 2014
* Lawsuit opposing Probation Dept.'s move to 66 John St. continues
* Bits & Bytes: "Catch & Release" helps Seaport residents and businesses say 'thank you'
* Downtown Entertainment: The Howard Hughes Corp.'s music tent on Fulton Street
* Op-Ed: The Sinkhole at the South Street Seaport
* Downtown Dining: Stephen Starr's El Vez coming in April to Battery Park City
* Downtown Real Estate: What $23 million buys these days in lower Manhattan
* Calendar

Masthead photo: Howard Hughes' music tent on Fulton Street in the South Street Seaport.
(Photo: Barbara Mensch)

The Probation Dept. began moving into 66 John St. today. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Today the New York City Probation Department began moving office equipment into its newly leased quarters at 66 John St., but this did not keep Pace University, Century 21 department store and a group of John Street residents from filing a lawsuit in the state's Appellate Court opposing the move.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday,  Jan. 14, and is being heard by Justice Helen Freedman.

"We applied for three things," said Patrick Kennell, who lives at 80 John St. and is one of the plaintiffs. "We wanted permission to appeal the Supreme Court's denial of our temporary restraining order. Secondly, we applied for a temporary restraining order pending the decision on that and thirdly, we asked for a preliminary injunction, if the court allows us to appeal. This would put an injunction in place pending the outcome of that appeal."

Justice Freedman denied the temporary restraining order but agreed to have the parties argue a request for a preliminary injunction and the plaintiffs' request to appeal the underlying order.

"In essence we lived to fight another day," said Kennell. "At least the court will hear us out."

The lawyers' briefing is to be completed by next week and the court will issue a decision on or before Jan. 31.

Although Probation Department staff began moving into 66 John St. today, probationers won't start reporting until Monday, Feb. 3. They will sign in at kiosks to be installed on the fourth floor.

"What we've requested all along is to bar the kiosks and the probationers from appearing at 66 John St.," said Kennell. "We don't mind the staff there. Presumably those kiosks could be located somewhere else. We've never been given a straight answer as to why that can't happen."

Kennell said that the lawsuit had "taken a lot of time and attention" but that the plaintiffs had decided to go forward because, "It's the right thing to do. However slight, there's a chance that the Appellate Court will reverse the Supreme Court's decision."

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer


Bits & Bytes
The Catch & Release kiosk at John Street under the FDR Drive.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

AIGA/NY, a chapter of AIGA, a professional association for design founded 100 years ago, billed its interactive installation, "Catch & Release" under the FDR Drive at John Street as a place to help the South Street Seaport neighborhood. "It offers a physical respite where neighbors, visitors and all are invited to share messages of gratitude," AIGA announced in a press release. "In this interactive space, visitors are performing a sort of ritual by which their written 'Thank You' notes will be publicly 'caught,' and elevated to create an installation that will become the visual symbol of this place."

Some of the people who showed up for the installation's opening day, Jan. 11, had something less august on their minds. They were Seaport residents and business owners whose lives had been wrecked by Superstorm Sandy but who were helped - anonymously in some cases.

Marco Pasanella, owner of Pasanella and Sons Vintners at 115 South St. recalled that teams of people came to his shop after Sandy. He didn't ask them to come and he didn't even know who they were. "They worked for eight hours at a time, and when they were finished, they vanished," he said.

He had wanted to thank them but didn't know how to reach them.

"Dear teams of strangers who showed up at my shop," he wrote on a card that he left at the kiosk. "Thank you for sweeping sludge, shlepping heavy boxes, bleaching smelly surfaces and helping us rebuild. Grazie mille!"

Sara Williams, owner of Fresh Salt, a restaurant at 146 Beekman St., wrote, "Thank you for responding so quickly after Sandy. You all came down and cleaned up your 'local' with love and gloves on. Thank you for raising funds and donations online and at a special party just for Fresh Salt. Thank you for coming back and hanging out after we finally reopened. We can't thank you all enough. Much love + respect, Sara + Jason."

In keeping with its maritime location, the "thank you" cards were attached to hooks and hoisted on pulleys, where they remained for all to read.

Catch & Release was prepared for the New York State Department of State Office of Coastal, Local Government and Community Sustainability with funds provided under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund. It was designed by Yeju Choi with Francesca Birks and Josh Treuhaft (community engagement strategists), and Cristian Fleming and Stephanie Lukito (storytellers).

It will be open until Feb. 1, Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Sara Williams, co-owner of Fresh Salt on Beekman Street, filling out a 'thank you' card. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Downtown Entertainment

The Howard Hughes Corporation's music tent on Fulton Street. (Photo: Barbara Mensch)

The Howard Hughes Corporation has erected a heated tent on Fulton Street that is open daily from 2 p.m to midnight as a lounge serving food and drink. On weekends from now through the end of February, Hughes will stage music programs in the tent.

The first event is tonight from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. - a performance entitled "Grateful Dead Tribute with Wigjam." Tickets are required but are free. Because alcohol is served, audience members must be at least 21 years old.

On Saturday, Jan. 18, the Dirty Sock Funtime Band will play a concert for all ages at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets are required.

Saturday night's concert, Brick + Mortar, Wicked Knee, is sold out.

For a list of the remaining concerts in the series and ticket information, click here.

The food and beverages come from The Lure Group (Beekman Beer Garden, Governors Beach Club, Watermark Bar).  The menu includes a selection of craft and local beers, a full liquor bar, Seaport-themed specialty cocktails and beverages for children such as hot chocolate.
- Terese Loeb Kreuzer


The South Street Seaport Museum as it looked on July 18, 2009.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

James M. Lindgren, a professor of history at SUNY Plattsburgh, looks at the 47-year-old history of the South Street Seaport Museum. 


Formed in 1967, the South Street Seaport Museum saved nine blocks of a 19th-century neighborhood from the bulldozer. Over time, it amassed what was once the nation's largest historic ship collection and developed a significant exhibit space in Schermerhorn Row (1811-1812). That block-sized row of buildings has been called "the city's first world trade center."


Today, the museum itself needs saving. It has suffered from bouts of mismanagement, the pressing needs of recovery after Superstorm Sandy, and continuing threats from developers.


The little-known history of the museum adds a revealing dimension to the story that is continuing to unfold. It shows what happens when City Hall adopts a cultural institution as its proxy, but then walks away in times of real need.


Soon after its founding, the Seaport Museum was befriended by Mayor John Lindsay, who (in an unprecedented move) named it sponsor of the Brooklyn Bridge Southeast Urban Renewal Area, which included the Fulton Fish Market.


While the museum's many programs offered hope to a city wracked by social conflict and economic decline, Lindsay required the museum to raise its own funds to save the deteriorated area. Buying some of the priciest land in the city through a third party, the museum requested permission to sell the air rights to cover the big debt and museum operations. But before the city's sluggish bureaucracy acted, the museum collapsed with the real estate bust of 1972. City Hall then purchased the museum's land and leased it back to the organization.


Under Mayor Ed Koch, the city struck a deal in 1981 with the James Rouse Company and the Seaport Museum to introduce a "festival marketplace" on Fulton Street and Pier 17. To win the approval of the city's review boards, Rouse promised much to the museum and the community; it also predicted that the mall's bounty would enrich the insolvent museum. Once its mall opened, however, those promises evaporated and City Hall did nothing to enforce them.


By 1988 the Seaport district had become the city's number-one tourist destination, but Rouse never paid a nickel to the museum. At the same time, City Hall refused the Seaport Museum's requests for the same operating support it provided every other museum on city-owned property.


Meanwhile, the city's Economic Development Corporation, which manages the city's leases, gave the museum short shrift and prioritized the mall. Despite those handicaps, the Seaport Museum became one of the city's top three history museums.


Then came 9/11. The museum's income dried up for two years, and City Hall did little to help. By 2007, the museum was broke. Finally, in late 2011, the city's Department of Cultural Affairs coaxed the privately run Museum of the City of New York to step in, but the EDC refused to ease the 1981 lease or even repair the city-owned Schermerhorn Row after Superstorm Sandy. That forced the MCNY to quit its stewardship of the Seaport Museum in mid-2013.


On August 31, The Howard Hughes Corporation, which leases the Seaport's commercial space from the EDC, quietly submitted its redevelopment plans and shocked many in the community. While its proposed hotel overpowers the adjacent historic district and Brooklyn Bridge, HHC also wants to take over the museum's leased spaces.


Disappearing into today's media sinkhole, the Seaport Museum has been undermined by City Hall's onerous leases and discrimination, the mall's failed promises, and the EDC's misguided governance. Friends of the Seaport Museum, as well as many in the Downtown community, look to Mayor Bill de Blasio to put the Seaport Museum back into the discussion.


New York is a great port, and every great world port has a maritime museum. The question is, Will New York?


Professor of History at SUNY Plattsburgh, James M. Lindgren teaches and writes about historic preservation. His "Preserving South Street Seaport: The Dream and Reality of a New York Urban Renewal District" will be published by New York University Press in April 2014.


Fulton Street as it looked on Jan. 17, 2014. Landmarked Schermerhorn Row, dating from 1811-1812, is in the background. (Photo: Barbara Mensch) 


An exhibit called "Compass: Folk Art in Four Directions" was one of the last at the South Street Seaport Museum before it was forced to close its Fulton Street galleries. 
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


Downtown Dining

"Stephen Starr's Mexican Restaurant El Vez to Open in April,", 1/16/14. Yes, Battery Park City. There will be restaurants. Restaurants with table cloths and waiters, not just fast food for the office workers. reports that, "Industry titan Stephen Starr is planning to open two New York restaurants this year: El Vez in Battery Park City, and an untitled meat-centric restaurant with Joe Carroll on the Bowery." Starr plans to open El Vez in April at 259 Vesey St. with a menu that will probably be similar to the one served in Philadelphia where Starr got his start, "so expect regional Mexican specialties, a few non-traditional Mex-American dishes, and six - count 'em six - types of guacamole." For the complete article, click here.

Downtown Real Estate

"College Board Moving Offices Downtown to Brookfield Place," Bloomberg News, 1/15/14. Brookfield Office Properties has snagged another large tenant for the two million square feet of space at 250 Vesey St. formerly occupied by Merrill Lynch, says Bloomberg News. The College Board has signed a lease for around 145,000 square feet on the 16th and 17th floors and part of the 18th floor. No move-in date has been set. The education and testing company's main offices currently are at 45 Columbus Ave., near Lincoln Center. For the complete article, click here.

"Formerly Swig-owned development site in FiDi hits market,"
The Real Deal, 1/15/14. Kent Swig once had big plans for a site that he owned at 45 Broad St. He bought it in 2006 for $29 million and was going to construct a 62-story hotel and condominium tower named Nobu Hotel and Residences on the property with actor Robert De Niro as his partner. But "the project never saw the light of day," says The Real Deal. Swig lost the property in 2011 when he defaulted on a loan. Now, it's back on the market, and is large enough for a 264,200-square-foot residential tower or hotel. For the complete article, click here.

"Sterling Mason's second penthouse asks $23M," The Real Deal, 1/16/14. If you need six bedrooms, five bathrooms, three powder rooms and a working fireplace, Sterling Mason at 71 Laight St. in Tribeca has just the place for you. The second of its three penthouse condominiums  has hit the market asking $23 million, according to The Real Deal. The 5,620-square-foot duplex also has a private 2,625-square-foot wraparound terrace, a library and media room.  For the complete article, click here.   

CALENDAR: Week of Jan. 13

Greater scaup breed in Alaska and the Canadian Arctic during the summer and migrate as far south as the mid-Atlantic states during the winter. On Sundays through March 9, New York Water Taxi's harbor cruises offer sightings of birds only here in the winter.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Jan. 17: "My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer," a play by Brian Watkins, is at The Flea Theater. It's about two estranged sisters, their needy mother and a sheep. Through Feb. 15. The Flea, 41 White St. Time: 7 p.m. Tickets, $15 to $35. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.

Jan. 19: The New York Audubon Society in partnership with New York Water Taxi offers a  cruise of New York harbor to see birds and seals that are only here in the winter. The two-hour cruise, "Winter Seals and Waterbirds of New York Harbor," takes place on Sundays through March 9, leaving from Pier 16 in the South Street Seaport. Time: Noon to 2 p.m. Tickets: $35, adults; $25, children, 3 to 12 years old. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.

Jan. 19: The Municipal Art Society will introduce you to "Noted and Notorious Women of Downtown New York" such as Ellen Demorest, inventor of the paper pattern and a successful tea merchant; Victoria Woodhull, spiritualist, stock-broker and free love advocate; philanthropist Juliet Toussaint, abolitionist and evangelist Sojourner Truth; stunt girl reporter Nellie Bly; celebrity soprano Jenny Lind and the notoriously wicked Madame Restell. These 19th-century New Yorkers
tested the boundaries, blazed new paths and redefined the possibilities for women in an era when corsets and decorum boxed in many of their sisters. The tour, led by Kathleen Hulser, traverses the Financial District and the Seaport.  Time: 11 a.m. Starting place provided with ticket purchase. Tickets,  $20, $15 (members). For more information, click here.
Ongoing: The National Museum of the American Indian is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with free admission. It offers free films, docent-led tours of its exhibitions and tours of its premises, the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, designed by Cass Gilbert. The building, which was completed in 1907, is a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One Bowling Green. Phone: (212) 514-3700. For the museum's calendar, click here.

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Editor: Terese Loeb Kreuzer

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