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News and Events
in Lower Manhattan
Volume 1, No. 16  Jan. 20, 2014
* Hornblower moving its ships to Pier 15; offering Mandarin-language tours
* Downtown Wildlife: Harbor cruises spotlight winter birds and harbor seals
* Downtown People: Allan Tannenbaum's photos inspire "American Hustle" costumes
* Letter to the Editor: Storm surge barriers for New York City
* Downtown Real Estate: Landlord happy as downtown renters renovate
* Calendar

Masthead photo: A harbor seal near Swinburne Island in New York harbor. Jan. 19, 2014.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


The Hornblower Hybrid moored in Battery Park. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

"There are a growing number of middle-class Chinese," said Cameron Clark, vice president and general manager of Hornblower Cruises & Events' New York operations. "Many of them are visiting New York City, but they don't speak or read English."

Hornblower saw an opportunity to serve these visitors. In October, the company started offering New York harbor sightseeing cruises in Mandarin, partnering with the Hu Business International Group. The sightseeing tours have been leaving from Pier 15 in the South Street Seaport. Currently, there are two Mandarin-language cruises a day, but there will be around eight a day starting in the spring.

Also, come March, Hornblower Hybrid, the flagship of Hornblower's New York City fleet, will be docking on the south side of Pier 15 in the South Street Seaport. Hybrid will run regularly scheduled English-language cruises from Tuesday through Sunday. Several other Hornblower vessels will move to Pier 15 when space becomes available.

Right now there is a bottleneck because the South Street Seaport Museum's ship, Wavertree, is on the north side of Pier 15. The museum has more ships than it can accommodate on Pier 16, the one pier for which it currently holds a lease.

Hybrid has a capacity of 600 guests for cocktails and 350 to 400 guests for dining.

An "Alive After Five" cruise will sail from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to midnight. "This will not be a formal dinner cruise," said Clark. "There will be lighter fare with food stations throughout the vessel. People are expected to get on board, grab a bite, get a drink, socialize with other guests, take in the view and enjoy New York from its best vantage point, New York harbor."

Introductory pricing will be $25 for the cruise only, $40 with food and $65 with food and drinks. 


Hybrid will also host Saturday and Sunday brunches from Pier 15, with similar pricing.


A three-hour dinner cruise is currently available. Hornblower has a chef and full-time staff on board Hybrid. All of the food served on the ship is prepared there.  


The ship has large, glass-enclosed interior decks and outdoor observation decks. It is powered by hydrogen fuel cells, solar panels and wind turbines for maximum fuel and energy efficiency.  


In addition to the Hybrid, Hornblower has three other ships in New York harbor: the Infinity, which can hold 1,000 guests, the Serenity (capacity, 350) and the John J. Audubon (capacity, 600). 


For more information about Hornblower cruises, click here.


- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

 Most of the South Street Seaport Museum's historic ships are docked at Pier 16. Wavertree, in the background, is moored on the north side of Pier 15.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


Downtown Wildlife
A harbor seal swimming near Swinburne Island in New York harbor. Jan. 19, 2014. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

An icy wind blew across the upper deck of a New York Water Taxi on Jan. 19 as it sped down the East River from the South Street Seaport toward Governors Island, but many aboard braved the cold, eager to see the winter birds of New York harbor.

Greater Scaup. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
New York City Audubon guide Gabriel Willow pointed out some Greater Scaup sheltering along the Governors Island shoreline. This medium-sized diving duck breeds in the Arctic during the summer and spends its winters in New York City and elsewhere along the East Coast. A handsome duck with a blue bill, it finds plenty of food in New York harbor, whose waters are cleaner than they have been in decades.

"There's more wildlife here now than there has been in maybe a 150 years," Willow said.

Amazingly, this city of more than eight million people is a refuge for birds that have flown thousands of miles to get here. Red-breasted mergansers, with what Willow described as their "punk haircuts," also fly down from the Arctic. They breed further north and winter further south than any other American merganser.

Long-tailed ducks, one of Willow's favorites because of their gorgeous plumage, make a similar pilgrimage. These ducks can dive to depths of 200 feet to forage.

The boat pulled into Erie Basin, a part of Red Hook with striking 19th-century warehouses and rusted machinery left over from the days when sugar was processed here, among other industries. Mallards and black ducks cruised beside the pilings along with a few mergansers and buffleheads. Willow hoped to point out some purple sandpipers but there were none to be seen.

He said he hadn't seen any there last winter, either. "Maybe because of Sandy," he mused. But he had seen them recently elsewhere in New York City. They breed in the Arctic tundra and winter along the rocky shores of the Atlantic Coast.

The boat took off again at a good clip, bound for Hoffman and Swinburne Islands - two manmade islands that lie between Staten Island and Brooklyn. They were created in the 19th century to quarantine immigrants coming into the United States by steamship. Those who were merely suspected of having been exposed to disease spent a few weeks on Hoffman Island to see if anything developed. Those who were actually ill were sent to Swinburne. Many of them never left.

Ruins on Swinburne Island. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
Falling into greater ruin year by year, abetted by the harsh winds and waters of Superstorm Sandy, the structures on Swinburne Island once included a hospital and a crematorium. Now the chimney of the crematorium remains, surrounded by cormorant nests.

Swinburne is where the harbor seals like to hang out. As the boat approached, curious, bewhiskered heads bobbed out of the water. Willow said that there are around 20 to 30 harbor seals on Swinburne at this time of the year and around 200 to 300 seals in the five boroughs. He said he had seen them in many parts of New York City.

Harbor seals have been coming to New York for the winter since 2001, said Willow, and maybe longer - but that was when they were first sighted. They need an abundance of fish to sustain themselves. The males can grow to more than six feet long and can weigh around 300 pounds. The females are slightly smaller.

The boat lingered at Swinburne for several minutes so that everyone aboard could see the seals. Then it turned back to Manhattan.

Would the birds and seals be all right in this cold? someone wondered. "Oh, yes," Willow said. "They'll be fine." He said the birds are protected by an undercoat of down with a waterproof topcoat. "A swan," he remarked, "can have 20,000 feathers." Seals are protected by their blubber.

After a largely overcast day, that evening there was a brilliant sunset. Silhouetted against the still-bright sky, flocks of gulls flew over the Hudson River. As ordinary a sight as they are here, a day gazing at wildlife made it clear that there is really nothing ordinary about them at all. Among them were doubtless some travelers whose strength would make the strongest human seem weak. 

(For more information about New York City Audubon/New York Water Taxi harbor tours, see the Calendar section of Downtown Post NYC.)

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Startled gulls take to the air near Swinburne Island in New York harbor.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Downtown People

The cast of "American Hustle" posing at the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 18, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Allan Tannenbaum speaking at at Community Board 1 meeting in 2010. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
Photographer Allan Tannenbaum has been living in downtown Manhattan for decades. He is a member of Community Board 1 and was active in trying to get medical and financial help for first responders and others affected by 9/11.

He is also the author of several books including one called "New York in the 70s" that inspired "American Hustle's" costume designer, Michael Wilkinson, according to the British newspaper, "Daily Mail." In an article entitled "From the glamorous Jerry Hall to a young Steven Spielberg and groovy Mick Jagger: The Seventies images that inspired American Hustle's glitzy costumes," (1/18/14), the Daily Mail reprints some of Tannenbaum's photographs and shows how they relate to the costuming for "American Hustle."

"Mr Tannenbaum was one of the most prolific documentarians of New York nightlife in the 1970s - the same glam-o-rama, drug-fueled decade in which David O. Russell's Oscar-nominated film takes place," says the Daily Mail. "Revealing the film's research phase, Mr Wilkinson told The New York Times: 'we looked at endless photographs of 'real' people from the period, mostly hard-hitting social documentary from photographers like Allan Tannenbaum.'"

For the complete article, with its fascinating photo parade, click here.

To see some more of Allan Tannenbaum's photos, click here.

Letter to the Editor

The Hudson River. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

To the Editor:
The Office of Emergency Management has just released a 673-page document on how to deal with future storms and flooding,  Nowhere in the document are storm surge barriers mentioned. Professor Douglas Hill [consulting engineer and an adjunct lecturer at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University] pointed out in a letter to OEM that storm surge barriers have worked very well both here and abroad. Storm surge barriers in Stamford, New Bedford and Providence worked well against Hurricane Sandy while we were being enveloped. Not to at least let the Army Corps of Engineers study storm surge barriers for New York City puts the city and millions of its population in continual jeopardy.

Bob Trentlyon

From the Editor:
To read Professor Hill's letter to the Office of Emergency Management, click here.


Downtown Real Estate

Maybe they were desperate: a couple with a tiny baby crammed into a studio apartment in Battery Park City. Maybe they were a little cuckoo. Maybe neither. Maybe this is what it took to get exactly what they wanted at a price they could afford.

As The New York Times reported ("Why Renters Renovate," 1/17/14), Kelly and Brandon Michon rented a two-bedroom, one-bath fixer-upper in the Financial District and then spent $45,000 renovating it. They installed new electrical wiring, hardwood floors and a redesigned kitchen and bathroom.

"With their son beginning to toddle around, the Michons had outgrown their $2,500 rental studio in Battery Park City, but they couldn't find anything larger in their price range," says The Times.  "So when they spotted the listing for the bedraggled two-bedroom rental, they decided to go for it."

They got rent concessions (they won't say exactly how much), and a five-year lease on a rental that was listed at $2,950 a month. For the complete article, click here.  

CALENDAR: Week of Jan. 20

Orchids displayed at last year's Philadelphia Flower Show, an annual event that this year opens on March 1. Dave Taft, a ranger with the National Park Service in New York City, will talk about native orchids tomorrow at 1 p.m., 6 River Terrace in Battery Park City.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Jan. 20: "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. 21: Orchids are among the largest and most diverse plant species, with adaptations that continue to astound biologists. Not just hothouse flowers, they grow wild within the city's five boroughs. Dave Taft, a ranger with the National Park Service in New York City, will talk about "Rare Beauty:  Native Orchids of the Northeast" at 6 River Terrace in Battery Park City. Time: 1 p.m. Free.

Jan. 25: "Passwords: Naomi Shihab Nye and Kim Stafford on William Stafford." Poets House in Battery Park City celebrates the work of poet William Stafford (1914-1993), author of more than 50 books. With his deceptively simple style and reverence for the natural world, he is considered the Robert Frost of the American West. Nye is the author of many books of poetry and prose. Kim Stafford, William Stafford's son, is a poet and writing teacher. Poets House, 10 River Terrace. Time: 2 p.m. Tickets: $10; $7 for students and seniors; free to Poets House members. For more information, click here. This event is preceded at 11 a.m. by a free writing workshop for teens, aged 12 to 18. Registration is required. Click here for information on the writing workshop.

Jan. 25: Godwin Louis, second runner-up in the annual Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition, plays his saxophone with his combo (trumpet, piano, bass and drums) at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers St. Time: 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $25. For more information, click here.
Jan. 26: 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. 26: "From Ghetto to Palazzo: The Worlds of Salamone Rossi" at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Rossi, a violinist, singer, musical director and composer, was an important figure in both the Jewish community and the royal court of Mantua, Italy during the Renaissance. An afternoon of a capella singing, music, film and discussion will shed light on his life and work. Time: 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Place: 36 Battery Place. Tickets: $35; $30 (students and seniors); $25 (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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