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News and Events
in Lower Manhattan
Volume 1, No. 17  Jan. 22, 2014
* Recap of Town Hall meeting on Seaport's future
* Downtown Weather: Snow days
* Ask Downtown Post NYC: Tree atop a mast
* Downtown Real Estate: Supercraft Group applies for Seaport bar and restaurant
* Bits & Bytes: N.Y. State addresses rising sea levels, sinking coastline
* Letter to the Editor: Salty dogs
* Calendar

Masthead photo: A snowy morning in Battery Park City. Jan. 22, 2014.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Community Board 1 Seaport Committee co-chair Marco Pasanella and director of land use and planning, Diana Switaj. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Anyone who was present at Community Board 1's Town Hall meeting on Jan. 13 concerning the future of the South Street Seaport would have had no doubt about the drift of most of the comments. Most of the speakers opposed The Howard Hughes Corporation's announced plan for a high-rise tower on the site currently occupied by the New Market Building and the speakers wanted to protect and preserve the historic character of the Seaport neighborhood.

On Jan. 21, Diana Switaj, CB 1's director of land use and planning, confirmed that impression. She had listened to audio tapes of the speakers and had assembled a list of their comments.

Among the other issues most frequently cited by speakers at the two-hour-long meeting were the desire to "preserve and support the South Street Seaport Museum and its ships," an expressed need for a "collaborative, inclusive planning process with early involvement of all stakeholders," the "need for a master plan," and a desire to "preserve the history of the Seaport as a food capital, with an open, public market." The New Amsterdam Market was specifically mentioned in this context.

The list also included the wish to "revitalize the uplands," meaning the Fulton Street corridor between Water and South Streets, where many stores are still closed. The speakers wanted "resiliency for the Seaport area" and an exploration of "alternative uses for the New Market and Tin Buildings." 

Community Board 1 chair, Catherine McVay Hughes, said that CB 1 was in the process of creating a task force whereby "Community Board 1 would take the lead in a process [of Seaport planning] where all the key stakeholders would be involved."

Seaport Committee member Joel Kopel said that he thought the community had "an advantage at this point" in dealing with The Howard Hughes Corporation, which has a long-term lease on much of the Seaport.

"I think they heard loud and clear from the community, from the board, from our politicians and it's going to be different this time," he said. "If they want to build anything, it's going to have to be with the input of the community board and the community and the politicians, and we're all going to have to do this as a team."

Michael Kramer, a public member of the Seaport Committee and a member of the group Save Our Seaport, said that he thought the nub of the planning problem was the fact that the New Market Building is not in the Seaport historic district and therefore not protected as other buildings in the district are.

The Community Board has tried repeatedly to get the Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect the New Market Building with city landmarking. It is already a New York State and federal landmark, but those designations are insufficient to protect it from being razed.

The prospect of a newly constituted Landmarks Preservation Commission under the de Blasio Administration creates a possibility that previous decisions about the New Market Building might be reversed.

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Adam Meister, director of development for The Howard Hughes Corporation, and Phillip St. Pierre, HHC's general manager at the South Street Seaport, listening to Community Board 1's Seaport Committee discuss the comments from the Town Hall meeting. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


Downtown Weather
Blizzard No. 2, Jan. 21, 2014. (Photo: Jay Fine)
South Cove in Battery Park City. Jan. 22, 2014 (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Walking the dogs. Jan. 22, 2014 (Carolyn Louise Newhouse)

Exclusive home bath. Jan. 22, 2014 (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Ask Downtown Post NYC
An evergreen tree on top of the mast of the Lettie G. Howard in the
South Street Seaport. (Photos: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

On Jan. 19, we noticed there was a tree on top of the mast of the Lettie G. Howard, one of the South Street Seaport Museum's historic ships. We wondered why. So we asked Jonathan Boulware, the interim president of the South Street Seaport Museum. This is what he said:

"It's a Christmas tree. I don't know the origin of the tradition, but it's customary to send aloft an evergreen tree or bough to the masthead around the Yuletide. We had trees on most of our ships from just before Christmas through early January, thanks to trees and lights donated by a generous waterfront volunteer. I suppose Lettie just wasn't ready to let go of the Christmas spirit just yet."

The Lettie G. Howard, a designated National Historic Landmark, was built in Essex, Mass. in 1893. She is one of the few surviving examples of the fishing schooners once widely used in the North Atlantic. Last year, she was extensively restored and repaired ($250,000 worth!) and will be used this year, as she has in the past, to train students from the New York Harbor School.

Here's another look at that tree. - Terese Loeb Kreuzer

The 1893 schooner, Lettie G. Howard, moored next to the lightship, Ambrose at Pier 16 in the South Street Seaport. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Downtown Real Estate

Attorney Michael Ferrari addressing Community Board 1's Seaport/Civic Center Committee about an application for a bar and restaurant on Fulton Street in the landmarked Schermerhorn Row buildings. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Four restaurateurs who have previously owned and operated numerous downtown restaurants and bars want to add a new one to be located, according to their application to Community Board 1, at 14 Fulton St. in the South Street Seaport.

Appearing last night (Jan. 21) before C.B. 1's Seaport/Civic Center Committee, Bill Zafiros, one of the owners, and the group's attorney, Michael Ferrari, asked for the committee's approval of Supercraft's plans to serve liquor until 4 a.m. The group also wished approval to install a restaurant on the first floor of the landmarked building with offices on the second floor. They said they had a six-month lease from their landlord, The Howard Hughes Corporation, that would allow them to operate from April to October, with the possibility of renewal.

Considering the résumés of the applicants - Abraham Merchant and Richard Cohn of Merchants Hospitality and Aristotle Hatzigeorgiou and Bill Zafiros of the Water Taxi Beaches on Governors Island and at the South Street Seaport - this should have been a slam dunk, but it wasn't.

The committee recommended that the liquor license only go until midnight from Sunday to Wednesday and until 1 a.m. on weekends. Moreover, the members wanted to know how the restaurant kitchen would be vented. The group would have to deal with the Landmarks Preservation Commission on that issue and had not done so. Finally, there was the question of the South Street Seaport Museum itself, which has galleries at 12 and 14 Fulton St. Although they are currently not open because of Superstorm Sandy damage, were they to reopen, there could be noise and fumes from the restaurant.

Moreover, there was the question of the address. The application says "14 Fulton St." - but 14 Fulton St. is leased to the South Street Seaport Museum, not to The Howard Hughes Corporation. Could there have been an error on the application?

Reached by telephone on Jan. 22, attorney Ferrari said 'no' - that was the correct address.

Jonathan Boulware, interim president of the South Street Seaport Museum, was surprised at this information. He said that 14 Fulton St. was definitely a museum leasehold. "No one is entitled to lease 14 Fulton other than me," he said.

The Supercraft Group's application will go to the full Community Board for discussion at its monthly board meeting on Jan. 28. It will be held at the Downtown Community Center, 120 Warren St., starting at 6 p.m. All are welcome to attend. Perhaps by then the mystery of what's going on here will have been sorted out.

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Bits & Bytes

The Hudson River. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
As scientists attempt to quantify the threat of rising sea levels on population centers, a little, white shack in Battery Park figures prominently in their efforts, says a New York Times article ("The Flood Next Time," 1/14/14). It shelters equipment that tracks the ebb and flow of tides in New York harbor.

"A tide gauge has been operating at the Battery since the 1850's by a government office originally founded by Thomas Jefferson," says the article.

The data leaves no doubt that sea level is rising at a rate that creates "an enormous risk for the United States," particularly the East Coast, which is also sinking.

The geography of New York City was partially carved out in the last Ice Age, which peaked around 20,000 years ago. A massive and heavy ice sheet spread over North America, dragging boulders with it that it left behind when it melted. The impact of that ice sheet is visible in the ridges of Long Island and Staten Island, in the deep fjord that cuts through the Hudson River and in New York City's many islands.

Now, the ground compressed by that ice sheet is rising causing coastlines to sink. Scientists at Rutgers University who have been studying this phenomenon say that the sea level could rise by 14 inches at the Battery by 2050 and 36 inches by 2100.

New York State is taking this threat very seriously. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Executive Budget for 2014-2015 includes numerous measures to harden the electrical grid and the mass transportation system, protect the coastline, safeguard against rising waters, strengthen airports, replace vulnerable bridges and more. The effort will be massive and expensive but absolutely necessary.

The Alliance for Downtown New York applauded his efforts in a statement released today. "On behalf of the Lower Manhattan business community, we would like to thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment to transform and harden infrastructure systems below Chambers Street and across the state," the Alliance said.

As more businesses move downtown, or think about moving downtown, they need to know that their investment will not be washed away.

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

For The New York Times article, "The Flood Next Time," click here.
For Gov. Cuomo's 2014-2015 Executive Budget, "Reimagining New York for a New Reality," click here.

Letter to the Editor

Lisette. (Photo: Jay Fine)

To the Editor:
It was 9°F this morning and -7°F with the windchill. My tip of the day: Dog owners should remember to protect their dog's paws from the salt.  We use a product called 'Musher's Wax' on Lisette (pictured above). Their pads should be washed off when they come back inside or it can cause burns.

Jay Fine

From the Editor:
Thank you for the tip. We welcome letters to the editor. Send them to [email protected]/


CALENDAR: Week of Jan. 20

A harbor seal swimming near Swinburne Island in New York harbor on Jan. 19. Through March 9, New York Water Taxi and the New York Audubon Society are offering cruises to see the city's winter birds and seals. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
Jan. 22: "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. 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. 25: Families are invited to go on a scavenger hunt at the Skyscraper Museum, 39 Battery Place, in search of fun facts about skyscrapers. They can examine photographs, videos and text for clues. Kids will create postcards with illustrations of their favorite discoveries. All ages. Register by Friday at 5 p.m. Email [email protected] or call (212) 945-6324. Time: 10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m. Tickets: $5 per child; members, free.
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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