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News and Events
in Lower Manhattan
Volume 1, No. 19  Jan. 27, 2014
* Snow and ice continue to afflict Gateway Plaza tenants
* Art classes for all
* Requiem for an ancient giant
* Downtown in the news: Duel at the Seaport; World Trade Center fence; Ad agencies
* Downtown schools are bursting at the seams. Now what?
* Community Board 1 full board meeting agenda
* Calendar

Masthead photo: A squirrel eating a peanut on a snowy day in Battery Park City. Jan. 26, 2014.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


Many tenants at Gateway Plaza, a "luxury" apartment complex in Battery Park City, have leaky windows that transmit snow and ice.
The bitter cold of the last few weeks has been especially bitter to tenants of Gateway Plaza, a building complex of 1,712 apartments in Battery Park City. Many of the tenants have leaky windows that make the inside and outside almost equally frigid.

The owner of the 30-year-old buildings, the LeFrak Organization, has tiptoed around the question of when it would replace the windows, a job that would cost an estimated $10 million. Now, according to an article in Newsday ("Battery Park City residents cold, but repairs are slow," 1/26/14), LeFrak is blaming "the slow pace of repairs on the Battery Park City Authority, which owns the land and collects ground rents from the various high-rise apartment buildings."

Newsday quotes an email from the LeFrak Organization that says, "The property's management would like to make investments in the property, but is unable to do so without the cooperation of the property's landlord, the Battery Park City Authority."

The BPCA replied with its own statement, quoted in the Newsday article. "In early 2013, we understand that management had promised tenants that they would make the necessary improvements to replace windows, heating and A/C units and insulation by year's end; however, to this date, the majority of the work is yet to be done."

Meanwhile, the tenants suffer.

"I have a letter here from a family that has an 18-month-old son who has to wear three pairs of pajamas and they have to hang blankets over the windows and the crib to keep the child warm - and that's with the heater on," said Glenn Plaskin, president of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association.

Plaskin said that as tenants struggle to keep warm by turning up the heat and using electric heaters,  their electric bills can skyrocket to $600 a month.

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is trying to bring all parties together to resolve the impasse.

He said that Gateway tenants "have suffered for years because of poorly insulated windows and enormous electric bills. The current frigid weather has served to once again highlight these problems. I met with the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association and Battery Park City Authority Chairman Dennis Mehiel to discuss residents' concerns and I intend to work with Gateway's owner to address them."

 "The good news here is that both sides are talking, which has not happened up til now," said Plaskin. "But there will be no possible resolution this winter. There's no way they can put in new windows now."

According to Newsday, some tenants are discussing a rent strike. The Gateway Plaza Tenants Association has not been party to those discussions.

"We choose what we think is the most effective strategy to get what the tenants need and at the moment, we feel the most effective strategy is to negotiate constructively with the management and with the Battery Park City Authority," said Plaskin. "We do not give legal advice and we do not tell tenants what to do. If they want to investigate their options, they're welcome to do it."

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Some of the six buildings of Gateway Plaza, the largest apartment complex in
Battery Park City. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


Battery Park City Parks Conservancy

Effie Serlis with pastel landscape drawings that she made during art classes sponsored by the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
For more than two decades, the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy has been offering free, weekly art classes for people of all ages from May 1 through Oct. 31. In the summer, there's also a course for teens in art portfolio development.

Yesterday, the Parks Conservancy held a reception for its annual exhibit of art created in these classes. It will be on view weekdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 75 Battery Place through March 28.

Video: Andrea Couture on Battery Park City art classes
Video: Andrea Couture on Battery Park City art classes
Some of the people who come to art classes at the BPC Parks Conservancy have studied art elsewhere. Some have never tried to create art before. They come from all over the city, some traveling an hour or more each way.

The drop-in art programs and classes use varying media including watercolors, charcoal and pen, collage, wood and clay. All art supplies are provided by the Parks Conservancy. While adults work individually (though engaging in group critiques), children often collaborate on large-scale group projects. With the guidance of Parks Conservancy staff and art specialists, and frequently using recycled materials and supplies, children transform pounds of clay and giant cardboard boxes into fanciful cities, animal menageries, puppet theaters, vehicles, and other projects.

Video: Instructor Elise Engler on Teaching Art to Children
Video: Instructor Elise Engler on Teaching Art to Children
Some of the Parks Conservancy's art instructors - Enid Braun, Larry Dobens, Elise Engler, Susan Hamburger and Sara Wolfe - have been teaching at the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy almost from the time the program started. Larry Dobens is one of the old timers. He said he has been teaching in Battery Park City for around 20 years.

Dobens, who has a BFA from the Parsons School of Design and an MFA from Yale University, remarked on "the great variety of people who come through here. Some are professional artists and illustrators. Some haven't picked up a pencil since maybe high school. I take each and every one of them where they are with their work." He said he helps people to draw from imagination as well as from observation.

"What I try to do," he said, "is find something positive to say to make sure that people understand that there is value to whatever they're doing."

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Aixa LaCroix, 11, with a collage that she made during a Go Fish art event sponsored by the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)



Battery Park City's Metasequoia glyptostroboides as it looked on June 29, 2013. By then, it was already dead. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

The tree that once stood on the Battery Park City esplanade at Third Place with a trunk straight as an arrow and an elegantly tapered shape was no ordinary tree. It was a dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), a deciduous conifer, whose ancestors were alive in the time of the dinosaurs, more than 65 million years ago.

Dawn redwoods were long thought to be extinct, known only from fossils. Then, in the early 1940's, a few thousand of these trees were discovered in China. "There were maybe 5,000 trees in that population," said Matthew Stephens, director of street tree planning for the New York City Department of Parks. "In the big scheme of things, that's a small number. Everything has been culled from that one population. It's a relatively shallow gene pool."

Battery Park City had four metasequoias - three in Rockefeller Park and the one on the esplanade. The Rockefeller Park trees survived Superstorm Sandy. The esplanade tree did not. Battery Park City Parks Conservancy horticulturists watched the tree for several months, hoping that it would revive, but concluded there was no chance.

A few weeks ago, it was finally cut down. Now, only a stump remains.

The loss of any city tree is painful, this one, especially. "The most ancient trees on the planet were conifers because it's a simple reproduction method - seeds and cones," said Stephens. "They don't rely on wind or insects or anything else to reproduce."

Battery Park City's metasequoia was a window into the planet's ancient history. Had it lived, it might have grown to 100 feet tall and 20 to 30 feet around.

"We will replace the metasequoia with a taxodium," said T. Fleischer, director of horticulture for the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy. "It looks almost exactly the same, but they have done well" when flooded with salty water by Sandy.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides and taxodium belong to the same family, along with the giant sequoias in California. Taxodium is the only other deciduous conifer that will survive in our climate. An allée of them is growing next to the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Sandy didn't faze them.

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

The stump of the Metasequoia glyptostroboides. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Downtown in the News

Robert LaValva, founder of the New Amsterdam Market on South Street, gesturing toward the New Market Building, which he would like to save for use as a year-round public market, and which The Howard Hughes Corporation would like to raze in order to build a 50-story apartment/hotel tower on the site. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

"Duel at the Old Fulton Fish Market," New York Times, 1/24/14. Robert LaValva, founder of the New Amsterdam Market on South Street,  is "engaged in a contentious public battle with the Howard Hughes Corporation, a major developer, over the fate of the buildings that once housed the Fulton Fish Market," says The New York Times. "The company leases the South Street Seaport from the city and wants to redevelop the area, including the landmarked Tin Building and the adjoining New Market, neither of which it currently leases, and which sit just north of Pier 17, to the east of South Street. Under its plan, the New Market would be razed and the Tin Building would be moved 30 feet northeast, so that a 50-story hotel-residential complex could be built. Mr. LaValva wants instead to repurpose both the Tin and New Market buildings as the city's premiere public market, in keeping with a mercantile history dating to the 1600s."

The article says that LaValva has "rallied significant community and citywide support in his fight against Hughes." It quotes LaValva as saying, "Through its redevelopment, Hughes would obliterate the Fulton Fish Market, compromising the integrity of this historic district." For the complete article, click here.

"In WTC Milestone, Fence to Come Down" Wall Street Journal, 1/26/14. For 13 years, the 16-acre site World Trade Center site "has been fenced off from the rest of Downtown as the rebuilding process has continued," says the Wall Street Journal. "The memorial opened two years ago, but access has been limited to ticketed visitors who pass through the fence on a narrow walkway. In 2014, portions of the fence will be dismantled, enabling people to go back and forth freely between the memorial and parts of downtown, according to Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. He said he is '100%' sure it will happen this year, perhaps as early as May when the 9/11 Memorial Museum on the site is scheduled to open. For the complete article, click here.

"Madison Avenue is Moving to Wall Street," Business Insider, 1/24/14. "While New York's Financial District is still home to giants like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, and American Express, it has been making plenty of room for the creative services industry," says Business Insider. "The neighborhood offers ad agencies cost-effective space to create the large, interesting offices advertising creatives desire. Since 2005, 18 ad agencies have moved downtown. Consolidating financial companies have left millions of square feet of office space in recent years, and the public and private sector have worked in unison to attract creative and media companies to take their place." For the complete article, click here.

After school on Battery Place, kids from PS/IS 276 and their parents often congregate in front of the Battery Place Market. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
"Locals, pols fear school shortage," trumpets a headline in Crain's New York Business, 1/26/14. "Downtown population surge fuels worries of classroom shortfall," says the subhead.

This actually isn't news. Locals and pols have been fearing a school shortage for years, and the Department of Education has been denying for years that there's a problem.

"Department of Education data show that only one of the area's five existing schools, as well as a sixth one being incubated within the old Tweed Courthouse in back of City Hall, are operating above current capacity standards," says the Crain's article. "Meanwhile, DOE officials note that they take residential construction numbers supplied by the Building and City Planning departments and put them into a formula with birthrates and immigration data to determine where to situate new schools and how many."

According to Crain's, the "DOE has added 4,300 new elementary-, middle- and high-school seats in lower Manhattan during the past decade, and the new school now in temporary quarters at Tweed will open on Peck Slip next year. What's more, plans are afoot to add another school at a still-to-be determined location downtown and one north of Canal Street, just outside the area. Both would add a total of 1,000 seats."

A DOE spokesman call this, "a historic commitment to school construction in the area."

Tricia Joyce, who heads Community Board 1's Youth and Education Committee, says that the DOE is "spinning the facts."

"The DOE determines capacity by square footage, not by classrooms," she says. "This doesn't serve our children well as hallways and closets are not classrooms. Three of our schools downtown are over capacity in this year's kindergarten, not one."

Joyce says that PS 89 and PS 276 each have five kindergarten sections this year but have only three classrooms per grade. The Spruce Street School, she says has three kindergarten classes but only two classrooms per grade.

The situation is getting worse, not better, says Joyce.

The Crain's article mentions that in the wake of 9/11, State and federal Liberty Bonds lowered the cost of creating new housing units helping to "spur the development of more than 10,000 units of housing in lower Manhattan." A Community Board 1 study showed that "the number of children under 4 had tripled in some downtown neighborhoods, including Tribeca, since 2000."

Joyce says that the DOE plans on a sub-district level instead of a neighborhood level. "It makes no sense to look at all of Manhattan below 14th Street when planning a school that will be zoned below Canal," she says. "Below Canal we have had 77% growth - over 200% growth just in the Financial District. The neighborhoods around us have either had negative growth or very low growth. Averaging this when planning our neighborhood zoned elementary schools is a failure  before it starts."

Joyce also takes issue with the "4,300 new seats" that the DOE says it has created in lower Manhattan over the last decade. "The city has relocated schools downtown," she says. "This is not new seats. This is a relocation, which they have done only because of overcrowding in the neighborhoods that they have come from."

She says that "The DOE's P.R. department writes press releases claiming the thousands of seats have been added without explaining that they are for all of downtown, including the West Village, Chinatown, Gramercy and the Lower East Side," and include relocated schools and schools built by developers, not by the DOE.

According to Joyce, the DOE's five-year capital plan "includes seats that are to open, if there is funding, in the future. The children are here now. It does no good to tell us how many seats we may or may not have in 2016 if we have a wait list of 175 for this year's kindergartens downtown."

She says that she is hopeful that the de Blasio Administration "will be more responsive and develop planning methods that keep pace with and are concurrent with construction. The method used presently has failed our children and in a time where there is so much focus on performance, we are handicapping them further when they have only 25 minutes of gym a week (if that) class sizes in 1st grade of 30, and are eating lunch at 10:30 am or at 1:45pm because of overcrowding."

For the Crain's New York Business article, click here.

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Tricia Joyce, chair of Community Board 1's Youth and Education Committee.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


Catherine McVay Hughes, chair of Community Board 1, with a map showing the more than 90 construction projects currently under way within CB1's 1.5 square miles.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Community Board 1's monthly full board meeting takes place on Tuesday, Jan. 28, at the Downtown Community Center, 120 Warren St. starting at 6 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

At the beginning of the meeting, any member of the public may speak for two minutes. This is followed by reports from CB1 chair, Catherine McVay Hughes, district manager, Noah Pfefferblit and CB1's treasurer, John Fratta. Then each committee chairman makes a report followed by discussions on resolutions to be approved by the full board and a vote. Some highlights of the meeting include:

Pat Moore, chair of the Quality of Life Committee, will report on the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center (LMCCC), which is due to sunset in February. There are currently more than 90 major construction projects taking place in Community Board 1's 1.5 square miles.                                
Tricia Joyce, chair of the Youth & Education Committee, will discuss kindergarten waitlists and   the five year capital plan (2015-2019) for Community Education Council District 2.
Ro Sheffe, chair of the Financial District Committee, will air issues related to the move of Exponents, a private, non-profit organization that works with former drug abusers, from its facilities at 151 W. 26th St. to 2 Washington St. and the relocation of the adult division of the Department of Probation from 346 Broadway to 66 John St. Both moves have been opposed by many members of the community.                               
Anthony Notaro, chair of the Battery Park City Committee, will bring the deplorable conditions at Gateway Plaza to the attention of the community board. (See the article in today's Downtown Post NYC for details.) Construction at Brookfield Place and the mission of the Battery Park City Authority are also on the agenda.
John Fratta and Marco Pasanella, chair and co-chair respectively of the Seaport/Civic Center Committee, will report on the Town Hall meeting conducted under the auspices of Community Board 1 to discuss proposed development for the South Street Seaport area. A restaurant and liquor license application at 14 Fulton St. in landmarked Schermerhorn Row for the Supercraft Group, LLC,  will also be brought before the full board.

Michael Connolly, chair of the Planning Committee, brings information on construction progress at the World Trade Center to the community board and fills it in on what is - or is not - happening with a Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center site.

Peter Braus, chair of the Tribeca Committee, will report on the Hudson River Park Act, the Jewish Community Project Downtown, rat control and the temporary installation of Gimhongsok sculpture in Tribeca Park at Beach Street.

Roger Byrom chairs the Landmarks Committee, which considered an application for the restoration of the churchyard at St. Paul's Chapel, 209 Broadway, this month. The full board will vote on the resolution passed by the committee as well as on resolutions that affect other landmarked property in Community Board 1.

CALENDAR: Week of Jan. 27
Artwork created in classes offered by the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy will be on display at 75 Battery Place through March 28. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Jan. 27: "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. 27: "Bikeman: The 9/11 Theatrical Experience" is a new play by journalist Thomas F. Flynn based on his book describing the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Flynn, an award-winning writer and producer for The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, was outside his Greenwich Village home when the first plane flew directly over his head. He immediately called into the news desk to tell them he was headed downtown. He jumped on his bicycle and began his ride to the towers. His harrowing story recounts his transition from reporter to participant. Now in preview at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers St. Opening night is Feb. 18. Time: 7 p.m. Tickets: $39-$79. For more information and tickets, click here.

Jan. 29: "The Big Picture" at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place. Joined by other musicians, master clarinetist David Krakauer explores the intersection of music and Jewish identity in iconic movies of the last 50 years. They will play songs from films ranging from "Funny Girl" and "Fiddler on the Roof" to "Sophie's Choice" and "The Pianist." This is the first in a series of eight concerts on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m. Time: 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $35; $30 (students/seniors); $25 (members). For tickets and more information, click here.

Jan. 30: Winter Swing at the Seaport with Svetlana and the Delancey Five and with Hot Jazz
The interior of The Howard Hughes Corporation's heated tent on Fulton Street in the South Street Seaport. Concerts are staged there on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. At other times, hot food and drinks are available. Through Feb. 28. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
Gang  comes to Front Row/Stage, the Howard Hughes Corporation's heated tent on Fulton Street, just south of Water Street in the South Street Seaport. Time: 7 p.m.-10 p.m. For ages 21+. Tickets, free, but reservations are required. To reserve, click here.

Jan. 31: Conehead Buddha at Front Row/Stage, The Howard Hughes Corporation's heated music tent on Fulton Street. Time: 7 p.m.-11 p.m. For ages 21+. Tickets: Free, but reservations are required. For reservations, click here.

Feb. 1: 45 Riots will be performing two sets of contemporary and classic covers from hip-hop, house, top 40, soul, funk, R&B, pop, rock, reggae, and jazz at Front Row/Stage in the South Street Seaport. Ages, 21+. Time: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.. Free, but reservations are required. For reservations, click here.
Feb. 2: 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.

Feb. 2: Celebrate Chinese Lunar New Year -- the Year of the Horse -- in Chinatown. A parade starts at 1 p.m. in Little Italy and then wends its way through the major streets of Chinatown. For more information, click here.

Through March 28: Exhibit of artwork done in classes sponsored by the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy. 75 Battery Place, weekdays, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Free.
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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