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News and Events
in Lower Manhattan
Volume 1, No. 32  Feb. 26, 2014

Quote of the day:
"If you like fish and you're not afraid of the bones, it's one of the best." - Jacob Krumgalz of the branzino that he serves at his FiDi restaurant, Blue Planet Grill.

* CB1 announces Seaport Working Group
* FiDi's Blue Planet Grill for pizzas and more
* Bits & Bytes: Median rents in lower Manhattan; Harold Ramis memorial
* Downtown landmark: Rooftop emergency generator for 32 Ave. of the Americas rebuffed
* Downtown bulletin board: New York Rising hosting meetings on flood protection
* Calendar

Masthead photo: Neapolitan pizza at Blue Planet Grill, 120 Greenwich St.. Feb. 25, 2014
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer at the Community Board 1 meeting at which she and those around her announced that a working group was being formed to plan and negotiate the future of the South Street Seaport. From left to right: City Councilmember Margaret Chin; Chris Curry, executive vice president of The Howard Hughes Corporation and Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1.  (Photos: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Last night at Community Board 1's full board meeting, the wraps finally came off on the long-awaited Seaport Working Group. Community stakeholders, elected officials, representatives of The Howard Hughes Corporation and the New York City Economic Development Corporation  will engage in "a collaborative, community-based planning process for development in the South Street Seaport," according to a statement announcing the task force.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said that she, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Councilmember Margaret Chin and Community Board 1 would chair the working group. The first meeting will take place on Thursday, Feb. 27 in Speaker Silver's office.

The meetings will not be open to the public, but Brewer said that there would be "transparency" and that the minutes will be available.

In making the announcement, Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of Community Board 1, said that the group had emerged after "a long effort with many people working together. It would be the first time to get in the same room all the elected officials with the community board - the key stakeholders, including residents and small businesses - with The Howard Hughes Corporation and with the Economic Development Corporation."

A carefully worded statement was issued by the elected officials who will participate.

It said that the working group had been formed "in answer to longstanding community efforts to ensure that any potential development in the South Street Seaport complements the historic character of the neighborhood, protects and maintains vital Seaport infrastructures, and reflects the increasing need for services and amenities geared toward Lower Manhattan's growing residential population. The formation of this group is the culmination of many town hall meetings and public hearings, as well as a growing desire in the downtown community for a voice in the future of this invaluable waterfront asset."

Prior to yesterday's announcement, development of the South Street Seaport had been proceeding in secret, with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, landlord for much of the Seaport, signing leases and letters of agreement with The Howard Hughes Corporation, a Dallas-based developer, that were not publicly discussed.

On March 29, 2013, nine days after the City Council had approved a ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) application from Howard Hughes for construction plans on Pier 17, and for rezoning the East River waterfront between Maiden Lane and the Brooklyn Bridge, new information emerged about what the developer and EDC had agreed to as the basis for a "mixed use project" in the Seaport.

A Letter of Intent between the parties dated Dec. 12, 2011 had previously been released, but portions of it relating to a "mixed use project" had been blacked out. In an unredacted version that only became public because of the Freedom of Information Law, it turned out that Howard Hughes, and its subsidiary, South Street Seaport Limited Partnership, were angling to build a high-rise hotel and apartment building on the Seaport waterfront, most likely on the site of the New Market Building.

At the time, these suppositions were vigorously denied by Councilmember Chin and by Kelly Magee, her then-press secretary, who said, ""There is absolutely nothing in the LOI (Letter of Intent) that describes HHC's development plans. Absolutely nothing."

With this history of secrecy and mistrust as a backdrop, now the Seaport Working Group will have the task of forging a plan on which everyone can agree.

"The mission of the Seaport Working Group is to integrate the ideas, concerns, and feedback from all interested stakeholders into planning and urban design objectives and guidelines that will help serve as important governing principles for any development in the South Street Seaport, prior to the certification of any ULURP applications," said the statement. "The Seaport Working Group has been formed in order to facilitate dialogue between all parties to ensure a formalized mechanism for meaningful community involvement in long- and short-term planning."

"You guys asked for it and you got it," said Councilmember Chin at last night's community board meeting. "How do we preserve the South Street Seaport that we all love so much?" she asked. "What about the museum? We want to make sure that it will continue to grow and thrive."  


Chin said that the community board would report back to the public on a regular basis about the Working Group's deliberations, and, she added, "as your elected representative you can also come to us if you have any suggestions, ideas or questions."  


Margaret Chin, Chris Curry, Catherine McVay Hughes. 

Chris Curry, executive vice president of The Howard Hughes Corporation, who might have hoped that HHC's plans would sail right through the approval process before they could be altered or stopped, also spoke.  


"We take very seriously - The Howard Hughes Corporation - our stewardship of the South Street Seaport," he said. "We embrace the historical significance of the place, and we believe that this process is a great step forward for our project and through the process, you will see that we are working very hard to solve some very difficult master-planning processes and also satisfy important community objectives at the same time."


The Economic Development Corporation will be a key player in the Working Group's negotiations. Ashley Dennis, EDC's assistant vice president for government and community relations, was in the room last night. McVay Hughes invited her to come up to the podium when the announcement was made, but she did not join the others. 


Kyle Kimball, president of the EDC, said in a statement, "We are pleased to help facilitate this critical process of community engagement at the South Street Seaport, and we look forward to assisting all local stakeholders in establishing their priorities for a mixed-use development project in this iconic area. We thank Councilmember Chin and other local elected leaders for steering this important effort."       



- Terese Loeb Kreuzer    


For a list of the members of the Seaport Working Group, click here.  

Downtown dining

Jacob Krumgalz, the owner of Blue Planet Grill at 120 Greenwich St., where Neapolitan pizzas are a specialty. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Jacob Krumgalz, the owner of the Blue Planet Grill at Greenwich and Albany Streets, is proud of his restaurant's pizzas. "These are the first Neapolitan pizzas in the Financial District," he said.

And what's a "Neapolitan pizza?" It's made with a very fine flour that absorbs a lot of water and needs to be cooked quickly at a high temperature - 800 to 900 degrees F.

Krumgalz imported an oven from Italy to make his pizzas, which he started selling a few months ago.

"We have customers who order them two or three times a week," he said.

They also go over well with the throngs of visitors to the September 11 Memorial just across the street from Blue Planet Grill. On summer weekends especially, said Krumgalz, the lines stretch out the door.

A 10" pizza, its fire-charred crust topped with housemade mozzarella, Italian prosciutto, mushrooms and asparagus, could feed two people. A bowl of housemade soup would be a nice accompaniment with maybe some tiramisu for dessert.

There are also full-fledged entrées for the truly hungry - a filet mignon for $35, chicken prepared in various ways, and branzino, sometimes called "European seabass" for $25.

"If you like fish and you're not afraid of the bones, it's one of the best," said Krumgalz.

He will be adding some new items to the menu in the next few weeks: fish placed on wooden planks and cooked over an open fire pit as the Native Americans of this region once did, and food cooked on Himalayan salt planks, which, Krumgalz explained, are obtained from Pakistani mountain ranges where they have been protected from pollution and impurities for centuries. The rough, salt rocks are cut into various shapes that can be heated to high temperatures, which makes them ideal for grilling and baking.

Krumgalz has owned two other restaurants - Moscow on the Hudson and Soup Talk - and has done other things for a living as well, but his heart is in the food business. "I like when people enjoy my food," he said.

He opened Blue Planet Grill a little more than two years ago in an intimate space with 60 seats, a bar, the cozy, cooking fire and large windows that can be opened in summer to create al fresco dining.

He is always busy at lunchtime, at dinner, not so much. "A lot of local people don't know about us," he said. Also, he observed, they don't like crossing West Street.

Actually, they don't have to. He delivers.

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer 

The Blue Planet Grill is at 120 Greenwich St. It's open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, later, in summer. Phone: (212) 571-1700. For more information, click here.

Tiramisu and tea. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Bits & Bytes  

The median price for a one-bedroom apartment in Battery Park City was $3,600 a month in January. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

"The Priciest (and Cheapest) Neighborhoods for Rent Right Now,", 2/26/14. "Listings website Zumper has come through once again, churning out some easy-to-parse statistics about median rents throughout Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn and Queens based on new listings in the month of January," says Guess what? Tribeca is the most expensive neighborhood in which to rent a one bedroom apartment ($4K a month). A one-bedroom in Battery Park City will set you back just $3,600 a month. FiDi is a mere $3,550 a month. For the complete article, which also reveals median prices for two-bedroom rentals, click here.

"Memorial For Harold Ramis Grows Outside Of Hook & Ladder 8," Gothamist, 2/25/14. "After the news spread that Harold Ramis had died, a small memorial went up at Hook & Ladder 8 (aka Ghostbusters HQ) in TriBeCa," says Gothamist. People have been leaving Twinkies, samples of spores and fungus, Nestle Crunch bars, Cheez-Its, flowers and photos. For the complete article, click here.

Last weeks for Brookfield Place ice skating rink:  The Rink at Brookfield Place in Battery Park City will close for the season on Tuesday, March 18. Until then, the rink is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., weather permitting.  It is located on the upper plaza between the Winter Garden and the North Cove Marina.

For updates related to weather issues, consult its Facebook Page ( or click here.

The Rink offers skate rentals and sharpening. Rates are $15 per session, $5 for skate rentals and $15 for skate sharpening. For information on private lessons and group sales as well as parties and social events, call (646) 656-1384.

P.J. Clarke's, which is near the rink, is its official entertainment partner for social events.

The swimming pool at the Stuyvesant High School Community Center has reopened. It was closed for more than a year for renovations, during which time memberships at the Community Center declined and the Battery Park City Authority, which runs the community center, threatened to close the facility completely. However, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and other elected officials pointed out to the BPCA that binding agreements had created the community center and it couldn't be closed just because it was costing the Authority around $200,000 a year to run it. The Stuyvesant High School Community Center was meant to be an affordable exercise option, accessible to all. A task force has been established to create a long-range plan for keeping the community center open.

Presently, it is open daily. Short-term memberships for the gym and the pool can be purchased from now through April 7 and are good through April 30. They range in price from $25 for youth under 17 years old to $80 for adults. Day passes cost $12 or $10 for students and seniors. Click here for more information.

Downtown landmark
The AT&T building at 32 Avenue of the Americas was designed by Ralph Walker.

Community Board 1 resolutions are not usually juicy reading, but Bruce Ehrmann, co-chair of Community Board 1's Landmarks Committee, was so incensed by a proposed diesel generator for 32 Avenue of the Americas that when he penned a resolution against it for the full board to consider, he stoked it with picturesque vitriol.

The 27-story skyscraper was designed by Ralph Walker in the Art Deco style and opened in 1932. The application proposed to install an emergency generator on a setback roof of the landmarked building.

"This mortifying application is to drop a gigantic diesel generator onto the 22nd floor of the former AT&T building," Ehrmann began. He called the building, "one of our most astonishing individual landmarks" and said that it was one of three masterly Art Deco towers designed by Walker in lower Manhattan. The others are the Verizon building at 140 West St. and the former Western Union building at 60 Hudson St.

"Notwithstanding the long fight the Community Board, the City Council and neighborhood groups have had with the endless additions of noisy, polluting diesel generators stuck into and onto every crevice of 60 Hudson, this application imagines a meteor over 60 feet long and almost 20 feet high landing on 32 Avenue of the Americas," he wrote.

"Besides the prima face offense, this suggestion happens to be an ugly brown box for which there is no cure, denying the gorgeous, lightening and fading masonry at the setback edge, which is a signature Ralph Walker characteristic."

Ehrmann called the diesel generator a "tumor" and a "defacement." He also used the word "offensive."

He said that he was looking to the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to reject the application and added that if it failed to do so, he would have lost all faith in it.

Whatever LPC may decide to do, Community Board 1 went along with Ehrmann's diss, passing the resolution as written.

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer


Downtown bulletin board
The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel entrance in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
(Photo: Jay Fine)

The destructiveness of Superstorm Sandy on Oct. 29, 2012 left a lasting imprint both on those who were displaced from their homes and those who narrowly escaped. The ravages of a storm are now something to be remembered, not just imagined.

Lower Manhattan still has not recovered fully. Some stores and businesses never reopened, or if they did, incurred huge debts to get back in business. The subway station at South Ferry will take years to rebuild. There are many other instances of hardship and work still to be done.

In 2013, New York State allocated $25 million to study how to prepare for future storms in the communities most affected by Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Additional funds will be allocated to implement projects and activities identified in the plans that the flooded communities produce.

The New York City Region has 10 New York Rising Communities, distributed over four boroughs that sustained damage due to Superstorm Sandy. Five Communities are in Queens, three in Brooklyn, one in Manhattan and one in Staten Island.

This Saturday, March 1, and Sunday, March 2, community members are invited to attend an open house to learn more about flood protection at Hudson River Park, supporting community organizations, protecting Battery Park and disaster preparedness response and planning.

The meetings will take place as follows: March 1: Village Community School auditorium, 272-278 W. 10th St., 10 a.m. to noon. Southbridge Towers community room, 90 Beekman St., 3 p.m.-5 p.m.
March 2: Confucius Plaza community room, 33 Bowery, 1 p.m.-3 p.m.

For more information, click here.

CALENDAR: Week of Feb. 24
Rachel Higgins, whose work will be part of the "Out to See" art exhibit in the South Street Seaport this weekend, uses salvaged architectural materials to create site-specific sculpture.

Feb. 26: "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. Where: the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers St. Time: 7 p.m. Tickets: $39-$79. For more information and tickets, click here.

Feb. 26: Robert LaValva, founder of the New Amsterdam Market on South Street, along with New York Times best-selling authors Mark Kurlansky (The Big Oyster) and Paul Greenberg (Four Fish) discuss the past, present and future of the Fulton Fish Market and the South Street Seaport. Place: Jefferson Market Library. Time: 6:30 p.m. Free. For more information, click here.

Feb. 26: DJ Felix Hernandez plays at Front/Row Stage, the Howard Hughes Corporation's heated music tent on Fulton Street east of Water Street. Time: 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Free. For ages 21+. For reservations, click here.

Feb. 27: Stella Blues Band at Front/Row Stage, the Howard Hughes Corporation's heated music tent on Fulton Street east of Water Street. Time: 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Free. For ages 21+. For reservations, click here.

Feb. 28: Classic Rock Tribute Night plays at Front/Row Stage, the Howard Hughes Corporation's heated music tent on Fulton Street east of Water Street. Time: 7 p.m.-11 p.m. Free. For ages 21+. For reservations, click here.

March 1 and March 2: "Out to See" is a neighborhood celebration of art and music in the South Street Seaport. From 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., works by local artists including sculptor Jonathan Durham, artist Mark Gagnon, and others, all curated by Sara Reisman of Percent for Art, will be displayed in 16 venues on Fulton, South, Pearl, Beekman, John and Front Streets and on Peck Slip. There will be music from local composer-songwriter Django Voris and others in the Front/Row Cube on Fulton Street from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on March 1 and a raffle at 9:45 p.m. that evening. For more information, click here.

March 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.

Through March 14: The exhibition "come celebrate with me: The Work of Lucille Clifton," featuring rare photos, letters, manuscripts and more, from Emory University's Danowski Poetry Library at the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Book Library. Place: Poets House, 10 River Terrace. Free. For more information, including hours, 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: "Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage," is at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City. The exhibit details the dramatic recovery of historic materials relating to the Jewish community of Iraq in a flooded basement in Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters, and the National Archives' ongoing work in support of U.S. government efforts to preserve these materials. Through May 18, 2014. Place: 36 Battery Place. Varying hours. Museum admission fees: $12 (adults); $10 (seniors) and $7 (students). Members and children 12 and under, free. Free admission on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. 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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