Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter 

News and Events
in Lower Manhattan
Volume 1, No. 33  Feb. 28, 2014

Quote of the day:
"We want to find out if there's any truth to the rumor that Abraham Lincoln slept here." - Ronny Apfel, CFO of Triumph Hotels, talking about the Cosmopolitan Hotel at Chambers and West Broadway, which is part of the Triumph Hotel group.

* Seaport Working Group holds first meeting
* "Out to See" comes to the South Street Seaport this weekend
* Downtown landmark: Something old, something new at the Cosmopolitan Hotel
* Bits & Bytes: Financial District robberies; Cornices; GOP proposes new tax on wealthy
* The Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center sunsets
* Calendar

Masthead photo: A table by Bjoern in the "Out to See" exhibit, this weekend in the South Street Seaport.


The first meeting of the Seaport Working Group took place on Feb. 27 in New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's office. (Photo: the Seaport Working Group)


The Seaport Working Group had its first meeting on Feb. 27 in New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's conference room. The task force has been convened in order to get most of the people with an oar in the South Street Seaport's future to engage in a meaningful (but non-binding) dialogue about principles and plans.


The press and public were not permitted to attend. In addition, members of the committee are not permitted by a "Code of Conduct" to talk to the press about the deliberations.


The meeting was chaired by Speaker Silver. A statement issued by his office said, "With the first meeting of the Seaport Working Group, we have successfully begun a community-driven dialogue which will hopefully help establish governing principles for any potential development of the South Street Seaport. There is now a unique and special opportunity to shape the future of one of our city's most iconic spaces; the community's role is vital. Today, we took a step toward an effort to encourage a diverse array of community stakeholders to provide their input on the future of this incredibly important, historic neighborhood.  For our Lower Manhattan community - which has survived the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, only to emerge stronger than before - we hope this is a chance to continue our transformation into one of our city's most vibrant neighborhoods."


Two murky photographs supplied with the statement showed Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Community Board 1 chair Catherine McVay Hughes, and City Councilmember Margaret Chin seated on either side of Speaker Silver, who was at the head of a long conference table.


The room was packed. Jessica Lappin, the newly appointed head of the Alliance for Downtown New York was there as were several members of Community Board 1, including Anthony Notaro, Jeff Galloway, Marco Pasanella, Roger Byrom and Michael Levine, CB1's consultant on land use and planning.


Paul Hovitz, a Community Board 1 member who is not on the committee, commented, "I don't see how you can call this a 'working group' when there are that many people. But I am very hopeful that this group, as large as it is, will be able to come to a consensus that truly represents the community and the historic district and takes into consideration the museum."


Several people were noticeably not there, among them Jonathan Boulware, the interim president of the South Street Seaport Museum, and Robert LaValva, the founder of the New Amsterdam Market.


"I made it very clear to everyone involved that I wanted to be on the committee," LaValva said in a phone interview. "The perception that many of them had was that it might present a conflict of interest if we were interested in eventually managing some of those properties near the New Amsterdam Market."


He said that he understood that that could be a legitimate concern. "But much more important," he said, "is what this task force is going to be doing and how. I think the most important thing is to allow competing visions for the Seaport to be fairly compared to each other, so I view our mission now as presenting an alternative vision for how the Seaport can develop. We just have to make sure that it's viewed fairly."


The Seaport Working Group will next meet on Thursday, March 6 in the office of Gale Brewer.


- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Art and music 

Sketches by Mark Gagnon, one of the organizers of the "Out to See" festival taking place on Saturday and Sunday in the South Street Seaport.

"Out to See," an art and music event that will be taking over the South Street Seaport this weekend, was the brainchild of Mark Gagnon, Aruna Inalsingh and Sara Williams. Gagnon is an artist who lives in the South Street Seaport. Inalsingh is a public relations consultant. Williams is a visual artist and a co-owner of Fresh Salt, a bar and café at 146 Beekman St.

"We wanted to stage an event that would engage with the neighborhood we love and maybe bring new folks down to discover it," said Williams. "We also wanted to remind our nearby neighbors that there are some cool things happening in this historic and unique neighborhood.  Sara Reisman, director of Percent for Art, who had lived in the neighborhood for a number of years, agreed to curate the artists. Django Vorris, a composer and musician also from the neighborhood, put the musical lineup together."

Gagnon, Inalsingh and Williams started working on the event in late December under the aegis of the Little Art Group, but, said Williams, "Things didn't really start to come together until about six weeks ago, so it's not a lot of lead time to get all this to happen. Everyone involved has been really super about getting this event up and running. We have received really positive feedback about it so far, and we are really grateful for the participation of everyone involved."

There are 31 artists and five musical groups participating in the two-day event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, March 1 and Sunday, March 2.

"Out to See" is being supported and presented by a number of entities. The Howard Hughes Corporation has donated space and financial support, the members of The Old Seaport Alliance  have donated space and raffle items, and  254 Front St. and Werber Management have also donated space.

The artists in the show and the venues were selected by Reisman. "We asked businesses if they would like to participate in some way, and had a wonderful response," said Williams. She said the Little Art Group had also inquired about using empty storefronts all over the neighborhood.

Williams said that she hoped that "Out to See" would bring people out "to see how different and special this area really is. We want to energize the community, support art and music and get folks to visit the local businesses."

She said that the Little Art Group plans to continue creating events in the Seaport.

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Sara Williams, a co-owner of Fresh Salt on Beekman Street, is one of the organizers of "Out to See." (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Downtown landmark
The Cosmopolitan Hotel at 95 West Broadway opened in 1845 and is said to be the oldest extant hotel in New York City. (Photos: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

The Cosmopolitan Hotel at the corner of Chambers Street and West Broadway has embarked on a new chapter in its long history. The building dates from 1838. A hotel called the "Cosmopolitan" opened in that building in 1845 and is said to be the oldest extant hotel in New York City.

Known as a budget hotel, the Cosmo has already gotten Frette linens for its beds and C.O. Bigelow toiletries in its bathrooms. Now, it's about to get new furniture, custom-designed wallpaper with ships, top hats and corsets (a reference to the Gay Nineties) and bathrooms with stall showers inset with reproductions in the tile of a 19th-century map of lower Manhattan. And it will still be a budget hotel, though not so much of a budget hotel as before.

"It will still be priced under other neighborhood hotels," said Ronny Apfel, CFO of the Triumph Hotel group, under whose brand the Cosmopolitan now operates.

The Triumph Hotel group is a collection of six historic hotels that have had various owners but that, as of an announcement on Feb. 13, are now operating as one brand. The members of the group are the Iroquois New York, the Hotel Chandler, the Hotel Belleclaire, the Gershwin and the Washington Jefferson in addition to the Cosmopolitan.

There will be reciprocal loyalty programs, room and lobby upgrades, a combined marketing program and a central reservation facility, though each hotel will also retain the ability to book directly.

When a building has been around for more than 170 years, things have happened in it, especially if it's a hotel. "We want to find out if there's any truth to the rumor that Abraham Lincoln slept here," said Apfel.
The redecorated lobby.

Maybe he did, maybe he didn't - but there are plenty of well-documented Cosmo stories.

There were the two marshals from what was then called the "Oklahoma Territory," for instance, Frank Merrick and William Nix, who arrived at the hotel in July 1895 with Mrs. Nix and a prisoner named John G. Bittell, convicted of forgery, who they were supposed to deliver to a penitentiary. The marshals locked Bittell in a room at the Cosmopolitan not realizing that with a spring lock on the door all Bittell had to do was turn the knob and walk out, which he did. While his captors were in the hotel dining room, Bittell went into the bar and had a drink and then disappeared down Chambers Street.

"Nix and his wife will return to Oklahoma in a day or two, but Merrick will remain here a month and hunt for Bittell," The New York Times reported (July 13, 1895).

This is only one of many Cosmopolitan tales. There was the disgruntled handyman who was also a pyromaniac and dropped a piece of burning paper down the waste chute. There were the robbers who booked into the Cosmo, climbed to the roof, and lowered themselves down into the office of a jeweler in a neighboring building, "making off with nearly $10,000 worth of loot." There were a couple of suicides. There were assignations.

A standard guest room, not yet renovated.
Now the Cosmopolitan is completely safe and respectable. No funny stuff. It now has a small gym. It has room service from The Kitchenette at 156 Chambers St., and is seeking new tenants for what was formerly Craig Bero's Cosmopolitan Café at 125 Chambers St. (it closed in January) and the nail salon next door.

It expects to break ground in 60 to 90 days for a building on West Broadway that will be occupied by the Cafeteria restaurant, which has a well-regarded outpost in Chelsea and serves comfort food.

And it has 131 rooms, whose price varies with the season. For this coming weekend, you could get a standard room with a double bed for $119 a night.

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

For more information about the Triumph Hotels, including the Cosmopolitan, click here.

The Cosmopolitan Hotel's general manager, Sava Vasiljevic, with the new guest room wallpaper. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Bits & Bytes  

The German American Insurance Company once stood at Liberty and Nassau Streets in lower Manhattan.

Financial District robberies: Yesterday at 2 p.m., a man entered the Capital One bank at 176 Broadway and demanded money,  saying he had a firearm. He got away with $200. It turned out that the firearm was "simulated," said an NYPD spokesperson. The robber, Kevin Crawford, 21, was subsequently arrested.

Two weeks ago, on Feb. 13, a newspaper kiosk at 182 Broadway was robbed of almost $8,000 in cash, cigarettes and phone cards. That robbery took place during the time the owners locked up for the night and when they reopened at 6 a.m.

Discourse on cornices:
Christopher Gray, who writes about historic architecture for The New York Times, takes on the topic of cornices in his column, "The Crowning Glory," New York Times, 2/27/14. "Cornices have been around for centuries, but the Golden Age of the Cornice started in New York just before 1900, and accelerated as galvanized iron, copper and terra cotta worked their way into what had generally been a stonecutter's market," he says. "The cornice on the 1908 German-American Insurance Company building, a great half-vault of polychrome terra cotta, projected 20 stories over Liberty and Nassau Streets." That handsome edifice is long gone, but pictures survive. For the complete article, click here. For more about the building and why it was renamed the Great American Insurance Company, click here.

"House GOP tax plan would hurt wealthy NYers,"
Crain's New York Business, 2/27/14.  Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives proposed a plan on Wednesday to revamp the federal tax system that "would hit wealthy New Yorkers hard, especially those who work in certain precincts of Wall Street, along with many of the companies they work for," says Crain's New York Business. "Though the changes are unlikely to happen any time soon, the fact that they have been proposed by a GOP tax leader increases the odds of their eventual passage."

Among the plan's provisions would be that, "New York's considerable state and local taxes would no longer be deductible from federal taxes, and neither would another big item in Gotham: interest payments on home mortgages over $500,000 in size, half as much as the current maximum of $1 million." For the complete article, click here.


Downtown construction
World Trade Center construction. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Today, the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center emailed its last issue of "Review and Outlook" with which it has kept lower Manhattan residents and businesses up to date on construction projects, street closures and construction-related events in the neighborhood. was launched in 2002 on the first anniversary of the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attacks as the online communications vehicle first for the New York City Economic Development Corporation and then for the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center (LMCCC), which was established in 2005.

Although there are currently more than 80 major active construction projects in lower Manhattan, elected officials and Community Board 1 were unable to save the LMCCC from finally sunsetting. The New York City Department of Transportation will take over some of its functions.

In its farewell newsletter, the LMCCC listed its accomplishments.

"The agency has hosted 863 daily permit-enforcement task force meetings, 613 weekly project-coordination meetings, and 197 community-stakeholder meetings - bringing together thousands of project stakeholders including: construction managers, government agency executives, community leaders, elected officials, business owners, and residents. The LMCCC estimates that its efforts to coordinate construction in Lower Manhattan have saved projects more than $500 million in avoided delay costs. The savings to Lower Manhattan businesses relative to business-interruption costs are similar in magnitude."

The last email was signed by LMCCC Executive Director Joe Siminec and Managing Editor Kelsy Chauvin.  "It has been an honor and privilege to serve the downtown community over these past 12 years," they said.

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

CALENDAR: Week of Feb. 24
Annaline Dinkelmann of Wall Street Walks leads a tour of Wall Street on March 1, that focuses on powerful women in finance. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Feb. 28: "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. 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 1:
"Walking Tour: Women of Wall Street." Discover the female power brokers who have shaped the history of Wall Street. Your guide, a veteran of Wall Street herself, will expose the women who dared to infiltrate this male-dominated industry. Where: Tour meets at the Museum of American Finance, 48 Wall St. Time: 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. Tickets: $15 (includes Museum admission). For more information, click here.

March 2: "FDR and the Jews," with co-authors Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City. Breitman and Lichtman, both historians, examine the evidence in the debate over whether U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt did enough to save the Jews of Hitler's Europe. Place: 36 Battery Place. Time: 2:30 p.m. Tickets: $10; $7 students and seniors; $5 members. For more information, click here. 

March 2: "A Tribute to Pete Seeger." The New York Packet, a group of folk singers who specialize in sing-along and maritime music, pay tribute to Seeger, who recently died at the age of 95. Place: John St. Methodist Church, 44 John St. Time: 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Free-will donation. After expenses, all proceeds will be donated to the Hudson River sloop Clearwater. 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.

Downtown Post NYC is emailed Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 
To subscribe, click here

Editor: Terese Loeb Kreuzer

We welcome comments, questions and letters to the editor. Send them to

To advertise, email

Previous issues of Downtown Post NYC are archived at

All articles and photographs in Downtown Post NYC are copyrighted and
may not be reprinted or republished without written permission.
© 2014