Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter 

News and Events
in Lower Manhattan
Volume 1, No. 42  March 21, 2014

Quote of the day:
"I felt that if I could go to Antarctica, I could do anything." - Elise Engler, who teaches art for the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy, on the two months that she spent in Antarctica under a National Science Foundation grant.

* Breaking news: Municipal building evacuated because of a fire
* Battery Park City art teacher's two months in Antarctica
* Battery Park City in bloom: Helleborus niger
* Bits & Bytes: Citi Bike on the skids; Port Authority questions WTC security
* Calendar

Masthead photo: A gentoo penguin on Cuverville Island in Antarctica.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Breaking News
The Municipal Building at 1 Centre St. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


A fire broke out in the Municipal Building at 1 Centre St. shortly before 5 p.m. this afternoon. The fire was on the eighth floor. The building was evacuated from the 22nd floor down. The fire was quickly brought under control but it caused major traffic delays in the area. For more information, click here


Downtown traveler     
Elise Engler with some of her paintings of Antarctica, based on the two months that she spent there in 2009-2010 under the auspices of the National Science Foundation.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


Few people ever get to see Antarctica. There are military and scientific stations there, but tourism is strictly limited so as not to damage the fragile environment of the coldest place on Earth. Fewer people still get to live on Antarctica for any length of time. But Elise Engler, who has been teaching art for the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy for around 20 years, is one of them.  


Between mid-December 2009 and mid-February 2010, Engler lived in Antarctica under a grant from the National Science Foundation's Artists and Writers program. Its purpose "is to give the public access to science in another way," said Engler. "It allows people to actually see what's happening in the Antarctic."


When Engler went, the National Science Foundation accepted four or five people a year for the program. Now, it accepts only two people a year. The grants cover transportation and all expenses associated with the trip, but do not include a stipend to cover living expenses back home.  


"I felt that if I could go to Antarctica, I could do anything," Engler said. She spent a year working on her application - doing research and crafting a proposal.


When she finally got word that she had been accepted, she found, however, that she would have to discard her plan because she was being sent to the McMurdo Station instead of to the much smaller Palmer Station. Her idea had been to draw everything in the Palmer Station, which houses 44 to 48 people. McMurdo was too big for that. In the austral summer, the population swells to around 1,200 people and it bustles like a small town.    


Engler was 53 at the time she made this trip and was in good physical shape. But when she got to McMurdo, she had to go through survival training, "learning how to use a portable stove, how to use different kinds of communication systems in case the one you have breaks." She dug a trench in the snow and slept in it and built an igloo to sleep in in case of a helicopter crash. She learned how to pitch a tent in the wind.   


McMurdo is on a small island off the coast of Antarctica. There are several research stations on that island, including Cape Royds, where Engler stayed for five days. It has a small penguin colony and Shackleton's hut. She was also at Cape Crozier, which has around 750,000 penguins. She stayed there for two nights. Twice, she flew to the South Pole, around a four-hour flight from McMurdo. And for three weeks, she lived on Antarctica's mainland in a region called the "Dry Valleys" because it is part of the 1 percent of Antarctica that is not covered with snow.


"In the Dry Valleys, the colors of the mountains change every day," she said. "It was extraordinary, really. It was kind of hard to paint them because the colors kept changing."  


She also described the unusual experience of living in 24 hours of daylight. "The quality of the light is so crystalline clear," she said. "Everything just glistens." 


As she reflected on the experience, she said that, "Every day there was something new to look forward to. It was wonderful not to have expectations but to be open to new landscapes, new people and to science I often didn't understand."


She found herself surrounded by interesting people. "When you're sitting in the big lunchroom at McMurdo, the person next to you might be a scientist and the person across from you is a mountain guide who's been up Everest five times - and then there are a lot of military people," she said. "So it's a mix of very extraordinary people." 


She described herself as "a fly on the wall," recording in her drawings and paintings everything she saw. She calls the work that she produced "Unpacking Antarctica."  


"It's a play on the words, 'ice pack,'" she said. "If you unpack it, you let people see the contents of it. My work is about contents."   


An exhibit of Engler's Antarctica paintings. 

She took gouache, watercolor, colored pencils and different kinds of paper with her, but very little in the way of clothing. In Christchurch, New Zealand, the U.S. government maintains a clothing repository "with an incredible library of coats and pants and everything you need," she said. "You don't need anything of your own."  


A few of Engler's paintings of Antarctica are on display at the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy headquarters at 75 Battery Place, 4th floor, through March 28. A larger number are at the Dorsky Gallery in Long Island City in an exhibit called "Thaw." They will be there through April 6.  


Engler has previously had shows of her Antarctica work in Albany at the College of St. Rose and at the National Science Foundation headquarters in Arlington, Va., outside of Washington, D.C. She will be talking about her experience at the Explorers' Club in the fall.  


- Terese Loeb Kreuzer   


Dorsky Gallery, 11-03 45th Ave., Long Island City. Open: Thurs.-Mon., 11 a.m. -6 p.m. (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays); phone: (718) 937-6317. For more information, click here.  

Engler has made accordion books of some of her Antarctica drawings. They are for sale at the Dorsky Gallery. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer) 


Battery Park City in Bloom

Helleborus niger, commonly called the "Christmas rose," finally bloomed a few days before the beginning of spring. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


Helleborus niger, commonly called the "Christmas rose," bloomed late this year in Battery Park City. Usually it will show its sparkling, white flowers at the beginning of March. This year, it barely snuck under the wire for the beginning of spring, which was yesterday.


Helleborus niger is actually not a rose. It is an evergreen perennial in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). The famous botanist Carolus Linneaus (1707-1778), gave it its name because its roots are black.


Though Helleborus niger was used medicinally by the ancient Greeks to treat paralysis, gout and insanity, all parts of the plant are poisonous.  


Perhaps this was known to the people of the Middle Ages, who used it to drive away witches.


An herbal written around a century ago said, "In an old French romance, the sorcerer, to make himself invisible when passing through the enemy's camp, scattered powdered Hellebore in the air, as he goes."


In the same garden bed on Rector Place at South End Avenue as Helleborus niger, look for Helleborus orientalis, of similar shape but with reddish-purple blooms. This is commonly called the "Lenten rose" because it flowers in March, just before Easter.  


- Terese Loeb Kreuzer 



Bits & Bytes  

After a cold, snowy winter, Citi Bike is losing money. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


"Citi Bike, Needing Millions of Dollars, Looks for Help," The Wall Street Journal, 3/20/14. "Leaders of Citi Bike are moving quickly to raise tens of millions of dollars to rescue the popular bike-share program as it loses money," says The Wall Street Journal. "Citi Bike's bright blue bicycles have become a seemingly indispensable part of some city neighborhoods, but its managers don't believe it can survive if it doesn't become more appealing to tourists and expand to new neighborhoods," according to The Journal. "The program's leaders have approached officials in Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration about raising Citi Bike's rates." The bike-share program has had no difficulty selling annual passes for $95, but these are far less profitable than daily or monthly passes, which have not been popular. In addition, "Citi Bike has been forced to contend with a number of costly issues, including damage to equipment during superstorm Sandy, software glitches and a difficult 2013-14 winter that discouraged ridership," The Journal says. "But advocates said Alta Bicycle Share, the company that operates Citi Bike through a subsidiary, also hadn't done enough to improve the system and adapt to problems as they arose." For the complete article, click here.

"Port Agency Investigates Boy's Ascent of World Trade Center," New York Times 3/20/14. "Authorities are trying to determine how a 16-year-old New Jersey boy sneaked past security at 1 World Trade Center and spent two hours early Sunday making his way to the top of the 1,776-foot tower, which is still under construction," says The New York Times. "The boy, identified as Justin Casquejo of Weehawken, entered the construction site surrounding the tower through a 12-by-12-inch hole in the exterior fence, said Joe Pentangelo, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the building. The teenager crawled through the hole around 4 a.m. and was caught about two hours later." According to The Times, Casquejo found a way up through the scaffolding, climbed onto the sixth floor, and took the elevator up to the 88th floor. Then he climbed a staircase to the 104th floor. For the complete article, click here.

"Port Authority tables key vote on fate of 3 WTC," Crain's New York Business, 3/19/14. "The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Wednesday postponed a vote on a deal that would substantially increase its financial backing of 3 World Trade Center, the $2 billion-plus office tower planned at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan," says Crain's New York Business. "The Port Authority's board of commissioners, which met for its monthly meeting Wednesday afternoon, granted vice chairman Scott Rechler and Port Authority staff permission to continue negotiating a deal with the tower's developer, Silverstein Properties. A new vote is expected in April or May." Crain's says that Rechler, one of the Port Authority's top New York officials and a major Manhattan landlord, "has championed a plan to hike the Port Authority's financial guarantee on the tower to about $1.1 billion from $200 million currently. That means that if Silverstein Properties defaults on its loans for the proposed 2.5 million square foot, 80-story office tower, the Port Authority would have five times as much money at risk in the deal. That possibility has created divisions among the Port Authority's commissioners, who must approve the deal by a majority vote." For the complete article, click here.

"We Are the 1%: Lower Manhattan's Luxury Condos and Upscale Retail May Only Widen the Gap," Commercial Observer, 3/20/14. Commercial Observer describes Downtown Manhattan as a playground for the super-rich, with "gleaming new skyscrapers. Swarms of young pedestrians. Cutting edge tech and creative office tenants. High-end retail. Sprouting condo towers. A new transportation hub."  It cites "more than a dozen residential development projects, at least a handful of which are high-end, luxury buildings, which will make Downtown Manhattan a destination for the city and world's most well-to-do, broadening a wealth gap that the city's top dog wants so badly to mend." Among other new residential buildings, Commercial Observer mentions   the Sterling Mason, a 32-unit luxury condo building that Taconic Investment Partners just topped off in Tribeca. "Pricing at the building starts at $3.9 million for a two-bedroom and shoots to $23 million for its two penthouses (one of which is under contract for $21 million), with a roster that will likely include a mix of foreign investors and domestic families," says the Commercial Observer. However, anyone wanting to live almost anywhere in lower Manhattan will have to be very rich, say the prognosticators. For the complete article, click here

"Chic Online Shop La Gar�onne Is Opening a Flagship Boutique in Northwest Tribeca," Tribeca Citizen, 3/18/14. "After ten years of being online, fashion retailer La Gar�onne is opening a flagship boutique at 465 Greenwich (between Watts and Desbrosses, in the old Trisha Brown Dance Company offices)," says Tribeca Citizen. The store will carry both women's and men's collections, plus home furnishings and books. They hope to open May 1. For the complete article, click here.

Help sought for East Harlem building collapse victims:  The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City is accepting contributions to help the individuals, families and businesses affected by the building collapse that occurred at 116th Street and Park Avenue on Wednesday, March 12. To contribute or for additional information about the Mayor's Fund, click here or call 311.


CALENDAR: Week of March 17
The South Street Seaport Museum's Maritime Crafts Center, Bowne Printers and Bowne & Co. Stationers are located on Water Street in the South Street Seaport. On Saturday, a free symposium at Pace University will discuss the Seaport's past and future.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
March 22: Under the auspices of the Municipal Art Society, Linda Fisher, a 30-year city court insider, leads a walking tour of Manhattan's Civic Center. Fisher's work as an official court reporter gives her a unique view into the workings of the judiciary and the democratic process. At the northern end of City Hall park, the site of the city's first penal institutions, she will describe the Civic Center's development, and deconstruct the web of City, State and Federal halls of justice and governance. Meeting site will be sent on registration Tickets: $20; $15 (MAS members). To buy tickets, click here.

March 22: So You Want to Be an Engineer! a program for kids, ages 6 to 14, at the Skyscraper Museum, uses the engineering marvels in the museum's gallery as examples, as kids learn what it takes to be an engineer while working together to explore the excitement of vertical construction. Engineering concepts of shape, strength and "slenderness" will be explored in this program as participants test the heights of their architectural imaginations! Place: 39 Battery Place. Time: 10:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m. Call (212) 945-6324 for reservations and information or click here. Fee: $5/child. Members, free.
March 22: "The Seaport: A Place in the Making," Talks and Charrette at Pace University. The South Street Seaport is a place with a rich history and meaning to New York. Its federal-style brick buildings and historic boats, rich culinary and waterfront culture, and the long presence of an arts community are among its assets. This talk and charrette will consider how we can use design to make these cultural gems more visible and create a more vibrant place in Lower Manhattan.  


The talk: Susan Silberberg, the critically acclaimed expert on placemaking and founding director of CivicMoxie, author of Place in the Making (MIT), will discuss the interactions between placemaking, arts and culture, inclusive participation, and the expanding ways communities are collaborating to make great public spaces. Time: 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The charrette: Participate in an interactive, fun workshop to help the Seaport community collectively identify the hidden cultural gems and untold stories in the Seaport and raise their visibility. Introduction by Seaport's Fresh Salt Sara Willams and Design/Relief's Catch*Release team will precede the workshop. Time: 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Location: Aniello Bianco Room, ground floor, Pace University, One Pace Plaza (use the side entrance of the Schimmel Theater on Spruce Street). Free. To register, click here.

March 23: Walking tour: "Noted and Notorious Women of Downtown." Kathleen Hulser leads a walking tour through the Financial District and the Seaport, under the auspices of the Municipal Art Society. The tour will consider the lives of Ellen Demorest, inventor of the paper pattern and a successful tea merchant; Victoria Woodhull, spiritualist, stockbroker and free love advocate; philanthropist Juliet Toussaint, abolitionist, and evangelist Sojourner Truth; stunt girl reporter Nellie Bly; celebrity soprano Jenny Lind and the notoriously wicked Madame Restell. Meeting place provided on ticket purchase. Tickets: $20; $15, Municipal Art Society members. For more information, click here.

March 23:  In a series of Sunday concerts called "Lamentatio," Trinity Wall Street presents six performances of early Renaissance music juxtaposed with contemporary music. The third concert features work by Johannes Ockeghem, Thomas Tallis and Guillaume Dufay performed by the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, NOVUS NY, Decoda and the Choir of Merton College, Oxford. Place: Trinity Church, Broadway at Wall Street. Time: 5 p.m. Tickets: $25. For more information or to buy tickets, click here. Concerts every Sunday through April 13.
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: "Defining Lines: Maps from the 1700s and early 1800s" at the Fraunces Tavern Museum. Twenty-seven maps provide a perspective on the evolving nation's place in history. A map from 1804, never before exhibited, shows the U.S. postal routes. Place: 54 Pearl St. Time: Noon to 5 p.m., daily. Admission fees: $7; $4 (seniors, students with ID, children, 6 to 8 years old. Children, 5 and under, free. Active military with ID, free. 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 [email protected]

To advertise, email [email protected]

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