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News and Events
in Lower Manhattan
Volume 1, No. 68  May 21, 2014

Quote of the day:
"I learned not to be afraid of failure."- Peter O'Connell, partner in the Paris Cafe, on where he got the courage to invest $800,000 to reopen the restaurant after Superstorm Sandy demolished it.

* Fleet Week returns to New York City
* South Street Seaport: Paris Cafe celebrates reopening and Brooklyn Bridge birthday
* South Street Seaport: Sailing and education on the South Street Seaport Museum's ships
* Bits & Bytes: Bells ring at Pier A; Lower Manhattan's retail revival; Brookfield lease
* Calendar

For breaking news, go to

Primroses in Battery Park City. May 21, 2014. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

The USS Oak Hill arriving in New York harbor for Fleet Week.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

The sky was almost as gray as the huge Navy ship that steamed up the Hudson River around 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 21, accompanied by several fireboats, boats from the New York Police Department's marine unit, and some drift collection vessels from the Army Corps of Engineers. A crowd lined the Battery Park City esplanade, waiting to see the USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), a Harper's Ferry-class dock landing ship.

"This is an amphibious landing ship," explained Seaman Apprentice Magen Weatherwax, a mass communication specialist, who was among those watching the ship arrive. She said it carried two Marine Corps detachments, 400 enlisted people and 22 officers. "On board, there are two tanks and 15 amphibious assault vehicles," she said.

Weatherwax, who is stationed in Norfolk, Va., home port for this ship, comes from a family whose members have served in both the Marines and the U.S. Navy, and that was one of the things she liked about USS Oak Hill - that both branches of the armed services were on the ship.  


"The Marines are on board because we drop amphibious vehicles into the water and the Marines can pull onto land with them," she said. "That's what the Marines do."


USS Oak Hill was launched in June 1994 and commissioned in June 1996. Soon after commissioning, the ship was deployed as command and control center to recover the wreckage of TWA Flight 800. That was the plane that exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, N.Y., on July 17, 1996, a few minutes after taking off from JFK International Airport on a scheduled flight to Rome, with a stopover in Paris. All 230 people on board were killed.


The USS Oak Hill has also served in the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and on the Horn of Africa.   


During Fleet Week, it will be docked at Pier 92 in Manhattan, and will be open for tours. The other ships that can be toured are the USS Cole, the USS McFaul, and the US Coast Guard Cutter Katherine Walker - all of them docked at Sullivans Pier on Staten Island, and the US Coast Guard Cutter Campbell, which will be at Pier 92 with the USS Oak Hill. The U.S. Navy ships will leave on May 27.  


There are only five ships officially participating in Fleet Week this year, unlike some previous years, when there were around 40 ships. "There was no Fleet Week last year because of the sequester," said Weatherwax, "but we'll be coming back next year, bigger and better than ever. Fleet Week is a really great thing to get the American public involved with the Navy and let them see what we do in our service to the country."


- Terese Loeb Kreuzer 


Free ship tours for the general public begin on Thursday, May 22 and will be held daily during Fleet Week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The lines may be capped at 3 p.m. For more information about ship tours and other Fleet Week activities, click here.   

The Army Corps of Engineers' drift collection vessel, MV Hayward.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer) 

The Paris Cafe | 119 South Street | 212.240.9797 | | @theparisnyc

South Street Seaport

The bar in the Paris Cafe was carved in Germany in 1873. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

The Brooklyn Bridge will be 131 years old on May 24. The nearby Paris Cafe at 119 South St. is 10 years older.

When Henry Meyer opened a hotel at the corner of Peck Slip and South Street in 1873, he installed a restaurant that he named The Paris Cafe on the first floor. On May 24, 1883, guests of Meyer's Hotel stood on the hotel's roof to watch one of the most exciting events of the century - the opening of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge. Scores of ships and boats gathered on the East River. U.S. President Chester A. Arthur and New York City Mayor Franklin Edson were saluted by cannon fire as they crossed the bridge to be greeted by Brooklyn Mayor Seth Low. They were followed by 1,800 vehicles and more than 150,000 people that first day. That night, there were fireworks.

This year, on May 24, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. there will be a grand party at The Paris Cafe with Irish food, special drinks, Irish music and dancing. The festivities will celebrate the bridge and The Paris Cafe itself, which almost didn't make it.

For a week after Superstorm Sandy surged through the South Street Seaport on Oct. 29, 2012, Peter O'Connell and John Ronaghan, his then-partner in The Paris Cafe, were unable to get inside to see what had happened. When they finally could enter their restaurant, they saw the effects of 11 feet of water - a tangle of broken furnishings and supplies covered with muck and oil. Already, there was mold everywhere. The restaurant's hand-carved bar, dating from 1873, was badly damaged.

It took a year of work and around $800,000 to recover. O'Connell and his current partner in The Paris Cafe, Diarmuid Hackett (Ronaghan bowed out) reopened in October 2013. Hackett had worked at The Paris Cafe for many years as its bartender.

"This place needed a makeover before Hurricane Sandy," said O'Connell. He said that they had been planning on doing that in a couple of years - maybe around now - but Sandy pushed the date forward. The question was whether to do the minimum to get by or to "do a complete job and make it a going concern again. I took the decision that we go all in."

He said they had to dig out the basement, redo all the wiring and redo the plumbing "because the salt water had permeated everything in the building. We had to redo our floors. We had to take apart our beautiful back bar, which was handmade in Germany, and refinish it. We took advantage of the storm to place it back in its original position, where it is now." 


O'Connell had to take out loans and dig into his own pocket to restore The Paris Cafe. "We got $10,000 from the government and we got a $25,000 SBS [Small  Business Services] loan - a loan but not a grant," he said. There was no insurance money. There might, possibly, be some money forthcoming from the Small Business Administration, but if so, it would be for expenses going forward and not for what has already been spent.

Asked where he got the courage to begin again after facing such a catastrophe, O'Connell recalled his first venture in the restaurant business. He was 39 years old at the time. "In 1987 I bought my first bar at 35th and Third Avenue," he said. "It was like going to Harvard University. I lost all my money in it, but I learned a lot from it. From that first failure, I learned not to be afraid of failure. I was sure I could get the Paris back on its feet because I had that prior experience of not being afraid of losing."

O'Connell bought The Paris Cafe in 2000. He said that he liked it because
"it had character, it had history, it had location, it had an ambiance about it that attracted me. It was, and still is, a very unique pub. This is a historic neighborhood and I love this space. We made the decision to renovate based on the future of this neighborhood."

Although January and February were slow, as they are for many businesses in the Seaport, better weather has brought many customers to The Paris Cafe. It has 60 seats inside and will be adding 26 outdoor seats by the end of June after the necessary permits have been obtained. 


Meanwhile, there's the party. Tony DeMarco, who despite his Italian name, is a renowned Irish fiddler, will be supplying the music along with his band playing traditional Irish instruments such as the bodhran (a drum), the tin whistle and the accordion.

"We encourage anybody playing Irish music to join him," said O'Connell. 


He recalled the parties in County Meath, Ireland, where he was born. "Sometimes the music starts and it doesn't end until 4 or 5 in the morning," he said. "I grew up with that."


- Terese Loeb Kreuzer 


For more information about the Paris Cafe, click here.   


Diarmuid Hackett, a partner in The Paris Cafe, appearing before Community Board 1's Seaport Committee on May 20 to request its approval for liquor service at the restaurant's soon-to-be-opened outdoor seating. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer) 

South Street Seaport
The South Street Seaport Museum's 1885 schooner, Pioneer.
(Photos: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Nineteen years ago, Jesse Schaffer was a man with a desk job. One day, he decided to go for a sail on the South Street Seaport Museum's 1893 fishing schooner, Lettie G. Howard. He was hooked. He learned to sail, quit his job, and went to sea for seven years. Now, he's back on land most of the time, working for the New York City Campaign Finance Board, but whenever he can, he volunteers as a deck hand on the museum's 1885 schooner, Pioneer. Why? It's the "romance of the sea," he says, and the desire to transmit the nautical experience of previous centuries to a new generation.

Most people won't find a harbor sail to be life-changing, but they are likely to have a very good time. Both the Lettie G. Howard and the Pioneer are back in the water.

Pioneer offers two-hour harbor excursions six days a week at varying times and prices. After the boat leaves the boisterous East River docks, passengers help to raise its sails - and find out how heavy they are. They can begin to imagine what life would have been like for the men who worked on the Pioneer. Then, with the Pioneer's engines turned off, a lovely peacefulness descends. The city seems pasted on the horizon. The nearby vistas are of sailboats and ferries, tugboats and tankers and occasional cruise ships. The Pioneer's sails rise steeply into the sky, where gulls cruise the winds.

Schaffer describes the Pioneer as a "workhorse." The Lettie, he says, is "sleek and fast and sexy."

Aboard the Lettie G. Howard.
The Lettie G. Howard is now a sailing school vessel that was just given an infusion of money and new purpose by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Students from New York and New Jersey will learn to sail on the Lettie, beginning with the students of the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School on Governors Island and New Jersey's Marine Academy of Science and Technology at Sandy Hook.

Lettie recently completed all requirements for re-certification as a Sailing School Vessel and is therefore U.S. Coast Guard approved to carry students on training voyages.

In addition to funding from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, this new sail training program was established with a grant from the Schwab Charitable Fund made possible by a gift from Wendy and Eric Schmidt.

Lettie is key to the Port Authority's "Two States, One Port" campaign, launched on May 12, which will promote local students' study of their home port through place-based maritime education.

Capt. Aaron Singh is the Lettie's captain and director of the Harbor School's Vessel Operations Career and Technical Education program. He says that aboard the Lettie, young people can learn valuable maritime skills, as well as general seamanship and lessons of teamwork and leadership that, he says, can't be learned anywhere else.

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer

For information on the Pioneer's sailing schedule or to buy tickets, click here. No food or beverages are served on the Pioneer, but passengers are welcome to bring their own.
For information on volunteering at the South Street Seaport Museum, click here.

Lower Manhattan as seen from the Pioneer as it cruised New York harbor.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


Bits & Bytes 

The clock tower on Pier A. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Bells are ringing at Pier A: Pier A at the southern end of Battery Park City and the last surviving 19th-century pier in Manhattan, has a prominent clock tower, but for years, as the old joke goes, the clock had been right twice a day. It hadn't worked in living memory. However, a few days ago, when the Colgate clock in Jersey City said 7:20, a peal of seven bells rang out from the Pier A clock tower. This was not a hallucination, as it turned out. Inquiries about what's going on have not produced any information from the public relations firm that is representing the Poulakakos/Dermot Company partnership currently rehabilitating Pier A into restaurants, bars and a visitors' center, but today someone else reported hearing bells. "It was 6 o'clock and the bells rang three times," she said. That sounds like a good start. Evidently the clock tower is on its way to working again. It was installed in 1919, the first memorial in the country to the dead of World War I. Work on the main part of the facility, meanwhile, is in progress. A July opening date has been mentioned - "sometime in July" - no specifics.

"Lower Manhattan Will Undergo a Retail Revival,"
New York Times, 5/20/14. Two "massive retail centers" are coming to Lower Manhattan, says The New York Times. "At the World Trade Center retail complex, centered on the transportation hub, or Oculus, 150 stores are planned to entice shoppers through sprawling corridors to browse $900 metallic leather pumps at Tom Ford or stock up on discounted toothpaste at Duane Reade. Across West Street, hugging the Hudson River, is Brookfield Place, where visitors will find luxury boutiques like Hermès and Burberry, the French dining hall Le District and the foodie favorites Umami Burger and Black Seed bagel." The demographics of Lower Manhattan are enticing for these retailers. "Thousands of new condominium and rental developments have swollen the ranks of residents, now totaling 61,000," says The Times. "There are 310,000 workers in the neighborhood and more than 11.5 million tourists may visit this year, according to the Alliance for Downtown. The area's spending power is $5.2 billion, larger than the gross domestic product of several small countries." For the complete article, click here.

"Financial firm eyes big downtown lease,"
Crain's New York Business, 5/20/14. The Japanese financial institution Nomura left Brookfield Place for Worldwide Plaza in midtown nearly three years ago, leaving Brookfield holding the bag for hundreds of thousands of square feet of space. "In recent weeks, the landlord has announced a series of deals to help fill that void," says Crain's New York Business. "In what is likely to become another such transaction Jane Street Capital, which has offices at another Brookfield Properties-owned building in lower Manhattan, 1 New York Plaza, is in talks to relocate to 250 Vesey Street, one of the towers at Brookfield Place. In the process the financial firm will expand its footprint. The firm, which occupies 20,000 square feet at 1 New York Plaza, according to CoStar Group data, is considering up to 150,000 square feet in the new location, a big expansion for the firm." For the complete article, click here.

"Long-Awaited 30 Park Place Reveals Condo Interiors,", 5/21/14. "First came the floorplans, now come the renderings," says "Behold, the first look inside the future condos of 30 Park Place, currently rising in Downtown Manhattan (h/t BuzzBuzz Home). The 82-story, Robert A.M. Stern-designed tower will hold 157 condos on its top floors, and new renderings show what those condos will look like: very white, with very big windows." Look for kitchens with "solid white oak cabinetry by Bilotta, Colorado White marble countertop and backsplash, and Gaggenau appliances" and master bathrooms with "Chinchilla Mink and Bianco Dolomite marble and vanities designed by Stern." For the complete article, click here.

"9/11 Museum Opens to a Somber Crowd," New York Times, 5/21/14. The public poured into the National September 11 Memorial Museum today and found it "overwhelming" and "gut-wrenching," according to The New York Times. "As the doors opened at 9 a.m., tourists dressed casually in pink running shoes and Mona Lisa T-shirts lined up alongside somber-faced New Yorkers waiting to pay their respects to friends and neighbors who died in the terrorist attack." The Times says that, "The first day's allocation of 7,000 tickets had all been sold out online, well in advance of the opening day. The museum plans to allow 5,000 to 8,000 visitors per day, though that figure could be adjusted. The admission fee is $24, though relatives of Sept. 11 victims and rescue and recovery workers can enter free." For the complete article, click here.

CALENDAR: Week of May 19
An exhibit called "Bright! Colors in Three Dimensions" in the lobby of 250 Vesey St.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
May 22: William W. Buzbee, Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law, talks about his book, Fighting Westway, at the Skyscraper Museum. From 1971 to 1985, legal and political battles raged over Westway, the multibillion-dollar highway, development, and park project conceived for the Hudson River edge on Manhattan's Lower West Side. The most expensive highway project ever proposed, Westway provoked one of the highest stakes legal battles of its day. Drawing on archival records and interviews, Buzbee probes beneath the veneer of government actions and court rulings to illuminate the political pressures and strategic moves that shaped the Westway wars. Involving all branches of government, environmental laws, scientific conflict, strategic citizen action, trials and court cases, the history of Westway illuminates how urban priorities are contested and how separation of powers and federalism frameworks structure legal and political conflict. Place: 39 Battery Place. Time: 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m. Free. RSVP to to assure admittance to the event.

May 22: Lisa Loeb, a Grammy®-nominated singer/songwriter, plays at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Loeb started her career with the platinum-selling Number 1 hit song Stay (I Missed You) from the film, Reality Bites. Loeb's career encompasses music, film, television, voiceover work and children's recordings. Place: 199 Chambers St. Time: 8 p.m. Tickets: $55, $45, $35. For more information or to buy tickets, click here.

May 24: Governors Island opens for the 2014 season with a Family Festival on Colonels Row and Liggett Terrace. Join the Governors Island Alliance in Nolan Park for arts and crafts, musical and theatrical performances, and harbor-education activities for kids. Time: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, click here. Also, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council hosts Open Studios in Building 110. Time: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, click here.

May 19-May 27: Fleet Week 2014 events will include military aircraft flyovers, aerial demonstrations, and static/stationary exhibitions throughout the New York City area.  Beginning on May 19, the U.S. Navy will conduct familiarization flights with four (4) MH-60 helicopters in various citywide locations beween 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and between 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. For more information, click here.

Ongoing: "A Town Known as Auschwitz" is an exhibit of photographs at the Museum of Jewish Heritage tracing the history of a town called "Oswiecim" in what is now Poland, where Jews and non-Jews lived side by side for centuries. When German forces occupied the town in September 1939, they renamed it "Auschwitz" and established a concentration and death camp there. More than 1 million people died at Auschwitz, including 90 percent of the town's Jews. The museum is at 36 Battery Place. For information the exhibit, click here. For information on the museum's hours and admission fees, click here.

: An exhibit called "Bright! Color in Three Dimensions" is in the lobby of 250 Vesey St., Brookfield Place. With the advent of digital and commercial technology, it has become easier to take the power of color for granted in two-dimensional mediums. The artists - Justin Adian, Caitlin Bermingham, Benjamin Dowell, Charles Dunn, Juan Fernando Morales, and Courtney Puckett - in Bright! take color to another level by manipulating it into sculptural forms. Whether made of plastic, textile, or paper, the artists use color as a foundation for the entire object, rather than the decorative finish to the piece. Time: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Through June 1. Free.

Ongoing: Poets House in Battery Park City presents "A Painter and His Poets," the first major retrospective show of George Schneeman's collaborative paintings, collages, prints, and books, with portraits of his poet friends, spanning 40 years. "A sort of utopia in the visual field filled with pleasure, quickness and wit" is how Schneeman himself described his collaborative work with poets. Exhibition on view through Saturday, Sept. 20, during regular Poets House hours. Place: 10 River Terrace. Free. For information about Poets House, click here.

Ongoing: The South Street Seaport Museum's lightship Ambrose and its barque Peking welcome visitors Wednesdays to Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Pier 16 (on the East River at Fulton Street). The Ambrose, launched in 1908,  once guided large ships through the Ambrose Channel into New York harbor. Peking was launched in Hamburg, Germany in 1911, one of the last commercial sailing ships ever built. She was used to carry goods from Europe to South America and to return to Europe with nitrate. The museum's Visitors Services associates explain all of the fascinating details of the ships and their relevance to the history of New York as a port city. Cost: $12 (adults); $8 (students, 12-24 and seniors); $5 (children 2-11); under 2, free. To buy tickets, 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.

Mark your calendar: The Community Center at Stuyvesant High School will hold an Open House on Sunday, June 1 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. with swimming, badminton, basketball and free demo classes in yoga and tai chi. For swimming, bring a towel. Swim caps are available for purchase. For more information, call (646) 210-4292 or click here.

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Editor: Terese Loeb Kreuzer

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