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News and Events
in Lower Manhattan
Volume 1, No. 93  July 18, 2014

Quote of the day:
"We used to say that Jamaica Bay was the back door to the city. Now we know it's the front door." - Naturalist Gabriel Willow, commenting on NYC's vulnerability to climate change and the strategic location of Jamaica Bay, which connects Lower New York Bay with the Atlantic Ocean. 

* New York City Audubon Society's ecocruise to Jamaica Bay
* New Amsterdam Market vendors stunned by closing
* Bits & Bytes: Lower Manhattan wages; Downtown Little League winners
* Walking tour of the Lower West Side
* Calendar

For breaking news, go to

Grammy Award-winner Robert Cray playing at the Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival. 
July 17, 2014. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

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

Downtown on the water

The Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge spans Jamaica Bay, connecting the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens with the Marine Park neighborhood in Brooklyn.
(Photos: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)


The wonders of New York harbor unfolded on July 6 as a New York Water Taxi backed out of Pier 16 in the South Street Seaport, with a New York City Audubon Society naturalist on board along with a flock of birders armed with high-power binoculars. They were headed for Jamaica Bay, an 18,000-acre wetland between Brooklyn and Queens. It is one of the largest urban wildlife preserves in the country.
Gabriel Willow.

As the boat approached Governors Island, Gabriel Willow, the naturalist, pointed out crumbling Yankee Pier. This is a nesting site for common terns, recognizable by their sharply pointed wings and deeply forked tails. On the piers, they flit around and roost among dark-hued double-crested cormorants, who perch on the pilings, drying their wings after a fishing expedition.

There are around 150 pairs of breeding common terns on Governors Island. They nest on Yankee, Tango and Lima piers.

"The piers were slated to be at least partially demolished," Willow said, "but the presence of the terns influenced the decision to keep them. Overall common terns are declining in the United States. They are a New York State Threatened Species. However, with the presence of this colony, they would seem to be increasing in New York City."

Common terns.


He said that common terns breed between Newfoundland in Canada, south along the coast to South Carolina. They winter in Central and South America, flying as far south as northern Argentina. This June, scientists from the New York City Audubon Society captured a common tern nesting on Governors Island that had been tagged in Argentina in March.


The boat picked up speed as it traversed New York harbor's upper bay and crossed under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the lower bay. It paused at Hoffman and Swinburne Islands, two man-made islands that lie between Staten Island and Brooklyn. Once used to quarantine immigrants to New York City who had arrived by ship, they are now bird colonies, largely populated by gulls, cormorants and egrets.  


Then, with some distance still to go before arriving at Jamaica Bay, the Water Taxi sprinted past Coney Island toward Breezy Point, Queens at the western end of the Rockaway peninsula. On this tranquil summer afternoon, people sat in their lawn chairs on the beach with their sailboats and motor boats tied up in the shallow water. Behind them, were houses draped with bunting and American flags. Some of them were still being repaired after flooding and fires caused by Superstorm Sandy almost two years ago.     


Peregrine falcon on the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. 

At the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge that crosses Rockaway Inlet, connecting the Rockaway Peninsula with the Marine Park neighborhood in Brooklyn, the boat paused. Willow said that peregrine falcons nest on top of the bridge and that they might be visible. They were.


There are 16 pairs in New York City, the largest concentration of peregrine falcons in the world, according to Willow. Remarkable predators who can swoop down on a pigeon or other prey at speeds of up to 240 miles per hour, catching the other bird in mid-air and killing it with a well-placed bite to its neck, the peregrine falcons were wiped out in the eastern United States by the pesticide, DDT. It weakened their egg shells so that the adult birds literally crushed the eggs when they sat on them as they waited for them to hatch. After DDT was banned in the late 1970s, peregrine falcons were bred in captivity and re-released in the wild to restore the population.


Peregrine falcons mate for life and return to the same nesting sites year after year. In the wild, peregrines can live up to 15.5 years.   


After passing another bridge used by the subway line that services the Rockaway Peninsula, the expanse of Jamaica Bay opened in front of the visitors, its saltmarshes and mudflats bordering low-lying islands.   


The bay connects to the Atlantic Ocean via Rockaway Inlet, making its water both saline and, in places, brackish.  


Although it is now only 30 percent of its original size (JFK International Airport and Floyd Bennett Field snatched much of Jamaica Bay's original acreage), most of Jamaica Bay has been protected since 1972 as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. It is a Garden of Eden for many kinds of wildlife. It is visited by, or home to, more than 325 species of birds, 50 species of butterflies and 100 species of finfish.    

Laughing gull.

The group aboard the New York Water Taxi spotted great egrets and snowy egrets prowling at the water's edge. American oystercatchers, striking in black-and-white plumage with orange beaks, hunted for dinner in the shallows. Common terns flew overhead along with the four kinds of gulls that are found in New York harbor, among them, laughing gulls with coal-black heads.


"They breed in tidal marshes, so Jamaica Bay is their primary breeding ground in New York City," Willow said, "but they can be seen and heard throughout the city from April through October or so."    


A great blue heron also made its way over Jamaica Bay, an unusual sight in the summertime. "They pass through in migration and in winter, but they breed in freshwater swamps with trees, so they're not usually around here in summer," Willow observed.  


By the time the boat turned around to head back to Manhattan, the sun was setting. Some fishermen were still casting their lines from small motor boats anchored in the bay, but the bird fishers had mostly called it quits for the night.  

Jamaica Bay and the Manhattan skyline.

The skyline of Lower Manhattan was visible above the saltmarshes. "We used to say that Jamaica Bay was the back door to the city," said Willow. "Now, we know it's the front door."


Jamaica Bay's saltmarshes and native spartina grasses (Spartina alterniflora and Spartina patens), heedlessly destroyed by previous generations, are now known to be essential protections for New York City's populous neighborhoods.   


On July 17, the National Park Service, which administers the Gateway National Recreation Area, announced that the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay had been awarded $3.6 million from the Department of the Interior's Hurricane Sandy Mitigation Funding to support 10 research projects. The institute is a collaboration between the National Park Service, New York City and a consortium of nine top-tier research institutions headed by the City University of New York. 


The grant from the Department of the Interior will advance knowledge of resilience in urban coastal ecosystems, with work beginning immediately and continuing through 2016.


At one time, wetlands like those of Jamaica Bay ringed the islands of New York harbor. Given climate change and rising sea levels, a visit to Jamaica Bay may reveal both the city's past and its future.  


- Terese Loeb Kreuzer 


The next New York Water Taxi/New York City Audubon Society ecocruise to Jamaica Bay takes place on Sunday, Aug. 10, followed by one on Aug. 17. The cruise is three hours long (6 p.m. to 9 p.m.). On Sundays, July 20 and July 27, Gabriel Willow will lead a two-hour ecocruise, "Bridges and Birds," to Hoffman and Swinburne Islands. (Time: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.) On Sunday, Aug. 3, he leads a two-hour cruise to the Brothers Islands in the East River. For more information and to buy tickets, click here

South Street Seaport
Elena Liao, owner of Té Company, was a vendor at the New Amsterdam Market.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Among those who were thunderstruck by Robert LaValva's announcement that he was closing the New Amsterdam Market, which had been operating on South Street between Beekman Street and Peck Slip, were the market's vendors.

Typically, LaValva had 45 to 60 vendors at each market, most of them selling locally and regionally produced food or products made from local food sources. A few of the vendors also sold crafts such as cutting boards, hand-carved wooden spoons and hand-knitted clothing made with wool from local flocks.

In a brief email sent on Sunday night, July 13, LaValva notified the vendors that the market was closing. The last market was on June 21. There was supposed to have been a market on July 26, but with the announcement of the closing, that has been cancelled.

Anton Nocito with his son, Aiden, at the New Amsterdam Market. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
"It's rough to do what Robert has done for so long and fight the fight like he has," said Anton Nocito, a Brooklyn-based chef who sold his hand-crafted soda syrups at the market. "I hate it that it has ended this way and do hope he is OK. I have always felt strongly about what Robert has been doing and hope that he has just laid the groundwork for what may be to come."

Nocito said that he hadn't spoken to LaValva since the last market.

Nocito said that he is not selling at other markets as of now. His business, P&H Soda Co., is primarily wholesale. But the New Amsterdam Market provided extra income and contact with the public.

"It was important for us to be a part of the market and we will miss it," Nocito said. "The way it was curated was far better than any other market."

Through his many years of working in the food business and as a market organizer, LaValva had a network of high-quality vendors who sold at the New Amsterdam Market. Unlike many other markets, he provided them with graphics for their farm stands. Start-up businesses at the market paid for their space on a sliding scale.

New Amsterdam Market vendors, Elena Liao and Frederico Ribeiro, were among those with a start-up food business. Té Company sells beautifully packaged, high-end oolong tea from Taiwan, where Liao grew up.

Liao and Ribeiro first came to the New Amsterdam Market on Sept. 29, 2013.

"We were deeply saddened by the news that New Amsterdam Market will be shut down," Liao wrote in an email. "The New Amsterdam Market had given us the opportunity to interact with our customers in person and meet incredible local vendors. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity.  We will likely look for other venues going forward, but it will certainly be hard to find something as special and unique as the New Amsterdam Market."   


Liao, who is a downtown New Yorker, called the New Amsterdam Market's closing "a true loss for the community."


Roland Lewis, chairman of the New Amsterdam Market board of directors, said that the board is unanimous in wanting the market to continue, if possible, hopefully with LaValva's participation. But LaValva has not been reachable all week and the board can do nothing until it is able to consult with him.    


"I think we're in a better financial position than we've been for a while, to the city's credit," Lewis said. "They gave us a much more favorable rent this season under the new administration. It's comparable to what the Greenmarkets pay. We had been paying multiple times of that under the Bloomberg administration."  


LaValva is expected to surface again this coming week, perhaps as soon as Monday. 


- Terese Loeb Kreuzer



Bits & Bytes

Downtown Little League Juniors. They will play in the New York State Championships next week. (Photo: Scott Morrison)
"What $4,000/Month Can Rent You in New York City,", 7/18/14. Curbed Comparisons looks at what "one can rent for a set dollar amount in various NYC neighborhoods." In this installment, Curbed looks at six apartments renting for around $4,000 a month, including one in Tribeca, which is going for $4,025 a month. The 651-square-foot one-bedroom shares common spaces that include a roof deck and a spa terrace with a whirlpool. For the complete article, including photos, click here.

"Lower Manhattan economy taking off but many new jobs are low wage," Reuters, 7/18/14. "Lower Manhattan's economy is set to take-off," says Reuters. "New shopping centers, hotels and food courts are opening in the area that looked more like a war zone after the attacks on September 11, 2001. The massive developments are bringing back jobs lost as a result of the attacks on the World Trade Center, which killed 2,753 people. But many of the openings, for everything from fast food servers to shop assistants and housekeeping staff, are going to be paying little more than the city's $8 an hour minimum wage, with few benefits." Among others, Reuters interviewed several of the workers at Hudson Eats in Brookfield Place for this article. They said they are being paid $9 to $10 an hour. A sandwich and coffee at Hudson Eats would cost more than that. For the complete article, click here.

Downtown Little League girls are softball champions: "Great news from Downtown Little League Softball!," says Scott Morrison, who manages the Downtown 11s team and who helps to manage the Downtown Little League Softball Division. "The Juniors (13- and 14-year-old girls) beat Franklin Square at the Skelos Complex in Rockville Center to win the Section 5 championship!" Section 5 is all of New York City and half of Long Island.

The Juniors will represent Downtown Little League at the New York State Championships next week, Morrison said. If they win the States, they will go to the Eastern Regionals and then the World Series in Washington State which is televised on ESPN2.

On Friday night, July 18, the 11s beat Staten Island's Great Kills Little League. They will play a final game on Saturday, July 19, at the Con Ed field, with the winner advancing to the New York State Championship.

Morrison attributes the girls' success to practice. "Downtown Little League Softball plays by the Little League rules during the regular season," he said. "This means very few house rules. The girls love the fast pace of the game during the regular season. As a result, when it comes to post season, they are quick on the base paths and very game knowledgeable." 

There are now more than 160 girls playing Downtown Little League softball. "We've grown from 40 girls in just three years since Downtown  Little League started following full Little League rules for softball," Morrison commented.

The DLL boys' teams did well, but not as well as the girls. "The 9/10s baseball and 11/12s baseball won the Districts and advanced all the way to the Sections," Morrison said. "They were eliminated in the Sections.  But it was a great ride."

"They're on a Boat!," New York Times, 7/18/14. "In New York this summer, the artisanal meets the nautical, as a group of floating restaurants have claimed what had been uncharted territory in New York's culinary world," says The New York Times. "The ventures vary from a modest New England tavern to a French-Caribbean oyster bar to a three-deck lobster shack. But their challenges have been similar: They all had to navigate bureaucracy, bad weather and boat plumbing in an effort to redefine the dinner cruise. The newest of the boat-restaurants does not actually leave the dock: Grand Banks, an oyster bar on the Sherman Zwicker, a 142-foot schooner tied up at the end of Pier 25 in the shadow of One World Trade Center in TriBeCa, will stay through October before it sails south." For the complete article, click here.


The vestiges of what was the first major Arab settlement in the United States still exist in downtown Manhattan, but you have to know where to look.

On Sunday, July 27 starting at 10:30 a.m., the Friends of the Lower West Side will lead a tour of the neighborhood that was sometimes called "Little Syria" because so many immigrants from the Middle East settled there in the 19th century.

Greenwich Street, 1941.
(New York Public Library)
But this crowded area, centered on lower Washington Street, had residents from many other parts of the world, as well. In fact, it had the most diverse population in New York City.

In 1917, a news article noted the presence of 27 nationalities in the neighborhood north of the Battery. From the 1840s to the 1960s, waves of Irish, German, Middle Eastern, and various Slavic immigrants lived on or near lower Washington Street.

The construction of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel in the 1940s and the World Trade Center in the 1960s destroyed most of a neighborhood that was noted for its family-run shops, its ethnic restaurants, its numerous newspapers and its sense of solidarity, despite its ethnic diversity.  Both the tunnel and the World Trade Center were built by confiscating land through eminent domain.

The neighborhood is continuing to disappear because of new construction after 9/11.

The walking tour will take in the former St. George Melkite Church, the Downtown Community House, some Federal-style town homes, and the few remaining tenements. Leaders Joe Svehlak, an urban historian whose family lived on the Lower West Side in the early 1900s, and Esther Regelson, community activist and current resident, will tell stories of the diverse people who lived together in one of New York's great neighborhood melting pots. They will also talk about the problems facing current residents as they fight to preserve the last significant remaining buildings.

A donation of $10 to $20 will help with preservation efforts.

Place: Meet: Inside the Staten Island Ferry Building (South Ferry) at the bottom of the escalators, left side. Date: July 27. Time: 10:30 a.m. For more information, call Joe at (718) 855-7374 or Esther at (212) 349-4396 or email


CALENDAR: Week of July 14
Aboard the ferry to Governors Island. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)
July 19: Poets House, a free, 60-000-volume poetry library based in Battery Park City, will have an outpost on Governors Island for three weekends in July and August. Visitors will be able to settle into one of the historic houses on Colonels' Row and make drawings and write poetry, filling in the outline of a gigantic mural cityscape created by artist Felipe Galindo. The idea is to make a city of poems. There will be writing prompts for those who want them, including a Haiku station where visitors can play with the ancient form via social media applications. Drawings will also be welcome as contributions to the cityscape. When: Saturdays and Sundays, July 19 and 20; July 26 and 27 and August 2 and 3; Time: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Where: 406A Colonels' Row, Governors Island; How to get there: Ferries go to Governors Island from South Street in Manhattan and from Brooklyn. Ferries are free on weekend mornings. For the ferry schedule and fare information, click here. 

Ongoing: Calvin Love, "a Canadian bedroom punk out of Edmonton," who "delivers suave and demented tunes" and las Rosas, a trio from Brooklyn, played at the Seaport Music Festival on July 18. The Festival is produced and partially sponsored by The Howard Hughes Corp. Place: Fulton Street at Water Street. Time: 7 p.m. Free. The Festival continues on Friday nights through Aug. 29. For more information, click here.    
Ongoing: Every Friday through Aug. 22, join a master drummer in Battery Park City's Wagner Park for Sunset Jams on the Hudson. Improvise on African, Caribbean and Latin rhythms. Drums provided, or bring your own. Place: Wagner Park. Time: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Free. For more information, click here


Ongoing: "Tugboats: Workhorses of New York Harbor," photographs by John Skelson, are on exhibit aboard the Lilac, a historic lighthouse tender docked at Pier 25, through July 31. Skelson's photographs document the powerful and colorful array of tugs that keep our harbor working. The Lilac is open 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information about the Lilac, click here.

Ongoing: An exhibit in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's arts center on Governors Island examines a pivotal time in Trisha Brown's early career as an artist and choreographer, as well as a particularly fertile moment for artistic production in New York City. With videos, photographs and installations, "Trisha Brown: Embodied Practice and Site-Specificity" highlights Brown's community of performers and artists, and the Lower Manhattan in which they lived and created. The exhibit shows Brown's investigation of simple movements such as walking or dressing, and the built environment, specifically through performances that took place on buildings inside and out, museum walls, parks, cobblestone streets, and other non-traditional performance spaces. 
The exhibition also bridges the transition in Brown's practice from site- and gallery-based work to proscenium stage work, for which she became well-known throughout the 1980s and beyond. Through Sept. 28. Times: Fridays and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free. For more information, click here.

Ongoing: Poets House presents its 22nd annual showcase, a free exhibit featuring all of the new poetry books and poetry-related texts published in the United States in a single year from over 650 commercial, university, and independent presses. Through Aug. 16. Place: 10 River Terrace. Free. For more information, click here.

Ongoing: "From Drills to Drums: Civil War Life on Governors Island." A program for kids, who will see first hand the lives of soldiers, civilians and prisoners on the island in the 19th century. No tickets or reservations required, but large school or day camp groups should call (212) 825-3045. Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Place: Governors Island. Time: 10:20 a.m. Also at 11:20 a.m. Free.

Ongoing: Hike Through History. The most comprehensive tour of Governors Island National Monument takes in nearly every highlight in the historic district. No tickets or reservations required. Visitors should be prepared to stand for a full 90 minutes and walk a distance of about 1.5 miles. Wednesdays to Sundays. Place: Governors Island. Meet at Soissons Dock. Time: 2 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.
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.

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Editor: Terese Loeb Kreuzer

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