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News and Events
in Lower Manhattan
Volume 1, No. 107  Aug. 20, 2014
Quote of the day:
"To understand the city and to understand architecture really requires you to experience it first hand." - Gregory Wessner, executive director of Open House New York
* Open House New York opens the city's closed doors
* Bits & Bytes: Metropolitan College move?; Tenants for Governors Island; Woolworth penthouse
* Letter to the editor: Appeal to de Blasio: Save the South Street Seaport!
* Calendar

For breaking news, go to

A dancer from Srishti Dances of India at the Downtown Dance Festival. Aug. 20, 2014.  
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)



Greg Wessner, the executive director of Open House New York, on historic Front Street in the South Street Seaport. (Photos: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

For many people, August means a vacation. But for the staff of Open House New York, this is the countdown period to crunch time - this year on Oct. 11 and 12 - when more than 50,000 people will visit more than 300 sites in the city under OHNY's auspices.

Most of these places are normally closed to the public or accessible only on a limited basis. With a full-time staff of three and one part-timer who comes aboard to help, OHNY arranges for the doors to be opened so that the public can look inside.

"It's a massive undertaking," said Gregory Wessner, OHNY's executive director. "Every single one of those sites has to be coordinated with somebody, details have to be arranged, plans change. But that weekend, when you see literally tens of thousands of people getting into buildings and see their sense of wonder, inspiration and delight - it's worth it."

The first Open House New York weekend took place in 2003. Since then, the idea of opening the closed doors of a city one weekend a year has taken root in 18 cities worldwide.

"We consciously try to open new places every year," said Wessner. "It would be easier if it were the same places every year, but it wouldn't be very interesting after the first couple of years if you keep coming back. There are always repeats, but if you look at the overall list, it changes."

The full list of sites and tours for this year will be released on Sept. 30. Some sites require an advance reservation because of limited capacity. That list will open on Oct. 1. Though most of the programming for the weekend is free, advance reservations incur a fee of $5 each.

In addition to the blow-out October weekend, OHNY arranges tours and programs throughout the year, a practice that Wessner expanded when he became the organization's executive director in January 2013.

I thought it was not just an opportunity but a responsibility for us as a non-profit with a public service mission to provide additional programming that looked more deeply at what was going on around the city in terms of individual buildings - new and old - and in terms of big issues happening in planning and architecture, and in neighborhoods," Wessner said.

On Aug. 9, one of these "mini" programs was a citywide Art Deco Scavenger Hunt in which participants were invited to "spend the day exploring the city and taking photographs of some of the most stunning Art Deco buildings that New York - the capital of the Art Deco movement - has to offer." There was a reception at the Museum of the City of New York at the end of the day, and prizes that included a cruise around Manhattan on a yacht, brunch at Chez Josephine and a set of Art Deco cocktail shakers.
Hunters Point in Queens.

A series of programs called "Making it Here" has taken in some of the industrial neighborhoods of the city such as Port Morris and Mott Haven in the Bronx, where the visitors toured factories producing everything from windows to whiskey to custom woodwork. Another "Making it Here" tour is coming up on Sept. 5. It will go to the Hunters Point area of Long Island City, which was once exclusively industrial but which is now partially residential. The visitors will see some of the historic industrial sites plus niche manufacturers that include a brewery, a fabricator and a woodworker. Registration for this tour begins on Aug. 22 and costs $25 (general admission) and $15 for OHNY members.

"In all of our programming, I view Open House as a forum for discussion and debate and most importantly, for education - and education through direct observation and direct experience of the places that we walk past and that we read about in the news," said Wessner. 

To understand the city and to understand architecture really requires you to experience it first hand. You have to go there. Seeing pictures in a magazine or models is not as powerful as the experience itself, and that's what Open House really tries to do - give you that experience."

- Terese Loeb Kreuzer 

For more information about Open House New York and its programming, click here. Open House New York is now seeking volunteers to help on the Oct. 11-Oct. 12 weekend. Around 800 volunteers are needed to staff the sites and assist with check-in. Volunteer for one shift of four hours and receive an OHNY t-shirt and a passport that gives each volunteer and a friend front-of-the-line access to all sites where advance reservation is not required. Email for more information or click here.

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

Bits & Bytes
Signage for Le District outside of Brookfield Place. Le District should be opening "in stages" beginning in November. (Photos: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

"Metropolitan College eyes Rector Street spot,"
The Real Deal, 8/19/14. "The Metropolitan College of New York, on the search to relocate its Hudson Square campus, is eyeing a 110,000-plus-square-foot office condo at 40 Rector Street," says The Real Deal. "Such a deal would mark the largest buy at the building since owner Phillips International began converting the property three years ago. MCNY, the professional education school founded by social entrepreneur Audrey Cohen 50 years ago, is considering purchasing the sixth, seventh and eighth floors of the 19-story FiDi building, as well as a ground-floor condo with a private entrance facing West Street. The college is seeking $68 million in tax-free bond financing from the Build NYC Resource Corporation, which will consider the matter at a public hearing early next month." For the complete article, click here.

"On Governors Island, Many Visitors but Few Tenants," Wall Street Journal, 8/19/14. Though hundreds of thousands of visitors are now trekking to Governors Island, "when the island closes to day trippers for the season on Sept. 28, the daytime population will fall to fewer than 1,000 park employees, construction workers, students and artists," says the Wall Street Journal. "Advocates for the 172-acre island off the southern tip of Manhattan say there have been many stumbling blocks to luring year-round tenants, including limited ferry service, building restrictions and poor infrastructure. While tourism has been increasing - nearly 400,000 visitors made the trek to the island last season, up 15% from a year earlier - a far bigger challenge has been convincing business owners to be among the first to move in." For the complete article, click here.
Woolworth building.

"Revealed: Floor plans for $110M Woolworth penthouse," The Real Deal, 8/21/14. "Alchemy Properties' offering plan for the condominiums at the Woolworth Building was just approved by the New York Attorney General's office," says The Real Deal. "The plan reveals that the $110 million penthouse atop the iconic tower - a unit that has been christened the 'Pinnacle' - will span 9,400 square feet with just under 500 square feet of outdoor space. This means Alchemy is asking about $11,700 per square foot for the eyrie atop the landmark tower, by far a record for Downtown and one of the priciest listings ever to hit the city." For the complete article, with photos, click here.

"New York City's 25 Most Anticipated Fall Openings,", 8/19/14.'s list of the city's "25 most exciting restaurants opening before the end of the year" includes four in Lower Manhattan. They are Floyd Cardoz's White Street at 221 West Broadway in Tribeca, projected to open in early September; Andrew Carmellini's as yet unnamed project at The Smyth, 85 West Broadway, with a projected opening in December; Le District at Brookfield Place, 250 Vesey St., where restaurateurs Peter Poulakakos and Paul Lamas are installing a market, restaurants, bars and a café, scheduled to open in stages beginning in November; and Amada, also at Brookfield Place. It will be an outpost of chef Jose Garces' Spanish restaurant in Philadelphia. For the complete article, click here.

"Con Ed Sells Building Near Ground Zero Where Plans for Mosque Caused Uproar," New York Times, 8/20/14. Consolidated Edison "notified state regulators this week that it had sold the site of a proposed Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan that came to be known as the 'ground zero mosque,'" says The New York Times. "Con Edison has not used the building since 1969, but the company got caught in the uproar over the proposal when it surfaced nearly five years ago. By then, Con Edison had been nothing more than the landlord for the building at 49-51 Park Place, about two blocks north of the World Trade Center. It was close enough to the twin towers destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, that a wing flap from one of the crashed jets was found there last year. That proximity to a place where more than 2,700 people were killed by terrorists set off a national debate about the plan for a mosque and Islamic cultural center on the property. The developer, Soho Properties, eventually abandoned that idea and now plans to build a three-story museum dedicated to Islam on the Con Ed site and a condominium tower on an adjacent lot, 45 Park Place," accoding to The Times. If Sharif El-Gamal, the chief executive of Soho Properties, can obtain the necessary financing, the existing buildings would be torn down. For the complete article, click here.

Auditions for Writers in Performance at BMCC: A 12-week workshop at the Borough of Manhattan Community College offers a chance for people of all ages, ethnicities, styles and levels of experience to create an original theater piece and perform it at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers St. The workshop utilizes writing exercises, theater games, improvisation, movement and ensemble work by all participants. Auditions will be held by appointment only on Wednesday, Sept. 17 and Thursday, Sept. 18 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The free workshop is directed by Mario Giacalone, the program director at BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center. He has taught acting in New York City for over 10 years and has directed both stage and film. To schedule an audition, contact him at or call (212) 220-1459 on weekdays from Tuesday, Sept. 9 through Tuesday, Sept. 16. The performances will take place on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6.

Letter to the editor

The Brooklyn Bridge as seen through the masts and ropes of the South Street Seaport Museum's Wavertree. (Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

To the editor:
In an opinion article in the New York Daily News entitled "De Blasio, unchain the city now" (8/16/14), Jeremiah Moss wrote, "It seems every week we hear of another authentic New York spot to vanish, from Gray's Papaya and Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers to little Jim's Shoe Repair (on East 59th St. since 1932, it's getting pushed out so Walgreens' Duane Reade can expand). Soon there will be no New York left in New York. The city is becoming, for the first time in its long and illustrious history of exceptionalism, just another Anywhere, U.S.A."

I agree with him. I would add that if there was ever a time that our Mayor should step in to save a precious historic neighborhood, that time is now, and that place is the landmark South Street Seaport. It appears our civic leaders are turning a blind eye to the predatory corporate exploitation of this irreplaceable public asset by the Howard Hughes Corp. A gigantic tower wedged between the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and the ancient cobblestones is just plain wrong. This is a historic market district. Mayor de Blasio, save the New Amsterdam Market, the South Street Seaport Museum, and the small businesses that should have a home there!

Diane Harris Brown

From the editor:
We welcome letters to the editor. Email them to We reserve the right to edit them for clarity and length.


CALENDAR: Week of Aug. 18
Alvaro Esteban and Elias Aguirre, dancers from Madrid, are on the final program of the five-night Battery Dance Festival held in Battery Park City's Wagner Park.
(Photo: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

Aug. 21: The final night of the Battery Dance Company's 33rd annual Downtown Dance Festival. The program opens with Entomo EA & AE from Madrid. Place: Wagner Park in Battery Park City. Time: 6 p.m. Free. For the complete program, click here.  

Aug. 21: New Directions in Solo Piano concludes with Laszlo Gardony, who has performed in 25 countries and has released 10 albums. Dave Brubeck called him a "great pianist" and JazzTimes "a formidable improviser who lives in the moment." In 1987, Gardony won first prize at the Great American Jazz Piano Competition. He has been professor of piano at the Berklee College of Music for many years. One Liberty Plaza (165 Broadway). Time: 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. Free. For more information, click here

Aug. 22: Brian Floca, who wrote a book called "Lightship" about the South Street Seaport Museum's historic lightship Ambrose, will talk about his award-winning story and read from "Lightship" while sitting aboard the museum's ship Peking. Both are berthed at Pier 16 in the Seaport. Floca will explore the book-making process and how an idea becomes reality (and fantasy) in a book. This is a family program for all ages. Bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen for this event, which will be held outside. Place: Aboard Peking on Pier 16 in the South Street Seaport. Time: 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Tickets: $12 (adults); $8 (students/seniors); $5 (children 2-11 and museum members). To buy tickets, click here.   
Ongoing: The Seaport Music Festival, produced and partially sponsored by The Howard Hughes Corp., continues on Friday nights through Aug. 29. Place: Fulton Street at Water Street. Time: 7 p.m. Free. For more information, click here.  

: 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: 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: "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.

Upcoming on Sunday, Aug. 31: For the last 22 years, Labor Day Weekend has included the Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition in which some of the harbor's mightiest and smallest tugs and everything in between race each other down the Hudson River. The day's events also include a nose to nose competition (like arm wrestling except done with tugboats), a spinach-eating contest, a line toss competition and awards for such things as best mascot and best tattoo. A spectator boat accompanies the tugs as they parade up the river and then race back down to Pier 84 at West 84th Street. The spectator boat boards at 9 a.m. and leaves from Pier 83 at 9:30 a.m. Tickets: $25 (adults); $12 (kids). For more information or to buy tickets, click here.

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Editor: Terese Loeb Kreuzer

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