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Tribeca’s police horses: Will they ever return?
Downtown kindergarten registration soars even higher Church Street School musicians get their best gig ever
Vol. 20 No. 7
Welcome to El Internacional It is 1985 in Tribeca, when all things are possible.
Even a cow-spotted, artist-created restaurant with a 2,500-pound crown. [PAGE 28]
PHOTOS ©PETER AARON/OTTO
MARCH 2014 THE TRIBECA TRIB
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THE TRIBECA TRIB MARCH 2014
VOLUME 20 ISSUE 7 MARCH 2014
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Charting a course for Seaport development: The road to a public planning process
Robert LaValva, president and founder of the New Amsterdam Market, has been a leading critic of the current plans and process for redeveloping the South Street Seaport. With the recent formation of a task force to come up with possible development alternatives for the Seaport, LaValva presents his views on Seaport development and the task force's work that lies ahead. The Trib welcomes the views of others on the Seaport’s future.
The South Street Seaport has long presented New Yorkers with a challenge. Ever since the fragile neighborhood was spared from demolition in the 1960s, we have been asking ourselves how to best express its uninterrupted history as a commercial district, while preserving the qualities that make it a uniquely public place. We have also been seeking ways to restore and maintain the District’s public lands, buildings, streets, piers, platforms, and open spaces—the likes of which exist nowhere else—so as to maximize community access while promoting both cultural and economic development. Over the years, various solutions have been attempted. In the 1970s, the South Street Seaport Museum was given control over most of the neighborhood. This approach did not succeed; it turns out that cultural institutions are not necessarily the best managers of commercial real estate. Then, the 1983 “Festival Marketplace” shopping mall was presented as the answer. This experiment also failed, because suburban uses are never a good fit in such a quintessential urban setting. Nor has fate always been kind: several recessions, 9/11, and Sandy have all left their impact. Though there were valid reasons for removing the Fulton Fish Market from the Seaport in 2005, this action also dealt a huge blow to the District’s identity as a site of thriving public markets for the four centuries of its existence. The need for a solid, vibrant anchor is even more keenly felt today, with a Seaport Museum on the brink of col-
RENDERING BY SHOP ARCHITECTS
Rendering of Seaport plan for a 600-foot tower, new Pier 17 mall and marina.
lapse, historic buildings in need of major repairs, decaying piers, and a dramatic fall in foot traffic, which is starting to affect the area’s small businesses. The New York City Economic Development Corporation and its tenant, Howard Hughes, are proposing to tear down the old Fish Market sheds
does not address the public purpose to which this District has been dedicated since its inception in 1968 and the ensuing investment of well over $300 million in government and philanthropic funds. The elected officials representing Lower Manhattan have long requested a transparent and participatory planning
and replace them with high-rise development; this deal, they say, will help fund the replacement of public piers while providing financial assistance to the Seaport Museum. But the proposal has some flaws. First, it was created without any public input, even though the entire Seaport is one of the city’s oldest public spaces. Without such input, a “solution” has been devised for a “problem” that was not fully defined, so we have no way of knowing if other approaches could also work. Second, the plan would permanently destroy a public market site our federal and state governments have designated a landmark, as also requested repeatedly by Community Board 1, numerous civic organizations and thousands of residents. Finally, the proposal
process. Last month, the formation of a Seaport Working Group was announced by CB1. Its goals are still unclear, but the public mandate remains the same: now is the time to reconsider the original vision for the South Street Seaport, and find a viable way to make it succeed. The Working Group should ensure that all issues pertaining to the Seaport are laid out clearly for everyone to see and understand. Studies should be conducted as needed, and questions asked by the public should be answered. All viable development alternatives must be considered so that the best options can be implemented. The Seaport and its public markets are an extraordinary resource and now is the opportunity to realize their potential.
Studies should be conducted...and questions asked by the public. All viable development alternatives must be considered so that the best options can be implemented.”
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Far left: Jaime Cedeño sweeps up pine shavings in the 99-year-old stable. Left: Lt. William Scarcella, commander of Troop A, sets out for patrol in May 2011 after it had been announced that the mounted unit would be moving out. “It’s a sad day,” said one of the officers at the time. “There’s a lot of history here.”
Uncertain Return for Tribeca’s Horses PHOTOS BY CARL GLASSMAN
Despite NYPD promises, stables will not be back for three to four years, if ever.
BY AMANDA WOODS It could be at least another three or four years before police horses return to their old Tribeca home at 19 Varick Street. The commanding officer of the NYPD’s World Trade Center Command Post, which moved into the converted stables three years ago, delivered the news to Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee last month. “As for the foreseeable future, we are going to remain in 19 Varick Street,” Deputy Inspector Kevin Burke told the committee. The NYPD’s Mounted Unit left its Tribeca location to make way for a “temporary” command post—to the dismay of many residents, who bemoaned the loss of the 99-year-old stables as a remnant of local history and added safety for the neighborhood. At the time, then-Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told CB1 in a letter that the horses would return in 18 months, once the NYPD had found a permanent location for the command post. Nearly three years later, though, the command post remains on Varick Street, and the police horses stay at stables on West 36th Street at 12th Avenue, near the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Burke told the committee that the city had considered several sites for the post’s permanent location and none of them fit the bill. “Each site was deemed inappropriate, because of vehicle allocation for personnel, or it was just too expensive,” Burke said. “We’re disappointed,” committee member Jeff Ehrlich told Burke. “We were disappointed when we were told it was temporary, and now it’s seeming to be quite permanent.” “The community board made a resolution [opposing the horses’ move] in May, 2011,” said CB1 Chair Catherine McVay Hughes. “Now it’s almost three years later. How long do you expect this process to last?”
Above: Officers and hostlers of Tribeca’s NYPD mounted unit pose on North Moore Street shortly before the stables closed. Far left: Dep. Inspector Kevin Burke, commander of WTC command post, speaks to Community Board 1 last month. Left: The former stable building, which adjoins the 1st Precinct, now used as the command post.
Burke estimated it would take at least three years to settle on a new location, a process that would have to include a sixmonth land use review. In the spring, he said, the city will look to hire a real estate broker who will continue the search for the command post’s new location. “We ultimately will go and visit the site and make a recommendation and see if it fits our use, and it will come down to
[the NYPD’s] finance area,” he said. Burke stood by the former police commissioner’s promise, insisting that the horses will “eventually” return to the Varick Street stables. “If they told us tomorrow there was a suitable area for [the command post] to go, we would go,” Burke said. “It’s just a matter of locating it, the financial constraints of a long-term lease…and whether they want all that comes with the
NYPD being there. It’s not an easy decision.” White Street resident Prudence Carlson said more needs to be done to ensure that the stables remain on the NYPD’s radar. “My concern is that through inertia, the horse stables will not be brought back and that it becomes repeatedly postponed,” Carlson said. “We want to make sure that the promise is kept.”
THE TRIBECA TRIB MARCH 2014
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Irate Restaurateur Flaunts Her Violations
THE TRIBECA TRIB MARCH 2014
Owner of a Tribeca cafe, saying she was unfairly graded, invites kitchen tours
BY AMANDA WOODS A list of Health Department violations has been posted prominently on the window of Cafe Clementine, the tiny soup-and-sandwich shop on West Broadway in Tribeca. Owner Barbara Stratton put the inspection report there herself. The list of violations, from her most recent inspection, is displayed alongside an angry note (Heading: “HOW DO YOU SPELL EXTORTION?”) that offers customers a “guided tour” of her kitchen and takes exception to her “B” rating, which is announced on the window as “Grade Pending.” Stratton said she has nothing to hide. “I think the ‘Grade Pending’ can make people wonder what’s going on,” Stratton said, standing in the small basement prep kitchen as workers nearby busily sliced ham and cut up broccoli. “I just want to be able to show them that we have a clean kitchen and they don’t have to worry. We respect the food, we respect each other and we respect our customers.” A cafe manager appeared out of the closet-sized basement office to offer his own views on the inspections. “They come in here with the attitude of, we’re trying to hide something, and it’s their job to try to catch us,” said the manager, who only wanted to give his first name, Nadeem. “They will get on their hands and knees,” Nadeem added. “They will take out a flashlight, they will go behind walls, they will do whatever it takes to
Above: Cafe Clementine’s window sports the latest inspection report along with an angry message from owner Barbara Stratton and the eatery’s “Grade Pending” sign. Right: Stratton in the prep kitchen.
istrative Tribunal. Most were upheld while two were dismissed, reducing Stratton’s fines to $800. Stratton and her staff insisted that the violations cited in the department’s reports are minor and nitpicky. One violation—dripping water from a pipe connected to the glass water heater in the basement—is a problem, she said,
“I want to show people that we have a clean kitchen and they don’t have to worry,” says Barbara Stratton, who maintains she has nothing to hide. find something.” “They treat you like you’re trying to get away with something, and they don’t work with you,” Stratton said emphatically. She is concerned, she said, that the inspectors go out of their way to meet a quota of violations and the fines that go with them. Not so, said Levi Fishman, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “The department’s goal in restaurant inspections is protecting public health,” Fishman said in an email. “Inspectors are salaried employees and are not compensated or evaluated based on the number of violations they issue or grades they give out.” When a health inspector visited Cafe Clementine on Jan. 13, the restaurant received 20 violation points. During a reinspection on Jan. 30, it fared worse, receiving 26 violation points. Last month, the cafe appealed its violations before the Health Department’s Admin-
that is tough to prevent. “The copper pipe leading into the water heater has to have a wall around it, according to the Health Department,” Stratton said. “When it has a wall around it, it gets really hot, so condensation happens. It’s just what happens.” Another violation was issued because the waste line from the hand-wash sink in the food prep area was leaking onto the floor. “They complained about one of the drains that wasn’t draining, because if workers used too much suds, then the bowl that the drainage [moves through] fills up with suds and then the water overflows. It’s a problem,” Stratton said, “but that’s the biggest drain that we can buy.” Agnes Copeland, a consultant for Cafe Clementine and former health inspector who is hired to conduct monthly surprise inspections of the eatery, said the Health Department focuses too much
on problems that are unrelated to food preparation, issues that are “not going to cause bodily harm for people.” “[Cafe Clementine] is in impeccable shape, and there is no reason why they should have failed the inspection,” Copeland said. “There are no mice and no vermin.” But a few of the violations cited in the Health Department’s reports were related to food preparation. In one, the inspector said he found raw chicken stored on the dirty surface of a food storage rack inside the walk-in refrigerator. “[The workers] prepare the chicken and they put it on the rack before they go into the refrigerator, and [the chicken] was touching the side of the rack,” Stratton said, acknowledging that this is often how chicken is handled when the cafe receives a shipment. In another, the inspector found a milk wand encrusted with residue on the espresso machine. Stratton said that her
employee had made espresso five minutes before the inspector noticed the wand. Because of the high temperatures, residue on the wand crusts up immediately, she explained. As Copeland sees it, Stratton was right to invite customers to tour her kitchen. “I think it was a great decision,” she said. “If you think you have nothing to hide, then you could put [the sign] out.” So far, Stratton says, no one has taken up her offer for a kitchen tour and, it seems, the attention she is drawing to her violations has not hurt business. Customers continue to crowd the tiny place, waiting to order soup, salads and sandwiches. Stratton said she is not sure why other restaurant owners with “Grade Pending” signs have not also welcomed customers to tour their kitchens. “I don’t think people take it personally,” she said. “I take it personally.” PHOTOS BY CARL GLASSMAN
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MARCH 2014 THE TRIBECA TRIB
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PHOTOS BY CARL GLASSMAN
Black cars line up outside Spring Studios for a Calvin Klein show during Fashion Week last month. Studio representatives say it will be the last event until construction is complete and they are granted a liquor license.
BY ALINE REYNOLDS It took Springs Studios hours of community meetings and dozens of negotiating sessions to convince Community Board 1 to okay a liquor license for its big new 120,000-square-foot ad agency and production house at 50 Varick St., near Canal. It took just one raucous night of partying last month to nearly undo the whole thing. The Feb. 2 fest, an invitation-only Super Bowl after-party and concert sponsored by Hennessy cognac, featured big-name guests such as Jay-Z and Beyoncé, and an eye-popping light display that went on until 2:30 a.m. According to CB1, that party flew in the face of the agreement. At last month’s meeting of the board’s Tribeca Committee, Brad Sussman, the studio’s community relations representative, faced angry board members, some of whom were ready to rescind the board’s support for the license, which is still before the State Liquor Authority. “What we think is that it’s a bait and switch,” committee co-chair Michael Connolly told Sussman, “and that you purposely misrepresented what you were going to do. You know what the rules are and you flagrantly violated them.” No events, according to the complex, stipulation-dense agreement, can last past midnight. Sussman replied that Spring Studios did not plan to keep the party going as late as it did. The rapper Nas showed up nearly an hour late for his performance. “If we had known in advance that the second entertainer was going to come late, we probably would have handled the contract differently,” Sussman said. “We apologize, it happened,” he added. “We’re sorry.” The apology seemed to do little to assuage Elizabeth Lewinsohn, also a committee co-chair and a Hudson Street resident with a view across the Holland
Tunnel Rotary of the Spring Street Studios building and its huge windows made for photo shoots. She said the party looked like an “extravagant light show” from her home. “It was insane,” she said. “I just don’t understand what the rationale there was.” Aside from the light show, city-mandated construction lights, glowing from the studio’s windows, have also drawn complaints. Sussman said that Spring Studio’s plans to install blackout shades on its windows, but it needs the landlord’s approval. In the meantime, Spring would dim the construction lights “if it’s still legal and safe” as well as install “temporary window treatments” in nearby residents’ apartments, Sussman said. Following a Fashion Week show last month, Spring Studios has no more events scheduled until construction of the 120,000-square-foot facility is completed in what is expected to be the next few months, according to Sussman. Soon after that, he said, the agency anticipates receiving its liquor license and will be able to exercise total control over parties and other events that are held in the building. Jeff Ehrlich, who had worked with Spring Studios on the stipulations but ultimately voted against a board-approved resolution supporting the liquor license, said CB1’s initial approval had rested largely on trust. “There’s a lot of stipulations,” he said, “but it all depends on goodwill.” Whether the committee believes there is still enough goodwill to maintain its support for the liquor license remains to be seen. On Wednesday, March 12, David Hemphill, manager of the U.K.--based studio, is scheduled to appear before the Tribeca Committee for another round of discussions and what could result in a revised resolution on the liquor license for Spring Studios.
Downtown Schools See Soaring ‘K’ Registration
THE TRIBECA TRIB MARCH 2014
BY CARL GLASSMAN No change of heart. That was the word from a Department of Education official, who told Downtown school advocates last month that despite their pleas the city is going ahead with the Bloomberg administration's original plan to build fewer than half the number of school seats below Canal Street that community leaders say are needed. The city has budgeted one new 456seat school below Canal Street as part of a five-year spending plan that is up for approval on March 18 by the Panel for Educational Policy. “We were not able to add additional new seats into any of the districts," Elizabeth Rose, director of the DOE’s Office of Public Affairs, told Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s School Overcrowding Task Force. Silver himself had asked Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña for an amendment to the plan that would at least double the number of seats for Downtown, especially for the Financial District and Battery Park City. The announcement followed reports at the meeting by several Downtown principals that kindergarten registration was higher this year than last, foretelling even longer wait lists at those schools, though the numbers are far from final. The most severe shortage of seats is at P.S. 276 in lower Battery Park City,
PHOTOS BY CARL GLASSMAN
Left: At a 2013 P.S. 276 fair, strollers lined up outside the school were a sign of the many siblings soon to enter the school. Above: Elizabeth Rose at the CB1 meeting.
where Principal Terri Ruyter said that 157 children in the school’s zone are applying for 100 seats. With 37 of those children guaranteed seats because they are siblings of current students, about half of the remaining children would be left without seats. Nancy Harris, principal of P.S. 397, the Spruce Street School, said she will have a wait list for the first time. With zoned siblings taking up 26 of the available 75 seats, based on current registration figures, there will be 63 children in line for the other 49 seats. Eighty-six zoned children registered
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for the 50 kindergarten seats at the Peck Slip School—now temporarily housed in Tweed Courthouse—that is opening in its permanent home in 2015. Last year, 60 had applied. With the latest birth figures released recently, future projections appear to be getting worse. According to a presentation at the meeting by Diana Switaj, Community Board 1’s director of planning and land use, even with the opening of the new 456-seat school in the city’s capital plan and the Peck Slip School, there will still be a major shortage of seats. Switaj projected that in 2018 there
will be 550 kindergarten seats for nearly 800 kindergartners in the CB1 district. “It means a lot fewer people sticking around if they don’t have any place to send their kids to school,” Switaj said. Paul Hovitz, co-chair of CB1’s Youth and Education Committee, echoed a recent resolution passed by the board that calls on the DOE to avoid funding universal pre-K at the expense of “pressing school needs.” “I’m not saying universal pre-K is not a good idea but it seems that the priorities are kind of confusing,” Hovitz said. “It’s a very big system,” Rose replied, “and there are lots of competing needs.”
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CB1: ‘No’ to Martini Breakfasts at Denny’s 10
MARCH 2014 THE TRIBECA TRIB
Board approves liquor license for first NYC franchise, but not for requested early hours BY CARL GLASSMAN
The owners of New York City’s first Denny’s restaurant had envisioned bright-and-early drinkers among its sausage-and-eggs diners when it opens at 150 Nassau St. in May. Then they went before Community Board 1’s Seaport/Civic Center Committee last month, with an application to begin serving liquor at 8 a.m. on Saturdays, 10 a.m. on weekdays, and met a roomful of resistance. “I’m just trying to figure out who needs to drink at 10 a.m. next to an elementary school and Pace University,” said John Street resident Sarah Elbatanouny, referring to the university across the street and the Spruce Street School nearby. “I don’t know why we need this in our community.” “The kind of person who wants to have a drink before noon is not the kind of person I want in front of my building. Or in my neighborhood,” said a man who lives across the street at 140 Nassau Street. “You’re hearing very strongly that there is a significant concern for something that seems to be associated with breakfast,” Marco Pasanella, co-chair of the committee, told the restaurant’s owner, Gurbox “Ray” Marwah. “And no businessperson I know is drinking at breakfast.” Marwah, who is adding this franchise to his chain of 23 Denny’s restaurants, argued that it was the food, not the alcohol, that he is promoting. “Liquor is just an amenity, a side dish,” he said. “There will be folks in the Financial District, whether they’re entertaining their clients, or they just want to have a little snack and a refresher,” Marwah said, “so we need them to be served.” The committee—and later the full board—voted to approve the license, but only if Denny’s begins its alcohol service later: 11 a.m. Monday through Friday; 10
a.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday. The restaurant would be required to stop serving alcohol at midnight every night and close at 1 a.m. (Marwah said after the meeting that he would abide by the stipulations when he takes his application to the State Liquor Authority.) Affirmed by the full community board later in the month, the committee’s resolution brings an end to a conflict over Denny’s plans that began a year ago. Upstairs neighbors in the 124-unit landmark building had envisioned an onslaught of drunken students and other rowdies spilling out of what had been proposed as a 24-hour establishment serving alcohol until 4 a.m. The condo board of 150 Nassau Street launched a $10-million lawsuit against Denny’s, claiming a variety of potential problems, only to drop it in return for the restaurant’s agreement to stop serving alcohol at midnight, which had been the major point of contention. “There was litigation, there were problems and we were not the best of friends,” said Richard Rosen, Marwah’s lawyer. “We spent a lot of time working all of this out and so when we say you can’t place an order after midnight, that wasn’t just something that dropped from a tree. That was a heavily negotiated issue.” Not everyone came away pleased with the outcome. Among them was Marc Donnenfeld, representing 140 Nassau Street, who said his board opposes a liquor license for Denny’s “completely.” And Mary Jo O’Grady, Pace University's dean of students, said she worried that the school’s underage students would end up drinking there, despite the restaurant’s efforts to check IDs. “Whatever time it opens,” said O’Grady. “I still think it’s too early, period.”
PHOTOS BY CARL GLASSMAN
Above: At a Community Board 1 committee meeting last month, Gurbox Marwah, left, defends proposed hours to begin serving alcohol at his new Denny's, now under construction at 150 Nassau St. In the doorway are residents who live near the establishment, to open in May. Renderings below, from top: The restaurant’s bar; the upstairs dining room; and the Nassau Street entrance to the eatery, now under construction.
RENDERINGS BY NEW YORK DESIGN
THE TRIBECA TRIB MARCH 2014
AS REPORTED BY THE 1ST PRECINCT
Feb. 23, 2 p.m. A man’s bank checks totalling $2,088, his laptop and a gift certificate were taken from his parked car.
Feb. 16, 2 a.m. A woman in her 20s solicited a man who brought her back to his room at the Millennium Hilton. The woman then took his wallet, iPhone, Mastercard and $200.
170 WILLIAM Feb. 22, 7 p.m. More than $3,000 worth of goods were lifted from a woman’s car, including an Apple MacBook, computer software, a charger and clothing.
5 BEEKMAN Feb. 20, 2 a.m. A 44-year-old homeless man was arrested for trying to steal tools from a construction site.
5 MORRIS Feb. 20, 2:45 p.m. A man was arrested for trying to rob a woman outside Bowling Green Park. The thief ordered the victim, an 18-yearold student, to give him her money, then struggled with her for her handbag. The perpetrator fled the scene emptyhanded but was followed by a civilian, and was stopped by cops in front of 11 Greenwich Street. The victim was unharmed.
185 WEST BROADWAY Feb. 19, 12:20 p.m. A man’s car windows were smashed while he was making a cash delivery to an ATM at New York Law School. The bandit swiped three bags containing a total of $31,000 from the man’s car that he had parked on West Broadway between Leonard and Church streets. 119 FULTON Feb. 19, 2:15 a.m. A man attempting to rob an apartment broke into a building, climbed up to the rooftop and descended to the penthouse terrace via the fire escape. He then motioned to a man inside the apartment to open the window. The man screamed and the intruder fled.
25 BROADWAY Feb. 16, 11:30 a.m. A thief stole $1,920 worth of items, including clothes, boots and credit cards from a man’s locker at Planet Fitness . 150 BROADWAY Feb. 16, 4 a.m. A thief took approximately $1,300 in items, including $500 in checks and a credit card, from a man’s Lexus. The victim later found 13 unauthorized charges on his credit card.
199 CHAMBERS Feb. 14, 2 p.m. A laptop valued at $1,100 was lifted from a man’s locker in the Borough of Manhattan Community College gym. 110 CHAMBERS Feb. 14, 1 a.m. A 23-year-old man was playing pool at the Patriot Saloon when a thief took his coat, which contained his driver’s license, two credit cards, a student ID and keys. 182 BROADWAY Feb. 13, 7 p.m. A thief broke into a newsstand and stole $3,000 in cash, $2,700 worth of cigarettes, $1,000 in phone cards and $500 worth of e-cigarette cartridges. 40 WALL Feb. 12, 12 p.m. A man’s credit card was taken from his desk. The victim later discovered more than $400 in unauthorized charges at Best Buy and $4 at Starbucks.
121 FULTON Feb. 10, 12 p.m. A thief swiped a woman’s wallet from her coat pocket while she was having drinks with co-workers. The victim later found her coat, which she had hung on a hook under the bar, in the women’s bathroom, but her wallet was gone. In the wallet, among other items, were a MetroCard, a driver’s license and two credit cards. The woman later discovered two unauthorized credit card charges at a nearby Lot-Less store.
83 GOLD Feb. 4, 2 p.m. A man left $4,000, along with two camera lenses valued together at $1,000, in a cab.
VESEY AND WEST BROADWAY Feb. 2, 9 p.m. Three males who appeared to be in their teens tried to snatch a 28-year-old woman’s handbag from her as she entered the World Trade Center PATH station. The woman screamed and the perpetrators fled emptyhanded.
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12 MARCH 2014 THE TRIBECA TRIB
Public Weighs In on Redesign For Tribeca’s Bogardus Garden
THE TRIBECA TRIB MARCH 2014
Tribeca is the best community. I know this, because it’s my community too. Tribeca and Lower Manhattan are about remarkable people, great resources and terrific homes. I know because I own here and have sold and rented here, and for more than three decades I have been part of the challenges and rebirth of Tribeca and the Financial District. If you are thinking of buying, selling or renting, allow me to put my experience to your advantage. Selling Tribeca is the easiest part of my job. It would be my pleasure to meet with you and discuss your real estate needs.
Landscape architect Signe Nielsen (standing) discusses ideas with local residents and business owners at the design workshop for a new Bogardus Garden and Plaza.
BY NATHALIE RUBENS Morning tai chi at Bogardus Plaza and Garden anyone? Does a cobblestone paved pedestrian space with a climbing rock, or garden steps for sitting and sipping your morning coffee sound appealing? Or sketching and gardening classes, perhaps? Those were some of the ideas offered by about a dozen residents and business owners who came together with a slew of city design officials and landscape architects at the Downtown Community Center late last month. Their job: begin reimagining Bogardus Garden and Plaza, the triangle on Hudson Street between Chambers and Reade streets. “This is truly a public-private partnership,” Victoria Weil, president of Friends of Bogardus Garden, said as the participants gathered in small groups around tables covered with large blank maps of the area, and markers for putting down on paper their hopes and concerns. Soon those maps were scribbled with ideas for fences, tree boxes, garbage cans, recycling bins and much more. Last year, the city Department of Transportation chose Friends of Bogardus Garden for a $2 million grant to turn what is now a fenced-in garden and pedestrian plaza into one 9,000-squarefoot public space. This would be the first of several opportunities for the public to weigh in on the project’s design. Of course, you can’t reconfigure a public space any way you want and Signe Nielsen of Mathews/Nielsen Landscape Architects, the firm in charge of the design, laid out the key constraints, from fire hydrant access to manholes and underground utilities. Questions and sometimes debates arose over seating, lighting, park amenities, and the degree to which the garden is open or closed. “As a business, we would like to see [the plaza] more closed off, especially at night,” said Sava Vasiljevic, general manager of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, located across the street on West
Broadway. There were differences over whether the plaza should have historic elements or contemporary ones. But there seemed to be agreement on incorporating cast iron, a nod to James Bogardus, the father of cast iron architecture. (The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and Public Design Commission have final approval over the plaza’s look.) Not surprisingly, quality of life and security concerns were big topics. “The reason I’m here,” said Nicole Bianna, whose apartment overlooks the plaza, “is that we have a lot of nightlife on this corner. How do we make it less inviting and not have late-night revelers bringing the party over?” Plans for Cafeteria, a restaurant and bar that may open across the street, add to some residents’ anxiety. “We are concerned about people leaving Cafeteria and hanging out in the park drinking, smoking and partying,” said Lisa Schiller, who lives nearby on Reade Street. Residents wanted lighting that would illuminate the space but not their apartments, and seating that did not invite sleeping. One idea was using steps or other structural perches as seating areas. Nine-year-old Theo Tirschwell, whose mother, Annie Tirschwell, is on the board of Friends of Bogardus Garden, suggested a rock-climbing installation or treehouse for kids. As for seating? Not much of an issue. “When I come out of the subway, I look at the plaza and I run around because I have a lot of energy,” he said. “I really don’t sit down.” With ideas and sketches in hand, Mathews Nielsen will consult with officials from the city Department of Design and Construction and return as early as next month with two or three alternative designs for another round of public discussion. A selected revised design is expected to be submitted to Community Board 1 followed by a cycle of reviews with city agencies. The goal is to start construction in the summer of 2016 and complete the project a year later.
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MARCH 2014 THE TRIBECA TRIB
How can parents help their teens develop healthy habits? That’s the topic of a talk at the Downtown Community Center on Wednesday, April 2, at 6 p.m. Sean Grover, a licensed social worker who has counseled families, teens and children for more than 20 years, will discuss how to cultivate motivation in teens, avoid arguments and lecturing about homework, chores and curfews, and generally improve parental strategies. The free talk will take place at Downtown Community Center, 120 Warren St. For information, go to seangrover.com.
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Benefit and Motorbikes
This year’s fundraiser for Tribeca Synagogue will take place on Sunday, March 30, from 2 to 6 p.m. at HarleyDavidson of NYC, 374 Broadway. Admission is $65 per person and includes food and beverages, an auction, music and a “moto foto booth” for snapshots on a customized Harley. Tickets at eventbrite.com (search “Chai to Ride” or call 212-966-7141.
Downtown Walks & Talks
The Municipal Art Society is leading eight tours of Lower Manhattan this month. Here are a few. Saturday, March 22: Linda Fisher, a 30-year-veteran court reporter, talks about the Civic Center and provides insights into the workings of city, state and federal courts. Wednesday, March 26: Peter Laskowich will show the geography and natural resources that drew early European settlers to the city. Saturday, March 29: Preservation activist Joe Svehlak will lead a tour of the half-mile of Nassau Street from the Brooklyn Bridge to Wall Street, which contains examples of every style of architecture from the Federalist and Greek Revival periods to post-modern skyscrapers. Tours are $20, last approximately two hours and proceed rain or shine. For reservations, go to mas.org.
Laura Pawel Dance
The Laura Pawel Dance Company will perform four works as well as premiere its newest piece, “3 a.m.,” on Friday, March 14, and Saturday, March 15, at 7 p.m. at the Chen Dance Center at 70 Mulberry St. The performances will be accompanied by music from the Bare Bones, the Cecilia Coleman Quintet and Phil Stone. $20, $15 for students and seniors, Tickets at 212-349-0126.
Biologist Peter Park will give an illustrated talk on the remarkable array of fish that live in New York Harbor. Park will describe some of the most unusual of these marine and fresh water fishes, as well as talk about the ecological importance of some species and what we can do to help protect them. The talk takes place Tuesday, March 25 at 1 p.m. at the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy, 6 River Terrace, is free. Go to bpcparks.org for more information.
The Brooklyn Women’s Chorus, a community-based singing group formed in 1997, performs works by songwriters such as Garth Brooks, Jackson Browne, Pat Humphries and Bev Grant, with topics of peace, freedom and justice. The chorus will sing at Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers St., on Friday, March 7, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 ($10 for students and seniors) and are available at the box office, at tribecapac.org or by calling 212-220-1460.
Battery Park City Parks is looking for volunteers to tend the garden this spring through the fall. Garden volunteers work alongside horticulturists on Wednesday mornings, May 7 to October 29, from 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. In addition to gardening, volunteers have the opportunity to learn about the park’s unique and sustainable methods. Training will begin in May. For more information, or to volunteer, call 212-267-9700, ext. 374.
This month’s Tuesday Talks at Asphalt Green in Battery Park City offers a look at music from two very different eras. Pianist Chris Coogan will accompany jazz singer Carla Innerfield in songs by Cole Porter on Tuesday, March 18. Innerfield, who is also a musicologist, will then discuss Porter’s life, works and contributions to musical theater. On Tuesday, March 25, Jessica Davy, a clarinetist, educator and founder of the Leora Chamber Orchestra, will discuss Beethoven, Brahms and other 19th-century composers who broke with the music of their time. Both talks are from 12 to 1 p.m. at 212 North End Ave. Tickets are $22 ($18 for members) at asphaltgreenbpc.org or call 212-2982930.
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At Tribeca Firehouse: Memorial Site for a 'Ghostbusters' Actor
THE TRIBECA TRIB MARCH 2014
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Outside the Ladder 8 firehouse on North Moore Street, Jessica Dunn places the drawing of a tearful “Ghostbusters” ghost on the memorial to actor and writer Harold Ramis.
CARL GLASSMAN Tribeca’s Ladder 8 (aka “Ghostbusters”) Firehouse became the site of a makeshift memorial last month as fans came to pay tribute to actor Harold Ramis, co-star and co-writer of the 1984 movie classic, who died last month at age 69. For a couple of days, candles, flowers, drawings and a dozen packages of Twinkies (a treat comically featured in the movie) lay beside a “Ghostbusters” FDNY insignia that is painted on the sidewalk outside the firehouse. Even on a normal day, tourists frequently find their way to the house, at North Moore and Varick streets, to see the famed movie setting. But with the death of Ramis, who co-starred as Dr. Egon Spengler beside Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd in the original movie and its 1989 sequel, the serious fans arrived. Many, like Zach Summer, came sporting “Ghostbusters” logos. “‘Ghostbusters’ was my favorite movie since before I could talk,” said Summer, who not only had the movie’s insignia on his jacket sleeve but also a picture of the ghost-fighting “Proton Pack” on his back. “My heart is ripped
out because of this.” Summer was sharing the moment with Ebony Brown, from Harlem, wearing a “Ghostbusters” sweatshirt. “I wanted to pay my tribute and respects to someone who helped make one of the most lasting, memorable franchises of all time,” said Brown, who had brought two flowers to lay on the memorial. “He will be dearly missed.” Chris Johnson, who runs a production business, was driving to work when he decided to take a detour to the firehouse. He called the movie “a major inspiration.” “I started my own business with the kind of the rebellious attitude they [the “Ghostbusters” characters] have to go into business for yourself,” Johnson said. “The older I get the more I watch it, and the more I love it. I love their entrepreneurial spirit.” Jessica Dunn had just laid a picture on the memorial that portrayed a weeping ghost. She said she was delivering it for her friend in California, a “huge fan.” Dunn read aloud the farewell her friend had inscribed on the drawing. “Goodbye Egon. You will be missed. Thank you for all the laughter.”
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New Voices Have a Say on Seaport Development 16
MARCH 2014 THE TRIBECA TRIB
BY CARL GLASSMAN Many voices are yet to be heard before the South Street Seaport is redeveloped. A diverse group, picked to tackle the Seaport’s controversial future, has begun a series of closed-door discussions expected to go on for two months or more. Only after the group has finished its work can the Hughes Corp. finalize its proposal for review by the city, which is to begin this fall. The group is made up of Lower Manhattan civic leaders, elected officials and Hughes Corp. representatives. The developer’s current plans include a 50-story residential tower where the New Market Building now stands, just north of Pier 17. It is a project that has been vehemently opposed by some on the newly formed task force. Following a standing-room-only public meeting in January where the Hughes Corp.’s plans were roundly criticized, city officials agreed to the creation of a task force—an unusual step in the approval process when city-owned land is to be redeveloped. It is unclear how the group will come to a consensus on Seaport development, or on the kinds of givebacks—a school or affordable housing units, for example—that could be asked in exchange for relenting on a tall building. Nor is it clear how much influence the group will have
JASON FINK/COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF ASSEMBLYMAN SHELDON SILVER
The first meeting of the Seaport task force, in Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office.
on the final plans for the area. “Of course there will be lots of discussions done professionally to make sure that this is a product that we all can be proud of,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who is chairing the task force along with Councilwoman Margaret Chin and State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “It is not easy.” In a statement after its first meeting, the group said it had “successfully begun a community-driven dialogue which will hopefully help establish governing principles” for Seaport development.
Although the task force’s position will not be binding, Brewer said, “I think the weight of this discussion will be very strong, and we hope that it will be taken very seriously.” “We welcome the community input to help us prioritize the things that are most important,” said Chris Curry, a Howard Hughes executive. Curry previously maintained that the tower is needed to pay for Hughes Corp.’s other development proposals, such as rebuilding the piers, preserving the historic Tin Building and expanding
the East River Esplanade through the Seaport. He has also indicated that the developer could play a role in saving the struggling South Street Seaport Museum. Robert LaValva, founder of the New Amsterdam Market and a leading critic of both the plans and approval process, was not selected for the working group. “I'm very fond of Robert,” Brewer said. “He’s not going to be at the meetings but he will be represented at the meetings.” In a phone interview, LaValva said he was told that he was excluded because of a potential conflict of interest should the task force decide that it wants the New Amsterdam Market, rather than a Hughes Corp. project, as the preferred use for the fish market buildings. “We’re a nonprofit organization that runs the market,” LaValva said. “It’s not as if we were some kind of business that was trying to profit from being another tenant on that site.” Michael Levine, CB1’s planning consultant, said there is no deadline for completing the group’s work. “The main thing is that we get to plan together with the developer prior to entering the ULURP [Uniform Land Use Review Procedure] process,” he said. “We hope this will be a precedent that is followed with other community boards around the city.” —Aline Reynolds contributed reporting.
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THE TRIBECA TRIB MARCH 2014
“The story of a journey into a modern underworld, and of the escape that made it possible to tell the tale.” -Dan Rather
PHOTOS BY CARL GLASSMAN
Adam Hartman, left, and Andy Arons are opening their sixth Gourmet Garage in this space at 366 Broadway. At the far end is a mezzanine where customers can eat their purchases.
BY CARL GLASSMAN The storefront, owned by the build“We’ve been looking for 20 years for ing’s 32-unit co-op, had been vacant for another space that’s open like this,” Ad- about a year. One of the many Broadway am Hartman was saying, as he stood with jeans stores had occupied the space and business partner Andy Arons in the long, the board didn’t want another one. vacant storefront at Broadway and “These guys came along and we Franklin Street that will house their sixth worked very hard with them,” Andy Gourmet Garage late this year. Freireich, the co-op president, said in a The men last month had just an- phone interview. “They love the building nounced their intention to open a new and they say they’re going to respect its store in the three-level, 8,500-square-foot space at 366 Broadway, and they were eager to show a visitor around. Yes, there will be the produce and flowers, the long shelves (more than 150 feet of them) of prepared foods, the salad bar and all the rest that the popular chain of Manhattan food shops offers. But this pristinely maintained 113-year- Built in 1910, 366 Broadway, at the corner of Franklin, was old loft building in the the home of the Royal Typewriter Co. and later housed textile firms. Most recently, the space, which extends to Cortlandt Tribeca East Historic Alley, housed a jeans store. District had a special alure. The building, they said, recalls the historic aspects. So it’s going to be pretpost-Civil War cast-iron structures in So- ty nice.” ho where Gourmet Garage got its start 20 The dearth of grocery stores in eastyears ago. ern Tribeca should make it a success, “It’s early 20th century, all steel from Freireich added. “The neighborhood has the Carnegie era,” said Hartman, placing a zillion buildings that are being converta hand against one of the white pillars ed and there’s never been any food down near the front entrance. He and Arons, it here. So we think it’s a good thing for seems, admire every vintage detail of the both of us.” building, right down to the rivets. The store could also be a good thing “They hit them the old fashioned way for artists. Hartman and Arons said this to build a super-strong column,” Hart- Gourmet Garage will have a food-for-art man said. policy. They want to hang the work of The owners said they had long been local artists, street artists and students looking in Tribeca for a store space but from nearby New York Academy of wanted to wait for the competition to Art—all with the wide-ranging theme of make their moves. “farm, table, food.” “We have some Fairways and Whole “Everything you see should be filled Foods down that away,” said Arons, with paintings and photographs,” said pointing west. “We looked at the data Arons, pointing to the expanse of wall and saw where a lot of people are com- space in the half-block-long store-to-be. ing to live now and aren’t serviced.” “It should be spectacular.”
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MARCH 2014 THE TRIBECA TRIB
Traders at the Butter and Cheese Exchange of New York.
Many thousands of dollars’ worth of commodities, from butter and eggs to potatoes to dressed poultry, were changing hands here every day. BY OLIVER E. ALLEN f you had been strolling along Hudson Street near Harrison on a hot summer afternoon in the days before air conditioning, you might have heard a steady rumble of voices in the air and, now and then, loud shouts and yells. It would have seemed unlikely in the normally quiet neighborhood. Looking up, you would have found that the noise was coming from the open windows of the handsome New York Mercantile Exchange, on whose huge, two-story trading floor many thousands of dollars’ worth of commodities from butter and eggs to potatoes to dressed poultry were changing hands every day. Today the building is quiet, the Exchange having moved out in 1977 to larger space in the World Trade Center (and then to still larger quarters in Battery Park City). But in its heyday, the Merc, as the Exchange was known, was one of the city’s principal economic engines and a vibrant, heady world unto itself. It was founded in 1872 by dairy merchants anxious to standardize the wholesale trade of their goods in the booming post-Civil War city. Known at first as the Butter and Cheese Exchange of New York, it initially occupied rooms in a building at Greenwich and Chambers
streets owned by a sugar refining firm. The location, close to the docks, was a good one. And already those docks were handling a formidable amount of foodstuffs: by 1873, New York’s butter and cheese wholesalers were receiving (and selling) $100 million annually in dairy produce, much of it traded in the Exchange. At that rate the Greenwich Street digs soon proved inadequate. So in 1882 the Exchange, now dealing in groceries, canned goods and poultry in addition to butter, eggs and cheese, changed its name to the New York Mercantile Exchange and bought land at the corner of Hudson and Harrison streets for a new building. To make sure their new structure would be suitably imposing, the Merc’s leadership hired Thomas R. Jackson, one of the city’s leading architects. He did not disappoint them. His six-story brick-andgranite building, which opened in 1884 and incorporates elements of both the Queen Anne and the Romanesque Revival styles, is a virtual symphony of round arches, classical columns, deep-set windows and fancy brickwork, the whole topped by a mansard-roofed tower. Inside, the large two-story-high trading room on the second floor was outfitted with elegant cast iron columns, elaborate mosaic floor and tiles, mahogany woodwork and sump-
The ‘Merc’ tuous brass fixtures. Even today, with many of its fittings long gone, the room remains one of the most impressive interior spaces in the city. For several decades butter, eggs and cheese remained the Merc’s main commodities and were generally traded for cash. In the early days bids and offers, shouted out from the floor, were entered on large blackboards manned by pairs of clerks—one right-handed and the other left-handed so that they could work together without obscuring traders’ views. Clerks learned to identify traders by the sound of their voices so that they would not have to turn around to see them. Later on, pit trading was introduced and traders gathered around a big brass ring to cry out their bids, which were recorded by a clerk seated in the center. Over the years, however, cash transactions that dealt in existing produce gave
way to futures transactions in which traders contract to buy or sell items that will come into existence months or even years later. The Exchange also began to handle other foods besides dairy produce—potato futures were introduced in 1941, onion futures five years later. A major departure came in the 1950s with the advent of futures in platinum, the first of a host of strategic materials that would in due course come to dominate the Exchange’s business. Silver, gold and oil trading followed in the 1970s, by which time dairy products had shrunk to minor items in the Merc’s overall picture. But while the Merc was putting increasing emphasis on exotic substances, even in the 1970s it was an informal place. Gary Lapayover, who started out as a page in 1973 and rose eventually to vice chairman, says, “Back then you knew everybody. It was a very friendly place. Today
THE TRIBECA TRIB MARCH 2014
Left: Traders in the 1950s, when trades in precious metals dominated the Merc’s business. Below: The Mercantile Exchange Building at Harrison and Hudson streets, as it looked soon after it was built in 1884. Trinity Church sold the lot to the Exchange for $70,000. Bottom: Called the Butter and Cheese Exchange of New York when it opened in 1872, the Mercantile Exchange first operated in this building at Chambers and Greenwich streets.
of Tribeca that’s impossible.” The pace of business could be very uneven, with long stretches when nothing much happened. “There were no rules against smoking,” says Lapayover. “Lots of men would smoke big cigars, and when trading would suddenly pick up the guys would have to put down their cigars in a hurry. There were ledges on the iron columns in the middle of the floor, and when things got hectic I would see whole rows of stogies parked there.” The Exchange had no training program; you learned on the job. George Henderson, who came to the Exchange right out of high school back in those days, is quoted in a Merc commemorative book as saying, “I had no clue what a commodities exchange was. They put a jacket on me and they put me up on the slow boards but I had no clue what was going on. Everything was on-the-job training. You sat next to somebody who walked you
through what you had to do.” Michel Marks, who arrived in 1973 and subsequently rose to become chairman, recalled that “the first couple of days, when the bell rang and everybody started yelling and screaming, I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen… Most people were introduced through family. Nobody ever studied commodities in college.” By the mid-1970s it had become clear that the beloved Harrison Street building was obsolete—not only too small but unadaptable to technological change. By coincidence, as the Exchange prepared to move to the World Trade Center it also went through a crisis that almost wrecked it. In 1976, for a number of reasons, the bottom dropped out of the Maine potato crop and growers were unable to deliver some 50 million pounds of potatoes on which almost 1,000 futures contracts
had been written at the Merc. At such times in well-run exchanges traders would be compensated for the default, but the Merc found its reserves insufficient and it came close to expiring. Luckily, energetic younger members like Michel Marks took over and revamped the organization, and slowly it recovered. Today, it is booming. Traders—much younger on the average than the ones who held forth in the old building—deal not
only in gold and platinum but in copper, natural gas, crude oil and gasoline, among many other substances, and the Merc is the largest energy and precious metals trading exchange in the world. On its trading floor some 1,000 contracts are bought and sold each minute of the day. That’s a far cry from Harrison Street. For more Tribeca history from Oliver E. Allen, read “Tribeca: An Illustrated History,” available at Amazon.com.
MARCH 2014 THE TRIBECA TRIB