Covering Battery Park City

BY Terese Loeb Kreuzer

New sod:
A high fence now surrounds the West Thames Park playing field, where the muck is extra thick because of recent rains. However, pots of greens sit promisingly on the periphery of the mud. After months of bickering, the New York State Department of Transportation and the Battery Park City Authority have agreed to go forward with replanting the grass.

The sod originally laid down had turned to mud because it was backed with clay, which retains water, instead of the sand that would have allowed water to drain. The re-sodding began on May 18 with the erection of the fence around the field. The replanting should be finished by Memorial Day weekend and then the sod will need eight weeks to knit before the field can be used. It should be accessible again by mid- to late-July.

The Battery Park City Authority did not want to take on the maintenance of the field until it was satisfied that the correct sod would be installed and that the Hudson River Park Trust, which will ultimately have jurisdiction over West Thames Park, had accepted the work.

During the week of May 9, Commissioner Joan McDonald of the State D.O.T. met with B.P.C.A. representatives to discuss maintenance of the field. Not all of the issues were resolved, but enough agreement was reached to go ahead. The remainder of the issues will be discussed over the next months.

West Thames Park is on the east side of Battery Park City between Albany and West Thames Streets.

Charity walk:
On Saturday, May 21, around 3,000 people streamed through South Cove in Battery Park City as part of a 3.1-mile walk to raise funds for lupus research, an autoimmune disease that can affect skin, joints and all organs of the body and afflicts around 1.5 million Americans. The walk, which started and ended in the South Street Seaport, raised $300,000.

Battery Park City receives numerous applications for charity walks. The applications go first to the Battery Park City Authority and then to the Community Board 1 office. All applications are reviewed by the C.B. 1 staff and by the chair and co-chair of C.B. 1’s Battery Park City Committee. If a proposed event involves large numbers of people, entails activities outside of the 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. window or street closures, the application will be heard by the full committee, where such issues as security measures, sound systems, staging areas and the clean-up process would be questioned.

The Battery Park City Committee is the gatekeeper to make sure that B.P.C. residents will not be unreasonably disturbed by an event. Battery Park City Authority President Gayle Horwitz has asked that the B.P.C. Committee give its assent before the Authority approves the applications.

Rings of Saturn:
If the weather cooperates, up to 30 people will have a chance to see the rings of Saturn on Friday, June 3, when Sheldon Palgon brings his telescope to the Battery Park City esplanade. The rendezvous is scheduled for 8:30 sharp on the esplanade at Third Place. The rain or cloud date is June 10 — same time, same place.

Palgon, who lives in Battery Park City, is an ear, nose and throat doctor by day and a devoted amateur astronomer by night. “I’ve been looking at the night sky for the past 35 years,” he said, “and have been using a high-quality astronomical telescope. It has a motorized drive that is in sync with the rotation of the Earth, which keeps the objects you’re observing in view as the world turns. It is a thrill to read about a celestial object, get the coordinates and aim your telescope there.”

Palgon went on to say that he would “never discover a comet — that’s the domain of professional or serious amateur astronomers. It really can’t be done from Manhattan — but I have literally gotten chills when a star cluster or a nebula, invisible to the naked eye, appears in the scope just where it’s supposed to be!”

The event is being sponsored by TimeBank, a program run by the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY). Members of TimeBank give an hour of service to another member for each hour of service they receive. Services that members exchange with each other might include help with moving, tutoring, home repairs, computer lessons, sewing, pet care — or even astronomy experiences! Dr. Palgon is a TimeBank member.

The astronomy event is free, but an RSVP is required. Call (212) 609-7811 or email timebank@vnsny.org. This is also the contact information to learn more about TimeBank and how to become a member. (It isn’t necessary to be a TimeBank member to join Palgon for a peek at Saturn!)

Bernie Powell:
Twenty-five years ago, Bernie Powell came to work at Liberty House, one of the first apartment buildings in Battery Park City, initially as a porter, and for the last 15 years, as a doorman. Friday, May 27, will be his last day.

Kenny Shane, the super of the building at 377 Rector Place, said that he hired Powell in 1986, shortly after the building opened. “In the time he’s worked here he’s seen many families grow,” said Shane.  “People who have lived here for a long time arrived as newlyweds or young families. Today many of their children are off to college or have their own careers. And Bernie’s still here! watching yet another generation of families grow.”

Always impeccably dressed with white gloves and black shoes polished to a glossy shine, Powell has been a stately and friendly figure at Liberty House’s front door. But the job has become increasingly taxing for him. Now 67 years old, he has troublesome arthritis. “Standing puts a toll on your back and legs,” he said.

He was born in Jamaica and came to the United States at the age of 30. He said the economy in Jamaica was in bad shape and there wasn’t much opportunity. First he worked for a printing company and then for a building elsewhere in Manhattan before he came to Liberty House. He married and had four children. Though Powell never went beyond high school, all of his children are college graduates. Two are nurses, one is a teacher, and one works for the City. “I wanted to give them what I didn’t get,” he said.

Powell remembers 9/11 as “sad.” He was living in the Bronx and got stuck on the subway for hours that day, trying to get to work. He didn’t know what had happened. Two weeks later, he was able to return to work. Along with other members of the staff, he cleaned up the building so residents could return.

Before 9/11, there wasn’t much turnover in the building, Powell said. “I pray for the World Trade Center to come back before I die,” he added.

Powell has a house in Jamaica and hopes to spend some time there. He also has eight grandchildren in New York.

To comment on Battery Park City Beat or to suggest article ideas, email TereseLoeb@mac.com

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