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BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER | President of Ireland visits B.P.C.: On May 1, a day that included breakfast with young Irish professionals at the Bank of New York Mellon, a visit to the 9/11 memorial and a meeting with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Michael Higgins, president of Ireland, and his wife, Sabina stepped out of their black town car in front of Battery Park City’s Irish Hunger Memorial, where they were greeted by William C. Thompson Jr., chairman of the Battery Park City Authority, and by B.P.C.A. president, Gayle Horwitz. Higgins, who was elected president of Ireland in October 2011, was in New York City to drum up business for the beleaguered Irish economy before going to Boston to deliver a speech about the Irish potato famine that killed over a million people between 1846 and 1852 and caused more than one-and-a-half million people to emigrate.
Thompson said that during Higgins’ half-hour visit to the Irish Hunger Memorial, he commented on inscriptions on its walls and mentioned critical editorials in the London Times that appeared years after the fact, saying that the mass exodus from Ireland had benefited the United States. “He’s a walking wealth of information on the topic,” said Thompson. “It was incredibly interesting.”
Mr. and Mrs. Higgins ascended the gently sloping walkway to the top of the memorial, which has stones from every county in Ireland. They paused briefly near the stone from Galway. Mr. Higgins twice served as Galway’s mayor.
“Everybody who comes here comes away touched in a very different way,” Thompson observed.
The Irish Hunger Memorial was dedicated in July 2002 and now needs some repairs. The Battery Park City Authority plans a major rehabilitation of the Memorial, with work expected to begin in the fall of 2013. The plantings, all of which can be found on the western coast of Ireland, will have to be removed and carefully tended during construction so that they can be put back when the work is finished.
On the day of the Higgins visit, Burnet roses were in bloom, draped over the old stones of a roofless cottage from County Mayo that dates from the 1820s and was used until 1960. The Slack family to whom it belonged donated it to the Memorial in remembrance of members of the family who died in the famine and those who found new lives in the United States.
Riverhouse developers plead guilty to $2.2M fraud: Two executives of the Sheldrake Organization, the original developer of Riverhouse at 1 River Terrace in Battery Park City, pleaded guilty last week to defrauding an unnamed foreign bank that loaned them $2.2 million to help finance the project. Sheldrake president J. Christopher Daly and Michael Abreu, Sheldrake’s director of asset management, each face a maximum prison sentence of 20 years for mail and wire fraud.
In 2004, the Battery Park City Authority solicited bids to build Riverhouse, and Sheldrake was awarded a contract for the $573 million project. In 2006, Sheldrake started construction on the luxury condominium, which has 258 units. A year later, the Sheldrake executives sent their lender duplicate invoices for Battery Park City Authority fees that had already been paid. The money was wired into the Sheldrake bank account.
Sheldrake never managed to make timely payments to the Battery Park City Authority and never paid its balance in full. In 2010, Sheldrake was ousted from managing Riverhouse, and Centurion Real Estate Partners took over.
Matthew Monahan, a spokesman for the Battery Park City Authority, said that all money due to the Authority has since been paid in full.
The luxury building has public spaces designed by David Rockwell and amenities that include a 50-foot lap pool, a fitness center with a yoga studio, a landscaped outdoor terrace and a children’s playroom. More than 95 percent of the apartments have been sold.
Poem in Your Pocket Day: April 26, National Poem in Your Pocket Day, was enthusiastically observed in Battery Park City. The day began with a community breakfast and poetry reading at Poets House, 10 River Terrace. Dave Johnson, a playwright, poet and teacher, led off the poetry reading with “Halley’s Comet,” a poem by Stanley Kunitz, co-founder of Poets House. Julie Menin, chair of Community Board 1, read a poem about “a neighborhood at dusk.” City Council Member Margaret Chin contributed a poem by Li Po of the 8th-century Tang Dynasty that she said she had learned as a child in Hong Kong. “My son also learned this poem at Chinese school,” she said. “It reflects the sentiments of a lot of immigrants.” Chin recited the poem, “In the Quiet Night,” in Chinese and then in English. “The floor before my bed is bright/Moonlight – like hoarfrost – in my room/I lift my head and watch the moon./I drop my head and think of home.”
Other readers included Catherine McVay Hughes and Michael Connolly of Community Board 1 and students from Stuyvesant High School.
During the day, poetry aficionados fanned out across the neighborhood to distribute some poems that Poets House had printed on little cards — some by well-known writers and some by children. The poetry observance ended with an evening concert in the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center during which the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra performed music that had been written to accompany the poems of local school children.
In the coming weeks, Poets House continues its ambitious programming in honor of its 25th anniversary with presentations on Wallace Stevens (May 3), William Carlos Williams (May 8), the Imagists (May 10), the Objectivists (May 12) and the Harlem Renaissance (May 15). For more information, go to www.poetshouse.org
To comment on Battery Park City Beat or to suggest article ideas, email TereseLoeb@mac.com