Downtown Digest, Week of June 27, 2012

9/11 Memorial: Bloomberg seeking gov funding, a possible Cuomo family feud, and construction
Days after Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie requested federal funding for the National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum, Mayor Michael Bloomberg voiced his support of their efforts.

Cuomo and Christie sent their letter to the National Park Service on Sat., June 16, since disputes over financing have slowed construction on the museum and delayed its opening until at least next year.

The 9/11 Memorial Foundation, which Bloomberg chairs, currently oversees the project. The mayor told WNYC that “we’d love to get 20 million bucks a year” to maintain the site once it’s complete and that he’s spoken with the two governors to express his support.

This follows a recent call by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for greater government oversight of the museum, in order to control construction costs and manage the structure’s expected $60 million annual operating budget, as reported by the New York Times.

Bloomberg also said that he would be asking for $20 million of federal funding, a figure he compared to what the National Park Service provided for the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, which was dedicated to the victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Responding to Bloomberg’s statements, the executive director of the Oklahoma museum pointed out to WNYC that the institution actually receives less than $1 million each year in federal funding and received a mere $5 million to build the site.

Cuomo may also have threatened to withhold funding for the 9/11 Museum until a new mayor is elected, because of Bloomberg’s allegedly poor treatment of his father, according to the New York Post. Sources close to the governor told the Post that Cuomo’s father — former NYS Governor Mario Cuomo — was hassled by security upon entering the 9/11 tenth anniversary ceremony at Ground Zero last year, and was “enraged over the way he felt City Hall tried to minimize his role in planning the ceremonies.”

Meanwhile, Port Authority spokesperson Steve Coleman refuted statements recently made in the press that construction has come to a halt. Recent construction at the museum includes work on such electrical systems as fire alarms and wiring, as well as plumbing and piping systems, he said. Construction also continues on the pavilion of the memorial, such as work on electrical power and lighting, vertical transportation, exterior cladding, roof waterproofing and carpentry.

There are an average of 70 workers a day at the museum, Coleman said, and construction work was slowed but never stopped amidst the funding controversies.

Trial for soldier implicated in Chen’s suicide will start in July
The trial of Sergeant Adam Holcomb, one of the eight soldiers implicated in the death of 19-year-old Army Private Danny Chen, will take place from July 24 to 27, according to U.S. Army officials.

Holcomb’s court martial, which has been rescheduled numerous times, was supposed to be postponed until August before the July 24 start date was set. It will take place at the Fort Bragg Courthouse in North Carolina. The 29-year-old sergeant from Youngstown, Ohio, faces a host of charges including negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and dereliction of duty.

Liz OuYang, president of the New York chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans (O.C.A.), said she will be at the trial alongside Chen’s parents and other members of his family.

“We’re in the process of [finding] vans,” she said. “We’re [also going to] call other North Carolina Asian-American community groups to talk about housing and attending the trial.”

Chen was born in Chinatown. He was found dead last October in a guard tower in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where his military unit was deployed at the time. Military officials have since concluded Chen shot himself after fellow soldiers bullied and physically abused him because of his Asian-American ethnicity.

The Army is planning to set up a closed-circuit feed of the trial, so that Chen’s supporters and others can watch the proceedings from a room adjoining the courtroom. There will also be a translator on hand at the trial to explain the proceedings to the Chen family, according to an Army spokesperson.

Council and mayor agree on city budget, with some pros and cons Downtown
An agreement was reached between the City Council, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city Finance Chair on Mon., June 25 regarding the city budget for Fiscal Year 2013, according to Council Member Margaret Chin’s office.

New budget details related to Lower Manhattan programs were largely positive, although some money was not maintained, Chin’s spokesperson Kelly Magee said.

I.S. 289’s after-school program will remain open, with funding likely to be restored to last year’s levels, and additional funding will allow a new after-school program to open at the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School, said Magee. Budgets for both programs will be based on sustaining 130 active slots for students.

Magee added that enough funding will be allocated to keep the North Moore Street Firehouse (which was featured in the 1984 film “Ghostbusters”) open through the upcoming fiscal year.

However, the day care program for the Borough of Manhattan Community College is likely going to be cancelled, said Magee — possibly since the program followed a relatively untraditional model compared to other city day care centers.

Overall, City Council restoration funding — money budgeted to restore programs that were cut by the mayor in the last fiscal year — totaled $397 million.

The vote to approve the budget is on Thurs., June 28 (after this publication went to press).

Stock Exchange building receives landmark status
The city Landmarks Preservation Commission (L.P.C.) designated the American Stock Exchange as a landmark on Tues., June 26, but voted against granting landmark status to an early 19th-century house at 177 West Broadway, according to an L.P.C. news release.

The American Stock Exchange, located at 86 Trinity Place, is comprised of two conjoined sections, both designed by New York architectural firm Starrett & Van Vleck. The first part of the structure was completed in 1921 and designed in the neo-Renaissance style. The second section, completed in 1931, was designed in the Art Deco style. The two parts are 100 feet and 210 feet tall, respectively.

The building is also known as the New York Curb Exchange, a name that refers to curbside locations in Lower Manhattan where brokers traded risky stocks until the 1920s.

The house at 177 West Broadway was not designated a landmark because its structure had been too extensively altered over time, according to L.P.C. spokesperson Elisabeth de Bourbon.

A new recycling bin that brings digital technology to the street
A high-tech, bomb-proof recycling bin that also features two computer screens is currently being debuted at Whitehall Plaza on Water and Whitehall Streets, according to a release from the Downtown Alliance Business Improvement District.

The “Renew Recycling Bin,” which provides passersby with access to news, stock tickers and other city information, is the first of its kind to be installed in the United States. The bins, which are being manufactured by Media Metrica Ltd. — which partnered with Downtown Alliance to launch the bin — first gained notoriety after being placed throughout London’s financial district over the past year.

The bin’s installation and operation will come at no cost to the city. The pilot bin only swallows recyclable paper products, although Media Metrica also produces ones that take bottles, cans and other recyclable materials.

Worries over demolition in historic Little Syria
Activists are attempting to preserve two Downtown buildings that were part of Little Syria — New York’s first Arab-American neighborhood — since the city Landmarks Preservation Commission has refused to recognize them as landmarks, according to the New York Post.

The buildings, which are both located on Washington Street between Battery Place and Rector Street, are currently owned by Pink Stone Realty. Community members told the Post that they fear Pink Stone will be tearing down the structures soon to make way for a 50-story high-rise on the same block.

One of the buildings, at 105-107 Washington St., provided a clinic and gymnasium for Syrian immigrants in the early 1900s. The other, 109 Washington St., was built in 1885 and once housed a cigar factory run by Syrian immigrants.

St. George’s Syrian Catholic Church, the third and only other remaining structure from the original Little Syria, was designated a landmark by the L.P.C. three years ago. The L.P.C. told the Post that the other two buildings lack “architectural and historical significance.”

C.B. 1 seeks space for a community center
Community Board 1 has sought for years to construct a community center east of Broadway, but thoughts in recent years of placing one in Pier 17 never came to fruition, according to board member Paul Hovitz.

Now, C.B. 1 is hoping to renew the search for an adequate location to build a new center. Hovitz, who led the board’s Seaport/Civic Center Committee meeting on June 19, said that, while it’s far too early for any concrete plans, he and other board members are beginning to brainstorm ideas for a possible location.

At this stage, Hovitz noted, a venue in the South Street Seaport is still a possibility.

“C.B. 1 is interested in exploring all possibilities of a community center on the east side of town, and it may well be under the auspices of the Howard Hughes Corporation and the Economic Development Corporation at the Seaport,” said Hovitz. “But we’re well aware that we’re going to have to be cautious about what we agree to, and what the tradeoffs will be.”

Howard Hughes Corp. has yet to disclose a master plan for the South Street Seaport.

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One Response to Downtown Digest, Week of June 27, 2012

  1. The IRS site does not get updated very frtlneueqy. We will look into it with the IRS and check with our board about posting the IRS acceptance letter on the site. Thanks.

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