Covering Battery Park City

BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER  |  New B.P.C.A. board members appointed: On Wed., June 20, the New York State Senate confirmed Dennis Mehiel as the new chairman of the Battery Park City Authority, replacing William Thompson Jr. Mehiel is the chairman, chief executive officer and sole shareholder of the Four M Corporation, one of the largest producers of corrugated shipping containers and interior corrugated packaging in North America. He ran for lieutenant governor of New York State in 2002 on a ticket with H. Carl McCall, who lost to George Pataki. Since then, Mehiel has been actively fundraising for Democratic politicians. He and his wife, Karen, have donated nearly $900,000 to Democratic candidates over the last decade, including more than $80,000 to Andrew Cuomo during his campaign for governor.

Following Mehiel’s confirmation, State Senator Daniel Squadron, whose district includes Battery Park City, congratulated Cuomo on his appointment of Mehiel on the Senate floor. He went on to say, “I had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Mehiel today and to reiterate the importance of having community representation on [the] Battery Park City Authority [board]…and also the importance of ensuring that Battery Park City doesn’t sort of allow itself to rest on its laurels.

The neighborhood has “basically clear and free” real estate in the heart of Manhattan, which basically means that the money rolls in, Squadron continued.

“We need to make sure that the money doesn’t then roll out without purpose and without a real responsiveness to community needs,” he said.

Squadron is hopeful that, in joining forces with Mehiel, “we will have the opportunity to continue Battery Park City’s success and also to ensure that there’s greater community representation and a greater community voice moving forward.”

On Tues., June 5, the State Senate confirmed Carl F. Mattone, president of The Mattone Group, a Queens-based real estate and construction company, for a seat on the B.P.C.A. Board of Directors. Mattone develops shopping centers and movie theaters.

However, Squadron voted against confirming Mattone.

 

B.P.C.A. and Brookfield Properties cut deal: The Battery Park City Authority recently authorized a deal with Brookfield Office Properties, owner of the World Financial Center, to change the fees paid by Brookfield to the B.P.C.A.

Since the 1980s, when the World Financial Center was owned by Olympia & York, the B.P.C.A. has received a percentage of all retail income from the W.F.C., plus a minimum fee that did not depend on retail income. Under the new deal, “We will raise the minimum and we will raise the percentage rent that we owe,” according to Brookfield spokesperson Melissa Coley.

In exchange, over the next 15 years Brookfield will deduct its construction costs for new retail space in the W.F.C. from the percentage rent that it owes the B.P.C.A.

Brookfield is investing $250 million to change and upgrade the W.F.C. and to build a pavilion that will shield the entrance area to the World Trade Center underground connector. Of this sum, $175 million can be attributed to retail changes and improvements.

Coley declined to say exactly how much Brookfield is currently paying the B.P.C.A. or by what percentage the payments would increase under the new arrangement.

 

Mel Brooks is ‘sidesplittingly funny’ in nabe festival: On Wednesday evenings from June 27 through Aug. 8, the Museum of Jewish Heritage at 36 Battery Place is staging “Mel Brooks on Film: The Spoof is in the Pudding.” It began on June 27 with “Blazing Saddles,” and makes its rollicking way through “Young Frankenstein,” “Silent Movie,” “High Anxiety,” “History of the World: Part I” and “To Be or Not to Be.”

Said film critic Leonard Quart, “Brooks is significant, because in his noisy, scatalogical, slapstick and parodistic style, he can be sidesplittingly funny and sharply skewer targets like racism, religion and human greed.”

Quart, who introduced the festival on June 27, is professor emeritus of cinema at the City University of New York, a contributing editor at Cineaste Magazine and co-author of the fourth edition of “American Film and Society Since 1945,” published by Praeger.

The films start at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the box office on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 3 p.m. on the day of each screening. Tickets are free, with a suggested donation. A minimum donation of $5 per ticket will reserve tickets in advance and guarantee a seat. To make reservations, call  (646) 437-4202 or visit www.mjhnyc.org/melbrooks.

People of all ages partied in grand style at the Swedish Midsummer Festival in Wagner Park. Downtown Express photos by Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Merry Swedes dance through the rain: On the evening of Fri., June 22, a couple of strong thunderstorms rolled across Battery Park City, but nothing could deter the hardy Swedes from their annual Midsummer Festival in Wagner Park. Their heads crowned with wreaths of flowers (wreath-making materials were supplied earlier), they danced around a maypole and partied with gusto.

When the live folk music ended, a smoldering sunset bathed the sky over Jersey City and the Hudson River in orange light. The Swedes dispersed along the esplanade past fishermen waiting by their lines.

The Swedish Midsummer Festival was co-sponsored by the Swedish Consulate and by the B.P.C. Parks Conservancy. The next B.P.C. Parks Conservancy family dance will be on Sat., July 14, with Brazilian music. It will be held on Esplanade Plaza, just south of North Cove Marina, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival returns: Lower Manhattan’s hot July nights will get an infusion of some cool blues when the Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival returns for the second year to the plaza at 2 World Financial Center on Wed., July 11 and Thurs., July 12. The headliners are 74-year-old Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy and chanteuse Neko Case. Guy, who will perform on July 11, has won six Grammy awards.

The following day, Case will bring her blend of country, gospel, torch and pop to the Blues Festival stage. Both concerts feature an impressive lineup of blues performers ranging from 12-year-old blues prodigy Quinn Sullivan, who has toured with Guy and has been featured on several national television shows, to John Mayall, whose band launched such legendary artists as Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Peter Green and many more.

The free concerts run from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Neither tickets nor reservations are required.

 

A trumpet vine (campsis radicans), draped over the arbor where the B.P.C. esplanade meets Third Place, is in luxuriant bloom.

Battery Park City in bloom: Draped over the arbor where Third Place meets the esplanade, the orange flowers of the trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) are in luxuriant bloom. This showy vine is native to the woodlands and riverbanks of the southeastern U.S. In the 17th century, it caught the fancy of the first English colonists of Virginia, who took it back to England. The common names for this flower are “hummingbird vine” and “cow itch vine.” Hummingbirds love the deep-throated flowers, but trumpet vine sap can irritate unfeathered skin.

 

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

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  5. This showy vine is native to the woodlands and riverbanks of the southeastern U.S. In the 17th century, it caught the fancy of the first English colonists of Virginia, who took it back to England.

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