Digest, Week of July 12, 2012

Complaints and lawsuit over fenced-in Chase plaza  Financial District residents are up in arms over the fact that Chase Manhattan Plaza, the two-acre space between Pine, Liberty, Nassau and William Streets, is still fenced off and under constant security watch.

Although the plaza, owned by JPMorgan Chase, had once been open to the public for decades, it was closed off in mid-September of last year and has remained so ever since.

“After having some discussions, we’ve agreed that a valuable resource has been taken away from our community,” said Ro Sheffe, chair of Community Board 1’s Financial District Committee. “Thousands of people once crossed that plaza, and it featured beautiful artwork. Its abrupt withdrawal, in an area that has so few open spaces, has been devastating.”

Now, a lawsuit by city resident Richard Nagan has sparked questions about Chase’s refusal to disclose the reasons for the fence around the plaza, according to the New York Times.

Many people originally believed that the bank closed the space in order to prevent Occupy Wall Street protesters from entering, according to the Times, but when the protests died down, it was unclear why the fence stayed up. Chase said it was for renovations, but it refused to publicly release the overhaul plans.

Nagan subsequently sued the city Department of Buildings in order to challenge Chase’s refusal. The suit is still ongoing, according to the Times.

Meanwhile, Sheffe said the board’s Financial District, Quality of Life and Urban Planning committees will be crafting a joint resolution in the coming weeks, calling on Chase to explain its reasons for keeping the plaza bordered up.

Bloomberg opposes Port Authority’s proposal for 9/11 Memorial
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has rejected the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s recent attempt to gain more oversight of the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum. In an announcement made Mon., July 2, the mayor said he wants to keep the memorial out of the “political process,” according to the New York Post.

Bloomberg chairs the 9/11 Memorial and Museum Foundation, the non-profit organization that runs the memorial. The Port Authority, which is overseen by the governors of New York and New Jersey, owns the World Trade Center site.

Construction on the memorial has slowed drastically over the past year due to multiple disputes between the foundation and the Port Authority.

A spokesman for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo seemed to make a jab at Bloomberg by telling the Wall Street Journal that the museum shouldn’t be politicized — but noted that the mayor and the governors are political officials themselves.

The Port Authority didn’t return calls for comment by press time.

Potential G.S.A. lease at 1 W.T.C. is stalled in Congress
Although the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have approved a plan for the U.S. General Services Administration (G.S.A.) to take five floors at 1 World Trade Center, the agreement is now stalled in a U.S. congressional committee, according to the New York Post.

House Representative John Mica, a Republican from Florida, has halted the deal due to issues unrelated to the W.T.C. site, including a feud with the G.S.A. over building space in Washington, D.C., the Post article said. Mica is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which must approve the deal before the lease is finalized.

The Port Authority as well as a U.S. Senate committee have already approved the lease.

The 20-year lease, were it to be sealed, would make the G.S.A. the third tenant of 1 W.T.C. after Condé Nast and Beijing Vantone Real Estate Co., a Chinese property firm. The G.S.A. would receive close to 300,000 square feet of space in the deal, paying a total of $351.4 million in rent over the first 20 years, with as many as four 15-year renewal options, according to an article on bloomberg.com.

The G.S.A. didn’t return a request for comment by press time.

One W.T.C., which is owned by both the Port Authority and the Durst Organization, is expected to open sometime in 2014.

Port director says 9/11 memorial should include the sphere
While the Fritz Koenig Sphere sculpture still sits in Battery Park, those who advocate moving it onto the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum have gained a powerful voice of support.

On Thurs., June 28, Pat Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said he believes that the Sphere should be a part of the 9/11 Memorial, according to the Associated Press.

“This is an artifact that survived and was affected by the horrors of 9/11, and placing it on the Memorial Plaza, we think, is entirely appropriate,” Foye said at the Port Authority’s June 28 monthly board meeting, as quoted by the A.P.

The Sphere, which is 25 feet tall, has been in Battery Park for over a decade since its removal from the W.T.C. site after the 9/11 attacks. Due to the renovations set to begin in the park later this month, the sculpture will have be moved somewhere soon — whether it’s back to Ground Zero or into storage at John F. Kennedy Airport.

Foye’s comments will likely boost the spirits of those who’ve pushed for installing the Sphere at the Memorial — but it may create tension between the Port Authority and 9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels, who has publicly turned down the prospect of the Sphere’s relocation to the Memorial Plaza.

As quoted in a Downtown Express article from May, Daniels told Community Board 1’s World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee, “We fully, 100 percent support the Sphere being kept outside in a way the public can experience whenever they want to, but it’s not going to be incorporated in the eight-acre Memorial Plaza.”

C.B. 1 officially appoints new heads
It’s now official: Community Board 1 has a new team of chiefs.

Tribeca resident Julie Menin, who served as the board’s chair for seven years, passed the torch last week to former vice chair Catherine McVay Hughes, who ran for the position uncontested.

Battery Park City resident Anthony Notaro won the seat of vice chair, while Adam Malitz beat Marc Ameruso for the board’s secretary position. C.B. 1 member Dennis Gault ran uncontested for assistant secretary, while John Fratta, chair of the board’s Seaport-Civic Center Committee, won over Housing Committee chair Tom Goodkind for the treasurer’s seat.

Hughes, a longtime resident of the Financial District, expressed excitement to take the helm and plans to institute a few key changes to the board from the get-go.

“It’s a lot of work — a lot happens Downtown!” she told the Downtown Express just after her first staff meeting as chair.

The board, under Hughes’ direction, will also be combining the World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee with the Planning and Community Infrastructure Committee.

The new committee, Hughes said, will be renamed the Urban Planning Committee.

“It’s very important to reincorporate the W.T.C. into the surrounding area once again,” explained Hughes. “We’re looking at reincorporating it into the fabric of Lower Manhattan.”

C.B. 1 urges cops to unblock Wall Street’s bull
Community Board 1 has passed a resolution urging the New York Police Department to remove the barricades surrounding the Wall Street Charging Bull statue, which is located in the north plaza of Bowling Green Park.

The resolution, which passed unanimously at C.B. 1’s June 26 full-board meeting, cites a “potential hazard” currently faced by the statue’s visitors, who are forced to stand in the street — rather than more safely within the plaza — while admiring and photographing the iconic bull. The barricades steer tourists into the path of vehicular traffic and “detract significantly from the appeal of the sculpture,” according to the resolution.

The N.Y.P.D. first placed barriers around the bull on Sept. 17, 2011 to prevent Occupy Wall Street protesters from tampering with it, and the metal guard rails have remained there ever since. In addition to asking for the barricades’ removal, the C.B. 1 resolution calls for an end to other “severe security measures,” including the constant presence of a police car in front of the Charging Bull.

Chinatown leader picked to help redraw the city’s districts
Justin Yu, chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of New York, which is headquartered in Chinatown, was one of seven people appointed to the City Council’s Districting Commission by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thurs., June 14.

The commission, whose members are appointed every ten years, is charged with redrawing the City Council’s district lines so as to address population shifts within the five boroughs. After a series of public hearings and meetings, the Districting Commission will develop a final plan, based on 2010 census data, to submit to the City Council — and ultimately to the U.S. Department of Justice — in advance of the 2013 Council elections.

“I feel honored to be appointed by the mayor and to gain this new responsibility in serving the citizens of New York,” said Yu, 67, who has lived in Chinatown for nearly four decades. “It’s great that Asian-Americans are becoming much more active than ever before in the city’s political process, and I’m looking forward to contributing.”

Yu, who was born in China and also lived in Taiwan before moving to New York, is a former president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of New York.

In addition to the mayor’s seven appointments to the Districting Commission, eight are made by the City Council. Appointees include representatives of every borough.

D.O.T CityBench initiative hits the streets
The city Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) is encouraging residents to take part in its new CityBench initiative, which allows people to send requests for benches to be constructed on any public sidewalk in the city.

The initiative — which is funded by a $2.4 million Bus Livability Grant from the Federal Transit Administration — seeks to provide more comfortable streets, especially in areas by bus stops, senior centers and shopping districts, according to the D.O.T. website.

The new benches can be requested as either backed or backless, and residents can ask for up to two benches at a single site. The D.O.T. plans to install 1,000 new benches by 2015, according to its website.

Members of the public can request a CityBench installation by visiting www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/sidewalks/citybench.shtml.

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One Response to Digest, Week of July 12, 2012

  1. You’ve imerpssed us all with that posting!

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