Downtown local

Downtown Express photo by Wozzy Dias

The man who built Confucius
Stephen Kumshui Law, sitting at left, was honored last week in Chinatown by the Organization of Chinese Americas for his efforts to build middle-class housing in the neighborhood. Law, who owned the Chinatown Ten Cent Store on the Bowery, was the driving force behind the construction of Confucius Plaza. He convinced Percy Sutton, the Manhattan borough president, to support the project and worked hard to make sure all of the financing was in place to construct the housing, which opened in 1976. Law, who was born in 1920 and now suffers from Alzheimer’s, received a standing ovation last week at the banquet, which he attended with his wife, right.

School eyes Greenwich
The Downtown School, a new private school to open next year, is looking to buy a theater space on Greenwich St. just north of Canal St., according to Robert Golden, the school’s founder and executive director.

The space the school would occupy at 500 Greenwich St. is currently home to the Castillo Theatre, a postmodern, political theater, and the All Stars Project, an organization that creates performance programs for poor children.

“We’re bursting at the seams,” said Roger Grunwald, director of public relations for the All Stars Project.

The theater company had been looking for a bigger space for years, Grunwald said, and plans to move this fall to its new home on W. 42nd St.

The Downtown School plans to open its doors in September, 2004. It will begin with a class of 35 sixth grade students and add a grade each year until it has a 6-12 student body. It plans to charge$18,000 a year in tuition.

Golden, who preiously worked at Riverdale Country School, declined to comment on the details of the negotiations, saying that the deal on the property had not yet been finalized.

Grunwald said that the theater company’s second-floor space is about 5,000 sq. ft. It includes a 71-seat theater with a revolving stage. The area has many irregularly shaped rooms and would likely require serious construction before it could operate as a school and comply with strict city codes for schools.

Many community members applauded the idea of a new school Downtown.

“The Tribeca Organization definitely sees the need for more schooling down here,” said Sharon Decker, executive director of the organization.

Golden said that the school needs to raise an additional $750,000, and he plans to approach the local business community and Wall St. firms this summer.

Pier 40 plans
Robert Balachandran, president of the Hudson River Park Trust, said last week that the Trust is looking at two ways of adding to the interim recreational uses to Pier 40 – more open space on the roof or more in the so-called donut in the middle of the Houston St. pier.

Last month, the Trust rejected three plans to develop the 16-acre pier, which means by law, the Trust must use half the pier’s footprint for recreational uses under the interim plan. The commercial trucks parking on the pier must leave by the end of the year. Balachandran did not rule out the possibility of having new fields by next summer, but he did not commit to that timetable either. “I’m predisposed to get it done as quickly as possible,” he said.

Bob Townley, the executive director of Manhattan Youth, said he hopes the Trust opts for the donut option because that would allow for a regulation football field in the area that is now a parking lot.

Developer picked
The Battery Park City Authority last week approved Millenium Partners as the developer of a 37-story residential condominium on Site 2A in the south end of Battery Park City.

Millenium will build the tower with 282 apartments and 4,000 sq. feet of retail space in accordance with the B.P.C.A. “Green Guidelines,” for advanced environmental standards. The site is just north of the Ritz Carlton Hotel and condo tower, which Millenium also built.

Construction on the project, which will be privately financed with no subsidies from Liberty Bonds or the city’s 421a tax incentive program, is expected to begin within six months and will take about 18 months, according to Philip Aarons, a founding partner of Millenium.

“This is an important indication of the developer’s confidence in Lower Manhattan, especially since he’s building market rate without subsidies,” said Tim Carey, Battery Park City Authority president and C.E.O. “It means we get Millenium’s PILOTs [Payments in Lieu of Taxes] up front and it leaves that much more in the Liberty Bond pool for other development.”

“We’re very excited about the project,” said Aarons. “The Ritz Carlton was also our project so we know the neighborhood very well. “We’re particularly excited by the challenge to follow the green guidelines, and to go beyond them,” Aarons said.

Carey said that of the seven qualified developers who submitted proposals, two withdrew and Millenium offered the best financial package. The four other remaining developers proposed to build rental apartments with Liberty Bond financing and tax incentives. Carey said Millenium’s full tax plan meant more money for B.P.C.A.

The Site 2A project will follow B.P.C.’s first green project, the Solaire at 20 River Terrace, where the first tenants are expected to move in two weeks. The new green building will use waste water filtering and recycling to supply water for toilet flushes and will use 33 percent less water than a comparable building.

July 4 happenings
In the wee hours of July 4, there will be an historical tour through Downtown Manhattan to refresh the memory of those people who find themselves lost in history’s fog, and to educate those who never learned about one of the past’s most highly misunderstood subjects—the American Revolution.

“Downtown Manhattan has a number of revolutionary war sites that no one knows about,” says lawyer and historian Jim Kaplan, who has conducted the tour for the past four years.

The four-hour, $20 tour starts at 2 a.m. on Park Pl. near City Hall and is organized by Fraunces Tavern Museum, the site where Gen. George Washington said farewell to his troops. (212) 425-1778.

If you miss the early morning tour, you’ll still have plenty of time to catch the Macy’s fireworks display on the East River at 9 p.m. at the South Street Seaport.

New member
Rodney Alexander, an employee of Borough of Manhattan Community College, has been named to Community Board 1.

Alexander is one of two replacements for the two new members whose appointments were recently rescinded, Angela Sales and Ingrid Maurer. Sales also works for B.M.C.C. , but she is not a New York City resident. Maurer does not live or work within the boundaries of Community Board 1.

The other replacement had not been named as of last week, according to Charles Walker, spokesperson for Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields.

Alexander is the director of the Institute for Business Trends Analysis at B.M.C.C. He is a resident of the Upper West Side and plans to serve on C.B. 1’s waterfront and Tribeca committees.

In a photo caption in last week’s issue, we misidentified the name of the girl buying a copy of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” She is Miranda Strand, not Amanda Hawley.


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