Downtown local

Pier A movement
There may be action soon at the long-dormant Pier A, the historic building in Battery Park, just south of Wagner Park.

A resolution involving the Battery Park City Authority, which wants to purchase the property from the city, will come before Community Board 1 May 20. The city and the authority appear anxious to move quickly on Pier A, judging from the fact that the issue did not follow the normal course of going to committee first. The initial hearing will be before the full board, which is expected to vote on it at the Tuesday meeting.

The sale to the authority, a state-controlled agency, will provide some budget relief to the city, which is facing a multi-billion-dollar deficit.

The partially renovated Pier A has been mired for years in a legal battle between the developer of a $30 million renovation and the city over funding issues. While the decade long battle waged on, the handsome 1880’s building, located in a prime spot in Battery Park, sat empty.

Now the B.P.C.A. is seeking approval to increase its budget cap by $150 million to enable it to purchase the Pier A site as well as several other parcels. The other parcels include the ballfields and the P.S. 89 playground, which it already controls but does not own.

The original renovation of Pier A by a Long Island Developer, Wings Point Associates, called for a restaurant, catering hall and retail shops. It’s not clear what a takeover by the B.P.C.A. would mean for the original plan. Most recently the National Parks Service has expressed interest in using a large section of the first floor as a screening area for Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island ferry passengers. Presumably this would make it that much more appealing for a developer. (Currently passengers line up in tents on the promenade in Battery Park.)

Tim Carey, president and C.E.O. of the B.P.C.A. appears to be supportive of the Parks Service plan.

“It sounds like a promising idea for that location,” he said.

Carey also said he is confident that if B.P.C.A. gains control of Pier A things will begin to happen.

“I assure you that if we control it, we will develop it — whatever it takes. And we will work quickly.”

Dining event
The sixth annual Dine Around Downtown, a celebration of food and beverage, takes place Wed. May 21 (rain date Thurs. May 22) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Chase Manhattan Plaza between Nassau and William Sts and Liberty and Pine Sts., with tastings from more than 40 restaurants. Admission to the event, sponsored by the Alliance for Downtown New York, is free and items are on sale for three to five dollars per tasting. Participants this year include Bayard’s, Bouley, City Hall, Delmonico’s, Harry’s at Hanover Sq., Les Halles Downtown, Le Zinc, Roy’s New York and Vine.

Residential Wall
A new owner has acquired the landmarked J.P. Morgan Building at the corner of Wall and Broad Sts., and the adjacent office building, and plans to convert them into a residential complex.

The buildings at 23 Wall St. and 15 Broad St. were part of the proposed site of a new trading floor for the New York Stock Exchange and a 50-story office tower, but the plan fell apart last year and J.P. Morgan Chase put the buildings on the block earlier this year.

Shaya Boymelgreen, a Brooklyn developer, and Africa Israel Investments, an Israeli investment and development firm, has agreed to pay $110 million for the properties and to spend $100 million more to create as many as 500 apartments, according to reports in the New York Times and, an Israeli news Web site.

“We’ve been hoping that something would happen on that site and we believe that residential development will be good for the whole area,” said Shirley Jaffe, vice president for economic development of the Downtown Alliance. Jaffe noted that the former Brown Brothers Harriman building at 63 Wall St. will also be converted to residences.

Asi Cymbal, identified in reports as a Boymelgreen vice president, was also involved last September in the acquisition of a North Tribeca parking lot at 256 West St. and an adjacent warehouse at 416-24 Washington St. from Brewran West Assoc. for a planned residential complex. Africa Israel Investment also financed the North Tribeca deal. said that Boymelgreen and Africa Israel have purchased nine New York City buildings and two Toronto properties worth more than $700 million in the past year and a half. Sixty percent of the space in the 11 properties is to be residential, according to

Greenmarket returns
The Greenmarket that operated at the World Trade Center will reopen next month at the foot of One Liberty Plaza, near the corner of Church and Liberty Streets, southeast of the site.

Thursday, June 5, is the date set for the opening of the popular market that attracts farmers from around the region. Most of the previous growers will be returning offering vegetables, fruits, home-baked goods, plants and flowers. The market will operate Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The previous market had operated for 18 years.

“We wholeheartedly welcome them back,” said Ray O’Keefe, the chairperson of Community Board 1’s Financial District Committee.

New Seaport leader
The South Street Seaport has hired a new general manager to steer the struggling retail operation beginning in June. Michael Piazzola used to work for the Maryland-based Rouse Company, which operates the Seaport, in the past and has also worked for Walt Disney, according to Ed Hilla, the outgoing manager of retail operations and marketing for the Seaport.

Piazzola will take the place of Paul Harnett, who left his position in late March. Hilla, whose last day at the Seaport is May 23, was the top-ranked Seaport official after Harnett’s departure.

Merchants at the Seaport said they have high hopes for Piazzola.

“He better be a miracle worker, that’s all I can say,” said Gerard Nally, the owner of the Seaport Watch Company at Pier 17.

Attempts to reach Piazzola were unsuccessful.

Columbus Park money
City Councilmember Alan Gerson joined Manhattan borough president C. Virginia Fields in requesting that $200,00 of their respective capital budgets be allocated to restore the pavilion at Columbus Park in Chinatown. Friends of Columbus Park announced the pledge at a recent news conference where the group introduced a newly created coalition of New York Chinatown organizations that have come together to support the Park.

The elected officials’ donations would bring the total funds available for pavilion restoration at $1.8 million, including a $400,000 grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. It comes at a time when Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s sweeping budget cuts have whittled the city funding available for parks.

B.M.C.C. Fulbright winner
A Borough of Manhattan Community College professor won a federal Fulbright-Hays grant to travel to China with a group of educators in the summer of 2004 to study the history of Chinese mathematics and how math is now taught in China.

Annie Han, associate professor at B.M.C.C., will use the $61,000 grant to lead B.M.C.C. and Hunter College educators and math teachers from Lower East Side public schools on a four-week tour of the areas around Beijing, Xian, Hangzhou, and Huhhot, in Inner Mongolia.

Chinese math focuses on applications rather than theories; nevertheless Chinese mathematicians had been using some math concepts hundreds of years before they were used in the West, according to Han. She said the tour group would observe how Chinese teachers motivate their students to learn math.


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