downtownexpress.com

Volume 19 • Issue 16 | September 1 - 7, 2006

Under cover

Correction
UnderCover misquoted Arturo Garcia-Costas, an aide to U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, in a story last week about the planned Urban Estuary Center at Pier 25 in Tribeca. Garcia-Costas described the federal Water Resources Development Act — not the $4 million that Nadler secured in the bill for the Hudson River Park Trust — as “mostly a pork vehicle.”


Noisy neighbors
New Yorkers are used to noise, but this was ridiculous. “The buildings were shaking like crazy,” said Canal St. resident Marc Ameruso. “It was horrible. The vibrations literally were 30 feet away from my door. I was worried that the buildings were going to start falling down.”

The culprit? Pile driving for a new seven-story condo going up at 500 Canal St., at Greenwich St. Driving the piles — a noisy foundation-building technique — was rattling the bones of the surrounding historic buildings. Within hours, neighbors in the North Tribeca neighborhood went into a tailspin, firing off a flurry of e-mails to each other and the city questioning the legality of the pile driving. The group got the city’s Dept. of Buildings to issue a stop-work order because the developer was not in compliance with a regulation protecting landmark buildings during construction.

But the real issue, say neighbors, is trust. “Initially when [developer] Fabian Friedland came to us he was very upfront and we thought, ‘finally we have a developer who’s going to work with the community,’” said Ameruso, who is also a member of Community Board 1 and sat on the committee that reviewed Friedland’s development proposal. “The community feels completely bamboozled by him.”

According to Ameruso, Friedland said he would not pile drive because the site sits close to the Holland Tunnel entrance, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey limits pile driving near the tunnel.

But Friedland remembers the conversations differently and insists he never said he wouldn’t pile drive, only that he would not drive piles where the Port Authority told him not to. “There have been some pretty strong claims about my integrity here,” said Friedland of Montagu Square Development. “It was very, very clear that we would be driving piles on two sides [of the site.] The point of mentioning the pile driving [to the community board] was purely a point of information. It was never meant to be a point of negotiation. They interpreted it as a concession and they universally misheard what I said.”

With the two sides embroiled in a “he said, she said” dispute, the Buildings Dept. is reviewing the developer’s engineering plans to figure out how to resolve this.

“They may be able to pile drive, and I’m sure there is a safe, more effective way to do it that causes less harm to adjacent structures,” said Buildings Dept. spokesperson Jennifer Givner.


Wall Street moving
Wall Street Rising, the nonprofit created after 9/11 to aid Downtown, moved… across the street. The organization, a Julie Menin creation, has been enjoying a rent-free existence at 25 Broad St., the building Menin’s husband, Bruce, bought and converted to luxury residential apartments in 1997.

Bruce Menin and his partners at Crescent Heights Investments sold the 345-unit building known as “The Exchange” a year ago to Swig Equities for an undisclosed figure.

Developer Kent Swig sent letters to Exchange tenants earlier this year alerting them that leases would not be renewed so the building could be converted to condos. Swig, a Wall Street Rising board member, gave the nonprofit organization a one-year, rent-free grace period. Julie Menin avoided The Exchange exodus when she signed a five-year lease with the option to buy for the family’s penthouse shortly before the sale, according to city records.

Ms. Menin, now chairperson of Community Board 1, relinquished her seat as executive director of Wall Street Rising when she assumed leadership of the community board a year ago.

With their rent-free days ended, Wall Street Rising staffers packed up last week and headed across the street to 55 Exchange Place — the swanky Downtown By Philippe Starck building. “A lot of exciting things are happening in that building and it’s an exciting place to be,” said Rising president Noah Pfefferblit, noting that Hermes will open its new Downtown location in the same building. “We want to be a part of that.”



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