Volume 19 Issue 52 | May 11 -17, 2007

2 decades go by fast when there’s lots to report

By Al Amateau

When Downtown Express associate editor Josh Rogers asked me to write an article for the paper’s 20th anniversary issue, I said “Twentieth anniversary? Nah. It wasn’t 20 years ago. It started sometime around . . . 1987? Oh oh — that WAS 20 years ago.”

Rogers handed me a bound volume no more than a half-inch thick and opened it to No. 1 Vol. 1, May 11, 1987 and there on page 1 were two stories with my byline.

It all came back to me — the weeks that led up to that first issue of a new monthly newspaper to be published by Enlightenment Press, where I worked at the time, for the Battery Park City Authority to serve a business and residential community that was still under construction.

It was a thrill for my colleagues and me on the two weekly newspapers that we put out to be involved in a new publication in a new neighborhood being built on new land created 10 years earlier in the Hudson River on earth and rock from the World Trade Center excavation. I don’t remember ever having visited the site before I went down to Battery Park City to talk about the new venture.

What should we call the paper? How about “The Battering Ram?” Okay, lose that. “The Battery Park Canon?” No. Maybe “The Battery Report,” playing on a written report and the report of a big gun. Close, but no cigar. B.P.C.A. preferred simplicity and dignity to puns and chose Battery News.

Sandy Frucher, B.P.C.A. president and C.E.O., wanted a newspaper for the growing residential part of the state-owned project and called on Enlightenment Press, whose owner, Bob Trentlyon, served with Frucher on the West Side Task Force, a panel appointed to consider the possibility of a Hudson River Park from the Battery to 59th St. The waterfront park idea was a running story I had been following at the time and now 20 years later it is more than a possibility and I’m still following it.

A look at that first issue gave me another reminder that what’s past is present. One of my two page 1 stories was about the Port Authority’s proposal for a new floating ferry terminal in Battery Park City. Community Board 1 held a hearing two weeks earlier on where it should be located. The Port Authority wanted the ferry terminal opposite Gateway Plaza at the south end of the North Cove, and Gateway Plaza residents wanted it north of the North Cove.

The ferry terminal story still appears on page 1 of Downtown Express, most recently last November in an article by Skye McFarlane. The terminal is still not complete, but Gateway Plaza residents were closer to the mark.

The other page 1 story in the May 11 issue was interviews with the master planners of Battery Park City, the architects Alex Cooper and Stanton Eckstut, who had worked with each other at Columbia University and the Department of City Planning before they joined forces and won the assignment in 1979 for an overall design for the 92-acre landfill. They had produced a preliminary concept in 90 days, refined it for a year and won approval and praise from the city, the state and the authority.

The lead article in the second issue covered the groundbreaking for an interim North Park, later to be called Rockefeller Park. There was also a “clean up after your dog” article – sound familiar?

Let’s not forget the ads. One ad for Liberty Court, 200 Rector Pl., which just came on the market, offers a studio apartment for $138,000, a one-bedroom for $172,000, a two-bedroom for $306,000 and a three-bedroom (two and a half baths) for $825,000.

In the first few issues, Ellen Rosen, B.P.C.A. vice president for public affairs, was a hands-on advisor for Battery News and kept a close eye on the paper. I can still feel her breath on my neck — figuratively speaking, of course — as we put those early issues together. After all, Battery News was the authority’s own publication for a while before it became independent.

I stopped reporting here in 1990, the same year Battery News became Downtown News and, a few issues later, Downtown Express. I returned in 1997. The paper came out every two weeks and eventually every week. Through all its changes and growth, the paper reflected the changes and growth in the neighborhood. It was a thrill for me 20 years ago and it’s still a thrill.

Albert Amateau is a reporter with Community Media L.L.C., which owns Downtown Express. His byline was Al Amateau during his first stint with Battery News and Downtown Express.

Downtown Express is published by Community Media LLC. 145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013
Phone: (212) 229-1890 | Fax: (212) 229-2790 | Advertising: 646-452-2465 | © 2007 Community Media, LLC

Written permission of the publisher must be obtainedbefore any of the contents of this newspaper, in whole or in part, can be reproduced or redistributed.