Volume 16 • Issue 24 |November 11 - 17, 2003


NEWS IN BRIEF



Downtown local

Downtown Express photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

Students worked on banners at P.S. 1 on Henry St. last Friday as part of a program sponsored by JP Morgan Chase.

Balachandran leaving?
Rumors are that Robert Balachandran will be stepping down as C.E.O. and president of the Hudson River Park Trust within “30 to 60 days.” Balachandran will reportedly be taking a job in the private sector with financial firm Bear Stearns. The rumor comes from “a high-up source in state government.”

Balachandran has held the top position on the Trust’s staff for the last four years. Connie Fishman, the Trust’s vice president and number-two staff person, will likely be appointed interim president, with a good chance of being named permanent president, according to a source. Balachandran’s departure would mark the second high-level change at the Trust in just six months. In May, after being appointed head of the Manhattan County Republican Committee, James Ortenzio stepped down as chairperson of the Trust’s board of directors to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

Chris Martin, the Trust’s spokesperson, said: “Where do you come up with this stuff? Rob is not leaving the Trust.”


New art club
Although it has been in official operation for little over a week, The Downtown Arts Club already boasts nearly 60 members. This new social club seeks to bring Lower Manhattan art enthusiasts together to increase cultural events Downtown by fostering and supporting new and existing arts organizations.

“Art is what makes it special to live in New York City, that’s why we’re here,” club organizer Michael Fortenbaugh said. “We’re just not hooked in as much as we want to be and this is a way that we can bring everybody together and we say, ‘Hey, let’s start supporting the art organizations that already exist in Lower Manhattan and let’s work together to build more.’”

The Downtown Arts Club will hold its first official gathering Thursday, Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Center headquarters, One Wall Street Court. Liz Thompson, L.M.C.C. executive director, will speak to the group and help brainstorm on future activities.

“The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council is like the fairy godmother of all arts organizations in Manhattan,” Fortenbaugh said.

Club organizers expect to hold at least four similar seasonal parties and other special events, including the “Beaux Arts Ball” benefit, slated for February, 2004, and the ongoing Skyline Project.

The Skyline Project will encourage selected artists to paint the skyline of Lower Manhattan. Beginning this Spring, artists will be invited to Manhattan Sailing School’s spectator barge in the New York Harbor to view and interpret the skyline.

“Our goal is to bring together a whole new crowd of art enthusiasts Downtown,” Fortenbaugh, the sailing school’s commodore said. “We want to get as many people driving as many people as possible to these great arts events.”

Club membership is open to all art enthusiasts and requires $20 yearly dues. Those interested can sign up or find out more by visiting the club’s Web site at www.downtownartsclub.com.


Classical concert
The Downtown Symphony will be performing a free concert Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. The event will take place in the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on Chambers St. near West St. The orchestra, made up of Tribeca residents, offers several free concerts yearly, including summer performances in Washington Square Park. The Nov. 12 presentation will include Beethoven’s “Coriolan Overture” and “Symphony Number 1”, and Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dances”, conducted by Douglas Anderson.


Garment job plan Downtown
A non-profit economic organization has applied to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation for $25 million in capital funding to keep garment jobs in Chinatown.

The New York Industrial Retention Network would like to help save some 2,500 garment jobs by providing affordable manufacturing space Downtown. An estimated 5,000 apparel jobs were lost in Chinatown after the terror attack of Sept. 11, 2001, according to a study by the Asian American Federation. These losses, coupled with the difficulty of securing long-term leases in Chinatown, have made it hard for garment businesses to remain in the neighborhood, said Marnie McGregor, a project manager at the New York Industrial Retention Network.

“Their biggest threat right now is real estate,” McGregor said of the garment industry.

McGregor presented her organization’s proposal, called the New York Fashion Space, last week to a Tribeca committee meeting of Community Board 1. She said the organization was in the process of identifying possible manufacturing sites Downtown. A building that the group originally hoped to use, 87-89 Leonard St., has since been sold for residential use, McGregor said.

George Olsen, a C.B. 1 member, said money would be better spent preserving manufacturing in less expensive parts of the city, such as industrial sections of Brooklyn. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a city-state agency formed in response to 9/11, can only fund programs south of Houston St. in Manhattan.

“Competing with residential conversions in Manhattan is not the place to be,” said Olsen, who is a real estate attorney.

Most of the $25 million would be used to buy and renovate manufacturing spaces, McGregor said. The industrial retention network would initially charge their tenants market-rate rent, but McGregor said it hoped to provide savings over time. One big benefit the network would provide is a stable, long-term lease, since many Chinatown landlords do not grant leases or give them only on a month-to-month basis, she added.

Many community members supported the idea of a mixed-use Tribeca but questioned whether it would be appropriate to use L.M.D.C. money to fund the project. Creating new schools, for example, would represent a better priority for the funds, some said.

The L.M.D.C. has approximately $1 billion left to spend out of its more than $2 billion budget, and the agency is currently reviewing proposals for the use of those funds. The agency has not named retaining manufacturing jobs as a priority although officials have spoken of the need to help Chinatown’s economy recover.

Tribeca Committee members said they would not take a position on the New York Fashion Space project until they learned more about it.


Correction
In our article last week about lead tests in Lower Manhattan, the two numbers of samples were mistakenly transposed. The correct sentence should have read, “Of the 21 pre-cleaning samples taken in [Jo] Polett’s building as part of the E.P.A.’s residential clean-and-test program, six, or 28.5 percent, were found to have elevated levels of lead.”


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