Volume 21, Number 50 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | April 24 - 30, 2009
By Janel Bladow
April showers and wild downward ride on Wall St. opened the week…talk about getting soaked! Let’s hope the month winds up with some spring zing and ca- ching!
Wall Street Woe…
The disaster that is the stock market and U.S. economy is being felt all over the South Street Seaport or S3. Residential buildings that were vacated to renovate and bring in high-paying tenants are still sitting empty, some more than six months. Storefronts that should have been snapped up and turned into chic shops only sport “For Rent” signs in windows. All along Front, Water, John, Fulton Sts. and below, you can hear rumblings…
“Don’t think it’s only us,” says Anita Gomes who owns and operates Harbor Café on Peck Slip with her husband Armando. “Everybody’s hurting.” Speaking a few days before the nearby Seaport mall’s owner filed for bankruptcy, she went on to tell Seaport Report that other businesspeople are lamenting the disappearance of Wall St. workers, hotel guests, workers and general visitors to the area. It’s more than the usual winter doldrums, she says, adding that over the last several months, the café has seen its breakfast and lunch crowds dwindle. “We’ve cut hours, staff.” She points to a half-filled rack of chips and says that the couple is only ordering what they know will sell.
The Gomes have grappled to keep their mom & pop spot open for the last nine years. “It’s a struggle,” Anita says, “Always up and down.” She recounts to S.R. how they opened the spot with its handful of tables six months before 9/11. “At the start it was very bad.” Only neighbors, hotel guests and fish market workers patronized the place. Then as business grew to include Con Edison and construction workers, the next setback hit — the Fulton Fish Market moved, taking with it much of their coffee and lunch trade. They fought to rebuild their customer base over the next few years and bam, “now this comes. It’s not a really good time,” she says.
When S.R. asked about rumors that the Harbor is closing, Anita says it’s something they might have to consider. “Our lease is up in one more year. We don’t know what will happen. The landlord is tough.
“My husband wants to retire, but not me, I have to find something else. I have to work every day. I will try harder and harder. The area is nice. We want to be here.”
The small storefront next door to the east of Harbor and part of the Best Western Seaport Inn, is expected to become a tiny wine bar but that too has taken time to happen. So support our neighbors. Stop by and say hi.
Last week General Growth Properties, which operates the South Street Seaport and Pier 17 Mall, filed for bankruptcy. So now what happens and will upcoming events actually happen?
Not to worry says Lincoln Palsgrove IV, the marketing manager. “Actually we’re relieved. It’s exciting and liberating at the same time. We don’t have to worry about finances for once!” Palsgrove adds that the bankruptcy filing doesn’t affect scheduled plans. “The summer is more robust than expected. We’re going to have more events, plays, concerts, movies. Things don’t stop. People are talking to me like there was a death in the family but, you know, life goes on.”
The bankruptcy, he explains to S.R., is behind the scenes, while out on Fulton St., it’s fun as usual. “The property pops in summer as you know,” he adds, ticking off some of the fun things to look forward to: June 13 is Children’s Day, opera on the pier series of free concerts, Water Taxi Beach on the north side of the pier which will be filled with sand and turned into Clipper City. “They plan to show movies so there’ll be lots of fun things to do there too.”
Additionally, the fish shops along South St. will be converted into a green market with vendors from tri-state farms and wineries selling locally grown, raised and fermented foods and drinks on Fridays and Saturdays.
”It’s going to make that dismal strip north of Fulton St. vibrant and green,” Palsgrove adds. Check back here to find out when the Fulton Stall Market officially opens or go to www.southstreetseaport.com. And don’t forget, Friday, May 1, Seaport Idol tryouts…show off your talents on Pier 17.
Over at the Seamen’s Church Institute, there’s celebration and concern. Concern for the rising incidences of piracy on the high seas around the world and risks to merchant sailors. Approximately a million merchant mariners deliver more than 90-percent of the world’s trade to markets and destinations around the world. Last year ships suffered 293 pirate attacks and 889 seafarers were taken hostage. “Piracy is an international crime against all humanity,” says a statement on the S.C.I. Web site, which has info on an online petition against piracy.
In the meantime, Seamen’s celebrates its 175 years of service to these sailors this year. Begun as a small grassroots mission to the Episcopal Church, the institute now is the largest mariner’s agency in North America. Mariners spend weeks to months onboard ships, away from family and their communities. “The actual work of the mariner is stressful and dangerous,” says the Rev. David M. Rider, president and executive director of S.C.I., “and is compounded by unpredictable weather conditions and long journeys across sometimes pirate-infested waters.”
To advance their advocacy and raise funds for their many programs, S.C.I. is hosting many anniversary events during the year.
Tuesday night, S.C.I. celebrated President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s commitment to the maritime community and his 40 years as a board member, during which time S.C.I. constructed a building at 25 South St. to house nearly 600 tired sailors while in port. The evening was part of the South Street Seaport Museum’s Anniversary Lecture Series. Nancy Roosevelt Ireland, a granddaughter of F.D.R., introduced a presentation by Lynn Bassanese, deputy director of the F.D.R. Presidential Library and Museum, and the library’s Herman Eberhardt led a guided tour through the museum’s exhibition of F.D.R.’s ship models and naval art.
Top Dogs & Designer…
Two local shops made Time Out’s annual best independent shops in N.Y.C. list — hearty cheers to Amanda and everyone at The Salty Paw and the fashion forward Andrea Katz of AKO.