Volume 20, Number 42 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | March 2 - 8, 2011
Covering Battery Park City
BY Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Brookfield Promotes World Financial Center Plans:
From the plate glass windows at the top of the Winter Garden staircase, the underground passageway that will connect the World Trade Center and the World Financial Center is clearly visible. Numerous workmen in day-glow vests bustle about their jobs — each forklift of dirt, each beam, bringing the tunnel inexorably closer. It is scheduled for completion early in 2013 and will convey thousands of office workers, tourists and residents a day into and out of Battery Park City.
“All of the commutation flow is going to come into the backside of the Winter Garden stairs,” said David T. Cheikin, vice president of leasing for Brookfield Properties, which owns the World Financial Center. “This is a place that was originally designed as emergency egress and ancillary retail and is not physically capable of handling 50,000 people in the morning and 50,000 people in the afternoon going in and out.”
Brookfield commissioned Booz Allen Hamilton, management and technology consultants, to study the traffic flow problem. Booz Allen’s recommendation was to demolish the staircase. Brookfield drew up plans accordingly along with plans for a new retail annex on the southern flank of 2 World Financial Center.
The conceptual plans are currently with the Battery Park City Authority, which owns the land on which the World Financial Center is built and is Brookfield’s landlord. The Authority has to approve the plans and has retained Philip Habib, a consultant, to study Brookfield’s circulation projections.
“We won’t be able to approve anything until we see the final plans,” said Leticia Remauro, spokesperson for the Authority.
Plans for a glass pavilion on the east side of the Winter Garden to shelter people as they exit from the underground passageway are with New York City’s Department of City Planning. Discussions about the plans are currently ongoing with City Planning.
“We don’t know when we’ll finally hear one way or the other,” said Cheikin.
“All of the pieces together are going to take a while to construct,” he said. “We don’t know exactly how long. I fear that if we don’t make a decision shortly the tunnel will open and have nowhere to go. The longer we wait for a decision, the more difficult it will be to implement the construction in a way that isn’t intrusive.”
Brookfield hopes to begin construction in January 2012 but that is by no means certain.
The Winter Garden staircase, which was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks and rebuilt, is beloved by many Battery Park City residents, who view it as an icon of the community’s rebirth. They are strongly opposed to Brookfield’s plans to demolish the staircase. Some would like to see the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission designate the stairs a “cultural landmark.”
“Demolition of the staircase would change the character of the Winter Garden,” said Battery Park City resident Justine Cuccia at Community Board 1’s February full board meeting. “No longer will it be a place to gather, to watch concerts and other events. No longer will it be shelter from the cold winter winds, offering the community free open space where you can sit, relax and read. In fact, the renditions presented by Brookfield to the Battery Park City Committee on February 2 make it clear that there will be no seating or gathering space whatsoever. The Winter Garden will become a thoroughfare instead of a destination like it is now.”
Melissa Coley, vice president of investor relations and communications for Brookfield, said Cuccia was wrong. According to Coley, after construction is completed, “Brookfield plans to retain the current Winter Garden seating — namely, the 32 benches under the palm trees and the west wall tables and chairs.” Plus, she added, Brookfield “will be putting in seating at the east end of the room. This is in addition to 750 public seats in the new dining terrace on the second floor” of the proposed reconfigured retail annex on the southern side of the building.
The free arts programming would also continue, said Coley, even during construction. “Brookfield has an enormous commitment to the arts,” said Debra Simon, Brookfield’s vice president of arts and events. “It’s a core component of its social responsibility program – to use the arts and events program to help build community through the arts. In excess of $40 million has been spent on the arts program at the World Financial Center since 1988.”
“There’s been zero public funding for this program for 23 years,” added Coley. “It’s all been privately funded by Brookfield.”
Cheikin noted that there’s a lot of space in the World Financial Center, and it might be necessary to use some of that space “creatively” during construction.
Simon speculated that, “We might have more events that are more intimate in nature so that we can accommodate the same number of people spread out over more events. We might do more visual art as opposed to performance art. We’re working very closely with construction to figure out the best use of the space we have to work with.” But, she reiterated, “The arts program will continue throughout the construction period.”
Should the staircase be demolished, Simon said that Brookfield is looking at other seating options, including temporary seating and some seating on the Winter Garden balconies.
This year, from April 20 to 23, the World Financial Center will host the free Tribeca Film Festival Drive-In on the plaza, and on June 19, the 12-hour-long Bang on a Can marathon will return to the Winter Garden.
“Bang on a Can is considered to be the most important contemporary music event in North America,” said Simon.
People come from as far away as Boston and Baltimore for World Financial Center arts programs, according to Simon. “We regularly get U.S. and international premieres and commissions. It really is an internationally recognized arts program.”
Simon has the Winter Garden booked for the remainder of 2011 and plans are already under way for January 2012. “We’ve made the Knickerbocker Orchestra an annual event,” she said. “We’d like to work with them again in January. We’re talking to the New York Guitar Festival to do the opening of their festival, which is biannual. And we’re talking to the Under the Radar Theater Festival. Everybody understands that they have to be a little flexible. We’ll see what kind of space we have to work with.”
Seniors Night Out:
You don’t have to live in Battery Park City to reserve a place for the second Battery Park City Seniors’ Night Out. It’s scheduled for Tuesday, March 8 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Izzy & Nat’s, 311 South End Ave. Everything on the menu will be half price; an RSVP is required.
“We had around 35 people at our first Seniors’ Night Out,” said Battery Park City resident Ruth Ohman, who organized the event, which took place on February 1. “It may just become a monthly tradition!”
Many who came to the first Seniors Night Out already knew each other, said Ohman, “but others did not and we’re looking to make new friends.”
Contact Ohman no later than March 7 to reserve a place. Her e-mail is email@example.com. Her phone is (212) 912-0678. You can also reserve by calling Izzy & Nat’s at (212) 619-5100.
Battery Park City Parks Conservancy Seeks Input:
The Battery Park City Parks Conservancy wants to know what the community thinks of its programming, most of which runs from May through October and most of which is free. The Conservancy offers gardening and sports programs, classes for people of all ages, family dances, art and garden tours, bird watching, fishing instruction and more.
On Wednesday, March 2, between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., the public is invited to weigh in with suggestions and comments at the Verdesian meeting room, 211 North End Avenue. Those who can’t attend the meeting can write to Abby Ehrlich, Director of Parks Programming, at any time. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
To comment on Battery Park City Beat or to suggest article ideas, e-mail TereseLoeb@mac.com