Former Assembly Speaker Who Represented Lower Manhattan Before Facing Prison Dies at 77
Sheldon Silver, pictured with Congressman Jerry Nadler, on the subway in September, 2011, extolling the recovery of Lower Manhattan in the decade after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Sheldon Silver, the longtime Speaker of the State Assembly, who fell from power in 2015 and was imprisoned on federal corruption charges in 2020, died on Monday afternoon at age 77.
First elected to the State legislature in 1976, Mr. Silver represented Lower Manhattan in Albany. After 15 years in the Assembly, he moved up to the chairmanship of its powerful Ways and Means Committee. In 1994 (upon the death of the previous Speaker, Saul Weprin), he was elected to lead the chamber. Less than a year later, Republican George Pataki succeeded longtime Governor Mario Cuomo. That change had the effect of anointing Mr. Silver the most powerful Democratic Party elected official in New York State. Through the tenures of three mayors and six governors, nothing wanted by any occupant of City Hall or the Executive Mansion (from either party) got done without Mr. Silver’s consent.
This status translated into enormous benefits for his constituency, which consisted (roughly) of Lower Manhattan up to Vesey Street on the West Side and as far north as Houston Street on the East Side. From his perch atop the Assembly, he guarded his constituency against the predations of City and State officials who often seemed to regard Lower Manhattan as an asset to be monetized. He also lavished resources on the community.
“He helped get five new schools built, saved a sixth, built us a community center, saved another community center, and got many, many other things this community desperately needed,” observed Paul Hovitz, the former co-chair Community Board 1 (CB1), who knew and worked with Mr. Silver for decades.
“He was indispensable in getting P.S. 89/I.S. 289 built in Battery Park City in 1997,” recalled Mr. Hovitz. Then, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, “he helped raise $17 million in capital funds from corporate donors to open the Millennium High School in the Financial District. This was a moment when the eyes of the nation and the world were on Lower Manhattan, and it was the first time that a community had raised this kind of money to open a new school.”
A few years later, Mr. Hovitz remembered, “the developers of a new building near the Brooklyn Bridge had an agreement with Pace University, which wanted to lease space there. But when Pace backed out, Shelly moved in, and persuaded the Department of Education to take the space for a new school, which became Spruce Street.” Around the same time, Mr. Silver helped broker a deal to take over a vacant site in Battery Park City (which the Pataki administration had earmarked for a Women’s Museum) for another new school, which became P.S./I.S. 276.
Later, Mr. Silver was instrumental in negotiating an agreement between the federal government and the City’s Department of Education (DOE) to take over the building that once housed the Peck Slip post office, and convert that into a yet another new school. And in 2014, Mr. Silver led a fight to stop a plan by the City’s Department of Education to move the highly regarded Tribeca school, P.S. 150, out of the neighborhood.
In 2014, Mr. Silver (second from left) was honored for his help in creating the new park on Governors Island. He is shown with Lower Manhattan leaders and Community Board 1 members (from left) Mark Costello, Catherine McVay Hughes, Bob Townley, Paul Hovitz, and Ro Scheffe.
“He helped build the Downtown Community Center,” noted Bob Townley, executive director of Manhattan Youth, which is headquartered in the Warren Street facility that opened in 2008. (In 2014, Mr. Silver also intervened to stop a Battery Park City Authority plan to close another community center, this one located in Stuyvesant High School.)
Reviewing Mr. Silver’s tenure in 2015, Mr. Townley added, “Shelly also built ballfields, parks, and hospitals. After September 11, he directed the recovery of Lower Manhattan, securing grants for tenants and benefits for homeowners, along with a thousand other things, large and small. I remember in the days after September 11, Shelly got permission for Manhattan Youth vans to pass through police check points and drive over the Battery Park City Esplanade, so we could transport people to grocery stores.”
“After September 11,” added Mr. Hovitz, “Shelly arranged for water and food to be brought into Lower Manhattan, and then got portable electrical generators trucked in. And he did the same things all over again after Hurricane Sandy.”
The late Tom Goodkind, a Battery Park City resident and member of CB1, who was (until his death in 2019, from a September 11-related cancer) a passionate advocate in the struggle to preserve rent protections in Lower Manhattan, called him “a leader on affordable housing.” Three times, in 1998, 2005, and 2009, Mr. Silver took part in negotiations that created (and subsequently preserved) a form of rent protection for tenants in Gateway Plaza, Battery Park City’s largest residential complex.
“In addition to the big issues, there were so many smaller things that it’s easy to forget,” said Mr. Hovitz. “Shelly singlehandedly stopped the Bloomberg plan for congestion pricing, which would have required Lower Manhattan residents to pay a toll every time they drove into or out of their neighborhood, and would have been a disaster for everybody who lives here. He arranged for crossing guards at dangerous intersections on West Street. He made grants to keep the senior center at Southbridge Towers operating.”
Mr. Silver outside the federal court house in Lower Manhattan, following his conviction in July, 2020.
Mr. Silver’s reign came to an end on January 22, 2015, when FBI agents raided his home and arrested him on charges of extortion, wire fraud, and mail fraud. Within weeks, he had resigned from his post as Speaker of the Assembly, but remained as a member. Eleven months later, he was convicted in federal court on all counts, which resulted in his automatic expulsion from the Assembly.
Mark Costello, who served for many years on CB1 (and is also a former federal prosecutor and New York County assistant district attorney), observed after Mr. Silver’s conviction that, “he was deeply and personally involved and invested in every new school, every new or renovated park, and every other bread-and-butter community initiative on the West Side for the last quarter century. He saw government as a million little deals and compromises. Each of those deals created something of value for his district. But bigger worries—congestion pricing, the Battery Park City ground leases—were always pushed into the future. He was a good man with flawed, old-fashioned methods. We are much more at the mercy of Wall Street and the governor without Shelly Silver.”
Pat Smith is a longtime Battery Park City resident who, as part of a committee representing condominium owners, worked closely with Mr. Silver on 2011 negotiations that led to a 30-year, $280-million rollback of previously scheduled increases in ground rents for homeowners in the neighborhood. Mr. Smith reflected at the time of Mr. Silver’s conviction that, “the jury has spoken and we must accept the verdict. But we must remember Sheldon Silver, and the good he did, as well. In the ground rent negotiations, he sought no compensation or upside for himself. He did this because it was what his constituents needed. He also made important contributions to the recovery of Lower Manhattan after September 11, 2001. My mother always told me to say, ‘thank you.’ And all that Sheldon Silver ever asked of us was our thanks.”
Following his 2015 conviction (which resulted in a sentence of 12 years in federal prison), Mr. Silver pursued a series of appeals, during which he remained free on bail. In July, 2017, his conviction was overturned on technical grounds. Federal prosecutors resolved to try him again, however, resulting in a second set of convictions on the same charges. Mr. Silver appealed this verdict, resulting in three of the seven counts against him being dismissed. But in July, 2020, he was sentenced on the remaining four counts to six and one-half years of incarceration. The following month, he reported to a federal prison in upstate New York, to begin serving his sentence.
In January, 2021, former president Donald Trump seriously considered pardoning Mr. Silver on his last day in the Oval Office. This possibility was harshly criticized by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo, who had happily worked with Mr. Silver for as long as the Speaker held power, but joined in the chorus of condemnation when he was convicted. Mr. Cuomo’s umbrage at the prospect of Mr. Silver’s being shown clemency provided an ironic counterpoint to own departure from office, in disgrace, eight months later.
In May, 2021, Mr. Silver was briefly released from custody because underlying medical conditions (he suffered from kidney disease and cancer) made him especially vulnerable to the COVID pandemic. But following a public uproar, he was ordered back to prison. As his health deteriorated further, Mr. Silver was transferred to a federal prison hospital in Massachusetts. It was there that he died on Monday.
“Downtown had one of the most powerful people in the State representing us,” Mr. Goodkind reflected at the time of Mr. Silver’s 2015 conviction. “For this, Sheldon Silver will be greatly missed. For this, he will not be forgotten.”
“Downtown may never have another leader as helpful as Shelly Silver,” said Mr. Townley. “He has a legacy that cannot be disputed.”
“The future of Lower Manhattan is going to be very different without him,” reflected Mr. Hovitz. “Losing Sheldon Silver was a body blow to this community.”
Lower Manhattan Rentals Increase in Price, While Condo Sales Drift
A new study from the online real estate database company, StreetEasy, shows that the cost for renting an apartment in three Lower Manhattan neighborhoods spiraled during the fourth quarter of 2021, while the fluctuation in purchase prices was more complicated.
For tenants, median asking rents jumped (relative to the same period one year earlier) by 38.7 percent in the Financial District (to $4,300), 20.8 percent in Tribeca (to $7,700) and 13.1 percent in Battery Park City (to $4,441) per month.
For those wishing to purchase a condominium or cooperative, the picture was more mixed. In Tribeca, the median asking price climbed by 12.5 percent (to $4.49 million), but the median closing prices rose by a more modest 6.6 percent ($3.3 million). In FiDi, the median ask rose by 7.2 percent (to $1.28 million), but median closing prices actually fell by 0.2 percent, to $1.27 million. And in Battery Park City, the median asking price dropped by 8.8 percent (to $1 million), while the median closing price dipped by 13.8 percent (to $844,500).
Re: Beside the Pointe (The BroadsheetDAILYJanuary 12)
To the editor:
This article has lots of nonsense. First of all the BPC authority allows the landlords on their land to get away with murder.
The Tribeca Pointe building has received a gross amount of tax abatements over the last 20+ years but was never affordable for middle class, unless you believe that $7000-$9000 a month for a 2 bedroom is affordable middle class housing.
They have collected well above market rate rents since opening and paid no tax!
Hello BPC Authority and elected officials, stop pretending you’re doing something for the masses when you are doing nothing.
BPC is patting themselves on the back for making an agreement with Rockrose to give them 100’s of millions more in tax abatements in order to keep what is less than 70 apartments for low income.
The reality is that a large number of the people in those apartments live elsewhere and make a mint putting those low rent apartments on Air B&B or using them as a pied-a-Terre. If BPC or the Elected officials cared about affordable housing there would be more of it and what Rockrose does at their Tribeca Pointe building should have been investigated before doling our more millions to the billionaire landlord who collects a mint in rents in that building already.
To the editor:
Although additional routes to Governors Island are nice keep in mind they are not free. For those of limited means the cost for recreation is not inconsiderable if you must take mass transit to a ferry stop and pay additionally for the ferry and double that for a return.
Transport alone for a family unit of two would be $20 for the day and would easily be more depending on ages and numbers of the family unit. Add to that food costs.
Living in NYC we all know is not cheap but why cant a way be found to help out those who should be able to enjoy the rec opportunities of their more affluent neighbors. Our electeds and representatives should add money to their good wishes which if not financially supported are meaningless.
Eyes to the Sky
January 24 – February 4, 2022
Halfway to spring, be mesmerized by winter stars, captivated by crescent moon, planets
Winter skies are the most inviting to naked eye stargazers, and for including children when the brightest stars in the heavens appear in early evening, before bedtime.
The mighty constellation, Orion the Hunter, floats above the southeast horizon as darkness gathers, by about 6pm. Fiercely twinkling Sirius the Dog Star rises around 5:30pm and appears above obstructed views by 6:30pm. Sirius, the brightest star in Earth’s skies, throws off magnificent flashes of full-spectrum colors. The constellation Canis major, aka the Great Dog, and Orion trace an arc from east-southeast to west-southwest, where they set at about 1:30am. See the brightest stars arrive in the south by about 9pm and over the Hudson River during the nighttime hours.
Groundhog Day, February 2, marks the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.
In Architecture Unbound noted architecture critic JOSEPH GIOVANNINI traces our current architecture landscape to the disruptive scientific advances and transgressive and progressive art movements that roiled Europe before and after World War I, and then to the social unrest and cultural disruptions of the 1960s. Cumulative shifts across disciplines and social systems established fertile new ground for the rise of an inventive, antiauthoritarian architecture that, in the 1970s, challenged the status quo. Built manifestoes in the 1980s led to digital inventions of the 1990s, and after the turn of the millennium to climax structures that now populate world capitals competing for cultural stature on the international stage. Free
Museum of American Financial History,”Wednesday Webinar. Eight-part series on retirement planning. These programs are designed to introduce you to the many possible sources of retirement income and resources, including social security, medicare, pension options including 401(k)s, individual retirement accounts and annuities, as well as the complex issues faced when planning for loved ones with wills and/or trusts. Today: Understanding Your Social Security Benefits Vincent Scocozza reviews when you are eligible to receive retirement benefits, how early retirement affects your benefits, the requirements for spousal benefits, survivors benefits, and when you should file for Medicare. Free
In the aftermath of the Holocaust, many Jewish writers turned to pen and paper to reckon with the enormity of their loss. The stories they wrote—both fiction and nonfiction—bring to life the darkest moments of human history at the same time as they remind us of the human capacity for renewal and regeneration. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, join the Museum for a reading of three such short stories: “The Road of No Return” by Rachel Häring Korn read by Jackie Hoffman, “The Shawl” by Cynthia Ozick read by Mili Avital, and “A Wedding in Brownsville” by Isaac Bashevis Singer. The program will premiere at 10 AM Eastern Time and be available all day.Free; suggested $10 donation,
“Long live Chairman Mao” was the first English language sentence the Lijia Zhang ever learned. “Foreign language is a tool of class struggle” was the second. On January 27, the author of Socialism is Great and Lotus, will take us back in time to the missile factory where she worked in the early 1980s, and discuss how learning English at night helped open her mind and break out into a career as an internationally acclaimed writer and journalist. She’ll share how English has helped millions of Chinese forge important bonds with the world, and how attitudes toward learning English are changing today.
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
Ethical and respectable gentleman, an IT Wizard, seeks a living/work space in BPC. Can be a Computer help to you and your business, or will guarantee $1,500 for rental. Reciprocal would be great! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
20+ years experience
Providing Companion and Home Health Aide Care to clients with dementia.Help with grooming, dressing and wheelchair assistance. Able to escort client to parks and engage in conversations of desired topics and interests of client. Reliable & Honest
78 year old refined intellectual gentleman having a passion for cruises and travel seeking a male or female caregiver/companion in exchange for all expense paid venture on the ocean. Only requirement is relationship comfort between us and ability to help with physical care regarding the limitations and restrictions of COPD.
Last summer, Janet Lovell—“Ms. Janet” to her many young charges—retired after 35 years at the Battery Park City Day Nursery. As she stood outside the nursery school on her last day, kids of all ages and their parents came by to reminisce and wish her well. As planned, Janet soon retired to her native Belize.
In October, her sister Denise visited Janet and her husband in Belize. On their way to a resort to celebrate, they were in a car accident. Denise was killed and Janet sustained a devastating spinal cord injury.
Ms. Janet is back in New York for medical attention. If you would like to send good wishes to this wonderful woman who has meant so much to many of our children, the nursery school will collect notes, cards, letters and artwork and forward them to her. Please mail (or drop off) your messages to Janet Lovell c/o the Battery Park City Day Nursery, 215 South End Ave, New York, NY 10280, and administrative director Judy Sklover will forward them to her. If you have any questions, please email the nursery at email@example.com and address your messages to Judy Sklover.
A fundraiser to help Janet pay mounting expenses has been set up by parents of her former charges.
Curb, His Enthusiasm?
Plutocrat with Passion for Historic Properties Buys American Stock Exchange Building
A Lower Manhattan landmark that nobody seems to know what to do with has been purchased by a billionaire known for buying properties that nobody knows what to do with.
Ron Burkle, who made his first fortune buying and consolidating chains of supermarkets in California during the 1980s, paid $155 million in October for the American Stock Exchange Building at 86 Trinity Place, which has been closed since 2008.
City Hall Finalizes Seaport Resiliency Plan Days Before Administrations Change
In one of its last acts in office, the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio released the finalized version of its Financial District and Seaport Climate Resilience Master Plan, which aims to protect the nearly mile-long stretch of East River waterfront between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.
Projected to cost between $5 and $7 billion, and to take a minimum of 15 years to construct, the plan focuses on “passive” flood defense, which translates into refashioning the landscape and elevating the riverbank, thus creating a physical barrier that will stop flood waters. The documents released by City Hall in December envision building a network of decks, berms, and breakwaters that will extend into the East River between 90 and 200 feet. The outermost edge of this complex would rise to an elevation between three and five feet above the waterline, while its landward side would reach as high as 15 feet.
What Never Went Up in the First Place, Still Comes Down…
Lower Manhattan Site Purchased for $390 Million Being Shopped for Half-Off
In a story first reported by the Real Deal, the financial distress plaguing property investment firm China Oceanwide Holdings (itself part of the wider contagion surrounding Shenzhen-based real estate firm, Evergrande) has led to a fire-sale price for a trophy Lower Manhattan parcel.
The company purchased 80 South Street (located between John Street and Maiden Lane) from the Howard Hughes Corporation in 2016 for $390 million. This transaction included a companion site, at 163 Front Street, that shares a mid-block border with 80 South Street. The combined parcel, plus air rights from nearby lots purchased and assembled by Howard Hughes, gave China Oceanwide the right to build a tower with a height of more than 1,400 feet, enclosing more than one million square feet of interior space. To read more…
Beside the Pointe
At 41 River Terrace, Affordability Provisions Extended for Low-Income Residents But Not for Middle-Income Renters
The Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) announced Tuesday that it had reached an agreement to preserve 70 affordable rental apartments in the Tribeca Pointe building through the year 2069. The deal will require that the building owner, Rockrose, continue to offer deeply discounted rents to residents of 70 apartments within the 340-unit structure. These households are set aside for residents earning below either 40 or 50 percent of the “area median income” (AMI). This income bracket currently ranges from $33,440 to $41,800 (for a household consisting of one person), and goes as high as $47,720 to $59,650 (for a household of four).
When Tribeca Pointe opened in 1999, these requirements translated into $343 or $429 per month in a studio (for those earning up to 40 or 50 percent of AMI, respectively), $368 or $459 for a one-bedroom apartment, and $441 or $451 for a two-bedroom unit. Today, the same formulas (which cap rent at 30 percent of the two income thresholds) restrict rent on a studio apartment, inhabited by one person, to $836 (for a tenant earning below 40 percent of AMI) or $1045 (for a renter earning below 50 percent of AMI).
Annual Food Fest Puts Lavish Meals within Reach of Thrifty Epicures
New York’s annual food celebration, Restaurant Week continues for five weeks, until Saturday (February 13).
For those disinclined to venture above Canal Street, the goods news is that of all the 481 establishments participating throughout the City this year, more than five percent are located in Lower Manhattan.
The Bowling Green Greenmarket brings fresh offerings from local farms to Lower Manhattan’s historic Bowling Green plaza. Twice a week year-round stop by to load up on the season’s freshest fruit, crisp vegetables, beautiful plants, and freshly baked loaves of bread, quiches, and pot pies.