The Broadsheet – Lower Manhattan’s Local Newspaper
City Bestows Richer Subsidies and a Longer Contract on Passenger Boat Service
The ferry terminal on the Esplanade (near Vesey Street), where the City inaugurated in August a new ferry service between Battery Park City and Staten Island, hosts 50 vessels each weekday and 20 vessels on weekend days to and from Staten Island.
City Hall is poised to increase its already-lavish support of the NYC Ferry service by tens of millions of dollars. In a story first reported by the City, a nonprofit, digital news platform, the board of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) on December 14 approved up to $62 million in additional subsidies for the ferry service, which the administration of then-Mayor Bill de Blasio launched in 2017 as one of its signature initiatives.
NYC Ferry is the company designated by the EDC (a non-profit entity that negotiates strategic partnerships on behalf of City Hall, designed to harness private-sector resources to public projects, and thus foster economic growth) to operate the system, which includes eight routes, connecting all five boroughs, for the same price as a subway or bus ride.
Because the ferry network is vastly more expensive to operate than trains or buses, charging this modest fare requires substantial support from taxpayers. According to a report released by the independent Citizen’s Budget Commission in March, 2019, “at $10.73 per ride, its operating subsidy is ten times that of the New York City Transit system. Furthermore, NYC Ferry transports fewer people annually than the subway transports in one day.” That report also noted that these subsidies are five times greater than those provided to the Staten Island Ferry (which is free), and that this support was already poised to become more lavish once the NYC Ferry system launched new routes connecting Staten Island and Coney Island to Manhattan: “the recently announced expansion of service will require even greater public subsidies — reaching as much as $24.75 per ride for the Coney Island route,” which is slated to launch soon. (The Staten Island route began service, with connections to Battery Park City and Hudson Yards, in August.)
The increased subsidy of $62 million approved in December comes on top of a previous cash injection authorized in the EDC in February, 2020, which boosted taxpayer support for the service by $64 million.
In a separate (but related) development, Hornblower (the private contractor that operates the NYC Ferry fleet) has been facing serious financial difficulties, in spite of the generous public support it receives. As ridership fell by more than three-quarters during the New York State On Pause lockdown ordered by public health officials in 2020, which came during the warm-weather months that are NYC Ferry’s busiest season, the company’s fleet was largely idled. Its debt was downgraded twice by bond rating agencies. Hornblower was able to raise much-needed cash in the fourth quarter of 2020 only by pledging as collateral the assets associated with another lucrative franchise (tour boats that operate near Niagara Falls) to new lenders.
The generous public support that makes the NYC Ferry service possible buys passengers a more comfortable commute than the subway can offer, with amenities like the onboard availability of food and alcohol, wireless internet connectivity, and a breathtaking view.
These conveniences are enjoyed primarily by white passengers who earn more money than average New Yorkers, according to a 2019 analysis from the EDC, which noted that, “36 percent of riders identify as non-white or multiracial.” (This connotes that nearly two-thirds of riders are white.) The same report noted that, “35 percent of riders make less than $75,000 per year,” which indicates that 65 percent earn more than that amount, while also documenting that ferry users’ “median income [is] between $75,000 to $99,999.” For New York City as a whole, the median individual income is $50,825, according to U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013-2017 American Community Survey. This indicates that a typical NYC Ferry rider earns 50 to 100 percent more than a representative resident of the five boroughs.
These demographics may hinge largely on geography. NYC Ferry passengers often inhabit waterfront neighborhoods that are either historically fashionable or are rapidly gentrifying. Residents living within half a mile of a NYC Ferry stop and earning more than the City’s median income outnumber those living inside the same radius, but earning less than the City-wide median, by a margin of more than six to one.
Whether the new administration of Mayor Eric Adams will attach the same priority to the NYC Ferry service as did his predecessor remains to be seen. In the meantime, the EDC also decided at its December 14 meeting to extend the term of NYC Ferry’s contract by five months (to September 30, 2023), because, “the current expiration date of the Operating Agreement would require a transition to the new agreement during the extremely busy summer season.”
“It is advisable to extend the term of the current Operating Agreement… to ensure a smooth operational transition to the new operating agreement in the slower fall season,” the minutes from the EDC’s December meeting note. Why the impracticality of switching operators (or keeping the same operator, but transitioning to revised terms) in the midst of the summer season appears not to have occurred to the negotiators who agreed upon the City’s original contract with NYC Ferry, or to anybody else during the previous five years, was not immediately clear.
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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).
In Claude Lanzmann’s seminal nine-and-a-half-hour film SHOAH, he chose not to use any images of the Holocaust, telling the story instead solely through the words of witnesses. By contrast, art historian Georges Didi-Huberman and contemporary artist Gerhard Richter have both emphasized the power of images to reflect and educate—the former in his book Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz, and the latter in a series of paintings titled “Birkenau.” Join the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Fritz Ascher Society for a lecture exploring the tension between these different perspectives on images, words, and the Holocaust with German art historian and curator Eckhart Gillen. Gillen will ground the discussion in the example of Boris Lurie, the subject of the Museum’s special exhibition Boris Lurie: Nothing To Do But To Try, who used art to access his buried memories before he was able to address them with words. Free; suggested $10 donation
Join the Museum and Our Travel Circle for a virtual walking tour of Venice, Italy, home to the one of the oldest Jewish ghettos in the world. Established in 1516, the Venetian Ghetto became a model for other Jewish ghettos elsewhere. The Ghetto was home to the world’s first “skyscrapers” and the first-ever production of William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, noted for its antisemitic themes. On our walking tour, we will explore the neighborhood’s establishment; the history of Napoleon’s march on Venice in 1797, when restrictions on the city’s Jewish residents were lifted; and the Nazi occupation of Venice in 1943. $36
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: The Importance of Retirement Planning. Gerri Walsh reviews the importance of compound interest and the many tax-deferred opportunities that help individuals plan for a comfortable and stress-free retirement. Free
Ring in the Year of the Tiger at Brookfield Place! Experience a multi-day celebration that includes a live ice carving, kids crafts and more! Discover ice sculptures by New York City-based art collective, Okamoto Studio, on the Waterfront Plaza. In celebration of the Lunar New Year there will be a live ice carving and display all weekend long. Free
Elly Gotz was born in 1928 in Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania. When he was 13 years old, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union and Elly and his family were forced into a ghetto. When the ghetto was later liquidated, Elly was transported to the Dachau concentration camp, where he labored in an underground factory for a German company named Moll. After being liberated in 1945, Elly and his family lived in Germany, desperate to emigrate. In the spring of 1947, they were accepted to Norway as refugees, and later that year they were able to immigrate to Zimbabwe to join extended family members. Elly eventually moved to Johannesburg and then Toronto, where he established several businesses and achieved his lifelong dream of becoming a pilot. In 2017, at the age of 89, he fulfilled another dream by going skydiving. Join the Museum for a Stories Survive program with Elly Gotz exploring his remarkable journey of survival and rebuilding. Free; suggested $10 donation,
Is design art? In the hands of Han Feng, it sure is. The Hangzhou-born clothing designer first brought her fashion work into the performing arts with costumes for Anthony Minghella’s Madame Butterfly at the English National Opera and the Met Opera. Her bespoke couture designs meld Chinese motifs and craftmanship with a bold, modern sensibility. Her passion for the connections between design and art has now led her to open a gallery in Shanghai and to support emerging artists through a residency in New York. Join us online, as Han Feng discusses inspiration, designs and art with her longtime friend, Nancy Berliner, Senior Curator of Chinese art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Free
Online film streaming. A man in his seventies is evicted from his Manhattan apartment in Harry and Tonto (1974, Paul Mazursky), and then embarks on a cross-country odyssey with his beloved cat Tonto. Registration required Free
Light up your best “après-ski” look and strut your stuff at our cold weather family-friendly silent dance party. Three live DJs from QuietEvents will illuminate the night as they pump beats through illuminated headphones to get you moving. Headphones are free, ID required, RSVP highly recommended. Free
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.
New American Opera Now in Performance at Museum of Jewish Heritage
The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene is now presenting the New York City Opera’s production of “The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage (36 Battery Place) for eight performances, through February 6.
The story, which also inspired Vittorio De Sica’s acclaimed 1970 film adaptation, traces the genteel (but ultimately lethal) isolation of an extended family who wall themselves off from the rise of Benito Mussolini, and Italy’s subsequent embrace of Nazi Germany, which makes anti-Semitism the official policy of the country their clan had lived in for centuries.
Hundreds of Local Storefronts Remain Rented to Corporate Brands, While Small Businesses Struggle, and Landlords Warehouse Empty Space
A new report from the Center for an Urban Future (CUF), a public policy think tank that uses data-driven research to bring attention to overlooked issues, documents that the proliferation of chain stores in Lower Manhattan has decreased slightly during the past 12 months, while the same tally for the City as whole ticked upward.
For small businesses, the outlook appears to be bleaker. To read more…
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.
francois x sorba says
I just subscribed and I saw an article regarding the Radisson Hotel being used as a shelter. We are moving to FIDI and I am interested in knowing more about the situation. How can I found out about the present status, .