Alliance Explains Cessation and Restoration of Shuttle Service
The Downtown Connection shuttle bus service has returned.
After restarting the Downtown Connection shuttle bus program on Monday, the Downtown Alliance (which operates the service) sent a representative to the Wednesday meeting of the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1) to offer background on why it had been on hiatus.
Taina Prado, the Alliance’s chief of staff, began with some history. “I thought I would start with a brief recap of what happened with the bus before the disruption of service,” she began. “Following the height of COVID, our original bus operator, Golden Touch went out of business. They just couldn’t survive the pandemic.”
“With a little bit of advance notice, we ended up getting another operator, American Tour and Travel,” she continued. “At that time, we didn’t have to disrupt service. We were with them about ten months or so.”
“In September, as many people noticed, the buses switched from red to the white,” Ms. Prado recounted. “This was because American Tour and Travel informed us that they were having difficulty securing proper vehicle insurance for the red buses. So they came to us and said, ‘we’re having this problem with the insurance, but we don’t want to leave you with no buses, so we’re going to provide these alternatives to avoid any disruption of service, and continue the route working. And, as you know, these white buses, unfortunately, were not compliant,” with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
She noted that American Tour and Travel represented that it would taken them a few weeks to secure the necessary insurance. “They told us it was related to COVID,” she recalled, “and there were delays with the Department of Transportation. We thought it was going to be short amount of time. But it just kept on getting delayed through September and October.”
“And then, just before Thanksgiving, we learned on our own that the insurance for the white buses was about to lapse,” Ms. Prado noted. “That was a serious safety concern for the riders and for the for the drivers. So obviously, we were never going to run the service without proper insurance.”
“They kept on telling us, ‘we’re going to get it to you before it expires,’” she recalled. “They still thought they would convince us. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. They weren’t able to get the the proper level of insurance that we felt comfortable with. We very soon realized that they were not professional, and they were not somebody that we wanted to be in business with anymore. And we made the hard decision to just discontinue service. So, regretfully, we had to stop the service on November 23rd.”
At that point, the Alliance quickly issued a request for proposals to recruit a replacement operator for the service. “Finding a reputable operator to run such a small route in a very specific area, for the amount of money that we can afford to pay was very challenging,” Ms. Prado said.
It took several weeks of frenetic activity to review the proposals and vet all the respondents. Shortly before the end of the year, the Alliance’s board approved a contract with D and J Ambulette Service to be the new operator. The Alliance’s staff initially projected that it would take until January 15 to relaunch the Downtown Connection, but an accelerated transition and training schedule make it possible to compress this schedule, and instead resume the service on Monday, January 3.
“The new operator has the red buses, which are ADA-compliant” Ms. Prado said. “And the NextBus tracker is working both on our website and the app.”
Maryanne Braverman, a leader of the Battery Park City Seniors group, noted the hardship that the hiatus of the Downtown Connection service imposed on elderly residents, who rely on it for local transport, and for whom the handicapped lift is a vital resource.
Committee chair Justine Cuccia concluded the discussion by thanking the Alliance for returning the shuttle to service two weeks earlier than initially planned, but added that, “I would love to know what we can do to make sure this never happens again.”
For nearly 20 years, the Downtown Alliance has provided the free Downtown Connection shuttle, which is offered in partnership with the Battery Park City Authority. The service ferries passengers between 37 stops around the perimeter of Lower Manhattan, linking Battery Park City, Tribeca, the Financial District, and the South Street Seaport, starting at 10:00 am and continuing through a final run at 7:30 p.m. Arrival times average ten-minute intervals on weekdays, with 15 minutes between buses on weekends (depending on traffic conditions).
An Aversion to Immersion
SLA Okays New Performance Venue in FiDi, Despite Opposition from Local Leaders
Over the objections of Community Board 1 (CB1) and hundreds of local residents, the State Liquor Authority (SLA) has approved the application for a license to serve alcohol by Submursive, a production company that wants to open a 100,000-square-foot performance venue, spread across seven floors of 20 Exchange Place, in the Financial District.
At a hearing on Tuesday, Susan Cole, chair of CB1’s Licensing and Permits Committee, said of the Submursive proprietors, “this group has been disingenuous and not forthcoming. They didn’t want to sign any stipulations; they didn’t want to even deal with us. They have no traffic plan, no garbage plan, no security plan. They are going to be a problem. And that is why the community board rejected it.”
This was a reference to a February 2020 resolution enacted by CB1, which opposed the granting of a liquor license, based in part on, “the enormous negative quality of life issues that the addition of such a large venue operating throughout the year would create in this already-saturated small neighborhood, coupled with a traffic plan that does not come close to addressing any type of workable management.”
When SLA board member Lily Fan expressed skepticism that the Financial District is a residential neighborhood, Ms. Cole replied, “you are wrong. There are 1,400 units right there, where the entrance is going to be.”
A Onetime Haunt of Ponies, Plutocrats, and Club Rats Will Get a Room with a View
Tribeca will soon have a new (albeit invisible) penthouse apartment, if the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is guided by the advice of Community Board 1 (CB1). At its November meeting, the Board recommended that the LPC give its okay to a proposal to add a rooftop structure to 157 Hudson Street, located between Laight and Hubert Streets, opposite the Holland Tunnel rotary.
The T-shaped building has a storied history. Erected in 1867, it was originally designed to serve as a multi-story stable for the hundreds of draft horses kept at the ready by the newly founded American Express Company. This was an era when the firm was primarily engaged in the secure shipment of valuable cargo, almost a century before the invention of credit cards. To read more…
Where to Figure Out How to Save the World
Plan for Climate Solutions Center on Governors Island Advances
In one of its last official acts before departing City Hall on December 31, the administration of then-Mayor Bill de Blasio selected four finalists in the competition to build a Center for Climate Solutions on Governors Island.
The competition, announced in 2020 and formally launched a year later, envisions combining interdisciplinary research with education and public engagement in a single physical hub. Universities from around the world were invited to submit proposals in the first stage, called a “request for expressions of interest.” A dozen plans were submitted, and four of these were deemed worthy of moving to the final round. To read more…
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Lenders Who Fronted Millions to Operators of Pier A Allege Fraud
Investors who lent more than $16 million to the operators behind the shuttered restaurant at Pier A, on Battery Park City’s southern border allege that the borrowers, “used a fraudulent scheme to squeeze out of the Project all the fees and distributions for themselves that they could before shutting the doors.”
In a development first reported by property industry newsletter the Real Deal, the lenders (Tribeca-based New York City Waterfront Development Fund II) filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court in November, seeking the return of $16.5 million (the original amount of the 2011 loan, none of which has been repaid), along with $2.63 million in accrued interest, plus attorney’s fees and court costs.
The defendants in this action are a partnership between the Poulakakos restaurant family (who operate numerous Lower Manhattan eateries) and the Dermot Company (a developer of garden apartment complexes around the United States that more recently branched out to New York projects, such as the conversion of Brooklyn’s landmarked Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower into condominium residences). To read more…
A boon for stargazers, unusually long, dark mornings follow the winter solstice and continue as the New Year begins, rewarding the curious who venture outdoors at dawn. The solstice-time Sun rises at 7:20am this week through January 10. Mornings continue dark as afternoons are increasingly brighter: today’s sunset is at 4:40pm; sundown on January 10 is 4:47pm.
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.