The Broadsheet – Lower Manhattan’s Local Newspaper
Albany to Lower Manhattan: Drop Dead
Redistricting Grafts Downtown Assembly District Onto Staten Island
An outline map of the new proposed Assembly districts for Lower Manhattan, under a plan that will sever Battery Park City and much of the Financial District from surrounding communities, instead exiling them to Staten Island.
In a move that has stupefied and outraged local leaders, the legislature in Albany has proposed to redraw lines for the State Assembly that will divide Lower Manhattan, and transfer its representation to a district on Staten Island.
Under current district lines, Lower Manhattan is demarcated roughly into a pair of adjacent constituencies: the 65th and 66th Districts. The former includes Battery Park City (south of Vesey Street), the Financial District, the South Street Seaport and Civic Center, and the Lower East Side (east of Lafayette Street) as far north as Houston Street. The latter encompasses northern Battery Park City, along with Tribeca, Soho, and the West Village, up to West 14th Street. These communities form a compact block, which shares dozens of overlapping interests and priorities.
The current boundaries are slated for change because the 2020 Census has the legal effect of automatically triggering a recalibration of all election district boundaries within the State. This task has fallen to the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), which has operated largely in secret for several weeks.
On Tuesday, the panel revealed for the first time the new district borders that it is considering. Under this plan, the 66th District (currently represented by Assembly member Deborah Glick) remains largely unchanged, with the exception of northern Battery Park City being moved into the 65th District.
The 65th, however, is radically altered under the LATFOR plan. In this scheme, the new 65th District gains several blocks north of Houston Street on the East Side, but loses all of Battery Park City and the Financial District, west of Broad Street and south of a jagged line connecting Beaver and Wall Streets. That catchment (Battery Park City, along with the western and southern reaches of FiDi) is instead transferred to the 61st Assembly District, which is based on the north shore of Staten Island.
In this scenario, the neighborhoods that are jurisdictionally severed from Lower Manhattan will be demographic and political orphans. This gerrymandering can be expected, for purposes of State politics, effectively to disenfranchise and render mute the communities that are being exiled from their home base.
The 61st Assembly District is currently represented by Charles D. Fall, who is, by all accounts a competent legislator and well-meaning public servant. But he has no discernible connection to the Lower Manhattan communities of Battery Park City and the Financial District. Nor, apparently, will he ever have any need of one. A preliminary demographic analysis of the 61st Assembly District (and its revised boundaries) indicates that roughly two-thirds of the population of the District will be located in Staten Island. Such an official could easily be reelected without garnering a single vote in the Manhattan portion of the 61st District. This means that any legislator representing the 61st will be free to ignore, with impunity, the concerns of Lower Manhattan residents.
A home located beneath the approach to the Bayonne Bridge in one of the suburban communities on Staten Island, to which Lower Manhattan’s political representation is to be melded
Redistricting is theoretically meant to be guided by multiple doctrines intended to safeguard voter interests. Chief among these is the concept of “communities of interest,” which stipulates that groups of voters who are likely to have overlapping legislative concerns should be given cohesive representation in the legislature. Another such axiom is compactness (the principle that the constituents residing within an electoral district should live as near to one another as possible), and a third is contiguity (the priority that all parts of a district should be in physical contact with some other part of the same district).
While none of these imperatives has the force of law in New York State, they are all considered by legal scholars to be part of the canon of best practices in redistricting. And the severing of a large part of Lower Manhattan from its surrounding neighborhoods defies each of these principles.
Multiple community leaders responded and condemned the LATFOR plan.
Dan Akkerman, a co-founder the Battery Alliance, said, “it is infuriating to see that the redistricting commission completely disregarded the needs of Lower Manhattan and Staten Island citizens in their clear attempt to gerrymander the district. No reasonable person would believe that the citizens of Lower Manhattan, who live in high rise apartments, in a district that includes Wall Street, should be grouped with a stretch of Staten Island. If the goal was to achieve the most gerrymandered district, the commission was a success.”
Pat Smith, president of the Battery Park City Homeowner’s Coalition, said, “this is politics run amok! The people of Battery Park City and the Financial District must object in the strongest terms.”
Jeff Galloway, a board member with the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association, observed, “the obvious point is that Assembly district is the smallest unit of State representation. As such, it should be tied as closely as feasible to the community being served by the district. And the reality is the Lower Manhattan and the Financial District have very little in common with communities on Staten Island. The issues that we face on a day-to-day basis are likely to be very different from issues faced by communities on Staten Island. For example, a densely populated community reliant on mass transit will have different needs from a low-density community that has very little mass transit. So whoever represents that combined district will be pulled asunder by very different sets of needs, which may even be in conflict with one another. It is just not possible to think of any good policy reason to tie Battery Park City and the Financial District to Staten Island.”
The plan floated by LATFOR on Tuesday is not yet final, and could, in theory, still change. The new district lines do not become official until and unless the State legislature votes to ratify them. Such a vote is expected to take place before the end of this week. Whether Lower Manhattan residents will mobilize with sufficient force to compel modification of the plan remains to be seen.
To the Editor,
I am mystified by the decision to excise Battery Park City and the Financial District from the 65th Assembly District. I can think of no good policy reason to join these two communities with Staten Island.
Districts are supposed to be comprised by “communities of interest.” To join these two Lower Manhattan communities with northern Staten Island, seems to defy that goal. Both Battery Park City and the Financial District are very densely populated. Both are completely reliant on public transportation, most of which is managed by either the Port Authority or the MTA, each a state agency. In addition, Battery Park City is also managed by a New York State authority. Having local representation in the Assembly is critical to the functioning of these communities.
While I am pleased that Battery Park City will be represented in a single Assembly district, the community is very closely linked to Tribeca, the community just to the north, and Greenwich Village, just north of that. We share many resources including the Hudson River waterfront, Hudson River Park, elementary, middle and high schools, children’s softball, football and soccer, in addition to multiple public transportation entities.
The Financial District and Battery Park City have been working closely with adjacent communities on coastal resiliency, a tremendous undertaking, dependent on local, state and federal funding. The coordination of the pieces of this plan is reliant on the close relationship between these communities.
As far as I can see, the only thing that Lower Manhattan and Staten Island have in common are the terminus points for the Staten Island Ferry. This is not a good enough reason to break up Lower Manhattan from its neighbors and adjoining communities.
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: 914-588-5284
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.
Analysis By Housing Group Cites Declining Affordability in Lower Manhattan
A leading housing advocacy organization has completed an exhaustive look at threats to affordability in every community in the five boroughs, and has found that Lower Manhattan ranks among the ten most at-risk neighborhoods by one key metric, while also placing in the 20 most-endangered by another.
The Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), an umbrella organization of 100 non-profit affordable housing and economic development groups that serve low- and moderate-income residents in all five boroughs of the City, has published the 2021 edition of its annual roundup, “How Is Affordable Housing Threatened In Your Neighborhood.” For this report, Lower Manhattan was defined as the catchment of Community Board 1, a collection of neighborhoods encompassing 1.5 square miles, bounded roughly by Canal, Baxter, and Pearl Streets, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
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).
The Battery Park City Authority kicked off its Annual Art Exhibition on Sunday, January 30, at the community space in Six River Terrace (next to the Bluestone Lane Cafe and across from the Irish Hunger Memorial).
All are welcome to view the paintings created by participants at Authority’s art programs. Admission is free, but proof of vaccination required.
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
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Gem
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…
City Bestows Richer Subsidies and a Longer Contract on Passenger Boat Service
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. 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.