The Broadsheet – Lower Manhattan’s Local Newspaper
‘Our Representative Won’t Give A Damn About Us’
CB1 Discusses Harm to Lower Manhattan from Gerrymandered Assembly District Lines
The proposed new boundaries for the State Assembly district representing Lower Manhattan excise Battery Park City and the western Financial District from Downtown, and banish these communities to Staten Island.
Wednesday evening’s meeting of the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1 became the forum for a vehement discussion of the proposed legislative redistricting that will uproot Battery Park City and the western Financial District from Lower Manhattan, and instead relegate representation of these communities in the State Assembly to Staten Island. Downtown community leaders were first alerted to this impending change by Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou, prior to the official announcement of the proposed redistricting on Tuesday.
Committee member Jeff Galloway began by noting, “it is manifestly absurd to have an Assembly district shaped this way. The New York State Assembly is the legislative body that is meant to be most closely tied to the people it represents. That’s why there are many more Assembly members than State Senators, and why each Assembly seat represents a smaller district, with a smaller population,” than in the State Senate.
“Communities defined by commonalities of interest,” he continued. “That is why, for years and years, we have been tied with neighbors in Manhattan, who shared priorities like mass transit, affordable housing, and resiliency. We will now be only 20 to 25 percent of our own Assembly district, with roughly 80 percent of the population in Staten Island. I’m sure they are fine people, but they will have their own interests. And our interests are quite different. This is a bad idea.”
He also observed that, “the proposed lines make our Assembly district is the only Manhattan district that includes anything outside of Manhattan.”
Robin Forst, a public member of CB1 observed that, “Battery Park City and FiDi are intimately tied to Lower Manhattan. On resiliency projects, we are closely aligned with communities to north. We share schools with nearby neighborhoods. We rely on transit managed by two state agencies, the MTA and the Port Authority. That is not how people travel on Staten Island. And the distance between Lower Manhattan and Staten Island is quite large.
Indeed, much of the newly drawn 61st Assembly District, into which Lower Manhattan is now slated to fall, is closer to Newark Airport than it is to Battery Park City or the Financial District.
“To be represented by somebody so distant geographically, a community whose needs are so different, there is no good reason for this,” Ms. Forst continued. I’m not sure what political calculus went into this, but anything we can do to convey to people who are deciding this that this does not make sense for us, is important.”
Committee member Bob Schneck said, “in the nearly 40 years I’ve lived here, I never expected a voting rights problem. It is unbelievable that our communities could be paired with Staten Island. It is absurd to be separated from our surrounding communities by an externally imposed divorce.”
“We need to act as our own Minutemen,” he said, in a reference to the militia units in the American Revolution who were the vanguard of resistance against the British. “We need to take action, in the form of civil disobedience. We need to organize a massive tax strike, and make sure that the Governor hears us.”
Committee member Sarah Cassell observed, “this gerrymandering is pathetic.”
Battery Park City committee co-chair Kathy Gupta said, “it will pretty challenging to represent two such radically different segments of the same district.”
Eric Flores, also a member of the Battery Park City Committee, asked, “do we know the reason for this?”
Mr. Galloway replied, “none has been articulated.” He also recalled that the redrawing of legislative district lines (automatically triggered by the 2020n Census) was begun last year under a bi-partisan commission. That body deadlocked when its Democratic and Republican factions could not reach consensus, and instead published two rival proposals for modifying boundaries for all State Senate, State Assembly, and Congressional districts within New York. Yet neither of these proposals, Mr. Galloway noted, “changed Lower Manhattan’s Assembly lines in any significant way.”
When the bi-partisan commission failed to reach a unanimous plan, “the State legislature took over, worked in secret for weeks, and then released maps without any explanation,” he added, emphasizing that neither the Democratic nor Republican members of the original commission, “had sought anything like this.”
That seems to indicate that the leadership of the State Assembly, presided over by Speaker Carl Heastie, decided of its own volition to sever Lower Manhattan from its traditional domain, and instead graft the community onto an environment with which it has discernible connection.
There are several possible motives for such a change. Lower Manhattan residents have repeatedly stood up to Albany in recent years. Last summer, Battery Park City residents organized under the banner of Pause the Saws to prevent the destruction of Rockefeller Park, as part of then-Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan for an Essential Workers Monument. This grassroots opposition successfully brought Mr. Cuomo to heel, and blocked the scheme. At the same time, Battery Park City residents have been pressing to renegotiate the ground lease, which contains ruinous financial provisions that will (if not changed) soon drive condominium owners from their homes, and eventually result in all residents being evicted from the community. Simultaneously, a group has formed opposing State plans to erect a mostly market-rate rental tower at Five World Trade Center. This organization has argued (with increasing success) that the building should consist entirely of affordable apartments.
For all of these reasons, Albany leaders may wish to disenfranchise and render mute the communities that are being exiled from their home base by the proposed redistricting. For Battery Park City residents, the harm may be two-fold, because the community is already governed by a State agency (the Battery Park City Authority, or BPCA) that is run by unelected officials, appointed by the Governor. Although the BPCA has made strides in recent years to increase consultation with the community, such outreach might wither when the neighborhood is deprived of representation.
After Tuesday’s announcement, Ms. Niou posted online that, “Battery Park City is a very unique community. The land is owned and managed by the Battery Park City Authority which is a public-benefit corporation created by New York State. This makes their State representation very important for residents.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, Battery Park City resident Maryanne Braverman observed, “it ridiculous to connect Lower Manhattan with Staten Island. Maybe our new Assembly member will open an office on the ferry?”
Resident Greg Sheindlin said, “there is no logic here other than politics. This does not weigh in our favor, and this will be our reality for the next decade.” (This was a reference to the fact that the next opportunity to redraw legislative district lines will be after the 2030 Census.)
Mr. Schneck added, “we need to dig our heels in on this. This tears apart the community, rips it in half, and destroys our relationships with government. To stop government from doing something that is flat-out wrong is very important. Unless we really stand together and make people realize that we care as much about this as we did about the trees in Rockefeller Park, we will lose.”
Committee member Betty Kay observed, “the worst-case scenario here is that our Staten Island representative probably won’t give a damn about us, because he can win election without any of our votes.”
Ms. Gupta added, “what strikes me as most outrageous is that we have 48 hours to say or do anything about something that is going to affect our community for the next ten years.” (This was a reference to the fact the State legislature is schedule to vote to approve the redrawn district lines in the next few days.)
Mr. Galloway suggested that all Lower Manhattan residents contact the offices of their two, current State Assembly members (Yuh-Line Niou and Deborah Glick), as well as their State Senator, Brian Kavanagh, along with the officers of Speaker Heastie and Governor Kathy Hochul. (Email addresses for all of these elected officials, each of whom is up for reelection this year, are appended below.) “We need to make clear that we will not be pleased if they vote to approve this,” he urged.
The elected officials cited by CB1’s Battery Park City as appropriate for outreach from the community can be contacted via email at the following websites or addresses:
Redistricting Grafts Downtown Assembly District Onto 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. To read more…
We the People
To the Editor,
In 30 years, I never experienced or expected a voting rights problem in this community. But here we are, right now! And our Community has apparently become orphaned from its government.
It is unbelievable that the Battery Park City and FiDi communities could have their Assembly 65 District severed from Community Board 1 and paired by Democratic gerrymandering with Northern Staten Island to render our gathering CB1 community strength into rubble and stifling our voices. It also cedes Liberty and Governor’s Island to co-jurisdiction with Staten Island and conjoins two New York cultures that could not be more different.
But who in government ever listens to anyone who respects and follows customary rules and offers opponents all the time they need to succeed in what they intend?
The Battery Park City leasehold has been a fatal encumbrance to resident owners and renters for many years. Now we are facing a crescendo of threatening financial and community changes based on our original 1969 covenant, which have created a de facto gated community and impose cleansing financial arrangements that guarantee long-term gentrification and staying power for only the upper class in our neighborhood.
We need to meet the crying Downtown need for housing affordability for all, and forever establish a living form of respect for the professional responders and civilian survivors of the World Trade Center tragedy and their families by granting them preferential accommodation into permanent, 100% affordable housing at World Trade Center. We must demand this from our government as a united community.
If we want to invoke governmental action, we need, all of us, to act as our own Minutemen. We need to follow Thoreau, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King into civil disobedience. We need to be heard and served by the government which is we ourselves, The People and our representatives together.
We need to package these issues into a unified demand: challenging and reversing the redistricting of the Downtown community; conclusively addressing the Battery Park City leasehold issue; and meeting the fundamental need for 100% affordability at World Trade Center 5.
We need to organize a massive tax strike on the basis of these issues to prove our community resolve well before the primary election so our new and aspiring governor and primary decision-maker in these matters hears us and actually learns that We the People are here to be heard.
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.
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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.
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.
Fulton Street cobblestones between South and Front Sts. across from McNally Jackson Bookstore.
Locally grown produce from Rogowski Farm, Breezy Hill Orchard, and other farmers and small-batch specialty food products, sold directly by their producers. Producers vary from week to week.
SNAP/EBT/P-EBT, Debit/Credit, and Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks accepted at all farmers markets.
TODAY IN HISTORY
Charles Arthur Floyd, (1904-1934 ) nicknamed Pretty Boy Floyd, robbed banks for a living during this short life. Born in 1904 in Georgia, his family moved to Oklahoma and it was there that he was first arrested for stealing $3.50 from a post office. When he was 21, he was involved in a payroll robbery that netted him five years in the clink, but paroled after three and a half. When he did work, it was in the oilfields where, because he wore a white button down shirt and slacks to work, was called “Pretty Boy” which soon morphed into “Pretty Boy Floyd”, a name he was said to have hated.
His criminal activity involved robbing banks and shoot outs with law enforcement. When he started to shot FBI personnel, Hoover elevated him to Public Enemy No. 1 poster boy after the death of John Dillinger. He met his end in a cornfield in Ohio on October 22, 1934, and his body was brought back to Oklahoma where his funeral was attended by 20,000-40,000 people remaining the largest funeral in Oklahoma history. The reason for the large turnout may have been because of a story, or myth, that while robbing banks he’d burn mortgage papers, thereby freeing people from their debt.
1488 – Bartolomeu Dias of Portugal lands in Mossel Bay after rounding the Cape of Good Hope, becoming the first known European to travel so far south.
1690 – The colony of Massachusetts issues the first paper money in the Americas.
1787 – Militia led by General Benjamin Lincoln crush the remnants of Shays’ Rebellion in Petersham, Massachusetts.
1830 – The London Protocol of 1830 establishes the full independence and sovereignty of Greece from the Ottoman Empire as the final result of the Greek War of Independence.
1870 – The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, guaranteeing voting rights to male citizens regardless of race.
1913 – The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, authorizing the Federal government to impose and collect an income tax.
1943 – The SS Dorchester is sunk by a German U-boat. Only 230 of 902 men aboard survive.
1960 – British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan speaks of “a wind of change”, signalling that his Government was likely to support decolonisation.
1961 – The United States Air Forces begins Operation Looking Glass, and over the next 30 years, a “Doomsday Plane” is always in the air, with the capability of taking direct control of the United States’ bombers and missiles in the event of the destruction of the SAC’s command post.
1966 – The Soviet Union’s Luna 9 becomes the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the Moon, and the first spacecraft to take pictures from the surface of the Moon.
1971 – New York Police Officer Frank Serpico is shot during a drug bust in Brooklyn and survives to later testify against police corruption.
1989 – A military coup overthrows Alfredo Stroessner, dictator of Paraguay since 1954.
1995 – Astronaut Eileen Collins becomes the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle as mission STS-63 gets underway from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
1747 – Samuel Osgood, American soldier and politician, 1st United States Postmaster General (d. 1813)
1809 – Felix Mendelssohn, German pianist, composer, and conductor (d. 1847)
1811 – Horace Greeley, American journalist and politician (d. 1872)
1874 – Gertrude Stein, American novelist, poet, playwright, (d. 1946)
1894 – Norman Rockwell, American painter and illustrator (d. 1978)
1904 – Pretty Boy Floyd, American gangster (d. 1934)
1468 – Johannes Gutenberg, German publisher, (b. 1398)
1924 – Woodrow Wilson, historian, academic, and politician, 28th President of the United States, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1856)
1956 – Émile Borel, French mathematician and academic (b. 1871)
Credit: Wikipedia and other internet and non-internet sources