The Broadsheet – Lower Manhattan’s Local Newspaper
‘It Would Be an Abomination’
Local Leaders Consider Pragmatic and Aesthetic Aspects of Cobblestones
The scene today on Vestry Street, between Greenwich and Washington Streets, facing west. The preservation of cobblestone street surfaces is widely perceived to contribute to the historic character of Tribeca, but poor workmanship has given rise to safety concerns.
Community Board 1 (CB1) is weighing whether to recommend that the City tear up historic cobblestone streets in Tribeca and resurface them with asphalt. A resolution debated at the Board’s March meeting notes that the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) rebuilt seven local cobblestone streets more than a decade ago, and observes, “it almost immediately became apparent that the cobblestone work on these streets was poor, as they began to deteriorate, including loose blocks, disintegrating mortar, and emerging depressions.”
The same measure reflects that, “while charming, cobblestone streets underperform asphalt roadways in many other objective measures, such as road maintenance costs,” and cites concerns that “cobblestone streets are exclusionary as commonly designed, do not readily permit the safe use of canes, walkers, mobility scooters, wheelchairs, strollers, bicycles without the threat of tripping, equipment failure and excessive wear and tear.” It concludes that “if there are no existing historic protections for the cobblestone treatment of these streets, then they should be replaced with asphalt, making these streets accessible to all.”
This resolution led to a pointed discussion at CB1’s March meeting. Diane Stein, a public member of the Board who lives on Harrison Street (one of the streets paved with cobblestones), said, “this has been an ongoing issue ever since the cobblestones were redone, and they started caving in and buckling, around 2009. Nothing’s been done and it’s hazardous for pedestrians, for people with mobility issues, with walkers, wheelchairs, visual impairments. And bicycles often go on the sidewalks, which creates another hazard. A number of people have fallen and one person, a neighbor, actually died.”
This was a reference to Tribeca resident John Croce, aged 70, who tripped while crossing Harrison Street in October 2018. He suffered multiple broken bones in the fall, and later died as a result of complications, following surgery.
CB1 member Jeff Galloway said, “this is a 180-degree change in position by the Community Board on something that once was very important to us. I understand the safety issues. I would favor simply repairing the cobblestones up to standard. But I’m just not prepared to eliminate cobblestone streets from our district.”
Laura Starr, a professional landscape architect and member of CB1, said, “there are ways to keep the cobblestone aesthetic and still have it be compliant. You can use stones that are flatter on top and that are set closely together. That is the right way to do it, so that it’s not a tripping hazard and it’s not dangerous. I think that the resolution should really be about the DOT properly supervising their contractors, and not accepting shoddy work. I can tell you that as landscape architects, we come up against this issue on a daily basis and we can design in a way that resolves it.”
She added, “architects are always dealing with poor craftsmanship, and with contractors not doing things right. And the City did not properly supervise their contractor, who was obviously trying to save money by leaving these huge gaps between the cobblestones, so they wouldn’t have to use as many.”
A 1912 view of Fulton and Greenwich Streets (a site now in the midst of the World Trade Center complex), looking toward the Hudson River. A century ago, the quality of stone masonry made it possible to build cobblestone streets that would last for many decades.
CB1 member Alice Blank, also an architect, commented, “replacement with asphalt? I think there are other materials that should be considered.”
Bruce Ehrmann, the former chair of CB1’s Landmarks Preservation Committee, observed, “I’m a firm believer in saving bluestone sidewalk and granite slab sidewalks. But the cobblestones are not possible. My position has changed.” He argued that the DOT “does not have the skill or ability to lay cobblestone that will last, like a century ago. They don’t know how to do it. We should not do cute cobblestones in a way that no one can maintain, or can be redone only at great expense. You’d have to import masons from Italy do this correctly.”
Bob Townley, executive director of Manhattan Youth, said, “it would be an abomination to say the Community Board wants to put asphalt over the cobblestones.”
CB1 member Susan Cole reflected that, “this is giving up a real piece of who we are and giving up authority to the Department of Transportation.”
Pat Moore, who chairs CB1’s Quality of Life Committee (which drafted the resolution), said, “we asked DOT to fix this in 2016. Now it’s 2022 and nothing has happened and there has been no response.” Ms. Moore added, “I am willing to withdraw the resolution and have another meeting about this, and then come back to the full Board next month.”
Based on this compromise, CB1 did not vote at its March meeting on the subject of tearing up cobblestone streets in Tribeca and repaving them with asphalt, but is slated to consider the issue again at its April session.
To the editor,
I always look forward to reading what Mathew Fenton writes. He is a treasure for downtown residents. Thank you for serving and informing the community.
Plans for Governors Island Climate Center Advance
Taxpayers Will Contribute $150 Million in Subsidies, Plus 24-Hour Ferry Service
The administration of Mayor Eric Adams is moving ahead with the plan to build a Center for Climate Solutions on Governors Island. On Thursday, the Trust for Governors Island issued a request for proposals (RFP) to the four finalists designated by City Hall (as one of Bill de Blasio’s final acts of Mayor) in the competition to combine interdisciplinary research on climate change with education 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.
All of the finalists are partnerships, with each team led by a major university: the City University of New York, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. That quartet was invited on Thursday to expand and refine their initial ideas in the second (and final) round of the competition, the RFP.
Two Decades Later, What About the Children?
Borough President and Council Member Want City Agencies to Document Outreach to Former Lower Manhattan Students at Risk of September 11 Illnesses
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and City Council member Christopher Marte are partnering to hold a pair of City agencies accountable for outreach to people who were students, teachers, or staff members at schools near the World Trade Center during the 2001-2002 school year.
Building a Greener Community
Recognizing the Inevitability of Climate Change Impacts, Battery Park City Action Plan Aims to Make Neighborhood Carbon-Neutral by Mid-Century
The Battery Park City Authority has released its Climate Action Plan, which aims to transition by 2040 to 100 percent of the community’s electric power coming from renewable energy sources, along with a 99 percent reduction in transportation emissions by 2050.
Eyes to the Sky
April 25-May 2, 2022
Venus & Jupiter meet; Dark Sky Week
Fanciful and mythic, timeless and of the moment, this celestial tableau depicts early morning harbinger of summer constellations with planets on the move in late April through early May, 2022. Notice the two unlabeled dots on the lower left of the diagram, above the horizon near the “E” and under the Great Square of Pegasus. The smaller point of light represents planet Jupiter, the larger is Venus. They are approaching each other. Find details below.
Illustration: Judy Isacoff/StarryNight 7
Enjoy spectacular morning stargazing: refer to the diagram, above. Radiant planet Venus appears in the east as if a great star rising in the darkness at daybreak, captivating as the rising Sun but without the need to look away from its steady light. Venus and Jupiter appear closer to one another each day. Look as often as possible to see the distance between them shrink. Be present especially on the mornings of April 29 through May 2. Their closest approach occurs April 30 and May 1, a spectacular planetary conjunction not to be seen again until the year 2039.
Open the following resources for ways to be a part of assuring a healthy Earth Day every day, and protecting dark skies for the vitality of all living beings.
MONDAY, APRIL 25
Join the Museum of Jewish Heritage for a special conversation with Congressman Ritchie Torres, Museum President & CEO Jack Kliger, and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, who will discuss contemporary antisemitism and hate across the range of American politics, the country’s political divides, the Congressman’s connection to Israel, and immigration policy, among other topics. Suggested $10 donation.
TUESDAY, APRIL 26
Easy-to-follow Latin dance choreography. Come prepared for enthusiastic instruction, a little strength training and a lot of fun. Proof of vaccination required. 6 River Terrace. Free.
On October 1, 1937, Wolfgang Jung purchased 178 acres of land in Southbury, Connecticut for the German-American Bund to build a Nazi camp. The residents of Southbury fought back against this Nazi invasion of their town. Organized by the Reverend M.E.N. Lindsay, the Reverend Felix Manley, and town leaders, the townspeople established a zoning commission whose first ordinance forbade land usage in the town for “military training or drilling with or without arms except by the legally constituted armed forces of the United States of America.” The ruling effectively closed Southbury to the Bund. The Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut join together to explore this remarkable story. Join us for a discussion between Rebecca Erbelding, historian, archivist, and curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Ed Edelson, former First Selectman of Southbury and the author of Lois’s Story: A Young Girl’s Inspiration Helps to Stop Hate and Fear; Arnie Bernstein, author of Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn & the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund; and Melinda K. Elliott, president of the Southbury Historical Society, moderated by Rabbi Eric Polokoff, founding Rabbi of B’nai Israel of Southbury. The program will be accompanied by a virtual screening of the documentary Home of the Brave: When Southbury Said No to the Nazis. Free; suggested donation.
In a coda to the four-part Construction History series led by Thomas Leslie and Donald Friedman, the Skyscraper Museum adds a special lecture by Alexander Wood that will focus on George. B. Post’s Mills Building, at the corner of Broad Street and Exchange Place, completed in 1882. The construction of tall buildings in New York in the late 19th century transformed the business of building. Wood will explore how architects, general contractors, and subcontractors organized construction to meet the needs of speculative real estate development and worked together to build more efficiently within a congested urban environment. Using new construction methods, techniques, and equipment, a new generation of professionals, manufacturers, and contractors became major players in the city’s building industry for decades to come. Free.
Live remote meeting.
On an autumn morning in 1849, Henry David Thoreau stepped out his front door to walk the beaches of Cape Cod. Over a century and a half later, Ben Shattuck does the same. With little more than a loaf of bread, brick of cheese, and a notebook, Shattuck sets out to retrace Thoreau’s path through the Cape’s outer beaches, from the elbow to Provincetown’s fingertip. This is the first of six journeys taken by Shattuck, each one inspired by a walk once taken by Henry David Thoreau. After the Cape, Shattuck goes up Mount Katahdin and Mount Wachusett, down the coastline of his hometown, and then through the Allagash. Along the way, Shattuck encounters unexpected characters, landscapes, and stories, seeing for himself the restorative effects that walking can have on a dampened spirit. Over years of following Thoreau, Shattuck finds himself uncovering new insights about family, love, friendship, and fatherhood, and understanding more deeply the lessons walking can offer through life’s changing seasons. McNally Jackson, 4 Fulton Street.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27
Steeped in history, the capital city of Lima, Peru will welcome us with beautiful colonial vestiges of the Spanish occupation. Follow virtually in the footsteps of Manuel Bautista Perez, a key member of the “secret” Jewish community of Lima who was accused of being Jewish in 1635 and later killed by the Inquisition in 1639. Which begs questions that our tour guide Vanessa will address about the Inquisition of Lima and the “Autos de Fe” (rituals of public penance.) Join the Museum of Jewish Heritage and Our Travel Circle for this special tour of one of the oldest non-indigenous communities in Lima, Peru. $36.
Lunchtime webinar with renowned journalist and master storyteller Roger Lowenstein, who will discuss his revelatory financial investigation into how Lincoln and his administration used the funding of the Civil War as the catalyst to centralize the government and accomplish the most far-reaching reform in the country’s history. Museum of American Financial History.
Meeting of the Board’s Audit & Finance Committee (12:30pm)
Meeting of the Directors of the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy (2pm)
Meeting of the Members of the Authority (2:10pm)
Video recordings made available for post-meeting access via the BPCA website. A public comment period will be scheduled during the Meeting of the Members of the Authority. Anyone wishing to participate in the public comment period should submit their comments via email to email@example.com
no later than 5:30pm on the day prior to the meeting. Comments should be no longer than two minutes in length, and may be read into the record during the livestream broadcast.
Chinese literature can offer readers an extraordinary window into China, but for newcomers to this rich and complex world, where does one begin? Today, learn about the Guide to Contemporary Chinese Literature, an authoritative 300-page bird’s-eye view of Chinese fiction since the middle of last century. This roundtable event brings together three contributors to the Guide: Paper Republic co-founder, Eric Abrahamsen, and two essay authors, Ping Zhu and Dylan Levi King.
THURSDAY, APRIL 28
Zoom lecture presented by Catherine Prescott & Mary Tsaltas-Ottomanelli. This installment of Tavern Tastings explores the history of whiskey: its creation, rise in popularity during the 18th century in North America, and how its role in the economy of the burgeoning United States incited a rebellion. Fraunces Tavern Museum. Free; suggested donation of $10.
Dance performance. $15-$20. Gibney, 53A Chambers Street.
FRIDAY APRIL 29
11am – 5pm
South Street Seaport Museum
On Saturdays and Sundays, visit the exhibitions and the ships of the South Street Seaport Museum for free. At 12 Fulton Street, see “South Street and the Rise of New York” and “Millions: Migrants and Millionaires aboard the Great Liners, 1900-1914,” and at Pier 16, explore the tall ship Wavertree and lightship Ambrose.
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Lower Manhattan Greenmarkets
Greenwich Street & Chambers Street
Every Wednesday & Saturday, 8am-3pm
Food Scrap Collection: Saturdays, 8am-1pm
Open Saturdays and Wednesdays year round
Bowling Green Greenmarket
Green Greenmarket at Bowling Green
Broadway & Whitehall St
Open Tuesday and Thursdays, year-round
Market Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Compost Program: 8 a.m. – 11 a.m.
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.
The Outdoor Fulton Stall Market
91 South St., bet. Fulton & John Sts.
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.
The Hubble Space Telescope at the moment of release by the shuttle Discovery.
Photograph courtesy of NASA.
1449 – Anti-pope Felix V resigns
1684 – Patent granted for thimble
1792 – Guillotine first used in France, executes highwayman Nicolas J Pelletier
1859 – Ground broken for Suez Canal
1861 – In the American Civil War, Union Army arrives to reinforce Washington, DC
1867 – Tokyo opens for foreign trade
1886 – Sigmund Freud opens practice at Rathausstrasse 7, Vienna
1901 – New York becomes first state requiring auto license plates ($1 fee)
1926 – Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot premieres in Milan
1942 – Luftwaffe bombs Bath
1953 – Scientists identify DNA
1954 – Bell labs announces first solar battery
1957 – First experimental sodium nuclear reactor operated
1960 – First submerged circumnavigation of Earth completed (Triton)
1961 – Robert Noyce patents integrated circuit
1983 – Yuri Andropov invites US schoolgirl Samantha Smith to USSR
1990 – Hubble space telescope is placed into orbit by shuttle Discovery
1993 – Russia elects Boris Yeltsin leader
2005 – The final piece of the Obelisk of Axum is returned to Ethiopia after being stolen by the invading Italian army in 1937.
2007 – Boris Yeltsin’s funeral – the first to be sanctioned by the Russian Orthodox Church for a head of state since the funeral of Emperor Alexander III in 1894
1599 – Oliver Cromwell, Puritan lord protector of England
1710 – James Ferguson, astronomer
1868 – John Bevins Moisant, pioneer aviator, first to cross English Channel with passenger and a cat
1874 – Guglielmo Marconi, Bologna Italy, inventor (radio, Nobel 1909)
1908 – Edward R Murrow, newscaster
1917 – Ella Fitzgerald, jazz singer
1923 – Albert King, blues singer/guitarist
1930 – Paul Mazursky, writer/director
1932 – Meadowlark Lemmon, basketball star, Harlem Globetrotter
1940 – Al Pacino, actor
1949 – Dominique Strauss-Kahn, French economist, lawyer, and politician
1969 – Renee Zellweger, actress
1976 – Tim Duncan, basketball player
1744 – Anders Celsius, Swedish astronomer, dies at 42. The grandson and son of astronomers, Anders Celsius was the first to use plates of colored glass to measure the brightness of stars. He proposed an international temperature scale with 100 degrees for the freezing point of water and 0 for its boiling point. One year after his death, Carl Linnaeus reversed the scale for more practical measurement.
1990 – Dexter Gordon, jazz saxophonist, dies of kidney failure at 67
1995 – Ginger Rogers, actress/dancer (Top Hat, Stage Door), dies at 83
2006 – Jane Jacobs, urbanist, challenger of Robert Moses (b. 1916)