As Downtown Businesses Ponder Reopening, Questions Arise about Getting Here
The New York Stock Exchange is slated to begin reopening next Tuesday, but plans to bar employees who use public transit to get there.
The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) recently announced that it would begin partially reopening on May 26, but that it would bar from its headquarters any employees who used mass transit to get to the Exchange’s iconic building, on Broad Street. (The NYSE closed in March, when several employees were found to be infected with the pandemic coronavirus.)
These decisions raise complex questions about Lower Manhattan’s streetscape. The NYSE employs more than 3,000 people. Perhaps a few hundred of them live within walking distance of the Financial District. But if only half of that overall complement return to work next Tuesday, it is unclear how most of these 1,500 people will get to the Financial District without using buses or subways — unless they drive. (Even shared mobility devices such as Citi Bike, or the newly ubiquitous Revel scooter service are impractical for staffers coming from more than a few miles away.)
Regardless of whether such employees take personal cars (and park them nearby) or for-hire vehicles, this scenario appears likely to flood Lower Manhattan streets with many hundreds of additional vehicles. This hypothetical is rendered more troubling by two complicating factors. First, Downtown’s narrow, winding street grid was largely laid out in the 1600 and 1700s, when Lower Manhattan was a village, where traffic consisted of single lanes of horse-drawn wagons. And second, the area surrounding the NYSE’s landmarked headquarters has been closed to most traffic since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, following which a 3,000-feet security perimeter (which encloses 19 acres and dozens of square blocks) was erected.
At a press conference on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio was questioned about this possibility. He answered, “as to any company that urged its employees not to use mass transit — well, some of that isn’t surprising to me and some of that people will do on their own until they feel safer. But we have to be careful for the opposite problem — if everyone starts turning to cars, that will create a whole new problem. It is a legitimate point that companies should think about, ways of creating alternatives to get people around in the meantime.”
If companies such as the NYSE were to be guided by the Mayor’s advice and create their own transit services (using privately contracted shuttle buses, for example), how this option would be any less likely than public transit to expose riders to the pandemic coronavirus remains far from obvious.
Moreover, by the scale and standards of Lower Manhattan, the Exchange counts only as a mid-sized employment destination. Tens of thousands of workers are employed at offices within the World Trade Center and Brookfield Place. If companies headquartered within these complexes follow the NYSE’s lead and summon staff back to their offices, but forbid them to use mass transportation, the problems outlined here could theoretically grow by an order of magnitude.
Finally, the impact of these possibilities on the congestion pricing plan (which seeks to raise billions of dollars for public transit by imposing a toll on vehicles entering Manhattan south of 59th Street) endorsed by Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, and slated for implementation later this year, is unknowable. And the impact on that plan on a post-pandemic New York is similarly obscure.
What does seem clear is public transit ridership will take a long time to recover. An analysis by the highly regarded online newsletter, StreetsBlogNYC, notes that multiple studies (including one by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that oversees public transit) project that between 40 and 50 percent of bus, subway, and commuter rail riders will not return to the system before the end of the year.
As StreetsBlogNYC point out, this shortfall amounts to more than three million daily bus and subway riders, along with hundreds of thousands of commuter rail patrons. If even ten percent of these workers switch to automobiles for their rides to work, that additional load could be expected to overwhelm existing infrastructure throughout New York, and particularly in Lower Manhattan. The related question of whether already-struggling businesses could shoulder the added burden of employees demanding to be compensated for their own higher costs (imposed by congestion pricing) continues to defy prediction.
Learn how to craft a Zero Waste DIY mask
with BPCA’s own Sarah Smedley.
Pursuant to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive orders 202.17 and 202.18, all people in New York are required to wear masks or face coverings in public, including when taking public or private transportation or riding in for-hire vehicles.
Check Your Screen to Get Screened
State Launches Online Map Showing Local Testing Facilities
On Sunday afternoon, the State Department of Health launched on online map specifying the locations of more than 700 facilities throughout New York where testing for exposure to the pandemic coronavirus is available. These testing sites can process up to 40,000 patients per day, and are currently operating well below their capacity.
2) Metropolitan Transportation Authority Subway Cleaning Program – Presentation by Leah Flax, Government and Community Relations, MTA New York City Transit
3) Water Street Reconstruction (Postponed Indefinitely by The City of New York)
4) COVID-19 Update – Presentation by Pauline Ferrante, Office of External Affairs, Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
Alliance Throws a Lifeline to Lower Manhattan Small Businesses
The Downtown Alliance is launching a new program to help storefront businesses in Lower Manhattan, via which it plans to give away $800,000 in grants.
The Small Business Rental Assistance Grant program aims to offer immediate help to shops currently providing vital services to residents and essential workers in Lower Manhattan during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and is funded with contributions from Brookfield Properties, Silverstein Properties and the Howard Hughes Corporation, as well as $250,000 from the Alliance itself.
The Downtown Alliance’s Downtown Connection bus is New York City’s only free circulator bus service, and it’s still running every day during the New York City pause. Serving 36 stops around the perimeter of Lower Manhattan, the Downtown Connection runs in both directions between Battery Park City and the Seaport District. The bus will return to its normal route along Warren Street when construction is completed in June.
To adhere to social distancing guidelines, all bus capacities have been reduced 50% and all passengers are required to wear face masks to board. The bus is being kept extra clean with deep cleanings at night and regular wipe-downs during the day. Downtown Connection Driver Carlisle Gibson (pictured) takes pride in helping riders take care of their needs during a difficult time. “You see a lot of folks fending for themselves,” he noted. “They appreciate us.”
If you need to get out of the house to run necessary errands, the free bus — which you can spot easily with its bright red color — is here to help. Hop on and off as often as you’d like — just remember to wear your mask. Buses run from 10a to 7:30p, with an average of 10-minute intervals on weekdays and 15-minute intervals on weekends. To see the route, click here.
Eyes to the Sky
May 18 – 31, 2020
Summer stars rise as winter stars set. Venus and Mercury meet this week
Summer Triangle rising with the Milky Way, pictured here as a red band., Deneb, in the northeast, marks the left corner. May 19 at 10:45 p.m.
Diagram Judy Isacoff/Starry Night
One month before summer solstice, which occurs on June 20, we find two of summer’s brightest stars rising above the east-northeast skyline as twilight deepens. Foretelling the summer season, Vega, third brightest star in northern skies at 0.00 magnitude, rises in the northeast while less bright Deneb, 1.25 m, appears to the lower left of the blue-white beacon. (The brighter the star, the smaller the number.) Deneb is the furthest star from Earth visible with the unaided eye.* About two and a half hours after sunset, Altair, 0.75 m, rises in the east, joining Vega and Deneb to complete the Summer Triangle, one of the most prominent star patterns in northern skies.
Today, May 18, sunset is at 8:10. The sun sets about a minute later every evening for the rest of the month. Civil twilight begins about half an hour after sundown; nightfall, or astronomical twilight, two hours after sunset.
As the Summer Triangle rises in the east-northeast, the last of the great stars of the Winter Circle set in the west-northwest. Most prominent among them, Procyon, 0.37 m, sets before midnight and Capella 0.06 m, after midnight this week. The Gemini Twins, Castor, 1.56 m, and brighter Pollux 1.15 m, are poised above and between Procyon and Capella.
With the naked eye or the aid of binoculars, forty-five minutes to one hour after sunset. Diagram courtesy EarthSky.org
Now, to the fleeting drama that is the piece de resistance of all celestial events this week. Dazzling planet Venus, -4.31 m, and comparatively dim planet Mercury, -0.86 m, are celebrities among the bright stars of the Winter Circle all week. But both planets are following close to the setting sun, so locating little Mercury low to the west-northwest skyline might require the aid of binoculars. A clear view to the western horizon is of the essence.
Capella, not shown, is located to the right and above Mercury. Bring binoculars to aid in search for Mercury. Diagram courtesy EarthSky.org
This Thursday, the 21st, Venus and Mercury coincide in closest approach to each other, an exciting event known as conjunction. Be aware that sunset is at 8:12 on the 21st; Mercury sets at 9:49 and Venus at 9:56. Study the diagrams to guide your enjoyment of Venus’ final days as Evening Star in spring 2020.
Rate of Infection Among Lower Manhattan Residents Continues to Decline
A total of 723 residents of Lower Manhattan (among 2,891 who have been tested) are confirmed to have been infected by the pandemic coronavirus, according to statistics released by the City’s Department of Health (DOH). These numbers are current as of Thursday afternoon (May 14).
Downtown Nonprofit Leader Fears for Future of Vital Sector
In the recession that has been triggered by the pandemic coronavirus, and is likely to linger long after the disease has been subdued, one vital sector of the economy is likely to suffer especially hard, according to a local expert with a front-line perspective.
“Nonprofits and community-based organizations are already being impacted negatively,” predicts Katie Leonberger, president and chief executive officer of Community Resource Exchange (CRE), a nonprofit based in Lower Manhattan that has advised clients like Girls Educational & Mentoring Services, Riis Settlement, Grace Outreach, and the Brooklyn Public Library on strategy and organizational questions that lead to greater effectiveness as their clients work to reduce poverty, promote equity, increase opportunity, improve people’s lives, and drive social change.
“Money for nonprofits almost always comes with strings attached,” she explains.
City Takes Possession of Space for New FiDi School, But Possible Delays Loom
Recent weeks have seen one small step forward for the new public school planned for 77 Greenwich Street, in the Financial District, and possible giant step backward.
In April, the City’s School Construction Authority (SCA) completed its formal purchase of the nine-story space that the elementary school will occupy at the base of a new condominium tower, currently under construction at a three-sided plot, bounded by Greenwich Street, Edgar Street, and Trinity Place. With a payment of $104 million, the City became the legal owner of the portion of the structure that will house 476 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The potential problem stems from the fact that the SCA has, since late March — when the pandemic coronavirus emerged as a full-fledged public health crisis — officially “paused” the 670 school building projects its has in various stages of construction, throughout the five boroughs.
The security in BPC 10280 are not wearing masks. Two female officers were walking up esplanade in front of Liberty House laughing, gabbering six inches from each other when my husband asked, shouldn’t you be in masks. They thought this was hysterical.
In downtown, the map shows three new cases for 10280. That is exactly where the runners and bicyclists coming from other parts of the West Side have been most lax in wearing masks and social distancing. Now we have the security who we pay taxes to patrol esplanade flouting rules.
I’m on verge of selling my apartment. I pay taxes to BPC to enjoy the esplanade but the rules are not enforced. Sunday on the esplanade was insane. Only 50% of people wearing masks.
Click here to watch the new family of Falcons living high above 55 Water Street.
We took a look in the late afternoon, around 5:30, and watched as dinner was served. (On the menu appeared to be a tiny rodent.)
Don’t Stand So Close… Or Else
Social Distancing No Longer Dependent Upon Voluntary Compliance
Over the weekend, two areas of the Hudson River Park became laboratories for an experiment in how to enforce the social distancing measures that public officials believe are necessary to help contain the spread of the pandemic coronavirus.
At a Friday press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that Piers 45 and 46 (located along the Hudson River waterfront, near Christopher and Charles Streets, respectively) would be patrolled by NYPD officers, with orders to limit crowd sizes, and authority to issue summonses or make arrests, if they deemed necessary.
“Why are we doing this? Because it saves lives,” Mr. de Blasio explained.
Gateway Tenants Say Thanks for Being There During the Tough Times
Tenants at Gateway Plaza, Battery Park City’s largest residential complex, have partnered with their landlord to raise tens of thousands of dollars to thank staff members for keeping the facility running during the pandemic coronavirus.
The project began in April, when a group of residents came together and launched a GoFundMe page, asking neighbors to contribute to a fund that would be distributed among Gateway employees. Within two weeks, the GoFundMe page had accumulated more than $25,000.
A Widely Admired Community Leader Recalls Her Life-and-Death Battle with COVID-19
Daisy Paez, a Lower East side activist who has served for years as a local District Leader, is a universally revered matriarch among Downtown’s political and community family. She recently returned from more than a month of hospitalization, during which she nearly died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the pandemic coronavirus.
“It felt like somebody just snatched me from my life and threw me into this horrifying ordeal,” she recalls. “In the beginning, I remember hearing how people would get really ill, and that if you had a cough or a high fever, you needed to see a doctor. But I was fine. Then, in the last week of March, I started feeling sick. I went to the CityMD urgent care facility on Delancey Street, and they gave me a flu test, which came back negative. They also gave me a test for COVID-19, and told me the results would be available in about five days.”