‘There Are Fundamental Issues That Need To Be Addressed’
City Council Candidate Gigi Li Talks about What She Hopes to Accomplish in Office
City Council candidate Gigi Li
Gigi Li is one of the candidates seeking the City Council seat representing Lower Manhattan is, which is currently held by Margaret Chin (who is barred by term limits from seeking reelection). Ms. Li was born in Hong Kong and emigrated to the United States as a small child. In 2009, she was appointed to Manhattan’s Community Board 3, on the Lower East Side, where she became the first Asian-American to be elected to serve as a community board chair (anywhere in New York City) in 2012. Since 2019, Ms. Li has served as chief of staff to Ms. Chin. The Broadsheet asked her to address a range of issues that are of concern to Lower Manhattan residents. Here are Ms. Li’s replies.
Broadsheet: Are you willing to commit to a carve-out for residents living within the toll zone who will be trapped by congestion pricing—as is already done for all other residents living within similar toll zones (e.g. Staten Island, Broad Channel, the Rockaways, and Grand Island)?
Ms. Li: Yes. Congestion pricing is important to improve quality of life and is a step to building a greener and more resilient City, but residents of Lower Manhattan need the same exemptions as residents in other parts of the City to make it equitable.
Broadsheet: What is your position on the proposed jail that the de Blasio administration wants to build in Lower Manhattan?
Ms. Li: I do not support the Manhattan Detention Complex plan. While I believe that we need to close Rikers, I don’t think the plan as proposed addresses the community’s concerns.”
Broadsheet: The de Blasio administration has lavished more than $100 million in subsidies on its NYC Ferry Service. The latest iteration of this plan is to create a new route connecting Staten Island to Battery Park City to Midtown, which will compete with the existing (and free) Staten Island Ferry, while overburdening Battery Park City’s already-at-capacity ferry terminal. Will you work to kill this project?
Ms. Li: Ferries are a heavily subsidized form of public transportation. The original mission for the NYC Ferry was to provide residents from transit-poor neighborhoods an additional option. I have taken the ferry from Battery Park City’s ferry terminal on a summer weekend—it was a complete mess. There were many concerns about the proposed route—including the length of ferry, compared to the length of the dock; the emissions from the ferry; and coordination with other ferries, such as those to New Jersey. Until all these concerns are addressed, I would not support this new route.
Broadsheet: Each year, dozens of middle-class retirees are forced to leave Battery Park City, because their fixed incomes cannot keep up with the spiraling cost of living here. Will you commit to creating a “naturally occurring retirement community” (NORC) in Battery Park City, and modify the financial requirements so that middle-class retirees (rather than only those living below the poverty line) can remain here?
Ms. Li: Yes. I support creating and expanding NORCs and other programs to help older residents age with dignity in their community.
Broadsheet: A similar dilemma confronts middle-class young adults who grew up in this community and recently graduated from college. Many would like to return and begin families here, but the relentlessly escalating structural costs make this prohibitive. Are you willing to study a new housing model (in effect, a NORC-in-reverse) that would enable young people to live here, and give preference to those who grew up here?
Ms. Li: The west side of the district has experienced a population boom of young adults and young families. It is important that young adults are able to start families in the community in which they grew up—just like I did. I am open to looking at different housing models to that effect.
Broadsheet: The City has an option to acquire the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), while assuming all of its assets and liabilities, for $1. Would you be willing to eliminate this uncertainty by waiving (finally and permanently) the City’s $1 option?
Ms. Li: Whether BPCA is acquired by the City or stays as is, there are fundamental issues that need to be addressed, including, but not limited to, the increases in payments in lieu of tax [PILOT] and in ground rents, the land lease expiration, and the lack of adequate representation on the BPCA. I am committed to working on each of these issues, with all stakeholders involved, to keep BPC a vibrant and affordable community.
Broadsheet: The BPCA continually cites its financial obligations to the City as the reason for refusing to make significant concessions to condominium owners on ground rent and PILOT. Will you commit to demanding that the BPCA agree to an immediate freeze in these payments, followed by a schedule of reductions in the years ahead?
Ms. Li: The upward trend of the cost of PILOT and ground rent is unsustainable for Battery Park City to remain a middle-class neighborhood. This is the result of an unfairly structured City-wide tax system, which absolutely needs to be reconfigured. I will work with my colleagues in City Council to reexamine to tax structure, working closely with the only other residential neighborhood also governed by an authority, Roosevelt Island.
Broadsheet: Throughout Manhattan, middle-class cooperative and condominium owners are being driven from their homes by relentlessly rising real estate taxes. This is impelled by the disparity between Class 1 and Class 2 homes, because the latter have minimal protection against tax increases, while the former are subject to strict limits. Will you commit to implementing tax-hike limits for Class 2 homes identical to those for Class 1 homes, while not modifying or reducing the protections on Class 1 homes?
Ms. Li: Limiting tax hikes for Class 2 homes may be a solution for many Manhattan cooperative and condominium owners, but I would support a wholistic report on how to reform the City’s tax structure as a starting point for negotiation.
Broadsheet: Even the minority of BPCA board members who happen to be residents of the community are appointed, rather than elected—in spite of the fact that this agency makes decisions profoundly affecting the lives of residents. This is in sharp contrast to a comparable community, Roosevelt Island, where the entire board of the authority that manages the community consists of residents, elected by the community. Will you avoid a repetition of this policy, by making a commitment that—when and if the Seaport City project is built—the board of the authority that manages it will consist entirely of Lower Manhattan residents?
Ms. Li: Yes, the current representation of two residents, appointed by the Governor, then confirmed by the State Senate is not sufficient, representative, or transparent.
Broadsheet: Another flashpoint in the BPCA’s relationship with the community is the fact that the BPCA’s land lease with residents, and the City’s master lease with the BPCA, both end in 2069, at which time all residents are slated to be evicted, and homeowners will have their property confiscated. This looming deadline is already undermining property values, while also making it difficult to obtain mortgages and buy or sell apartments. Will you commit to extending for another 99 years the master lease under which the BPCA occupies land owned by the City, and demanding that the BPCA similarly extend for 99 years the land leases by which buildings in the community occupy their individual plots?
Ms. Li: I believe that the BPCA should extend the land leases for 99 years, as it is unfair for homeowners who have bought in to have a difficult time selling and/or refinancing their apartments.
In Doyle They Trust
New Leadership Comes at Crucial Juncture for HRPT
The Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) has new leadership: Last Thursday, the organization’s board of directors voted to appoint Noreen Doyle as president, following the departure in March of longtime chief executive officer Madelyn Wils.
Ms. Doyle has served since 2004 as HRPT’s executive vice president, and was more recently named acting president, when Ms. Wils stepped down. This is Ms. Doyle’s second tenure with the Trust, having served in various capacities there from 1994 through 2001. During the intervening years, she worked for AKRF, Inc., an environmental and planning consultant.
Appeals Court Okays City Plan Move of Homeless Men to 52 William, But Calls It ‘Moot’
On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division issued a decision that will allow the City’s Department of Homeless Services to proceed with a plan to transfer many dozens of homeless men from the Lucerne Hotel, on the Upper West Side, to the Radisson Wall Street Hotel, located at 52 William Street.
This order dismissed an ongoing suit, brought by a coalition of groups, which sought to allow the men to remain in the Lucerne Hotel. The Appellate Division judges ruled narrowly on the issue of standing, finding that the original lawsuit was moot because the three homeless men named as lead plaintiffs last year have since been moved out of the Lucerne and into permanent housing.
Operators of New Ferry Service Predict Launching by Summer
At the June 2 meeting of the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1, officials from the City’s Economic Development Corporation offered an update on their plans for a new ferry that will connect Staten Island to Battery Park City and Midtown.
Jeff Brault, the director of public affairs at NYC Ferry—the company designated by the City’s Economic Development Corporation to operate a network of new routes connecting Manhattan to the outer boroughs—began the discussion by saying, “the next time we speak, the new ferry will have already begun service.”
Committee chair Justine Cuccia asked, “do you have a launch date?”
Mr. Brault replied, “not yet. Basically we’re working really hard. We already have a dock in place at Battery Park City, but not in St. George,” the site of the ferry landing in Staten Island.
With its amazing gardens and views of the Hudson River and New York Bay, Wagner Park is the perfect setting to practice your art. Participants are expected to bring their own drawing and painting supplies, including drawing boards and containers of water if they are planning to paint. BPCA will supply drawing paper and watercolor paper only. Masks required. Participants must maintain six feet of physical distance between households. All programs will be held in accordance with New York State reopening guidance. Free Battery Park City Authority
Chinese family life is centered around food. So how do the flavors of family recipes, the fragrances of childhood memory, carry us through hard times? Can a red-braised pork belly dish take us home when we can’t actually travel? Join us as Shanghai-born writer and young surgeon Betty Liu, author of My Shanghai: Recipes and Stories from a City on the Water, joins award-winning food journalist Hsiao-Ching Chou to discuss food culture and storytelling, and what it means to eat Chinese comfort food that not only nourishes the body, but also the soul. Free
Get moving with a series of classes aimed to help you build strength, relax, and unwind. All cardio classes are 45 minutes long, with a focus on high-intensity rhythmic cardio. Classes also feature sprint intervals, sculpting, and a stretch cool down. Free
Namaste! Unwind from the day with outdoor yoga. Immerse yourself in this meditative practice- surrounded by the Hudson’s peaceful aura. Strengthen the body and cultivate awareness in a relaxed environment as your instructor guides you through alignments and poses. All levels are welcome. Participants are expected to bring their own equipment: yoga mat, yoga blocks, water, etc. Masks required. Participants must maintain six feet of physical distance between households. All programs will be held in accordance with New York State reopening guidance. Free Battery Park City Authority
Tribeca Film Festival events at Brookfield Place. Free
River to River Festival Is Back:
Don’t Miss These 5 Acts
Photo courtesy of Damon Davis
As we come out of covid, it’s clear the city’s thriving cultural scene is on its way back — and Lower Manhattan’s leading the way.
In May, the Downtown Alliance teamed up with En Garde Arts and + The Tankto present Downtown Live, a multi-weekend festival stocked with live performances ranging from music to theater to spoken poetry. The revival of Downtown’s cultural scene continues into June, with the return of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s River to River Festival.
The festival, which runs June 10–June 27, joins the explosion of post-vaccine outdoor events and art exhibits that are set to take over the city this summer. Here are five acts you won’t want to miss, and visit lmcc.net/river-to-river-festival for the full schedule.
Opening Concert featuring Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington and Leo Genovese (June 10)
Spalding is a jazz musician who made waves when she beat out Drake and Justin Bieber to win the Best New Artist Grammy in 2011. Since then she’s won three other Grammys and has been labeled the “21st century jazz genius” by NPR.
Processions with Miguel Gutierrez, Okwui Okpokwasili and The Illustrious Blacks
(June 13, 20, 25)
Artist Okwui Okpokwasili is following up her recent piece on the High Line called “On the way, undone” with another processional performance, which means you get to participate in the art. Okpokwasili’s performance will happen at Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City on June 20, followed by processions led by choreographer Gutierrez and musical duo the Illustrious Blacks will also conduct processions on June 13 and June 25.
Kamau Ware, Land of the Blacks (June 10-27)
Black history scholar and co-found of Black Gotham Experience Kamau Ware is writing an original piece on “Land of the Blacks,” 28 Black-owned farmsteads that once covered a swath of Lower Manhattan. It will debut on the River to River website.
Womxn in Windows (June 15-27)
Womxn in Windows is a multi-part video installation installed in Windows across the Seaport District. They’ll focus on the confluence of culture and society in an exploration of the multi-faceted female identity, created by artists from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Mariana Valencia, Futurity (June 25-27)
Choreographer and performer Mariana Valencia brings a 2021 version of Futurity, a dance performance that will transmit the queer stories of elders in Greenwich Village from the 1960s to the present.
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
The Battery Park City Authority asks that the public not interact with or feed the urban wildlife in the neighborhood’s parks and green spaces, and at the waterfront.
‘A Whimsical Oasis’
Little Island Opens to Rave Reviews
The Lower West Side of Manhattan officially has another stunning public space: On Friday morning, the Hudson River Park Trust debuted Little Island, the new park located just off the shoreline, at 13th and West Streets. The park offers more than two acres of gardens, glades, lawns, performance spaces and picnic grounds.
All of this greenery is hoisted above the water by 280 slender concrete columns, driven hundreds of feet down into the riverbed, and supporting 132 flower-shaped masonry “tulips”—pods that appear to be separate platforms from outside Little Island, but form a continuous, undulating surface when seen from the inside. Each of these structural bulbs is a different size, shape, and elevation.
State’s Highest Court Rejects Appeal from Community Groups Battling Two Bridges Development
On Thursday May 27, the New York State Court of Appeals effectively ended the last of a group of lawsuits begun in 2018, in which elected officials and community groups sought to compel the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to subject several massive residential developments planned for the Lower East Side to the highest-possible degree of legal scrutiny. New York’s highest judicial review panel upheld a prior ruling by the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, which itself had overturned a lower-court decision favoring opponents of the projects.
In its Thursday ruling, the Court of Appeals rejected, without further comment, To read more…
City and State Prosecutors Team Up on Criminal Probe of Trump Finances at FiDi Landmark
In a story first reported by the Washington Post, New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance has expanded his longstanding probe of the finances of former President Donald Trump to include possible criminal charges. The office of New York State Attorney General Leticia James is also cooperating with Mr. Vance’s criminal investigation. To read more…
‘A Public Safety Emergency’
Random Assault in Chinatown Spurs Rally to Decry Anti-Asian Hate
City Council member Margaret Chin led a Wednesday rally of Chinatown residents and local community leaders to condemn the most recent in an outbreak of violent street crimes that appear to be racially motivated. The latest incident occurred on Bayard Street, on Monday afternoon, when a 55-year-old woman (whose name is being withheld) was punched and knocked unconscious in an apparently random, unprovoked assault. In video captured by a security camera, a woman walks in front of outdoor seating area of Kong Sihk Tong restaurant, when she is approached by a man who raises his left arm and smashes her in the face. The woman reels backward from the force of the blow, and then falls to the sidewalk, where she sits motionless as passersby come to her aid.
More Survivors than Responders Now are Submitting Claims
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) has released its annual report for 2020, which documents some significant developments.
Over the course of its ten years of operation thus far, the VCF has awarded $7.76 billion to more than 34,400 individuals who have suffered death or personal injury as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath. The vast majority of these injuries take the form of illness caused by exposure to toxic materials that were released by the destruction of the World Trade Center.
68 – Roman Emperor Nero commits suicide, imploring his secretary Epaphroditos to slit his throat to evade a Senate-imposed death by flogging.
1310 – Duccio’s Maestà Altarpiece, a seminal artwork of the early Italian Renaissance, is unveiled and installed in the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Italy. The Maestà, or Maestà of Duccio is an altarpiece composed of many individual paintings commissioned by the city of Siena in 1308 from the artist Duccio di Buoninsegna. The base of the panel has an inscription that reads: “Holy Mother of God, be thou the cause of peace for Siena and life to Duccio because he painted thee thus.”
The painting was installed in the cathedral of Siena on 9 June 1311. One person who witnessed this event wrote:
“And on that day when it was brought into the cathedral, all workshops remained closed, and the bishop commanded a great host of devoted priests and monks to file past in solemn procession. This was accompanied by all the high officers of the Commune and by all the people; all honorable citizens of Siena surrounded said panel with candles held in their hands, and women and children followed humbly behind. They accompanied the panel amidst the glorious pealing of bells after a solemn procession on the Piazza del Campo into the very cathedral; and all this out of reverence for the costly panel… The poor received many alms, and we prayed to the Holy Mother of God, our patron saint, that she might in her infinite mercy preserve this our city of Siena from every misfortune, traitor or enemy.”
1456 – 23rd recorded perihelion passage of Halley’s Comet
1534 – Jacques Cartier sails into mouth of St Lawrence River
1650 – The Harvard Corporation, the more powerful of the two administrative boards of Harvard, is established. It is the first legal corporation in the Americas.
1772 – First naval attack of Revolutionary War takes place in Providence, RI
1802 – US Academy at West Point founded
1822 – Charles Graham patents false teeth
1891 – Painter Gauguin arrives in Papeete, Tahiti
Alice Huyler Ramsey, standing beside her auto
1909 – On June 9, 1909, Alice Huyler Ramsey, a 22-year-old housewife and mother from Hackensack, New Jersey, began a 3,800-mile journey from Hell’s Gate in New York, to San Francisco in a green Maxwell 30. Accompanied by two older sisters-in-law and another female friend, they arrived amid great fanfare in San Francisco on August 7. Only 152 of the 3,600 miles of roads were paved.
Over the course of the drive, Ramsey changed 11 tires, cleaned the spark plugs, repaired a broken brake pedal and had to sleep in the car when it was stuck in mud.The women mostly navigated by using telephone poles, following the poles with more wires in hopes that they would lead to a town. She died on September 10, 1983, in Covina, California.
Quoted in Ms. Magazine in 19765 she said, “Good driving has nothing to do with sex. It’s all above the collar”
1930 – Chicago Tribune reporter Jake Lingle is killed during rush hour at the Illinois Central train station by the Leo Vincent Brothers, allegedly over a $100,000 gambling debt owed to Al Capone.
1931 – First rocket-powered aircraft design patented (Robert Goddard)
1943 – “Pay-as-you-go” (withholding) US income tax deductions authorized
1954 – Joseph Welch asks US Senator Joseph McCarthy “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” during Senate-Army hearings
1955 – 100°F – Hottest day in Seattle, Washington
1985 – American Thomas Sutherland is kidnapped and held hostage in Lebanon
Thomas Sutherland was kidnapped by Islamic Jihad members near his Beirut home on June 9, 1985. He was released on November 18, 199 at the same time as Terry Waite, having been held hostage for 2353 days.
In June 2001, the Sutherland family won a $323 million verdict in a lawsuit against the frozen assets of the government of Iran, because of evidence that Iran had directed terrorists to kidnap Americans in Lebanon. In accordance with Section 2002 of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, Pub.L. 106–386, Sutherland and his family received $35,041,877.36 (including interest) and the lien for the rest of the original settlement is now held by the US Government.
1989 – Rare tornado in Philadelphia kills 1
1672 – Peter the Great [Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov], tsar of Russia (1682-1725)
1891 – Cole Porter, Indiana, composer/lyricist (Anything Goes, Kiss Me Kate)
1915 – Les Paul (Lester William Polsfuss) Waukesha Wisconsin, American musician and inventor
1934 – Donald Duck, famous fowl
1944 – 23 puppies, (record litter) born to Lena, a foxhound, Ambler Penn
62 – Claudia Octavia, wife of Nero (b. 40)
68 – Claudius Nero, Roman emperor (54-68), commits suicide at 31
1870 – Charles Dickens, English writer (David Copperfield), dies at 58