CB1 Considers Whether the Juxtaposition of Old and New Is Better Than Old and Newer
A comparison view of the current Greek-inspired granite columns (left), and the minimalist limestone piers that the developer of 60 Wall plans to replace them with (right).
Community Board 1 (CB1) is urging the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to reject a proposal by a developer to redesign the street-level facade of a Wall Street skyscraper. At issue is the postmodernist office tower at 60 Wall Street, which opened in 1989. While this building is not a legally protected landmark itself, modifications to it fall under the jurisdiction of the LPC because the tower’s original developers received permission to build higher than zoning regulations would ordinarily have allowed, in exchange for designing the newer building to have a “harmonious relationship” with a landmarked structure directly across the street, at 55 Wall Street.
For this reason, any change to the facade at 60 Wall Street must be shown to preserve this relationship. The proposed renovation calls for eight pairs of octagonal stone columns (which echo the classical Greek motifs of 55 Wall Street) to be replaced with an octet of slender, rectangular columns that evoke a distinctly more contemporary idiom.
In the judgment of several preservation advocates on CB1, the new design fails to meet the harmonious relationship criterion. Roger Byrom, a public member of CB1 (and the former chair of its Landmarks Committee) said at the Board’s May 24 meeting that 60 Wall’s current design “has a strong granite base echoing, in abstracted form, the columned facade of 55 Wall Street, the old Citibank headquarters, right across the street.”
He continued, “the whole purpose of the Landmarks Commission was to ensure that 60 Wall Street was respectful and harmonious with 55 Wall Street. But what is being proposed right now is not harmonious at all.”
The facade of 55 Wall Street (right), with which 60 Wall Street has legal obligation to maintain a “harmonious relationship.”
Architect Stephen Fan countered that, “it was absolutely imperative to us that the building ‘fit in.’ And I think you can see that it does that by unifying the materiality of the street and resonating with the cadence of the columns at 55 Wall. We feel that it really plays very nicely in the neighborhood and works to support the pedestrian fabric, which is really quite special.”
CB1 member Alice Blank (who is also an architect) observed, “we’re seeing a lot of the assumption that every postmodern building should be redone. This is a tremendous mistake. The 1980s may have had many buildings that were not successful, but this one has staying power. The harmonious relationship of the strong granite base on Wall Street is an exceptionally contextual and fabulous way to have achieved this relationship. This postmodern idiosyncratic folly is precisely what gives it an extraordinary character and is not something that we want to lose too much of in the City. I, for one, could never support a proposal that is taking away something that is absolutely fine.”
The resolution that CB1 voted to enact notes that “the proposal fails to harmonize with the classical design of Colonnade Row or any other 18th or 19th century styles and does little to elevate the standing of 55 Wall Street or 60 Wall Street,” and concludes by recommending that the LPC reject the plan.
Charity Begins Close to Home
Trinity Church Awards Grants to 14 Lower Manhattan Public-Service Groups
Trinity Church, the Episcopal parish in Lower Manhattan, has awarded $23.4 million in grants to 100 non-profit and public service organizations throughout the United States and around the world. Most of these contributions (which average slightly more than $200,000) are directed to New York-based organizations, and 14 of those are headquartered in Lower Manhattan.
Adams Agrees to Discuss Release of Documents from 2001 about City Hall’s Awareness of Ground Zero Health Risks
Mayor Eric Adams has taken a step that was blocked by three of his predecessors. He is willing to consider releasing documents concealed by the administrations of Mayors Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg, and Bill de Blasio about what information City Hall had in the weeks following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, regarding environmental toxins released by the collapse of the World Trade Center.
I hope you are taking time to celebrate summer in our glorious neighborhood. As the Acting Chair of the Battery Park City Authority’s Board—and resident of this community for going on 40 years—I wanted to update you on three key initiatives, specifically our efforts to protect our community from more frequent and more severe coastal storms, our responsibilities managing the Authority’s finances, and our duties administering the Authority’s ground leases. Though not new, these issues are complex—and as residents you should be armed with accurate information about the management of the community we all call home.
Protecting Our Neighborhood – Resiliency Plans
The Authority has pursued a deliberate and collaborative approach in developing key projects to protect our neighborhood, just as urban coastal communities around the world are confronting similar challenges. Though it is certainly sad that some of our public spaces will need to close for construction in the months and years ahead, those temporary closures will enable us to protect and enhance that which we value so dearly—our parks, public spaces, homes, and personal safety. The science is clear that storms are becoming more severe and more frequent, and we need to act accordingly. Simply put, these projects couldn’t be more urgent. I encourage you all to stay tuned for additional outreach from the Authority as construction on the South Battery Park City Resiliency Project commences in the months ahead, and to join in the planning for the North/West Battery Park City Resiliency Project as the team begins that project’s designs.
Our Stewardship of Public Funds
Battery Park City is unique in that we use the New York City real estate taxes we collect (known as PILOT), as well as ground rent, for the benefit of our community before transferring the residual of those real estate taxes to the City. In general, of the $326 million collected, about half comes from commercial properties and half from residential properties; 80% comes from PILOT and 15% from ground rent—the private rental of a public asset. Over $105 million — nearly one-third of what’s collected—stays in BPC and pays for the operations, maintenance, and capital expenses on our 92 acres. The Public Benefit Corporation model that provides for the Authority to use tax and ground rent payments is precisely why the commercial and residential owners and tenants enjoy world class parks and public spaces, and are the beneficiaries of the Authority’s ability to fund capital programs like these resiliency projects, which will protect our homes, businesses, schools, and cultural institutions, as well as Lower Manhattan overall. I don’t know any other homeowners who can say that they know precisely how their hard-earned real estate payments are used. We should be proud and relieved that we benefit as we do.
Residential Affordability and Our Management of Ground Leases
For certain, all New Yorkers would like their rent reduced. However, the Authority’s Board members must actively manage the Authority’s ground leases, including those of our 18 condominium buildings. As fiduciaries of the 92-acre Battery Park City property—a valuable public asset—we must ensure that, pursuant to the leases, we collect the critical funds for our operations and capital projects and important City services, including affordable housing development across the city. At the same time, we have worked in good faith for many years to provide economic stability to homeowners through a predictable ground rent schedule reaching far into the future, and to reduce disparities in ground rent per square foot across BPC’s buildings over time. In 2011 and 2012 we renegotiated ground leases for 12 of the 18 condominium buildings, and we have worked with or are working with the remaining six buildings as their contractual ground rent resets approach.
While BPCA continues to engage with individual buildings in pursuit of our objectives, we are also pursuing a program whereby ground rent increases would be deferred for certain residents with a demonstrated financial need. BPCA believes it is fiscally irresponsible to agree to below market ground rent increases otherwise, particularly for some of the most high-end real estate in New York City. However, we recognize that not all resident homeowners can easily pay increased living expenses, and we aim to finalize this program in the months ahead.
On a Personal Note
I have lived and worked in our community since 1983. I lived at Gateway Plaza as a pioneer in the neighborhood for six years and moved down the street in 1989 when I was married. My husband and I raised our two daughters here. After September 11, I became active in the community. I ran the Battery Park City Parents Association, eventually co-chairing the Neighborhood Association with Rosalie Joseph. Together with Anthony Notaro, we organized the first Block Party, and Bob Townley of Manhattan Youth helped us to set up a fun and free children’s area for a number of years. My husband and I arranged a forgivable loan for the Battery Park City Day Nursery so that it could survive reduced enrollment during the rebuilding period of the neighborhood. Halloween lists, parades, holiday parties as well as advocacy for parks, schools, and community centers were all important to us. I count my neighbors among my dearest friends.
I am a proud member of this community and remain proud to volunteer on the BPCA board. My fellow board members include two other local residents and three seasoned business leaders with experience that helps guide the Authority. Working with many of you, we have helped make this community into the thriving success story it is today. Our work continues.
Eyes to the Sky, July 2022
Cosmos of starry skies reflected in Earth’s fireflies
The first image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope offers a stunning new view of the universe. This first-of-a-kind infrared image is so distant in the cosmos that it shows stars and galaxies as they appeared 13 billion years ago. Credit: NASA
In our world, in dark sky locations on July nights, the cosmos of stars meets and seems to blend with brilliant, flashing firefly lights in the space between treetops and ground in a great, animated surround. At nightfall, blinking lightning bugs stream over wild meadows, fallow hay fields, parks and gardens where artificial light is minimized—leaving the awe-struck stargazer rapt in Earth’s near atmosphere that is alive with luminescent, courting beetles.
Touted as one of the top Latina guitar players in the world, Eljuri is a genre-fusing artist that blends the sounds and rhythms of her life experiences into her song-writing and guitar playing. The infectious music and dazzling stage show of Grammy-nominated Cha Wa has been described as “funk with feathers” – a sound rooted in traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian music mixed with funk and soul, creating a non-stop groove machine.
In this lecture, Jinny Berten will discuss the research behind her historical fiction novel By His Side, which considers the relationship between George Washington and William Lee, the last three days of Washington’s life, his changing views on slavery, and the concerns those enslaved at Mount Vernon had for Washington’s last will and testament.
A panel discussion about the role of women within the male dominated space of hip hop; exploring experiences of race, sexuality, ability & gender. Join us for an intergenerational conversation amongst women in the arts, highlighting the power of women as catalysts for change. One of NYC’s most anticipated events of the year, LOHH festival is a week of sisterhood and celebration acknowledging women in Hip-Hop culture. It’s an action packed week honoring the brilliance, strength, and power of women in Hip-Hop culture. $10-$15
This Skyscraper Museum tour focuses on Battery Park City’s commercial core with its 1980s skyscrapers of the original World Financial Center (now Brookfield Place) designed by architect Cesar Pelli, as well as the expansive North Cove Marina and its public realm. This walk investigates how the planning concept of public-private partnership was both the principle and economic engine of the Battery Park City project and how the goals of opening the waterfront to public access and recreation were realized over three decades. Tour is limited to 25 people. Free.
Rhythm and grooves fill the air at this Friday evening program. Follow the lead of professional drummers as they guide you through the pulsating beats of traditional African drumming techniques and methods. Drums provided, dancing welcome! Free.
Performers from all around the world apply to be part of this culminating showcase. Each year LOHH selects the work of all female crews & companies to present their work. It is a sold-out night sharing the international hip-hop cultural perspective featuring women and girls from New York to New Zealand. $20-$30
Lower Manhattan Greenmarkets
Greenwich Street & Chambers Street
Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8am-3pm (compost program: Saturdays, 8am-1pm)
Bowling Green Greenmarket
Broadway & Whitehall St
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8am-5pm (compost program: 8am-11am)
World Trade Center Oculus Greenmarket
The Outdoor Fulton Stall Market
91 South Street, between Fulton & John Streets
Indoor market: Monday through Saturday,11:30am-5pm
CSA pick-up: Thursday, 4pm-6pm; Friday, 11:30-5pm
Outdoor market: Saturdays, 11:30am-5pm
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
Available for PT/FT. Wonderful person, who is a great worker.
Worked in BPC.
$2.00 per notarized signature.
Today in History: July 14
Today is Bastille Day. In France, this national holiday celebrates the storming of the Bastille, a fortress and prison in Paris, by revolutionaries in 1789. The Bastille was seen as a symbol of the monarchy’s abuse of power, and after it was taken by revolutionaries, members of the nobility began to flee the country, and the insurrection soon escalated into the French Revolution. This is a painting of the siege of the Bastille by a participant, Claude Cholat, a wine merchant.
982 – King Otto II and his Frankish army were defeated by the Muslim army of al-Qasim at Cape Colonna, Southern Italy.
1223 – Louis VIII becomes King of France.
1789 – Storming of the Bastille in Paris. See note above.
1798 – The Sedition Act of 1798 becomes law in the United States making it a federal crime to write, publish, or utter false or malicious statements about the United States government.
1865 – The first ascent of the Matterhorn is completed by Edward Whymper and his party, four of whom die on the descent.
1881 – Billy the Kid is shot and killed at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
1911 – Harry Atwood, an exhibition pilot for the Wright brothers, is greeted by President Taft after he lands his aeroplane on the South Lawn of the White House, having flown from Boston.
1933 – In a decree called the Gleichschaltung, Adolf Hitler abolishes all German political parties except the Nazis.
1965 – Mariner 4 flyby of Mars takes the first close-up photos of another planet.
2002 – French president Jacques Chirac escapes an assassination attempt from Maxime Brunerie during a Bastille Day parade at Champs-Йlysйes.
2016 – A man drives a truck into a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France, killing 86 and injuring 434 before he is shot by police.
926 – Murakami, emperor of Japan (d. 967)
1610 – Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (d. 1670)
1862 – Florence Bascom, American geologist and educator (d. 1945)
1862 – Gustav Klimt, Austrian painter and illustrator (d. 1918)
1912 – Woody Guthrie, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (d. 1967)
1913 – Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States (d. 2006)
1918 – Ingmar Bergman, director, producer, and screenwriter (d. 2007)
1223 – Philip II, king of France (b. 1165)
1827 – Augustin-Jean Fresnel, French physicist and engineer, reviver of wave theory of light, inventor of catadioptric lighthouse lens (b. 1788)
1986 – Raymond Loewy, French-American industrial designer (b. 1893)
2017 – Maryam Mirzakhani, Iranian mathematician, dies of breast cancer at 40