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Say It Taint So
Multiple Contaminants Identified at FiDi Development Site
The vacant lot at the corner of Washington and Carlisle Streets, in the Financial District, where environmental analysis has confirmed the presence of arsenic, barium, lead, and mercury, among numerous other pollutants.
Community Board 1 (CB1) is urging the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to be maximally transparent in disclosing data about possible environmental hazards at a vacant lot in the Greenwich South area of the Financial District, which is slated for development into a residential tower.
The lot in question is located at the corner of Carlisle and Washington Streets. (Its address is variously given as Eight Carlisle Street or 111 Washington Street.) Previous uses of the site, dating back to the 1920s, include a scrap metal dealership, a warehouse, and a factory for fabricating awnings and flags. Most recently, a parking garage was constructed there in 1977, and demolished in 2010. This garage included a 3,000-gallon underground fuel storage tank, which remains buried at the site. Environmental consultants have determined that, at some unknown date in the last five decades, this tank spilled a large amount of fuel into the surrounding soil, which remains saturated with the residue of that plume.
According to documents filed by environmental consultants working for the developer, multiple “contaminants of concern” have been identified at the site, including “VOCs [volatile organic compounds], SVOCs [semi-volatile organic compounds], metals and pesticides in soil, metals in groundwater, and VOCs in soil vapor. The presence of VOCs were attributed to historical site uses, including refueling operations and the use of an UST [underground storage tank] for petroleum. Soil vapor contaminants exist at a range from ‘no further action needed’ to ‘resample or mitigate.’ The presence of VOCs within soil vapor were attributed to an unidentified source.”
Among the pollutants detected at the site, according to documents on file with the DEC, are arsenic, barium, lead, mercury, benzene, naphthalene, chloroform, acetone, isopropanol, and ethanol.
The developer has applied to participate in the State’s “brownfield cleanup program,” which aims to to encourage private-sector cleanups of contaminated sites, “and to promote their redevelopment as a means to revitalize economically blighted communities,” according to the DEC.
The brownfield cleanup program provides tax incentives for the redevelopment of urban sites, and has inspired criticism because such subsidies are calculated as a percentage of the overall value of a development project, rather than only the cost of the cleanup. (For example, the developers of the Clinton Green project, a 15-story luxury residential and retail development in Midtown, claimed $47.2 million in such tax credits, after incurring just $13.6 million in brownfield cleanup costs.)
In a resolution enacted at its July 26 meeting, CB1 urges, “the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to exercise great caution with this determination, ensuring that any proposed remediation and development will provide an unquestionable and quantifiable benefit to the neighborhood and community at large,” and recommends that “all relevant State and City agencies include the neighborhood residents… in all communication and future meetings concerning any next steps with regards to any potential cleanup and development of these sites at 111 Washington Street.”
A real estate development firm that specializes in building affordable housing nationwide acquired the site in 2021, and plans to erect a 50-story residential tower there. Grubb Properties, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, paid $89.15 million for the 11,000-square-foot lot, where it hopes to build a structure enclosing 340,000 square feet.
A rendering of the residential tower that developers hope to erect at the site, which is variously designated as Eight Carlisle Street or 111 Washington Street.
Grubb specializes in building what it calls “essential housing” for people earning between 60 and 140 percent of the “area median income” (AMI) in locations where it develops residential properties. These projects are made possible, in part, by tax incentives and government-backed loan guarantees that aim to encourage builders and landlords to accept lower-than-market rents, while still remaining profitable.
The company has not disclosed how many of the building’s planned 400 apartments will be affordable, and what percentage will be market rate, but have announced that they plan to participate in the Affordable New York subsidy program, which typically requires that a minimum of 25 percent of the units meet affordability criteria. In exchange for this pledge, such a property is exempt from all property taxes for 25 years (as well as three years of construction), and then receives a further, partial exemption for an additional ten years.
For reference, according to the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the AMI for New York City ranges from $83,600 for one person living alone, to $119,300 for a family of four. Based on these brackets, affordable monthly rents within the new building planned for Eight Carlisle Street (defined as 30 percent of gross income, for tenants earning between 60 and 140 percent of AMI) would fluctuate from $956 (for a studio housing one person) up to $3,918 for a three-bedroom unit.
Public Property, Private Profit
Rally for Affordable Housing at World Trade Center Site Precedes Hearing
A Tuesday rally to push for affordable housing at the last remaining development parcel in the World Trade Center complex drew elected officials and community leaders, voicing opposition to a plan for predominantly luxury housing at the site, and support for a grassroots plan to create apartments accessible to mixed-income residents, including survivors of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
9/11 Gathering and Remembrance
September 11, 2022: The Downtown Community Center held its annual gathering to reflect upon the community’s experiences and resilience following 9/11. Shared memories by participants and music from the Tribeca Chamber Players offered solace.
Lower Manhattan Gets a Bit Lower
Declining Apartment Rents and Spiking Office Vacancies Signal Soft Property Market
The Downtown Alliance has released its summary of Lower Manhattan real estate indicators for the second quarter of 2022, and most signs point to a slowdown in the sector. This may translate in slightly encouraging news for those seeking to rent apartments, but will offer scant comfort to those hoping to purchase homes. Read more…
Whose Park Is It, Anyway?
City Agency Plans to Fence Off Five Thousand Square Feet of Battery for Storage
The City’s Department of Parks and Recreation plans to commandeer more than 5,000 square feet of formerly public space in the Battery, the historic park at the southern tip of Manhattan, for vehicle parking and equipment storage. The space was previously used as an outdoor beer garden, adjacent to the View at the Battery restaurant. Read more…
Kids in Southern Battery Park City Among Least Protected Against Polio
Amid rising fears of a polio outbreak in New York, southern Battery Park City has the second lowest rate of vaccination for children among any community in the five boroughs of New York City. Read more…
Friday, September 16
China Institute, 40 Rector Street
The elegance of Qin, a seven-string zither, has been well recognized since ancient China. It is celebrated for not only the music it makes, but also the atheistic, philosophic, even moral sophistications it symbolizes. Illustrated presentation and performance. $10.
Saturday, September 17
Paint in watercolor or use pastels and other drawing materials to capture the vistas of the Hudson River and the landscape of South Cove. An artist/educator will help participants of all levels with instruction and critique. Materials provided. Free.
King Avenue, Governors Island
This idyllic market setting is steps away from Yankee Pier, where the Brooklyn ferries dock, and Liggett Terrace, where the food trucks rally. Featuring a rotating lineup of over 30 of the city’s emerging makers, designers, artists, and small businesses.
Governors Island, Nolan Park, Building 11
Bring your own soil samples to Swale on Governors Island to be tested for heavy metals content using Urban Soil Institute’s pXRF instrument. Results will be ready within 10 minutes, and Swale will provide recommendations for soil remediation best practices. Free.
Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 190 West Street
Max Amini returns to New York with a new set of material. Pulling from his Persian upbringing, Amini blends social trends, cultural references and side-splitting impressions to keep audiences laughing throughout the show. $35-$155.
Washington Market Park
Outdoor movie screening. Free.
Sunday, September 18
Art making, birdwatching and a nature walk with The Bee Conservancy–plus a live presentation of Recycled Sounds from world renowned percussionist Dende Macedo, who invites participants to make instruments out of found materials and perform with him. Free.
On this tour, we will visit one of the main centers of Jewish London and Britain. Our guide will walk us down Golders Green Road to look at Jewish butchers, bakers, bookshops, restaurants, synagogues, a welfare center for the aged and Holocaust survivors, and several different Jewish religious groups. We’ll discuss patterns of immigration, history, and London’s population. $36.
Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place
Conversation with photographer Martin Schoeller and Sara Softness, the Museum’s Curator of Special Projects about the Museum’s new exhibition, Survivors: Faces of Life After the Holocaust. The exhibition will be on view before and after the discussion. $10 suggested donation.
Aboard the tall ship Wavertree, Pier 16
Join the South Street Seaport Museum for a fonda in honor of Chilean Independence Day aboard tall ship Wavertree. In partnership with the Consul General of Chile in New York, this Fiestas Patrias celebration will include flag raising and traditional Chilean food, dance, and music. Free.
Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place
Screening and discussion. Fleeting moments of bravery and generosity remind us of our capacity for courage and compassion, even under the most harrowing of circumstances. Seventy-seven years after the Holocaust, a new animated trilogy from Humanity in Action brings three such histories to life. The three films in the series–Voices in the Void, Two Trees in Jerusalem, and My Father’s War–are first-hand testimonials from the time of the Holocaust that seek to safeguard stories and lessons learned during one of humanity’s darkest chapters and to demonstrate their relevance to the present. $10 suggested donation.
National Museum of the American Indian, One Bowling Green
North American premiere of Ñomongeta (Conversation). Paraguayan tenor José Mongelós stars as a contemporary Guarani man who converses with Christopher Columbus about the effects of colonization on the Guarani people and the environment. Ñomongeta, which combines contemporary and Indigenous music traditions with the lyricism of opera, is the first Guarani-language opera. Free.
In celebration of the Park’s 225th year, Friends of Duane Park will close Duane Street, build one long community table for 150 guests, and host an evening of neighborhood connections, memorable conversations, and food and wine. $275.
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
Today in History
On this day 102 years ago, a bomb in a horse-drawn wagon exploded outside 23 Wall Street. This photograph shows the immediate aftermath. Federal Hall is at right.
1776 – In the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Harlem Heights is fought.
1908 – The General Motors Corporation is founded.
1920 – A bomb in a horse wagon explodes in front of the J. P. Morgan building at 23 Wall St., killing 38 and injuring 400. The crime remains unsolved.
1963 – Malaysia is formed from the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak. Singapore soon leaves the new country.
1979 – Eight people escape from East Germany to the west in a homemade hot air balloon.
1987 – The Montreal Protocol is signed to protect the ozone layer from depletion.
1992 – The trial of the deposed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega ends with a 40-year sentence for drug trafficking and money laundering.
2007 – Security guards working for Blackwater Worldwide shoot and kill 17 Iraqis in Baghdad
1651 – Engelbert Kaempfer, German physician and botanist (d. 1716)
1666 – Antoine Parent, French mathematician and theorist (d. 1716)
1777 – Nathan Mayer Rothschild, banker and financier (d. 1836)
1875 – James Cash Penney, businessman, founded J. C. Penney (d. 1971)
1886 – Jean Arp, Alsatian sculptor and painter (d. 1966)
1888 – W. O. Bentley, race car driver and engineer, founded Bentley Motors Limited (d. 1971)
1898 – H. A. Rey, author and illustrator, co-created Curious George (d. 1977)
1914 – Allen Funt, director, producer, and screenwriter (d. 1999)
1924 – Lauren Bacall, actress (d. 2014)
1925 – Charlie Byrd, singer and guitarist (d. 1999)
1925 – B.B. King, singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (d. 2015)
1959 – Tim Raines, baseball star
1996 – McGeorge Bundy, sixth U.S. National Security Advisor (b. 1919)
2009 – Mary Travers, American singer-songwriter (b. 1936)
2016 – Edward Albee, American director and playwright (b. 1928)
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