City Council Backs Study of Drones to Inspect Buildings
Unmanned aerial vehicles (also known as drones) may soon become a common sight outside the windows of Lower Manhattan high-rises.
Lower Manhattan skies may soon be slightly more crowded. The City Council on Wednesday enacted legislation authorizing the Department of Buildings (DOB) to study the feasibility of conducting facade inspections using the small, robotic aircraft known as drones.
City law requires such facade inspections every five years for all buildings taller than six stories. These reviews are usually performed by contractors suspended from the roof of each structure, but the danger of such overhead work requires the installation of the unsightly scaffolds commonly known as sidewalk sheds.
The impact of such a program would likely be especially significant in Lower Manhattan. Under federal regulations, flights of any form of aircraft are banned throughout most of the five boroughs, apart from designated flight paths serving the City’s major airports. But Downtown is one of the few exceptions. (The other areas that allow planes and helicopters include a large swath of Staten Island, a sliver of the Bronx, near the Westchester border, and a portion of Brooklyn, facing New York Harbor.) Among all of these districts, however, Lower Manhattan is the only one in which buildings taller than the six-floor threshold that triggers the DOB inspection requirement are prevalent.
Sidewalk sheds are widely viewed as a particularly insidious blight on New York’s streetscape. They remain in place, on average, for ten months, and the linear footage of all such scaffolds in use throughout the City in a typical year would stretch from Lower Manhattan to Montreal.
That noted, the prospect of automated aircraft (equipped with cameras) buzzing close enough to building walls to inspect masonry raises serious questions about privacy and quality of life. Another concern is safety, especially in New York’s crowded airspace: In 2017, an Army Blackhawk helicopter flying roughly 300 feet over Staten Island collided with a drone being operated by a hobbyist. (The helicopter suffered minor damage; the drone was destroyed.) This was the first confirmed case of a drone crashing into a manned aircraft anywhere in the United States, although such mishaps have been anticipated for years.
Less dangerous mischief involving drones is also becoming more common Downtown. In April, visitors to the East River Park in Lower Manhattan were buzzed by a drone equipped with a loudspeaker that announced, “this is the Anti-COVID-19 Volunteer Drone Task Force,” and continued, “please maintain a social distance of at least six feet. Again, please maintain social distancing. Please help stop the spread of this virus. Reduce the death toll and save lives. For your own safety and your family’s safety, please maintain social distancing. Thank you for your cooperation. We are all in this together.” Police and federal aviation officials are now investing the incident, because the drone (despite its official-sounding tone) was not deployed by any government agency.
Notorious Adverse Possession
Urban Squatters Stake a Short-Lived Claim to Empty Lot in FiDi
A Financial District lot with a turbulent history that has sat empty for nearly two decades briefly become the venue for an insurgent (although anonymous) effort to open the space for public use, while also making quixotic political point. The parcel in question is 111 Washington Street, at the corner of Carlisle Street.
Once home to a parking garage that was demolished (in anticipation of a more lucrative use) during the era of fevered real estate speculation that followed the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the 11,000-square-foot site has remained desolate and forlorn since the mid-2000s, surrounded by an unsightly green plywood fence.
Over the weekend of September 5, one or more public-spirited citizens (or perhaps wily anarchists, depending on your point of view) covered the wall with tarps and then used power saws to cut more than a dozen elegant arches into the wooden rampart. It took the three days of Labor Day weekend to complete this work, which transformed a drab barricade into an inviting portal, with a view of the wild urban forest that had sprouted up within during the lot’s years of disuse. “Then they had an opening party on Monday night,” recalls Esther Regelson, who has lived next door on Washington Street since the 1980s. “It was very strange. A bunch of guys went on the site and ‘opened’ it up to the public. I ran into a lawyer from the owners who said that these guys did it illegally, It’s a very weird situation to say the least.”
2011: OCCUPY WALL STREET in Zuccotti Park photo: Robert Simko
1630 – The city of Boston, Massachusetts is founded.
1778 – The Treaty of Fort Pitt is signed. It is the first formal treaty between the United States and a Native American tribe.
1859 – Joshua A. Norton declares himself “Norton I, Emperor of the United States.”
1862 – American Civil War: George B. McClellan halts the northward drive of Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army in the single-day Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in American military history.
1908 – The Wright Flyer flown by Orville Wright, with Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge as passenger, crashes, killing Selfridge, who becomes the first airplane fatality.
1916 – World War I: Manfred von Richthofen (“The Red Baron”), a flying ace of the German Luftstreitkrдfte, wins his first aerial combat near Cambrai, France.
1939 – World War II: The Soviet invasion of Poland begins.
1939 – World War II: German submarine U-29 sinks the British aircraft carrierHMS Courageous.
1941 – World War II: Soviet forces enter Tehran during the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran.
1954 – The novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding is first published.
1991 – The first version of the Linux kernel (0.01) is released to the Internet.
2001 – The New York Stock Exchange reopens for trading after the September 11 attacks, the longest closure since the Great Depression.
2006 – Fourpeaked Mountain in Alaska erupts, marking the first eruption for the volcano in at least 10,000 years.
2011 – Occupy Wall Street movement begins in Zuccotti Park
879 – Charles the Simple, Frankish king (d. 929)
1479 – Celio Calcagnini, Italian astronomer (d. 1541)
1739 – John Rutledge, 2nd Chief Justice of the United States (d. 1800)
1883 – William Carlos Williams, poet, short story writer, and essayist (d. 1963)
1903 – Frank O’Connor, Irish short story writer, novelist, and poet (d. 1966)
1929 – Stirling Moss, English race car driver
1935 – Ken Kesey, American novelist, essayist, and poet (d. 2001)
1025 – Hugh Magnus, king of France (b. 1007)
1665 – Philip IV, king of Spain (b. 1605)
1877 – Henry Fox Talbot, English photographer, developed the Calotype Process (b. 1800)
1996 – Spiro Agnew, 39th Vice President of the United States (b. 1918)
A Century Ago, September 16, 1920
Terror in a Horse-Drawn Cart on Wall Street
On September 11, family members and others gathered at Ground Zero to honor those killed nineteen years earlier when commercial airliners were repurposed into deadly missiles, striking a blow at the very symbol of capitalism by targeting prominent buildings in New York’s Financial District.
Today, many walk down Wall Street unaware that one hundred years ago New York City’s deadliest terror attack until 2001 took place right there. Though no plaque marks the spot, the scars are still visible if you know where to look.
As the noon hour approached on a fall Thursday morning in 1920 a horse-drawn wagon slowly made its way west down Wall Street toward “the Corner,” the high-powered intersection of Wall and Broad. Its driver came to a gentle stop in front of the Assay Office, where stockpiles of gold and silver were stored and tested for purity. But theft was not his motive.
Next door was the U.S. Sub-Treasury with its own cache of precious metals, including the heroic bronze of George Washington kick-starting a nation out on the front steps. And in view just across Broad Street stood the iconic façade of the New York Stock Exchange. Talk about a target-rich environment!
But it was the building directly across narrow Wall Street that seems to have held the driver’s interest. J. P. Morgan & Company was the nation’s most powerful bank. Known as “the House of Morgan,” or simply “the House,” 23 Wall Street was the most important address in American finance. Its headquarters distinguished itself by its lack of ornamentation.
As other companies proclaimed greatness with buildings that scraped the sky, the House modestly rose four unadorned floors. Unconspicuous consumption at its finest. Of course, it announced its presence even louder by playing it so cool, and everyone—bankers, wagon drivers, and terrorists alike—knew whose house it was.
Few recalled the old wagon or its driver, who suddenly dropped the reins and hurried off. Some recalled Trinity’s bells begin to announce the noon hour. Everyone recalled the sudden flash of light and the explosion.
Just before the peal ended, one hundred pounds of dynamite exploded, vaporizing both wagon and horse and hurling five hundred pounds of white-hot metal through streets crowded with bank clerks, secretaries, and messenger boys out for lunch.
An eerie silence followed, broken by the sound of crashing glass and the cries of four hundred injured. Thirty-eight men, women, and children—and one horse, whose hooves were found two blocks away in front of Trinity Church—were killed. Those closest to the wagon were consumed by flames or cut to pieces by metal shrapnel. A hundred fifty lay badly wounded.
Within a minute of the explosion the Stock Exchange closed. Within an hour, two thousand police officers, Red Cross nurses, and soldiers stationed on Governor’s Island were at the scene caring for the wounded and protecting the precious metals stored in the suddenly breached Assay Office.
The Wall Street bombing remains unsolved a century later, though Italian anarchists—responsible for a wave of similar bombings across America the previous year—are the main suspects. In a successful effort to open the Stock Exchange the following morning and appear unfazed by the event, bodies and debris—including evidence that might have helped identify the perpetrators—were cleared away before the sun came up.
In that same spirit of defiance (though some argue it was more a cost-saving move), J. P. Morgan & Company quickly announced that it would not repair the damaged stones. Though the wooden wall that gave the street its name is long gone, a stone wall on the Corner tells a Wall Street tale worth remembering. Please share it with others the next time you’re there.
John M. Simko
What’s Next for the Store of the Future?
As Century 21 Shutdown Looms, Opportunity Arises to Ponder New Uses for a Storied Temple of Commerce
With local shoppers still mourning the impending demise of Century 21, the renowned fashion discounter, the family that owns the soon-to-be-defunct retailer may be crying all the way to the bank.
Century 21 was founded in 1961, by Al Gindi and his cousin, Samuel (“Sonny”) Gindi, who set up shop in the palatial former home of the East River Savings Bank at the corner and Church and Cortlandt Streets, and took their new venture’s name from the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, which styled itself the “Century 21 Exposition.” That event focused on the theme of how Americans would live come the millennium, but its predictions did not include an epochal pandemic, or the death of retail driven by online shopping.
Trump Supporters, Critics Make Their Cases in Battery Park City
In a gesture that was apparently intended to provoke and offend residents of Lower Manhattan, an armada of yachts and powerboats festooned with signs proclaiming support for the reelection of Donald Trump converged on North Cove Marina in Battery Park City on Friday, coinciding with the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. One vessel carried the name “Team Deplorable,” while another, called “Frivolous,” hosted a professional Donald Trump imitator, who began lip synching as recorded speeches by the President were played over an amplifier. When the passengers disembarked, they unfurled a banner that read, “Trump 2020: Fuck Your Feelings.”
When Justine Cuccia, a co-founder of Democracy for Battery Park City, walked along the Esplanade and displayed a sign emblazoned with the words, “Trump Is Not America,” to the occupants of one of these boats, she was answered with raised middle fingers and calls of, “fuck you, entitled liberal bitch!” The irony of hurling accusations of “entitlement” from the deck of a yacht was apparently unintentional.
Fall is a special time in BPC: along with the changes in trees and gardens, Monarch Butterflies and many species of unique birds are migrating through. Celebrate this time with art and nature activities.
Participants are expected to bring their own general supplies, such as crayons, markers, colored pencils, watercolor paints (bring your own container of water), glue, and scissors.
Pick up a “kit bag” with instructions for the project of the day. Program is first come, first served for up to 20 children with accompanying adults. Masks and contact information required upon arrival. Activity is self-guided.
Michael Sisitzky, Lead Policy Counsel, New York Civil Liberties Union
Brian Nelsen, Community Affairs Officer, New York Police Department 1st Precinct
3) Capital and Expense Budget Items for FY 2022 – Discussion
Virtual Talk: The Evolution of Chinese Fashion
Join fashion historian Dr. Kyunghee Pyun as she virtually guides guests through the fashions on display in The Sleeping Giant. Using posters for reference, she will talk about the history of Chinese fashion, the modernization of traditional clothing, and the development of Mao Suits. An excellent introduction to Chinese fashion history! China Institute’s SVP of Programs, Dinda Elliott, will provide an introduction to the event. Free. 6:30pm. https://www.chinainstitute.org/event/virtual-talk-evolution-chinese-fashion/
Need a safe and breezy break from your apartment? Several cruise operators have reopened in North Cove and are offering opportunities to get out on the water, including Tribeca Sailing, Ventura, and Classic Harbor Line. All cruise operators are adhering to social distancing guidelines; check individual websites for details.