FiDi School Deemed Unsafe to Reopen Over Ventilation Concerns
The High School of Economics & Finance, on Trinity Place.
A Lower Manhattan public school has been identified as potentially unsafe during a Department of Education (DOE) review of whether building ventilation systems meet new, higher standards of air circulation in the wake of the pandemic coronavirus.
On Monday, the DOE announced that ten schools in its system had failed to pass this inspection. Among them is the High School of Economics and Finance (located on Trinity Place, near Cedar Street). Like the other nine schools on that list, Economics and Finance will remain closed until its vent systems have been upgraded and can pass inspection.
The most immediate impact of this decision is that teachers and staff at the Financial District school, who were scheduled to return today, to begin preparing for the upcoming fall semester, have been directed to continue working remotely. The DOE expects to have repairs on the ventilation systems completed at all ten schools before students return, a milestone now slated for September 21.
But some community leaders are concerned that the push to return students to classrooms may result in longterm risk. Safe air circulation was among the issues cited by multiple principals and teachers in Lower Manhattan public schools, who recently voiced grave concerns about the plan to reopen education facilities in September. This coalition of 14 principals who run elementary and middle schools in the DOE’s District Two (roughly, Manhattan below 96th Street on the East Side and below 59th Street on the West Side, with the exception of part of the Lower East Side) included three principals who lead highly regarded local schools: Terri Ruyter (of P.S./I.S. 276, the Battery Park City School), Maggie Siena, (of P.S. 343, the Peck Slip School), and Nancy Harris (of P.S. 397, the Spruce Street School).
These educators wrote to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza on August 19, calling upon them to, “delay the launch of in-person learning until we can adequately plan for a safe and instructionally sound return to school buildings.” Among the unresolved issues that the principals cited were, “documentation of proper ventilation and adequate personal protective equipment.”
Similar apprehension is being voiced by Lila Nordstrom, who was a junior at Lower Manhattan’s Stuyvesant High School in September, 2001. In 2006, she founded StuyHealth, an advocacy group for the 19,000 public school students who returned to buildings within the exposure zone that left them vulnerable to environmental toxins scattered by the destruction of the World Trade Center. A significant number of these subsequently developed health conditions that are believed to be related to this exposure.
“Just like today with COVID-19, getting kids back to school was central to the push to reopen the economy,” she wrote in an op-ed for the Daily News in July. “I was one of the Stuyvesant students who crowded into the building on October 9. It was soon clear that a mistake had been made.” Within weeks, dozens of Stuyvesant pupils and staff were reporting maladies ranging from headaches to coughs to bloody noses. “The consequences of our rushed return didn’t end with nosebleeds,” Ms. Nordstrom continued. “Nineteen years later, my classmates and I are suffering from a litany of conditions: chronic respiratory and gastrointestinal conditions, PTSD and cancers.” She concluded that, “We must not let the federal government, once again, send Americaʼs kids into danger to protect the economy.”
“Nobody disputes the need for childcare,” Ms. Nordstrom told the Broadsheet, “but the widespread claims that kids must return to school so that they can resume their normal routines are wildly misguided. There will be nothing that feels normal about attending school in a pandemic. It will be scary and confusing. And they, like, us, will be asked to parse complicated, sometimes-contradictory information about their safety.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that, “there is growing evidence that this virus can remain airborne for longer times and further distances than originally thought. In addition to close contact with infected people and contaminated surfaces, there is a possibility that spread of COVID-19 may also occur via airborne particles in indoor environments, in some circumstances beyond the two-meter (about six-foot) range encouraged by social distancing recommendations.”
Such concerns about health and safety may be what have motivated the parents of slightly more than one-third of all children in the New York City public school system to withdraw from the “blended learning model” that the DOE plans to implement this fall, with students going to school buildings one to three days per week, while learning remotely (from home) for the remainder of each week. The parents of more than 360,000 students have instead requested that the DOE provide them with all-remote learning.
State Prosecutor Probes Trump Finances in FiDi Landmark
The office building at 40 Wall Street figures prominently in a probe by New York State Attorney General Letitia James, who is investigating whether President Donald Trump (who holds a “ground lease” on the 1930 skyscraper through the year 2059) fraudulently inflated the property’s value in loan documents, when using the structure as collateral.
On Wednesday, State Supreme Court judge Arthur Engoron ordered Eric Trump (who is running the Trump real estate organization while his father is in the White House) to appear in court in September 23 to “show cause” as to why he and the firm he heads should not be forced to hand over documents demanded by Ms. James for her investigation. The judge also ordered both Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization to summit any written arguments by September 16.
Kick start your fall with a little-known NYC history lesson! Join LMHQ, the Alliance for Downtown New York, and Black Gotham Experience to learn about the Other Side of Wall Street.
The Other Side of Wall Street starts in 1643 with the beginning of a small town known as Land of the Blacks in the Dutch colony of New Netherland. By 1655, the Land of the Blacks was over twice the size of SoHo today and it continued to exist after the English took the island from the Dutch, making it the first free Black community in New York. In this webinar, Black Gotham Experience artist/historian Kamau Ware will explain how this community started and how it continued to exist into the 18th century.
A weekly bagpipe tribute honors those who died on 9/11 as well as those who are sick or who have died from exposure to hazards and toxins in the aftermath of 9/11. Bagpipers play near the 9/11 Memorial Glade.
1) 107 South Street, application for updated design of vertical extension and rehabilitation of property – Resolution
2) 56 North Moore Street, application to install new aluminum and glass ground floor storefronts and construction of a rooftop addition – Resolution
3) 317 Broadway, application for partial demolition and construction of new building along with restoration of primary facade and installation of new signage – Resolution
Downtown Museums Begin to Welcome Back Visitors
Lower Manhattan cultural institutions are beginning to stir from their months-long lockdown.
The 9/11 Tribute Museum (92 Greenwich Street, at the corner of Rector Street), reopened on September 3. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum(within the World Trade Center complex) will reopen its doors on the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The Museum of Jewish Heritage 36 Battery Place, near First Place) will welcome visitors back starting on September 13, and has also extended the run of its acclaimed exhibit, “Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away,” through May 2.
On-Again, Off-Again Decision about Tribute in Light Revives Calls for National Parks to Manage September 11 Memorial
The recent controversy over the planned cancellation of the Tribute in Light (the twin beams of illumination that rise skyward from Lower Manhattan on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001) has led to renewed calls by community leaders for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum to be taken over by the federal government, and operated by the National Park Service (NPS).
The most recent dispute arose in August, when the Memorial announced that it was cancelling both the Tribute in Light and the annual reading of names that commemorates each life lost during the attacks. Both of these moves were characterized as public-safety measures, in the response to the ongoing pandemic coronavirus. To read more…
EYES TO THE SKY
September 8 – 20, 2020
Planets shine all night – brilliant morning planets
In the evening sky, planets Jupiter and Saturn shine side by side in the south. Jupiter, at magnitude -2.51, is visible at dusk and is joined, as darkness falls, by Saturn (.34 m). Reminder: the smaller the number the brighter the celestial body. Enjoy the juxtaposed planets, the largest in our solar system, until they set in the southwest after midnight. To read more…
The Fate of a Neighborhood
Appeals Panel Overturns Lower Court Decision Blocking Two Bridges Developments
Opponents of three massive real estate developments planned for the Lower East Side were dealt a setback on Thursday when the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court reversed a ruling from last year that said the projects were required to undergo a more rigorous form of public review before final approval. The Appellate Division, in a unanimous decision, ruled that the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio had legal authority to approve the plans. To read more…
‘Schools Are Not Safe to Reopen’
Lower Manhattan Principals and Teachers Sound Alarm about Fall Semester
Multiple principals and teachers in Lower Manhattan public schools are voicing grave concerns about the plan to reopen education facilities on September 10.
They are also raising objections to the “blended learning model” that the City’s Department of Education (DOE) plans to implement this fall, with students going to school buildings one to three days per week, while learning remotely (from home) for the remainder of each week.
A coalition of 14 principals who run elementary and middle schools in the DOE’s District Two wrote to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza on August 19, calling upon them to, “delay the launch of in-person learning until we can adequately plan for a safe and instructionally sound return to school buildings.” To read more…
The Weight of Water
Discussion about Development Highlights Local Infrastructure Challenges
At what point does a water and sewer system designed after the Civil War to support a community of five-story buildings buckle under a district of 50- and 100-story buildings?
This was the question raised by Fern Cunningham at the June 17 meeting of the Quality of Life Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1). The Committee was reviewing a presentation by Humberto Galarza, a public affairs representative with the City’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Ms. Cunningham asked, “what is the impact of CB1’s increased density on our sewage treatment and access [to drinking water]?” This was a reference to the headlong pace of real estate development in Lower Manhattan in recent years.
“Every now and then we hear about water main breaks,” Ms. Cunningham continued, “and we are the oldest part of the City. To read more…
Welcome to the Velodrome
Visionary Plans for Getting Around Downtown Focus on Two Wheels and Two Feet
A pair of new studies outlines a future for Lower Manhattan that is highly cyclical. The first of these, a report from the Downtown Alliance titled, “Bicycle Infrastructure & Commuting in Lower Manhattan,” notes that more than 20 percent of people who are employed Downtown currently walk or bike to work, while nearly one-third of people who live here get to and from their places of business in the same way.
These hardy souls are among some 49,000 New York City commuters (concentrated mainly in Manhattan and Brooklyn) who get to the office and back under the power of their own legs each day — a figure that has jumped 55 percent since 2012, and is growing by roughly nine percent each year.
Local Apartment Rents and Sales Prices Tumbled in the Second Quarter
A trio of reports quantifies the extent to which property prices in Lower Manhattan crumbled in the three months ending June 30.
A pair of analyses from Platinum Properties, a brokerage firm headquartered in the Financial District, looks in detail at Battery Park City and the Financial District.
The company’s report about Battery Park City documents that the average sales price for a condominium in the community dropped by 24.81 percent, relative to the second quarter of 2019, to $1.16 million. This aggregate figure varies by apartment size, with the worst pain reserved for sellers of two-bedroom units, which dropped by 42.4 percent from the first quarter of this year. The number of units sold fell by more than half, to just nine apartments.
Kavanagh and Niou Aim to Protect Small Businesses by Offering Tax Incentives to Landlords
Two State legislators representing Lower Manhattan are proposing to rescue small businesses with a plan that would trade tax credits to landlords for rent breaks to commercial tenants.
Inspired by the acute financial distress that small businesses are experiencing in the wake of the pandemic coronavirus (and the economic cataclysm that it has unleashed), the “COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Lease Act,” sponsored in the State Senate by Brian Kavanagh and the Assembly by Yuh-Line Niou, aims to entice property owners to renegotiate leases and offer long-term, affordable rents to small business owners.
To read more…
Recently Reopened Businesses Downtown
Get Out on the Water
from North Cove
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.