‘This Project Will Forever Be a Symbol of Failure’
Community Leaders React to Cuomo Plan for Yet Another Monument in Battery Park City
A rendering of the design for Governor Cuomo’s planned Essential Workers Monument, which is slated to take up 29,000 square feet of space in Rockefeller Park.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that he plans to erect in Battery Park City an Essential Workers Monument to those who served during the COVID-19 pandemic. “In the beginning of the pandemic, when people were told to stay home, essential workers went into work day after day, making sure their fellow New Yorkers were safe, fed and cared for,” Mr. Cuomo said. “While we will never be able to fully repay our essential workers, we can honor and celebrate them with this monument that will stand forever as a tribute to all that they have done for New York in our greatest moment of need and beyond. These heroes continue to inspire us every day and we are forever grateful for their service and sacrifice.”
The design centers on a Circle of Heroes, comprised of 19 red maple trees, along with an eternal flame. It is to be located along the Esplanade in Rockefeller Park, between Murray and Warren Streets, adjacent to the basketball courts. A source familiar with the plans says that the preliminary design calls for the Essential Workers Monument to take up approximately two-thirds of an acre, or roughly 29,000 square feet of public space.
The Governor attributed the decision to locate this monument in Battery Park City to his Essential Workers Monument Advisory Committee, which was announced in April. This panel consisted of 23 union presidents, and not a single resident of Battery Park City. There is no record of this Committee having held any public meetings, or having solicited any advice or feedback from the community.
Tammy Meltzer, chair of Community Board 1 (CB1), responded by noting that, “in February of this year, CB1 called for the Governor of New York and Mayor of New York City to ‘put their differences aside and come together on a design competition to allow New Yorkers and the world to have a place to honor the loss and sacrifice of too many people’ and that ‘the location of such a memorial should be carefully selected to honor those communities that unjustly bore the brunt of this pandemic.’”
She continued, in a reference to the Governor’s recent announcement that COVID restrictions were being rolled back, “one day after New Yorkers began the process of looking to the future and selecting the new leadership of the City, the Governor chooses to ignore the voice of New York City residents and workers in diverse communities. The voices of the people who worked tirelessly and those who were left behind by this virus will remain unheard and their pain unseen by his decision today. There is rich irony in locating this memorial in Battery Park City, a neighborhood that symbolizes the failure of the State and Battery Park City Authority to protect affordable housing. The families departing from formerly stabilized apartments are an ever-present reminder that essential workers are no longer able to afford living here. We hope that the board of the Battery Park City Authority recognizes that this project will forever be a symbol of the failure of the envisioned plan for a population of 50,000—two-thirds of them middle- and low-income families, for a balanced socio-economically diverse neighborhood—instead irreverently dropping a token monument of diverse cultures of essential workers within a neighborhood that they have been pushed out of and excluded from.”
Ms. Meltzer concluded, “with a tremendous amount of State parkland available that would allow the essential workers State-wide to experience the physical representation of the recognition of the thanks of their neighbors, the Governor and the board are hiding a small token in a location where few, if any, of those same heroes will often visit.”
Above: Rockefeller Park’s lawn is loved and used by many. Below: Mother Cabrini monument
Justine Cuccia, the chair of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, said, “Governor Cuomo has once again displayed his disregard for the desires of the Battery Park City community by unilaterally announcing that he plans to create a monument for essential workers on publicly owned space in Rockefeller Park. Is a monument to essential workers necessary and appropriate? Yes, without question.”
She continued, “should such a monument take up yet to be disclosed thousands of square feet of space that will require the destruction of trees, plantings, quiet space, as well as taking away children’s play space? Absolutely not.”
Ms. Cuccia added, “should this decision be made without consulting the community? Most certainly not! This is part of a pattern in which Governor Cuomo, who faces a tough reelection bid next year, is hoping to score political points by using public money and public land to erect memorials to politically important constituencies in one of the few parts of Manhattan that he directly controls: Battery Park City. But what about the people who live here? Many of them are being forced from their homes by the ever-escalating ground rent, payments in lieu of taxes, and civic fees, as well as ever-diminishing affordable rental housing. The Governor has turned a deaf ear to their pleas for financial relief, so they can age and die in place. But, with this newest addition, he will have added three new monuments in Battery Park City.” This was a reference to the fact that Governor Cuomo, in the last few years, has also created nearby monuments to Mother Cabrini and the suffering of Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria.
Ms. Cuccia concluded by asking, “how much public money is going to be spent on this project? What is the value of the public land he plans to confiscate for this political self-promotion? And once these amounts are determined, should Battery Park City residents think of this our ‘mandatory campaign contribution’ to Andrew Cuomo’s quest for a fourth term?”
A group of concerned Battery Park City resident began meeting and organizing immediately after the Governor’s announcement, and preparing for possible legal action. One member of this group, who asked not to be identified, pending a formal announcement of their plans, said, “we think this is a wonderful idea, but this kind of monument should be located where essential workers live. Or else the Governor should make it possible for them to live here. He could accomplish this by allocating funds equivalent to the value of the public land he plans to seize for this project—and two-thirds of an acre in Lower Manhattan is worth many tens of millions of dollars, at a minimum—and using that to subsidize additional affordable housing at Five World Trade Center, while setting it aside for essential workers.”
This was a reference to the controversial plan to erect a super-tall residential tower at the last remaining development site within the World Trade Center complex, which will contain 995 market-rate, luxury apartments, while 330 other units will be set aside as affordable apartments.
“Making it possible for essential workers to actually live within the community would be the most fitting monument of all,” this critic of the Governor’s plan concluded.
Within hours of the Governor’s announcement, workers began cordoning off the construction site within Rockefeller Park, to begin work on the Essential Workers Monument, which Mr. Cuomo says will be completed by Labor Day.
News Analysis & Opinion
Housing Costs and Predictability in Battery Park City
At the Battery Park City Authority, we make it a point to regularly communicate with our community’s residents—renters and owners alike—about our role in managing, maintaining, and improving this world-class neighborhood.
We do so at Community Board meetings and public events, during public board meetings, in our regular community newsletters, and via our Strategic Plan—and even as we encounter each other during our daily routines (as we hope to be doing more of soon).
In this letter, I’d like to talk to you about our role in addressing a concern we hear frequently—housing costs and predictability—and what we’re doing about it.
Multiple generations of local residents gathered yesterday afternoon (Thursday, June 24) outside the Battery Park City Day Nursery to toast the retirement of Janet Lovell, known for decades to kids who enrolled there as, “Ms. Janet.”
Ms. Lovell was one of the first employees at what was then called Joy McCormack’s All Day Nursery, when it opened on South End Avenue in 1986. “I had been working at a childcare center on the Upper East Side, where Joy was one of the directors,” she recalls. “And then Joy wanted to open a new place in Battery Park City, where she saw unlimited potential. Her partners weren’t interested, so Joy struck out on her own, and I came with her.” To read more…
Processions is a series of three outdoor processionals in areas around Battery Park City engaging some of the most interesting choreographers in New York. This series, curated in collaboration with Movement Research, will include a time of transmission from the artist to the participants and an extended time for a procession that can be witnessed by the public. Free
The tall ship Wavertree is open to the public. Visits will be self-guided along a set route and will include access to the main deck and quarter deck. Learn how people worked and lived aboard a 19th century cargo sailing vessel, from the captain to the ship’s officers, cooks, and crew. Then visit the cargo hold and stand atop the viewing platform where you can take in the massive main cargo area. The Museum will allow no more than 150 guests on board the ship at any time to encourage social distancing from different households. Free
Mariana Valencia’s Futurity (2021) layers interpretive queerstories that converge in New York City and beyond. A performance with sunlight as its light source, Futurity carries with it the character of Star Baby, (a being who has skates for feet) who catches signals from her elders, the Star people. The Star people’s stories engage in the social history of the westside “village” of downtown NYC from the 1960s-present. Repeated at 4:30pm. Free
Two Nights Out is a visual EP featuring dynamic performances and original music created by The Dragon Sisters. This multimedia film is a deep dive into the sisters’ musical prophecies and creative aesthetic. It explores themes of relationships, non-binary gender expression, and toxic masculinity. Two Nights Out illustrates the many dualities of The Dragon Sisters as dance performers and rap artists; soulmates and collaborators; and bearers of historical trauma and activists. The piece is a three dimensional realization of their most recent music project, The Fine Print EP. It is a love letter to their community and their sisterhood. $15
EYES TO THE SKY
June 14 – 27, 2021
Milky Way of summer stars with streaming fireflies
As evening twilight deepens, a cosmos of blinking earthly stars attracts and mesmerizes stargazers in areas a distance from street and house lights. Fireflies are connecting our joy in the celestial with breathtaking wonder close around us. In the dark, over gardens, parks, backyards and countryside meadows and forests, our attention is lured away from the starry heavens by undulating streams of countless fireflies flashing. Floating, glowing ribbons of curved light drop from the treetops and move above the ground.
Unaware of time, I find myself alternately looking up to my favorite summer constellations, then stealing time to lower my eyes to the pulsating world of lightening bugs in the landscape all around me. Close above the west-northwest skyline, planet Venus makes a brief appearance at dusk today and is visible until nightfall by next week. To read more…
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.
Can We Get It Right This Time?
State Legislature Passes Bill That Offers Path Forward on Affordability
Whoever is elected to the various offices representing Lower Manhattan residents today, they will have to grapple with a legacy policy failure that may yet reprise itself.
For more than a year, as local hotels emptied due to the pandemic, and various Downtown real estate projects stalled, Lower Manhattan leaders have urged elected officials to consider whether (and how) to convert commercial properties (such as hotels and office buildings) to use as residences. To read more…
9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Report
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.
1876 – Battle of the Little Bighorn: 7th Cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer was wiped out by Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. Custer, who was 36 years old, died along with his brothers Boston and Thomas..
1630 – The fork introduced to American dining by Governor Winthrop
1638 – Lunar eclipse is first astronomical event recorded in the American Colonies
1667 – Dr Jean-Baptiste Denys, French doctor, performs first blood transfusion
1672 – First recorded monthly Quaker meeting in US held, Sandwich, Mass
1798 – US passes Alien Act allowing president to deport dangerous aliens
1868 – President Andrew Johnson passes a law that government workers would work 8 hr day
1876 – Battle of the Little Bighorn: 7th Cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer wiped out by Sioux and Cheyenne, Custer killed
1938 – Federal minimum wage law guarantees workers 25 cents per hour (rising to 40 cents by 1945) and a maximum 44 hour working week
1940 – Adolf Hitler views Eiffel tower and grave of Napoleon in France
1953 – 86°F in Anchorage Alaska
1960 – Earthquake in NE Belgium
1961 – Iraq announces that Kuwait is a part of Iraq and Kuwait disagrees
1967 – 400 million watch Beatles “Our World” TV special
1987 – Pope John Paul II receives Austrian President Kurt Waldheim
1988 – 104°F highest temperature ever recorded in Cleveland in June
1988 – Cal Ripken Jr plays in his 1,000th consecutive game
1997 – Christies auctions off Princess Di’s clothing for $5.5 million
June Lockhart with Lassie
1865 – Robert Henri, US painter, leader of Ashcan school
1903 – George Orwell, [Eric A Blair], Bihar, British India, British writer (Animal Farm, 1984), (d. 1950)
1924 – Sidney Lumet, Phila, director (Group, Pawnbroker, Fail Safe)
1925 – June Lockhart, NYC, actr (Lassie, Lost in Space, Petticoat Junction)
1945 – Carly Simon, NYC, singer (Anticipation, You’re So Vain
1767 – Georg Philipp Telemann, German late-barok composer, dies at 86
1876 – Boston Custer, brother of George Custer, dies at Little Bighorn
1876 – George Armstrong Custer, US General, dies at the Battle of Little Bighorn aged 36
1876 – Thomas W Custer, brother of George Custer, dies at Little Bighorn
1906 – Stanford White, architect, shot dead atop Madison Square Garden which he designed by Harry Thaw the jealous husband of Evelyn Nesbit
1916 – Thomas Eakins, American artist (b. 1844)
1979 – Philippe Halsman, American photographer (b. 1906)
1995 – Warren Earl Burger, Supreme Court Justice, dies of heart failure at 78
1997 – Jacques Cousteau, French oceanographer, dies of heart attack at 87
2003 – Lester Maddox, American businessman, one-time segregationist and Governor of Georgia (b. 1915)
2009 – Michael Jackson, King of Pop music dies of cardiac arrest at 50
2009 – Farrah Fawcett, American actress and pop culture figure (b.1947)