Protests to Save Rockefeller Park Continue as Bulldozers Back Away, For Now
Above: Children and their parents spread out picnic blankets in front of earth-moving equipment, laid down and refused to move, thus preventing the start of construction. Below: The area of some of the oldest and tallest trees in Battery Park City are slated to be cut down is illustrated by this view from the Hudson River, with the orange fencing in the foreground delineating the construction zone.
Opposition to the plan by Governor Andrew Cuomo to seize more than 10,000 square feet of Rockefeller Park for an Essential Workers Monument grew more intense on Monday, as 100-plus concerned residents (dozens of them children, accompanied by parents) arrived at the site before 7:00 am and literally laid down in the path of bulldozers, to prevent the demolition and tree-felling needed to begin the work.
Shortly after 7:30 am, frustrated contractors called the NYPD, which dispatched multiple officers from the First Precinct. These officers appeared to be unsure of how to handle the situation, and called for supervision. This led Captain Thomas P. Smith, commanding officer of the First Precinct to arrive and assess the situation. He in turn, called for advice from the NYPD’s Legal Bureau.
Around 10:30 am, Captain Smith and the officers under his command directed the contractors to move their equipment to a far corner of the park, away from the site of the planned construction, apparently as a safety measure. This development was cheered by the crowd of residents, who were determined to prevent the start of construction.
By 3:00 pm, a separate group of contractors appeared in Rockefeller Park, and began offloading heaving metal fencing, which would create of more difficult barricade than the waist-high plastic barriers that the protestors had easily circumvented that morning. These contractors also wheeled into the park a large generator, which could be used to power construction lights during overnight work. They were surrounded by angry residents, demanding to see legal permits authorizing this work. The contractors were escorted by the Allied Universal security guards, who serve as contractors for the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA).
Two hours later, community leader Eric Gyasi announced a provisional agreement, by which the orange plastic fencing would be removed immediately, but the heavy metal fencing would not be installed—at least through the end of the day. The second group of contractors reloaded the fencing equipment onto their trucks, and wheeled the generator out of Rockefeller Park, causing the crowd to erupt once again in cheers.
Above: Blake and Sloan (last names withheld) were among the protestors who stopped the bulldozers. Below: By late afternoon, contractors had begun removing the orange fencing that had cordoned off the area that protestors were determined to protect—a development greeted as a small victory.
Throughout the day, elected officials also began expressing reservations about Governor Cuomo’s plan. Congressman Jerry Nadler said, “New York’s essential workers deserve our honor and respect — and we can commemorate them with a memorial. But bulldozing vital open space in Lower Manhattan isn’t the way to do it.” He added, in a reference to the name taken on by the residents who are opposed to this plan, “Governor Cuomo needs to Pause the Saws and consult with the community on location and design.”
State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou said, “everyone wants to honor our essential workers that kept us safe during this pandemic. This could be in hazard pay or in raised wages or in putting their safety first in our regulations. A tribute for their service is nice too, but it should be with community input.”
State Assembly member Deborah Glick said, “we are united in our support for essential workers, who sacrificed so much for us all, but not in support of a monument selected without any public input.” She added that the Governor’s design was the result of, “no public meetings, just a handpicked committee,” and urged the Governor to, “honor essential workers without destroying open space.”
City Council member Margaret Chin said, “today we sent a letter to Governor Cuomo urging him to halt construction on this monument until a proper community engagement process has been followed. Residents have real concerns about the placement and the expedited construction following the Governor’s announcement.”
Ms. Chin’s letter to the Governor began, “I am writing to urge you to halt current plans to erect a memorial in Battery Park City’s Rockefeller Park. The announcement on June 23 about the monument’s siting and expedited construction timeline came as a shock to my office and the local Battery Park City community.”
She continued, “this is the third recent memorial located in Battery Park City, with a Hurricane Maria Memorial in 2018, followed by the Mother Cabrini Memorial in fall 2020. All three projects have not included any form of public engagement. Yesterday, construction equipment was parked in Rockefeller Park, with the proposed area for the memorial already fenced off. The project is on course to create serious quality-of-life issues for local residents, who have relied on this open green space throughout the pandemic. I strongly encourage you to order construction to stop until there has been a proper process of community engagement with local residents and elected officials.”
As darkness fell on Monday evening, multiple families pitched tents on the Rockefeller Park lawn, and began an overnight vigil.
Ms. Chin added that, “the absence of community engagement is also apparent in the design, which would require the removal and destruction of dozens of trees, as well as 29,000 square feet of green open space. Parents also expressed serious concerns about the design and safety of the eternal flame. While I do believe it is appropriate to memorialize those lost to the pandemic, I feel this project has been drafted too hastily and is little more than a gesture. Residents rightly point out that a memorial of this magnitude should be in a more central location; the proposed site lies on one of the western-most points of Manhattan, not readily accessible by public transportation.”
By Monday evening, an uneasy peace had settled over Rockefeller Park, with half a dozen protestors remaining on the lawn overnight in tents, keeping watch to alert their neighbors in the event that any unannounced construction began under cover of darkness. And the crowd that had gathered there on Monday morning was busily organizing on social media to return on Tuesday, or at any time that the Governor’s plan appeared likely to move forward once again.
Pause the Saws
Residents Rally for a Voice in Decision about Locating Planned Memorial in Rockefeller Park
More than 150 local residents, many of them young children, gathered in Rockefeller Park on Saturday afternoon to protest plans by the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo to impose there a 29,000-square-foot monument to essential workers who served the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tristan Snell, a Battery Park City resident, and father of a 30-month-old daughter, Katherine, said, “this lawn they are about to tear up is the largest green space in Manhattan south of Central Park. The location they plan to use is where my daughter crawled for the first time. This park is a destination for everybody, not just those of us who live here. And now they want to cut down trees that have been growing here for decades.
“The other big problem with all of this,” he continues, “is the lack of transparency and consultation with the community. This is being presented as a fait accompli and a done deal. We’re supposed to have a democratic process with decisions like this. But the reason the memorial is being put here is they didn’t feel like they had to do that here, because Battery Park City is a State-run Authority.” To read more…
250 Water Street Testimony
To the editor:
Save our Seaport was created to save our Seaport Museum.
The South Street Seaport Museum is the lynchpin of the Seaport Historic District. Casting it by the wayside flies in the face of Save our Seaport.
I was part of the Southbridge Board of Directors when we initiated the effort to down zone 250 Water Street to stop Milstein from building a 23-story edifice on the lot. 250 Water was never part of the historic district until we included it as a ploy to insure the down zoning.
For over 10 years there have been efforts to help fund the museum that failed. The City said that it has given the Seaport Museum more than it gave any other such institution and cannot continue to do so alone, and it is done. HHC has propped up the museum for the last 4 years to help keep it open at over a quarter of a million dollars annually.
We have pressed the City to allow Historic Air Rights to be applied outside the Historic District. For over 2 years the City has refused stating not wishing to establish a precedent. Newcomers along with well-intentioned old timers have suggested that already tried and failed plans to save the museum be re instituted. Some of those old timers said that the museum is not an important part of the Historic District and should be allowed to die. Shame on them.
If the approved HHC plan, which Landsmarks has approved doesn’t go forward, we shall have a 160ft development as of right. Zoning allows 120ft and 40 ft additional due to flood zone. If we go with ‘as of right’ we lose the Museum, 70 affordable housing units, and any hope to rebuild the New Market Pier, which will fall into the river. Those nearby can look out at what was their view of the Brooklyn Bridge and see the ghost town Seaport. Either way, whether as of right or Landmarks Approval Plan their view of the Bridge is gone!
If we allow the development as Landmarks approved, the Museum will get millions as an endowment to bring it into the digital age and continues as the invaluable lynchpin of the district. EDC is already removing the decrepit New Market building and clearly the pier should be next. 70 affordable housing units would be a welcome addition to the community particularly since 1,650 such units were lost when Southbridge Towers went private. Incidentally, many SBT residents have learned to regret that decision.
So, we allow a partial application of Historic air rights, within the Historic District, gain affordable housing, save the Seaport Museum and allow it to become a brand new digital age Seaport Museum, and rebuild the New Market Pier with the possibility of a Community Center on that site.
Retired Vice Chair CB#1,
Board member NY Downtown Hospital,
Board member Manhattan Youth,
Board member DOH 9/11 Advisory Committee
‘This Project Will Forever Be a Symbol of Failure’
Community Leaders React to Cuomo Plan for Yet Another Monument in Battery Park City
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.
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. To read more…
I wish to thank and applaud Ms. Meltzer and Ms. Cuccia for their profound conveyance of the sentiments of the Lower Manhattan community and to add that placement of such a monument in BPC, a largely affluent, majority White neighborhood, at least by comparison to those most greatly impacted by COVID, is not only the wrong thing to do in terms of location for many reasons, but is also racially and socially unjust and harmful, a real slap in the face to the many essential workers who traveled here and elsewhere, in the midst of disaster, putting their lives at risk, sometimes for minimum wage jobs, from the outer boroughs… the same people many of whom were on a hunger strike mere months ago fighting for their share in COVID relief…and to the disproportionate number of people of color and/or low incomes who fell ill or died from the virus.
This monument belongs in the Bronx or Queens and could serve to bring those communities desperately needed tourism in addition to the respect and honor they deserve for supporting NY through this tragedy.
The governor did the right thing in signing the NY Heroes Act and allocating $2.1B of the State’s budget to the Excluded Worker Fund. It makes no sense for him to now, just two months later, tell the recipients to go fly a kite.
To the editor:
The BPC community is up in arms about Governor Cuomo’s planned Essential Worker Memorial to be placed in the valued Rockefeller Park. Petition circulating, support needed. As an essential worker (social worker at NYU Langone) I can say that green space and parks are the best way to maintain mental health and cope with the stress of the pandemic. Save our park. Click here to sign the petition.
Spread the word.
To the editor:
Please move the Essential Worker Monument to another location in the state and stop taking away our children’s open play areas.
Battery Park City has been through much turmoil over the years and the littering of monuments across once green space in our residential neighborhood brings daily reminders of sadness to us and to our children who are already struggling emotionally. From the attacks on the World Trade Center, to the East Coast Memorial, to the Irish Hunger, to the Hurricane in Puerto Rico, and the American Merchant Mariners, among countless others, we already have too many reminders.
PLEASE move this monument to another location in the state. Let us continue to enjoy running free in the grass of Rockefeller Park, and please let us keep this park as green and beautiful as it was intended and without the constant reminders of sadness and hard times.
All of us, regardless of our age, want to run free in the vast field of Rockefeller Park green, amongst the trees, bushes and beautiful gardens. We want to continue to enjoy the migrating birds, play soccer, baseball, picnic, fly kites, sunbathe, build snow forts and snow people.
The park is constantly very crowded with friends sharing the beautiful escape. Each of us wants to find solitude as we create our own escape in the current world we live in. We want to provide freedoms to our children, without having to worry about the risk of an eternal flame burning them.
Just stop by and you will see the bustling enjoyment each person feels as they take in the beauty of the grass and the open space and now the heart breaking sorrow and anger as they see the trucks and workers preparing to break ground.
To the editor:
I read the paper almost every day and wonder how these people get elected.
I have been expecting a backlash with each election but it doesn’t seem to happen. But it will.
Goodbye, Mrs. Chips
Valediction for a Local Legend
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…
Exercise in disguise! Join in on the fun featuring easy-to-follow Latin dance choreography while working on your balance, coordination and range of motion. Come prepared for enthusiastic instruction, a little strength training, and a lot of fun. Participants are expected to bring their own equipment: weights, water bottle, hand towel, etc. Masks required. Participants must maintain six feet of physical distance between households. All programs will be held in accordance with New York State reopening guidance. Free Battery Park City Authority
Ever since the first Jewish immigrant arrived in North America four centuries ago, Jews have made significant contributions to American society. Countless Jewish Americans have untold stories of courage, sacrifice, and devotion to our country. They include Moses Seixas, a member of the Newport Hebrew Congregation in Rhode Island who corresponded with George Washington; Phoebe Pember, a Jewish nurse in the Civil War; and Rabbi Joseph Krausdopf, who fought for women’s suffrage. Hear their stories, and the true stories of ordinary people wrestling with family and identity, in Jews in America—a celebration of being Jewish and being American. This live virtual theatrical production is produced by The Braid, formerly Jewish Women’s Theatre, and hosted in recognition of Independence Day the following week. $10
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.
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.
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.
1974 – Mikhail Baryshnikov defects from the Soviet Union to Canada while on tour with the Kirov Ballet.
1194 – Sverre is crowned King of Norway.
1534 – Jacques Cartier is the first European to reach Prince Edward Island.
1613 – The Globe Theatre in London burns to the ground.
1776 – First privateer battle of the American Revolutionary War fought at Turtle Gut Inlet near Cape May, New Jersey
1874 – Greek politician Charilaos Trikoupis publishes a manifesto in the Athens daily Kairoi entitled “Who’s to Blame?” in which he lays out his complaints against King George. He is elected Prime Minister of Greece the next year.
1880 – France annexes Tahiti.
1927 – The Bird of Paradise, a U.S. Army Air Corps Fokker tri-motor, completes the first transpacific flight, from the mainland United States to Hawaii.
1927 – First test of Wallace Turnbull’s controllable-pitch propeller.
1928 – The Outerbridge Crossing and Goethals Bridge in Staten Island, New York are both opened.
1956 – The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 is signed, officially creating the United States Interstate Highway System.
1972 – The US Supreme Court rules in the case Furman v. Georgia that arbitrary and inconsistent imposition of the death penalty violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
1974 – Mikhail Baryshnikov defects from the Soviet Union to Canada while on tour with the Kirov Ballet.
1975 – Steve Wozniak tested his first prototype of Apple I computer.
1995 – Space Shuttle program: STS-71 Mission (Atlantis) docks with the Russian space station Mir for the first time.
2006 – Hamdan v. Rumsfeld: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that President George W. Bush’s plan to try Guantanamo Bay detainees in military tribunals violates U.S. and international law.
2007 – Apple Inc. releases its first mobile phone, the iPhone.
2014 – The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant self-declared its caliphate in Syria and northern Iraq.
1793 – Josef Ressel, Czech-Austrian inventor, invented the propeller (d. 1857)
1858 – George Washington Goethals, American general and engineer, co-designed the Panama Canal (d. 1928)
1861 – William James Mayo, American physician and surgeon, co-founded the Mayo Clinic (d. 1939)
1908 – Erik Lundqvist, Swedish javelin thrower (d. 1963)
1936 – Harmon Killebrew, American baseball player and sportscaster (d. 2011)
1575 – Baba Nobuharu, Japanese samurai (b. 1515)
1852 – Henry Clay, American lawyer and politician, 9th United States Secretary of State (b. 1777)
1940 – Paul Klee, Swiss painter and illustrator (b. 1879)
1990 – Irving Wallace, American author and screenwriter (b. 1916)
2003 – Katharine Hepburn, American actress and singer (b. 1907)