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The BroadsheetDAILY ~ Lower Manhattan’s Local Newspaper ~ 7/21/21 ~ West Thames Pedestrian Bridge Dedicated in Honor of Downtown’s Civic Champion, at Urging of Battery Park City’s Founder
West Thames Pedestrian Bridge Dedicated in Honor of Downtown’s Civic Champion, at Urging of Battery Park City’s Founder
Above: The Robert R. Douglass pedestrian bridge Below: BPCA president B.J. Jones
A years-long campaign by Charles J. Urstadt, the founder of Battery Park City, to name the new pedestrian bridge recently constructed over West Street in the memory of Downtown leader Robert Douglass, came to a successful conclusion on June 11, when the structure was officially dedicated.
At the ceremony, Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) president B.J. Jones remarked, “we’re here today to name this magnificent bridge in honor of Robert R. Douglass, who for more than three decades was a champion of Lower Manhattan. Among his long list of accomplishments, we at the BPCA are particularly grateful for his role in the creation of this very site itself. When a senior advisor to then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller, he played an integral role in negotiating and then executing the master agreement that gave rise this neighborhood’s 92 acres. It’s also fitting that our former chairman, the great Charlie Urstadt, also advocated for this naming in his honor.”
Mr. Jones continued, “today’s dedication also marks another milestone—the completion of the latest and final pedestrian crossing to be built since the September 11 attacks. This bridge is another important symbol of Downtown’s historic and remarkable recovery. It is also a welcome addition for the community’s residents, and tens of thousands more who work here, go to school here, visit here. How fitting that through this project, Robert Douglass is still giving back to Lower Manhattan.”
Congressman Jerry Nadler said, “it is fitting and proper that we name this bridge after Robert Douglass, given his altogether-irreplaceable role in the formation of Downtown, the BPCA, the World Trade Center, and the creation of Lower Manhattan as we know it today.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer observed, “we called him ‘Mr. Downtown,’ because we wouldn’t have had a Downtown to recover after September 11, 2001, if it were not for Robert Douglass’s tireless work.
Community Board 1 (CB1) chair Tammy Meltzer recalled, “I am one of those people who stood here hoping this would be open for the first day of school, when P.S. 276 opened in 2009. But planning and construction faced a long road of difficulties and challenges.”
She added, “the bridge is a deeply needed link between Battery Park City and Greenwich South, which will empower families, businesses, parks, and schools in both communities. And Robert Douglass embodied what is New York’s greatest asset—the ability to build financial, political, and social bridges for the benefit of all. This bridge is a reminder to ask ourselves—what bold new ideas can be realized by building new bridges to meet the needs of all communities?”
Above: BPCA founder Charles Urstadt, Downtown Alliance president Jessica Lappin, and Lower Manhattan benefactor Robert Douglass, shown at a 2015 event honoring Mr. Douglass Below: Community Board 1 chair Tammy Meltzer
Mr. Urstadt, the founding president and chairman of the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), who died last year, was appointed at Mr. Douglass’s suggestion in the late-1960s Governor Rockefeller to preside over (among other things) the creation of new landfill in the Hudson River. He began proposing that the West Thames pedestrian span be named for Mr. Douglass in January, 2015. Speaking that year at an awards dinner to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Downtown Alliance (which Mr. Douglass founded), Mr. Urstadt said, “my friend has one character trait that makes him ill-suited for public life: modesty. For that reason, I fear he will disagree with a proposal that I am going to ask all of you to consider. The transilience of Lower Manhattan is creating buildings, streets, and infrastructure projects that cry out for a name worthy of a transformed landscape. Among them is the pedestrian bridge that will soon be erected over West Street, near the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. One of these should bear the name of the man without whom none of this would have been possible: Robert R. Douglass.”
Afterward, Mr. Urstadt explained, “Bobby Douglass has spent 40 years advocating for the cause of Lower Manhattan, and contributing to its future. Battery Park City would not be here if he had not, as chief of staff to Governor Nelson Rockefeller, backed me 100 percent in preparing and fighting for the 12 years it took to create the most successful undertaking in the State’s history.” As the BPCA’s originator, Mr. Urstadt not only oversaw the creation of 92 acres of landfill along the Hudson River waterfront, but also the development and planning of the first building projects in the new neighborhood. “And after Governor Rockefeller left office,” Mr. Urstadt continued, “Bobby moved to the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association, and the Downtown Alliance, where he worked for decades to encourage the renaissance that we now see taking place in Lower Manhattan.”
But Mr. Urstadt’s proposal needed official backing, which began to come together several months later, when the board of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC)—which funded most of the cost of the bridge’s construction—formally endorsed the idea. At a meeting of that agency’s board, then-City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod said, “Bob Douglass really worked his entire life for Lower Manhattan, to knit together the rest of Lower Manhattan to Battery Park City and make it one community.” At that meeting, the LMDC board enacted a resolution that endorsed, “the naming of the soon-to-be-constructed pedestrian bridge at West Thames Street after our esteemed Board Member and community leader Robert R. Douglass.”
For several years, there was little visible movement on the proposal. But during this period, Mr. Urstadt continued to lobby behind the scenes to advance the idea of naming the bridge in honor of his longtime friend, whom he had known since 1950.
Then, on December 6, 2016, Mr. Douglass died from complications associated with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 85 years old. Less than 24 hours later, the board of the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA)—which managed the construction of the bridge, and partially funded it—adopted a resolution urging that the West Thames pedestrian bridge be named in Mr. Douglass’s honor.
At a June 2017 memorial service, held for Mr. Douglass at Trinity Church, Mr. Urstadt’s eulogy reflected that, “it was part of Bobby’s genius that he would never waste an opportunity to put in a word for what he felt was an important cause. And so I’ll take a cue from my friend and say to this audience of leaders: please celebrate Bobby’s memory by using what influence you have to support the campaign to name the new pedestrian bridge in his honor. The Downtown Alliance, the Battery Park City Authority, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation have all gone on record in favor on this proposal, but we have not succeeded quite yet. We need your support to make this happen. Please let the Mayor and the Governor know how important you believe this is.”
As if on cue, Mr. Urstadt was followed at the lectern by Mr. Weisbrod, who departed from his prepared text to announce that he had just received informal confirmation from City Hall that the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio had signed onto the proposal to name the bridge for Mr. Douglass.
This was the last piece of the puzzle in terms of official support necessary to translate Mr. Urstadt’s proposal into a reality. Reacting to the de Blasio administration’s support for the proposal, Mr. Urstadt said, “I can think of no person who deserved this recognition by the Downtown community more than Bobby Douglass. He did more, over a period of 40 years, than anybody else to foster the success and rebirth of Lower Manhattan. And naming this bridge in his honor was just the right thing to do.”
Jessica Lappin, president of the Downtown Alliance, added, “Bob was a driving force behind creating the Lower Manhattan we know today and we couldn’t be happier to hear about the dedication of the bridge. It’s the perfect tribute to honor Bob’s legacy as he spent decades working to connect people, businesses and various agencies to make his vision for Lower Manhattan a reality.”
Homage to a Hero
Landmarks Agency Confers Protection on Chinatown Monument
The City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has granted legally protected status on the Kimlau War Memorial, a granite ceremonial arch located in Chinatown, at the convergence of Chatham Square, Oliver Street, and East Broadway. This designation, made official at the LPC’s June 22 meeting, marks New York’s first individual landmark to commemorate the role of Chinese-Americans in the City’s history.
The arch, which is designed to serve as a gateway to Chinatown, is named for Benjamin Ralph Kimlau, who grew up in Lower Manhattan and graduated from what is now known as the U.S. Army War College in 1937. He signed up for pilot training after the United States entered World War Two four years later.
Providing Companion and Home Health Aide Care to clients with dementia.Help with grooming, dressing and wheelchair assistance. Able to escort client to parks and engage in conversations of desired topics and interests of client. Reliable & Honest
Lower Manhattan residents once again have access to the ever-popular weekend summer ferry to Red Hook.
Provided by NY Waterway, the free service is nominally about providing access to Ikea, but also offers the bonus of a slew of waterfront restaurants and parks within walking distance of the furniture store.
The service departs from two Downtown locations (Pier 11/Wall Street and the Battery Park City ferry terminal) starting at 11:00 am.
Wagner Park, with its amazing gardens and views of the Hudson River and New York Bay, is the perfect setting to practice your art. Participants are expected to bring their own drawing and painting supplies, including drawing boards and containers of water if they are planning to paint. BPCA will supply drawing paper and watercolor paper only. 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
Alive and hiding in South America, the fiendish Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele gathers a group of former colleagues for a horrifying project: he wants to clone Hitler. Starring Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier, The Boys From Brazil (127 minutes, English, no subtitles) follows famous Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman as he attempts to discover the terrifying extent of Mengele’s plan and put a stop to it. $10
In Marathon Man (126 minutes, English, no subtitles), a history student becomes caught in the middle of a dangerous international plot involving Nazis, stolen jewels, and government agents. Starring Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman, the classic 1976 thriller was adapted by William Goldman from his 1974 novel of the same title. $10
Get moving with a series of classes aimed to help you build strength, relax, and unwind. All cardio classes are 45 minutes long, with a focus on high-intensity rhythmic cardio. Classes also feature sprint intervals, sculpting, and a stretch cool down. Free
Namaste! Unwind from the day with outdoor yoga. Immerse yourself in this meditative practice- surrounded by the Hudson’s peaceful aura. Strengthen the body and cultivate awareness in a relaxed environment as your instructor guides you through alignments and poses. All levels are welcome. Participants are expected to bring their own equipment: yoga mat, yoga blocks, water, 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
Street Angels, the most celebrated Chinese musical of the 1930s, was released in Shanghai in July 1937 just as full-scale war broke out with Japan in northern China. Its themes—sexual and economic exploitation offset by fun and camaraderie—were at once shocking and entertaining. Set in the slums of Shanghai in 1935, the film presents the precarious lives of the urban lower classes in a tragicomic mode. War looms in the background of this story of a refugee singer. The Japanese army was soon to invade Shanghai, but, to accommodate China’s censors, the film never mentions the enemy by name. The film showcases the popularity of film musicals, the charm and charisma of its “golden voice” star, the multiple influences of Hollywood on the Chinese talkies, and the violent realities of 1930s China. In Mandarin, with English subtitles. Virtual lecture about the film today. A link to view each film online is also available for viewing at home. Free
Community Board 1 Waterfront, Parks & Cultural Committee
The Battery Park City Authority’s highly regarded summer music festival, River & Blues, which has presented blues, folk, and roots music in Wagner Park for 20 years is returning with the Grammy Award-winning South Carolina-based quintet, Ranky Tanky (July 22), and Rev Sekou and the Freedom Fighters (July 29), who will perform their Delta Blues-infused anthems for social justice.
Each Thursday evening show begins at 6:00 pm, with DJ Susan Z. Anthony spinning an eclectic mix that sets the stage for the performance that follows. Admission is free.
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.
Hostile to Hostels
CB1 Endorses Plan to Limit Hotel Development
Community Board 1 (CB1) is getting behind a proposal by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to limit future hotel development. Although this proposal, if adopted, would affect communities throughout the five boroughs, it would have a particularly strong impact in Lower Manhattan, where hotel development has been rampant in recent years.
From 2007 to 2020, the City as a whole added more than 54,000 new hotel rooms — an increase 73 percent increase over the previously existing inventory. A disproportionate share of this growth took place in the square mile below Chambers Street.
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.
Tribeca Sailing offers two-hour private sailing charters of the Harbor, setting sail five times each day, seven days a week. Captain David Caporale, the owner and captain of Tribeca Sailing and a Lower Manhattan resident, also offers private sailing charters for a maximum of six passengers, for those having a staycation, or celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. His sailboat, Tara, is a 1964 custom Hinckley Pilot 35. Hinckleys are noted as a Rolls Royce of sailboats, based on their solid construction, the artistry of the wood trim, and other design features. For more information or to book a sail, contact David Caporale 917-593-2281 or David@Tribecasailing.com
TODAY IN HISTORY
Neil Armstrong, standing on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.
356 BC – Herostratus sets fire to the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World
365 – Crete Earthquake followed by tsunami around the Eastern Mediterranean allegedly destroys Alexandria
1825 – Java princess Dipo Negoro/Mangkubumi declare war on all non-islamics
1861 – First major battle of Civil War ends (Bull Run), Va – South wins
1880 – Compressed air accident kills 20 workers on Hudson River tunnel
1919 – Dirigible crashes through bank skylight killing 13 (Chicago, Ill)
1925 – “Monkey Trial” ends – John Scopes found guilty of teaching Darwinism
1969 – Neil Armstrong steps on Moon at 2:56:15 AM (GMT)
1976 – First outbreak of “Legionnaire’s Disease” kills 29 in Phila
1997 – The fully restored USS Constitution (aka “Old Ironsides”) celebrates her 200th birthday by setting sail for the first time in 116 years.
2005 – Four terrorist bombings, occurring exactly two weeks after the similar July 7 bombings, target London’s public transportation system. All four bombs fail to detonate and all four suspected suicide bombers are captured and later convicted and imprisoned for long terms.
1899 – Ernest Hemingway, Oak Park Illinois, author