‘A Few Affordable Units in Fancy Developments Are Not The Answer’
City Council Hopeful Maud Maron Hold Forth on Ferries, Congestion Pricing, and Housing
City Council candidate Maud Maron
Attorney Maud Maron is a veteran public defender, who also serves as an elected member of the Community Education Council that gives parents a voice in the governance of public schools in District Two, which includes Lower Manhattan. Ms. Maron Maud has served on the board of Greenwich Village Little League, and was a member of Community Board 2 for five years. The Broadsheet asked her to reflect on a series of issues that are of concern to Lower Manhattan residents. Here are Ms. Maron’s answers.
Broadsheet: What is your position on the proposed jail that the de Blasio administration wants to build in Lower Manhattan?
Ms. Maron: In addition to the overwhelming opposition from members of the surrounding neighborhood, I believe that the borough-based jail plan is poorly thought out, does not have enough capacity for the incarcerated population of our City, and is an excuse to avoid putting work into reforming Rikers Island. Instead of spending billions on these jails, the City should focus on turning Rikers into a modern, humane, 21st-century jail with sunlight and access to the outdoors. I am on the leadership committee of an organization that has a better plan, one that is both compassionate for the incarcerated and better for our City. You can read about the plan here: https://realjusticesolutions.org.
Broadsheet: Do you believe residents living within the toll zone that will be created by congestion pricing deserve a discount——as is already done for all other residents trapped within similar toll zones (e.g. Staten Island, Broad Channel, the Rockaways)?
Ms. Maron: Yes. Should congestion pricing be implemented, it would only be fair for members of Lower Manhattan to be granted the same carve-outs as those living in other parts of the City.
Broadsheet: The City derives enormous financial benefit from selling government-owned property in Lower Manhattan to developers, but returns little or none of this windfall to the local community. Will you commit to sharing revenue from such deals in the future, by directing a portion of these funds to projects identified and prioritized by Lower Manhattan community leaders?
Ms. Maron: Yes. I believe we must equip communities and community leaders to help address problems in their neighborhoods, rather than relying on a strictly top-down approach. This would be a good start.
Broadsheet: Nearly every major fast-growing city and suburb in the United States (apart from New York) has implemented “impact fees,” which charge developers a levy for the additional burden their projects will place on local infrastructure. These funds are then earmarked to build schools, libraries, community centers, cultural facilities, etc., within the specific communities where the development is taking place. Will you support such a proposal, along with a guarantee that these funds will be spent locally (and not City-wide)?
Ms. Maron: City contracts can and should be restructured to benefit local communities as well as private developers. This is true throughout the City, but especially in Lower Manhattan.
Broadsheet: The de Blasio administration has lavished more than $100 million in subsidies on its NYC Ferry Service. The latest iteration of this plan is to create a new route connecting Staten Island to Battery Park City to Midtown, which will compete with the existing (and free) Staten Island Ferry, while overburdening Battery Park City’s already-at-capacity ferry terminal. What is your position on this project?
Ms. Maron: We should not burden the Battery Park City terminal and slow down existing ferry services. I would not support expanding to this new route until we improve other forms of transportation—like the subway, buses, and the Staten Island ferry.
Broadsheet: Each year, dozens of middle-class retirees are forced to leave Battery Park City, because their fixed incomes cannot keep up with the spiraling cost of living here. Will you commit to creating a “naturally occurring retirement community” (NORC) in Battery Park City, and modify the financial requirements so that middle-class retirees (rather than only those living below the poverty line) can remain here?
Ms. Maron: Yes. I support NORC and age-in-place programs and would seek to expand them throughout the District and especially in Battery Park City. Specifically to Battery Park City, the spiraling ground-lease fees that residents are facing are unacceptable and are driving good members of our community out of the area. As a City Council member, I would work with local residents, the City, and the State to craft a viable solution.
Broadsheet: A similar dilemma confronts middle-class young adults who grew up in this community and recently graduated from college. Many would like to return and begin families here, but the relentlessly escalating structural costs make this prohibitive. Are you willing to study a new housing model (in effect, a NORC-in-reverse) that would enable young people to live here, and give preference to those who grew up here?
Ms. Maron: I moved to Lower Manhattan as a young adult and have made a home and raised my family here. I support exploring opportunities for the young people of today to do so as well.
Broadsheet: The City has an option to acquire the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), while assuming all of its assets and liabilities, for $1. Would you be willing to eliminate this uncertainty by waiving (finally and permanently) the City’s $1 option?
Ms. Maron: I think the most important step that must be taken is to ensure that the BPCA actually represents and acts in the interest of residents of Battery Park City. Right now, the BPCA members are nominated by the governor and are not required to live with Battery Park City. As a result, there is an established divide between residents and the BPCA. I believe that the Authority must be fundamentally restructured to include substantial representation from Battery Park City residents.
Broadsheet: The BPCA cites its financial obligations to the City as the reason for refusing to make concessions to property owners on ground rent and payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT). Will you commit to demanding that the BPCA agree to an immediate freeze in these payments, followed by a schedule of reductions in the years ahead?
Ms. Maron: I support an immediate freeze of increases to payments. In addition, I believe the City can and must consider ground-lease fees an expense when calculating PILOT payments.
Broadsheet: Another strain in the BPCA’s relationship with the community is the fact that the Authority’s land lease with residents, and the City’s master lease with the BPCA, both end in 2069, at which time all residents are slated to be evicted, and homeowners will have their property confiscated. This looming deadline is already undermining property values, while also making it difficult to obtain mortgages and buy or sell apartments. Will you commit to extending for another 99 years the master lease under which the BPCA occupies land owned by the City, and demanding that the BPCA similarly extend for 99 years the land leases by which buildings in the community occupy their individual plots?
Ms. Maron: Yes. The master lease and the land lease agreements must be extended by at least 99 years past their 2069 expiration date in order to ensure that Battery Park remains a thriving, desirable neighborhood for residents and families.
Broadsheet: Even the minority of BPCA board members who happen to be residents of the community are appointed, rather than elected—in spite of the fact that this agency makes decisions profoundly affecting the lives of residents. This is in sharp contrast to a comparable community, Roosevelt Island, where the entire board of the authority that manages the community consists of residents, elected by the community. Will you avoid a repetition of this policy, by making a commitment that—when and if the Seaport City project is built—the board of the authority that manages it will consist entirely of Lower Manhattan residents?
Ms. Maron: I think the BPCA board must be immediately reconfigured to consist of Battery Park City residents. I wholeheartedly agree that, should the Seaport City project be built, the managing board must consist of Lower Manhattan residents.
Broadsheet: The Lower Manhattan community felt shortchanged by the 421g program, which created enormous financial benefits for real estate developers who converted Downtown commercial buildings to residential use, but created none of the affordable housing that was promised to local residents in exchange. As Downtown faces the prospect of another wave of conversions (of hotels and office buildings) into apartments, will you commit to iron-clad guarantees of housing that is deeply and permanently affordable and economically integrated, in exchange for any benefits to developers?
Ms. Maron: I think that it is clear that the current Mayor’s affordable housing schemes have benefitted large-scale developers far more than they have local communities or those in need of affordable housing. All plans in the future must be structured with those priorities switched. Putting a few supposedly affordable housing units into fancy new developments is not the answer and cannot be the solution going forward. Thoughtfully designed affordable housing requires planning, community involvement, and City oversight—not backdoor deals made with private developers.
Broadsheet: Throughout Manhattan, middle-class cooperative and condominium owners are being driven from their homes by relentlessly rising real estate taxes. This is impelled by the disparity between Class 1 (single-family) and Class 2 (apartment) homes, because the latter have no protection against tax increases, while the former are subject to strict limits. Will you commit to implementing tax-hike limits for Class 2 homes identical to those for Class 1 homes, while not modifying or reducing the protections on Class 1 homes?
Ms. Maron: Yes. Especially after the pandemic, the City should be doing everything it can to help City residents and families stay in their homes including addressing the disparity between Class 1 and Class 2 homes.
EYES TO THE SKY
June 14 – 27, 2021
Milky Way of summer stars with streaming fireflies
Cover image for Sara Lewis book, “Silent Sparks – The Wondrous World of Fireflies” courtesy of Princeton University Press
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.
June 14 (similar 6/15) sky map. Begin to look at dusk, about 9:15pm, when brilliant planet Venus shines above the west-northwest skyline. Bright Capella far right. Venus sets at about 10pm. Illustration: Judy Isacoff/StarryNight7
As twilight deepens, look to the young crescent moon. Below the crescent, rather dim, copper-yellow Mars glows to the left of Pollux and Castor, the setting Gemini pair. Find the Big Dipper at the top of the sky. A drop of golden starlight falls from the tip of its handle: it is Arcturus, the brightest star in the summer sky, suspended toward the south.
June 24, 2021 at 10m. The purple arc represents the Milky Way running through the Summer Triangle and Scorpius the Scorpion. Looking Southeast to Southwest, map current June 14 – 27, except for changing moon phase and location. Diagram: Judy Isacoff / StarryNight7
Summer Solstice arrives at 11:32pm EDT on June 20. On that day, turn to the northeast to greet the rising Sun at 5:25am, then to the northwest for sunset at 8:31pm. Full Moon occurs at 2:40pm.on the 24th, when moonrise is at 8:53pm.
Strengthen the whole body from warm-up to cool-down with a variety of fun exercises. The instructor will lead you in aerobics, balance and coordination exercises, as well as strength training. Come join for a fun workout in the fresh air! 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. Irish Hunger Memorial. Free
Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian
Objects decorated with American flag designs were incorporated into Native art in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Today, objects adorned with the flag usually signify that a family member has served in the military. Watch Emil Her Many Horses (Oglala Lakota), museum curator and historian, as he takes us through objects in the museum’s collection that were created to honor the American flag. Free
Trinity Church online concert. During trying times, music stills our souls and provides a healing grace. Throughout the season of Lent, Comfort at One will present performances that are inspired by the Gandhi quote: “In the midst of darkness, light persists.” These concerts include improvisations by Julian Wachner, light-inspired Bach cantatas, our 2014 Lenten “Lamentatio” series featuring NOVUS NY and The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, new performances from the Trinity Youth Chorus and St. Paul’s Chapel Choir, and new virtual content on Fridays from our extended family of artists. Free
Community Board 1’s Land Use, Zoning & Economic Development Committee
‘There Are Fundamental Issues That Need To Be Addressed’
City Council Candidate Gigi Li Talks about What She Hopes to Accomplish in Office
Gigi Li is one of the candidates seeking the City Council seat representing Lower Manhattan is, which is currently held by Margaret Chin (who is barred by term limits from seeking reelection). Ms. Li was born in Hong Kong and emigrated to the United States as a small child. In 2009, she was appointed to Manhattan’s Community Board 3, on the Lower East Side, where she became the first Asian-American to be elected to serve as a community board chair (anywhere in New York City) in 2012. Since 2019, Ms. Li has served as chief of staff to Ms. Chin. The Broadsheet asked her to address a range of issues that are of concern to Lower Manhattan residents.
Broadsheet: Are you willing to commit to a carve-out for residents living within the toll zone who will be trapped by congestion pricing—as is already done for all other residents living within similar toll zones (e.g. Staten Island, Broad Channel, the Rockaways, and Grand Island)?
Ms. Li: Yes. Congestion pricing is important to improve quality of life and is a step to building a greener and more resilient City, but residents of Lower Manhattan need the same exemptions as residents in other parts of the City to make it equitable. To read more…
‘We Can’t Create Governance Structures That Box Out Residents’
City Council Candidate Christopher Marte Outlines His Priorities
Christopher Marte grew up on the Lower East Side, where his father owned a bodega. From a young age, he began building a record as a community activist, culminating in a City Council run in 2017, which he lost by only a few hundred votes. Since then, Mr. Marte has played a leading role on local issues such as opposition to the de Blasio administration’s plan for a large new prison facility in Lower Manhattan, and support for affordable housing.
The Broadsheet asked him to address a range of issues that are of concern to Lower Manhattan residents.
As we come out of covid, it’s clear the city’s thriving cultural scene is on its way back — and Lower Manhattan’s leading the way.
In May, the Downtown Alliance teamed up with En Garde Arts and + The Tankto present Downtown Live, a multi-weekend festival stocked with live performances ranging from music to theater to spoken poetry. The revival of Downtown’s cultural scene continues into June, with the return of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s River to River Festival.
The festival, which runs June 10–June 27, joins the explosion of post-vaccine outdoor events and art exhibits that are set to take over the city this summer. Here are five acts you won’t want to miss, and visit lmcc.net/river-to-river-festival for the full schedule.
Processions with Miguel Gutierrez, Okwui Okpokwasili and The Illustrious Blacks
(June 20, 25)
Artist Okwui Okpokwasili is following up her recent piece on the High Line called “On the way, undone” with another processional performance, which means you get to participate in the art. Okpokwasili’s performance will happen at Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City on June 20, followed by processions led by choreographer Gutierrez and musical duo the Illustrious Blacks will also conduct processions on June 13 and June 25.
Kamau Ware, Land of the Blacks (June 10-27)
Black history scholar and co-found of Black Gotham Experience Kamau Ware is writing an original piece on “Land of the Blacks,” 28 Black-owned farmsteads that once covered a swath of Lower Manhattan. It will debut on the River to River website.
Womxn in Windows (June 15-27)
Womxn in Windows is a multi-part video installation installed in Windows across the Seaport District. They’ll focus on the confluence of culture and society in an exploration of the multi-faceted female identity, created by artists from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Mariana Valencia, Futurity (June 25-27)
Choreographer and performer Mariana Valencia brings a 2021 version of Futurity, a dance performance that will transmit the queer stories of elders in Greenwich Village from the 1960s to the present.
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.
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.