Lower Manhattan’s Local News
Plan for Lower Manhattan’s Highest Residential Tower Put on Hold
In what may be a harbinger of the decades-long Lower Manhattan real estate boom coming to an end, the planned “super-tall” residential tower at 45 Broad Street (near Beaver Street), in the Financial District, has been put on hold.
In a story first reported by the online architecture and design journal, Dezeen, developer Madison Equities acknowledged that, “due to short-term conditions in the Lower Manhattan market, we have decided to delay on constructing the building in the near future.”
This comes after years of delays in clearing the lot, which was acquired by Madison Equities in 2014, and preparing to break ground. (Preliminary work on the foundation began 2016, but was halted and restarted several times.) The design, by architectural firm by CetraRuddy, called for a building 1,115 feet high, which would make it the second tallest building in Lower Manhattan (behind only One World Trade Center), and the tallest residential spire south of Midtown. The building was originally slated to welcome its first residents sometime in 2018.
The vertiginous plan was made legally possible by a controversial plan to install glass-enclosed elevators at two neighboring subway entrances (on Broad Street, between Wall Street and Exchange Place). Agreeing to fund this amenity earned the developer a 20 percent bonus in terms of allowable floor area, which translated into an additional 71,000 square feet of space within the building, spread over many additional floors.
In July, 2016, Bruce Ehrmann, co-chair of CB1’s Landmarks Committee, explained, “this is the only landmark-designated street grid itself in New York City, which has already been very botched by necessary post-9/11 security measures, many of which don’t work anymore, such as bollards that don’t rise and fall.” Mr. Ehrmann was referring to the Street Plan of New Amsterdam and Colonial New York, a triangle formed roughly by Broadway, Wall Street, and Pearl Street, in which the streets themselves (and in particular, their irregular layout) are considered historic — and legally protected — relics.
The plan, “involves putting in accessibility on a subway station,” at the corner of Broad Street and Exchange Place, observed Mr. Ehrmann. “It might sound cruel on the face of it, but really, the developer just asked, ‘well, we want 70,000 square feet of extra” space in the building, “so what we can do that might let you consider that?” Mr. Ehrmann continued that the developers came up with their own answer: “put in an elevator on Broad Street at Exchange Place.”
Community Board 1 (CB1) initially opposed this arrangement, enacting a resolution in 2016 that noted, “any 13-foot-tall structures anywhere along Broad Street would destroy the historic view corridors” and that the structures would leave only a narrow sidewalk passage, approximately ten feet wide, between the glass cubes and the adjacent buildings. The following month, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) overruled CB1 and approved the plan.
Next came the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which brought the issue back before CB1 in January, 2018. By that time, residents of nearby apartment buildings had begun to raise objections to the plan based on public safety. Noting that 45 Broad is within the “frozen zone” of heightened security that surrounds the New York Stock Exchange (which is considered an alluring target for terrorists), these residents voiced fears that a bomb would turn the glass elevator shelters into sources of deadly shrapnel.
This led to a combative meeting of CB1, where critics of the plan (mainly local residents and preservationists) and supporters (mostly advocates for the disabled) took turns pleading their respective cases. After more than a dozen advocates on both sides had made their arguments, CB1 enacted a new resolution, saying that it “does not oppose” the plan, but adding two conditions. First, CB1 asked that counter-terrorism experts at the New York Police Department (NYPD) further study the potential risk cited by the scheme’s critics. And second, the Board urged that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (which oversees the subway system), “and the applicant work to create an elevator bulkhead that blends with the contextual historical architecture of the neighborhood as has been done in the past.”
The resolution concluded that, “while CB1 remains disappointed over the aesthetic element of the two subway elevators, we acknowledge the important human rights issue and prioritize the [disabled] access that would be provided by the elevators.”
The New York Police Department subsequently pronounced itself satisfied that the proposed elevators and their glass shelters would not pose a heightened risk to public safety. CB1’s second caveat, about redesigning the elevator structures to be more consistent with the surrounding, historical architecture, appears not to have resulted in any changes to the developer’s plan thus far.
After CB1’s January, 2018 resolution, the next legally required step was for the plan to be reviewed by the City Planning Commission (CPC), which held a hearing the following month. At that session, 11 supporters of the proposal spoke (including three members of the developer’s staff), and one critic rose to argue against it. In April, 2018, the CPC issued its determination, finding that, “the Commission believes that the grant of the special permit is appropriate and merits the full 20 percent floor area bonus as requested.”
One aspect of the plan that largely escaped public scrutiny was the comparative values of what the Madison Equities was offering, and what they stood to receive. The developer estimated that the two elevators would cost approximately $20 million. This is much higher figure than one quoted in September, 2015, by Andrew Inglesby, the assistant director of government and community relations at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), who estimated the cost of installing such an accommodation at $5 million. But the price of apartments at a directly adjacent building, 15 Broad Street, indicate that creating the subway elevators may be a very profitable investment for the developer, even at the higher cost of $20 million. One apartment at 15 Broad Street, which offers 1,857 square feet of space, recently sold for $2,537,625, or $1,366 per square foot.
Of course, not all of the 71,000 extra square feet that would be created at 45 Broad Street as a result of the developer agreeing to pay for two new subway elevators would go into apartments. Common areas and utility spaces would necessarily consume some of this space. But if even two-thirds of that extra square footage could be monetized at the same price as the recent sale at 15 Broad Street, then the developer would realize a return of more than $64 million on an investment of $20 million. If the MTA’s cost estimate of $5 million proved closer to the mark, then the rate of return on this outlay, instead of three-to-one, would jump to a multiple of 12.
In spite of this generous public subsidy, Madison Equities appears (at least for the time being) unable to make the project work. There is no indication as to whether the planned subway elevators (on which work has yet to begin) will ever be completed.
But the developer of 45 Broad Street is not alone in facing crippling headwinds in the Lower Manhattan property market. Work has halted on another nearby super-tall residential tower, at 125 Greenwich Street (near the corner of Albany Street), where multiple construction contractors walked off the job last May, and filed liens against the developers for some $40 million in unpaid fees. This prompted several lenders — most prominently, the United Overseas Bank — to file notice with New York courts that they are owed $199 million in mortgage payments. That bank’s overall loan to the developers of 125 Greenwich is more than $450 million, and it is only one of half a dozen creditors.
Much of this discord at 125 Greenwich appears to stem from a slowing market for condominium apartments in Lower Manhattan, where ample supply (generated by the conversion, in recent years, of dozens of former office buildings to residential use) has led to slack demand and falling prices. The 125 Greenwich development team estimates the project’s total worth (with more than 250 apartments, and some 13,000 square feet of retail space at its base) to be somewhere between $850 million and $1 billion, but realizing such a valuation may prove to be an elusive goal. And with fixed costs and debt topping out at more than $800 million, the margin for error on such a project is slim.
Elsewhere in the Financial District, the vacant lot at 111 Washington Street (near the corner of Carlisle Street) remains the site on unrealized development schemes. It is being shopped for sale with an asking price of $260 million. The owners, father-and-son team Fred and Richard Ohebshalom, bought the 11,000-square-foot site of a former parking garage during foreclosure in 2011, for $57.5 million, then spent millions more assembling air rights from nearby properties on Washington and Greenwich Streets, which added more than 200,000 square feet to the parcel’s potential buildout, brining its total zoned potential to 360,000 square feet.
The Ohebshaloms quickly announced plans for a 30-floor luxury residential tower, which was to be completed by the end of 2014. When work never began on that project, they announced a grander plan, for 51-story apartment building, containing 429 apartments.
But all is not well in the House of Ohebshalom, which may translate into an opportunity for prospective purchasers. In March, 2017, the son sued his father for trying to sell the property for $148 million, a price that the aggrieved young man described in court documents as “woefully deficient.” (This would represent a 43 percent discount from the original asking price of $260 million.) The suit also alleges that the father had threatening to sell 111 Washington Street at the reduced price, “in a bad-faith effort to extract concessions,” from his son.
A week later, the younger Ohebshalom filed a second suit, accusing his father of having defrauded him by draining millions of dollars from trust funds controlled by the elder Ohebshalom, theoretically for the benefit of his son.
In the meantime, the site remains empty. The only activity at 111 Washington Street for several years appears to have been its use as a storage facility for portable toilets that the Port Authority needed for construction workers on the nearby World Trade Center site.
A Pooling of Interests
Would Floating Filtration System That Doubles as a Swim Facility Be a Net Plus?
A decade of grassroots advocacy may be gradually bearing fruit, as community leaders prod the administration of Bill de Blasio into serious consideration of a proposal to create a floating pool in the East River.
The idea, styled as “+ Pool” (and verbalized as “Plus Pool”) began in the summer of 2010, when three friends — designers Jeffrey Franklin and Archie Coates, along with architect Dong-Ping Wong — wondered why there was no facility that would allow the public to swim in the Hudson or East Rivers.
Researching the idea, they realized that 150 years ago, New York had more than a dozen such accommodations. To read more…
You Won’t Have John Catsimatidis to Kick Around Anymore
Gristedes Shuts Southern Battery Park City Location Amid General Retrenchment in Supermarkets
The number of grocery stores in Battery Park City is shrinking by one. In a story first reported by the Tribeca Citizen website, Gristedes Supermarket, a fixture at the corner of South End Avenue and West Thames Street for decades, is slated to shut down today.
Two Gristedes employees told the Broadsheet that they believe the store will reopen in several months, after an extensive modernization. But this narrative is contradicted by multiple reports that John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of the grocery chain, wants to put the 10,000-square-foot space to more lucrative use. To read more…
National Lighthouse Museum
Talk by Bill Miller Tonight
“Floating Palaces: The Great Atlantic Liners”
Come to the National Lighthouse Museum tonight and listen to the history of ocean travel over the last century. Catch the 5:30 Staten Island ferry from Whitehall and cross the harbor arriving at St. George Terminal Staten Island at 5:55pm.
And then it’s only a four minute walk to the Museum just in time for the 6PM talk by Bill Miller on the subject of ‘Ocean Liners’.
Bill Miller has written over 80 books on the subject of ocean liners from the early steamers and immigrant ships to the celebrated ocean liners of the 20th century.
Click here to register or contact the Museum directly at 718-390-0040. Admission is $5 for Museum members and $10 for guests.
National Lighthouse Museum
American Impressionist Painter Mary Cassatt
200 Rector Place
Mary Cassatt is a U.S. born painter and printmaker that depicted the lives of women, especially the special bond between mother and child. Mentored by the greats Degas and Pissarro, Cassatt was the only American artist to exhibit with the Impressionists in Paris. Battery Park City Authority. Free
Pipes at One
St. Paul’s Chapel
The weekly Pipes at One series showcases leading organists and rising stars from around the country in this year-round series at St. Paul’s Chapel, featuring its celebrated three-manual Noack organ. Today, Diane Belcher, organist, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH.
Make Your Own Comics Online with Pixton
New York Public Library
For grades K-6. NYPL, BPC branch, 175 North End Avenue
Inventing Tomorrow: Sarah Cole and Colm Tóibín
Book reading. H. G. Wells played a central role in defining the intellectual, political, and literary character of the twentieth century. A prolific literary innovator, he coined such concepts as “time machine,” “war of the worlds,” and “atomic bomb,” exerting vast influence on popular ideas of time and futurity, progress and decline, and humanity’s place in the universe. Wells was a public intellectual with a worldwide readership. He met with world leaders, including Roosevelt, Lenin, Stalin, and Churchill, and his books were international best-sellers. Yet critics and scholars have largely forgotten his accomplishments or relegated them to genre fiction, overlooking their breadth and diversity.
In Inventing Tomorrow, Sarah Cole provides a definitive account of Wells’s work and ideas. She contends that Wells casts new light on modernism and its values: on topics from warfare to science to time, his work resonates both thematically and aesthetically with some of the most ambitious modernists.
4 Fulton Street. Free
POP Performance: Women in Motion
Brilliant, challenging and charming, Women in Motion 2019-2020. Presented by The Bang Group and Women in Motion. Check website for times, dates and cost. 280 Broadway.
The Art of Chinese New Year
The Art of Chinese New Year is a vibrant, interactive experience where visitors of all ages can explore the Chinese New Year holiday and the traditional visual and performing arts related to it. The installation captures the sights and sounds of the holiday through displays, artist workshops, and hands-on activities, leading visitors to a deeper experience, and a greater understanding, of traditional Chinese culture. In the visual arts, visitors will learn about nianhua (New Year pictures), spring couplets, and papercutting. A showcase on the art of shadow puppetry will feature antique puppets, a traditional shadow puppet theater, and a theater where children can create their own puppet shows. At a lion dance display, visitors can try on real lion dance costumes. 40 Rector Street. FREE
Ars Gratia Communitas
Battery Park City’s Annual Art Exhibit
Battery Park City’s annual art exhibition opened on Sunday, January 26. A fraternity of artists and art lovers mingled and munched while admiring and discussing the paintings on the wall, created by participants of the Battery Park City Authority’s art programs.
Sophisticated and yet homey, the annual gathering reflects the l’esprit boheme du quartier, where people of all ages are engaged by and with art in their daily lives. As in years past, the work is of two groups of artists within the Battery Park City community: Art in the Park (for children) and art classes for adults.
Art in the Park has been part of Battery Park City life for more than 20 years. Twice a week, between May and October, art educators gather in local parks to guide children through discoveries to be found within their own imaginations and realized through painting, sculpture, printmaking, and building objects.
The other half of the artists are adults who attend free art classes conducted around Battery Park City, mainly on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Craig Hudon, Director of Parks Programing, and Doug Van Horn, Associate Director, spoke before the assembled crowd at the opening reception to thank the artists, the art educators, the models, and the parks staff who curated and produced the show.
In closing, Mr. Van Horn summed up by saying, “This really is a community of folks that are involved in the arts and care about the arts. We have people here today whose grandparent’s pieces are in the show. We have children whose pieces are in the show. I see people I’ve known for 20 years.”
Both he and Mr. Hudon emphasized the commitment by the Battery Park City Authority to support the community’s resilience and sustainability, which includes a strong commitment to the arts.
The art will be on view at 75 Battery Place, weekdays, January 27 to March 27, 2PM to 4PM (no viewing on 2/17). People visiting should check in with our security desk on the ground floor, where they will be directed to the elevators to the 4th floor. The receptionist on the 4th floor will direct them to the show.
Asking for the Millennium
City Announces Agreement to Expand FiDi’s Millennium High School
On January 15, jubilant elected officials, community leaders, and education officials toured the new space into which the Financial District’s Millennium High School will expand over the next two years. This was the culmination of a multi-year campaign to win approval and funding for the school’s growth.
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The Greek Calends
After Two-Year Hiatus, Work to Resume at St. Nicholas Church
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on January 2 that a newly formed non-profit organization will raise funds and underwrite the completion of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, within the World Trade Center Complex.
The building, designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava (who additionally created the nearby Oculus, also in the World Trade Center) is slated to replace the histo precious parish church that fell among the victims of September 11. To read more…
Vicinage with Vigor
Lower Manhattan Ranked Among Healthiest Districts in New York
Two Lower Manhattan neighborhoods rank among the healthiest communities anywhere in the five boroughs of New York City, according to new research by RentHop, an online listings database.
The analysis gauged overall healthy by three criteria: the proportion of overall space within each community set aside for parks, the number of gyms (and other fitness facilities) in each neighborhood, and the tally of vegetarian restaurants in each area (relative to its number of households).
Today in History
1649 – King Charles I of England is beheaded.
1661 – Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, is ritually executed more than two years after his death, on the 12th anniversary of the execution of the monarch he himself deposed.
1703 – The Forty-seven Ronin, under the command of Ōishi Kuranosuke, avenge the death of their master.
1806 – The original Lower Trenton Bridge (also called the Trenton Makes the World Takes Bridge), which spans the Delaware River between Morrisville, Pennsylvania and Trenton, New Jersey, is opened.
1820 – Edward Bransfield sights the Trinity Peninsula and claims the discovery of Antarctica.
1826 – The Menai Suspension Bridge,considered the world’s first modern suspension bridge, connecting the Isle of Anglesey to the north West coast of Wales, is opened.
1835 – In the first assassination attempt against a President of the United States, Richard Lawrence attempts to shoot president Andrew Jackson, but fails and is subdued by a crowd, including several congressmen as well as Jackson himself.
1862 – The first American ironclad warship, the USS Monitor is launched.
1933 – Adolf Hitler is sworn in as Chancellor of Germany.
1948 – Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist.
1959 – MS Hans Hedtoft, said to be the safest ship afloat and “unsinkable” like the RMS Titanic, strikes an iceberg on her maiden voyage and sinks, killing all 95 aboard.
1969 – The Beatles’ last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records in London. The impromptu concert is broken up by the police.
1882 – Franklin D. Roosevelt,
32nd President of the United States (d. 1945)
1901 – Rudolf Caracciola, German race car driver (d. 1959)
1912 – Barbara W. Tuchman, American historian and author (d. 1989)
1927 – Olof Palme, 26th Prime Minister of Sweden (d. 1986)
1928 – Harold Prince, American director and producer
1937 – Boris Spassky, Russian chess player and theoretician
1941 – Dick Cheney, 46th Vice President of the United States
1649 – Charles I of England (b. 1600)
1836 – Betsy Ross, American seamstress, said to have designed the American Flag (b. 1752)
1934 – Frank Nelson Doubleday, American publisher, founded the Doubleday Publishing Company (b. 1862)
1951 – Ferdinand Porsche, Austrian-German engineer and businessman, founded Porsche (b. 1875)
Photos and information culled from Wikipedia and other internet sources
Eyes to the Sky
January 21 – February 2, 2020
Cygnus the Swan Soars as Summer Triangle sets
The Summer Triangle’s long season in the evening sky ends this week, although one of its remarkable stars, Deneb, lingers for another month. The Summer Triangle is a star pattern known as an asterism; three outstanding stars shape it, one from each of three constellations. It is a commanding sight from its emergence in the evening sky in May through summertime and autumn. Now, stretched out on the skyline from west to northwest as darkness gathers, the great triangle is particularly impressive, but fleeting.
To read more…
They Didn’t Get the Memo…
Much-Touted Crackdown on Placard Parking Not All It Was Cracked Up to Be
Amid much fanfare, multiple City agencies recently announced that they would take part in a crackdown on illegal parking by government employees, whose personal vehicles bear placards that allow them to leave their cars blocking bus stops, crosswalks, fire hydrants, bike lanes, and lanes needed for use by fire trucks and ambulances.
By Tuesday, it appeared that dozens of law enforcement personnel who work in Battery Park City hadn’t heard, or perhaps knew better.
Recalling Five Points
Epicenter of a Notorious Slum Proposed for Commemoration
In 1831, the City government considered a petition that warned, “that the place known as “Five points” has long been notorious… as being the nursery where every species of vice is conceived and matured; that it is infested by a class of the most abandoned and desperate character.”
A decade later, Charles Dickens, visiting New York, wrote of the same Lower Manhattan neighborhood that had inspired the petition, “what place is this, to which the squalid street conducts us? A kind of square of leprous houses, some of which are attainable only by crazy wooden stairs without. What lies behind this tottering flight of steps? Let us go on again, and plunge into the Five Points…. To read more…
Cruise Ships in New York Harbor
Arrivals & Departures
Sunday February 2
07:00 ~ 17:00
10:00 ~ 16:00
07:00 ~ 17:00
07:00 ~ 17:00
10:00 ~ 16:00
Many ships pass Lower Manhattan on their way to and from the Midtown Passenger Ship Terminal. Others may be seen on their way to or from piers in Brooklyn and Bayonne. Stated times, when appropriate, are for passing the Colgate clock in Jersey City, New Jersey, and are based on sighting histories, published schedules and intuition. They are also subject to passenger and propulsion problems, tides, fog, winds, freak waves, hurricanes and the whims of upper management.
Death Came Calling at the Corner of Wall and Broad Streets, in Lower Manhattan’s First Major Terrorist Attack
As the noon hour approached on a fall Thursday morning in 1920, a horse-drawn wagon slowly made its way west down Wall Street toward “the Corner,” the high-powered intersection of Wall and Broad. Its driver came to a gentle stop in front of the Assay Office, where stockpiles of gold and silver were stored and tested for purity. But theft was not his motive.
Cass Gilbert and the Evolution of the New York Skyscraper
by John Simko
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