Lower Manhattan’s Local News
Panegyric to Paul
Veteran Community Leader Honored for Decades of Service
State Assembly member Deborah Glick has issued a proclamation recognizing Paul Hovitz, who stepped down as vice chair of Community Board 1 (CB1) last June, for 27 years of effort and achievement on behalf of the Lower Manhattan community. In a pronouncement issued recently, Ms. Glick said, “Paul gained a reputation for being a powerful advocate for special education services, the allocation of funding for new school seats in Lower Manhattan, and the distribution of balanced educational programming.”
This was a reference to multiple campaigns spearheaded by Mr. Hovitz to build new schools (among them P.S. 234, P.S. 89/I.S. 289, P.S./I.S. 276, Peck Slip, Spruce Street, and Millennium High School), as well as to save and expand existing schools. One of these efforts came to fruition recently, when the Department of Education announced that Millennium High School would expand to an additional floor within the building it occupies, at 75 Broad Street. “Paul’s voice guidance and leadership in advocating for just and equitable education policies are sorely missed at the Board’s Youth & Education Committee meetings,” Ms. Glick’s proclamation added.
“Paul joined forces with community leaders to fight for the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan after the devastating terror attacks,” of September 11, 2001, the document also noted. This recalled Mr. Hovitz’s efforts to guide development in the years following the attacks, demanding from developers and City Hall that the community receive givebacks, such as new schools and affordable housing, in exchange for acquiescing to large new building projects.
“Paul served as a guiding force, harnessing his institutional knowledge toward preserving affordable housing units in Lower Manhattan,” Ms. Glick further noted. This was a reference to the one cause that perhaps rivaled schools in Mr. Hovtiz’s affections. When not waging political battle on behalf of schools and students, he was a consistent advocate for affordable housing in a rapidly gentrifying community. This position took on a personal edge five years ago, when he led a quixotic (and ultimately unsuccessful) campaign to prevent the Southbridge Towers apartment complex, where he has lived for decades, from withdrawing from the Mitchell-Lama affordability program. Mr. Hovitz opposed the privatization of Southbridge Towers in spite of the fact that the proposed change promised a significant financial windfall for him, along with all other residents. “I just didn’t see how I could agree to any plan that would deny to later generations the same opportunity for a decent home at a reasonable price that I had benefitted from,” he said at the time. In spite of Mr. Hovitz’s opposition, Southbridge withdrew from the Mitchell-Lama program at the close of 2015. Elsewhere, he fought to preserve affordability in Battery Park City (at Gateway Plaza) and in Tribeca (at Independence Plaza).
At the CB1 meeting last June that marked Mr. Hovitz’s farewell, Board member Bob Townley (who is also the founder and executive director of Manhattan Youth), said “Paul is a teacher, but he’s also a community activist. He represented and knew both sides of the coin. Because of that, we were very, very, successful over the years in getting things done.”
“You can talk about what a nice guy Paul is, how handsome he is,” Mr. Townley continued, “but he is a real doer. And he influenced me and every other member of this Board by his love for children, as a teacher, and by his love for community.”
Paul Goldstein, who chairs CB1’s Waterfront, Parks & Cultural Committee noted that, “back in the 1990s, at the time when he was appointed and I was the Board’s district manager, Paul was one of the few members of CB1 who had children, which shows how much the community has changed.”
“One of the first projects we worked on together was the creation of P.S. 234,” Mr. Goldstein recalled. “This involved a trade-off that was controversial at the time: CB1 accepted a developer’s plan for a very tall building at 380 Greenwich, the Citicorp Building. But in return, we insisted on our first-ever public school for CB1 — P.S. 234.”
In an illustration of the historian’s maxim that “no victory is ever final,” this led immediately to a new battle. “Once P.S. 234 had finally opened, it was zoned only for people living west of Broadway, but Lower Manhattan residents living east of Broadway were not eligible to attend,” Mr. Goldstein remembered. “So Paul and I joined forces, and getting children from the East Side the opportunity to go there was one of our first big victories.”
This marked the beginning of decades of activism on behalf of Lower Manhattan schools by Mr. Hovitz. He subsequently fought for the creation of P.S. 89/I.S. 289 and P.S./I.S. 276, both in Battery Park City, as well as the Spruce Street and Peck Slip Schools, near the South Street Seaport. More recently, he was a key advocate for the creation of the new public school now under construction at 77 Greenwich Street, in the Financial District, which is slated to open in September, 2022.
Once DOE had committed to building a school there, he embarked on subsequent campaigns to ensure that the facility would have separate spaces for gym and performing arts classes, and that the plaza in front of the building would be large enough to enable safe drop-off and pick-up of hundreds of small children each day. At the same time, Mr. Hovitz helped lead a similar push to close the street in front of the Peck Slip School to traffic, so that students could use it as a play space.
He was further involved in two successive battles to save Tribeca’s P.S. 150, when DOE officials decided (most recently in 2018) that the valuable real estate occupied by the highly regarded elementary school made it cost prohibitive to operate. In each case, these campaigns were successful, and P.S. 150 got a new lease on life.
Mr. Hovitz was also instrumental, Mr. Goldstein recalled, in convening the School Overcrowding Task Force, a panel of elected officials, community leaders, and DOE decision-makers, who met for several years to strategize about how to ease the crisis created by the popularity of Lower Manhattan public schools, amid the area’s burgeoning residential population in the years following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
He additionally helped lead local protests, in 2014, seeking to persuade DOE officials to place less emphasis on standardized tests for young pupils, which many parents and educators have come to regard as a stressful distraction for students.
Mr. Hovitz’s community leadership has always been especially focused on the South Street Seaport neighborhood, where he has been a patron and protector of the South Street Seaport Museum, and joined a broad coalition of residents and elected officials to oppose a 2009 plan by developer General Growth Properties to erect a skyscraper next to Pier 17, on the site of the New Market Building. More recently, he brokered a dialog between the Howard Hughes Corporation (the successor to General Growth Properties in redeveloping the Seaport) that has resulted in generous corporate support for local schools and community service organizations, such as the Downtown Little League.
In 2016, Mr. Hovitz was part of a coalition of community leaders who opposed (unsuccessfully) a plan by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to hand over to building owners along Water Street more than 100,000 square feet of arcades and plazas that were created as public amenities, allowing developers to enclose and privatize these spaces by building new retail storefronts. That same year, Mr. Hovitz exposed a local scandal by documenting that paid political consultants, masquerading as opinion-poll researchers, were in reality trying to manipulate Lower Manhattan residents into supporting this plan, by calling them under the pretext of representing City Council member Margaret Chin. When the lobbying team hired to push this proposal initially denied the accusation, Mr. Hovitz provided photographic proof, in the form of a Caller ID screen on his home phone falsely ascribing such a call to Ms. Chin’s office. At that point, the lobbying team reversed itself, admitted that this deception had taken place, and apologized, while blaming the subterfuge on a rogue subcontractor.
“He’s been very effective,” Mr. Goldstein said at the June meeting. “His combination of being personable and persistent, and knowing how to work a room, has enabled him to get many, many things done.”
Mr. Goldstein closed by saying to Mr. Hovitz, “I urge you to stay involved. But somehow I doubt that you will need such an invitation,” which elicited a round of appreciative laughter and sustained applause.
Mr. Hovitz then rose and observed that, “it took a village to get all these things accomplished, and you are the village. It has been a great honor and a privilege for me to work with you.”
“This is not a farewell,” Mr. Hovitz continued, noting that he will continue to serve on the board of directors of Manhattan Youth and the community advisory board of New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital. “I’ve also been approached to create an East River Trust, which will be another project,” he said.
“I love you all,” he concluded. “But I will not be missed, because I will still be around.”
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, 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 Equitietal 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.
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…
Spider-Verse Family Movie Night
Spidery Slumber Party Trinity Church (75 Broadway, at the corner of Wall Street) will host a free family movie night and sleepover on Friday, January 31, featuring Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a tour of the ongoing renovations of the historic church (which appears in the film), and a pajama party. Children are encouraged to come in costume.
Doors open at 5:30 pm, and admission is free, but parents are required to stay the night with any child wishing to sleep over. Anyone wishing to stay over should R.S.V.P. by emailing Wendy Barrie (at firstname.lastname@example.org).
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. To read more…
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 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
Friday January 31
1504 – The Treaty of Lyon ends the Italian War, confirming French domination of northern Italy, while Spain receives the Kingdom of Naples.
1606 – Gunpowder Plot: Guy Fawkes is executed for plotting against Parliament and King James.
1862 – Alvan Graham Clark discovers the white dwarf star Sirius B, a companion of Sirius, through an 18.5-inch (47 cm) telescope now located at Northwestern University.
1865 – The US Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery and submits it to the states for ratification.
1918 – A series of accidental collisions on a misty Scottish night leads to the loss of two Royal Navy submarines with over a hundred lives, and damage to another five British warships.
1929 – The Soviet Union exiles Leon Trotsky.
1930 – 3M begins marketing Scotch Tape.
1945 – US Army private Eddie Slovik is executed for desertion, the first such execution of an American soldier since the Civil War.
1950 – President Harry S. Truman announces a program to develop the hydrogen bomb.
1953 – A North Sea flood causes over 1,800 deaths in the Netherlands and over 300 in the United Kingdom
1958 – The first successful American satellite detects the Van Allen radiation belt.
1961 – Project Mercury: Mercury-Redstone 2: Ham the Chimp travels into outer space.
1966 – The Soviet Union launches the unmanned Luna 9 spacecraft as part of the Luna program.
1968 – Vietnam War: Viet Cong guerrillas attack the United States embassy in Saigon, and other attacks, in the early morning hours, later grouped together as the Tet Offensive.
1971 – Apollo program: Apollo 14: Astronauts Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa, and Edgar Mitchell, aboard a Saturn V, lift off for a mission to the Fra Mauro Highlands on the Moon.
2012 – The Toyota Corolla is known as the best-selling (37.5 million) car of all time.
1543 – Tokugawa Ieyasu, Japanese shogun (d. 1616)
1769 – André-Jacques Garnerin, French balloonist and the inventor of the frameless parachute (d. 1823)
1797 – Franz Schubert, Austrian pianist and composer (d. 1828)
1905 – John O’Hara, American author, playwright, and screenwriter (d. 1970)
1923 – Norman Mailer, American journalist and author (d. 2007)
1925 – Benjamin Hooks, American minister, lawyer, and activist (d. 2010)
1937 – Philip Glass, American composer
1632 – Jost Bürgi, Swiss clockmaker and mathematician (b. 1552)
1856 – 11th Dalai Lama (b. 1838)
1956 – A. A. Milne, English author, poet, and playwright, created Winnie-the-Pooh (b. 1882
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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