Lower Manhattan’s Local News
“A Fraudulent Scheme”
FiDi Renters Seek Recompense for Years of Rent Overcharges
In the wake of a June ruling by New York State’s highest court that tenants in Financial District rental buildings had been illegally deprived of rent stabilization benefits, a pair of apartment dwellers is litigating to recoup the money they lost by paying inflated, market-rate rents for years.
At issue is the 421-g subsidy program, which was designed to encourage Downtown’s transformation into a residential district, by offering rich incentives (chiefly in the form of tax abatements) to developers who converted former office buildings — south of a line created by connecting Murray Street to City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge — into apartment towers. But it also offered a potent lure for tenants who moved into such buildings: Their apartments would be subject to rent stabilization regulations for as long as building owners received the tax benefits.
In October, Bruce Hackney and Timothy Smith, tenants at Ten Hanover Square, filed suit against their landlord, alleging that the owner’s, “failure to follow rent regulations was part of a fraudulent scheme to deregulate apartments in the building.” They are represented by attorneys Lucas A. Ferrara and Roger A. Sachar, of the firm Newman Ferrara. Mr. Ferrara says, “the shameless rapacity you see demonstrated here will only end when owners come to the realization that their illicit practices will come with a steep price. For too long, New York City’s tenants were hoodwinked by major landlords blinded by greed.”
Mr. Hackney and Mr. Smith are not alone. Their building, at Ten Hanover Square, has nearly 500 apartments, and all of them were covered by the same requirements in the 421-g program that applied to Mr. Hackney and Timothy Smith’s unit. But, according to court documents, “none of the units in the building were listed as rent stabilized,” or registered with City and State agencies as legally protected affordable units, which is required by law. The complaint goes on to argue that the landlord’s, “conduct demonstrates an attempt by the Defendant to circumvent the requirements of New York City’s rent regulations, all at the expense of the tenants residing in the building.”
This suit stems, in part, from a pair of related actions, brought by residents of two other FiDI buildings — 50 Murray Street and 90 West Street — which were converted from office use to apartments in 1999 and in 2005, respectively.
The language of the 421-g statute that covered all three of these buildings (and 25 other structures, comprising a total of nearly 5,000 apartments) was unequivocal, stating that “the rents of each dwelling unit in an eligible multiple dwelling shall be fully subject to control under such local law.” Ambiguity arose, however, when this was considered in the light of another part of New York’s housing law, known as “luxury decontrol,” which allows for rent stabilization to be annulled on any apartment once the legal rent reaches a threshold of $2,700 per month.
The problem arose when developers unilaterally set the rent on the vast majority of the apartments they had created in these newly converted buildings at higher than $2,700 per month. This had the effect of erasing the rent stabilization benefit that the legislature had intended for tenants (usually before the first renter moved in), while preserving the tax benefit for landlords. In the years since, landlords and developers have, in the aggregate, reaped a windfall of tens of millions of dollars from this program. But tenants received very little benefit or protection from the rent stabilization that had been intended for them.
When residents of 50 Murray and 90 West realized that they were being charged market rents, with no limits on increases, and no right to automatic lease renewal (along with other privileges that come with stabilization), while their landlords reaped a bonanza in tax benefits at public expense, they sued for reimbursement.
Lawyers for the tenants argued that legislators would not have written the language about rent stabilization into the 421-g statute if they had intended for such protections to be made moot by rents that began above the threshold of luxury decontrol. Attorneys for the developers and landlords made the case that, if Albany’s lawmakers had intended the 421-g catchment to be an exception from the rules about luxury decontrol that apply elsewhere, they would have made this explicit in the statute, but had not. (They noted, also, that in other, similar situations — such as the 421-a and J-51 tax abatement programs — legislators had specifically exempted such apartments from luxury decontrol, but no such carve-out was created for 421-g.)
That suit wound its way through State courts for a decade, before being finally settled in June, when the New York Court of Appeals found (by a margin of six to one) that, “apartments located in buildings receiving tax benefits pursuant to 421-g are not subject to the luxury deregulation provisions of the Rent Stabilization Law.” The Court’s decision hinged both on a plain reading of the language in the 421-g statute, and a distinction between rent stabilization versus all the other provisions contained in the rent stabilization law. In effect, the judges found that the 421-g statue made the apartments created under this program subject only to rent stabilization itself, but not subject to other codicils within the law that governs it, such as vacancy decontrol.
The clarity provided by this ruling opened the door to Mr. Hackney and Mr. Smith’s lawsuit, but they are likely to be only the beginning of a wave of litigation, as thousands of current and former rental tenants throughout the Financial District realize that they should have been paying significantly less rent than they were charged for years at a time.
Mr. Ferrara, who is also an adjunct professor at New York Law School, says, “government may be asleep at the wheel, but justice is most certainly not. This lawsuit sends a clear signal that the days of cheating and profiteering at the expense of rent-regulated tenants are over.”
Eighteen Years Later, What about the Children?
Schools Agency Begins Belated Outreach Effort to Former Lower Manhattan Students at Risk of 9/11 Illness
The City’s Department of Education is partnering with the United Federation of Teachers union for an unusual mission: tracking down former New York City public school students who were pupils at Lower Manhattan schools on September 11, 2001 (or in the months that followed) and informing them that their health may be at risk. The project will also seek to put these students in touch with the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund.
In September, the DOE began mailing out the first of more than 19,000 letters to the last known addresses of students who attended schools such as P.S. 89, I.S. 289, P.S. 234, P.S. 150, and Stuyvesant High School, along with dozens of other elementary, middle, and high schools below Houston Street.
Steven Amedee Gallery
Jefferson Hayman : New Amsterdam
Exploring themes of nostalgia, common symbols, and memory, Jefferson Hayman invites the viewer to partake in the narrative process that is both intimate and deeply personal.
Each photograph is handcrafted as a silver gelatin, platinum or pigment print, capturing a delicacy in tonality reminiscent of early Pictorial photography as well as the subsequent modernism movement’s refined interplay of light and shadow.
Entitled New Amsterdam, this exhibition will focus in part on Dutch inspired still lives as well as images of the once Dutch colony New York City.
Thursday, November 14th, 2019 6pm – 9pm
Steven Amedee Gallery 41 N Moore Street in Tribeca
Rents Within Reach for 50 Years
Lower East Side’s Depression-Era Equivalent to Gateway Plaza Preserves Affordability Through 2069
City Council member Margaret Chin has brokered an agreement that will preserve affordability for rental tenants at Knickerbocker Village, a giant apartment complex in the Two Bridges neighborhood, which was built by a public-private partnership in the 1930s.
The complex bears striking similarities to Battery Park City’s largest residential development, Gateway Plaza. Both boast multiple buildings (12 on the Lower East Side and six in Battery Park City), surrounding a central garden. Each has a similar number of apartments: 1,590 for Knickerbocker Village and 1705 in Gateway Plaza. And the two projects were conceived as bulwarks of affordability.
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November 7, 2019
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. Free
The Means of Protection: 14 Poems, Many Voices
FREE 10 River Terrace.
Transportation & Street Activity Permits Committee
Community Board 1 – Conference Room 1 Centre Street, Room 2202A-North
Snapshots from a Lost World
Museum of Jewish Heritage
2019 New York Comedy Festival No Such Thing As A Fish Live
Tribeca Performing Arts Center
Today in History
1492 – The Ensisheim meteorite, the oldest meteorite with a known date of impact, strikes the Earth around noon in a wheat field outside the village of Ensisheim, Alsace, France.
1665 – The London Gazette, the oldest surviving journal, is first published.
1811 – Tecumseh’s War: The Battle of Tippecanoe is fought near present-day Battle Ground, Indiana, United States.
1837 – In Alton, Illinois, abolitionist printer Elijah P. Lovejoy is shot deadby a mob while attempting to protect his printing shop from being destroyed a third time.
1874 – A cartoon by Thomas Nast in Harper’s Weekly, is considered the first important use of an elephant as a symbol for the United States Republican Party.
1908 – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are reportedly killed in San Vicente, Bolivia.
1910 – The first air freight shipment from Dayton, Ohio, to Columbus, Ohio.
One day in 1910, Orville and Wilbur Wright received an unsolicited letter from Max Morehouse, a Columbus, Ohio department store owner inquiring “How much will you charge to bring a roll of silk ribbon from your city to our establishment?”
This led to a contract between Morehouse and the Wright brothers to fly 200 pounds of silk worth $800 from Dayton to Columbus. For this, their first commercial transportation job, they wanted to get it right. They used the latest version of their Model B plane that included a significant design change of moving the vertical stabilizer from the front of the plane to just behind the tail. Powered by a 40 horsepower engine (think late 1950’s VW Beetle for power output comparison) and like the Beetle, the Model B had wheels instead of a sled design landing gear. Its wingspan was 39 feet.
They chose their best student, 24 year old Philip Parmalee arming him with a map and instructions to follow the railroad track to Columbus.
His destination was a racetrack 65 miles away marked with white flags for better visibility. He touched down 66 minutes after lift off, setting a new world speed record.
Morehouse, the department store owner, not only received worldwide publicity, but also made a profit on his $5,000 investment. In addition to selling tickets to the thousands of racetrack attendees, he sold swatches of the silk on a post card for five cents a card as well at lengths of silk for $1.35 a yard.
Philip Parmalee went on to fly the U.S. Mail and eventually piloted Wright Model Bs conducting Army experiments dropping live bombs from aircraft. A year later, his plane crashed and he perished in Yakima, Washington
1914 – The first issue of The New Republic is published.
1929 – In New York City, the Museum of Modern Art opens to the public.
1933 – Fiorello H. La Guardia is elected the 99th mayor of New York City.
1940 – In Tacoma, Washington, the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapses in a windstorm, a mere four months after the bridge’s completion.
1941 – World War II: Soviet hospital ship Armenia is sunk by German planes while evacuating refugees and wounded military and staff of several Crimean hospitals. It is estimated that over 5,000 people died in the sinking.
1944 – Franklin D. Roosevelt elected for a record fourth term as President of the United States of America.
1967 – Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967,establishing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
1973 – The US Congress overrides President Richard M. Nixon’s veto of the War Powers Resolution, which limits presidential power to wage war without congressional approval.
1989 – David Dinkins becomes the first African American to be elected Mayor of New York City.
1996 – NASA launches the Mars Global Surveyor.
1728 – James Cook, English captain, navigator, and cartographer (d. 1779)
1832 – Andrew Dickson White, American historian, academic, and diplomat, co-founded Cornell University (d. 1918)
1879 – Leon Trotsky, Russian theorist and politician, founded the Red Army (d. 1940)
1903 – Konrad Lorenz, Austrian zoologist, ethologist, and ornithologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1989)
1926 – Joan Sutherland, Australian-Swiss soprano (d. 2010)
1962 – Eleanor Roosevelt, American humanitarian and politician, 39th First Lady of the United States (b. 1884)
2011 – Joe Frazier, American boxer (b. 1944)
National Lighthouse Museum
Model Ship Show
Ship Model Show
This coming Saturday, November 9, the Ship Model Society of New Jersey will be hosting a show at the National Lighthouse Museum on Staten Island featuring models of different kinds of ships.
Models will be on display and their builders will demonstrate the steps taken to build the Lilliputian vessels. The Society’s members span all skill levels, from neophyte to highly accomplished, with a wide range of interests, from gadget guru to historical re-creator.
If you are a model ship builder and would like to participate and even display your model in this event, please contact the museum to make arrangements as soon as possible. If you have a ship model in need of repair or you need an appraisal, bring it along!
Admission for this exhibit is included in your museum entrance fee.
General Admission: Adults $5, Seniors (65+) & Military $4, Students (12+) $3, Children under 12 & Members FREE
National Lighthouse Museum, 718-390-0040,
Quay to the Future
Hudson River Park Trust Hints at Estuarium Partnership with River Project
A discussion at the October 15 meeting of the Waterfront, Parks & Cultural Committee of Community Board 1 (CB1) pointed toward a possible resolution of a question that has remained unanswered for years: Will a highly regarded non-profit that has served Lower Manhattan for decades continue to have a home on the waterfront?
Lower Manhattan Forecast: It’s Getting Cloudier
Downtown Alliance and BPCA Expand Free Wireless Coverage by 1.5 Million Square Feet
The Battery Park City Authority and Downtown Alliance have teamed up to bring improved or new free WiFi service to an additional 1.5-million square feet of outdoor space in Rockefeller, Teardrop, and Wagner Parks along the Hudson River in Battery Park City.
The next phase of the project, slated for 2020, will aim to cover large swaths of the Battery Park City’s Esplanade. For more information about free WiFi coverage in Lower Manhattan, please browse: www.downtownny.com/wifi
A Bridge Too Few
Community Leader Rallies Support to Halt Planned Demolition of Pedestrian Span Over West Side Highway
A Battery Park City resident and community leader is mobilizing support to preserve the Rector Street Bridge, the pedestrian span that is slated for demolition as a newer overpass at nearby West Thames Street (which unofficially opened in September) is gradually integrated into the local streetscape.
Bob Schneck spoke during the public comment session of the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) board meeting on Tuesday, pointing to a petition drive he has spearheaded, and noting that, “I have collected more than 1,800 signatures by residents who want to keep the bridge. Rector Street lines up with almost every subway line in Lower Manhattan, and ferries on both ends.”
Putting the Tension in Detention
City Council Approves de Blasio Controversial Plan for New Jail Complex in Lower Manhattan; Legal Challenges Likely
The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio won City Council approval on October 17 for a modified version of its controversial plan to erect a new, skyscraper prison in Lower Manhattan, as part of a wider scheme to close the City’s notorious detention complex on Rikers Island, and replace it with four, large “borough-based jail” facilities-one in each county, except Staten Island.
At the session during which the plan was approved, City Council member Margaret Chin said, “to my constituents-I hear you.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Shoot
Chin Pushes Legislation to Rein in Production Permits
City Council member Margaret Chin is co-sponsoring a package of bills to clamp down on rampant film and television production in Lower Manhattan.
Although the new laws, if enacted, will have City-wide effect, their impact would be especially significant in the square mile below Chambers Street, where dozens of movies and TV shows commandeer local streets (sometimes for days at a time) each year.
Eyes To the Sky
October 28 – November 10
Worldview: Origin of our Sun, solar system, ourselves
During the dark time of year here in the northeast, our visual environment is more of the moon and stars than earthly phenomena. In this “Eyes to the Sky”, as in a post a few weeks ago, I offer you the opportunity to reflect on the natural world as revealed to us by astronomers and astrophotographers. I have the pleasure of presenting the words and images of astrophotographer and educator Terry Hancock, the creator of “Fly Like an Eagle” , the nebula image featured above. To read more…
by Judy Isacoff
Things That Make You Go ‘Hmm…’
Lawsuit Over Similarity Between One World Trade and Architecture Student’s Design Moves Ahead
One thing is reasonably certain: In 1999, Jeehoon Park, then a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture, created a design for a very tall building with a large square base tapering to a smaller square top. In Mr. Park’s vision, the square formed by the roof was rotated 45 degrees relative to the one at the ground level, so that the center-points on each side of the quadrilateral below corresponded to the corners of the one above, and vice versa. And instead of four vertical walls, the structure’s facade consisted of eight elongated triangles.
That structure was never built. Or was it?
Click to 30 seconds of morning sounds on the esplanade
You Can Hit-and-Run,
But You Can’t Hide
Driver Alleged to Have Run Over Tribeca Pedestrian in May Indicted for Separate Manhattan Traffic Death
The New York County District Attorney’s Office has indicted Jessenia Fajardo, a resident of the upstate town of Walden in two separate incidents involving reckless driving that caused injury to pedestrians. The more serious of these took place on July 19, when Ms. Fajardo is accused of having run a red light on the Upper West Side and then slamming into an elderly couple in a crosswalk. One of these pedestrians, 62-year-old Alfred Pocari, was killed, while the second (whose name has not been released) was seriously injured.
When police took Ms. Fajardo into custody at the scene of the July incident, they discovered that she was also involved in a similar (albeit less gravely serious) incident two months earlier. To read more…
What’s In Store?
Amid a Booming Economy, Lower Manhattan Retail Space Languishes
A new report from City Comptroller Scott Stringer finds that in one Lower Manhattan zip code — 10013, which covers parts of western Tribeca SoHo, and the Canal Street corridor in Chinatown — there are 319 empty retail spaces, comprising almost 300,000 square feet of unused property. To read more…
Adding Insult to Penury
Ridership Survey Indicates That Ferry Coming Soon to Battery Park City Primarily Serves Affluent Riders
An analysis of who uses the NYC Ferry service, which the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to expand to Battery Park City next year, shows that riders are primarily white passengers who earn more money than average New Yorkers.
Cruise Ships in New York Harbor
Arrivals & Departures
Thursday, November 7
Outbound 5:30 pm
Norfolk, VA/Charleston, SC/San Juan, PR
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 tides, fog, winds, freak waves, hurricanes and the whims of upper management.
Damascus on the Hudson
Lower Manhattan’s Old Syrian Quarter
Today, the stretch of Greenwich and Washington Streets between Battery Place and Albany Street — bisected by the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel entrance — is known by the forgettable name, “Greenwich South.”
By all appearances it is an orphan of a neighborhood that never quite coalesced. But nothing could be further from the truth. A century ago, before the World Trade Center or the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (the two giant public works projects that decimated this once-thriving quarter), it was an ethnic enclave as vibrant as Little Italy or Chinatown. To read more…
Wildlife in Lower Manhattan
The dogwalking and jogging crowd on the esplanade yesterday morning had quite a show, when an unidentified Buteo (Buzzard Hawk) lazily flapped past a few heads and landed on a branch to enjoy his breakfast: a tasty pigeon.
BPCA’s Public Art Collection Represents Multiple Layers of Value
The Battery Park City Authority, has completed an inventory and appraisal of its public art collection. This is part of a broad effort to take stock of the Authority’s ongoing role as a patron and custodian of pieces that represent an integral thread in the fabric of the community, as evidenced by the fact that space and funding for public art were both set aside decades ago, in the neighborhood’s first master plan, before the first building was erected.
Keep It Light
Condo Boards Question Need for South End Avenue Redesign After Installation of Traffic Signal
At the October 2 meeting of the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1, Battery Park City Authority president B.J. Jones was apprised by the leader of a coalition of condominiums along South End Avenue of that group’s ongoing reservations about the Authority’s plan to revamp the thoroughfare.
Pat Smith, the board president of the Battery Pointe condominium (at South End Avenue and Rector Place) told Mr. Jones, “before you go too far on South End Avenue, please remember that six condo boards, representing more than 1,000 households along South End Avenue, from Albany down to West Thames, don’t want you to do this.” To read more…
Music to Our Ears
When she was ten, Julie Reumert was selected
to sing at a celebration marking the birthday of
Margrethe ll, Queen of Denmark. As a girl growing up in Copenhagen, Ms. Reumert performed with the Saint Anne Girls Choir as a soprano and a soloist.
Residents Riled about Tribeca Tavern
More than a dozen concerned Tribeca residents turned out for the September meeting the Licensing and Permits Committee, which weighs in on the granting or renewal of liquor licenses.
They showed up to voice concerns about MI-5, a bar located at 52 Walker Street, which has been a source of local complaints as far back 2007.
Neighbors of the bar allege that it operates as a dance club (in violation of its current license, which is now up for renewal), and that loud music penetrates the upper floors of the residential building located above the bar as late as 4:00 am. To read more…
BPCA Puts the Brakes on Conversions of Rental Buildings within Community
Residents of rental apartments in Battery Park City who fear being thrown out of their homes as developers plan to convert those buildings to condominiums can rest a little bit easier, according to the Battery Park City Authority.
At the October 2 meeting of the Battery Park City Committee of Community Board 1, Authority president Benjamin Jones said, “I want to talk about some of the potential condo conversions that people are concerned about. We have been very clear with developers over the last year, and then some, about our position — that we want to preserve the rental housing that exists in Battery Park City.” To read more…
Costs to Rent or Own in Lower Manhattan Are Matched by Lofty Local Earnings
A slew of recent reports documents what everyone who lives or works in Lower Manhattan already sensed in their bones: This is a mind-numbingly expensive place to call home.
In September, RENTCafé issued a new analysis of the most expensive neighborhoods for renters in the United States that finds northern Battery Park City (zip code 10282) is the priciest enclave in America, with an average rent of $6,211 per month. Coming in at second place is zip code 10013, which covers western Tribeca, along with part of Soho. To read more…
From Bunker to Incubator
New Arts Center on Governors Island Will Provide Studio Space and Cultural Programming
Lower Manhattan has a new cultural hub. The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Trust for Governors Island have partnered to create the LMCC Arts Center at Governors Island, a 40,000-square foot studio space and education facility, housed within a restored 1870s ammunition warehouse — a relic from the days when the island was a military outpost.
Rapport to the Commissioner
CB1 Makes Exception to New Policy; Okays Naming Street for Former NYPD Commissioner
A public figure from the 1980s may soon be honored by having a street co-named in his memory, if Community Board 1 gets its way. The panel recommended that Benjamin Ward, New York’s first African-American police commissioner, be commemorated by rechristening one block of Baxter Street as Benjamin Ward Way.
This comes on the heels of a controversial decision by CB1 in 2018 to decline such a request on behalf of James D. McNaughton, who, on August 2, 2005, at age 27, became the first New York City Police officer to be killed in action while serving in “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
Breaking It Down
Composting Catches on in Battery Park City
You’re probably heard of the farm-to-table movement. Thanks to the Battery Park City Authority’s compost initiative, there’s a burgeoning table-to-earth movement in this Lower Manhattan community.
What happens to the scraps after you’ve dropped them in the bin? How do your apple peels and corn husks turn into rich, beneficial compost?
The Broadsheet set out to investigate. To read more…
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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