Lower Manhattan’s Local News
‘This Is a Deal That Must Be Made’
Gateway Plaza Tenants Association Continues to Work on Affordability Protections
On February 6, the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association (GPTA) hosted more than 100 residents, along with a phalanx of elected officials and community leaders, who came together at the P.S./I.S. 276 auditorium to share concerns and offer updates about the status of affordability within Battery Park City’s largest rental complex. The meeting came at a critical time, because caps on rent increases at Gateway are set to expire on June 30.
GPTA president Rosalie Joseph began, “I want everybody here to know that the GPTA’s goal is long-term rent stabilization for all. Elected officials and BPCA have heard this from us. I wish I could stand here today and tell you that there is resolution, but I can’t. But the work continues, and we will work as hard as we can, closely with elected officials and BPCA to achieve the goal of rent stabilization for all.”
This acknowledgment contained a crucial distinction. The form of rent stabilization currently in effect at Gateway protects only those tenants who lived there in 2009, when the last agreement was signed between the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), and the LeFrak Organizagtion, the real estate developer that operates Gateway Plaza.
The BPCA’s negotiations with the LeFrak Organization — both the 2009 discussion, and a parley currently under way — have been made possible by the fact that the landlord is itself a tenant, merely leasing the ground on which the buildings sit, in exchange for annual rent payments to the Authority, which owns the land. This enables the BPCA to offer LeFrak concessions on its ground rent payments, in exchange for agreeing to affordability protections for tenants.
For the current negotiations, the GPTA board has staked out a position that any renewed rent stabilization agreement must protect all Gateway tenants, rather than merely the minority (of fewer than 600 households, out of more than 1,700 apartments) currently covered by it.
“We are very active, very busy, take our positions very seriously, and each one here is committed to a better community for all,” Ms. Joseph continued. “As a board we believe that one of our functions is community building. Because Gateway is special — it’s like a small town within a small town within a big city.”
GPTA board member Jeff Galloway added that the Association is seeking parity in the term of any new affordability agreement. “Our position is that whatever timeline of benefits go to the landlord should go to the tenants, too. If LeFrak gets a deal that benefits them through 2040, that’s what we should get. If they are prepared to give us only ten years of rent stabilization, then they should get benefits only until 2030.”
When a member of the audience asked about the possibility that the LeFrak Organization might seek to convert Gateway to either a condominium or cooperative, BPCA president B.J. Jones answered, “there are two separate factors. By State law, when there is less than 50 years on a ground lease, a building cannot convert to a condo. So buildings that did not file for conversion by June, 2019 cannot convert, and LeFrak cannot convert to a condo.”
Mr. Jones continued, “the second piece is that the package of legislation enacted in Albany last year also raised the threshold for conversions, which also applies to co-op conversions, and says that a building cannot convert unless 51 percent of the tenants agree to buy and are partners. This threshold used to be 15 percent. That drastically raised the bar, making conversions more difficult.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer recalled Gateway’s history (opened in the early 1980s, it is also Battery Park City’s oldest development), telling the crowd, “you created a community and you showed that affordable housing could be a critical component of large-scale development. And you never asked for anything, other than the opportunity to remain here”
He continued, “and then, September 11 happened. And this became a very special place. You all could have left and not participated, and nobody would have blamed you. But instead, you doubled down on this community. I admired it so much that a couple of years ago, I moved down here with my kids. I have seen first-hand the activism and the passion of this community.”
“In our meetings, the elected officIals have made two things very clear,” he added. “First, if the developer, LeFrak, cannot do a ten-year deal, what does that say about the real estate industry? This is a deal that must be made, a deal that should be made, a deal in which nobody loses. If this can’t get done, what does that say about the development community? Because all eyes are on LeFrak.”
“And if the BPCA can’t get the deal done, we really have to ask about what our leadership is doing,” he elaborated. “So this is high-stakes negotiation, where all sides must come to the table and do what adults do: sit in a room and come up with that deal.”
“We are united in one purpose,” Mr. Stringer reflected, “and we will work very closely and we’re going to do everything we can. Because it’s not just Gateway: We as a people have a right to live in affordable housing. We can’t just have a City for the very rich and the very poor and nothing in between. Gateway is aspirational and we should have everyone covered, pre-2009 — no ifs, ands, or buts.”
This may have been a subtle indication on Mr. Stringer’s part that he is expecting, or willing to accept, a deal that (unlike the one advocated for by the GPTA) would offer rent stabilization only to the roughly one-third of Gateway households currently receiving it. His approval of any possible rent stabilization agreement is considered crucial, because the Comptroller is, by statute, one of three officials (along with the Mayor and the Governor) to whom the BPCA is officially accountable.
“Trust me,” he said, “as Comptroller, I know BPCA has a lot of money and resources. They contribute a lot to the City and they can get this done. And they, BPCA will be the beacon of affordability, and LeFrak will too.”
City Council member Margaret Chin said, “we have to get this done, because all of you helped build Battery Park City. You were the first residents here, and you helped build the schools and the library. And now they’re talking about not allowing you to stay? That’s unacceptable! You built this community and you have the right to stay here!”
“Now, more is possible,” she observed, “with a Democratic majority in the State Senate, and our Senator serving as chairman of the Housing Committee.” (This was a reference to State Senator Brian Kavanagh, who represents Lower Manhattan.)
“Strong legislation was passed last year,” she continued, in a reference to a landmark package of tenants’ rights and affordability measures enacted in 2019. “And it makes a difference when the leadership of the BPCA is talking about preserving affordable housing. B.J. Jones knows that all the elected officials have his back, and that you have his back,” she told the audience. “So that he can go to the negotiating table and make sure that LeFrak doesn’t get away with it. Because LeFrak is known for delaying, but now we’ve got him back to the table.”
“You need that protection, and it needs to be for everyone who lives in Gateway,” she concluded. “We have to make sure that everyone who moves in and lives here has stabilization.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer pointed to some of the demographic forces that make affordability both a challenge and a priority for elected officials representing Lower Manhattan. “Already in this district you have the highest median rent, at $2,610 per month, in the City,” she noted. “And also the highest median household income, at $148,000 per year. But there are so many moderate-income working families who absolutely want to remain in Battery Park City — at Gateway, in particular. And we want to make sure that happens. We know that economic diversity is necessary in every single neighborhood, and that’s what makes Battery Park City so special. You are one of the few enclaves left of affordable housing.”
“In fact,” she continued, “I want to echo Rosalie: We want all rent-stabilized — there are about 600 of you — we want the entire complex to be in the same situation, however it gets worked out.”
“We are very aware of your leases and the deadline,” Ms. Brewer added. “Negotiations are ongoing. That’s not to say that everything is perfect. Mayor de Blasio just gave a speech, ‘Blueprint to Save Our City.’ He spoke about universal rent stabilization. And I thought, for God’s sake, if you want to talk about affordable housing, give Gateway everything they want.”
“There are reasons I believe we will be successful,” she concluded, “without getting into specifics. There are many indications with the ground lease, figuring out how we can gain leverage from when it comes due, because we have deadlines coming up soon, how to make this all possible.” This appears to have been a reference to the concessions that the LeFrak Organization is seeking on its ground lease with the BPCA, which provides for periodic (and significant) increases in annual payments.
State Senator Brian Kavanagh said, “the question of whether this community is going to continue to be protected is coming to a head. It’s hard negotiation. And it’s very good to see that the BPCA is represented at these meetings.”
“We’ve had numerous conversations with the tenant leadership,” he continued. “And this really is a wonderful example of a tenants association that has been very active, spreading awareness, getting you all to meetings.”
Taking up Ms. Brewer’s theme of the financial accommodations that the BPCA may be able offer to the LeFrak Organization, he noted, “the thing that sets the tempo for this negotiation is that Gateway sits on public land, owned and managed by a public entity created by the State, managed by the City and State.”
“We’ve made the case repeatedly that, to the extent that public resources are necessary to resolve this, that a deal should be made that will allow Gateway to continue to preserve the critical role that it plays in this community, of being affordable for the long term. Because it’s very important to all of us that we continue to have people of ordinary means with ordinary jobs, who have built this community.”
In a separate vein, Mr. Galloway took up questions related to a recently settled lawsuit against Gateway, conducted by outside attorneys on behalf of a group of current and former tenants, who sought to recover damages for conditions that they alleged were unlivable.
“The GPTA actually had nothing to do with lawsuit,” he explained, but some of the objectives of the lawsuit are also goals of GPTA. The litigation was about overcharges for electricity, and the inadequacy of heating and air conditioning units. That suit was filed six years ago, but simultaneously, the Tenants Association was working on the same issues. As many of you know, we in fact obtained new windows and new climate-control units. These improved conditions somewhat, although there are still issues.”
The settlement to the lawsuit provides (among other benefits) for a five-percent cap on rent increases for two years, as well as monetary payouts. “The five-percent cap and rent stabilization are not related to one another,” Mr. Galloway explained. “Negotiations are on their own track in extending rent stabilization. If we are successful, your increases will be governed by that agreement, and will be almost certainly less than five percent per year. But the settlement is a backstop for two years. If stabilization is not extended, your rent won’t go to market rates right away. In that case, the maximum increase that can be imposed by the landlord will be five percent for two years. But if stabilization is extended, and we are very optimistic about an extension of some sort to the agreement, then this part of the settlement will have no practical effect on you.”
The same settlement sets aside $6.5 million to be distributed among current and former Gateway residents, who chose to participate. “There’s real money to be had here,” Mr. Galloway observed. “If you live here now, you won’t get cash, but you’ll get a rent rebate, which could run to thousands of dollars. This could be the equivalent of a month or two of rent that you will not have to pay.” He added that former residents will be entitled to cash payouts, in comparable amounts.
In a related context, Mr. Galloway emphasized that tenants whose leases expire on or before June 30 are entitled to lease renewals with rent increases governed by the current rent stabilization caps.
‘I’m Asking for the Chance to Continue Fighting for This Community’
Assembly Member Niou Launches Reelection Bid with Broad Backing
State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou won two key endorsements in recent days, boosting her reelection bid, which officially kicked off on February 23. That day, the New Downtown Democrats (NDD), a political club founded to give voice to Lower Manhattan residents, gave Ms. Niou their backing.
“We have to make sure that we are continuing our fight,” Ms. Niou said at the NDD meeting. To read more…
Church Street School for Music & Art
Celebrates 30 Years
Church Street School for Music and Art
has been the only non-profit music and art school
in Lower Manhattan for 30 years!
We will be celebrating this amazing achievement
at our annual gala:
The Event on Tuesday, March 10th
6:30pm to 10:30pm
Julia Stiles is this year’s Artist Chair
and the school will honor
The Kleiman Family:
Laurie, Norman, Daryl, Charlie & Gabe.
The Event will take place at the glamorous Tribeca Rooftop, located at Two Desbrosses Street and will include music, dancing, cocktails, fine dining, awards, and a silent & live auction.
For tickets and information:
The Fate of a Neighborhood
State Judge Rules Against City Hall on Two Bridges Developments
Opponents of four massive new towers proposed for the Two Bridges neighborhood on Lower Manhattan’s East River waterfront were handed a major victory this week, when the State Supreme Court tossed out the City’s 2018 approval for the buildings.To read more…
National Museum of the American Indian
Transportation & Street Activity Permits Committee
Community Board 1 – Conference Room 1 Centre Street, Room 2202A-North
1) Water Street Streetscape Project – Presentation by Wil Fisher, Assistant Vice President, Government & Community Relations, Economic Development Corporation
2) Save Canal Street Initiative – Presentation by Adrian Mak, Transportation Alternatives & Resolution
3) Tribeca-WTC Bicycle Enhancements – Discussion & resolution
4) NYC Department of Transportation Lower Manhattan Study Kick-Off Meeting – Report
5) Curbside Permit application at 6th Avenue between Church Street and White Street – Presentation by Alison Klein Sherman, VP of Finance of Klein Transportation Inc. and possible resolution
6) Congestion Pricing Working Group Report on Tolling – Charles Komanoff, Contributor to Regional Planning Association’s Congestion Pricing in NYC: Getting it Right Report
125 Books We Love: Citizen: An American Lyric
New York Public Library
Discussion of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, which was recently selected as one of NYPL’s 125 Books We Love. This program is for adults and no registration is required. New York City Public Library, Battery Park City branch, 175 North End Avenue.
The Innovation Complex: Cities, Tech, and the New Economy
Salmon: Mark Kurlansky and Paul Greenberg
In what he says is the most important piece of environmental writing in his long and award-winning career, Mark Kurlansky, best-selling author of Salt and Cod, The Big Oyster, 1968, and Milk, among many others, employs his signature multi-century storytelling and compelling attention to detail to chronicle the harrowing yet awe-inspiring life cycle of salmon. During his research Kurlansky traveled widely and observed salmon and those who both pursue and protect them in the Pacific and the Atlantic, in Ireland, Norway, Iceland, Japan, and even the robust but not as frequently visited Kamchatka Peninsula. This world tour reveals an eras-long history of man’s misdirected attempts to manipulate salmon and its environments for his own benefit and gain, whether for entertainment or to harvest food. In addition, Kurlansky’s research shows that all over the world these fish, uniquely connected to both marine and terrestrial ecology as well as fresh and salt water, are a natural barometer for the health of the planet. He documents that for centuries man’s greatest assaults on nature, from overfishing to dams, from hatcheries to fish farms, from industrial pollution to the ravages of climate change, are evidenced in the sensitive life cycle of salmon. With stunning historical and contemporary photographs and illustrations throughout, Kurlansky’s insightful conclusion is that the only way to save salmon is to save the planet and, at the same time, the only way to save the planet is to save the mighty, heroic salmon. 4 Fulton Street. https://www.mcnallyjackson.com/event/salmon-mark-kurlansky-and-paul-greenberg-seaport
Today in History
1776 – American Revolutionary War: The first amphibious landing of the United States Marine Corps begins the Battle of Nassau.
1820 – The U.S. Congress passes the Missouri Compromise.
1857 – Second Opium War: France and the United Kingdom declare war on China.
1873 – Censorship in the United States: The U.S. Congress enacts the Comstock Law, making it illegal to send any “obscene literature and articles of immoral use” through the mail.
1885 – The American Telephone & Telegraph Company is incorporated in New York.
1910 – Rockefeller Foundation: John D. Rockefeller Jr. announces his retirement from managing his businesses so that he can devote all his time to philanthropy.
1923 – TIME magazine is published for the first time.
1938 – Oil is discovered in Saudi Arabia.
1991 – An amateur video captures the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers.
2005 – Steve Fossett becomes the first person to fly an airplane non-stop around the world solo without refueling.
1831 – George Pullman, American engineer and businessman, founded the Pullman Company (d. 1897)
1882 – Charles Ponzi, Italian businessman (d. 1949)
1926 – James Merrill, American poet and playwright (d. 1995)
1940 – Perry Ellis, American fashion designer, founded Perry Ellis (d. 1986)
1949 – Ron Chernow, American historian, journalist, and author
1383 – Hugh III, Italian nobleman
1459 – Ausiаs March, Catalan knight and poet (b. 1397)
1703 – Robert Hooke, English architect and philosopher (b. 1635)
1706 – Johann Pachelbel, German organist and composer (b. 1653)
1959 – Lou Costello, American actor and comedian (b. 1906)
1966 – William Frawley, American actor and vaudevillian (b. 1887)
1987 – Danny Kaye, American actor, singer, and dancer (b. 1911)
1991 – Arthur Murray, American dancer and educator (b. 1895)
Photos and information culled from Wikipedia and other internet sources
Tots Take Priority Over Traffic
CB1’s Youth and Education Chair Announces Plaza for Front of New Fidi School
Tricia Joyce, the chair of the Youth and Education Committee of Community Board 1 announced at the Tuesday night meeting of the Board that local leaders and elected officials had won a long-sought victory for Downtown school kids.
Enoteca on the Hudson
City Winery Prepares to Open at Pier 56
As Lower Manhattan has morphed into a residential community and dining destination, another ongoing evolution has attracted less notice: Downtown is becoming a performing arts district. The highest-profile illustration of this shift is the Perelman, which (thanks to the largesse of its eponymous benefactor) has become the shorthand name for the World Trade Center Performing Arts Center that is slowly rising out of the ground near the intersection of Vesey and Greenwich Streets. But the opening of this facility is still several years away. To read more…
‘Blinded by Greed’
Tenants at Another Financial District Building Seek Class-Action Status in Suit Against Landlords
The wave of Financial District tenants going to court to demand restitution from years of illegally high rent gathered further momentum last week, when tenants at 90 West Street filed court papers arguing that they are entitled to rent stabilized leases for as long as they live in the building, because the landlord did not provide this benefit (as legally required) in the past. In a story first reported by the Real Deal, the same suit also asks the court to appoint an independent monitor with the power to audit and amended leases (without the landlord’s consent) to conform the legally allowed rents.
Higher, Wider, Handsomer
City Council Announces Design Competition to Improve Pedestrian Access to Brooklyn Bridge
The City Council has partnered with the Van Alen Institute (a New York nonprofit architectural organization, dedicated to improving design in the public realm) in sponsoring a contest to incubate fresh ideas for better pedestrian access to the Brooklyn Bridge. To read more…
City Plans to Raise Esplanade in the Battery to 11 Feet Above Waterline
Among the myriad of resiliency projects that are now in the planning stages for various parts of Lower Manhattan, the City is planning to raise the level of the waterfront Esplanade in the Battery to an elevation 11 feet above the current waterline. To read more…
Come Heck or High Water
Meeting Tonight Will Discuss Resiliency Plans for Northern Battery Park City
Tonight, the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) and Community Board 1 (CB1) will co-host a public meeting focused on the North Battery Park Resiliency Project. This session will be held at the Richard C. Harris Terrace of the Borough of Manhattan Community College, at 199 Chambers Street (between West and Greenwich Streets), starting at 6:00 pm.To read more…
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Available for weeknight and weekend baby-sitting and tutoring middle-schoolers in Math or Science. Please contact Emmett at 917.733.3572
IT AND SECURITY SUPPORT
Experienced IT technician. Expertise in 1-on-1 tutoring for all ages.Computer upgrading & troubleshooting. Knowledgeable in all software programs.
James Keirstead firstname.lastname@example.org
347-933-1362 References available
CERTIFIED HOME HEALTH AIDE SEEKING
Full-Time Live-In Elder Care
I am loving, caring and hardworking with 12 years experience. References available. Marcia 347-737-5037 email@example.com
NOTARY PUBLIC IN BPC
$2 per notarized signature Text Paula at 917-836-8802
ELDER CARE NURSE AIDE
with 17 years experience seeks PT/FT work. Refs available Call or text 718 496 6232 Dian
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Eyes to the Sky
March 2 – 15, 2020
Spring stars rising, NEAF
Spring stars appear in our evening sky as rhythmically as pussy willow and snowdrop blossoms emerge here on Earth in the northeast. As March begins, the constellation Leo the Lion, in full figure, stretches above the eastern horizon at nightfall. The expression “March comes in like a Lion” likely had cosmic roots before its familiar reference to fierce winds.
All the Lion’s stars, from brightest Regulus at its front foot to bright Denebola at its tail, come into view during the course of about 60 to 90 minutes after sunset.
Sundown is at 5:49 Eastern Standard Time today and about a minute later everyday through the 7th. Eastern Daylight Time begins at 2am on March 8, when clocks are set one hour ahead. Sunset by the clock does not coincide with actual sunset from March 8 until November 1, when we return to Eastern Standard Time. On the 8th, sundown is at 6:56pm EDT. The Full Sap Moon occurs on the 9th.
The most outstanding spring star, orange-hued Arcturus, is the second brightest distant sun in northern skies. Arcturus rises above the east-northeast skyline at 8:16 tonight, about two hours after Leo’s tail star, Denebola. Brilliant Arcturus appears 4 minutes earlier every evening. When I observe the golden star close above the east-northeast skyline, I stand tall as witness to nighttime’s quintessential harbinger of spring. I am swept into the rising of the new season.
Refer to the diagram to see, on the left, the Big Dipper’s handle ‘arc to Arcturus’. Notice hallmark stars and constellations of the winter season on the right. Brilliant Sirius, the Dog Star, the brightest star in the heavens, is descending toward the west as Arcturus ascends in the east.
Opportunity to Participate
Cass Gilbert and the Evolution of the New York Skyscraper
by John Simko
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