‘Forgotten But Unshaken, Among Comrades of Silence’
Cuomo Commission Selects Design and Location
for Hurricane Maria Memorial
The Hurricane Maria Memorial, which is slated for completion early next year, will be located near the corner of Chambers Street and River Terrace.
The administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo has chosen a design for the planned Hurricane Maria Memorial, which is slated to be built at the Chambers Street Overlook (near the intersection with River Terrace) in Battery Park City’s northern section, next year.
“With this memorial on the shore of the Hudson River, New York State will honor our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters who were tragically lost during the devastation from Hurricane Maria,” Mr. Cuomo said. “New York stands with Puerto Rico today, tomorrow and always — and we are proud to celebrate and further strengthen the connection between the Empire State and Puerto Rico.”
The design, by Puerto Rico-based architect Segundo Cardona and artist Antonio Martorell, consists of an ascending glass spiral, meant to evoke both the form of a hurricane and the shape of a nautilus shell, which serves as a symbol of protection against a hostile environment. The spiral will be crowned by a rotating star, reminiscent of the one that adorns the Puerto Rican flag. The glass panels that make up the spiral will be painted by Mr. Matrorell, and emblazoned with words from the poem, “Farewell from Welfare Island,” by Julia de Burgos, one of Puerto Rico’s most revered poets. The text, which gives lyric voice to the resiliency of the Puerto Rican people, was composed by Ms. de Burgos in February 1953, a few months before her death in New York. It is believed to be one of the only poems she ever wrote in English.
This design was chosen from among 120 proposals and recommended to Mr. Cuomo by the Hurricane Maria Memorial Commission, a ten-member panel that included only one resident of Battery Park City, and never held a single public meeting. Neither did the Commission ever consult with or invite participation from Community Board 1 (CB1)
These developments follow a pointed discussion last December at the Battery Park City Committee of CB1, in which chair Tammy Meltzer asked Nick Sbordone, vice president of communications and public affairs for the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), whether an upcoming meeting of that agency’s board, “will be confirming final details for the Hurricane Maria memorial?” She also asked, “does the community get to have any kind of say in this conversation, or the chance to weigh in”?
“Always,” Mr. Sbordone replied, in a reference to the BPCA’s concerted effort in recent years to increase transparency, consult with residents on major decisions, and include community leaders in planning. Whether this commitment is shared by the Cuomo administration, however, remains an open question.
The design for the Memorial features an ascending spiral of glass painted panels, crowned by a rotating star, reminiscent of the one that adorns the Puerto Rican flag.
“But we did a resolution saying we didn’t want it in Battery Park City,” Ms. Meltzer noted. This measure, enacted in December, 2018, observed that, “all public land within Battery Park City has already been designated for uses on which the community relies;” that, “Battery Park City has more memorials per square foot than any other neighborhood in New York City;” and that, “there are numerous locations within the State that could be better suited to locate the Hurricane Maria Memorial than Battery Park City.”
The same resolution called upon Mr. Cuomo to set up, “a process [of] communication and transparency with the community prior to the placement of any new memorials in Battery Park City — or anywhere else in Lower Manhattan.”
Mr. Sbordone answered, “that resolution asked for representation on the commission and that the BPCA not pay for it.” (The Cuomo administration does not plan to tap BPCA funds to cover the projected $700,000 cost of the project, and, as noted above, one member of ten members of Hurricane Maria Memorial Commission was a Battery Park City resident.)
Ms. Meltzer rejoined that, “the representation on the commission has never bothered to come to a CB1 meeting and is someone who does business with both the City and the State.” This was a reference to the fact that the lone member of the Commission who lives in the community, Elizabeth Velez, is a trusted confidante of the Governor’s, who served on the board of the Committee to Save New York, a controversial and secretive organization started by Mr. Cuomo in 2010, which was comprised mainly of real estate developers, bankers and lobbyists. The group was the State’s top lobbying spender in 2011 and 2012, but Mr. Cuomo shut it down the following year, after critics pointed to close ties between donors and State government. Ms. Velez also operates a construction contracting company that does business with both City Hall and Albany. According the multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation, Mr. Cuomo promised Ms. Velez a seat on the board of the BPCA in 2016, but her appointment did not go through, for reasons that never became public.
Ms. Meltzer continued, “they never actually bothered to come to a BPCA or CB1 meeting to get any type of community input. So, from our perspective, there has been little to no engagement.”
“We’re looking at this from a community perspective,” she added. “Can you tell me where in Battery Park City there is a memorial to anybody who lived in Battery Park City and was lost on September 11, 2001? There is nothing here that represents the residents who were here on September 11. And yet, there’s a hurricane memorial coming. It could be beautiful, and I’m sure it will be very interesting. But it would be nice if the community got to have some input on the final selections.”
Justine Cuccia, who serves as co-chair of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, noted that Esplanade Plaza (along with the Chambers Street overlook, one of two locations that were proposed for the Hurricane Maria Memorial), “is the location of a volleyball court that the community uses, and is also used for dances and events.”
Mr. Sbordone responded that, “one of the benefits of having BPCA staff involved is that we are constantly reminding folks that this is a residential community.”
Ms. Meltzer pressed, “adding another thing at that location is not ideal. We haven’t seen what it looks like, or the scope and size, and there could be infrastructure changes. The concerns about usage and location are very real. And we’re out of that decision-making loop, or even conversations.”
Battery Park City activists and leaders have a record of opposing plans for additional memorials that they believed conflicted with the interests of the community. These include successfully derailing proposals to locate two relics of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 within the neighborhood: the so-called “Survivors Staircase” (a flight of 38 steps that once led from Vesey Street to the World Trade Center plaza above) and the Sphere (a metal globe sculpture originally located on plaza between the Twin Towers, and heavily damaged when they collapsed). Both were initially slated for relocation to sites within Battery Park City. But each was instead incorporated into plans for the new World Trade Center complex when the community objected to these proposals.
The Irish Hunger Memorial
But State officials have an equally long record of vetoing these concerns and locating within the community monuments that often seem calculated to curry favor with politically significant constituencies. One illustrative case in point is the Irish Hunger Memorial, which was dedicated in 2002, at the corner of North End Avenue and Vesey Street, in spite of the fact that Battery Park City has little discernible connection to the history of New York’s Irish-American community.
The same template may apply to the planned memorials for Hurricane Maria and Mother Cabrini, in that Battery Park City has scant significance in the narratives of Puerto Rican or Italian-American immigrants to New York. As Ninfa Segarra, a Battery Park City resident who once served as Deputy Mayor, and more recently chaired CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, noted, “as one of the few Puerto Ricans who live in Battery Park City, I think placing a Memorial here is ridiculous. The Governor should identify who in the Puerto Rican community asked that it be placed here.”Mr. Cuomo appears to have settled on Battery Park City for his recent spurt of memorial building (which includes not only the Hurricane Maria Memorial, but also the monument to Mother Cabrini, and a recently announced plan to expand the Museum of Jewish Heritage), at least in part, because it is one of the few areas of New York City that, as chief executive of the State government, he controls directly. The Lower Manhattan locations also effectively guarantee significant media coverage and public visibility for all three projects.
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 at our annual gala:
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,
Battery Park City’s Founding Father Exits the Stage
Charles J. Urstadt, the founder and builder of Battery Park City, died on Tuesday, after a long illness.
Over a career that spanned seven decades, Mr. Urstadt was a longtime public servant, master builder, and business leader, who presided over both public housing and private development. But he will be best remembered for having melded a background in real estate with a love of politics by joining the administration of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, where he led efforts to build large-scale public housing.
The culmination of Mr. Urstadt’s career as a master builder was the creation of Battery Park City, widely regarded as one of the most successful developments of a planned community in American history.
at Six River Terrace starting at 6:30 – 8:30 pm on
Wednesday, March 11.
Residents are invited
to contribute ideas
about how to reach the Authority’s goal of
a carbon-neutral community,
as well asto brainstorm about topics
like energy and water consumption,
waste management, and air quality.
No R.S.V.P. necessary.
Bach + 1 St. Paul’s Chapel
Bach + One features one Bach cantata each week paired with a complementary work from composers early to modern.
Today in History
141 BC – Liu Che, posthumously known as Emperor Wu of Han, assumes the throne over the Han dynasty of China.
1009 – First known mention of Lithuania, in the annals of the monastery of Quedlinburg.
1815 – Francis Ronalds describes the first battery-operated clock in the Philosophical Magazine.
1841 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules in the United States v. The Amistad case that captive Africans who had seized control of the ship carrying them had been taken into slavery illegally.
1842 – The first documented discovery of gold in California occurs at Rancho San Francisco, six years before the California Gold Rush.
1954 – McCarthyism: CBS television broadcasts the See It Now episode, “A Report on Senator Joseph McCarthy”, produced by Fred Friendly.
1956 – Soviet forces suppress mass demonstrations in the Georgian SSR, reacting to Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization policy.
1959 – The Barbie doll makes its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York.
1997 – Comet Hale-Bopp: Observers in China, Mongolia and eastern Siberia are treated to a rare double feature as an eclipse permits Hale-Bopp to be seen during the day.
1454 – Amerigo Vespucci, Italian cartographer and explorer (d. 1512)
1824 – Amasa Leland Stanford, American businessman and politician, founded Stanford University (d. 1893)
1833 – Frederick A. Schroeder, German-American businessman and politician, 18th Mayor of Brooklyn (d. 1899)
1918 – Mickey Spillane, American crime novelist (d. 2006)
1934 – Yuri Gagarin, Russian colonel, pilot, and astronaut (d. 1968)
1943 – Bobby Fischer, American chess player and author (d. 2008)
1888 – William I, German Emperor (b. 1797)
1989 – Robert Mapplethorpe, American photographer (b. 1946)
1994 – Charles Bukowski, poet, novelist, and short story writer (b. 1920)
1996 – George Burns, American actor and comedian (b. 1896)
Photos and information culled from Wikipedia and other internet sources
Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
Lower Manhattan Party Leader Shifts Allegiance in President Contest
Paul Newell, a Democratic Party District Leader in Lower Manhattan, has shifted his support in the Democratic nomination race from Elizabeth Warren to Bernie Sanders.
The dynamics of the national presidential campaign have begun to shift at the local level. Paul Newell, a respected Democratic Party activist, who serves as a District Leader in Lower Manhattan, announced on Wednesday that he was withdrawing his earlier endorsement of Elizabeth Warren, and instead throwing his support to Bernie Sanders.
This is more than an abstract or symbolic switch. In addition to serving as District Leader, Mr. Newell is also a candidate to serve as a New York State delegate to the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in Milwaukee, this July.
Gateway Plaza Tenants Association Continues to Work on Affordability Protections
Robin Forst, GPTA board member, welcomes the crowd to the annual tenants meeting.
On February 6, the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association 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.” To read more…
Ars Gratia Communitas
Battery Park City’s Annual Art Exhibit
‘Untitled’ by Lorry Wall
Battery Park City’s annual art exhibition opened on Sunday, January 26.
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.
Higher, Wider, Handsomer
City Council Announces Design Competition to Improve Pedestrian Access to Brooklyn Bridge
Some 15,000 pedestrians and 3,600 cyclists compete with each other and souvenir vendors for as little as ten feet of width on the deck of the 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
The project aims to provide resiliency against flooding, which as become a regular occurrence at the Battery.
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…
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades ~ Respectable Employment ~ Lost & Found