Facing Adversity, One Community Leader Tries to Lead By Example
In the days following September 11, 2001, Bob Townley called the community together at the basketball court at the intersection of Canal Street and Avenue of the Americas.
Bob Townley, the founder and executive director of Manhattan Youth, reflects, “I’ve been through this before — twice, actually.” He is referring to a pair of previous cataclysms that seemed to threaten the viability of the Lower Manhattan community he serves, as well as the organization he leads.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the inundation of Hurricane Sandy, 11 years later, both wrecked the neighborhood. And both raised questions about whether Manhattan Youth, which provides services to thousands of school children, families, and seniors, could remain viable. So the ongoing crisis related to the pandemic coronavirus is not without precedent for him.
“In the fall of 2001,” he recalls, “pieces of the World Trade Center were in a pool on Rector Place, where we had been giving toddlers swimming lessons a few days before. And when I finally got back into our Downtown Community Center in November, 2012, we had 20 feet of water in the basement. The entire bottom level, and a second story below the street, were both submerged.”
“At those moments, I didn’t know how we would come back,” he admits. “But I still knew we would. One thing I learned from both of those experiences is that today’s reality changes. So we have a lot to figure out, but I’m not worried. It’s going to be a very big hit for us financially, but we’re going to come back from it.”
The financial hurdles are daunting. “Between the Community Center and the after-school programs we run at dozens of elementary and middle schools, we have a payroll of more than $600,000 per month,” he notes. “A significant portion of the income we use to cover those salaries has stopped coming in. We can’t bill parents for after-school services when school is not in session. And we can’t charge membership dues for a Community Center that is closed.”
“But we have paid all of our counselors, instructors, swim teachers — the entire staff — through today, and I’m committed to doing this through at least the end of April,” Mr. Townley says. “And my intention is to go longer than that. I plan to keep paying our staff for as long as we can.”
Bob Townley, founder and executive director of Manhattan Youth: “We have a lot to figure out, but I’m not worried. It’s going to be a very big hit for us financially, but we’re going to come back from it.”
“After September 11, and after Hurricane Sandy, we did not lay anybody off,” he recalls with pride. “And I’m not going to do it now. People who work at Manhattan Youth are not rich — their salaries are about survival. So I am continuing to pay full-time and part-time employees for the hours they were scheduled to work.” He adds, “our vendors are also getting paid, because they are small businesses.”
Part of the backstop will come from City contracts that fund after-school programs at middle schools, which have continued to pay, in spite of schools being shut down. But this falls well short of making up the entire deficit.
“We’re going to use the funds that we have on hand,” Mr. Townley says, “and we’ve begun preparing loan applications for up to $1 million. That should buy us some time.” Manhattan Youth has also been asking parents to consider donating at least part of the fees they would have paid for after-school sessions at elementary schools. “So far, we’ve collected a little over $80,000 in donations,” he says, “which is hugely helpful, and very encouraging.” To support Manhattan Youth with a tax-deductible contribution, please browse: https://www.manhattanyouth.org/give
He worries about other Lower Manhattan non-profits, such as daycare centers and the youth athletic leagues. “They are almost entirely dependent on revenue earned through fees,” he observes, “and don’t have government contracts that are continuing to pay. So they are facing terrible challenges.”
“I want Manhattan Youth to lead by example during times like this,” he reflects, “and we will figure out the money.” In the meantime, Mr. Townley (like his entire staff) is working from home. “I need my people to stay away and stay safe, and be ready to come back to work — healthy and available — when this blows over,” he says.
Hurricane Sandy left 20 feet of water in the Community Center. The bottom level, and a second story below the street, were both submerged.”
The preternaturally energetic Mr. Townley is finding the confinement of remote working to be an adjustment. Visiting Pier 25 (which Manhattan Youth also manages, on behalf of the Hudson River Park Trust) and the Esplanade, he says, “I can’t believe how many are outside. It’s impossible to practice social distancing in these places.”
At the same time, he mourns the loss of friends taken by the coronavirus, such as Andreas Koutsoudakis, the proprietor of the Gee Whiz and Tribeca’s Kitchen restaurants. “He fed my kids twice a week for all the years they were growing up here,” Mr. Townley recalls fondly. “This neighborhood will never be the same without him.”
“I’m so lucky to be healthy,” he adds in a tone that conveys a mixture of gratitude and bewilderment at the randomness of who lives and who dies at moments such as these.
As he works from home, Mr. Townley jokes, “I am singlehandedly keeping several pizza places afloat,” but adds a more serious word of advice: “At a time like this, tips are not a courtesy — they mean survival. So I’ve been tipping more heavily than usual. Until this is over, we should all try to stun people with our generosity.”
True to form, Mr. Townley is dwelling less on current challenges than on big plans for the future. “For our summer camp program this year, he says, “I want to find a way to make it free for healthcare workers and first responders. That would be a way for us to say thanks for everything they’re doing for everybody.”
A pair of peregrin falcons are back in Lower Manhattan, high above 55 Water Street. Click to watch a live camera as they care for their clutch of eggs that are expected to hatch in the coming weeks.
NEWS FROM PREVIOUS EDITIONS
OF THE BROADSHEETDAILY
City Releases Data about Local Rates of Infection
Lower Manhattan’s eight zip codes are the site of 309 confirmed cases
A total of 309 residents of Lower Manhattan (among 724 who have been tested) are confirmed to have been infected by the pandemic coronavirus, according to statistics released by the City’s Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday.
Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field
National Museum of the American Indian
Virgil and Isabel Trujillo in their family apple orchard.
Virgil Trujillo manages part of Abiquiú’s centuries-old acequias, or communal irrigation system. It combines Spanish and Indigenous practices to direct water into fields. “Our identity is tied to the land,” he says. “Ranching and farming are the source of our life and freedom. Everything is tied to the land; everything starts as a natural resource.”
Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field
National Museum of the American Indian
Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field is a pair of sequential photo essays created by Native photojournalists Russel Albert Daniels and Tailyr Irvine in collaboration with the National Museum of the American Indian. The work of both photographers springs from the same desires—to break down stereotypes of Native peoples and to portray stories that show the diversity and complexity of their contemporary lives.
While the installation of the first photo essay by Daniels — The Genízaro People of Abiquiú — is postponed due to coronavirus, the photo essay is online.
Celebrate Endangered Species Day (May 15) and the 50th anniversary of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by participating in the Greater Atlantic Region’s Marine Endangered Species Art Contest.
Endangered and threatened species need our help. Students’ artwork will showcase their knowledge and commitment to protecting these animals. Throughout 2020, NOAA is celebrating 50 years of science, service, and stewardship. NOAA is a world-class forecasting and resource management agency with a reach that goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor. In the next 50 years, NOAA will advance innovative research and technology, answer tough scientific questions, explored the unexplored, inspire new approaches to conservation, and power the U.S. economy. Through April 24
This documentary series explores the shared commitment to the mission behind the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. From showing how we create new traditions of tribute, to demonstrating our unique conservation techniques, the short films go beyond the surface to immerse viewers in untold stories of honor and remembrance. Click here to view the series.
Today through April 30
The Stories They Tell
9/11 Memorial and Museum
Family members, survivors, first responders and recovery workers discuss the 9/11 history they are helping to preserve through the material they have shared with the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Click here.
Offerings include morning warmup/stretching/conditioning exercises, mid-day classes in contemporary dance with afro, ballet and jazz fusion elements, evening classes in varied ballroom styles, plus a daily short video at 4pm by dancers performing in their living rooms.
Today through April 30
Tourist in Your Own Town Videos
The New York Landmarks Conservancy
Now that most of us are staying home, you can take virtual tours of New York City.Visit Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, Alexander Hamilton’s home in Upper Manhattan, the Woolworth Building in Lower Manhattan, the site of the Battle of Brooklyn, the home of one of America’s first female photographers on Staten Island, and Louis Armstrong’s home in Queens. There are 61 sites in all. You’ll be amazed at the discoveries you will make.
A Shofar Blown In Auschwitz: Artifact Presentation Ceremony
Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
On September 23, 2019, a shofar blown in Auschwitz was added to the “Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away.” exhibition. Some members of the exhibition curatorial team spoke, as well as Professor Judith Baumel-Schwartz (the shofar owner). Rabbi Eli Babich of the Fifth Avenue Syngagogue blew the shofar, and Cantor Joseph Malovany of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue recited the Memorial Prayer for the Holocaust. See a video of the event.
Downtown Food Festival Supports Local Restaurants by Feeding Healthcare Workers
The ever-popular Taste of Tribeca food festival has been cancelled for this year, but the organizers are rallying support to help the now-struggling restaurants that have contributed food for decades, by purchasing meals to donate to hospital workers.
Starting today, up to 100 free meals will be arriving daily at local healthcare facilities, prepared by half a dozen Lower Manhattan restaurants, and paid for with contributions solicited by the Downtown parents who organize the Taste of Tribeca food festival.
For the past 25 years, that event has accepted food contributed by dozens of eateries, and sold these “tastes” at a street fair, to raise money for two beloved local public schools: P.S. 234 and P.S. 150. Earlier this month, however, mounting concerns about the pandemic coronavirus forced the first-ever cancellation of the event. Realizing that this tragedy represented an opportunity to repay decades of generosity from local restaurants, at a time when these establishments are facing financial ruin, the organizers established a Taste of Tribeca Community Fund, and created a contribution portal on GoFundMe, which can be found here: https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/taste-of-tribeca-community-fund
Taste of Tribeca board member Bettina Teodoro explains that, “this is a campaign to help our neighborhood restaurants and the emergency room at New York Presbyterian-Lower Manhattan Hospital, by buying meals from the former to feed entire shifts at the latter.” In just the last three days, 84 donors have contributed over $12,000, which is more than half of the project’s overall goal of $20,000.
“We’d like to do this as often and as much as we can,” Ms. Teodoro adds, “and if means allow we will branch further afield to other hospitals in the City. It’s a work in progress, but our team will do the best we can to help as many people and businesses as we can.”
Among the Lower Manhattan restaurants supplying food (and receiving financial support from the Taste of Tribeca Community Fund) are Zuckers Bagels, Paisley, Anejo, City Vineyard, Khe-Yo, Restaurant Marc Forgione, and Maman.
“Our aim — to feed 100 hospital workers at a time, at a cost of $10 per person — is simple, but the benefits are far-reaching,” Ms. Teodoro reflects. “An order of this size will help to keep open a restaurant that at this time is relying solely on take-out and delivery orders. And the gift of a nourishing, delicious meal will help to refuel our tired and hungry doctors, nurses and medical support staff.”
The organizers are reaching out to other hospitals around the City and exploring delivery options. The response has been so overwhelming that the project’s scope has already expanded from to cover emergency staff at Mount Sinai, NYU Langone, and Bellevue Hospital.
The team behind the Community Fund emphasizes that no donation is too small, and 100 percent of all contributions (minus a small processing fee) will go directly to the purchase of meals for an entire shift of hospital workers. “The more money we raise, the more shifts we can serve, the more restaurants we can support, and the more we can expand this program to other area hospitals,” Ms. Teodoro observes.
Taste of Tribeca is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, all donations are tax-deductible, within the limits prescribed by law. The organizers will send all donors a receipt acknowledging their contribution.
City Takes Over FiDi Hotel to House Homeless
A guard posted to the lobby of the Radisson New York Wall Street Hotel demands that a reporter leave on Monday afternoon, after refusing to answer questions about homeless people being sheltered there.
The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio is housing several dozen homeless people in a luxury hotel in the Financial District. In a story first reported by the New York Post, the Radisson New York Wall Street Hotel (located at the corner of William and Pine Streets), which has been closed in the wake of the pandemic coronavirus, is being used (at least temporarily) as shelter for homeless adults.
The Broadsheet could not ascertain whether this is an interim measure, or if the City’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) intends to house its clients at this site indefinitely. Also unclear is whether the hotel is being used as a quarantine facility, in the wake of reports that more than 100 residents in the City’s homeless shelter system have tested positive for the coronavirus, and two have died.
When a reporter approached the front door of the hotel on Monday afternoon to inquire, security guards in surgical masks and plastic ponchos refused to answer questions, demanded that he stop taking photographs, and ordered him to leave. The DHS did not return calls asking for comment.
Biking through traffic seven years ago at lunch hour in downtown Manhattan compared to the dearth of people and traffic after the Corona virus epidemic is a huge contrast. Footage is sped up, so although it may look a but scary, the ride was totally safe!
Thanks and be well! -Esther R.
Bravo to the Frontline Workers!
Scanning Rector Place from his window the other night, Lower Manhattan resident Marcello de Peralta captured heartfelt community appreciation for workers at the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Seaport Dog Walkers Maintain Social Distancing; Their Dogs, Well, That’s Another Matter
FiDi resident Mike Devereaux sent photos of Pier 16 morning dog walks
Local Luminaries Claimed by Pandemic, with Tally of Losses Poised to Grow
A truck parked on Spruce Street, outside of New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, that appears to be intended for use as a temporary morgue.
Hospitals around New York, already coping with a tsunami of patients made critically ill by the pandemic coronavirus, have begun to prepare for a second onslaught: a wave of deceased victims.
Like healthcare facilities throughout the five boroughs, New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital now has an unmarked, refrigerated truck parked outside. On Spruce Street, surrounded by traffic barricades and caution tape, the trailer’s back end is discretely cloaked by a white tent, connecting it to a nearby exit from the building. This will allow movement between the doors and the truck, concealed from public view. As is the case at more than a dozen other hospitals around Manhattan, this truck appears to be earmarked for use as a temporary morgue.
Collection of National September 11 Memorial & Museum
Published with permission of the artist.
Field guide to nightly entertainment
Are you missing the buzz at gatherings in theaters and movie houses? While we continue to learn how to dodge threats of the pandemic to our physical health, spring is arriving with opportunities to nurture mind and body in the safety of the outdoors. When I challenge my eyes to find planet Venus high in the west shortly after sunset, it could be that I am giving a boost to my immune system. Besides, it is a delightful pursuit for people of all ages every clear evening. Venus appears high in the west as a point of white light, the Evening Star, in blue sky about half an hour after sunset. Sunset is shortly after 7:15pm this week. The goddess planet increases in brilliance and decreases in altitude as the sky darkens: look for Venus all night until she sets in the west-northwest at about 11:30pm.
The early bird show continues to the left of Venus, in the south to southwest, where Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens, appears as the sky darkens. Then, find a lookout to the northeast horizon about 90 minutes after sunset to receive the golden light of the second brightest star in our sky, Arcturus.
In dark sky locations, at nightfall, from east to west, find Leo the Lion, The Big Dog, the triangular head of Taurus the Bull and Orion the Hunter. They are visible until about midnight. For a lifetime field guide to the stars through the year, consider purchasing a star wheel aka planisphere.
A note about artist Naoto Nakagawa’s painting, “Stars of the Forest.” It began as a reflection on “a glorious moment in nature’s drama.” Its beauty, like a stroll in a natural landscape and stargazing, is especially heartening as we suffer the COVID19 pandemic. Naoto Nakagawa started the painting a week before 9/11. He states, “At the time, I was unaware that it would be an elegy for that disaster. … after working on it for three months, I came to realize what is was about. The inner light that permeates the entire surface represents the victims of 9/11, expressed as shining stars.The image holds both the tragedy now being experienced around the world and the infinite beauty of nature and the human spirit.”
Lower Manhattan Health Resources for Residents with Concerns
Government officials are asking that people with non-urgent health problems avoid showing up at hospital emergency rooms, which are already overburdened.
Instead, they ask that patients who have concerns consult with their personal physicians. Those in need of non-emergency medical help can also call (or walk into) one of the five Lower Manhattan urgent care clinics that remain open. As of Thursday afternoon, these are:
• CityMD Financial District (24 Broad Street). No appointment necessary. 646-647-1259.
• CityMD Fulton (138 Fulton Street). No appointment necessary. 212-271-4896.
• CityMD Tribeca (87 Chambers Street). No appointment necessary. 347-745-8321.
• NYU Langone at Trinity (111 Broadway). Appointment required. 212-263-9700.
• Mount Sinai Doctors (225 Greenwich Street, fifth floor). No appointment necessary. 212-298-2720.
That noted, anyone experiencing dangerous symptoms (such as trouble breathing or dangerous spikes in body temperature) is encouraged to go to a hospital emergency room.
Two Lower Manhattan healthcare providers are also offering Virtual Visits, in which patients can consult over the phone or video link with a physician or nurse practitioner.
To schedule such a session with NYU Langone, please browse: NYULangone.org, and click on Virtual Urgent Care.
To make an appointment with New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, please browse NYP.org, and click on Virtual Urgent Care.
Patients enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program are advised not to cancel or reschedule existing appointments. Clinic staff will be contacting you to make arrangements to convert these sessions into a tele-visits.
All program participants with prescriptions for their certified WTC-related conditions are strongly encouraged to sign up for Optum Home Delivery which allows for 90-day prescription fills and delivers directly to members by mail.
For more information, please call Optum at 855-640–0005, Option 2. For members who prefer to pick up prescriptions at retail pharmacies, the program is waiving early medication refill limits on 30-day prescription maintenance medications. Please call Optum at 855-640–0005, Option 3 for more information.
The World Trade Center Health Program is also covering limited COVID-19 testing for members with certain certified World Trade Center-related conditions that may put them at higher risk of illness from COVID-19. In addition to testing, treatment for COVID-19 is also covered, contingent on certain criteria being met, including that the member was eligible for COVID-19 testing, the treatment is authorized by the program, and the treatment is not experimental. Coverage of COVID-19 treatment costs requires approval by the program’s administrator, on a case-by-case basis.
Desperate Times for Street Food Vendors
Council Member and Advocacy Group Petition for Funds and to Suspend Most Enforcement Actions Toward Food Carts
Street vendors, who are mostly ineligible for benefits like unemployment or health insurance, have recently suffered losses of more than 80 percent of their usual revenue.
As the pandemic coronavirus continues to grip New York, one cohort of the Downtown community is experiencing a heightened level of distress, according to City Council member Margaret Chin and a non-profit advocacy group based in Lower Manhattan. To read more…
The Niou Deal
Assembly Member Proposes Finance Reform as Funding Mechanism for Affordable Housing
State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou: “When you go shopping in New York City, how much extra do you pay for sales tax? This transfer tax of one-half of one percent is less than one-sixteenth of what you pay. But it would raise billions for public housing.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that planning must begin immediately for how to rebuild the wreckage of the economy, once the health crisis brought on by the pandemic cononavirus has abated.
“We have to start to plan the pivot back to economic functionality,” he said during a press conference at the Jacob Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s west side, where he announced the start of construction on a temporary hospital. “You can’t stop the economy forever.” To read more…
Going to the Mattresses
Lower Manhattan Hunkers Down, as Coronavirus Crisis Grinds On
Multiple residents of Lower Manhattan have now tested positive for the pandemic coronavirus, including one tenant at Gateway Plaza in Battery Park City, who has been hospitalized and is breathing with the assistance of a mechanical ventilator, according to a range of sources with direct knowledge of the circumstances.
In a separate development, a resident of Battery Park City died on Saturday after plunging from the 16th floor of his building at 400 Chambers Street, in an apparent suicide.
On a more encouraging note, a teacher at P.S./I.S. 276 (also located in Battery Park City), who exhibited symptoms that warranted a test for coronavirus, has been confirmed to be free of the disease.
Repurposing of Rivington House Might Help Meet Need for Clinical Capacity Arising from Pandemic
Rivington House on the Lower East Side
A Lower Manhattan building steeped in controversy may become a lifeline for people infected by the pandemic COVID-19 virus. In a story first reported by Crain’s New York, Rivington House is being considered as a possible treatment site.
The Lower East Side building served for decades as an HIV/AIDS care facility. But in 2014, the structure was acquired by real estate speculators, who paid a fraction of its market value, because a deed restriction that committed the building to use as a clinic. To read more…
Meditations in an Emergency
Our Hometown and the Myth of Eternal Return
You tell yourself that you’ve seen this story before, and more than once: edifices falling; waters rising. And you reflect that the worst situations are not those that can’t get any worse. The worst situations are the ones that are going to get worse before they get better. So you hunker down.
You recall the Old Man deciding, a lifetime ago, that since you were too old for fairy tales, you were perhaps old enough for true confessions. To read more…
A Lifeline for Mom-and-Pop Shops
Amid Coron-Apocalypse, City Offers Loans and Grants for Struggling Small Businesses
The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio has inaugurated a program to aid small businesses that have experienced financial hardship because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Firms with fewer than 100 employees, which have undergone sales decreases of 25 percent or more will be eligible for zero interest loans of up to $75,000 to help mitigate losses in profit. The City’s Department of Small Business Services is also offering small businesses with fewer than five employees a grant to cover 40 percent of payroll costs for two months, to help retain employees.