Downtown Express

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June 16, 2016

Transcript of Downtown Express

  • JUNE 16 JUNE 29, 2016VOLUME 29, NUMBER 12


    BY COLIN MIXSONFaced with growing demands from residents

    and local lawmakers to allow public comment at its board meetings, the Battery Park City Authority has offered what many are calling a half mea-sure permitting only elected offi cials to speak at meetings, but restricting residents to submit-ting written comments a move that satisfi es no one except the governors hand-picked appoin-tees on the board, according to state Sen. Daniel Squadron.

    This was never about elected offi cials oppor-tunity to be heard. We have many opportunities to be heard, said Squadron. Its about local residents sharing their local perspective with a board who overwhelmingly resides elsewhere.

    A cadre of Downtown legislators put their names to a letter in April calling on the author-ity to provide locals the opportunity to speak for themselves at the boards meetings, with Squadron, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Borough President Gale Brewer, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and City Councilmember Margaret Chin writing that public comment is an important part of public engagement.

    SPEECHLESS Continued on page 31


    BY YANNIC RACKIts game over for the Water St.

    arcades.The City Council is set to sign

    off later this month on a controver-sial zoning change that would hand two football fi elds worth of public space to developers along Water St., after the Land Use Committee unanimously approved the plan on Wednesday.

    Downtown councilmember Margaret Chin had successfully pushed for several changes to the text amendment to refl ect commu-nity concerns, but the measures chief critics who decry it as a giveaway to developers that short-changes the community still argue the zoning text change is a

    bad deal for Lower Manhattan, and for public open spaces across the city.

    Its depressing that this is going through. It just opens the door it sets a precedent, said Alice Blank, an architect and mem-ber of Community Board 1 who spearheaded local opposition to the plan, in part because she feared it could lead to similar public spaces being handed over to landlords elsewhere. Any agreement of tak-ing away public space is a bad idea, she added.

    At the initial subcommittee hearings last month, several of the legislators expressed grave con-cerns about the deal, but once Chin came on board this week opposi-

    tion on the committees evaporated, since councilmembers usually defer to the local member when consid-ering a measure that falls entirely within their district.

    The zoning text amendment, introduced by the Downtown Alliance and the citys Economic Development Corporation and Dept. of City Planning, seeks to hand 110,000 square feet of cov-ered arcades at 20 Downtown offi ce towers to building owners for retail development in exchange for upgrades to public plazas in the area.

    Both the walkways and pla-zas which are privately owned

    WATERSHED VOTEControversial Water St. arcade plangets Council committee green light

    Photos by Yannic Rack

    Downtown Alliance president Jessica Lappin (inset) is poised to declare victory in her groups quest to allow developers to put retail space into the Water St. pedestrian arcades (left) in exchange for sprucing up the areas public plazas (right), after the Councils Land Use Committee unanimously endorsed the proposal on Jun15, setting up approval from the full Council on June 21.

    ARCADES Continued on page 12

    Suggestion box, not soap box for public at BPCA meetings

    File photo by Milo Hess

    Battery Park City Authority chairman Dennis Mehiel considers allowing only elected offi cials to speak at authority board meetings while restricting residents to submitting written comments to be a reasonable approach to growing calls for more community input.

  • 2 June 16 - June 29, 2016


    JUNE 21AUG 30




    *see website for details

    BY COLIN MIXSONYou can see a lot further than Jersey

    from Wagner Park.A group of hobbyist astronomers

    offered locals the chance to spy on dis-tant worlds from the unlikely vantage point of Battery Park Citys Wagner Park last week, where they set up high-powered telescopes and invited passers-by to discover the beauty of the heav-ens.

    Ive had people who look and say, Oh my god, youve changed my life forever, said Joe Delfausse, 75, a longtime stargazer and member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York. And when you see Saturn with its rings, thats exactly how you feel. Its incredible.

    Conditions in New York City are far from ideal for stargazing. In fact, the light pollution is about as bad as it gets. For most people, the bright lights of the big city arent so much a problem

    as an essential aspect of the city that never sleeps. Unfortunately, it doesnt make the challenge of viewing cosmic spectacles distant beyond reckoning any easier.

    But beholding truly distant sights is not what the Amateur Astronomers Association is all about. These star-ry-eyed hobbyists are more concerned with sharing with the uninitiated the dazzling sights that populate our own celestial backyard.

    Theres two kind of philosophies to stargazing, said Delfausse. One is you bring your telescope out into the middle of nowhere where the sky is really dark and you get to see all types of neat clus-ters that you wouldnt normally see. But there are a gazillion people in NYC that have never seen the planets through a telescope. Even if we just limit ourselves to the moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, and Mars, we can do a lot of good by bring-ing our telescopes to the people. Thats

    what Im all about.Wagner Park is a relatively new spot

    for the group, which regularly meets up on the High Line and at Lincoln Center

    to share the celestial view. This was only the second time theyve set up shop in


    Photo by Milo Hess

    Joe Delfausse, a leader of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York, promotes the joy of stargazing by setting up his telescope in public spaces and inviting passers-by to get a close-up look at the heavens.

    Amateur astronomers call the view from Wagner Park out of this world

    STARSTRUCK Continued on page 12

  • June 16 - June 29, 2016



    *$ !!







  • 4 June 16 - June 29, 2016

    Swingin tunes at BrookfieldUnleash your inner child and musician with interactive art installation

    BY YANNIC RACKA new cooperative musical instal-

    lation just opened at Brookfi eld Place, where a giant set of musical swings invites passers-by to have some nostalgic fun while collectively composing tunes.

    The Swings: An Exercise in Musical Cooperation features a set of 10 giant swings, each representing one of four instruments piano, harp, guitar and vibraphone and triggering a sound when participants swing back and forth.

    We found something universal in people just loving to swing, having great nostalgia and attachment to it, said Melissa Mongiat, one half of Montreal-based design duo Daily tous les jours, which came up with the project.

    And the whole music-making ele-ment is a great icebreaker between strangers, Mongiat explained. People usually feel amazed at how comfortable they can feel in a public space.

    Together with her partner, Mouna Andraos, Mongiat originally designed a larger set of 21 swings that has been a mainstay in Montreals arts and enter-tainment district every spring for the past fi ve years.

    The smaller version, which will stay on the Waterfront Plaza at Brookfi eld Place until July 7 and is open every day from noon to 8 p.m., has just kicked off a whirlwind tour through the US but it will be more than fun and games. The contraption will gather data on how the swings are used and how participants collaborate with each other to make music as a spontaneous community, making it more than just a fancy play-thing, according to Mongiat.

    We got a Knight Foundation grant, and we decided to have a study made around it to better understand the impact. We feel its a project that,

    depending on its context, can relieve a lot of tension, she explained.

    The installation has already shown results in other locations in serious need of social cohesion, Mongiat said.

    We were in West Palm Beach, where there is a lot of social tension, and Detroit, which has a lot of econom-ic tension, she said, and it has quite a lot of power to relieve some of that and attract a mixed crowd. It just gets people to take down their barriers.

    The fun of literally playing on the musical swings can quickly gather a diverse group of people together as evidenced during a preview session last

    week, where both men in suits and mothers with toddlers gave it a go.

    I actually went to Colorado when it was there, and I had such a great time swinging myself, and experiencing the installation, said Elysa Marden, a senior producing director at Arts Brookfi eld who helped bring the instal-lation to the Hudson River waterfront. So I came back to talk it up.

    Before The Swings grand tour, when Mongiat and Andraos were planning their original installation in Montreal, they studied the space it was going to occupy and found both a symphony orchestra and a science faculty nearby.

    A few meetings later, the musical component was incorporated, and a biology p