June 15th - June 21st, 2013
New Lower Manhattan Fitness Center to Open Doors After Sandy Delay
June 15 - After a six-month delay because of Hurricane Sandy, a fitness center in Battery Park City was scheduled to open its doors Saturday, reported NY1. Asphalt Green features a pool, a basketball court and a dance room, along with music and art lessons and a kitchen for cooking classes. The new location was supposed to open in December, but it was damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The brand new gym floor needed to be re-done, as did lots of plumbing. Residents of Battery Park City can get a discounted membership.
Verizon Plans Luxury Additions to Downtown HQ
June 17 - Verizon officials want luxury residential, hotel and restaurant owners to move into their landmark Lower Manhattan headquarters -- which means the workers have to leave, reported the NY Post. The telecom giant is looking for real-estate investors to attract high-end operators to their West Street building, officials said. But jumping in on the Manhattan real-estate boom means there won't be enough room for their actual employees. The 1,100 workers will be inconveniently shipped to offices in Brooklyn, union officials said. The plan, revealed in a May press release, would retain the bottom 10 floors of the building for some employees, with "plans to market 18 of the upper floors" for development. The firm took $185 million in federal funds in the form of 9/11 relief money to spruce up the 31-floor building, said Keith Purce, president of Local 1101 of CWA. That, Purce said, amounts to a subsidy, allowing the firm to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars after hitting up taxpayers. Verizon brass said they can use their building as they see fit.
Advocates, Scientists Fail to Reach Agreement on Possible 9-11 Cancer Links
June 17 - City Council members were looking for definitive answers Monday, during a Lower Manhattan hearing on whether there is a link between September 11th debris and cancer rates among first responders, reported NY1. The federal government essentially recognized the relationship when it expanded 9/11 health coverage to include 50 cancers, but lawmakers want more diseases added to that list. It's clear everyone agrees the exposures were unprecedented. While scientists from Mount Sinai's Icahn Medical School and the city Health and Fire Departments all found higher rates of certain cancers among first responders, prostate and thyroid in particular, none were willing to make an outright association. But others serving those impacted by the attack say the data does not include those who were too sick to enroll in the World Trade Center Health Program. First responders who were present brushed off the scientists' caution. "We've lost 30 people in 2013, 28 of them cancer," said John Feal, a September 11th first responder and advocate. "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that 9/11 and its aftermath has caused these cancers." Instead, they called on local and federal lawmakers to up their game and make sure that funding from Washington continues to support current studies and treatment for victims. The next analysis of 9/11-related cancers will start next year, this time with a decade's worth of data, from 2001 to 2011.
SeaPort City Is Designed to Buttress Manhattan, But Doubts Linger
June 17 - Alone among Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 250 ideas to shield New York City from storms and the impacts of climate change, his so-called SeaPort City for the east side of Lower Manhattan has prompted skepticism, criticism and confusion, reported the Wall Street Journal. City officials envision a bustling neighborhood jutting into the East River in part atop reclaimed land and modeled after another elevated Manhattan district, Battery Park City, which sustained far less damage than many areas from superstorm Sandy. But the idea hasn't stirred enthusiasm among environmental advocates and urban planners, many of whom have lauded other elements in the mayor's $19.5 billion storm-protection strategy released last week--everything from levees to retractable storm walls to voluntary buyouts for homeowners in vulnerable areas. They argue that building a new waterfront district makes no sense in an era of rising sea levels. They also fear the development could ruin the historic Seaport neighborhood along the East River. The proposal faces many hurdles, practical and political. It would cost hundreds of millions or billions of dollars to build, said experts. The city said it was too early to estimate the cost--and didn't include it in the $19.5 billion price tag for the Bloomberg storm-proofing plan. Environmentalists oppose land fill, saying it harms wildlife, including fish, among other reasons.
Contest Seeks Storm-Prep Ideas for Sandy Region
June 20 - Federal housing secretary Shaun Donovan is announcing a design competition to help the region affected by Superstorm Sandy prepare for the next big storm, according to the Journal News. Donovan joined officials from New York and New Jersey at New York University on Thursday to announce the contest, called Rebuild By Design. Teams of designers, architects and others will be asked to submit concepts for projects to enhance storm preparedness in the region. Donovan said winning projects will be built starting in March 2014. There is no set budget for the projects. Donovan said the winning designs will be built using federal Community Development Block Grant funds as well as other public and private funds. He said the contest will "expand the imagination" and go beyond the old ways of doing business.
Push Launched for $2.8B in 9-11 WTC Insurance Money
June 20 - The city's construction industry is ramping up pressure on insurers left on the hook for massive damages at Ground Zero in the 9/11 attacks to pay out up to $2.8 billion to Silverstein Properties, the leaseholder on the site and one of the developers rebuilding the complex there. According to Crain's New York, the coalition includes both the Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents the city's 100,000 unionized construction workers, and the Building Trades Employers Association, an organization of the largest construction contracting groups. Other members include 32BJ, one of the country's largest unions and the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council. The efforts, which include a new website, ad campaign and expected rallies, come in advance of a key federal court session scheduled for July 15 in which a judge is expected to affirm whether Silverstein Properties can try to recoup $2.8 billion from the insurers or settle with trying to claw back a lesser amount. The trial to actually win the insurance proceeds isn't expected to begin until next year. The payout, if it happens, would be the second major insurance payment to the site. Silverstein and the Port Authority won about $4.1 billion in 2004 from insurers of the World Trade Center. The current insurance case is against insurers of United Airlines and American Airlines, which operated the planes used in the attack on the Twin Towers. Silverstein Properties has pledged to use the proceeds from the current case to build 2 World Trade Center, a large office tower at the northeast corner of the site that the developer has not yet begun.