December 10th - December 16th, 2004
Port Authority Approves 2005 Budget
Friday, December 10: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved its 2005 budget plan, paving the way for the bi-state organization to spend $4.5 billion on operations improvement initiatives in 2005, as well as $4.1 billion on additional improvements in 2006 and 2007, the New York Times reported.
Among the major projects outlined in the budget is a $1.7 billion plan to improve transportation centers, including a $100 million allocation to start construction on the permanent World Trade Center PATH station, the Times said.
Also included in the Port Authority's budget is a $280 million renovation project for Newark Liberty International Airport's Terminal B. While most of the funding for the project will come from the agency, some of it is expected to be raised through revenue generated from a proposed $1.50 increase in departure taxes at the region's three major airports, the paper noted.
Despite an expected $27 million increase in security costs and a slight decline in federal funding, the 2005 budget is largely equal to last year's, the Times added.
Deconstruction Plan Announced for Former Deutsche Bank Building
Monday, December 13: The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) and the Gilbane Building Company released their draft plan for the first phase of deconstruction on the former Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty Street, the New York Times reported.
In order to dismantle the tower, which was irreparably damaged during the 9/11 attacks, crews will first empty the contents of its 40 floors, carefully sealing the items and debris into waste bags in order to eliminate public exposure to hazardous materials like asbestos and dust from the World Trade Center present in the building, the Times explained.
Equipped with protective gear, workers will first remove dust and contaminated materials from the building's top floors in four sections, including items such as ceiling tiles, wallboard, carpeting, insulation, and even the netting that covers sections of the structure's exterior. To ensure that the materials remain contained, crews will install protective barriers around the building and use exhaust systems that will draw materials inside the building should the barriers develop a leak. Once these items are removed, the deconstruction of the building's structural elements can begin, the paper said.
In August, the LMDC acquired 130 Liberty Street and hired the Gilbane Company to lead the deconstruction effort. The LMDC will hold public hearings about the draft plan and has scheduled the first phase of deconstruction to begin in January, the Times added.
To view the draft plan, please click here to visit the LMDC's website.
San Gennaro Donates Festival Proceeds to Charity
Monday, December 13: Feast of San Gennaro organizer Figli di San Gennaro announced that it has donated $127,000 of the proceeds from last September's festival to area charities, the Associated Press reported.
The organizer's largest donation totaled $50,000 and was presented to the Most Precious Blood Church, which houses the shrine of San Gennaro in Little Italy. Other charitable donations were given to the Lower East Side Catholic schools, social services organizations, and a pediatric health program, the AP said.
Since assuming control of the festival in 1996, Figli di San Gennaro has donated more than $1.2 million to charity, the AP added.
Plans for African Burial Ground Design Still Under Review
Tuesday, December 14: While federal officials have not yet selected the winner of the African Burial Ground memorial design competition, several community supporters of the project have publicly pledged support for one of the five finalists' designs, Newsday reported.
City Councilman Charles Barron, along with other community members, announced his endorsement of the design submitted by the firm McKissack and Associates, which features a largely open space with narrative panels along Duane Street, a headstone with an eternal flame, and an "undulating" lawn to represent the waves of the ocean that the slave ships sailed on before arriving in Lower Manhattan, Newsday said.
Despite the community support for McKissack's design, it is the federal General Services Administration (GSA), which manages the site along with the National Park Service, that is tasked with selecting the winning memorial design.
During the preliminary construction phase of a federal office building at 290 Broadway in 1991, workers discovered the remains of more than 400 Africans stacked in wooden boxes just 16 to 28 feet below street level. At the time of its discovery, the African Burial Ground was recognized as the largest and only known urban pre-Revolutionary African cemetery in the country, and by 1993 the federal government declared the site a National Historic Landmark. To learn more about the African Burial Ground, please click here.
NJ Transit Considers New York Waterway Rescue
Wednesday, December 15: While no plans to help the financially troubled ferry operator New York Waterway have been finalized, a bill introduced on Wednesday could allow for New Jersey Transit to take over the struggling company, the Associated Press reported.
According to the bill, which was sponsored by New Jersey Assembly Speaker Albio Sires and Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski, New Jersey Transit could add ferries to its lineup of trains, buses, and subways. If passed, the bill would then grant the transit agency authority to take control of New York Waterway, AP explained.
Since the ferry operator announced its fiscal crisis, both the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and New Jersey's Hudson County Improvement Authority have been called upon to help rescue it. Although neither the Port Authority nor New Jersey Transit have committed to taking over the service, the Hudson County Improvement Authority announced that it decided to abandon its plan to assume control earlier in the week, the AP added.
The country's largest privately-owned ferry service, New York Waterway increased ferry service to replace the PATH train to Lower Manhattan, which was closed after the 9/11 attacks. Since the reopening of the World Trade Center PATH station last December, the ferry operator has witnessed a dramatic drop in ridership.
Ratner's Closes, For the Last Time
Thursday, December 16: Ratner's, the Lower East Side kosher restaurant that has served everyone from politicians to movie stars to gangsters, celebrated its 100th anniversary on Tuesday evening. Even though the establishment officially closed two years ago, the owners hosted one last hurrah before the famous Ratner's neon sign is removed and the space is transformed. For complete coverage, please click here.
Pace Downtown Index Reveals Continuing Upsurge in Downtown Economy
Thursday, December 16: The Pace Downtown Index (PDI) -- the first comprehensive economic indicator for Lower Manhattan -- shows a continuing upward trend for the downtown economy for a 15th consecutive month.
The PDI is determined by tracking economic progress as a weighted average of four variables, two representing activities in the financial markets and two representing the commercial real estate market and the city's overall economy. The selected variables are the S&P 500 Index, the Federal Funds Rate, the total commercial real estate inventory in Lower Manhattan, and the Gross Lower Manhattan Product.
The latest PDI released registers at 98.61 for November, an increase of 0.36 percent from last month and 2.33 percent from November 2003.
Pace University's Center for Downtown New York (CDNY), with assistance from the Mayor's Office and the Alliance for Downtown New York, developed the PDI. On the third Thursday of each month, Pace announces the latest PDI and posts a full report on the PDI webpage.