Neighborhood Chatter: 9.15.11


After a two-year incubation period at the Tweed Courthouse on Chambers Street, the students of the Spruce Street School finally moved to their permanent location in the Gehry Tower last week. A red carpet-though more for the rain than for fanfare-was laid out at the school entrance as Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, architect Frank Gehry, City Council Member Margaret Chin and State Sen. Daniel Squadron greeted parents and students. Earlier in the morning, Bloomberg and Silver noted that the opening of P.S. 397 was another symbol of Lower Manhattan's recovery in the wake of 9/11.

Hundreds of tots and guardians lined up for the first day of school, including Elda Rotor, vice president of the PTA, whose 7-and-a-half-year-old son Luca is entering 2nd grade. Rotor lived in Tribeca around Sept. 11, 2001, and her family eventually moved to the Financial District in 2006 when Luca was a baby.

"This is a neighborhood of young families who are very committed, resourceful and friendly," Rotor said of her new community. She opted out of nearby P.S. 234 for the "opportunity to start something from the ground up." Another parent, Chris Todd, moved with his family from Tribeca for economic reasons, but settled on the Financial District primarily for the Spruce Street School, he said.

The Gehry-designed building that houses the school is also, at 870 feet, the tallest residential structure in New York City.


In an evocative speech Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver delivered last week to the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association, the Spruce Street School opening was the launching point to discuss a decade of development and growth around ground zero.

"School openings may not make the front pages or be covered by the foreign press, but they are our most eloquent way to claim victory for a Lower Manhattan community many predicted would never come back," Silver noted.

"On the streets where people once ran for their lives, they will find young parents among the 55,000 residents of Lower Manhattan-double the number that were here before 9/11-pushing their strollers. On busy avenues of commerce that were expected to wither away, they will find more than 300,000 well-educated and highly trained weekday workers?In the soaring shadows of One World Trade and Four World Trade, residents and visitors alike will find dozens of new hotels with a bevy of restaurants and retail shops suited to every taste and every budget," he added.

Silver recalled his own memories of Sept. 11, 2001. "Seeing Flight 175 hit the South Tower, feeling the ground shake when the towers collapsed, the smell of smoke." However, he focused most of his notes on the redevelopment in Lower Manhattan: the current 8 percent vacancy rate in World Trade Center 7, Goldman Sachs breaking ground on its new world headquarters on West Street in 2005, companies and not-for-profits like Condé Nast, Tthe Daily News, American Lawyer Media, the William J. Clinton Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences moving their operations to the area.

"My favorite observation, however, comes from the [Downtown] Alliance's own report on the state of Lower Manhattan, and I quote: 'Upon completion of the World Trade Center redevelopment program and the 8.8 million square feet of world-class office space, Lower Manhattan will regain its ranking as the nation's third-largest central business district.'" The area slipped to fourth place after 9/11.


Last week, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation awarded $17 million to Downtown nonprofits. Thirty-eight Community and Cultural Enhancement grants were given out. One beneficiary was the Manhattan Youth, which was awarded $500,000 to maintain six affordable afterschool programs. Of the funding, State Sen. Daniel Squadron said, "Our Downtown community and cultural organizations are critical to Lower Manhattan's continued rebuilding?Their contributions are as integral as the headline projects that are reviving and transforming our community."


National 9/11 Memorial and Museum: Pols Introduce Federal Funding Measures

Rep. Jerrold Nadler recently introduced a bill, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum Act of 2011, which would secure ongoing federal funding of up to $20 million for the memorial and museum at ground zero. Nadler noted in a release that the funding would go toward the operations of the memorial and museum, and added that Sen. Daniel Inouye has introduced nearly identical legislation in the Senate.


Looking for ballet classes for your child or the nearest health center? State Sen. Daniel Squadron's recently released third annual Parent Resource Guide has this information and more. The booklet features a comprehensive list of government agencies, educational resources (i.e., libraries and tutoring programs), community service groups (i.e., mock trials and Model UN), youth and community centers, health services (from hospitals to vision care), arts and cultural institutions and classes, sports and recreation, preschool and day care programs and summer camp information.

The guide is available for download at the senator's website or in hard copy by calling the senator's office at 212-298-5565.


For those looking for a sustainable way to rid their homes of electronics, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the LES Ecology Center are sponsoring an e-waste day on Delancey Street between Chrystie and Forsyth streets on Sunday, Sept. 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Items accepted for disposal will be computers, monitors, keyboards, electronic mice, scanners, printers, fax machines, cables, televisions, VCRs, DVDs, audio and visual equipment, cable and satellite receivers, digital converter boxes and video game consoles.


Earlier this week, a group of elected officials, city agencies and community leaders convened at State Sen. Daniel Squadron's office to form the Delancey Street Safety Working Group. After a spate of accidents and growing public concern, the Department of Transportation installed countdown clocks at intersections along this thoroughfare, which has been dubbed the deadliest street in New York City, as the first step to increasing safety. The group agreed to reconvene in one month and regularly thereafter to work out short-term and long-term improvements.

Photo caption: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver welcomes children to the newly opened Spruce Street School.
Photo courtesy of Sheldon Silver's office.