Downtown Neighborhood Chatter

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The Westbeth Artists Community, located in the West Village, has had its historic landmark status approved by the City Council, saving the 19th-century building complex from having its historic status stripped by City Council members and being sold to commercial developers. Westbeth was the headquarters of Bell Telephone Laboratories before being converted into low-cost living space for artists in 1970. It was one of the first examples of adaptive reuse of industrial buildings. Famous former residents include actors Vin Diesel and Robert De Niro and musician Gil Evans.



Five months after Pvt. Danny Chen, 19, of Chinatown was found dead in Afghanistan of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, the City Council voted in favor of a new resolution calling upon the Department of Defense (DOD) to prevent similar future deaths.

Chen, who was bullied and abused by his fellow servicemen for six weeks, was found dead in his guard tower in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. Resolution 1188, which was proposed in honor of the former private, asks the DOD to closer examine its policies on cultural diversity and sensitivity and to impose more effective training regimens for military personnel to prevent discrimination and harassment of servicemen and women of all ranks.

"We need to know that our sons and daughters will not be victimized by their fellow soldiers at home or at war," said Council Member Margaret Chin, a primary sponsor of the resolution.



On Wednesday, Feb. 1, the new Battery Place Market opened at 200 West St. to serve some of the best grab-and-go food in New York City. The state-of-the-art space, located on the Hudson River side of the Goldman Sachs Building at 240 Murray St., offers sandwiches made with the best ingredients possible on bread from some of the best bakeries in the city.

Also available will be custom coffee blends and artisan pastries. Robert Sckalor, the executive chef, has been given carte blanche to source the best local organic fruits and vegetables from farms local and exotic to populate a diverse and ever-changing menu.

"We have sourced from the best bakers, meat and fish purveyors to obtain the best ingredients in the marketplace so that every one of our customers can eat healthy, but tasty, food that they can get quickly, hot and fresh," said Sckalor.

Lower Manhattan

J and R Jr. Grand Opening

There's a baby boom in Lower Manhattan and downtown retail icon J and R Music and Computer World is giving birth to a new store just to serve this growing population: J and R Jr. According to New York City Department of Health statistics, there were more births in 2010 within the boundaries of Lower Manhattan's Community Board 1 than any other district in Manhattan.

With a grand opening scheduled for Feb. 11-13, J and R Jr. will be a 15,000-square-foot, one-stop shopping and social destination for the community at 1 Park Row, co-located with the other J and R stores.

The brick-and-mortar location will feature more than just baby goods. Jason Friedman, founder of J and R Jr., says, "As long standingmembers of this community, we wanted to create an inviting space for residents to gather, share experiences and gain valuable parenting and consumer information."

Catering to an initial age range of 0-9 years old, J and R Jr. will carry hundreds of items including strollers, high chairs, car seats, activity centers, bags and educational toys.



Straphangers are speaking out against a decline in service by the MTA. Transportation Alternatives surveyed subway and bus riders about the quality of their commutes, and an astounding 61 percent reported that their commutes have gotten worse since 2009.

A missive released by the nonprofit highlights the effects of the loss of two subway lines, 36 bus routes and 570 bus stops since Albany cut funding for the cash-strapped transportation giant.

"After years of declining transit funding from Albany and the resulting service cuts, our commutes have gotten worse. From higher fares to longer wait times to overcrowded trains, transit riders have seen the quality of their commutes drop precipitously over the last three years," said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White.

In the three consecutive budget eliminated since 2009, state officials have eliminated $260 million in dedicated transit funding, which resulted in the service cuts and ever-increasing fares, despite New York City already having the highest fare burden nationally. White urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stick to funding the struggling public transit system in coming years.

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