The Neverending Story
In a subtle reminder of the connection between New Jersey and New York that undergird the Port Authority, the spire that will top the agency’s 1 World Trade Center departed its berth in the Port of Newark for Lower Manhattan this morning. Once the barge carrying eight pieces of the 400-foot tower topper arrives in Read More
Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc across the city, including Lower Manhattan, where flooding into tunnels shut down both subway and vehicular traffic for weeks. In a story looking at flooding in the Hugh Carey Brooklyn-Battery tunnel, Dana Rubinstein reveals that none other than developer, macher and civic bigwig Bill Rudin actually welcomed the flooding because it protected some of his harborside buildings.
The Lower Manhattan real estate market: is it down and out after Sandy, or an unstoppable, unshakeable force, impervious to hurricanes and the floods and power outages that might cripple less desirable neighborhoods and cities.
Well, it all depends on if you’re a faithful reader of The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. Read More
There has been a big debate in (local) government about how best to respond to Hurricane Sandy going forward. There is the governor’s camp, which argues for redesigning great swaths of the city and state’s built environment; and the mayor’s camp, which both before the storm and after, argued that the city could never really protect itself from these kinds of disasters, so it was up to citizenry to protect themselves. The city would help with evacuations and the like, but really, don’t build near the sea or count of some fancy new sea gates to protect you, the mayor insisted.
During the recovery, The Observer would ask major officials into which camp they fell. Both Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Jerry Nadler (who represents much of the formerly flooded downtown Manhattan) put themselves in the camp of doing more, building more, protecting more.
“For the future, we have to look into it,” Senator Schumer said.
The Neverending Story
A little over an hour ago, the lights surrounding City Hall came on. The Village and Lower East Side had already come back, and it was only a matter of time for us. The Observer ducked outside to see what was and wasn’t working, and we saw a lot of buildings, the wavy New Read More
The Great Flood
So many parts of the city’s crucial infrastructure remain under water, most notably those Con Edison generators downtown, but the city is drying out remarkably fast following the worst storm in living memory. Even some of the subway tubes have come back, if only there was power to run trains through them.
At his press briefing this evening, Gov. Cuomo made a surprise announcement, actually in the middle of talking about what dismal shape the PATH train is in—there appear to be some five miles worth of flooding, the length the line under the Hudson from New York to New Jersey, so that is one thing that will probably be submerged for some time to come. But a place that will not be is the World Trade Center, which, after flooding a good 15 to 20 feet across the site only three days ago, is now dry and in working order.
“Work will recommence at the Ground Zero site tonight,” Gov. Cuomo declared. I was just congratulating some of the workers; there was tremendous flooding at the Ground Zero site. We went from seeing the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel turned into a flume, we walked up the World Trade Center site, where water was cascading into the site from every imaginable angle, at such a decibel level it was disorienting. The entire site was flooded.”
on the waterfront
Standing at the mouth of the Hugh L. Carey/Brooklyn Batter Tunnel in Lower Manhattan earlier this afternoon, following a tour of the flooding within, Governor Andrew Cuomo gave yet another one of his rousing speeches on the trials of New York under pressures, particularly how it is that the physical infrastructure that makes this city tick can also bring it to its knees if a disaster occurs.
But before we get to that, what exactly is the status of the tunnel, one of the city’s busiest, with a daily traffic of some 50,000 vehicles? MTA Chairman and CEO Joe Lhota began by relating of the story he told earlier this week, of meeting the governor at the mouth of the tunnel by happenstance on Monday night, where they took in the hellish scene.
The Observer has been reaching out to urban planners for the past few days now to discuss the issues with our waterfront development in the face of storm surges and rising sea levels. One of the very first people we called was Vishaan Chakrabarti, the director of Columbia’s Center for Urban Real Estate and a partner at SHoP architects. (You can read what others had to think in a story in today’s print edition, as well as in posts still to come.)
Mr. Chakrabarti previously served as director of the Department of City Planning’s Manhattan office, so he was around when much of the waterfront planning by the Bloomberg administration, and the thousands of condos that came with it, were taking shape. Mayor Bloomberg, at least before the storm hit, was fine with things proceeding as they were on the waterfront, with little investment in new protections and infrastructure, while former deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff, who helped hatch many of these plans, wants more of both.
Mr. Chakrabarti has taken a more urgent stance. “The thing we as a city have to understand is, we’ve been promoting all this waterfront development, and most of that waterfront development is happening in the zone that is getting evacuated right now,” he said in a telephone interview. “We’re talking about thousands and thousands of housing units. It’s fine for that housing to be there, but we have to figure out a way to protect it all.”
But Mr. Chakrabarti also has a simple solution. Well, if the world’s largest floodgates would qualify as simple.
Red Carpet Real Estate
Yesterday a room of sharply dressed archivists, librarians and book conservators burst into laughter at a joke about mildew. They’re a funny bunch, these keepers of our national record, excited by different things than you and I. When they mention the billions of records, of which only a sliver has been digitized, currently stored in limestone caves in Lenexa, Kan., their eyes light up like deep-sea explorers contemplating the ocean. They all have stories to tell.
Stories like the time they found a trove of Walt Whitman documents written while he was a clerk in the Attorney General’s office. They were forgotten documents, which were only identified by a scholar who recognized the handwriting and made the connection. Or the photo unearthed of FDR standing beneath the newly laid keel of the USS Arizona in 1913, while the then-secretary of the navy was touring the Brooklyn Navy Yards. The same ship, of course, whose destruction in Pearl Harbor 28 years later would lead to arguably FDR’s most famous speech, and with it a declaration of war. As with any explorers, when they talk about the often serendipitous thrill of discovery, their enthusiasm is infectious.
While waiting to take a tour of 4 World Trade Center recently, someone whispered in The Observer’s ear that if we looked closely, we would get a look at Russell Simmons’s Buddha. His what?
Turns out this was not some sick joke. As is well-known (from the various signs he has hung in his windows over the years), Mr. Simmons, the rap mogul, lives across the street at 114 Liberty Street. Or rather used to—the Def Jammer is trying to sell the place for $11 million as he moves out to the West Coast for good.