City chooses choice for Downtown schools

Volume 21, Number 34 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 26 – January 1, 2009

Under Cover

Jenga collapse?

Work has stopped at 56 Leonard St., where an 830-foot tower of stacked condo cubes is slated to rise.

Izak Senbahar, principal at the Alexico Group, said workers finished the foundation about a month ago and are pausing before moving onto the aboveground construction. In the meantime, Con Edison is doing underground work, which will take until the end of January.

But Senbahar also needs to get the last chunk of the $600 million project’s construction financing before work can move forward. The bank Eurohypo is supposed to provide it, and Senbahar said he is 90 percent sure it will come through in four to six weeks. If the money takes any longer to arrive, 56 Leonard’s December 2010 opening will not happen.

Senbahar did not sound as impervious to the economic downturn as he did in September, when he said he was confident his Jenga-shaped building would attract buyers no matter the economy.

“It’s a very challenging world,” Senbahar said last week. “It’s a different world than it was three months ago… It’s never about people not having the money, but it’s a mood thing, a psychological thing as well that makes people buy.”

Senbahar said sales are in the double digits, but he admitted he’s only sold four units since the sales office opened October. Senbahar also hasn’t sold any of the 10 penthouses, which cost up to $33 million.

“There are a lot of lookers, though,” Senbahar said.

He is optimistic that the country’s mood will turn around early next year.

UnderCover also spoke to a few workers at and around the site, who first told us two weeks ago the site was at a standstill.

Across the street, a man smoking a cigarette sounded none too pleased about the tower.

“Yeah, it’s another Bloomberg special,” he said.

Casting call

While we were waiting for District Attorney Robert Morgenthau to announce the indictments in the fatal Deutsche Bank fire, one of the reporters mused about the tragic saga. He suggested it could be ripe for a Hollywood movie with Julia Roberts playing Catherine McVay Hughes, figuring the actor who played Erin Brockovich would be perfect as a crusading community leader trying to get answers from officials about Deutsche.

“I would be more than flattered,” Hughes told us. “It would be interesting to see if the public wanted to sit through what we’ve experienced over the last seven and a half years in a movie.”

Name that park

Leslie Koch, president of the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corp., is in the market for a good name. Koch is overseeing the creation of an 8.5-acre park and picnic space on the south part of the island, right across from the Statue of Liberty. And with construction of the park underway, all that’s missing is a catchy name.

“It’s really important when you name a place,” Koch told UnderCover. “We couldn’t think of one, so we decided to ask the public.”

Only three people have responded so far on GIPEC’s blog. One, who identified himself as Al Butzel, former president of the Friends of Hudson River Park, suggested Bloomberg-Paterson lookout, “with the hope that the Mayor and the Governor will take this as a compliment and provide lots of money for the Park.”

Butzel also suggested Bartholdi Overlook (Frederic Auguste Bartholdi designed the Statue of Liberty), Grant Park (General Ulysses S. Grant was stationed on the island) and Nirvana, presumably for the Buddhist concept and not as a homage to Kurt Cobain, who did not live to see the island open to the public.

Another commenter suggested Ephemeral Square, since the park is temporary. It would eventually be demolished if GIPEC moves forward with plans to create a 40-acre park designed by West 8.

The final commenter suggested Tulip Fields, as a reference to the Dutch who first landed on the island and the Beatles song “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

“Those are pretty creative,” Koch said, but she wants to hear from more people.

Wordsmiths have until the end of January to submit suggestions at govislandblog.com or by e-mailing info-gipec@empire.state.ny.us.

Hot contest

The feds think Jeff Lau makes the best chili Downtown, but the ”critic” picked Bob Granato. The pair won Golden Ladles two weeks ago at the General Services Administration’s second annual chili cook-off contest at 26 Federal Plaza.

Lau, who took last year’s critic’s choice, won over his colleagues’ palettes this year with his Porky’s Pig Last Stand Chili. The runners up were Renée Miscione and, in a tie for third place, Tricia Summers and Granato, who took the critic’s second prize last year. Granato’s JCW Chili Italiano won over the critic this year, beating out second and third-place finishers, Roy Crowe and Shanna Smith.

UnderCover will resist the overwhelming temptation to take a well-deserved dig at the critic’s credentials, but we like to think we’re above that, well at least occasionally we are. Let’s just say he was Josh Rogers, associate editor of Downtown Express. The event benefited the Combined Federal Campaign, which funds a broad range of charities.  

Slippery bulb

The bus island at Broadway and White St. gleamed Monday morning with compacted layers of snow, resulting in a slippery mess that would net any private property owner a fine. From the icy footprints covering the island, it looked like no one had cleared it off all weekend — making it a potentially dangerous place to wait for the bus.

The city Department of Transportation has been struggling lately to explain the merits of bus islands or bulbs, fenced-off sidewalk extensions installed last year. Luis Sanchez, D.O.T.’s Lower Manhattan borough commissioner, has already said the department can’t tell whether the bulbs are successfully speeding traffic. If he still wants to convince the public that the bus bulbs are a good idea, we suggest that he grab a shovel.