Covering Battery Park City

Four swimmers relaxed at Battery Park City’s North Cove Marina, the finish line of the 1.6-mile Great Hudson River Race on Sat., May 28. Downtown Express photos by Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Great Hudson River Swim:
Last Saturday, 362 swimmers from as far west as California and Hawaii and from Ireland, England, Australia, Serbia, India, Canada and a few other places on the map jumped into the Hudson River at Christopher Street in Greenwich Village and swam to North Cove Marina in Battery Park City, 1.6 miles away. NYC Swim, which stages 17 races a year in New York harbor, sponsored the May 28 event. The winning time of 00:25:55:00 was posted by Jon Wilkinson, a 39-year-old attorney from Portsmouth, N.H.

The participants ranged in age from 13 to 80. Ken Thompson, 57, an accountant who lives in Greenwich Village, said he had swum in Hudson River races more than 20 times.

“To swim more than a mile when you’re 57 takes a lot of stamina,” he said. He also noted, “In open water, an older swimmer has an opportunity to beat a younger swimmer.” Unlike swimming pools, said Thompson, in open water there are a lot of “surprises.”

The fastest female swimmer in the race was Janet Harris, 45, of New York City with a time of 00:28:39:00. She arrived at the finish line simultaneously with Nathaniel Dean, 34, who trains with the BearCats Masters at Baruch College.

“When I get in the water, I’m a different person,” said Dean. “Everything else about the world absolutely disappears. It’s like Zen.”

Both Harris and Dean will be swimming in the next NYC Swim event, a 28.5-mile race around the island of Manhattan on June 18. The race will start and end at South Cove in Battery Park City. There will be 35 solo swimmers whose credentials include swimming the Catalina and English Channels, the Chesapeake Bay and the Strait of Gibraltar and several two-, four- and six-person relay teams. The participants will come from 10 countries and 13 states.

Battery Park City resident Julia Lancian and Paloma, an 11-month-old Labrador retriever who Lancian is training to work as a guide dog for the blind.

Guide dog training:
It’s morning on Rector Place and dogs of all sizes are out with their owners for a walk but Paloma, an 11-month-old Labrador retriever hardly seems to notice. She sits obediently at Julia Lancian’s feet. Lancian is training Paloma to serve as a guide dog for the blind. “She can’t go on furniture or on the couch, she can’t jump up, she shouldn’t pull,” said Lancian. “I have to get her used to cars and noises. I take her in stores and on the subway. She’s not supposed to react to dogs. She’s always on leash.”

Lancian will take care of Paloma until she is 14 months old. Then she will go to the Guiding Eyes for the Blind facility in Yorktown Heights, Westchester, where she will be evaluated to see if she is ready for further training that will enable her to work with a blind person. Dogs that don’t pass that test may be used as therapy dogs with other organizations.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind breeds dogs to serve as guides. Most are Labradors, Golden retrievers or German shepherds. Volunteers like Lancian who work with the dogs attend classes once a week for four weeks before they receive an animal. Then they go to follow-up classes with their dogs. In Manhattan, the classes are held at the Animal Medical Center, 62nd Street and York Avenue. There are currently around 500 dogs in the program.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind reimburses veterinarian bills and supplies a crate, bowls and an initial supply of food. Lancian estimates that it costs her around $100 a month to feed Paloma.

“It’s a 24/7 commitment,” said Lancian, who works at home for a small investment firm. But, she said, “I love dogs and it’s amazing that they can give so much freedom and independence to a person with visual impairment. I’ve talked to blind people who get a dog and it’s changed their lives.”

To find out more about the program, including how to enroll as a volunteer, go to www.guidingeyes.org.

Block party:
Sept. 11, 2001 shattered life in Battery Park City but many residents chose to return. “Through our shared experience, a bond was created,” said Rosalie Joseph. “To celebrate this bond and rebirth of our beautiful Battery Park City, a group of residents got together to plan an old-fashioned block party.”

This year, the Battery Park City Block Party celebrates its 10th anniversary, and plans are under way for a talent show, a pet parade, games and contests and more. The event will be held on the esplanade plaza on Saturday, Sept. 17 (rain date, Sept. 18). The block party organizers are looking for vendors to participate. Any Battery Park City resident who has a business within or outside Battery Park City is welcome to a free table at the block party. Space is limited. To reserve a table, email bpcbp10@gmail.com by Aug. 15. To be on the planning committee, email info@bpcblockparty.com.

Rector Square fraud: The long-suffering residents of the Rector Square condominium at 225 Rector Place were reportedly pleased last week when a Supreme Court judge ruled that developer Yair Levy had, in fact, spent $1.6 million of the building’s reserve fund on personal expenses and could be banned from the real estate business. It isn’t yet clear, however, whether Levy will have to pay the money back to New York State or to individual unit owners.

As reported by “The Real Deal,” then New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed a $7.4 million civil suit against Levy in 2010 alleging that Levy had misappropriated the reserve fund money at the 303-unit building. In addition, he defaulted on $165 million in mortgage loans and failed to pay PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) fees to the Battery Park City Authority. The unit owners sued Levy, broker Michael Shvo and others for $100 million, alleging fraud.

Late in 2010, Anglo Irish Bank, which had financed the property, foreclosed on Levy and sold all unsold shares to the Related Companies, the original developer of the building, for $82.8 million. As of this week, several units are for sale at Rector Square ranging from a 600-square-foot studio for $495,000 to a 978-square-foot two bedroom for $1.495 million.

To comment on Battery Park City Beat or to suggest article ideas, email TereseLoeb@mac.com