Digest, Week of Oct. 3, 2012

Take the H.E.L.M.
On Mon., Sept. 24, the city Economic Development Corporation launched Take the H.E.L.M.: Hire + Expand in Lower Manhattan, a competition designed to bring various creative firms into the neighborhood. The competition aims to further broaden the scope of Lower Manhattan companies — which, historically, have been primarily finance-based.

Amid the surge in technology start-ups that has taken other neighborhoods by storm, similar businesses are encouraged to enter the contest and move Downtown, as are media firms and nonprofit organizations.

The competition’s panel of judges include Elizabeth Berger, president of the Downtown Alliance; Alicia Glen, managing director of Goldman Sachs; and Ken Chenault, chairman and chief executive officer of American Express, among others. The judges will evaluate applicants based on the quality of their business propositions, the strength of their management team and their potential for growth.

Up to 20 finalists will receive $10,000 each, and four of the winners will win $250,000 each.

To enter, companies must plan to open a new office or expand an existing office south of Chambers Street and sign a new lease, sub-lease or license agreement for the space by Sept. 13, 2013. All entries must be received by Nov. 30. The competition is funded in part by a grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Visit www.takethehelmnyc.com for more information.

Downtown Alliance expands free Wi-Fi
The Downtown Alliance Business Improvement District, in partnership with the law firm, WilmerHale, has recently expanded its Wi-Fi coverage across Lower Manhattan, which is intended to allow for faster web browsing throughout even more locations. Free Wi-Fi is now accessible in the following public parks and plazas:

•   The plaza facing 7 World Trade Center, at Vesey and Greenwich Streets

•   City Hall Park, the Elevated Acre at 55 Water St.

•   Bowling Green, at the intersection of Broadway, State, Whitehall and Beaver Streets

•   Peter Minuit Plaza at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal

•   Queen Elizabeth II Garden at Pearl and Hanover Square

•   The plaza at 59 Maiden Lane

•   The third floor of Pier 17, at the South Street Seaport

•   The churchyard of Trinity Wall Street, at 74 Trinity Pl.

•   Stone Street between Hanover Sq. and Coenties Slip

•   The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, at 55 Water St.

•   The Whitehall-Water Street Plaza

•   The Winter Garden at the World Financial Center

Wi-Fi service is free at all these hotspots using smartphones, laptops and tablets. Jeremy Schneider, vice president for technology and online communications for the Downtown Alliance, said that they have gotten good feedback on the initiative from users, which are steadily multiplying in numbers.

“What began as a smaller initiative back in 2003, before handheld devices became the norm, has reached 36,000 connections in the past month alone,” she said.

W.T.C. health program funds Registry until 2016
The federal World Trade Center Health Program has awarded the W.T.C. Health Registry a four-year extension to continue its work of identifying and tracking the long-term physical and mental health effects of 9/11 among the 71,000 enrollees directly exposed to the terrorist attacks.

The federal funding will support multiple Registry activities, including a fourth health survey of Registry enrollees, the analysis of its 2011-2012 survey and surveillance of potential emerging health conditions. The grant also includes funding for outreach to enrollees who have not yet received care from the federal W.T.C. Health Program.

“Eleven years after 9/11, people who were directly exposed to the disaster report ongoing physical and mental health conditions,” said Dr. Mark Farfel, director of the W.T.C. Health Registry. “The federal funding will allow the Registry to continue monitoring the long-term health effects of 9/11 and help our enrollees get services through the federal W.T.C. Health Program.”

The Registry, overseen by the city Department of Health, was developed in the early 2000s to document and evaluate long-term physical and mental health effects of 9/11. It is the largest initiative in the U.S. to monitor the health of people exposed to a large-scale disaster.

Smoking disclosure policy approved by C.B.1
The Manhattan Smoke-Free Partnership has won the support of Community Board 1’s Affordable Housing Committee on a citywide policy that would require residential buildings to disclose whether or not smoking is permitted inside.

According to the New York City Coalition for a Smoke-Free City, up to 69 percent of air in affordable housing and most high-rise apartment buildings is shared. A representative from Asian Americans for Equality (A.A.F.E.), who took part in the presentation before C.B. 1, noted that there are very high smoking rates in Chinatown.

The coalition says they have been receiving calls from concerned community members.

“There are a lot of people being involuntarily affected by someone else’s smoke permeating into their unit,” said Maria Pico, borough manager of the partnership.

The proposed policy would require landlords to inform residents whether or not smoking is permitted, just as they are now legally required to tell potential tenants if the building has bed bugs or uses lead paint.

The safety concerns are similar: secondhand smoke in multi-unit buildings cannot be contained, and simply ventilating a building does not eliminate the health hazards that come with smoke exposure, according to the coalition.

Indoor smoking also poses other safety concerns — last year, city fire marshals determined that careless smoking was the cause of 556 fires.

Additionally, said Pico, children, the elderly and the chronically ill spend more time in their homes than adults do, thus increasing their exposure to secondhand smoke.

“People should have the right to make a choice about where they want to live,” she said. “This policy would help tenants with children, the elderly and the chronically ill make informed decisions as to where they want to live, to protect their health and their children’s health.”

The disclosure policy, she noted, in no way mandates owners, landlords or buildings to change their policies about permitting smoking in the buildings.

Greek restaurant opens on Fulton Street
GRK Fresh Greek has opened at 111 Fulton St. in the Financial District. The menu features Greek yogurts, salads, sides and Yeeros, the restaurant’s signature dish.

A Yeero, known at street carts as a Gyro, is composed of chicken, pork, beef or lamb. The meat — visible on the spit behind the counter and carved on the spot — is marinated, roasted, thinly sliced and wrapped in house-baked pita. There are also several vegetarian options, including salad with lentils and tzatziki spreads, as well as frozen yogurt topped with figs, olives, pepper, cucumber and basil.

Michael Liristis, the restaurant’s director of operations, said they take its mission to provide authentic food very seriously. “We fly our yogurt in from Greece in order to make sure it is distinct and fresh,” he said.

Liristis flew several men in from Greece to train the staff — among them are a consulting chef, two men to train workers on the line to wrap and roll the pitas and a “master stacker” to prepare the meat, which comes from local farms.

Liristis said that, since opening, the restaurant has seen nonstop customers from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., including local college kids, workers and other neighborhood folk. “The neighborhood has really embraced us,” said Liristis. “We’ve been blessed.”

Jewish community project set to host Sukkot block party 

On Sun., Oct. 7, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the Jewish Community Project is hosting its annual Sukkot Block Party and Music Festival on Duane Street between West Broadway and Church Streets. Sukkot, also known as the “Feast of Booths,” is an agricultural Jewish holiday celebrating the arrival of the fall harvest. Other activities the festival will be holding include face painting, decorating the Sukkah — Yiddish for “hut” — planting seeds in cups and a Sukkot-themed scavenger hunt. Expect to encounter a simulated outdoor market called a Shuk (named after outdoor markets in Israel) and to attend the “Shaking the Lulav,” a customary Jewish holiday ritual, say the organizers.

Seasonal snacks will be provided, and Jacob Stein and The Bakery Band, among others, will perform throughout the event. For more information, call 212-334-3522.