Downtown Digest


General Growth Skirts Largest Real Estate Bankruptcy

General Growth Properties Inc., whose headquarters are at 88 Pine Street, has divided into two companies, thereby avoiding the biggest real estate bankruptcy in U.S. history, according to Bloomberg News.

The businesses, General Growth and Howard Hughes Corp., began trading on the New York Stock Exchange last week. G.G.P. filed for Chapter 11 protection in April 2009, when it found itself $27 billion in debt. Earlier this year, the company restructured about $15 billion in mortgage debt linked to approximately 40 properties. Brookfield Asset Management Inc. won over other investor groups to get G.G.P. out of bankruptcy.

The company owned and operated more than 183 malls in 43 states around the country. It recently documented an operating loss of $29.3 million in third-quarter 2009, compared to an $88.9 million profit in third-quarter 2009, attributing the loss to restructuring costs.

Leak near W.F.C. caused no W.T.C. delays

On the evening of November 4, water from the Hudson River began leaking into a construction pit close to the World Trade Center Site.

The hole in the concrete foundation wall has since been patched up with steel casing, preventing further water from streaming in. Similar potential leaks, the construction staff reported, were properly managed. “The contractor is beginning to pump out the floor water and the repair appears to be working,” the construction staff said. In the meantime, work on the site has been stalled, however the overall excavation project remains on schedule.

The ground is being excavated for the pedestrian concourse below West Street that will eventually connect the World Trade Center and the World Financial Center, according to Steve Coleman, spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The site above ground will serve as an exit point for the Route 9a tunnel, exiting to the W.F.C.

“This portion of the project required the removal of existing platforms and old bulkheads that likely complicated [concrete foundation] wall installations,” according to the W.T.C. construction staff.

Coleman assured that none of the water spilled onto the W.T.C. site itself. “The water is confined to the excavation area, right in front of the W.F.C. where the pit is located,” he said.

The construction team is setting up a system for detecting and mitigating future water leaks.

Planting of Cherry Trees in Chinatown

Thirty-seven trees, mostly cherry, have been planted in front of Confucius Plaza and along the road median on Bowery Street. The project is part of a larger effort initiated by State Senator Daniel Squadron to improve the quality of life for area residents.

Squadron, Manhattan Borough Parks Commissioner Bill Castro and local community leaders convened on Tuesday to celebrate the plantings.

“With these new trees, the community’s experience in Chinatown will be just a little bit better,” Squadron said. “The trees will add even more color and character to the neighborhood, clean the air and provide much needed green space.”

“With the addition of the new cherry trees at Confucius Plaza, Chinatown is a considerably greener place,” said Manhattan Parks Commissioner Bill Castro.  “The newly-planted trees will work hard for New Yorkers by cleaning the air we breathe, cooling summer air temperatures, providing shade and beautifying our community.”

Other recent additions to Chinatown include the construction of the road median on Bowery street as a pedestrian safety measure and the Chinatown Million Trees Initiative that Squadron spearheaded last year to increase the amount of green space in the neighborhood.

Nurses Demonstrate

Angry nurses from the New York State Nurses Association marched from Vesey Street and Broadway to City Hall last week to submit a petition to Mayor Bloomberg’s administration about renewing their union contract.

They approached the mayor’s aide with a “City Nurses Bill of Rights,” which states that nurses, like all other city employees, deserve fair and equitable treatment. “We give a great deal of ourselves to some of the neediest populations of the city, and deserve treatment equal to other municipal employees,” said Anne Bove, president of N.Y.S.N.A.’s H.H.C. bargaining unit and a nurse at Bellevue Hospital.

N.Y.S.N.A. also lobbied at the rally for retirement benefits offered to city workers with physically taxing jobs. Currently, they’re denied “physically taxing” status, which is considered gender discrimination by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Since September 2009, more than 7,000 nurses have unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with the city about the contract, which expired last January.

The nurses work for the city’s Health and Hospital Corporation and the Mayoral Agencies.