Downtown Digest, August 21, 2012

Families file appeal over 9/11 victims’ remains
Seventeen families of 9/11 victims filed an appeal on Fri., Aug. 17 against a court decision that may decide where the victims’ remains will be placed. The group disagrees with the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum’s decision to bury the unidentified remains beneath the memorial’s two reflecting pools.

The appeal stems from action taken by the families last year after one of them — a member of the 9/11 Parents and Families of Firefighters and World Trade Center Victims — polled approximately 1,000 other 9/11 families via e-mail to ask where they believe the remains should rest. Of the 350 families who responded, 95 percent said they wanted the remains to be kept above ground, similar to Washington, D.C.’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, according to CNN.

The 17 families then filed a petition requesting contact information for all of the nearly 3,000 family members of 9/11 victims, but a New York trial court denied the request last October, ruling that releasing that information would violate privacy laws.

The Aug. 17 appeal is based on the families’ belief that the state’s Freedom of Information Law should allow them to access the contact information, so they could then poll the remaining families about where they believe the 9/11 remains should rest, according to CNN.

Pass program for Downtown museums expands
The Downtown Culture Pass, a paid program that provides free admission and discounts on attractions in Lower Manhattan, is being expanded to include a new list of museums and tours. Pass holders can now gain free admission to the Anne Frank Center U.S.A. (at 44 Park Pl.) and the South Street Seaport Museum, as well as a free walking tour from Wall Street Walks, according to an Aug. 17 press release issued by the Museum of American Finance, a member of the program.

The expansion will also give pass holders discounts on purchases at J&R Music and Computer World and New York Water Taxi.

In addition, users will now be able to access the Downtown Alliance’s “Downtown N.Y.C.” smartphone app, which provides information about events, restaurants and hotels in Lower Manhattan.

The Downtown Culture Pass, which was founded in 2010, now includes 10 museums within its free admissions program, according to the Downtown Alliance, one of the pass’s sponsors.

The program is also sponsored by New York Water Taxi and the New York Travel Advisory Bureau.

Passes, which last three days, cost $30 for people ages 18 and older, $15 for youths ages 13 to 17 and $5 for children ages 6 to 12. They can be purchased online at www.downtownculturepass.org, or at the Museum of American Finance, the Museum of Jewish Heritage or the National Museum of the American Indian.

9/11 Museum asks judge to throw out Atheists’ cross case
The National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum filed a motion on Mon., Aug. 13 to dismiss a federal lawsuit brought by an atheist group, which seeks to stop the museum from displaying a cross-shaped steel beam that was found in the wreckage of the 9/11 attacks.

American Atheists is arguing that the museum should either not display the cross at all, or include symbols representing other faiths — and non-faiths — beside it.

Lawyers for the museum are refuting the claim of the American Atheists, the group that brought the suit last year, that displaying the beam would violate the Constitution’s separation of church and state. “The 9/11 Museum is an independent non-profit corporation,” the motion states. “Its curators’ decisions to display particular objects, such as the [cross-shaped beam], in the Museum are not state actions to which Constitutional protections apply.”

The motion also states that the museum is treating the beam as a historical relic of the 9/11 attacks rather than a Christian symbol.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative law firm that often defends the public display of religious symbols, filed an Aug. 20 court brief supporting the museum’s attempt to dismiss the case, according to the Washington Post.

Luxury condos in the Woolworth Building
The 1913 Woolworth Building, one of the oldest and most iconic skyscrapers in the city, will soon have its neo-Gothic tower transformed into luxury apartments.

An investment group led by Alchemy Properties, a New York developer, bought the top 30 floors of the 57-story building on July 31 for $68 million, according to Kenneth Horn, president of Alchemy Properties. The space will include about 40 new condominiums, along with a five-level penthouse in the tower’s copper-domed cupola.

Construction of the apartments — which will sit between 350 and nearly 800 feet above ground level — will cost about $150 million. The project is expected to be completed by 2015, Horn noted.

“We wanted to become part of the Lower Manhattan renaissance,” he said, “and the second we walked into this building, we realized it would be the perfect place to do that.”

Although apartment prices have not been set, they may sell for as much as $3,000 per square foot, according to the New York Times — potentially placing a 2,500-square-foot unit at around $7.5 million.

Alchemy Properties purchased the 30 floors of the Woolworth Building from the Witkoff Group and Cammeby’s International, which will continue to co-own the lower 27 floors and lease them as office space.

“It was a complicated deal, because we had to do a lot of work with [the Witkoff Group and Cammeby’s International],” said Horn, “but they acted in a first-class manner throughout the process. It’s been a collaborative effort, and I think we came up with a very good result.”

Another media giant heads Downtown
Nielsen, the major media company specializing in marketing and advertising research, will soon move to a new headquarters building in the Financial District, according to sources cited in the Wall Street Journal.

The company, currently based in the East Village at 770 Broadway, is nearing a deal to lease about 160,000 square feet at 85 Broad Street, the former headquarters of Goldman Sachs.

Plans for Nielsen’s relocation had been in the works since last spring, when it hired the real estate firm C.B.R.E. Group to find a tenant to sublet its space at 770 Broadway.

This deal would be part of a series of similar moves made by media companies over the past several years.

More than 30 media companies have relocated to Downtown since 2005, 10 of whom have taken place since last year, according to a real estate report by the Downtown Alliance.

The most notable deal was publishing giant Condé Nast’s leasing of approximately one million square feet of space at 1 World Trade Center for its new headquarters. Other high-profile companies that have moved to Downtown are American Media, which publishes numerous celebrity and fitness magazines, and Harry Fox, one of the nation’s premier music licensing companies.

The New York Daily News also relocated to Downtown in 2010, moving its headquarters from 450 W. 33rd St. to 4 New York Plaza, between Water and South Streets.

Still no murder charges for suspect in Chinatown killings
The prime suspect in a Chinatown double homicide case has still not been charged with murder.
Song Fei Li, 34, was granted $300,000 bail at an Aug. 8th hearing, after the judge shot down prosecutors’ requests to set it at $500,000. He is currently charged with coercion, tampering with a witness, intimidating a witness and two counts of criminal contempt.

Li has been accused of murdering two women, Xiao Ling Li, 70, and Yong Hua Chen, 36, in a Henry Street apartment on June 29. The women were both found with gunshot wounds to the head after the building had been set on fire.

All of the current charges against Li date back to Apr. 19, when he allegedly threatened a grand jury witness who had information about illegal monetary transactions, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s indictment forms.

Li is a member of a Chinese gang, and investigators believe that he may have committed the June double homicide in retaliation for Chen’s theft of more than $100,000 from an underground Chinatown loan system, according to the New York Post.

Li will appear in court again on Oct. 31.

Worker falls at 1 W.T.C.
A construction worker was hospitalized after falling from a height of about 16 feet from 1 World Trade Center on Sat., Aug. 11, according to a city Fire Department official.

The man, whose name was with withheld, was working on the 100th floor of the tower when he fell down to the 99th floor.

The F.D.N.Y. responded to the call at around 12:50 p.m., which came from representatives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who witnessed the accident.

A high-angle rescue was required, which involved using ropes and a blanket to pull the worker down to safety, according to F.D.N.Y spokesperson Jim Long.

Long added that the worker sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was in stable condition when he was taken to Bellevue Hospital by paramedics.

“Safety is our number one priority for the more than 3,000 workers on the World Trade Center site, and the agency is committed to not only meeting but exceeding safety standards,” said Anthony Hayes, a spokesperson for the Port Authority, which co-owns 1 W.T.C. with the Durst Organization.

9/11 Memorial has drawn four million visitors
The National Sept. 11 Memorial has drawn more than four million visitors since its opening last year on the day after the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The milestone was announced on Thurs., Aug. 9 by the 9/11 Memorial Foundation, the nonprofit organization that runs both the memorial and the yet-to-be-completed museum.

The site, which attracts visitors from all 50 states and 170 countries, is projected to continue attracting up to four million people each year, according to the foundation.

“This reflects the deeply held belief of the importance of honoring victims of the terrorist attacks that shocked the world almost 11 years ago,” 9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels said of the milestone.

Meanwhile, trouble is still brewing around the 9/11 Museum, where construction has been delayed because of feuds between Mayor Michael Bloomberg — who chairs the 9/11 Memorial Foundation — and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“It’s getting harder to raise money [for the museum],” said Bloomberg on his weekly WOR 710 radio show.

He added, however, that “we’re working with [the Port Authority], and hopefully we can come up with a solution quickly.”

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