Downtown Digest, week of Aug. 15


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, after a Wed., Aug. 8 hearing at which he was being held on unrelated felony charges, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

Song Fei Li, 34, was granted $300,000 bail at the 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 were gunshot wounds to the head after the building had been set on fire.

All of the current charges against Song Fei 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 and employer wasn’t released, was working on the 100th floor of the tower when he fell down to the 99th floor.

The F.D.N.Y. responded to a 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.


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 of the building 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 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 Conde 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.


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.”