Groups will get by with $125,000 of help from Friends

By Josh Rogers with Priya Idiculla

Food for the hungry, voting help for the unregistered, and a dock for kayakers on Governors Island are some of the things $125,000 will help buy with eight grants announced this week by Friends of Lower Manhattan.

“It covers a lot of needs in the community,” said Madelyn Wils, a Tribeca resident who is chairperson of the post-9/11 non-profit group. “I kind of like the Downtown Boathouse dock for boats because it’s a new use. Frankly, what’s not to like about all of them?”

The largest grants were for $25,000 and those went to the New York City Rescue Mission for food programs, the Downtown Boathouse for the island dock, and to Friends of Bogardus Viewing Garden to change its design in an effort to drive drug dealers and vagrants from the triangle at Hudson St., W. Broadway and Chambers St.

The Bogardus group’s Hal Bromm said “condoms, crack vials, you name it” have been found in the triangle. The new design will create a more visible sitting area and make it more a part of the garden, he said. It will cost $50,000 and Bromm said the group has already raised the other $25,000 needed.

The New York Public Interest Group, which is based Downtown, will get $20,000 for a Downtown voting drive which will likely include a voter help phone line and volunteer training for get out the vote drives.

Lower Manhattan is the fastest growing part of the city and Diana Fryda, NYPIRG’s development coordinator, said the grant is needed to make sure more of the new residents register to vote.

The Rescue Mission on Lafayette St. will use the money to complete its expansion goal of 124,000 hot meals at its soup kitchen, 26,000 food packages through its food pantry program, and 1,100 meals provided at Family Court and the Safe Horizon Lunch Program.

The mission’s Tom Hall said the money won’t only go for food. “We will also have a huge benefit on utilities since we will now be able to replace very old steam pipes,” he said.

Wils founded Friends at the end of 2001 in response to 9/11. At the time she was chairperson of Community Board 1 and the group was called Friends of Community Board 1. After Borough President Virginia Fields removed Wils from C.B. 1 last year, tensions began with Wils’ successor, Julie Menin, who felt C.B. 1 deserved a say in how Friends’ $500,000 was spent since the money was raised in the community board’s name.

In response, Wils changed the name of the group and intermediaries negotiated a compromise, setting up the $125,000 grants and giving Menin half the appointments to a 10-member grant panel.

Menin said she was disappointed that the panel did not provide $25,000 a C.B. 1 group requested to study Downtown population projections in an effort to get a new school built in Lower Manhattan. But she and Jeff Galloway, a member of C.B. 1’s New Schools Task Force, said in separate interviews that the other groups that received funding were all deserving of money.

“It is hard to quarrel with the projects that were supported,” said Galloway. “Sounds to me like each were worthy in their own right….One way or another we will find a way to conduct the study.”

Galloway said with Downtown residential construction continuing rapidly, it’s clear more school space will be needed, but without a study, it’s impossible to know how many elementary and middle school seats should be built. He said the city Dept. of Education also needs to be convinced “it’s not just our gut feeling, but it’s a rational projection that we’ll actually need new school seats.”

Wils said the C.B. 1 appointees to the panel recused themselves from the school study vote because it was a community board application. She thought the study makes sense but the application was not specific enough. “I think it’s a good idea,” she said. “They didn’t really have a proposal. It was a place holder.”

As for Friends of Lower Manhattan’s future, Wils said the group is working on a strategy plan and once it’s finished it will be up to the group’s board to decide whether to continue fundraising or not.

The other Friends grants were: $15,000 to Washington Market Community Park for a children’s garden and a horticulture program; $5,200 to Synagogue for the Arts for concerts by the Richmond County Orchestra; $5,000 to St. Margaret’s House for a weekly senior citizen’s art program; and $4,800 to the Downtown Little League to recruit Chinese and Spanish-speaking players in Lower Manhattan