Under Cover, Jan. 30, 2014

Pre-K Spots?
We had a nice chat with Community Board 1’s George Calderaro this week, and he mentioned the 4,000-square-foot Battery Park City space in the Poets House building at 6 River Terrace, which could potentially be available for a new use.

The spot originally housed Mercy Corps’ Action Center to End World Hunger, but when the group was starving for money in 2011, it closed the center down. The B.P.C. Parks Conservancy started using the space temporarily, but Calderaro, who like many neighbors is a big fan of the conservancy’s work, said it may be time to think about a new non-profit use, possibly for child care.

Who knows, with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña looking for pre-K space in every nook and cranny Downtown and the rest of the city, could the space get on the administration’s radar? Perhaps it just did.

This week, de Blasio said the city would be ready to expand to 53,000 ful-day pre-K spots this September if Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Albany cohorts come up with a reliable revenue stream to pay for it, as in de Blasio’s city tax plan, which requires state approval.

Lower Manhattan won’t be an easy place to find more space, but one place probably already on the mayor’s list is Tribeca’s P.S. 150, which this year had room to add a kindergarten class to help P.S. 234’s overcrowding, although 234 ended up having enough room.

Paul Hovitz, Board 1’s Youth Committee co-chairperson and one of the Downtown leaders in the fight for more schools, agreed with us that P.S. 150 is a good possibility and he suggested a few others.

He thinks one answer may be under Farina’s nose at Dept. of Ed’s headquarters at Tweed, which currently houses the Peck Slip School, although Principal Maggie Siena (coincidentally P.S. 150’s former principal) has previously voiced strong opposition to subdividing the rooms there — Hovitz says the rooms were subdivided before and acoustical barriers should be able to overcome Siena’s concerns.

He thought 22 Reade St. was also possible and he threw out two more, although they sounded more like wishes than hopes. One was the D.O.E. offices morving out of Tweed entirely for school space and the other was 66 John St., where the city plans to move a criminal court over neighborhood objections.

The Authority on Happenings
The Battery Park City Authority this week turned to a woman with extensive law enforcement and city operations experience to be its new president and C.O.O.

Shari Hyman, once a prosecutor under Robert Morgenthau, is currently commissioner and chairperson of the city’s Business Integrity Commission, ensuring that the commercial carting industry is on the up and up.

In separate interviews, Anthony Notaro, chairperson of Community Board 1’s B.P.C. Committee, and George Calderaro, the committee’s co-chairperson, used words like “strained” and “deteriorating” to describe the authority’s relationship with neighbors.

Both said it had been months since the authority showed up to their committee, but they took Hyman’s hiring as a positive sign.

Calderaro added that the authority’s recent hiring of neighbor Robin Forst, a former C.B. 1 member  who has been working on community relations Downtown for years, was also a most welcome development.

Calderaro has heard about other changes he sees as positive, namely that staff recently got cost of living raises after years of waiting, and that the staff size is back closer to its old levels after former  B.P.C.A  chairperson Bill Thompson sacked 19 people a few years ago in a cost-cutting move.

We hope Calderaro is right about more openness coming to the authority, although we don’t see signs yet they’re singing “let the sun shine in.”

Chairperson Dennis Mehiel and Hyman, who starts Feb. 10, declined interview requests through authority spokesperson Kevin McCabe.

Hyman did say in a prepared statement that B.PC. was a “magnificent part of New York.”

 The Speaker Listens to…
New Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito this week named nearly three dozen city and community leaders to advise her on her transition to what some say is the city’s second most powerful office. On the list were a few Downtown notables including Chinatown power broker Virginia Kee, a founding member of the Chinese American Planning Council,  Jennifer Hensley,  executive director of the Association for a Better New York who cut her professional teeth at the Downtown Alliance, and L.G.B.T. activist Alan Roskoff, who may have been the chief nemesis of Mark-Viverito’s predecessor, Chris Quinn.