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Neighbors Annoyed at Cohen’s Construction Proposal

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Steve A. Cohen

New York City’s Landmarks and Preservation Commission has given Steve Cohen the green light to create an enormous family compound in the heart of Greenwich Village at 145 Perry Street, and the neighbors are not pleased.

“I’m really shocked. Perhaps the commission was dazzled by this wealthy client. The plans are impressive and luxurious, but it looks like a Gucci store on Rodeo Drive or a private museum. It is completely inappropriate and out of character for Greenwich Village,” said Andrew Berman, head of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Cohen won permission to build a single-family mansion plus a six story apartment building for his children right next door. But Berman says that the complex resembles a fortress or a “castle with a moat” and not a home in the neighborhood with a welcoming feel.

Spokesperson for Cohen, Jonathan Gasthalter, did not comment on the dissatisfaction with Cohen’s plans.

A few years ago Cohen closed down his hedge fund company SAC Capital Advisors in the wake of allegations concerning insider trading. He paid fines of $1.8 billion as a result. Subsequently he opened a family office called Point 72 Asset Management. He also owns a penthouse at One Beacon Court which is for sale. It was first listed for $115 million, but its last asking price was $67.5 million. Now it was pulled off the market because, according to a real estate source, “it can’t sell.”

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NYC Dedicates AIDS Memorial on World Aids Day

Thursday, December 1st was World AIDS Day, and New York marked it by dedicating a memorial in Greenwich Village, a neighborhood hard-hit by the health crisis that exploded in the late 1980s.

The memorial is the city’s first major monument which remembers the epidemic that took over 100,000 lives of New Yorkers who succumbed to the deadly virus.

Co-founder of the memorial project Christopher Tepper quoted an early AIDS activist, Vito Russo, when he said at the dedication, “With this memorial I hope we have given our dead and our leaders from our community a drop in the ocean of recognition they deserve.”

There were several hundred people present at the dedication, which took place at the site of the memorial, at the triangular intersection of Greenwich and 7th Avenues. Considered by many to be the Ground Zero of the AIDS epidemic, the memorial is directly across the street from the location of St. Vincent’s hospital. The hospital was the first in the city to open a specially dedicated AIDS ward, one of the only places which offered care and acceptance to those who were dying from the ravages of the frightening, and at the time, little understood, illness.

Although St. Vincent’s is no longer there,  the memorial brings to mind its patients and the staff that cared for them. The monument, designed by the Brooklyn firm studio ai architects, is a white steel and aluminum structure poised in a way which evokes a delicate piece of origami art. The walls and canopy surround a fountain bubbling within.

The final design was altered from the original concept, which won a 2012 competition sponsored by Architectural Record because the size of the space dedicated to the memorial shrunk considerably from the time of the competition. With a price tag of $6.5 million, the finished sculpture was able to maintain its core ideas while still filling the reduced space.

“Our conversations with the memorial organization gave us the sense that we should create a room—a container where people could put their thoughts, their fears, and their memories of the people they lost,” says Esteban Erlich, who designed the pavilion with Lily Lim and Mateo Paiva. “But at the same time, we wanted it to be a place for people walking by and for kids to play—to remain open for everybody. There would be no gate, no doors.”

There is an installation within the latticed walls with excerpts from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” pouring across dark granite pavers creating a dizzying effect of spiraling text. The memorial will be complete when granite benches are added, allowing people to enter the memorial, sit down and contemplate the difficult past and the hopeful future.

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Landmark District Expansion Under Consideration for the Village

463px-south_village_historic_districtThere is proposal being considered now by the Landmarks Preservation Commission to expand the area which will be under the protection of the city’s landmarks authority.

Under consideration is the area south of Houston Street, west of Sixth Avenue, east of Thompson Street, and north of Watts Street, encompassing 157 buildings. This large area in southern Greenwich Village would extend the two areas which were already approved for protection in 2010 and 2013. If passed, any changes owners wish to make to these landmark buildings will need advanced approval from the city’s Landmarks Protection Commission.

The vote to consider the new status took place last week. Anyone wishing to add his or her two cents into the discussion can bring their ideas, displeasure, or support to the committee until November 29.

Most of the buildings under consideration for the special status were built prior to World War II.

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Residents Want Say in Triangle Fire Memorial

age of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25 - 1911

age of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25 – 1911

In 2013 an international competition was held to find a design with which the tragic events of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire would be memorialized. Greenwich Village residents are now upset that the winning design was picked by “a renowned panel of jurists” but without any input from residents.

In 1911 146 employees, most of them young immigrant women, were killed in a ferocious fire at the factory of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. The high death toll was caused, to a great extent, because the factory’s doors were locked from the outside, leaving no proper means of escape to those inside once the blaze began. Young women were forced to jump from high stories to their deaths, rather than burn in the fire itself.

The competition for the memorial received over 170 submissions from 30 countries. Joel Sosinsky, a member of the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, the organization that spearheaded the memorial idea beginning many years ago, said:

“Frances Perkins, the first female Cabinet member under FDR, who witnessed the fire, basically said that the New Deal started at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire,” Sosinsky said. “People walk past that building every day and have no idea.”

District Leader Terri Cude, of the 66th Assembly District Part B, agrees that a memorial at the site of the tragedy is appropriate. She is just frustrated that the selection of the final design was not made in consultation with the residents of the neighborhood who will have to live with the memorial.

The main worry seems to be that the 8-story-high mirrored piece could reflect light right into the windows of the homes of the residents.

“Basically we’re going to try to start a conversation in the ‘better late than never’ thought that perhaps some of the community’s concerns can be expressed to the coalition, who then maybe can modify the design,” Cude said at a recent meeting of Community Board 2’s executive leadership.
Sosinsky said that the designers will have to have the last word on the ultimate design of the memorial, who are planning on attending the meeting.

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Man Stalks Young Girl Walking Home from Washington Square Park

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Washington Square Park Photo by Urban~commonswiki

A 12-year-old girl’s afternoon was distressingly disrupted when she was followed home by a stalking stranger.

The girl was first confronted by the man as she was walking home at 12:30pm from Washington Square Park. In the park he walked up to her and attempted to begin a conversation. The girl left the park in tears, and walked directly to her home.

As she walked into the elevator to take her to the safety of her home, the stranger managed to slip into the building and then followed her into the elevator. The man then told the girl he had just been released from prison, and asked her to hide him in her apartment.

The girl fled the elevator screaming, and the man beat a path out of there. The girl’s mother called the police at once.

Based on the girl’s identification of the man from the back of the police car the police were able to arrest 39-year-old Carl Catapano. He was nabbed on 10th Street and Broadway, just a few blocks away.

Catapano is now held on a $15,000 bond or $5,000 cash bail. He is charged with disorderly conduct, stalking, acting in a manner injurious to a child and criminal trespass.

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A Glimpse at a New York Business: Marc Lasry & Avenue Capital Group

Marc Lasry

Marc Lasry

It’s always fascinating to learn about companies based in New York and the activities that they are doing. Avenue Capital Group, founded in 1995 by the brother-sister team Marc Lasry and Sonia Gardner, works to achieve attractive risk-adjusted returns with their focus on the distressed debt and undervalued securities of US companies.

Their US strategy is focused in three main areas. They focus on companies in financial distress, those in bankruptcy and those that are undervalued because of discrete extraordinary events. As of the end of January, 2013, their assets under management allocated to the Avenue US strategy section were estimated to be around $5.5 billion.

As they explain on their website, “Avenue’s experienced investment professionals seek “good companies with bad balance sheets”— firms with sustainable businesses and positive cash flow but whose financial situation is distressed. The investment team conducts extensive research and analysis using Avenue’s top-down/bottom-up approach to find undervalued opportunities and typically seeks to make non-operational control investments in troubled businesses. This provides the strategy maximum trading flexibility and allows Avenue’s investment professionals to focus on pre-investment research and analysis rather than post-investment operating issues.”

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Missing Pigeons bring Mixed Feelings

Bunch of pigeons

Bunch of pigeons

Have you ever wondered what New York would be like without its ubiquitous pigeon population? Now that about 100 of our pigeon pals have gone missing from Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, we are given a rare chance to truly contemplate this question.

No one knows exactly where our feathered friends (or foes) have gone to, but the park is certainly a different kind of place without them. Our question is: is it different good, or different bad?

One observer was elated to say “good-bye to a huge flock of ‘rats’,” not caring to differentiate between mammals and birds. Another commentator was more sympathetic. Tina Trachtenberg, an animal activist was concerned about how “these innocent, trusting, loving pigeons” were being treated.

Those speculating on the whereabouts of the birds seem to believe that they were lured and then captured by hunters, perhaps for food, or perhaps for some other use, that would not sit well with Trachtenberg.

Whether the consensus is that the birds are a nuisance or rather a welcome reminder that we share the world with other living things and not just concrete, buildings and the occasional plant or tree, it is definitely kind of creepy to suddenly not to be sharing the space with these commonplace creatures.

 

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