Waterside celebrates 40th anniversary

By Sabina Mollot

On Thursday night, hundreds gathered at Waterside Plaza for a celebration of the complex’s 40th anniversary that included a concert by the George G. Orchestra, dancing under the stars and a fireworks display over the East River.

Waterside owner Richard Ravitch, between schmoozing with tenants and local politicians, said he never could have imagined the evening’s landmark celebration when, close to 50 years ago, he was trying to convince city officials that the building of a four-tower complex east of the FDR Drive would be a good thing.

“Never in the world,” he said. But he kept pushing for the plans and eventually succeeded in getting federal legislation passed so that Waterside’s buildings could be constructed directly over the water.

“(Mayor) Lindsay was excited about this,” recalled Ravitch. For a while, he noted, Waterside also rented apartments to the FBI “so they could eavesdrop on North Korea.” These days, Waterside is home to 4,000 people, including 200 employees of the United Nations, and there are also two onsite private schools, United Nations International School and British International School of New York.

Over the years, Ravitch said the biggest challenge of running the property is staying on top of its upkeep.

“If you do this responsibly, you have to preserve the infrastructure, even if it means less money in your pocket.”

Ravitch lives uptown rather than at Waterside, explaining, “Every time I raise the rent, some tenants get… unhappy. So it’s never a good idea.” Tenants seemed receptive to the landlord on Thursday though, even greeting him with cheers when he addressed the crowd briefly to discuss the history of the complex and the land it was built on.

He noted the fact that Waterside, the first property to be built east of the FDR Drive, was designed by Lewis Davis, whose son Peter Davis is today the general manager of the property. When introducing him, Ravitch said, “When I was dabbling significantly in public service, I knew I’d have to find an extraordinary person who could raise tenants’ rents, but remain beloved by tenants. That person turned out to be the son of the genius who designed Waterside.”

Ravitch also had words of praise for Waterside Tenants Association President Janet Handal. Though he admitted she “gives me agita several times a year,” he also called her a tough leader for tenants.

He then went on to discuss how long before Waterside was even a concept, the area that now houses the four-tower complex was an important part of international history. In the 1940s, when the United States was trying to help the British with supplies, the ships they were delivered in, which could not return to the U.S. empty, used rubble from the ground in English city of Bristol as ballast. That rubble was then emptied in the area that now houses Waterside before the ships would take on more supplies. Waterside management was made aware of this bit of history a couple of years ago through the English Speaking Union and now has a plaque on the Plaza to commemorate it.

Also joining Ravitch to discuss the history were a couple of special guests, Edwina Sandys, the granddaughter of Winston Churchill, and Ava Roosevelt, the widow of William Roosevelt, David Roosevelt’s half-brother. Local politicians also appeared at the event, including Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, Council Member Dan Garodnick and Council Member (and borough president Democratic primary winner) Gale Brewer.

Along with the brief ceremony, the evening included complimentary hot dogs and burgers grilled outside on the Plaza, music, dancing as well as dance performances by the Syncopated City Dance Company, a video tribute to the complex and entertainment for kids.

Letters to the Editor, Sept. 26

If it wasn’t broke…

The following is an open letter addressed to ST/PCV management regarding the renovation of the bike rooms.

I’m sorry but the bike storage changes in 250/240/405 are really unacceptable if you consider them finished, and now my three year old daughter has gotten hurt because we have two adult bikes standing in our living room, as we have had for more than a month longer than your posted notice suggested we should expect to.

You’ve replaced rails that allowed dozens and dozens of bicycles to be locked easily at the frame with one floor rack that has room for about seven bikes to be locked near the floor. These floor racks make it more difficult to lock any part of the bike, even just the wheel, to anything, and as you probably know, bikes locked at points other than on the frame are far easier to steal. This non-replacement of the decent, old, and capacious railings has carried on for more than two months since CW representative Brian Moriarty said that tenants “would be able to store them under the same conditions that they were previously stored.”

If you believe that the old rails allowed for problems to arise in how passable the open spaces of the bike rooms are, I would point out several things:

1. I didn’t ask, but I never saw any building staff having any problems passing through the open areas of the bike room even while carting large items.

2. It’s very obvious that replacement rails could be installed in such a way that even full of bikes they take up about half the space the old rails did.

3. Any difficulty at all in passing through the open areas of the bike room was created by two things:  First, the landlord’s own elimination of about 80 percent of floor capacity and about 50 percent of bike storage capacity several years ago when the private storage units were introduced, and second, the landlord’s indifference to how many bikes were stored. And of course now, that last problem is even less of an excuse, since you now require all bikes to be registered. I’ll note that trekking bikes to the Oval (during only certain limited hours) to be registered so that they’re allowed to be stored in the bike rooms is no small ordeal for anyone, much less for my family of four who owns four bicycles.

Please immediately re-install in our bike room rails that allow dozens more bikes to be easily locked by the frame.

Thank you,
David Dartley, ST

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