Steinway to Sell Its Famed Showroom Building

Steinway Hall, the 88-year-old building down the block and across the street from Carnegie Hall where generations of famous and not-so-famous pianists have tried out pianos, is being sold, the piano company and the buyer said on Tuesday.

Steinway said it was selling the building for $46 million. But the total price of the deal could not be determined because the land, which Steinway sold some years ago, is being acquired by the buyer in a separate transaction. The buyer would not disclose the price.

Steinway said that under the terms of the deal, it could remain there for up to 18 months. It has a high-ceilinged showroom for retail customers on the first floor, practice rooms on the second floor and a legendary room in the basement for its fleet of concert pianos for professional pianists. A sheet-music store that has occupied part of the second floor will close next week.

Michael Sweeney, the chairman and chief executive of Steinway Musical Instruments, said the company was just beginning to think about where it would go after the deal closes.

“It’s more likely than not that we will have a downtown retail location as well as Midtown,” Mr. Sweeney said, adding that the operation for professional pianists might not be in the same place but would remain “convenient” to Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

The company still makes pianos in Astoria, Queens, as it has for more than 100 years, and in Hamburg, Germany.

The buyer is an investment group that is a joint venture of JDS Development Group, the Property Markets Group and Atlantic Partners, according to Michael Stern, the managing partner of JDS Development.

He said the new owner did not intend to tear down Steinway Hall, which was designed by Warren & Wetmore, the same firm that is known for its work on Grand Central Terminal. As for what will happen to Steinway Hall, Mr. Stern said, “We’re not sure yet. We haven’t determined what our plans are for the property.”

JDS Development controls the vacant site just east of Steinway Hall and is ready to break ground on a tower there, he said.

Steinway said that the buyer had put down a $5.6 million deposit and that Steinway expected to end up with $43 million in cash after the deal closed. Mr. Sweeney said the terms were more favorable than the terms under discussion when the company said last fall that it was negotiating the sale of the building. At that time, Steinway said its share of the sale would total $56 million but that $20 million would be put in escrow for as long as Steinway remained in the building.

Under the deal announced on Tuesday, Steinway can continue to use its showroom and other space in the building rent-free for 14 months after the deal closes. Steinway could stay for an additional four months at an agreed-upon rent that was not disclosed.

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After a Series of Setbacks, a Music Collective Reopens Its Doors

To compare the challenges faced by the Issue Project Room, an experimental music collective in Brooklyn, to Homer’s Odyssey might be a stretch, but the challenges faced by the group certainly have all the trappings of an ancient tragedy. The recent performance of “November” — a five-hour piano performance written by Dennis Johnson — was yet another triumph for the organization, which has oscillated between progress and defeat for nearly a decade.

Founded on the Lower East Side in 2002 by the artist Suzanne Fiol, Issue Project Room now resides in its fourth location, an opulent 1926 chamber music hall on Livingston Street in Downtown Brooklyn. The hall was designed by the architectural firm McKim, Mead and White, famous for early 20th-century buildings like the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Museum and countless other New York City landmarks. Ms. Fiol orchestrated the move shortly before she died of cancer in 2009 by entering the organization into a competition to fill a vacant music hall that had fallen into disrepair under its previous tenant, the New York City Board of Education. As the winning applicant, Issue Project Room secured a rent-free 20-year lease on the 4,800-square-foot space from the new owners, Two Trees Management.

The 2012 debut of Issue Project Room in its new home marked a milestone for the experimental arts community. Flanked by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and St. Ann’s Warehouse, it appeared that the hall was part of Downtown Brooklyn’s evolution into a genuine district for avant-garde performance. But Issue Project Room’s tenure in the space came to an abrupt halt in August, when a 50-pound decoration embedded in the vaulted 40-foot ceiling broke loose, crashing to the floor. No one was in the building at the time. But all performances in the space were put on indefinite hiatus.

After a full engineering review and the removal of more than two dozen similar decorations, Issue Project Room reopened its doors on March 16, to an eager audience of more than 100 patrons at the performance of “November.’’ The spring performance schedule includes a variety of musical forms before what will hopefully be the final setback in the organization’s efforts to carve out a stable home — an 18-month break beginning this fall while the space undergoes $4 million in renovations.

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Rail Splitters Meeting on March 27 to discuss Bloom Energy lawsuits

For those of you who are unaware Governor Markell and five members of the Public Service Commission are being sued by an out of state company called Fuel Cell Inc. and a local resident John Nichols, you may want to attend the Wednesday, March 27 meeting of the Rail Splitter Society at the Ed “Porky” Oliver’s Golf Club in Wilmington beginning at 6pm. John will speak about the lawsuit and his battle against the government and Bloom Energy over their technology. This event is free and open to the public.

View the original invitation:

March 27 Rail Splitter meeting announcement

 

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Digging Through Mounds of Storm Debris, Seeking Recyclable Objects

In the weeks and months since Hurricane Sandy pummeled the New York City area, cleanup crews have hauled off thousands of tons of wreckage, much of it left on city streets by people trying to piece their lives back together.

But some of that refuse was most likely destined for the international metal market, not the dump.

While sea gulls squawked overhead at Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways on a recent day, two excavators, each with pincers on the end of their long single arms, clawed through a towering mound of debris collected that day from storm-ravaged areas in Queens or Brooklyn. Since shortly after the storm, the park has served as one of several temporary transfer sites where a steady stream of subcontractors and sanitation trucks brings debris to be sorted.

The operators culled the pile of lumber, plastic toys and fishing poles, looking for anything too valuable or dangerous to send to a landfill. A front-end loader ferried items plucked from the mass – a stroller, a bicycle and a white appliance the size of a washing machine or oven – and carried them to a row of roll-off containers to join water heaters, an appliance flattened out beyond recognition and other mangled metal waiting to be hauled to a recycler in Queens.

As cleanup operations begin to wind down, the tally has climbed to over 430,000 tons of tree limbs, wreckage and demolition debris removed from storm-damaged areas of the city since the end of November. About half the debris was taken by long-haul trucks or barge to landfills in upstate New York and Pennsylvania.

But by separating material, the Sanitation Department was able to divert more than 1,100 tons of metal scrap from storm debris to Sims Metal Management, a facility in Long Island City that also recycles cans and bottles for the city. From Queens, Sims sends metal to its New Jersey facility to be shredded and separated before being sold to manufacturers. The company exports iron-based metal to steel companies, mostly in Turkey, and sends aluminum and other nonferrous metals to China and other places.

Throughout the process of getting the waste from neighborhoods to landfill, the Army Corps of Engineers, contractors and city sanitation workers were also looking to pull out everyday objects that could pose a hazard in landfills, like propane tanks or mercury-containing tubes from older television sets.

“The person that’s working the excavator is really looking for something like that,” said Kimberly Martin, a quality assurance specialist with the Army Corps.

Ms. Martin and other specialists at the Army Corps canvassed hard-hit areas like the Rockaways, Breezy Point or Staten Island, where residents set out storm-damaged appliances, demolition debris and ruined household goods. The Army Corps and other contractors worked with the city’s Sanitation Department to separate hazardous items like paint cans, propane tanks and car batteries, which landfill operators will not accept. Sanitation workers drained oil and gasoline from lawn mowers and captured Freon from refrigerators and air-conditioners.

“The contractor cannot pick those items up until it has been tagged” as drained by the Sanitation Department, Ms. Martin said. The Army Corps contractors are also responsible for cleaning up after the city demolishes houses left uninhabitable by the storm, an effort that is still ongoing.

Found inside houses before demolition were leftover paint, solvents, household cleaners, corrosive liquids, flammable liquids, mixed oils, antifreeze, windshield-washer fluid, bleach, pesticides, fire extinguishers with dry chemical powder, and fluorescent light bulbs – hazardous goods which the federal Environmental Protection Agency is in charge of disposing. When encountered at demolition sites or transfer sites, hazards including discarded ammunition, objects containing mercury, and laboratory or industrial chemicals are set aside for collection by the E.P.A., which sorts the materials to be recycled, if possible, or disposed.

Since November, the E.P.A. collected and processed about 150,000 potentially hazardous items from New York State, mainly from the city and Long Island. The vast majority of the chemicals were in containers that were five gallons or smaller, but the agency also processed hundreds of drums, thousands of propane tanks and more than 1,600 cylinders filled with compressed gas.

“If labels were located on containers, such as drums, totes, tanks, or other large containers, the E.P.A. made every effort to contact the owner for retrieval,” Elias Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency, wrote in an e-mail. “For items that were not claimed – such as propane tanks, batteries, pressurized cylinders – the E.P.A. contacted companies to recycle the items. Wastes that were not able to be reclaimed, recycled or reused were sent to disposal facilities licensed to receive specified types of waste.”

After months of having crews toil on long shifts, agencies are beginning the process of ending the cleanup effort. The Army Corps plans to wrap up the bulk of its operations by the middle of April. At Floyd Bennett Field, the Army Corps burned or chipped more than 102,000 cubic yards of tree limbs and trunks felled during or after the storm.

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A Sidewalk Hit and Run, With a Suitcase

Dear Diary:

Walking along the crowded lunch-hour sidewalk on Madison Avenue in January, I felt something unexpected on the top of my right foot. I looked down at a “wheelie” rolling off my shoe, being pulled along briskly by a well-dressed woman, eyes straight ahead, oblivious of where her suitcase had just been.

Like hit-and-run drivers who don’t notice the bump of the person they ran over, she hadn’t noticed the interference in her bag’s progress.

She rushed along. I walked at a slower pace, limping a little, but a block later we were next to each other at the traffic light. I turned and said pleasantly: “You might want to keep closer track of your suitcase. It ran over my foot.”

I expected, as she saw my gray hair and the evidence that I had about 30 years on her: “Oh, I’m so sorry. Were you hurt?” Silly me.

What I got was this stern reproof: “You need to watch where you’re walking!” Barely taking a breath, she asked, “Were you behind me or in front of me?” “Behind.” (I had been next to her until she elbowed her way in front.) “Well,” she said, clinching her case, “you need to be more careful. I don’t have eyes in the back of my head!”

“You’re very good at not taking responsibility,” I said, and was amused when, taking this as a compliment, she said, “Thank you.” And the light changed.

When the young man next to us raised an eyebrow in her direction, then rolled his eyes and grinned at me, I enjoyed sharing this moment with a stranger and was reminded why I love New York.


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A Mother’s Loss and a Mayor’s Unwelcome Sympathy

For several days and through various channels, the office of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a firm advocate of gun control, as well as the mayor himself, had tried to contact the family of a Brooklyn 16-year-old who was killed by plainclothes officers after the police said he had pointed an illegally obtained revolver at them.

It would have been an unusual moment of private condolences offered to the family of Kimani Gray: Mr. Bloomberg has described the deadly shooting as justified based on the police account.

It is perhaps even more unusual that the efforts have, so far, been rebuffed by the mother of the teenager, Carol Gray.

“We weren’t interested in the photo op,” said Kenneth J. Montgomery, a lawyer representing Ms. Gray. “In the totem pole of important things and important emotions, that would come somewhere at the bottom.”

Mr. Montgomery said the mayor’s office had reached out to him through different avenues starting several days after the March 9 shooting, including through its community affairs staff in Brooklyn and the office of Councilman Jumaane D. Williams. A representative of Dennis M. Walcott, the schools chancellor, also tried to set up a meeting.

But in a sign of the tense atmosphere that has gripped the East Flatbush neighborhood where the shooting took place, each of those attempts was met with a polite but firm no, Mr. Montgomery said.

The police said the two officers shot Mr. Gray after he brandished a .38-caliber revolver – loaded with four bullets – and pointed it at them. The gun was recovered at the scene, the police said.

But distrust of the Police Department fueled contradictory accounts of the shooting, including some that questioned whether Mr. Gray had been armed at all. Anger exploded into several days of demonstrations in the neighborhood, drawing in local elected officials, anti-police activists and other protesters from around the city.

It was against that backdrop that the mayor sought to contact Ms. Gray late that week. For some, it was too late.

“He did not reach out when he should have to the family,” said Councilman Charles Barron, who has had close contact with Ms. Gray. “He made some feeble attempts through other folks later on. But the mayor knows how to get in touch with people when he wants to.”

Mr. Bloomberg brought up his efforts to reach the family during a recent interview on gun control with The New York Times after being asked about his sense of personal outrage at gun violence in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.

“I give eulogies at cops’ funerals,” the mayor said. “I call parents when their kids are killed. You know, sometimes I don’t get to them. There’s this 16-year-old” – he said, referring to Mr. Gray – “I’ve tried, and the woman, the mother, is not taking any calls, changed her phone number so I can’t, but I did reach out.”

What set the police shooting of Mr. Gray apart from others where the mayor has met with victims’ families is that the police said he had been armed with a gun, and Mr. Bloomberg said the shooting appeared justified. The mayor’s office could not immediately provide an example of another time when Mr. Bloomberg had offered condolences in such a situation.

Nor, however, do there appear to be many recent instances of the mayor or other top city officials being prevented from directly offering condolences to the victims of police shootings.

In 2006, days after the police’s fatal shooting of Sean Bell, who was unarmed, Mr. Bloomberg met privately with the family. And following the October shooting death of Noel Polanco, an unarmed National Guardsman, the family accepted a private visit from Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, who offered condolences, even as the relatives were calling for a full investigation of the shooting.

“Anytime a young person is killed it is a tragedy not only for the family, but also for the community and the city,” said John J. McCarthy, a mayoral spokesman. “The community was clearly upset about the incident and he felt that calling the family was the right thing to do.”

But for Mr. Montgomery, such a call would serve little purpose. “I don’t know why he would reach out,” he said. “I’m much more interested in seeing him pushing the powers that be to get an investigation done.”

Michael Barbaro contributed reporting.

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