October 13 - 19, 2010
Park51 leaders are threatened
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan, have
received death threats in the past couple of weeks for their
association with Park51.
“Threats were received that are being investigated by
the N.Y.P.D.,” according to Detective Cheryl Crispin of the
Ofﬁ ce of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information.
“For the record, my life is under threat,” Khan recently
said during a debate on A.B.C.’s “This Week” news pro-
Hisham Elzanaty, the principal investor of Park51, has
also been receiving hate mail, according to one of his attor-
neys. “People are saying he is a supporter of Hamas,” the
attorney said, adding that Elzanaty, his client, was “upset” to
be associated with a terrorist group.
“It impacts his kids, how his wife and children will be
treated in the [Roslyn Heights] community, and how his
children would be treated by other children in the school,”
the lawyer said.
Embassy Suites lays off employees
On January 5 of next year, the Embassy Suites Battery
Park Hotel will be closing for renovations. The refurbish-
ments will be made as the hotel transitions into the Conrad,
which will open at the end of 2011 as the ﬁ rst of its kind in
New York City.
Embassy Suites will be laying off 250 of its employees as
a result of the transition.
“We understand that these renovation efforts do displace
employees at a sensitive time in the economy, and we are
working in every way possible to ensure our staff is pro-
vided with quality severance and beneﬁ ts packages,” said
Mark Ricci, director of corporate communications at Hilton
Worldwide, owner of Conrad and Embassy Suites.
The hotel will be accepting guest reservations up until
January 3, 2011. Ricci added there will be no internal disrup-
tions to guests prior to the close of the property.
P.S. 276 Hosts Ribbon-Cutting
Students at P.S. 276 now have their very own school
building, and they celebrated this morning at a ribbon-
cutting ceremony at 55 Battery Place. New York State
Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, school administrators and
parents were there to celebrate.
The students were incubated last year at the Tweed
Courthouse, which is currently the temporary home to
Spruce Street (P.S. 397) students. They’ll be moving into
their permanent home, Beekman Tower — at 8 Spruce Street
— in Fall 2011.
BY ALINE REYNOLDS
On the corner of William and Ann Streets lies a barely
noticeable ground ﬂ oor space. At an eye’s glance from the
sidewalk, it is dimly lit and looks vacant. A large white sign
on the outside window says “For Rent.”
But inside, Britta Riley and her fellow environmental-
ists are busy testing windowfarms, a method of vegetable
gardening you can take up in your very own living room or
“The idea was to hack away at this problem of getting
fresh food to people who live in cities,” said Riley, founder
of the Windowfarms Project, which she began experimenting
with in 2008.
“They’re vertical hydroponics gardens – it’s a totally
different way of growing [than] growing in dirt,” she
Each “column” is made of a string of water bottles,
makeshift pots the plants grow in. Small clay pellets stored
in the bottles hold the plants’ roots in place as they absorb
a liquid solution. The bottles are connected via tubes to an
air pump, which circulates nutrients and water through the
“It’s almost like you’ve made a tea out of really good
dirt, which you’re running in a bath over the plants’ roots at
timed intervals,” Riley said.
The columns of plants must be hung directly above a
“Plants ideally get eight hours minimum of natural light
per day,” Riley said.
South-facing windows, she added, have the optimal expo-
sure to sunlight.
Since cloudy skies or shadows hamper natural light, even
in the sills facing southward, windowfarmers are advised to
attach bulb lights with timers to the columns.
“If you have the lights turned on for a few hours during
the middle of the day, they can actually replicate [sun] light,”
They should receive no more than 12 hours of light per
Riley recommends that windowfarmers start off with
simple plants, such as lettuce and herbs, and eventually
graduate to more high-maintenance vegetables like peppers,
squash and cherry tomatoes.
She holds windowfarming workshops on Wednesday
afternoons and evenings. Last Wednesday night, Riley
coached Financial District resident Megan Soffe on step one:
how to plant seeds.
Within about 15 minutes, Riley and Soffe dipped the
seeds into a solution containing hydrogen peroxide, and then
nested them into sponge-like plugs made out of composted
tree bark. They placed the plugs in egg cartons.
“The plant will germinate inside of that,” Riley said to
Soffe is supposed to set them in her sunlit windowsill
for two to three weeks, after which she’ll set up the window
garden and insert the plugs into the water bottles.
“I’m excited to get it started,” Soffe said after the tutorial
session. She works from home on Nassau Street, around the
corner from the studio, and is taking up windowfarming
both as a hobby and as a means of nutrition.
Riley’s professional website, windowfarms.org, now hosts
a forum for 17,000 windowfarmers who dialogue about their
projects and troubleshoot problems that arise during the
“The idea is to try to make it be as much online [based] as
possible without the need for in-person meetings” or expert-
led tutorials, Riley said.
Windowfarms are particularly popular in the fall and win-
Farming at home, in windows and water bottles
Continued on page 31
Downtown Express photo by Aline Reynolds
Founder of the Windowfarms Project Britta Riley
demonstrates one of her vertical hydroponics gardens.
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ME E TIN G S
The upcoming week’s schedule of Community
Board 1 committee meetings is below. Unless other-
wise noted, all committee meetings are held at the
board ofﬁ ce, located at 49-51 Chambers St., room
709 at 6 p.m.
ON WED., OCT. 13: C.B. 1’s Tribeca Committee
will meet and C.B. 1’s Tribeca Parking and
Transportation Subcommittee will meet at 5:30 p.m.
ON THURS., OCT. 14: C.B. 1’s Landmarks
Committee will meet
ON MON., OCT. 18:C.B. 1’s Waterfront
Committee will meet
ON TUES., OCT. 19: C.B. 1’s Seaport/Civic
Center Committee will meet