Friday, March 28, 2008

CU, City Sued Over M'ville "Bathtub" Plan

CU, City Sued Over M'ville "Bathtub" Plan
By Betsy Morais

Nick Sprayregen, the largest private property owner in Columbia’s Manhattanville campus footprint, is picking another battle with the University—he filed a lawsuit today against Columbia and New York City over the University’s planned underground construction.

The “bathtub,” as it is commonly called, is designed to be a contiguous space, running from 125th Street to 133rd Street and from Broadway to 12th Avenue, that extends seven stories below ground level. If built, it will house a swimming and diving center, business school programs, scientific research laboratories, storage facilities, and a below-grade MTA bus depot.

But controversy has surrounded the project because of its placement along an earthquake fault line and near a flood plane which poses various environmental concerns, particularly in combination with the potentially hazardous chemicals used in the campus laboratories.

“If there were a storm surge, you could have water coming out and going into the Harlem community—with possible toxic materials,” said Sprayregen’s lawyer Norman Siegel, who is a candidate for Public Advocate in 2009.

The space was the subject of much scrutiny as Columbia’s land use plan went through the city’s standard zoning review procedure last year. Community Board #9 members and other local activists submitted testimony to the city throughout the process, that questioned the practicality and safety of the bathtub’s construction. Director of City Planning for Manhattan Ray Gastil, who evaluated the environmental impact of Columbia’s proposal for the planning commission’s assessment, presented an alternate proposal in which the University built only a partial bathtub.

But Sprayregen doesn’t think the city addressed the potential implications of bathtub construction thoroughly enough. “The main contention in the suit is that New York City, in its approval of the Columbia rezoning request, failed to carry out its duties as required by law to fully evaluate the serious environmental impacts of the construction and the on-going operation of the proposed ‘bathtub,’” he said in a press release.

It wasn’t until last Friday that Sprayregen decided to file his suit against the University and the city. He said it took him a long time to decide to take action on this issue, with which he had not previously concerned himself.

“The more I read, the more alarmed I really became that not enough independent thought and analysis went into the bathtub approval,” he explained.

Over the past week, Sprayregen and Siegel collaborated with CB9 consultant Ron Schiffman, who is the director of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development, and spoke with Klaus Jacob, senior researcher at the University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, to better understand the environmental implications of bathtub construction.

Despite his University affiliation, Jacob has voiced apprehensions about the rising sea levels around the bathtub that create flooding risks. Last fall, he met with administrators to recommend the hiring of an outside risk-assessment firm to analyze the possible negative implications of the below ground construction.

But the Environmental Impact Statement for Columbia’s campus development explains how the bathtub “would be designed to resist pressure from both the permanent groundwater levels and temporary flood conditions,” and outlines plans for flood risk analysis, including during potential hurricane flooding.

The University released a statement explaining that, although administrators do not comment on pending litigation: “We are confident that the extended public land use and environmental review processes were rigorous and comprehensive. They underscored that thriving universities are essential for New York City to remain a leader in attracting the talent that pursues new knowledge and creating the good, middle-income jobs for people who seek to improve their lives here.”

CB9 Chair Pat Jones said she had not heard about Sprayregen’s lawsuit, and said that Columbia’s subterranean construction plans have not come up at any recent board meetings.
Still, she called attention to “questions raised by the Community Board and its consultants with regard to the feasibility of Columbia’s proposed bathtub” during the city review process, as to whether or not City Planning took “the appropriate steps, procedures, and due diligence” in assessing the impact of bathtub construction.

Four months after the city approved the University’s campus plan, Siegel said that this lawsuit comes as the window to challenge the Manhattanville rezoning is set to end. He expects to hear back from the city’s lawyers by April 29.

As for Columbia, Siegel said, “I think it is a good university, just wrong on this issue.” But, as he added, that will be up to a judge to decide.

Lawsuit: Columbia Expansion Poses 'Biohazard' Risk

edited by Michael Clancy

Lawsuit: Columbia Expansion Poses 'Biohazard' Risk
Posted by Duncan Meisel at 4:28 PM, March 27, 2008

The largest landowner threatened by Columbia’s Manhattanville expansion has filed a suit against the school and city, alleging that the environmental review process for the expansion was insufficient. The process may have even ignored the risk for potential biohazard threats to the West Harlem community, the plaintiff's lawyer said.

“I think it’s selfish for Columbia, it shows a level of uncaring for the people of West Harlem” said Nick Sprayregen, the owner of Tuck-It-Away Storage, the lead petitioner in the suit, which was filed Wednesday afternoon.

At issue is the construction of a massive underground "bathtub" structure that would extend about seven stories below ground throughout the development, a planned expansion that would include a research facility that the university calls a "biosafety" center, while the plaintiff calls it a "biohazard" center . According to the plaintiffs, the placement of such a structure on a geological fault in a flood zone poses a risk to the surrounding community. But according to Columbia, the research facilities will be built above grade and pose no risk.

“The rim of the bathtub is barely above the Hudson river, we believe it poses a risk of catastrophic failure” said Norman Siegel, Sprayregen’s lawyer. He cited global warming and its connected risks as an issue of serious concern.

“There exists a likelihood of a storm surge that would come over the bulkhead and flood the bathtub” and “hazardous materials from these facilities could be washed out into the West Harlem community” he said.

The suit challenges whether the City Planning Commission took the required “hard look” at environmental hazards for the site. The suit claims that the planning commission "provided that the engineering issues raised during the environmental review process would be resolved at some later unspecified date.”

However, “Neither the engineering consultants… nor Columbia University consultants outline in any detail what those solutions are, what the impact of carrying out those approaches might be” the suit claims in a quote from Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, the chairman of Community Board 9.

Columbia declined to comment on the pending litigation, but said in a statement: “We are confident that the extended public land use and environmental review processes were rigorous and comprehensive. They underscored that thriving universities are essential for New York City to remain a leader in attracting the talent that pursues new knowledge and creating the good, middle-income jobs for people who seek to improve their lives here.”

A Columbia spokeswoman clarified the nature of the research facility, taking issue with the plaintiff's use of "biohazard. " “There are no plans to put biosafety facilities below grade,” said the spokeswoman La-Verna J. Fountain.

Sprayregen’s concerns extend beyond the bathtub to the facility itself.

“It just boggles the mind why Columbia, supposedly an altruistic institution, would but a biohazard research center in Manhattan” he said. “I question the wisdom of placing, particularly after 9/11, a biohazard facility that sticks out like a sore thumb for any potential terrorists” in the city center.

“These are bio-safety rooms” Fountain said. “These are not whole buildings, just rooms.”

No matter the result of this current suit, litigation about the Columbia expansion seems bound to continue. The suit filed yesterday is the fifth which Siegel has been involved in, and he sees the potential for at least one other suit. “If eminent domain is used, transferring private property to a private university, we will litigate that issue” he said.

The activist group Coalition to Preserve Community announced a protest for Monday at Columbia. Continued community resistance to the Manhattanville plans has been a driving force for the ongoing legal battle between landowners and the school, and both Sprayregen and Siegel cited community activists as a key factor in their decision to file suit.

“You need the community behind you on this” Siegel said. “Property owners have standing, but the community members were the heart and soul of this lawsuit.”

Sprayregen Brings Up Environmental Issues in Lawsuit Against Columbia

Sprayregen Brings Up Environmental Issues in Lawsuit Against Columbia
By Alix Pianin

After formally bringing a lawsuit against Columbia and the city on Thursday, Tuck-It-Away owner Nick Sprayregen and his lawyers held a press conference at his storage facility to officially announce the legal action. Though he previously focused on rallying against the potential use of eminent domain in Manhattanville, Sprayregen is now also setting his sights on the environmental implications of the University’s planned underground development.

“Tuck-It-Away vs. the City of New York” calls on the New York State Supreme Court to take a “hard look” at Columbia’s two-million-square-foot Manhattanville development that would extend seven stories below the street. As it stands now, the University’s design poses significant environmental risks that the city has not properly considered, according to lawyer and public advocate candidate Norman Siegel.

“Without proper review, a disaster may someday occur,” Sprayregen said. “We are not challenging the overall rezoning.”

The underground plan, known as the “bathtub,” would stretch from 125th Street to 133rd Street, Broadway to 12th Avenue, and would house campus laboratories, a swimming and diving center, business school programs, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus depot, and storage facilities.

Sprayregen, Siegel, and attorney Steve Silverberg say that the placement of the “bathtub” on a flood plane and earthquake fault line could pose daunting environmental concerns, including flooding.

The recent focus on the environmental implications of the Manhattanville expansion is a marked departure from Sprayregen’s usual focus on eminent domain. Siegel said that the statute of limitations was about to run out following a Nov. 26 meeting, where the City Planning Commission approved the findings regarding the environmental implications of the bathtub. The four-month opportunity to appeal ran out yesterday, the day they filed their lawsuit.

“My perspective being that environmental laws are put in place to protect the safety and well-being of the community ... I concluded over the weekend that the work up to this point doesn’t comport with the ‘hard look’ requirement,” Siegel said.

Sprayregen and Siegel have also been working with Community Board 9 consultant and director of the Pratt Institute Ron Schiffman and senior researcher Klaus Jacob to study the implications of building the bathtub.

“Our recommendation was that CU should hire an outside risk assessment firm to study the [long term] risks associated with flooding in the face of rising sea level,” Jacob said.

Jacob said that building the bathtub on a seismic fault may mean that water pressure from the Hudson River could proliferate faults on the bottom of the basement, which would be expensive to fix.

Siegel also raised concerns about the engineering mechanisms given by Columbia officials to stave off environmental damage to the buildings. According to Siegel, the mechanisms were too vague to provide sufficient assurance that the facilities would withstand future natural disasters without endangering surrounding areas, yet effective mechanisms are still in reach.

“They essentially said, ‘an engineering solution exists. We will find it and we will provide it at a later date,’” said Silverberg, who is also representing Sprayregen in the case.

The plaintiffs also named CB9 in its lawsuit, though Siegel emphasized that they were seeking no relief from the board, and that CB9 was named as a respondent. He stressed that CB9 has been supportive of a thorough and critical review of the Manhattanville plan.

“Now they have an opportunity to speak consistently,” Siegel said.

Betsy Morais and Joy Resmovits contributed reporting this article.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Neighborhood Statistics


My Neighborhood Statistics lets New York City residents know how City agencies are performing in their neighborhood by viewing locally mapped performance statistics using a street address or intersection. Color-shaded maps also allow for easy comparisons of highs and lows in different neighborhoods.

To begin, enter either a street address or street intersection below for an area of interest and choose the appropriate borough from the drop-down list. Once the information is entered, select "Map It!" to proceed to this interactive tool and view your neighborhood statistics.

Option 1 - Navigate to a STREET ADDRESS:

Street Address:
(e.g. 1 Centre Street)
Select your borough Bronx Brooklyn Manhattan Queens Staten Island (e.g. Manhattan)

Option 2 - Navigate to a STREET INTERSECTION:

Street Name:
(e.g. Kent Ave)

Cross Street Name:
(e.g. Park Ave)

Select your borough Bronx Brooklyn Manhattan Queens Staten Island (e.g. Brooklyn)

Option 3 - Navigate to a LANDMARK:

Place Name:
(e.g. City Hall)


Select your borough
Staten Island (e.g. Manhattan)
Click here:

Hamilton Heights To Lose Its Namesake

Hamilton Heights To Lose Its Namesake
Abroad in New York
March 27, 2008

History buffs have long bemoaned the sad setting of Hamilton Grange, Alexander Hamilton's onetime Harlem home; it is nestled and blocked in such a way that we have no sense of the spacious grounds it enjoyed when New York's own founding father and his wife, Elizabeth, resided there. To general applause, the Federal-style house, normally operated by the National Park Service as a historic house museum, is currently closed for repairs and restoration. When completed, it will move to nearby St. Nicholas Park, where the house will be fully visible and appear once again to be the country house it was when built.

Hamilton Grange is the namesake of its uptown enclave Hamilton Heights. The house was built in 1802 as Hamilton's public career was on the wane and he felt need of reclusion. At the time, what would later be Convent Avenue at 143rd Street (once the streets were platted and cut through) was the distant countryside. Alas, Hamilton could not simply retire to the country. In the state's gubernatorial race of 1804, Hamilton spoke out against candidate Aaron Burr, the vice president of the United States who decided he'd be happier as Governor of New York. When gurr felt Hamilton — the two men, both brilliant, had been on a collision course since both served under General Washington in 1776 — had gone too far, they fought their infamous duel, on July 11, 1804, in which Hamilton was killed. So he really didn't get to spend much time up at the Grange.

Nonetheless, this house is our most tangible reminder of Hamilton, a man who was a New Yorker to the bone — and the only one of the founders, according to the historian Paul Johnson, fully entitled to the accolade of genius.

In 1889, the congregation of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Greenwich Village decided it was time to move uptown, and the newly developing area of the upper Upper West Side looked promising. The congregation's first uptown services were actually held in Hamilton Grange, which came with the land St. Luke's purchased. The church had moved the house two blocks south, to just north of 141st Street on Convent Avenue, to make way for a profitable row house development. St. Luke's then erected its handsome "Richardsonian Romanesque" church (1892–95, R.H. Robertson) at the northeast corner of Convent and 141st.

I asked Manhattan Borough Historian Michael Miscione what he thought of the forthcoming move, scheduled for sometime in 2009, and he said: "I consider the Grange move the number one historic preservation priority in the metropolitan region, bar none. It is a century overdue. All New Yorkers — indeed, all Americans — should be ashamed that it has taken this long to give the Grange a fitting home."

But won't the move take something away from Hamilton Heights? No. Hamilton Heights will remain what it has been since the early 20th century: one of the most delicious enclaves in Manhattan.

The setting is stupendous: a high bluff overlooking the Harlem plain. Half a block to the east of St. Luke's — which sidles rhythmically down the bluff — is the three-block-long Hamilton Terrace. It's on axis with City College's majestic Shepard Hall, at 140th Street. City College moved from Lexington Avenue at 23rd Street to a magnificent Collegiate Gothic campus. George B. Post's buildings at City College contrast a dark Manhattan schist, which comes from the site, with bright white terra-cotta trim and ornamentation — a startling contrast that enhances the otherworldly allure of these buildings at the foot of Hamilton Terrace. Hamilton Terrace boasts marvelous row houses at numbers 4 to 30, built in 1898 and designed by Neville & Bagge, one of New York's outstanding architectural firms, though known for apartment buildings. The modern apartment building (1948–51) at 19 Hamilton Terrace was designed by Vertner Tandy, the first African-American registered as an architect in New York State. Back on Convent Avenue are many very fine row houses, such as the exciting neo-Renaissance row of seven houses right across the avenue from Hamilton Grange. These were built in 1899–1902 and designed by the inventive though little-known Henri Fouchaux.

Just to the west of Convent on 142nd Street stands the highly unusual Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, a Roman Catholic church built in 1902–04. The O'Reilly Brothers recycled pieces of recently demolished buildings to make the church.

The main part of the façade was salvaged from Peter B. Wight's National Academy of Design, which stood on Park Avenue South at 24th Street from 1863 to 1900. Its "Ruskinian Gothic" style made it one of the most influential 19th-century buildings in New York. Inside, we see bits, including stained-glass windows, from the original east end of St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. These became available when the cathedral's Lady Chapel began to be built in 1901. It's not orthodox preservation, but there is something touching about parts of superannuated buildings migrating to the then newest neighborhood uptown.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Open-house and Rededication of Logan Gardens

Community Assisted Tenant
Controlled Housing, Inc.
121 Sixth Avenue, Suite 501,
New York, New York 10013

Community Assisted Tenant Controlled Housing
Join us
Lieutenant Governor David A. Paterson
for an Open-house
of Logan Gardens

Dr. Arthur C. Logan

DATE: MARCH 20th, 2008
Time: 11:30 am
Location: 450 West 131st St.

With our co-sponsors, the Parodneck Foundation, and Enterprise, we proudly invite you to the Rededication of the Logan Gardens housing complex in West Harlem.

The former distressed apartment building has been transformed by CATCH into a thriving home for 102 senior and disabled residents.

The event will also celebrate and revive a part of Harlem history that has been lost.

The building once housed Knickerbocker Hospital, whose guiding force was Dr. Arthur Logan, who was a leading civil rights activist and prominent surgeon,as well as the personal physician to such luminaries as Dr. Martin Luther King and Duke Ellington.

Dr. Logan was a tireless advocate for the poor .

Light Refreshment Will Be Served

RSVP: Thomasina White
Phone: 212-431-9700 x. 313
Fax: 212-431-9783

Community Assisted Tenant Controlled Housing,
Inc. (CATCH)
121 Sixth Avenue, Suite 501,
New York, New York 10013

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

“Creating the City We All Want: A Roadmap.”

The Municipal Art Society and the Community-Based Planning Task Force invite you to join us for a Spring 2008 Forum Series, “Creating the City We All Want: A Roadmap.” To mark the release of the Fifth Edition of Planning for All New Yorkers: the Atlas of Community-Based Plans, a resource that compiles all such plans undertaken in New York City since 1989, this Forum Series will explore the potential of neighborhood-led plans to shape equitable development and growth in the city, from the perspective of elected officials, community advocates, and planners. RSVP to or 212/935-2075.
Monday, March 24: “Elected Officials Respond to Communities That Plan for Themselves”
This forum serves as the official launch of the new Atlas of Community-Based Plans, which illustrates that New Yorkers are increasingly pro-active planners – there has been a 40% increase in the number of community-based plans in New York City since 2004. Still, the Atlas also uncovers a disconnection between public consensus and allocation of public funds. How do our elected leaders plan to get the city on track toward a real planning and development partnership between government and communities?

Panelists: Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer; City Council Member Tony Avella (invited); and City Council Member Gale Brewer

Moderator: Ron Shiffman, Director Emeritus, Pratt Center for Community Development

Monday, April 14: “PlaNYC 2030 Post-Bloomberg: Using Community Plans to Achieve a Sustainable City (No Matter Who’s in Office)”
Mayor Bloomberg will leave office 20 years before his sustainability plan is fully realized. But there’s hope—many neighborhoods were planning for sustainability long before the Mayor even took office. Neighborhood plans typically recommend precisely those initiatives the Mayor supports: adding and improving parks and open space; securing affordable housing; improving neighborhood mobility; addressing inadequate infrastructure, etc. Implementing these plans will secure a sustainable future for all New Yorkers and will shore up community support for citywide sustainability goals. Neighborhood advocates and planners discuss their experiences working within a sustainability framework, both from within PlaNYC 2030 and outside of it.
Panelists: Tom Angotti, Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development and editor of Gotham Gazette’s Sustainability Watch; Miquela Craytor, Deputy Director, Sustainable South Bronx; Jeanne DuPont, Executive Director, Rockaway Waterfront Alliance; Yolanda Gonzalez, Nos Quedamos/We Stay; and Paul Steely White, Executive Director, Transportation Alternatives.

Moderator: Amy Zimmer, Metro New York

Wednesday, May 14: “David vs. Goliath: Neighborhood Planning in the Face of Large-Scale Development”
Many observers opine that community-driven plans—official and approved through a city process or unofficial but widely recognized—are no real hedge against unwanted development. But in the cases of West Harlem, Midtown East, and Atlantic Yards, would developers have had carte blanche without community plans? How do community planners believe alternative plans can be more effective? How can alternative plans guarantee that future development will fit consensus-based neighborhood visions? We’ll look at some recent cases—West Harlem, Midtown East, and Prospect Heights/Fort Greene—where developer-driven plans threaten to undermine community vision, and examine the place of community-based planning in these struggles.

Panelists: Anthony Borelli, Director of Land Use, Planning, and Development for Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer; Marshall Brown, Architect/planner for the UNITY Plan for Atlantic Yards; Candace Carponter, Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods; Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, former Chairman, Manhattan Community Board 9; and Ed Rubin, Land Use Chair, Manhattan Community Board 6.

Moderator: Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, Executive Director, El Diario/La Prensa.

All three will take place at The Urban Center, 457 Madison Ave., at 6 p.m. Refreshments will be served. Funding for the Campaign has been provided by the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation.
The Community-Based Planning Task Force, convened by the Municipal Art Society in 2001, is a coalition of grassroots community organizations, citywide civic groups, community boards, elected officials, planners, and academics. Based on the premise that the people who live and work in a neighborhood are among the best-equipped to plan for the future of that neighborhood, the Task Force is laying the groundwork for the formal adoption of community-based planning as official New York City policy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cops catch knife-wielder who injured four in uptown slashing spree

Cops catch knife-wielder who injured four in uptown slashing spree
Tuesday, March 18th 2008, 4:00 AM

Emergency crew assists stab victim
after four were hurt in Hamilton Heights.
A lunatic with a knife slashed his way down Broadway Monday, injuring four people, including a teen who was stabbed in the chest, police said.
Cruz Venturas, 40, began his rampage on 140th St. in Hamilton Heights shortly before 2 p.m., cops said.
Although cops nabbed him within six minutes, he was able to seriously injure Daniel Cullell, 18, who was on his way to pick up his niece from elementary school, police said.

"The guy came running out of the liquor store and stabbed him right in the chest," said Iluminada Cullell, 76, the teen's grandmother. "I just hope he's going to be all right. I'm so nervous. Danny is a good boy."

Cullell was taken to St. Luke's Hospital. Two of his friends and another person suffered minor injuries before Venturas dropped the knife when cops arrived, witnesses said.

"They got out of their cars with their guns out," said Jose Rondon, 66, who witnessed the attack. "The police said, 'Put it down, put it down.' He dropped it, and they grabbed him."
Venturas has a reputation in the neighborhood for being unstable and violent, witnesses said. Neighbors said he had been locked up before for stabbing people at a dance.

"They let him out to do it again," Rondon said. "Everybody knows him as real trouble, but how crazy could he be if he dropped the knife when the police told him to."

To post comments, REGISTER or LOG IN

sippyg Mar 18, 2008 5:52:55 AM Report Offensive Post Sounds like the slasher knew these people.""They got out of their cars with their guns out"-tourists probably thought that they was filming a tv show.

Bobby_G Mar 18, 2008 7:44:16 AM Report Offensive Post If there was one citizen with a legal handgun and some training the game would have been over for this SOB and several people's lives would not be irreparably changed. The cops did a great job but law-abiding New Yorkers need to protect themselves and have the freedom to do so without legal repercussions.

DANTEJ32 Mar 18, 2008 7:52:51 AM Report Offensive Post If it was not for the UNCONSTITUTIONAL law of not being able to own a handgun. If I were i NYC right now I would challenge the law. Every law abiding citizen should be able to carry a handgun.

Tiny Wine Mar 18, 2008 8:38:26 AM Report Offensive Post I really hope Daniel will have a full, speedy recovery. So many people walking around with mental problems who should be getting care, are not. Too many cuts on programs which used to house people are a thing of the past. No one to monitor the taking of medication. They are left to their own devices. This is a really big problem.

in my humble opinion Mar 18, 2008 9:03:56 AM Report Offensive Post i keep saying they should get these lunatics off the streets...the guy has a history of violence come he is still walking freely ????????........years ago they used to have people like this committed and medicated.....the streets were a lot safer then.....except for your neighborhood mugger of

mswinton28 Mar 18, 2008 9:48:44 AM Report Offensive Post He probably wants to go back to the institute and didn't know how to admit himself.

Nuggets Mar 18, 2008 10:03:03 AM Report Offensive Post second offense. 50 lashes. If he lives he'll remember the pain forever.

yezir Mar 18, 2008 10:04:20 AM Report Offensive Post to was the cops who came out with guns drawn...this sux...this is right by my house!

Aint_Haten_On_U_Yet Mar 18, 2008 1:40:16 PM Report Offensive Post the reason he is out walking the streets is because the government is closing down the psychiatric hospitals/facilites to build more jails. thats whats wrong with out system instead of giving the mentally ill the help they need. they are locking them up in prison with no help, medication, nor counseling. then letting them right back out on the street again. MY PRAYERS GO OUT TO THE CULLELL FAMILY I HOPE DANNY MAKES A COMPLETE AND SPEEDY RECOVERY GOD BLESS YOU ALL

yvonneinqueens Mar 18, 2008 3:52:08 PM Report Offensive Post they should shoot in the legs or arms so they render a maniac powerless. we need sharp shooters

Founding Father FeudWatch: Where Will the Ham Land?

From: "Brad Taylor"
To: "J Reyes-Montblanc"
Subject: Hamilton Grange Article on Curbed Today
Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2008 15:34:28 -0400

Hi Jordi,
Thought you might be interested for the blog.

Among other things, it discusses a new site and petition I put up this

Hope you can support it.


Founding Father FeudWatch: Where Will the Ham Land?
The plan to move Alexander Hamilton's colonial home from its current cramped Harlem quarters to the northwest corner of St. Nicholas Park was supposed to be a feel-good story about preserving our national history, but it has taken an ugly turn all because of a compass.

Preservationists are making a big stink over the fact that the Hamilton Grange will be facing northeast once it's moved, not southwest as originally intended. The controversy is so out of control that supporters of the move have put up a website and petition defending the home's, uh, orientation.

One writes:
A few local "preservationists" are so adamant that the Grange be placed in its new site in exactly the same compass orientation as it was on the original site that they are now threatening to bring a lawsuit against the National Park Service (NPS). The defense of this lawsuit by NPS would siphon off precious public dollars allocated by Congress for this project and could threaten the move itself. These "preservationists" have stated publicly that they would rather see the Grange remain in its present cramped quarters and unrestored than have it placed in the "wrong" orientation. They are also claiming that they have the support of the local community for their action.

This Thursday night (March 20) those opposed to the NPS siting will be bringing a resolution to the local Community Board (CB9 Manhattan) asking for its support of their position. I and others will be speaking out against the resolution.When reached for comment, Hamilton said, "BRAINS...BRAINS...ME WANT EAT BRAAAIIINSSSS." An interesting perspective, certainly.·

Hamilton Grange - Support the Move []·

Founding Father FeudWatch [Curbed]·

Preparations Begin for Mansion Move in Harlem [Curbed]

Comments (19 extant)

Just move the damn house and be done with it.
Comment #1, left at 03/18/08 11:53 AM.

The location of the house apparently doesn't impact the historical quality of the home since it's being moved in the first place.... so why would it's orientation make any difference?
Comment #2, left at 03/18/08 11:57 AM.

damn house that was Alexander Hamiltons grange have some respect fucko
Comment #3, left at 03/18/08 11:59 AM.

It's the same 'preservationist' idiots who want no changes made in WSP, and insist that moving the orientation of the fountain is a generation scarring tragedy.
Comment #4, left at 03/18/08 12:05 PM.

Well then, who's in that tomb at Trinity Church? Hoffa?
Comment #5, left at 03/18/08 12:29 PM.
BrianVan's stats. BrianVan: 105 comments, 6 followers, 1 ignore.

Sai Baba
The orientation is very important. Architecture is the masterly, correct, and magnificent play of masses brought together in light....
Switch the light around 180 degrees, it screws up everything. Plus the morning room isn't.
Comment #6, left at 03/18/08 12:47 PM.
Sai Baba's stats. Sai Baba: 68 comments, 0 followers, 0 ignores.

The house has already been moved once from its original location. Moving it again for the sake of saving the structure (over keeping it perfectly on axis) is hardly tragic.
Comment #7, left at 03/18/08 01:10 PM.

Of course orientation is important Sai Baba which is why it's important to consider the NEW site. The orientation picked by the National Park Service is more true to Hamilton's wishes to have the house face OUT into the landscape. It is thus more historically accurate to the design intent of the house than any insistence on a compass orientation which was chosen for a HILLTOP site NOT THIS ONE.
Satya Sai Baba
Comment #8, left at 03/18/08 01:12 PM.

By some of your logic here, apparently 2 wrongs do make a right.
Comment #9, left at 03/18/08 01:15 PM.

Just as a side note, I overheard some people at the site saying they had unearthed some Indian graves. Anyone hear about that?
Comment #10, left at 03/18/08 01:35 PM.

Well actually the second WRONG thing would be to insist on a compass orientation which makes no sense in the new context.
Comment #11, left at 03/18/08 01:37 PM.

%6#@*&%$%^ Morons !!!!!
Comment #12, left at 03/18/08 01:37 PM.

Rather than just getting upset about it go to and SIGN THE PETITION
Comment #13, left at 03/18/08 01:39 PM.

The only thing the preservationists have unearthed is their continual STUPIDITY
Comment #14, left at 03/18/08 01:46 PM.

The group trying to stop the Hamilton Grange move are the same fanatics who tried to Stop Colunbia's expansion and the same group of racists who yelled at the City Planning Committee member for being a "white bitch."
These people want all progress stopped.
Please pass this URL petition around and sign it!!!
Comment #15, left at 03/18/08 02:44 PM.
WestHarlem's stats. WestHarlem: 20 comments, 0 followers, 0 ignores.

They're a bunch of Clowns
Comment #16, left at 03/18/08 02:57 PM.

What a shame that a restoration of such an important house would be delayed because of these idiots. Please sign the petition!
Comment #17, left at 03/18/08 04:12 PM.

Comment #18, left at 03/18/08 05:35 PM.
Reysmont's stats.
Actually the only thing of real importance and totally ignored by the Preservationists is the fact that there was an agreement between the Community and National Parks to build a facility at the vacated lot on Convent Avenue to house not only the National Parks Rangers but most importantly a Community and Visitors Center.

That Agreement is now being abrogated by National Parks as usual due to "funding". Yet Congressman Rangel who facilitated the deal back in 1994 is in a position to remedy that, if the community would communicate that to him -instead of the "orientation" the point of discussion must be the vacated lot on Convent Avenue and the creation of a facility that must include a Community/Visitors Center and possible housing affordable to the community.

I'm glad I had a V-8 because these Preservationist are definitely on Kool-Aid.
Comment #19, left at 03/18/08 05:35 PM.
Reysmont's stats.

Monday, March 17, 2008

More Money for the Very Rich: An Unsporting Pursuit?

Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2008 17:24:09 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Anne Z. Whitman"
Subject: Fwd: Recommendation: More Money for the Very Rich: An Unsporting Pursuit?
To: "Jordi Reyes Montblanc"

NY Style No Bid Private Developer Driven Eminent Domain Abuse

Note: forwarded message attached.

Anne Z. Whitman
Forwarded Message [ Download File ]

Subject: [ ] Recommendation: More Money for the Very Rich: An Unsporting Pursuit?
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2008 20:18:16 -0400


Michael D. D. White

More Money for the Very Rich: An Unsporting Pursuit?
Posted March 17, 2008 06:05 PM (EST)

Before the nation focused on the resignation of our New York governor for his misjudgment, I was focused on something I thought was of great importance to the way the state was being governed. It likewise involves the undiscerned misspending of almost unimaginable amounts of money and also involves conduct as if as the very rich are on a different plane subject to different rules. Maybe it bespeaks a related lack of judgment on the part of our departing governor, but I think this misdirection of public funds is far more significant than the sex scandal disappointment. Unfortunately, it is not unique to New York State; it looks as if we caught some bad habits from George Bush's exploits in Texas.

Is it that the very rich just "have more money" as Hemingway rejoined, or did Fitzgerald hit upon a deep truth when he wrote that the "very rich . . .are different from you and me"? The super-rich are playing games that you and I might never play even if given the opportunity. . . though only the very rich and super-connected have the opportunity to play.

The most unsportsmanlike of all involves the reverse-Robin-Hood game of sports stadium and arena finance. The public provides the money and the super rich get to own them. The wealth is transferred stealthily by legal legerdemain the public is unlikely to decipher.

When the Ancient Greeks built the Parthenon in Athens, the costs were publicly posted on a stone tablet for all to see. And today? Today what you don't know about edifices the public is paying for could be very bad for your civic health. Help is on the way. Recently, NPR's top e-mailed story was Terri Gross's Fresh Air interview with David Cay Johnston about his new book, Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill).

Johnston's book catalogues multiple ways we are being fleeced to make the super-rich richer. He tells of phantom taxes that wealthy individuals and corporations don't really pay and the tale of the Texas Rangers stadium whereby public taxes transformed George W. Bush's 2% $600,000 sporting investment into a $17 million capital gain.

And for those of us who don't live in Texas? Well, in Brooklyn, New York, where I live, Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner Enterprises has taken his cue from George W. Bush and surpassed him; he's planning a sports arena for his recently purchased basketball team as a key part of his proposed mega-development known as Atlantic Yards. New York government officials are committing New York's public to pay subsidies of more than a billion dollars covering all of the escalating costs of a basketball arena that the politically connected Ratner and company will own. The subsidies were awarded on a no-bid basis and the developer is even being promised that after an initial 30-40 year lease term accompanied by tax exemption, Ratner can extend his lease up to a total of 99 years with continued tax exemption.

The centerpiece of Ratner's arena finance dance is a complicated device best referred to as an "R-TIFC-PILOT" agreement (pronounced "Artifice-PILOT"- or "Return Total Intercepted For Costs-Payment In Lieu Of Taxes") which simultaneously spares Ratner's companies from all real estate taxes on the arena while providing him with $692.70 million in municipal bond proceeds toward its cost. The bonds are paid entirely with intercepted tax payments that would otherwise have been going to the public treasury. Other intercepted taxes can defray Ratner's cost of operating the arena, increasing his bottom line. Because the bonds are exempt from federal, state and local income tax an additional estimated subsidy of $129 million goes to the project. Including a $11.7 million exemption from sales tax, donations of public land (and excluding a number of other subsidies that could also be included) it adds up to an arena replacement cost paid for by the public of $905.72 million. From publicly available figures it can be discerned only that Ratner is paying for another $71 million with private money. But beyond this, the public is donating to Ratner the right to name the arena and the neighboring portion of Brooklyn, rights being sold for $20 million a year for 20 years, ($400 million). Just on the arena alone Ratner will clear at least $116.29 million in present value on day one.

Don't think that Bruce Ratner bought a basketball team because he likes sports. Nor is Bruce Ratner's expertise that of a builder. It is as a collector of politically garnered subsidies. Arena and sports venue finance is ideal for collecting subsidies. Johnston explains how it inverts the power structure when subsidies are given so that the benefit of subsidies to go entirely to sport franchise owners and not to the public.

Ratner is not just collecting subsides on the arena. The arena has been used a peg for the collection of probably at least another million dollars in no-bid subsidies for development of adjoining properties. That raises the issue of eminent domain.

Bush needed 17 acres to build his Texas stadium. 200 acres were condemned. Ratner has similarly gone after gratuitous condemnations with a peculiar project footprint that would be inexplicable were it not for eminent domain's attractive windfall. The tilted playing field of eminent domain abuse attracts Ratner; the collection of special benefit through below-market acquisition of condemned land is essentially another form of subsidy collection.

Congress is considering eminent domain reform, including possibly restricting federal economic development funds for states abusing eminent domain. Lobbying against reform, Forest City Ratner recently paid $400,000 to former Senator Al D'Amato's lobbying firm. It is unfortunate to think that states and localities like New York that do business with Ratner are supporting him with subsides he is using to disrupt the national agenda of eminent domain abuse reform. As a New Yorker, I worry that the unholy alliance New York politicians make with Ratner means that New York will not be an effective incubator of politicians fit to freely address these civil liberty issues.

How entrenched are these practices? In New York, Atlantic Yards is supported by a mayor (Bloomberg, also wealthy) whose persona is that of the "business mayor" even though he says he wouldn't want to live near Atlantic Yards, and the city acknowledges problems with its public process. We have our departing governor (Spitzer) who ran for office on a platform of public finance agency transparency and reform, but who has engaged in anything but when it comes to Atlantic Yards. How entrenched? Bloomberg is apparently polling to find out whether he can replace the governor in three years.

BIO Become a Fan Get Email Alerts Similar Bloggers
More Money for the Very Rich: An Unsporting Pursuit?

Read More: Atlantic Yards, Atlantic Yards Brooklyn, Brooklyn, Bruce Ratner, David Cay Johnson, Forest City Ratner Enterprises, Free Lunch, Ratner Development, Wealth, Breaking Business News

Buzz up!


The Spanish Empire and its Irish Brigades From from the XVI Century to 1815

NB - On this St. Patrick Day I dedicate this page to remember my Wild Geese ancestors that served the Spanish Empire in the Irish Brigades and contributed not only their blood, but their wit and love of freedom to their Iberian-American World descendants. - JRM

The Spanish Habsburgs and their Irish Soldiers
By Moisés Enrique Rodríguez


Colonel insign, Ultonia Regiment.
In 1516, Ferdinand II of Aragon (better known as Ferdinand 'The Catholic') died, and the Spanish crown passed to his grandson, who ascended to the throne as King Charles I. He is better known as Charles V, since this was the title by which he reigned as Holy Roman Emperor.

Born in Ghent in 1500, the young man was brought up in the Netherlands and only arrived in Spain at the age of 17. As the son of Joanna 'The Mad', the daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, Charles inherited not only the Spanish kingdoms but also their overseas empires. Castile brought with it the colonies of South and Central America, and Aragon the Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and Naples.

As the son of Philip 'The Handsome' (his Habsburg father who had died in 1506), he was already the ruler of the Burgundian territories: The Netherlands (spanning present-day Holland, Belgium and northern France) and the Franche-Comté (covering areas of present-day France and Switzerland). In 1519, upon the death of his paternal grandfather, Maximilian I, Charles inherited the Holy Roman Empire (present-day Germany and adjacent territories in Central and Eastern Europe).

During the subsequent forty years, the King-Emperor fought wars against the Turks, the French, the Protestant Princes of Germany and other enemies, and turned Spain into the leader of the Counter-Reformation. These policies continued under his successors. Exhausted by his immense responsibilities, Charles abdicated in 1556 and died two years later. The Spanish empire and the Burgundian inheritance went to his son Philip II and the Holy Roman Empire to his brother Ferdinand.

The fact that the Netherlands were given to Philip meant that Spain became inextricably involved in the affairs of Northern Europe and was unable to concentrate her energies in her traditional areas of interest: the Mediterranean and the Americas. Madrid became the enemy of the Dutch Protestants and hence of Elizabeth's England. Habsburg (and Catholic) solidarity meant that Spain took part in the Thirty Years War. It also led to a dynastic confrontation with France which resulted in military campaigns in the Low Countries, Central Europe and Italy (where Madrid and Paris had been rivals since the Middle Ages).

During the two centuries of Habsburg rule, Spain fought innumerable wars: against the Dutch, the English and the French on the continent of Europe and on the high seas; and against the Moors and the Turks in North Africa and the Mediterranean. It is remarkable that at the same time her Conquistadores conquered much of Latin America for the Crown, putting an end to the powerful Aztec and Inca empires and subjugating the Maya and scores of other indigenous people.

Philip II was succeeded by Philip III and Philip IV, who continued the Eighty Year War against the Dutch. This conflict merged with the Thirty Years War in Germany and only came to an end in 1648, when the Treaty of Westphalia recognised the independence of the seven 'United Provinces'. However, Spain retained the Southern Netherlands (predominantly Catholic and spanning present-day Belgium and northern France) for the best part of a century and this territory witnessed many of the battles of her long war against the French.

In 1700, Charles II, the last Spanish Habsburg, died and left the Crown to the future Philip V, the grandson of Louis XIV of France. Emperor Leopold I supported the rival claim of Arch-Duke Charles and this led to the War of the Spanish Succession. The conflict ended in 1713 and the following year the Treaty of Utrecht confirmed Philip (the first Bourbon) as King of Spain but, as part of the general settlement, gave the Spanish Netherlands and the Kingdom of Naples to the Habsburg emperor.

This meant that under the Bourbons, Spain was still an empire but not a truly multi-national one. She remained a significant player in European and world affairs throughout much of the eighteenth century and fought several wars in Italy and elsewhere against the Austrians and French. The Bourbon kingdom of Naples and Sicily was created largely by Spanish bayonets, a significant achievement for a nation perceived to have been in decline. Madrid only sank into insignificance in the nineteenth century, after the loss of her American empire.
Irish troops fought in virtually all the Spanish wars between 1587 and 1814.

During the Habsburg period (1587-1700), their Order of Battle changed frequently and regiments (named after their commanders) were created and disbanded in quick succession according to the number of troops available and the exigencies of the military situation. With the Bourbons, their organisation stabilised into a single Irish Brigade composed of three regiments: the 'Hibernia', the 'Ultonia' (Ulster) and the 'Irlanda'. These units were created in the first two decades of the eighteenth century and were disbanded in 1818.

Why the Irish?
During the sixteenth century, several areas of Europe had become traditional sources of mercenary troops. The Swiss Cantons provided military contingents for the armies of France, Spain and many Italian princes (including the Pope). The harsh geographical conditions, poverty and overpopulation had combined to turn the Swiss into the paramount source of professional soldiers. Scotland and Ireland experienced similar situations, which were rendered more difficult by the repressive actions of the London government and its local allies. Violence was a constant feature in the lives of the inhabitants of the two Celtic kingdoms. Scotsmen served France but not Spain because of their religion, but Irishmen made their way into the armed forced of both powers.

There was at this time no moral stigma attached to serving in a foreign army and the soldier was regarded as a professional who could sell his services to princes other than his own without shame. All European powers made extensive use of mercenary troops during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The first Irishmen to join the Spanish army did so in 1587 and became an essential (or at least significant) part of Madrid's armed forces for the next two centuries. Habsburg Spain, as we have mentioned, was permanently at war and this coincided with a period in which Spain itself underwent a demographic crisis, caused by the wars themselves but also by other factors such as emigration to America and epidemics. If the Peninsula itself could not supply the men to fight her wars, the troops had to come from elsewhere: the other 'Nations' of the Empire and foreign countries.

1 - 2 - 3 - 4

The Irish were among the most attractive candidates. First of all, they were Catholic. Secondly, their intermittent state of rebellion against the English had made them proficient in combat. Last but not least, being England's 'natural enemies' they were also perceived as Spain's 'natural allies', since 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'. The situation was rather more complicated and at various times the English cooperated in the exportation of Irish soldiers to Spain, but this simplification has some validity.

'The dispossessed Gaelic chiefs and their swordsmen (...) fought with tenacious loyalty and fanatical zeal in Flanders. After all, the Dutch enemy were co-religionists of the Ulster planters, easily seen as affiliated to their English oppressors, and were actually in alliance with the latter against Spain in the years 1625-1630' (Stradling 1993: 133). These religious and ideological elements, however, were absent in the later wars against the French, Catalans and Portuguese, in which the Irish behaved for the most part as professional soldiers and gave a good account of themselves.

The English Civil War (1642-1651) and its aftermath forced many Irishmen to leave their native island. It has been estimated that 34,000 Irish soldiers joined the armies of Spain and France during the years 1641-1654.

Concerning the former, most Irishmen were transported directly to the Peninsula (18,000-22,500), but a minority (2,000) made their way to Flanders. For obvious reasons, the aristocracy was over-represented in this exodus and by the second half of the seventeenth century, 'some nine-tenths of the dynastic leadership of traditional Ireland were present in the Spanish Netherlands or metropolitan Spain, the men serving as officers, their wives and children as dependents of the crown' (Stradling 1993: 125). This meant that between fifty and one hundred families of the old Irish ruling class became pensioners of Philip IV and his successor Charles II.

The Netherlands
The story of the Irish units in the armies of Spain commences in 1585 in the Netherlands. The Dutch had rebelled against their Peninsular masters and Elizabeth I sent an army to support them. Among these men were 1,500 Irishmen recruited by Sir John Perrot.

They were commanded by the Englishman Sir Edward Stanley who, although a devout Catholic, had fought for Protestant England against both Irish rebels and Spanish troops. However, in 1587 the Spaniards bribed Stanley and he and his men went over to the enemy, to whom they surrendered the town of Deventure, which they were garrisoning. The unit became known as the 'Tercio Irlanda' and remained in existence until 1604 when it was broken down into individual companies. In 1605, Henry O'Neill (second son of the Earl of Tyrone) created the 'Tyrone Regiment' which included many of these men and which remained in existence for the next five years.

Irish troops were a permanent feature of Spain's Army of Flanders throughout the seventeenth century and fought first against the Dutch and then against the French.

Between 1587 and 1661, this force included on average 1,000 Irishmen, although the numbers fluctuated over the years. Henry estimates that during this period, 10,000 Irish immigrants reached the Spanish Netherlands, of whom 6,300 joined the army. The organisation of the Irish regiments changed frequently and so did the names of the individual units, which were usually named after their commander. The Army of Flanders was truly multi-national and there were periods during which the Walloons and Flemings recruited among the local population outnumbered the Spanish soldiers. Germans, Italians, Swiss and Irish were also represented.

'Beginning with Stanley's defection to Spain, and progressing in spurts during the late sixteenth century, emigration of Irishmen for this purpose (serving in foreign armies) became virtually continuous. It received a great impetus with the return, by stages, to a state of general warfare on the continent after 1618. Though isolated groups reached the Baltic States, and others found service in France, a large majority of these exiles (at least three quarters of the total) went to serve in the Army of Flanders after Spain's renewal of war with the rebel United Provinces (1621).

As Catholics, who often came to the camp with their own embattled, zealous chaplains, and as men acclimatized by their very nurture to many of the environmental hardships of campaigning in the Low Countries, they were highly valued by the field officers of the Spanish Monarchy. By the beginning of the great war between the two Catholic powers of Spain and France, which broke out openly in 1635, one authority (Jennings) estimates that as many as seven thousand Irishmen were enlisted in the forces commanded by Philip IV's brother, Don Fernando de Austria, governor of the Spanish Netherlands' (Stradling 1993: 17).

'In the middle decades of the seventeenth century, transportation of men from Ireland to fight in Flanders, and later in Spain itself, became a major aspect of international strategy, with significant commercial aspects to set beside its military logic' (Stradling 1993: 25).

There was a fairly constant flow of arrivals, but it is likely that 6,000 of the 7,000 men in service in 1635 had come to the Netherlands as recently as 1634, as a result of an agreement between Juan de Necolalde (the Spanish Chargé d'affaires in London) and King Charles I of England.

The Irishmen were organised in four 'Tercios', under Colonels Owen Roe O'Neill (a nephew of the Earl of Tyrone), Thomas Preston, Hugh O'Donnell and Patrick Fitzgerald. They suffered extremely high casualties in the battles against the French and only a third were still in service in 1639. It became difficult to recruit replacements and only 150 fresh Irish volunteers arrived in time for the campaign of 1640. 'The bravery of the remaining Irish at the terrible sieges of Arras and Genrep, in 1640-1641, brought them undying fame' (Stradling 1993: 26).

'For some years thereafter, the numbers of Irish in the Army of Flanders were not sufficient to maintain a specific Tercio and the companies were integrated into other units' (Stradling 1993: 26). From a peak of 7'000 men, the Irish contingent was reduced to 200 in the years 1636-1646. Casualties in the battlefield were only one of the reasons for this depletion. Transfers were another: In 1638, Madrid dispatched two Irish regiments from the Netherlands to northern Spain, where a French attack was expected.

In 1641, after the siege of Arras, Colonel Patrick Fitzgerald (or Geraldine) and the survivors of his unit were sent to Catalonia, where the population (allied with France) had risen against the King. According to Stradling, the vast majority of the officers and men serving in the Spanish Netherlands in the 1620s were transferred to Spain in the period 1638-1662. Last but not least, the Irish uprising of 1641 further depleted the ranks of the Army of Flanders. In the following months, many veterans returned home to join the insurrection. Owen Roe O'Neill was one of them: He departed in 1642, became the rebellion's commander-in-chief and died of illness in 1649 while the war was still in progress.

The uprisings in Catalonia and Portugal in 1640 meant that the priority of the Spanish war effort in the next decades was the Peninsula itself and not the Low Countries. Madrid continued recruiting Irishmen but most of them were dispatched directly from Ireland to the northern ports of Spain and never served in the Netherlands.

In the winter of 1645-1646, during the English Civil War, the Irish army led by Randal MacDonnell, Earl of Antrim, found itself surrounded by Parliamentary forces in the Kintyre Peninsula (Scotland). Knowing that they would be massacred if they surrendered, Antrim escaped to Brussels where he negotiated the transfer of his force to Spanish service. The final outcome of the operation is not known with certainty, but 'early in 1647 a new force of nearly 700 Irishmen appeared in the musters of the Army of Flanders.

This force is consistent with the hypothetical number of survivors from an original 1'600, allowing for the losses of campaigning in Scotland, and a winter under siege in Kintyre, and after the vicissitudes they had suffered since Antrim had left to seek means to their rescue. These twelve companies, commanded by John Murphy, were added to Patrick O'Neill's four to make up a respectable Irish Tercio of 947 effective' (Stradling 1993: 63). O'Neill remained in command but was later succeeded by Murphy.

In 1653, survivors of the rebel army that had fought under Owen Roe O'Neill in Ireland were hired by Spanish agents and made their way to the Peninsula's northern ports. In the following year, Philip IV decided to dispatch 3,000-4,000 of these men to Flanders. It is not known how many were actually transported but at least one regiment (750 men under Colonel O'Reilly) reached its destination.

In 1661, Irish troops were sent to fight in Portugal and this reduced the number of Irishmen in the Army of Flanders to around 400, a level that was maintained until at least 1700. The institution disappeared in 1714, when Spain ceded the Southern Netherlands to Austria.

The Iberian Peninsula
The first Irish volunteers to reach Spain (several hundred men under Donal O'Sullivan Bere, Earl of Berehaven) arrived in La Coruña in 1605, in the aftermath of the Nine Year War (the failed rebellion against the English which lasted from 1594 to 1603). Madrid did not need their services on the Peninsula and soon afterwards transferred them to the Netherlands, where they joined the Army of Flanders and were placed under the orders of the Earl of Tyrone. Unable to obtain an independent command and unwilling to serve under his countryman, O'Sullivan returned to Spain where he settled.

In the middle of the seventeenth century, the Spanish Hapsburgs faced a dire emergency in the Iberian Peninsula. They were faced with rebellions in both Catalonia and Portugal, and unrest in Andalusia (1647-1652).

The insurrection in Catalonia (1640-1659) represented by far the most serious of these menaces since it endangered the unity of Spain itself and threatened to divide the country again along the lines of Castile and Aragon. France had a common border and could and did intervene in support of the rebels. Spain answered in kind and launched an invasion of the Guyenne. This war ended in victory for Madrid but it was close-run. Considerable numbers of Irish troops (as well as Germans and Walloons transferred from the Army of Flanders) fought in these operations alongside the Spanish regulars.

Portugal had been part of the dominions of the King of Spain since 1580, when Philip II had obtained the Lusitanian crown after the extinction of the House of Avis. The association between the two countries was intended as a purely personal union, but slowly turned into Spanish domination of Portuguese affairs. Lisbon tolerated this situation for the next sixty years but in 1640, taking advantage of Spain's predicament in Catalonia, finally revolted against Philip IV under the leadership of the Duke of Braganza. The rebellion (known in Portugal as the 'War of the Restoration') lasted until 1668 and ended in Portugal's independence from Spain.

1 - 2 - 3 - 4

Faced with this emergency, Spain proceeded to transfer many units of the Army of Flanders to the Peninsula, including the bulk of her Irish soldiers. Envoys and contractors (including the Burgundian François Foisotte) were sent to Ireland to recruit more troops, and as a result of their activities several ships made their way to the ports of northern Spain directly from the island.

These events coincided with the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1639-1651) on the British Isles, which included the English Civil War and the submission of Ireland by Oliver Cromwell and his generals. Many Irishmen left their country after the victory of the Commonwealth's forces and a large number of them joined the armies of France, Spain and the exiled Charles II Stuart. This meant that on the European battlefields Irishmen often fought against fellow Irishmen.

The first Irish units to see active service in Spain were the regiments known as the Tyrone and Tyrconnell Tercios. They were commanded by John O'Neill (Earl of Tyrone) and Hugh O'Donnell (Earl of Tyrconnell) respectively and arrived in the ports of the Basque country in 1638. Spanish intelligence had learned that France intended to launch an attack across the border and these troops were transferred from the Army of Flanders to help strengthen the northern defences.

They took part in the relief of Fuenterrabía in September of that year, where they made a significant contribution to the Spanish victory. With a strength of 1,200 men, the Irish Tercios comprised about 10% of the Peninsular force. Subsequently they took part in other military operations in northern Spain and during the winter of 1639-1640 they distinguished themselves at the siege of Sales.

The Catalans rebelled against the king in June 1640 and the Irish troops already in Spain were part of the Spanish forces sent to suppress them. France intervened and sent an army across the border in support of the insurrection.

In 1641, the Irishmen fought at the disastrous battle of Montjuïc, near Barcelona, where they suffered heavy casualties including John O'Neill (Earl of Tyrone) who 'was killed at the head of his men, both he and they fighting with their accustomed valour' (Stradling 1993: 115). The Tyrone regiment was annihilated, with most of their members either slain in battle or taken prisoner.

Hugh O'Donnell was able to retreat southwards after the battle and the 450 survivors of his Tercio managed to reach the precarious safety of Tarragona with the main Spanish army, where they were besieged. Along the way, they undertook reprisals against the local population and sacked Reus. Unfortunately, they punished the wrong people. The town had not joined the rebellion and had remained loyal to Philip IV.

The siege of Tarragona lasted 104 days but the Irishmen only took part in its initial stages. A few weeks after their arrival, they were attached to a force that was taken behind enemy lines by the Spanish navy, in an attempt at relieving Perpignan. This might have been a punishment for their excesses at Reus. The operation was a shambles and the town fell to the enemy in 1642.

The Peninsular ships were intercepted by the French navy on the return journey and O'Donnell and hundreds of his men died in the fighting. The remainder were captured and the Tyrconnell Tercio disappeared from the Spanish Order of Battle.

Other units were brought to Catalonia from the Army of Flanders, including the survivors of the siege of Arras who were led by Colonel Patrick Fitzgerald (or Geraldine).

However, transfers from the Spanish Netherlands would clearly not suffice and Spain dispatched a number of envoys and contractors to Ireland, to raise new regiments. As a result of their activities, in the years 1641-1654, between 18,000 and 22',500 troops reached the Peninsula directly from Irish ports.

The conditions of the voyage were often appalling and many died of disease and hunger either during the journey or shortly after their arrival. The men had to be billeted among the local population and their numbers put a considerable strain on the local economy. Deaths and desertions while quartered in northern Spain greatly reduced the number of Irishmen who actually made it to the battlefields of Catalonia and Portugal.

Madrid had been extremely impressed with the Irishmen's performance in the Netherlands.

This was not the case after the operations in Spain. Although many Irishmen performed well, the rate of desertions was extremely high and there were instances where whole units went over to the enemy (the French also employed Irish troops).

A possible reason for the difference might have been ideological. In Flanders, the original enemy had been the hated Protestants. French, Catalonians and Portuguese were fellow Catholics. During the Dutch war, the Irish in Spanish service were (or became) professional soldiers. In Spain and Portugal, a whole generation of exiles joined the Habsburg army and this meant many raw recruits, often in poor health because of what they had endured at home, the sea voyage and the winter months in northern Spain.

The first troops from Ireland reached La Coruña in the autumn of 1641: 300 men led by George Porter, an English Catholic. They were part of an ambitious contract signed between Alonso de Cárdenas (the Spanish Ambassador in London) and a group of officer-entrepreneurs. The agreement was to raise a force of 8,000 in ten regiments, but the rest of the troops never departed. They stayed in Ireland and became the might of the rebellion which broke out later in the year and which was only crushed by Cromwell's generals the following decade.

Many believed that Spain had never really intended to recruit such a large force and that the operation had been a smokescreen to create an army capable of liberating Ireland from British dominion and thus restoring her to the Catholic faith. It is more likely that Cárdenas was duped by the rebel leaders who might have used his scheme as a deception for preparing the uprising. Men such as Owen Roe O'Neill, then serving in the Army of Flanders, must have known what was really happening.

Catholic Ireland needed her men at home to fight the Parliamentarians but also required financial assistance from Madrid. The Confederation of Kilkenny (as the rebels are remembered) had to trade troops (her only commodity) for gold and, if possible, arms. The Spanish envoy, the Burgundian François Foisotte, was able to negotiate the dispatch of several shipments: 6,500 men in the period 1644-1654. However, the last contract (for 1,800-2,000 soldiers) was signed not with the rebels (who had by then been defeated) but with the victorious Parliamentarians, who agreed to sell their prisoners of war to Foisotte, thus sparing their lives.

Foisotte was not alone. In 1644, 1,200 men recruited in Ireland arrived in northern Spain under the command of James Preston, whose father and brother (Thomas) were serving with distinction in the Army of Flanders. They fought in the war in Catalonia and in autumn 1646 were part of the Spanish force that relieved the town of Lérida, the decisive battle of this conflict.
The enemy, demoralised by successive failures of assault on the citadel, decimated by disease and debilitated by insufficient supply, disintegrated before the Spanish offensive. In the ranks of the victorious army were the Tercios of Patrick Fitzgerald and James Preston. They shared in the glory and Madrid went wild with triumph and relief' (Stradling 1993: 55).

In the winter of 1646-1647, Preston returned to Ireland with a contract to raise 3,000 soldiers. 'By the middle of May, Preston had collected 500 men, who were loaded into two transports in Waterford. Just as they were sailing out of the bay, a French squadron of five warships appeared as if on signal from behind a promontory. They intercepted the Irish vessels and - with no apparent resistance - carried them off as prizes, with their precious cargo of prisoners (...) Once on French soil, Preston and his men passed smoothly into French service' (Stradling 1993: 59).

The Colonel does not seem to have acted independently and the leaders of the Confederation of Kilkenny were most probably in connivance with the French. Preston served his new masters effectively and was later sent to Portugal with a large purse, with orders to bribe the Irishmen in Spanish service into desertion. He had considerable success in this task.

Patrick Fitzgerald seems to have returned to Ireland in 1647. His Tercio had the longest service of all the Irish units in the Peninsula (seven years). After his departure, command of the Irish troops in the army of Don Juan José de Austria in Catalonia was given to General George Goring, an English 'Cavalier'.

In addition to Foisotte and Preston, other envoys and contractors were active in the recruitment and transport of Irish soldiers to Spain, such as Don Diego de la Torre (envoy extraordinary of the King to the Kilkenny Confederation in 1646), Dermot O'Sullivan (son of the Donal O'Sullivan mentioned above), the White brothers, Colonels Christopher Mayo and Christopher O'Brien (who commanded the troops they raised), among others.

Stradling mentions that 4,000 men arrived in Spain directly from Ireland in the 1640s and that 2,500 of them were still on duty in 1650, when they made up 5% of the Habsburg army in the Peninsula. 2000 soldiers recruited by Mayo reached Guipúzcoa in 1652 and 500 landed in Cádiz soon afterwards.

In the last week of the year, 4,000 additional troops arrived in San Sebastián and Pasajes in a dozen ships. 3,000 of them formed the core of the Bordeaux expedition in 1653.
In June 1653, because of desertions and the fear of the plague (then raging in some areas of Ireland) the King of Spain 'resolved that the persons engaging in making levies should cease forthwith and that the 'asientos' (contracts) most recently concluded should not be proceeded with' (Stradling 1993: 79).

At this time there were still five outstanding contracts for 16,000 men. The moratorium could not be implemented and in the years 1653-1654, following the final collapse of the Irish rebellion, 12,000 more Irishmen reached northern Spain. Madrid could do little to stop them and accepted them in her armed forces.

More followed and the flow only stopped in 1655. Few Irish soldiers arrived in the Peninsula except as individuals after that date but military emigration to the Army of Flanders continued (albeit in much smaller numbers).

1 - 2 - 3 - 4

Irish troops, including 1,000 men sent by Foisotte, fought during the siege of Barcelona (1651-1652). In the following year, 2,000-3,000 Irishmen took part in the failed campaign against Guyenne, where 500 lost their lives and a similar number deserted to the enemy. The Spaniards landed at the Gironde Estuary but were unable to relieve Bordeaux (besieged by the French army). They managed to hold out for six months in spite of severe supply problems and returned to Spain at the end of the year. Half of the 4,000 survivors were Irish.

Irish soldiers were also active in the Portuguese war but in smaller numbers. In 1644, a regiment of 'Naciones' (i.e., non-Spanish troops) including Irishmen fought at the battle of Montijo. 600 Irish troops took part in the offensive of 1653, in the Tercios commanded by William Dongan and Bernard Patrick. The latter was killed at the battle of Olivenza. The Irish were given praise for their heroism in the defence of Badajoz. By 1662 there was no longer an Irish Tercio because of the small numbers of soldiers of that nationality, but a number of Irishmen took part in the last two campaigns of the war which culminated in the defeats of Ameixial (1663) and Villaviciosa (1665).

In 1653, the survivors of the army which Owen Roe O'Neill had led during the Irish rebellion arrived in La Coruña under Colonels O'Reilly, O'Farrel and O'Rourke. Their departure from Ireland had been the result of negotiations between Ambassador Cárdenas and Captain (later Major) George Walters. Madrid intended to employ them against Portugal but nothing came of it. Galicia was not a good route to invade Portugal as the natural path of advance was through Extremadura.

The local authorities of La Coruña only allowed two of the seven vessels to land (1',000 men under O'Reilly) and the following year these troops were transferred to the Army of Flanders.

The remaining ships (1,900 soldiers) had to proceed to Pasajes, where they linked up with another Irish contingent of 800 men. In the weeks that followed, many died of hunger or disease and others became beggars. The bulk of the survivors were sent to reinforce the ill-fated expeditionary force in Guyenne, but others remained in precarious billets in northern Spain.

Their commander, Thaddeus (Tadhg) O'Rourke, travelled to Madrid in March 1654 to complain about the conditions and was finally given orders to muster his men and move to Zaragoza.

1,100 men had gone into winter quarters in Cantabria in the autumn of 1653. By January, only 540 were still under the colours (the remaining had died or deserted).

So many Irishmen had become scattered in northern Spain that in 1654 Madrid sent two trusted servants to re-assemble them into an army. One of them was Colonel Hugh O'Neill, a leader of the Irish rebellion who had been released from the Tower of London by the intervention of Ambassador Cárdenas. The other was the ubiquitous François Foisotte.

Moisés Enrique Rodríguez

- Grainne, Henry. Irish Military Community in Spanish Flanders, 1586-1621 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1993).
- Hennesy, Maurice. The Wild Geese: The Irish Soldier in Exile (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1973).
- McLaughlin, Mark G. The Wild Geese: The Irish Brigades of France and Spain (London: Osprey Publishing, 1980).
- Stradling, R.A. The Spanish Monarchy and Irish Mercenaries, 1618-68: The Wild Geese in Spain. (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1993).

I am indebted to Dr. Óscar Recio Morales for providing his essays:
- Incauta Nación, de un Irlandés te has fiado. Nobleza, nación e identidades del grupo militar irlandés en el ejército de los Borbones. El caso O’Reilly.
- Los Extranjeros y la Nación Irlandesa en el contexto de la Nueva Historia Militar Europea.
- La Gente de Naciones en los Ejércitos de los Austrias hispanos: servicio, confianza y correspondencia.

Online Resources, accessed 3 May 2007. This is the website of The Centre for Irish-Scottish and Comparative Studies of Trinity College Dublin. accessed 3 May 2007. This is the website of the project 'La Comunidad Irlandesa en la Monarquía Hispánica' of the CSIC (Spanish National Research Council).
1 - 2 - 3 - 4

Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2007

Online published: 31 August 2007Edited: 04 October 2007
Citation:Rodríguez, Moisés Enrique, 'The Spanish Habsburgs and their Irish Soldiers (1587-1700)' in Irish Migration Studies in Latin America, 5:2 (July 2007), pp. 125-130. (,

21 November 2007.

Olé – Ulster’s oldest regiment is Spanish


What is the oldest Ulster regiment? I would lay a wager that you are thinking about the regiments in the British Army like the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, raised in 1689, which are now known as the Royal Irish Rangers.

Well, think Spanish. The Ultonia (Ulster) Regiment and its early forms have a history in the Spanish Army stretching back to 1597. It was then known as El Tercio Irlanda, then as the Regiment de Tyrone, then O'Neill’s Regiment and finally as the Ultonia Regiment. It became part of the famous Irish Brigade of the Spanish Army.

As well as producing Spanish victories in campaigns in Europe, the Irish Brigade spearheaded Spain's expansion in the New World bringing Cuba, Louisiana, Texas, California and Mexico under the flag of their adopted country.

The Irish Brigade was finally disbanded after the Napoleonic Wars, due to pressure from England, Spain's allies. The English had helped Spain drive the French out of the country.

However, the Ultonia Regiment was then reformed as the 23rd Regiment of Spanish Infantry and carried on its flag the legend ‘Irlanda el Famoso’. When Franco overthrew the Spanish Republic in the 1930s, even that remembrance of their service to Spain was banned.

It was during the Elizabethan Conquest that the first Ulstermen went to serve Spain in the El Terico Irlanda which, in 1605, changed its name to the Tyrone Regiment and was commanded by Prince Henry O'Neill, son of the famous Red Hugh. In 1628 the regiment appears to have disbanded into independent companies. In 1698, Captain John Jordan was commanding a Tyrone company’ of the Spanish forces in Florida.

In 1691, following the Williamite Conquest, many thousands of Irish soldiers were forced to leave Ireland for Europe. France had formed its own Irish Brigade.

On November 1, 1709, Felipe (Philip) V of Spain decided to collect all the Irish units into one brigade. The Ultonia Regiment came under the command of Diarmuid Mac Amhlaoibh (Dermot MacAuliffe) who had distinguished himself in defending Cork City from the Williamite forces.
Also included in the brigade were the Hibernia Regiment, commanded by Lord Castlebar; the Irlanda Regiment, commanded by John Wauchope; the Limerick Regiment, commanded by the Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Duc de Vendome (1654-1712), a relative of the Spanish king and the only non Irish commander in the brigade; and the Waterford Regiment commanded by Colonel John Comerford.

They soon distinguished themselves during the Wars of Spanish Succession, especially during the Siege of Barcelona in 1710 and capture of Palma, in Majorca in 1711. Don Tadeo (Tadhg) MacAuliffe succeeded Dermot as colonel of the Ultonia in 1715 but he was mortally wounded during Spain's attack on Sicily in 1718.

He was succeeded by Michael MacAuliffee who was also killed while leading his troops in battle in 1720.

Over the next hundred years, the regiment saw service in various parts of Europe and especially in South America.

When Napoleon invaded Spain and put his brother on the throne in 1808, the Spanish fought back, in spite of 300,000 French troops and their allies pouring into the country.

In northern Catalonia stands the town and province of Girona (Gerona) protected by the fortress of Montjiuch. It was a strategic entrance into north-east Spain. At the time it was garrisoned by 800 men of the 1st Battalion of the Ultonia Regiment. The battalion commander was Colonel Anthony O'Kelly from Roscommon. The Ultonians were reinforced by 102 grenadiers from the Hibernia Regiment, commanded by Colonel Juan Sherlock.

Among O'Kelly's staff were Major Henry O'Donnell, Commandant John O'Donovan, Captains MacCarthy, Sarsfield and Fitzgerald and Sergeant-Major Ricardo MacCarthy. Many officers and men had their wives and children with them as was customs in those days.

At the beginning of 1809 some 6,000 French troops, commanded by General Jacques Duhesne, laid siege to the town, demanding the surrender of the Ultonia Regiment. O’Kelly refused. The siege was to last eight months.

During this time, the wife of Captain Patricio Fitzgerald, Lucy, sought permission from the Spanish Army High Command, to organise a women's unit, the 12th Company (which became known as the Company of St Barbara, after the patron saint of gunners) to take ammunition to the troops and care for the sick and wounded. Permission granted, Lucy was elected commandant and the company consisted of the wives of the Irish soldiers. The Spanish Minister for War in 1808, incidentally, was General Jose O'Farrill.

French artillery fell on Gerona and still there was no surrender. Lt. General, the Marquis de Gouvion Saint-Cyr was sent to overwhelm the town with 33,000 troops. He ordered Duhesne to make a final demand for surrender on June 19. It was made clear to O'Kelly that there would be little quarter given if surrender was not forthcoming.

O'Kelly decided to put the matter to the citizens and allow them a democratic vote. The decision the people of Girona was that they would not surrender.

Lucy Fitzgerald's last despatch concerning her company of Irish women, survives in the Spanish archives. It was dated August 10, 1809. For two months the Irish had held back an overwhelming force.

All ranks behaved with distinction. They administered untiringly to the needs of the defenders at the various points of attack. They brought much needed water and brandy to the fort of Montjiuch and carried back the wounded on litters and in their arms. Despising the dangers of shells and bombs, which rained about them without stop, they displayed heroic zeal, chairty and supreme courage. Lucy Fitzgerald, Commandant.’

Two days later, when the French artillery pounded the shattered walls of Girona into dust and overwhelmed the fortress, their infantry flooded into the town. Of the 800 Ultonians and 102 Hibernians 253, mostly badly wounded, were led off into captivity.

A diarist who managed to survive the slaughter wrote: ‘In the square of San Pedro were the Irish women of the company of St Barbara, noblest of their sex, who only moments before were filing under a rain of shells, bombs and grenades to administer to the needs of the defenders; with the silent eloquence of example, more persuasive than any words, they communicated their spirit and courage to the soldiers; in their arms they carried the wounded to the blood covered floors of the hospital. Certainly Girona was that day the abode of heroines.’

Over 600 soldiers, along with Colonel O'Kelly, perished at Girona. Lucy died by the side of her husband, Patricio Fitzgerald.

When a new battalion of the Ultonians was raised to replace the losses they were given the honour by King Ferndinand to put on their flag ‘Disinguidos de Ultonia’.

In 1815 the Irish Brigade of the Spanish Army was officially disbanded but the regimental flag of the Ultonia Regiment can still be seen in the town in memory of their exceptional and heroic defence.