The 411 from the Feline

Mall mayhem: Extremely concerned over the recent revelation that support letters submitted to Community Board 2 in support of expanding the Mulberry St. Mall by an extra block were fraudulent, Board 2 last week brought the hammer down. In a resolution proposed by board member Tobi Bergman, the board said it would not give approval to any part of the Mulberry Mall until an investigation of the letters fiasco is conducted by the appropriate authorities. The board will send its recommendation on to SAPO (the  Mayor’s Street Activity Permits Office), which will determine if there will be an investigation and who would conduct it. Meanwhile, Bob Gormley, the board’s district manager, told us a bit more about what happened when he was checking out the support letters. There were enough red flags, he said, that he decided to call the alleged signers of all the 70-plus letters. One woman he phoned eventually told him she was not, in fact, speaking from Little Italy, and apparently hadn’t lived there for years. “We were talking for a few minutes, and she said, ‘Sir, I live in North Carolina,’ ” the D.M. said. He said the woman thought her niece might possibly have given her name out. Another woman, who was listed on one of the letters as residing on Broome St., told him she and her roommate — whose name was also among the letters — hadn’t lived there in a year and a half. Gormley said, judging by the handwriting, various batches of letters were clearly signed by the same several individuals. “If you look through them, even to the untrained eye, you could see that some of them are signed by the same hand,” he noted. “The 4 was done in a distinct way and there was a big, looping ‘Y’,” he noted of giveaways on certain written signatures and addresses. Meanwhile, Ralph Tramontana, president of the Little Italy Merchants Association, put out a press release at the end of last week, announcing there would be a press conference at his Sambuca’s Cafe on Mulberry St. on Tuesday at which the accusations about the letters would be refuted. But LIMA subsequently said it was rescheduling the press conference for later in the week. Now, it has postponed the event until possibly next week. For his part, John Fratta, head of the Little Italy Restoration Association (LIRA), said he welcomes the investigation. “I want to get to the bottom of it and I think Ralph does too,” he said. “The mall is very important to the businesses over there. If we don’t have the mall this year, we’ll probably lose 60 percent of the businesses over there. If they have the investigation, I know it’ll show that LIMA and Ralph had nothing to do with it. I know for sure that LIMA and Ralph did not collect these signatures. It was all done by the businesses over there and the superintendent of those buildings.” However, Fratta added, “The question I still have is how did the people’s e-mail addresses and phone numbers get on there?” As for what really happened, he said, “It’s one of two things. Either they were lazy,” he said of the business owners and the superintendent, “or someone put them up to it.” Meanwhile, contrary to Tramontana’s accusation in our article on “Mall Letters-gate” in last week’s issue, Robin Goldberg said she didn’t publicly lobby against the mall expansion, other than to speak out against it at a C.B. 2 committee meeting. Similarly, Georgette Fleischer, of Friends of Petrosino Square, strongly objected to Tramontana’s saying she had “bullied” residents to retract their alleged support for the mall extension and deny they had written the letters — most of which, it’s clear now, were forged anyway. C.B. 2 member Florent Morellet said a LIMA representative had dropped off a few packets of the bogus letters at his Street Activity and Permits Committee meeting a few weeks ago, and he took one. But Morellet said he never even got to look at it, because, “My cleaning lady threw it out.” Fratta also has denied ever looking at the letters before handing them, in envelopes, to C.B. 2 members. He said he merely took an envelope from Tramontana and never checked out the letters inside them.

 

Apology to Robin Goldberg: In an article in last week’s issue, “Phony letters sink expansion plan for Mulberry Mall,” Ralph Tramontana, president of LIMA, claimed two local activists, Georgette Fleischer and Robin Goldberg, used “scare tactics” to get people to withdraw their support for the proposed Mulberry Mall expansion. (Again, most of the residents’ letters that LIMA presented to C.B. 2 in support of expanding the mall turned out to be fraudulent.) Due to time restrictions caused by deadline pressure, The Villager did not call Goldberg to check Tramontana’s allegations. The Villager apologizes for the oversight. Goldberg issued the following statement: “I would not diminish my reputation by being associated with any group or individual involved in ‘bullying tactics’ nor would I be engaged as a ‘town crier,’ grabbing pedestrians off the street with threats or scare tactics. This statement is directly in response to the article published last week and in no way specifically targets any individual, group or organization.”

 

Redistricting mess: The redistricing fiasco is pretty much making a mockery of what Ed Koch hoped to achieve when he got legislators to sign his New York Uprising pledge. One of the pledge’s key planks was that state senators and assemblymembers would agree to support independent redistricing. But that hasn’t happened, and the lines that the G.O.P.-controlled Senate have proposed are causing an uproar. “Every Republican [in the state Senate] had signed the pledge,” Hizzoner told us last week. “Twenty-nine have now said they will not honor it — including Skelos,” he said, referring to Dean Skelos, the Senate majority leader. “The Republicans, when they were in the minority, signed the pledge. When they became the majority after the election, they repudiated the pledge — because their honor is less important than keeping control of the Senate. … They’re dishonorable.” Koch said state Senator Daniel Squadron recently called him and asked him to come up to Albany and stand with him and other senators and assemblymembers in calling for independent redistricing. If the governor vetoes the redistricting plans, both houses will need a two-thirds majority to sustain his veto — something which Koch concedes will be difficult to manage. “We’ll give it the college try,” he said. The Democrat-controlled Assembly hasn’t changed district lines too much in its proposal. Speaker Sheldon Silver notably never signed Koch’s pledge. Under the Senate’s proposed plan, Squadron would lose the World Trade Center area, Battery Park City and Independence Plaza — a major Tribeca voting bloc — and gain Washington Square and University Place, basically swapping these areas with Tom Duane. Meanwhile, there would also be some changes in the East Village, where, if we understand this mishegoss correctly, Liz Krueger might take over some areas from Squadron under the G.O.P. Senate’s kooky scheme. Duane recently told us that he, Squadron and Krueger are all on the same page, so the redistricting machinations won’t faze them. “A Republican scheme is not going to stop us from doing our work,” he said. John Scott, the Lower West Side Democratic district leader, said he believed the redistricting would withstand a court challenge. “I think it’s gonna hold,” he said. As for why Squadron lost the high-profile W.T.C. site, Scott said, it was probably because Squadron “speaks up” too much for the Republicans’ taste. Koch said Squadron should take it as a badge of honor that the Republicans apparently are trying to stick it to him.

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