411 from the Feline

Glick-Koch split on N.Y.U.: Assemblymember Deborah Glick is calling Ed Koch out of touch with the community after the former mayor penned an op-ed in the Daily News two weeks ago boosting the N.Y.U. 2031 Plan. “As a fellow resident of Greenwich Village,” Glick said, “I can say Mr. Koch is the first constituent I have come across who is in favor of a 20-year construction plan that will erect massive buildings on open space, cast shadows everywhere and dramatically alter the very nature of that area. I respect Mr. Koch, but as a lawyer representing N.Y.U., his opinion can hardly be considered objective.” Koch does state upfront in the piece that he is a partner in Bryan Cave LLP, the attorneys for the university’s development scheme to squeeze 2.5 million square feet of new space into N.Y.U.’s two South Village superblocks. In his op-ed, Koch says he’s seen the Village go through various incarnations, including “a beatnik enclave, a gay rights battleground, a drug haven and, most recently, one of the most desirable destinations to live, work and play in the city.” But the quaint, historic Village is now also increasingly defined by “a university with global aspirations,” the mayor notes. Mayor Bloomberg is trying to make New York a competitor in high-tech, and N.Y.U. graduates will help power that transformation, Koch says. What’s next, according to Hizzoner — if N.Y.U. is green-lighted to grow — is “people around the world knowing of Greenwich Village as the East Coast version of Silicon Valley.” Koch also says Community Board 2, which unanimously rejected the university plan, “should reconsider its position.” However, Brad Hoylman, C.B. 2 chairperson, responded that the board won’t be flip-flopping on its vote. “I have great respect for Mayor Koch, but on this issue I have to disagree with him,” Hoylman told us. “It’s our job on the community board to represent the community, which was virtually unanimous in its opposition among residents not affiliated with N.Y.U. or the project. We’d be committing political malpractice as a board if we didn’t continue to be the voice of the community on this crucial issue.” We spoke to Koch Monday and asked him if he honestly thinks historic, low-scale Greenwich Village should become Silicon Valley East. “Oh sure,” he said. “It means that the intellectual giants of the world come work and live in the Village — what’s wrong with that? I never thought of the Village as small or quaint. I thought of it as a leader.”

Businesses split on N.Y.U.: Tom Gray, executive director of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, called to query us why he wasn’t asked for comment in our article last week about Villagers for a Sustainable Neighborhood — because he definitely had something to add. Led by Judy Paul, C.E.O. of the Washington Square Hotel, the new group of small business and property owners is separate from the chamber and supports scaling down the N.Y.U. 2031 Plan. The article noted that the chamber fully supports the massive N.Y.U. proposal in its entirety. Gray called Paul’s group’s compromise position “divisive.” “We are supportive and will continue to be supportive of the N.Y.U. plan,” he told us. “But our feeling is this is divisive and pitting businesses against businesses — which doesn’t need to happen. I think we should continue to dialogue. I think it’s admirable that they’re generally supportive of the plan,” he said of Villagers for a Sustainable Neighborhood. “A lot of these businesses, they depend on the university traffic — and they’re going to grow with the university.” Gray added that if Paul is worried N.Y.U.’s planned hotel on the south superblock would hurt her businesses, she shouldn’t. He said he knows a hotel as far away as 31st St. that’s always booked solid for N.Y.U. commencement, so vacancies shouldn’t be an issue.

Tricycles vs. training wheels split on N.Y.U.: Apparently the best minds of N.Y.U. still haven’t figured out why it’s so critical to keep the Mercer St. Playground as is. During Borough President Scott Stringer’s recent tour of the superblocks and their open-space strips, parents and guardians in the playground (which is on one of the strips) noted that it’s perfect for toddlers who are transitioning from biking with training wheels to two wheels. The kids need a long “straightaway” when they’re learning how to ride sans training wheels, the adults explained. Meanwhile, the N.Y.U. 2031 plan reconfigures the playground into a lima bean-shaped curve and redubs it the “Tricycle Park.” Yes, of course, everyone knows tricycle riders go around and around in circles, so a playground shaped like that would be O.K. for that use, the parents said. But they stressed, the current playground is for transitioning-to-two-wheels toddlers who need a long, straight stretch of asphalt to learn how to balance on their bikes. Does N.Y.U. have to import international geniuses to understand this? Duh!

[media-credit name="Photo by Scoopy" align="aligncenter" width="600"][/media-credit]
Shao Hua, left, and Oi Yee, co-owners of El Paraiso restaurant.

Paradise (and pork chops) regained: A year ago, when La Nueva Rampa restaurant closed on W. 14th St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves., we thought, sadly, that it was the last of the Village/Chelsea Chino-Cuban joints — that we’d never eat our favorite pork chops, yellow rice, black beans and fried yellow plantains again, cooked just the way we like them. But walking by the spot on Sunday we noticed a gleaming, new sign for El Paraiso restaurant where La Nueva Rampa used to be. In fact, it opened just two weeks ago. The Chinese-Cuban guys who ran L.N.R. for 30 years are all gone, retired. The new ownership includes the former restaurant’s chef, Shao Hua, who is still manning the kitchen, and Oi Yee, who works in the front. Neither hails from Cuba, but from Canton, China. One remaining Chino-Latin connection is waiter Jose Chu, who is originally from Venezuela and worked at the previous restaurant for 10 years. We ordered our old usual and it was just as delicious as we remembered — not surprisingly, because it was made by Chef Hua, who learned the cuisine under the previous ownership. Asked why it took a year to reopen, Yee gestured to the ceiling, noting they did remodeling. We think we did notice some fancier-looking lighting fixtures, but nothing too radically different, which was fine with us. And, on a personal note, as a proud dragon, we were glad to see the familiar Chinese zodiac placemats still there, advising us, “Marry a monkey or rat late in life. Avoid the dog.”

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