Scoopy’s Week of Nov. 22, 2012

An East Village source tells us there have been frequent sitings of “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle hanging out on the stoop of the former squat at 544 E. 13th St., where his new girlfriend, actress Rosario Dawson, and her family members live. He was even there the day before Superstorm Sandy. The British tabloids have been tracking the romance closely, with the Mail Online reporting that an understandably somber-looking Boyle and Dawson were seen together walking the city’s streets the Wednesday after the storm.

Villager reader Robert McCabe sent us a photo of what appears to be part of the former St. Vincent’s Chapel, above. “The demolition work on the exterior buildings comprising St. Vincent’s Hospital has uncovered a freestanding early or mid-century structure in the center of the building complex and not visible from 12th St.,” McCabe said. “It is now visible from the middle of 11th St.  The chapel at the hospital was historic and the interior has been bought [and moved off site] and will be restored. I think the structure that has now been uncovered will be demolished but I am not sure.” We’re trying to find out more info on the schedule for the rest of the demolition work. The hospital’s old Coleman building is ringed with yellow scaffolding, above right, and its end appears imminent. By the way, Robert is the father of former Villager intern David McCabe — the kid who always wore loafers with no socks in one of Michele Herman’s columns.

Borough President Scott Stringer, who has done a fantastic job running the Manhattan community boards, restoring their sense of integrity and professionalism, has announced he has dropped his bid for mayor and will instead run for city comptroller. Stringer wasn’t polling above 6 percent in the mayor’s race, but some say his skills will serve him well should he win the comptroller seat. “It’s a position well suited for Stringer,” said Sean Sweeney of Downtown Independent Democrats. “As Manhattan borough president, he was meticulous, thorough and conscientious. He likely would carry that work over to any office he filled.” But the Upper West Side pol’s path isn’t wide open by any means. Councilmember Dan Garodnick, whose base is in Stuyvestant Town, is also a strong candidate. Councilmember Rosie Mendez about six months ago gave an early endorsement to Garodnick. She said that she reviewed Garodnick’s earlier legal career and was impressed, feeling he has the credentials to be an effective comptroller. Brooklyn Councilmember Domenic Recchia is also running for comptroller.

Speaking of Stuy Town, Bill Oddo, a former member of Community Board 6, said that, in the blackout’s wake, a discussion has started about whether the huge housing complex could be outfitted with solar panels to help power it through a similar disaster in the future. Oddo is a board member of the New York State Solar Energy Society. The 80-acre site, which also includes Peter Cooper Village, offers blocks and blocks of unobstructed rooftops that could harness the sun’s natural energy. So far the effort is only “ad hoc,” Oddo said. A major challenge will be trying to communicate with whoever is now calling the shots on the property, which is in federal receivership after the stock market crashed in 2008 and the huge Tishman deal fell through. The entity that now seems to be in charge is reportedly CW Capital. “No one can get through to them,” Oddo said. “The best elected officials can do is send a letter. … If it has legs, hopefully it will get some attention and local elected officials will pick up on it.”

In The New York Times, Sam Roberts writes that 502 Canal St., at the southwest corner of Greenwich St., is in even worse shape after Superstorm Sandy and that a “Do Not Enter” sign has now been slapped on it. Just a couple of weeks before the storm slammed town, a firefighter was seen spray-painting orange “X”’s all over the place’s exterior. According to a Fire Department spokesperson, the symbols mean “severe hazards,” that no one is living there and that no one should enter. Dennis Healy, who runs the bicycle stoop sale next door, told us the corner building, which is owned by the Ponte family, has been in bad shape for a very long time.

The final revised district line maps from the Districting Commission don’t change Districts 1 and 2 too much. District 2, which includes the East Village, got some blocks at its northwest edge, while District 1, which includes Lower Manhattan, got some blocks on the western side of Washington Square extending to Sixth Ave. Both Councilmembers Rosie Mendez (District 2) and Margaret Chin (District 1) said it was unclear from this map whether Mendez got all of Vladeck Houses — which had been split between them — which is what they wanted to happen, and if Chin got the Gouverneur Gardens housing development. These will be the final lines unless the City Council opposes them, which would trigger a second round of public hearings to generate alternative lines. Either way, the plan will be submitted to the Justice Department for its review in March. As for District 3, which includes Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, its northeast section was shifted to the west after population gains in the district.

The Districting Commission has released its final revised boundaries and Councilmember Mendez is feeling happier about the latest lines. In the previous round, the northern part of her District 2 had been pushed crosstown and uptown significantly, zigzagging up through the West 30s and 40s. Now, she just has a few blocks added along her existing district’s northwest edge. “I think they paid attention to my testimony,” Mendez told us, “where I said, ‘I’m an East Side councilmember and you’re making me a West Side councilmember.’” Advocates for an Asian-Latino district were once again unhappy with the new lines, in that they’re very close to the old lines. Margaret Fung, executive director of Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said, “We’re disappointed by the Districting Commission’s revised map, as to Districts 1 and 2. It was clear that the majority of Asian-American groups that testified at the commission’s public hearings supported a different configuration — one that would unite Chinatown with the Lower East Side. This neighborhood has residents of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, with particular concerns about jobs, the loss of affordable housing units, public education, language access to services and more. Over the next decade, Asian and Latino residents will have greater difficulty in electing candidates of their choice, as the number of white residents continues to increase in Districts 1 and 2.” However, Councilmember Margaret Chin never expected there would be major changes and supports something very close to the existing district lines, feeling that the current configuration represents the best chance to elect Asian-American candidates in Lower Manhattan’s District 1 — illustrated by her own election. Also, on the West Side, advocates for a “Unified Village District” are sad to see that historic Greenwich Village and surrounding neighborhoods continue to be split between three Council districts, which they say dilutes the community’s ability to fight large-scale development projects, like N.Y.U. 2031.

Jean-Louis Bourgeois called us last week elated that a stop-work order had apparently been issued for the construction site at 150 Charles St., where the Witkoff Group is building a 92-unit condo development on the former Whitehall storage site. “Robert Limandri, the commissioner of the Department of Buildings, is now on our side!” he exulted. It turns out, however, that it was actually only a partial stop-work order, prompted by conditions at an abutting small building at 401 West St.,  whose back wall was blown out by the hurricane’s rushing water. Once that property’s wall is shored up, the order presumably will be lifted. Bourgeois later admitted he read the order a bit quickly and in dim light. Nevertheless, Bourgeois, who is a plaintiff on a lawsuit against the Witkoff project, still holds out hope it can be defeated, clearing the way for his planned Louise Bourgeois Park and Sculpture Garden in Sapokanikan/Greenwich Village — Sapokanikan being the area’s name when it was inhabited by the native Lenape. The scion of the famed artist said the park would have at least one of his mother’s massive spider sculptures, plus a scale model of the Washington Square Arch, atop which, in homage to Marcel Duchamp and Co., the “Republic of Greenwich Village 2.0” could be proclaimed. Attorney Barry Mallin, standing next to the partial stop-work order, above, who is representing Bourgeois and his fellow plaintiffs, said D.O.B. should have a determination on the merits of their suit soon. If the agency rejects their contentions, they can always go to the Board of Standards and Appeals, he noted. At issue is whether Witkoff demolished too much of the existing warehouse structure, which the developer pledged to preserve. “They destroyed the building and they should no longer be eligible for the waivers,” Mallin said. “It gave them more bulk for the building, F.A.R. [floor area ratio], than they would have had as of right.” But Witkoff Group maintains the spindly framework that is still standing constitutes the former warehouse’s de facto walls. If, finally conceding defeat, Steve Witkoff relents and gives up the property, Bourgeois said, the developer will be duly honored by having his name on a wooden, Norwegian-style reindeer bridge to be built over the highway from the sculpture park to Hudson River Park. No actual reindeer will be involved, or so we think — though plans very well could change. Shockingly, the Witkoff Group declined comment.

The cancellation of the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade due to Sandy was a blow to local merchants, but so was the loss of the N.Y.U./Community Board 2 Children’s Halloween Parade. “It brought a lot of people into the  neighborhood,” Tom Gray, executive director of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, said of the kids confab.

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2 Responses to Scoopy’s Week of Nov. 22, 2012

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