Volume 75, Number 35 | January 18 - 24, 200

Scoopy's Notebook

Extra cheese: Although he feels he’s getting the brushoff from the Department of Buildings, David Gruber of the Carmine St. Block Association isn’t giving up on trying to rein in the Abitino’s Pizzeria signage at Carmine and Bleecker Sts., which he is absolutely positive exceeds regulations. “If it’s just 6 inches too big, I’ll eat my hat,” Gruber says to Buildings’ claims. “I feel like I’m up against deep bureaucracy. I mean what’s the deal?” Gruber asserts the pizza place’s Bleecker St. signage is double the legal limit while the Carmine St. side’s signs are at least 17 percent bigger than permissible. “Do you think I’d put this much energy into 6 inches?” Gruber said. “I mean, I’m a busy guy.” Gruber says he’s shocked D.O.B. hasn’t even sent out an inspector to check the signs yet. “They’re just ignoring me,” he said. “If I have to sue, I’ll sue.”

Full fight on half-dorm: The Board of Standards and Appeals will hold a hearing on 81 E. Third St., the East Village’s infamous new “half-dorm,” on Jan. 24 at 10 a.m. at 40 Rector St., ninth floor. Richard Kusack of The Committee for Zoning Inaction said he has “been organizing the political base for a good turnout” and will file additional legal papers regarding the project. Kusack has filed an appeal to the process under which D.O.B. approved a zoning bonus for the 13-story half community facility/half residential building, even though no lease was in place for the community facility portion, as required. Months after the building was finished, it was leased by New York Law School as a dormitory.

Rootin’ against gluten bar: Heathers, a gluten-free restaurant and bar at 506 E. 13th St. that opened on a residential side street last month, may be closed because its space is not grandfathered for commercial use. The place, which already has been the focus of noise complaints in its brief existence, has a full liquor license, but the Department of Buildings has sent a letter of intent to revoke it, according to Susan Stetzer, Community Board 3 district manager. At issue is whether there has been any legitimate commercial use of the space in the last two years, otherwise the commercial grandfathering technically has expired. Heathers is arguing there was commercial use from October 2003 to December 2003. It’s true that police closed down an after-hours club at the location in December 2003 for illegal drug sales. However, Stetzer said, “I don’t think illegal sale of drugs is a legitimate commercial use.” Residents though are saying they haven’t seen any legit commercial activity at the place in the last couple of years…. Stetzer also wanted to point out that it wasn’t just Community Board 4 that recently wrote to Governor Pataki urging him to appoint a city resident to the State Liquor Authority, as reported in last week’s Villager, but that C.B. 3 did too at Assemblymember Deborah Glick’s urging…. Stetzer also said that Board 3 members recently asked Marvin Levine, an S.L.A. enforcement officer who has been attending West Side town hall meetings on bars, if the S.L.A. could put their 500-foot-rule hearings on their Web site and the authority is now doing this.

CoDA connection: New City Councilmember Rosie Mendez has tapped Lisa Kaplan, a leading member of the Coalition for a District Alternative political organization and former chairperson of Community Board 3, as her chief of staff. Kaplan made the announcement and resigned from C.B. 3 at the board’s December meeting. Kaplan, who has an extensive background in low-income housing development, also quit her job at Banco Popular as vice president of community development and took a substantial pay cut to work for Mendez. She was on C.B. 3 more than 20 years, during which she led board task forces on Cooper Union’s building plans and the city’s traffic plans at Astor Pl., the Cooper Square Urban Renewal Area and Con Edison’s expanding its E. 14th St. power plant. “Lisa has a wealth of knowledge on the issues, particularly in this district,” Mendez said. “Her background in land use and her degree in urban planning will certainly be very helpful to my office. Her background as chairperson of Community Board 3 and on the community board gives her experience working on proliferation of bars and noise and other problems that were identified as problems by constituents.” Mendez said her budget only allowed her to hire three other staffers: Jasmin Torres, her scheduler, and Gregory Geller and John Fout, the latter who worked for her predecessor, Margarita Lopez. Mendez’s office is in the same building where Lopez’s was, 237 First Ave. at E. 14th St., but is in a larger space on the fifth floor, room 504. She said they’re still connecting phones and Internet access. “People have sort of been working from their cell phones,” she said…. P.S., The Villager’s recent front-page photo of Mendez and Council Speaker Chris Quinn was not of them “dancing,” as the caption stated. Quinn was actually just digging Mendez’s kicking red velvet suit that she purchased for her inauguration.

Johnny be good: In the latest small business closing — and we mean really small — Johnny, who was from Thailand and ran an antiques business out of an impossibly tiny storefront wedged in an alley near the corner of W. 10th St. and Seventh Ave., vacated the space about two weeks ago. “I don’t imagine Ralph Lauren can shoehorn a retail outlet into that space. But you never know,” commented Bonnie Slotnick, who has been keeping a watch on the sad exodus of local merchants.

Before his last location, Johnny used to have a shop for many years on 10th between Bleecker and Hudson Sts.

This land-use is made for you and me: Anthony Borelli, district manager of Chelsea and Clinton’s Community Board 4 for the last five years, is the new director of land-use for Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. He’ll help Stringer make land-use policy and review all land-use decisions going through the community boards and the borough board (composed of the12 Manhattan community boards’ chairpersons).

Wears flag proudly: Eric Wallach’s new show, “The Blue Bunny,” closed last month the day after it opened at P.S. 122. If it was any consolation, Wallach also recently wrapped up the legal proceedings related to another performance of his earlier this year when he enacted a mock crucifixion atop a traffic light at Astor Pl. to protest the Iraq War. Wallach also got back the American flag he wore like a sarong for the protest. Wallach tells us that as he left Police Headquarters with the flag wrapped around his neck like a scarf and flashing peace signs, an officer remarked, “That’s not how you treat the flag.” “I do,” said Wallach. To which the officer — apparently predicting Wallach’s speedy return — said, “See you next week.”

Who let the dogs in? Garrett Rosso, manager of Tompkins Square Park’s First Run, said aggressive behavior is way up lately at the run for large dogs. Four dogs have been seriously injured in recent months, in one case with police transporting a badly injured dog to the veterinary hospital. Dog owners are getting bitten too. Tip: If your dog’s too aggressive, don’t take it in the run!

Correction: The photo of an 11-year-old boy dragging a Christmas tree to a Parks Department MulchFest site in last week’s Villager was not a Cub Scout, but a Boy Scout.

Graffiti guys: After all their wrangling over the gun-packing 50 Cent mural that Andre Charles recently painted on E. Third St., we would have expected that Charles or Chico — the latter who has blasted the mural’s violent content — either to have painted over the gun or the whole mural by now. But neither graffiti artist has made good on his pledge to paint something “more positive” in the space. Meanwhile, we hear block residents want the mural gone and complain that it’s attracting lots of bad graffiti around it.

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