Volume 76, Number 4 | June 14 - 20 2006

Scoopy's Notebook

Gerson’s leaning: Councilmember Alan Gerson said that a half-hour before the deadline he had set for the Parks Department to provide full and accurate information on the plans for the plaza in the Washington Square renovation, Adrian Benepe, the department’s commissioner, came up to him during the June 6 city budget hearing and presented him with a hefty stack of maps and documents. But when Gerson asked for an explanation of the voluminous material, Benepe told him he couldn’t comment because of the pending lawsuits against the project. At first — in no small part because Benepe wouldn’t talk — Gerson was skeptical. But he and his staff have since waded through all the info and Gerson now seems to be of the mind that he may approve funding for the project in the budget after all. Of course, a few weeks ago, Gerson told The Villager he might pull $3 million in unused funds the Council has already allocated to the project and block a new allocation of up to $3 million more. “They gave us a ton of documents, which is good,” Gerson said. “I’m not done with the review. I expect to finish reviewing them this week, consult with [City Council Speaker] Chris Quinn and then vote on the budget. It looks like they have accommodated the basic points of the agreement,” he said, referring to the agreement he and Quinn worked out with Parks, under which Washington Square Park’s central plaza is supposed to be reduced in size by no more than 10 percent in the renovation. Gerson said the Parks documents show that the department has adhered to the agreement, “within a few percentage points.” “I do have a call in to Parks. I want to make sure I am reading the maps correctly,” Gerson added. He said the decision will have to be made by the end of next week to insure the funds get into the fiscal year 2007 budget. Though with the project now delayed, Gerson admitted it’s not clear how much work Parks will even be able to do on the project this year. Luther Harris, a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the project, was mortified to hear Gerson may now be thinking of approving the money. “Oh, for Christ’s sake,” he said. “Ah boy, what a jerk. Parks’ own numbers in their legal papers were way off” from the 10 percent in Gerson’s agreement, Harris said.

It’s ‘Yo sir,’ to you: East Village radical attorney Stanley Cohen was trying to drive down Eighth St. on Saturday night to get to his parking lot and meet a potential client, the family member of an accused terrorist, waiting for him outside his home on Avenue D, when a police officer told him he needed to show a lease for his parking spot to proceed. Cohen became livid, even more so after being told that the street closure was because of the Puerto Rican Day Parade and that only people who could prove they lived on the block would be allowed through. He went to the Ninth Precinct, demanded to speak to the duty officer, and persuaded an officer to come with him to tell the officer blocking the street to let him through. On Monday, Cohen was still fuming. “I didn’t realize I was living just outside the Green Zone in Baghdad,” he said. “It was outrageous. It was uncalled for.” He called the traffic crackdown “racist” and said it would never fly in other neighborhoods after ethnic parades, such as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade or Salute to Israel Day Parade. Cohen added that when he was out walking his dog later that night, police were “moving people along” on the sidewalks, and that one of them, hurrying him up, hailed him as “yo.” “I’m not ‘yo,’ I’m ‘sir’ to you,” Cohen shot back. Deputy Inspector Dennis De Quatro, commander of the Ninth Precinct, said the street closures, mainly between 10th and Houston Sts. and Avenues B and C were done to stop “caravanning” — parades of up to 100 cars and motorcycles with people hanging off them — that had become a staple during Puerto Rican Day weekend. The streets were closed Saturday and Sunday nights, though pedestrians were allowed through. De Quatro said the street closures have been done for several years now and were initiated after a young man fell off one of the caravanning cars and was struck by a bus. De Quatro said, in Cohen’s case, the officer was just trying to do his job, but went too far and that it’s unreasonable to expect drivers to be carrying their parking leases with them. Detective Jaime Hernandez, the precinct’s community affairs officer who oversaw the traffic control initiative, said he’d received no phone complaints and mainly positive feedback from “old-timers” on the street about the traffic strategy, though a few younger Hispanic residents, as well as bar hipsters, questioned what was going on. “They used to put chairs out and watch the caravans,” Hernandez said. “The people in the neighborhood just want some peace and quiet at night.” Hernandez said the tactic worked, because, “It was like a ghost town” on the streets. As for Cohen, Hernandez said, “I know Stanley. He has my number.” East Village activist John Penley, who was house sitting Cohen’s dogs, was also incensed over the street closures. “They used to have these big Puerto Rican-flag caravans, with like 100 cars — which I liked,” he said. “They used to just give ’em a police escort and follow ’em and [stuff].”

Boxcar rebellion: Beleaguered mom and bar neighbor Liz Glass will be leading a protest on Friday from 9 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. outside Boxcar, at 168 Avenue B, between 10th and 11th Sts. The protest, Glass said, is “to compel the State Liquor Authority to honor the Community Board 3 resolution to close the backyard.” Glass lives next door to Boxcar on the ground floor and says the bar’s backyard noise has been a nightmare. She also contends that under the city’s new smoking law the bar’s patrons shouldn’t be allowed to light up in the backyard.

Left an imprint: Milo Printers on the corner of 12th St. and Avenue A is on its way out. The place is said to have been in business since 1911.

Positive signals: WBAI’s Bob Fass is out of the hospital after being laid up with heart problems, and is back at home on Staten Island, but still is reportedly not doing so well. He’s hoping to do his radio show over the phone.

Whole story on Whole Foods: Gothamist blog picked up on our article last week on the Liz Christy dawn redwood by the new AvalonBay building on the north side of E. Houston St., and was particularly curious about the article’s reference to the Whole Foods Market across the street not opening till sometime in the first quarter of next year. Gothamist asked what’s the delay in opening the Whole Foods, especially considering that the YMCA in the completed AvalonBay building on the south side of the street is already open. “What in heaven’s sake could be taking so long?” Gothamist wondered. Well, Fred Harris of AvalonBay explained that the Whole Foods, which, at 70,000 square feet, will be Manhattan’s largest supermarket ever, has “got a lot in there. It’s a big space.”

Can’t preserve the union: By the way, Susan Kramer, who recently resigned as co-chairperson of Union Square Community Coalition, wasn’t the only coalition officer to bail. Her co-chairperson, Gail Fox, also joined her in saying, “I quit!”

No flower power: Sharon Woolums, a point person on one of the Washington Square Park renovation lawsuits, said she saw a group of volunteers from Deloitte and Touche tending a flowerbed by the Washington Square Arch the other day and stopped to inquire. They told her they were just weeding, and weren’t given any flowers to plant, because “the Parks Department told them this was Phase I,” Woolums said, referring to the park’s planned two-phase renovation. “I think the Parks Department is just trying to make the park look as bad as possible, so that everybody will go, ‘Do anything. Do something,’” as in proceed with the disputed $16 million renovation project, she said. “Everyone knows the renovation isn’t going to happen soon — it looks like it might be tied up for a while,” Woolums said. “You’ve got these people volunteering — why not give them some flowers?”

Correction: Last week’s article on E.U. restaurant stated that Alexandra Militano is chairperson of “Community Board 3’s State Liquor Authority.” While C.B. 3 surely wishes it had its own autonomous branch of the S.L.A., so it could have local control over liquor-license issues, Militano is, in fact, chairperson of a committee, not an authority — the C.B. 3 State Liquor Authority Committee.

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