Park maneuvers: After hearing that the Parks Department was getting ready to start renovations in the northwest corner of Washington Square Park, Councilmembers Alan Gerson and Christine Quinn were hastily planning a press conference about two weeks ago, at which they were going to demand that Parks respect the points in its agreement with the two councilmembers on the renovation. But because of scheduling issues and the Thanksgiving holiday, the press conference didn’t come off. Fast-forward to Tuesday, when Gerson told us that Parks, while now not planning to start the work right away, still does intend to eventually begin renovating the park’s northwest corner. Judge Emily Jane Goodman’s July 25 ruling currently bars Parks from renovating the park’s fountain or plaza but doesn’t apply to the rest of the park. Gerson said he’s also gotten a commitment from Parks that the “historic access” to the inside of the fountain itself will continue after the renovation. He said he’s waiting to see Parks’ plans detailing schedules for the fountain’s new water plumes “both when they’re off and when they’re low” which will provide time for littluns and others to frolic in the water and for buskers and performers to use the space as well. In related news, Community Board 2, in a unanimous resolution, on Nov. 16 voted to ask Parks to return to C.B. 2 next month and re-present the Washington Square renovation plan, specifically to address how the plan meets the Gerson-Quinn agreement, point by point. A central point of the Gerson-Quinn agreement is that the park’s central plaza be reduced to no more than 90 percent of its current size. In court, however, city attorneys have been arguing that because the agreement was never signed, it’s not binding. Asked his take on the flap over Parks’ lack of a John Hancock on the agreement, Gerson said Parks “didn’t want to set a precedent that they would have to repeat for every park,” compelling it to have to do similar written agreements for its myriad park projects. But he said the memorandum of understanding he and Quinn signed was attached to the City Council’s budget allocation for the $16 million project, so it is binding. As for whether Parks will indeed soon start renovating the park’s northwest section, Warner Johnston, a department spokesperson, said, “As this matter is still under litigation, we will be unable to comment. We continue to review our options.”
Blog-uendo: Apparently trying to find some new angle on the Trump condo-hotel story, the Soho Politics blog took a potshot at The Villager, noting that the building in which our new office is located is next door to Trump’s mega-project and transferred air rights to it, adding some height to it. But Don MacPherson, a member of Community Board 2 who writes the Soho Politics blog, never thought to ask us about anything, and his blog seems to suggest by innuendo The Villager’s complicity in aiding the Donald’s edifice complex. The building at 145 Sixth Ave. was bought in 2003 by an LLC whose partners included Peter Moore as the lead developer and managing member. Toward the end of the building’s condo conversion in May 2005, The Villager’s owner and publisher, John W. Sutter, bought a 3,500-square-foot, ground-floor condo unit in the building. (And we only moved in here eight months ago!) It was a previous partner or partners in the LLC, however, that sold the air rights to Trump and Bayrock/Sapir, his partners on the condo-hotel. The condo board of 145 Sixth Ave. was organized months after the building’s condo conversion, and Sutter is not a member of the condo board. Also the air-rights sale was not under the purview of the condo board but preceded its organization. Apparently, 26,000 square feet of air rights were sold. In short, neither Sutter nor Community Media (The Villager’s parent company) sold or agreed to sell the air rights nor benefited from the sale. As of this Tuesday, even though a building permit for the condo-hotel still had not been issued, work on its foundation (for which Trump does have a permit) continues. Workers at the Spring and Varick Sts. site tell us it will take eight months to finish the foundation, for which 200 piles will be driven thunderously into the ground. For those who care perhaps Bob Villa fans? some of these piles will be clustered in groups of four, to be the bases for reinforced concrete support columns that will go up to the top of the condo-hotel…. Also, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s chief of staff, Kate Seely-Kirk, called to point out that the local elected officials aren’t the ones negotiating a restrictive declaration with Trump and the development team. Rather, the electeds are weighing in with the Department of Buildings, which, in turn, is negotiating with the developers. The politicians are asking that Trump enter into a voluntary restriction in which people can stay at the condo-hotel no more than 29 to 30 days at a stretch. “We’re hopeful that the Department of Buildings will take our suggestions,” Seely-Kirk said.
Get Stewart: The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District has received the O.K. from the Justice Department’s solicitor general to appeal radical attorney Lynne Stewart’s light 28-month sentence for aiding terrorism meted out by U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koetl.
Sweet Jane: The City Council is poised to approve the co-naming of Hudson St. between Perry and W. 11th Sts. as Jane Jacobs Way. The vote is expected on Wednesday. The idea to co-name the street for Jacobs who lived at 555 Hudson St. after the legendary Village activist’s death in April was initiated by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and supported by Community Board 2. C.B. 2 has also pushed to rename Bleecker Park as Jane Jacobs Park, but there’s been no word yet from Parks on that one.