West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 25 | November 21 - 27 2007

Scoopy's Notebook

High-powered pier pick: A few hours before The Villager went to press Monday evening — a day early this week because of our printer’s Thanksgiving schedule — elected officials and a select group of block association members and community groups met with the Pier 40 Partnership to brainstorm ideas for redevelopment of Pier 40, the massive W. Houston St. pier. (See Page 11 for article.) A few days before, Rich Caccappolo, a leading Partnership member, gave us a progress report: “The study is going strong,” he wrote in an e-mail. “We have hired the consulting group HR&A Advisors (http://www.hraadvisors.com) and they have lined up a series of subcontractors for the study. We are finalizing scope, looking at potential uses, creating financial models and starting the process of contacting donors.” HR&A lists “waterfront revitalization” as one of its areas of expertise. The consulting group has been a strategic advisor on various high-profile New York City mega-projects, notably the High Line park and its innovative rezoning overlay, the South Street Seaport redevelopment, the city’s long-range transportation plans under the mayor’s PlaNYC, Governors Island’s reuse and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Caccappolo has mentioned how impressed he’s been by what the Friends of the High Line have accomplished, so it’s not surprising the Partnership chose HR&A Advisors, which has worked with F.H.L. since their inception in 1999. The Related Companies wants to redevelop Pier 40 as Downtown’s premier entertainment destination, anchored by a Cirque du Soleil theater and the Tribeca Film Festival. But the Hudson River Park Trust has given the Partnership until Dec. 15 to come up with an alternative plan. “It isn’t a slam dunk,” Caccappolo said of their headway so far. “But we are optimistic that our efforts will help find a realistic way forward that everyone can support.”

(wheats) Worth preserving: Starting to address the East Village’s sorely underlandmarked state, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has nominated six neighborhood buildings for designation. In summer 2006, L.P.C. staffers researched 130 East Village buildings — between 14th and Houston Sts., east of the Bowery/Fourth Ave. — to identify deserving candidates. The six include the 11th Street Public Bath (1906), 538 E. 11th St.; Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Anshe Ungarn (Great House of Study of the People of Hungary) (1908), 242 E. Seventh St.; the Elizabeth Home for Girls (1891), 307 E. 12th St.; the Public National Bank Building (1924), 231 E. Seventh St./106 Avenue C; the Wheatsworth Factory (1927), 444 E. 10th St.; and Webster Hall (1886), 119-125 E. 11th St. “These are the ones that we prioritized,” said Lisi de Bourbon, L.P.C. spokesperson. “This is something we were proactive on. This is a neighborhood that hasn’t been closely looked at by the commission. These buildings are on the road to designation.”

Tree-mendous new sidewalks: With the Houston St. renovation project on the West Side finally nearing completion, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the sidewalks between Sixth Ave. and W. Broadway on the street’s south side have doubled in width. And, in an interesting twist, the existing trees were left in place — right in the middle of the pavement. Ian Dutton, vice chairperson of Community Board 2’s Traffic and Transportation Committee, said this was not a mistake by the Department of Design and Construction. “People really expressed concern that trees were being destroyed needlessly in this project,” Dutton said. “So I think that was D.D.C.’s way of preserving these trees.” Surprisingly, some people had expressed concern about widening the sidewalks. Dutton said Lucy and Leonard Cecere, who own a building at MacDougal and Houston Sts., feared they’d have more snow to shovel in the winter, while Sean Sweeney, the Soho Alliance’s director, thought wider sidewalks could become a “circus,” attracting an influx of vendors and performers on top of the vendors who already congregate there under a deal with St. Anthony’s Church. But Dutton said he believes that only a path needs to be cleared in winter, not the entire sidewalk. “I think it has actually changed the mood of the street,” Dutton said of the mid-pavement trees. “It almost feels like a European promenade.”… Meanwhile, Councilmember Alan Gerson is still fuming at the Department of Transportation over the project’s having narrowed traffic islands at pedestrian crossings heavily used by local senior citizens. “I am at my wit’s end with this department,” he declared at C.B. 2’s meeting last Thursday.

Drops the formalities: Since taking over as Community Board 2’s chairperson last June, Brad Hoylman has instituted a number of changes and innovations. He recently held a historic get-together between C.B. 2 members and Greenwich Village Block Associations members, thawing an old rift. And following a former C.B. 2 member’s concealing a blatant conflict of interest several years ago for 18 months, Hoylman is requiring all board members to get mandatory conflict of interest training. However, one of his new ideas at “professionalizing” the board — under which he took the novel approach of addressing board members at meetings by “Mr.” or “Ms.” and their last names — has fallen by the wayside. According to a source, board members were “complaining,” saying they just couldn’t take it anymore. Hoylman — pulling our leg perhaps? — claimed he hadn’t noticed that he no longer is addressing the board members as “Mr.” or Ms.” Yet he did say he thinks the “high level of respect board members have afforded each other” under his leadership is improving the discussion and the meetings. Still more Hoylman advancements include a new tracking system, to monitor the board’s resolutions’ outcomes with city agencies and learn if follow-up is needed; a database on constituent phone calls; and a redesigned Web site.

Oops: We goofed up when we reported last week that Harvey Keitel and just 20 other voters cast ballots at the Puffin Room gallery in Soho earlier this month on Election Day. There has been no voting at the Puffin Room since the last big political-art flap there in 2005, Carl Rosenstein tells us. Rosenstein said the city has approached him about restoring the site as a polling place, but that he’s not going to do it until they stop using “those big machines” that rip up his front doors. Keitel, we are informed, always votes at the Communications Workers of America poll site on Hudson St., which also has had problems in the past with political art being displayed too near voters.

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