Volume 77, Number 3 - January 2 - 8, 2008
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Scoopy's Notebook

The Alphie chronicles:
We recently heard some news from Alphie McCourt, the youngest of the McCourt brothers, who has contributed his columns to The Villager in the past. We had always begged him to write new installments of the McCourt family saga for us, but were told that his Pulitzer Prize-winning author brother Frank admonished him against it, counseling Alphie to hold out for a book. Alphie told us he did, in fact, recently pen a tome, “about 90,000 words, a book, more or less. I revised and revised. Thought of calling it ‘The 48th Revision.’” But without a publisher, he decided to record it on the advice of his friend Jim Salestrom, who sings with Dolly Parton. The end product — which unfortunately does not include musical interludes by Parton — is a set of eight CDs called “My Life in Stories.” “It’s my life, up to about 1993,” Alphie explained. “About one-third of it takes place in Limerick. The family is included, of course. I’m trying to do something with it on the Internet and hoping that someone will pick it up as an audio book or that some publisher might be interested.” His new Web site, which he noted he’s “shamelessly promoting,” is alphiemccourt.com.

Fountain fracas:
Outraged and bitter over what he anticipates will be a “whitewash” by Councilmember Alan Gerson of the Washington Square Park fountain “Movegate” accusations, Jonathan Greenberg fears for the worst. “I can’t imagine what my children will do without Washington Square Park for two years,” the father of two young boys told us last week. Greenberg, a plaintiff in two failed lawsuits against the park renovation, is Gerson’s former policy director for Lower Manhattan redevelopment. He took a shot, of sorts, at his old boss, like him a native Villager, whom he’s known since they attended Stuyvesant High School together. “He was never a guy hanging out in the park getting stoned in high school. He was into the political clubs,” Greenberg sneered. “I am a guy who actually stops there and sings — I have been singing there for 30 years.” Asked on Monday if he indeed did not smoke pot in the park, Gerson retorted: “I’m not going to respond to that accusation.” But he denied that his fountain-flap review is a farce, noting he had just met that morning with George Aloi, an expert recommended by renovation foe Edy Selman. Aloi, he said, expressed concerns about the fountain work’s impact on water mains and sewer lines under the square. “By any objective account,” Gerson said, “this process has received more objective review and vetting by my office, elected officials and city agencies than any other renovation project — with the exception maybe of Ground Zero.” Gerson said by next week — “We’ll do our best to meet The Villager’s deadline,” he promised — he finally will definitively answer the burning question, namely: “Has the Parks Department met its burden of proof that moving the fountain is not significantly more expensive?” adding, “Five hundred thousand dollars is expensive.” If it turns out that it really would cost half a million dollars more to move the fountain 20 feet and renovate it, as opposed to renovating it in place, Gerson said that would violate the Parks Department’s agreement, in which case, if Parks doesn’t cure the problem, he would take “further action.” Further action could include “legal action” by him and/or community groups, he said. If necessary, he added, the City Council could pass legislation banning allocating funds for Washington Square Park. “That would be an extraordinary remedy, and hopefully it doesn’t come to that,” the councilmember noted gravely. If there’s one thing that’s been learned through all this, Gerson said, it’s that the Legislative branch needs as much power as the Executive in park matters. In that vein, he noted, he hopes to pass what’s he’s dubbing the Public Park Protection Program — a.k.a. P.P.P.P. — which would amend the City Charter to give the Council veto power over park projects and park renamings. Meanwhile, Sophie Gerson, the councilmember’s mother, was miffed to hear that Greenberg was questioning her son’s pubescent park props. “The park was his backyard,” she declared. Alan did not smoke grass, she said, noting that’s “maybe why his mind is clear,” then adding, “though some say it enhances…” Enhances? What!? She clarified she meant that “the guitars” enhance the park experience. Who mentioned anything about guitars? Whatever. … At a loss over what smoking pot has to do with the park renovation or moving the fountain, she sighed, “It’s ridiculous.”

Strange parallel:
On a lighter note, we asked Greenberg if he’d seen “I Am Legend,” the new sci-fi thriller, in which Will Smith’s character lives in a historic townhouse at 11 Washington Square — complete with a lab in the basement for his zombie experiments. Greenberg said he hadn’t seen the movie, but that it reminded him of Doctor Strange — his favorite comic-book character from his youth — who also lived in a townhouse on the park that sported an observatory on the roof. He figured that’s where they got the idea for Smith’s character to live on the square.

Look westward, N.Y.U.:
Some are wondering if N.Y.U. might want to consider Hudson Square for its growth needs. It was recently reported that the multiblock St. John’s Center building on Washington St. at W. Houston St. is being put up for sale for $600 million. Pop a tower or two on top and you’ve got loads of space for dorm rooms, classrooms, even department headquarters. And it’s all just 15 minutes’ walk from N.Y.U.’s “campus core.” What’s not to like? The cost, apparently. “St. John’s is an intriguing property for the university, but it carries a very steep price tag,” said Alicia Hurley, N.Y.U. associate vice president for government and community affairs. “Regardless, we are not able to conduct conversations or negotiations on real estate via the press,” Hurley said.

Moving on up:
After six years as executive director of the McBurney YMCA on W. 14th St., Christian Miller has been promoted to director of property management at the YMCA’s Association Office Property Management Department. We always liked Miller, but 40 adult basketball players were recently giving him grief, writing a petition after their court time was cut for programs for little kids. “This is becoming less like a Y and more like a private health club,” one of them groused.

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