Volume 77 / Number 36 - Feb. 06 - 12, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Scoopy's Notebook

Unfunny bathroom humor: So we happened to be in the men’s room outside the auditorium for the Hudson River Park Trust’s board of directors meeting last Thursday, at which Pier 40 was the main issue. We were, ahem, in a stall, just minding our own business, when we overheard what distinctly sounded like the voices of two youngish Trust board members who had just entered the loo. “Save our fields! Save our fields!” one said in mock protest. “What have they gotten us into?” groaned the other. We’re sure it wasn’t Franz Leichter or Henry Stern, whose grandfatherly voices we know well. T.R. IV didn’t attend the meeting. And another new Trust board member, Paul Ullman — whose wife was until recently a member of the Pier 40 Partnership, the parents group trying to save the pier from megadevelopment — we’re certain would never make light of the pier’s predicament. Which narrows down the possibilities to Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, former City Planning Commissioner Joe Rose and another freshly appointed Trust member at his first board meeting, Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber, a.k.a. “the new Doctoroff.” Somehow, though, we doubt Lieber was one of the men’s room mockers — since he’s too new to all this to be that cynical. … By the way, we’re told that Ullman’s wife, Donna Zaccaro, daughter of 1984 vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, has promised she’ll no longer attend Pier 40 Partnership meetings — and has sent a letter to the Trust to this effect — to avoid any conflict of interest on Ullman’s part.

Madame X’s weird Web: Julie Menin and Pete Gleason, who could face off in next year’s City Council District 1 primary election in Lower Manhattan, are going at it with gusto already. Looking to do damage, Gleason recently brought to Scoopy’s attention an anonymous letter, signed “Madame X,” accusing Menin’s developer husband, Bruce Menin, of giving Donald Trump the idea to build his 42-story Trump Soho condo-hotel. The letter notes Bruce Menin owned the former parking lot on the site and speculates he’s still connected to the project. Gleason believes he was sent the letter because, he said, “They know I’m not afraid to speak out. This building is an eyesore, casting a shadow over Soho and Tribeca. It’s a deathtrap,” he said, referring to a construction worker’s death there three weeks ago. In fact, Gleason suspects it was Madelyn Wils, another potential candidate, who mailed him the letter, so he’d do her dirty work for her by going after Menin. Menin told us she was familiar with the letter, and called it a crock. She confirmed her husband did own the parking lot, but sold it to another owner three or four years ago, who in turn sold it to Trump, and that Bruce Menin no longer has any financial interest in the embattled project. As for the claim her husband gave Trump the bright idea of building a condo-hotel, Menin said, “If anyone thinks my husband is going to teach Donald Trump to do business, that’s absurd. Pete Gleason, I’ve heard from many people, obviously wrote the letter.” She called it “ludicrous” to claim Wils wrote it. We gave Gleason an impromptu handwriting test, comparing his penmanship to the “Madame X” signature and the address on the envelope, and they didn’t match. Menin blasted right back at Gleason, accusing him of maliciously buying up several domain names that rightfully should be hers. “I just learned that he registered my name — juliemenin.com, juliemenin.org, juliemenin.net — all three variations,” she said. Menin said she’s had to take the time and trouble of hiring an expert attorney on Internet law to get control over her domain names, which she says Gleason only snatched up to block her from using them. Her attorney wrote Gleason two weeks ago, ordering him to “cease and desist,” but Gleason hasn’t replied. Right now, when Menin’s domain names are typed in, a “Julie movie film rental” site pops up, complete with Fandango and a photo of a sexy blonde college student; Menin is middle-aged, brunette and the chairperson of Community Board 1. While a parody Web site would be allowable under the First Amendment, Menin said, it’s illegal to filch someone else’s domain name, then do nothing with it. “I can’t imagine anyone voting for someone who does something like this,” she said in exasperation, adding of Gleason, “I think the facts speak to his character and integrity.” Menin has also learned that her potential campaign rival has bought up the domain names for Rose Gill Hearn, commissioner of the city’s Department of Investigation, and at least one for Thomas Van Essen, the city’s former Fire Department commissioner. One of Hearn’s appropriated addresses links to flower retailers — a sardonic comment perhaps by Gleason? “The city knows about this,” Menin said. “They’re looking into the Rose Gill Hearn site — and I would expect they’d take some action. This is a pattern of taking names.” But Gleason counters that Menin has only herself to blame. “Julie Menin is a public figure, and if I want to put up a Web site on a public figure, I’m allowed to,” he retorted. He noted his attorney is determining whether he should respond to Menin’s cease-and-desist letter. “Julie Menin is remiss not to have purchased her own domain name,” Gleason scolded, adding, “I think it’s a reflection of Julie’s competence that she didn’t purchase it.” While he admitted his multiple Menin, Von Essen and Hearn domain names, with their Fandango and flower ads, are presently just “fillers,” he said he plans to set up the Menin Web pages as “information sites.” As for why he bought the Von Essen and Hearn URL’s, Gleason — a former fire fighter who represents 9/11 rescue and salvage workers — said he did it for his “clients,” but declined to elaborate. Don MacPherson, publisher of Soho Journal, also received a copy of the “Madame X” letter, but he didn’t want to talk about it. MacPherson recalled how he himself was burned a couple of years ago by an anonymous letter, which he always suspected was penned by pro-nightlife forces. Because of that unpleasant experience, he gives no credence to anonymous attack letters, he said. While Gleason has announced he’s running for the Council, Menin stressed she won’t decide until later this year and has set no date for doing so.

Withdrawal symptoms: The Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, which serves members who make $38,000 a year or less, is bumping up its fee for nonaffiliated ATM withdrawals. As of February, the fee will increase from 75 cents to $1, with three free withdrawals from other banks’ ATMs per month. The bank’s chief financial officer, Aissatou Barry-Fall, said the increase is just to cover the cost of the ATMs. However, East Village activist John Penley was so upset over the increase that he pulled his money out of the credit union. He said the bank used to not have any fee at all. But Barry-Fall said there has always been a fee for ATMs that are not theirs. Penley charged it’s unfair the bank is taking money from the poorest of the poor. “There’s massive lines at the credit union every first of the month,” he said. “It’s people who get their government-assistance check. They must be hurting, otherwise they wouldn’t be waiting in those long lines to get to the teller.”

Orange you curious? Wondering about those neon-orange-painted bicycles chained to street poles that have sprung up around town? Well, they apparently are not the work of Visual Resistance, the group behind the white “ghost bikes” that mark where cyclists have been killed by motor vehicles. Tequila Minsky, our roving Soho photographer, reports the orange bikes are some sort of eco-conscious statement for Fashion Week and that there are 75 of them in all.

BAMRA cadabra — change: Judith Callet is the new resident chairperson of the Bleecker Area Merchants’ and Residents’ Association. She has some big shoes to fill in following Lois Rakoff.

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