Volume 77 / Number 38 - Feb. 20 - 26, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Scoopy’s notebook

Koch kibitzing: Although Barack Obama has really been knocking Hillary Clinton for a loop lately, former Mayor Ed Koch still feels his candidate can right her campaign. “I’m for Hillary from now until the very last day,” Koch told us last week. “I’m hopeful that she will overcome this patch — I think of it as just a patch — that’s causing her agita undoubtedly at the moment, and that she will prevail. No campaign goes perfectly smoothly — and he’s been doing better than expected.” Then Koch surprised us by saying, “I still think the ticket will be Hillary-Barack.” Koch explained that the two leading candidates are going to have to unite the Democratic votership to defeat Republican John McCain, whom Koch called “a very strong candidate.” What if the ticket were Obama-Clinton, rather than the other way around? “No — the age factor,” Koch said. “He can wait [for another run at president]. She’s past childbearing age. She’s too old.” Plus, Hillary has always hungered for the presidency — “I think probably since she first met Bill,” Koch said — so she won’t accept vice president. But is it over for Hillary if she doesn’t win Ohio and Texas on March 4, as Clinton strategist James Carville recently stated? “I was shocked when he said that,” Koch admitted, adding that Carville’s saying so has now made it true. The former mayor added he might consider supporting Mike Bloomberg if he tosses his hat into the ring, but that likelihood is seeming less and less likely, according to Koch. “I think that’s over,” Hizzoner said of a potential Bloomberg bid. Pundits think Bloomberg’s reluctance comes from the strength of Obama and his chance at being the country’s first black president. “He’s not going to stand in the way of Obama,” Koch agreed. Koch doesn’t foresee Ralph Nader making a late entry into the race, either: “He’s lost his credibility, running too many times.” Koch predicted McCain’s vice president will not be Mike Huckabee. “Nobody who doesn’t believe in evolution can be president or vice president,” Koch scoffed, noting he thinks McCain’s choice for V.P. will be Governor Charlie Crist of Florida.

Bird-brained PEP: A Park Enforcement Patrol, or PEP, officer who used to be assigned to Washington Square Park was caught perpetrating some deadly fowl play in another park last week. According to The New York Post, Martin Hightower, 45, was spotted by witnesses in Battery Park on Friday afternoon intentionally mowing down pigeons and seagulls with his park cart. Hightower is said to have killed three pigeons and two seagulls, nearly striking some pedestrians in his outburst of anti-avian anger. Police spokesperson Detective Martin Speechley said Hightower, who was arrested at the scene, was charged with reckless endangerment and torturing and injuring animals. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said if the charges are true, what Hightower did is “heinous and outrageous.” Hightower has been suspended and may be fired, according to Benepe. As Villager parkgoers may be aware, Hightower used to patrol Washington Square Park. A front-page Villager article two years ago about PEP abuse in the park reported that Hightower followed a female into the park’s women’s bathroom and told her she couldn’t rinse her dog’s water bowl in the sink.

N.Y.U. dorm: Following our report two weeks ago that New York University is taking over a new 21-story building at 23rd St. and Third Ave. for a student dormitory, the story was confirmed three days later by the Washington Square News, N.Y.U.’s student newspaper, which cited the university’s real estate department. Formerly planned as a high-end residential building, the dorm is called Gramercy Green. It will open in fall 2008 and house about 900 upperclassmen. N.Y.U. is buying the building, confirmed John Beckman, the university’s spokesperson. Asked how the students would get down to the Village for classes — whether they might grab the Second Ave. bus or Lexington Ave. subway or just hoof it — Beckman said there’s always N.Y.U.’s private shuttle bus fleet. “The details of how to incorporate [Gramercy Green] into our transportation system have not been worked out yet,” he said, “but there is an existing campus transportation route that includes nearby residence halls and the Medical Center.”

Another N.Y.U. dorm? We were passing by 14th St. and Third Ave. the other day and noticed that the two-story building on the southeast corner has been totally emptied of commercial tenants, from the upstairs tanning salon to the juice bar, DVD rental place and the deli on the corner — all vacant and shuttered. The corner screams out, “Development site!” and more specifically, “Another N.Y.U. dorm!” After all, the location is right in the middle of N.Y.U.’s E. 14th St. dormitory nexus. But Kelly Franklin, an N.Y.U. spokesperson, told us, “We have not been looking at this site nor has anyone approached us about it.”

New School dorm: Speaking of dorms, The New School is planning to lease one that is being developed for it on E. 15th St. between First and Second Aves. in an existing building being reconditioned by developer Arun Bahtia. As a result, The New School has found itself in the crossfire of a labor battle over Bahtia’s use of a nonunion asbestos removal company. Union organizers recently plopped two of their giant rubber rats down in front of New School buildings on Fifth Ave. and 14th St. and 11th St. and Sixth Ave. The literature the union has been handing out has been harsh; one flier shows a college woman who allegedly died from asbestos exposure in Texas — obviously an effort to stoke fears that the asbestos removal isn’t being done safely. Another flier shows a photo of New School President Bob Kerrey and includes complaints about the workers. The rubber rats left last Wednesday, not because the dispute is over, though. Apparently, the rats are rotated because there aren’t enough of them to cover all the union’s protest sites around the city. Jane Crotty, a New School spokesperson, stressed that the dispute wasn’t about job safety but over three workers’ pay three years ago. Ilyse Fink, a spokesperson for Bahtia, said the subcontractor in question, New York Insulation, Inc., has an excellent track record. “New York Insulation, Inc., is an asbestos remediation contractor certified by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection,” Fink said. “D.E.P. has even used this company for a project of its own.” As for the school’s need for the new dorm, Crotty said, “Our population is just exploding.”

Material (Girl) evidence: Since Scoopy has put as much effort as anyone into trying to divine the owners in Julian Schnabel’s Palazzo Chupi on W. 11th St., we figured we’d report that last week New York magazine’s Daily Intel quoted Madonna explaining why she decided not to buy there. “I love the house,” she told New York. “But it’s not child-friendly, which is why I didn’t end up moving there.” On Jan. 30, Scoopy reported that Madonna had looked at the building and was probably consulting Kaballah on whether to buy or not. P.S., Toni Dalton’s photo of the towering pink palazzo that ran in The Villager recently also ran in the Italian magazine Panorama in a profile on Schnabel.

Les olives! Le Times! Vive La Fieldsteel! Another Villager contributor has gotten notice in Europe, though it probably didn’t hurt that she lives there. Patricia Fieldsteel was recently written up in La Tribune, which she informs us is the Nyons, France, equivalent of The Villager. La Tribune is apparently a big fan of The New York Times: The headline on the article is “Une New-Yorkaise en Nyons — Les Olives dans Le Times!” As she has for The Villager, Fieldsteel wrote about Nyons’s olive harvest for the Times. La Tribune’s article notes Fieldsteel also writes about “la vie quotidienne dans un journal de Manhattan” — i.e, she writes about daily life in a Manhattan newspaper, The Villager.

What a bag: A Japanese TV station called us the other day asking if we had a photo of one of the bags the Police Department uses in its controversial Operation Lucky Bag. Daisuke Ogino, a researcher for the station, said he’d found our articles on the subject online. We told him that unfortunately we don’t have a photo. The tactic involves leaving a bag with valuables on a subway platform and then arresting anyone who takes it, regardless of whether they might have been trying to return it to the owner or not. Asked if they have any equivalent of Lucky Bag in Japan, Ogino said no. Asked his thoughts about it, he said, “Strange — they try to catch innocent.”

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