Volume 77 / Number 47 - April 23 - 29, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Gersons fury: Councilmember Alan Gerson is steaming mad over slushgate. We caught up with the Lower Manhattan councilmember at City Hall last Friday after the U.S. District Attorney announced indictments of two Council staffers for skimming from the slush fund of money allocated to phony organizations that ballooned in recent years under Council Speaker Christine Quinn. I was angry. I was furious, Gerson told us. Were given a list of thousands of organizations for the budget. We cant check them all. As Gerson spoke, a woman came up to him reminding him of their earlier conversation. A lobbyist for an arthritis group, she was nudging him about earmarking $20,000 in funds for exercise classes for senior centers in his district. Im fighting to get funding for legitimate purposes, Gerson noted, referring to the womans cause. The councilmember noted he was particularly galled by the revelation of hidden funds since hes a former member of the Committee on Open Government in New York State. I put a premium on transparency, he stressed. Theres no excuse. Now, whos responsible for this will be the subject of investigation. Its not too early to say that the practice was absolutely wrong. Asked if the phony appropriations would hurt Quinns standing in the Council and her chances of becoming mayor, Gerson said diplomatically, It doesnt help anyone.
Big blue burrito: Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was spotted having lunch at Bennys Burritos on Avenue A on Monday as a flock of black S.U.V.s was parked nearby. The P.C., it appears, likes hanging out in the East Village. A source tells us that last month he saw Kelly standing in front of Nativity Church on E. Second St. while pointing intently at something.
Times up again: It was just a few months ago that Times Up!, the environmental/bicycling group that promotes Critical Mass, had to leave its E. Houston St. storefront space after Steve Stollman announced he was selling the building. Times Up! thought they had found a new home at The Hub, a former garage at 73 Morton St. at Hudson St., where George Bliss operates a bicycle-taxi repair shop. But now, Bliss tells us, hes being forced to double his rent to $14,000 a month and can no longer afford to share the 2,300-square-foot space with Times Up!, which has been paying him a nominal rent as a subtenant. Instead, hes bringing in what he called a bicycle FedEx service, and has given Times Up! 30 days notice. But to provide the group a fitting sendoff and some cash to help them move and find yet another new space The Hub is throwing a benefit party this Friday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. The event will feature a bicycle fashion show in which all are invited to participate the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, Traffic Jam Tap Dancers, Boom Boom Brooks Trio, good food and drink and a trampoline. The benefit will also fund the Pedicab Workers Associations lawsuit against the citys new restrictions on pedicabs.
Love Jam: Gods Love We Deliver wasnt getting much love after asking for an exemption under the citys now-dead congestion pricing plan. The local nonprofit organization, which daily feeds about 3,000 people with AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses in New York City and parts of New Jersey, didnt outright oppose the user fee. But it asked to be excused from what it estimated would be more than $30,000 in costs, arguing that good deeds (and tax-exempt status) trump traffic rules. Westchester Assemblymember Richard Brodsky used G.L.W.D.s pleas to politicians to back his harsher anti-fee stance. Posting excerpts from the organizations original letter along with Brodskys arguments, Streetsblog.org started a flurry of comments that mostly maligned the do-gooder group. Snarky writers argued G.L.W.D. could handle the costs since it spends so much on fundraising. They recommended the group move from its current Sixth Ave. Soho base or reverse its position to support less traffic and therefore faster deliveries. They questioned how many clients the $30,000 could actually feed. And they told G.L.W.D. to shut up and pay up, viewing the fee as part of the cost of doing good work and business, just like gas, tolls, telephone, payroll taxes. Now that the State Assembly has squashed the plan, G.L.W.D. wont have to worry about driving its 16 vans between boroughs. Whether itll start feeling the love again remains to be seen.