Volume 78 - Number 29 / December 17 - 23, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Scoopy’s Notebook

Packing and polling: Pete Gleason’s comment to Scoopy a few weeks ago that he saw distinct “indications” that Julie Menin was in the race for City Council District 1 raised some eyebrows — and led us to poke around a bit to see what we could turn up. What we found were accusations that Menin continues to pack the Downtown Independent Democrats club with new members and — even more intriguing — that she commissioned a poll last month to test the waters on whether to run. The Nov. 26 Daily Politics column in the Daily News first reported there had been a phone survey in the Lower Manhattan district — apparently “commissioned by someone with their eye on Alan Gerson’s seat.” The polling occurred exactly one month after Gerson voted, along with 28 other councilmembers, to extend term limits to three terms, allowing Gerson to run for re-election next year; shortly after term limits were extended, Menin — who had never officially declared she was running — announced she wouldn’t try for the seat in ’09. The News article noted a woman had contacted the paper, saying she’d received the survey call the previous night, and that the names of three potential challengers — Gleason, Menin and Margaret Chin — had been mentioned in the call. The News didn’t say who commissioned the survey. But Sean Sweeney, D.I.D. president — still smarting from an attempted internal club coup earlier this year that saw Menin run candidates against him — told us he suspected Menin. Sweeney said Gleason told him he wasn’t behind the survey, and that he believes him, and that Chin isn’t “indecisive” but definitely is running, so she doesn’t need to do a poll. Furthermore, Sweeney added, such private surveys aren’t cheap — they cost at least $20,000 — and only Menin has the funds to commission one. When we first asked Menin if she did the poll, she answered in a lengthy voice message that she isn’t running, is “100 percent committed” to her work as Community Board 1 chairperson and is focusing on raising her young children. She also noted she hadn’t even set up a campaign committee. Yet she hadn’t answered yes or no on whether she commissioned the survey. We e-mailed her back and asked her again — and this time she admitted she had done it. “I had a tremendous amount of people calling me after I announced I wasn’t going to run, asking me to reconsider,” Menin responded in an e-mail. “People felt very strongly that I should enter the race. As part of the deliberative process, I commissioned a survey focusing primarily about concerns people in the district had about term limits and other city issues. After thinking long and hard about the urging I was getting from people in the district, I decided not to change my mind, as I want to continue to chair C.B. 1 and spend time with my three children while they are so young. I greatly appreciate that many people asked me to take another long and hard look at the race, but it did not change my decision on this.” Some even wondered if Gerson himself had commissioned the poll; but that was unlikely, judging by its questions — such as whether voters’ opinion of Gerson would change if they knew he had “voted to take away the will of the people by siding with Bloomberg on term limits.” “I have received calls from people who got calls,” Gerson told us, “saying that what was conducted was a push poll which was negative toward me, meaning that the questions and the comments were slanted in an unfair way, meaning it was not conducted in a professional and fair way.” Some loyal constituents were infuriated by the hostile questions about the councilmember. “I got calls from friends and supporters who were very upset that they got calls — and they yelled and screamed at the people who called them,” Gerson said. “One question referred to ‘Gerson’s rich Wall St. buddies.’ My problem is that I don’t have any Wall St. buddies.” Gerson hasn’t even formally announced if he’s running for re-election yet, and hasn’t formed a campaign committee, either, but said he expects to decide “sometime soon.” “I have not made the final decision,” he said. “If you ask me what is more likely, I’d say it’s more likely that I’ll run, I’m leaning toward it.” As for whether Menin is indeed packing D.I.D. and to what end, Sweeney said new members do keep signing up. “You ask me is Julie Menin bringing in more people? Yes, she’s bringing in more people,” he said. “Maybe she’s running for Congress or borough president or against [Assemblymember] Deborah Glick. You don’t bring people into a club for nothing.” Sweeney declined to provide any numbers that would show whether the “Meninites” are, in fact, positioned to take over the club. Menin said in a phone interview, “I think D.I.D. is a great club. … I’m not packing the club — it’s not true. Why would I pack the club? It’s not correct. And I think people should be happy if there are new club members. … I’ve made a decision not to run at this point. In the future, I’ll see what happens — but I love public service.” But Gleason said the Democratic club’s burgeoning membership roll is an indication Menin still has her eye on Gerson’s council seat, perhaps even in next year’s election. “There’s suddenly a lot of new interest in Downtown Independent Democrats, a lot of new people joining the club,” Gleason said. “And I am not stacking the club.”

Preserves the suspense: While we’re on the subject of politics, we thought we’d check in with Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation — not because anyone suspects him of conducting a phone survey — but just to see if he’s decided whether he will challenge Christine Quinn next year. “I have no news to report on that front,” Berman replied.


A matter of trust: Borough President Scott Stringer has appointed Pamela Platt Frederick to the Hudson River Park Trust board of directors. A former vice chairperson of the Hudson River Park Trust Advisory Council, Frederick is an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and a former Community Board 4 chairperson. Frederick replaces Julie Nadel, who had served on the Trust’s board since the state-city authority’s creation in 1998. Nadel had a falling out with Stringer earlier this year after she attended a meet-and-greet event for Councilmember Eric Gioia, who is running for public advocate; she had expected she was going to be removed from the board in March. Nadel said she had been notified last week that she was off the board, but didn’t know Frederick was her replacement. “Oh my God! That is great!” Nadel said after we told her. “She is a good person and a real fighter. She’s got a whole history of being outspoken.” The borough president’s three appointees on the Trust board serve one-year terms. According to John Marino, a Trust spokesperson, Nadel’s “most recent [term] ended on Sept. 24 and she has been continuing to serve as a board member on ‘holdover’ status since then.” Stringer’s other two Trust appointees are State Senator Franz Leichter and attorney Lawrence B. Goldberg. Tobi Bergman, president of Pier Park and Playground Association, or P3, also gave the thumbs up to Frederick. “That’s fabulous,” he said. “Not to say anything negative about Julie Nadel, who poured her heart and soul into the park; Pam is a community-focused person with a long-term commitment to the park. That’s what we need.”


School as rodent infestation: After the Community Board 2 Parks Committee meeting two weeks ago was moved at the last minute from the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center because the elevator there was out, we fruitlessly wandered the neighborhood awhile looking for where the meeting might be. (No one apparently thought of posting a sign at “The Dap.”) Before we correctly realized that the meeting was at Father Demo Hall at our Lady of Pompeii Church, we checked City as School on Clarkson St. — but all the rats scurrying across its steps made us hesitate to enter. Just for kicks, we let out a big sneeze — and they all went scattering. Message to Joel Klein: Get some cats over at City as School!

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