Volume 78 - Number 30 / December 24 - 30, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel
Most days Paul Nagle wears a suit and tie to his job as an aide for City Councilmember Alan Gerson. But on the morning of Sat., Dec. 13, Nagle donned a suit of a different kind to participate in SantaCon, a huge bar crawl of thousands of people dressed up as St. Nick. Nagle has been participating in SantaCon for six years and always makes his own costume. He got involved through Kostume Kult, a group that promotes creative self-expression. Our photographer caught up with Nagle in front of the General Post Office on Eighth Ave. For Nagle and the other Santas, the fun — which included a ferry ride to Staten Island — lasted until 3 a.m.
A big article on the Washington Square Park renovation project in The New York Times a few weeks ago began and ended with Cathryn Swan, a new blogger on the scene who has been assiduously chronicling the renovation’s goings-on. That didn’t sit well with one park activist, who wondered why the Times decided to feature so prominently a relative newbie in the park saga. “I hear Cathryn Swan’s husband wants to run as a Green for mayor and she’s doing everything to push his campaign,” the disgruntled activist sniffed. Swan told us in an e-mail that she’s not married, though does have “a friend” who ran as a Green candidate for mayor in 2001. “But I can’t say he has ‘political ambitions’ beyond that,” she said. One of the renovation project’s leading opponents, Jonathan Greenberg recently relocated to California, though he returns regularly to New York. Asked his thoughts on the anonymous activist’s griping, Greenberg said, “I cannot speak of how other people feel about Cathryn Swan; I can only speak for myself. In my view, I am very glad she is there doing what she is doing, and the park is the better for her hard work.” … Meanwhile, Susan Goren, another park activist, said that there aren’t actually red squirrels in Washington Square Park, rather, that the critters are getting a reddish tint from sap oozing out of the Hanging Tree. (We haven’t verified any of this, least of all whether the Hanging Tree actually oozes sap or anything else.) But one thing is for certain, Goren is a squirrel aficionado. “The kids from N.Y.U. call me ‘The Squirrel Whisperer’ because the squirrels sit on my lap. They made a film about me,” she said. … In related news, a reader called us to say that, despite the project’s intense focus on symmetry, or on making the Olmstedian park “more like Versailles,” one particular path — near the Hanging Tree, in fact — appears to be completely out of whack.
Sweet on Caroline:
Former Mayor Ed Koch is not among those Democratic insiders who have been questioning Caroline Kennedy’s qualifications to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat. “I believe Caroline Kennedy is well qualified to be New York’s next senator,” Koch told us. “Those who criticize her qualifications are foolish.”
Bikes and planes:
After last week’s Community Board 2 meeting, we were chatting with Ian Dutton, vice chairperson of the board’s Traffic and Transportation Committee, about Little Italy merchants’ recent flare-up over the new Grand St. bike lane. Dutton stressed that that bike lane, and the new ones on Eighth and Ninth Aves., are, in fact, the first of their kind in the nation. Because they are all separated from car traffic — either by concrete barriers or a row of parked cars — each is a certified “class-A bike facility,” better known as a “cycle track,” according to Dutton. “To my knowledge, there’s nowhere else in the country that has a physical barrier,” he said. “It’s not uncommon overseas, even Montreal has one.” We had noted that on C.B. 2 District Manager Bob Gormley’s handout sheet reporting on the Dec. 11 District Service Cabinet meeting that Councilmember Alan Gerson “has requested that the [Grand St.] lane be moved back.” Dutton said he figured that meant Gerson was responding to merchants’ request that a 3-foot-wide striped buffer area between the parked cars and bike lane — put there to prevent the cyclists from being “doored” by the cars — be narrowed. However, removing this buffer would be a disaster, Dutton said. In addition, Gormley’s report noted that a Sergeant Ortiz, of the Department of Sanitation, stated at the meeting that “there will be problems plowing [the bike lane] in the snow season.” In response, Colleen Chattergoon, of the Department of Transportation, assured Ortiz that “the bike lanes will not be used during that time,” but Ortiz disagreed, saying “that people would still use the bike lanes.” Dutton and Scoopy agreed the city will, well, just have to make some narrower snowplow vehicles. Dutton, who also happens to be our favorite goth commercial pilot — and, for that matter, the only goth commercial pilot we currently or likely ever will know — added some thoughts a few days later while he was flying back from Ireland: “Just cruising over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, on my way home from appreciating Dublin’s pedestrian zones and cycle tracks (they even have signs with ‘cycle track’ translated into Gaelic) and I’m catching up on The Villager,” Dutton e-mailed us from his iPhone. “In the week just passed, the Department of Transportation completed the installation of the Grand St. bike lane with the placement of Muni-Meters on the north curb, and the striping off of no-parking zones to better accommodate the turning movements of oversize vehicles. These no-parking zones, as well as the hours of operation of the Muni-Meters, have been in response to concerns voiced by businesses and residents in the Grand St. corridor.” For the record, Dutton was not actually flying the plane with one hand while simultaneously typing on his iPhone with the other. “There are two pilots — one is designated the ‘flying pilot’ and is monitoring the plane, making changes and doing the takeoff and landing,” he explained. “I was the ‘monitoring pilot’ — double-checking what the other guy is doing and working the radios. There’s very little to do out on the North Atlantic Tracks, so we usually read while keeping one eye on the plane. I use the time to catch up on The Villager.”
Jefferson Market rebound? Carol Greitzer alerted us that there are “big new signs” on Jefferson Market’s store windows on Sixth Ave. advising passersby to watch for the grand reopening of the remodeled Jefferson Market. “I hope they get themselves an expert on food merchandising and that they get it right this time,” Greitzer said.
Robbins’s prescribed viewing:
“Possible Side Effects,” a new pharmaceutical “dramedy,” was shooting its pilot last week in Soho, in an office in the 32BJ building on Sixth Ave. at Grand St. The project’s writer and director is Tim Robbins.
Glick slams Bam:
Assemblymember Deborah Glick condemned Barack Obama’s choice of Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the inauguration invocation next month. Glick, the New York State Legislature’s first openly gay or lesbian member, said in a statement: “The choice of Reverend Rick Warren to offer the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration is a sadly insensitive choice. While I believe the choice was driven by the celebrity of Reverend Warren and his bestselling book, it ignores the inflammatory language he used during the recent battle over Proposition 8 in California. The desire to reach out to conservatives in this country may be a politically shrewd move and even a helpful gesture during a period of fiscal crisis when it is easy to have those with the least scapegoated,” Glick said. “But bridging the divide cannot be done at the expense of those who have been denied their rights. Reverend Rick Warren was an outspoken supporter of Proposition 8, which for the first time in our history actively eliminated, by referendum, rights assigned to L.G.B.T. Californians by their state Constitution.” Glick noted, for example, that the Dutch Reform Church, which “enthusiastically supported” apartheid in South Africa, would never have been expected to be part of the installation ceremony of Nelson Mandela. “This is not about reaching out to conservative religious people,” Glick said. “This is about telling L.G.B.T. people that their struggle for equality has taken 10 steps back.”