Volume 78 - Number 32 / January 7 - 13, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Scoopy’s Notebook

Bad gut feeling: N.Y.U. is doing gut renovations on two buildings on Washington Square North and the noise and vibrations are making it a living hell for neighbors. Neighbors are also feeling the effects on MacDougal Alley, where the workers are using the back entrance of one of the buildings, since N.Y.U. was not allowed to alter the landmarked front entrance. With the recent commencement of Saturday work, though, the aggravation has risen to another level. Roland Lindner, a reporter for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung — that’s not a fancy hot dog but a German business newspaper — who lives next door to 22 Washington Square North, has been hard pressed to meet his 11 a.m. deadlines amid the din. “Well it was really bad, one of the worst days in the last few weeks,” Lindner reported after the first day of Saturday work. “Constant pounding noises that reverberated throughout my apartment. Unfortunately, I had to work today and write, which was quite awful, because despite white noise on the iPod and additional construction earphones on my head, I could still hear it — and feel my desk vibrating all the time. I am shocked they would do this — making things even worse with Saturday work after six months of already very disruptive construction. … And they still have to take out floors and walls!” Lindner said he and next-door neighbor Ruth Seglin, who is more than 90 years old and has lived her whole life on Washington Square, are getting the worst of it since they’re home all day. Alicia Hurley, N.Y.U. vice president for government and community relations, said of neighbors’ complaints, “The project is in the heavy internal demolition and underpinning phase of the work, which is why folks are seeing and hearing it more. This work will last about four to six more weeks and then the work should be less disruptive. We have tried to do all that we can to mitigate the impact on the neighbors, but some people are always very sensitive to construction activity. And for 22 Washington Square North we have moved the start time of the project one hour later to 8 a.m. to lessen the impact on our neighbors. For the most part, however, the projects are on track and we are aiming to get them done by late summer.” Regarding Saturday construction, she said, “We try to minimize Saturday work in general, and particularly in these more residential areas. Sometimes, however, the work and schedule requires it to happen. When it does, though, we provide notice in advance to neighbors.” Hurley noted that the university is launching a new construction Web site at www.nyu.edu/construction. That initiative came out of Borough President Scott Stringer’s N.Y.U. Task Force and was a specific request in the “principles” that were adopted by the university. “We’re trying to be as comprehensive as possible, yet aiming to keep it simple,” Hurley said of the Web site. “We will also be launching a bimonthly newsletter that provides updates on our construction projects.”

Squatter uprising: After reading our article last week about the 11 former East Village squatter buildings and their rocky process toward converting to co-ops, attorney Adam Leitman Bailey wanted to clarify a few points. First, he said, just because his client, the Rainbow Co-op, at 274 E. Seventh St., is the first of the buildings to sue for outright ownership under adverse possession, it doesn’t mean the other 10 former squats don’t also have excellent cases. “All of the buildings have the requisite elements to meet the requirements for adverse possession,” Bailey explained in an e-mail. “We decided to pick one building as the test case to keep the judge and the facts focused. Once we have a victory in this case, then the other buildings will also be filing. The 274 E. Seventh St. building decided BY THEMSELVES to be the first to sue. The decision was made as a result of the character of the residents. They are real leaders and very courageous. Other buildings joke that they went first because they are German and the best organized.”

Building bummer: Things keep going from bad to worse at 43 MacDougal St. Although the derelict building is in the Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District, meaning it’s deserving of careful preservation, it is at risk of becoming history itself due to extreme landlord neglect. Meanwhile the city is taking no action. Last week, someone threw a garbage can through an old plate-glass storefront window on the building’s MacDougal St. side, leaving a gaping hole in the window. Compounding matters, someone pulled a fire escape ladder down onto the sidewalk on King St., allowing anyone on the street access into the vacant building. Elizabeth Solomon, director of preservation and research for the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation, said, “We are very concerned about this, not only because it’s another example of the continued deterioration at 43 MacDougal St. For years, rainwater was able to come through the openings and flood the building’s interior, and the openings made it accessible to trespassers. G.V.S.H.P. has worked extremely hard to pressure the city to seal the building, which was finally done in late 2008. This current incident threatens to undue this progress if it is not fixed immediately.” Lucy Cecere, of the Something Special store nearby, lamented that now with the window broken, children from the Cardinal Cooke Center for disabled students across the street are being exposed to “all the moldy smell” coming out from inside the building. Solomon said G.V.S.H.P. is reaching out to city agencies to fix the problem A.S.A.P., and that the Department of Housing Preservation and Development promised to send out an inspector this week to issue violations. “We also have to let the Department of Buildings know about the situation, in hopes they might order H.P.D. to reseal the building,” Solomon added. When we checked Tuesday morning, the fire escape ladder was still lowered and a third-floor window at the top of the fire escape had been knocked out and was wide open. Hmm…who’s going in there?

Marcia marker: Clayton Patterson tells us that he has finally succeeded in getting a proper tombstone for Marcia Lemmon, the late Ludlow St. scourge of Lower East Side bars and a former Community Board 3 member. Patterson was able to get Lemmon interred in a proper plot last year. “They were going to bury her in some swamp in New Jersey,” the Lower East Side documentarian said. “After much struggle, pushing and dealing with lawyers, court and so on, now we have the money to give Marcia a grave marker. We got her a nice sendoff, a grave in Queens, her place of birth, and now finally she has a marker. May she rest in peace.”

Library notes: We hear New York University’s Tamiment Library is working with the lawyers of the alleged “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo to obtain their legal papers. … Also, East Village Slacktivist leader John Penley is willing his photo archives to the Tamiment Museum. For the time being, Clayton Patterson is storing Penley’s archives over at his place on Essex St. Asked if there’s room, considering how voluminous Patterson’s own East Village/Lower East Side photo archives are, his wife, Elsa Rensaa, said, “Not really — but we’ll squish them in.”

Hostile to hostel: Word has it that an attempt to stick an illegal youth hostel into the building containing A Gathering of the Tribes Gallery, at 285 E. Third St., was recently squelched by the Fire Department. There were reportedly 40 bunk beds installed on the building’s top and bottom floors. The hostel had not yet started operating before the Fire Department busted them after receiving a tip. The gallery — which had nothing to do with the hostel — is legally grandfathered in under zoning, we’re told.

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