Volume 78 - Number 34 / January 21 - 27, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Cafe Obama

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Ray Alvarez serves up a cup of Obama java on Avenue A.

Scoopy's Notebook

View from the cockpit:
Everyone was amazed at the successful ditching of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger last week after the plane’s engines were apparently gunked up by geese. Wanting to get the local pilot’s perspective, we naturally called our favorite Community Board 2 goth airman, Ian Dutton. “I think pretty highly of pilots,” Dutton said, not surprisingly. “I think we all think that if that were to happen to us, we’d all do the same thing. Usually, flying is pretty routine: ‘Are we there yet?’ But all the training is for incidents like that.” This was the first successful (i.e. no one died) commercial-aviation ditching — or crash-landing in water — Dutton noted. The plane glided for 10 miles after the bird strike killed the engines half a mile up in the air, proving an Airbus is an able glider, he noted. Dutton said he’s experienced a few bird strikes in his time at the controls, the most dramatic when he was cruising in for a landing at Charlotte, N.C., a few years ago. “I just saw this flash go by and heard a thud,” he said. Luckily, the bird, the type of which he couldn’t identify, only took out their landing lights. The joke in the airline industry, he said, is that bird-strike goop is later served as “chicken sandwiches” in coach class. On Saturday, the New York Post ran a hard-hitting, front-page, anti-fowl article, “Pluck ’Em!’” with a picture of a goose in a gun’s crosshairs. But Dutton said that’s overkill, so to speak; most pilots don’t want to see geese, or any birds, wiped out, he said. In addition, on an inaugural note, he said, pilots are giving Barack Obama a surprising, industry-wide thumbs up. Among most pilots — “who don’t tend to be liberally minded, there’s a lot of hope,” Dutton said. “They tend to be Western, conservative types — but they seem to feel, ‘This guy’s got something.’”

Piece o’ plane:
Speaking of Flight 1549, at Pier 40 at W. Houston St., Charlie Ritchie, director of the Lilac Preservation Project, and the boat’s resident artist, Amy DiGi, fished a couple of seat cushions from the ditched plane out of the Hudson as the flotation devices were drifting by last week. Ritchie also saw some other flotsam — some of which looked like engine parts — but he didn’t have a dinghy to retrieve it. As for the seat cushion (one was given away), it will be used in the Lilac’s educational program for when school and camp groups visit the boat, a 1933 former Coast Guard buoy tender.

Gaspard was here:
We were happy to see that The New York Times Magazine featured a photo of a dapper-looking Patrick Gaspard in its “Obama’s People” spread. However, while the mag’s short bio on the Haitian-born Gaspard — Obama’s political affairs director — mentioned his stint in the Dinkins administration, it failed to note he was the first chief of staff of former City Councilmember Margarita Lopez. We always liked Gaspard, who had a classy way about him, and are glad he’s made it to the top of the political heap.

Koch on his own inaugural:
On the occasion of Obama’s inauguration, Ed Koch reflected on his first as mayor: “I recall how when I said I wanted to go to my inaugural from my home in Greenwich Village by getting on a public bus, I was told, ‘No, it’s too dangerous.’ I overruled the security forces and boarded a bus. I was surprised to see only one person on it, who appeared to be a homeless man. I later learned it was a special bus prepared for me to take and that the ‘homeless person’ was an N.Y.P.D. detective.” 

Radical raid:
According to a source, federal Treasury agents raided East Village radical lawyer Stanley Cohen’s 119 Avenue D office and Upstate house on Tues., Jan. 6. Cohen, who is Jewish, has been a high-profile attorney for Hamas, so perhaps the raids’ timing wasn’t so surprising. Cohen didn’t return phone calls, and, other than our source, who requested anonymity, no one has a clue as to what actually happened. Attorneys Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Civil Liberties Union, and Marty Stolar both said they hadn’t heard about the raids. Boghosian called around to people she thought might have information, but came up with nothing. The source figured the raids on Cohen’s places were probably linked to Israel’s recent war on Hamas.

Save Ray!
Friends of Ray Alvarez are really getting concerned about his situation. Alvarez has operated his Ray’s Candy Store, on Avenue A at Seventh St., for years, and everyone just assumed he’d saved up a nice nest egg. But it turns out, he’s broke. He needs new glasses and has a bad hernia you don’t want to hear the details of, and his diet is mainly leftover potatoes that he doesn’t make into Belgian fries and maybe some soft ice cream. He’s turning 76 this week, and his friends have assured there will be a transvestite stripper dancing atop his counter for the occasion. But as touching as that gesture may be, it doesn’t pay the bills. The fact is, Ray’s business has fallen off since its 1980s peak when he used to pull in $3,000 a day, selling everything from “spaldeens” to notepads. “His market is drunks — the bar crowd, 1:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays,” observed a concerned Bob Arihood. Arihood, a local photographer and blogger, is leading the effort to help out Alvarez. One idea: He’d like to see Ray get a good cappuccino machine and expand his business to the morning. Also pitching in is Eden Brower, of the East Village String Band, who has started up a MySpace page for Alvarez. Last Saturday night, Ray was asking Brower to post the works of his favorite Turkish poet on the page. The thing is, Ray at his age qualifies for Social Security — but he lacks a birth certificate. A Turkish native, he jumped ship in Florida years ago. But he’s been serving up egg creams, chili dogs and frozen yogurt to the East Village masses for years, and now he needs Social Security. His friends are calling on the city’s Adult Protective Services agency to step in and help him out, because, frankly, he hasn’t followed through on his end to clear up his birth-certificate issue. Ray recently thought he had hit on a good gimmick with his Obama campaign of $1-or-less items: “Obama socks,” “Obama cheeseburger,” “Obama coffee”…basically, “Obama everything.” But there was no profit in it. Cheeseburgers, for one, are normally $3. “It was a mistake,” Ray admitted. We called Adult Protective Services and the agency’s Jovida Chua got right back to us. She said if Alvarez isn’t mentally and physically disabled, then A.P.S. isn’t the agency for him — that he should instead go to Beth Israel Hospital and speak to a social worker about his Social Security. She said she’d gladly talk further to Arihood about Alvarez’s condition; we gave Arihood her number, and he said he’d call her and do the 20-minute questionnaire about Alvarez, which is required before A.P.S. sends out a caseworker for an evaluation. However, Arihood does feel Alvarez is physically disabled (the severe hernia) and — well, sorry Ray — a bit mentally banged up, too, thanks to neighborhood mini-terror Marlene Bailey a.k.a. Hot Dog having slammed the sidewalk-vault doors on his head once as he was coming up from the basement. “He has water on the brain,” Arihood asserted. “He has $40,000 in credit-card debt. He really has no alternative to this. He is a legal, permanent resident of the U.S. He has a green card. The only thing that’s missing is proof of his actual age. This man needs help. He’ll fall through the cracks.” For the record, Ray’s given Turkish name is something like Asgar Garamon, Arihood said.

 

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