Volume 78 - Number 38 / February 25 - March 3, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Scoopy's Notebook

Villager file photo

Chico to go: Antonio Garcia, better known as Chico in the East Village, where his graffiti murals are legend, is leaving the neighborhood. For real. Friends plan to throw him a going-away party the evening of Fri., Feb. 27, at China 1, on Avenue B. “I’m going to Florida to be with my kids,” Chico told us last week. “I guess I’m going to start my life. I’m going to miss the community. But it’s time to spend time with my family. I’m already 45 — and my kids aren’t getting any younger.” Chico came to the East Village from Puerto Rico when he was 2. After 30 years spray-painting positive messages on the East Village’s walls, he said he wants to be a good role model to his two children, ages 15 and 17, and possibly become an art teacher in Tampa. On being separated from his wife for a while, he admitted, “It’s true that an artist is married to his art.” He said he might do one final wall, at 10th St. and Avenue C, if time allows. But the mural-writing climate has changed. When he recently did one at Sixth St. and Avenue C for Barack Obama, the landlord tried to bust him. “Almost 20 years painting there — the building owner wanted to have me arrested,” Chico said in disbelief. “The cops knew me, so they let me go.” The self-professed founder of the graffiti memorial mural, Chico’s walls have honored the likes of the World Trade Center, Celia Cruz, the pope, Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, Selena and Tupac Shakur. “I was always trying to give messages to get people to stay up and do the right thing,” he said. “But I’m sure there are going to be other leaders.” One of those might be Jairo, a twentysomething graffiti artist Chico has been mentoring. “I think he could be the perfect one to continue my legacy,” Chico said. “You get rid of the big roach — you got to follow the small roaches!” His one regret is he never had a solo show in Soho of his canvases — 15 of which, he noted, were stolen at various group shows he was in. A few of his canvases will be on display — and for sale — at his farewell party. Meanwhile, to Chico’s chagrin, it was Keith Haring, an outsider, who got all the art-world accolades. But in Chico’s view, Haring basically exploited — both artistically and sexually — the young local graffiti writers he collaborated with. Chico rebuffed several offers by Haring to work with him. “I said, I don’t want to sell my you know what,” he said. “I put him down a few times. I wasn’t having none of that. I’m a real artist — I’m not a faker.”

Chewing over cookie controversy: At the end of last Thursday night’s Community Board 2 meeting, Dr. Shirley Smith, the only African-American on the 50-member board, asked whether they would be issuing any resolution on the kooky “drunken Negro face cookies” that Lafayette French Pastry baker Ted Kefalinos created for Martin Luther King Day/Barack Obama’s Inauguration. “What if they make a ‘drunken Irish cookie’?” Smith asked. “What if they made an ‘upside-down faggot cookie’? What if they made a cookie that said, ‘Hitler was right’? What is the position of the board?” she demanded to know. Brad Hoylman, C.B. 2 chairperson, said when he fired off an e-mail blast last month calling for a community boycott of the store, he knew he “was skating on thin ice” and “was a little bit iffy,” since the full board hadn’t yet had a chance to consider the issue. Subsequently, however, Kefalinos “removed the product,” apologized and agreed to take a training session on Human Rights Law by the State Division of Human Rights, at which point Hoylman said the board would likely not endorse a boycott. But in the ensuing month, no resolution was forthcoming from any of the board’s committees. Last Thursday, Smith said she was “more concerned” that no one on the board except her had thought to say something about the issue. As a result, C.B. 2 right then started to craft a resolution “on the fly.” The board would “strongly condemn” the bakery’s actions  — everyone agreed to that. But when Smith said the resolution should also endorse a boycott of the store, some members balked. Arthur Schwartz, an attorney, said, “This has been bothering me since the e-mail blast went out. There is something called the Constitution. We on Community Board 2 are an arm of the government. Speech is protected, except for shouting, ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater. It was a form of speech — it was dumb speech,” he said of the crazed cookie. Similarly, Carter Booth deemed a boycott “inappropriate.” However, other board members said C.B. 2 cannot be quiet on the ghoulish ganache. Ed Ma said, “I don’t know what famous author said it — maybe Lincoln — but, ‘Silence could be a crime.’” “It happened in Germany, remember?” Smith chimed in. The board decided to table the issue for a month and give it more careful consideration. During the discussion, someone stated P.S. 41 was “doing a letter” backing a boycott of Lafayette bakery. But Michele Farinet, the school’s parent coordinator, said in an e-mail to The Villager: “I have not heard anything about that. I know that P.S. 41 parents certainly are people who deplore any kind of mockery or prejudice against ANY group but I am unaware of some ‘official’ call.” Meanwhile, the New Black Panthers were nowhere to be seen outside the bakery at 26 Greenwich Ave. last Saturday, after having picketed the store for the previous three Saturdays. Sixth Precinct police speculated that the Panthers instead had joined the protest outside the New York Post over that paper’s recent outrageous cartoon that showed officers shooting a monkey who had authored the Stimulus Bill. It remains to be seen whether the Panthers have ended their picketing of Lafayette French Pastry or will return next Saturday.

Jo’s show? Speaking of Community Board 2, the question of “succession” is in the air, as Brad Hoylman’s tenure as board chairperson is nearing an end. In June, following the board’s tradition of having its chairpersons step down after two years, the board will elect a new leader. So far, the only name we’re hearing is Jo Hamilton, who is the board’s de facto No. 2 officer as its first vice chairperson. Hamilton, a Jane St. resident, played a leading role in landmarking the Gansevoort Historic District (the Meat Market) and is a leader in the Greater Gansevoort Urban Improvement Project, the traffic-calming effort in the Meat Market, that is still a work in progress.

Nay to horse carriages: On the subject of C.B. 2 chairpersons, a former one, Maria Passannante Derr, has been charging hard in support of Councilmember Tony Avella’s bill to ban horse carriages. Derr, who is running for election against City Council Speaker Chris Quinn, was recently on the TV news speaking in support of the bill. “One only has to see the documentary ‘Blinders’ — www.blinders.com — to realize that the exploitation of these animals and the need for a ban outweigh any benefit to New York City tourism,” Derr said. The horses’ stables are in Quinn’s Council District 3, mostly in the West 40s. “The stables are firetraps,” Derr said, “multilevel buildings with inadequate sprinkler systems, no second egress, hundreds of pounds of hay and no room in the stalls for the horses to lie down to rest.”
Burned by Bernie:
A list of 14,000 people swindled by Bernard Madoff recently went public, and among the names was new Downtown State Senator Daniel Squadron. The list doesn’t say how much each investor lost. Squadron’s money was in a fund amassed by his late father, Howard Squadron. John Raskin, Squadron’s chief of staff, confirmed Squadron had investments with Madoff but said he did not know any details.  
Term limits tussle: While we were getting his thoughts a few weeks ago on the legacy of former City Councilmember Antonio Pagan, former Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro gave us an update on the term-limits lawsuit on which he is the attorney: The plaintiffs have been given an expedited appeal and will have a hearing in late March before the Appellate Court. Mastro said he’s bullish on their case. “We strongly believe it’s illegal what the mayor and the City Council did here,” he said. “We know it was wrong.” The plaintiffs include Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum; City Comptroller Bill Thompson; City Councilmembers Bill de Blasio and Letitia James; NYPIRG; Mike Long, head of the state’s Conservative Party; the Working Families Party and Independence Party chairpersons from two New York City counties.

Correction: The Villager’s Feb. 11 article on Antonio Pagan incorrectly stated that Jane Crotty was a former chairperson of Community Board 5. She was chairperson of Community Board 6.

Honoring hero auxiliaries: Jimmy Alberici, Sixth Precinct community affairs officer, tells us the honorary street signs for slain Sixth Precinct auxiliary officers Nicholas Pekearo and Eugene Marshalik at Sullivan and Bleecker Sts. will be unveiled Sat., Mar. 14, the second anniversary of their deaths. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly will attend and speak, and other elected officials have been invited, but have not yet confirmed. First, however, busts of the two men will be dedicated that morning at 11 a.m. at the Sixth Precinct at 233 W. 10th St., between Hudson and Bleecker Sts., with the signs ceremony to be held a bit later. The patrol pair were slain March 14, 2007, by a crazed gunman who had just fatally shot a restaurant worked on Houston St. The two unarmed officers had forced the killer to drop a bag full of bullets and were tailing him when he turned on them and killed them.

Newlyweds and new ‘saints’: As part of his “Love Revival” on Valentine’s Day in Union Square, Reverend Billy officiated at the wedding of East Villagers Doan Hoang and Francisco Valera. Before the wedding, Billy bestowed “sainthood” on several local activists, including Barbara Ross of Time’s Up!, Peter Silvestri of Whole Earth Bakery and Kitchen on St. Mark’s Place, local preservation activist Jack Taylor and members of the Bluestockings Bookstore on Allen St.

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