Volume 78 - Number 49 / May 13 - 19 , 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Scoopy's Notebook

An offer they can’t refuse: After James Gandolfini recently got his A-list foot firmly in the door with Council Speaker Christine Quinn at a power lunch on the Hudson Square megagarage, as Scoopy first reported last week, the possibility that the embattled project could be downsized is finally looking like a very real possibility. Gandolfini again led the charge on Tuesday at a meeting with Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler’s chief of staff, Caswell Holloway. This time Gandolfini was joined by Richard Barrett and Phil Mouquinho of the Sanitation Steering Committee, which has been battling the overly large project for two years. Also present were John Doherty, Department of Sanitation commissioner; Dan Klein, Sanitation’s real estate director; and A.J. Pietrantone, director of Friends of Hudson River Park. Skyler had told Gandolfini he wanted a presentation of the committee’s Hudson Rise proposal. The community-alternative plan contains only two, instead of three, Sanitation districts’ trucks, and is thus a much lower building with less impact; plus it boasts a gorgeous rooftop park. “Today, I can tell you, I’ve seen the door open,” said an exuberant Mouquinho, speaking afterward. “If we can get District 5’s trucks out of there…75 feet tall is a possibility. It’s the first time I can use the words ‘ray of optimism.’ ” The activists recently presented the administration with five alternate sites for District 5’s garage; the city responded that three were feasible, and said it would extend by two weeks its search for alternative sites. Mouquinho and Barrett said the city feels the five-building Extell Riverside South site may be the best possibility. The other two options are a Sanitation vehicle-maintenance facility in Chelsea and a site in the West 50s owned by Gary Spindler, who also owns a Greenwich St. garage where Sanitation had wanted to dump a massive road-salt pile. Meanwhile, the Friends of Hudson River Park are now on the same page on the megagarage. According to the Hudson Square activists, the Friends are saying they will — under certain conditions — agree to waive huge fines being lodged against the city for not getting its garbage trucks off Gansevoort Peninsula after 2012 in order to help the effort to find a better location for District 5’s garage. “They want to do what’s best — for the park and the community,” Barrett said. The Friends, who filed a lawsuit to get the trucks off Gansevoort, have a settlement with the city that hinges on using the UPS parking lot at Spring and Washington Sts. for the megagarage. However, the Hudson Square activists have their own pending lawsuit over the hated project. Adding to the momentum against the gargantuan garage, another star is about to go supernova on the issue. “This celebrity thing is really exploding,” Mouquinho marveled. “Meryl Streep hit the roof — she didn’t even know about this.” Barrett and Mouquinho said Pier 76 in Chelsea may also be a possibility for District 5’s trucks, since the Friends are now amenable to it; in a best-case scenario, they said, Pier 76, which already has a tow pound, would also be home to District 5’s trucks, as well as the two marine-waste transfer stations planned for Gansevoort and W. 59th St., both in Hudson River Park. After Tuesday’s meeting at City Hall, everyone was smiling and in good spirits, Mouquinho said, except Klein, who looked “depressed.”

Number one, with a bullet: According to the EV Grieve blog, Bullet Space, an artists’ collective and gallery on Third St. between Avenues C and D, is the first of the 11 former East Village squatter buildings to be turned over to its residents. A source at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, the nonprofit group that has acted as a liaison between the tenants and the city throughout the renovation process of the former L.E.S. squats, confirmed the transfer Monday afternoon, EV Grieve reported: “According to the UHAB source: Bullet Space ‘has officially had its permanent loan closed, and transferred into the name of Bullet Space H.D.F.C.’ Bullet Space officially owns the building.” Umbrella House on Avenue C is the next former squat expected to be converted to a permanently affordable co-op for its residents in the coming weeks, EV Grieve says.

School preservation: Chelsea Campus High School, at Sixth Ave. and Dominick St., is getting a major facelift. The job will take a year and a half, we hear, and the price may well be in the “millions.” The beautiful, turn-of-the-century building’s parapet walls are being rebuilt, and facade details that are in disrepair are being removed so that exact copies can be made to replace them. Work is even going on at night, but that’s just the way these sort of school renovations are done, apparently so the work doesn’t disrupt the school during the day. Clearly, the Department of Education isn’t skimping on this painstaking renovation. ... Now how about creating some new schools in the district to deal with the overcrowding crisis?!

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