Volume 78 - Number 50 / May 20 - 26 , 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Scoopy's Notebook

Photo courtesy Sean Sweeney

Sean Sweeney sporting the black eye he said a cyclist gave him.

Sidewalk ‘road warrior’: “I want you to get this right — because this is going to be all over Streetsblog,” Sean Sweeney said, as he explained to us on Sunday how he got the whopping shiner under his left eye. The Soho activist said he was walking on Greene St. when a young cyclist came barreling down the sidewalk toward him. At a point where the pavement narrowed, the two came face to face, with the rider still racing at a rapid rate. Sweeney abruptly grabbed the bike’s handlebars, to which the cyclist responded, “Are you looking for trouble?” Sweeney answered, “Yeah!” though, he said, on second thought maybe he shouldn’t have. Before Sweeney knew it, the cyclist — whom he said was “clean cut, like a yuppie” — had sucker punched him in the face. Some bystanders — “young citizens, his age,” Sweeney noted with some satisfaction — grabbed the bike rider and held him. “They said, ‘What are you punching the old guy for?’” a remark Sweeney said actually hurt more than the physical blow. The cyclist protested that Sweeney “started it,” but the activist retorted, “No, you were on the sidewalk.” In the end, since he was late for a Downtown Independent Democrats meeting, Sweeney decided not to call the police or press charges, and they let the man go. It’s not Sweeney’s first run in with bikes. He’s been a vocal critic of the new Grand St. bike lane, which — along with his opposition to a proposed Prince St. pedestrian mall — led Streetsblog, not long ago, to dub him NIMBY of the Year.


Here comes the judge: Downtown Independent Democrats’ fundraiser last Sunday, at D.I.D. President Sweeney’s Soho loft (which is where he was telling us about his black eye), drew quite a crowd, with the likes of Congressmembers Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and state Senator Daniel Squadron, among others. Civil Court Judge Kathryn Freed was there — and pointed out she had every right to be. Rules bar judges from attending such political events — but not if they are candidates running for office, and Freed told us she has her eye on state Supreme Court. But she said, though it’s possible she might be on the ballot this year, there are a bunch of candidates already approved by the judicial screening panel who were “ahead” of her in line, so to speak, so she might have to run next year. Supreme Court would mean $10,000 more a year, plus “more interesting cases,” Freed said. She stated she won’t run for her old First District City Council seat again because, as she put it, “I can’t afford it,” noting she’s still paying off the mortgage on her Grand St. Co-ops apartment.


Get inta Dodge: Also at the D.I.D. fundraiser, we learned a bit more about Dodge Landesman and his groundbreaking campaign (he’s only 18) for City Council. A junior at York High School who lives on E. 21st St. in Gramercy, he’s running against incumbent Rosie Mendez in the Second District. A former special-education student who overcame difficulties with “sequencing,” such as reading the correct time on a clock face, Landesman previously attended the Gateway School on Second Ave. near 14th St. We did not know that Gil Horowitz, who is a psychologist when not a Washington Square-area activist, was Landesman’s pro bono “life coach.” Horowitz said the biggest thing he has tried to impart to the young wannabe pol so far is: “Think Big. Think Win.” Landesman said Mendez has been good on public-housing and L.G.B.T. issues, but that he would be more active on education. Speaking of education, Horowitz said he’s advising Landesman that, if elected, he should go to school locally and attend Baruch College while in office. Continuing a sartorial style set by one of his primary campaign predecessors, Jay Wilson, Landesman favors both saddle shoes and natty, vintage-style suits. ... Oh, by the way, Dodge’s dad, Rocco Landesman, was just tapped by President Obama to be chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts, though still needs to be confirmed. 


One more D.I.D.: Horowitz noted he’s also helping out Pete Gleason — who unlike Freed, is running for the First Council District seat — as Gleason’s campaign “behavioral scientist.” As for Gleason’s behavior, well, he flew out to San Diego to attend a dinner last Thursday hosted by his friend Jeffrey Krinsk, a big-time Democratic supporter, at which Vice President Joe Biden was the guest of honor. Gleason said that afterward he handed the Veep a copy of the Hudson Rise alternative plan for the Spring St. Sanitation garage. The Council candidate showed us a photo on his camera in which he and Biden are both in the frame, though the back of a woman’s head is unfortunately blocking the view of the actual alleged transfer of the plan from Gleason’s hand to Biden’s. “He said, ‘I’ll have my staff look at this,’” Gleason said. Gleason stressed that the fuel that would be stored in the megagarage is a genuine threat that Homeland Security should be concerned about. Jeanne Wilcke, chairperson of Friends of Noho, is Gleason’s campaign manager. ... Another candidate for the First District, Margaret Chin, who was also at the D.I.D. affair, happily told us she has “maxed out” in terms of her fundraising under the Campaign Finance Board’s matching public funds system; so, she has no more fundraising to do.


Will it stay or will it go? Word in the ’hood was that Cooper Union’s Engineering Building on Astor Place would be demolished imminently to start construction of a new office building on the site. A few weeks ago, the closing of the Starbucks in the building — located as it was along the strongly Starbucks-saturated strip — lit up the blogosphere. Trigger, owner of the former Continental rock club, now a bargain-priced shots bar, across the street, told us that he’d heard the Engineering Building was slated to come down in June. Wearing his trademark Vietnamese rice-paddy hat as he worked the watering hole’s door, Trigger said he was interested in what the new building’s commercial tenant would be. Personally, the healthy-living former punk impresario said he favors a Whole Foods or even a Trader Joe’s. Jolene Travis, a Cooper Union spokesperson, said that by this summer the school will have completely moved into its new academic building at 41 Cooper Square, for which a Sept. 15 ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned. She referred further questions on the Engineering Building to the developer, Edward J. Minskoff Equities, which will have a long-term lease on the site. Minskoff C.F.O. Ben McGrath said, “We are not commencing demolition next month — that’s a certainty. Cooper Union is still in the building. ... Obviously, the economy has an impact on the decision, but we’re still wrestling with what to do and when to do it.” As for ground-floor commercial uses, McGrath said their first priority will be a tenant for the office building, and that commercial uses would follow. On the existing building’s last commercial tenant, McGrath echoed a common sentiment when he said, “I was always perplexed why there were two Starbucks so close to each other.” The new building’s planned design — resembling a giant paperweight of sorts — was shaped by a rezoning process about seven years ago heavily influenced by community input. “Everything is going to unfold the way the public expects it to,” McGrath assured.


Show him the money: Ray Alvarez unfortunately did not look pleased when we saw him recently after we reported that a Social Security Administration spokesperson had told us the 76-year-old Avenue A egg cream maestro could only collect retroactive Social Security benefits going back six months. “I was expecting 11 years,” Ray said quietly, drying his hands on a towel. “I wait long time.” ... But then, shifting gears, he quickly added, “I really don’t care about how much they go back — I want my benefits every month, so I can retire. I’m not here to get rich. ... I lost that Navy ID, and Immigration has it. And it will take 10 to 22 months to get a copy of it.”


Viva Loisaida! Lower East Side photographer Marlis Momber is ticked off that the Loisaida Festival on Sun., May 24, didn’t get permission to run the length of Loisaida Ave., that is the entire Avenue C all the way to Houston St., and instead won’t go south of Sixth St. As a result, Momber is going to stage her own festival, south of Sixth St., outside Adelia, her favorite, old-school Puerto Rican restaurant. She won’t have a permit and fully expects to be arrested. She would not divulge details of her own event, just saying it will be “visual and unique.”

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