Volume 79, Number 11 | August 19 - 25, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Scoopy's Notebook

Accentuate the positive (why not?):
Maria Passannante-Derr, who many felt came off as “the angry candidate” during last Thursday’s Council District Three debate, is apparently still angry. For one, Passannante-Derr’s Web site claims that East Village activist Bob Ortiz-Arroyo was barred from entering the debate. However, not only does a YouTube video show Ortiz-Arroyo in his wheelchair being let into the building, but Ortiz-Arroyo himself told us on Tuesday that he got in, and, by the sound of it, had a pretty good time once inside, too, enjoying the debate from the overflow room. “Yes, I was squeezed into the other room with a video view, and also met an Angola native who may be interested in taking some of the hundreds of books I got as freebies during my radio news and public affairs career,” Ortiz-Arroyo told us in an e-mail.

T.G.I. Friday-ization of Union Square:
Walmart’s long-speculated entry into New York City, most recently via a rumored deal to take space in Union Square, found no lack of detractors among the Downtown set. So imagine how the arrival of chain-restaurant T.G.I. Friday’s will be received after it was reported that the purveyor of “Parmesan-Crusted Sicilian Quesadillas” would be opening inside a recently purchased building on Union Square. The Riese Organization, which just bought 34 Union Square East, announced plans to bring in both a Friday’s and Tim Horton’s coffee shop if it can’t find another tenant on the quick. (The property has been vacant for nearly two years, and Riese scooped it up only after the asking price fell by a reported 40 percent.) The move follows on the blockbuster lease of the former Virgin Megastore/Circuit City space on Union Square South to Nordstrom Rack and Best Buy, respectively. The backlash among Needle Park purists began immediately after the news started trickling through the Web, with at least one Twitter page created to “help send a loud and clear message to The Riese Organization that we don’t want his TGI Friday’s in Union Sq. SAVE THE SQUARE!” For its part, the Union Square Partnership responded that the restaurant — whose original outpost opened on the Upper East Side in 1965 — would be a boon to business on the bustling hub. “We are fortunate that in this difficult economy, Union Square’s retail vacancy rate remains one of the lowest in the city, with diverse retail options and new businesses coming to the area,” said Jennifer Falk, the Partnership’s executive director. “T.G.I. Friday’s will bring much-needed foot traffic to the businesses located on the eastern side of the square, which historically has not seen as many pedestrians as the businesses to the south and west.” A call to mayoral candidate and anti-consumerist Reverend Billy went unreturned as of press time, but somehow we think we already know his thoughts on the matter. T.G.I. Friday’s apparently would also be a boon for those wanting to get sloshed. According to Wikipedia, “Friday’s has a large menu with an emphasis on alcoholic beverages, which includes their famous ‘Crazy Night Cocktail.’ It has a more impressive bar area and larger alcoholic menu than many of its casual-dining restaurant competitors. ‘Ultimates’ drinks are served in an 18 oz. glass, and often made with top-shelf and darker liquors.”

CoDA complex:
Robert Caballero, of the Lower East Side Political Action Committee, thought this time, at last, he really had Councilmember Rosie Mendez — one of his many nemeses from Coalition for a District Alternative. A recent article in the Daily News came out blasting local elected officials, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Councilmember Alan Gerson, for giving funds to the United Jewish Council of the East Side, only to have a U.J.C. member work collecting petition signatures for their campaigns. The article also noted that Mendez had given $8,000 to the U.J.C. — which Caballero crowed isn’t even in Mendez’s Council District 2. However, Mendez seemed to have a good answer, retorting, “The U.J.C. runs senior centers in my district, or on the periphery of my district that my constituents walk to.” She specifically cited a U.J.C.-run program in the Lillian Wald Houses on Avenue D and a program at the Bialystoker facility, the latter which is just over the border in Alan Gerson’s Council district. The seniors attend the centers for cultural classes, like dancing and music, and meals and to use a library and take computer classes. As for any quid pro quo with U.J.C., Mendez said, “No one from U.J.C. has been volunteering in my campaign. I don’t do quid pro quo. … People decide whether they like the work you’re doing.” Hmm, we score it: CoDA wins another round over LESPAC.

Margarita and the Supremes:
Speaking of CoDA, one of its favorite daughters, former Councilmember Margarita Lopez, attended the White House party for newly confirmed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor last week. Lopez did the introduction before Michael Rosen gave a reading from his new book at the L.E.S. Tenement Museum last Thursday, and she filled in the author/activist about the judicial bash that had occurred the night before. Lopez talked extensively with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sotomayor at the Supreme soiree. “Ruth Bader Ginsberg loved her — she told her that she was beautiful,” Rosen reported. “Margarita said Ginsberg was very elegant, dressed in gloves.” Mendez said Lopez, now a top-ranking official at the New York City Housing Authority, went as a representative of Mayor Bloomberg and of NYCHA, whose housing in the Bronx Sotomayor is a product of. There was apparently no ill will expressed over the fact that Lopez is currently working in a Republican administration.

N.Y.U. helped big time:
The Villager would like to thank all those at New York University who helped make our Council District Three debate last week become a reality, and ensured that it went off without a hitch. Alicia Hurley, N.Y.U. vice president of government and community engagement, deserves the biggest thanks, as well as Marie Spears, event coordinator; Amanda McEntire, Lisa Kail and Marcia Maxwell, line guards (they let in Bob Ortiz); Jack Breffle, timekeeper (he used his iPod); Christopher James and the N.Y.U. audiovisual shop, and Gary Parker.

Contrary to the claims of Scoopy, who gave her a surprise promotion last week, Bethany Jankunis will not be provost, but assistant to the provost of Polytech University of New York University. Also, as opposed to what was stated in an article in last week’s issue on the bulging-bricks emergency at 2 Fifth Ave., former Mayor Ed Koch didn’t reside there when he was mayor. “I lived at 14 Washington Place before I was sworn in as mayor,” Koch told us. “Then, I lived at Gracie Mansion for 12 years. On Jan. 1, 1990, I moved to 2 Fifth Ave.” Additionally, the photo caption on last week’s talking point page misidentified one of the individuals as Robert Hammond, when it was his Friends of the High Line co-founder, Joshua David.

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