Volume 79, Number 17 | Sept. 30 - Oct 6, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

2Scoopy's Notebook

Park doings: Teddy Roosevelt IV recently stepped down as a board of directors member of the Hudson River Park Trust, citing his busy schedule, we were told by Trust sources. T.R. IV was a gubernatorial appointee to the 13-member board; Governor David Paterson has not yet announced a replacement. … Meanwhile, the Friends of Hudson River Park, the park’s leading advocacy group, has named Susanna Aaron to its board of directors. Aaron is married to Gary Ginsberg, a top member of the Pier 40 Partnership and the executive vice president of global marketing and corporate affairs at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. Aaron and Ginsberg are parents to Sam and Alec and are involved at the Village Community School. Aaron was a TV producer and has won Emmys. New York magazine chose her as one of the “Most Beautiful New Yorkers” in 2005. The Pier 40 Partnership — a high-powered group of local parents whose children play in youth sports leagues on the W. Houston St. pier — is dedicated to preserving Pier 40 as a low-impact, community-oriented space with sports uses. Announcing the news in an e-mail blast, the partnership’s Rich Caccappolo said, “Our friend and neighbor Susanna Aaron won election to the board of the Friends of Hudson River Park earlier this week! Expect great contributions from her!”

Electoral funny business: Previously, we reported that Roberto Caballero was pulled off the ballot in the primary election for East Village Democratic district leader after it was revealed he falsely claimed to live in the district — which is a felony. Subsequently, we were informed by Rosie Mendez’s campaign that Caballero also voted in the district where he falsely claimed to live — which is yet another felony. For Caballero’s sake, it’s just lucky the election is over, so he can stop racking up felonies. ... Meanwhile, Mendez, who was re-elected to the City Council, also trounced Mildred Martinez in the race for female district leader, by a margin of about 80 percent to 20 percent.

‘Mass eviction’ tour: A local tenant activist kept insisting to us that the Economakises had moved out of their building at 47 E. Third St., so we decided to check it out for ourselves. One thing led to another, Alistair Economakis invited us to come over and take a look, and last Friday evening we got a tour of the building — or what’s left of it. Following the departure of the remaining tenants at the end of August, the Economakises immediately started major renovations to turn the five-story building into a private, 11,600-square-foot mansion. It was the end of a five-year fight under which the owners moved to evict the tenants so they could take the whole 15-unit building for their personal use; in the end, after their legal case crumbled, the holdout tenants in nine apartments took buyouts. Except for the areas that the family is still using, the place has been completely gutted in the past month — with just the floors, the stairs and the building’s brick shell remaining. The old roof is still on, but will be replaced soon. With peppy enthusiasm, Catherine Economakis led the tour, first showing us her “dream kitchen” she had installed on the second floor, complete with a fully stocked stainless steel refrigerator, adjacent to their combination living room/dining room. Moving into the freshly gutted areas — where nothing at all is left of the former apartments — Catherine showed where they will blast through a wall to create a new doorway so that she won’t have to make the “50-yard dash,” as she put it, between the kitchen and the new dining room proper — that is, once they build the dining room in the rear of the building where one of the tenant’s apartments used to be. Part of the floor above the living room will be removed (their temporary bedroom is there now) to create a balcony overlooking the space — they note they are social and like to entertain. Replacing their current temporary bedrooms, new ones for themselves, their three young kids and their nanny will be built on the third and fourth floors. The fifth floor will feature a small gym, office, guest room and clothes washer and drier, Catherine excitedly pointing out the exact spot where the machines will go. The first floor will have a library and kids’ study area and storage space. The Economakises also proudly note they have even restored the building’s cornice, which had been removed, and have cleaned and pointed the old tenement’s front brickwork. Catherine stated they intend to live there their whole lives. Alistair, saying one can never know what the future holds, assured they’ll stay there at least 10 years — if not 20 years, and yes, maybe even forever. He repeated that the “real story” will be a year from now, when the renovations are completed. It certainly looked to us like they are living there now, and, it seems plausible, could continue to live there for some time. Saying their family is straight out of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” they noted they will have lots of relatives over, too, so will use all the space. As we were leaving, the nanny and the kids returned from the park — so, yup, they really do exist. Alistair leaned down to affectionately give one of his young sons a kiss on the head as they marched in, the smiling nanny trundling their baby daughter in a carriage. Catherine said they’ll live there while the renovation goes on for as long as they can take it, but at some point probably will temporarily have to move back to the building she co-owns with her mom in Brooklyn when the construction and dust become too much. ... The next night we were walking down Avenue A when L.E.S. Slacktivist John Penley called out from inside Odessa for us to join him. Told that it looks possible, at least to us, that the Economakises really might live in 47 E. Third St. for a while and not try to flip the property immediately to make a financial killing, Penley admitted he can believe it. “It’s the precedent — that they showed an owner can do this,” he stressed of the “mass-eviction” effort, which, in a unanimous ruling, was upheld as legal by the state’s highest court. While the struggle was going on, Penley and his Slacktivists helped put the pressure on the Economakises, staging a raucous protest outside the building in the summer of 2008. ... Dave Pultz, 57, one of the tenants who held out till the end, then took a $75,000 buyout, is now living with his wife in a co-op in Inwood that he bought with his retirement savings. He said he was proud of how the tenants in the nine, rent-regulated apartments stuck together. “They tried to break up the group and break up the unity,” he said of the Economakises. “They seem very nice, very sincere. But you have to understand, they’re real estate professionals. They’re sales people, they know how to play the game.” Alistair and Catherine work for her family’s real estate company, Granite Management. They bought 47 E. Third St. in 2002. “Now they’ve destroyed all those apartments, so it’s a very valuable property now,” Pultz said, reiterating, “They’re real estate people.” 

Back behind the lens: Speaking of Penley, now that he’s returned from Erie, Pa., he’s taken up one of his old loves, photography. About 10 years ago, Penley, who used to shoot regularly for the New York daily papers as well as The Villager, decided he needed a break from the constant grind and hustle of news photography, and laid down his camera. But now he’s working on a series of portraits of people in Tompkins Square Park. He’s very pleased with the results so far, and is doing it all old-school style — with film, not digital.

Feeling pumped about Mike:
Florent Morellet, who is co-chairing a group of prominent L.G.B.T. activists working to re-elect Mayor Mike Bloomberg, said his support was further solidified recently after Bill Thompson was reported to have said that, if elected, he would “rip out” the new Grand St. bike lane. NY1 news reported that Thompson, the Democratic mayoral nominee, not only said he would scrap the Grand St. lane, but would review all the other hundreds of miles of new bike lanes laid down during the Bloomberg administration. “I’m in favor of bike lanes,” Thompson told the news station. “But you can’t put bike lanes in without speaking to the community. You can’t put bike lanes in that do damage to local businesses.” We bumped into Morellet as he was leaving an event at the HERE Theater on Dominick St., and was getting onto his snazzy, black, Trek hybrid bike to ride off. He said Thompson’s position on the Grand St. bike lane, and bike lanes in general, is the last straw, as far as he’s concerned. It all shows that, unlike Bloomberg, Thompson is “not for a livable city,” Morellet declared. The former Meat Market restaurateur went on to call the entire Democratic Party a bunch of “tired hacks who pander to special interests.” Morellet said he really likes what the city is doing at Herald Square and Times Square in creating pedestrian spaces, as well as the bike lanes. “Bloomberg is a leader willing to make the tough, unpopular decisions,” he said. The L.G.B.T. leader praised Council Speaker Christine Quinn for making a similar move when she backed the unpopular marine waste-transfer station on Gansevoort Peninsula, since it relieved an unfair burden of garbage being trucked through the outer boroughs.

Reader Services








The Villager is published by Community Media LLC. 145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013 Phone: (212) 229-1890 | Fax: (212) 229-2790 | Advertising: 646-452-2465 | © 2009 Community Media, LLC

Written permission of the publisher must be obtained before any of the contents of this newspaper, in whole or in part, can be reproduced or redistributed.