Volume 79, Number 25 | November 25 - December 1, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Scoopy's Notebook

Trump con(do)tiki:
Some might call it tacky, but Trump is apparently into tiki. We were rounding the corner of the new Trump Soho International Condo and Hotel at Dominick and Varick Sts. recently, and looking in some curious, little, slit windows there, when a worker gave us the scoop. The ground-floor corner space, he said, will be a “tiki bar.” We have no word on whether it will include actual burning tiki torches — which would be golden, of course. (We just suggest that Tiki Barber be invited to preside at the grand opening.) Anyway, the worker said the entire “condotel” should be open in a couple of months... A few days before, we were checking out the newly opened sidewalk on Varick St. beside the Donald’s Downtown skyline dominator, the construction shed recently having been taken down. We were brooding about how the neighborhood is going to change with all the glitzy types who will soon be flocking to Trump’s towering edifice complex — how it will be feeling like Madison Ave. down here, and how, well, we really liked it the way it was... . Right then, a big strapping guy clamped a paw on our shoulder and with a friendly grin said something we couldn’t hear. Removing our MP3 earphones, it became apparent he was saying, “Carpet, right?” Nope, we said, we’re not one of the guys installing carpeting in the place, though it’s flattering to be associated with such a fine, upstanding trade. But we get the point: The finishing touches — and perhaps the gilded tiki torches — are being put on Trump Soho, and things will soon be changing a lot around here.

Shy sighting:
We were walking down Sixth Ave. at Vandam St. last Friday afternoon, noticing the impressive convoy of parked movie trailers for “Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps.” Speaking of sleeplessness, the new Oliver Stone flick later on would be doing an all-night exterior shoot on Charlton St., surely keeping awake neighbors. Suddenly, a cab pulled up and out hopped a slight, smallish young man in jeans along with a redheaded woman in a thigh-length white coat. “Shy just got here,” a production assistant murmured discreetly into his walkie-talkie, referring to none other than Shia LaBeouf, one of the movie’s stars. The woman, we later found out, was Carey Mulligan, who plays Winnie Gekko, estranged daughter of the ruthless Gordon Gekko. We’re told by one of our sometime-paparazzi photographer friends, that Mulligan is also LaBeouf’s babe in real life. As they hustled toward their trailers, LaBeouf handed off to the P.A. a little blue bag, which looked like it was from the Metropolitan Museum of Art or maybe MoMA, and said, what to us sounded like, “Do you like massages?” We didn’t hear any answer from the P.A. We can only assume that either LaBeouf is studying shiatsu or, probably more likely, that he hired a professional masseuse to help him loosen up before the shoot. The film has been shooting on location all over Soho and Hudson Square.

Crunching (down) the numbers:
The Villager went to press this week on Monday, a day early due to our printer’s Thanksgiving week schedule. But Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, gave us the heads up on the Board of Standards and Appeals vote set to occur Tuesday on a variance for the Romanoffs’ planned building in the Meatpacking District. According to Berman, the B.S.A. was “expected to approve greatly reduced variances for the extra-large glass tower and retail space at 437 W. 13th St.” Berman said the B.S.A. “made absolutely clear at the review session” Monday what their vote would be. In short, he explained, “while the plan started at 250 feet tall, 8.33 F.A.R., and triple the allowable retail space, or 66 percent larger than allowed by zoning, the final approved version will be 175 feet tall and 24 percent larger than allowed by zoning — a 30 percent reduction in the height of the building, and a 64 percent reduction in the amount of extra bulk.” The variance for retail that will be approved has also been cut to double what zoning allows, a 50 percent decrease, the society’s director assured. Berman pointedly stated that while City Councilmember Tony Avella and the Department of City Planning had called for a rejection of the original bulk and use variances, no local elected officials did, though “some expressed some concerns about some aspects of the variances.” “Community Board 2’s Zoning Committee originally approved variances for increasing the size of the tower and its retail space,” the preservationist pointed out. “Though after we showed up in force at the C.B. 2 full board meeting, that position was partly reversed, with the board rejecting the bulk variances while supporting variances for doubling the allowable size of retail.” In seeking the original variances, as well as those that will be approved, the Romanoffs have contended that having the High Line running over a large part of their property created an economic “hardship,” making it more costly to develop the site. However, Berman scoffed: “The notion that the High Line — a world-class attraction which no doubt has exponentially multiplied the value of this property and will multiply the value of any new development upon it — is anything but a boon to this developer is ludicrous, and it is simply ridiculous that the B.S.A. would endorse this ‘Alice in Wonderland’ logic.”

Villager photo by Patrick Hedlund

On firmer footing:
We’re relieved to see that the Department of Transportation is finally replacing the dangerously wobbly paving stones at crosswalks along Spring St. in Soho. Those uneven pavers, as seen above, were always serious accidents waiting to happen, in our view, posing a risk to trip pedestrians right in the path of speeding cars. The new pavers are much smaller by comparison — only about 3 inches by 3 inches — and look like they are being packed together carefully with concrete, so hopefully they won’t become loose and dilapidated like the larger ones did. A D.O.T. worker at one of the crosswalks last week, told us that the surfaces were being fixed because they were “unstable.”

Dot fix is in:
Paul Garrin, the East Village anti-establishment Internet pioneer, told us he will, in fact, respond to the city’s request for proposals for a partner to run .nyc. However, he said it’s clear “the fix is in” for another group, Dot NYC LLC, to win the bid, since the city is now saying the partner must have $5 million in funding available to cover operating costs for the first five years. Garrin created .nyc in 1996 and claims ownership of it, having continuously operated the top-level domain on a so-called alternate root for the past 13 years. 

The Villager’s article two weeks ago on Shami Chaikin being hit by a Parks Department garbage truck in the Eighth Ave. bike lane incorrectly stated that her brother Joseph Chaikin died of AIDS. In fact, according to their sister, Miriam Chaikin, he died as a result of the effects of a stroke, plus a congenital heart condition. The Villager regrets the error — which was based on what the reporter was told by a Westbeth resident, though the resident now claims not to have said it. Regardless, it should have been checked before going to press. As for Shami Chaikin’s condition, Miriam said, “Shami is holding her own. Her condition remains critical.” ... Also, the article on former City Councilmember Miriam Friedlander’s memorial at City Hall in last week’s issue misquoted Susan Stetzer saying Friedlander was “still a star” in ’87 and ’89. What Stetzer said was that Friedlander was still a star at age 87 and 89.

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