Volume 79, Number 38 | February 24 - March 2, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
‘Lose the lulus’: After Daily News political columnist Elizabeth Benjamin recently softened up city councilmembers with several hard-hitting pieces, saying they should honor their supposed commitments to forgo their “lulus” — $10,000 stipends for chairing committees — Citizens Union has ratcheted up the pressure by launching a “Council Lulu Watch.” Last year, Citizens Union, a good-government group, asked Council incumbents running for re-election and candidates to fill out a survey, one of the questions asking if they supported eliminating or limiting the stipends. Twenty-one councilmembers said they backed the idea, and 11 have followed through by not taking their lulus or donating them to charities or Haiti relief. But 12 ultimately took the perks, including local Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin. Plus, three other councilmembers, according to C.U., have “flip-flopped” and now say they are pro-lulu. Last week, Mendez told us she didn’t feel she signed a binding pledge when she answered the survey question, that, frankly, she needs the money and that, if lulus are going to be phased out, then the whole Council should hold a vote on it. Citizens Union says liquidating lulus would save New York City taxpayers $500,000. “Stipends are but one way the speaker [Christine Quinn] buys the loyalty of individual councilmembers instead of trying to win support for issues on the merits,” C.U. Director Dick Dadey said in a statement. “Stipends also are a reason why there are a large number of unnecessary committees. Of the 51 members, 46 either serve as chairs or hold leadership positions and thereby are entitled to extra cash. The Council would function more efficiently if the number of committees were cut in half.” We checked with Chin’s office, and her spokesperson, Jake Itzkowitz said, “As of now, she’s not giving up her stipend. Does she maybe not think they’re the best component of city government? I’d say, yes.”
The New York Post reported that Susan Sarandon’s night at Lower East Side burlesque hot spot The Box last Thursday got a little messy. She was there to help the club celebrate its third anniversary when a transsexual performer named Rose Woods puked onstage and right onto Sarandon, who must have been sitting nearby. Sarandon reportedly “handled it well,” and was laughing it off as some guys helped towel her off.
Villager photo by Scoopy
Susan Jane Gilman.
Knocking ’em dead — almost:
Susan Jane Gilman, bestselling chick-lit authoress, was in town last week for a reading tour for the paperback version of her book “Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven.” She had urged friends to really “pack the room” at KGB bar on E. Fourth St. — and did they ever. Not only was it crowded, it got hot, really hot. Many in the crowd were buddies from Gilman’s days at Stuyvesant High School, where she honed her writing chops under the tutelage of Frank McCourt. Anyway, as Gilman was wrapping up answering audience questions, one woman up in front suddenly fainted, not softly, but with a crash: There was an audible clunk as her head hit the floor, and the crowd gasped. Luckily, a nurse was on hand, but the woman recovered pretty quickly. She apologized profusely to Gilman for passing out. “Nobody’s ever swooned over me before — at least not without a lot of alcohol,” Gilman said later. “It broke my heart; she was so embarrassed. I don’t know who she was.” Gilman’s saucy memoir chronicles the native Upper West Sider’s post-collegiate escapades in communist China.
John Zaccaro on Tuesday withdrew his application for a change in land-use regulations that would have allowed him to keep commercial use in future development of a property he owns on Sullivan St. in the South Village. The withdrawal was apparently in anticipation of a rejection by the City Planning Commission of Zaccaro’s application to rezone the east side of Sullivan St. to include a commercial overlay to the residential zone between Spring and Broome Sts. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and block neighbors who opposed the rezoning were pleased at the withdrawal. “This is a very positive development,” said Andrew Berman, G.V.S.H.P. director. “The proposed rezoning would have allowed a much larger scale of commercial stores on this quiet, historic side street. Potentially, it would have allowed larger, new development and could have set a precedent for similar rezonings on other residential streets in the South Village,” Berman said. G.V.S.H.P. has been calling for a hearing on a South Village Historic District that would preserve the character of the area’s side streets. The Villager’s editorial in last week’s issue also opposed the zoning change as a threat to the neighborhood’s character. There are currently several small businesses on the ground floors at Zaccaro’s property at 73-75 Sullivan St., including Grandaisy bakery and a Greek specialty food shop. But those spaces were “grandfathered” into the residential street as pre-existing uses and would disappear if the buildings were demolished. Neighbors feared that if the commercial overlay were granted, Zaccaro would demolish the buildings and bring in large-scale retailers. City Planning was scheduled to vote on the zoning change on Wed., Feb. 24, but the item was dropped from the agenda after Zaccaro withdrew it. The Villager was unable to reach the developer before press time.
Union Square activist Gail Fox said she’s heard from about 10 people, including two who really would know, that Grocer John’s supermarket on W. 14th St. may be closing. The Trader Joe’s sound-alike/imitator is owned by John Catsimatidis, who owns the Gristedes supermaket chain.
Night on the tiles:
Jim Power, the East Village’s “Mosaic Man,” was of two minds on how his benefit at Theatre 80 St. Mark’s went last week. “I feel like a new man,” he said, though adding, “The thing was a disaster in some ways.” The affair raised $350. He claimed his complaints aren’t about the money, but he said, “I spend that much on my dog a month.” He also had a falling out with emcee Jay Wilson over assorted issues, from the flier for the event — which he said was “sanitized” of punk rockers — to the low sound level on Undead rocker Bobby Steele’s first couple of songs. Meanwhile, Power has come to a decision, at least for now. “The trail is over,” he stated with finality of his quixotic quest to repair his 60-plus, tile-encrusted street lampposts in the East Village, and add some more to reach a total of 80. He said he has $50,000 worth of mosaic work lined up that will keep him busy. “Anybody who can afford $500 to $1,000 a square foot, call me,” he invited. “Otherwise, I don’t want to hear from them.” Asked about all the flap, Wilson said, “I hope that Jim perseveres over his physical and economic obstacles (and other distractions) to complete his mosaic trail, or at least continue to make art — just as the many who contributed to his benefit continue to struggle to make their films and music. In the end, no one cares where you lived, what you ate or how much money you had — or what petty squabbles one was involved in — it’s the art that should endure: the best of what we have to offer the world.”