‘Don’t fence me out,’ says N.A.C. president
With a little help from his friends, and from National Arts Club members, O. Aldon James, N.A.C. president, scaled the fence of Gramercy Park, which was closed for the day on Tuesday. James had planned to sit in the park and write his speech for Tuesday night’s Medal of Honor Literary Award Dinner honoring writer David McCullough. Instead, he found the gates locked and a sign reading, “For Your Safety The Park Is Closed Today.” “We’re getting treated like children by the [park’s] trustees,” a frustrated James said, adding that no one had given notice of the closing. “They’ve taken us past our limit of patience.” The club has had a contentious relationship with the trustees for years, and even filed a lawsuit against them. Two ladders were placed along the gate, one inside and one outside. James and a companion scaled the fence and spent about an hour sitting on a bench in the park’s southeast corner as James took notes for his speech. After scaling the fence again to exit, James told The Villager, “This today was our Boston Tea Party. We’re not going to be taxed without access,” he said, referring to the yearly fee paid to the park’s trustees by the buildings fronting the park. James said N.A.C. pays $15,000 a year to the trustees. The park was reportedly closed to allow for tree pruning.
‘HOPE’ this mural is good:
Billy LeRoy informs us that street-artist superstar Shepard Fairey is getting ready to paint a new mural on the wall next to LeRoy’s antiques-and-props tent on East Houston St. by the Bowery. Fairey, who first became known for his Andre the Giant “OBEY” stickers and stencils, shot to fame during the 2008 presidential campaign when he created the iconic, multicolored Barack Obama “HOPE” poster; ripped off by the millions, the image is considered one of the most effective political posters of all time. Some, though, like LeRoy apparently, feel Fairey’s gone a bit too mainstream. “I’ve let him keep his paints inside my tent, as a show of support,” LeRoy told us, “even though he is practically corporate art...not yet, not quite.” LeRoy said he’s heard Fairey will start the piece on April 25. The mural that graced the wall since last July — a whimsical dreamscape by Brazil’s “The Twins,” Octavio Pandolfo and Gustavo Pandolfo — was recently covered with a sort of “skin” to preserve it, and Fairey will paint on top of that, LeRoy said. Previously, the wall sported a re-creation of a 1982 Keith Haring mural for the better part of a year.
Our Scoopy item a few weeks ago on George Capsis’s dream of a turning Pier 40 into “the world’s largest Green Pier” exposed the WestView newspaper publisher’s deep distaste for the youth sports leagues that use the pier — which he blasted as being mainly spoiled private school kids. After our item ran, Capsis e-mailed us to let us know he would be writing a letter in response. We kept checking our e-mail, checking some more, checking and checking...but no letter from Capsis. As a result, we were then quite surprised to read, in an article by Capsis in his latest issue of WestView, that he said he had written The Villager a lengthy letter and sent it to us on March 23, for publication in our March 24 issue — but that we did not run it! So we e-mailed Capsis and asked him to please send us the alleged March 23 letter that he wrote that he claims we did not publish. Capsis’s e-mail response: “Your not getting my e-mail could have been my fault (too much to do in not enough time). ... If I get a chance I am going to look at my drafts to see if I never sent it. But I know you would have printed it if you got it.” For the record, Capsis has so far failed to produce the purported letter. He promised us he would print “an apology” in his next issue.
New Councilmember Margaret Chin did some serious housecleaning with her recent appointments to Community Board 2, sweeping out a couple of longtime appointees of her predecessor, Alan Gerson. Chin didn’t reappoint Dr. Shirley Smith and Harriet Fields. Smith, an education activist, was the 50-member volunteer board’s only African-American member, while Fields is the executive director of the Noho Business Improvement District.
BID for pizza, and for a BID:
Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, gives an update on Soho goings-on. First, the former Lola location at Watts and Thompson Sts. is becoming an Italian restaurant featuring pizza. Sweeney said the operators are applying for a liquor license and had wanted to stay open till 2 a.m., but Community Board 2 is recommending a midnight closing time. So far, there has been no neighborhood opposition, a stark contrast to the bitter resistance Lola faced, which ultimately forced the owners of the soul food and jazz spot to abandon the location. ... In addition, a new business improvement district is in the works for the busy shopping strip along Broadway between Houston and Canal Sts. The push is being led by the Soho Partnership, along with Aurora Capital, Vornado and Newmark Realty, among others. Sweeney said small local retailers have gladly chipped in contributions to the Soho Partnership, a sort of quasi-BID, to fund supplemental street sweeping to keep the neighborhood looking good; but getting the larger stores along Broadway to join has been a problem, he said, since their corporate offices often can be located in California or overseas. “The Soho Partnership had to wait five months to get a $5,000 check from the Apple Store,” Sweeney said. “It’s not that they don’t want to give — it’s just so bureaucratic.” Instead of relying on voluntary donations, the new BID would assess a special tax on property owners to raise revenue for its operations. In addition to sanitation, the BID would provide security, in the form of unarmed guards patrolling the streets, as is seen in other BID’s. Two informational meetings will be held, on Wed., April 21, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Thurs., April 29, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., both at 557 Broadway, second floor.
one more week:
Last week, at the end of our report on New York University’s growth plans, we said that this week we would have the response from community members. Due to time constraints (i.e. large Progress Report), plus the fact that N.Y.U. will hold an open house for the community to view and respond to the plans on Wed., April 14, we will do the community-response article next week. To give a brief sampling of some of the reactions thus far, Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation said N.Y.U. should look at more realistic places to grow remotely, such as Long Island City or the Financial District, as opposed to Governors Island. He said anything N.Y.U. attempts to develop on its South Village superblocks could have a hard time getting approval due to current zonings. Meanwhile, Anne Hearn, a Community Board 2 member who lives in Washington Square Village, wasn’t happy when we first told her that N.Y.U. President John Sexton’s vision of a “Global Networked University” could mean a fourth tower added on the Silver Towers block for visiting faculty from all over the globe. Her response: “Megalomaniac.”