Koch draws the line:
Toward the end of a roundtable interview with Community Media’s editors two weeks ago, Sheldon Silver, the powerful Assembly speaker, voiced his views on redistricting — basically saying it’s fine to leave it up to incumbent legislators to draw their own district lines. “If you give it to a bunch of professors, the community could be harmed,” Silver warned, adding, “I think the issue is overblown.” Silver noted that when redistricting was done back in 1974 — with a Republican governor and the Republicans in charge of both the Assembly and state Senate — the result was that the Democrats actually won control of the Assembly. The current lines were drawn by a court referee, he added. But, we asked, what about former Mayor Ed Koch’s efforts to reform Albany through his new group, New York Uprising? Judy Rapfogel, Silver’s chief of staff, interjected with a smile, “He’d be happy to hear his name was brought up here,” and with that the interview came to an end, since Silver had to attend a multiagency meeting on the recent, devastating Grand St. fire. That was on a Friday. The following Monday, we checked in with Koch, who, it turns out, had just held a press conference that morning to announce — guess what? — that Andrew Cuomo, the expected Democratic candidate for governor, and the three Republican gubernatorial candidates had all pledged, if elected, to veto any legislation allowing the Legislature to redraw its own district lines. “Oh, bulls—t!” Koch retorted to Rapfogel’s dig that he was just glad to hear his name had been mentioned in our meeting with Silver. “The reason that the Legislature wants to draw its own lines is to protect incumbents,” Hizzoner charged. “I have secured from the four gubernatorial candidates that they will veto any legislation that does not provide for an independent, nonpartisan commission to draw the lines next year — so as to provide a level playing field. That’s remarkable.” Koch said once the budget process concludes, he’ll be sending a pledge form to every state legislator to see if they support an independent commission doing reapportionment. “This is going to be a situation where we’ll see who’s willing to stand up,” Koch noted, adding that news of the gubernatorial candidates’ position on redistricting has “got to be very distressing” to Silver and others. “I think what she’s saying is, I’m irrelevant,” Koch shrugged of Rapfogel’s jab. “I don’t care if I’m relevant or irrelevant — I just support good government.”
There were reports that because of President Obama’s visit to New York, at one point, airplanes trying to land at local airports were told to circle around in holding patterns. The same thing happened with Anne Hearn — although she was aboard a bus, not a plane. The Community Board 2 member said she was riding a bus up the Bowery last Thursday morning, when it suddenly veered off course into the Lower East Side and took a circuitous route along Allen, Stanton and any number of other streets. Finally, apparently right when Obama started speaking, the bus returned to the Bowery and proceeded back uptown.
Shami on the scene!
Adding her voice to last Saturday’s rally to save St. Vincent’s Hospital was none other than Shami Chaikin, above. The Westbeth artist, who is nearly 80 years old, was partially run over by a Parks Department garbage truck last November while she was riding her electric scooter in a supposedly protected bike lane by Abingdon Square Park. Thanks to St. Vincent’s E.R. doctors, she survived the horrific accident. “She is home and doing great,” friend Toni Dalton, who forwarded us this photo, said of Shami, who had been rehabilitating at the Village Nursing Home.
Old P.S. 64 theater?
The scaffolding around the old P.S. 64, at E. Ninth St. and Avenue B, was recently taken down, and neighbors are, once again, wondering what’s up. The forlorn building has sat vacant for a dozen years, ever since developer Gregg Singer bought it from the city at auction, later evicting from it the CHARAS/El Bohio cultural and community center. Along the way, Singer — foiled by the city and the courts in his efforts to build a megadorm on the site — spitefully hacked off the turn-of-the-century building’s facade details in a bizarre, and fruitless, bid to overturn the old school’s landmarking. A year ago, Singer told us the property actually had been “taken over and transferred” to Hoffman Management a year earlier, though he was still “an investor in the project.” At the time, Mark Hoffman told us, “We’re in the process of renovating it, and we have some leases out for signature for college dormitories. ... We’re in negotiations.” The building, sans megadorm tower, would be up and running “within the next 12 months,” he said. Well, a year has gone by, so it’s time for a follow-up. But a phone call to Mark Hoffman last week for an update wasn’t particularly productive. “No comment, thank you,” he said, and hung up. However, Michael Rosen, a Christodora House neighbor and founding member of the East Village Community Coalition, tells us there may be a new twist: A local preservationist (no, not Andrew Berman, someone else who specializes in preservation-based tax credits) recently told him that, while plans are still to make the building a dorm, now the owners also want to renovate the old school’s existing basement theater and rent it out to a nonprofit theater company. And Singer is still very much involved, Rosen assured. “I keep hearing Singer’s name — this is Singer,” Rosen said. Asking that we not mention the preservationist’s name, Rosen said, “The guy who called me is saying Singer is showing him the [theater] space this week.” Clearly, Singer wants to exploit preservation-specific tax credits he can get for renovating the landmarked building — the same building he ironically defaced only a few years ago, trying to reverse its landmarking. Talk about “theater of the absurd.”
Fairey wall under fire?
The assault on Shepard Fairey’s new mural on East Houston St. is on. So says Billy Leroy, proprietor of the neighboring antiques-and-props tent. Last week, a mad tagger managed to throw up a partial scrawl on the new artwork, only to be grabbed by a beefy, albeit slow-moving, security guard. The tagger evaded the guard’s clutches by wriggling out of his T-shirt, also leaving behind his cap and spray-paint can. On Monday, another vandal, dispensing with paint altogether, heaved a grapefruit-sized rock through the sheetrock-like panel that the piece is on, leaving a hole. He or she was apparently aiming for a bull’s-eye on the artwork, but missed. Word on the street is that because Fairey committed the sin of actually attending Rhode Island School of Design, some graffiti artists might not respect his work as “authentic.” While putting up the mural last week, Fairey, in the middle above, posed for a photo with Leroy, left, and Tony Goldman, the Soho real estate magnate who owns the lot the wall is on, as well as the one with Leroy’s tent. Goldman just had a double lung transplant, so it’s good to see him smiling. For the record, Leroy said Fairey is a cool guy, and that he enjoyed watching him create the artwork. “He’s not arrogant,” Leroy said. “He’s a master, there’s no question about it. He’s really passionate. A million people were coming up to him.”