Volume 80, Number 1 | June 2-8, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Talking Point

The Angry Buddhist takes a stroll on the boardwalk

By Carl Rosenstein 

I got stuck in an elevator the other day. I hate elevators. It’s where they want you, inside of a steel box, no way out. I shun them when possible, but as I passed the door opened. I had important paperwork for my attorney. Inside were a father and young daughter off to a therapy session in this quirky building. No. 799 Broadway at 11th St. is filled with eclectic tenants, including the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, various New Age practitioners, many therapists and lawyers.

Fortunately, there were no lawyers in the elevator when it lurched and thudded to a halt but I could have used a therapist. I, in a fetal crouch, while little Alice screamed, “We are all going to die! We are all going to die!” At least the lights were still on. 

Dangling in a steel box in a narrow dark shaft without control. Seems like an apt metaphor for these nervous times. 

I rode the N to Coney Island on a perfect May afternoon. There’s already a buzz at funky Ruby’s bar and Lola Staar’s on the boardwalk next to Shoot The Freak: “Live human target. Shoot the freak, win a prize.”

The good news at Coney is that the new Luna Park is under construction at the old Astroland site, but the rotten smell is not dead fish from BP’s oil spill drifting into the Atlantic — not yet. The whiff of sulfur emanates from Mayor Bloomingdale’s Economic Development Corporation, which last year swindled the treasury out of nearly $100 million for the purchase of land from Thor Equities and Joe Sitt, who bought it from Astroland for an overvalued $30 million a couple of years before. Overvalued because the land was zoned C-7, suited only for amusements. Sitt must have purchased it with a tacit understanding from the Mayor’s Office that the land would be rezoned. The mayor then cleverly fabricated the phony “Save Coney Island” campaign. 

Coney, however, is many years past its “Warriors” era nadir. Coney Island did not need to be saved — it was already protected. The land tripled in value only after our über mayor rezoned Coney for big-box retail and hotels, all to be paid for in blood this year with the firings of teachers and firemen. The City Council’s 49-1 vote in favor of rezoning was a craven capitulation to the mayor and to leadership. In New York, in major development schemes, like in war, the truth is always the first casualty. The Villager was the only paper that reported these facts at the time while the dailies and local TV were all cheerleading. 

Now Sitt is preparing to demolish a half-dozen historic buildings, including the Shore Theater. Preservationists are scrambling to calendar the significant ones. Contact Robert Tierney, chairperson of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, at Tierney@comments@lpc@nyc.gov and request that the L.P.C. save what little remains along Surf Ave. 

I walked down the boardwalk to the Russian Sector where the buzz is over their newest homeboy, megalomaniac Brooklyn Nyet owner Mikhail D. Prokhorov — Nyet worth $14 billion. Just what our town needs, another tumid billionaire. Our billionaire mayor had him over for breakfast. Afterward he was ushered around town, including a visit to the new billionaire Steinbrenner Stadium, scandalously funded with $300 million in public money. This was apparently to show Prokhorov just how easy it is to rip off the public coffers, as will be done in suit for the construction of his Atlantic Yards basketball-arena-office-and-condo development. 

The Atlantic Yards plan was opaque enough and without a semblance of participatory democracy when it was billionaire Bruce Ratner’s alone. But now for taxpayers to subsidize this Russian plutocrat and playboy raises the level of arrogance and contempt toward the public to where it would make Robert Moses blush. James Dolan, the billionaire owner of the Knicks and Cablevision, has never blushed about Madison Square Garden’s property-tax-free status dating back to 1982 that has cost the city more than $300 million to date. “Off with their heads.” 

Public records on Mr. Prokhorov are scarce and incomplete and the NBA accepted a certain amount of ambiguity. David E. Hoffman, the author of “The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia,” said that Mr. Prokohorov emerged from a business climate that has “no rule of law, a lot of shadiness, a lot of violence, a lot of coercion.” Welcome to Crooklyn, Mikhail, you’ll fit right in. That notwithstanding, I hope he makes LeBron an offer he can’t refuse. Go Nyets! 

While most work harder and harder for less and less, the richest are working less and less for more and more. The current economic Darwinism should turn evangelicals into atheists.

At least the lights are still on. OMMMMMMMM.

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