Volume 80, Number 2 | June 9-15, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Talking Point

Angry Buddhist in court and on vendors, BID, Obomba

By Carl Rosenstein

I was in court recently answering to the charge of drinking a cup of coffee in DeSalvio Playground in Little Italy back in April. The administrative court is located in the Clock Tower Building, at 346 Broadway. The rows of benches in the 20-foot-by-50-foot room were packed with miscreants, fiends, pot smokers, public drinkers and public urinators.

Public enemy number one was the defendant charged with both drinking from an open container and public urination. It wasn’t articulated whether these crimes were committed simultaneously or in succession. No-nonsense Judge Efferin meted out justice more swiftly than a McDonald’s drive-thru window, dishing out fines of $25, $50 and $100.

When my name was called by the bailiff announcing the humiliating charge, “Being in a children’s playground,” many in the gallery gulped with laughter. But even before I could get out one word of my well-rehearsed Clarence Darrow speech, avowing my innocence and denouncing this Kafkaesque abuse of power, the judge with the wisdom of Solomon ordered an “Adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.” 

So if I stay out of playgrounds and refrain from heavy breathing around children for the next six months, the state will drop the charges. DeSalvio playground/park is heavily used by children of all ages and Councilmember Chin, hello Margaret, should seek changes in this Ionesco absurdity, perhaps limiting use for children to only 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. 

Speaking of Ionesco absurdities, in recent a letter to the editor in these pages, the notion was passed that because of the timely action of a Times Square vendor, that street vendors are an important front line weapon in the “war on terror.” And pigs can fly. But if that’s the case, then Obomba should deploy a special squadron of New York City vendors to Afghanistan — because what he’s done in the last year, sure ain’t hope or change aside from wasting another couple of hundred billion dollars in drone missile attacks on civilians that, in turn, fomented the twisted vehemence of the Pakistani Times Square bomber. 

Just imagine the Taliban wearing those irresistible $3 I ♥ NY T-shirts. The hearts would make such nice targets for the Special Forces. Can you picture an armada of Mr. Softee trucks deployed to Kandahar serving as mobile mini-Bagram detention units? Hardened Taliban fighters would melt and sing the praises of Jesus after a couple of hours locked in solitary inside of a Mr. Softee truck, forced to listen over and over and over again to that insipid jingle while inhaling the poison exhaust emitted while idling. I can vouch to the effect, there’s one parked daily on my corner seemingly impervious to all parking and idling rules. I, too, would pray to Allah if I thought it would help. 

To further demoralize the captured Taliban, he could be given a cell phone and told to dial 311 if he felt his Geneva rights were being violated. “Hello, and thank you for calling 311 in New York City. A representative will be with you shortly.” 

The Obomber in Chief could bolster this lethal force and take Wellington Chen of the Chinatown Partnership so they can continue to do their “part to help foil the terror fiend Bin Laden.” Say what? The Chinatown/Soho turf war, as reported in The Villager recently, is not the first time “leaders” from that pulsing community have either implied or speciously cried racism when there is none, and it’s totally jejune. Chen’s comment equating lovable Sean Sweeney, commissar of the Soho Alliance, with Serbian ethnic cleansing in Bosnia is truly bizzarro, and then again maybe it’s not. There is no doubt that there are issues of labor abuse, forced prostitution and housing horrors in Chinatown, but these matters are never reported as racist when the landlord, pimp or sweatshop owner is Chinese. And they shouldn’t be — they are cases of greed and classism. 

During the Giuliani years, residents of Mott and Grand Sts., Chinese-Americans included, lobbied endlessly with Councilmember Kathryn Freed to prohibit Mott St. fishmongers from dumping fish guts onto sidewalks. They were denounced as racists, with the fervor of Maoist cadres, by paid protesters enlisted by that business community. When Soho residents sued an interstate trucking operation that turned their historic streets into Hunts Point south, and won several rounds in State Supreme Court, they too were accused of being racist. 

When Community Board 3 crafted a new zoning plan for that district with a process that was thoroughly transparent, it was racism again; and then again when C.B. 3 failed to take a public stand against the 9/11 trial from being held at the Federal Courthouse — as if it would make a difference.

Where are these great civil libertarians when it comes to the mass persecution of Tibetans, Uyghurs and various ethnic minorities around the People’s Republic of China? In 21st-century New York City, any racism against the swelling Asian community palls in comparison to the humiliation that hundreds of thousands of African-American and Hispanic men suffer annually in the New York Police Department’s unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policy. If Chinatown wants a business improvement district, go ahead, but boundaries do exist. It seems most likely that Chen is looking for a new mule to bear his hefty $134,000 salary that is about to disappear when the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s $5.4 million funding to the C.P. dries up. 

The Zen master goes up to a hot dog vendor on West Broadway and says, “Give me one with everything.” OMMMMMMMMM.


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