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

Scoopy's Notebook

Up on a roof?
The murky story of exactly what happened to the “lost playground” on the roof of New York University’s Coles gym, at Mercer and Houston Sts., is still a sore spot for many Villagers, especially those who were living on N.Y.U.’s South Village superblocks back when Coles was built in 1981. The playground was supposed to be a giveback to the community; and, in fact, the 23-foot-high rooftop is designated as open space in the superblocks’ land-use plan. But, according to longtime residents, there were access problems to the roof, with elevators that were basically off limits to baby carriages and a rickety exterior stairway. Some might even wonder whether the university is hoping to head off future controversies with its zigzag roof design for the new building — for now, dubbed the “zipper building” — that it’s planning to replace Coles with; basically, is the “zipper” rooftop’s zigging and zagging meant to prevent another attempt at putting a playground up there? After all, playing baseball or Frisbee toss across a 14-to-17-story drop could be nerve-wracking. However, Alicia Hurley, N.Y.U. vice president for government affairs and community engagement, had a plausible response to such conspiratorial concerns. “We are focusing our open/playground space at the ground level, so we don’t have any issues with access, which was like the case with Coles,” Hurley wrote us in an e-mail. “The shape of the ‘zipper’ building is designed with two intents: 1. To break down the massing of the building, so it’s not one large solid wall; and 2. It does allow us to maximize flexibility of uses for the site. If the upper levels have student housing, the rooms are required to have windows. Also it is just a general sense of wanting to maximize light and air opportunities regardless of the uses.”

A hard rain’s gonna fall:
At the recent demonstration at the Houston St. BP gas station there were a couple of recurring sentiments expressed by the protesters: first, that BP’s executives should be jailed on federal charges, and second, that this eco-disaster with no end in sight is yet another example of capitalism run amok. East Village activist Frank Morales voiced another concern that he was hearing about. “We’re going to get petrol rain as a result of the oil that’s on the surface [of the Gulf],” he said. “So we’re going to get even more pollution.” Also making the scene at the rally were indie filmmaker Nick Zedd, “Yippie Pie Man” Aron Kay and musician Rachel Trachtenburg of The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players.

Hector’s vs. Balazs:
West Villager Jonathan Kuhn recently tipped us off that while he was out walking his dog one night, he noticed that Hector’s Cafe — tucked under the High Line at Washington and Little West 12th Sts. — had been closed by order of the Health Department. “I wonder whether this is the death knell of the last remaining ‘authentic’ eatery servicing the dwindling, and almost extinct, Meat Market workers,” said a concerned Kuhn. “Despite beefing up (so to speak) its hours lately to include Saturdays — hoping evidently to cash in on the increased neighborhood visitorship along Washington St. with last June’s opening of the High Line — it appeared that Hector’s had made no inroads in attracting the crowd frequenting the Standard Hotel’s restaurant immediately across the street. Apparently, fashionistas won’t frequent such an establishment, even for the sake of ‘slumming it.’” We swung by Hector’s a few days later on a Saturday afternoon, and the place was back open. A sweet woman working the counter there didn’t provide any information, other than to smile and say there was no problem, it’s open and smile some more. But Kuhn was right about the scene across the street. Andre Balazs’s open-air Biergarten under the High Line was packed with what looked to be a mix of equal parts yuppies and hipsters...(yipsters? huppies?). They were schmoozing up quite a din as they quaffed their “gute bieres.” Meanwhile, just as Kuhn said, inside Hector’s there were just a few customers — and none of them were wearing skinny jeans or pork pie hats. 

Bears come roaring back:
Speaking of the Meat Market, the bears recently came out of hibernation — the Urban Bears NYC, that is, of the Leather and Bear Street Fair. Last year, as Scoopy-nistas may recall, the bears’ fair was cancelled by its organizers after issues arose with the spot on W. 13th that Community Board 2 had already approved for their event. The “issues” were mainly that the Mayor’s Office, Balazs’s then-brand-new Standard Hotel and the New York City Food and Wine Festival, which was headquartered at the hotel, didn’t think having brawny Urban Bears cavorting next to the foodie fest projected the “right image.” And the year before, the bears took heat for holding their fest on tiny Weehawken St., some Villagers feeling the event — featuring whipping and human hogtying demonstrations — was inappropriate for the location. This year, though, the Urban Bears were at last able to return to their beloved Meat Market stomping ground. “It was fantastic! No issues and over 1,000 in attendance!” said Robert Valin, the event’s director. We would run some photos from their fair here, showing the bears in their leather kilts, with their sweaty, exposed hairy chests and nipple rings — but unfortunately space doesn’t allow.


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