Volume 80, Number 42 | March 17 - 23, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Italian pride — not protest:
Well, Nolita boutique owners will be relieved to hear that what earlier had been pitched as a possible protest against some of them on Sat., March 26, will now be a feel-good Italian Unity Day rally. All the agita over Community Board 2’s advisory recommendation to shorten the San Gennaro Feast by three blocks had led to the threat of a protest against some of the boutiques whose owners were said to have criticized the festival. But the Mayor’s Office’s recent granting of a permit for the full-length feast in September has cooled passions somewhat. Speaking this week, John Fratta, the leader of the pro-fest faction, told us, “It’s going to be a very calm rally, we wanted to make sure of that. It’s not going to be in your face. We’re telling people, ‘Look, this is a celebration. It’s a happy occasion.’ We want to say thank you to the mayor and everyone who supported the feast.” Things will kick off at 1 p.m. at Mulberry and Canal Sts. as the group will march up Mulberry St. to Houston St. Then, starting at 2 p.m., there will be a rally in front of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, interspersing speakers and singers. They’ve invited Borough President Scott Stringer, who played a key role in trying to defuse the tensions over the festival, to give remarks, along with City Councilmember Margaret Chin and Mayor Bloomberg — though Fratta said he doubted if the mayor would really show up, but he’s hoping. Also speaking will be local attorney Wiley Stecklow, who has emerged as a conciliator, who will stress the message that “we are all one community.” There will be a full lineup of Italian singers, including the group Tre Bella, Michael Castaldo, Jenna Esposito, Sal Manzo, Teo Ricciardelli and Francesca Cavaliere. The event’s permit runs until 6 p.m. but Fratta said he expected they’ll be done by 4:30 or 5 p.m. “We’re expecting, on the low side, 300 people,” he said. Only one block of Mulberry, between Prince and Houston Sts., will be closed off during the rally. Fratta said they’ll also be announcing the formation of a new group, the National Italian-American Network, whose role will be to denounce any kind of anti-Italian bigotry, not just in the city but countrywide. Meanwhile, although some commenters on the “Little Italy and San Gennaro Under ATTACK” Facebook page made threats against specific Nolita boutiques, Fratta said people shouldn’t worry. We were sent one screen shot, for example, of a post that read: “I f---ing hate Yuppie scumbags. I wanna throw s--- at White Saffron. Who is with me?” “Nothing like that’s going to happen,” Fratta said. “I would’ve taken those people off [the Facebook page]. It’s going to be controlled, we’re going to make sure. There are certain people that are high strung — and we’ll watch them.” However, Fratta did claim there were a few boutiques — including White Saffron and Damsel in Distress — whose owners made inflammatory statements. “People are still very angry about the bigoted remarks that were made by the boutiques,” he said. “They probably didn’t even realize they were using buzz words, like ‘greasy fingers’ — short for ‘grease ball.’ They said that over and over again; that wasn’t a slip of the tongue. And ‘shady characters,’ ‘criminal element’ — I mean, c’mon.”
Soho BID Q&A:
As Soho residents continue to rage against the formation of a Soho business improvement district, City Councilmember Margaret Chin has announced she’ll hold a community meeting Q&A information session on the Soho BID on Tues., March 29, at 6:30 p.m. in the basement of St. Anthony’s Church, at Sullivan and Houston Sts. According to Kelly Magee, Chin’s communications director, “We will act as moderators. BID organizers will make a presentation and take questions.” The councilmember will be present, as well as her staff members, plus — if available — a representative of the city’s Department of Small Business Services, Magee said.
Rick Carman memorial:
Anne Johnson of Community Board 3 informed us that Rick Carman, the board’s former chairperson in the early 1990’s, died last week. Johnson said Carman was found in his apartment on Wed., March 2, and may have died of a stroke. Carman was also a former Lower East Side school principal and a community activist. At the time of his death, he was on the board of Village East Towers, where he lived, and also on the board of Little Missionary Day Nursery on St. Mark’s Place. A memorial service for Carman will be held on Sat., March 26, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 80 Fifth Ave., 17th floor.
Sayonara, sidewalk A.T.M.’s:
Last week’s Clayton’s Page showed photos of a couple of sidewalk A.T.M.’s being removed on the Lower East Side; but we weren’t sure if the new law prohibiting A.T.M.’s on the pavement — which the mayor had signed but put on hold — was actually in effect yet. Ian Duncan subsequently referred us to an article he wrote on this last month, in which he reported that the law will go into effect in May. The city will fine property owners $5,000 for each week they do not remove the machines, starting 30 days after notice is served. Once the fines reach $50,000, the Department of Transportation can take the machines away. The sidewalk cash dispensers can bring in up to $500 a month for merchants, Duncan reported. Andrew Brent, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office, confirmed that the new law goes into effect May 4. Brent clarified, “The new law is not a ban on sidewalk A.T.M.’s; they have always been illegal. It increases fines for them.” Apparently, police have gotten the green light to start ticketing even before the higher fines kick in — when we got our coffee this morning, we noticed both of the formerly outdoor A.T.M.’s at our deli had been moved indoors. The cashier said police had ticketed them for it about two weeks ago.
Continental drift (away from meeting):
After yet another protest at the Continental bar on Third Ave. and St. Mark’s Place last Saturday night, hopes for a parley between demonstrators and the bar’s owner may have vanished. The group ANSWER (Act Now To Stop War and End Racism) has been criticizing what they charge is a racist door policy at the place, a claim vehemently denied by Trigger, the bar’s owner. During a previous protest outside the bar last month, Trigger and Jinnette Caceres, an ANSWER organizer, agreed to discuss holding a meeting at a neutral location. ANSWER has made several demands of Trigger, including diversity training for staff and that the bar hold multicultural theme nights. At the February protest, Caceres said ANSWER would send Trigger a letter within a week listing several proposed “neutral” meeting locations, as well as possible dates and times. Believing the situation to be temporarily defused, Trigger was stunned and angry to see protesters again outside his place at 6 p.m. last Saturday, and fired off an e-mail to us via his iPhone. “Jinette Caceres never contacted me for a meeting in a neutral place as she said she would. This is the THIRD time she’s sabotaged or cancelled a meeting!!!” he said. Our Jefferson Siegel promptly hustled down to cover the action. When Siegel asked Caceres if holding another demonstration might exacerbate the situation after Trigger had already agreed to meet, she countered, “We’re already meeting a demand of his not to meet at our office.” Since the protests began, Trigger has balked at meeting in ANSWER’s Harlem office, saying a neutral location would be more appropriate. Caceres said the group had tried to reserve a space at N.Y.U.’s Kimmel Center, but were told the meeting rooms were all booked up. She added that an ANSWER member was trying to contact Brooklyn Councilmember Charles Barron about finding a meeting room inside City Hall. “I don’t think it’s antagonizing to let people know he’s under investigation by the Human Rights Commission,” she said of Trigger and of why they held last weekend’s protest. While one complaint against Continental is currently being investigated, a similar one against the bar was, in fact, dismissed by the commission last year. “Occasionally, it’s possible that my doormen make an honest mistake in their split-second judgement of someone’s dress or whether they’re intoxicated or not,” Trigger explained. “That said, if human error does occur, it happens across the board — not because of anyone’s particular race or color.” Trigger concluded that, after having tried three times to meet with ANSWER, “I have had enough. I will no longer respond to ANSWER’s calls or letters concerning these issues.”
CUNY J School coup:
Tom Robbins, who left the Village Voice at the end of January, will be joining CUNY Graduate School of Journalism as its first Investigative Journalist in Residence. “Tom Robbins is known for breaking news, holding public officials accountable and maintaining the highest standards of integrity and ethics in his reporting. Our students and faculty will benefit tremendously from having him in our midst,” said Stephen B. Shepard, the journalism school’s founding dean. Robbins will serve as a general resource to the students and faculty and teach an investigative reporting course in the Urban Reporting concentration, which is overseen by Professor Sarah Bartlett. The new course will focus on generating investigative stories for the city’s community and ethnic press, as part of the school’s ongoing commitment to bolstering that segment of the city’s media industry. Robbins left the Voice in solidarity with Wayne Barrett after his fellow longtime investigative journo unceremoniously got the ax.