Volume 74, Number 15 | August 11 - 17 , 2004

Scoopy’s notebook

Stressing over meditation group: Though no one is sure what to make of them, Falun Gong members continue to wage their P.R. campaign at Downtown community board meetings. For several months now, they’ve shown up at Boards 2 and 3, where they encourage people to join them in their exercises at Sara Delano Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side. Despite their best efforts, however, the meditation movement continues to create controversy. At Community Board 3 two weeks ago, board member David Crane accusingly read an excerpt from a statement by Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi, who lives in New York City, in which Hongzhi said, “interracial children have no place in heaven without his intervention.” The Falun Gong members responded it was a “mistranslation.” However, after the meeting, they admitted to The Villager that a Falun Gong belief, at least as expressed by Hongzhi — who is known to have some pretty wacky theories — is that each person is watched over by a god of the same race: Black people have black gods, whites have white ones and so on. Asked why there can’t be mixed-race gods to look over mixed-race people, the group didn’t answer. Let’s put it this way: The meditation sounds O.K.; the theories need a lot of work.

Plains speaking: While the consensus seems to be that Bill Clinton gave the best speech at the Democratic National Convention, in Councilmember Margarita Lopez’s view, Jimmy Carter was even better. “He was something else,” said Lopez, who was a delegate at the Fleet Center. “The substance of that speech was unbelievable. His analysis about how you can procure peace for the world — but how if America doesn’t reach out to the rest of the world you can never heal…. This man indeed deserves the Nobel Prize.”

Pedicab junction: George Bliss of Pedicab of New York fears a shakeup in the bicycle-taxi industry. The six pedicab operators in Manhattan — the only borough with pedicabs — recently had a meeting with Gretchen Dykstra, the Department of Consumer Affairs commissioner, who is reportedly concerned about price gouging by drivers working the Times Sq. theaters. However, Bliss worries a wealthy new operator — a hansom cab fleet owner who has started his own pedicab business, now second in size only to Bliss’s — is hoping to force the regulation of the 120-strong pedicab industry; the city would sell medallions, as it does for yellow cabs, and the rich operator would buy them all up. Currently this new operator has no liability insurance for his drivers, according to Bliss, whose drivers are insured and who thinks this is a ruse to force the industry’s regulation. Bliss said in the event of an accident by an uninsured pedicab driver, passengers could sue the city. Bliss started his business at Broome and Watts Sts. 10 years ago as an environmentally friendly transportation option and now has 60 pedicabs. “It’s his scheme. It’s our dream,” he said.

Yippie! Saved! We hear Dana Beal and the Yippies are finally about to close on the purchase of their longtime headquarters, 9 Bleecker St. For years, they’ve teetered on the edge of losing the building, out of which they formerly published the Yippie Times and Overthrow. It’s good timing, since a huge influx of old-time Yippies from around the country are expected for the Republican National Convention and plan to crash at No. 9.

What a gas: Matt De Matt, a partner in Gaslight bar and lounge at 14th St. and Ninth Ave., says they’re taking a different approach from newcomer neighbors, like PM and One, farther south in the Meat Market. In addition to the new upscale G2 lounge, Gaslight will be adding a downstairs VIP room for 50 people. “We’re not going the way of bottle service. Those are nightclub prices,” he said, referring to the new clubs. Also there will be booths with curtains, he said, “for privacy to do whatever they want.” In addition, in the space next to Soho House, De Matt and Co. plan to add an upscale pizzeria, such as a Patsy’s, with outdoor seating. “People are still opening bars on the Lower East Side,” said De Matt, “but all the money in New York is in the Meatpacking District now.”

Model neighbors: We hear loads of models are moving into a doorman building on Seventh St. between Avenues B and C. “The guys are all excited about them,” said Anna Sawaryn, a St. Mark’s Pl. activist, adding, “I haven’t noticed them.”

Lava to lox: The former lava lamp and CD shop on St. Mark’s Pl. between Avenue A and First Ave. is now Holy Land Market kosher grocery store.

Tip-top-super-double-secret FEVA: The Federation of East Village Artists is working on a new project that could put FEVA and the HOWL! Festival on firm financial footing for years to come. However, publicizing details about the plan — in particular, a certain potentially controversial component — could jeopardize not only the project itself, but the very future of FEVA, according to a source. “I cannot talk about it at this time,” said a FEVA board member, surprised The Villager had even heard about it. “This is a critical moment. If this gets done, there will be a new thriving theater and arts scene on the Lower East Side.” Information may be forthcoming in six weeks.

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