Thursday, March 09, 2006

Downtown Gets Hot

Special Assistant to D.A. Bob Morgenthau, Eben Bronfman, has been a busy guy. Between the Page Six comments referring to his recent marital conflagration and time spent with his current main squeeze Kathy, you’d think business would suffer. Not so.

He’s off to China on a mission to promote Human Dignity and Policing, a program which the Chinese leadership is eager to implement. Considering the negative press that the police in China have been exposed to, it is understandable that they wish to correct that. Or, at least make a serious attempt to mitigate the damaging perceptions. Eben and his associates will be spending several weeks consulting with the Chinese leadership on this matter and presumably he will avoid controversy in the process of straightening out the police.

Scott Stringer is off to a great start with his appointments. He’s chosen attorney/activist Lawrence Goldberg to fill one of the Hudson River Park Trust Board (HRPT) slots. While there has been a lot of jockeying by some Downtown hopefuls, Goldberg seemed the obvious choice. He’s a community person, heading the Friends of LaGuardia Place, formerly Chair of the Advisory to the HRPT, a previous member of Board #2’s Waterfront Committee, and a staunch supporter of Mr. Stringer’s campaign.

Fortunately, for residents, Goldberg is a family man and has the interests of parents and children in mind – and has several ideas for Park uses that will benefit the young children of our community. Too few activists, fewer politicians and virtually no one on Community Board #2 gives enough consideration to the kids in our community – not to mention the parents, who must provide not only education but access to safe outdoor activities. Scott Stringer used judgment and consideration in appointing Lawrence Goldberg and it augurs well for his promise of reform for the Community Boards that he chose a community-oriented person of character and experience.

Julie Nadel, an important person in the Downtown political scene, will be re-appointed to the Trust Board, as will Franz Leichter. Madelyn Wils will not.

Which is a reminder of another position from which Wils has recently become dearly departed. Apparently, chess allows for more than two Queens in a game. Not so, the Tribeca Film Institute. The staff reportedly seems to have felt that there was just a little too much attitude in the air and Jane Rosenthal (DeNiro’s partner in the Film Festival) was less than thrilled with the quality of the competition. It also should not be lost on anyone that Wils, no longer Chair of Board #1 is out of a job less than 6 months after being ousted as Chair by Virginia Fields. Things are a whole lot less “fluid” now -- a lot less juice and a lot more acid to go around. Oh, well, at least DeNiro got his hotel in time.

The management of Board #2 continues to flounder.

A persistent problem that has begun to fester relates to the Pier 45 congregation of gay youth that populate the waterfront late in the evenings primarily during the summer. When the pier closes at midnight, the kids leave the Park and noisily make their way up Christopher Street, at least as far as the PATH station near Hudson Street. Neighbors cannot sleep and have complained bitterly. For years.

The Parks and Waterfront Committee, headed by Arthur Schwartz, with Board Chair Maria Derr in attendance, attempted to pass a resolution this past week that would call on HRPT to open Pier 54 as Pier 45 closed during the summer – allowing the groups of kids to move on to another location for a few hours more after the Christopher Street pier closed (Pier 45) at midnight. The plan was to provide portable toilets as well as some food and other amenities, to be located at Pier 54, and that would ameliorate the yelling and screaming up Christopher Street (Pier 54 would remain open until 2 a.m.).

Unfortunately, Schwartz’s reso spoke of this plan but went on to mention that the kids were primarily Black and Hispanic and as a result, basically, the shit hit the fan. Since the kids have a PR-type guy who calls their group “Fierce,” the cries of Homophobia as well as Racism rang out. The committee, along with Schwartz and Derr, wilted. The big losers in this fracas were the residents and members of the Christopher Street Block Association who gained no help from the Board or the police – who do not treat yelling and screaming after midnight a criminal offense. It’s also a sticky problem that the police would rather avoid.

So, while many Village residents, especially those on Christopher Street where there is a long history of diversity and acceptance (gay, straight, bi, Trans, black, white, Asian, Hispanic – or even Republican), which essentially blows the homophobic and racist label to hell – the kids have made the adult politicians extraordinarily defensive. Not to mention useless. Only Melissa Sklarz and Lisa Canistracci, Board #2 members, spoke with some rationality on this issue. The fact that Sklarz and Canistracci are LGBT (Lesbian,Gay,Bisexual,Transgender) members and familiar with sexual orientation issues as well as the community issues, connected with both groups.

But, Village residents on Christopher Street will still get no sleep.

The issue will come to a head at the Full Board meeting on Thursday the 23rd of March. Expect a few sparks if you attend.

It should also not be lost on us that Schwartz and Derr are not exactly seeing eye to eye these days. Derr is trying to distance herself from the Rinaolo/Sanz/Panson liquor license/Chamber of Commerce/real estate group that took control of Board #2 in order to further their personal business agenda. Schwartz helped Derr in her election bid but there is now no love lost between them – as witnessed by her taking the helm of the Advisory to the Hudson River Park Trust. This is an honor that typically goes to the Chair of the Waterfront Committee, which was recently merged into Parks and Waterfront, making Schwartz a bigwig at Board #2. Unfortunately for Schwartz, since he would normally be entitled to Chair the Advisory as Waterfront Chair – Derr decided to assume the position herself. The fact that Schwartz has been denied this coveted position does not speak well for the cooperation between them, nor does it reward his support for her election.

There are a lot of pissed off people now on Board #2 who were either sidelined by the Rinaolo putsch in electing Derr, or who, like Schwartz, were sabotaged by the burgeoning ego of Derr and the Machiavellian aspirations of Rinaolo – who is still the de facto Chair of Board #2.


What Downtown Community Board politico has been the subject of harassment by his/her landlord and has been dealing with a totally untenable living situation for years?

Which members of Community Board #1 and #2 are about to bite the dust with the reform sweep about to hit the decks?

What are the electeds proposing to do about the “Demolition clause” that landlords are using with the help of DHCR to “evict” rent controlled and stabilized tenants Downtown?

Is the rumor of a 50 story Trump Hotel "near the Holland Tunnel" real and going to be built on the 596 block at West, Spring and Washington Streets?


Congratulations to Noreen Doyle, Vice President of the HRPT. She just gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Kenna. A lovely young lady for a lovely young lady.

We were advised of the passing of Arty Strickler, District Manager of Community Board #2's office. He suffered a fatal heart attack and died on Sunday, March 12th. He was a knowldegable person, who had served as Chair many years ago and knew the Board and all of its members well. He will be remembered.

Stay tuned rangers.

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