Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Letters,... We Get Letters.....

Donald Trump is coming. Or, it seems that he plans to do so in the near future. Apparently, the hotel condominium proposed at 246 Spring Street, is running up against some opposition fairly quickly. The 45-story building would dwarf anything nearby and would violate current zoning since it would not be a transient hotel, but would instead be a condo residence with hotel style accommodations. Hotels are "as of right" in a manufacturing zone where this would be built, but residential developments require a variance. Hotels with the ability to sell or lease the units are not permitted at all.

Andrew Berman, the Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has entered the fray already. The Trump development is similar to the 848 Washington Street proposal that was defeated nearly two years ago and has prompted GVSHP to take a position. Letters have been sent to community leaders and the elected officials in preparation to what appears to be a looming battle.

Community Board #2's Zoning Committee is expected to hear the application as soon as this month.

Speaking of letters, recent controversies at Community Board #2 prompted Councilmember Alan Gerson to send a letter that was critical of the level of animosity on Board #2. He made mention of a number of incidences that were unpleasant reminders of the friction. The fact that its Chair, Maria Derr, invited new appointees and specifically did not invite opposition members to a "Community Board" meet and greet - was the source of some of Gerson's irritation. A political event was disguised as Board meeting.

In response to Gerson's letter, Rick Panson, Chair of the Environmental Committee, former owner of the Duplex bar, candidate for District Manager, and newly appointed Voice of the nightlife faction on Community Board #2, wrote a scathing letter attacking Alan Gerson for his "outrageous" assertions.

Alan is an institution downtown. He's a lawyer and Columbia graduate, past Chair of Community Board #2 - and just a nice guy. It was no doubt hard for Alan to send a letter that is critical in the first place. Negativity and criticism are not Alan's forte. But, since some of his appointees on the Board were among the disinvitees, he felt he had to speak. Alan was also upset over the "anonymous" letter that slandered a few activist Board members.

However, attacking Alan is generally not tolerated well Downtown. And, since Panson himself has been criticized for playing adolescent pranks at Board meetings (using spitballs on fellow Board members, for example), it's hard to understand how he became the new self-appointed "conscience" of Board #2.

But, the fun doesn't stop there.

In yet another round of letters, Panson developed another new friend, attorney-activist Larry Goldberg.

Goldberg's criticism of Chair Maria Derr's administration has come to a head over his demand for the Board's 2006 financial report, which has never been proffered by Treasurer Roscia Sanz. Goldberg had to "foil" the information in order to get it. The interchange between Panson and Goldberg is reminiscent of the old days when Board members were treated to the verbal ping-pong game between Ed Gold and Arty Strickler.

Except for one big difference.

Goldberg has been asking for a financial statement and Panson has been sitting on his high horse saying -- well, you now have it. Except, that's not quite true. What Sanz and Derr produced is a projection for 2007. No financial statement, as you may know it, for 2005/2006 has been produced so far. So, why the smoke screen?

What's missing?

Was it the fact that Arty Strickler, the now dearly departed District Manager, was pulling down $76,000 a year. And, that no one seems to remember the Board ever having approved that. Despite the questions, however, former Chair Jim Smith advised us that at least $70,000 was supported by the Board.

Or, was it that the Board leadership didn't think anyone was entitled to the information? Or, even worse, that Sanz didn't really know how to produce it?

There is no doubt in some people's minds that Strickler "worked for" certain Board members like Bob Rinaolo and those whom he supported - and others in the current mood of distraction. Those whom Arty did not like, got no cooperation or inside information - or guidance about how to handle Board matters. He was also invaluable in helping to manipulate election campaigns. And, apparently, he was well paid for this. He knew a lot of people -- on, and under the radar screen.

People like Allen Roskoff -- who has recently been linked to newly circulating negative comments about David Reck, who is challenging Maria Derr in an unprecedented challenge for Chair of Board #2. Roskoff is also a nightlife operative with a small PR outfit called the Durham Group and who is a close friend of Maria Derr. The current "dirty tricks" campaign, or rumors, attributed to Roskoff revolve around David's supposed negativity towards women (something that David's wife finds ludicrous and insulting). Of course, it is insulting. That's the point of false rumors. To insult and to undermine.
Board members have been receiving anonymous calls on the eve of a very close election -- and this campaign is starting to smell like the PR placed in the media which linked Roskoff to the "anonymous" letter at Board #2.

It also doesn't help that Panson, in his zeal to help Maria Derr's campaign -- seems to have originated his attack on Alan Gerson using a computer whose signature bears Maria Derr's name. A nasty slip-up.

It certainly links all of the players in this Nightlife V. Community election.

This Thursday, June 22nd, Board #2 gets to choose whether the nightlife people will continue to run things under Maria Derr -- or, whether the community-oriented member, David Reck, will change the course of the Board. Stay tuned rangers.

The Garden Party was a rousing success. At Pier 54, despite the threat of rain, there were at least a few thousand people. They ate the food, shook the hands of politicians like Christine Quinn, Andrew Cuomo, Alan Gerson and Mark Green, and danced. There were lots of kids, ice cream, and some "fabulous" attendees such as Empress Demi Tasse and James, who vogued for the cameras. This LGBT function has arrived politically and draws the elected officials from downtown. It's not to be missed.
Even Melissa Sklarz stopped to chat at the SoHo Journal sponsor table. She's doing well and misses Board #2 already. Well, maybe not until after the current election.

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