Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Dog Days

These are the lazy, dog days of summer yet there seem to be rumblings of thunder coming from the DOI and DA's office as the aftermath of those investigative subpoenas looking into records at Community Board #2 continues. There were rumors afloat that there was some connection between the Pier 57 fiasco after it was learned that Cipriani pulled out of the "Leonardo" development team leaving Witkoff, et al, seemingly holding the bag-- and the defeat of Berlusconi in the Italian election as a possible connection. Unseemly allegations flew.

But it turns out that aside from continuing application woes of the Pier 57 development team, the investigation appears to be focused upon the history of the Oceanarium proposal that was submitted several years ago as part of the Pier 40 RFP. Despite the fact that the applicant was defeated by the Korman bid (and then all were rejected by the HRPT), both DOI and the DA are apparently delving into allegations of wrongdoing in that area.

Several sources have confirmed that James Ortenzio, former Chair of the HRPT, Republican County Chairman and consultant for the Witkoff Group involved with the Pier 57 proposal -- has had interviews with both investigative agencies and is rumored to be trying to avoid an indictment. The rumors are that both agencies are investigating a connection between the Oceanarium effort and money changing hands to keep the Pier 40 application viable during the year of 2003.

Arthur Schwartz, Chair of Parks, Waterfront and Open Space at Community Board #2 has stated that contrary to comments implying that he was close to Ben Korman are incorrect - and that he (Schwartz) had, in fact, sued Korman in order to secure more interior space on Pier 40 for ball fields. Thus far, there have been no rumors that Schwartz is a target of this investigation and he has been very active during his recuperation from quadruple by-pass surgery only two weeks ago.

Speaking of Waterfront matters, Julie Nadel, member of the HRPT Board recently re-appointed by Scott Stringer, is now also a member of Community Board #1. In a swift elevation, Julie has been chosen to head the Waterfront Committee by Board Chair Julie Menin. It looks like Nadel will be THE person to talk to on Waterfront matters. Here's wishing her luck in her latest assignment.

The success of the Town Hall meetings and the Summit, which was organized by Zella Jones of the NoHo Neighborhood Association, Sean Sweeney of the SoHo Alliance and at least a dozen other community organizations, has apparently been picked up by the press - and the politicians. The New York Post recently published an article giving credit to Speaker of the City Council Christine Quinn and Mayor Bloomberg for bringing the issue of bar over-saturation to the forefront. But, from the community's point of view, safety is only a narrow view of the problem. According to one activist....

"....Safety is the wrong issue. Solving it leaves the real problem -- that nightlife proliferation undermines community -- untouched. The nightlife issue needs to be viewed in the context of community displacement, away from narrower problems of safety. The problem is the nightlife strip: strips raise commercial rents driving out commercial diversity and small businesses; strips attract young and transient residential tenants who care little about noise and community, who drive up residential rents especially under the new rent (de)regulations which contain new means to pressure older tenants out. The only solution to the community displacement problem is the banning of nightlife strips -- some revision of the 500 foot rule." -- Rob Hollander (LESA)

Making matters worse for some activists, not only is safety the wrong guiding issue but Quinn's office is planning on having the Nightlife Association be in charge of inviting the attendees to this "Summit." One activist described this as being akin to placing the fox in charge of the chicken coop.

Listen guys - downtown has been screaming about this saturation of liquor licenses issue for a few years. Between the violence and the "wild west" antics at certain bars, the noise and the "zoning by fiat" when neighborhoods are changed with too many bars and lounges - wouldn't it be appropriate for these elected officials to give some credit where credit is due? And, invite the community to the meetings?

Where were these powerful elected officials when the smear campaigns, lawsuits and anonymous letters were being spread around by the nightlife operatives and undercover members of Community Board #2? Where was the Mayor's and the Speaker's wise support when the Nightlife crew at Board #2 began to retaliate against activists who were fighting bars and trying to improve our neighborhoods?

It wasn't two months ago, before the tide clearly had turned against the nightlife people, that the Daily News was printing slurs in its gossip column about Community Board members - rumored to have been placed with the aid of paid PR operatives like Allen Roskoff of the Durham Group - a close personal friend and sometimes weekend guest of Maria Derr, Chair of Board #2. Roskoff was formerly a Tom Duane employee and is currently one of Mark Green's campaign staff operatives (Green is running for Attorney General).

The Speaker and the Mayor should address the hard work of downtown people -- like Zella Jones who was sued for fighting a bar in NoHo; Sean Sweeney who was smeared and vindictively removed as Chair of the Landmarks Committee by Maria Derr because of his objection to bar proliferation; David Reck who was removed as Zoning Committee Chair by Maria Derr partly for his stand against nightclubs; and, Jo Hamilton who was removed from Board#2 for her stand against Gansevoort bar proliferation. All of them have given much time and energy to rid downtown of liquor license saturated neighborhoods where it has become too dangerous for families and children to walk about freely in the evening.

If they doubt that we have all been hard at work on this issue, they should check the archives of the SoHo Journal.

1 comment:

Downtown Resident said...

There is something rotten on CB2.

Weren't all these people appointees of Virginia Fields? Why are they still on?

I hope Quinn doesn't play favorites with the nightlife crew the way Fields did.