Saturday, December 30, 2006

A New Year

Political tails are wagging this week over what appears to be a misinterpretation of events at the McManus Midtown Democratic Club where Carlos Manzano had been reportedly stepping down as President of the club. The Daily News has been playing out the verbal ping-pong in the Ben Smith blog and readers have been spinning off of the controversy with some interesting side tidbits. What was a tasty story for those who know Jim McManus and his politics has veered off into the Downtown quagmire.

Among the controversial blog commentaries are a few morsels involving VRDC (Village Reform Democratic Club) which has recently been reanimated by the Chamber of Commerce and Community Board #2 bar crowd, which includes Bob Rinaolo, Maria Derr, Phil Mouquinho, and Rick Panson, among others. Their gambit has been to introduce lots of new money to shore up the dubious ascendancy of Ray Cline, a former State Committeeman out of the McManus club -- by having Brad Sussman succeed him as President (formerly of the Fields BP office) as Cline retreats behind curtain #1, or is it curtain #2?

While Cline has been known to boast about having arranged successful elections for judges, thereby earning their undying appreciation (in the form of judicial largesse for club members and other "friends"), McManus was not as appreciative of his efforts at his Midtown Democratic Club. Basically, as with the finality of Saddam, Cline was thrown out.

Ray Cline has been described by McManus as "an underhanded individual who couldn't be trusted." Then there were some negative comments.

While his full pedigree will not be fully described here, suffice it to say that his ascendancy as head of a "Reform" club (now with Brad Sussman as President) leaves one to wonder about the future of Village politics, or at least VRDC. The combination of Sussman, who was shown the door by Stringer's office, the bar crowd of CB#2 pumping in money, and the machinations of Cline -- all of whom rely on Allen Roskoff (another bar crowd "consultant" and negative-spin artist) -- makes for an interesting potpourri of characters. With such a cast of characters, community politics for Village idealogues may begin to resemble a ride down the River Styx on a surfboard.

As Joe Kane, one of Joe Kennedy's trusted henchmen, once said, "There are no friends in politics, only co-conspirators."

Among the developments in SoHo, the project at 520 Broome Street seems to have run into more than just a little opposition. What was planned as an 8 story condo with a parking garage, morphing into a 9 story condo with a four level parking garage and a 35 foot high "mechanicals" addition on the roof - is now running into some problems. The project started with slowly developing community opposition that gathered some steam when the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) entered the picture. A small demonstration took place at Thompson and Broome Streets and members of the SoHo Alliance and residents carried placards and chanted slogans about saving the Tunnel Garage from demolition.

Residents of SoHo, the GVSHP under Andrew Berman, the SoHo Alliance and Sean Sweeney as well as other community groups, wanted the developer to save the facade of the building and incorporate the condo within that structure. Before these groups could gain a foothold and bring some pressure to bear through the city and its landmarking process, the building was razed. The people in SoHo were pissed.

And, as the project has wended its way through the political process, reception for the new building has been less than warmly received.

In particular, the surrounding building owners have been understandably concerned about the "bathtub" within which the new structure would be erected. The foundation would essentially be erected upon pilings drilled down to bedrock upon which a concrete bathtub would be poured four stories below grade. The depth of the construction excavation, despite the assurances of the developer's engineers, remains a concern of residents adjoining the property. Bedrock is between 75 and 100 feet below grade in this location.

As a result of this controversy, what has become clear is that builders and developers are clearly better off having reached out to the community well in advance of their efforts to get cooperation. 520 Broome now faces the prospect of a smaller building and interminable delays as it continues the process with an antagonistic community as it heads off to the BSA (Board of Standards and Appeals) for approval after being turned down by Community Board #2.

Speaking of which, at the beginning of the New Year observers will again start to focus upon Community Board #2 elections. Election rumors will start gathering momentum in a few months as a newly constituted Board (new appointments and renewals are announced in late March) will become the hot issue Downtown. The odds-on favorite for new Chair of Community Board #2 is Brad Hoylman since Derr will be term-limited out. While he is Vice Chair and is a member of the Executive Committee of the current Board, he has remained independent of the Chamber of Commerce cronies under the Maria Derr/Bob Rinaolo/Rick Panson/Phil Mouquinho/Martin Diaz/Roscia Sanz management team who are holdovers from the Virginia Fields BP days. The frequent fundraisers by that group to fill the Fields coffers bought lots of new bar-owner Board members whose mission was to stuff as many bars as possible into downtown neighborhoods while fucking the community. Self-interest and personal agendas, real estate development approvals, and liquor licenses for friends and Chamber of Commerce "associates" were the hallmark of their collective efforts. It was not a pretty picture.

Hoylman has been an effective Chair of the Traffic and Transportation Committee and the only apparent self-interest in his agenda seems to be a possible run for future political office -- not, however, using the Community Board for his personal gain. That's more than you can say for many of the members with which he's had to share power on the Board, especially on the Executive Committee dais.

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