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With the return of Downtown Express back to our 515 Canal St. office this week, we’re announcing another comeback with this column — that of yours truly, UnderCover. After a two-year hiatus, we’re back with our gossipy, political and hopefully, humorous take on Downtown. Over the years some grew to like us, others to fear us while others of course, had other opinions.
But deep, deep down UnderCover is all about the love of Downtowners. And just to show that we are not the cynical curmudgeons some might have thought us to be, we start with a heartfelt thanks to the Community Newspaper Group and the CUNY Journalism School for providing Downtown Express and its sister papers with temporary office space so we could keep publishing while our Sandy-damaged office was being restored.
Now onward to the column, which leans heavily on politics this week because we’ve been away far too long.
Eyes for Squad Seat
Some may still be digesting President Obama’s win, but politicos tend to think a few elections in advance, so we were not too surprised that Democratic District Leader Paul Newell told us last week that he will absolutely run for State Senate in 2014 if State Sen. Daniel Squadron wins next year’s Public Advocate race.
Squadron has not yet made his “official” announcement for the citywide race, but all systems appear to be go, and the still-young senator can run without risking his seat. Squadron dropped the “exploring” a campaign language in his group’s latest release announcing a fundraising, dim sum dining date with his family and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Jan. 6.
Paul Newell, who challenged Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver four years ago, said he frequently gets asked to take on a less powerful titan, Council Member Margaret Chin. He and Sean Sweeney, a power in Downtown Independent Democrats, both said they think Chin is somewhat vulnerable next year, but both agreed it would be an uphill battle and were far from certain there would be a strong challenge.
“A lot of people are dissatisfied particularly north of Canal St.,” Sweeney told UnderCover. He has differed with Chin on the merits of a Soho business improvement district, and said others are miffed with Chin’s positions over issues like N.Y.U. development and preserving 135 Bowery.
Newell said he won’t run for Council because his interest lies in the state Legislature, where he could have a greater say on housing and transportation issues.
He said his co-district leader, Jenifer Rajkumar, also gets a lot of pleadings to run, but he and Sweeney did not sound confident she would jump in the race.
Alas, we did not hear back from Rajkumar, but Chin told us she’s hearing that Rajkumar will run.
“I think there’s a lot of talk going around,” she said, adding she’s confident in her record and is not worried about a challenge.
Money never hurts, and Chin planned to kick her fundraising campaign this week in the Seaport with other events planned this month in Chinatown and FiDi.
JAMMING with the Stones
Trinity Wall Street has a plethora of honors attached to its name, and now Grammy nominee is one of them. The 55th Annual Grammy nominees were announced last Wednesday night in Nashville by Taylor Swift and LL Cool J. And Trinity Choir and Trinity Baroque Orchestra’s newly released recording of Handel’s “Israel in Egypt” is nominated for Best Choral Performance. The hotly contested category is shared by four other nominees, but they are maintaining their edge by using a rare version of the composition from 1756.
The church tweeted that they were “thrilled” to be nominated last week. They were called “very beautiful” by the Rolling Stones, who tweeted their congratulations to the choir. The Stones collaborated with Trinity on a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” last week at the Barclays Center for the band’s 50th Anniversary.
No word yet on what the church will be wearing to the red carpet, but we’re hoping for something Baroque-chic! Lady Gaga hasn’t done powdered wigs yet, has she?
We recently caught up with Kit White, a true South Street Seaport pioneer who started restoring his “new” Front St. building in 1978, decades before much of the historic block was renovated. White’s block took some of the hardest hits from Sandy in Lower Manhattan, but his building at 226 Front did much better, and he was able to help his downstairs tenant, Made Fresh Daily, reopen two weeks after the storm. He said his better fortune was due to a little foresight and a little luck.
The foresight was over 30 years ago when White was looking for a Seaport building to buy. He noticed most of the basements had water in it so he figured 226 which has no basement, was a better investment.
The luck came when he was planning the original restoration and decided to put his electrical equipment six feet above ground. “I’d like to say I was so far-sighted, but I didn’t put them there thinking there would be a flood,” said White, an artist who trained as an architect.
But he has always kept the East River in the back of his mind and remembers a ’91 nor’easter as the last time heavy floods hit the Seaport. He was surprised last year when a city planner came by and said the buildings on the block would be OK even if there was a massive global sea level rise of 18 inches.
White recalls telling the planner that was ridiculous. “I’d love to talk to him now,” he said, “because it’s pretty obvious the city is vulnerable.”