Under Cover, July 17, 2013


Jenifer Rajkumar, center, with supporters and lions, at the opening of her new Pell St. campaign office on Sunday.

Jenifer Rajkumar, center, with supporters and lions, at the opening of her new Pell St. campaign office on Sunday.

Lions and supporters — and REBNY?
With fighting lion dancers and about 175 of her supporters in attendance, Jenifer Rajkumar officially opened her new campaign office in the heart of Chinatown on Sunday.

The location, at 18 Pell St., between Mott St. and Bowery, was formerly the beloved Sun Wah Barbershop. It’s wedged right between the Foot Heaven foot-rub store, on the right, and a hair salon on the left. Nearby just down the street is famed dumpling mecca Joe’s Shanghai, and Confucius Plaza — a key voting bloc — is right across the Bowery.

Rajkumar held up a head of lettuce on a pole for the two lion dancers to fight for. “It’s good luck when you feed them,” she told us. “It was tremendous.” Then she led everyone into the space to continue the celebration with speeches.

Local supporters gave her honorary potted plants and flowers, including Danny Cheung and Stephen Low. Jing Fong restaurant workers gave her a wall hanging “blessing” with a flowered border.

Also at the kickoff event were Georgette Fleischer, founder of Friends of Petrosino Square; Harold Donahue, former president of the Independence Plaza North Tenants Association; and Jeanne Wilcke, president of Downtown Independent Democrats Club. Paul Lee, a well-known former local small businessman, was emcee. Steve Wong, a former top operative for Councilmember Margaret Chin’s 2009 campaign who now runs the Chinese Hotel Trades Association, was also at the shindig.

“This is going to be our command center,” Rajkumar told us. “It’s centrally located. It’s a short walk from here to the Lower East Side.” Sean Sweeney, former president of D.I.D., who couldn’t make the campaign office confab, said, “I think it’s a brilliant strategy — to go right into the belly of the beast.” He added, “I remember that barbershop — it was like $6 a haircut.” Sweeney felt it might have been better, though, if the office was on Mott St., which has heavier foot traffic.

However, a Chin campaign spokesperson downplayed Rajkumar’s Pell St. location as a ploy that won’t work. “It’s too little, too late,” said Austin Finan. “Rajkumar hasn’t lifted a finger for the Chinatown community, and certainly her accomplishments can’t hold a candle to those of Margaret Chin. She chooses to establish a presence in Chinatown when it’s politically convenient for her. … At the end of the day, Chinatown is going to pull the lever for the candidate who has been there for them through thick and thin.”

Although Sweeney is excited about Rajkumar’s new campaign office, he’s more worked up about the fact that the Real Estate Board of New York has endorsed Chin for re-election. Crain’s recently reported that a new group, Jobs for New York — including REBNY, building trade unions and others — which plans to spend $10 million on local races, is backing Chin, another Council incumbent and six challengers.

Per Crain’s: “The group hopes to elect a bloc of councilmembers that would make it more difficult for the Council to override vetoes by a business-friendly mayor and to serve as a counterweight to candidates aligned with the pro-labor Working Families Party.” Even so, Chin and five other of the group’s initial eight favored candidates have been endorsed by W.F.P.

So, does Rajkumar have a chance of winning, we asked Sweeney? “She’s doing much better than I thought,” he said, “and Chin is imploding with her now taking Real Estate Board of New York money.”

Countered Finan, “From elected officials, to Democratic clubs, to labor unions, to the business community, Margaret Chin’s support runs the gamut. She has support in every corner of the district and from all walks of people.”

— Lincoln Anderson


Tunnel-approach art:
Sculptor Gina Miccinilli, right, finished her latest work, “Lemniscatus,” on Mon., July 15, on Varick Street between Broome and Watts, where she transformed a triad of 3-ton granite traffic barriers into representations of movement and metamorphosis.

The project was completed in partnership with Marc Fields of the Compleat Sculptor on Vandam Street, the Hudson Square Connection business improvement district, and the Department of Transportation, and creates a pedestrian plaza near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. Fields would like to continue with similar site-specific projects in the city where traffic barriers could be transformed into urban art.

Suzy Changar, director of marketing at the Hudson Square Connection, said there would be no formal unveiling of the project, to allow pedestrians the opportunity to self-discover it.

Local employee Paris Osgerchian, who works as a photo retoucher in a nearby studio, said the neighborhood needs places for locals to sit outdoors. That the sculpted stones sit hard by the tunnel’s traffic flow doesn’t matter to him. “Being a New Yorker, noise and traffic don’t really bother me,” he said.

Miccinilli, A New Jersey native who also teaches on the art faculty at William Paterson University, said of the granite hunks, “I love the idea that it’s reclaimed.” The city repurposes the blocks of stone from material from the dismantled Willis Avenue Bridge. “It’s got such power to it,” she added, “and it challenges our notion of what’s valuable.”

— Cynthia Magnus

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5 Responses to Under Cover, July 17, 2013

  1. MaryBackground

    According to the Wall Street Journal today, REBNY has already spent 70K to buy our City Council seat. If Margaret doesn't full-out denounce this attempt to buy our election, she is complicit in it and deserves no vote from any REAL progressive! We cannot let BIG REAL ESTATE take over our community. We're stronger than that!

  2. PAC money (REBNY) and corrupt political machine that gave us politicians that are sex offenders, have taken over.
    It is very clear that our current Council Woman has moved to the "Dark Side"
    It is time "We the People" Clean up this mess starting with Chin.

  3. I've been getting bombarded recently with campaign literature for Chin from a group called "Jobs for NY". I just assumed it was from a good-government group.

    After reading this, I googled.

    Thanks for letting us know that it is really a front for REBNY, a group of the biggest real estate developers in the city.
    These are the people who want to DESTROY affordable housing and keep Manhattan for the wealthy, while their literature lies about Chin helping the middle class.

    Reading your paper over the past few years has shown that Chin has sold out. Now, clearly Chin has not only sold out, she is in the back pocket of the developers.

    Anyone who votes for her is digging their own grave, in my opinion.

  4. uninvited guest

    Of the 8 City Council candidates being backed by real estate-heavy PAC "Jobs for New York" Margaret Chin has received the greatest investment, $70k so far, already close to half again the $168k total allotted to candidates opting for limits and matching funds:

    Tell me big real estate developers like Silverstein do not have great expectations for another 4 years of Chin.

    Do not forget the Chinatown BID, do not forget the gargantuan NYU 2031 expansion plan, do not forget the 180-degree turnaround on landmark status for the 1818 Federal-style building at 135 Bowery in order to hand it over to an international bank, do not forget the SoHo/Broadway BID, do not forget the Southstreet Seaport, do not forget only 50% affordable-housing SPURA, and do not forget the mushrooming of sidewalk cafes along the Kenmare corridor, and more. Big real estate, heavy nightlife: no wonder they love Chin. It's multi-million and multi-billion dollar business 'growth' Chin is promoting; meanwhile small businesses and small independent property owners suffer; many have not survived.

    Want change? Vote for Jenifer Rajkumar. Jenifer's going to lead a bottom-up democracy that serves the constituents of District 1, not big money outside interests.

  5. Chin sold to the highest bidder (REBNY)

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