Volume 18 • Issue 24 | Oct. 28 - Nov. 3, 2005

UnderCover



Gerson aides of yore
City Councilmember Alan Gerson’s absence from a recent Lower Manhattan Development Corporation open house raised eyebrows in some circles, with Downtown sources wondering if the councilmember’s loyalty to former aides kept him silent.

The meeting about 130 Liberty St. degenerated into a mutinous free-for-all when audience members declared format undemocratic and took control of the microphone. But Gerson, who represents the district, was nowhere to be seen on Monday night and said nothing publicly about the L.M.D.C.’s choice of format, despite a boycott of the event by Community Board 1 and a widely-circulated letter of protest from U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler and State Sen. Martin Connor.

Two of the city councilmember’s former aides now have close ties to the corporation. Gerson’s former assistant chief of staff, Robin Forst, left her post in June to work for Downtown construction czar Charlie Maikish. Forst attended the meeting on behalf of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, whose office is located across the hall from the L.M.D.C. And a former consultant to Gerson, Mark Wilkenfeld, now consults for TRC, an environmental consultant for the 130 Liberty St. demolition.

Critics wondered if Gerson kept quiet to protect his protegés.

Gerson blasted the accusations as “ridiculous,” adding that his aide Arthur Schiff, the attorney for the Select Committee on Lower Manhattan Redevelopment, attended the meeting on his behalf. “You can’t have a higher level representative than he,” Gerson told UnderCover.

The city councilmember could not attend, he said, because of “pressing personal issues” and the recent Jewish holidays. But he has been working behind the scenes, he assured, making calls to the L.M.D.C. before the ill-fated meeting. “The dispute over the format could have been avoided,” he said. He plans to look into the matter further and, if pressing questions remain unanswered, will add 130 Liberty St. to the agenda for the Select Committee’s Nov. 21 meeting.

7 W.T.C. leased floor-by-floor
Developer Larry Silverstein is inches away from sealing a deal to rent one floor of the suspiciously vacant 7 World Trade Center. The nonprofit New York Academy of Sciences is reportedly in final negotiations to snatch up a floor of the 42-story tower that faces the World Trade Center site. The Academy recently sold its Upper East Side townhouse. The floor—about 40,000 sq. ft.—is only a drop in the bucket for the 1.7 million sq. ft. tower, which has been lying largely vacant as it nears the final stages of construction.

In July, Ameriprise Financial Inc., an American Express spin off, revealed plans to take half a floor, about 20,000 sq. ft., although the deal has not been sealed. And Chinese company Beijing Vantone Real Estate Co. offered in September to take five floors. Sliverstein has yet to respond to the offer.

Top dog
Grimace may not be the prettiest pooch in Tribeca, but she is now top dog. Dressed up as a taxicab, the toothy, 10-year-old bulldog was crowned the winner of the first Dog Day Masquerade, a pup parade that starts off the Times Square Alliance’s annual Adopt-a-Pet Day.

Even Grimace’s mother, Chambers St. resident Wendy Keefe, was agog that her pup took home the crown. “There were a lot of neat dogs there and there were dogs that had great stories there,” she told UnderCover. A dog that had been rescued from a rooftop in New Orleans stole Keefe’s heart. “I would have voted for that dog!”


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