Imaginary friend’s friends
Mrs. McGillicutty, the woman City Councilmember Alan Gerson invented to illustrate the ineffectiveness of current emergency notification systems, is back in the limelight.
As Gerson first described her several months ago, the elderly Mrs. McGillicutty uses snail mail, not e-mail, and has health problems. Gerson has regularly trotted her out during discussions about high-tech emergency notification systems, asking, “What about Mrs. McGillicutty?” Despite her frailties and lack of existence, she remains a pillar of the Downtown community, Gerson says.
Back in September, Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler promised to call the fictional constituent in the event of an emergency.
But Avi Schick, chairperson of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, one-upped Skyler Wednesday at a City Council hearing. Mrs. McGillicutty’s name surfaced in relation to e-mail notification in case of an emergency at the Deutsche Bank building.
“We’re going to race to her apartment ourselves,” Schick promised.
Pier 40 has been making all the headlines lately, but there’s breaking news on yet another Hudson River Park pier facing development challenges. Steve Witkoff has just submitted a letter to the Hudson River Park Trust officially withdrawing from the project to redevelop Pier 57 at W. 16th St. Jim Capalino, a Witkoff spokesperson, told us that “after a lengthy discussion with the Trust on the appropriate thing to do,” Witkoff had pulled out. “It was a consensual conversation.” Capalino said escalating construction costs, the pier’s continued deterioration and an uncertain capital market and financing were the three factors that caused Witkoff to throw in the towel.
Diana Taylor, the Trust’s chairperson, said at the end of last year she was anxious to get the stalled project moving, but there were legal complications stemming from criminal investigations.
Witkoff’s plan got bogged down after an anonymous letter was sent to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office contending there where conflicts of interest in the Trust’s designation of Witkoff/Cipriani. Cipriani subsequently dropped out of the proposal, not before two of its top members were hit with tax-fraud charges and a third was hit with insurance fraud and jail time to boot.
More recently, as the investigation concluded, James Ortenzio, the Trust’s former chairperson, also known as the “Mayor of the Meat Market,” pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion, not related to Pier 57. Because of the investigation, the city held up on approving Witkoff’s development plan for the pier, halting the process completely.
Some are wondering if the Trust now will tap Chelsea Piers for Pier 57, since it was the other R.F.P. finalist in 2005. On the other hand, three years is a long time, and a lot has changed, including the economy. Asked if Chelsea Piers is once again angling for the former M.T.A. bus depot, Erica Schietinger, a Chelsea Piers spokesperson, said, “We have not heard anything from H.R.P.T. in regard to the status of Pier 57. Therefore, we have no comment.”
Christopher Martin, the Trust’s spokesperson, said H.R.P.T. “will re-evaluate its options” for the pier, declining to comment further.
Pataki Park perplexer: So whatever happened to Governor Eliot Spitzer’s novel idea to rename Hudson River Park as George Pataki Park? It never did make it into the governor’s State of the State speech a few weeks back. When we asked Jennifer Givner, a Spitzer spokesperson, why the notion was scrapped, she said she couldn’t comment on it, and, in fact, couldn’t even confirm if it was originally in the speech, as The New York Sun had reported. But could Spitzer dust off the renaming idea at a later date? Again, Givner said she couldn’t really comment on that, either. However, one Hudson River Park advocate said he’s sure that was Pataki Park’s one and only shot.
Scott Stringer has done a great job reforming the community boards, what with having brought in a crop of top-notch community-minded members among other noteworthy improvements. But from what we’re hearing, Stringer may not be around for a second term to continue his good work. Rumor has it he may not run for re-election, but rather is eyeing a campaign for citywide office namely, public advocate. Stringer has reportedly raised mucho bucks, handy for a public advocate campaign.
Downtown or down South
Howard Hemsley, coordinator of the Barack Obama campaign on the East Side from 23rd St. to South St., told us he was seriously considering heading to South Carolina for this Saturday’s primary, but thought better of it. “It would have been fun, but the big job for me is here in New York City,” he said. “We’ve been operating with a minimum of support from Chicago [Obama headquarters] because the fight was in the early states. Now Super Tuesday, Feb. 5 [when New York votes], is almost upon us.”
Hemsley was in Iowa for Obama’s big victory there. “He thanked each of us individually and we got our pictures taken,” he said. “When I shook his hand I told him, ‘Change the world.’ He replied, ‘With your help.’ ”
Thanks to the fact that they live just a block away from the Trump Soho condo-hotel site, the Pincus family wound up contributing heavily to the coverage of the construction disaster there that left one worker dead on Jan. 14. Rachel, a student at Lab School in Chelsea, was home when the collapse occurred and her photos, taken from the family’s Sixth Ave. apartment windows, were used by Gothamist in that New York City blog’s early coverage. Dad Harry was interviewed by local TV news stations Channels 2 and 4, as well as by the Associated Press.