Volume 20, Number 45 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | MARCH 21 - 27, 2008

Under Cover

Gasping for air
With less than two weeks left before the latest deadline to approve congestion pricing, the plan’s hopes look grim.

“I think the mayor’s having trouble in the City Council,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told UnderCover this week. “There’s a lot of sentiment against it, a lot of distrust of the [Metropolitan Transportation Authority].”

The mayor has met with delegations from the outer boroughs, “and my understanding is he has not gotten a very good reception,” Silver said. “I think we have to do something, but right now I’m clearly in the minority.”

If the mayor can’t get it through the Council it will save Silver from a tough spot in the Assembly since he has said he could support the measure but many of his members are against it.

Silver said he didn’t know how Gov. David Paterson feels about congestion pricing.

“The new governor has not indicated support and he has not indicated opposition,” Silver said. We might have guessed Paterson favors the plan since we hear he likes to take the subway to romantic trysts.

Either way, time is running out for the legislature to approve the mayor’s congestion pricing plan or lose hundreds of millions in federal funding.

Daniel Squadron, the former Chuck Schumer aide challenging State Sen. Marty Connor in the September Democratic primary, snared the Working Families Party endorsement this week. Progressive Democrats Downtown often look kindly on the party’s nod, but it was not enough to help Ken Diamondstone beat Connor two years ago. Word is Squadron may get more field support and probably more money from the W.F.P. – Diamondstone ran a self-financed campaign in 2006.

Squadron said it was a “great day” and the party’s field operation will be a big help. Diamondstone is still contemplating another run – “we’re on the verge of making a decision,” he said refusing to add anything more — but it will be an even tougher challenge without Working Families’ support. Rocky Chin, active in Working Families, said he is not going to support Diamondstone again and hopes Squadron will join a new Democratic majority in the State Senate next year. Chin said he’d prefer Diamondstone didn’t run and that it’s time for a change – an opinion he said Gov. David Paterson obviously shared when he dethroned Connor from the minority leader’s post six years ago.

“Our present governor thought we needed a new leadership and if the Democrats take the senate we need a new kind of leadership,” Chin said.

He did not rule out another run for City Council next year, but he did not sound eager to jump into what could be a crowded field. “There are many good people who could run, and I include myself,” Chin said.

Delay? Count the ways
If Forest City Ratner and the School Construction Authority want to convince Community Board 1 that the Beekman St. School will open on time in 2009, they should at least get their stories straight.

When Noah Pfefferblit, C.B. 1’s district manager, asked Ratner and the S.C.A. why no work has happened on the project in six months, he got two different answers.

The School Construction Authority said there was a delay in delivering a shipment of steel, but that the steel would arrive soon. After that, work will begin on an expedited schedule to get the school open by fall 2009, the authority said.

Ratner gave an entirely different explanation, after canceling an appearance at the community board to discuss the project. “They said they’re having issues with their financing,” Pfefferblit told the Youth and Education Committee Tuesday. Frank Gehry, known for complicated and whimsical buildings, designed the tower that will house the school.

Paul Hovitz, a committee member, provided further evidence of funding troubles, which have been rumored for months. He was recently discussing the project with another board member in public, when a man overheard him. Ratner is having problems financing the project, said the man, who added that he worked for a company doing the financing, Hovitz said.

Hovitz is concerned that if construction really does kick into high gear, it will disturb residents’ quality of life. On the flip side, if the construction doesn’t get going soon, Hovitz is worried the school won’t open on time.

Old friends
UnderCover caught up with some old friends at David Rockefeller’s bash at Chase Plaza Tuesday. Liz Lusskin, the Downtown Alliance’s former counsel, tells us she’s rejoined her old boss Carl Weisbrod as a consultant to Trinity Real Estate as the church begins its bid to create a Hudson Square business improvement district. Stefan Pryor, former president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., said being deputy mayor to Cory Booker in Newark is exciting but he misses Downtown “like crazy.”

Moving on down
Looks like Lower Manhattan is getting a new high school. The Urban Assembly School of Business for Young Women is slated to move to 45-50 Broadway.

Kirsten Connor, executive director of CityKids, mentioned the move as an aside during a presentation to Community Board 1. She appeared surprised that the board hadn’t heard that the school, now located on E. 12th St., is moving.

The 293-student school currently serves students in grades 9 to 11. The Department of Education and the school did not return calls for comment.





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