Volume 20, Number 50 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | APRIL 25 - MAY 1
State Sen. Martin Connor has shown up to two monthly Community Board 1 meetings in a row, and has been quite a talkative fellow.
This week, Connor spoke and answered questions for 15 minutes, until Julie Menin, C.B. 1’s chairperson, told board members to wrap it up. Connor seemed willing to stay at the mic all evening.
The senator is not an unfamiliar face to C.B. 1, but UnderCover wonders whether the regular visits and the long talks are related to his spirited challenge from Daniel Squadron.
This month, Connor talked about school overcrowding, congestion pricing and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s capital budget.
“For years I’ve been saying to the city, you can’t keep building residences without building schools, parks, libraries, etc.,” Connor told a very sympathetic crowd. He said the city needs to address the classroom shortage immediately. Connor recalled that when he had children in elementary school, he never liked to hear that solutions were three or four years away.
“They grow up, they’re gone, they miss it,” he said.
Connor also told the board about congestion pricing’s death in Albany. He blames Mayor Michael Bloomberg for failing to negotiate with legislators, but said he would have supported the bill. To mitigate traffic in this post-congestion pricing era, Connor suggested reexamining bridge tolls, adding cabstands and running free shuttles north and south on the avenues.
To help fill the M.T.A.’s $14 billion capital shortfall and $600,000 operating deficit, Connor floated an employer’s tax on each employee. Employers benefit from a good public transit system, so they should bear the burden of maintaining it, he said.
“We’re not walking away from the problem,” Connor said. “We’re regrouping.”
Rink of dreams
We hear the Battery Park City grass ballfields may not go into its annual hibernation this winter. Officials are looking into bringing a large ice rink onto the fields for hockey leagues and general recreation. “It’s a definite longshot possibility,” a source tells UnderCover. If costs get in the way of the B.P.C. plan, another option being considered is historic Battery Park, which could defray some of the costs with vendors around the rink.
Councilmember Alan Gerson is steaming mad over “slushgate.” We caught up with the Lower Manhattan councilmember at City Hall last Friday after the U.S. District Attorney announced indictments of two Council staffers for skimming from the “slush fund” of money allocated to phony organizations that ballooned in recent years under Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
“I was angry. I was furious,” Gerson told us. “We’re given a list of thousands of organizations for the budget. We can’t check them all.” As Gerson spoke, a woman came up to him reminding him of their earlier conversation. A lobbyist for an arthritis group, she was nudging him about earmarking $20,000 in funds for exercise classes for senior centers in his district. “I’m fighting to get funding for legitimate purposes,” Gerson noted, referring to the woman’s cause. The councilmember noted he was particularly galled by the revelation of hidden funds since he’s a former member of the Committee on Open Government in New York State.
“I put a premium on transparency,” he stressed. “There’s no excuse. Now, who’s responsible for this will be the subject of investigation. It’s not too early to say that the practice was absolutely wrong.” Asked if the phony appropriations would hurt Quinn’s standing in the Council and her chances of becoming mayor, Gerson said diplomatically, “It doesn’t help anyone.”
Time’s up again
It was just a few months ago that Time’s Up!, the environmental/bicycling group that promotes Critical Mass, had to leave its E. Houston St. storefront space after Steve Stollman announced he was selling the building. Time’s Up! thought they had found a new home at The Hub, a former garage at 73 Morton St. at Hudson St., where George Bliss operates a bicycle-taxi repair shop.
But now, Bliss tells us, he’s being forced to double his rent to $14,000 a month and can no longer afford to share the 2,300-square-foot space with Time’s Up!, which has been paying him a nominal rent as a subtenant. Instead, he’s bringing in what he called a “bicycle FedEx” service, and has given Time’s Up! 30 days notice.
But to provide the group a fitting sendoff and some cash to help them move and find yet another new space The Hub is throwing a benefit party this Friday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. The event will feature a bicycle fashion show in which all are invited to participate the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, Traffic Jam Tap Dancers, Boom Boom Brooks Trio, good food and drink and a trampoline. The benefit will also fund the Pedicab Workers Association’s lawsuit against the city’s new restrictions on pedicabs.