Volume 21, Number 9 | THE NEWSPAPER OF LOWER MANHATTAN | July 11 - 17, 2008

Under Cover

The latest person to contribute to the revitalization of Downtown is none other than Justin Timberlake.

The pop singer has a stake in a new bar that is not yet named or open at 6 Murray St., Community Board 1 discovered when a representative of the bar came before the board to ask for a liquor license. Bruno Gioffre, Jr., the project’s attorney, also hinted at other high-profile partners, though he didn’t name names. The application refers only to an entity called “Murray St. Hospitality Corp.”

The 6 Murray St. location most recently housed a bar called A & M Roadhouse, run by Arthur Gregory, but it closed several months ago. A “Space For Rent” banner drapes the old Roadhouse sign, giving neighbors no inkling of Timberlake’s impending arrival.

“It would be great for the block,” said Chris Digennaro, the manager at 2 Rivers bar at 10 Murray St. “Let him have it.”

Digennaro is fed up with the city’s snail’s pace of redevelopment, and said a big name can only help.

“More people need to support the neighborhood,” he said. “We’re dying down here.”

Silver’s bullet
Paul Newell is taking a leaf out of Karl Rove’s book as he launches his campaign to unseat Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Newell, a Democrat who likely disagrees with Rove on everything else, appeared last week to adopt Rove’s strategy of going after an opponent’s strengths, not his weaknesses. At a press conference that drew a handful of people, Newell criticized Silver for convincing developer Bruce Ratner to build a new K-8 school in his 76-story Beekman St. tower — which Silver touts as a major achievement.

Specifically, Newell took issue with the 20-year tax abatement Ratner received for the project, which Newell called an unnecessary incentive for what will be a profitable, market-rate project.

“I’m running because Sheldon Silver and Joe Bruno have run this state in a secret room…behind closed doors,” Newell said, raising his voice to be heard over honking horns and rumbling trucks in the rapidly growing shadow of Ratner’s tower. “When decisions are made in a secret room by three men…the voice of developers like Bruce Ratner is heard a lot louder than Downtowners.”

While some in the community may not take kindly to Newell dismissing the hard-won inclusion of a school in Ratner’s as-of-right development, Newell said he had a cheaper and faster way of building schools Downtown. He said taking vacant commercial space and converting it to classrooms could temporarily solve the school overcrowding crisis by September 2009, which would but time to look for long-term solutions that don’t make concessions to developers, he said.

He also wants to see a 30 percent affordable housing mandate in every new building that goes up in the city.

Signing match
Perhaps it was caution, perhaps it was looking a gift horse in the mouth, perhaps it was some political gamesmanship or maybe it was just the sign of an effective challenger’s campaign, but State Senatorial candidate Daniel Squadron submitted over 8,000 signatures to get on the ballot and didn’t even use the hundreds collected by the Downtown Independent Democrats — his biggest endorsement to date.

Squadron’s counsel warned that New York’s arcane election laws theoretically could call into question signatures for multi-candidate petitions that are typically done by political clubs like D.I.D. A Squadron campaign press release noted that his opponent, State Sen. Marty Connor, is also an election lawyer who has frequently challenged his opponents’ petitions. Squadron said he didn’t want to take any chances. He only needs 1,000 valid signatures and was well over the safety net consultants often recommend — two signatures for every one needed.

Sean Sweeney, D.I.D.’s president, said he was not miffed that Squadron didn’t use the signatures that club volunteers collected. “I’m 100 percent understanding of his reason,” Sweeney said. “We were kind of laid back [in our petition drive] this year.”

For their part, Camp Connor used several clubs’ petitions and said they already have over 12,000 signatures. They expect to submit even more on July 10 when they get the signatures from the CoDA club on the Lower East Side.

“We’ll have a lot more than he does,” said Marty Algaze, Connor’s spokesperson.

Schick vs. Menin II
One man’s pat on the back is another woman’s scapegoating. The subject at hand is the Downtown Express article last week on Avi Schick’s comments to Community Board 1 chairperson Julie Menin regarding the demolition of the Deutsche Bank building.

Mike Murphy, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.’s spokesperson, told the Daily News’ Elizabeth Benjamin that our article was “overblown” and Schick was really praising Julie Menin and C.B. 1 when he pointed out that the safety precautions she insisted on lead to more delays of the long-delayed demolition.

“If anything we were not assigning blame but giving credit,” Murphy told the News.

Menin didn’t quite see it that way. In a letter to the editor (in which she also criticized UnderCover’s coverage last week of the “ballotgate” escapade, Page 21), Menin suggested Schick was “scapegoating our community for insisting that the deconstruction is handled in a safe manner.”  

Book ‘em
Fed up with the pending closure of Strand’s Annex down the street and predictions of the demise of books, Norma Rogers took matters into her own hands and helped organize a book sale outside St. Margaret’s House for senior citizens.

“They’re saying people are not going to read, they’re going to go to the Internet -- that’s not true,” Rogers, 84, told UnderCover.

Who are they? TV talking heads, she said.

She and her St. Margaret’s neighbors and staff sold a few hundred books in two days this week and last. She got the idea for the sale after she heard Strand’s Fulton St. spot is closing at the end of August. The store says reading is alive and well, but business dropped off tremendously after the multi-year Fulton St. water main project bounced their bookracks from the sidewalk.

Rogers said she is disappointed there won’t be any second hand bookstores near her, and she wanted to make the point of the need and desire for books.

“What are children going to do – what are teachers going to say, ‘go to the Internet,’” Rogers said. “They’ve got to go to the library and read, read, read!”

You go, girl.




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