Volume 21, Number 20 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Sept. 26 - October 2, 2008
When Community Board 1 Chairperson Julie Menin started popping up on national news shows, tipsters called UnderCover to report sightings there and on YouTube.
The YouTube clips were spliced together, making it look like they were packaged to sell TV bookers on future appearances by Menin. They were posted by MediaOne Management Group, which is run by a friend of Menin’s who is counseling her on the appearances.
The all-but-certain City Council hopeful gave interviews to Fox and CBS on women in politics, mainly focused on the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as Sen. John McCain’s running mate. Menin was speaking on behalf of another hat she wears: board member of the Women’s Campaign Fund, which encourages women to run for office.
Palin is not one of the women Menin would encourage.
“I don’t agree with Sarah Palin on the direction she wants to take this country in at all,” Menin said.
Speaking of Julie Menin, she tells us the Port Authority is not planning to do all that it takes to open the memorial by the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. Rather than redesigning the PATH hub to make it simpler and easier to construct, the Port wants to leave it as is.
Menin, a member of the memorial foundation’s board of directors, heard from someone on Christopher Ward’s Steering Committee that the Port wants to keep Santiago Calatrava’s column-free design of the underground concourse, which could have a ripple effect in terms of delaying other projects on the site.
“It’s imperative that the Port Authority be flexible on this,” Menin told UnderCover. “Opening the memorial by the 10-year anniversary helps move the whole site forward.”
Dutch flower power
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of The Netherlands visited Governors Island and Battery Park Tuesday in preparation for a celebration next year of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival to a place that soon became known as New Amsterdam and is now called Lower Manhattan.
The Battery Park stop was unplanned, but after Warrie Price, founder of the Battery Conservancy, waxed poetic about the park’s gardens on the ferry ride, she got a call later in the day asking her to conduct a head of state tour. The pair also sat down for high tea and coffee.
The Battery Bosque gardens were designed by Piet Oudolf and patterned after his 2002 Amsterdam design for the once in a decade Dutch Floriade. Price said Balkenende, who is already working on the 2012 Floriade, was thrilled that the Dutch design inspired such a beautiful garden in America.
The park, the island and Downtown’s Dutch-laid, narrow curvy streets are all likely to play a large role in the Hudson extravaganza.
Daniel Squadron made a triumphant return to Community Board 1 this week following his victory over State Sen. Martin Connor in the Democratic primary. The board greeted Squadron with several rounds of applause, and board members reached out to shake Squadron’s hand as he headed for the mic. (There was no mention of the fact that C.B. 1 chairperson Julie Menin supported Connor in the primary.)
Squadron kept the community board laughing, especially when he joked that C.B. 1 should use its influence to get him assigned to the Senate committee that oversees the Port Authority. More seriously, Squadron said he wants the community to start coming to him with their concerns now, since he isn’t waiting until January to get started.
Squadron won’t officially join the State Senate until after November’s general election, where he faces a challenge from Republican John Chromczack, but this week he scored an invitation to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s school overcrowding taskforce.
Dude, where were you?
The man who may make history as America’s first “Second Dude,” Todd Palin, apparently likes to fly under the radar. Several news reports had the husband of John McCain’s “soulmate” visiting ground zero Tuesday with the youngest Palin children Willow, Piper and Trig and taking pictures with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop while vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was meeting with Kissinger and Karzai in Midtown, but no one seems to know precisely where the self-described “First Dude” of Alaska went.
A Port Authority spokesperson said he had no indication of a World Trade Center site tour with the Palin family, but the Port does not track the legions of tourists who take pictures around the construction area. The two best places on land to view the statue are in Battery and Wagner Parks, but officials there also did not hear anything.
McCain suspended the campaign Wednesday citing the Wall Street woes, which might be why campaign spokespersons blew us off.
Forget political polling one vendor on Fulton St. has a surer way of taking Downtown’s pulse: He just looks at his sales receipts.
The vendor of political-themed T-shirts, caps and buttons at Fulton and Gold Sts. told UnderCover that Sen. Barack Obama merchandise is flying off his table. For every 50 pieces of Obama merchandise the vendor sells, he only sells four or five items featuring Sen. John McCain.
The vendor, who did not want to give his name, is also capitalizing on New Yorkers who are nostalgic (or living in denial) Sen. Hillary Clinton outsells McCain 3 to 1.
But there’s one item that Downtowners and tourists haven’t yet latched on to: pins featuring Gov. Sarah Palin.
“Palin is no selling,” the vendor said.
The local comments for the design for 56 Leonard St., the 830-foot staggered condo tower by Herzog & de Meuron, are not entirely negative.
“It’s a shame that it’s so good,” said Bruce Ehrmann, co-chairperson of Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee. “It’s grievously and egregiously too big…. I have no idea how it’s going to relate to the ground or the neighborhood. It probably won’t.”
But Ehrmann said that he went out of his way to see Herzog & de Meuron’s work when in Minneapolis and Berlin.
“Their work matters in the world of architecture right now,” he said.
Real estate blog Curbed.com recently pointed out an even more optimistic view of the project, which came from rapper Kanye West: He posted the renderings on his blog with the title “GONE BE NIIIICE!!!”
Ice-skating on the Battery Park City ballfields will have to wait for another year.
“We just don’t feel we have time to make a good decision for this year,” B.P.C. Authority president Jim Cavanaugh told UnderCover.
Two companies expressed interest in bringing a rink to the ballfields, but their proposals different dramatically in scope and price, and the authority wants to take more time to sort everything out. No matter what, Cavanaugh assured that the rink will be affordable and community-focused.
Volume 21, Number 19 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | September 19 - 25, 2008
Downtown Express photo by Joseph M. Calisi
Sen. Hillary Clinton was cheered at Grand Central Station last week.
UnderCover is apparently not as beloved a figure in Midtown as we are in Lower Manhattan (although we have heard from one or two people who don’t like us here either). We ventured out of the cozy confines of Downtown last week to ask Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton a question at a Grand Central Station press conference on transportation. Commuters, tourists and Hillary lovers were none too pleased as we maneuvered our way in front of them to ask our question — hey, it was a press conference and we are press.
Clinton — perhaps taking pity on us, perhaps eager to take a question on topic — called on us first and told us the long fight to get nearly $2 billion in unused 9/11 tax breaks transferred to the 9/11 transportation pot is not lost. In Republican and Democratic Congresses over the years, the transfer has had the support of a diverse bipartisan group that includes President Bush, Jerry Nadler, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Eliot Spitzer, George Pataki, Chuck Schumer and Mike Bloomberg (that’s a little political boy-girl, boy-girl), but the measure never passes.
Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire helped kill it in the spring calling the fading hope of a rail link from J.F.K. Airport and the L.I.R.R. to Downtown the “train to nowhere.” Clinton tells us she’ll take up the fight again when new budget negotiations begin some time after the election. If she gets the money, would it have to stay Downtown if it’s not spent on the link?
“We want to keep the focus on Lower Manhattan but obviously the city is interconnected,” Clinton told us. “We are one organism, so if there are ways that we think benefit Lower Manhattan and the city, we would be open to that but we want to keep it where we had originally intended it to be used.”
Clinton remains popular with New Yorkers and received rousing cheers when U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney saluted her presidential campaign saying, “every woman and girl in America is standing a little taller” because of it. Even the Y-chromosomed were moved. A few seconds later a man yelled out: “It should have been you, Hillary.”
Powers that be
State Senate Democratic nominee Daniel Squadron may only be 28, but he’ll come to Albany with some good connections for Downtown, presuming he romps in the November general election as many expect in the Democratic district.
At his victory party last week was none other than Jeremy Soffin, who by night was one of the volunteers who helped Squadron knock off State Sen. Martin Connor, but who by day is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s press secretary. Maybe Dan can see what Jeremy can do about finding another few hundred million or so to actually build the Fulton Transit Center.
Squadron had an even longer thank you for Mrs. Chuck Schumer, better known as Iris Weinshall, former city Transportation commissioner and current vice chancellor of the City University of New York. Weinshall, for some reason, had no desire whatsoever to talk to UnderCover about her apparent plan to sit on the money to demolish damaged Fiterman Hall if City Hall does not fork over the money it owes to build the new Fiterman, but maybe Squadron will have more progress with her since he is also close to her husband, the senior senator from New York. Squadron lives with his girlfriend Liz Weinstein, who was Weinshall’s former chief of staff at Transportation.
There also appears to be no hard feelings with Downtown’s most powerful pol, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, who supported Connor but called to congratulate Squadron soon after the election. We hear Silver and Squadron have already met face to face.
Connor and Squadron still have not spoken, but Squadron pledged to do “whatever it takes” to ensure a smooth transition following up on constituents’ concerns, assuming he becomes Senate-elect Squadron.
Downtown had a good showing in City Hall newspaper’s “40 Under 40” list of political rising stars. There were plenty of familiar faces, including two Assembly aides: Jim Quent, 36, who works for Speaker Shelly Silver and Bethany Jankunis, 33, who works for Deborah Glick.
Jankunis, who has also worked for the city comptroller, said she is thinking of running for office herself, but if she ever dropped out of politics, she’d like to be a news reporter.
Despite its name, the list includes people who’ve already hit 40 like Julie Menin, Community Board 1’s chairperson. (An anti-Meninite — when your opponents have a name for themselves you know you’ve made it — pointed out to us she’ll be 41 in a few weeks.)
“I was really flattered,” Menin told UnderCover.
Menin has been weighing a run for City Councilmember Alan Gerson’s seat for at least the past year, but she has to wait until the question of term limits is decided before she makes her move. If Gerson is able to run again, Menin said she wouldn’t run.
Also on the list was Justin Lapatine, 35, senior vice president at Global Strategy Group, a firm assisting General Growth Properties with their plans to redevelop the Seaport.
Of course State Senate Democratic nominee Daniel Squadron made the list. His political passion is not a recent development — he told City Hall he clearly remembers his 10th birthday party in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell.
“I remember at the time being incredibly moved,” Squadron told City Hall. “I made everyone watch it while we had birthday cake.”