Volume 21, Number 35 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 9 - 15, 2009

Under Cover

The boldest ones
Now that 2008 is over, UnderCover decided to take a reflective look back at the year’s biggest players — as determined by the number of times they appeared on this page in bold.

Regular readers may not be surprised to find that Julie Menin, Community Board 1 chairperson and onetime City Council hopeful, topped the list. She appeared in UnderCover 27 times last year.

Menin didn’t exactly sound pleased with the distinction, perhaps because our mentions of her weren’t always glowing.

“If it’s substantive, that’s fine,” she said. “If it’s not substantive, that’s another issue.”

Menin thinks our anonymous column quotes too many anonymous sources.

Beneath Menin on the list was a three-way tie for second place: State Sen. Daniel Squadron, City Councilmember Alan Gerson and Mayor Mike Bloomberg each netted 22 bold-faced mentions in 2008. Sen. Hillary Clinton came in next with 19 mentions, followed by Borough President Scott Stringer and Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, who each had 17.

We thought some of the other high scorers would have also preferred not to have been mentioned so much, but Gerson said he did think of it as “an honor to be the subject of such a well-liked column. My only regret is that none of the items pertained to anything I allegedly did under covers. I’ll have to work on generating some more racy material.”

We resolve to keep our ear to the ground for any “Gerson the playboy” gossip.

Politics, not playboy
Speaking of two of our most popular people, we were curious how Councilmember Alan Gerson (this week we have a two boldface name rule to accommodate our year-end review) reacted after we reported it was Julie Menin who commissioned the “push poll” against Gerson. It turns out Menin came clean to Gerson before we went to press a few weeks ago, so he didn’t get the news from us.

Gerson said he appreciated the heads up, and he and Menin have made up.

“I don’t know that she apologized,” Gerson told us. “We had a frank conversation and she committed her support to my reelection if I decide to run….Now, we’re working together.”

Gerson continues to say he is likely to run for reelection this year. We’ve heard two rumors recently of alternate or backup plans for Gerson if he decides not to run, or he runs and loses.

We asked him about one, a mayoral appointment to be a judge, and he pretty much shot that one down but left the door open a crack on the other, a city commissionership.

“I’m interested in staying involved in public policy in a way that a judge is not able to do,” he said before mentioning his three areas of strongest interest, the environment, housing and education.

The rumors feed off of Gerson’s change in position last year on a City Council vote for extending term limits for himself and Mayor Bloomberg. Gerson said he has not spoken to anyone in power about a job although his answer was worded extremely carefully, sounding almost Clintonian.

“I haven’t had any direct conversations with anyone in a position to appoint me to either [position],” he said.

NIMBY king
UnderCover wasn’t the only one taking a look backward during the first week of 2009. Streetsblog doled out its 2008 Streetsie Awards to the best and the worst of the year’s transportation players, and we recognized many familiar Downtown names.

Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, netted Streetsblog’s NIMBY of the Year award for his opposition of the Grand St. bike lane and the proposal to make Prince St. car-free on weekends.

“With bike, bus and public space improvements proliferating throughout Lower Manhattan, Sweeney had a busy year trying to maintain his neighborhood’s traffic-choked status quo,” Streetsblog wrote.

When UnderCover mentioned the award to Sweeney, he burst out laughing.

“I’m honored to be so dishonored,” he said. “At least they gave me some credit. At least they recognize who they’re dealing with.”

He called the Streetsbloggers “snarky little snots” who want people to agree with them 100 percent of the time.

Another of Downtown’s own to win a dubious distinction was Alan Gerson, who won Most Disappointing City Council Member. Streetsblog decided on Gerson after he said he wanted the Council to have input on new bike lanes.

Gerson had ambivalent feelings about the Streetsblog citation, saying he thought they misunderstood his position, which is to expand cycling opportunities with more consultation with the local community, and to keep the Grand St. bike lane open with adjustments. But then he immediately changed tone, saying the blog “is done in lock step with the Dept. of Transportation” to “prevent any criticism whatsoever” of the agency.

Streetsblog did give Paul Newell the Old College Try award for taking on Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver in last fall’s Democratic primary.

The blog suggested that Newell make another run for the Assembly in 2010, but Newell told us he has no plans to run for office again.

“I will surely be involved Downtown in the community one way or another, but my role remains to be seen,” Newell said.




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