Volume 21, Number 38 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 30 - February 5, 2009

Under Cover

Titanic II
The public authority that runs Governors Island will take a leaf out of Sarah Palin’s book by putting a money pit of a ferry up for auction on eBay.

Palin made news last fall when she boasted about selling an Alaska state jet on eBay, though it turned out the sale of the jet was through the broker instead.

But the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corp. actually is planning to use eBay to unload an otherwise impossible-to-sell boat.

The trouble started shortly after GIPEC bought the ferry, which would transport cars and people to the island, for $500,000 in August 2007, said Jon Meyers, GIPEC’s director of real estate. GIPEC trusted that the seller, the Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority in Massachusetts, had maintained the boat, and GIPEC’s brief inspections indicated that it would need no more than $3 million of repairs.

But after purchasing the boat and putting it through six months of extensive testing, GIPEC discovered that the costs of steel replacement alone would run $6 million to $7 million — and that didn’t include a variety of other necessary repairs, Meyers said.

GIPEC tried to unload the ferry last fall but got no offers. One interested scrap dealer had too many financial problems of his own — falling steel prices are coming at a bad time.

Now, GIPEC will list the boat on eBay with no minimum price, so it could go for less than $100.

If the eBay auction fails, GIPEC will then try to get a scrap dealer to take the boat away for free. Meanwhile, insurance and maintenance costs for the ferry are setting GIPEC back $20,000 a month.

“Our focus is just to dispose of the vessel as quickly as we can,” Meyers said.

Some of GIPEC’s board members looked disturbed by the saga at a board meeting Monday afternoon.

James Gill asked Meyers if GIPEC could take legal action against the people who made the initial inspection of the ship and urged GIPEC to buy it, but Meyers said everyone had done their job as well as they could.

After Meyers had listed the many reasons why no one would want to own the ferry, GIPEC chairperson Avi Schick half-jokingly tried to get the board to move on, figuring perhaps they had already gone overboard in terms of full disclosure to potential buyers.

Deutsche mistake
The delayed and disaster-prone Deutsche Bank project gets plenty of bad press, often from the New York Post, but last weekend the Post’s Page 6 Magazine accidentally turned a far more optimistic eye on the project — too optimistic, in fact.

In an item on the new W Hotel rising just south of the Deutsche Bank building, the Post said the hotel was being built “on the site where the Deutsche Bank building once stood…. The bank was contaminated by debris in the 9/11 attacks and demolished shortly after.”

That will come as a surprise to the many residents who see the shrouded tower still standing, along with the activists who are fighting to make work in the building safer after the 2007 fire that killed two firefighters, not to mention the Post’s editorial board.

The mistake was not without reason, though. The Moinian Group, which is developing the W, did purchase the land from the Deutsche Bank, and there was a smaller building on the site that was demolished — just not the one plagued by indictments most people think of when they hear “Deutsche Bank building.”

Beep a no-go?
Easy come, easy go.

Almost as quickly as a report surfaced that Manhattan Beep Scott Stringer was considering challenging New York’s newest senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, he seemed to do a quick backpedal. Soon after Gillibrand’s imminent appointment hit the Web last Thursday night, the Daily News reported Stringer was looking to mount a challenge because Gillibrand was too conservative.

But last Friday, Stringer did not criticize her views at all and did not sound like he had given any thought to running against the Upstater next year.

“The only office I’m running for in 2009 is reelection of borough president,” Stringer told UnderCover.

Even one of Gillibrand’s strong backers, Sen. Chuck Schumer, criticized Gillibrand’s anti-gun control position while the pair stood side by side at Gov. Paterson’s Albany announcement.

Stringer, for his part, said: “Clearly, [Gillibrand’s] voting record would not be the same as [Rep.] Jerry Nadler’s. But that means we have to sit with her and talk to her about the issues we care about.”

Stringer’s camp declined to comment this week while momentum builds for other more likely challengers including U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy.

Not-so-invisible addition
Some community members were skeptical last month when architect Henry Smith-Miller promised that his two-story addition atop 78-80 Leonard St. would be invisible from the street, and it turns out they were right — sort of.

Smith-Miller built a mockup of the design — which will be a creased gray mesh he calls a “stone cloud” — on the roof of the building, and it turns out a bit of it is visible from the street after all. But Smith-Miller said he’d make good on his promise of invisibility and lower the parapet about 12 inches, which should satisfy the community.

No fire plan
F.D.N.Y. Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta showed up at a City Council hearing two weeks ago on the fire company closures without a plan for how the city would fight fires on Governors Island once the station there closed. He promised to send the plan to City Councilmember Alan Gerson within a matter of days. But every time Gerson asks for it, he keeps hearing it will arrive the next day, only to be stonewalled again.

“It’s outrageous,” Gerson said Wednesday of the delay.

The Governors Island firehouse, along with four other fire companies in the city, already closed on Jan. 17, and the community needs to know what the plan is, he said.

A bridge too close
Brooklyn Beep Marty Markowitz has opened up his hall for State Sen. Dan Squadron to set up a second district office on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Squadron, who moved into former State Sen. Marty Connor’s old office in 250 Broadway at the beginning of the year, promised to open offices on both sides of the East River during the campaign. Squadron’s temporary office is in Brooklyn Borough Hall while he searches for a permanent spot in the city’s other downtown.

The office is being run by Carroll Gardens resident Ellen Whelan-Wuest, who worked on President Barack Obama’s campaign and in his senate office before that.





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