Volume 21, Number 40 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | February 13 - 19, 2009

Under Cover

Menin the plumber

Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board 1, sent a scathing letter to board members Wednesday afternoon referencing last week’s Downtown Express story about the new Battery Park City community center. The Express story revealed the programming and financial plans of YMCA and Asphalt Green, the two potential operators the Battery Park City Authority is considering to run the center.

Menin’s letter, co-signed by Linda Belfer, chairperson of the B.P.C. Committee, blamed the anonymous C.B. 1 member quoted in the story for giving out the confidential financial information. But we should point out that we never said where we got that information, or even how many sources it came from.

In the letter, Menin and Belfer say Asphalt Green and the Y were “understandably very distressed by this breach” in the confidentiality of their plans, but that they are both continuing the proposal process.

The review of community center proposals marked the first time the Battery Park City Authority let C.B. 1 members have access to private details, and it could also be the last, the letter implies.

“The irresponsible disclosures …were detrimental to our efforts to have a meaningful role in developing the facility and ensuring that it best meets the needs of the community,” the letter states. “It took years to convince the B.P.C.A. to allow us to participate in the [request for proposal] process and this breach could have been fatal to our efforts.”

Menin’s letter also implies that any C.B. 1 member who gave an opinion on the proposals broke the law, but UnderCover heard the authority never told the C.B. 1 members it was illegal to disclose what they’d heard.


Politically Incorrect

City Council candidate Pete Gleason is handing out practical campaign paraphernalia that may be useful to Downtowners, although the items are not likely to score points with the P.C. police. He said he decided to make clear he is not going to try and muzzle his sense of humor after our good friends at The Villager’s Scoopy’s Notebook reported that Gleason’s allies have advised him to tone down the jokes in his campaign against Councilmember Alan Gerson.

Gleason was kind enough to give the three items to UnderCover but he said the nail file is “for the ladies,” the pill dispensers are for senior citizens and the pens are for men.

Asked if anyone raised an eyebrow about sex-specific gifts, Gleason said about the files: “I’ve given them out to guys in the Village.” He said the dispensers are popular in senior centers but people of all ages need them in Lower Manhattan because of the health effects from 9/11.

“The federal government should be handing these out Downtown,” he told us.


Another candidate?

Speaking of which, the already crowded race for City Councilmember Alan Gerson’s seat could soon get even more crowded: Arthur Gregory, former community board member and owner of the pub B4, is contemplating a run.

UnderCover overheard Gregory running the idea by Greg Kirschenbaum from Borough President Scott Stringer’s office at a recent community board meeting.

“If I’m gonna run, you’ll be the first ones to know,” Gregory promised UnderCover after the meeting. He’ll make a decision in the next three weeks.

Gregory was heavily involved in New Jersey politics in the ’70s, working as an aide to former Gov. Brendan Byrne and helping elect several assemblymembers. He got disenchanted with politics but became active again after 9/11.

In addition to Gerson, who is running for reelection after he voted to suspend term limits, Chinatown activist Margaret Chin and former firefighter Pete Gleason are also running in the Democratic primary next fall. Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board 1, has stepped out of the running, but UnderCover is hearing speculation she could return to the race if Gerson withdraws to take a cushy city appointment instead.


Seaport post for sale?

The rumors that the Peck Slip Post Office is closing died down over the holidays but are now back in full force.

The post office gathered its employees earlier this month and told them the building would close in September, said two Southbridge Towers residents who spoke with several employees.

Ann DeFalco and Paul Hovitz, who are also members of Community Board 1, both heard from postal employees that the building is on the market and that unfamiliar people have been touring it. After leaks about a supposed sale last fall (which turned out to be untrue), the post office management “put the fear of God” into the employees and warned them not to say anything about the impending closure, Hovitz said.

George Flood, spokesperson for the Postal Service, said the rumors of the demise are just that — rumors.

“We have no plans to sell that building,” he said.

While the post office will stay open with the same hours, Flood said there could be staff cuts if the office isn’t getting enough foot traffic.

And, he added somewhat cryptically, “We regularly take a look at our facilities and see how we can best maximize the use of our facilities.”


Madoff victims

A list of 14,000 people swindled by Bernard Madoff went public last week, and UnderCover recognized many familiar names, including two big players Downtown: World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein and new State Sen. Daniel Squadron.
The list doesn’t say how much each investor lost.

Squadron’s money was in a fund amassed by his late father, Howard Squadron. John Raskin, Squadron’s chief of staff, confirmed that Squadron had investments with Madoff but said he did not know any details.

Bud Perrone, spokesperson for Silverstein, released the following statement to reporters: “Losses incurred by Larry Silverstein and his family absolutely pale in comparison to those innocent investors who lost their life savings as a result of this scheme.”


Golden anniversary

The fifth anniversary celebration of the New American Youth Ballet on Tuesday afternoon went off with only one hitch — by mistake, the cake said, “Happy 50th Anniversary NAYB,” giving the donations-based dance studio credit for an extra 45 years in Battery Park City.

“I think it’s a good omen,” co-director Elizabeth Flores told us afterward, laughing.

The biggest attraction at the party was Flores’s 7-week-old daughter, whom everyone wanted to visit and hold. Flores said she never expected to find an extended family in the city when she moved her ballet program from Upstate New York five years ago, but she’s happy to be based in such a warm, stroller-friendly neighborhood.




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