Volume 21, Number 42 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Feb. 29 - March 6, 2009

Under Cover

‘Titanic’ sold
Thanks to eBay, the public authority that runs Governors Island is finally free of a troublesome ferry that turned into a money pit.

The Governors Island Preservation and Education Corp. was desperate to get the ferry off its hands after paying $500,000 for it in 2007 and discovering that it needed more than $6 million of repairs, double what was expected. Traditional sale attempts yielded no takers, so GIPEC posted the ferry on eBay several weeks ago with a minimum price of $10 (no, we didn’t forget any zeroes).

Ten days and 58 bids later, the winner was Don Slovak, who agreed to pay $23,600, according to press reports. He has reportedly put down a $3,000 deposit so far. Slovak plans to resell the boat either in one piece or as scrap.

GIPEC declined to comment on the sale this week, but Jon Meyers, GIPEC’s director of real estate, previously said he wanted to be rid of the ferry and its $20,000-a-month maintenance costs as soon as possible.

Before GIPEC bought the 770-passenger ferry, it made daily trips between Woods Hole, Mass. and Martha’s Vineyard. The boat reportedly got a tearful sendoff when GIPEC bought it a year and a half ago, and several people from the Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority have said there was nothing seriously wrong with “Old Faithful.”

In a Feb. 6 article, the Vineyard Gazette noted the sentimentality associated with the boat and suggested, “Perhaps then she’ll make a perfect, 100-foot Valentine’s gift for the Islander who has everything.”

Gillibrand slight?
President Barack Obama thought enough of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to call her during her appointment announcement, but our new senator may not be worthy of a presidentially-inspired thank you. A source close to UnderCover received a form email from a pro-Obama group, Organizing for America, asking her to call her representative, U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, and Sen. Chuck Schumer to thank them for supporting the stimulus bill. Gillibrand, who also voted for the bill, was not mentioned.

De Saram stepping down
Carole De Saram, longtime chairperson of Community Board 1’s Tribeca Committee, is stepping down from her leadership role but will remain on the board.

Since the 1980s, De Saram has alternately chaired the Tribeca, Landmarks and Quality of Life Committees as well as the full board, most recently ushering Tribeca North closer to a residential rezoning with several detailed resolutions. She is stepping down partly because of a home renovation she is doing in Upstate New York.

“It’s always interesting, never dull,” De Saram said of chairing the Tribeca Committee.

Peter Braus, formerly co-chairperson of the committee, will step into De Saram’s shoes, board chairperson Julie Menin said Tuesday. Menin has not yet appointed a new co-chairperson.

It takes a lot to drag UnderCover out of the dark ages, but the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. has done it: When the L.M.D.C. started a Twitter page last week, we had to sign up for an account to follow our favorite agency’s updates.

For the uninitiated (last week, that was us), Twitter is a Web site that allows users to create mini blog posts of no more than 140 characters. Users can then follow each other’s “tweets,” and some opt to receive them as text messages via cell phone.

“It’s just another way we can be more open and transparent with the public,” L.M.D.C. spokesperson Mike Murphy said.

So far, the L.M.D.C. has posted 10 tweets, including grants the agency has given, mentions in news articles and upcoming meetings. More than 100 people have signed up to follow the L.M.D.C.’s feed.

Catherine McVay Hughes, who keeps a close eye on the L.M.D.C. for Community Board 1, had initial concerns that the L.M.D.C. was using Twitter to replace its popular e-mailed updates, but Murphy promised that wouldn’t happen. From now on, the L.M.D.C. will not only send out e-updates but will also post them on its Web site and link to them through Twitter.

The L.M.D.C. isn’t the only big player Downtown with a Twitter account. Among those we’ve found so far: the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

We get lots of good news tidbits from Paul Hovitz, Community Board 1 member, so we were understandably a bit alarmed to hear that his daughter, Helaina Hovitz, was starting the board’s first newsletter. Would Helaina get all our scoops and publish them first?

“Definitely not,” she promised UnderCover this week. She is writing the newsletter in the first-person voice of board chairperson Julie Menin and it isn’t meant to be competition for the newspapers, she said.

A sophomore at The New School studying journalism, Hovitz started interning for the board after interviewing Menin for an article she wrote for a class.

Hovitz has already written the first issue of C.B. 1’s newsletter, which includes reports about the board’s recent testimony at hearings on budget cuts. District manager Noah Pfefferblit is working on the formatting and will send it out via e-mail in the next month. To sign up, e-mail cb1@cb1.org.





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