Volume 21, Number 51 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 1 - 7, 2009
Downtown Express photo by Josh Rogers
Bar owner bellies up to the Council race
By Josh Rogers
A new candidate has joined Lower Manhattan’s City Council race hoping to appeal to the younger Obama supporters living Downtown, but he does not quite have the background one would expect: He’s 55, walks with a cane and first worked in politics more than three decades ago.
Arthur Gregory, a Financial District bar owner and former member of Community Board 1, is running to unseat Councilmember Alan Gerson in the September Democratic primary.
“I will be running a typical grassroots Obama campaign,” Gregory said in an interview a few weeks ago. “We will go door to door, shaking everybody’s hands, kissing the babies and telling people what we stand for.”
The First District includes all of the area south of Canal St., Soho, Chinatown and parts of the Village and Lower East Side. Gregory said there are a lot of one-time voters living in the district. Also running this year are two former Council candidates: Margaret Chin, a longtime community organizer who worked for Asian Americans for Equality, and Pete Gleason, an attorney and former police officer and firefighter
Gregory and Chin are the oldest in the race, but he said that won’t matter to new voters.
“I might be physically older,” Gregory said, “but being in the hospitality business for 30 years keeps you very young and keeps you in touch with what is young…. I deal with a lot of young people. None of them consider me old, because my ideas aren’t.”
Gregory wants to help residents and small businesses with problems like garbage pickups, parking and construction. He also wants to fight for more school space Downtown, improvements on the East River waterfront and for more health clinics in Chinatown and the Lower East Side.
Gregory recently completed a survey of vacant and new stores in Lower Manhattan to highlight the problems small businesses are facing. He also serves on two neighborhood task forces set up by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — one to relieve school overcrowding in the C.B. 1 area and the other to monitor the planned demolition of Fiterman Hall, the Borough of Manhattan Community College building damaged on 9/11.
Gerson has received a lot of criticism from his opponents and others for helping reverse two voter referenda last year when he voted to allow himself, the mayor and other term-limited city officials the chance to run for reelection, but Gregory did not have much bad to say about it. He said from a political power standpoint, it was a “brilliant maneuver” by the mayor and City Council, although Gregory does not support term limits.
He does think Gerson has not done enough to draw attention to the problems Downtown, many of which are connected to 9/11. “He didn’t yell enough,” Gregory said. “He had a soapbox …and we still have the soapbox and it’s called the W.T.C.”
He is still feeling his way through his candidacy and did not attend the Village Independents Democrats’ recent candidates forum because he heard about it after it happened.
Gregory recently moved to the Financial District after living many years at the Seaport. He is divorced and his school-age daughter lives in Westchester with her mother.
Gregory co-owns B4 bar on New St. and has owned Lower Manhattan bars for the last 10 years. He also co-owns a Century 21 real estate office in Bellmar, N.J., and was an aide to former New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne in the early ‘70s.
His ankle was badly injured when he fell off scaffolding in B4 four years ago and he said a series of medical mistakes and complications have extended his recovery period, causing him to use a cane on some days. He was not reappointed to C.B. 1 a few years ago for attendance reasons and Gregory said his absences were due to his injury.
He was accused by a former partner at A & M Roadhouse of taking money from the bar, but the Manhattan district attorney’s office dismissed the case after investigating Gregory. He said the former partner, Mark Gorton, hired an unscrupulous bookkeeper who stole from the business and then cooked the books to point the finger at Gregory. Gorton did not return a call for comment.
Gregory has much better relations with his three partners at B4, whom he said would run the day-to-day business if he got elected to the Council. He said he would not hesitate to fight against a city plan that badly affected businesses on his or any block Downtown, but he would recuse himself from decisions that solely affected the bar.
He thinks most bar owners act responsibly to prevent neighborhood disturbances, but about 20 percent are problems. Gregory said he has been speaking with the First Precinct about talking to the problem owners. He plans to tell them “listen you stop or we’re going to move you out.”