Volume 21, Number 51 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 8 - 14, 2009
White House train
Over the years, we’ve heard Jerry Nadler’s name floated for offices like senator or mayor, but City Council Speaker Chris Quinn suggested a scenario in which our liberal Congressman could find his way to the Oval Office. Quinn attended a rectangular table discussion Monday convened by Nadler to discuss long-term transportation priorities and ways to secure more federal funding. Nadler mentioned his passion project — a rail freight tunnel to spur the New York economy and drastically reduce truck traffic — and said it has been difficult to get the money for it because unlike commuters, “freight doesn’t vote.”
“I have no doubt that if freight voted, you’d be president of the United States,” Quinn kidded.
Quinn, Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s Transportation commissioner, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer all had to duck out of the Downtown meeting early, but two transportation biggies — M.T.A. honcho Lee Sander and Port Authority chief Chris Ward stayed the full two hours and even lingered afterwards to chat informally.
Perhaps Sander was mindful of Nadler’s important seat on the House’s Transportation Committee, or perhaps he just found it refreshing to be in a room full of people who did not have to be convinced that a lot more money is needed for transportation improvements.
Sander said Monday he thought Albany leaders understood the transportation need but “obviously they’re finding some difficulty” deciding how to pay for it. With the M.T.A. capital budget still in the balance, Sander did not sound sure that the authority would be able to complete construction of the Fulton Street Transit Center, even with new stimulus money from President Obama. “In the general sense, we are moving forward with Fulton St. and we committed to advancing the project,” Sander told us. “That is our position at this point.”
The Albany deal reached the next night only has capital funding for two years.
Hudson Square residents have tried just about everything to make it clear to City Council Speaker Chris Quinn that a three-district Department of Sanitation megagarage at Spring St.’s western end is unacceptable. Adding major muscle to their message, James Gandolfini lunched with Quinn at a Greenwich St. restaurant in Tribeca, where he lives, two weeks ago; as they broke bread together, the actor-turned-activist tried to impress on her how unfair neighbors feel the plan — which they say violates “fair share” — really is. We hear Quinn, however, told Gandolfini that they would “review alternatives” and “call him.”
“Basically, when he went in there, they told him exactly what they told us,” said one frustrated Hudson Square activist. “The same old line. It’s two years of the same thing — dog and pony show.” Told by Hudson Square activists that he’d gotten the same routine runaround on the issue as them, an incensed Gandolfini promptly printed up 5,000 fliers blasting the city’s plan and touting the community-alternative Hudson Rise, which only has two district garages, plus boasts a beautiful park on top. Stacks of the “Sopranos” actor’s statement have been distributed in the neighborhood’s bars and restaurants. “Please help...become involved. We can beat this if we act,” the four-color fliers say, with Gandolfini’s signature boldly penned in big blue marker.
However, Jamie McShane, City Council communications director, who was at the tête-à-tête with Gandolfini, painted a different picture. “It was a positive and productive meeting,” McShane said. “I haven’t seen these fliers. ... We have spoken on more than one occasion since the meeting, and we have resolved to meet again.” Also at the lunch were Quinn’s top aide Kate Seely-Kirk and Tom Richardson, who works with Gandolfini on projects.
Tom Goodkind, conductor of the TriBattery Pops, scored a movie called “Begging for Billionaires” that debuted Saturday at the Minnesota Film Festival.
Goodkind, who flew out to the Twin Cities for the premiere, said he wrote the music on the way to the studio, and he collaborated with Phil Solem from The Rembrandts, the group that did the “Friends” theme song. Goodkind got the gig because the people behind “Begging for Billionaires” were fans of his ’80s group the Washington Squares.
“Begging for Billionaires,” which is about the demise of property rights in America, was first rejected from the Tribeca Film Festival.
All the bluster over the recent elections at the Downtown Independent Democrats political club didn’t lead to any real changes.
D.I.D. president Sean Sweeney and the rest of the officers all won reelection unopposed at last Thursday night’s meeting, a bit of a surprise after the contentious nominations meeting held in March.
At that meeting, supporters of Zella Jones tried to nominate her to challenge Sweeney, but she ended up being nominated for one of the vice president spots instead. But at the election last Thurs., April 30, Jones stepped back, as did Bill Love, the other vice presidential challenger. And since Dennis Gault, who planned to run for secretary, also stepped down, all of the current D.I.D. officers remained in place without even the need for a vote.
That means that in addition to Sweeney, vice presidents Jim Stratton and Marc Ameruso, treasurer Jeanne Wilcke and secretary Diane Stein will all hold onto their seats for another year.
D.I.D. will meet June 2 to vote on the much-discussed First Council District race.