Volume 22, Number 15 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Aug. 21 - 27, 2009

Under Cover

Discount alley
The Fulton St. shop that once held scores of discount books will soon be selling discount everything else.

Around Thanksgiving, Lot-Less Closeouts will open its fourth New York City location at 95 Fulton St., where the Strand Bookstore annex used to be. The Strand left the 15,000-square-foot space last fall after the landlord hiked the rent 300 percent.

“Our business is very good,” said Raymond Cohen, owner of Lot-Less. “We’re actually up in this economy.”

Cohen wouldn’t disclose his rent on the lease signed two weeks ago, but he said, “We’re paying a lot of money, I can tell you that.”

Cohen said he’d been eyeing the site for a while but waited to make his move until the utility work on the block started to clear up. The nonstop construction was part of the reason the Strand closed.

The arrival of Lot-Less does not exactly fit in with the city’s plan to make Fulton St. into an attractive retail corridor connecting the east and west sides of Manhattan. But whether it’s the recession or all the construction, discount shops seem eager to make the street home: Last week, a Rainbow clothing store opened on Fulton St., offering its trademark inexpensive clothing in bright colors. It’s hard to imagine Tiffany or Hermes moving in alongside.

Deep pockets
Often called the forgotten stepchild of the World Trade Center site, the performing arts center received some renewed attention recently when the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. suggested moving it to Tower 5, where the Deutsche Bank building stands.

“It’s something worth looking at,” Mayor Mike Bloomberg said Tuesday in his first detailed comments on the proposal. “It would be a great location for it.”

It was interesting that he endorsed an L.M.D.C. idea given that he has been trying to close the corporation for about a year. Incidentally we even saw a photo of the mayor and L.M.D.C. chairperson Avi Schick shaking hands — albeit awkwardly — at the Tuesday event at the East River.

Bloomberg said he wasn’t sure whether it would be possible to raise the millions of dollars the center would need to get off the ground, given the current financial climate.

“It would be a great challenge,” Bloomberg said. “That’s not to say we should walk away. I think those who can afford to make donations should have an obligation to do more now, when some people have lost their ability.”

Bloomberg said he would do his part to help raise money, and added, “I know some very generous people in this city,” but he did not say when fundraising would start. The community has been pressing the city to start the fundraising for years.

Sotomayor’s place
We hear a meeting between the community and problem Tribeca bar Sazon did not go very well last week, particularly after owner Genaro Morales accused the concerned residents of being racist if they did not like his Puerto Rican music and clientele. He added that visitors to the Reade St. restaurant included new Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, before she became a Supreme.

The residents fired back that they were upset not about the bar’s cultural lineage but rather about its noisiness and the fact that it is breaking the law by offering live music and dancing. The bar’s lawyer did not return a call for comment.

It’s unlikely that the Sazon case would make it all the way up to Sotomayor’s court, but even if it did, we don’t think she’d have to recuse herself.

High-tech heist
Pace University will start the school year with a new technology leader poached from the hall’s of Wesleyan University, a prestigious Connecticut private school. Pace is pinning hopes on Ganesan Ravishanker to lead the school’s technological revolution, as this year students will begin receiving textbooks on Amazon’s Kindle.

Ravishanker is no stranger to New York City; he holds a doctorate in theoretical physical chemistry from Hunter College and has a master’s in computer science from Queens College.

As Pace spokesperson Christopher Cory put it, “He’s a catch.”

Pavement pounder
It was hard to miss Charles Pixley, a middle-aged man in a striped shirt and tie standing at Wall St. and Broadway on a recent morning holding a sign reading “HIRE ME.”

Pixley was eager to talk.
“I’m not looking for a job,” the out-of-work banker said. “I’m looking for a mission.”

He cited experience in sales and loan underwriting, and said he wanted to find a company where he could fit in and make a difference. One potential obstacle is that he served a year in federal prison for importing a homeopathic cancer drug from Canada [could Judge Sotomayor have been the one to send him up the river when she sat on New York’s federal bench?], but Pixley said the government was to blame, not him.

As the conversation waned, he turned his large poster back to the crowds of tourists on Wall St., his fingers pointing to the line that said, “Economic Stimulus Plan?”

Pre-debate competition
So how did the City Council campaigns, not the candidates, do in our forum Monday? Depends how you measure, we suppose. Margaret Chin’s people unquestionably won the sign war, plastering many on the Spruce St. scaffolding leading to the Pace entrance. Pete Gleason’s campaign strategically had bottles of water ready for people to drink on the line on a hot and humid night. (Full disclosure: UnderCover did accept a bottle and feels comfortable that such a small gift will not compromise our journalistic fairness.) Incumbent Alan Gerson seemed to have the most supporters in the room. A defiant Arthur Gregory told us before the forum that he was not going to bring any “ringers” to cheer.

The five-way race for City Councilmember Alan Gerson’s seat appears closer than a race with an eight-year incumbent usually is, so endorsements from other political figures could hold a little more weight. Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver supports Gerson, but State Sen. Dan Squadron hasn’t endorsed anyone yet. Asked if he was planning on making an endorsement before the Sept. 15 Democratic primary, Squadron replied, “I think that’s the sort of thing you only do in the present tense.”

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