Volume 17 • Issue 12 / August 13 - 19, 2004

Downtown Local

Downtown Express photos by Ramin Talaie

Top dogs do power lunch

Mayor Bloomberg, and New York Stock Exchange C.E.O. John Thain, right, ate lunch at Mangia restaurant on Wall St. on Tuesday, just steps away from the New York Stock Exchange, where there was heavy security, including police dogs, top photo. The mayor and Thain were joined by Karen Hackett, a broker with JNK Securities, seated next to the mayor, and Mark Mohan, a broker with Bank America, seated next to Thain.

Tax break for G.O.P.
The mayor’s announcement of a sales-tax-free week from Aug. 31 to Sept. 6 on articles of clothing and footwear costing less than $110, when the Republican National Convention will be in town, has set some Democratic teeth on edge. “It’s an outrage,” said Kathy Kinsella, Democratic district co-leader from Chelsea. “The R.N.C. was supposed to bring all this revenue to the city and here they’re getting a break on the 8.25 percent sales tax — and at a time when a lot of New Yorkers will be out of town,” Kinsella said.

Blues and B-B-Q
The Hudson River Park Trust is holding its 5th Annual Blues Barbecue and Fireworks Festival on Sun., Aug. 15, from 2-9 p.m. at Pier 54 at the end of W. 13th St. This year’s lineup again promises to be hot, with the “Queen of the Blues,” Grammy-winning Koko Taylor, as the headliner, going on at 7:45 p.m. Other acts include, at 2:30 p.m., Big Bill Morganfield, a guitarist known for a “menacing baritone,” who has the blues in his blood as the son of the legendary Muddy Waters; at 3:45 p.m., singer/guitarist Deborah Coleman, called “one of blues music’s most exciting young talents” by USA Today; at 5 p.m., the gospel/funk-infused music of the Holmes Brothers; and at 6:15 p.m., Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson, known for his blistering “single-string” style playing. Food from the city’s top barbecue restaurants will be on sale. The event will be held rain or shine.

Getting stressed out over meditation group
Though no one is sure what to make of them, Falun Gong members continue to wage their P.R. campaign at Downtown community board meetings. For several months now, they’ve shown up at Boards 2 and 3, although so far have reportedly avoided Board 1. At the meetings, they encourage people to join them in their exercises at Sara Delano Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side. Despite their best efforts, however, the meditation movement continues to create controversy. At Community Board 3 three weeks ago, board member David Crane accusingly read an excerpt from a statement by Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi, who lives in New York City, in which Hongzhi said, “interracial children have no place in heaven without his intervention.” The Falun Gong members responded it was a “mistranslation.” However, after the meeting, they admitted to Downtown Express that a Falun Gong belief, at least as expressed by Hongzhi — who is known to have some pretty wacky theories — is that each person is watched over by a god of the same race: Black people have black gods, whites have white ones and so on. Asked why there can’t be mixed-race gods to look over mixed-race people, the group didn’t answer. Let’s put it this way: The meditation sounds O.K.; the theories need a lot of work.

Gang fight in Soho
The Board of Standards and Appeals recently reached a verdict on a developer’s request for a variance at 92-94 Greene St./109 Mercer St., and members of Gang Greene, a community group that fought the variance, are calling it a major victory. According to Jim Solomon of Gang Greene, in its July 20 decision, the B.S.A. responded to the group’s concerns about the planned new building on the Soho parking lot and forced the developer to “dramatically revise” his original plan. 

“To residents in the adjacent buildings, it will mean — relative to the developer’s first proposal — more air and light, less congestion, garbage and noise [and] fewer windows blocked…,” said Solomon.

“Perhaps, most significantly, our efforts have helped to establish a lasting precedent for future residential development in Soho and Noho. Developers will now think twice before applying to the B.SA. for a residential variance — unless they are willing to abide by the guidelines stipulated under [Zoning Resolution] 74-712.”

The project is the first under new zoning permitting residential development on Soho and Noho’s 16 empty lots.

Specifically, among other changes, while the developer applied for a variance for a floor-to-area ratio of 6.12, the B.S.A. approved 5.0; similarly a request for 40-ft. rear yards was modified by the B.S.A. for 55-ft. rear yards; 40 proposed residential units were reduced to 15; a proposal for balconies was nixed; and a proposed usable lower roof area of 1,500 sq. ft. was reduced to less than 750 sq. ft.

Representing the neighborhood group was attorney Barry Mallin. Also providing assistance were State Senator Martin Connor, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and City Councilmember Alan Gerson, the Soho Alliance and Community Board 2.

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