Scoopy, Week of March 14, 2013
FRIENDS DIRECTOR’S EARLY EXIT: A.J. Pietrantone has left his position as executive director of the Friends of Hudson River Park a few weeks earlier than he had planned. He was slated to depart at the end of this month, but told us he left due to “really, an internal matter — it was internal to the organization.” In other words, it had nothing to do with Pier 40 or the neighborhood improvement district (NID) proposal or any of the other raging Hudson River Park controversies we’ve been reporting about lately. But Pietrantone said he’ll keep leading the NID team in pushing for the establishment of the park-focused fundraising district. As for the “Tribeca uprising” against the NID proposal, Pietrantone told us: “It’s organized — I don’t know if I would call it big. But it’s serious and we’re taking their concerns seriously.” About 60 riled-up residents turned out at Wednesday evening’s Community Board 1 Tribeca Committee meeting to hear Madelyn Wils, president of the Hudson River Park Trust, may a pitch for the NID. We’re told it was “a lively discussion,” to put it tactfully. Meanwhile, Matthew Washington, who worked for Friends from 2005 to 2012 and now works for developer Douglas Durst, he of the Pier 40 adaptive reuse plan, tells us he’s not in the running to be the group’s new E.D., though he was reportedly up for the post prior to Pietrantone’s landing the job. “I have no desire,” Washington said, laughing, when we asked him about it, adding, “I get beat up enough already.”
CUTTING CAMPOUT SHORT? We hear John Penley’s campout in front of New York University’s Bobst Library might be coming to an early end this Saturday. He had wanted to last for a month, but word has it that he has a sick friend in Pennsylvania and wants to go support him. But there will reportedly be a better turnout this Friday evening, when Penley expects a group of N.Y.U. students to join him in calling on the university to do a 180 and build housing for the homeless, instead of being its usual gentrification juggernaut. Last Friday’s turnout was not as big as expected.
LILO LAYING LOW? Tribeca and the city tabloids were all abuzz last month amid reports that Lindsay Lohan was planning to design a Mexican restaurant space on N. Moore St., but a neighborhood tipster tells us the uproar has prompted her to back away from the project. Would that be a first?
VERIZON P.R.: Verizon is hoping to win back some Downtown friends after it took many months to restore phone and Internet service to many of its Village and Lower Manhattan customers hit by Hurricane Sandy — it’s still not done. The info giant has just started a new video P.R. campaign to thank customers for sticking with them. “We realize that any number of our impacted customers could have left us, but some didn’t. For that, we’d like to thank them,” Verizon said in the campaign. Eddie Travers, owner of the historic Fraunces Tavern restaurant, on Pearl St., is one of the first people featured. But he just talks about his business and does not mention the “V” word. Meanwhile, in the East Village, St. Brigid’s School, for one, is praying to get its phone service back. Timothy Cardinal Dolan recently led the rededication Mass of historic St. Brigid’s Church after it was saved by a miraculous restoration project — but the parish school’s on-the-fritz phones are hardly heavenly. And, even if phones were working, no one could call Dolan anyway for help since he was sequestered in the papal conclave at the Vatican…but now he’s out! Holy Francis!
SANDY’S SILVER LINING: Hurricane Sandy of course wreaked lots of destruction in Lower Manhattan and all over Downtown, but it apparently also drove some rats out. Catherine McVay Hughes, Community Board 1’s chairperson, told us the Health Department says rat sightings are down Downtown because of the storm, although they did not have final numbers. She and the Health Department recommend calling 311 when the less-than-lovable creatures are spotted.
COMINGS…: Andy Breslau, a veteran of city government and journalism, has just joined the Downtown Alliance business improvement district as its new vice president of communications and marketing. Breslau has had stints with CNN, the Fund for Investigative Journalism, City Limits and with former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger.
STAFFER AT LAST: Community Board 1 has finally been able to get Diana Switaj on staff as its part-time deputy director of land use and planning. The city has had a too-good-to-be-true deal with Switaj, who joined the board as a planning intern in September 2011 while she was a graduate student at Columbia University, where she studied with Michael Levine, Board 1’s planning director. Switaj has remained with the board unofficially ever since, helping with a multitude of projects. After C.B. 1 leaders went through a few months of talks working through city red tape, she was able to join the staff and will at least be getting paid a salary for her work. We suspect it’s somewhere between Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s salary, and what all the work she has already done is worth.
SUBWAY GRATES: We’re wondering about what irks us most about the digital arrow signs on the World Trade Center stop’s E platform. Is it that the M.T.A. spent money on useless info like whether you’ll have to walk a few feet to the left or right once you’re already on the platform? Is it that the sign could have displayed helpful facts, like whether it makes sense to walk up and down stairs to wait for the A or C instead? Is it that the sign pointed in the wrong direction when we were there last Tuesday night? We think it’s the second one. To be fair to the M.T.A., the arrow did switch to the right direction after the train had already pulled into the station.
CORRECTION: The article on the Community Board 2 Pier 40 forum in last week’s issue of The Villager misstated the estimated cost of Douglas Durst’s adaptive reuse concept plan for the pier. The article gave the cost as $384,000 but it is actually $384 million. Meanwhile, the Pier 40 Champions’ project price tag is $691 million, as correctly reported last week — including $493 million to build two 22-story residential towers. The price tag for each project includes the cost of repairing Pier 40 itself.