Scoopy, Week of Jan. 16, 2014
- Alberto, “The Professor,” is Mayor de Blasio’s longtime personal barber. Photo by scoopy
Mayor’s mane man: Well, no $1,250 John Edwards-style haircuts for new Mayor Bill de Blasio. Nope, he gets his locks chopped at good old Astor Place Hairstylists, for just $16. We went there ourselves not too long ago to get a trim, and it turned out the mayor had just popped in a few minutes before us, with a strong security detail along with him. “He’s been coming here for 20 years — at least 20 years,” said Sal Ricovero, one of the place’s lightning-fast barbers, as he was giving us a quick buzz. “He talks Italian when he’s here. He reads the Oggi. … I speak Italian to him — he’s very good.” Actually, the mayor’s longtime personal barber is also a paisan, Alberto Amore, who Sal pointed out is right in the back. “I cut his hair — all the time,” Amore told us as he was giving a customer a clip job. As for de Blasio’s hairdo, he said with a smile, “I do Alberto style — just like a regular business cut. No punk haircut — not for the mayor.” And obviously no fancy Yankee “NY” logo or king’s crown head carvings and the like, either, we assumed (though, in this case, a crown would certainly be appropriate). “Nah! Nah! Nah!” Amore said. So, is it clippers or scissors for “de mane”? Actually, it’s a combination. “Yes, I do No. 2 [clipper], No. 3 and No. 1 — and the top with the scissors,” Amore explained. As for whether he speaks Italian to the mayor, he said, “Always! He calls me ‘Professor’ — because I’m his professor in Italian.” Amore said Blaz has been coming there since his days way back at N.Y.U. At least among the Astor Place barbers, de Blasio is, well, “de man.” Ricovero said de Blasio really paid attention to his concerns recently when he told him about an overcrowding problem at his child’s school in Middle Village, Queens. “I had a school issue, he listened,” he said. “You got an issue — he helps. He’s concerned about the working people. That’s what we need. I think he’s going to be good for the city.” As for Amore and another barber, Worrell St. Ange a.k.a. “Speedy,” they would always ask de Blasio for an update on the situation with Jerry Delakas’s newsstand down the block, asking what could be done for the embattled vendor. Amore pulled some letters out of his drawer from advocates on Delakas’s behalf that he had recently shown to the mayor. Both Amore and St. Ange told us that de Blasio kept telling them he was trying to help Delakas, but that it was “complicated.” And then, this Monday, in a heart-warming ending to the saga, an agreement was reached allowing Delakas to return to the kiosk. We told Arthur Schwartz, the vendor’s attorney, about the de Blasio/barbershop connection. Schwartz responded, “We hope that next time the mayor gets his hair cut at Astor Place Haircutters, he will pay Jerry a visit. He will have a special gift waiting.” … P.S., for more on the mayor’s favorite barbers, there’s a new documentary film on them, “Astor Barber All-Stars,” by Lower East Side resident Karen Gehres. It recently premiered at Anthology Film Archives.
Tower of Babbo: Babbo was back on the menu at the Board of Standards and Appeals Tuesday as super-chef Mario Batali continued to try to snag a variance extension for his famed restaurant at 110 Waverly Place. Of course, Doris Diether, the veteran Village activist — who lives across from Batali, who frequently disses her on his TV cooking program — was there, too. She said she didn’t see Batali, not espying any bright orange Crocs, but that he could have been hidden from view among the audience. Any thought by the B.S.A. or the Babbo contingent that it would be a slam dunk was quickly debunked by the feisty Diether — who now, unfortunately for Batali — has her voice back after months where she couldn’t speak above a hoarse whisper. “At first, it sounded like they were going to grant the variance with no problem,” Diether told us afterward. “A lot of people on the commission [the B.S.A.] seemed like they hadn’t been in the city that long.” So, naturally, Diether had to fill them in. She explained to them that the Coach House, the restaurant at that spot before Babbo, was legal because it was there prior to the enactment of the city’s zoning. When Batali came in to the Waverly Place location more than 10 years ago, however, he needed a variance to allow commercial use. He wanted the variance for the entire building, which would have allowed a four-story restaurant, Diether said. “They turned him down and only gave him two floors — but he used the whole building anyway,” she told us, recounting her testimony to the B.S.A. “A commissioner asked, ‘What exactly is the use of the top two floors?’ Their lawyer said, ‘Temporarily, he’s letting a friend use the top two floors for offices.’ The commissioner — he was the only man, the rest were women — said, ‘That’s illegal.’ ” Diether noted, “They [Babbo] didn’t say how long the ‘temporary friend’ would be there.”
Life after Bloomberg: Robert Walsh, the longtime commissioner of the city’s Department of Small Business Services, is starting a new career as a college professor. Walsh was appointed by former Mayor Bloomberg in 2002. He has now joined the faculty at Baruch College, where he will teach courses in urban economic development. From 1989 to 1997, Walsh led the 14th St.-Union Square business improvement district, playing a key role in the neighborhood’s revitalization.
Wild on the street: Richard Pearson, a mentally ill man who is notorious to residents and merchants in Soho/Nolita for what they say is his verbal and physical harassment, is back to his old tricks after some jail time. Cops picked up Pearson, 48, on Jan. 10 at one of his favorite spots, D & D Deli & Grocery on Spring St. near Crosby and Lafayette Sts. Pearson was released in late December after serving six months for cocaine possession. He had twice avoided indictment on an assault charge. Jason Menkes, a Spring St. resident, had not seen Pearson recently, and inquired about him at the deli. According to Menkes, a deli employee informed him Pearson was trying to bite people last Friday, and police were called to the scene. Pearson was then taken by ambulance to a local hospital and released. “He sits on a milk crate in front of the deli, that’s kind of his go-to spot,” Menkes said. “Smoking a joint and asking for money, that’s what I’ve seen him doing.” The deli’s manager, Jea Paik, also heard of Pearson’s latest antics. “He’s outside, he follows customers, and everybody is scared of him,” he said. “He follows people into the store.” Paik explained that after he calls police, which he has done twice already, Pearson flees four blocks away. “They don’t find him, and then a few hours later he comes back,” he said. The “Soho Wild Man” also frequents the Starbucks just down the block, and Paik said that store’s manager told him he calls the police daily about him.