- Despite some spots where materials are being stored in pens, such as at left, Grand St. in the Little Italy/Chinatown area is finally free of major street construction work. But resurfacing and curb replacement is up next, and eventually the bike lane markings will be painted in again, too. PHOTO BY SCOOPY
Saucy retort: “Rest in pizza,” an article about Little Italy facing extinction, was the New York Post’s page one story Sunday. Eight eateries have closed in the past year in the famous enclave, including seven along Mulberry St., the article reported, including the likes of S.P.Q.R., Positano Ristorante, La Bella Ferrara Cafe, Il Fornaio Ristorante and Giovanna’s. But Robert Ianniello, Jr., owner of Umberto’s Clam House and president of the Little Italy Merchants Association, said the article — in which he was quoted — was disappointing because it was so negative. “We survived the Depression, we survived the Great Recession. We’ll figure it out,” he told us. “It’s another article about the demise of Little Italy — they’ve been writing these for 30 years.” As for S.P.Q.R., he said, at 300 seats, it was simply too big for the area. “To operate that space, you have to fill the place every day,” he said. “Until the recession, there were parties in there.” A real nightmare has been the disruptive Grand St. reconstruction, which mercifully recently ended after two years during which subsurface utilities were moved around in connection with the Third City Water Tunnel project. “Yeah, finally,” Ianniello said. “Still another year of asphalt laying and rebuilding the curbs. It killed everyone. It was like putting gas on a fire. They would turn off the water, turn off the gas.” On top of that, throw in a brutal winter — plus a brutal spring, so far. “We’re hoping for a great April,” he said. They’re also retooling the Little Italy Restoration Association (which, Ianniello noted ironically, was formed back in the 1970s “because they felt Little Italy was dying”) as a local development corporation, to focus on installing new streetlights and sidewalks. “We avoid a BID here because it will give power to the landlords, not the businesses,” he said. “We’ll do it ourselves. … The real estate companies don’t want us here. They want the buildings. They want to put boutiques here. It’s all about greed.” He noted where his restaurant is, at 132 Mulberry St., the ground-floor storefronts, home to five restaurants, were bought as one commercial condo for $17.5 million. “I could buy a whole building across the street for $22 million,” he marveled. The restaurants have started to bounce back, though, but not all the way back yet. “It’s not 2005,” Ianniello said, “but it’s not 2008 or 2009. People are hanging on by a thread.”
Into thin air: Everyone is riveted by the story of the missing Malaysian passenger jet — pilots, understandably, especially so. We had to ask commercial “goth pilot” Ian Dutton, formerly of Soho, now of Brooklyn, for his take on what happened. “A month ago I would have said it’s inconceivable for a plane to disappear and no one to have any idea what became of it,” he said. “There are so many datalinks, so many reporting systems and, except for oceanic areas, so much surveillance. The only thing that I feel certain about is that there is more information being hidden than being shared — and not just information that is reaching the public, but the sharing between nations. We pilots are all anxious because — unlike as is done with the car crashes that kill so many of our neighbors here in the city — we delve into each crash deeply to see what went wrong and how to keep it from happening to us. And without any sense of what happened, it’s unnerving! … Things don’t add up. The hours of cruising until fuel exhaustion is typically associated with depressurization leading to hypoxia — for some reason the pilots didn’t get oxygen and died? But that doesn’t explain the multiple course changes and altitude changes. I don’t think there will be an explanation in this case without the black boxes…and even then we might not fully understand what or who caused this.”
Glick tackles Vick: It’s not football season, so Deborah Glick isn’t firing up her Twitter into overdrive about her favorite sport yet. But don’t get her started about the Jets recent off-season trade for Michael Vick. Oh, well, actually we did. Glick was about to wrap up one last loose end of the budget process for her Committee on Higher Education, but when, at the end of a phone call to her about another issue, we mentioned the controversial quarterback, she tackled the question head on. “Vick, oh my God… . Michael Vick,” she said, incredulous. “The Jets are just unbelievably poor at making quarterback decisions. Not just Tebow … They took Sanchez, who was very untested, and then they had a bad front line. Tebow had some skills, he had some talent. They could have turned him into a fullback. They’ve ruined Sanchez and Tebow. And now they brought in Vick, who is easily injured,” she went on. “He’s 33, clearly past his prime. His style is the running quarterback — very much a younger player’s metier. Then, there’s the entire thing that Michael Vick, who is a dog murderer and torturer, should not be playing in the N.F.L. It’s just so offensive. These are people who are supposed to be role models.” Glick said Richard Neer of WFAN is the only sports talking head who’s calling it right on Vick, saying basically that he should be, well, thrown to the dogs for what he did to the dogs.
Stonewall plaque is back: After an aborted first effort last summer, it’s hoped that a new and fitting, commemorative plaque honoring the birth of the gay rights movement at the Stonewall riots will be affixed to the exterior of the historic Stonewall Inn on Christopher St. by sometime this June. The last time around, it was felt that not enough stakeholders had sufficient input into the plaque’s language. The effort is being spearheaded by state Senator Brad Hoylman. “The Stonewall Inn currently has a small, undistinguished plaque, and at 11 ¼ inches by 12 inches, it is not much larger than a sheet of paper,” Hoylman told us. “It also makes no mention of transgender people — saying only, ‘Birth of the modern Lesbian & Gay Rights Liberation’ — who have played a hugely important role in the L.G.B.T. civil rights movement, nor does the current plaque note any of the details of the Stonewall Rebellion or mention the various historic registries of which the Stonewall Inn is a part. The idea is that the owner would replace it with a larger bronze plaque that makes mention of transgender people, describes the events and lists the historic designations. That said, it’s a private building and the placement of a new sign is up to the owner, assuming the Landmarks Preservation Commission approves it. Community Board 2 held a public hearing on Feb. 25 and several interested community members attended to discuss the matter. Last week, C.B. 2 approved suggested language for the owner to consider in a new plaque and they’ll send it on to them. It was important that this issue was discussed in a public forum,” Hoylman said, “free for anyone interested to participate.”
So long, Brook…Lynn: Speaking of transgender folk and Stonewall, a recent snafu by an intern at the Stonewall Veterans Association had the organization’s president, Williamson Henderson, giving a major mea culpa to Victoria Hervas, of Councilmember Rosie Mendez’s Office, outside the recent C.B. 2 full board meeting. Basically, S.V.A. had printed up lime-green fliers for Mendez’s appearance as a guest speaker before the group, but underneath her name the flier declared, “Candidate for NYC Council Speaker!” All the fliers had lines hastily scribbled through the glitch, but Hervas wasn’t impressed. “We did not approve this,” she said sternly. Henderson tried to explain that the words were mistakenly left on there because the previous speaker at S.V.A. had been Melissa Mark-Viverito, who actually did become the Council speaker. “It was a transgender intern who made the mistake, Brook Lynn — two words,” Henderson explained to us in an aside, as we listened in. “She was fired immediately. I didn’t want to fire her, but I got there too late.”