Scoopy, Week of Feb. 5, 2015
The final squat deal? We hear things are heating up at 544 E. 13th St. It’s one of the two former East Village squats still left from when the city sold 11 of them to the squatters in 2002 for $1 per building. Under the deal, the squatters were supposed to bring the D.I.Y. buildings up to city code, then would get to keep their apartments as affordable units. Nine of the squats reportedly have done it, in one way or another. But 544 E. 13th St. has lagged way behind, and, in fact — a full dozen years after the historic agreement with City Hall — almost no work has been done to fix up the building in line with regulations. It’s also where movie star Rosario Dawson grew up and was discovered sitting on the scoop and where her mother, Isabel Celeste, and some relatives still live. As The Villager reported back in October, attorney Adam Leitman Bailey — who was retained by Celeste and her allies in the deeply factionalized building — told us that the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, along with the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, or UHAB, were working on a way to get the E. 13th St. building fixed up under one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new affordable housing programs. Back then, Bailey said, that plan would involve a “white knight developer” who would invest money into the troubled tenement — the figure cited was $108,000 per unit — in return for which the developer would get a bonus of floor-area ratio (F.A.R.) — i.e., additional square footage — he could use at another site to develop market-rate units. This would be done through creating a “comprehensive zoning lot,” with the market-rate portion possibly located nearby or elsewhere within the neighborhood. Word was that BFC Partners, led by managing partner Don Capoccia, would be the developer. A source now tells us that the Dawson clan, initially at least, balked at having to relocate for a year while Capoccia gut-rehabs the building, and actually wanted to stay in place during the disruptive work. The tenants also reportedly will have to pay a $1,000 “relocation fee” for the year, but as of now have no clue where they would be relocated to. “I don’t know whose bed I’m going to be sleeping in! I’m not signing anything!” our source exclaimed. To the chagrin of the building’s other faction, which includes some hardcore, old-school squatters, the Dawsons for years have rented out some of their spaces for revenue, basically turning them into cash cows. The number of those spaces stands at four, and it’s not known whether those individuals would be allowed to return after the building’s renovation. In fact, the owner of a well-known, high-end East Village bicycle shop located nearby is one of the renters, we’re told. At any rate, the rehab project apparently will be moving forward soon and the tenants will have to vamoose. “We’re told June is the get-go time,” our source said. We asked Bailey, who said he is still representing Celeste and Co. for the latest news, but he referred us to H.P.D. Meanwhile, our requests for info from H.P.D. have so far gone unanswered. Word on the street is that Capoccia and UHAB are now also trying to swing the same deal with another former squat, 377 E. 10th St., that similarly has made little headway. Not helping matters, a 21-year-old resident was arrested there for possession of two machine guns and drugs in April 2013. “I heard E. 10th St. was visited last week or the week before by UHAB and the developer,” the source said. “I was told there was a meeting.” Capoccia previously did a project involving one of the former squats, when a few years ago he demolished 9 Second Ave. and incorporated its space into a new 12-story high-rise at 11-17 Second Ave. Under the deal, those former squatters were able to buy luxury apartments in the new building for just $10 apiece. However, some erstwhile squatters see a bitter irony in a developer cashing in on their hard-fought housing. “I want to know how much Capoccia made on 9 Second Ave.!” our source fumed.
Seeming-li likes Li: As The Villager recently reported, a confidential investigation by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office recently cleared Gigi Li, chairperson of Community Board 3, of an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint of discrimination in the way she appointed committee chairpersons during her first year leading the board. The investigators concluded that the accusation was “unsubstantiated” — though, according to sources, may have recommended that Li take basic E.E.O. training. In fact, Brewer is now promoting Li, having named her as a panelist on her “State of the Borough 2015” event on Sun., Feb. 8, at Columbia’s Lerner Hall, starting at 2 p.m. The other panelists include a couple of high-profile former politicians in Carl McCall and Ruth Messinger, along with Jaime Estades, president of the Latino Leadership Institute. The discussion’s theme will be “What is your vision for the future of Manhattan?” Hmmm…speaking of future visions, if Sheldon Silver has to vacate his Assembly seat in the coming months, would Li be among those possibly hoping to fill it?
How tweet it was: As Villager readers know by now, Assemblymember Deborah Glick does have another passion in life besides politics — yes, football. In fact, we’ll bet there probably isn’t another female legislator in America who tweets as prolifically about football games as Glick. Here’s a smattering of some of her Twitter posts from Super Bowl Sunday’s Patriots-Seahawks game — starting lightheartedly with, we assume, a dig at Chris Christie. “Best part of the #SuperBowl is that the Cowboys aren’t in it.” Ouch! O.K., now it was time to get to it. … “Brady looks like Brady — first TD goes to Pats.” Glick also commented on the much-hyped Super Bowl ads. “Have to laugh at the Fiat ad — unless you’re in that 40% of men over 40.” Ha! That was the one with the endlessly ricocheting Viagra pill, remember? Back to football…as Glick broke down a Bill Belichick call. “You could tell from the formation they were going long — with Gronk on the team — why not?” As for the entertainment, the assembylmember gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up. “As good as the game is, the Katy Perry halftime show — best in a long time!” Another commercial break, another tweet by the animal-loving assemblymember. “Ads with animals almost always are the most memorable. If you’re spending this much money— you want the ad remembered.” Things were now looking bad for the Pats. “Wow 2nd pick against Brady.” Glick interspersed political tweets throughout, at one point, for example, retweeting a CBS News post: “Netanyahu speech invitation a breach of protocol, James Baker says.” But no way could international politics top this game for excitement. “That was an Odell Beckham like concentration,” she tweeted, obviously referring to Jermaine Kearse’s incredible, acrobatic catch. Only to be followed by: “Unbelievable! Rookie free agent with the goal line pick!” and then “Too bad the frustration explodes into a brawl.” Glick then retweeted some other folks’ incredulous comments about how bone-headed Coach Pete Carroll’s call for a pass on the game’s last play was. All in all, it was a truly tweet-mendous performance by @DeborahJGlick.