Board 3 is flush with issues at its monthly meeting


By Lesley Sussman

A petition drive is currently underway to give E. Fourth St. a new co-name: Ellen Stewart Way.

The effort is being spearheaded by the staff of the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, 74 E. Fourth St., to honor its founder and artistic director who died on Jan. 12 at age 91. Stewart founded the theater in 1961 and built it into one of the world’s foremost centers of experimental performance.

To draw attention to the drive, La MaMa’s managing director, Mary Fulham, appeared before Community Board 3 on Wed., April 27, asking its support for the street co-naming before it goes to the City Council.

Fulham said, so far, 280 residents who live along E. Fourth St. had signed the petition.

“Ellen turned E. Fourth St. into a cultural hub of this community,” Fulham said. “This co-naming of the street will celebrate her life work that was vital to making our block a cultural nexus and artistic hub for the East Village community.”

Fulham’s praise of Stewart, the first African-American fashion designer to work for Saks Fifth Avenue, was echoed by C.B. 3 board member David Crane, who described the late theater director and producer as a “pioneering force in the neighborhood.” There were no opposing voices to the petition drive.

Board members also reviewed an application for a Lower East Side Youthmarket to be operated each Sunday from July 10 through October along Grand St.

The application was strongly opposed by board members David Adams and Rabbi Y.S. Ginzberg — both Grand St. residents — who said the Youthmarket would cause street and sidewalk congestion.

The market, sponsored by GrowNYC, would operate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at two locations along Grand St.: between Pitt St. and Bialystoker Place, and Pitt St. and East Broadway.

The program was started by GrowNYC to train young people from underserved areas of the city how to operate farm stands in their neighborhood as their own small businesses.

“This will congest traffic on Grand St. terribly,” Adams said. Ginzberg added that 200 youngsters blocking the sidewalks did not best serve the neighborhood’s interests.

The two board members also expressed concern that trucks would be double-parked at the market sites, snarling traffic.

However, C.B. 3 Chairperson Dominic Pisciotta said, “If we have 200 kids there selling produce, it would be great.” Susan Stetzer, C.B. 3 district manager, gave her assurance that provisions were in effect to ensure sidewalks would not be blocked.

Pisciotta added he didn’t think double-parking would be a problem because “the trucks would be parked where cars are usually parked.” In the end, the board approved the program.

There was one announcement that caused a flush of excitement. Stetzer said the city’s Department of Transportation planned to install an Automatic Public Toilet (A.P.T.) at the southeast corner of First Avenue and First St. on the small concrete island that separates Houston and First Sts.

The first A.P.T. was installed three years ago in Madison Square Park and is one of 20 D.O.T. plans for the city. There are currently three A.P.T.’s in operation.

The toilet is self-cleaning and would cost 25 cents to use. Operating hours would be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. — not much solace for clubgoers after a night of beer swigging.

The climate-controlled toilet would include a wash basin with running warm water and a mirror. An automated system would control the door and prevent unauthorized entrance.

Users would have a 15-minute time limit. After 12 minutes, an acoustic alarm and red flashing lights would go off before the door automatically opened. Once a user exited the A.P.T., a 90-second cleaning process would begin

D.O.T. spokesperson Monty Dean told this newspaper his department thought an A.P.T. could be a welcome amenity.

“We notified C.B. 3 that this site might be appropriate, and if they agree, then we will explore the feasibility and make a formal presentation to them,” he said.

Stetzer reported that she received a reply from the Fire Department on her question of whether the East Village had experienced more than the usual number of fires this winter.

“They said that in the last six months there had only been a moderate increase in the number of fires — nothing that was big,” Stetzer said.

City Councilmember Rosie Mendez told the board she was in full support of a study planned by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate parts of the East Village as historic districts.

The proposed study area is between First Ave. and Bowery from E. Second to E. Seventh Sts., and on the north side of E. 10th Street across from Tompkins Square Park.

“I wish the area was bigger,” Mendez said. “It’s important to preserve the historical elements of this community. I hope we will make this study a reality and then work on creating other historic districts.”

Mendez received some flak for co-sponsoring Councilmember Margaret Chin’s bill under which anyone caught buying a knock-off designer handbag or other counterfeit item, in Chinatown or anywhere else in the city, could be fined up to $1,000 and jailed for up to a year.

Mendez dismissed some board members’ arguments that the measure would discourage shopping and tourism in Chinatown. She said the bill was long overdue.

The councilmember cited the example of one of her relatives from Puerto Rico who regularly came to Chinatown just to shop for counterfeit bags. Mendez told board members this was not the kind of reputation Chinatown needed.

“I joined my colleague Margaret Chin as a co-signer of her bill to provide stronger enforcement of counterfeit merchandise, because I am very sensitive to the possible exploitation these practices impose on children and new immigrants,” Mendez said.

“I also understand the negative impact that unregulated selling has on communities along Canal St. and elsewhere. We must cast light on this issue, and I applaud Margaret for taking the lead. However, I do think we should only impose civil sanctions and not impose criminal penalties.”

If the bill becomes law, New York would be the first city in the nation to criminalize the purchase of fake merchandise.