Downtown local


Harlemm Lee, right, winner of NBC’s reality show “Fame,” signed an autograph for a Millennium High School student last Thursday and discussed his efforts to defy Asian-American stereotypes after performing in the school. The appearance was part of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families’ ongoing effort to halt discrimination and raise awareness about the needs of Asian youth.

Historic video

Their kiss at the MTV Video Music Awards may be one for the history books, but Madonna and Britney Spears channel a different past in their recently released video.

The set for Spears’ new video “Me Against the Music—Featuring Madonna” used wood from an historic Greek revival building that stood at 211 Pearl St. in Lower Manhattan. After most of the building was demolished last spring, a Brooklyn lumber company bought its valuable pine ceiling beams and began re-selling them to area artists, including a set designer for the Britney/Madonna production.

It remains unclear how much of the 211 Pearl pine made its way into the video. The set designer bought several different kinds of wood from M. Fine Lumber Co., Solomon said, including a small amount of the historic Eastern white pine.

“I was hoping they were going to use more of it,” said Alan Solomon, an independent preservationist who worked to save 211 Pearl St., after watching the video. Solomon now works part-time in research and marketing for M. Fine Lumber Co.

Nonetheless, Solomon said he took comfort in the fact that the interior of 211 Pearl St. had found new life. In what some preservationists called an inadequate concession, Rockrose Development Corp. left behind a narrow slice of the 1830s building after it demolished the rest to make room for a rear entrance to the 650-unit residential tower it is building on Gold St.

The historic wood’s second act takes place in a video set in a gritty urban club. At one point Madonna and Britney chase one another through hallways lined with wooden slats that look like they could contain some Pearl St. pine, Solomon said.

Solomon wondered what 211 Pearl St.’s original owner, William Colgate, would have thought of his ceiling beams’ brush with fame. The founder of Colgate-Palmolive, Colgate would probably have been shocked had he seen the two pop queens writhing amid his wood, Solomon said. After all, the successful 19th-century businessman was a member of a vice-prevention society, he added.

Columbia returns home

Columbia University is going back to its roots. The Morningside Heights-based Ivy is celebrating 250 years in the business of educating young minds, a tradition that, in fact, began at Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan. University, church and city figures will come together on Nov. 13 to celebrate these historic Downtown origins.

Queen Anne of England gave Trinity Church a parcel of land in 1705 – a spot on Park Pl., overlooking the Hudson. In 1752, the church donated this land for the building of King’s College. The first class began its studies in 1754 in temporary quarters on church grounds, and King’s College officially opened its doors in 1760.

After the American Revolution, the university was renamed Columbia, but it remained Downtown until 1857, when it moved first to 49th St. and Madison Ave., and then, 40 years later, to its current location Morningside Heights in 1897.

Next Thursday, the church will play host to the president of Columbia University, Lee C. Bollinger; the president of the New York Historical Society, Kenneth Jackson; and the president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, Carl Weisbrod; among others.

Nov. 13 also marks the opening of an exhibit at Trinity Church, “The Birth of Columbia University in Lower Manhattan,” open to the public from Nov. 13-16 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

9/11 money

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney has introduced a bill to repeal the tax on 9/11 aid for Downtown small businesses.

Many small business owners were surprised when they learned last year that they would have to pay taxes on their 9/11 grants, Maloney (D-NY) said at a recent City Hall news conference. Meyer Feig, president of the World Trade Center Tenants Association, said that many of his members came to him distraught after they heard the news, saying they had already spent the full amount of their grants trying to rebuild their businesses.

“It’s awful to give 9/11 aid with one hand and take it back with another,” Maloney said.

Federal disaster relief is usually not taxed, Maloney said, but the money given to Downtown small business owners originally came from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, not the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Based on this technicality, the I.R.S. is requiring small business owners to declare their grants as income, she added.

If the tax is not repealed, an estimated $268 million in 9/11 grants would return to the federal government, according to Maloney.

The affected grants were administered by the Empire State Development Corporation.

Dinner deals

Almost 50 Downtown restaurants are participating in “Downtown for Dinner 2003,” a $20.03, three-course prix-fixe meal running through Nov. 9. Reservations are already booked up at some of the eateries. For more information and a list of participating restaurants, call the Downtown Alliance, which is organizing the event, 212-835-2789, or visit www.DowntownNY.com.

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