Scoopy’s Notebook

Madoff madness:

A well-known Villager told us over the weekend that she and her daughters had been taken by Bernie Madoff for just about everything they’re worth. As a result, the woman, who later requested anonymity, and her husband are now being forced to sell their Greenwich Village home just to survive. They invested their money with Madoff for 30 years, and really trusted the fink, who apparently was paying out “interest” on their investments, which he of course had stolen. When we first spoke to her last week, the woman said she was interested in The Villager doing an article on her plight. “I even have a Madoff effigy in my house — you’ve got to see it,” she fumed. But when we called back on Monday, she’d had a change of mind, fearing that any negative publicity from the Madoff mishegoss could negatively affect the sale of her townhouse. “We’ve turned down New York magazine, the Times and ‘Nightline,’” her husband told us. “The money we get from this building is what we’re going to live on.” Well, we guess we’re honored to be turned down with the best of them.

Taking on bikes — and cabs, too:

Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, may have just won the Streetsblog NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) of the Year Award for 2008. But Sweeney — who earned the honor based on his vehement opposition to bike lanes through Soho — could be facing some stiff competition in 2009, from a neighbor. We hear Don MacPherson, publisher of the Soho Journal, is getting set to sue the city’s Department of Transportation over the Grand St. bike lane. We’ll be curious to hear on what grounds: Too much health, fitness and clean air?… . And speaking of Sweeney, he’s not just going after bicycles anymore, but it sounds like just about anything on wheels. When we saw him Saturday at Doris Diether’s birthday bash at Judson Church, Sweeney was shaking everyone’s hand with his left hand. Turns out he’d punched a taxi that had gotten too close to him. Ouch! Personally, we’re much more sympathetic to punching cars than suing bike lanes.

Mendez sez…:

Also at Doris Diether’s birthday bash, we bumped into City Councilmember Rosie Mendez and got to ask her thoughts on the whole squatters/UHAB situation, which The Villager reported on two weeks ago. Mendez said the former squatters agreed to the conditions in their regulatory agreement with the city — including sale caps on their apartments. As for the mounting tab of the buildings’ conversions, Mendez said, “Construction costs go up.” She added that the deal between the squatters, UHAB and the city was hashed out under her predecessor, former Councilmember Margarita Lopez, though Mendez noted she herself has met frequently with the former squatters.

Mike, how could you?

Speaking of our article on the former squatter buildings, East Village activist John Penley couldn’t resist weighing in. Though his bags are packed and he’s ready to leave the East Village, Penley called to say he was disheartened to read comments made by his pal Michael Shenker. Penley said he remembers back in the day when the squatters, including Shenker and others still living today in the 11 remaining buildings, were posting signs on the dilapidated tenements that read, “This building is not for sale — Real estate speculators keep out.” Penley said he was disappointed in Shenker, because he likes him, and that Shenker “had a good reputation,” but that he’s surprised to see Shenker and others now trying to profit on their apartments.

Sexual disorientation:

In last week’s profile of the Westbeth Artists’ Housing complex, it was incorrectly stated that George Cominskie’s partner is John Whittaker. Although Cominskie’s partner is named John, his last name’s Turner. “John Whittaker does live in Westbeth,” Whittaker e-mailed us in third-person mode, “and will be in a group show in the Westbeth Gallery opening Thurs., Jan. 15, and running through Feb. 1.” Nice one: Turn a whopper of an error into an opportunity to promote for your art show. Jack Dowling, Westbeth Gallery director, chimed in: “Terrific story. Of course, Jean Promutico, John Whittaker’s wife, was surprised to find out that John Whittaker was George Cominskie’s partner. Otherwise the piece was really excellent. … Errors do happen, but this one has most of us — not all, but most of us — laughing.”

Having a ball for Obama:

Looking for a way to get in the pre-inaugural mood? As part of a Special Martin Luther King Day / Inaugural Eve Artists’ Ball at Theater for the New City, a “Special Conduction” will be held Mon., Jan. 19, from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the theater, at 155 First Ave. between Ninth and 10th Sts. The “Conduction” co-conductors will be percussionist Warren Smith and multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee. Speaking of “multi,” as of Tuesday, confirmed members of the humongous-sounding “Conduction Ensemble” included at least five alto saxophone players, one flautist, as many as four on tenor sax, one each on bass clarinet and baritone sax, three vocalists, two trumpeters, a trombonist, two violinists, no fewer than four guitarists…a crew of dazzling dancers, a passel of poets and at least one visual artist. Phew! Prior to that, in what is being billed as “Dreams for a New Era,” there will be a plethora of events, starting from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. with spoken word, dance and art, organized by the Lower Eastside Girls Club and L.E.S. Power of Peace Antiviolence Coalition, and running till midnight, with ubiquitous and frequent art installations and impromptu happenings throughout. The ball (which costs “$5 or $10,” with “an inexpensive bar”) will go until 1:30 a.m., and ballgoers are expected to come in costume “to express your dream.” There will also be a “Dream Tree” on which each person will be able to write his or her dream. In fact, we’re told the T.N.C. extravaganza is part of a national network of events that are an official part of the inauguration. That means the theater’s ball and events “will receive media and Web promotion from the Obama transition team.” Well, let us just say that Scoopy is proud to be doing our part for our country by providing this here bit of “media promotion.” For more information, call 212-254-5420.