Scoopy’s Notebook

Shot of Tequila:

Photojournalist Tequila Minsky surprised us by strolling into our office Tuesday; she had returned from Haiti on Saturday, and she looked great. “I ran out of money,” the Soho lens woman said. “I got my hotel bill. I thought I would be getting a discount. You know what the earthquake rate is? You triple the rent.” Minsky first flew to Florida on an Air Force evacuation flight, a cargo propeller plane — “It’s subway-style seating along the sides, and they give you earplugs” — then caught a commercial flight back to New York. In addition to her stories that ran in The Villager, she still has a bunch she wants to put together, including one on a Jewish N.G.O. that offered assistance. Minsky has been invited to participate on a Haiti panel at Long Island University.


In her The Daily Politics column in the Daily News, Elizabeth Benjamin has been hammering certain city councilmembers for not forgoing their $10,000 committee chairpersonship stipends if they said they would on a Citizens Union survey last year. Nine councilmembers, including Daniel Garodnick, have refused the $10,000 stipend, known as a “lulu,” which comes with chairing a Council committee, and supplements their $112,500 base salaries; three other councilmembers took their stipends — but directed them toward Haiti relief. But of the 21 councilmembers who told Citizens Union they don’t support lulus, 12 ultimately took the perks, the first disbursement of which was this month. The stipends are seen as a way for the council speaker, Christine Quinn, to “buy loyalty” among the councilmembers. However, Rosie Mendez — who did, in fact, pocket her lulu this month — said it’s not as simple as Benjamin is making it. First of all, Mendez noted, the survey didn’t ask candidates to solemnly swear to give up their lulus, but simply asked: “What is your position on eliminating or limiting stipends for committee chairs and leadership positions?” Mendez checked “Support.” In a nutshell, Mendez said, she could use the money and, if the lulus are to be eliminated, then they should be eliminated for everybody, and the Council should vote on the matter. Furthermore, added Mendez, who chairs the Council’s committee on public housing, “I think people who chair committees do a lot of work. This job [being a councilmember] is considered part time, but for me, this is the only job I do — full time, plus. Right now, I could use the extra money. … Yes, I think we should talk about it,” she added. She pointed out that she often pitches in — with money out of her own pocket — for funeral expenses for local constituents, mentioning two, in particular: “Last year, one of my tenant leaders passed away, and her family wasn’t around,” Mendez related. “For me, shelling out a couple of hundred dollars… . The same thing for that young man who was killed by the police officer near 14th St. — he didn’t expect to be gunned down in a road rage incident.” She also put up her own cash for a fundraiser for the tenants who were fighting mass eviction at 47 E. Third St. Plus, Mendez is a stickler on not using her Council funds for buying ads in local newspapers. Any ad you might see of hers in The Villager, for example, is strictly paid for out of her own pocket. As for her lulu, Mendez said, “I’ll take it now,” though, she added, “I’ll make a determination on a year-by-year basis.” Will she take the second chunk of her 2010 lulu this July? “I don’t know — probably,” she said. According to The Daily Politics’ Benjamin, new Councilmember Margaret Chin also told Citizens Union last year that she believes in eliminating or limiting lulus, yet still took the first half of her 2010 lulu this month. … As a side note, Mendez added that Comptroller John Liu really loathes “lulus,” as in the phrase itself. “He said that ‘lulu’ was a very offensive word, and we should call them ‘stipends,’” she said. Hmm, is Liu taking it personally because the dubious term sounds too much like his own name? Scott Sieber, a spokesperson for the comptroller, said his boss might not favor the slang term because he’s “a stickler for vocabulary.”

Testing the waters…:

Potential U.S. Senate candidate Harold Ford, Jr., will be speaking at the Stonewall Democratic Club’s meeting on Wed., Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. at the L.G.B.T. Center, 208 W. 13th St. Gay issues will be on the agenda, obviously — and maybe he’ll finally say if he’s running or not!

The Ray report:

It was a roller-coaster week, to say the least, for Ray Alvarez and his Avenue A candy store. For starters, the launch of the free Saturday night delivery service didn’t achieve liftoff last weekend. As Ray explained it, “They didn’t have a phone. They tried to use their mother’s credit card, and it didn’t work. And they messed up my computer.” He said it would be “very exciting” if they do get the service going. Oh well, try again this Saturday. … Meanwhile, the landlord’s lawyer sent Ray an eviction notice, then told him over the phone that if he paid his rent by Tuesday they would drop the case. But Ray told us when we stopped by late Saturday night/early Sunday morning that he was still $1,500 short on his $3,500 February rent. Basically, he said he could really use the $1,300 that Ray super-saviors Lilly O’Donnell and Haley Moss Dillon raised for him at a benefit at Sidewalk Cafe two weekends ago; but he said, in his understanding, they wanted to use the money for “phase two” of the Save Ray effort — to install an allegedly required Ansul System over his deep fryer and a “chimney” for it on the roof. But, meanwhile, he was still stuck on “phase one,” trying to pay the rent and keep from getting tossed out. Anyway, long story short, the next day, O’Donnell and Dillon gave Ray a check for the $1,300 — plus $300 from their Save Ray’s! PayPal account, so that should cover his February rent. “Gave it to him tonight…starting over on phase two,” O’Donnell told us in an e-mail early Monday morning. Whew! That was a close one. … Then Ray laid another stunner on us as we were savoring one of his tasty Belgian waffles a la mode with hot fudge and bananas: An associate of Barbara Chupa, the property’s managing agent, told him they want to replace his historic candy store with — get this! — a “noodle shop.” “They told me they have a Chinese guy who can pay more money, and he will hire me as the night manager and keep me working here,” Ray revealed. Asked if he would even consider the “offer,” he said he’s not falling for it: “No! They would get rid of me right away.” … Ray said he placed a distress call to radical attorney Ron Kuby, but no luck: “His assistant say he don’t do that kind of job no more.” … Finally, Dillon and O’Donnell are organizing yet another Save Ray benefit (where do these women get the energy?), this time at Theater for the New City on March 8. Reverend Billy — “Egg cream-alujah!” — will be in the house. “We’d really like to get some big-deal performers!” Dillon and O’Donnell said. “Preferably neighborhood ones of course!”