Scoopy’s Notebook


Million dollar baby: ABC No Rio really has something to be thankful for this holiday season. Two days before Thanksgiving, Steven Englander, the Rivington St. arts center’s executive director, received an overnight UPS envelope. He put it aside and opened up some other mail first. When he got around to popping it open, he was shocked. “The letter said, ‘You’ve been awarded this grant of $1 million,’” he said. “The check is from the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund — but from there, it’s opaque.” He said they tried to send a thank-you note to whoever donated the million bucks, but the gift fund wouldn’t even pass on the note. Basically, no one has a clue who it was that so generously gave the green. The donation completes the funding for phase one of the complete reconstruction of ABC No Rio’s building, at 156 Rivington St., which is budgeted at $2.4 million. Over the summer, Councilmember Alan Gerson and the City Council’s Manhattan delegation chipped in $900,000 toward the project, while Borough President Scott Stringer allocated $750,000. Phase two is slated at $1.8 million — and now, thanks to all the funding being in place for phase one, ABC No Rio can get an early start fundraising on that, Englander said. In the humble spirit of the anonymous donation, and considering the tough economic times we’re all in, Englander said they felt it wasn’t appropriate to have a big bash to celebrate the fantastic funding windfall. In the best-case scenario, phase one will start in autumn 2010 and take 12 to 14 months, he said. 

Blue transition period: On the subject of anonymity, we got a call last week from a Ninth Precinct auxiliary officer who asked not to be identified, saying the volunteer officers are distressed over losing their longtime coordinator, Officer Michael Grullon, who led them for 10 years. They’re so upset, the source said, that the auxiliaries will surely soon start defecting in droves, requesting transfers to other precincts. Deputy Inspector Dennis De Quatro, the Ninth’s commanding officer, recently replaced Grullon with Officer James Secreto as the auxiliaries’ coordinator. According to the source, De Quatro wants Grullon to focus more on “pawnshop duty.” The C.O. held a meeting in his office last week with all 20 of the East Village precinct’s auxiliaries and heard them out — but told them he’s sticking by his decision, and that they should give it some time. “I am confident [Secreto] has the ability to do well,” De Quatro told us, adding, “I don’t think they’re giving Officer Secreto the opportunity to succeed or fail. They’re basing their opinions on the opinions of others.” If Secreto doesn’t work out, De Quatro said he’ll have to re-evaluate the situation. In the meantime, the deputy inspector assured he does value the auxiliaries as the extra “eyes and ears” of the precinct. “Absolutely,” he said. “Nearly every strategy that we’re doing has a component of the auxiliaries. They take their job seriously, and they do a good job at it.” 

Logging literary miles: Villager readers may have heard the East Village’s Michael Rosen on the radio recently talking about his new autobiographical book, “What Else But Home: Seven Boys and an American Journey Between the Projects and the Penthouse.” The book recounts how Rosen and his wife, Leslie, essentially adopted five local black and Latino neighborhood boys and raised them in their Christodora penthouse apartment on Avenue B. Rosen is currently embarked on a whirlwind national book tour. We asked the East Village Community Coalition co-founder what his experience on the road, in the bookstores and malls and in the radio studios has been like. He e-mailed us: “I was on national NPR (is that redundant?) with Diane Rehm, then in NY with the Leonard Lopate show, then in Wisconsin with a great show on NPR called ‘Lake Effect.’ I’ve been across then back across then back across the country, and it’s been an experience of perspective — how parts of the ‘city’ aspect versus the ‘suburban’ aspect of our country still haven’t recovered from the riots and ‘white flight’ of the late 1960s… . The poverty of Memphis itself versus its suburbs. The unexpected: In San Francisco, at one reading, there was no one other than my friends, while in Louisville it was a packed house. How could one know? It’s happened time after time. The answer, of course (now that I’ve come to understand), is that some places have thriving indy bookstores — truly indy, not small regional chains like in Cleveland and Memphis, but places like Carla Cohen’s Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., Carmichael’s in Louisville, Books and Books, owned by Mitchell Kaplan in Miami. Places where books are sold by booksellers yet [who are] passionate about the written word. I’ve spoken to groups of youth in prison (two ‘classes’ in San Francisco), taught two classes at an inner-city NYC school, met with the Boys & Girls Club in Holyoke, MA, met with a group in Louisville that does outreach to homeless youth… . I’ve tried, city after city, to meet with groups who spend their effort to reduce poverty. University Settlement & The Door had me for a meeting / reading last week. I’ve taught college classes at Bard @ Simon’s Rock, UMASS Amherst, Holyoke. I met with African-American church leaders, people who work to reduce poverty, in Memphis. They touched me deeply. So did the University Settlement and The Door people. I’ve been on the road since early’ish August, but now really winding down. You can see my schedule on my www.michaelrosenwords.com site, under ‘EVENTS,’ the column on the left. … Just some random thoughts, all best, Michael.”

Liquor lashing: At last month’s Community Board 3 meeting, District Manager Susan Stetzer had some tough words for the State Liquor Authority — which she conveyed to Daniel Squadron when the state senator was giving his report to the board. “First of all, I said that people in Squadron’s office should get a bonus for listening to me call and complain every day,” Stetzer quipped to us. “I said that I understood that the S.L.A. was working on more efficient procedures to process applications — and we all agree this is good. But community boards are their business also — and they need to have time for us. I have not had a FOIL [Freedom of Information Law] request answered for months — and this is against the law. I cannot get operational questions answered.” Stetzer noted Squadron was very responsive. “He told me to cc the S.L.A.’s new C.E.O. [Trina Mead] on my e-mails — he has discussed this with her. He also promised to continue dealing with this situation,” Stetzer said.

From left, Eden Brower, Dom Flemons and John Heneghan playing at Banjo Jim’s.

Eden, John and Ray’s blues: We stopped in to see what was up at Ray’s Candy Store Saturday evening, and overheard that Eden & John’s East River String Band was playing over at Banjo Jim’s on Avenue C, and decided to wander over. It turned out it was the release party for their long-awaited new CD, “Drunken Barrel House Blues.” Those who enjoyed their first album of early rural blues won’t be disappointed by this offering. We really like “Yellow Bee,” as belted out by Eden Brower, who channels Bertha Lee, singing about being “buzzed” by her light-skinned lover — who turns out, of course, to be “Papa Johnny,” her boyfriend John Heneghan. “Raise a Ruckus Tonight” is also terrific: “Well, well, well!…” Oh yeah, Spidey — Shaun, the daredevil rickshaw man — was also in the audience. Check out Bob Arihood’s blog at Neither More Nor Lees to see how Brower literally “hung” with Spidey one night — dangling in the air off the bar of his rickshaw. After going down to Florida, Spidey’s back in town for about 10 days, he said. Anyway, it’s a great CD, with the cover illustration by R. Crumb, who is a huge early blues fan… . As for Ray, the Avenue A senior hot dog slinger said his latest headache is that his green card expired and he has to renew it. At this point, he said, he just hopes he can finally collect some Social Security in the next few years — by the time he turns 80. There’s gotta be a better way.