Scoopy’s Notebook


Neither rain, nor sleet nor snow — the shopping must go on:

As we were walking to work Monday morning, a stroller talking into his cell phone voiced our very thoughts: “Spring Street’s a pedestrian mall.” Indeed, cars were few and far between on the still-somewhat-snow-covered, Soho cross-town street. Perhaps not surprisingly, though, those ubiquitous shoppers were still out and about with their shopping bags, hitting the outlets and boutiques, even as gusts of wind were sending some of their hats flying. Amid the snowy hush, the French tourists’ accents were even more noticeable. We guess if you come all the way from La France, and shopping in Soho is on your agenda, a blizzard isn’t going to stop you, n’est ce pas? Anyway, so there at last was a pedestrian mall — even if just a snow-day one — in Soho, and our thoughts turned to Sean Sweeney. About three years ago, Director Sweeney and his Soho Alliance vehemently opposed, and ultimately deep-sixed, a Department of Transportation proposal to turn Prince St. into a part-time pedestrian mall. Actually, though, it turns out Sweeney has a sensitive pedestrian side, after all. He said he really enjoys walking around Soho and Tribeca at Christmastime, because the streets are so empty and tranquil — and even turned down a cousin’s Christmas invite so he could stretch his legs around his Downtown ’hood. And he planned to go out Monday and stroll about in the snowy streets. On another note, he noted it was the first time in 18 years that he had cancelled his Community Board 2 Landmarks Committee meeting.

Tree seller cuts out early: By chance we happened to be passing by St. Mark’s Church on Second Ave. Thursday evening and came upon a sight that would sadden the heart of any Christmas lover: Working in the freezing cold, Roger von Baust and his crew were breaking down their tree-selling operation early and getting ready to drive off. Though he thought he’d gotten the correct clearances, it turned out von Baust didn’t have the required permits for several structures he had on the sidewalk. After Community Board 3 acted on complaints it received, von Baust had recently gotten a $1,500 ticket. With the potential for more tickets running as high as $5,000, he had one thought: Outta here! Von Baust had a storage trailer and a fairly large warming hut for his workers, plus a port-a-potty, all situated around the nexus of Abe Lebewohl Park, the church fence and the nearby sidewalk. The Department of Transportation, in fact, determined there was sufficient sidewalk room for pedestrians to pass by, but, well, regulations are regulations, and he lacked permits. In the past, from what we understand, the tree vendor would put his trailers in the parking lane. But with the new dedicated Select Bus Service lane — which von Baust called, “the red zone” — that was no longer possible. The veteran spruce seller said he doesn’t want to make a big deal about what went down, since he hopes to return to the location next year. “We’ll just have to do something entirely different, that’s all,” he reflected. “If a permit would be needed to erect the hut, we’ll do that.” Sadly, he said, he actually lost money on the trees this year, due to the economy: People just weren’t spending as much. In past years, buyers would come up and say, “I want a 6-foot tree,” and pay the cost, he said. But this year, they’d just say, for example, “What can I get for $25 or $30?” If there was any consolation, following a report by DNAinfo about his being ticketed, von Baust said there was an outpouring of neighborhood support. Local firefighters even gave him a delicious, stationhouse-cooked meal complete with all the fixings. We’ve already probably written more about this than von Baust would have wanted, so we’ll stop now. But we wish him well for next holiday season and hope it goes more smoothly — and profitably.

B-b-b-baby and the Jetssss:

A few weeks ago, we reported on District Leader Brad Hoylman and film producer David Sigal’s delivery of their new baby daughter, Silvia Verona Hoylman-Sigal, via surrogate in California. So when we heard the news on the radio Wednesday morning that singer Elton John and his partner, David Furnish, had a baby boy, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, by surrogate on the West Coast on Christmas Day, it was déjà vu all over again. Congrats to Elton, David and Z.J.L.