Scoopy’s Notebook, Week of May 25, 2017

Scoopy the cat was The Villager’s office mascot in the paper’s early days. In fact, there were a number of Scoopys over the years.
The noose that was allegedly given to a black deliveryman at Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market on Bleecker St.

Otto ‘noose’ news: Well, it’s all quiet on the Ottomanelli “noose incident” front. In April, the story broke that Victor Sheppard, a black deliveryman, had accused Joe Ottomanelli, one of the brothers who run the famed Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market, of a pattern of racial harassment against him, and that police were investigating it as a hate crime. Joe reportedly told Sheppard at one point, “Did you know that just a few years ago, black people couldn’t ride in the front of the bus?” Things culminated when Joe allegedly gave Sheppard a noose, telling him, “If you ever have any stress, just put it around your neck and pull it. I could even help you with it.” When we stopped by the renowned Bleecker St. butcher store last month, two of the brothers manning the counter up front, Frank and Gerry, said the articles in the Daily News plain got it wrong. (The story was reported elsewhere, too.) In short, it wasn’t Joe, but another guy, that gave the man the noose, they said. “He got fired. [Joe] wasn’t the one that done it,” Frank told us, adding, “No Ottomanelli would have done something like that.” A black employee wearing a white

A copy of the statement that Ottomanelli & Sons was putting out in the aftermath of the incident.  Photo by Scoopy

butcher’s coat walked out lugging a hunk of beef and plopped it on the counter. “Look at Mike,” Frank said. “Mike, tell him how long you been working here.” “Twenty-four years!” Mike answered, flashing a quick grin, then turned and headed back to the rear of the store. “Doesn’t that tell you something?” Frank asked us. He added that he has several black friends. “The well-educated people know,” he said. “Our customers know, this wouldn’t happen.” Gerry showed us a copy of a statement that a spokesperson for the store had issued early on that read: “This is an unfortunate circumstance that we are working to resolve immediately. We are a family-owned business with over 50 years of service in the Village, and we have the utmost respect for all of our employees and patrons.” Ottomanelli is being represented by Ron Kuby, the well-known criminal defense and civil-rights attorney. “An employee gave him the noose and the employee was fired,” Kuby told us. “I believe that subsequent investigation showed it was not Joe. Case closed. Ottomanelli continues to serve a diverse community, as they always have.” Meanwhile, one source who used to work with Ottomanelli on advertising said, “Joe is a jokester, a prankster — but this is not a good time to joke around, with Black Lives Matter.” On the Greenwich Village Grapevine Facebook page, some members also commented on Joe. Lisa Daly posted: “I went to school with Rosemarie, his sister… . Joey was the youngest and a bit slow… . I remember him as always saying bad punch line jokes, it was his thing, not that I am saying it is okay, I am just saying I am not surprised.” During our conversation with Kuby, we asked him if it was true that Joe is, well, let’s say, “not the sharpest knife on the butcher block.” Kuby retorted that it was a ridiculous question and said he had no more to say on the issue. Councilmember Corey Johnson issued a statement to us about the incident. “I’m extremely disturbed by these reports and I hope the N.Y.P.D. Hate Crimes Task Force’s investigation of this incident is swift and thorough,” he said. “Ottomanelli’s is a cherished Greenwich Village institution, but these reports are very troubling.” We also asked another famous civil-rights attorney, Norman Siegel, for his take. He said he has trouble with the concept of hate crimes, in general, since by definition they refer to targeting entire groups of people, while these alleged Ottomanelli incidents were seemingly targeting just one specific black person, as opposed to broadcasting a public message of hate to all black people. “If the facts are true, it’s despicable,” Siegel said. “But I’m not sure it elevates to a hate crime. The last thing they should try to do is cover it up,” he added of the Ottomanelli brothers saying that Joe didn’t do it. “It’s a well-established place. It’s a well-established name. I think the best thing to do is fess up,” Siegel advised. “New Yorkers are very tolerant people. Get some counseling, deal with it. But to deny it, it’s the wrong way to go.” Reverend Al Sharpton brought Sheppard’s claims to light, and said that his National Action Network would be protesting outside Ottomanelli. But Robert Jackson, a community affairs officer at the Sixth Precinct, said he had no information of any protest actually having occurred.

Familiar faces: Veteran Downtowners will recognize some familiar faces among the interview subjects in the new documentary film “Citizen Jane: The Battle for the City,” about Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses. These include former Mayor Ed Koch; his early Village co-district leader, Carol Greitzer, who, of course, went on to be a longtime city councilmember; Frances Goldin, who saved the Cooper Square area from “urban renewal” and is top literary agent; and Rosemary McGrath, the local G.O.P. leader and longtime Community Board 2 member, as a fiery and beautiful young activist (she was a model in her earlier days, as the late Ed Gold used to recall) in a film clip railing against LOMEX. Koch must have been interviewed for the film not long before he died in February 2013.

Jean-Louis Bourgeois, at his Native naming ceremony, is keeping the dream alive for the Lakota in their fight against the nightmare of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Photos by Sharon Woolums
Jean-Louis Bourgeois being serenaded with traditional Lakota songs at his Native naming ceremony as he sits on a gift of a buffalo hide.

He’s so dreamy: Village activist Jean-Louis Bourgeois received a Native name — Dream Keeper — at a “dreamlike” naming ceremony near his house on the Muhheakantuck (“river that flows two ways”) a.k.a. the Hudson River at Cold Spring, N.Y., on Sun., May 21. Correspondent Sharon Woolums gave us the report: “We all got ‘smudged’ before entering the ‘circle of love and good wishes’ for our friend that we were all so very proud of this sunny day, a divine occasion (where grown men cried — so did I!) The Oglala Sioux tribe bestowed this honor on Jean-Louis because of his immense generosity and support he gave to the Standing Rock water protectors’ standoff during the bitter cold months. His contributions — financial assistance, food and supplies — were essential for the camp to survive. It was an auspicious sign that Pete Seeger’s iconic sloop Clearwater was docked in front of Jean-Louis’s house and just happened to be waving the Standing Rock flag on its mast.” At the ceremony, Bourgeois was given a buffalo hide, which he figures he can use as either a robe or a throw rug, and also a traditional breastplate made out of long, hollowed-out tubes of “buffalo ivory.” As for why he was named Dream Keeper, Bourgeois — the scion of legendary sculptress Louise Bourgeois — told us it was because he gave the Lakota $1 million, which is definitely helping keep alive their dream of defeating the Dakota Access Pipeline out in Standing Rock. In related news, he told us that the planned Lenape university at his Weehawken St. building that he is donating to the local Lenape will also be sharing space with another university named after a famous American feminist. He told us her name, but we’re sworn to secrecy. There is a time frame for all of this, though, he admitted, “not that makes any sense yet.”

Alex Hellinger with the coveted Lucy G. Moses Award from the New York Landmarks Conservancy for Northwell’s historically sensitive renovation of the former National Maritime Union Building.

Historic win: Congrats to Lenox Health Greenwich Village on winning the prestigious Lucy G. Moses Award from the New York Landmarks Conservancy. Northwell, L.H.G.V.’s parent company, spent $150 million to renovate the landmarked National Maritime Union Building, at W. 12th St. and Seventh Ave., which was designed by Albert Ledner and built in 1964, and sold to St. Vincent’s Hospital in 1974. Northwell consulted with Ledner on the renovation and restored much of the exterior to the original design — the building is meant to look like a ship floating on water (the glass-block windows at its base). Anyone who has heard Alex Hellinger, the comprehensive-care center’s executive director, talk about the building knows that he really values its history and architecture.

Curtain call coming: Too bad about the Landmark Sunshine Theater, which the New York Post reports will close when its lease expires in January 2018. The building at 139 E. Houston St. has been sold to developers for $31.5 million who will convert it to retail and office space. Landmark had wanted to add alcohol to the movie theater, but the idea was quashed by Community Board 3 five years ago. Downing drinks during films seems strange to us — wouldn’t people constantly be getting up from their seats to use the restroom? But losing a great local indie theater is a bummer. In retrospect, semi-boozy movies sort of sound better than just more of the same bland retail and offices. Oh, well.

Corrections: Last week’s article “Durst admits funding Pier55 lawsuit, proving ‘Novo’ suspicion true” inaccurately stated that Barry Diller “was ready to give a quarter-million-dollars gift to the city.” That obviously should have read “a quarter-billion dollars.” Also, regarding the two Riverkeeper contributors who allegedly threatened to pull their funding unless the environmental group withdrew from the Pier55 lawsuit, they reportedly only give 8 percent of the group’s funding — not most of it, as the article originally stated. (The reporter had misheard it as “80 percent.”)… In addition, the tagline at the end of Patricia Fieldsteel’s “notebook” column in last week’s issue about the French presidential election incorrectly stated that she lives in chateau in France, which was what we had always thought was the case. In fact, she lives in a “normal house,” she assured. “I don’t want people getting ideas!” she wrote us. “I came here for five winters to babysit eight cats in a feudal chateau belonging to people who used to live on Eighth Ave. next to the Jane St Garden. So, yes, that’s where you got that idea from!” By the way, the mayor of Nyons was “very pleased” with her column in The Villager, she tells us. C’est bien!