Scoopy’s, Week of May 23, 2013


DIETHER BACK WITH A BLAST — SLAMS WITKOFF, BATALI: Longtime Community Board 2 member Doris Diether finally returned home to Waverly Place last Thursday after rehabbing her broken hip and broken shoulder at VillageCare on W. Houston St. She got great care at VillageCare since, she said, “I had the two best aides — Jainisha and Whitney.” But the veteran activist, 84, said she was glad to go home since there just wasn’t enough for her to do at the rehab center. We called her Tuesday and she had just returned from a Board of Standards and Appeals hearing on Steve Witkoff’s residential project on Charles St. The project’s opponents drove her down to the hearing. The board allowed Diether to testify first, and she blasted the plan. “I’m against it,” she told us. “I said, they lied.” The developer, in order to get a zoning boost, was supposed to retain the building’s base — and build on top of this — but didn’t, Diether asserted. “They didn’t. It’s a vacant hole,” she told us. “No bonus!” she declared in a hoarse whisper due to an ongoing problem she’s been having with a paralyzed vocal cord, another health issue she’s been grappling with. But Scott Alper, principal with the Witkoff Group, said Diether doesn’t have it right. First of all, the project was never granted any bonuses, he stressed. Instead, he said, the building will be contextual. “It will be a 15-story building instead of a 30-story tower in the West Village — analogous to the Trump Soho — which could have been built there.” The B.S.A. will reportedly render its decision on the challenge on July 23. And the walls that were required to be left standing are still there, he assured. Diether is O.K. living at home but needs assistance going in and out of the building with her walker, navigating the front three steps. She’s been busy, doing some cleaning, opening six weeks worth of mail, “and my cats want attention,” she added. Friends are coming by to help feed the felines, because Diether can’t bend over to feed them due to her hip. Meanwhile, Diether, in another B.S.A. battle, is also continuing to bash Mario Batali’s Babbo restaurant across the street from her. She charges that the building’s top two floors — which Batali was using as offices — are supposed to be residential. Batali recently put a “For Rent” sign up on the floors, but Diether scoffed that it’s not a genuine effort and that, “He’s just doing that to get the B.S.A. off his case.”

WITKOFF PROJECT FALL: Speaking of the Witkoff project, Jean-Louis Bourgeois, one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Charles St. luxury development, called us on Tuesday to report a construction accident at the site. He said he witnessed a slew of police cars and emergency vehicles responding to the scene. A police spokesperson later confirmed that a worker at the site, a male in his 50s, had fallen about 25 feet and suffered broken bones and been removed to Bellevue Hospital, and was “not likely to die.” Alper said he and Witkoff visited the man in the hospital on Wednesday, and that he has a broken leg but is doing O.K. “It was a freak accident,” said Alper. “It was his negligence. It was a misstep — he admitted that.” Told that Bourgeois is now saying the project is unsafe and should be shut down on safety grounds, Alper said, “That’s the furthest thing from the truth,” adding, “I wouldn’t be surprised that’s coming out of his mouth.”

Photo by Tequila Minsky John Liu at last month’s New York City Gardens Coalition candidates forum at The Cooper Union.
Photo by Tequila Minsky
John Liu at last month’s New York City Gardens Coalition candidates forum at The Cooper Union.

LIU RISES AS THE ‘ANTI-QUINN’: In a shocker, that has some folks scratching their heads, Comptroller John Liu recently won the endorsement for mayor from both the Village Independent Democrats club and the Coalition for a District Alternative. At V.I.D., a West Side club, there was a runoff between Liu and Council Speaker Christine Quinn. On the first ballot, Liu got 32 votes to Quinn’s 31, while Public Advocate Bill de Blasio got only 9 votes and former Comptroller Bill Thompson just 5. Quinn picked up no votes in the runoff, with Liu going on to beat her, 41 to 31. Of course, the club voted before former Congressmember Anthony Weiner jumped into the race this week, and one can only speculate how much support the sexting scandal-scarred candidate would have garnered. Among borough president candidates, former Community Board 1 Chairperson Julie Menin romped, with 48 votes, while Councilmember Jessica Lappin, Gale Brewer and Robert Jackson netted 20, 6 and 2 votes, respectively. In their vote for public advocate, the V.I.D.’ers went for state Senator Dan Squadron, giving him 44 votes, to 27 for Councilmember Letitia James, 3 for Reshma Saujani and 1 for Cathy Guerriero. The leadership of the club, including District Leaders Jonathan Geballe and Keen Berger, were firmly behind Quinn. “What’s shocking to me is that de Blasio is not getting any traction,” said V.I.D. President Tony Hoffmann. “I cannot explain why Liu is getting traction as the ‘anti-Quinn.’ How much scandal can there be in a campaign before it touches a candidate? I don’t have an answer for that. Two low-level people being convicted of campaign fraud — but if it’s more it would be very difficult.” Many consider Liu the most progressive candidate in the field. Hoffman said the club was true to its name. “‘Independent’ is the big word in Village Independent Democrats,” he noted. “The leadership went with Quinn, but the membership went for Liu.” As for borough president, state Senator Brad Hoylman supported Lappin, while Assemblymember Deborah Glick backed Menin. “I think a lot of it was geographic,” Hoffman said of the B.P. vote. “Jessica is from the Upper East Side. Julie is more focused on the Downtown community that we consider ourselves a part of.” Meanwhile, over at CoDA on the East Side, Liu convincingly beat de Blasio in a runoff, 23 to 12. On the first ballot, Quinn received only 7 votes, and Thompson just 1. Again, voting for Weiner wasn’t an option because he hadn’t announced yet. CoDA backed James for advocate, with 31 votes, to 10 for Squadron. But they had no endorsement for borough president, with Brewer edging out Jackson in a runoff, 18 to 17, which didn’t reach CoDA’s required 60 percent margin for victory. In another stunner, CoDA did not endorse Councilmember Margaret Chin for re-election in the First District. In the first round of voting, Chin won 19 votes, to District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar’s 9, and 12 for “no endorsement.” On the second ballot, in a runoff between Chin and “no endorsement,” Chin still had 19 votes and “no endorsement” bumped up to 14. In short, Chin didn’t get enough to win the club’s nod. When she challenged then-incumbent Alan Gerson four years ago, CoDA was just about the only political club that endorsed Chin. Meanwhile, CoDA executive board member Chad Marlow accused Liu of packing the club with new members. But Ayo Harrington, CoDA co-president, told us that a quick check of the club’s membership list didn’t bear that out, with only one new member being a strong Liu supporter. Most of the recent sign-ups, she said, are actually “lapsed CoDA members, well-known names.” As for the club’s support for James, who is African-American, for advocate, State Committeeman Michael Farrin said, “We like Daniel, but we like him as a senator — and we’re also interested in a diverse ticket reflecting a majority minority city. It’s good to have an elected official at the citywide level who’s representative of the city. Diversity was the tie-breaker between two very good candidates.” Farrin is a big Chin supporter personally, though conceded, “She wasn’t great on the N.Y.U. stuff — but she was great on Seward Park [SPURA].” As for borough president, Harrington said of Menin, “She’s likable. She seems smart. She’s a tough cookie.” But she added that club members spoke critically of Menin’s having “a 25,000-square-foot apartment and a multimillionaire real estate developer as a husband.” Harrington admitted, however, she doesn’t really know if Menin’s place is actually that big. “The idea is people got the idea, you know — she’s privileged,” Harrington said. Plus, she added, versus Jackson and Brewer, Menin “just pales in comparison.” For his part, Farrin is a strong backer of Menin, who recently picked up impressive support in Northern Manhattan, as well. Will anybody be re-voting for mayor now that Weiner has entered the race, and how would he have done if he had been in the running before? V.I.D.’s Hoffmann said, “We have gone through our endorsement process. There will not be a revote. I have no idea how Liu would have fared if Weiner was in the race. Given that I didn’t predict that Liu would win in the first place, I will not venture a guess how Weiner would have affected the outcome.”

VACATING THE VOICE: The talent purge / exodus at the Village Voice continues to snowball. Just after reading that Michael Musto and other top writers were getting canned, we bumped into reporter Nick Pinto Monday on Eighth St. at the rally against the surge in anti-gay hate crimes, including Mark Carson’s murder. It turns out Pinto is also bailing from the Voice. “Actually, I just gave notice earlier today,” he told us. P.S., as of deadline, we hadn’t even seen The Voice distributed in its news boxes this week — but it eventually did get distributed, about two days late.

ROCK THE MAYO! One doesn’t usually associate Whole Foods with rock ’n’ roll, but that was the explanation for the couple of slinky-looking, long-haired guys walking around Hudson Square in black jeans and no shirts on Wednesday afternoon. Turns out they were shooting a print ad at the old Don Hill’s club for a W.F. product, Rockin’ Bacon Mayonnaise.