Under Cover

Don’t park here

Word on the street is that Dep. Inspector Michael Lau is being pushed out as commander of Chinatown’s Fifth Precinct because police brass thought he was too tough on the illegal police parkers on Mott St.

Lau, who started as a rookie in the Fifth 20 years ago, could not have won any friends nearby at One Police Plaza when he ordered cars towed over the summer. He has privately hinted that his crackdown may have led to his departure, according to one source. A proud graduate of P.S. 2, Lau grew up in the neighborhood and may have been seen as too sympathetic to residents. Guess you can’t take Chinatown out of the boy.

Precinct commanders are rotated every few years, and it would be unusual for a leader change to be made after only a year. Lau, who is in his early 40s, is retiring, according to several neighborhood sources. Lau told Downtown Express in the spring that he began dreaming about joining the force at age 12, when he saw his mother robbed. “I knew what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t sure I could do it,” Lau said in April. “I was a short, Chinese kid, and I never saw a Chinese cop.”

Lau said through an intermediary that he could not speak to UnderCover unless Police Plaza gave the okay. Police spokesperson John Kelly denied our interview request because he said there is no official word yet on Lau’s retirement. But “keep your ear to the ground,” he added.

Susan Stetzer, district manager of Community Board 3, said she doesn’t know if the rumor about Lau being pushed out is true, but the inspector did tell her he was leaving because of family considerations. “I begged him not to retire,” Stetzer said. “He was wonderful on the parking issue.”

Upbeat updates

UnderCover is pleased to report tangible progress on two community issues — call it a Lower Manhattan holiday bonus.

First, Downtowners can happily take “12 shrouded traffic signals” out of their carol of pedestrian perils. After some confusion two weeks ago over which agency was responsible for the lights (both, as it turned out), the state and city Departments of Transportation each did their part to get the traffic signals at the intersection of West St. and Battery Place glowing red and green — and yellow — in time for the holiday weekend.

Second, there was good news this holiday season for Downtown’s crowded classrooms. At P.S. 234, after months of pressure from parents and local officials, the School Construction Authority has given word that it will deliver the new school annex on time in September 2007, not in November 2007 or in 2008 as had been feared.


“Deutsche Bank ends Spitzer probe for $208M” was the Crain’s New York headline last week. The payout may sound like a lot to end outgoing Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s state investigation into the bank’s mutual fund shenanigans, but Deutsche perhaps thinks of it as a mere $1 million since the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. budgeted $207 million to buy and take down Deutsche’s damaged 130 Liberty St. building across from the World Trade Center site. Something tells us the governor-elect may hear the D-word a few more times after he takes over for George Pataki next week.

As for the building, the crew dismantling it is back at full strength. The subcontractor who had pulled most of his workers off the site on Dec.11 (just three days after starting work) came back to the job on Dec. 18. Negotiations continue over the contract dispute that precipitated the walkout, so stay tuned.

Subway snowman

Is there an agency easier to make fun of than the M.T.A. or its subsidiary, New York City Transit? Probably not, but in the holiday spirit, we’d like to wish marketing manager Hillary Feingold and the rest of the Transit staff at 2 Broadway a happy New Year and thank them for the creative holiday card they sent to UnderCover. The card design takes advantage of all the subway lines running Downtown, changing the Lower Manhattan subway map only slightly to trace a snowman with the red and green lines.

Local Net working

It looks like local organizations are embracing Generation Next-style networking. The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s holiday card wasn’t a card this year, or even an e-greeting — it was a YouTube video entitled “Art Happens Here.” Meanwhile, Good Old Lower East Side might resist new luxury condos, but the grassroots community group has embraced MySpace. GOLES used the Rupert Murdoch-owned social networking site to promote its boycott of Yellow Rat Bastard and other retail stores owned by alleged slum-boss Henry Ishay.