Under Cover

Street fighting man

“I want you to get this right — because this is going to be all over Streetsblog,” Sean Sweeney said, as he explained to us on Sunday how he got the whopping shiner under his left eye. The Soho activist said he recently had been walking on Greene St. when a young cyclist came barreling down the sidewalk toward him. At a point where the pavement narrowed, the two came face to face, with the rider still racing at a rapid rate. Sweeney abruptly grabbed the bike’s handlebars, to which the cyclist responded, “Are you looking for trouble?”

“Yeah!” Sweeney answered, though, he said, on second thought maybe he shouldn’t have. Before Sweeney knew it, the cyclist — whom he said was “clean cut, like a yuppie” — had sucker punched him in the face. Some bystanders — “young citizens, his age,” he noted with satisfaction — grabbed the bike rider and held him. “They said, ‘What are you punching the old guy for?” a remark Sweeney said actually hurt more than the physical blow.

The cyclist protested that Sweeney “started it,” but the activist retorted, “No, you were on the sidewalk.” In the end, since he was late for a Downtown Independent Democrats meeting, Sweeney decided not to call the police or press charges, and they let the man go. It’s not Sweeney’s first run in with bikes. He’s been a vocal critic of the new Grand St. bike lane, which — along with his opposition to a proposed Prince St. pedestrian mall — led Streetsblog, not long ago, to dub him NIMBY of the Year.

Political Freedom

The Downtown Independent Democrats fundraiser last Sunday at D.I.D. President Sweeney’s Soho loft, drew quite a crowd, with the likes of Congressmembers Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney — whose senate aspirations took a hit last week when President Obama signaled his support for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand — and Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Civil Court Judge Kathryn Freed was there — and pointed out she had every right to be there.

Rules bar judges from attending such political events even when as in this case, they are in the home of your ex-boyfriend — but not if they are candidates running for office, and Freed told us she has her eye on State Supreme Court. But she said, though it’s possible she might be on the ballot this year, there are a bunch of candidates already approved by the judicial screening panel who were “ahead” of her in line, so to speak, so she might have to run next year. Supreme Court would mean $10,000 more a year, plus “more interesting cases,” Freed said.

Last year she told us she was “fed up and disgusted” with being a judge but also spoke of possibly wanting to move up the judicial ladder.


Moral road win

If you believe that in politics a win is a win, then just skip this item. City Council candidate Pete Gleason forced a runoff in the Village Reform Democratic Club’s endorsement vote Monday night. Councilmember Alan Gerson, who came out of V.R.D.C. and who according to Gleason allies, won a unanimous Council endorsement vote in the 2001 race when Gerson was one of seven Democrats running for an open seat, did go on to beat Gleason 16 – 12 in the final vote Monday.

“I’m ecstatic,” Gleason told UnderCover. “This is not only his home club but the club meeting was in his home.”

Indeed the meeting was in the lobby of Gerson’s LaGuardia Pl. building, also home to Sophie Gerson, who co-founded the club as well as Alan the person (she’s his mother). Downtown political veterans will recall V.R.D.C. was formed almost three decades ago when a faction of Village Independent Democrats splintered to support Ed Koch’s unsuccessful primary run for governor against Mario Cuomo.

Gerson the Younger did not return a call for comment.

Margaret Chin, who got two votes Monday, was the only other candidate to get any V.R.D.C. support.

Political eyes now turn to the Downtown Independent Democrats’ vote June 2. Club honcho Sean Sweeney, who is clearly leaning toward Gleason, put out a press release highlighting Gleason’s strong showing, and UnderCover must admit we were a little flattered that Sweeney seemed to be writing in our style (We or he didn’t pull a Maureen Dowd though — these words and thoughts are ours).

CERT dispute

A standoff between the city and the Battery Park City Community Emergency Response Team kept the CERT from participating in last Sunday’s drill at the World Trade Center.

CERTs from around the city came to Lower Manhattan to help first responders with the drill, and Anthony Notaro, chief of the B.P.C. CERT, said he was embarrassed not to get an invitation to an event right in his team’s backyard. The B.P.C. CERT is the largest in the city and one of the oldest, formed in 2003.

“It’s been very frustrating and maddening,” Notaro said.

The dispute with the city arose because the B.P.C. CERT formed before the city Office of Emergency Management started overseeing the teams and credentialing them. Chris Gilbride, spokesperson for O.E.M., said all the B.P.C. CERT has to do is fill out some paperwork and they would become official, but Notaro said the city had lost it. He said he did not want to resubmit it because he is concerned about what happened to sensitive info like social security numbers.

College notes

The Borough of Manhattan Community College held its annual fundraising dinner at Chelsea Piers complete with scholarship winners and their inspiring stories (one we spoke with, Schewarma Pemberton, is Cornell bound, and another who spoke to the crowd, Andrea Hall, a former high school dropout, turned down Smith and N.Y.U. to enroll at Columbia this fall.)

Other notables who attended included Dana Tyler, M.C. and Channel 2 news anchor, honorees Jane Rosenthal, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, and Christine Larsen of JPMorgan Chase. College president Antonio Pérez and Elizabeth Butson, gala co-chairperson and former Downtown Express publisher, partied on the Hudson as did Iris Weinshall of City University of New York who are all no doubt pleased that the school’s long-awaited demolition of damaged Fiterman Hall is expected to be done in a few months.

Speaking of 9/11-damaged buildings, we also spied a trim and fit Charlie Maikish, who looked like he no longer had the weight of the Deutsche Bank building on his shoulders. Maikish left as executive director of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center a month before the fatal fire at the former bank building two years ago. The construction czar who warned the community board about some of the building’s problems before the fire, has downplayed his role in the building’s demolition subsequent to the deadly inferno, and District Attorney Robert Morgenthau apparently agreed.