Under Cover, March 13, 2014

Jan Lee, one of the Chinatown community leaders who has fought against many of Lower Manhattan’s post 9/11 street closures, tells us the Downtown federal trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law,  doesn’t seem to have worsened the traffic problems, but it does appear to have prompted the installation of an unsightly new security booth that is so far not been operational.

The biggest problem with the booth, Lee said, is it gets in the way at the Worth St. public plaza outside the Moynihan Courthouse. He fears that the plaza may close again as it did for several years in the ‘00s, which would close a shortcut to the subways and mar Maya Lin’s sculptures, which have auditory sounds designed to be experienced up close.

Adding insult to injury, Lee said, the booth is the “cheapest-looking, Home Depot piece of [crap].”

Cuomo dig
With all the heated and somewhat antagonistic dialogue currently taking place between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, the governor was still lighthearted enough to drop a couple of zingers when he came Downtown to dedicate a new memorial at the Museum of Jewish Heritage last week (page 13 ). During the dedication, Cuomo praised Peter Kalikow, the museum trustee who funded the new addition, but then switched gears for a moment to get a pretty good laugh from the crowd at the museum trustee’s expense.

(Kalikow, is a big supporter of the governor, even though he typically supports Republicans, including George Pataki, who ended the political career of Gov. Mario Cuomo, Andrew’s father.)

Back to our story. Apparently, the Italian government honored Kalikow in 2008 by naming him a Commendatore of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, and Cuomo shared his “suspicions” as to why the wealthy Kalikow was given the prestigious award.

“I have a feeling Peter was named Commendatore because he’s done so much for the Italian economy by buying all his Ferraris,” said Cuomo, enjoying the quick dig. Well, it’s a good thing Occupy Wall Street isn’t still camped Downtown…they would’ve had a field day with that one.

The Toll Bell Rings Again
“Grildlock Sam” Schwartz, a.k.a. Transit Sam, author of a Downtown Express column, and traffic analyst Charles Komanoff, and others are ready to revive their hopes to drive home their plan to pump more money into the subway and highway system and reduce traffic in Manhattan by tolling some bridges, Komanoff tells us.

Schwartz and Bill Keller, the former New York Times executive editor, generated lots of buzz with a Sunday Times column back in 2012, but the plan never got moving with the powers that be.

Move New York, a new group forming to push the plan, is hosting a conference March 21 to announce the renewed effort. Komanoff, who has been working on many of the proposal’s revisions, said there have not been fundamental changes, but declined to offer specifics before the event.

Schwartz’s idea is to spread the benefits and pain to thwart the opposition that killed former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s traffic pricing plan. So in addition to increasing tolls into Manhattan under the Schwartz plan, many tolls between other boroughs would drop. Money would go to help roadways as well as subways and buses.

Komanoff, a Tribeca resident, said with all of the traffic problems in Lower Manhattan, “the benefits Downtown are enormous.”

The strategy this time appears to be to generate widespread support so it will be hard for car lovers — such as, oh say Gov. Andrew Cuomo — to say no.

After we spoke to our old friend Charlie, it crossed our minds that Cuomo might see added political value in reducing traffic, giving the problems his cross-river counterpart is having in New Jersey…

W.T.C. for sale
…Speaking of Gov. Chris Christie, in case you missed it, the New York Times reported this week that the 20 New Jersey mayors whom Christie was most interested in securing endorsements from — the list apparently numbered 100 —all got World Trade Center remnants for their towns’ 9/11 memorials.

The artifacts are under the control of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that implemented the infamous “traffic problems” ordered by Christie aides.

We might have thought almost 13 years later, the political abuse of 9/11 had mostly subsided. Even in the earlier days, or perhaps because it was the earlier days there was some restraint.

When President George W. Bush picked New York for the 2004 Republican convention, it was widely assumed and reported that he would make a dramatic return visit to the W.T.C. during the convention, but he didn’t’t do it. Donald Trump backed a plan to rebuild the Twin Towers in an apparent effort to boost ratings for the finale of the 2005 season of “The Apprentice,” but for whatever the reason, Trump did not include it in the episode.

Maybe the passage of time makes exploiting 9/11 easier. After all, Christie’s aides if not the governor himself, apparently did not hesitate to tie up the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 11.

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