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May 31st, 2007

PLUNKITT OF TAMMANY HALL – A POLITICAL COLUMN OF AMAZING RANDOMNESS

by Trip Plunkitt

The longtime defunct SoHo Weekly News had its “25 Year Bash” recently at The Pink Pony. For our younger readers, the SoHo News was published in the seventies and early eighties as an alternative to the Village Voice. Of course, the SoHo Journal has taken over the ‘lofty’ job of being the voice for SoHo. Esteemed photographer Alan Tannenbaum has his roots as a photographer for the SoHo News. Party on!

How about those recent sightings of rats on Sixth Avenue wearing little tee shirts that say, “Tastes Like Chicken!” As one Greenwich Village Taco Bell patron said: “Rats are for the outside and mice for the inside.” Umm – the public’s sanitation expectations are lower than one might think. Makes you wonder what goes on when the cameras aren’t on.

Speaking of rats, Al “The Park King” Butzel, president of Friends of Hudson River Park, may have gone too far: in exchange for getting the Sanitation Department off Gansevoort, Butzel and the HRPT have made a deal to shove it all, and more, into Community Board Two. In closed door meetings that even the individual litigants weren’t invited to attend, Butzel and his mouthpiece, Ross Graham, agreed to this plan, which includes thousands of gallons of ignitable fuel stored over the Holland Tunnel. (note to self: Butzel lives on Park Avenue.) Also, at a recent meeting downtown, Butzel let his true feelings show (who let the dogs out?) shouting at community activist David Reck, saying “Yes, I want to put all this sanitation stuff in your neighborhood, because I don’t like you!” Now you know how public policy is made, Butzel-style. Friends of Butzel River Park ain’t looking so friendly anymore. In fact, the org may be a solid waste.

Also, Friends of Hudson River ‘Pork’ has embarked on a familiar course of action: raise a ton of money from developers and other rich guys and then pretend to be community friendly. With developer Douglas Durst as chair, Friends of the Pork is feeding out of the trough of every real estate, waterfront wannabe, corporation and special interest in town, then pretending to speak on behalf of ‘the community.’ Related Companies’ Stephen Ross sat until recently on the Pork Board (remember, Related wants to buy, I mean develop, Pier 40). And now, non-reappointed HRPT member and recently removed CB1 Chair Madelyn Wils sits on the Pork Board as well! Bacon, anyone?

File under: What are they doing now? Madelyn Wils, (after leaving/getting fired from the Tribeca Film Institute — what did that ‘institute’ do again, anyway?) said she was planning to start a film production company. Might it be called “Running for Council Productions”? Also, in cozy deals we have seen, DeNiro’s Tribeca Film Festival got $3 million from the LMDC for something or other (all this took place when Wils was chair of CB1, on the LMDC Board and getting the job from DeNiro’s ‘institute’ – oh well, whatever!). Now the Festival wants to go into Pier 40 as part of the Related proposal – how many theatres to go into Pier 40 again? It may be up to 20 by now.

Continuing on the ‘corrupt practices we have observed’ front, after the last days of the Pataki lockdown, two of his public authority boards have been outed with the revelation that they voted to give themselves free health insurance not just while they served on these boards, but for life! Problem is, board members are not supposed to be compensated – that means paid (or paid off to you and me), for their board service. But no matter – Pataki signed off on this plan anyway. He must have attended the Plunkitt of Tammany Hall School of Law, where ‘honest’ graft is sanctioned (as long as it goes to some of your friends).

The disgrace that is the Christopher Street area at night continues to amaze – the attractive nuisance (understatement) created with the rebuilt Christopher Street pier is very popular, but not with the people who live, work and pay taxes there – those people are excluded from the pier and the surrounding area due to its total overuse by the kids who visit there most nights. Because of the lack of attention to how this area was actually going to be used when it was built coupled with bad city policies, an area was created that only one group can use, to the exclusion of residents. Face it: LGBT kids need places to go, plural. The government sponsored West Village dumping program doesn’t work – the city can do better, if there’s a political will to do it. Let’s end government by “pass the buck.” These kids deserve more. God knows, the residents do!

Following up on the “useless politicians” theme: Assemblyman Richard “I’ve been in the Assembly since Harding was President” Gottfried is rumored to have a major challenge coming on from a well-financed opponent. No wonder–Gottfried’s even gotten himself in trouble with Assemblywoman Deborah Glick over how he thinks he knows more about gay issues than she does. Maybe this “misunderstanding” is due to his staff person, Wendi “Mini Me” Paster, who is chummy with all the wrong people (did somebody say “sell out”?) Anyway, a breath of fresh air may come to his district–maybe somebody who has a pulse will get in that office.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, until recently, had been absent from the job of protecting her constituents from the Trump mega-development on Spring Street, another project that will further undermine whatever quality of life remains in the area, which leads us to Government 101: How To Kill a Neighborhood. That course covers how developers see a good area and then capitalize on it, marketing it for its name’s appeal to make mega-bucks. (But remember: we live in a capitalist country, right, folks?) Then they install hulking, out-of-context monoliths requiring special zoning treatment in nice, stable neighborhoods, destroying what was good about the place. Look at the new “This is Tribeca” building down at Chambers and West Streets. It should be called “This is ugly!” And ‘inappropriate,’ ‘too large,’ and ‘badly planned.’ Trump/Soho: ‘Perfect Together’–not!

Since former Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, is enjoying a lot of publicity as he runs for President (kill us now before the country becomes victim to another Republican reign of terror), a comparison of his management style vs. that of Mayor Koch appeared earlier this year in the NY Times. It reads as follows: “If Mayor Koch said to his advisors that he wanted to kill all 12-year-olds…10 people [in the room] would say, ‘Please, get a life! What are you crazy? No way!’And there’d be an argument, at the end of the day, somebody’s judgment would prevail.” Conversely, “If Rudy would say, ‘Let’s kill 12-year-olds,’ there would be silence in the room, and then somebody would say, ‘That’s really brilliant!’ Then somebody else would say, ‘Have you thought of 13- year-olds, too?”‘

And to highlight the consistently [fill in the blank] knowledge and quality of the people pick up the phone, at Councilmember Alan J. Gerson’s office, a recent call went like this: “Hello, this is Joe Blow. Can I speak to Councilmember Alan J. Gerson please?” To which our councilperson’s staffmember replied: “I’m sorry–she’s not in right now.”

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