Scoopy, Week of July 30, 2015

Giving them the business: Talk about unfair! Kirsten Theodos of the new activist group TakeBackNYC, was livid the other week when it looked like the City Council was about to vote on a bill to cap the number of app-hailed Uber cabs — this despite the fact that the bill only had 10 sponsors. Nevertheless, word was that, had there been a vote, it would have passed. Meanwhile, the Small Business Jobs Survival Act has steadily been building support, and now has 23 sponsors in the Council — and yet still isn’t being allowed to come to the floor for a vote! “While everyone agrees that Uber is devaluing the medallions, the big story here is that the City Council was paid off by taxi folks to bring this bill to a vote,” Theodos told us. “My bill has 23 sponsors and you don’t hear a peep about a vote!” While others are continuing to publicize the S.B.J.S.A. and generally lament small business closings, TakeBackNYC — feeling more concrete measures are needed — is a new activist group that has grabbed hold of the issue and is taking the lead in pushing legislators to act on the bill.

Dorm it! Not! It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 17 years since developer Gregg Singer bought the old P.S. 64, on E. Eighth St. off of Avenue B, for a song — just $3.2 million — at an auction of city-owned properties. Even harder to believe is that the block-through building, formerly home to CHARAS / El Bohio, has sat empty and unused for almost all of that time. Nearly a year ago, the Department of Buildings, at the urging of Councilmember Rosie Mendez, slapped a stop-work order on Singer’s plan to renovate the former school into a plush dorm for The Cooper Union, the Joffrey Ballet School and — who knows? — possibly other schools. The scheme was too fuzzy and didn’t pass muster with the agency. Now we hear Singer has come back with a new plan. But at this point, he may have gone press shy after his repeated defeats by the community and city. When we called him the other week, all he would say was, “I’m not commenting on that anymore.” But last year he told us that he was confident he’d resolve any issues about the project with D.O.B. For her part, the other weekend, Mendez told us, “A new permit was issued about a month ago. I’m trying to understand the basis of that, of course. I am under the opinion that he has not cured the problem. From the little I’ve seen, I don’t think that permit should have been issued.” She said she will write a letter to D.O.B. about it once she has “finished the research.” Her previous letters were what brought the project to a halt a year ago. Susan Howard, of SOCCC64 (Save Our Charas Community Center 64), said, “The plan was approved June 19. I don’t think he’s met the burden. It appears to be a partial plan approval — but I don’t see the permit.” As of this week, the D.O.B. Web site shows three construction permits approved as of July 17. Mendez, Howard, Community Board 3 and the area’s activist and arts community want the building returned to its former use as a cultural and community center, as it was under CHARAS, a local Puerto Rican-led empowerment organization.

Jukebox jive: It’s not easy being Trigger. The longtime Continental bar owner — known for his trademark Vietnamese rice-paddy hat — is still reeling from a binding judgement during arbitration with a jukebox operator that determined he has to pay the operator $50,000 to cover lost proceeds. It’s a long story, but the jukebox operator charged that Trigger reneged on their contract when the cheap-shots-bar owner decided to mothball the music maker for a period of time. But Trigger told us the machine’s owner was at fault because he failed to return $115 in special marked bills that the bar staff used to pop into the machine to keep it blaring tunes when patrons weren’t feeding it money or during off hours, etc. Basically, he said, he had to nip this nonsense in the bud before the amount of marked bills being swiped from him spiralled out of control. Trigger — whose bar used to be a mecca for punk rock bands, until he just couldn’t make a go of that anymore due to finances and the changing music scene — has declared bankruptcy, which he says will mean he’ll only have to pay the jukebox guy $5,000. Still, he said, he just wants us to get the word out so that “this won’t happen to other bar owners.” The operator did not return our request for comment. But now another huge problem is coming down the pike for Trigger, in that the Continental site — along with the neighboring McDonald’s and the corner magazine store / smoke shop — is part of a new residential development project slated for Third Ave. and St. Mark’s Place. Trigger said he has always gotten along great with his landlord, but that if he has to move, he’s going to try his best to reopen in the East Village. Rock on!

A higher calling: There are some changes underway at New York’s second-oldest church (and the city’s oldest site of continuous religious practice, according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission). St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, on E. 10th St., recently lost its rector of the last six years, Reverend Winnie Varghese, when she announced that she would move to Wall St. to lead the flock at Trinity Church starting Aug. 1. Varghese, who will join Trinity as priest and director of community outreach, has been getting to know her new workplace since she handed in her resignation at St. Mark’s at the end of May. “I will focus on Trinity’s social justice ministries, which include outreach grants, feeding ministries, public-school support, the Trinity Parish Center and low-income housing at St. Margaret’s House,” she wrote in a statement on the St. Mark’s Web site. Her old house of worship, meanwhile, is looking to fill her vestments. Reverend Dr. Allison Moore, who has been the rector at Church of the Good Shepherd in Fort Lee, N.J., in the Diocese of Newark, since 1996, has been selected as interim priest. Her first Sunday will be Aug. 16 and she will be there until the next rector is appointed, which the wardens at the church estimate will happen within the next year.

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