Scoopy’s Notebook, Week of July 26, 2018

Updated Sun., July 29, 11 p.m.: Bitter Twitter Battle: In other Deborah Glick news (though, we’re sure she would hardly consider it “news”), she recently unblocked Arthur Schwartz on her Twitter account — but it took a little hardball by Schwartz first. On June 12, the Village district leader e-mailed the veteran assemblymember, citing the recent ruling for Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute and several individuals against Donald Trump, his former communications director Hope Hicks, his current press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Trump’s social-media director, Daniel Scavino, charging Trump illegally barred the individuals from his Twitter account. Following suit, so to speak, Schwartz, who is also an attorney, warned Glick, “I demand that you unblock me from your Twitter account. If not I will bring suit.” Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald wrote the May 23 decision in the federal case in the U.S. District Court of Southern New York. “This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, ‘block’ a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the president of the United States. The answer to both questions is no,” Buchwald stated. She added the “interactive space” of @realDonaldTrump — where Twitter users can “directly engage” with the president’s tweets — falls under the “public forum” doctrines set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court, “and that the blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment.” As for blocking and then unblocking Schwartz, Glick told us, “People who are pathological liars and are apt to promote misinformation, I don’t think I should have him on my Twitter. But he referenced a court case — fine.” Among other locals Glick blocked is Patrick Shields, an actor, former window washer and the West Side’s most fanatical advocate for a soccer stadium at Pier 40 at W. Houston St. It wasn’t immediately clear if the former Villager, who now lives in Manhattan Plaza, on W. 42nd St., had been unblocked. The assemblymember noted her Twitter page does have “blocking criteria” clearly posted, asserting that, on the advice of her lawyer, “We legally can block them.” (Her blocking criteria include anyone misstating facts, or connected with child or revenge porn or sexual assault, among others.) She said, however, that most of the people she excluded were actually Mixed Martial Arts supporters angry at her opposition to legalizing the sport here. “They were vulgar and threatening in their remarks,” she said. Told of Glick’s comment, Schwartz said, “I’m a pathological liar? I don’t think I ever responded to one of her tweets.” On second thought, he mused, “It was probably something I said about football. … She posts about sports, pets and politics.” As for her calling him a liar, Schwartz responded, “I won’t lower myself to her level of political discourse.”

Stanley Cohen plans to find a new place in the Lower East Side soon. Villager file photo by Sarah Ferguson

Cohen ‘bearing’ up: Radical attorney Stanley Cohen has been reinstated to practice law in New York State, which also means he can resume his legal work abroad. Cohen is known locally for representing East Village squatters in their struggles against eviction in the 1980s, and internationally, for representing Israel’s mortal enemy Hamas, among others. He was convicted of “impeding the I.R.S.” and sentenced to 18 months, serving 10, at a “prison camp” in Pennsylvania. He was camp librarian. His offense was originally created to protect “revenuers who go up in the mountains” to collect taxes, he explained. “No one has been charged with impeding the I.R.S. in the last 40 years in the United States,” he added, in exasperation. “The theory was I made it difficult for them to find the money I made.” The feds never found the alleged hidden cash anyway. Although Cohen hasn’t been allowed to practice law or give legal counsel the last three years, he has been able to lecture and “answer very broad-based questions.” Yet, he has still stayed in touch with his clients. “I’ve spoken to Hamas leadership,” he said. “I’ve had discussions with various liberation groups. … I’m already involved in several cases overseas I’m not at liberty to discuss. I expect one of the Middle East cases will explode; if it does, I’ll be back at center stage.” Currently, he’s up in the Catskill Mountains, doing a lot of writing, accompanied by his loyal pooch Emma, who recently sadly had a hind leg amputated due to illness. Cohen misses the stimulation of the city. In the fall, he plans to get a new place, hopefully back in the East Village — which to him will always be the Lower East Side — where a friend has an apartment available near Cohen’s former one at Avenue D and E. Eighth St. “Still in Loisaida,” he said of the hoped-for pad. “I have no interest in living anywhere else. But,” he conceded of the old ’hood, “it’s an N.Y.U. dorm [now].” As for getting his license back, Cohen said he never doubted he would, but received some extra assurance, in the form of an impressive guest three days beforehand. “I was listening to some music in my backyard at 11 o’clock one morning, sitting in a chair,” he recalled. “I opened my eyes and saw a 6-foot-tall bear coming around the woodpile,” he said. “I looked at it and was like, ‘Whoa!’ It looked at me and was like, ‘Whoa!’ It ran into the woods.” A Native American friend told Cohen — who is an official member of the Bear Clan and whose partner is Native American — “You had a visit. It was a vision.” … Meanwhile, the vision of Donald Trump is an unpleasant one for Cohen. “I did three Russian mafia cases in ’89, ’90, ’92,” he recalled. “His name would pop up in discussion, debriefing. The guy is dirty.”

The troubled former squat at 544 E. 13th St., seen above in 2015, has been fixed up by a private developer under a deal with the city. File photo by Jefferson Siegel

She got squat: After 16 years of futility, renovations at the former squat at 544 E. 13th St. finally wrapped up at the end of last year, and the former residents were able to move back into affordable apartments, buying them for $2,500 each. However, one of the building’s original squatters, Annie Wilson, isn’t returning. That’s because, somehow, Isabel Celeste, actress Rosario Dawson’s mother, was able to move up from her first floor-basement duplex to a unit on the sixth floor, right next to Wilson’s, and the two do not get along at all. In fact, Wilson said, basically, she’s seriously afraid of Celeste, whom the tabloids have described as “Amazonian.” In June 2013, The Villager reported how Celeste had illegally jackhammered a hole through the floor of her first-floor apartment and installed a spiral staircase into it to create the duplex. Ending the building’s never-ending saga of dysfunction, under a deal with the city, Donald Capoccia, of BFC Partners, has now renovated the place, in exchange for so-called “density bonus” credits, some of which he sold to the developer of The Steiner, the new residential building at Avenue A and E. 12th St., on the former Church of Mary Help of Christians site. Somehow Celeste even finagled a jacuzzi as an alleged “therapy tub” for her back in her renovated affordable unit. “Her daughter is Rosario Dawson, she’s worth millions,” Wilson said, in frustration. “They all applied for Section 8,” she said of the Dawson clan, who now control four full units in the building. In 2008, according to the New York Post, only one Dawson was listed as legally having a unit in the place, Gregory Dawson, Rosario’s dad. But now even Nicky Scott, Celeste’s brother, who was, until recently, living in Texas, has a unit in the renovated building. (In 2016, his son, Juan Scott, was sentenced to 14 years in jail for three sexual assaults he committed in the East Village the year before when he was living for the summer in 544 E. 13th St.) Celeste also apparently demolished a property she had Upstate in Livingston Manor, since having another residence within 100 miles apparently disqualifies one from owning a Housing Development Fund Corporation unit. The Post first identified that she had “a cottage” on the property. However, Cynthia Theodore, the Rockland town assessor, recently told us that the property had indeed been cleared of its former structure. “It would have been a trailer with extensions,” she noted. Wilson added that the apartment Celeste has now rightfully should have gone to family members of the late musician Jerome Cooper, its former occupant, since they had legal succession rights. In addition, another former tenant of the building, Janet Nash, has also reportedly chosen not to return. This past April, there was a meeting at UHAB (Urban Homesteading Assistance Board), the organization charged with ensuring that the 11 former East Village squats that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration sold for $1 apiece in 2002 were brought up to the legal safety code. UHAB technically purchased the buildings at that time. Celeste did not respond to requests for comment from The Villager — but, early during that April meeting, she was reportedly openly annoyed at our having asked about her special hot tub, for one. We listened to a tape recording of the end of the meeting, on which Celeste can be heard stressing that Forbes is going to do an article on the building. “I’m executive producing a film on homeless youth in America,” Celeste says. “I’m having optics come into that building. I’m having an article done on me — in Forbes! Forbes! — not The Villager!” Celeste can also be heard saying, “I’m tired of being held hostage by Annie!” Wilson was irked that Damaris Reyes, executive director of GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side), attended Celeste’s birthday party after the building reopened. (There was a photo on Facebook of Celeste and Reyes enjoying themselves together at the shindig.) But longtime tenant advocate Reyes told us, “Isabel had a birthday. It was hundreds of people dropping by throughout the day, and I swung by for a bit. I think I was there for an hour, and I left.” Reyes said GOLES “did not have a role” in the building, which was under UHAB’s control. That said, she agreed that Wilson should not be forced to live next to Celeste. “Annie should not have to live next to her archnemesis,” she said. “That’s not right. Unfortunately, they don’t get along. If she had come to me, I would have tried to help her. But the people to speak to are UHAB,” Reyes noted. “They know the trajectory of this building. Maybe there could have been a swap of some kind” with an affordable unit in another building in the neighborhood. However, the building’s tenants did have a meeting at GOLES’s office in 2014. For his part, attorney Adam Leitman Bailey, who has represented the Dawsons on 544 E. 13th St., told us, “I got the building legalized and made sure everyone in residence legally has a right to their unit. I have worked and worked for many years to be able to get these former squatters the American Dream — a home that they own. I do not get involved in what goes on behind closed doors. I did make sure that all residents followed the rules and, working with UHAB, I can confidently say that the right people got the correct units based on the rules.” However, Wilson said the real story is how, over the years, the Dawsons frustrated efforts to rehab the building, bring it up to legal code and create an affordable co-op. “They did not want it to be a low-income co-op,” she stressed. “They wanted ownership.” Basically, the limbo-locked old tenement became such a headache for the city, it ultimately made a deal with Capoccia to finally get the job done. As it is, the building wound up not becoming low-income — which was the original intention — but moderate-income. The income cap is around $58,480 (which is 80 percent of area median income). Those receiving Section 8 subsidies must pay 30 percent of their monthly income, while others have to pay between $769 and $929 a month in rent / maintenance. If one of the “insiders” — as in, original tenants — leaves or dies, the rent for that unit can legally rise up to $1,800 a month. Resale values for the units are capped at $6,000 for the first four years (though there are technically no resales allowed for the first three years), rising 5 percent per year after that, and eventually all the way up to $129,000 — though not reaching that price until 30 years from now.

 

Correction: The original version of this column incorrectly stated that Donald Capoccia’s BFC Partners sold “density bonus” credits from 544 E. 13th St. to Ben Shaoul’s new residential building at E. Seventh St. and Avenue A. In fact, the credits were sold to The Steiner, the new residential building at E. 12th St. and Avenue A. Also regarding the third Scoopy item, there were additional corrections made as to the income requirements, the monthly rent / maintenance and when resales are allowed to begin, that is, resales are not allowed in the first three years.

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