Scoopy’s Notebook, Week of Aug. 30, 2018

Former Councilmember Kathryn Freed, center, in the 1980s at a cleanup of the lot that would eventually become the Elizabeth St. Garden.

How sweep it was: Sent to us by Jeannine Kiely, president of Friends of Elizabeth St. Garden, is this photo from the 1980s of former City Councilmember Kathryn Freed, with Richard Caggiano, left, and Stephen Parlus cleaning up the desolate vacant lot that would one day bloom into the beautiful garden. Freed, who is now a judge, was the Lower Manhattan councilmember from 1992 to 2001. The photo has been making the rounds of local activists. “She was probably a tenant lawyer back then and getting active in D.I.D.,” said Sean Sweeney, a longtime leader of Downtown Independent Democrats who used to be Freed’s boyfriend. “Right around then was when she first became a district leader.” The two haven’t gone out together in 20 years, but he still has feelings for her. “I recently saw her at an event, and I was surprised — I got jealous,” he said. Freed didn’t return a request for comment. It’s not that surprising since judges aren’t supposed to comment on issues that are before the city.

Something fishy: “I think I found the striped bass.” That was how Arthur Schwartz began an e-mail to The Villager this week about a new — potentially major — angle he recently found in the community’s lawsuit against the L subway shutdown plan. Basically, Schwartz, who is the attorney on the suit, said the city Department of Transportation has been “hiding” something important about its Supplemental Environmental Assessment for the mitigation plan for the shutdown. A document presented at the Aug. 6 public hearing on the S.E.A. showed three alternatives for 14th St. during the planned 15-month L shutdown: a “do nothing” alternative, and two versions of a “Busway” — a shorter option and a full Busway. “All of their data came from a mumbo-jumbo study done by a company called Ainsum,” Schwartz noted, “which did their study by ‘modeling’ rather than counting vehicles. Hidden deep in that study, on Page 41, was a fourth option: ‘SBS only,’ which is pretty much what we have been advocating for, i.e., Select Bus Service like 23rd St. Lo and behold, the SBS-only option shows faster times on all the cross streets AND, amazingly, across 14th St. Clearly, they intentionally left this information out of the S.E.A., which may be why the Ainsum report is not an appendix.” This dishonesty, hiding of numbers, is akin to fudging numbers on striped bass,” Schwartz said, referring to the legal nail in the coffin that ultimately killed the hated Westway $2 billion sunken highway tunnel-and-landfill project in 1985. Westway’s demise, in turn, led to the planning of Hudson River Park. In short, as Schwartz said, “Their cover-up could cause them a big problem.” D.O.T.’s plan calls for extending the major crosstown boulevard’s pedestrian space into the current parking lanes, and banning cars from 14th St. for much of the day. “The sidewalk-widening and the ban on traffic turns out to be totally unnecessary, even with their mumbo-jumbo modeling study,” Schwartz scoffed. “I intend to go back into State Court in early September.”

Thursday is voting day: As Schwartz, who is also the Village’s Democratic district co-leader, mentions in his column this week on his supporting Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively, this year’s primary election will not be on a Tuesday, as usual, but on Thurs., Sept. 13. Earlier this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill pushing the primary back two days, with the change being for this year only. The thinking is that more voters will be able to turn out at the polls on that Thursday versus Sept. 11, which is the last day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, plus the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attack.

It’s still on, Don: President Donald Trump has called off his big military parade on Veterans Day, at least for this year. But East Village activist-in-exile (actually, more like priced out of the ’hood and living in North Carolina) John Penley said he and his group — Veterans and Friends Against War and Nuclear Weapons and V.A. Campout and BBQ D.C. — plan to carry on with their protest plans in Washington. “We have no doubt that the rapidly growing number of requests for protest permits in D.C., and the intel they have on the possible number of people planning to protest Trump’s military parade caused the president and the Pentagon to first announce that the parade’s cost was going to be massively higher, and then later announce that the parade’s date had been changed to next year,” said Penley, who is a Vietnam War-era veteran. “Well, as far as I know, at this point nobody is canceling their Veterans Day weekend protests and we definitely are not. Besides, we already made our banner and have more on order.”

Opening up: Who the heck is William Thomas? you may be asking of the guy who wrote the scathing talking point in this week’s issue attacking Andrew Berman and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. In his piece, Thomas blasts Berman & Co.’s failed effort to get Councilmember Carlina Rivera and the city to put extensive neighborhood protections in place as part of the zoning approval for the planned Tech Hub on E. 14th St. We chatted a bit on the phone with Thomas, and he tells us he is 25, a recent graduate of Wesleyan University — coincidentally, also Berman’s alma mater — and has lived in the East Village for three years, which is how long he has lived in New York City. A Westchester native, he attended Regis, the all-scholarship elite Upper East Side high school. He works in marketing and shares his East Village market-rate pad with two roommates who sleep in a bunk bed. His group, Open New York, a “pro-housing organization,” is part of the national YIMBY — Yes in My Backyard — movement, he said, and has 100 members, 30 of whom attend their monthly meetings. He’s a board member. The core belief of the YIMBYs, according to Thomas? “The fact that we think the housing shortage is being driven by overly strict zoning.” The group is only about one year old. His marketing company mainly works in financial services, not real estate, he told us. He said he has no special relationship with Councilmember Rivera, either.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *