The Candidates: Borough President

A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.

— Franklin D. Roosevelt

So, change is in the air. It’s not that Manhattan is a conservative place. It’s not. We all have friends, you know, mostly old white guys who still compliment women on how they look when they first meet them; who still smile instead of comment when two men or two women embrace or are seen holding hands in public; or, perhaps suspiciously eye black teenagers riding on bikes — simply because they’re in SoHo. The implications are far-reaching and social policy, not to mention the lagging justice system, are on the line.

The changes that drag us forward to a more equitable, more egalitarian society depend upon the politicians who operate in the vanguard of social change. And so, we need to pay close attention to the candidates for all of the offices in this election cycle.

Brad Hoylman is an example of that change and is running for Borough President in Manhattan. Aside from his stellar educational credentials he has a long history of community service in Manhattan beginning with the Community Board where he became Chair and moved on to the NYS Senate where he vigorously supported tenant and LGBTQ rights. As Borough President, in addition to his other responsibilities he would have direct control over the functioning and reform of the Community Boards in Manhattan.

When I asked his campaign what they wanted his candidacy to be known for, they provided this encapsulation —

“Brad Hoylman has spent the last eight years fighting in the State Senate for structural change that makes a real difference in New Yorkers’ lives. He led the fights to strengthen vaccine requirements to protect children and the immunocompromised, make police reporting more transparent, end discrimination against transgender New Yorkers, ban ICE from targeting undocumented New Yorkers outside court houses, protect tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic, and get justice for victims of child sexual abuse. As Borough President, Brad will bring this same energy to tackle the toughest challenges and rebuild Manhattan for working families, small businesses and our most vulnerable communities. Brad has lived in Manhattan for three decades; he lives in the Village with his husband David and daughters, Lucy and Silvia. Brad would make history as the first LGBTQ Borough President.”

Rainy Street Stories

John Davis …, now retired after 40 years of service to our country, has just completed a book of poetry, essays and remembrances that give us, the readers, a glimpse of the secret world of espionage war…–D. Clark MacPherson, SoHo Journal.

Poet and counterspy John W. Davis has written a cache of messages about deceit and loyalty, evil and good, danger and safety in his new “Rainy Street Stories.” His collection strings essays and incidents with poetic impressions interspersed like clues leading down the narrow alley that skirts the border of promise and betrayal, protection and sabotage. This unusual memoir reveals nothing and still tells everything about Davis’ real-life career in Cold War espionage…— Kay Campbell, Huntsville Times award winning journalist.

A wonderful testimony to the crucial importance of truth, goodness and, yes, Grace, in keeping our all too human character from going badly, sometimes horrifically astray. … an unwavering affirmation of the enduring power of virtuous principles in this often cruel and cynical world. .–Gray Sutherland, author, poet and translator.

Rainy Street Stories is a remarkable collection … that like gaslights in the fog help us glimpse the spectral outlines of a shattered world. That shattered world is our world, or the world we once believed we lived in, a world of goodness and moral coherence, but which has been turned by our own greed and violence into a killing field. But … the broken pieces are not scattered beyond recovery, but are waiting for our commitment to reintegrate them ….–Rev. Mr. George Dardess, PhD., former professor of English, Tufts University and author of Meeting Islam, A Guide for Christians.

A riveting book that reflects not only how the intelligence community operates but also defines Mr. John Davis’ character. Mr. Davis offers important insights into the historical as well as current challenges the Intelligence Community faces. The factual accounts cited in his book are a must read for all operational and analytical professionals serving in the intelligence community.–Louis J. Kubik, US Marine Corps Reserve, retired, Department of Defense Civilian Counterintelligence Officer with two separate tours with the CIA.

About the Author

John William Davis is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, his hometown. He is a retired Army officer and federal civil servant whose life’s travels brought him into contact with a host of different people in the most unlikely of circumstances. A linguist, former combat arms and counterintelligence officer, he is an observer of the world, the better to try to understand. He lives with his wife Jane in Athens, Alabama, near his three grown sons.

You can purchase this book in various forms from Amazon.

Review of ‘Around the Corner: Reflections on American Wars, Violence, Terrorism, and Hope

Around the Corner offers thought provoking true stories from the Cold War, its bloody aftermath, and our own America today. John W. Davis suggests rain-swept streets and dark corners serve not only as background to these events of his life, but also as metaphor. Around dark corners on a rainy street, what seems at first glance clear or self- evident, might not be so. We see only indistinct outlines, as through a glass darkly. What may be true, could as well be only partly so, or even tragically false. So too with our beliefs about who we are as a nation .Nevertheless, we must make decisions in such a world, a world we’ve neither created nor would have, had we the chance to do otherwise. He observes events, people, laws, chance, and history from the perspective of a soldier, historian, liaison officer, husband and father. 

      Mr. Davis gives us a film noir atmosphere with his collection of intriguing, heart breaking, and insightful essays from the secret world of Cold War counterintelligence to our conflicted America today. Real people and actual events emerge from this collection in ways you won’t forget. He begins with those who influenced him along his life choices. He shows how language study, family military experiences, and a liberal education led him to his problematic career. Each tale draws us deeper into the questions we raise when we demand others serve in the secret world for their country. We discover that many of the dilemmas facing us in international settings impact us in our domestic traumas as well.   

      Davis reminds us that actions in the secret world, especially against spies and terrorists, when conducted by a liberal democracy, give no one a free pass from basic right and wrong, from observance of the law. Our conflicted nation only reflects in highlight what has existed for years in the secret realms of clandestine struggles abroad. You’ll find a strange new world tantalizingly revealed here. You’ll even find reason for hope.

You can purchase this book in various forms from Amazon.

Affordable Housing

“I just love real estate.”

— Donald Trump

In a recent article published in The Real Deal a landlord bemoaned the fact that a rent-stabilized apartment tenant wasn’t paying rent and he had no incentive to get him out. The landlord could no longer increase the rent once the tenant left. All of this was described under the subject of Affordable Housing. I’m sure there are arguments pro and con in this description of the current state of housing in New York City. However, this has nothing to do with Affordable Housing.The current problem with developing new housing units that are made available to the public is that finding out what is available is a job that not everyone is capable of doing. And, the project at 111 Varick Street is as good as any to start with.

Since I knew who the owner of the lot was, a kid whose father died and left him with a number of parking lots downtown, I’d had a little advance warning about what his plans were. The 111 Varick site was always an eyesore because the building had been pimped out for years with huge signs. It resembled one of the buildings on a corner of West Broadway where that owner never met a billboard he didn’t like. According to some local residents most of the money went up someone’s nose. With $15,000 and upwards per month coming in from advertising who needs tenants?

The process of approving a development in Manhattan is daunting. First you start with a plugged in attorney who knows who to talk to and how to get a project of the ground. I’ll let you use your imagination about how that’s accomplished. After the plans and site studies are done and the tentative approvals are obtained, it’s off to the Community Board. Everyone gets to sit around and makes observations, judgments, speeches, and demands for something to benefit the community. Of course, most of that is horseshit. The Community Board has no authority to force anyone to do anything but has one trump card — it can stall a development or make a developer look bad. But, in truth, few, if any members of the Board have had to worry about where their next meal was coming from. While many on the Board live in rent-stabilized apartments, it’s likely due to the fact that they rented their apartment before the War of 1812. The concept of what it takes to find an Affordable Housing unit now is purely an intellectual exercise. And, as far as money is concerned, many attained their position by catering to or donating time or effort to either the City Council member or the Borough President for the right to be called Honorable.

So, I called a number of people to get some information. The Community Board didn’t even know what had transpired on the 111 Varick Street application or when it had been approved. The building of course, had been festooned with ads for how this was a boon for Affordable Housing. Except, no one knew anything about which units they were, how much they were, and how to rent them. The rental office at the building were only able to describe the $4000 to $7000 per month units. When I asked Jean Paul, at 111 Varick about how to obtain information he said they “didn’t handle those apartments” and had “no idea how to find out.” So I contacted Community Board #2. About a year ago I’d contacted Community Board #4 and Community Board #1 to confirm which had dominion over 111 Varick because no one, including Speaker Johnson’s office, knew for sure what that location next to the Holland Tunnel fell into. Eventually, I found out that it was Community Board #2, even though they didn’t know it themselves. And, through a friend, I obtained minutes of the meeting which approved the building — based upon providing Affordable Housing units. Ultimately, the Community Board responded and forwarded a copy of the committee decision.

What’s missing here?

Well, based upon the response from all concerned — from the politicians, to the Community Boards, to the management company, and from the owner — everyone drops the subject once the approvals come through. It’s one of the reasons why Liberals get a bad name. It’s condescending and it is handed out by entitled people pretending to care about those in need. NIMBYism in technicolor. Basically, they don’t care about whether anyone can wend their way through the maze of the bureaucracy to actually rent an affordable housing unit. No information is provided at the Community Board or on the advertising that developers use to inform people about how to actually rent one of the apartments. In fact, HPD handles this. It’s on a website that few people know about or provide for potential tenants to find. Why? Because, basically, no one gives a shit. It’s all lip-service. Even the HPD website has no way to call for information — it’s one of those miracles of advancing technological society. There are no people to ask about anything. Despite the fact that DeBlasio hired 300,000 people to actually do work.

Keep in mind that this is not the Southampton where the affordable housing lists really are controlled by the Town in a long-running game of local corruption. It is a thinly disguised arrangement which provides the inside track to those who are family members of the Civil Service and Town employees.

From this point on, the Community Boards and politicians wishing to cash in on their social responsibility should be required to instruct developers on how and where they will provide the information to potential tenants of affordable units. And, if the developer’s lawyers want to streamline their legal fees, they should provide information to the community, not just their insider pals.

HPD never responded either to any requests for information but here’s the website link in case you need an affordable apartment. Don’t bother calling the politicians or Community Board — they don’t know anything.

https://housingconnect.nyc.gov/PublicWeb/search-lotteries.

The State of SoHo

“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” 
― Albert Camus

Sometimes it’s better just to show you what’s really going on. Despite the fact that the pandemic seems to be abating somewhat and that the tourists have minimally returned, we still have a way to go. So, I decided to walk through Greenwich Village South and parts of SoHo to take a look at what us the current state is of the stores and restaurants. Unsurprisingly, fully 30% of the storefronts on many streets, including West Broadway, are vacant and are advertised for lease.

See for yourself.

And, keep your eyes open for this site. I’ll be keeping you abreast of current thoughts on criminal justice, the prison system, local politics and other things that appeal to those of you who want to know about what’s going on behind the media hype, or complete lack thereof. In writing and via podcasts.

Photos by D. Clark MacPherson

Politics as Usual

“Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.”

— Nikita Krushchev

With Donald Trump and his tribe attempting to re-group in Florida, Biden has moved forward with only a few mentions of the January 6th riot. And, in the Hamptons, little has been said about the fourth adjournment to June 6th of the sentencing of convicted former District Attorney Thomas Spota. However, Spota’s former enforcer, James Burke, has garnered some renewed interest worth noting. It seems that the Gilgo Beach murders, an extensive criminal endeavor that involved the killing of sixteen young women — a case that is still unsolved after ten years — has recently spawned a podcast called “Unraveled,” by Alexis Linkletter and Billy Jensen. And, that is in addition to “The Lost Girls,” a film about the unsuccessful search and prosecution of the perpetrator(s) on Spota’s watch.

Of course, Spota wasn’t just watching out for criminals. He was searching for “Marks.” Those whose prosecution could continue to fill his coffers — so that his “associates,” ranging from corrupt Assistant D.A.’s who suborned perjury and prosecuted his adversaries for cash “bonuses” — to political adversaries like journalists writing about corruption. According to Steve Bellone, the Suffolk County Executive, as quoted in the podcast “Unraveled” and quoted in Newsday, Spota was running a “Criminal Enterprise,” out of his office. When he is sentenced, he will likely appeal a la Shelly Silver, and never do any prison time. Unlike the 1000 bankers who went to jail during the Savings & Loan fiasco — and, before the likes of Goldman Sachs which finally got smart and installed several former CEO’s like Hank Paulson in D.C. government. Not one banker did any time for destroying American economy in 2008 as described in Michael Lewis’s “The Big Short.”

Unfortunately, borrowers like myself were not so lucky. I’ve written extensively about the experience in as yet unpublished non-fiction accounts of the criminal justice system, prison life, the cesspool of corruption and racism in the Hamptons, the Trump project in SoHo, as well as some dicey Manhattan landlords who have dispatched a few individuals in order to accumulate millions of dollars in real estate.

The characters involved with Deutsche Bank and its notorious subsidiary MortgageIt were infamously involved with a number of characters, as extensively written about in David Enrich’s “Dark Towers.” The bank, along with some others like Wells Fargo and Citibank, as well as numerous mortgage brokers like WCS Lending, walked away unscathed. But Deutsche was involved in mortgage fraud, money-laundering and mirror financing. In fact, the Trump SoHo financing likely came from Deutsche Bank via VTB Bank in Kazakhstan, as confirmed by Sater himself in one of his interviews. Kushner, Trump, Cohen, Sater and some interesting characters who appeared in front of Community Board #2 in 2007 for Trump SoHo (which I and others rejected and demonstrated about), were involved with the Spota and Southampton cabal. it was not only Spota and his gangster friends who tried to destroy journalists and political adversaries.

Stay Tuned.

— D. Clark MacPherson

SoHo’s Grand Hotels

There was a girl knocking on my hotel room door all night. Finally I let her out.”

— Henny Youngman

    

Apparently, the lack of tourists and grounded flights from Europe are finally starting to have an effect. SoHo hotels are feeling the pinch. The Trump SoHo project which was initially envisioned as a condo, a condo-hotel, and then, after foreclosure and bankruptcy it morphed into The Dominick. However, the 47 story hotel has been vacant since last spring. The door is boarded up and the only sign of life is a small enclosed area outside built to accept diners for a restaurant trying to survive. No appearances have occurred there either.

The James Hotel, built upon the old Moondance Diner site has been vacant almost as long, although it has recently changed ownership. Graffiti covers most of it and there’s no sign of life. SoHo 54, another hotel on Watts Street, is apparently yet another magnet for graffiti — but certainly not tourists or any clientele.

But, the more established property is The SoHo Grand, a hotel on West Broadway near Canal, owned by Leonard Stern’s Hartz Mountain Industries. It’s also the owner of the old Tribeca Grand, now called The Roxy. According to The Real Deal, Stern basically wants to hand over the keys and walk away from money-losing properties which have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. My own, less-than scientific assessment of their money woes, has been confirmed by doormen who have told me that the SoHo Grand has been running at about thirty percent occupancy.

In addition to the hotel situation, the condos and rentals situation have become dicey. The building recently completed at 111 Varick had profusely advertised affordable housing but those units seem to be phantoms that disappeared once the building permit was issued. i’ve called their rental office and was referred to HPD, who also knows nothing. Neither Community Board #2 nor HPD (where the info purportedly lies), seem to have any information on any affordable housing apartments. And, the Renzo Piano building at Broome and Varick is also cipher. That location, originally approved for an eight story rental, which then became a hotel site, then morphed into TWO 30 story towers. How’s that for working the Community Board and using the right lobbyist to get around height and use limitations? So, I stopped in, after having watched it be completed after two years and was told that the condos were seventy percent sold. That was a few months ago. So, I stopped in again — and was told that almost fifty percent are sold almost two months later. So, what does that tell you? Shades of Ivanka and Don Jr. with Trump SoHo? I suspect sales are not going so well.

I’ve got my own problems, of course, I can’t even get heat in a building from 1920 where the landlord has spent the last 20 years evicting all of the rent-stabilized tenants — utilizing the courts and high-priced lawyers to drive the statutory tenants from their homes. The landlord operates like a criminal enterprise run by dentists — but good luck getting anyone to investigate. Law enforcement in this town is beholden to the real estate industry and the courts and judges themselves have deep pockets. Judges are supposedly community oriented but, my landlord’s lawyers never met a judge they couldn’t convince. Judge Braun of Manhattan Supreme Court let my own landlord drive a holdover case for seven years until the legal fees were $500,000. All to remain in a rent-stabilized apartment and not be ejected? Sounds like a book to me. Bizarre. Abuse and harassment laws should require that legal fees be assumed by landlords — if tenants continue to be obligated to pay rent while they’re being sued. That’s the trick, you see. Use the courts to require rent AND legal fees to be paid at the same time. It always results in the tenant taking a small settlement to walk away. It’s eviction in another form.

Maybe the answer is that SoHo is the ideal location for the homeless. The re-zoning that’s being planned certainly isn’t to help the middle-class tenants or homeless or those who need affordable housing. If that were the case politicians would do something about now! Landlords and developers have been shitting on us for decades and it looks like it took a pandemic for rents to start dropping and at least delay pushing people out of their homes for more condos and and more high-priced apartments. Current claims about affordable housing being provided by landlords or developers is just bullshit.. All of the City agencies are either conned or crooked and fall for the same old tired promises that never pan out. So, maybe we should just give some space in the empty hotels to homeless people — before WE are going to need those spaces once the evictions and moratorium on foreclosures end and the courts reopen. We could all be next.

The vacant SoHo 54 Hotel – Photo by D. Clark MacPherson

SoHo 54 Hotel – Photo by D. Clark MacPherson
The vacant James Hotel – Photo by D. Clark MacPherson
The James Hotel – D. Clark MacPherson
The SoHo Grand Hotel – Photo by D. Clark MacPherson
The SoHo Grand Hotel – Photo by D. Clark MacPherson
The Dominick – former Trump SoHo – Photo by D. Clark MacPherson
Manhattan Mini-storage — where Felix Sater stored his guns during the Trump SoHo approvals at CB2.
Photo by D. Clark MacPherson

The Snow Job

I guess the only time most people think about injustice is when it happens to them.

— Henry Bukowski

I think it was at the beginning of my third year in prison that I’d decided I had a problem with Truth. Having written copiously about political corruption in SoHo and in the Hamptons, I knew that whatever I wrote was bound to create some controversy. We all know about “fake news” and how a lot of political, financial, and social commentary is basically horseshit. The media does lie extensively. For example, the old version of the downtown publication, The Villager, supported Shelly Silver and did an assassination piece on me without checking out truth of any of its so-called source material. The “truth” in this case came directly from the faxed press releases of a corrupt politician in the Hamptons. The Villager’s publisher John Sutter had an agenda. Meanwhile the Village Voice was a great publication (which will soon publish again) that became a telephone book of ads. Let’s see what they do this time around. Then, of course, there was the SoHo Journal. And, it published a little too much about reality and Truth, that dangerous combination. And, it pissed off a lot of people. Especially those with power.

Mistakenly, as writer and publisher I believed that telling the truth was a good place to be. Unfortunately, keeping your skirts squeaky clean is more important when shooting from the hip if you piss anyone off. Getting caught during the Great Recession with mortgages that the banks were giving away like candy bars (Liar Loans), with applications that mortgage brokers manipulated even for the likes of Donald Trump — created an opportunity for retaliation. The banks, of course, had created a CDO (Collateralized Debt Obligation) Ponzi scheme worth hundreds of billions that they were protecting. Michael Lewis in “The Big Short” describes that perfectly. They were not going to get hurt — especially, after having learned their lesson during the Savings and Loan crisis when a thousand bankers went to jail. The bankers were now part of government and Goldman Sachs was in control of who now got prosecuted for what.

Meanwhile, Hamptons District Attorney Thomas Spota and his prosecutors saw an opportunity and pounced. Here was the chance to retaliate against the exposure of their criminal enterprise. Anyone who’d like to know what a “plea deal” is really like should pay attention. In one book, “Bonfires in the Hamptons,” that wild ride is described, which resembles “The Wolf of Wall Street.” And then there is, “Up & Away,” an absurdist view of the prison system — and is a view of criminal justice that is elucidating and disturbing. And, the five volume “Gulag,” describes what mass incarceration and racism really looks and feels like from the inside looking out. These, as yet unpublished books, bring a new level of Truth to Justice.

Former D.A. Spota awaits sentencing in March for his conviction. Among those who were prosecuted include former Police Commissioner James Burke and his Anti-Terrorism Chief Christopher McPartland. His former cabal from the Town of Southampton were also involved and investigated.

So, what’s next?

Two of the most important races coming up in Manhattan are Borough President and District Attorney. The Queens D.A. race is over and despite the fact that I knew Melinda Katz, I’ve had no contact with her in a decade. There’s nothing to add about her success — she’ll do a great job. And, my first and last lunch at Barolo with Cy Vance during his first run for D.A. was my only contact with him as well. Since I’ve been unable to get anywhere near Hogan Place since I’d interviewed Bob Morgenthau, I do not believe Vance is running again. He’s put together a team to prosecute Trump — so what more needs to be said? It’s my understanding that he’s supporting Lucy Lang.

Among the other candidates, so I’ve been told, are Tali Farhadian Weinstein, Alan Bragg, Liz Crotty, and Tahani Aboushi — followed by prosecutor Diana Florence. I’ll fill in any blanks or relevant information about these candidates as time goes on.

Meanwhile, we’ll bring you more information about the Borough President race as well. Brad Hoylman will be first, among equals, of course. He’s the State Senator behind the renter’s protection during the pandemic. He deserves the attention.

Meanwhile, here are some recent photos from SoHo. But, keep your eye on 111 Varick Street. While Community Board 2 promised a number of affordable units in that approved development — so far, that’s all bullshit, which seems to have been promised in order to get a building permit.

Article and Photos by D. Clark MacPherson

This is who is running in the D.A.’s race

Stay Tuned.

The State of SoHo

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out…”

— Hunter Thompson

Masked men and women proliferate as the stores have lines outside as people wait to get in to shop. Not long lines, of course, short lines. Some of the restaurants seem to be doing okay if you don’t mind eating on the sidewalk while wearing your snowsuit. A few places have apparently invested heavily in heating devices that seem to be sufficient for those who like heading to the Arctic for lunch.

Broadway has a decent amount of foot traffic, West Broadway is doing okay, and surprisingly, Wooster, Greene and Mercer are busy. However, there are many empty storefronts. It’s always been a question. With the Stock Market doing fairly well, where does the fact that so many businesses have failed and closed up appear in the figures from Washington and Wall Street? At Starbucks there are no tables to sit at and the workers chase you off if you sit on a sill by the window — even though you may be the only customer with three workers behind the counter. How does that work out for Customer Appreciation?

You’d think, in this environment, that they’d be so happy to see you come in to the store that they’d play the sax or bring in a Mariachi band. But, that’s Old School, isn’t it?

Next issue: District Attorney and Borough President candidates

Eating in glass houses on West Broadway. Photo by D. Clark MacPherson

The new heating system. Photo by D. Clark MacPherson
Cipriani On Ice. Photo by D. Clark MacPherson
Cipriani expanded. Photo by D. Clark MacPherson
The Villager. Photo by D. Clark MacPherson
Art Trumps business. Photo by D. Clark MacPherson

Stay Tuned.

Covid Redux

New York is not the place that it was. Everyone’s leaving.”

— Donald Trump

As the helicopters flew overhead, no doubt searching for wayward protestors, West Broadway was like a walk down memory lane. Several of the restaurants were closed and gone while others were holding on, no doubt in anticipation of the second round of indoor closings due to Covid-19. A few places were showing signs of life and have constructed elaborate outdoor dining sheds. Several had heaters and dubious structures. The concept of free air flow to avoid contamination seems to have been lost in the translation. But, at least some of the businesses have managed to stay one step ahead of complete devastation.

So, like it or not, SoHo is managing to stay alive as we all wait to see whether the vaccines will work and whether the New York economy will weather this particular storm.

Meanwhile, in the Hamptons, restaurants continue to allow indoor dining at fifty percent of occupancy. The economy is doing fairly well and the real estate market is alive and functioning. Recent sales have been healthy and properties have been selling quickly. In fact, one broker reported that an oceanfront home was listed for $16 million dollars and sold in five days.

On a political front in the Hamptons, former District Attorney Thomas Spota, who was convicted last year of obstruction of justice and was described as having operated a criminal enterprise out of his office, is slated to be sentenced on March 24th. His forte was in prosecuting opponents, political rivals and journalists — using the machinery of his office as well as corrupt A.D.A’s to force pleas from people who were innocent.

So, what else is new.

Here are some current West Broadway scenes in SoHo.