SoHo Alive

“Life must be lived as play.”


It’s been a while, has it not? While there are doubts about the wisdom of opening up, in light of the continuing disasters in India, Pakistan and Brazil, that seems not to be on the mind of SoHo diners. To the delight of restauranteurs and store owners, on West Broadway at least, the sidewalks and interiors of many establishments were crowded this weekend. Even a few vendors were out.

The World Trade Center Disaster

“We don’t even ask happiness, just a little less pain.”
-Henry Bukowski

Those of us who heard the first plane fly over our apartment building remember the ensuing terror. I thought it was a military jet because it flew so low that it would explain the roar of the jet engines. Suspiciously, I turned on the T.V. and watched the first burning tower as the second plane came in from across the Hudson River from New Jersey — and watched the second tower being hit. After the procession of emergency vehicles began down 7th avenue, life settled into a dull routine of fear. That was the lull before we watched the two towers collapse. I and my family were petrified and joined a neighbor who resolved his fears by immediately starting to drink. It’s been twenty years since we inhaled the smoke from those burning fires that lasted almost 6 months.

The promise of some sort of compensation perked us up. My oldest son suffered from recurrent nightmares and seizures. My wife had thyroid problems and asthma. My daughter developed a strange confluence of maladies that caused her to pass out. I developed cancer. And, we all had gastroenterological problems. We all suffered from PTSD. You can’t watch people jumping from the 90th floor of a building and not come away with something.

We registered with the WTC for medical treatment. We hired an attorney to handle the matter and registered. We were unable to file a claim with the VCF (Victims Compensation Fund) until 2018 for some arcane reason. It seemed like a long time before we could get assistance. Since our landlord never cleaned the defective venting system in our apartment, we learned that we had been exposed to the toxic dust for years beyond the actual disaster. But, finally our claim was in. After asking about how long this would take — since it didn’t feel like we were pushing to expect some sort of payment 17 years after being exposed — we were told 12-18 months. We’d waited this long, so WTF. Obviously, having been convicted for my writing, they weren’t sending checks to prisoners. And, my family had its hands full with the landlord trying to evict them while I was making license plates.

Meanwhile, they claimed that the VCF and WTC Health program was running out of money. What? I was aware that all of the businesses that claimed they’d been destroyed by the Terror attack — and, had been investigated and prosecuted for accepting money. I mean, after all, that’s what government does, right? And, all of the downtown politicians had appeared numerous times with construction hats on and cameras rolling to show how they cared. Lots of uniforms, speeches, solemn moods and faces. Everyone, including Madelaine Wils, Julie Menin, Mayors Guiliani and Bloomberg, Bernard Kerik and assorted politicians from New York and Washington. Everyone got on board. So what was the problem?

Finally, it took a comedian — Jon Stewart — to get things moving. In 2019 Stewart started to make waves about people waiting to get paid while the staff, the politicians, even the people answering the phone, were. But, they were running out of money for the health treatment and for the award checks. The publicity worked. Even a Republican controlled economy with a President who now hated New York and wanted to retaliate for not loving him and his sexual prowess banter — allowed a bill with $10 Billion dollars in new money to guarantee that it would fulfill its mission. Even Moscow Mitch went along. Unfortunately, the true mission was not underscored.

That mission was to keep the salary checks flowing for the WTC Health program and the VCF bureaucracy.

My wife’s asthma medication would be called in to our pharmacy but the WTC wouldn’t pay for it even though they’d prescribed it. No part of her thyroid operation was covered. It took nearly a year for my GERD medication to be paid for. And, that’s not to mention the bills we have received for treatment. Bills for treatment supposedly covered — is this double dipping?

But even more important, even with cancer, there was no award check.

Now, I don’t know Jon Stewart. And, I don’t think he gives a shit that I cannot now find a job due to my illness or due to the mind-fucking that I’ve received — along with the concomitant fraudulent felonies heaped upon me due to my writing about the criminal enterprise and pay-to-play operation that was being operated by Thomas Spota — the former D.A. in the Hamptons. Check Newsday from today and that story gets really interesting and has expanded to include Steve Levy, the Suffolk County Executive who was about to challenge Cuomo as Governor. But it’s not nearly the whole story. It doesn’t mention all of the corrupt judges, lawyers and A.D.A.s working out of Spota’s office before he was convicted.

In all fairness, Stewart was doing a P.R. play in order to get firemen, cops, EMT workers and others paid before they died from the toxic exposure. And that is as it should have happened. But, once again, who gives a damn about a journalist who wrote about the disaster, visited the burning site and published a magazine that underscored the devastation in SoHo from 9-11 and gave out free publicity and ads to help them? No other publication did that. Only The SoHo Journal. I mean, we can’t all be as lucky as Jamal Khashoggi or Anna Politovskaya and get it over with quickly. Some of us, who’ve tried to warn everyone about what was going on, have been forced to linger!

Only Senator Schumer’s office has helped. Only an assistant named Selena Cardona in that office has helped. No other politician has raised a finger or given a shit. We’ve received no help, no payment, no outreach, even though they got their $10 Billion dollar shot in the arm.

So, thanks, Jon. The employees of this indifferent bureaucracy are being guaranteed their salary checks until 2090. But, as the clerk has repeatedly told me on the phone in Washington at the VCF, twenty years later, “it’s under review.” When I complained to my lawyer about the fact that I might be dead by the time I received any payment, he said, “I have a lot of dead clients.”

Affordable Housing – Part Deux

“I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours.”

— Hunter Thompson

In few cities across the country would tenants put up with the abuse that thus far has contributed to the quality of life in Manhattan. The dearth of decent quality housing at affordable price has been the long-suffering experience of those who have chosen to live in Manhattan. In fact, Affordable Housing has been the mantra of many politicians wishing to gain favor with liberals and the rapidly disappearing middle-class. And, up to the present moment, since the pandemic has softened the big-stick policy of some landlords because rents are dropping, that situation has temporarily ameliorated. But, don’t be fooled. Landlords like Simon Legree, who said of his tenant, “Give him the worst floggin’ he ever had,” are still trying to evict us AND get paid at the same time.

Unfortunately, for corporate rent-gougers the courts are still closed and there’s a moratorium. But the $750/hr. lawyers and judges who pander to the tried-an-true “Litigate to Evict” game will be back, rest assured. In fact, in its heyday when Luxury Decontrol was a thing — there was nothing that couldn’t be accomplished with a Holdover Action. Not separating your garbage could be the basis for landlords to drag you into court. Not Housing Court, mind you — real court, Supreme Court — where motion practice at $750/hr. could bankrupt any tenant in short order. Several years of litigation while being required to pay rent AND a lawyer was impossible for most tenants. Buy-outs, the legal extortion racket used by such landlords and their attorneys, on the cheap, were common. In my building, 75% of the original rent-stabilized tenants were removed using this legal ploy. And, not only the courts, but HPD, that City agency which Shaun Donovan oversaw, whose responsibility it is to investigate complaints and support Rent-Stabilized tenants, seemed to be working for deep-pocketed landlords. Certainly not the tenants. While things have abated since Luxury Decontrol was eliminated, thanks to lawmakers like Brad Hoylman, threats remain. Abuse and harassment is rife and try fighting a corrupt landlord who regularly withholds heat with an HPD that seems like it’s on the take.

In my case, having barely managed to withstand 7 years of litigation while I was in prison for my articles exposing corruption in SoHo and in Southampton (D.A. Thomas Spota currently awaits sentencing for operating a criminal enterprise) — the landlord continued the onslaught to evict my family. The landlord even worked with the convicted D.A. to help. In fact, the landlord went to the extreme and filed a complaint against its own building, followed by litigation due to our “illegal” loft construction (approved by the former building owner) which historically put SoHo on the map and enriched developers as well as some artists. The little ploy to evict me and my family cost $500,000, a case which one supposedly liberal jurist, Judge Braun, oversaw in Supreme Court. We weren’t evicted but I had to pay the landlord’s legal fees for the privilege of remaining in our apartment. For what? Why? Were judges so eager to reward corrupt landlords and their brethren in the courts? And, what about Affordable Housing and the “Litigate to Evict” game?

Eviction ploys come in several forms — the most effective being Holdover Actions. Request for help from HPD and the politicians in our case fell on deaf ears. Margaret Chin wouldn’t even make an appearance because “we don’t appear on behalf of tenants.” I suspect that is patently false. Just as I suspect will be the case if we fall for the Affordable Housing ploy used to get people elected — and to support the new SoHo/NoHo rezoning. Trust me, once the deals are done, and the developers and supplicants, those faceless multi-millionaires and billionaires who collect their vig while tenants try getting heat, they’ll all have scurried back to their $10-20 million dollar lofts. Don’t believe the bullshit. They could care less about New Yorkers, SoHo, NoHo, downtown residents, or even people desperately needing affordable housing. If they had, my story could never have happened. The Community Board and my “friends” who knew about the unfolding and decades long travesty looked the other way. One Chair of the Board knew about our plight but cashed in selling his townhouse to developers for $17 million — and snickered at our lowly “problem.” Affordable Housing wasn’t on his radar, nor anyone else’s on the Board.

111 Varick is a perfect example of Affordable Houseing. No one even knew how to access the supposedly “affordable” units. Or, that they even existed. Community Board 2 approved the 111 Varick Street project but then dropped getting that information out to constituents completely. The website, operated by HPD, for finding Affordable Housing units is practically an unknown to any politician or Board member — including those members on the zoning committee which approves developments.

So, here’s a little outtake, sort of like an SNL sketch describing HPD and their “Community Preservation” efforts to give you an example of what really happens when you have a problem. In my building where two floors of the ten floors is/was rent-stabilized for nearly 40 years — and was updated for the two bottom floors which previously had been commercially zoned — are now Loft Board units. The eight floors above those Loft Law units remain rent-stabilized but can no longer make heat complaints, since 311 will not take the complaint. After evicting or extorting stabilized tenants out and then re-renting the decontrolled apartments to market rate tenants, the commercial unit tenants got tired of being threatened, abused, extorted and harassed for decades because they weren’t supposed to “live” in those units — and finally got the City to cover them under the Loft Law. Those tenants had been exposed to abuse and spurred on by the landlord to in-turn physically threaten other tenants in the building — who had been told there was a conspiracy among the rent-stabilized tenants to force them out. The D.A. wasn’t interested in prosecuting the landlord due to lack of proof. Who would make a complaint and then be evicted? It became like living in an apartment operated by the Stasi.

Here’s what it was like recently in reporting no heat to HPD:

“Deputy Commissioner Santiago — Assistant Renee Peay — Inspector Mulligan — Hillary Post — Natasha — HPD Division of Enforcement

Here is an example of my making complaints.

The contact number you have given me for heat complaints landed on the desk of one Natasha.

The last couple of times a Mr. Mulligan handled the complaints and sent someone to check out my apartment. Once the complaint is made with HPD an inspector is sent and the heat miraculously comes on because the building owner is alerted and they then act. It is a cumbersome way to get heat but what can you expect for rents of $5,000 to $7,000 per month?

However, this last time, here is what happened: Natasha took my complaint of no heat, telling me that she normally does not do this, but as a favor she told me that a lack of heat complaint was filed and gave me the following number — on 4/15/21 #xxxx0198.
The next day the super arrived, yelling at me that I had reported to HPD that my radiators had been removed in my apartment. I told him that I never reported such a thing. He never responded to my next question about why, in 50 degree temperature had the heat been off for the entire building. It was a well-worn conversation.

I called Natasha at HPD again and asked her why she reported that I’d told her that the radiators were removed. She replied that since my building was unable to call 311 and report heat complaints due to the false characterization of my building as a Loft Law building — instead of the Rent Stabilized building that it has been for 35 years — there was no place in her reporting system to indicate that I had no heat. Her office didn’t take heat complaints — this was only an accommodation. The only box she could check in order to get an inspector out to the apartment was to report that my radiators had been removed. I said, if I’d reported that I had no water would she report that I’d removed the toilet and bathtub?

A Mr. Mulligan then called me and I explained that I’d only reported a lack of heat and that the landlord, who, for 35 years had used the “Blame the Victim” technique would now use this report of removing the radiators to show that I was now vandalizing the apartment. After all, when I’d had pipe breaks in the past, the landlord had widely spread the rumor (especially to our downstairs neighbor who’s furniture was ruined) that I’d poured water on the floor and when I reported a bedbug infestation coming from those Loft Law tenants who’d been abused for years and lived in fear of eviction, I was told that my kids were just “dirty.” Our previous court experience had taken 7 years and cost $500,000 and due to the judge’s desire to be appointed to the Federal bench, allowed the landlord to force my wife to remove our loft improvements (which the previous owner permitted) even though half of SoHo was built upon that precedent. And, they were awarded a judgment for THEIR legal fees in trying to fuck me. My teenage daughter was now evicted and had no room after deconstructing the loft — while I remained in prison!

Mulligan said not to worry about it. That I should just explain the situation to the inspector who arrives and he would dutifully report the situation. So, the inspector arrived the next day and, of course, the landlord, having been first called by HPD to warn them, there was heat. So, when the inspector arrived he was told that the heat was now on and we didn’t need him.

The violation report from HPD that he turned in stated that I had refused to allow the inspector into the apartment. In order to obtain heat, even though I had followed the procedure your office provided since I can no longer call 311 — because we are covered by the Loft Law, which, in fact, we are not — and thusly our violation report shows this:

“An inspection was attempted on 4/16/21 in response to your complaint. The complaint has been canceled for the following reason:
Plumbing – Radiator – MIssing/Removed – Tenant Refused Access. If the condition still exists please file a new complaint with 311.”

Now, in addition to having it on record that I must have removed the radiators; that I wouldn’t let the inspector in to inspect the damage of an obviously psychopathic tenant who abuses the landlord — we have no heat because it’s 70 degrees outside. And, that I should call 311.

I wonder how that’ll play in court when we get there again and try to explain why I removed all of my radiators in a rage against my kindly landlord?

This is a warning about Affordable Housing and how this charade actually plays out. Don’t buy it. Thus far, it is a poorly conceived hoax.

Note: A forthcoming book about SoHo, the landlord in this article and the Hamptons is currently in preparation.

Stay Tuned

The Candidates: Manhattan D.A.

In continuing the series of focal points about the candidates, here is one of the primary issues coming from the Weinstein campaign — white-collar and cyber crime. Here’s her viewpoint on what she plans to do about it.

Tali Farhadian Weinstein for Manhattan District Attorney
The late Robert Morgenthau was fond of saying the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office prosecuted from “the streets to the suites.” This was more than a turn of phrase — it represented a philosophy that put everyone from con artists and embezzlers, to tax cheats and corporations, on notice and held everyone, including the powerful, accountable.

Mr. Morgenthau’s words have never been more important than right now. As Manhattan struggles to recover under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, white-collar and cybercriminals stole nearly $416 million from more than 35,000 of Manhattan’s most vulnerable residents in 2020 alone, representing lost jobs, retiree pension funds, fair wages, and tax revenue we need for the city’s recovery.

I have plans to put white-collar and cyber criminals on notice. As Manhattan DA, I’ll use my experiences as a prosecutor and a manager to hold perpetrators of economic crimes accountable — no matter who they are, what power they yield, their wealth or social status, or what offices they occupy.

Read my comprehensive plan to protect Manhattanites from the rapidly evolving public threat of cyber and white-collar crime.  When white-collar criminals are left unchecked, it’s our most vulnerable who suffer — immigrants, non-citizens, the elderly, workers trying to make a living. That’s why I’m determined to use my experience as a federal prosecutor in the Public Integrity Section, where I ran complex investigations and prosecutions ranging from tax evasion and bribery to economic sanctions violations — and in Brooklyn, where I helped restructure the office to maximize accountability and deterrence — to reinvigorate the Manhattan DA’s storied commitment to fighting economic crime alongside violent crime.

Learn more about my plans to take immediate and sustained action to protect Manhattanites from economic crime here.


The Candidates: Justice and Reform

Several candidates for Manhattan District Attorney have spoken about the trial and conviction involving the death of George Floyd. Alvin Bragg, who some consider to be uniquely positioned to make changes in the functioning of our criminal justice system, has addressed us with the following letter:

Democrat Alvin Bragg for Manhattan DA

While yesterday’s verdict was a significant victory for police accountability, the Derek Chauvin trial did not deliver justice. George Floyd is still senselessly dead and our system is still deeply flawed.

Like many of us, I still couldn’t sleep last night.  I thought about Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Delrawn Small, and Breonna Taylor.  Adam Toledo, with his hands up.  Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, with pepper spray not only in his eyes, but dousing the very uniform he wears for our country.  I thought about Emmett Till.  I thought about my gunpoint stops by the police, and my children and your children.  I prayed for us all. 

Of course, I thought about George Floyd’s family.  How they had to endure the defense trotting out the tired “Black bogeyman” defense — trying to put George Floyd, and not Derek Chauvin on trial.  I am grateful that the jury rejected this and saw what we all saw: a gruesome killing. 

Let us continue to reflect and honor George Floyd’s life.  Let us also continue to work to dismantle a system that responds to an alleged counterfeit bill or an alleged traffic violation with militarized force.  One rife with racial disparities.  One where a police officer can put his knee on someone’s neck for over nine minutes, in broad daylight, and on video, and we still have to be on pins and needles waiting for a jury to decide what is obvious. 

There is much work to be done.  Let us grow not weary in our fight for justice. 



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.

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