Politics

“Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”

–John F. Kennedy

For those of you who care at all about politics, you know, the business that Ronnie Reagan called the second oldest profession, the most interesting race in Manhattan is the upcoming brawl between Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney — two behemoths of the Democratic Party establishment. The recent court decision which identified the new boundaries of the 12th Congressional District pits Maloney against Nadler, two decades-long stars. The third leg of this ugly little imbroglio is a newcomer by the name of Patel. Apparently, no one knows much about him except that he’s likely to fuck up the election and might win if everyone gets pissed off enough about the situation.

Observers who witnessed the debate say that Nadler and Maloney looked tired. Well, who wouldn’t look tired after thirty years in politics? I mean, after living downtown for fifty years, being hit by cars and drivers who don’t give a shit about pedestrians, prosecuted by a criminal District Attorney in the Hamptons for exposing corruption, dealing with landlords who operated a sex-trafficking operation, and dealing with an apparently overwhelmed NYPD — I’m tired too. And, I’m not even getting paid!

But, this is a big deal. Just imagine the hostility and angst. The voters have to choose between two giants in the business. I’m not going to help you choose here because I don’t have a preference and don’t know enough. But, as Dan Quayle said, “A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls.” So, vote. Here’s an ad that I received.

Hi,

UES Progressives is hosting a candidate forum TONIGHT, August 4th, at 7:00pm for the exciting Congressional race in NY 12. RSVP HERE to get the zoom link!

All three main candidates will be there:

So sign up and join us at 7:00pm TONIGHT and see what they have to say!

And remember that for this one election only, any registered voter can vote in any party primary. This is a great opportunity to involve your non-Dem friends, so let them know!

See you later!

Brian and Ting

The State of SoHo and Artist Lofts

Dear Resident —

Last week Governor Hochul signed a bill into law that now permits non-artist residents of SoHo and NoHo residing in units zoned for Joint Live-Work Quarters for Artists (JLWQA) prior to December 15, 2021 to continue their non-conforming residency without any fear of penalties or fines.

This legislation, enshrined in the state’s Multiple Dwelling Law, legalizes the thousands of SoHo/NoHo non-artist residents who had been living in fear of eviction or governmental penalties, some of them for decades. You can read the law here.

The law, first proposed by the Coaltion for Fairness in SoHo and NoHo, was sponsored by Deborah Glick in the Assembly and by Brian Kavanagh in the State Senate. We applaud their efforts at removing this outdated zoning provision.

It remains to be seen how the city will handle new residents who move in after December 15. 

So far we have heard of no talk of the city suddenly enforcing the artist requirement on newcomers. However, the forces behind the rezoning, like the Department of City Planning, will likely still attempt to implement some of the onerous provisions of the upzoning, like the punitive $100 per square-foot filing fee for those residents who may want to convert from JLWQA to straight residential. Stay tuned.

*************************************

Absentee Ballots

You may recall that the political district lines initially drawn up this spring in Albany were thrown out by a court-appointed arbitrator and new lines had to be drawn. That took time. 

Hence a Democratic Party primary election for these two offices is now scheduled for August 23, mid-summer. This election will determine who will represent you in Congress and the State Senate in the years ahead. 

We expect turnout to be very low, especially since the election is during the vacation season. It is essential your vote be counted. Do not disenfranchise yourself. If you think you will not be in the city that day, please request an absentee ballot now. Click here https://nycabsentee.com/absentee

Sean Sweeney, Director, SoHo Alliance

PO Box 429 New York NY 10012 212-353-8466

info@sohoalliance.org — sohoalliance.org

NOTE: Currently, the Jackie Robinson Museum festivities are finally up and running. Due to this we will have a reprieve from the endless construction and debris around Grand Street until at least July 27th, at which time you’d have to assume that the temporary building will be removed and the gas line construction will continue.

The Candidates: Early Voting has Arrived!

Here’s your chance to show your Civic Pride in a world of confusion and danger to Democracy. So vote and “keep the faith baby” as Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. used to say — because this is the essence of what we are trying to protect. No matter what your take is on the obvious corruption and even criminality exhibited by those who would destroy our system — its full steam ahead. Vote, as if your life depended on it! Here are the suggestions from a reputable organization that I once was a member of — The SoHo Alliance — before the criminals in the Hamptons got their hands on me:

“Early Voting begins today and continues through Primary day, Tuesday, June 28. To find your polling site for Primary day, click here. To find the days and hours for early voting or for absentee ballot information, click here.

  *   *   *

Although the SoHo Alliance is non-partisan, the fact is that lower Manhattan has a 6-1 Democratic majority. It is inevitable that whoever win the Democratic primaries will be our next elected representatives. 

Below are the recommendations of the Downtown Independent Democrats, DID, our friends and neighborhood political activists. Voters may know whom they want for president or governor, but some “down-ballot” races are overlooked in the press. Thus these following recommendations:

66th Assembly  District – Deborah Glick

65th Assembly District – Grace Lee

State Committee Member – 65th Assembly District – Kathryn Freed

State Committee Member – 66th Assembly District – Rachel Lavine

Civil Court, 2nd District – David Fraiden

Manhattan Surrogate Court – Hilary Gingold

  *   *   *

66th Assembly District – covers the lower West Side, including SoHo, NoHo, Greenwich Village and TriBeCa.

Deborah Glick for Assembly 

This year we have a classic contest between an incumbent who supports residents and reasonable land development versus a novice candidate who is in the back pocket of the real estate lobby.

Deborah Glick is one of our strongest advocates in Albany for tenants’ rights. Glick sponsored and won renewal of the Loft Law. She was the most outspoken elected official in opposing the upzoning of SoHo/NoHo/Chinatown.

Famously championing women’s and LGBTQ rights, Glick’s leadership in passing the Reproductive Health Act has ensured protection of abortion rights in our state. She was the lead sponsor of the Women’s Health and Wellness Act that promotes early detection and prevention of certain medical conditions affecting women. 

In contrast to Glick’s support of residents over developers, her opponent, Ryder Kessler, is a well-funded shill for the real estate industry. Tellingly, 95% of his campaign contributions have come from special interests located outside our community.

Kessler won the endorsement of Open NY, a lobbying outfit founded by a wealthy landlord and heir to a steel fortune. Like Open NY, Kessler strongly supports the upzoning of SoHo/NoHo/Chinatown and the destruction of our beloved Elizabeth Street Garden. It is unclear what he actually does for a living. Yet he was able to loan his campaign $70,000. 

Go with Glick.

  *   *   *

65th Assembly District – covers the Lower East Side and southern Manhattan, including SoHo from the east side of Crosby Street to Lafayette/Centre Streets eastward

Grace Lee for Assembly

The district’s current assemblymember, Yuh-Line Niou, is stepping down to run for Congress in the August Congressional primaries.Several candidates are running for the empty seat. 

The D.I.D. has wholeheartedly endorsed Grace Lee, a passionate community organizer. 

Ms. Lee co-founded Children First, a parent-led grassroots coalition fighting for the safe cleanup of a toxic mercury site in the South Street Seaport. Her steadfast organizing in the face of intense opposition from the developer, the Howard Hughes Corporation, has secured strong oversight rules and an independent monitor for the site cleanup.

Lee ha­­s also worked closely with deaf tenants living in deplorable conditions at a Federal housing complex for the hearing and speech impaired on the Lower East Side, helping them stand up to their building’s management. Grace helped organize the largest Thanksgiving food drive in lower Manhattan, donating and delivering thousands of turkeys to families in NYCHA housing. 

Her opponents’ efforts to improve our neighborhood pale in comparison, if they exist at all. It is for these reasons D.I.D. endorsed Grace Lee in the 65th Assembly District

  *   *   *

Democratic State Committee — The most  important election you never heard of.

Kathryn Freed for State Committee in the 65th Assembly District

Members of the Democratic State Committee serve as the local representatives within the statewide Democratic Party organization. The State Committee sets party policy and endorses candidates for statewide office.

Two candidates are squaring off: Jenny Lam Low and Kathryn Freed. 

Ms. Low has been current State Committee member for the past fourteen years but has not once engaged with voters on party policy. She is employed as an advisor to the City Council Speaker and is a Board of Elections commissioner, a party-appointed patronage position. Ms. Low is part and parcel of the Democratic Party Establishment. 

On the other hand, Kathryn Freed is independent. 

Kathryn was a co-founder of the SoHo Alliance. We elected her three times as our City Councilmember in the 1990s. She owed her job to the voters and fought hard for us, not the bosses. Term-limited, she was then elected first to the Civil Court and then to State Supreme Court, retiring last year.

Freed has pledged to make the state party more transparent, less involved with insider politics, and more concerned with the needs of everyday New Yorkers. 

  *   *   *

Rachel Lavine for State Committee in the 65th Assembly District

Two candidates are competing for State Committee in the 66th Assembly District, Rachel Lavine and Erin Hussein. Hussein has run for City Council and we agree with many of her positions. However, incumbent Rachel Lavine has served us so magnificently that it would be folly to replace her.

For example, Lavine is co-founder and chair of the State Committee’s Progressive Caucus. Just one of Lavine’s accomplishments there was writing and passing a State Committee resolution calling for the banning of hydrofracking in our state, which in turn led to Governor Cuomo’s moratorium on the practice. Rachel currently serves on the board of Eleanor’s Legacy, which works to elect pro-choice women. She first worked as a litigator and then public-interest attorney at Safe Horizon, the city’s largest victims-service agency, advocating for survivors of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault. Lavine is the one to go with.

  *   *   *

Judicial:

Civil Court, 2nd Municipal District – covers SoHo and parts of Greenwich Village, the East Village, Lower East Side and Chinatown

David Fraiden for Civil Court

Civil Court judges handle family issues, property damage, back rent, and landlord/tenant disputes. Two candidates are vying for this Civil Court seat. 

Carmen Pacheco lives in Brooklyn but is opportunistically running for the bench here in Manhattan. Worse, Pacheco has earned the dubious honor of being placed on the Public Advocate’s annual list of “Worst Landlords.” Do we want one of the city’s worst landlords adjudicating landlord/tenant disputes? She also has been accused of hurling racial slurs at a Black neighbor. 

On the other hand, David Fraiden, a Lower East Side lawyer and, until recently, a Federal immigration judge, has solid progressive and ethical credentials, has judicial experience — unlike his opponent — and has been endorsed by most of the local Democratic Party district leaders. 

  *   *   *

Manhattan Surrogate Court 

Surrogate Court judges hear cases involving wills, guardianships, adoptions, and the administration of estates. Two good candidates are contending, Elba Galvan and Hilary Gingold. After interviewing both at D.I.D.’s open public meeting, Downtown Independent Democrats endorsed Hilary Gingold for Surrogate Court.

For more endorsement information from Downtown Independent Democrats or how to get involved, visit their website here.

PLEASE FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS.

Sean Sweeney

Director

SoHo Alliance

PO Box 429

New York, NY 10012

212-353-8466

info@sohoalliance.org

sohoalliance.org

Stay Tuned folks.

And, keep your eyes open for my upcoming novels: Up & Away, Murder in SoHo, The Gulag, The Bonfire of the Hamptons, and The Snake Pit.

The Candidates: Kathryn Freed

In this voting season we will give you the best of the candidates running for office. Count on that. Kathryn Freed fought for SoHo as its Councilmember and sat on the bench in Supreme Court.

D. Clark MacPherson

Kathryn Freed

Candidate for Democratic State Committee AD 65

Kathryn is a long time Lower Manhattan resident and community activist. As an attorney representing tenants and tenant groups, and practicing employment discrimination law and election law, she was influential in writing and passing the landmark Loft Law, protecting artist housing, and passing other tenant protections;

• Served as a member of CB 1 for over 15 years, two terms as its chair;
• Was City Councilmember for Downtown District # 1 for ten years;
• Elected to the Judiciary and served seventeen years as a New York Judge, lastly as a NY State Supreme Court Justice.

Retiring from the Judiciary last year, she has been deeply active in our community:
• Opposing the SoHo/NoHo/Chinatown up-zoning
• Working against climate destruction, especially in East River Park
• Working for air monitoring and environmental safeguards for the Lower Manhattan Waterfront, especially in the Lands End and Two Bridges Area, 250 Water Street, Smith Houses and the former East River Park site.
• Calling for effective Resiliency measures and interim flood protection
• Opposing the Chinatown mega jail
• Calling for a moratorium on additional Homeless Shelters in Chinatown and Little Italy due to the current proliferation of Homeless Shelters in those communities
• Supporting our AAPI Community, calling for additional measures for protection against the vicious and prolific anti-Asian hate crimes.
• Calling for a comprehensive plan to deal with Mental illness, homelessness and to provide more affordable housing
• Supporting zoning changes that will protect communities, especially communities of color, from over development, while allowing growth that still protects middle and lower income housing and local businesses.
• Supporting pushing for 100% Affordable Housing at 5 World Trade CenterKathryn is running for the State Committee, which is a volunteer Party position, that, among other things, helps set party rules. Having dedicated her adult life to fairness and justice, Kathryn has vowed to push to make the party more open, less concerned with insider politics and more concerned with the needs of the residents of New York.

She has been endorsed by the Grand Street Democrats, the Downtown Independent Democrats and the New Downtown Democrats.

Vote for Kathryn in the Democratic Primary Election to be held on June 28, 2022

No Guns or Butter

“Yes, people pull the trigger. But, guns are the instruments of death.”

— Eliot Spitzer

Everyone should be able to go to school, work, or to run errands and not be afraid for their lives. But with the outrageous gun laws in our country that cater to the extremist gun lobby and the politicians they fund, that is tragically not the case. As of the writing of this email, there has only been one day this month without a mass shooting.

Enough is enough. Enough with the daily mass shootings, enough with the easy access to high-caliber weapons, enough with the legislators who are unwilling to take action. Enough with the horror stories like we’ve recently seen in Buffalo, Uvalde, and El Paso.

We are tired. We are tired of the policy failures that lead to people being murdered by a white supremacist while they buy groceries for their families and to children and teachers being brutally murdered in their classrooms. We are tired of politicians who think “thoughts and prayers” are enough.

It is time to end this horror. A bipartisan group of Senate negotiators has agreed on a draft framework of gun safety and violence prevention measures. While this framework is not enough to solve the problem, it is a good first step. It breaks a 30-year gridlock in Congress to finally begin to put the safety of our communities and our children before the interests of the gun lobby and the politicians they fund.

We call on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Mitch McConnell to turn this framework into legislation and pass it immediately.

Text graphic with black background and photos of Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell in red and white. Yellow and white text reads: "Protect Our Children. End Gun Violence. Sign the petition demanding Senators Schumer and McConnell pass the bipartisan gun reform package!"

The draft proposal includes:

  • closing the “boyfriend loophole” so that no one, whether they’re a spouse or a dating partner, can purchase a gun if they have been convicted of domestic abuse;
  • funding to encourage states to pass “red flag” laws, crisis intervention measures that help get guns away from people who may pose a threat to themselves or others;
  • funding for improved school safety and increased mental health resources;
  • expanded background checks for gun purchases for people under age 21; and
  • penalties for illegal straw purchases by convicted criminals.

Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Senator McConnell must turn this framework into law and send it to the president’s desk immediately. We can’t wait any longer; our schools, grocery stores, churches, and communities should be places where everyone can live safely and securely, not places of violence and fear.

As our mission statement says, “We envision a world where equity is the norm and oppression, in all forms, is eradicated. It is a world without war and violence. The world we want is possible, but it will only exist if we work together.”

Join us in taking action to demand that our elected officials pass this commonsense gun safety legislation NOW – before more lives are lost.

In Solidarity,

Rosemary Rivera
Co-Executive Director
Citizen Action of New York

Rallying around the May Pole

“I’m in a New York state of mind.”

— Billy Joel

So rather than try to rephrase things and fuck it up — since I’d likely get a nasty call from Sean Sweeney, here’s his organizations take on current politics. We supported Marte and he fortunately won. We have high hopes. A few others that we supported won as well but the jury is out on that. We got behind Alvin Bragg and Adams but haven’t had any feedback on them yet. I like Adams’ energy though. I’m not holding my breath for a call from Bragg’s office unless they’re gunning for me like Thomas Spota did — which didn’t work out to well for him. I’m sure a few of you are disappointed about the decision on Trump but, hey who knows, right? I haven’t heard from Melinda Katz for a few years either (although I admit trying to reach her), but no soap since I interviewed her several years ago. But, that was before I was hit with 107 felony counts by a not yet imprisoned D.A. looking for cash.

However, I so think it’s time to start giving others a shot at downtown politics — like, for example, the Assembly. Ryder Kessler is running. Meanwhile, here’s what the SoHo Alliance has to tell us about the community.

A Volunteer Community Organization

Dear Don,

He swept SoHo in last year’s election and he’s still sweeping it.

City Councilmember Christopher Marte announced on Wednesday that he has reallocated funding to hire ACE workers to sweep our streets from Mercer to Wooster, Houston to Canal, three days week. ACE workers will also be maintaining the corner trash bins that currently often overflow with trash.

Dressed in their red work clothes, workers from ACE, the Agency of Community Empowerment Programs for the Homeless, were a familiar sight on SoHo streets for years.  

However, the program suffered from perennial fundraising shortfalls, causing it to cease its “free” street cleaning operation in 2016. (ACE is still retained by the SoHo Broadway Initiative to clean Broadway and the abutting side streets.)  

In response to ACE’s departure, in 2017 Clean-Up SoHo, a volunteer group with which the SoHo Alliance was involved, raised sufficient funds to purchase some eighty corner trash bins and hire workers for a year to bag and empty the trash on a daily basis. However, fundraising and organizing the cleaning services is basically a full-time job, beyond the scope of community volunteers.

So for the past several years, due in no small part to the budget cuts to the Department of Sanitation, SoHo streets have become increasingly littered. 

In response, earlier this year there was an effort to organize a BID, a Business Improvement District, to raise funds to clean the streets by increasing property taxes. With property taxes rising more than 10% annually here, that is the last thing we need. 

Not to mention that BIDs push for changes that primarily benefit commercial property owners and large multinational retailers — not local small businesses or residents. The role the SoHo Broadway BID played in the recent upzoning of SoHo/NoHo/Chinatown testifies to that. Who wants a BID to control the rest of SoHo in perpetuity?

Thus Councilmember Marte’s grant is a double blessing. We get cleaner streets and retain local control.

Marte says this funding is not a one-off, but will continue as long as he is in office. It is in tandem with a similar program he has arranged to clean Delancey Street on the Lower East Side.

Marte announced the news at a press conference last Wednesday at the corner of Greene and Prince Streets joined by ACE workers and local community activists.

Photos courtesy of thevillagesun.com

Our neighborhood provides the city so much revenue in property and sales tax receipts, yet has been the forgotten stepchild of so many past administrations, getting nothing in return but filthy streets and crowded sidewalks. It is so gratifying to have an elected official who helps rectify that unfair situation. Thank you, Chris.

PLEASE FORWARD THIS GOOD NEWS TO FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS.

Sincerely,

Sean Sweeney

Director

SoHo Alliance

PO Box 429

New York, NY 10012

212-353-8466

info@sohoalliance.org

sohoalliance.org

Keep your eyes open. I’ve got a few books coming out this summer. The world of Justice and the American Way was interesting and in these delightful stories I describe the joy of living in a New York State prison. In Up & Away I give a first hand picture of how corrupt politicians can destroy your life — while in The Bonfires of the Hamptons showcasing Trump SoHo, Dominatrixes, Hamptons real estate and a little prison thrown in — those of you who are still waiting for that knock on the door can pour yourselves another drink. And don’t think it can’t happen to you.

Now is the time for all good men…

“Peace in our time.”

— Neville Chamberlain

If you think things will get better if we wait, you’ve got another think coming. We can all delay the inevitable but the situation will only get much worse.

Stop the advance into Kiev and other cities now. Before the other countries that belonged to the old Soviet Union are also attacked; stop the anschluss now before Putin raises the anti and before the threats become more and more dangerous, ominous and threatening. There is no winning here. There is no placating here. There is only meeting force and intransigence with a reciprocal presence of power. Have we not spent enough money and created a formidable framework to protect Democracy? Time to stop the bullshit and show our hand. Right now, it’s a Full House. Later, it may be a pair of Deuces as we cower under new pretexts of fear.

The Ukrainians understand what the deal is. Either we come to their assistance now with an enforced “No fly zone,” which may very well result in war — or, we let the tanks roll over their children while we debate next year’s military budget. Speaking of which — double it NOW, not later, and create a bastion of democracy that is neither full of shit nor fearful of bullets, missiles or bombs. We can all chip in. Including Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Jamie Dimon, Mark Zuckerberg and the many billion dollar corporations that benefit from our “Best of all Possible Worlds” of Democracy, you know, our own home-grown Oligarchs. The ones that don’t share their wealth with anyone.

Here’s an opportunity for the Oath Keepers and Boogaloo Bois and militias who would like to kill Democrats to ship out and help in a real war where they can put their AK-47s and automatic rifles to good use. Perhaps Kyle Rittenhouse, that brave protector of freedom and democracy would like to join them? Perhaps the memory of Maria Butina, who conned the NRA into believing that she was going to support gun rights in Moscow could call upon the NRA membership and the executive committee and enjoin them to pick up their assault rifles and take a plane to Ukraine?

Be prepared to pay the price whatever the cost. Because this problem is NOT going to go away.

The time for protests is over. Now is the time for action.

Stay Tuned.

Sanction This

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“—so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.” 

– Alice in Wonderland

As we watch the news in this “Best of all Possible Worlds,” keep in mind that people with big money, whether earned or stolen have been buying up real estate in this country for decades. Paul Manafort, bless his pardoned heart, bought numerous properties since FinCen has been looking the other way in the Hamptons. Even Trump and his friends caught onto that play. And, then, there are the condos in Manhattan, in newly constructed buildings that curiously seem dark at night — for years. I once asked about the new twin towers at 565 Broome Street in SoHo. I wasn’t told that I was wrong — and that people don’t really stash that much money in Manhattan real estate and never occupy the new apartments — I was simply told, “No, it’s the Chinese. The Russians aren’t buying right now.”

So, if old Joe isn’t really worried about stepping on anyone’s toes, and he’s really serious, perhaps a review of multi-million dollar purchases in the Manhattan condo market when the price tag reaches over a certain dollar mark — as well as for those nifty little houses in Southampton, Amagansett, Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Sagaponack and Montauk which have changed hands since the early 2000’s when the money started to flow into broker’s coffers — perhaps a little investigating? Especially, when they were bought by shell companies and shills. A lot of cash that FinCen wasn’t watching being in those big broker’s escrow accounts could be elucidating.

Maybe contacting Donald Lochheim, the owner of the Southampton Press, who was the Mayor of Sagaponack could help with that. Apparently, being the only disseminator of “news” in the Hamptons is worth something since selling newspapers never really brought home the bacon. Advertising conveniently placed in the Southampton Press which is now owned by Joseph Louchheim by the East End Towns along with some very valuable knowledge about real estate, does. However. I always thought it strange that with all of the corruption in the District Attorney’s office — which landed the top law enforcement official in prison — was not worth reporting on. But, not a word. Instead, I got bad press for three years running — for renting new houses to immigrants and then four years in prison for renting houses to Latinos.

That was before it became obvious that Latinos weren’t criminals — the politicians were. Now, villages like Hampton Bays where nearly a third of its population are those hard workers who have now bought houses — who previously had found affordable housing from landlords like me. For renting to Latinos I was “offered” four years in prison as a result of the attempts by characters like Skip Heaney, the former Town of Southampton Supervisor who, along with D.A. Thomas Spota, criminalized landlords for providing housing to those immigrants. The Latinos are back and Heaney is gone, along with his buddy D.A. Spota who got five years in prison for operating a criminal enterprise out of his office. Does the word Racism sound about right? So much for journalism and a “free” press. Sounds like RT doesn’t it?

So Joe needs to ramp up his game and people need to keep their eyes open. All is not what is obvious. It ain’t just oligarchs buying big yachts. It’s also Russian politicians hiding money out of sight of the worthless rouble.

Unless, of course, we’re not really serious.

Stay tuned.

Oh, and by the way, my first book is out and several more are in progress and will be published this year.

Look for “Up & Way,” true stories by a journalist of life behind bars. Compliments of Hamptons justice.

Varsity Black & Blues

“The mania about status is a marker of our new Gilded Age.”

— Viet Nguyen

Political corruption is so pervasive that it is almost a given. It is the exception that stands out. The recent death of Shelly Silver, the former Speaker of the Assembly in New York stands out only because he died while in prison — an unusual and sad event. As one of the “three men in the room” which included him and Cuomo who is now also gone, only the $400,000 in cash found in his Chief of Staff’s closet — which she claimed she was unaware of — has any humorous implications. Only the Rothchilds would find it amusing. I didn’t either. I failed to see the humor in it when when I was denied Work Release in prison four times while Silver’s friend William Rapfogel got it immediately. It was good to know Silver could even pull strings AFTER he was indicted and convicted — three times. Like Murray, in Goodfellas, who asked “What am I a schmuck on wheels,” I kept trying but I had a mean-spirited D.A. trying to keep me IN prison because I was writing about his pay-to-play operation and the stacking of the Suffolk County court system with corrupt judges — which is still going on in the Hamptons. The Feds finally got Spota and he’s doing soft time in Otisville.

But, you know, it’s not only politics that’s seeming extra dirty these days. It’s the Justice system itself, and has also infected Education. We are all familiar with the status system in America. The Varsity Blues prosecution, whereby money was spread around to gain entrance to exalted institutions of higher learning was noteworthy if not surprising.

I always wanted to attend Harvard. Not because I’d learn anything. I just wanted to have an easier time getting into graduate school, have an advantage in my job search and get laid more often. Instead I went to Wagner College where I was assaulted by a pedophile professor (a reputable Christian) and then attended NYU before it took over most of Greenwich Village. In those days, the late sixties and early 70’s (Dylan was around the block at Gerde’s Folk City in the 60’s performing but was ignored because the students didn’t think he could sing), NYU was trying to become the downtown version of Columbia University. A girl I wanted to date knew I hadn’t gone to Harvard and therefore wouldn’t play with me but she did interest me in the Ph.D. program she was attending in the late sixties. I listened to her because I was searching for a way to avoid being riddled with bullets in Vietnam.

The program was called Media Ecology. Essentially, she said, it was a completely bullshit program run by a couple of hippy professors, including Neil Postman and one of his buddies, who simply repeated Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message” for a few years while everyone smoked dope. The program is now called Media, Culture & Communication. No one wanted to talk to me recently because of my age, my stint in prison, the books I’d written, and the fact that I knew it was a bullshit program — not to mention the fact that I hadn’t ever paid into the Alumni program. I knew too much. Postman wouldn’t even return my emails about the program when he started it during the anti-war hysteria.

The same was true of the Social Work program where psychotherapy was taught before it was called a “Clinical” program. The fact that I’d attended and was granted a Master’s in the 70’s and written numerous books and had intimate knowledge of the fact that there was ZERO mental health treatment in the prison system now sealed my fate. I knew too much. And, again, my age stood in the way. Plus, the people at the Social Work program had no idea when prison treatment was like — and didn’t care.

So, how is this relevant? Stay with me.

I also attended Columbia University doctoral program. But, I couldn’t stay because I ran out of money. The professor who was my advisor suggested I take a leave because there was no money in those days if your family wasn’t rich or connected. The leave was open-ended. I took it and wanted to return. Someday. Like, now.

Both Columbia and New York University rejected my recent attempts to continue my education. Both schools wanted me to start from scratch in providing them with testing (a big business in itself), background information, my reasons for wanting to attend and……..(drum roll) my history of alumni participation and contributions. My interviews held by foreign graduate students who assessed my credentials and suitability to return to the fold and experience after spending four years in prison — who weren’t interested in reading my books about political and social corruption — were very good at vetting my “alumni activities.” They were looking for people who would make them look good. Not people who could do something NOW for the community.

I’ve always believed that the simplest explanation is the best. Like Occam’s Razor, arriving at the bottom line quickly always seemed best. I’m not an Existentialist. I’m an Absurdist.

Our educational system, from High Schools like Dalton in Manhattan to graduate schools like Columbia, NYU or UCLA, is corrupt. University degrees from our elite institutions are bought and paid for so when someone at a party drops the name of a school like Columbia, New York University, UCLA or Harvard — laugh or walk away — unless you want to engage and ask, “What did that cost?” And, you won’t be talking about tuition.

If you can’t buy your way in with “Legacy programs,” donate a building, buy a degree or prop up the Alumni program — forget it.

Oh, and none of my children made it into either school. But they did make the Wait list at NYU. The others from China, Africa and Eastern Europe made it in. My three degrees from NYU didn’t qualify them as Legacy.

As George Carlin said, It’s called the American Dream—because you have to be asleep to believe it.

So So SoHo

“Things ain’t what they used to be.”

— Duke Ellington

Trying to get a handle on the conditions in SoHo is not easy. People lie. Some tell the truth. But, conditions are somewhat obvious.

Business is clearly suffering. There are numerous empty storefronts. There are fewer restaurants. And, those that remain, have shortened hours. The hotels have reopened and while the old James Hotel on Avenue of the Americas and Grand Street has a new name and new management they’ve raised prices, The SoHo Grand and its cousin The Roxy in Tribeca are still under the Stern ownership. I understand from the doorman that a night can be had for as low as $150 during the week. If you shop on Hotels.com you’ll find that ModernHauz, the old James, runs $270 a night ad The Dominick, the old Trump SoHo is about $250. If you judge how they’re doing by whether the lights are on, it makes you wonder.

Felix’s owner Alain says that they are now open from Wednesday thru the weekend. Most of the other restaurants were closed even on a Thursday, except for the Broome Street Bar, a stalwart in SoHo. You can always get a great burger, salad, or exotic sandwich along with a bowl of chili and sit inside or outside.

The new place, Bice, on Watts has been closed for the last couple of days but don’t read anything into that. It’s an excellent restaurant and the owner and staff are first class.

I highly recommend calling in advance if you plan to visit. Don’t expect to find a parking spot, though, since no one moves their cars any more.

Lincoln Anderson of The Village Sun, formerly editor of The Villager, has essentially been filling the void in local SoHo and Greenwich Village politics — since Gothamist focuses mainly on Manhattan as a whole. However, there are some tired and opportunistic pols still laying around, like Deborah Glick and Brian Kavanaugh and we need new blood. I know I do. The only old-timers worth their salt is Chuck Schumer and Jerry Nadler. My only questions to Nadler’s committee is: Why can we now not get the full Mueller report, AND, What would these characters who planned 1/6 be facing if they’d done this in Venezuela, Russia, or North Korea? Exactly.

Speaking of which — I know Cuomo was handsy. And, he was never a favorite of mine. But, how many Republicans with similar problems have resigned? And, you know, Hochul let the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures expire in the middle of a pandemic surge! Are those upstate roots showing? Have her pollsters told her she doesn’t need Manhattan or New York City to win?

Take a look at the restaurants on West Broadway below and see what you think.

Stay Tuned.

Felix Restaurant