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January 12, 1998

Sol Adler, Norman Marcus, Eli Zabar, Peter Gatien, Louis York, Craig Kilborn, Lizz Winstead, Doug Herzog, Ken Aretsky, Rob Reiner, Ellen Gilbert and more. . .

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THE 92ND STREET Y’S BUILDING BLOCK
The block of 92nd Street between Park and Lexington Avenues -- part of the Carnegie Hill landmarked district -- is being threatened by a developer: the 92nd Street Y. In December 1996, the expansion-minded Y bought 125 East 92nd Street, the only empty lot on the block. Within a month, concerned neighbors were meeting with Y executive director Sol Adler. The meeting went well, says Norman Marcus, the attorney retained by the neighbors, but “the history of this past year was that they never got back to us.” Marcus’s clients finally got a second meeting with Adler on December 18, after an angry resident wrote to every member of the 92nd Street Y’s board. Adler told the residents that the Y would be ready to unveil its plans in a few weeks. “The Y has been unbelievably arrogant,” charges neighbor Eli Zabar, still fuming from the delay. “It’s a total abuse of power.” Y spokesman Gary Lipman doesn’t think his side is escalating tensions. “At that initial meeting, the residents had already hired a lawyer,” notes Lipman, who insists that the Y has been in touch with its neighbors over the past year “attorney to attorney.” The neighbors have suggested that the Y buy the landmarked townhouse next door, move it to the empty lot it owns down the street, and add on at its current site. Says Lipman: “We are evaluating the plan.”

A ROCK CENTER LIFT; REINER’S XMAS GIFT
RAINBOW COALITION: It looks like Joe Baum and David Emil will be continuing on at the Rainbow Room, but with Montrachet’s Drew Nieporent as a new operating partner. Even though Baum and Emil have been running the sixty-fifth-floor dining room for almost nine years, Rockefeller Center’s new landlord, Tishman Speyer, solicited proposals from other prominent restaurateurs in the city last summer, including Nieporent, Smith & Wollensky’s Alan Stillman, Patroon’s Ken Aretsky, and Tavern on the Green’s Warner LeRoy. Instead of submitting his own bid to run the famed restaurant, Nieporent joined forces with the current team, a pairing finessed by none other than Rob Speyer. All the principals refused to discuss the negotiations, saying that no lease has been signed yet; but sources say it’s a biggie, with a rent of more than $3 million a year plus a percentage of the gross.
I GAVE AT THE OFFICE: Rob Reiner’s Christmas card this year announced that a donation had been made in the recipient’s name to a very worthy charity -- the Reiner Foundation. Meathead started his own foundation to promote public awareness of the importance of the first three years of a child’s life. His self-referential Christmas card didn’t bother Reiner Foundation executive director Ellen Gilbert at all. “He’s putting his money where his beliefs are,” she explains. “It’s what he’s spent the last three years working on.”

THE LIMELIGHT GETS TURNED BACK ON
Peter Gatien had reason to party this New Year’s Eve. The embattled club king, facing trial on drug charges this week (see Little Big Man), just won his court battle to reopen Limelight. After Gatien’s 1996 arrest, the city closed his clubs, citing on-site drug dealing. But even after Gatien had paid his settlement fines, the city refused to issue a cabaret license for Limelight, raising concerns about building-code violations. On December 29, Justice Louis York called the city’s reasoning “arbitrary and capricious” and ordered consumer affairs commissioner Jose Maldonado to give Gatien a temporary permit within 24 hours. Sources close to Gatien confirm that he’s eager to reopen Limelight but say it may take a few weeks to fix up the long-shuttered club. Gatien’s attorney, Alan Klinger, says he’s “gratified” that the judge recognized that Gatien “complied with the stipulation and is entitled to reopen for business.”

KILBORN BACK AT DAILY GRIND
Craig Kilborn is scheduled to host Comedy Central’s The Daily Show tonight, but head writer Lizz Winstead will not be returning to the show she co-created. That’s not exactly the dénouement many expected last month, when executives suspended Kilborn for a week without pay after he slurred Winstead in Esquire (“If I wanted her to blow me, she would”). Kilborn’s frat-boy humor is well known on the set, where witnesses say he gets his laughs by passing around pictures of strippers. Comedy Central president Doug Herzog told staff that Kilborn’s remarks in Esquire were “inexcusable” -- but for months before that, the insiders say, management refused to address Winstead’s concerns about the hostile work environment. Now Winstead’s lawyer has agreed to a settlement that comfortably buys out her contract, according to the sources. Comedy Central spokesman Tony Fox says there is “no completed agreement” for Winstead to leave the show.


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