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School Principal Single-handedly Stops Ratner Drillers

City Tech Tower
Bruce Ratner has plans to build Brooklyn's tallest structure using air rights from CUNY's NYC Technical College. The City Tech tower, to be designed by Renzo Piano, is being built with the collaboration of the school — and in return, they'll get a new class and lab building, built by Ratner. But there's one loser in this deal: George Westinghouse High School, which uses an auditorium and parking lot on the CUNY site where Ratner will be building. School officials only received a fax with the announcement a couple of days before a crew arrived to start work for excavation. "The principal asked the workers to leave the property, and they did," a community activist explained later. The school has rented the space from CUNY for years, and administrators have tried since September to learn what will happen to it. "They had one sit-down with construction people that ended poorly," says the activist. The school's PTA will meet with representatives of both Ratner and the Department of Education on January 19 (which would seem to make them more influential than dozens of celebrity protesters against Ratner's other Brooklyn projects, who can't seem to get a meeting with him). Ratner spokesman Lorin Reigelhaupt promises to restore lost parking spaces on-site or nearby, but neither Reigelhaupt nor the DOE will comment on the future of the auditorium. —Alec Appelbaum

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Fort Greene Restaurant Scene's Crescendo; De Niro Hotel So Close You Can Book It

Astoria: The Southwest restaurant that's been under construction near the Ditmars stop on 31st Street is named Mojave and opens tonight. [Joey in Astoria via Astorians] East Village: The Mermaid Inn reopens tomorrow after a one-week renovation, which may have been inspired by Time Out‘s mouse sightings. [Eater] Fort Greene: New restaurants the Smoke Joint and 67 Burger have joined older favorites like iCi and Thomas Beisl to build a thriving restaurant scene near the Brooklyn Academy of Music. [NYT] Tribeca: De Niro’s Greenwich Hotel is now taking reservations for the spring. [NewYorkology via Eater]

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The Chef Comic We've Been Waiting For!

Manga
Grub Street’s with-it brother Vulture introduces us to new comics every week, but it’s taken almost a year to discover a manga that has to do with mangia. Vulture describes Wonton Soup as “a manga–meets–Gahan Wilson–meets–Iron Chef space-trucker opera,” which sounds pretty fantastic to us. Plus, this comic speaks truth! “My cooking is all about passion and fun,” laments the chef who trained at a ten-star restaurant. “Once all that gets taken away, it’s just food.” Click over to Vulture to read an excerpt.

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A Guide to Dan Doctoroff's Unfinished Business

Dan Doctoroff
Dan Doctoroff is leaving City Hall with a lot of big real-estate projects unfinished, but he's done his best to make sure they have the momentum and guidance to be completed in his absence (which meant coordinating a lot of egos and favors). The mayor remains urgent about his green agenda, and the staff Doctoroff leaves behind seems to click. Plus, he’s not exactly dropping off the grid: "One of the great things about going to [Bloomberg LP] is I’m not going to be that far away," he told us, murkily. But without strong-willed Doctoroff forcing players to negotiate, will everything go according to plan? After the jump, a handy guide to Doctoroff’s key reform campaigns, with assurances from Doctoroff himself included. Think of it as a cheat sheet for who now controls their (and our) future. —Alec Appelbaum

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Viacom Freelancers Continue to Protest Despite Love From Above

Viacom
Exactly seven minutes before their scheduled 3 p.m. protest today, Viacom freelancers received a memo from HR's JoAnne Griffith saying that the company had decided to let them keep their old health-care plans (although the controversial Aetna plan "has certain advantages that may make it the preferred option for many of our freelance and temporary employees," the memo said — as if!). When the e-mail arrived, "there was a palpable sense of relief," said one freelancer, "however, we are still missing several key items that we had before," including the company's contributions to their 401(k) and paid holidays. So it was back out to Times Square and chanting, and someone even started a blog for True Life stories of Viacom freelancers, such such as this one, titled "Engaged and Underpaid":
"My girlfriend and I recently got engaged and set a date for the fall '08 for our wedding, but [getting on her health-care plan] will cost us a huge chunk of what we had been saving for our wedding. So much for getting married in ’08. THANKS VIACOM!"
Another protest is planned for tomorrow, where the Viacom freelancers will be joined by members of the Writers Guild East, who are on full-time, as opposed to teatime, strike. In Major Reversal, Viacom Returns Healthcare to Freelancers [Gawker]

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Stewart O'Nan Writes the Great American Red Lobster Novel

Red Lobster
Acclaimed writer Stewart O’Nan’s latest novel, Last Night at the Lobster, isn’t about a couple who hits the motel after one too many gargantuan Lobsteritas — instead it follows a hard-working general manager, Manny DeLeon, through his last night at a Red Lobster in New Briton, Connecticut, that has been closed by parent corporation Darden Restaurants. O’Nan got the idea after a Red Lobster near his home in Avon suffered a similar fate. “I knew how it fit into the community and started thinking about how every restaurant is a world onto itself,” he tells us. “I thought of that suddenly going away.” We asked him what he learned about the chain while doing research so obsessive that it involved poaching the Lob’s menus and coasters.

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Pete Wentz Wishes Everybody Were Gone So He Could Just Be Naked

Pete
Will Smith plays the last man on Earth in I Am Legend, and at the premiere at the Wamu Theater at Madison Square Garden, when we asked the predictable "what if it were you" question, there were lots of predictable answers — living in mansions, driving other people's sports cars, wearing diamonds, finding food, etc. But rocker Pete Wentz had a refreshing outlook on the whole scenario: "I'd probably just go everywhere naked," Wentz figures. "I like being alone a lot," the Fall Out Boy front man told us. "I turn off my phone. That's my best way to do it." Based on trailers of I Am Legend, however, Wentz questions the premise. "From the preview, it looks like he's got his dog in the movie. And that's not really like being alone. That's like … a dog buddy flick, you know." And Wentz never quite feels alone with his English bulldog, Hemingway, around. "He looks like an alien," Wentz says. "He looks like Stitch, and he behaves like Stitch, actually. Prime mission: to destroy everything I have in my house. He's like, is this an antique book? Delicious!" What a bummer. Now we can't name our dog Hemingway. —Bennett Marcus Hear more about I Am Legend from Will Smith, Alice Braga, and others at our complete coverage of last night's premiere.

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Rat-Infested Taco Bell to Become T-Mobile Store

Taco Bell
And here’s the Taco Bell on Sixth Avenue that spurred the Department of Health to strap on its boots and go to war. When we peeked in this morning, it looked rodent-free; according to construction workers, it will soon be a T-Mobile store. Meanwhile, down the block, the Beard Papa store, which was supposed to reopen in mid-October, is still closed for renovations. We have a call in to Papa himself to see what’s up, though his side project, Santa Claus, might be keeping him a little busy these days. Related: Beard Papa Returning Downtown, May Hit the Slope

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Artist Kehinde Wiley Will Keep You Dry at the Beach

If you joined the jet set down in Miami last week, you might have seen these towels floating around Art Basel (they were the official towels at Balazs's posh Raleigh Hotel, meaning guests likely scored on the stolen-amenities front), but if you, like us, were stuck here in the ambiguously seasonal weather, amid sinus-infected friends and co-workers, fear not: They're available online for a pretty reasonable $50.

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Bradley and Freitag Planning a ‘Lusty’ Menu for the Harrison; Hot Chestnut Pancakes in Midtown West

Astoria: Bar 36 at 36-05 30th Avenue hosts Martini Thursdays, where it’s "$2 off every martini on their menu (or create your own). Can’t beat the free snacks, too!" [Joey in Astoria] East Village: You’d be hard-pressed find a better, more satisfying "fantastic when it was hot but … made for a mean late night snack as well" deal than bär-bo-ne’s nightly five-course fresh pasta tasting menu. [Gluttoness] Flatiron: Eisenberg’s has been serving tater tots as latkes, but "the owner talked about getting in some big latkes soon. Let’s hope so … A place like Eisenberg’s deserves to have the best latkes." [Lost City] Midtown West: Norma’s has added new breakfast items to its menu, including hot chestnut pancakes and a chocolate waffle with peanut-butter-toffee-crunch filling, but don’t expect to get in and try them until the tourist exodus in January. [Eater] Tribeca: With chef Amanda Freitag at the helm, Jimmy Bradley plans to strive "for a bold, lusty, soulful menu at the Harrison." Saucy! [Restaurant Girl] Upper East Side: On weekdays through December, Zoë Townhouse at 135 East 62nd Street is offering a 15 percent discount off bottles of wine from noon to 7 p.m. [Grub Street] Williamsburg: From these pictures, the opening of the Peter Luger annex, which would significantly expand the restaurant, seems imminent. [Eater]

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Exclusive Comics Excerpt: ‘The Goon’

Today on the Comics Page, we're proud to present an excerpt from The Goon: Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker, another gorgeously drawn volume in the continuing over-the-top noir by Eric Powell, on sale now from Dark Horse.

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