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Al Sharpton to Go to Chicago, Take on Jesse Jackson?

Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have had a difficult relationship over the years — at times a bitterly difficult one — and it's about to get even more complex. This week, Sharpton will go into direct competition with Jackson, his theoretical mentor and occasional father figure, by opening a branch of his civil-rights advocacy group, National Action Network, in Jackson's hometown of Chicago, where the elder activist's own civil-rights advocacy group, the Rainbow/PUSH coalition, is headquartered. "There is a demand in that market, and we're answering that demand," Sharpton told New York, innocently. "Every generation does its own thing. Growth of the movement is a good thing." A Chicago press conference to announce the new National Action Network chapter is planned for Wednesday, and neither Jackson nor anyone from Rainbow/PUSH is on the list of scheduled speakers. But someone interesting is: the Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr., Barack Obama's pastor. (He's the guy who once titled a speech "Audacity to Hope," giving Obama book ideas.) While it's unclear if Wright is sidestepping his fellow Chicago clergyman to ally with Sharpton, his daughter, Jeri Wright, definitely is. She'll be running Sharpton's new outpost. She gave Jackson a heads-up earlier this week, she said, and he wasn't upset: "He said, 'Whatever I can do to help, just let me know.'" —Geoffrey Gray Related: Rev Vs. Rev [NYM]

‘Harper's Bazaar’ Is Large, It Contains Multitudes

It's hard to be a woman (well, we're told), subject to the whims of fashion mags and their demanding editors. But this month it seems the ladies of Harper's Bazaar are maliciously toying with their readers. First, on page 83, the magazine recommends the "Smart Shopping" tip of a Diane Von Furstenberg military-style coat, complete with double buttons and epaulets, depicted in a stylish red and available at Saks for a mere $575. Then, on pages 96–97, a "Buy, Keep, Store" guide — instructing readers on "what to run out and buy, what's still right to wear, and what you can ignore — for now" puts in the "store" category those very same "military styles." Why? ("Epaulets are too severe for fall's soft shoulders.") What's an attentive reader to think? Why in one place does Bazaar hate epaulets but in another recommend DVF's version? We've got no idea. And we're sure the issue's Von Furstenberg profile is a mere coincidence.

A Problem Like Mariska's, Solved

Good news! Our pal Mariska Hargitay, the Law & Order: SVU star, has finally nabbed a buyer for the Beach Street duplex she shares with her husband, actor Peter Hermann; the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath penthouse has just gone into contract. It spent five months on the market, and Hargitay isn't getting what she initially asked for: The original price tag was $6.495 million, but it was later slashed twice to $5.495 million. Brenda Powers of Brown Harris Stevens, who shares the listing with Elizabeth Lee Sample, wouldn't say what the final price was, except that it's "close to asking." (They couldn't host typical open houses — no surprise given the owner — and every visitor had to sign confidentiality agreements, which might explain the delay in finding a buyer.) No word yet on where Hargitay will end up, but she's been seen at 11 Spring Street — the big, weird Soho building briefly owned by Lachlan Murdoch and now converted to condos — with Corcoran broker Robby Browne. An e-mail to Hargitay's publicist went unanswered. —S. Jhoanna Robledo Earlier: Detective Benson Gets Slashed Again [NYM] Daily Intel's coverage of Mariska Hargitay

How Much for the ‘Post’? (Part II)

While today's New York Post costs its usual 25 cents in most of the city (or at least in West Village, at Eighth Avenue and 14th Street, where we check such things), this morning it costs 50 cents in the East Village (or at least at Avenue A and St. Marks Place — where two weeks ago it cost 75 cents). And people say there's no more excitement in the East Village. Earlier: How Much for the 'Post'?

Matrix Blogger Explains It All

We're of the school of thought that a joke requiring explanation is a joke failed. We also spend a lot of time explaining our jokes. The estimable Adam Sternbergh, on the other hand, we always thought tossed off bons mots and witticisms of such perfection they required no explanation. Apparently, however, we were wrong. A friend pointed us the other day to Behind the Approval Matrix, a new-this-week blog that, well, explains Adam's Approval Matrix jokes. Didn't get his reference this week to "That bizarre Elvis Mitchell cameo on Entourage," to pick a random example? Behind the Approval Matrix explains: "According to his Wikipedia entry Elvis Mitchell is a former film critic for the Times, and is one of the most well-known African-American critics in the United States. On Entourage he interviewed Vince, E, and Walsh about the genius behind Medellin." Now you know. Behind the Approval Matrix [Blogspot] The Approval Matrix: Week of July 30–August 6, 2007 [NYM]

Steve Fishman: Spitzer's Finally Fighting Back, But Is He Eliot Reagan?

Governor Spitzer finally abandoned his silly business-as-usual tactic today, giving up the “I’m going to get back to doing the people’s business” that invariably means something is amiss. The Republican-led State Senate had suggested that it might act like a real legislative body, one with oversight responsibilities and subpoena powers, and investigate whether the governor knew that a top aide was tracking Senate leader Joe Bruno’s use of state vehicles. And Spitzer finally broke his silence on the burgeoning scandal to warn the senator that, in effect, the senators shouldn't punch above their weight. Never one to be outlawyered, the governor has apparently been reading up on the state constitution, and he charged in a statement that New York's Senate does not have the constitutional authority to investigate the executive branch. In other words, he seemed to say that he won't cooperate with any investigation and will instead invoke an Empire State version executive privilege. Whether the potential drama of a constitutional showdown will, in fact, entice the Republican Senate remains to be seen.

Even in Death, Albert Ellis Keeps Fighting the Ellis Institute

The influential Upper East Side psychologist Albert Ellis, who died yesterday at 93, won a lawsuit in 2005 that forced the board of the Albert Ellis Institute, which he founded in 1959 and practiced from for decades, to reinstate him after he'd essentially been thrown out. But he had new litigation pending against the institute when he died yesterday, and his lawyer says he's prepared to continue the suit on behalf of the estate. The breach-of-contract action was filed in New York Supreme Court on June 6, and it seeks to have the institute reimburse Ellis for medical expenses he paid out of pocket and return his personal papers and documents, which the lawyer, Michael B. deLeeuw, claims were suddenly "put under lock and key" last spring.

Hallelujah! More Subway Trains Are Coming!

The MTA plans to add more service on the 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, and L trains as soon as next year, the agency announced at a packed board meeting this morning. The Broadway and Lexington Avenue lines will get more evening service, the 7 more weekend service, and the L more trains at all times, plus two high-speed bus routes. The usual warnings of budget shortfalls and potential fare hikes were issued, and MTA executive director Lee Sander said the agency will have to crunch some numbers before it can determine exactly how many trains will be added.

Obama Comes to Time Warner Center, Shares Banal Secrets

Time Warner hosted another in its series "off-the- record" conversations with big-shot newsmakers yesterday, and this time the guest was Barack Obama, who really ought to know that if he wants something to remain off the record, you shouldn't say it onstage in front of about 200 movers and shakers, many of whom are journalists. But, of course, he does know that, which is why no one at these events ever says anything interesting or controversial enough to merit being off the record. And our spy tells us that was the case at yesterday's event. The spy reports that Obama criticized John McCain's management skills and said Iraq, health care, and energy would be his top three priorities. The spy says Barbara Walters asked a question about terrorism and Jeffrey Toobin asked one about the Supreme Court. (Remember, guys: off the record!) Obama said he's only on chapter five of Harry Potter, according to our spy, who also said he offered his interviewer, Time Warner chief Dick Parsons, a Republican, his vice-presidency, if Parsons would take the pay cut. Is the spy telling the truth? We think so, but it's all off the record, so you'll never know. See pictures and quotes of Barack Obama, Mariska Hargitay, Norman Pearlstine, Gayle King and others from the party. [NYM]

The Debate Questions CNN Didn't Want You to See!

Did you catch the big, exciting CNN-YouTube Democratic presidential debate last night, in which candidates got the chance to respond with pre-scripted sound bites to questions asked by real, live Americans who videotaped themselves asking the questions?! Yeah, us either, and if the Times report today was any indication, we didn't miss much. But what about the YouTubed questions that didn't make air? Surely some of those must have been entertaining. Well, maybe. After the jump, some highlights, as selected from the several thousand unasked questions available on the 'Tube by New York's indefatigable interns.

Last Night at Rose's Turn: Mama's Gotta Let Go

The piano bar Rose's Turn, a West Village institution for seventeen years, and for a lot longer before that when it was the first home of the Duplex, closed Sunday night, and New York contributor Tim Murphy was there with his microphone. He caught people singing, people playing, and people both having a lot of fun and being quite sad. (They were sorry-grateful, you might say.) Check out the video report for now-former owner Henry Pham's rendition of "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight," accompanied by our Tim, plus saxophonist Chuck Hancock's explanation of what this all means. "This place has heart. These people have heart," he said. "And the heart is being stolen from New York." Street Level: Rose's Turn [NYM]

In Chopper Fight, It's Hamptonites for States' Rights

The latest great debate over federalism is being waged over an unlikely group: rich folks taking $2,500 chartered whirlybirds to the Hamptons. Noise from their choppers has been driving people batty all along the LIE, and, as we noted earlier, Chuck Schumer has started calling for federal oversight of the increasingly crowded route. And now the helicopter people are fighting back. Todd Rome — the president of Blue Star Jets, which handles nearly all NYC-to-Hamptons helicopter charters — will publish an op-ed in Sunday's Times, predictably fuming about Schumer overreach; instead of the "complicated and costly" federal involvement, he proposes that helicopter operators dampen the din voluntarily. (Blue Star is in a uniquely safe position here, because it books choppers but doesn't operate them.) "To regulate helicopter noises would also be bad for the economy," Rome helpfully adds. It's unclear how some of the smaller companies can afford the new technology needed by Rome's plan, but, hey — perhaps the same customers who shell out two grand to shave 45 minutes off their Friday commute will be happy to absorb the costs. Earlier: Who's Choppering to the Hamptons? Rich Families

Flick Marty in the Face!

You know what toy we've always wanted? A Marty Markowitz bobblehead. Well, that's not quite true; what we've really wanted was a talking Marty doll. (Pull the string and it'd say, "You're leaving Brooklyn? Oy vey!" or "How about a nice slice of cheesecake?") But a bobblehead is pretty damned cool, too. And according to a press release we received yesterday from the Brooklyn Cyclones, the team will be giving out Marty bobbleheads at their Sunday, August 5, game, against the Aberdeen Ironbirds. The first 2,500 fans to arrive will get one, and now we're tempted to go. The bobblehead currently on our shelf is Noah, and he (of all people!) is feeling lonely. Minor-League Options [NYM] Brooklyn Cyclones [Official site]

‘Times’ Gays Get Their Masthead Meeting

The Times gays — the increasingly angry Times gays — get results. Background: As "Page Six" reported this morning, at last month's farewell–to–43rd Street party at the old Times building, photo director Michele McNally — a masthead-level editor, which makes her a big shot — may or may not have called one of her subordinates, who may or may not have been a freelancer, a faggot, or maybe just a fag. The paper's gay caucus got itself in a tizzy, an investigation was launched, McNally retained her job, and the Times spokesman told "Page Six," "I can tell you the matter is closed." Gawker subsequently reported that the investigation resulted in a letter going into McNally's file, nothing more. Which, the gossip site said, the gays found insufficient; one circulated an angry e-mail. Now: Progress!

Know Your Bancrofts

They're the most watched formerly quite private rich family in America right now: the Bancrofts, proprietors of Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal for the past century. The company's board has approved Rupert Murdoch's $5 billion takeover offer, but the deal isn't done yet, and it won't be till the family signs off. They're meeting today in Boston to discuss. Who are they, exactly? After the jump, a family scorecard.

Eric Schaeffer, Having Exhausted New York's Dating Pool, Goes on Tour

New York hasn't produced a suitable wife for actor- filmmaker Eric Schaeffer (If Lucy Fell, Mind the Gap), so he's taking his chances on the road. He'll be going on dates with women he's been fixed up with or met online from five of the thirteen cities on the promotional tour for his book, I Can't Believe I'm Still Single, which starts next week, and turning it into a documentary that will hit next year's festival circuit.

Foliage Filcher Attacks Ditmas Park

Someone is stealing the potted plants in Ditmas Park. Anger is blooming in the leafy Brooklyn neighborhood of million-dollar Victorians over eyewitness accounts of a thirtysomething black woman in a pink dress plucking ferns, philodendrons, and a cactus from yards and porches then making off with them on her bike. "We have a private paid patrol" in the neighborhood, says Gary Sucher, a resident who claims he's had about $150 of vegetation stolen, "and I've alerted them to be on the lookout for suspicious activity in terms of someone carrying a bunch of plants." Locals say the thief is still at large and speculate she's fencing the hot greens to area plant vendors. But Mary Kay Gallagher, a local real-estate agent, has figured out the solution, should the plant-poacher be caught. "Send her into Manhattan," she said. "They have plants there, but they're harder to get at." —Tim Murphy

Go Climb a Tree in Queens

Softball and cookouts are all well and good, but now there's an entirely new sort of activity available in New York City parks: A so-called "Challenge Course," also sometimes called Project Adventure, or just a ropes course. Parks commissioner Adrian Benepe is unveiling the course today in Queens' Alley Pond Park; with a climbing wall, a 60-foot-high pulley called a "flying squirrel," and all manner of other things to scale, vault, and balance upon while perched high in the air, it's the biggest such installation in the Northeast. Summer-camp groups will get the course Mondays through Wednesdays; on Sundays it's open to the public. Other times, the city hopes to rent it to groups and corporations for team-building exercises. Benepe views it as yet another new tool for fighting childhood obesity. "We now have two mountain-biking courses, half a dozen skate parks, and an outdoor Velodrome in Queens, and our park rangers run canoeing on the Bronx River," he boasts. It's like some sort of weird, modern-era pentathlon. —Alec Appelbaum

Congestion-Pricing Lives! Is City Hall Close to Announcing a Deal?

Thought you didn't have to hear any more about congestion pricing? You may not be so lucky. This morning's Daily News reported that a marathon private negotiation went till the wee hours last night, putting Bloomberg and Albany leaders tantalizingly close to a deal to salvage the mayor's traffic plan. "We are extraordinarily close, but it's just not going to get there tonight," Spitzer's spokesman told the News just before midnight. "All the pieces have not come together." Well, the word we're now hearing is that those pieces have finally come together. A source in City Hall tells New York's Geoffrey Gray that they'll be holding a press conference in a few hours to announce a deal. We wouldn't hold our breath — considering the mercurial people involved — but it's what we're hearing. Related: Congest Fight U-Turn [NYDN]

Happy Birthday, FreshDirect: A Misty, Water-Colored Look at Five Years of Grocery Delivery

FreshDirect, the (largely) beloved grocery-delivery service, turns five today. It's hard to believe it's been along that long — doesn't time fly when you're noshing on home-delivered organic vegetables? To mark the milestone, the company suspended deliveries for the day, so that its employees could have a picnic. (Yikes. What about the rain?) We know more than one person distraught that they wouldn't be able to get their order today, but, surprisingly, when we started asking around the office we discovered that seemingly as many people who don't much care for Freshy D as those who can't do without it. After the jump, four New Yorkers reflections on five years of FreshDirect — two who love it, one who doesn't like it, and one who hates it.