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Fancy Produce in Every Pot!

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The Alice Watersization of New York cuisine is continuing apace, and now it's spreading to decidedly un-haute cuisine. Now that the budget is done, Albany leaders are finalizing a deal to give New York its first statewide Food Policy Council, charged with spreading the local-and-organic movement to corner bodegas and other places where lower-income New Yorkers shop. A Friday announcement by state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker explained that the new body will coordinate the mind-numbing minutiae involved in favorite sustainable-food efforts like getting New York State apples to the neighborhood deli and ensuring that community-supported agriculture-buying clubs are affordable to the poor. That last bit helped sell the plan to legislators less interested in dining at Chez Panisse than in combating low-income obesity — which is actually lending a little class tension to the plan. "The question is, is it just going to be a food-quality and local-food focus, or is it going to have a key anti-poverty focus?" asked Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. "I hope this really doesn't end up a yuppie thing." Sigh. Doesn't everything around here these days? —Tracie McMillan

Terry McMillan Reminds You That Her Ex-Husband Is the One Harming Her Reputation

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Late last month novelist Terry McMillan, best known for bringing Stella her groove back and perhaps second best known for elegantly calling her now-ex-husband a "little fag" after he told her he was gay, filed a $40 million suit against the ex-husband, Jonathan Plummer, alleging a conspiracy to destroy her reputation. (Presumably by mentioning things like that she called him a "little fag" and also "a common fucking criminal, a common extortionist.") Meantime, McMillan hasn't exactly salvaged her rep by publishing an essay, "100 Questions I Meant to Ask Him," in the anthology The Honeymoon's Over, which includes questions like "Have you been surprised by the promiscuous behavior of a lot of gay men? Are you going to be like this or are you already?" New York rang up McMillan the other day to see how the novelist is continuing to protect her reputation. It's tough for her: "If you criticize them, you're automatically a homophobe," she said. "I'm starting to think they're heterophobes." Lots more after the jump.

Just What New York Needs: Another Fashion-Themed Bar

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Apparently the not-exactly- bumpin' Fashion 40 Lounge hasn't taught people not to open up fashion-themed clubs. On April 12, promoters Greg Barrias and Rich Messina will open Runway at 4 East 28th Street, near Fifth Avenue, which only coincidentally shares its name with the magazine in The Devil Wears Prada. We're skeptical of the Wheresville location and the 25-foot catwalk in the center of the club (after the first couple of times someone reenacts the Zoolander walk-off, it's not going to be funny anymore, no matter how many $10 Chinatown Cosmos are going around), but we at least give Barrias and Messina credit for having Lindsay Lohan host the opening. It's going to be good press when she mows down another photographer outside of the place. —Daniel Maurer CORRECTION, April 2: Runway was the Devil Wears Prada magazine. Not the 13 Going on 30 magazine. Which we originally said. We're dumb. Sorry.

Still Acting Up, Twenty Years Later

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Twenty years ago this week, ACT UP, the AIDS-activist movement, held its first protest, shocking lower Manhattan's buttoned-down lunchtime crowd when hundreds of gay protesters stormed the streets demanding lifesaving AIDS drugs; seventeen were arrested when they lay down "dead" in the street at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street, stopping traffic. ("Homosexuals arrested at AIDS drug protest," read the Times photo caption.) Today, ACT UP was back, this time rallying for the group's bigger-than-AIDS demand for universal health care, and about two dozen protesters were arrested when they stopped traffic on Broadway, alongside the famous statue of a bull.

UWS Asian-Food Crisis Spreads as Labor Problems Hit Ollie's, Too

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The great Asian-Food Apocalypse of 2007 continues, with the protests that have been plaguing Saigon Grill spreading today to the Ollie's Noodle Shop chain on the Upper West Side, where staffers — deliverymen, waiters, others — filed suit for a string of labor violations. While print reporters took notes and TV cameras rolled, a group of Chinese immigrants — most from Fujian province and claiming they were paid only $1.40 an hour — gathered at the Lincoln Center location to announce the legal action. David Colodny, a lawyer with the Urban Justice Center, filed the federal suit on behalf of 44 workers at three of the five Ollie's locations — Lincoln Center, Times Square, and West 84th Street — for violating minimum-wage and other employment laws.

The Eartha Kitt Primary: Go Obama!

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Obama and Bloomberg get a thumbs-up, and Hillary gets a raised eyebrow, from the inimitable Eartha Kitt. The still very spry singer and dancer, who turned 80 in January, plays a fortune-teller in a Kander and Ebb musical, All About Us, coming to the Westport Country Playhouse. At a sneak peek of the show this week, we asked about her '08 presidential picks. "I'm for my country, not politicians who go blah blah blah," purred the eternal Catwoman, who spent a decade shut out of gigs in this country after she denounced the Vietnam War during a 1968 White House visit.

Mariska Hargitay Teaches, Will Not Be Canonized

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Mariska Hargitay is a multitalented women. She's a star of Law & Order: SVU, she's our recently canonized Patron Saint of Party Town, and she inspires a vociferously devoted following among her fans. She is also, as it turns out, a humanitarian: Yesterday she was one of about a dozen celebrity artists who volunteered to teach master classes in their crafts at the New Design High School on the Lower East Side. In her class, sweetly awkward teens performed short self-penned monologues, and Marish mostly deferred to her co-teacher, the hyperactive, class clown–ish Matthew Lillard, of Shaggy–in–Scooby Doo fame. But she flared up when a student's cellie went off. (Weren't those things not allowed in schools?) "Come on, guys, this is theater!" she barked, before covertly checking her own phone.

Pataki Planning Weekends in Puerto Rico?

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It could be that George Pataki's pidgin-Spanish support for a Vieques bombing halt during his 2001 reelection campaign wasn't just a ploy for the Latino vote; it may also have been sound real-estate strategy. Last week a waitress at Trade Winds, a restaurant on the Puerto Rican island, told a reliable source that the former governor had just passed through with news of purchasing a house there. Apparently Pataki, who agreed in January to phase out his controversial, state-provided, $20,000-a-week security detail, wasn’t rolling with his usual entourage. “It's the first time he's been down here not surrounded by security guards," the waitress noted. Then again, who needs bodyguards when there are "no mas bombas"? —Daniel Maurer

‘Radar’ Finds a
Permanent(ish) Home

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Back in October, the Observer reported that third-time's-the-charm Radar magazine was thisclose to moving into a permanent office. And it wasn't just any office; the space near Columbus Circle was home to Esquire until the new Hearst Tower opened. “I think it’s all but signed,” Radar editor Maer Roshan said at the time, noting that old Esquire posters still dotted the walls and that the space came with "the apparatus of making magazines." But he also told Off the Record reporter Michael Calderone that he wasn't taking the space in an attempt to ape the venerable men's mag's success: "I’m a great fan of Esquire, but it didn’t really play a role in our decision." And a good thing, too, judging from the mass e-mail just arrived from Radar senior writer Jeff Bercovici.

New Park Slope Parents Site Prepares Families for Lactation, Preschool, Death

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Look up "inevitable" in any online dictionary, and you'll now find a link to the newly overhauled Park Slope Parents Website, parkslopeparents.org, a just-gussied-up HTML outgrowth of the popular listserv and "The Ultimate Destination for Those Rockin' the Brooklyn Bugaboo." (Actually, the real tagline is "Your resource for raising children in Park Slope, Brooklyn," but you can consider this our official entry.) So what does online child-rearing in an overpriced, overfetishized sector of an outer borough entail? We went to the "Sneak Peek Week" site to find out.

Levittown Widow Heir to Fashionista Friend's Estate?

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Heavies like WWD executive editor Bridget Foley, Lincoln Center Theater chief Andre Bishop, and socialite Brooke Garber Neidich packed the Frank E. Campbell funeral home to remember Janet Brown, 59. who died of a heart attack on March 16 while driving to her Port Washington, Long Island, boutique. There she'd charmed clients including Betsey Whitney and C.Z. Guest since 1983 while introducing them to rags by Prada and Jil Sander. But the big question on many mourners' minds was whether Brown would leave any of her modest fortune to her ex-cohabitant, Simone Levitt.

Jared Paul Stern's Lawyer Loves Suing the Clintons

Larry Klayman
For conservative legal gadfly Larry Klayman, suing Bill and Hillary Clinton has been almost a life's work — some would say a consuming passion. So it's no surprise that Klayman is doing it again, this time on behalf of Jared Paul Stern, the fired New York Post freelancer at the center of last year's "Page Six" scandal. The former president and the current presidential candidate, along with their playboy-billionaire pal, Ron Burkle, the New York Daily News, and Daily News reporter William Sherman are defendants in Stern's just-filed lawsuit. He alleges that they conspired to slander him, deprive him of a job, and inflict emotional distress by accusing Stern of trying to extort money from Burkle in return for more respectful coverage in the Post's "Page Six" column. The suit claims that Stern remains unemployed and suffers from depression, back pains, dizziness, hypertension, and other maladies months after a federal investigation of him fizzled. "Jared contacted me a couple of months ago and asked that I represent him," Klayman said after the suit was filed Thursday in New York Supreme Court. "I took the case because I sympathized with Jared's situation. I've always been for the underdog."

Pols Come Out to Support Saigon Grill Workers; Delivery Service Still Suspended

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The battle of Saigon Grill rages on. Two weeks after the Vietnamese mini-chain locked out its delivery workers, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 36 of those workers — and today a gaggle of New York politicians joined the Chinese Staff and Workers Association's daily protests at the Upper West Side location. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer called conditions for delivery workers "a dirty secret that needs to get exposed." "Being paid $1.60 an hour, sometimes getting robbed and told to reimburse the employer … is unacceptable in today's society," he said. State Senator Eric Schneiderman, who spoke in both English and Mandarin, said he believed there was "strong evidence" that Saigon Grill's Chinese-Cambodian owner, Simon Nget, was trying to get the workers to sign "an illegal contract" before he locked them out. A state assemblywoman and a city councilwoman were there, too, and Congressmen Jerry Nadler and Charlie Rangel sent representatives. And while all of this is going on, there's also this bad news: There's still no delivery service. —Mary Reinholz Earlier: Labor Troubles at Saigon Grill Mean No Delivery for You

PR Swag of the Week: Great Scot!

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A New York colleague received in yesterday's mail what at first seemed to be a standard-issue bit of flackery: a press kit for Tartan Week, which is apparently both "an annual celebration of the contribution millions of Scottish-Americans have made to our great nation" and, it seems, an attempt to boost tourism to Scotland. The package was about what you'd expect: a color-copied itinerary of Tartan Week events, ads for the week's blue-chip sponsors — like Glenfiddich, Continental Airlines, and what appears to be the government of Scotland — and a brochure about visiting "the best small country in the world." And then there was the woolen thong. Yes, a woolen thong. Complete with a cute little bow. Is it local garb? Who knows? But: Itchy. And, if it is, sort of undercuts the come-visit pitch, no?

Young Conceptualist Gets an ‘A’ in Grant Writing

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BubbleBath, a March 24 event in Union Square to be staged by 21-year-old School of Visual Arts student Anthony DeFranco, sounds simple enough: He will give away 400 bottles of bubble solution to passersby. Cute. Or is it? That shallow perception might shatter when you skim the talking points DeFranco and the school are peddling to the media: • The project is inspired by the writings of Pythagoras (misspelled as Pythagorus) about the "harmony of the spheres." • It will also celebrate the arrival of spring. • Its official supporters and sponsors include the NYC Parks Department, Union Square Partnership, and Community Board 5. • It is DeFranco's mission "to bring people together, to help them to connect with each other and to hear the music that we are all making." • It took two years — two years! — to develop. The punch line? It's DeFranco's senior thesis for a BFA in graphic design. BubbleBath Press Kit [BubbleBathNYC.com, .pdf] BubbleBathNYC.com BubbleBath on MySpace

A Win for London: Green Electricity

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We've learned from this week's magazine that London's got a construction boom now — an interesting construction boom — plus an immigration influx, great theater, "a civic boldness," and plenty of good food. And here's one more accomplishment for our once-Dickensian rival across the pond: London is perhaps greener than New York, today producing more than twice the renewable energy we do. This news came at the latest PlaNYC 2030 forum, held at NYU yesterday, where electricity experts confirmed that New York's power supply will fail to meet demand by 2012 unless more buildings start generating and reusing their own electricity. And why don't we?

Nothing's Safe on the Upper East Side

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A lost-wallet study is not exactly a pinnacle of scientific research — you drop some wallets around a city, measure the rate of return, then make some piece-of-cake assumptions about society's moral fiber: People suck! In this case, however, the results yielded by a Barnard College study are too perfect not to mention. Students dropped 132 wallets in Chelsea, Crown Heights, the Upper East Side, Harlem, City Hall, and the Bronx. Only two wallets disappeared completely; the others were returned or ignored. And — get this — the two that were picked up and not returned were on the Upper East Side. They disappeared from blocks with a median family income of $126,000 a year. Inside each wallet? A MetroCard, a business card, and four whole dollars. Finder's Keepers? Not in New York [Barnard College]

Everyone's a New Yorker on Saint Patrick's Day

Christine Quinn
Shunted to the back of tomorrow's St. Patrick's Day Parade, New York City firefighters aren't the only ones who are angry with parade chair John Dunleavy. For several years, Dunleavy has banned gay groups from marching and last year would not allow City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who's 100 percent Irish and 100 percent gay, to walk wearing so much as a pink pin. Though she marched on March 4 in a gay-friendly parade in Woodside, Quinn will blow off the Ancient Order of Hibernians entirely this year by taking her dad, her partner Kim Catullo, and five council members (including Staten Island Irishman Mike McMahon) to a more inclusive parade in Dublin. While Dunleavy didn't return calls for comment, Quinn did talk to Tim Murphy about accessories, the Irish, and her father. Her words are after the jump.

Bush-Cousin Judge Won't Be Investigated for Car Crash That Killed New Haven Cop

A federal judge who is George W. Bush's cousin killed a New Haven, Connecticut, police officer in a traffic accident in October, and this afternoon New Haven police decided not to pursue criminal charges. Judge John Mercer Walker Jr., a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, is first cousin to former President George H.W. Bush — they share a grandfather, George Herbert Walker — and first cousin once removed to the current president. On October 17, in what a New Haven police spokeswoman termed "difficult weather conditions," the 66-year-old Walker was driving an SUV that struck 38-year-old Officer Daniel Picagli, a seventeen-year veteran of the New Haven police department.

Thousands Fill Midtown Streets to Protest Spitzer Health Cuts

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"Eliot, don't get sick," read one of the many placards held by healthcare workers rallying in midtown this afternoon. Others compared Governor Spitzer to President Bush. Spitzer has proposed significant cuts to the state's cumbersome and expensive medical system, and both the healthcare-workers' union and the hospitals association — "guardians of the status quo," Spitzer has charged — are working to fight his plan. Thousands gathered at 26th Street and Third Avenue today for a protest march to the governor's Manhattan office, near Third and 41st Street.