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Thousands Fill Midtown Streets to Protest Spitzer Health Cuts

"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.

Dan Doctoroff Issues Vague Call for Bold Sacrifice

A city planning guru dropped hints Monday that Team Bloomberg might be considering "congestion pricing" to charge drivers for the privilege of adding to gridlock, and today Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff — the chief planning guru — did nothing to discourage the speculation. Speaking at the annual meeting of the New York Metropolitcan Transportation Council, a regional body that coordinates federal transportation funds, Doctoroff talked of needing "a shift in the way we use automobiles" and called "congestion — road, transit and pedestrian" the city's main barrier to growth. He also noted that taxes and user fees funded the 1811 street grid, the dedication of Central Park, and the city's water network. "Those who benefit should pay," he said. Was he hinting at a new fee on driving or cars? Providing political cover for an MTA fare increase? Telling the suburban county chiefs in attendance to look out for a commuter tax? It remains to be seen. But he did promise to issue the mayor's sustainability plan in early April, just before tax time. —Alec Appelbaum Earlier: Bloomberg's Planners Hear Public on Traffic Woes, Would Rather Talk About Something Else

Marc Ecko’s Secret: ‘Luck of the Schmuck’

If you've ever wanted business advice from Marc Ecko — the 34-year-old money machine behind his self-named white-suburban-kids-who-dig-hip-hop clothing line — last night was your shot. It was the inaugural installment of CIT's "Behind the Business" conversation, and the conversation was with Ecko. It was a chance to learn how, over fourteen years, the business he started in his parents' garage grew to report billings of $1.5 billion last year — and it was also a chance to hear buttoned-up business journalist Andrew Shapiro say things like “How did you hook up with 50 Cent?” and “Tell me about your street cred.” Ecko explained his success — how he managed to attract investors in 1996, when his company was $6 million in debt: “LOS. They don’t teach you that in business school — luck of the schmuck” — and we caught up with him after the talk for some one-on-one advice.

New ‘Times’ Metro Website to Provide All Sewell, All the Time

New York Times Metro wunderkind Sewell Chan racked up 422 bylines in a twelve-month period ending last spring, as the Observer pointed out then. So far in 2007, he's got 107 bylines, according to our pal Nexis, which works out to nearly 1.5 per day. If that's not enough Sewell for you, then today's your lucky day. The Times is set to launch "City Room," a new online project to cover the five boroughs, and Chan will be its founding bureau chief, according to a memo Metro editor Joe Sexton sent to his staff this morning. It's "a way that the readers of The New York Times can get as much Sewell Chan as he has to give," Sexton explains in his memo. (He makes it sound like that's a good thing. As readers, we're not quite sure we're up to it.) The site will offer "breaking news and human interest, updates and follow-ups, local history and color, Q&A's with newsmakers and our reporters, photos, audio and Web links to other New York sites," Sexton wrote. The full memo is after the jump.

Jim McGreevey: Here, Queer, Used to It, and Protesting

Is Gay American Jim McGreevey ready to become a gay activist, too? It seems possible after his appearance at a gathering last night at the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in the West Village. Irascible author-activist Larry Kramer, 71, was speaking on the twentieth anniversary of his speech launching ACT UP, the way-gay, street-theatery activist group that goaded major improvements in AIDS policies before lapsing into its current, barely-there incarnation. With predictable dudgeon, Kramer assailed Hillary Clinton, saying that, when it came to payback for her gay supporters, she "is cockteasing us, just like her husband did." He then called for "a new gay army with gay leaders, fighting under a gay flag."

Kerry at the Y: How Do You Ask a Species to Be the Last Species to Die for a Mistake?

What do politicians do between elections? They write (or "write") books filled with folksy uplift and anecdotes about their imaginary friends or real-life relatives. John Kerry's new tome, This Moment on Earth: Today's New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future, co-written with his wife, Teresa, belongs to this beatific genre — with one notable exception: It makes a bold retroactive case for its author as a leading environmentalist. Not only is Kerry a bona fide earth defender, it turns out, he's always been one. "As ranking member and Chairman of the Fish and Marine subcommittee," the book's jacket copy explains, "he was able to write or rewrite laws affecting national fisheries, flood insurance, marine mammals, coral reefs, the Gulf of Mexico dead zone." (Ah, there's the Kerry we remember!) We caught the senator at the 92nd Street Y last night before his Q&A session with Charlie Rose, and we were pleased to see that the new, environmentalist Kerry is still the same Kerry we've long known and, well, not loved, but at least donated to and campaigned for and had our hearts broken by. He's still smart, still stiff, and still frustratingly incapable of rendering a simple sound bite. After the jump, we try.

Victorious Chinese Workers Celebrate Belated New Year

The Chinese New Year ended more than a week ago, but Chinese Staff and Workers Association — a militant labor-rights group trying to gain better pay and conditions for employees in the city's Chinese restaurants — held a celebration at P.S. 2 on Henry Street yesterday. "It's the Golden Year of the Pig, and it will be good for workers," said Wing Lam, the group's executive director. It's a moment for the association to be celebrating: Its members refused to sign a contract with the Saigon Grill mini-chain, which led the restaurant to suspend its delivery service last week, and in February a federal judge ruled that managers at the 88 Palace restaurant on East Broadway wrongfully pocketed a service charge the restaurant had imposed on banquet tabs, ordering owners to fork over to eleven busboys and waiters some $700,000 in gratuities and other costs dating to 2002. Lawyers for 88 Palace's owners have filed an appeal, and they're also fighting the workers' attorneys' request for close to $1 million in legal fees. But for now, at least, happy Year of the Pig.
Mary Reinholz

In Testimony, Eichenwald Explains How Justin Berry's Story Made It Into the ‘Times’

Former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald was back in court in Ann Arbor, Mich., yesterday, testifying further about his series on how Justin Berry, an allegedly abused teen who was performing on Internet porn sites, made its way into the Times — and led to an editor's note in the paper earlier this week that left Eichenwald angry at the Times. (He's also angry with this reporter.)

A (Conservative) People's History of New York City

"A website founded by US religious activists aims to counter what they claim is 'liberal bias' on Wikipedia, the open encyclopedia which has become one of the most popular sites on the web. The founders of Conservapedia.com say their site offers a 'much-needed alternative' to Wikipedia, which they say is 'increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American.'" —The Guardian, London, March 2
New York City (also Gotham, Sodom, Gomorrah, The Big Apple, Satan's Condom) is the headquarters of the elitist East Coast liberal empire [1] and the world's largest sustained experiment in secular humanism.

Pitchfork Chief Moves to Brooklyn (Finally)

Here's more proof that New York still reigns supreme on the indie-rock scene, even seven or so years into its revival. We've now got Ryan Schreiber. Schreiber is the creator and editor-in-chief of Pitchfork Media — the music Website that enjoys total niche dominance and kingmaking clout in indie world — and, as of this month, he's a New Yorker. (Full disclosure: Some of us have both written for and been reviewed by the site.) But wait, you ask, isn't the 'Fork famously based in Chicago, and isn't it a kind of local institution there? Yes and yes, and it's staying there, as is the music festival it curates. In an oh-so-21st-century twist, Schreiber will simply be running things from here. (From Park Slope — natch — to be precise.) Although invitations are sure to come, don't expect to find Schreiber boozing at the Magician with the Lower East Side blogger royalty anytime soon; he's telling people he plans to keep a low profile. Which, in a way, makes it even tougher for New York bands: Now they'll have their own Frank Bruni to nervously scan the crowd for.

The Check Went to the Male

What does it look like when a Timesman buys a sex slave? Well, we don't know, because we haven't seen Nick Kristof's Cambodian receipts. But we do know what it looks like when a Timesman lends someone out of prostitution. As part of the legal processes set in motion by Kurt Eichenwald's December 2005 investigative series on online child porn, the $2,000 check he wrote to Justin Berry was subpoenaed. Here it is. (Click on it for a larger version.)

Debbie Nathan Earlier: 'Times' Prostitute Rescuer Eichenwald, in Testimony, Says He Went 'Off Deep End'

‘Times’ Prostitute Rescuer Eichenwald, in Testimony, Says He Went ‘Off the Deep End’

Former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald was in an Ann Arbor, Michigan, courtroom this morning, a witness in a child-porn prosecution captioned State of Michigan v. Kenneth Gourlay. But when Eichenwald took the stand, it could have been renamed "$2,000 Check v. Journalism 101" — and Eichenwald's testimony showed he knows he broke the rules. Earlier this week, the Times disclosed in an editors' note that Eichenwald had "loaned" $2,000 to 18-year-old Justin Berry, the subject of a controversial series Eichenwald published in December 2005, which led to a congressional hearing about the danger of Webcams to kids, and to charges against several gay men accused of molesting Berry and helping him manage his porn sites. Eichenwald and the Times had previously disclosed reporting irregularities — that Eichenwald spent several weeks in contact with Berry without disclosing that he was a reporter, that he helped put him in touch with authorities — but news of the loan first appeared in yesterday's paper. He and the paper received a barrage of criticism over the news (he's also received criticism from this reporter, in an incident explained here), and on the midwestern witness stand today, he tried to explain.

Labor Troubles at Saigon Grill Mean No Delivery for You

It's cold enough this week to make you reconsider going out for dinner. But if you're craving Vietnamese, you might have a problem. The popular Saigon Grill mini-chain, with locations on the Upper West Side and in the East Village (and a third, closed for renovation, on the Upper East Side), hasn't been offering delivery since it locked out 22 deliverymen Friday night. "I told them to leave because they tried to extort," owner Simon Nget, a Chinese Cambodian refugee, said last night. At an 11:30 meeting Friday, he asked the workers to sign a form he'd prepared, stipulating that they received adequate wages and would not sue him. A representative of the workers, he said, mentioned a $700,000 settlement paid to nine employees, which he said made him feel "threatened."

State Comptroller Says the Horse Can't Do

horse racing
New State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's "Review of the Financial Plan of the City of New York" is not a fun read, but it's as exuberant as a PDF from a .gov source can get. Tax collections are "far beyond the City's expectations." Surplus time all around! Plus, "conservative economic assumptions" lowball robust revenue forecasts for 2007. Our attention, however, was drawn to the travails of one city-related public authority floundering among all that splendor: the Off-Track Betting Corporation. Turns out the OTB's on a bit of a cold streak owing to "significant fiscal stress" and "rising expenses." By the end of 2006, it was down to $18 million in cash, which it swears will be enough to sustain operations in 2007. Notably, DiNapoli doesn't endorse that assessment, instead citing unnamed officials. And so the OTB is left in the unenviable position of actually waiting for its own horse to come in. Review of the Financial Plan of the City of New York [Office of the State Comptroller]

Cursed Brooklynites Seek Relief

What doesn't Brooklyn have? An ad in today's Metro promised to undo the curses that plague us, be they addictions, debt, rage, or witchcraft. But if you can't make it out to the Universal Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Friday night at seven, call ahead and reserve a prayer. We asked for help in getting rid of our migraines, and the gentleman working the phones added us to the list. Doctors "won't fix all your problems," he said, encouraging us to stop by the church sometime: "How can you taste the food if you never go in the restaurant?" Caution to the cursed: Our man said the phone has been ringing ever since the ad hit the streets, so your prayer may not be answered in a timely fashion. —Jocelyn Guest Metro New York [Official site]

We're Losing the Portable-Toilet Naming Contest

Portable Toilet
New Yorkers are always trying to be cleverer-than-thou, even when it comes to naming their portable toilets. The city is awash in portalets from companies called "A Royal Flush" and "Call-A-Head." But we've got nothing on the rest of the country. We consulted The Blue Book of Building and Construction to find the top twenty unfortunately named portable-toilet companies from near and far: 20. Happy Can Portable Toilets, Atlanta 19. Drop Zone Portable Service Inc., Frankfort, Ill. 18. Blackmas Best Seat In The House Inc., Bradley, Ill. 17. Plop Jon Inc., Port Saint Lucie, Fla. 16. A.S.A.P. Port-A-Pots Inc., Hampstead, Md. 15. Ameri-Can Engineering, Argos, Ind. 14. Bobby's Pottys, Joppa, Md. 13. Johnny On The Spot Inc., Old Bridge, N.J. 12. LepreCAN Portable Restrooms, Chicago 11. Loader-Up, Inc., Sarasota, Fla. 10. Mister Bob's Portable Toilets, Vero Beach, Fla. 9. Royal Throne, Washington, D.C. 8. Tanks Alot, Tomball, Tex. 7. Tee Pee Inc, Roseville, Mich. 6. Wizards of Ooze Ltd., Anacortes, Wash. 5. Oui Oui Enterprises Ltd., Chicago 4. Gotta Go Potties, Tobyhanna, Pa. 3. UrinBiz.com, Chicago 2. Willy Make It?, Oregon City, Oreg. 1. Doodie Calls, New Orleans — Andrew Adam Newman

Donna Karan and Mira Nair, Ladies Who Hunch

Tuesday night, after the New York premiere of The Namesake, filmmaker Mira Nair — who was born in India and today divides her time between Manhattan and Uganda, her husband's home country — will join pal Donna Karan to host a benefit for Nair's Maisha Film Lab, which trains East African and South Asian filmmakers, and also Chelsea's Iyengar Yoga Center which both women swear by. (Karan does Iyengar every morning; Nair goes three times a week on her own and on Sunday with her husband and son.) We talked to them about yoga, relaxation, and competition.

Pol and Poet Wouldn't Support N-Word Ban

Felipe Luciano ran for City Council two years ago, and he lost by only sixteen votes. Which is too bad, because if he'd won, he likely would have been the only council member to vote against the "N-word" moratorium that passed unanimously yesterday. A generation ago, Luciano wrote a poem that he has since performed widely: "Jibaro, My Pretty Nigger." Jibaro refers to a person from Puerto Rico, and Luciano, who grew up in Harlem, calls himself a black Puerto Rican. "I used the word nigger to defuse its negativity," he told us by phone. "When Puerto Ricans call each other the Spanish word 'negro,' it reflects feelings of love. I think New York blacks picked up 'You my nigger' from Puerto Ricans."

Meet the Rat Lady

Recent rats-in-restaurants footage has repulsed nearly every New Yorker — Au Bon Pain, anyone? — except perhaps for those in the city's small rat-enthusiast contingent. Raquel Cintron is one of them; for twenty years she's raised pet rats and participates in New York and international rat organizations. We spoke to her yesterday about the difference between domestic rats and wild ones, and about her spiritual connection to subway rats. What do you think of the restaurant rat-infestation story? I saw the video on the Internet, and I thought the rats were cute. They don't belong in a restaurant, but that's the fault of human beings who didn't block up holes or left garbage hanging around. If we provide food, water, and shelter, the rat thrives. How do you react to a rat on a subway platform? I stand there and look at him and he stands there and looks at me because we love each other. Rat lovers see them as intelligent creatures, as survivors, and we respect wild rats' connection to the domestic rat. But I don't want him coming toward me, because he could bite. It's not good to interact with any wild animal.

Christie Brinkley Backs Out

Christie Brinkley hasn't been out in public much since the messy breakup of her marriage, but she planned to reappear tonight, hosting a dinner at Schiller's Liquor Bar for her daughter, Alexa Ray Joel, before her performance at Mercury Lounge. But now it looks like Brinkley's debut is going to have to wait. Last night, she underwent emergency back surgery to correct a herniated disc she'd aggravated during an Aspen ski trip over Christmas. (The injury had rapidly worsened over the past few days.) And so she scrambled to find a replacement host. Alexa Ray's dad, Billy Joel, was on tour and couldn't make it on time, but Ron Delsener, the legendary promoter who's Alexa Ray's godfather, agreed at the last minute to fill in. Brinkley's Hamptons-set friends are still showing up in force, but the former model won't be there herself. "I said I would break my back to help my daughter," she said in a statement, "but I didn't mean it literally." —Jada Yuan