In the fight against trans fats, bad publicity might just do for New York what a protracted legal battle could not. The city's move to ban the deadly oils, which was rolling forward like a hungry man heading toward a bodega for chiccarones, seems to have been stopped in its tracks, or at least slowed, according this Crain's story referenced in yesterday's Morning Line. Part of the reason might be the prospect of a long and costly war with Ronald's army, which we outlined earlier. But even without being regulated, companies are tripping over each other to abandon the good stuff. KFC took the hint weeks ago. Taco Bell just saw the light, and earlier this week, the Girl Scouts got on board the zero-trans-fats train. At this rate, they might not have to pass the law at all. Except for McDonald's, of course.
There's a major plot twist in the story of Stuyvesant Town's impending $5.4 billion sale, potentially the largest real-estate deal in history. As any good plot twist should, it begins with a lawyer, alone in a library after hours, poring over a dusty folio (or so we'd like to think). He's representing the megacomplex's tenants (who lost their own bid for the place to Tishman Speyer), and he has unearthed an obscure provision in the 1942 agreement between the city and MetLife, Stuy Town's owner. Under its terms, MetLife would get a 25-year tax break in exchange for a promise: The insurance company would keep rents low and, crucially, it would cap its annual profit at six percent.
The tenants' lawyer has thus concluded that, should MetLife go on with the sale, it must either dissolve its subsidiary named in the agreement or fork over all excess profit to the city (yeah, right). MetLife, meantime, is of course shrugging this off as "a last-minute, desperate attempt to interfere." Tishman Speyer is staying out of the mess altogether. And the ball is now in the city comptroller's court, where the discovery may actually get some traction. Consider Comptroller William Thompson's original statement when the sale was announced: "I am deeply disappointed that Metropolitan Life rushed to sign a deal without giving serious consideration to the offer submitted by the residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village." Is this his chance to remedy that disappointment?
MetLife Real Estate Deal Could Be Derailed [Crain's]
Thompson Statement, 10/17/06 [NYC.gov]
To make an omelette, as they say, you've got to break some eggs. And to make a Second Avenue subway, it seems, you've got to break some leases. There's news today about the East Side tenants who will eminent-domained out of their apartments, forced perpetually to stand clear of those closing doors. Some numbers to consider …
Number of Second Avenue apartments from which tenants will be removed so that the MTA can build entrances to the Second Avenue subway: 60
The original number of residential relocations requested by MTA: 127
Year these relocations will start: 2008
Number of blocks to be covered by first leg of Second Avenue subway: 33
When service is scheduled to begin on that leg: 2013
Maximum monthly subsidy available to a relocated tenant under eminent-domain law: $5,250
Number of months the subsidy will last: 42
Number of months from 2008 to 2013: 482nd Ave. Wary of Subway Plan [Newsday]
Three weeks ago, we noted a somewhat well-duh piece in the Times "Metro" section about how Passaic, New Jersey, reacted to Michel Gondry's shooting a movie there. We noted a quote from Gondry in the piece — "But I'm not going to fix their life. And that's something that makes me a little sad" — and we commented that "it makes us sad, too." Yesterday afternoon, inexplicably, this response (retort? explanation? existential musing?) arrived from Gondry, via his publicist:
Dear Mr. Intelligencer —
I am really sorry I've made you sad. To cheer you up, I decided to share with you some of the exciting things I did for my movie BE KIND, REWIND in the lovely city of Passaic, N.J., and how, in the process, I encountered a lot of unique and interesting people. I can imagine you wagging your tail in anticipation to read all the significant details of my story.
Derek Jeter has a new lady: Esquire favorite Jessica Biel. The owners of Stereo on West 29th are annoyed a club named Stereo is opening on West 33rd. The Catholic Church is in a tizzy over some book featuring a model-as-Catholic-schoolgirl in various stages of undress (and, finally, no dress). Rudy and Judith Giuliani took a one-and-a-half-day vacation in Italy. Jack Black says Jeremy Piven hates him because Black was cast as the record-store geek in High Fidelity and Piven wasn't. Four women who had been knocking off sample sales all over town finally get caught in the act. Whitney Houston will be homeless in January, unless she comes up with $1 million. Terminator 3 babe Kristanna Loken comes out of the closet, and Michelle Rodriguez is by her side. An apartment building is being converted to condos, and opponents of the plan say a 97-year-old man died because of the construction (instead of, you know, old age). Ted Turner advocates nuclear power, getting Bush out of office, having fewer children. A women accused Rachael Ray's husband of extra-marital kinkiness, but the couple denies it. Emilio Estevez is a self-proclaimed "garageiste." Congrats to Grandpa Donald Trump!
• Holy crap, could this be …? It is! There is actual construction afoot at ground zero — and on the Freedom Tower, no less. The steel cage defines the areas where elevators and stairwells will go; the pouring of concrete starts tomorrow. And if we'd seen this, oh, let's see, four and a half years ago, we'd probably burst with pride. [NYT]
• In case you want to relive the glory of last Tuesday: A Democratic congressional candidate in Connecticut WON! WON! WON! the recount against his GOP opponent, a three-term incumbent. "Landslide Joe" (hey, he nicknamed himself) Courtney's sweeping mandate is now officially based on a 91-vote advantage. [NYT]
• NYC's Board of Health might take things slower with the trans-fat ban. It may also give it a form other than a piece of City Council legislation, lest the city be hit with a ton of lawsuits. McDonald's, by the way, says it will totally comply (even as it's hiring new high-profile lawyers). [Crain's]
• A fired media executive is in deep trouble for being a good Samaritan, of sorts. Stevan Hoffacker was allegedly monitoring the company's e-mail traffic from his home PC in Queens and sending colleagues heads-up messages if they were about to get canned as well. The bosses at SourceMedia must have been puzzled by all the prescient "You can't fire me, I quit" storm-offs. [NYDN]
• And alleged phone-thrower Naomi Campbell is looking for a plea deal but won't take anything that will require her to do cleanup duty (the court-mandated humiliation du jour for errant celebrities). "It's not that she's squeamish," her lawyer is quoted saying — and trailing off directly afterward. [NYP]