Scraps of History, Up for the Highest Bid

They are the mysterious tokens of a lost city, lurking between scraps of metal and concrete in a moldering warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Against one wall, dust collects atop four burgundy seats from the old Audubon Ballroom, the site of Malcolm X’s assassination.

Against another, black soot fills the flared nostrils of a stone cow’s head that once greeted workers at the Sheffield Farms milk plant in the Bronx.

And in a back corner, two wooden crates with Pan-Am baggage tags rest on a counter, with a sender’s address from the Hotel Honduras Maya in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The intended recipient: Mayor Edward I. Koch, whose name still adorns a sign on the warehouse’s building front.

This is the Architectural Salvage Warehouse, once a city-operated holding space — and, occasionally, a marketplace — for fragments and ornaments from demolished landmarks and other buildings.

And later this month, in a sealed-bid auction organized by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the entire lot will be sold to the highest bidder.

“It’s not Sotheby’s,” said John Weiss, deputy counsel for the commission, wading through the building’s dust and rust on Thursday.

In the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge, tucked between a bar, a junkyard and two small apartment buildings, the warehouse on Berry Street was once home to the commission’s architectural salvage program. From 1980 to 2000, the program accepted the remains of demolished structures: shuttered theaters, once-bustling slaughterhouses, even old signs from the post office at Grand Central Terminal.

“The city’s cultural legacy is in that warehouse,” said Suzanne Wasserman, director of the Gotham Center for New York City History at the CUNY Graduate Center. “It seems a little insidious to be selling everything to the highest bidder.”

Once empty, the space will be turned over to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Mr. Weiss said, for possible renovation into affordable housing. In an effort to hasten the sale, the city has reached out to hundreds of salvage companies it thought might be capable of processing the many tons of material. Next week, according to Mr. Weiss, at least four potential buyers will survey the premises.

The auction has scarcely been publicized otherwise, save for a small advertisement in the City Record (Sales Proposal #11030) that omits the Landmarks Preservation Commission and leaves no hint of the treasures locked within.

With warehouse contents barely touched since 2000, the origins of many items are unknown to the city. Even during the salvage program’s two-decade run, bookkeeping was often inconsistent.

Consequently, some historians are concerned the city fails to recognize the cultural significance of what it is auctioning. Ms. Wasserman, who lobbied Kate Daly, the commission’s executive director, for a visit to the warehouse last week, said she had to explain to Ms. Daly that the “NYB” chiseled into a massive block of Indiana limestone stood for New York Butchers on 11th Avenue, one of the city’s longest-surviving slaughterhouses. Four stone steer heads (bovine busts were apparently a popular way to announce the presence of a beef or dairy business back in the day) were also recovered from the structure, which was razed in 1991. Ms. Wasserman offered to buy the heads separately, she said, but the commission refused.

“Whoever buys the entire lot, you can always just buy it from them,” Mr. Weiss said, noting that several museums and historical societies in the city had declined to accept individual pieces.

Though most remain mysterious, some items do leave traces of a bygone era. On a blue door from 148 Waverly Place, stacked among a row of home structures near a collection of sinks and toilets, a note is attached from the Department of Buildings: “Not more than 2 adults permitted to sleep in this room.”

Other trinkets entered the collection without any clear relationship to a demolished landmark: a dented red canister for Roberts Brand Beef Fat in Brooklyn, two boxes of cobweb-draped Voltaire works, a seven-light menorah dedicated to a woman named Minnie Small.

The commission says it will not include any items of religious significance in the auction, nor a piece of the facade it acquired from the Helen Hayes Theater — which, the original donor stipulated, could be reused only at a building in the Times Square area.

Of greater concern, according to Andrew S. Dolkart, director of the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia University, is the lost opportunity for local residents to rehabilitate their own homes.

At the peak of the salvage program, during which Mr. Dolkart served as a researcher for the commission, the warehouse held regular hours for visitors to purchase architectural elements at affordable prices.

“The idea was to collect these things for the public good, not for some dealer to make a significant profit,” he said. “The mandate was to help the people of New York.”

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Court Clears Way for Hospital Corporation Layoffs

A state appellate court ruled on Thursday that the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation could go forward with planned layoffs it had announced last year, reversing a lower court ruling that prevented the staff reductions.

The city hailed the ruling as vindication that the mayor, his commissioners and the individual agencies had the right to determine the size of their work forces amid tight fiscal constraints.

“This decision is extremely important,” Michael A. Cardozo, the city’s corporation counsel, said in a statement. “It makes clear that in these difficult budget times the personnel and layoff decisions made by the executive branch cannot be second-guessed by the judiciary.”

Since last year, when the lower court issued a temporary restraining order preventing the layoffs, the case has cost the city $10 million, Mr. Cardozo’s office said in a press release.

After hiring Deloitte Consulting to conduct a study, the Health and Hospitals Corporation determined in May 2010 that it would cut 144 positions: 45 of 136 carpenters, 45 of 156 electricians and 54 of 104 laborers.

Unions representing each of these groups sued, saying that the layoffs would prevent the corporation, which runs the city’s public hospitals, from maintaining safe and adequate facilities. The layoffs, the union said, would affect the safety of hospital patients, staff members and the public.

“The Appellate Division has chosen to overturn the lower court’s well-reasoned findings and in so doing has reopened very real concerns about the safety of both the public and our members,” Lillian Roberts, the executive director of District Council 37, the city’s largest municipal employees’ union, said in a statement released Thursday.

The layoffs, she added, raised questions about who would do the work that was “so fundamental to the operations of H.H.C. facilities.”

“The Union will be carefully evaluating H.H.C. actions from today forward, and assessing all our options to best defend both our members, and the interests of the communities which H.H.C. is meant to serve,” she said.

A justice in State Supreme Court ruled last year that the layoffs, among other things, were arbitrary and capricious and that the corporation did not use sound methodology to determine the impact of the layoffs.

But Justice John W. Sweeny Jr., who wrote the 4-to-0 decision for the appellate court in Manhattan, said that the corporation appeared to use sound reasoning.

“The record before us clearly shows that H.H.C.’s layoff decision was rational in light of the imperative to reduce costs in conjunction with its mandate to provide medical services to all,” Justice Sweeny wrote.

Justice Sweeny also noted that it was up to the city to manage its staff.

“Neither the petitioners nor the courts should be permitted to substitute their judgment for the discretionary management of the public business by public officials, as neither have been lawfully charged with that responsibility,” he wrote.

Pro Bono

Although law firms seemed to rebound from difficult financial times last year by posting profits, the number of pro bono hours has fallen among the top 200 firms in the United States, according to The American Lawyer.

The average number of pro bono hours per lawyer at these firms dropped 8 percent, according to the journal.

The trend seemed to make sense, said Robin Sparkman, the editor in chief of The American Lawyer.

“It’s not that the firms dramatically changed their commitment,” Ms. Sparkman said. “It was a staffing issue. Hiring hasn’t returned, but work to some degree has. There’s only so many bodies, so many lawyers. So they have to do the paying work before they do the pro bono work.”

Still, Ms. Sparkman said, the drop should be noted.

“It is significant to see pro bono numbers go down over all,” she said. “It’s big and it’s disconcerting. But it is not completely surprising.”

John Eligon and other court reporters for The New York Times take you inside the city’s halls of law every Friday. Have a tip? Send an e-mail message to [email protected].

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LeRoy Neiman, Still Bright and Bold and Name-Dropping at 90

“Do you mind?” LeRoy Neiman asks as he leans forward in his painting studio and reaches for a great-smelling cigar.

“Is it a Macanudo?” he says, peering down at the label and exhaling a fine stream of smoke. “Then it’s a gift, it’s not mine. I like the real Cuban cigars.”

Now he was smoking and telling stories. Or rather, backstories: the narratives to the scenes he created in his brilliantly colored paintings of athletes and sporting events.

Mr. Neiman, one of America’s best-known artists, turned 90 on June 8, and he still paints and draws daily in the same bright, bold style, and in the spacious studio in his longtime Central Park West apartment.

He recently completed a commissioned painting for the 2012 Ryder Cup golf tournament and plans to travel to Medinah, Ill., in September 2012 to attend the match.

Going to sporting events, always sitting in front rows, helped make Mr. Neiman as familiar a sight as his paintings. And he still has his trademark Dalí-esque mustache and a full head of hair neatly brushed back. But because he has trouble walking, he is largely unable to attend live sporting events anymore, and he misses it.

“Very much,” he said the other day in his studio, which overlooks Central Park. He was dressed in a pink Oxford shirt and white linen pants and pink socks and gray bucks.

He was surrounded by a vast array of paints and brushes, and while he spoke, he rocked his wheelchair back and forth on the paint-splattered floor.

His trademark style was evident on the huge canvas of jazz greats on the wall, and on the painting clamped to his easel, of Frank Sinatra at the bar at Rao’s with the bartender, Nick the Vest, mixing a drink.

Mr. Neiman is finishing up his autobiography, which he promises is chock full of his personal encounters with athletes, and their reactions to him.

“I think it was a discovery for them to see a live artist and to see this character hanging around before ballgames or in dressing rooms or at a fight, that close — my whole thing was to draw close,” he said. “If you get close to the game, there are a lot of things that go on.”

For example, there was the boxing match when Bobo Olson, a middleweight, was punched so hard by Sugar Ray Robinson that he went cross-eyed, said Mr. Neiman, who was sitting next to Mr. Olson’s corner during that fight.

“He was hit so hard that his eyes were crossed,” he said. “Even after being revived in the dressing room, his eyes stayed that way. These are the discoveries you make.”

He recalled being close enough to the fights of Emile Griffith to notice that the boxer’s good luck charms were the silk robes handmade by his mother, a different color every fight.

Whatever the event, it was important to be ringside, he said. Even the time he painted Leonard Bernstein athletically conducting an orchestra.

“One arm was very powerful, and the other arm was skinny, like a tennis player,” he said, imitating the maestro.

Ah, tennis. This reminded him of his first sports painting, of the tennis great Pancho Gonzalez. Mr. Gonzalez later acquired a Neiman painting, apparently believing it was the one of him.

“I ran into him one time, and he dragged me to see it,” Mr. Neiman recalled. “He was so proud, but when I saw it, I had to tell him, ‘Sorry, it isn’t you.’ ”

Among his favorites — as athletes, people and subjects — were Muhammad Ali and Joe Namath.

“I remember Joe had a party at his place and the guys were throwing a football, and Joe yelled, ‘Watch out for my chandelier.’ ”

Mr. Neiman recalled the time the manager of Mr. Ali’s training camp began arguing with a visitor. Mr. Ali gave them both boxing gloves and made them fight it out.

“Ali said, ‘Let’s settle this thing,’ ” Mr. Neiman recalled.

Despite sniping from art critics who have described his work as commercial, Mr. Neiman has kept his style relatively consistent over the years.

“Every time I started painting it was like a new experience,” he said, “but they all came out the same.”

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Is It Summer? Time to Party at the Museum

Neighborhood Joint

A series of articles profiling favorite local haunts.
What’s your neighborhood joint?

Three young girls zipped across the crowded dance floor, dresses fluttering, as a new D.J. took the stage. Their parents watched from beneath a small grove of plum and oak trees, drinking beers and discussing the exhibition of Ryan Trecartin videos. Nearby, two intricately coiffed hipsters in tight black cut-offs dipped their feet in a pool and waited to play table tennis.

To the uninitiated, the scene might have looked like some odd mash-up of a school playground, an outdoor rave and a gallery opening. But to its many regulars, it was just another summer Saturday at MoMA PS1, the contemporary art museum in Long Island City, Queens.

Read the full article.

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Off-Duty Officer Shoots a Man in Melee Outside a Bar

An off-duty city police officer shot and wounded a 26-year-old man who had grabbed another off-duty officer’s gun and shot at him in an early-morning melee outside a Brooklyn bar, the police said.

The man who was shot, Pablo Roberto Negron, was in stable condition on Thursday at Lutheran Medical Center. He had not immediately been charged, said Deputy Inspector Kim Y. Royster, a police spokeswoman.

The fracas began around 4 a.m. on Thursday outside the Old Gallery Bar in Kensington, just as a bouncer announced “last call” and about 30 patrons began streaming out onto McDonald Avenue, just north of 18th Avenue, the police said.

Inspector Royster and other police officials offered the following account:

A customer, Jonathan LeDuc, 21, was yelling at some women outside the bar. The older of the two officers, 37, told Mr. LeDuc to “calm down.” Mr. LeDuc looked at the younger officer, who is 28, and said, “what are you looking at.” (The police did not release the officers’ names.)

The younger officer showed his badge, identified himself as an officer and said, “I don’t want any problems.”

Mr. LeDuc said “I don’t care who you are,” and punched the younger officer in the face with such force that it knocked him to the ground and dislodged his earrings, the police account said.

Mr. LeDuc then called for his friends, and a group of men, including Mr. Negron, set upon the older officer, who is the younger one’s patrol partner. Mr. Negron struck the older officer in the face and put him in a headlock as the officer struggled to take out his off-duty service gun, which fell to the ground.

Then, Mr. Negron grabbed the gun and fired at the older officer, who ran.

The younger officer heard the shots, got up, approached Mr. Negron, crouched down and yelled, “Drop the gun, drop the gun — police” before opening fire. After Mr. Negron was hit, another man, Jose Rivera, 22, picked up the weapon before he was apprehended by officers from the Transit Bureau who were in the area.

Four other men were in police custody at the 70th Precinct, but charges against them were pending, officials said.

Both officers are six-year veterans assigned to the 70th Precinct’s Anti-Crime team, and Thursday’s shooting was the first for the officer who fired his weapon, officials said.

Under police guidelines, the officer who fired his weapon was given a breath test for alcohol after the shooting, and the test showed that he had been drinking, with a blood-alcohol level of 0.04, which is below the 0.08 legal limit for driving, Inspector Royster said.

She said both officers were fit for duty and the bar was not designated as off limits for officers. The events will be analyzed by the Police Department’s Firearms Discharge Review Board to determine if they fit within the guidelines for the use of deadly physical force, she said.

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