On Friday, an organization called East Village Cares held a rally at City Hall in support of turning the former P.S 64 and CHARAS/El Bohio community center on Ninth Street into a dorm.
According to the Daily News, some of the 30 people who rallied behind organizer Jose de Yarza, co-owner of Donostia on Avenue B, were hired extras.
The News reported that they obtained a copy of the casting email that was seeking people to "beef up attendance" for the rally in exchange for a rate of "$50 CASH / 2.5 hour booking."
One person holding a sign at the event confirmed attending as a result of the casting call. Another declined to answer, saying it wouldn’t be right to discuss whether he’d been paid. Two others approached by the News denied being paid or getting the casting call email.
It seeks “individuals of all ages,” in particular those living in the East Village or Lower East Side, having family or other “significant connections” there or an ability to “speak and advocate about the neighborhood.”
“Note this is a real live protest, and protestors MUST look real and be enthusiastic and verbal about the subject. Signs will be provided by production,” it read.
An EVG reader shared part of the pitch email for the work...
Gotham Government Relations & Communications, the lobbying firm who reportedly organized the rally on behalf of East Village Cares and P.S. 64 landlord Gregg Singer, strongly denied the use of paid extras.
“We absolutely categorically deny any connection to any of those things that are alleged,” founding partner Bradley Gerstman said, adding he had no knowledge of the casting company.
De Yarza said he recognized between a dozen and 15 of the people at the rally as neighborhood residents or activists, and said he had “no knowledge of anybody being paid to be there.”
The Villager reported in its current issue that Gotham Government Relations was "best known for engineering the announcement of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, complete with cheering paid actors."
The Villager also reported that Singer has retained Gotham's services for $12,000 a month, starting this past July.
The landmarked building between Avenue B and Avenue C is back in the headlines after Mayor de Blasio said last month that his administration would take steps to reacquire the property ... without offering any further details on how the city would do this. (The building was also a contentious issue in the District 2 race for City Council. Read more here and here.)
Singer bought the property from the city in 1998. He wants to turn the landmarked property into a dorm called University Square, and continues in a holding pattern while the DOB maintains a Stop Work Order on the building. (Adelphi University has reportedly signed a lease for space here.)
Community activists, preservationists and some local elected officials have long been opposed to Singer's plans, and want to see a return to use as a cultural and community center.
In a recently published article on the topic, The Indypendent included a statement from Gotham stating in part: "The East Village has changed in the 20 years since P.S. 64 was sold. The original group that occupied the building has no presence in today’s community."
Last Monday, Community Board 3's Arts & Cultural Affairs Subcommittee passed a resolution supporting de Blasio's call to reacquire the property, as Patch reported. The full Board is expected to vote on the resolution next Tuesday.