In a full-page advertisement in The Sun business section Friday, friends and business associates of John Paterakis criticized this newspaper for its coverage of the downtown hotel controversy in which he's embroiled and defended Paterakis as a good man - "some might even say a great man" - and solid citizen of Baltimore. They, of course, endorsed his plan for major hotel at Inner Harbor East.
There's no disputing Paterakis' good citizenship. He has maintained his successful bakery business here, purchased property here, supported charities here, invested in political campaigns here. But for all that, Paterakis deserves a nice, big testimonial - not a complete municipal rollover on a multimillion-dollar taxpayer subsidy of a grand hotel a mile from the Baltimore Convention Center.
The Paterakis fraternity brothers must be the only people in Baltimore who think the mayor's decision to subsidize Big John's Wyndham Hotel was a smart one - not a political one - and that we should stop being so picky and gladly fork over $43 million so Paterakis & Co. can build a hotel at an ill-advised location.
I suppose they feel the same way about Peter Angelos' proposal for a Grand Hyatt across the street from the Convention Center. Angelos, the multimillionaire lawyer and owner of the Orioles who stands to reap another huge windfall when the tobacco companies settle liability claims with the state, wants about $45 million from the city. In addition, he wants the city-owned site of the hotel donated to him and a 20-year waiver on city taxes.
Where's the full-page ad endorsing that idea?
It's amusing that the only hotel developer the mayor and his buddies question is the guy from New York, Harvey Schulweis, who has announced that he'll build a Westin hotel at the old News American site without public subsidy.
Now that's a guy to keep your eye on. As our Rhodes scholar mayor said: "Whenever a proposal looks too good to be true, it usually turns out to be so."
The City Council votes on the Paterakis subsidy this evening. Many of its members take great satisfaction in having trimmed the amount of subsidies to the present level - in the Paterakis proposal, about 30 percent of the construction cost. If the Paterakis deal goes through, next comes Angelos with his hand out. Together, he and Paterakis could cost the city $85 million.
Other cities cut much better deals than this. In some cases, hotels rise with no public subsidy at all. But in Baltimore, our City Council feels beholden to John Paterakis and Peter Angelos. And so we give them millions in tribute when a couple of nice testimonials at Martin's West would suffice.
The state has offered Eddie Podboy, the man who owns Chapman's Landing in Charles County, about $25 million for the land. Eddie wants $31 million, nothing less. Tell you what we do: We change the name from Chapman's Landing to Podboy's Legend. Is that beautiful, or what?
We make part of it a wildlife preserve, part of it a state park with a boat launch. Marylanders will get to enjoy this scenic stretch on the Potomac River - or should that be Podboy River? - for generations to come.
Whaddaya say, Eddie? What's $6 million when we're talking immortality? Come on, man.
Attenion a hero
Attention must be paid, Marla Landsman says. Attention must be paid to the man who saved a child from drowning at the Inner Harbor, and it doesn't matter what the police say about him. Doesn't matter that the police consider him an aggressive panhandler, or that he's a druggie. For one brief shining moment, he was a genuine hero. Marla Landsman says attention must be paid.
Sunday night, a week ago, around 10 o'clock, near the Hard Rock Cafe, there was a splash, followed by hysterical screams in a foreign language. A little boy - maybe 5 years old - had fallen or jumped into the harbor, across from HRC, along Pier 4. Landsman, who had just left the cafe with family, turned and saw the boy splashing in the water. A man and a woman, apparently the boy's parents, jumped in and yelled to him. Another man, who appeared to be in his mid-20s, stepped down to a platform and reached for the boy. Other people gathered and formed a human chain. The man on the platform grabbed the boy by the hair and hauled him out of the water.
Marla Landsman was right there. She cradled the boy in her arms, cupped a hand under his wet head and placed him gently on the pavement. "His eyes were fluttering and he was gagging," Landsman says. "His mother ... gave him mouth-to-mouth, and water came out of his mouth."
Landsman ended up talking to the man who had pulled the little boy from the water. She learned a lot about him in a matter of minutes. "He told me he was a drug addict who had just come out of rehab," she says. "He said he was a panhandler who wasn't allowed in [the Hard Rock Cafe]. ... When the police came around, I told them what he had done, but they didn't want to hear it."
Details of the incident were difficult to get. The boy did not require hospitalization, and he and his parents left in a hurry, refusing to make a police report or give their names.
But when contacted, Inner Harbor police were well-aware of the incident and the involvement of a man named Joseph, known to them as an "aggressive panhandler."
Whatever the police call him most days, the other night he was a genuine hero, Marla Landsman says. Attention must be paid.
Pub Date: 4/06/98