Warsing and WIRE Lay It Out

Terrible Things I Did: Truth According to Briana Warsing & the Main Street WIRE

Updated 19 weeks ago David Stone
Stacks of Main Street WIREs no longer collect dust in local business doorways.
Stacks of Main Street WIREs no longer collect dust in local business doorways.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Earlier this month, the Main Street WIRE and Briana Warsing, represented by local attorney Marc Jonas Block, asked for a default judgment of $300,000 against me and this newspaper in New York Supreme Court. They hope to walk off with a claim that I didn't respond to a summons I'd never seen. And, just to spice up the works, they demand that I defend things I never did.

Note: The Main Street WIRE, Inc., is listed as the primary plaintiff, Warsing second, but there is no statement or endorsement from the newspaper's owner, Dr. Jack Resnick, or anyone else in administrative authority. Warsing, as far as we know, has always been a self-employed contract worker, not an employee or owner authorized to represent the WIRE in a legal dispute. Warsing's the only person to sign a complaint.

In an affidavit, Warsing, an attorney and officer of the court herself, admitted to the bar as Briana Herman in 2002, swears that "Prior to the spring of 2016, Defendant Stone worked as a freelance contributor to The Main Street WIRE. In the spring of 2016, Defendant Stone engaged in discussions to take over The Main Street WIRE as publisher and editor, replacing the retiring publisher and editor Dick Lutz."

She goes on, apparently establishing a narrative for charges to follow, "A satisfactory arrangement between Defendant Stone and Plaintiff Wire (sic) could not be reached. On April 13, 2016, Defendant Stone informed Plaintiff Wire (sic) that he was ‘moving on.’"

And then, the fantasy escalates. 

Warsing swears, "In August of 2016, after the termination of negotiations between Stone and Lutz and after the creation of Defendant Daily by Stone, plaintiff Warsing was appointed the Editor in Chief of The Main Street WIRE. Thereafter, Stone began to systematically and repeatedly attack Warsing, the Wire (sic) and anyone associated therewith with false and misleading allegations of racism, sexual misconduct and lack of professionalism."

Let's unpack this briefly.

Forming the narrative basis for suing me for $300,000, Warsing says that in the spring of 2016, Dick Lutz and I failed to reach an agreement for my taking over as Editor and Publisher of the WIRE, and when she instead became editor in August, I systematically began attacking her and everyone associated with the newspaper.

Crazy, you know? You'd think I'd remember.

Well, actually, I do remember, and that ain't what happened.

The Inconvenient Facts

I won't fill up this article with copies, but I can assure you I have dozens of emails between me and Dick Lutz, Jack Resnick and others - including Warsing - showing that Lutz and I began talking, at his suggestion, about my taking over as editor and publisher of the WIRE in late autumn 2015, not the spring of 2016. By early winter, our agreement was in place and a transition underway.

Lutz and I met at Riverwalk Bar & Grill and worked out the terms of the deal in December, 2015. We got Dr. Resnick's buy-in in January.

I was to take over no later than July 1st and likely sooner since Warsing, who'd been the WIRE's editor for well over a year, planned to leave to unite herself and three children with husband Chris in California, a fact well-known among the newspaper's contributors.

Lutz had been mentoring Warsing since around 2013, describing the effort to me as "exhausting," but had never gotten her far enough along to even consider her for publisher.

Terrible Things I Did: Truth According to Briana Warsing & the Main Street WIRE
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

If she left sooner - her declared intention when Lutz and I reached our agreement was to vacate as early as January - I had to be ready to assume the editor role on the spot.

Easing the transition publicly, Lutz advised gradually making the community aware of my taking responsibilities over from himself and Warsing, sharing the information only with key people on a need to know basis early.

I guess I should've been suspicious of that, but what the hell? Dick Lutz had been my friend for ten years. I trusted him.

"Briana knows," Lutz said in early February email, as well as proofreader extraordinaire Linda Heimer, Matt Katz and Sherie Helstien, his closest associates.

That much out of the way, Briana and I met for the first time soon after, over coffee in Main Street Sweets, to work on transitioning her role. As dozens of emails show, Dick and I were hard at work on the publisher functions.

So, no, Lutz and I were not dickering over details in the spring, as Warsing's sworn affidavit says. The details were set. And according to Lutz, she knew it in February.

And no, again, Warsing was not, out of a clear blue sky, named editor-in-chief in August, 2016. According to Warsing's LinkedIn profile, a contemporaneous AM New York article, and the newspaper's own mastheads, she was the Main Street WIRE's one and only editor since 2013.

You can guess where the rest of this is going.

"Stone began to systematically and repeatedly attack Warsing, the Wire (sic) and anyone associated therewith with false and misleading allegations of racism, sexual misconduct and lack of professionalism." 

First, there is no evidence that I ever accused anyone at the WIRE of racism because I never thought Lutz, Resnick, Katz, Helstien or Warsing were racists, not even close.

And if Warsing hadn't coughed up an "inspired" misinterpretation of something I wrote, I'd have no idea what the "sexual misconduct" came from either.

Lack of professionalism...?

Sure, she's got me on that one, but it's neither false nor misleading. And here's why.

This, in spite of Trump's best efforts, is still America and the First Amendment to the Constitution protects my right to express an honest opinion. You'd expect a newspaper editor to know that.

Examples...

Not long after Gristedes cut off WIC checks, upsetting low income Roosevelt Islanders, Warsing reported on a meeting with owner Jim Catsimatidis. The article was better written than most of her work and accompanied by a flattering photo of the billionaire known as "Cats."

That photo originally appeared in Forbes, but Warsing never says so nor credits the photographer, leaving WIRE readers to think it's an original. That's plagiarized use of someone else's copyrighted content... and unprofessional.

On another occasion, under Warsing's leadership, the WIRE published an article about NYC Ferry's plans for a new landing in Queens, illustrated by another uncredited photo, but the article itself was a nearly word for word repetition of an earlier article in The Queens Journal, a Long Island City newspaper.

In June of 2017, Warsing published a follow up article on the Tram's 40th Anniversary celebration. In it she quoted Ed Logue, who led the Urban Development Corporation when it was first conceived.

“The Tram was really an afterthought, because we built Roosevelt Island with the understanding there would be a subway,” said former Urban Development Corporation President Ed Logue. “Finally, we realized we were not going to have a subway by the time the Island was ready for people.” 

But Logue died in 2000, and she never reveals where she got the quote, but it certainly wasn't directly from Logue.

These are some examples of plagiarism and unprofessional conduct, in my opinion, not "false or misleading allegations." They're there for anyone to see, including Warsing's and the WIRE's attorney, if they wish to look.

Finally, in terms of professionalism, even after being chided, Warsing and Managing Editor Kelly Turner refused to include full disclosure statements in reporting where they were personally involved. Responsible newspapers all do this as a way of inoculating themselves against claims of bias and to let readers judge for themselves.

But article after article came out about PS/IS 217, glaringly when it came to stories about the 2017 rat infestation, without full disclosure statements, even though both Turner's and Warsing's children attended the school.

...Sexual Misconduct...

It's strange enough that Warsing would make such an unsupported claim - and that her attorney would let her - when a net effect was to start a nasty rumor that might embarrass her family, including school age children.

Warsing says I accused her of having an affair with Dick Lutz. That's not just unimaginable, it's ridiculous.

In an article published, curiously, not quite a year earlier, I wrote: "There was, I thought, some sort of inappropriate relationship going on, the kind of thing that drives impractical, emotional recklessness," explaining my immediate reaction when, after conferring with Warsing, very late in the game, Lutz reneged on our agreement to take over the WIRE.

In my dictionary, "inappropriate" is defined as "not suitable or proper in the circumstances," with no sexual or romantic connotations.

Yet, Warsing says it means an affair, but in doing so, she ignores the rest of the paragraph where I explain the comment.

"It felt clear to me that Warsing had shared with Lutz a choice not to reunite herself and her children with her husband in California and to stay here instead. And keep control of the WIRE."

Maintaining a sub rosa understanding to preserve Warsing's position with the WIRE, while at the same time directing me to obtain credit cards and begin paying the newspaper's expenses, is by any account "not suitable or proper."

The WIRE Bulletin List

In Warsing's statement, she bluntly accuses me of theft, specifically of a WIRE Bulletin mailing list that Lutz had, at one time, used to alert the community about such things as planned subway shutdowns but had abandoned for at least a year before I began taking over the WIRE

Although Warsing laboriously details the high value of this list, it has not been used to send out alerts by anyone (but me) associated with the WIRE, with a single exception, in at least four years. (Warsing does use it to promote her opinion blog, although no one on the list ever opted in for that.)

I was never on the list myself but considered the bulletins valuable to the community, and as we worked through transition details, I told Lutz I wanted to restart them.

A motivation for me was to use the list as a supplement to others I'd already developed in stimulating local sales of my books. That is, while offering a free public service, I'd include promotions of my work.

Without expressing any limitations on how the email addresses could be used, Lutz readily emailed them on a spread sheet with instructions on how to add them to "your own list." I need to add here that Lutz was meticulous in his communications, emphasizing what could be shared and what was to be kept private. There were no such instructions about the spreadsheet of email addresses.

Pause...

Yesterday, making my way home to finish this article at mid-afternoon, I found myself boarding a Red Bus with Warsing's attorney, Marc Jonas Block. He'd been shopping at Gristedes. I got on up front and, as I walked past, stared straight at him...

We boarded at the same stop on a weekday afternoon, but Warsing attorney Marc Jonas Block wouldn't look me in the eye.
We boarded at the same stop on a weekday afternoon, but Warsing attorney Marc Jonas Block wouldn't look me in the eye.
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Block would not look me in the eye. He glanced quickly and turned away, focusing intently on his cellphone. It was only a short ride for him, but was this why he never served papers on me? Although aggressive and intimidating in his emails, was this much younger man afraid to approach a 70 year old guy with bad knees? 

Because I was busy learning various parts of the WIRE publisher role, the first time an opportunity arose, I sent out a community alert about a coming subway shutdown, promoting my new undertaking as part of the theme.

Weeks later, after a conversation with Warsing prompted Lutz to renege on our agreement, I continued sending out alerts, enhancing them with links to news stories from the New York Times, Roosevelt Islander, Main Street WIRE and, of course, The Daily.

Lutz flipped.

All of the sudden, retroactively, the WIRE Bulletin List had great value, had been developed painstakingly, etc. 

The fact of the matter was that it was old and unmanaged, as you'd expect with a mailing list unused for years. It was filled with hard and soft bounces, unsubscribes and disinterested contacts. After determining who on the list actually wished to continue with The Daily, I deleted the rest. My current list of over 850 email addresses consists of less than 25% names that consented to be brought over to my own list.

Warsing demands a return of the list. No problem, except that I have to maintain a copy of the email in which its included for my own defense.

After all, it's only a copy, not an original. There are 732 email addresses on it, most of them junk.

Wrapping Up

You might wonder why Warsing and the WIRE would file a complaint, swearing to provable untruths and stirring up accusations about things that never happened. 

I'm not a lawyer, but it's my understanding that, as officers of the court, both Warsing and Block have a special obligation to be truthful. Why would they want junk like this on their records, anyway?

And there's the fact that, on November 28th, 2017, Block openly supplied a copy of his Summons and Complaint to the Roosevelt Islander blog, local residents and to RIOC's upper management, news sources I interact with as a journalist daily.

Block denies this, but I have have email proof that he did. 

Six hours later, Roosevelt Islander publisher Rick O'Conor asked for me for a comment and published the entire legal document the next day.

The Roosevelt Islander's post prompted embarrassing attacks against me. It was accompanied by a comment from Warsing that said all they were really interested in were discussions... and branded me unwilling. It was the first I'd heard about it. And I'd still never been served the papers Block shared with everyone under the sun.

Were they trying to publicly shame and embarrass me or hoping to run The Daily out of business under threat of hefty legal fees? 

Keep in mind, this happened a full three months before, according to Block's own timeline, he made the least effort to serve the papers - and even that's in question. What was he hoping to achieve on behalf of his clients, Warsing and the Main Street WIRE?

There will be repercussions, no matter how the court rules on their default motion and mine to oppose it.

Other efforts to intimidate me, my family and potential witnesses are on the record.

We'll cover next steps and more in the third and final installment of this series.

 

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