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Lunch: ‘Heroine’ Julie Menin Takes On Washington: “Move the 9/11 Trial!”

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— DIANE CLEHANE

When I met Julie Menin a few weeks ago in the Michael’s dining room and made a date for lunch, I was expecting to chat about her fabulous new show, Give and Take, which airs on Sunday night on WNBC’s NY Nonstop news channel. She’s already had Mika Brzezinski, Jane Velez Mitchell, and Barbara Corcoran as guests and is planning to chat with Annie Leibovitz on an upcoming show. Turns out we had a lot more to talk about.

In the past several weeks, Julie has been making headlines rather than reporting on them since she took up the cause of moving the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed out of Lower Manhattan. The regulatory attorney is a strong believer in public advocacy: She founded the not-for-profit Wall Street Rising in the wake of September 11 to revitalize the neighborhood and has served as the chair of Community Board 1 since 2005. After realizing that “no elected official wanted to jump into the fray,” Julie says she had “an Aha! moment” and launched into action. She penned an op-ed for The New York Times entitled “Trial By Ferry” where she proposed Governor’s Island be considered as an alternative and has been working “24/7″ to convince elected officials that a multi-year trial would paralyze the city and effectively shut down Lower Manhattan. “No one had even done a feasibility study before deciding this would happen,” says Julie. “It was foisted on Mayor Bloomberg with no analysis.”

When Bloomberg told Julie he opposed the Governor’s Island idea because he wants to build a school and recreation center there, Julie remained undaunted and came up with three other options: West Point, Otisville Prison, and Stewart Air National Guard Base. That got the attention of The White House who, Julie says, “was looking at the issue too narrowly.” Not anymore. All indications now point to an announcement of a new venue. “It’s really a testament to what a citizen can do if they speak up and insist on having their voice heard,” says Julie. As she was explaining the campaign, former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum stopped by our table, shook Julie’s hand, and declared, “She’s our heroine!” I asked if Julie is eyeing a run for office one day, and she didn’t rule out the possibility. “I’ll just have to see where life takes me.” Stay tuned.

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Don Welsh and a table full of impressive gents including Jake Hill and Harold Shain.

2. Long time no see! Producers John Hart and Fred Zollo.

3. Former William Morris honcho Wayne Kabak, who now helms WSK Management LLC, and author Jackie Leo.

4. Mitch Kanner


5. Tivo CEO Tom Rogers

6. Lesley Stahl, Don Epstein of Greater Talent Network and a mystery man. Lesley tells me she’s loving coming home to her new black Labrador Retriever puppy: “He’s my child!”

7. Julie Menin, Lisa Linden and yours truly

8. New York Social Diary‘s David Patrick Columbia and an attractive blonde gal

9. Conde Nast’s Pamela Van Zandt

11. The early show: Zoe Baird with a distinguished bespectacled fellow. Second seating: Andrew Stein and pals.

12. Judy Licht with Ebay’s fashion director Constance White and another stylista we didn’t recognize.

14. Attorney Richard Descherer

15. Playboy‘s Chris Napolitano

16. CBS’ David Poltrack

17. Avenue‘s Judy Price (loved that amazing necklace!)

18. Town & Country‘s dashing associate publisher Jim Taylor

19. Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at this table: newly installed InStyle publisher Connie Anne Phillips with Harper’s Bazaar publisher Valerie Salembier

20. Barbaralee Diamonstein and Lois Sletsky

21. Quest‘s Chris Meigher and my good friend Tony Hoyt. When I caught up with Tony on the way out this afternoon, I just had to ask what he thought of the kudos being given to The National Enquirer — he used to be the tabloid’s publisher — now that their breaking the John Edwards-Rielle Hunter love child story is finally being covered in the mainstream media. “It’s definitely validating,” says Tony. “People used to ask me all the time, ‘Do you make this stuff up?’ We didn’t have to.” Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

22. Real estate scion Harrison LeFrak

23. Dan Wassong with my pal, attorney Suzanne Bracker

24. Money man Martin Puris

25. Howard-Sloan-Koller Group’s president Ed Koller

27. Town & Country‘s editrix Pamela Fiori and Jimmy Choo marketing maven Tamara Mellon

28. Elle publisher Carol Smith

29. My good pal, uber publicist Catherine Saxton

Faces in the crowd: Kira Semler and Vi Huse, enjoying their monthly champagne lunch at the bar…Betsy Gotbaum and Elihu Rose in the Garden Room.

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