The Paper of Record for East and West Villages, Lower East Side, Soho, Noho, Little Italy and Chinatown
January 8, 2015 • FREE Volume 4 • Number 30
Kings and politicians ask mayor for greatest gift of all: the old P.S. 64 back BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
oping that this will finally be the year that the old P.S. 64 is restored as a community center, East Village activists trekked down to City Hall in the frigid weather Tuesday afternoon to ask Mayor de Blasio to fulfill their holiday wish.
But, in fact, it’s been a wish ever since the building was sold to a developer 16 years ago. For most of the time since then, it’s sat vacant, even as the neighborhood around it has rapidly gentrified. They were led by City Councilmember Rosie Men-
Feds probe Silver over law firm money, Grand St. co-ops taxes BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
heldon Silver, the powerful, longtime leader of the New York State Assembly, is the focus of a federal investigation, The New York Times reported in its lead article on Page One on Tuesday. According to the Times, prosecutors from the office
of Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, are investigating “substantial payments” made to Silver by a small firm that specializes in seeking tax reductions for commercial and residential properties in New York City. Prosecutors from BharSILVER, continued on p. 4
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
OLD P.S. 64, continued on p. 20
Candles burned in Kimlau Square Saturday evening at a memorial for Police Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.
A moment for healing BY TEQUILA MINSKY
scaping a drenching rain, dozens of people huddled under two white tents in Kimlau Square that had been erected by volunteers so that Chinatown neighbors could pay their last respects to slain Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu on Sat., Jan. 3. Before noon, Councilmember Margaret Chin had attended the public wake for Liu in Dyker Heights. At the Brooklyn funeral home, the councilmember waited with others in line for two hours
for the viewing. There was also a special separate room at the funeral home for Chinese cultural observance. The vigil in Manhattan’s Chinatown gave the local community a chance to say goodbye. “We put this together very quickly,” said Chin, who represents Chinatown, Lower Manhattan and parts of Soho and the Village. “There are elderly and others who couldn’t make it to the wake.” During her brief statement at the vigil, she said, “The public has come to see how
great these men were.” She also mentioned how, historically, Chinese parents didn’t want their children to become police officers, but that the public outpouring of grief and support has indicated respect for this profession. Liu immigrated from Guangzhou with his family. Glowing red candles circled the plaza, offering some light and a symbol of warmth in the wintery downpour. Inside the square, flames darted from a small drum VIGIL, continued on p. 12
Hillary supporters are ready!........................page 2 Memories of feisty G’ma Gussie...................page 11 Cops turn backs on Blaz again.........................page 13 Bringing ‘Ubu’ sexy back.............page 18 | May 14, 2014
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Jenifer Rajkumar, second from left, and other Hillary Clinton supporters at Le Souk at the New York City kickoff event for the Ready for Hillary PAC.
Borough President Gale Brewer this week on what went down between her and Franz Leichter and why the former state senator recently abruptly announced — as The Villager reported last week after he sent us a copy of his resignation letter — that he is stepping down from the Hudson River Park Trust board of directors. More to the point, Brewer explained her thinking on her three appointments to the 13-member Trust board. Leichter, a co-author of the landmark 1998 Hudson River Park Act that created both the park and the Trust to build and oversee it, had sat on the joint state-city authority’s board from the beginning. Although the intention was that these would be “community appointments” drawn from the neighborhoods bordering the 4-mile-long West Side waterfront park, Leichter, 85, was put on the board in deference to his key role in making the park happen and his deep commitment to it. “I think it’s great that he had so much to do with the park,” Brewer said of Leichter. But she said she wants to return to the community emphasis. Admittedly, Leichter actually lives in the East 90s. “We’re trying to have people from each neighborhood — not just from the community boards — but familiar with park issues,” she explained. That said, the Beep said she will talk to Community Boards 1, 2 and 4, all of which border the park. She has already spoken to Pam Frederick, who is a borough president appointee to the Trust board. She has yet to talk to Larry Goldberg, the other remaining community appointee to the board. Brewer didn’t give any indication on whether she planned to keep Frederick or Goldberg
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January 8, 2015
HILL PAC PACKS LE SOUK: More than 200 Hillary Clinton supporters, including people from all five boroughs, filled Le Souk, on LaGuardia Place, last month for a “NYC Is Ready for Hillary” event. The political confab was spearheaded by District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar, co-chairperson of the Ready for Hillary National Finance Council. Hosts and attendees included new Assemblymember Michael Blake, as well as familiar local leaders, like Jeanne Wilcke, president of Downtown Independent Democrats; Sylvia Rackow, a leading activist against the N.Y.U. 2031 development plan; and former Community Board 2 Chairperson David Gruber. This was the official grassroots kickoff New York City event for the Ready for Hillary PAC, to galvanize support in advance of a possible Clinton 2016 run for president. Rajkumar remarked during the event how she was inspired to run for elected office after interning at age 17 for Hillary Clinton. A Ready for Hillary spokesperson outlined the grassroots national strategy designed to excite the base for a Clinton presidential campaign. She also said that there will be many more events such as this one in 2015 in the city. DESPERATE TRY: East Village radical attorney Stanley Cohen on Jan. 6 started serving his 18-month prison sentence for tax obstruction. But not too long before he went to the slammer, he was involved in an intense effort to save an American from death at the hands of the ISIS sickos. A few
weeks ago, at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space second anniversary, at which Cohen spoke, he had tipped us off to “check the Guardian on Monday.” Indeed, two days after the MoRUS party, there was a huge article in the liberal U.K. paper about how Cohen, at the urging of Palestinians, as well as activist and longtime friend John Penley, had valiantly tried to save American aid worker Peter Kassig from being executed by the ISIS terrorists. Despite Cohen’s extraordinary efforts, which involved negotiating with members of Al Qaeda and ISIS, Kassig was beheaded by designated killer “Jihadi John” on Nov. 16.
NAY OR YAY, COREY? Tuesday afternoon, animal-rights activists were out on the corner of W. 23rd St. and Eighth Ave. in Councilmember Cory Johnson’s district, distributing literature and collecting petition signatures to urge him to support Intro 573, new legislation to ban horse carriages. “Johnson is currently undecided, which is concerning,” the activists said, “because there such a large animal rights constituency in his district, which was problematic for his predecessor.” Indeed, the group, NYCLASS, ran negative ads against former Council Speaker Christine Quinn during her campaign for mayor because she refused to ban carriage horses — which Mayor Bill de Blasio is now doing. Of course, a big issue is that the horses’ stables are also in Johnson’s West Side district. Opponents of the ban have been trying to spin the issue by saying what’s really behind it is that real estate developers want the stables sites. Johnson did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
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or replace them with new appointments. However, she did note that she knows Frederick lives in Tribeca. Goldberg lives in Washington Square Village.
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Mario Cuomo, Ed Koch and the great V.I.D. split Cuomo for governor, but V.I.D. was Ed Koch’s home club. That was news and it gave Cuomo a major boost in his underdog campaign for governor. Cuomo never forgot what V.I.D. did for him and stayed close to us throughout his 12 years as governor. One of the consequences of the endorsement of Mario Cuomo by V.I.D. was the formation of the Village Reform Democratic Club (V.R.D.C.). Let me explain. In December 1982 V.I.D. held elections for president and three vice presidents of the club. In reality, this election was for control of V.I.D. The pro- and anti-Koch forces each put up a slate of four candidates. They recruited to such an extent that the auditorium at P.S. 41 had to be rented to hold the meeting. Over 1,000 people showed up to vote. In the end, the pro-Cuomo people had the larger “family network” and won all four officers. Subsequent to these two losses, the pro-Koch folks left V.I.D. and formed V.R.D.C. And the pro-Cuomo people changed the V.I.D. constitution to extend the waiting period before a new member can vote to 90 days.
BY TONY HOFFMANN
he passing of Mario Cuomo is sad. He was a liberal lion who gave us hope. People just liked listening to his voice. He was so eloquent. The fact that he also espoused the progressive values that so many of us deeply believed in was icing on the cake. Mario Cuomo will be missed by all New Yorkers. He will especially be missed by those of us at the Village Independent Democrats who were involved in electing him governor in 1982. This story starts in 1981 when Ed Koch was running for re-election as mayor. Even though many of us endorsed Koch in 1977, and worked to get him elected, we were disillusioned with him. His rightward drift and his tendency to divide as a tactic for governing alienated many of us. When the liberal assemblyman from Brooklyn, Frank Barbaro, announced for mayor, we jumped on his bandwagon and tried to get him a V.I.D. endorsement. However, Ed Koch still had many friends and supporters in V.I.D. and he carried the day. He also easily won the primary and the general election for a second term as mayor. In 1982 Governor Hugh Carey announced that he wasn’t running for a third term. First, his lieutenant governor, Mario Cuomo, and then Mayor Koch proclaimed that they would seek to become the next governor of New York. This set the stage for a rerun of the battle between the pro-Koch and anti-Koch forces at V.I.D. It was an epic. In those days, a person could join V.I.D. and had only to wait 30 only days until they could vote. Both sides busily recruited new members. Many of us contacted relatives that we normally only would see at weddings and funerals. The V.I.D. membership list was scoured with a fine-toothed comb. Dues came tumbling in. Finally, the
Mario Cuomo being sworn in for his second term as governor in 1987. V.I.D.’s support had helped him win election to his first term. He died on New Year’s Day at age 82.
big endorsement meeting came and went. Even though Mario Cuomo received a plurality of the votes cast, he didn’t receive a majority. “No endorsement” received enough votes to prevent either candidate from receiving a majority. Another vote was scheduled for a couple of weeks later. Again, well more than 300 people were in attendance, including a number of reporters. This time Mario Cuomo got a majority and received V.I.D.’s endorsement. Cuomo’s endorsement was all over the news that evening and for days to come. Not only was V.I.D. the first major political club to endorse Mario
Hoffmann is the immediate past president of Village Independent Democrats and is a former Democratic district leader
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January 8, 2015
SILVER, continued from p. 1
ara’s office, along with F.B.I. agents, have allegedly found that Goldberg & Iryami, P.C. — a two-person firm — has paid Silver the sums roughly over a decade, but that he did not list this income on his annual financial disclosure forms, as required. The payments were not made to Silver as campaign contributions, but as outside income as part of his private law practice. In addition to being the Assembly speaker, Silver is a personal-injury lawyer with the firm of Weitz and Luxenberg. The U.S. attorney and F.B.I. reportedly are now trying to determine exactly what work Silver did in order to receive the payments. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the investigation — and would not confirm or deny to The Villager if there even is an investigation. No one has even been charged yet, the spokesperson noted. Silver’s spokesperson did not respond by press time to a request for comment. Meanwhile, in a confusing twist, the New York Post reported that the sum Silver received from Goldberg & Iryami was “not substantial.” The Post may have gotten this mixed up with the campaign donations that the firm has given to Silver. Since 2001, the firm has reportedly made six donations to him, totaling $7,600. New York State legislators are allowed to hold outside jobs, which are described as “part-time,” but which often pull in income far in excess of their government paychecks. Good-government groups have long criticized this situation for creating the potential for conflicts of interest and payoffs. In Silver’s case, his salary as speaker is $121,000 while his outside income as a private attorney was more than $650,000, according to what he reported in 2013. The federal probe stems from the Moreland Commission, the anti-corruption panel that Governor Andrew Cuomo created in 2013 but then abruptly terminated this March. Legislators had challenged the commission’s investigation into details of their outside income. According to the Times, Silver “is not known to have any expertise in the complex and highly specialized area of the law in which Goldberg & Iryami practices, known as tax certiorari, which involves challenging real estate tax assessments and seeking reductions from municipalities.” In addition, the Times reported of Silver, “He has long listed the personal injury firm Weitz & Luxenberg on his finan-
Sheldon Silver has been the Assembly’s speaker since 1994.
cial disclosure forms. Still, almost nothing is known about his role at the firm.” Goldberg & Iryami has represented “a sizable number of properties on the Lower East Side,” seeking real estate tax reductions for them, the Times reported. These include large co-op complexes, including Hillman Housing Corporation, on Grand St., in which Silver lives. Goldberg & Iryami has also represented the neighboring East River Housing Corporation, according to records. Both the Hillman and East River complexes are managed by Harold “Heshy” Jacob, a close Silver ally. A recent letter from Gary Altman, the East River board president, to shareholders, the Times reported, noted that its “tax certiorari firm” — unnamed in the letter — had successfully reduced the complex’s taxes. Jacob, in a 2009 letter to shareholders, noted that the city had raised East River’s assessment to $28 million, and that its tax certiorari lawyer “was very successful in reducing what could have been a $3,000,000 increase to a $750,000 increase” in taxes. Jacob told the Times that the firm and a predecessor firm, Jay Arthur Goldberg, P.C., had been seeking tax reductions for the developments since Jacob began managing them, more than 25 years ago. Jacob admitted that he knew Jay
Goldberg from growing up in the neighborhood together, but that the legal work for the developments is bid out competitively. Tax certiorari lawyers get paid roughly one-third of any reduction they obtain, but Jacob told the Times Goldberg has been paid “substantially less.” In a Times article last month on Silver and his outside income, a Silver spokesperson commented of the Assembly speaker, “None of his clients have any business before the state.” Currently, state ethics laws do not require legislators to disclose details about their outside work or who their clients are. Several local politicos did not respond to requests for comment for this article, including Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried and District Leader Paul Newell. District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar responded but declined to comment. One elected official who did deign to comment about the powerful speaker was District Leader Arthur Schwartz. “I have problems with legislators getting paid for work when they don’t do work,” Schwartz said. “It’s an easy way to pass a bribe. ... I am curious to see to see what tax certiorari work Speaker Silver did. Very curious.” Silver has been the Assembly speaker since 1994. Most recently, his leadership took a major hit during the Vito Lopez scandal, in which it was revealed that Silver arranged for hush money to be paid to two female staffers who said they were sexually harassed by the powerful Brooklyn Democratic leader. Two other female Lopez staffers who said they were also sexually harassed subsequently sued, charging that the secret $103,000 settlement — using taxpayer funds — merely allowed Lopez to continue his abuse. Silver was recently set to testify in the two women’s federal lawsuit against Lopez, but his deposition was delayed, which the Daily New reported, suggests that a settlement may be looming. The state has already spent $1 million in taxpayer funds to defend the disgraced Lopez.
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Straphangers swing back in time on the M line During the holiday season, the M.T.A. offered straphangers the chance to ride on vintage subways and buses. The “Nostalgia Train” operated on the M line between Queens Plaza and Second Ave. on Sundays only, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 28, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Kicking things off, swing dancers in period costume performed on the platforms and rode the train. It included subway cars in service on the lettered lines between the early 1930s and T:8.75”light bulbs. mid-’70s and featured ceiling fans, padded or wicker seats and incandescent
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January 8, 2015
E D U C AT I O N
Charter debate hits Community School District 1 BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
FILE PHOTO BY BYRON SMITH
he particulars about one planned East Side charter school still aren’t very clear — but the sides in the larger ongoing debate about charter schools are clearly staked out. What is known at this point is that Success Academy plans to open a new elementary charter school in Community School District 1, which includes the East Village and Lower East Side. Yet, now word is that the Department of Education has told Success Academy this won’t happen until 2016. Plus, where the school might even be co-located remains completely unknown. Further adding to the confusion, the city’s leading charter outfit — which is run by former City Councilmember Eva Moskowitz — initially held a hearing on siting the school not in School District 1 but in neighboring School District 2, which covers the West Side up to W. 57th St. and the East Side up to E. 97th St., including Greenwich Village, Tribeca
A teacher working with a first-grade student at the new Success Academy Union Square charter school.
and Chelsea, among other neighborhoods. After that hearing, however, Success Academy shifted the new school’s planned location from District 2 to District 1 — but without holding another hearing on matter. After an outcry from local elected
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officials, including Assemblymember Deborah Glick and City Councilmembers Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez, Success Academy agreed to hold another hearing — this time in District 1 — on Thurs., Jan. 8, at P.S. 20, the Anna Silver School, at 166 Essex St., between Houston and Stanton Sts., at 6 p.m. Yet, as The Villager was going to press even that fact become uncertain, as a Success Academy source e-mailed the newspaper to say that word was now that the Jan. 8 hearing, in fact, would be canceled. No further details were provided as to the reason for the reported cancellation. Despite the Department of Education calling off the hearing, Mendez said the community will still hold the forum. According to Ann Powell, a spokesperson for Moskowitz’s charter schools, they found out last month that D.O.E. currently does not feel it has available space for its new charter in District 1. As a result, Success Academy has deferred its request
for space in the East Side district — as well as for space for new charter schools in five other districts. “There’s no location,” Powell said. “But we know there’s demand. We’ve had applications. We know there’s high concentrations of segregated schools in District 1, so it’s an opportunity to bring a more diverse student body — like at Success Academy Union Square.” The students at the charter’s new Union Square school, located in the Washington Irving Campus building, are 18 percent African American, 25 percent Hispanic, 13 percent Asian, 40 percent white and 4 percent multiracial. Meanwhile, only seven of the 35 district schools in District 1 can be called diverse, according to figures provided by Powell. Of the district’s 1,925 white students, 1,443 (or 75 percent) are concentrated in six district schools. Of the district’s 2,061 black students, 638 (or 31 percent) are concentrated in five district schools. Of the district’s 2,497 Asian students, 891 (or 36 percent) are concentrated in two district schools. “We provide excellent education for children of all backgrounds,” Powell said. “That’s the reason for our interest in District 1.” As for why Success Academy switched its application from District 2 to District 1, Powell didn’t give a clear answer. Asked if it was due to the local politicians’ opposition, she said no. And Success Academy has had, well — success, at least when looking at test scores. Last year, its students tested in the top 1 percent in math proficiency and the top 3 percent in English proficiency. Eleven percent of these pupils were special-needs students, Powell added. CHARTER, continued on p. 8
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E D U C AT I O N
D.O.E. cancels hearing, but community will still meet CHARTER, continued from p. 6
And the city has space for new charters, she added, noting that according to the D.O.E. “Blue Book,” there are 160,000 empty school seats throughout the city. “Based on legislation passed in the spring, it makes sense to use existing space,” she said, “and use funds for teacher salaries and extracurriculars.” Under legislation pushed by Governor Cuomo, if charter schools aren’t co-located in existing public schools, government will pay their rent. In short, Powell stated, “Success Academy opens schools in response to strong community demand. Last year, more than 16,000 families applied for fewer than 3,000 available seats.” However, Lisa Donlan, president of Community Education Council 1, said charter schools are part of the problem, not the solution. “Charters are part of the segregation problem,” she said, in response to Powell’s description of District 1. “Most of the charters serve mostly
black and Latino kids. District 1 is an all-choice district,” she added, meaning students can attend any school they like. “She cherry-picks her data, like anyone who wants to win an argument,” Donlan scoffed of Moskowitz. “I can give your charts, I can give you data — they’re lying.” For example, she said, District 1 schools must take learning-challenged students, whereas Success culls them year by year if they are deemed too low-performing. At the same time, Donlan said, it’s not fair that “proactive” parents enter the lotteries to get their kids into charters, while other parents who aren’t as motivated don’t. “She claims that they’re public schools — they’re not,” Donlan said of Moskowitz. “They’re not public schools: It’s a not-for-profit corporation.” Charters get public funding, but also money from foundations and hedge funds. Indeed, the charters have become the darlings of the foundations, sucking up funding that used to go to other nonprofits. “They’re not accountable to New
York State education law except what’s in the New York State Charter Act,” Donlan added. Charters can give their own tests, she noted. “They can make their own discipline codes. They’re over-disciplining students,” she charged. Suspending kids can put them into the “school-to-prison pipeline” and “a life of crime,” she said. As for Powell’s citing of the “Blue Book” figure on empty seats, again Donlan said it’s inaccurate. “That’s a mathematical projection,” she said. “There are not actually empty seats in those schools. “I think the number-one problem is these charter schools are not community schools,” she charged. “They’re sort of parachuted in, and they serve citywide, though they do give preference to local kids — they have to. These things are prepackaged. “Where’s the consultation, feedback, process? On Oct. 20, we all got a letter saying they were now going to go for District 1. There was very minimal outreach and notification and no consultation with the community.” Powell, at one point, went as far
as to say that Thursday’s hearing was “premature,” since the District 1 Success Academy now won’t open till 2016. Asked about that, Councilmember Mendez blasted back, “Is it premature that they had a hearing several months ago when they were planning to put the school in School District 2 — and now they changed to District 1? “I don’t think there is space in District 1,” Mendez said. “There may be a building here or there that is slightly underutilized, but many schools are overcapacity. Some of the schools don’t have gyms, art rooms. If they think they have a location, I’d like to hear about it. There’s a flawed process with the state law that allows these charter schools to basically set up anywhere.” But Powell said the new Success Academy school could actually help with overcrowding, since it’s typically the best district schools that have this problem. By adding another high-performing school to the mix, she said, it would help spread out the load.
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E D U C AT I O N
Figli di San Gennaro donates to Catholic schools BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
n Tues., Jan. 6, Figli di San Gennaro (Children of San Gennaro), the nonprofit community organization that has been presenting New York City’s annual Feast of San Gennaro since 1996, donated a total of $149,500, representing net proceeds after expenses, from the 2013 and 2014 feasts to Catholic education, churches and other community organizations assisting children and seniors. The checks were presented at a reception at Most Precious Blood Church, at 113 Baxter St. in Little Italy, the national shrine of San Gennaro. Figli di San Gennaro donated $72,500 from the 2013 feast and $77,000 from the 2014 feast, bringing the total of donations to charity since 1996 to more than $2 million. Among local schools receiving checks were LaSalle Academy, Transfiguration School, Our Lady of Pompeii School and Xavier High School. Other organizations receiving checks included The Bowery Mission, Project Open Door, Mott St. Se-
Figli di San Gennaro board members with students from the East Village’s La Salle Academy at the Jan. 6 presentation of charitable checks from proceeds from the Feast of Gennaro.
nior Citizen Center, Little Italy Street Art Order (LISA) and Sons of Italy Committee. The City Hall monitor who has overseen all the financial transactions of Figli di San Gennaro since 1996 approved all the checks and co-
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signed them. Next September, the annual feast, celebrating the patron saint of Naples, will be celebrating its 89th year. In announcing the charitable contributions, Joseph Mattone, president of the Figli di San Gennaro board of
directors, said, “Presenting an event of this magnitude over a period of 11 days in New York City, can be very expensive, but I am happy to say we have been able to keep our pledge to support these organizations and we will continue to do so.”
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January 8, 2015
PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
PHOTO BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
Signs of the turbulent times After the Eric Garner verdict and protests and the subsequent killing of two police officers, signs show that it will take a while for the wounds to heal. At left, graffiti on the Lower East Side commemorates Garner and others who were killed by police, including Michael Brown, as well as Oscar Grant, who was shot in San Francisco in a BART train station, and Israel “Reefa” Hernandez, who was Tasered to death in Miami after being caught graffitiing. Meanwhile, in Chelsea, the day after the two officers were killed, a man who said he formerly worked for the Department of Homeland Security was walking in the Sixth Ave. bike lane holding up a pro-cop sign that was getting honks from passing police cars.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Try changing the colors To The Editor: Michael Stewart, Anthony Baez, Abner Louima, Ramarley Graham, Akai Gurley...the list goes on and on without end. Just as it goes on without a beginning, because it seems to me that it has always gone on. Cops beating, shooting and killing men of color without ever standing before a judge or jury. And this endless list is just from one city; every city everywhere all across America has a list, just like ours.
Had just half of this kind of violence been directed toward white men, you can rest assured police violence and murder would have been declared out of control and epidemic decades ago. Jerry The Peddler
No middle ground To The Editor: Re “Swift as N.Y.C. ambassador is not welcome on the L.E.S.” (talking point, by Clayton Patterson,
Nov. 27): Yeah, GG Allin, the guy with the smallest d--- in the world, after Sid Vicious (or maybe it was just a cold night at A7)... . I’m not so sure I’d agree that GG was representative of ’80s New York Downtown culture, any more than I’d agree with Ms. Barbie doll Swift being representative of it today. But I get Clayton’s point: There should be some middle ground between total social collapse and total social control/brainwashing, which is the situation we’re coming to today. When I lived in Alphabet City in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it was certainly a more stimulating place than it is today. I’d play with my band Khmer Rouge at CBGBs, get the cash at the end of the night and trip on down to Avenue D to purchase the goods. On the way down there, and afterward (having copped) trying to make it back to where I lived on Third and B, I’d try to avoid the psychos and muggers that were hanging around in darkened doorways, waiting for people like me. It certainly kept life interesting, and at the risk of sounding pretentious, I’d sum up my view with Friedrich Nietzsche’s aphorism: “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.” It was an important formative experience for me, that much is sure. Today when you walk down by Third and B, all you see is crap art galleries, sushi bars and vacuous LETTERS, continued on p.23
January 8, 2015
Gussie’s hair; Grandma always knew who she was NOTEBOOK BY CAROL RINZLER
he first thing my grandfather Sam did when he left Vienna and landed at Ellis Island in 1895 was to change his name from his father’s Dreier to his mother’s Rinzler. Then he made his way across town to 124 Ludlow St. where he slept “three in a bed” until he could afford his own room, which happened right around the time he met my grandmother, Gussie Schnitzer, the belle of “Rivington / corner Essex.” Unlike the sophisticated Sam, Gussie came from an unnamed village in Poland and a life so traumatic that she would never discuss it. Once in the land of the free, her natural personality emerged. She was, in the vernacular of the day, a firecracker, hardly five feet tall except when she stood on her ego, which was often. When she and Sam were engaged, his mother invited her to a family lunch, but somehow missed having a piece of watermelon for Gussie, who walked to the foot of the table, grabbed the tablecloth, and pulled. Never one to miss an opportunity to diss her long-dead but still detested mother-in-law, Gussie told the story over and over, including the first time she met my aboutto-be husband, after which, whenever I held a grudge, he would say, “Still pulling the tablecloth?” Sam, who believed that in America anybody could do anything, joined his father-in-law in the nascent movie business, eventually ending up owner of a chain of theaters in Brooklyn. By that time he and Gussie had long ago left Essex St. for an apartment on the 39th floor of the Essex House overlooking Central Park. Counting the streets on a map, it was only three miles; but factor in the distance from Vienna and that unnamed Polish hamlet, and it is the quintessential American journey, measured not in miles but in mind. Living on top of the world, so high that I, a country mouse from Long Island, got the shakes every time I rode up in the elevator, didn’t change Gussie. She had “my son the doctor” (my uncle) and “my other son” (my father), and the absolute belief that having a doctor in the family entitled her to free visits to her own doctors, leaving my father and her other son to pay the bills. And she was still combustible. My uncle had gone into the Army Medical Corps, off to war in Europe, leaving Gussie to wait anxiously at home. His mother-in-law, Essie, another shortbut-fiery person, learned he was on his way home, but didn’t tell Gussie. The result wasn’t pretty.
Having made her own journey to the Essex House, Essie lived on one side of the building, Gussie on the other. The two sides had separate elevators, and the operators had learned to warn each other when one of the ladies was coming down to the lobby. Once, when they missed, there was an epic meeting said to have ended with the ladies slugging each other. I wasn’t there, so I can’t testify to its truth, but it certainly sounds like my grandmother. Gussie knew who she was, in ways large and small. Like her hair. When it turned snow white, perfectly curled, she refused to color it. In my twenties, with bottle-blonde streaks, I swore that
She was a firecracker, hardly five feet tall except when she stood on her ego, which was often.
when my turn came, I would do the same. After Sam died, Gussie was left alone at the top of the world. Soon, my mother — now caring for my father, who was ill — moved her out to Long Island, a trip Gussie viewed the way Napoleon viewed being shipped to Elba.
Eventually, as Gussie declined, my mother moved her once more, this time to a nursing home. My husband and I went to see her. The room was clean and neat and so was she. But her white hair was no longer perfectly curled. Then she told us the story of the tablecloth again, and the world slid back into place. Five years ago, when my own husband died, I learned that widows are expected to stay — or at least look — young, which definitely means coloring your hair. I hate being fussed over; the only way I even manage to get my hair cut is to chop it off at home and then surrender to the professional. So I did blonding myself, but the dye made my head itch, and because it was temporary, it faded with repeated washing. I never actually knew what color my hair was at any given moment. But it must have been not-blonde, because one day on the subway, a younger woman offered me a seat, and all I could think of was, “I am going right home to make my hair dark brown.” When I told that to the nice young shrink who had shepherded me through the multiple stages of grief following my husband’s death, he said, “You are the last woman in the world I’d think would color her hair.” I thought about that all the way home. I decided it was a compliment. I decided my husband would have agreed. Gussie, too. Now my hair is white. But in New York, if 60 is the new 40, white seems to be the new blonde. And when I catch my reflection in a store window, I don’t see me. I see Gussie. And we’re both fine. Rinzler is the author of more than 20 books on health, including “Nutrition for Dummies” (sixth edition due in 2015)
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PHOTO BY MILO HESS
SOUND OFF! Final roundup for ’14 These Naked Cowgirls — who pay the original Naked Cowboy a fee to join his busking franchise — were generating some heat as they waited for the ball to drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. January 8, 2015
A healing moment at Chinatown vigil for officer VIGIL, continued from p. 1
for the burning of paper money, a provision for the deceased — that they have money in the afterlife. After the brief formal remarks, those in attendance, one by one, placed a votive candles in front of a large photo poster that commemorated the two officers. The Chinatown Merchants’ Association was one of the many sponsoring organizations of the event, as was the Restaurant Association. The Fujianese Association provided the candles and oranges on the altar. In all, 26 groups were involved — including commercial, civic, cultural, tenant and many community organizations — with a total of 50 volunteers, in helping make this community vigil happen. And, in spite of the cold, wet, miserable weather, it was evident that those attending felt compelled to be a part of this informal ceremony recognizing the city’s tragedy. “The vigil had roots in Buddhism and Chinese cultural practices,” said Wellington Chen, executive director of the Chinatown Partnership. “But it was ecumenical. Father Nobiletti from Transfiguration Church on Mott St. also spoke.” Chen also said how people came from all sides of the “police debate.” “This was a moment for healing regardless of the varied opinions,” he said. “This was a moment to come together in solidarity, as one. God forbid we should be like they work in D.C., completely divided.” A consummate optimist, Chen said, “I do believe something better will come from this.” Many officers, some on duty at nearby police headquarters at One Police Plaza, made a quick stop to light a candle. Another altar was also set up under one of the tents. Incense burned. There was bowl of fruit, and paper gold and silver bars to accompany the deceased to the next plane.
Chinatown restaurateurs held up a banner that said Officer Rafael Ramos’s “name will live forever” and Officer Wenjian Liu “becomes immortal.”
A Fifth Precinct police officer at the memorial. Many officers came by to light a candle and pay their respects.
PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY
City Councilmember Margaret Chin held a votive candle at the memorial.
January 8, 2015
At one point, calligraphy was presented in honor of both officers. Under Ramos’s name in Chinese it read: “His name will live forever.” Under Liu’s name: “He becomes immortal.” Even after the bulk of people had left and night had fallen, neighbors steadily continued to stop by to pay homage and light a candle. Chen estimated that several hundred individuals in all had come by during the whole afternoon and evening. “I know they came from Battery Park City and
Independence Plaza,” Chen said. “This was very spiritual.” Further commenting on the police force’s makeup, Chen offered an assessment: “The look of the police force is changing,” he said. “Today 4.7 percent of the police force is Chinese. In 1976, there were five officers — one for each borough. Chinatown has a greater representation.” He was happy to report that he had learned that two Chinese graduates from the latest Police Academy class will be joining the Fifth Precinct. EastVillagerNews.com
Another angry sea of blue
PHOTOS BY Q. SAKAMAKI
As they had done a week before for Police Officer Rafael Ramos, thousands of police filled the street outside the funeral of his patrol partner, Wenjian Liu, in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, on Sunday. Estimates put the number at 10,000, less than half that of a week earlier. Liu, 32, and Ramos, 40, were ambushed on Dec. 20 in Bedford-Stuyvesant by a deranged gunman who had tweeted about getting revenge for Eric Garner. Despite a plea by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton not to do so, many cops, including those in top photo â€” from the city and farther afield, as well as retired officers and others who came in their biker colors â€” once again turned their backs when Mayor de Blasio was shown speaking on giant screens outside the funeral home. An only child, Liu decided to join the Police Department after the 9/11 attacks. He had married only three months ago. The police flag that draped his coffin was folded into a triangle and given to his young widow, Pei Xia Chen.
January 8, 2015
PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Clockwise from above left, Doris Diether laughed as the “Little Doris” marionette rode a blow-up pig; a creative custom cake featured the park arch, Diether, “Little Doris” and the pig; marionette master Ricky Syers was up to his usual tricks; Harvey Osgood opened his house for the party.
Oink if you love Doris! Parties keep on coming
riends of Doris Diether, the beloved veteran Community Board 2 member, threw her yet another bash the other week to celebrate her decades of activism. The fete, held at the W. Ninth St. apartment of Harvey and Helen Osgood, was “for everyone who wasn’t invited” to the get-together for Diether in September at Richard Stewart’s place that marked Diether’s 50th anniversary of being a member of C.B. 2. That prior party was really for community board members and politicians.
January 8, 2015
This most recent shindig featured an incredible cake from a West Village baker that included cardboard images of the park arch and Diether holding her “Little Doris” marionette. Diether is shown walking a pig, made out of icing, plus pigeons and the fountain’s piers, also made of icing. Diether, 85, famously gamely walked a pig on a leash — while in her high heels — outside Governor Rockefeller’s office to protest greed and corruption. The Osgoods’ home was festooned with blowup photos of Diether that have appeared in The Villager, plus a poster listing her many accomplishments. Among the guests at the party were Cathryn Swan, who writes the Washington Square Park blog; Ricky Syers, the marionette master and comic behind “Little Doris” and her pal “Mr. Stix”; and a contingent of musicians from Washington Square Park, including at least five guitarists and one banjo player, who jammed most of the evening. In still more Diether news, not only is she everyone’s favorite community board member, now she is also becoming a majorly trending meme. An image of her holding “Little Doris” feeding a peanut to a squirrel has gone viral on Reddit. The meme features countless creative combinations of Diether, the marionette and the critter — with one even showing a Godzilla-sized squirrel pulling the strings. EastVillagerNews.com
Third Street faculty shines in music series Free concerts celebrate school’s 120th year THIRD STREET MUSIC SCHOOL SETTLEMENT ARTIST PERFORMANCE SERIES Free Admission Fridays at 7 p.m. Through March 27 At Anna-Maria Kellen Auditorium 235 E. 11th St. (btw. Second & Third Aves.) Visit thirdstreetmusicschool.org COURTESY OF THIRD STREET MUSIC SCHOOL
BY MICHAEL LYDON
ere’s a recipe for free fun on a Friday night: the Artist Performance concert series at the Third Street Music School Settlement in the East Village, going on nearly every Friday at 7 p.m., all winter and well into the spring. Do keep in mind, though, that the Third Street Music School is not on Third Street, but on East 11th Street, 235 East 11th, to be exact. Yes, the School was on Third Street decades ago — but now to get to the School’s intimate auditorium, walk a few steps west of Second Avenue on 11th just before seven o’clock for an evening of varied, fresh, and challenging music played by members of Third Street’s faculty and guest artists. Third Street, America’s oldest community music school, offers classes and private lessons for most
On March 6, guitarist David Moreno leads a jazz quartet that includes Grammy Award-winning pianist Arturo O’Farrill.
orchestral instruments, the electric instruments of pop and jazz, plus voice and dance — and so the faculty, many with advanced degrees and busy professional careers, teach and perform across a wide spectrum of styles and traditions. That breadth and excellence shows up in repertoire of this series. Part of the celebrations to mark Third Street’s 120th anniversary, the Friday night series began in October. The 2015 concerts kick off January 9 with a piano duo, Sasha Papernik and Alexander Wu, playing
Broadways hits and well-known classical pieces. The next two Fridays will be jazz nights. On January 16, Steve Bloom leads a guitar-bassdrums trio playing compositions by Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, and Thelonious Monk. On January 23, pianist Neal Kirkwood heads up a quartet playing his own tunes with saxophonist Jimmy Cozier out front. The month closes January 30 with Dr. Joan Forsyth (Chair of Third Street’s Piano Department) assembling a chamber group of
friends playing pieces by Brahms, the lesser-known 19th century Russian composer Anton Arensky, and the contemporary American composer Laura Schwendinger — the first composer to win the American Academy in Berlin’s Berlin Prize. “I’ve played five Artist Performance concerts in six years,” says Nadev Lev, who teaches classical guitarist at the School and who gave his latest concert in NovemTHIRD ST., continued on p.16 January 8, 2015
Third Street series is music to your ears
THIRD ST., continued from p. 15
ber. “I love them because I get such a sense of neighborhood, of community from the audience.” Pianist Neal Kirkwood echoes Lev’s sentiments. “Third Street audiences are true music lovers, open to new music. I always feel free to experiment, and that inspires me, keeps my music fresh.” Third Street’s community feel-
January 8, 2015
ing is no accident. Since 1894, the School has served downtown music lovers with programs for preschoolers, seniors and everyone in between. Financial aid is available to many who need help with tuition. Third Street teachers also fan out to nearby public schools for special music classes, and many of those students end up studying at the school. The February concerts begin Fri-
COURTESY OF THIRD STREET MUSIC SCHOOL
COURTESY OF THIRD STREET MUSIC SCHOOL
Nadev Lev, who teaches classical guitar at the School, gave his latest concert in November.
Dr. Joan Forsyth, Chair of Third Street’s Piano Department, is joined by friends for a Jan. 30 concert featuring music by Brahms, Arensky, Schwendinger, Dawe and Anderson.
day on the sixth, with Taylor Gordon and Glenn Healy presenting a dance and percussion evening of classical and contemporary ballet. It continues on Feb. 13, with pianists Mira Armij Gill and Marc Ponthus playing music by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Lizt and Boulez. After one skipped week during the School’s winter break, the series resumes Feb. 27 with a chamber concert of music by Beethoven, Brahms, and tango composer Astor Piazzolla led by flutist Susan Friedlander and violinist Caitlin Lynch. “I’ve done at least twenty of these concerts in my twenty-five years at Third Street,” says guitarist David Moreno, whose jazz quartet gets the March concerts underway on Friday, March 6. “These shows are special to me, so I play mostly original tunes, and instead of a pick-up group, I use my regular band: Renee Cruz on bass, Brandon Lewis on drums, and Arturo O’Farrill on piano. I’ve known Arturo since high school! After one concert a fellow
came up to me, and I slowly realized he was my first guitar teacher. We hadn’t seen each other for twenty-five years! We had a great reunion. Now that doesn’t always happen, but at every Third Street concert I get a warm feeling that I’m playing for old friends.” The March concerts continue with an evening of solo classical piano music by Daniela Bracchi March 13, then violinist Melissa Tong leads the Artemis Chamber Ensemble through modern works by Arvo Part and Olivier Messaien March 20. The 2015 series ends March 27 with pianist Edmund Arkus playing Bach, Chopin, Granados, and Schubert. Most of the concerts are over soon after 8 p.m. — leaving concertgoers ample time for a bite to eat at one of dozens of nearby restaurants and coffee shops, and for spirited discussions — no, not arguments, discussions! — about the stimulating music still ringing in their ears.
Buhmann on Art
Through January 25 At the New Museum 235 Bowery (btw. Rivington & Stanton Sts.) Tues.–Wed. & Fri.–Sun., 11 a.m.–6 p.m Thurs., 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Admission: $16 ($14 seniors, $10 students) Pay as you wish, 7–9 p.m. Thurs. Call 212-219-1222 or visit newmuseum.org Chris Ofili, The Adoration of Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars (Third Version), 1998. Oil, acrylic, polyester resin, paper collage, glitter, map pins, and elephant dung on linen, 96 x 72 in (243.8 x 182.8 cm).
BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN (stephaniebuhmann.com)
his first major US solo museum exhibition of Ofili will span the artist’s entire career, encompassing painting, drawing and sculpture. Over the past two decades, Ofili has become known for his vibrant, meticulously exe-
PHOTO BY MARIS HUTCHINSON/EPW. ALL ARTWORKS © CHRIS OFILI. COURTESY DAVID ZWIRNER, NEW YORK/LONDON
© CHRIS OFILI. COURTESY THE ARTIST, DAVID ZWIRNER, NEW YORK / LONDON AND VICTORIA MIRO, LONDON
CHRIS OFILI: NIGHT AND DAY
cuted compositions that fuse elements derived from figuration, abstraction, folklore decoration and pop-cultural kitsch. His imagery is no less eclectic, sourcing the Bible, hip-hop, Zimbabwean cave paintings, blaxploitation films and William Blake’s poems, among others. This survey aims to reveal how significantly Ofili’s practice is based on
Chris Ofili, Lime Bar, 2014. Oil on linen. 122 1/8 x 78 3⁄4 in (310 x 200 cm). Private collection.
constant change and free experimentation. It certainly succeeds in celebrating a body of work that involves many facets and ranges from boldly expressive to deeply introspective. In contrast to Ofili’s famous work of the 1990s, in which he layered materials — including paint, resin, glitter and elephant dung — his most recent works have been animated by
exotic characters, outlandish landscapes and myths that resonate with references to the paintings of Henri Matisse and Paul Gauguin. No matter what series one focuses on, one quickly recognizes that it is Ofili’s hybrid juxtapositions of high and low, and of the sacred and the profane, that bestow his images with unique drama and energy.
PHOTO BY MARIS HUTCHINSON/EPW. ALL ARTWORKS © CHRIS OFILI. COURTESY DAVID ZWIRNER, NEW YORK/LONDON
An installation view from “Chris Ofili: Night and Day.” EastVillagerNews.com
January 8, 2015
Party with Pa and Ma Ubu Late night rock musical bathes you in sweat, absinthe and kielbasa juice
THEATER UBU SINGS UBU Adapted & Co-Directed by Tony Torn Choreography & Co-Directed by Dan Safer Sun. | Jan. 11 | 11 p.m. Mon. | Jan. 12 | 8 p.m. & 11 p.m. At the Slipper Room 167 Orchard St. (btw. Stanton & Rivington Sts.) Tickets: $22 at the door, $18 in advance Purchase at slipperroom.com or call 212-253-7246 For artist info: ubu-sings-ubu.com PHOTO BY MAX BASCH
BY SCOTT STIFFLER
obsters • Seaf aks • L ood S te
Skin is in, and so is satire — in Tony Torn’s adaptation of “Ubu Roi.”
Jarry aficionado James Habacker, who serves as Slipper Room’s major domo, calls the notorious “Ubu” playwright “one of the most significant and influential of modern artists, if not the most influential. When others were talking the talk, Jarry was walking the walk.” That walk was a short one: Jarry died in 1907 at the age of 34, and the original run of “Ubu” closed the same night that it opened: Dec. 10, 1896. Although the basic plot was familiar (Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” set in Poland), Parisian audiences were apparently not yet ready for the combination of a surreal narrative, bizarre visuals and Jarry’s flagrant disregard for social and political norms. Flash forward to modern times, and Torn’s adaptation builds upon the once-scandalous play’s subversive spirit, while leaving much of the original content intact (including the presence of a menacing bear). Two notable additions give this
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‘Timeless Old-World Vibes pervade this Chelsea Fixture, a refuge for quality American fare in a classic pub-style setting featuring an open fire and a vast Waterford collection. The staff’s lack of ‘tude helps explain why it’s been around for so long’ -ZAGAT 2009 Seating everyday noon to midnight Private parties for 10 to 400 - Reservations Suggested
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January 8, 2015
If you appreciate peace of mind, you’ll understand why it makes sense to preplan with us. We know of no other policies that work as this:
PHOTO BY MAX BASCH
inding an ample supply of flesh on display at the Slipper Room is a given — but whether it’s shocking or sexy is purely in the eye, and quite often the groin, of the beholder. That’s what makes the decadent burlesque venue such a good match for the brief run of this satirical, skin-filled rock musical (whose run at Abrons Arts Center last April saw its liquor-fueled audience turning the curtain call into a mosh-friendly celebration). Created from the French text of Alfred Jarry’s play “Ubu Roi” by way of the Google Translate engine, “Ubu Sings Ubu” is adapter, co-director and co-star Tony Torn’s rowdy and profane gift to those not yet ready to head home after seeing an early show. “Under the Radar and other downtown festivals have discontinued their late night lounges,” notes Torn, who asks, “Where will the hordes of late-night theatre professionals go after the 8 p.m. shows have ended? If they have the guts to party with Pa and Ma Ubu, we’ll be ready to bathe them in sweat, absinthe and kielbasa juice!”
Can you bear it? Drunk on absinthe or stone cold sober, this “Ubu” has claws.
version some claws of its own. Burlesque icon Julie Atlas Muz has a slinky form and a gift for rhythmic cadence that promises to function well alongside the “giddy, angular new wave rock” of a theremin-infused band covering the work of cult songmakers Pere Ubu, itself inspired by the play’s name and style.
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Declaration of interdependence Friendship is tested during a game of ‘Winners and Losers’
THEATER WINNERS AND LOSERS Created & Performed by James Long & Marcus Youssef Jan. 8–11, 14–18, 21–25, 28–Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 10, 17, 24, 31 at 3 p.m. At Soho Rep. 46 Walker St. (btw. Broadway & Church Sts.)
BY SCOTT STIFFLER
A simple game invented by James Long (left) and Marcus Youssef complicates their friendship, in “Winners and Losers.”
friend win! Soho Rep. Artistic Director Sarah Benson says she was drawn to the acerbic show because it “asks us to consider what we value and how our choices can potentially divide us. New York, where our inequalities are in plain sight, is the ideal stage for their work.” In conjunction with select performances, Soho Rep.’s FEED Humanities series will present introspective post-performance events that expand upon thorny issues raised by the show. On Jan. 10, the guests are Columbia Business School social psychologists Adam Galinsky and Daniel Ames. On Jan. 14, the theme is “Mediation” — with Sandra Mary Nuñez of Hunter College and the NY Peace Institute’s Melissa Appleton. Queer, Gender and Ethnic Studies experts weigh in on the show following its Jan. 21 performance, in a talk led by playwright Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas and Ann Pellegrini (Director of NYU’s Center for Sexuality and Gender Studies). Before the evening performance on Jan. 18, Long and Youssef will teach a free and open-to-the-public “Devising Workshop.” From 2–5 p.m., learn how the show was developed, with an eye towards creating work of your own. Participate
PHOTO BY PAVEL ANTONOV
wo kinds of people in this world” says the great Lindsay Buckingham song “Go Insane,” which boils each and every one of us down to “winners, losers.” It’s easy (and fun, and convenient!) to see things in strict black and white terms. Mix the two extremes just a little bit, though, and you’re left with a gray area that’s far less appealing but much more realistic. As they were about to turn 40 — the perfect age for assessing where you fall on the Buckingham Scale — a mutual friend sent longtime Canadian theater collaborators James Long and Marcus Youssef a selfhelp pyramid scheme email. That led to some frank self-reflection, and the invention of a rapid-fire game called “Winners and Losers.” In this theatrical version, Long and Youssef take turns naming people, places and things. Without hesitation, they bestow upon them the title of “winner” or “loser.” As the increasingly competitive game progresses, their answers — and the seemingly random nouns they choose to rattle off — reveal how they really feel about themselves, and each other. It’s not long before the polite table talk goes from amusing inkblot test to full-contact wrestling match. May the best
PHOTO BY PAVEL ANTONOV
Tickets: $35 Call 212-352-3101 or visit sohorep.org $30 general rush and $20 student rush tickets available at the box office one hour prior to curtain (valid school ID required).
Top to Bottom: James Long and Marcus Youssef wrestle with delusions of grandeur, feelings of inadequacy, and each other.
in a series of exercises derived from the “Winners and Losers” format, which Long and Youssef describe as “a half-scripted, half-improvised competitive performance.” They encourage you to show up with a close friend, then use the show’s game structure to find out how well you really know each other (while assessing each other ’s
breaking point). As anyone who’s ever freaked out during a heated game of Monopoly can attest, the line between innocent fun and cutthroat competition is a thin one. In this case, that gossamer thread may be snapped by the presence of beer — “an essential part,” assert Long and Youssef, of the “Winners and Losers” formula! January 8, 2015
Kings and politicians ask mayor for greatest gift of all OLD P.S. 64, continued from p. 1
January 8, 2015
PHOTOS BY ROBERTO J. MERCADO
dez, who, after the rally, delivered scores of special holiday cards to de Blasio signed by the effort’s supporters. The cards pleaded for the mayor to intervene and help the community get the building back. Also joining Mendez, and dressed up as the three kings for the holiday of Epiphany (Three Kings Day) were District Leader Anthony Feliciano, State Committeeman Michael Farrin and Valerio Orselli, executive director of the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association. The former school building, at 605 E. Ninth St. near Avenue B, was bought at city auction by Gregg Singer in 1998 for $3.2 million. A few years later, Singer evicted CHARAS / El Bohio, the Puerto Rican-led cultural and community center that had occupied the place for nearly 20 years. Yet, during all the years Singer has owned 605 E. Ninth St., his various ongoing attempts to develop the site have all repeatedly failed in the face of unyielding opposition by community activists and local politicians. In 2006, drastically restricting what Singer could do with the property, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission designed the turn-of-the-century “H”-style school building as an individual landmark. Back then, in a failed bid to stave off the landmarking, Singer “scalped” the building — in the blunt words of one of his own lawyers — by lopping off exterior terracotta ornaments around the windows. Recently, though, Singer had finally seemed poised to move ahead with a new plan to convert the existing building into a dormitory for The Cooper Union and the Joffrey Ballet School, among others. However, in response to Mendez’s persistent complaints, D.O.B. in September determined Singer’s lease arrangement with the two schools was not up to snuff, and issued a full stop-work order on the building. The ruling gave new hope that the building could be restored as a community center. A partial stop-work order at the site remains in effect. “Gregg Singer has done nothing but lop off exterior details in 2006,” Mendez said at the press conference. It’s time that the vacant building finally be put back to good use, she declared. The decommissioned school was sold during former Mayor Giuliani’s administration, which was unfriendly to CHARAS / El Bohio. The center’s cultural director was the late Armando Perez, who was also a Democratic district leader. Perez and his co-district leader,
At the rally for the old P.S. 64, from left, Councilmember Rosie Mendez; Borough President Gale Brewer; District Leader Anthony Feliciano; State Committeeman Michael Farrin; Val Orselli of Cooper Square M.H.A.; and Chino Garcia, executive director of CHARAS.
Margarita Lopez, were members of the Coalition for a District Alternative (CoDA) political organization, and thus staunch foes of Giuliani ally Antonio Pagan, who belonged to a rival Democratic political club. After Pagan left the City Council to run for borough president, Lopez would go on to win his seat. “What we want today is restitution from the city, which took that building away unjustly,” Farrin said. Added Orselli, “The decision to sell the building was a political decision.” Chino Garcia, CHARAS’s executive director, said that while Giuliani O.K.’d the deal under which squatters in 11 East Village tenements were allowed to buy their buildings for $1 apiece, CHARAS was never offered the same chance. Nevertheless, CHARAS was also willing to pay a lot more than $1 to buy the old P.S. 64, he added. “We offered $1.5 million — and had a pledge for $3 million — in writing,” Garcia said. “Other people got buildings for $1. He was a hypocrite,” he said of Giuliani. Admittedly, CHARAS, which extends through the block to E. 10th St., at 150,000 square feet, is bigger than a tenement. Ayo Harrington, a member of Community Board 3 and a gardens activist, recalled how when she was new to the neighborhood, it was at CHARAS that she learned about homesteading — a city program under which people could fix up abandoned buildings and then live in them. “It was needed,” she said of CHA-
The real king, Mayor de Blasio walked by during the press conference and waved and smiled at the crowd of East Village activists.
RAS. “All neighborhoods need a building like this. But we don’t have it, all because some guy is acting like a juvenile and saying, ‘If I can’t do what I want with it, you can’t either.’ “Although it’s cold today, we have warm hopes that this mayor, this administration is going to do the right thing and give CHARAS back to the people,” Harrington said. Chants of “Give it back! Give it back!” broke out in the crowd of about 75.
Susan Howard of Save CHARAS said it’s not over until it’s over. “I have stood on picket lines with some of you for 15 years, 20 years,” she said. “We’re not going to stop until this building is brought back home.” Borough President Gale Brewer joined the rally and gave remarks. “We just don’t have enough cultural and community centers,” she OLD P.S. 64, continued on p. 23 EastVillagerNews.com
PHOTOS BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
‘Displaced’ artist Zito returns for retrospective
nthony Zito’s recent show, “Displacement: Anthony Zito Then and Now,” at the Mark Miller Gallery, at 92 Orchard St., brought together 20 years of the longtime Lower East Side artist’s work, which was exhibited on two floors. Zito has painted the portraits of countless East Villagers and Lower East Siders, always using found objects from the street as his canvas. These materials can range from a radiator grill to a 3D mirror to — in one case, for a married couple who own a pizzeria — a cardboard pizza box whose flaps must be opened in order to see the pair painted inside. Pictured on this page, at last month’s closing party for the show, are clockwise from above left, Zito, right, with Nicolina — who did the “13 Portals” interactive street-art project on the Lower East Side in summer 2013 — with a portrait of Nicolina done by Zito; artist Steve Ellis — who is known, among other things, for his series of cool lighter paintings — with Zito’s portrait of him done on a lighter; and the gallery’s basement, where people could pick something for Zito to use for a canvas to paint a portrait of him or her on. Zito opened a gallery on Ludlow St. after the 9/11 attacks, when few were willing to take a risk on the area. But he ultimately had to leave the space in EastVillagerNews.com
September 2006 due to escalating rent. The gallery’s closing was marked by a 200-person-strong party with
revelers carrying a coffin marked “L.E.S.,” to mark the death of bohemia in the famed enclave.
Zito now lives on a farm in Connecticut with his father, who is also an artist. January 8, 2015
January 8, 2015
Kings and politicians ask LETTERS TO THE EDITOR mayor for greatest gift Continued from p. 10
OLD P.S. 64, continued from p. 20
stressed, adding that these sorely needed facilities play a key role in helping neighborhoods’ “mental health.” “There’s not enough money for mental health services,” she said. “One of the ways to do it is to put money into the arts and buildings like this.” Suddenly, the man who could answer the crowd’s holiday wishes came walking by on his way into City Hall. “There he is!” someone shouted as Mayor de Blasio was passing by, waving and flashing a smile. “Give it back! Give it back!” the East Villagers shouted, as the three kings made their way over toward the mayor to give him their boxes of “gold, frankincense and myrrh.” But with his long strides, de Blasio was up the stairs before they could reach him. Sara Romanoski, executive director of the East Village Community Coalition, added that the old P.S. 64, historically, when it was a school, was always a building that was “open to the community. It was progressive,” she said. At the press conference’s conclusion, grabbing the box of holiday cards to deliver to the mayor, Mendez said, “This building is owned by someone who has held onto it out of spite. We hope, with this community and this mayor, we can get it back. It won’t be easy. It’s been more than 15 years.”
She also delivered to the mayor a letter asking to meet with him about the issue, signed by her and other elected officials, including Congressmembers Nydia Velazquez and Carolyn Maloney, state Senators Brad Hoylman and Daniel Squadron, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, Councilmember Margaret Chin, Brewer and Comptroller Scott Stringer. When she came back out of City Hall, Mendez described to The Villager the two scenarios under which the community could get the building back. Under the first, the community would negotiate directly with Singer to sell them the building. Under the second option, the de Blasio administration would take the building back through eminent domain. For that to happen, though, a judge would first have to show an “important government interest” for doing so. “It will be up to a judge to determine,” she said. Either way, the building’s fair-market value that would have to be paid could be as much as $30 million to $40 million, she said. Afterward, asked by The Villager if the mayor would, like Santa, grant the community activists their wish, the Mayor’s Press Office issued a brief statement: “We’re committed to working with community groups and our elected officials to address New Yorkers’ concerns surrounding land use decisions, and we will review the requests we received today.” Singer could not be reached for comment by press time.
rich-kid students whose parents have bought them a flat in trendy Alphabet City. These people have no culture, no past and a virtual-reality future. They’re the new “Know-Nothings” of the soulless here-already future. Meanwhile, N.Y.U. and Cooper Union are involved in what amounts to a kind of ethnic cleansing. Depressing — yes, very — but how to fight this creeping castration of culture, I have no idea. I admire your rearguard action, Clayton, and more power to you. But to be honest, I think the move to Austria is the best thing you can do. Best wishes from Prague. Phil Shoenfel
Fracking win isn’t final To The Editor: Re “Behind the ban: Why Governor Cuomo nixed fracking in N.Y. State” (news article, Dec. 25): Congratulations to all those who have put heavy pressure on Governor Cuomo, but let’s not let down our guard and declare a complete victory. The ban can be reversed by another governor and Legislature. Gas companies have been building new pipelines, such as the Spectra Pipeline that runs under Greenwich Village, and they plan to build a pipeline through the Rockaways and another at Seneca Lake Upstate. Some of these pipelines can transport fracked gas from other states. Gas is often touted as a clean alternative to coal and oil. But we
must continue the fight to get off all fossil fuels, as well as nuclear energy, and rapidly phase in safe, clean and sustainable solar, wind, wave and geothermal energy, not only here in New York but throughout the nation. Tom Siracuse
Pro-frack freakout To The Editor: Re “Behind the ban: Why Governor Cuomo nixed fracking in N.Y. State” (news article, Dec. 25): The fearmongering antis have polluted the minds of the New York State lemmings! Cuomo values Downstate votes more than Upstate jobs and prosperity! Natural gas is being obtained through directional drilling and hydrofracturing in 30-plus states. That is to say, all these states believe it can be done safely through regulations. Somehow New York State just does not get it. New York State and Governor Cuomo never miss an opportunity to miss a opportunity. Truly pathetic! Gary Kline E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 Metrotech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. The Villager does not publish anonymous letters.
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January 8, 2015
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