SOUTH STREET SEAPORT // MARINA - VIEW FROM NORTH PORCH
VOluMe 26, NuMber 16
JANuArY 16-JANuArY 29 2014
MONK iN MOtiON P. 19
Rendering courtesy of Howard Hughes Corp./Downtown Express photo by Josh Rogers
Rendering of the proposed marina at the South Street Seaport, which Howard Hughes Corp. considers a community amenity as part of its tower and redevelopment plan. Inset: Protest sign from the latest effort to stop Hughes.
The Seaport Fight to Come
Tower, de Blasio & affordable housing in the mix BY JOSH rOGerS efore the de Blasio administration begins to consider a proposal to build a 600-foot tower at the South Street Seaport, officials want to see affordable housing added to the plan, according to the project’s developer. Chris Curry, senior executive vice
president of development of the Howard Hughes Corp., the Seaport’s developer revealed last week that the firm reached out to Bill de Blasio during his mayoral transition, and a few advisers told Curry in December that the best way to make the plan more appealing would be to add some type of subsidized housing.
“I know the administration has already mentioned to us… affordable housing,” Curry said during a presentation of the project to Downtown Express Jan. 7. “[It’s] very important to the mayor.” He said it was not clear if the affordable housing needed to be included in the tower, which is strongly opposed in the
community, or if it could be built somewhere off the site in order to curry favor with the mayor. Curry did not reveal the meeting’s attendees and a de Blasio spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. De
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January 16 - January 29, 2014
Councilmember Margaret Chin sure knows how to TIE one on. TIE funds may be the only type of political money where the incumbent is at a disadvantage, but Chin nevertheless was able to garner a whopping $32,213 — more than triple the amount of all but one of her Council colleagues (whom she almost tripled), and even surpassing Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. The obscure fund stands for transition and inauguration expenditures, and incumbents are prohibited from using any of the money on transitions since they are not starting a new job. Seth Barron of City Council Watch, who first reported on Chin’s startling numbers, wrote a City & State column saying it looked like Chin was using some of the loot to pay two campaign workers, Trip Yang and Francisco Bravo, post-
election bonuses of about $5,000 a piece, a definite TIE no-no. We see why he thinks that since most of Yang’s money was listed as his campaign monthly salary and some of Bravo’s was for campaign consultation. Yang denied the charge. “It’s not a bonus,” he told us. “The [Campaign Finance Board] does not allow bonuses, and we comply with the C.F.B.” He said he was paid to organize… wait for it, six inauguration ceremonies. Chin is refusing to comment on the matter and her aides are not answering questions either. “All funds related to inaugural activities, including payments to staff, were raised and reported in compliance with Campaign Finance Board procedure and are a matter of public record,” according to a statement emailed by a Chin staffer who did not want to be identified. As a law-abiding councilmember, Chin only has another two weeks to celebrate since the TIE money can’t be spent after Jan. 31.
There may be — at least publicly — no more hard feelings between City Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Jumaane Williams, who were at odds during the council speaker’s race that just concluded, although Williams could not have helped matters by issuing a prepared statement misspelling Mendez’s name. The two briefly shared the stage on
Jan. 5 at one of those Margaret Chin inauguration ceremonies. Although Williams, after giving his congratulatory remarks, left the stage almost immediately once Mendez began her speech, she started off by making a rather friendly reference to Williams’ musical talent. “Did Jumaane sing?” Mendez asked the crowd, smiling. “Oh, he didn’t? That’s a real treat, you know, hearing Jumaane sing.” Mendez, who represents the East Village and part of the Lower East Side, took a public shot at Williams in late November when she said she wouldn’t support him in the speaker’s race because he opposes same-sex marriage and abortion. “As an out lesbian, it’s problematic for me that the person who would be representing this body is anti-gay marriage, anti-a woman’s right to choose,” Mendez said then in an interview with Capital New York. A day after the inauguration, in response to our question about his relationship with Mendez, Williams released a terse statement in which he did not allude to anything that went on during his bid to become speaker. “Councilmember Rose [sic] Mendez and I have a great relationship, and I look forward to continuing our work together,” he said. Mendez’s office did not comment. Moments after Williams and Mendez spoke on Sunday, a political staffer, speaking anonymously, said that Williams sim-
ply can’t afford to lash out against critics of his socially conservative views. “If he still held grudges against anyone for that, he wouldn’t have any friends left,” the staffer said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has been continuing to fill out his administration since taking office two weeks ago, but he is yet to make that landmark appointment. We’re speaking literally about chairperson of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which is still headed by Robert Tierney, a Bloomberg appointee. At a Landmarks hearing in December it sounded to us like Tierney might be interested in staying on in the next administration, but prominent architect Gregg Pasquarelli told us last week that the word on the design street is that there’ll be a new commission chairperson. It didn’t seem to us like he knew who it would be, but the Wall Street Journal reported that the leading candidates are Ronda Wist, Carol Clark and Chris Collins.
Glick on the move
Assemblymember Deborah Glick ”is moving up in the world — literally.” As of Thurs., Jan. 16, her new office is on the 20th floor of 853 Broadway in Suite 2007, up from the 15th floor. She says phone and internet service will be spotty the rest of the week. Her phone number is the same.
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January 16 - January 29, 2014
No rent strike, but gateway still hot over the cold BY SAM SPOKONY Tensions are coming to a head at Gateway Plaza, where residents of the Battery Park City complex continue to suffer in cold due to faulty heating units and unsealed windows that allow ice and frigid air to leak into their apartments. Some residents are even talking about a rent strike, although that action is not currently supported by the complex’s tenant association. Last February, the LeFrak Organization — which owns the six-building, middleincome, 1,700-unit complex on South End Ave. — told tenants that all of their PTAC units (which provide heating and air conditioning), insulation and windows would be repaired or replaced by December 2013. But at this point, no new windows have been installed, no insulation repairs have taken place and only about 300 new PTAC units have been installed. On Jan. 9, 200 additional heating units were delivered to Gateway, and are now in the process of being installed, according to Tenants Association President Glenn Plaskin — he acknowledged that development as “progress” on the issue — but that still leaves around 3,500 units to be replaced. At the Community Board 1 Battery Park City Committee meeting Jan. 7, the idea for more aggressive tenant action came up while numerous Gateway residents were sharing their experiences of freezing indoor temperatures and ice forming along the inside of their windows. “I think a rent strike is not out of the question,” said C.B. 1 member Tom Goodkind, who has lived at Gateway for 25 years and who, in addition to struggling with the cold weather, is one of many residents who thinks he has been overcharged for electricity bills due to faulty meters. Several other residents supported that notion during the meeting — although many of their comments seemed to have been made in the heat of the moment — while acknowledging the difficulty of getting each of the complex’s 1,700 units onboard. But following a meeting of the Gateway T.A.’s Executive Board on the evening of Jan. 9, Plaskin said that the T.A. does not consider a rent strike to be one of its primary options at this time, and declined to directly comment on the future possibility of attempting one. Instead, he said that he’s focused on a more diplomatic approach to making LeFrak aware of the ongoing problems. “We want to work with the management on this, so my first option is always negotiation,” Plaskin told Downtown
Express the next day. “I realize that the tenants are very upset, and they have reason to be. But screaming and yelling and threatening is not always the best strategy. We value our working relationship with management, because that’s how we can really get things done.” However, Plaskin did say that he is in ongoing discussions with attorneys regarding the possibility of a lawsuit against LeFrak for violating city’s warranty of habitability, which requires landlords to provide tenants with a “livable, safe and sanitary apartment,” according to the city’s Rent Guidelines Board. He declined to comment on the details of those discussions, or how likely it is that the T.A. will file a suit. “When you’re trying to help 4,000 tenants, you have to reserve all options,” he said. LeFrak declined to comment on both the status of heating unit and windows replacement and the possibility of further tenant actions. Plaskin explained that, in order to continue more diplomatic communications with the landlord, the T.A.’s primary focus at this point is to bring tenants together and learn precisely the extent of their problems, as well as their opinions on future steps to be taken. To that effect, he said that the Gateway T.A. will be holding a community forum some time at the end of February, to which all of the complex’s residents will be invited to voice their experiences and concerns. Plaskin also said that said that, over the course of the next week, members of the T.A. will be setting up tables in Gateway building lobbies to collect more information from tenants, who are urged to share their problems and needs. Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — who has been very active over the past few decades in securing affordable housing agreements and supporting tenants’ rights at Gateway — said on Jan. 10 that he plans, once again, to get involved in this issue. “I am committed to continuing [my] efforts on behalf of Gateway Plaza residents, who have suffered for years because of poorly insulated windows and enormous electric bills,” Silver said in the emailed statement. “The recent frigid weather served to once again highlight these problems. I met with the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association and Battery Park City Authority Chairman Dennis Mehiel to discuss residents’ concerns, and I intend to work with Gateway’s owner to address them.” The Battery Park City Authority did not respond to a request for comment.
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Photo courtesy of the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association.
Ice forms inside unsealed windows at Gateway Plaza.
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January 16 - January 29, 2014
Arrest in knifepoint robbery
Police arrested a 43-year-old man on Jan. 1 after they say he and two accomplices attacked a man and stole his cell phone and wallet near City Hall. The victim told cops he was walking east on Beekman St. around 1 a.m., when Young and two other men threw him down to the ground, pulled a knife and forced him to give up the goods. The victim wasn’t injured, and was able to provide police with descriptions of the muggers while filing a report immediately after the incident. Police say the same three men reportedly committed a similar crime in the Chinatown area minutes later, and they were then able to track down and apprehend one of the suspects near Lafayette St., although his two alleged accomplices got away with the stolen property and the knife. The defendant was charged with robbery.
A burglar swiped $100 from a Tribeca business this week during an overnight break-in, police said. The owner of Modern Martial Arts, at 78 Reade St., told cops that he closed up shop at 9 p.m. on Jan. 6 — and when he returned 9 a.m. the next day to open, he found that the cash had been removed from the register, although there were no signs of forced entry. Using video surveillance footage taken at the scene, police saw that the perp was a man with a flashlight, but they have no other leads at this point. And days before that, another burglar made off with $1,700 after breaking into a Financial District restaurant, police said. Shortly after midnight on Jan. 2, the unknown man bashed open the front door of Obao, at 38 Water St., jumped over a counter and took the cash from two registers, according to video footage recovered from the restaurant.
Gym locker thief
A thief got away with $420 in cash after busting open lockers at a gym in the Financial District, police said. Four men told cops they were working out in Planet Fitness, at 25 Broadway, between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 6, and had secured their belongings in the gym’s locker room. When they were finished exercising, they found that all of their locks had been broken, and the three of them who had brought cash discovered it was gone.
A thief targeted two European tourists as they were walking through Tribeca on Jan. 3, police said. The men from Denmark were carrying a bag that held their cash ($900) and jackets, and reportedly placed it on the ground at the corner of W. Broadway and Leonard St. around 6 p.m., as they checked their cell phones, possibly looking up directions, according to cops. While they were occupied with their phones, the swift and silent thief snatched up the bag and was gone so quickly that the victims never got a good look at them.
A fleet-footed man stole two pairs of diamond earrings from a Tribeca jeweler on Jan. 2, police said. An employee for Korner Jewelry, at 165 Church St., told cops that the unidentified man, reportedly in his 30s, walked into the store around 1 p.m. and asked to view the earrings, collectively valued at $2,500. When the employee removed them from the display case and allowed the man to check them out, he reportedly turned and dashed out of the store, fleeing out onto the street in an unknown direction.
An unfortunate woman’s purse was stolen on Jan. 5 after she left it unattended in the Tribeca Barnes & Noble, police said. The woman and her husband were
looking at books and magazines in the 97 Warren St. store around 4 p.m., after which she left the bag hanging off the back of a chair while the couple was busy making a purchase, according to cops. When they returned moments later to pick it up, the purse was gone. Witnesses spotted a man carrying the stolen bag as he left the store and fled west on Warren St., but no arrests were made.
Impersonating city workers Two sneaky thieves posed as city sanitation workers in order to rip off a bar near the South Street Seaport on Dec. 30,
according to court records. Davila was able to evade police for two days, but was eventually arrested in the Bronx. Before the fatal attack, the woman had previously been granted an order of protection against her husband stemming from his past conduct in 2007, the D.A. said. “The death of Leonida Davila is another harrowing example of how quickly domestic violence can turn fatal,” Vance said in a prepared statement. “Not only did this defendant brutally kill Ms. Davila, but he fled the scene, leaving her body in a parked car to be found by strangers.”
Thefts were up Downtown in 2013 BY SAM SP OKONY Felony crimes Downtown remained at about the same levels overall last year compared to 2012, although — as with most of the city — the area saw a sizable increase in thefts, according to police statistics. Within the N.Y.P.D.’s First Precinct, which covers the Financial District, Seaport, Battery Park City, Tribeca and Soho, grand larceny — theft of property worth more than $1,000 — rose by just over 6.5 percent in 2013, with nearly 1,100 reported incidents. And in the Fifth Precinct, which covers Chinatown and Little Italy, grand larceny rose by nearly nine percent, with around 600 reported incidents. Captain Brendan Timoney, who commands the First Precinct, told Downtown Express that in response to the increase in thefts, he took action toward the end of 2013 by placing additional officers on patrol along Fulton St. and around Soho retail stores. Timoney said that, as long as he can continue in 2014 with his current level of personnel at the precinct, he hopes those grand larceny numbers will drop this year. On the other hand, petty larceny — theft of property worth less than $1,000 — decreased by five percent within the First Precinct in 2013, according to police statistics. But in the Fifth Precinct, those crimes
Husband sentenced in ‘08 murder B Y SA M S P O K O N Y A man who admitted to killing his wife in 2008, inside a car parked on the Lower East Side, has been sentenced to 19 years to life in prison, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced on Thursday. William Davila, 48, pleaded guilty to seconddegree murder last month. On May 13, 2008, while they were sitting in the S.U.V. on Essex St., Davila stabbed his estranged wife, 44-year-old Leonida Nunez Davila, multiple times in the throat and chest, and then fled the scene,
police said. An employee of Fresh Salt, at 146 Beekman St., told cops that, while opening up around 8:30 a.m., the two men appeared outside and stated they would write the bar a ticket if the garbage out front wasn’t cleaned up immediately. When the employee walked outside to pick up the trash, one of the alleged thieves dashed inside and grabbed $400 in cash from under the register, after which both robbers fled the scene, police said.
rose by nearly 4.5 percent. Most other felony crimes went way down last year. In the First Precinct, assault fell by nearly 22 percent, burglary fell by nearly 10 percent, robbery fell by nearly 14 percent and grand larceny of automobiles fell by nearly 36 percent, according to police statistics. Reported rapes in the First Precinct rose by 3 from 10 to 13, or 30 percent. And there were no murders in the First Precinct this year, compared to one in 2012. In the Fifth Precinct, felony assault rose by just over three percent, although burglary fell by nearly 33 percent, robbery fell by around 16.5 percent, grand larceny of automobiles fell by nearly 43 percent. Rapes dropped significantly, 58.5 percent, from 12 to 5. The murder rate stayed the same within that area compared to 2012 with three reported. The most recent murder in the Fifth was the Nov. 10 shooting death of George Taliferro, 30, between two buildings at Smith Houses, a public housing development near City Hall. A Smith Houses resident, Christopher Delrosario, 19, was arrested several days later and charged with second degree murder in connection with Taliferro’s death.
Crime Statistics for 2012 and 2013 through December 29th, 2013 Crime Complaints Murder
First Precinct % Change 2012 (2012-13)
Fifth Precinct % Change 2013 2012 (2012-13)
Burglary Grand Larceny Grand Larceny Auto
January 16 - January 29, 2014
Former Southbridge Towers president charged in fraud scheme B Y SA M S P O K O N Y A former Southbridge Towers president is one of 106 people accused of fraudulently collecting disability benefits as part of a massive criminal scheme. Joseph Morrone, 60, who still lives in the middle income co-op, was listed in the indictment announced on Jan. 7 by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. Prosecutors say he and the others collectively stole millions of dollars from the U.S. Social Security Administration by falsely claiming to have mental and emotional illnesses. Between October 2009 and June 2013, Morrone received around $109,000 in disability benefits while claiming he suffered from psychological problems that caused him to fear large crowds, according to the D.A.’s indictment. Morrone was president of Southbridge’s board of directors in the late-1990s and early-2000s, according to one longtime resident of the Seaport complex who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Morrone currently serves as president of Southbridge’s Adult and Senior Citizens Activities Center. “He has very deep roots in the community, and he’s very well-known around the neighborhood,” the source said, adding that numerous members of Morrone’s family also currently live at Southbridge. Investigators said they were able to
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identify Morrone as one of the alleged Social Security defrauders after finding footage of a recent interview he gave to a PIX 11 news reporter while serving canoli at the San Gennaro street festival in Little Italy. His enthusiastic presence at the large festival apparently made investigators think that he did not, in fact, suffer from psychological problems that caused him to fear large crowds, according to the indictment. According to past emails and letters to the editor Morrone sent to Downtown Express, he was also a coach for children playing in the Downtown Football League during its 2012 season — another fact that casts doubt on his claims of severe mental infirmity between 2009 and 2013. Morrone has officially been charged with second degree grand larceny and fourth degree criminal facilitation, according to the D.A.’s indictment. The grand larceny charge is a Class C felony, which — if Morrone were to be convicted — carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. The criminal facilitation charge is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to one year in prison. When he was reached by phone and asked to comment on the indictment, Morrone stopped speaking and hung up.
January 16 - January 29, 2014
Franklin St. developer pushes back deal’s closing B Y SA M S P O K O N Y The developer who proposed a new luxury building on a parking lot in a landmarked Tribeca district is delaying his purchase of that site, according to the lot’s current owner. DDG, led by Joe McMillan, publicly pitched its plan for an eight-story building at the 100 Franklin St. site last fall — drawing ire from local preservationists — and in November the developer went before the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to seek approval to build on the landmarked lot. The commission’s decision is still pending. It was previously thought that DDG’s purchase of the lot — unconfirmed rumors put the sale price around $9.5 million — would be completed by the end of 2013, although McMillan had been extremely tight-lipped about the deal. “I don’t want a bunch of people coming to my office to protest on the closing date,” McMillan, the firm’s C.E.O., told Downtown Express after presenting the plans at a Community Board 1 meeting in November.
Image courtesy of DDG Partners
A rendering of the building proposed for 100 Franklin St.
But Peter Matera, the current owner of the 100 Franklin St. lot, said this week that not only was the deal not completed
before the end of the year, but that DDG recently asked him for more time before setting a closing date.
“They didn’t express any interest in walking away from the deal, as far as I know, but they wanted to delay the closing date for a few more weeks,” Matera said in a Jan. 6 phone interview. He explained that DDG didn’t tell him why they are continuing to push back the purchase date. The developer declined to comment on the deal. Meanwhile, DDG is currently facing problems with its plans to build a 12-story residential building at 12-14 Warren St. The Real Deal recently reported that the developer filed a Dec. 24 lawsuit against the condominium board of the neighboring residential building at 16 Warren St. — known as Tribeca Townhomes — because they reportedly failed to honor a $1.1 million agreement to give DDG access to the adjacent development site. DDG had previously acquired the air rights to 12-14 Warren St. from Tribeca Townhomes, and had reportedly been in talks to access the site for more than a year before the last-minute refusal.
Powerful come out to celebrate Chin’s second term
Downtown Express photo by Sam Spokony.
Councilmember Chin raised her hand with Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, right, at Chin’s swearing in ceremony Jan. 5. At left is Councilmember Brad Lander and Borough President Gale Brewer.
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BY SAM SPOKONY After winning a tough re-election campaign against a much younger opponent with little political experience, Councilmember Margaret Chin showed off her own strong political ties as she entered a second term at an inauguration ceremony Jan. 5. Chin, who defeated Jenifer Rajkumar by 17 points in the Democratic primary and then ran unopposed in the general election, celebrated her second swearingin alongside key figures in the city’s new administration, other councilmembers as well as local, state and federal officials at P.S. 130 in Chinatown. City Councilmember Melissa MarkViverito attended, and Chin proudly said “she’s my choice for speaker.” Three days later, Mark-Viverito was unanimosly elected to the leadership spot. Newly elected Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer — who’d worked closely with Chin in their previous roles as Councilmember and Manhattan Borough President, respectively — led the event off with strong words of support for Chin, and their sentiments were later joined by an appearance from Emma Wolfe, the newly appointed director of intergovernmental affairs for Mayor Bill de Blasio. “She’s a powerhouse, and that’s why I love her dearly,” said James. In other remarks at the event, Chin was also praised — always professionally, but sometimes on a deeply personal level — by Sen. Chuck Schumer, House Representatives Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Sil-
ver, Borough President Gale Brewer, and State Sen. Daniel Squadron. “What we can say about Margaret is this: No one put a silver spoon in her mouth, and no one plucked her up and put her into high office,” said Schumer, who, among other things, would go on describe Chin as a “tiger” when it came to her persistence in securing disaster recovery aid after Hurricane Sandy. “Margaret, you have earned all this,” Schumer declared. In her own remarks after being sworn in ceremonially Jan.5, Chin proclaimed her support for de Blasio’s universal preK plan — although its accompanying tax hike may now have trouble getting the green light from Governor Cuomo — as well as pledging to create more affordable housing and also to continue pressuring the city to deal with public school overcrowding issues Downtown. “We have to build more schools so that our children will not have to be on a waiting list for kindergarten,” said Chin. Since the inauguration took place at P.S. 130, on Baxter St., Chin noted that she had, in many ways, come full circle in her career. A half-century ago, she attended that same school as a young girl. “And now here I am, at P.S. 130, where I first learned English and graduated in 1965,” she said. “I truly could not have imagined then that I would someday be lucky enough to represent this district that I love.” The event was one of six ceremonial inaugurations Chin planned after her November reelection.
January 16 - January 29, 2014
Marking new path to affordable food BY SAM SPOKONY Continuing more than a year of work that began when the Lower East Side’s vital Pathmark supermarket announced its closure last September, the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council on Dec. 19 released a guide book aimed at connecting residents to local, affordable food sources. The NeighborFood Grocery Guide — which has been published in English, Spanish and Chinese versions — maps out nearly 80 small grocers, supermarkets, butchers and seafood markets within the Two Bridges community. Along with showing the types of food carried by each store, the guide provides further shopping details, such as which establishments accept food stamps or offer organic choices. Many elderly and low-income residents of the Lower East Side have struggled to gain new access to affordable groceries ever since the 227 Cherry St. Pathmark closed — and the new guide will remain an important resource now that it seems unlikely that Pathmark will return to the site in the future. Extell, the developer that purchased the Cherry St. site last year — and which recently filed plans to demolish the nowvacant Pathmark — has said it will include a supermarket at the base of its
planned luxury residential tower there. But whatever that new supermarket is,it will almost certainly not be an affordable option to low- or middle-income residents, according to Victor Papa, president of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, who has had numerous conversations over the past year with both Extell and Pathmark. The new grocery guide, as Papa put it during the Dec. 19 press conference, will help residents to “declare their independence” from large supermarkets, by helping them to explore many independently-owned shops throughout the neighborhood. “For our building, Pathmark truly was the place to shop, and most of the residents never even went further than that to get their food,” said Trevor Holland, a tenant leader at 82 Rutgers Slip, which houses Section 8 and other low-income tenants, along with a sizable elderly population. “So the guide is beneficial not just because it brings residents the relief of showing those affordable food sources, but also because it’s going to introduce people to a lot of stores that they would never have gone to before.” That additional effort to spread more money throughout the local economy is also playing a part in future plans to digitize the NeighborFood guide — as
the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council plans to release a mobile app version of the guide sometime next year. Meanwhile, rumors about the planned height of Extell’s new luxury tower at 227 Cherry St. spun somewhat out of control following the Dec. 19 press conference, after Papa mentioned that he was anticipating a “very large structure” to be built there after the Pathmark is demolished. It’s been generally believed that Extell plans to build to around 55 stories at the site, although the developer has been typically tight-lipped about the whole process. Last week, several blogs inflated that number when they reported that Papa said — presumably at or following the press conference — that he was told by the developer that the tower could actually rise to more than 70 stories. But in a Dec. 23 phone interview, Papa said he never actually said anything about Extell sharing plans for a 70-plusstory tower, and that any rumors to that effect are unsubstantiated. “Extell never told me that it was going to be above 70 stories, so I don’t know where people are getting that from,” said Papa. He further explained that when he last met with the developer, about six weeks ago, they “didn’t even have any plans drawn up yet.”
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Borough of Manhattan Community College celebrates African Heritage Month 2014
January 16 - January 29, 2014
Richard Pearson, last year in court.
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Pearson takes off four blocks away. “They don’t find him, and then a few hours later, he comes back,” he said. Pearson also frequents Starbucks nearby, and Paik said the store manager calls the police daily.
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Downtown Express file photo by Jefferson Siegel
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By Heather Dubin Richard Pearson, a mentally ill man, who is infamous to residents and merchants in Soho/Nolita for verbally and physical harassment, is back to his old tricks after some jail time. Cops picked up Pearson, 48, on Jan. 10, at one of his favorite spots, D & D Deli & Grocery on Spring St. near Crosby and Lafayette Sts. Pearson, who has been dubbed “the Soho wild man,” was released in late December after serving six months for possession of cocaine, but was not indicted by two grand juries on an assault charge alleged simultaneously. Jason Menkes, a Spring St. resident, had not seen Pearson recently, and inquired about him at the deli. According to Menkes, a deli employee informed him Pearson was trying to bite people last Friday, and police were called to the scene. Pearson was then taken by ambulance to a local hospital and released. “He sits on a milk crate in front of the deli, that’s kind of his go-to spot,” Menkes said. “Smoking a joint and asking for money, that’s what I’ve seen him doing.” The deli manager, Jea Paik has also seen Pearson recently. “He’s outside, he follows customers and everybody is scared of him. He follows people into the store,” he said. Paik explained that after he calls police, which he has done twice already,
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January 16 - January 29, 2014
Making the case, and oﬀering ideas, for a new school BY HeAtHer DubiN Parents, community activists and school representatives came together in the East Village last Saturday to discuss their vision for a new school in the area. Sponsored by the District 1 Community Education Council, which covers the East Village, Lower East Side and Chinatown, and facilitated by the nonprofit NYCpublic.org, the “community engagement lab” was held at the Lower Eastside Girls Club on Avenue D. About 50 people from the East Village and the Lower East Side attended the sixhour-long Jan. 11 brainstorming session, which had food and free childcare provided. Space has been set aside for the potential school until 2020 at Essex Crossing, a planned commercial and residential mixeduse development, which begins construction in 2015, in the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area. The Department of Education has stated there is no need for an additional school in the neighborhood. However, at the workshop, Lisa Donlan, District 1 C.E.C. president, presented significant figures of projected population growth, pointing to the need for the school. In a follow-up phone interview, Donlan, who has been on the C.E.C. since 2005, outlined the numeric evidence justifying the push for a pre-K-to-eighth grade school and the community’s integral role in the effort. She cited class-size increases over the past six years, including a 26 percent jump in class size from kindergarten through third grade in 2006, and an 11 percent class-size increase from fourth through eighth grade in 2007. Also, more students in the neighborhood have chosen to attend schools in their own district, with 84 percent of students from age 5 to 13 living in District 1 attending District 1 schools in 2010, compared to the citywide average of 76 percent. Donlan said D.O.E.’s one-size-fits-all formula is flawed. “Their algorithms are bad, wrong and biased — with a political agenda,” she said. “They don’t take into account overcrowding, co-locations.” According to Donlan, data used by D.O.E. itself shows student population growth in District 1 schools: slightly more than 14 percent from 2011 to 2016, and a little under 11 percent from 2011 to 2021. SPURA will have 1,000 units of new housing, further boosting the area’s population. “Anything I read shows anticipated growth in District 1,” Donlan said. “Ethnic groups are growing. There’s lots to sink one’s teeth into: migration rates and birth rates, and the birth yield, which hasn’t been calculated, but needs to be.”After the presentation of the stats, the fun began. “It was nonstop, constant buzzing, all day,” Donlan said. Using post-it notes to jot down ideas, community members worked in groups to talk about diversity, sustainability and assessment practices they value and desire in
photo by Girlray
Workshop participants discussed what they’d like to see in the new school. Behind them on the wall were post-it notes with more of people’s ideas.
a school. This kind of community workshop and input is something Donlan strongly advocates. “It’s a modeling of a process that hasn’t existed in 12 years of mayoral control, where everything was dictated from the top down from a central board,” she noted. At the workshop, community members said they want collaborative leadership — with a principal selected early on in the process, perhaps before breaking ground on construction. Other things they want included a gym, kitchen, garden, art room, library and a Spanish dual-language school. “Real world” mathematics and robotics, as well as alternative grading techniques were also discussed. “It was amazing, a good first step,” Donlan said. “When people were standing up and reading out [their ideas on the post-its], I literally had goose bumps and tears in my eyes. It was just all so thoughtful and meaningful and informative.” Kemala Karmen, co-founder of NYCpublic.org, which helped organize and run the event, explained the rationale behind it. “The idea is that you have this process, tightly structured, where everyone participates, but no one dominates,” she said. “It’s visual, it’s oral and the democracy is inherent in it. That appeals to multiple intelligences.” Karmen also said: “A school shouldn’t just be parachuted into a community. It should be evolved from community needs and wants.” NYCpublic.org will submit the workshop’s results to Community Board 3, which will create a “white paper” report, expected to be completed by March, about the new school.
January 16 - January 29, 2014
TRaNSIT SaM a.m. Friday, midnight Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday, midnight Saturday to 9 a.m. Sunday, and 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Wednesday nights. Expect extra traffic on the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges, as well as in the Battery Tunnel. Canal, Delancey, and West Sts. will slow down correspondingly. Loads of street closures in Tribeca and the Financial District this week: Washington St. will fully close between Laight and Hubert Sts. 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays through midFebruary. During the clo-
alternate Side parking ruleS are SuSpended monday for mlk day Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is a Summons Alert Day! It’s no 3-day weekend for parking rules. Only alternate side parking is suspended on Monday. All other rules, including meters, are still in effect. All Manhattan-bound lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge will close 11 p.m. Thursday to 6
88 Fulton Street (Corner of 33 Gold St.) New York, NY 10038 212.587.8930 212.587.8935
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sures, northbound traffic will be rerouted to Hudson St. During non-working hours, one lane will be open to traffic. Dutch St. will close between Fulton and John Sts. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Pine St. will close during the same time between Pearl and Water Sts. Thames St. will close between Trinity Pl. and Broadway 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Saturday through Wednesday nights. York St. will close between Sixth Ave. and St. Johns Lane 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. St. Johns Lane will close between Laight and Beach Sts. during the same period. Nassau St. will periodically close between Ann and Beekman Sts. through the end of the month. During the closures, northbound traffic will be rerouted to William St. Theatre Alley will close 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays through the end of the month. No E trains between World Trade Center and Roosevelt Ave. 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Wednesday nights. Take the A or C trains instead.
from the mailbag: Authentic Thai & Vegetarian
Fighting to make Lower Manhattan the greatest place to live, work, and raise a family.
Dear Transit Sam, What is the purpose of painted stop lines on the pavement? I stopped at one which
was at least 4 feet before the stop sign and then proceeded through the intersection. I was given a ticket for going through the sign. Was I supposed to stop twice? I assumed I was to stop at the line so as not to get too close to crossing pedestrians. Jeff, New York Dear Jeff, The purpose of stop lines is to improve visibility of pedestrians, especially for trucks. You were correct to stop once, at the stop line, and proceed through the intersection. Fight the ticket: explain that you fully stopped at the stop line, verified that it was safe to continue, and proceeded ahead. Bring photos of the stop line, the stop sign, the street signs, and the intersection. Write back if your petition is denied. Transit Sam Gridlock Sam’s 2014 Parking Calendar is available for free download and as a hard copy. To download, please visitbit.ly/ gs2014cal. To purchase a hard copy, visit gridlocksam.com or send a check for $3 shipping/handling) to Gridlock Sam, 611 Broadway, Suite 415, New York, NY 10012.
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January 16 - January 29, 2014
Crucial lease signed at 3 W.T.C. BY JOSH ROGERS | Nine days before construction on 3 World Trade Center was scheduled to stop, developer Larry Silverstein announced he finalized a lease to keep the work going. The GroupM media investment firm and Silverstein Properties Inc. announced Dec. 23 that they had signed a 20-year lease for 516,000 square feet at 3 W.T.C., a.k.a. 175 Greenwich St. GroupM plans to transfer about 2,400 employees from offices in the new building in 2017. Under a 2010 agreement with the Port Authority, the city and the state, Silverstein needed to sign a major tenant for 3 W.T.C. by the end of last year in order to begin building a skyscraper over the 8-story retail stump under construction. Silverstein had been confident that construction would continue since July, when he reached an agreement in principle with GroupM. And he reiterated that confidence last month at his firm’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Four Seasons. “GroupM is looking forward to becoming part of one of the most vibrant and important neighborhoods in New York City,” Kelly Clark, C.E.O. of GroupM North America, said in the Dec. 23rd press release. “I congratulate GroupM and thank our government partners at the World Trade Center for helping ensure continued momentum in Lower Manhattan,” Silverstein said in the same release.
ns o i t w lica t. o N pp en a g llm in nro t p e ce for c a
Rendering of 3 World Trade Center
The Downtown Alliance has pointed to the deal as an important signal that the Wall Street area is home to more and more new media firms, and is less dominated by the financial sector. About 450 firms have moved to Lower Manhattan since 2005, according to the Alliance, and 51 percent of the 10 million square feet leased by those firms have been in the creative or professional services. According to the Downtown Alliance, 455 firms have moved to Lower Manhattan since 2005, leasing a total of 10 million square feet. Of those companies, 211 have been in creative or professional services, taking 51% of the space leased. These firms “are joining pillars of Downtown – like finance and law – to help realize the full promise of this district and animate the spectacular buildings at the Trade Center,” William Bernstein, the Alliance’s acting president, said in a prepare statement. Tower 3 at the W.T.C. will be 80 stories and is designed by Richard Rogers. “The community cares about this because it means that the sidewalks on Dey & Cortland Streets and Greenwich & Church Streets will be restored and open,” Catherine McVay Hughes, Community Board 1’s chairperson, said in the press release. “In addition, there will finally be access to the major transportation hub which has the PATH and subway lines as well as fine shopping along the way.”
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January 16 - January 29, 2014
Seaport tower fight ready to begin SOUTH STREET SEAPORT // THE SITE
Continued from page 1
Blasio has said repeatedly that affordable housing is a top priority so Curry couldn’t have been too surprised by the direct signal. When the mayor-elect announced Dec. 31 that Kyle Kimball would be continuing on as president of the city’s Economic Development Corp., Kimball said in a prepared statement that “we will innovate in new ways to spur affordable housing and meet the needs of neighborhoods.” Kimball’s agency owns much of the Seaport and will be negotiating with the Hughes Corp. on its latest proposal to build a tower on the New Market Building site. The mixed use building is likely to have apartments, a hotel and retail. Curry is taking comfort in de Blasio’s decision to retain Kimball. “I think that it’s helpful for us that Kyle was appointed president of E.D.C.,” Curry said. “Now that doesn’t mean the administration is gonna have the same perspective as the previous administration did, but I think it’s helpful to him to be able to articulate to the new administration what it is we’ve beentrying to do for the last three years.” Similarly, during the same meeting last UTH STREET SEAPORT // PIER 16 - LOOKING NORTH week, the project’s lead designer, Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP Architects, pointed
out that his firm has worked with E.D.C. for a decade to redesign Lower Manhattan’s East Side waterfront immediately north and south of the Hughes project. “It’s nice to know there’s people there who understand why we made the decisions we made for the last ten years,” Pasquarelli said. “This is really the critical point in the development of that whole waterfront.” Kimball joined E.D.C. in 2008 and became president last July, four months after the Pier 17 project was approved. Prior to joining government, he was a vice president at Goldman Sachs, which also helped groom another of the key administration figures in the Seaport project, Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for housing and economic development. An E.D.C. spokesperson declined to comment for this article. The project also includes a large food market in the Tin Building and a marina. Adding affordable housing by itself though, is not likely to win over much community support. “That may be fine for the administration but not for the community,” John Fratta, chairperson of Community Board 1’s Seaport Committee, told Downtown Express when told of the message from the de Blasio camp. “It’s still a tower and it just doesn’t belong.” Hughes has not finalized its proposal,
SOUTH STREET SEAPORT // CONTINUATION OF ESPLANADE AT PIER 16 - LOOKING NORTH
Images courtesy of Howard Hughes Corp.
A look at the Tin Building and esplanade now and under the proposal. The building must be raised to meet new storm protection guidelines and there is not room to do that in its current location under the F.D.R. Drive. The motto of the tower s visible behind the Tin.
PIER 17 NEW MARKET BUILDING
PROJECT BOUNDARY Images courtesy of Howard Hughes Corp. HISTORIC DISTRICT BUILDINGS
Schematic of the proposed Seaport development area. The tower would be at the New Market site, the Tin Building would be moved closer to the water and restored. The redevelopment of the Pier 17 mall was approved last year.
and negotiations with the various parties have not begun, but the parameters of the talks are becoming clearer. C.B.1 and the local politicians are united in opposing a 600-foot tower, but if that height were to drop significantly, and large community amenities were added, a split would probably form, as some in the community might accept a smaller tower if there were enough sweeteners. The board discussed that issue briefly last month. “We don’t want to confuse the issue of the tower and anything else,” said Joe Lerner, a board member who lives in the Seaport area. “We are not selling our life and giving them a tower.” But Fratta said at a certain point it may be fruitful to begin discussions of community needs, a list which includes schools, libraries, community centers and playing fields. And Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told Downtown Express last month that he could envision negotiations beginning around a smaller building. “We’ve expressed our opposition to the height of the tower just as an opening,” Silver said, but if the height were reduced, “yeah, I think if we sit down with Catherine [McVay Hughes, C.B.1 chairperson] and other members of the community board and work out some of the things the community needs — obviously that’s what dialogue is about.” At last week’s meeting with Downtown Express, Curry acknowledged that they have released prelimanary plans “without making a larger gesture to the community,” but later, he pushed back at the suggestion that from a community perspective the plan is a step back from
a proposal five years ago which included a school and a smaller tower of 500 feet. Asked to point out where in the mixed use building a large space to satisfy community needs could go, he said “when we get into our ULURP [land use application], I’m sure a lot of people will be asking for a lot of things, and some of it we can provide potentially and some of it we may not be able to provide.” In the firm’s view, the community is geting an investment of about $125 million for community goals including a restored landmark structure, the Tin Building, a repaired pier which is decaying, better views and more access to the waterfront, a better esplanade and a large expensive marina. Fratta countered that argument at last month’s C.B.1 meeting. “If they don’t rebuild the pier their project is gone, if they don’t rebuild the Tin Building, they can’t do anything with it, and the marina is gonna bring a lot of money to them,” Fratta said. “There’s not one tangible thing that the community is getting from this project other than the destruction of our community.” Pasquarelli, the project’s architect, told Downtown Express “we understand it’s a problem to put a tall building there,” but he is working on design features to “soften the scale.” He said the building will be so narrow that it will not block one resident’s view of the Brooklyn Bridge. He said the only way you can fund the $125 million or so needed to restore the Tin Building (preliminary estimate is roughly $45 million), repair the pier platContinued on page 13
January 16 - January 29, 2014 Continued from page 12
form ($50 million) and build an esplanade and marina ($35 million) is to build on the only site outside the South Street Seaport Historic District. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will review most of the plan, but not the tower since it’s outside the historic district. C.B.1 and preservation groups have been unsuccessful in the past in adding the New Market building to the historic district, although they have not lost hope that they will have better luck with de Blasio appointees, who have yet to be named. If Hughes gets Landmarks approval, they will submit a formal land use application. Once that is certified, the community board and borough president will have the chance to issue advisory opinions before the plan goes to the City Council for an up or down vote, perhaps by the end of the year. On Monday, the community board held a town hall meeting on the project with a few hundred attendees, and almost all of the four dozen or so speakers were opposed. “Howard Hughes, if he develops this building, is going to have an unbelievable amount of free marketing,” said Southbridge Towers resident Ze’ev Keisch, noting the proximity to the Brooklyn Bridge. “Every time you see a movie in the future there will be Howard Hughes and his money so if he wants that marketing, make him pay for it. Let’s start with 200 million upfront just to consider his plan.” Councilmember Margaret Chin, who will be one of the chief negotiators on the plan, declined an interview request for this article and did not attend the town hall, citing a scheduling conflict. She sent two aides to the meeting, one of whom reiterated her public statement of two months ago expressing “serious concerns” about the tower and her desire to work “toward incorporating muchneeded public amenities that reflect what residents want to see in their neighborhood.” There were a handful of project supporters who spoke, including a representatives from the Downtown Alliance business improvement district, and members of building and hotel worker unions. Robert LaValva, the founder of the Seaport’s New Amsterdam Market and one of the leaders in the fight against the Hughes firm’s projects, announced at the meeting a new effort, “Just Press Pause” (justpresspause.org), calling on the city to stop the march to more neighborhood development until a full master plan is developed with more consideration given to historic preservation. David Sheldon of Save Our Seaport asked whether the city’s E.D.C. showed up. He got his answer, then said “there’s the elephant that isn’t in the room.”
Downtown Express photo by Sam Spokony
Howard Hughes Corp. executive Chris Curry explains the project as Gregg Pasquarelli, the lead architect, looks on.
Image courtesy of the Howard Hughes Corp.
Rendering of Howard Hughes Corp’s plan for the Seaport.
January 16 - January 29, 2014
Downtown Express photos by Sam Spokony
Snow day Local children reveled in the first snow day of 2014, as about six inches fell in Manhattan and schools were closed by new Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña on Jan. 3, just a day after she took office. In Tribeca, 8-year-old Pria Gadkary celebrated the day off. Meanwhile, at Duane and Hudson Sts., workers hired by local businesses pulled out all the stops, including a heavy-duty snow blower, to clear sidewalks and intersections.
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January 16 - January 29, 2014
Helen Libutti, 91, ‘Zeppole Lady’ Obituary
BY Albert Amateau Helen Libutti, known for years as “The Zeppole Lady” because she sold the delicacy at the San Gennaro and St. Anthony festivals in Little Italy and Greenwich Village, died Nov. 22 at the age of 91. Born and raised in the Village, she was for the last four months of her life in a Long Island nursing home, where she died, according to her daughter Jacqueline Malki. “My mother was very lively and stylish. She was a Miss Subways in the 1940s, but her real claim to fame was ‘The Zeppole Lady,’ ” her daughter said. “She even had a couple of scenes in the Dom DeLuise movie ‘Fatso’ selling zeppole.” Born to Jack and Susan Comora, Helen attended elementary school at St. Peter’s School on Barclay St. The family was living on Spring St. “Her father was a dockworker and her mother was a cleaning lady. Her brother was a dockworker, too,” Malki said. “She was married in St. Peter’s twice, the first time to Fortunato Scordino, who died in a car crash on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1957. I was 2 years old. Later, my mother got married to Donato Libutti, a friend of my father’s. They both had been in the Army,” Malki said. She added, “The
story goes that my father heard while he was in the Army that my mother was dating a dentist, so [Libutti] went AWOL to marry her.” Donato Libutti, known as Frankie, died in 2009. “My mother was a waitress but she didn’t work much, except for the zeppole,” Malki added. “But she took care of
my son, Adam, and never missed a day.” Perazzo Funeral Home, 199 Bleecker St., was in charge of arrangements. The funeral was at Our Lady of Pompeii Church, at Carmine and Bleecker Sts. Her burial was in Calverton National Cemetery, Long Island, next to her husband.
Worker falls, and work stalled at God’s Love We Deliver site BY Lincoln Anderson On Thurs., Dec. 26, a Fire Department Emergency Medical Service ambulance responded to 166 Avenue of the Americas, at Spring St., the God’s Love We Deliver headquarters building, after it was reported that a person had fallen at the scene, where the G.L.W.D. building is being expanded vertically. A Fire Department spokesperson said that one person was transported to Bellevue Hospital. Harry Pincus, a neighbor who lives across the street, reported on Dec. 26, “At about 1 p.m. this afternoon, there was an accident at the God’s Love We Deliver site, and a worker was removed on a stretcher. I don’t know if there is a stop-work order, but there ought to be. The Spring St. subway entrance is completely exposed to heavy demolition work on the roof of God’s Love We Deliver, which includes jackhammering of brick walls.” In fact — in response to a complaint received on Dec. 27 — a partial stopwork order for the address is listed on the Department of Buildings Web site, with the description: “SECTION OF S/W SHED IS MISSING RIGHT ABOVE SUBWAY ENTRANCE. WORK DOES NOT CONFORM TO APPROVED PLANS.”
January 16 - January 29, 2014
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A new mayor and great gay expectations B Y PAUL SCHIN DLER When Bill de Blasio stood on the steps of City Hall Jan. 1 to be sworn in as New York’s 109th mayor, nothing in the inaugural ceremony suggested a hint of retreat from the progressive themes his campaign raised. That’s encouraging, but the proving ground will likely be the next six months as the new mayor completes his appointments and develops his first budget. As he has named his governing team — a process far from complete — de Blasio has emphasized his philosophical harmony with his new staff members, but it is also worth noting that he has primarily drawn from a bench with long experience in past mayoral administrations. He makes a fair point that he can only effect change if his players know the game, but if his appointees are, in fact, to serve as agents of change, the mayor will have to exercise clear and unwavering leadership. To date, the most concrete example of change is the announcement that his new corporation counsel, Zachary Carter, will withdraw the city’s appeal of a federal ruling putting curbs on the N.Y.P.D’s stop and frisk policies and will negotiate a settlement with five men wrongly convicted of a 1989 Central Park rape. De Blasio won election with strong support from the L.G.B.T. community — in the September primary, he easily bested out lesbian Christine Quinn among voters who identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. It is fortunate, though, that gay and AIDS groups are not taking anything for granted. Leaders in the fight against H.I.V. are making their views known loud and clear — chief among them that it is time for a new health commissioner. In a friendly Jan. 6 letter to the mayor, a group of L.G.B.T. Democratic clubs — including the Stonewall Democrats of New York City, Brooklyn’s Lambda Independent Democrats, and the Lesbian & Gay Democratic Club of Queens — outlined a comprehensive list of priorities it expects the new administration to tackle. The Democratic clubs’ letter reminds de Blasio of his commitment to baseline the $12 million the city budget has in recent years provided for runaway and homeless youth housing and services and to increase it incrementally $1.5 million each year. With only 253 youth shelter beds available for an estimated nightly population of 3,800 — up to 40 percent of them L.G.B.T. — that commitment represents the bare minimum acceptable. The city — and the state — should be doing a lot more. When it looks at the problems faced by homeless youth, the city should recognize that those 18-24 face particular risk, since they are often forced into adult shelters, where the environment is particularly dangerous for those who are L.G.B.T. -identified. The Jan. 6 letter also identifies enforcement of the city’s 2002 transgender rights law as a priority. Two years ago, the police department announced a groundbreaking revision in its patrol guide aimed as ensuring dignified treat-
Downtown Express photo by Donna Aceto
Mayor de Blasio and his family after he took the oath of office Jan. 1
ment of transgender and gender-nonconforming people. The health department’s restrictive policy requiring evidence of gender reassignment surgery before a new birth certificate with a changed gender designation is issued is long overdue for revamping. Full implementation of the state’s Dignity for All Students Act is another item on the clubs’ agenda. The Department of Education needs to go further than that, however. On the same day that Carmen Fariña was named the new schools chancellor — and said that school safety had “improved by and large” — the departing Bloomberg administration quietly released a two-year-old study showing that nearly a third of L.G.B.T. students in city schools reported having been bullied. Fariña’s D.O.E. must implement better training and reporting on school violence and bullying, and must also reverse the aversion the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations showed toward comprehensive sex education. The three clubs endorsed a top goal of H.I.V. advocacy groups — the enactment in Albany of a measure that would limit the rent payable by clients of the H.I.V./AIDS Services Administration to 30 percent of their monthly income, as is the case generally with otherrental assistance programs. The lack of such a rental cap has made housing stability and even survival precarious for those living with an AIDS disability, but the chief stumbling block to action by the state to date was former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s determined opposition. AIDS activists have gone further in their demands, primarily in calling for the replacement of current Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, who, critics rightly point out, has shown little leadership on the epidemic. Gay and bisexual men, particularly — though not exclusively — young men of color, remain at stubbornly high risk for H.I.V. transmission. The L.G.B.T community, the mayor, and a new health commissioner must make this problem a top priority. On this point, the Democratic clubs are right to call for reinstatement of a Citywide Coordinator for H.I.V./AIDS Policy position within the mayor’s office.
I am less persuaded by the clubs’ call for the creation of L.G.B.T. liaison slots in the mayor’s office and in key city agencies. Our community needs strong voices in City Hall and throughout New York’s vast bureaucracy. Too often, however, liaisons serve largely to market their boss to the community rather than advocate for critical community needs. More important than having L.G.B.T. representatives in each agency is the appointment of skilled members of the community in influential administration positions. Out lesbian Emma Wolfe, a top de Blasio campaign aide, is now his director of intergovernmental affairs. More high quality appointments like that are really what we should be asking for. Paul Shindler is editor-in-chief of Gay City News, a sister publication of Downtown Express
“Powerful come to see Chin sworn in at Chinatown school” (posted Jan. 7):
A very strong advocate and representative of the tenants of Knickerbocker Village. Thank you Margaret! Bob Wilson Margaret has been neither amazing nor strong as a representative. Most of us involved in community issues know this. Nevertheless, she is our rep and we are committed to working with her going forward. Hopefully Margaret learned from this year’s tough primary fight that if she does not take the side of the community and fight for us first, we will not stand for it. Here’s hoping for new, improved representation from Chin these next 4 years. Downtowner
January 16 - January 29, 2014
B y J an e l B l ado w 2014 is already off at blizzard speed. With fired up community activists, heated town hall meetings and polar vortex deep freezes, the neighborhood appears to be skating on thin ice. Not to worry, all this activity keeps our wonderful community vital during the drab season.
His force be with you….
Area merchants came together recently to remember a local boy who lost his battle against cancer. Spearheaded by Maura Kilgore of Cowgirl Seahorse and Diane Honeywell of Nelson Blue, merchants sold raffle tickets to raise money for Make-A-Wish Foundation to honor James Bonnelly, the 12-year old known to the children’s charity supporters as “Luke Skywalker.” James, whose dad Bernie works for the US Post Office (at Peck Slip and now John Street), was nearly five years cancer-free and excitedly getting ready to go back to school when the disease returned. He died a week later, in September. The big drawing was held Monday night at Nelson Blue. Winner of the grand prize – two tickets to the PGA’s Masters on practice round Monday, went to the team at Meade’s Bar while neighbor Jeannine Michele won the second prize of either champagne brunch or dinner dance for four on Hornblower Cruises. Lots of additional prizes donated by local businesses – from bottles of wine to gift certificates – were doled out to happy winners. Congrats! “We’re so thrilled,” says Maura of the event which raised more than $2,100. “Everyone was so generous.” The group hopes to make this fundraiser an annual event.
don’t expect there to be a lot of action in local haunts during the Academy Awards (March 2), I do think that our watering holes will be wild on Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 2) and the following two weeks with Winter Olympics in Sochi (Feb. 7 to 23). So where to get your sports groove on if you couldn’t score coveted (and extremely expensive) tickets to Metlife Stadium or just want to drown your sorrows that neither the Giants nor the Jets are playing? My neighborhood picks for a place to imbibe… • Cowgirl Seahorse carries on with their Football Sundays specials – 50-cent wings and $4 drafts all day • Jeremy’s Ale House (228 Front St.) serves up a NFL Special plate of wings and a 32 ounce domestic beer for $10 • Paris Café (119 South St.) is all about the three new super-sized TV screens lining the west wall; having a brew or a burger is an added bonus
Chain food fight…
Since Denny’s announcement last year to infiltrate NYC with its first location at 150 Nassau Street, residents have been kicking and screaming. Their fear: the all-night sandwiches and eggs emporium would bring rowdy late night crowds to the otherwise desolated streets. While it’s a done deal, it’s unclear when the Denny’s is coming. Community Board 1 is going to mull over the national chain’s liquor license request at its Jan. 21 meeting. Speak up and be heard.
Messages in motion…
A pop up shop opened last week at South and John Sts. to collect neighbors’ and visitors’ thoughts on the Seaport after Sandy. “Catch & Release” is the innovation of the New York chapter of AIGA, a nonprofit group of graphic designers. Here people will “catch” or write their thoughts on the storm, the Seaport and the aftermath. Then the design team will “release” these messages in a exhibit. Stop by between 11 am and 7 pm to scribble your feelings. Or just put your message in a bottle.
A Soprano sings…
The Crusty Gentlemen had a surprise stand-in for fans at Cowgirl Seahorse (259 Front St.) at their weekly Monday night gig on Jan. 6. Dominic “Uncle Jr.” Chianese sat in with the gents to show “how crusty is done right.” The star, known for his super-crusty characters on “The Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire,” blew away the crowd. But not in his usual mobster style.
A shout out to our neighbors, actors Robin Wright and Ben Foster on their recent engagement and to Robin for her Golden Globe win as conniving Claire Underwood on Netflix’s “House of Cards.”
A good needling…
I fell in October and was crippled with a pain in the… and down the right leg. A neighbor suggested City Acupuncture (139 Fulton St.) for some serious needle therapy. Boy, what a great experience and I’m happy to report the pains are gone. So I had to speak with founder Robbie Benhuri, L.Ac. In his mid-20s, Robbie came down with a debilitating disease, lost his job, grew extremely depressed and couldn’t find a doctor to help until he visited a Chinese acupuncturist in New Jersey. Cut to the chase, it changed his life. He went on to study the ancient science and traveled the country looking for alternative ways to bring this medical therapy to the American people. While out in Portland, OR, he studied the community treatment movement. He brought the community-style clinic to New York City, first opening at Union Square then discovering his current location mostly because he was hunting for more affordable rent. Lucky us. Born and raised in New York (Queens and Long Island), he had trepidations about downtown but once he stepped out of the A train on Fulton St in 2010 he was sold. “The streets were so full of energy, construction, people. I was totally addicted immediately,” he says. The business grew by word of mouth and today he has already expanded twice. The center now has almost 3,000 square feet on two floors of the building. On the second floor is a communal room with 10 beds covered with clean, crisp white sheets, a warming foil blanket and separated by folding screens. If a patient prefers, three semi-private and four private rooms are available. Of course, they cost more. “Numbers don’t lie,” he says, noting that patients even say they like the shared healing experience. He explains the general reaction with his own first experience. “Needles are a source of anxiety to almost everyone, me included. I couldn’t move. I was covered with needles. The acupuncturist turns off the lights, shuts the door and walks away. I’m in the dark for the most stressful half hour, afraid to move.” At City Acupuncture patients don’t undress and practitioners are never far away. “The vibe is super chilled,” adds Robbie. “A group energy develops, the group comes together to heal.” The center also offers massages but don’t expect the spa experience. This is a healing center, just the basics. They also offer combination massage and acupuncture treatments. For details, visit www.cityacu.net.
Final thought… The community is in a flurry over
Let the celebrating begin…
The holidays may be over, but the partying isn’t. Especially for fashion, movie and sports fans. Awards season kicked off Sunday night with the Golden Globes, football fanatics reveled in playoff madness and purists are gearing up as winter sports athletes make the final cut. While I
Downtown Express photo by Sam Spokony
Seaport neighbor Robin Wright from “House of Cards” just won a Golden Globe and got engaged.
the Howard Hughes Corporation’s proposed development plans for the Seaport, as they should be. In 2013 HHC got a 62-year lease at $3.50 per square foot. They charge $500-per square foot rent and claim they need to build a 650-foot tower in the middle of the Seaport to make ends meet. Really? I mean really? Or is this the typical builders’ ruse to ask for more, then give a little when the citizens revolt, only to end up with what they really want (or more)? Hopefully though city officials will listen to area residents and keep the Seaport’s quaint, nautical and historical atmosphere and not turn it into a theme park. Remember, the deal isn’t done yet.
January 16 - January 29, 2014
Poets House outreach includes teens, Muslims & N.Y.C.’s first lady BY HEATHER DUBIN Cold weather should not be a deterrent for a visit to Poets House, even for those who do not live in Battery Park City. The journey is worth the effort to reach this literary gem tucked away near the Hudson River. Poets House is a writer’s delight with a library of 50,000 volumes of poetry and a well-lit space to work with a view of the river. Open to the public and free, the “green” building is also host to exhibitions and programs for readings and writing workshops. Previously located in a Soho loft, and a home-economics classroom at Chelsea’s High School for the Humanities before that — where cabinets were packed to the brim with slim poetry books — the 29-year-old cultural institution continues to grow and reach a wider audience at 10 River Terrace. Suzanne Lunden, publicity and marketing coordinator, recently led a tour of the duplex, followed by a talk with Lee Briccetti, Poets House’s executive director. Both women are poets, and Briccetti, author of “Day Mark,” is coming up on her 25th anniversary at Poets House. “I’m not a founder, but I’m a mommy,” Briccetti said, as she acknowledged the many people who worked together to bring the literary center to its new space, which opened in September 2009. It was founded by Elizabeth Kray, an arts administrator, and Stanley Kunitz, an award-winning poet, in 1985. Poets House has signed a rent-free lease with the Battery Park City Authority through 2069. As part of the agreement, the literary center raised $11.2 million over seven years for construction, from public and private sources. Its 18-member board of directors donated $2.2 million, and the city put up $3.5 million. To help fundraising, Poets House reached out to artists listed in Kunitz’s maroon leatherbound journal, where he kept track of attendance, seating arrangements and food consumed at dinner parties over 13 years. On New Year’s in 1967, Kunitz recorded “John Ashbery, the Lowells, Rothkos, Gustins and Lee Pollock” at a party with two cases of champagne for 51, scotch and gin, and cake, cookies and tangerines. “He had a lot of cultural capital,” Briccetti said. “In 2069, the lease of Battery Park City reverts back to the city,” Briccetti said. “Will they renegotiate to be a separate entity or will the city take over?” Meanwhile, Poets House has 55 years to concentrate on what they do best, which is making poetry accessible. “It’s the whole history of the human voice that we’re trying to invite people into,” Briccetti said. “It’s a wide smorgasbord, and you will find something you will like to eat.” This is a lot easier to do, in terms of events, in the 11,000-square-foot, custom-designed interior by architect Louise Braverman. “We can do four to five things at a time. We couldn’t in the last space, it was one room before,” Briccetti said. Kray Hall, named for its founder, holds 90 people for readings and talks. The beechwood floor is from a local forest in Pennsylvania, and yellow velvet curtains cover glass garage doors that lead to large rocks outside for summer overflow of
Photo by Lee Briccetti
Claryssa and Julio Pena, 16-year-olds from the South Bronx. reading a poetry book together at Poets House. patrons at Poets House. A children’s room has some books, and beanbags — but the real draw is three vintage typewriters for use, including a Smith Corona and two Royals, one black and one electric blue, which sit on old-time school desks. Poets House has many class visits, and children may be inspired by poetry dioramas stored in the drawers of a card catalog from another era. For an older crowd, there are exhibits upstairs in the main space, where letters from poets and original works can be seen
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under lock and key in museum-grade containers. Additionally, there is an extensive library of poetry books to peruse. “We have all the new poetry journals on the shelf. It’s our goal to have them accessible to young writers, they are pricey,” Lunden said. The non-circulating material entices people who spend the entire day at Poets House, which has five tables, two sofas and a quiet reading room. It also has the only open stack of chapbooks, small volumes of poetry. “If you’re doing research, it’s good to go back and flip through the archived journals,” Lunden said. “ ‘Oh, this was when Billy Collins [U.S. poet laureate] was getting big,’ and you go back, and it’s his first work.” A multimedia center contains tapes, CDs and records, with some dating back to the 1930s. The next corridor displays the writing desk of the poet E.E. Cummings, where you can touch the place he sat down to write, and rifle through the drawers. Offices in the back are for 12 full-time and part-time staff, and where the special collection of first editions and rare books are kept, along with founder Kunitz’s assortment of treasures, such as chess pieces and a salt box. “This place is gorgeous. It’s a snow day, but people come,” Briccetti said earlier this month. “Usually it’s packed.” She had her reservations about the location, thinking it was too far west, however, foot traffic has tripled since their move. Lower Manhattan’s affluent community was also a consideration. “The first part of our mission is to serve poets. They aren’t wealthy,” Briccetti said, “It was really a commitment.” Together, poets and stakeholders made sure the center would serve everyone. Last year, Poets House welcomed14,000 students, parents and educators to the center for class trips and otherwise. “We don’t think poetry should just be for people with PhD’s,” Briccetti said. “Every culture has poetry. This place has access to all these books, and many points of entry to kids and adults.” Poets House conducts training sessions for librarians and helps libraries implement changes to entice readers. It is also spreading poetry to the Muslim world. Five cities with a high Muslim population were chosen, and the program, which has an outpost in Queens, will expand to four more cities. “We were the only non-academic library to get this award, along with our partner City Lore, from the National Endowment for the Humanities because poetry is so loved in the Muslim world,” Briccetti said. “It brought people in who have never been in libraries before.” Briccetti is hopeful that New York City’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, a published poet, will help spur a revitalization in poetry. “Her interest would mean so much,” Briccetti said. “It would be great to meet and work with her.” And, yes, that is an invitation. “We believe art can help you apprehend more about yourself,” Briccetti said. “I feel poetry is like opera and baseball — you need to be invited in. We want to invite people in.”
January 16 - January 29, 2014
The shape of jazz to come Three young stars come Downtown
Composite by Luciano Crossa
Sound and “Motion,” signifying talent: Melissa Aldana, Tivon Pennicott and Godwin Louis (L to R) are the next faces of jazz.
MUSIC Monk in motion: THe Next face of Jazz
Jan. 25: Godwin Louis Feb. 8: Melissa Aldana Feb 22: Tivon Pennicott All performances, 7:30pm At BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center 199 Chambers Street (btw. Greenwich & West Sts.) $25 for each concert $15 for students/seniors $20 for TribecaPAC Mainstage Members Visit tribecapac.org or call 212-220-1459 Also visit monkinstitute.org
BY SAM SPOKONY In an era of club drug dubstep and tongue-out twerking, there are few better ways to spend your time, or your money, than by supporting young jazz musicians. And that’s because watching them perform — the great ones, at least — is, at some fundamental level, an incredible thing. These are people under the age of 30 who’ve devoted most of their lives to the craft, in the same way that Charlie Parker or Chet Baker once did. There’s a special kind of joy that pours out of a young player’s horn, and every time I’m sitting in some club Downtown, watching a bunch of immensely talented kids blow over tunes, I’m thinking, wow, maybe this is what it was like to see Bird play in 1939. So, with that in mind, you can (perhaps belatedly) start off your year in improvised music by checking out the top three finishers at the 2013 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition — which highlights the world’s best young players — during their gigs for the “Monk in Motion” series at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center. MELISSA ALDANA The 25-year-old, Chilean-born tenor saxophonist who won last year’s competition, is an impressive person for a num-
ber of reasons — not the least of which is that she’s the first female instrumentalist to ever take home the top prize. Along with manual dexterity that rivals anyone in the scene, she carries the horn with a rare kind of poise — and every time I’ve seen her play, she always seems so very much at home, whether it’s with a bunch of fellow young guns or a veritable master like Joe Lovano. Aldana just recorded a new album with her Crash Trio — featuring bassist Pablo Menares and fiery drummer Francisco Mela — so you’ll hear some of those fresh tunes when she hits the stage with that very same trio on February 8. The saxophonist told us that she’s particularly looking forward to the BMCC series because of the close bond she shares with her two counterparts. “They’re good friends of mine, and we hung out a lot during the Monk Competition, so I’m just really happy to be doing this with them,” she said. TIVON PENNICOTT This slick, 28-year-old tenor saxophonist initially broke out while he was still in college, when legendary guitarist Kenny Burrell spotted his talent and invited the young man to join his quintet. Pennicott finished as last year’s runner-up in the Monk Competition — but he shares Al-
dana’s keen melodic wit, as well as the visible sense of maturity that makes all three of these players so interesting to watch. He’ll be performing on February 22, leading his Sound Quartet that also features pianist Mike Battaglia, bassist Spencer Murphy and drummer Kenneth Salters. GODWIN LEWIS Last but not least — and, in the case of this concert series, chronologically first — is 28-year-old alto saxophonist Godwin Louis, who finished as the second runnerup in last year’s competition. His resume is just as impressive as the aforementioned horn players — he’s performed with Herbie Hancock, Clark Terry, John Scofield and other icons — and Louis’ deeply soulful tone is no surprise, given his Harlem roots. He’ll take the stage on January 25, fronting a quintet that features trumpeter Billy Buss, pianist Victor Gould, bassist Ben Street and drummer Mark Whitfield, Jr. All three of these artists are on track to become key figures in 21st century jazz, and, just like you and me, they sure as hell ain’t getting any younger. So why not see them now? Decades from now — perhaps when their collective accolades include much, much more than top finishes at the Monk Competition — you can say you were there, and that, yeah, you saw them when they were just kids.
January 16 - January 29, 2014
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Set in a Five Points saloon just before the Draft Riots of 1863, “Hard Times” reimagines the Stephen Foster songbook.
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American rock band Black 47 and a playwright who penned the music and lyrics to “Transport” (debuting next month at the Irish Repertory Theatre) — is already on the boards of another Chelsea performance space. Following its acclaimed 2013 premiere, Kirwan’s Stephen Foster musical has returned to 23rd Street’s the cell for a run that commemorates the 150th anniversary of Foster’s death (at age 37, on January 13, 1864). Drawing from the Foster songbook (“Oh! Susanna,” “Camptown Races,” “Beautiful Dreamer”), this re-imagining of his still-popular work integrates new material by Kirwan to create “a modern musical and dramatic sensibility.” Set in Lower Manhattan’s crowded and violent Five Points, the action unfolds in a saloon — where locals (including Foster, who lived in the neighborhood) converge, as ethnic, racial and political frictions explode into the Draft Riots of 1863. Thurs., Fri., Sat. at 8pm and Sun. at 3pm, through Feb. 2 (no Jan. 19 performance). At the cell (338 W. 23rd St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). For tickets ($18), call 800-838-3006 or visit thecelltheatre. org.
“EDISON’S ELEPHANT” IN METROPOLITAN PLAYHOUSE’S GILDED STAGE FESTIVAL
Rub their face in too much wretched excess, and the people (plus an occasional elephant) will rebel — or at least become deeply resentful. That’s what prompted coauthors Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner to pen a novel whose title (“The Gilded Age”) was quickly co-opted as snarky slang for an America whose industrial czars, crooked politicians and newly minted leisure class enjoyed the fruits of cheap, plentiful, immigrant labor. Subtitled
“A Tale of Today,” the 1873 satire of avarice could just as easily be an e-book with a 2014 copyright and a cover shot of Bill “Tale of Two Cities” de Blasio pledging a tax on the rich to feed the needs of the 99 percent. Although he didn’t program the Gilded Stage Festival with our new mayor in mind, it’s not lost on Metropolitan Playhouse artistic director Alex Roe — whose socially conscious, history-centric East Village theater is poised to further stoke the flames of its 2013-2014 theme: Justice in America. “This period,” says Roe of the eerily familiar Gilded Age, “is one of extreme wealth and success for some people — and, following immigration and the Civil War, a time of real struggle for others, before progressives made social changes.” Serving as the ninth entry in their ongoing Living Literature series, the festival showcases nine new works by emerging artists dedicated to exploring the lives and times of American writers and creators. No entry captures the era’s greed and cold calculation quite like “Edison’s Elephant.” A new play by David Koteles and Chris Van Strander, it centers on the ghastly, agonizing 1903 electrocution of a Luna Park pachyderm. When beloved Coney Island circus elephant Topsy responded to repeated abuse by killing his handler, famed inventor Thomas Edison, says Roe, “saw it as a chance to promote his reputation and knock other commercial purveyors of electricity” by executing the animal. Adding insult to injury (in the name of profit), Edison filmed the whole thing, and then released a short called “Electrocuting an Elephant.” Roe says the play’s “Rashomon”-like take on this dark, largely forgotten incident “captures the hubris of the age, and how it might go awry.” Two Edith Wharton works are also featured in the festival: Michèle LaRue will present a dramatic reading of “Roman Fever.” A staged reading of Linda Selman’s new adaptation of the Wharton novella “Bunner Sisters,” notes Roe, showcases plenty of “excess wealth and social splendor, but set against the real perils of povContinued on page 17
January 16 - January 29, 2014 Continued from page 16
erty, in a time that seemed to define itself by social success and the accrual of riches.” The premiere of Peter Judd’s “Gilt on the Gold” finds an aged Frederick Law Olmstead looking back at his life, and relating the “particular accidents” that led to his design of Central Park. Recalling “Frankenstein” in its gothic tone, Anthony P. Pennino’s adaptation of the 1899 Jack London short story “A Thousand Deaths” concerns a man who — believing he’s found the cure for death — tests his theory (over and over) on a single human guinea pig. “It’s London responding in his own way to a disconcerting world of industrial discovery,” says Roe, alluding to what is perhaps the Gilded Age’s most damaging legacy — the arrogance that comes from using technology to hold sway over others. “Edison’s Elephant” plays Thurs., Jan. 16 at 7pm, Sun., Jan. 19 at 9pm, Fri., Jan. 24 at 9pm and Sat., Jan. 25 at 1pm. The Gilded Stage Festival plays daily, through Jan. 28, at the Metropolitan Playhouse (220 E. Fourth St., btw. Aves. A & B). For a full schedule of festival event, and to order tickets ($18, $15 for students/seniors, $10 for children 10 & under), call 800-8383006 or visit metropolitanplayhouse.org.
PLATONOV, OR THE DISINHERITED
The last time Jay Scheib premiered a work at The Kitchen, his academia, sci-fi and Fassbinder-inspired computer simulation conspiracy tale (“World of Wires”)
earned him a 2012 OBIE for Best Direction. Now, the multimedia designer returns to West Chelsea with a new theatrical event that doubles as a film — shot by the cast, live-edited and beamed to cinemas across the country while being projected onto screens integrated into the onstage set. A complex practitioner of grafting multiple themes, genres and technologies onto his source material, the home base for Scheib’s current project — The Kitchen’s bare bones black box theater — is a fitting location for a production that adds its own body and soul to the skeletal remains of Anton Chekhov’s first play. Found in a safe-deposit box after his death, Scheib’s take on the unfinished work is billed as “Platonov” on the stage, and “The Disinherited” in its cinematic form. Although the funny/gloomy Russian playwright thought his “Platonov” unfit for public consumption (hence the lockbox treatment), many familiar Chekhovian elements are here — from unrequited love to gunshots to the dark cloud of a family home in danger of being lost. With much of the action unfolding at the countryside home of Sasha and Platonov, tempers flare when the title character gravitates towards his old college flame, in an effort to carve out a new life. That choice proves ill-advised, setting off a chain of events whose consequences include attempted murder and suicide, lynching, double crosses and heart attacks. Scheib’s adaptation centers around the tragic irony of its young, yet doomed char-
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Doomed to gloom: Jay Scheib’s adaptation of an unfinished Chekhov play gets the simultaneous stage and film treatment.
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call 212-255-5793, x11 or visit thekitchen.org. Screens at 8pm, Jan. 22, at AMC Empire 25 in Times Square (234 W. 42nd St., btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.) and Jan. 16 & 23 at BAM Rose Cinemas (Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn). For screening tickets, visit bam.org or amctheatres.com. Visit jayscheib.com, and follow The Kitchen at twitter.com/The KitchenNYC and facebook.com/TheKitchenNYC.
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Some horse sense from the L.E.S. on carriage horses BY Clayton Patterson
Mayor Blasio says he is going to get rid of carriage horses in New York City, specifically singling out the horse-drawn carriages in Central Park. “We are going to get rid of the horse carriages. Period,” de Blasio said. “They are not humane, they are not appropriate for the year 2014. It’s over. So, just watch us do it.” He plans to replace them with vintage electric cars. Journalist Sarah Ferguson recently wrote a Facebook post on this move by de Blasio. Her piece made me realize the extent to which we have isolated ourselves from the animal kingdom, and also how rules and regulations are
‘Horses are work animals. Hauling a carriage is what carriage horses have been bred to do.’ destroying the quality of life in New York City. I’m not here to present myself as an expert on horses. But I do know a little about the subject, and the Facebook post got me remembering my past connection to horses. My western Canadian grandparents on both sides were pioneers. My parents also grew up as pioneers. In the late 1940s, my father and a Native American friend, in a covered wagon pulled by a team of horses, and bringing along a herd of horses with them, made the several-hundredmile trek from Saskatchewan to Alberta. In Alberta, my father worked out a deal with a couple of Indian reservations to keep his horses on the reserve. One year the tribe would get two out of three the newborn folds, the next year my father got three and the tribe two, and so on. It got to the point where the herd ended up being a couple hundred horses. The nature of the reservation was such that the horses could run free. My father was a very eccentric person and — who knows why? — but he felt deeply connected to the idea of wild horses. Some of the horses were broke to ride, some were sold, but for the most part, it was about the wild herd. We also lived in the city, and in our workingclass community, my father raised pigeons, guinea pigs, sometimes a rooster, and at times had a horse in the backyard. Our backyard was a little like one of those Lower East Side Puerto Rican plots. But instead of a casita we had a pigeon coop. With all my father’s eccentricities, it would be an understatement, to say he was out of sync with the rest of the community. He lived by his own rules. As a child I spent many summer days playing on the different reservations. To put this into some kind of perspective, Saskatchewan and Alberta became a province in 1905. In what became Alberta, the Blackfoot tribe signed a treaty with the British in 1877. I was born in 1948. As a child growing up, I
especially remember a couple of the elders, the Big Plumes and Alex Bull, and was especially close to a young Calf Robe. In one memory, I must have been around 5 years old, sitting on the grandfatherly Alex Bull’s knee, in a small wooden house filled with the smell of burning wood. His breath had the sweet smell of dried wild berries he had been eating. The elders were still directly connected to the aboriginal days. What especially affected me were the nightly drum circles the tribes held at the Calgary Stampede Indian Village. The pounding drums, the elders singing — then mix in Alex’s breath and the smell of wood burning — it all combined to charge my wild adolescent imagination, filling my body with a spiritual experience. I felt like I was going back all the way to ancient times — and for those moments, for me, it was. My worst experience with horses happened when I was in junior high school. I used to ride a horse in the Stampede Parade. On one particular day, four of us — two older guys, a girl a little older than me, and myself — were on the way to the parade, and came across an obstacle with two choices. The obstacle was a ravine with a steep, grassy slope that ended at a busy road. The road then rose up another steep hill. Or we could just ride across the railway trestle. There was one issue with the trestle, though. On the other side was a hill that the track curved around, so one could not see a train coming. But it was a three-minute ride at most. What was the chance of a train coming? The horses were a little spooked by the tracks, so we let the first two older riders go first. Then the girl went, and I came up last. All of a sudden, a day liner came speeding around the hill. The first two made it across the span. I hopped off my horse and pulled it by the reins back to where we had gotten on the trestle, then turned around just in time to see the girl fighting her frightened horse. She was pulling hard on the reins, then — smack, the train hit the horse. She flew up in the air and then down about 60 feet to the ground below. Her horse ended up close to where I was standing next to the trestle. It was the first time I witnessed a violent death. It is a sight I will never forget. Needless to say, we were the news story of the day — and continued to be headline news because the girl survived. She was in a comma for 91 days and had to learn to walk and talk again. I have lived in New York City long enough to be somewhat separated from the natural environment, but not long enough to think of horses as show animals only to be looked at in zoos. Horses are work animals. Hauling a carriage is what carriage horses have been bred to do. There have been horses pulling carriages on city streets as long as there have been streets. My friend, R.I.P., Lionel Ziprin, as a child growing up on the Lower East Side, remembered seeing horses freezing to death on the winter streets. It is not the horses’ work that is the problem; it is the horses’ care that needs to be dealt with. Why aren’t people pushing to get rid of the police horses? The police horses deal with much more crowded and noisy streets, drunks, protests, cherry bombs, riots. They’re out in the hot
The writer around age 5, with Alex Bull, on the Saracee Reservation.
sun and rain, sometimes hours without breaks. This is no walk through the park. The difference is the police horses are well cared for. This is the kind of care the carriage horses need — not to be put out to pasture, whatever that means. We do not need to lose another part of New
York City. What do we get in exchange? More cars in Central Park? More bike lanes? More Starbucks? More sterility? What about the drivers’ jobs? Let’s save the horses, one of the longest, ongoing, continuous connections that we the “common” people have to New York City past and present.
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JANUARY 16, 2014 DOWNTOWN EXPRESS