The Paper of Record for East and West Villages, Lower East Side, Soho, Noho, Little Italy and Chinatown
January 23, 2014 • FREE Volume 4 • Number 5
N.Y.U. now says it will appeal judge’s superblocks ruling BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
N.Y.U., continued on p. 20
Making the case, and offering ideas, for a new school BY HEATHER DUBIN
arents, 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 cov-
PHOTO BY BÉATRICE DE GÉA
fter initially saying last week’s stunning legal setback on its South Village development plans was “very positive for N.Y.U.,” the university now plans to challenge the court decision. Meanwhile, the office
of City Councilmember Margaret Chin — whose district contains the superblocks, where N.Y.U. hopes to build — this week offered a statement indicating that, despite the judge’s unequivocal verdict, they still support the entire project going forward. Corey Johnson — who
ers 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 SCHOOL, continued on p. 11
Mike Martin fashioning a piece of a Remington rifle into a mattock, a farming tool, at Middle Collegiate Church on Sunday.
A disarming M.L.K. Day service BY HEATHER DUBIN
t was a birthday present fit for a King,” said Reverend Jacqueline J. Lewis, senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a worship service was held at the church on Sunday, followed by the transformation of a gun into a gardening tool, plus a teach-in. Speaking this week, Lewis — who
goes by Jacqui — explained where the idea came from to do a demonstration of making a Remington rifle into a mattock, a farming implement with a twopronged rake at the end. Last year for Martin Luther King Day, the church partnered with Auburn Theological Seminary, the Groundswell Movement and Pico, a Jesuit organization, for a national Anti-gun-violence Sabbath. There was shock and an upwelling of concern after several highprofile shootings in 2012, including in
Aurora, Colorado, where 12 people were killed at a movie theater; in Newtown, Connecticut, where 27 — including 20 children and seven adults — were killed at Sandy Hook elementary school; and in Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. “This year for King Day, we wanted to keep that movement going,” Lewis said.
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M.L.K., continued on p. 12
Photographer goes from punks to pugs for dog run aid BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
January 23, 2014
Gabba gabba huh? A pugged-out version of the “Ramones” album cover — featuring dog heads and furry chests and stomachs — is the cover of the Washington Square dog run’s 2014 calendar.
PHOTO BY ROBERTA BAYLEY
s the resident photographer for Punk magazine, Roberta Bayley captured iconic images of and hung out with the likes of the Sex Pistols, Blondie, The Clash, the New York Dolls and the Ramones. Bayley still hangs with a really cool guy named Sidney, but, well, he’s not a punk — he’s a pug. And, yes, if you ask her, he definitely rocks! You’ll often find Bayley and Sid at the Washington Square Park dog run, where they mingle with the run’s other “rock stars,” like pugs named Biggie Smalls (actually, there are several Biggies), Subee, Dexter, Maud, Louie — and don’t forget Peanut. To help the nonprofit dog run’s cause, Bayley has allowed her famed photo from the Ramones’ 1976 debut album to be used for the cover of the run’s 2014 calendar. However, the image has been “reimagined,” with the addition of the heads of some ruff rockers — Buddy Ramone, Kaysar Ramone, Ajax Ramone and Jackie Kennedy Ramone. The 12-inch-by-12-inch calendar’s cover is autographed by the photographer and suitable for framing. Dog owners could buy a month in the calendar for $600, or just pay for their dog’s photo to appear in it. Bayley herself bought a month, which features not four, but 12, pug-rockin’ Ramones. “Some of the pug owners paid $100 or more, some paid much less,” Bayley said. “I just reserved the September page, and then I collected money from people according to what they could afford. Some pug owners do extra work for the run, so this was their reward. Louie Ramone is on there because he’s 19 years old (the oldest pug I know), and the only black pug I could find who wanted to be on the calendar. His owners are musician John Kruth and painter Marilyn Cvitanic. I tried to include all the pugs I know. I got 15 to commit.” June sports a Brussels Griffon page — “The Griffon Bunch” — à la the “Brady Bunch” in their boxes during the TV show’s opening credits. Scattered throughout the calendar are dates sporting individual dogs’ photos, marking their birthdays or other significant dates. For example, June 3 sports the reminder “Molly Eisner Shafer Human Parents’ Anniversary,” plus a smiling photo of Molly. September 21 is marked, “Puppy Mill Awareness Day.” Also doody noted — umm, make that, duly noted — is the all-important “National Scoop Up Poop Week,” which coincidentally commences on Palm Sunday — definitely, a time to be considerate of others. “Spay Day USA” is Feb. 26, according to the must-have date marker. A longtime East Villager, Bayley lives on St. Mark’s Place — “Right near Japadog,” she noted. As for the Ramones album cover photo,
Bayley said there are a lot of stories about where it was shot, but the actual location was E. Second St. between the Bowery and Second Ave., in what is today Albert’s Garden. “It was a playground at the time,” she recalled. “I shot three rolls of film.” Because the calendar is for a nonprofit, they don’t need the band’s permission to use the image. “I’d always wanted to do something with the Ramones picture,” she said. “This is a small print run, so hopefully we won’t be sued.” As for the Ramones themselves, she reflected, “They were a weird bunch of guys, but I loved them as a band.” She noted that Johnny Ramone may well be giving the finger in the classic photo, which she didn’t even realize back then. “It would be in keeping with his persona,” she admitted. Just 500 calendars were printed, and only about 100 remain. The proceeds will go toward buying essential supplies, like baggies for picking up dog poop and trash bags. The effort has been a howling success, and is near the target goal of $15,000. As for Sidney, Bayley’s buddy, he’s 12½ and she loves him. “Getting him was the best thing I ever did,” the legendary lenswoman said. “It’s transformative. It gets me out of the house every morning. My social circle is larger because of the dog run.” Among Sid and his fellow canine all-stars at the run, there are some human celebrities, too. Alec Baldwin came once but someone videotaped him secretly and posted the clip. “It’s all over the Internet,” Bayley said. “I’d be angry, too. … He’s never come back. “We had Aaron Neville. He had a little dog, Apache. Parker Posey is a regular. We used to have Mary Louise Parker, but she got rid of her dog.” The late James Gandolfini was a regular, too, but would always have his dog off-leash on the way to the run and so got slapped with a few summonses. Not only is the calendar fun to look at, it was a lot of fun to make, as well. For instance, a careful perusal of Bayley’s September page will reveal a French bulldog wearing sunglasses in the back row among the pack of Ramone pugs. “That was my little joke,” she said, “to make it like he snuck into the photo pretending to be a pug.” The Washington Square dog run “Keeping Tracks 2014” calendar ($20) is available online at http://wspdogrun.org/ shop/2014-calendar. Or buy it at the following stores: Trash & Vaudeville, 4 St. Mark’s Place; Cadillac’s Castle, 333 E. Ninth St.; Whiskers, 235 E. Ninth St.; Manitoba’s bar, 99 Avenue B; Pet Bar, 132 Thompson St.; Dog Wash, 177 MacDougal St.; Pup Culture, 521 Broome St.; Beasty Feast, 630 Hudson St.; Wagwear, 48 E. 11th St.; and Canine Styles, 59 Greenwich Ave.
Roberta Bayley at home with Sidney, her pug, and Preston, her African gray parrot, in front of her original “Ramones” album photo.
Bowl” and “Super Saturday Night” raise bad memories of The Related Companies’ dreaded “Vegas on the Hudson” proposal for Pier 40 a few years back. We did hear of the Pier 40 party about a month ago at C.B. 2’s full board meeting; the mention was brief, and it was noted that the Hudson River Park Trust will get $1 million for it.
SUPER PIER PARTY: Pier 40, at W. Houston St. in the Hudson River Park, is set to be the scene of what is being hyped as THE — yes, THE —party of Super Bowl weekend. The DirecTV “Super Saturday Night” event, on Sat., Feb. 1, to be held, we hear, under a big tent on the massive pier — apparently to be called “The DirecTV Super Fan Stadium” — will be headlined by Jay-Z and Katy Perry. The invitationonly extravaganza will be hosted by Mark Cuban’s AXS TV and Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Though the Saturday night event is a private event (tickets are not available for purchase), the public is invited to attend the DirecTV Celebrity Beach Bowl at Pier 40 earlier in the day. We quote from the press release: “Each year the Beach Bowl attracts thousands of spectators [emphasis our own] to see Hollywood’s biggest stars compete against former NFL greats in a wild flag football game where anything can happen.” Celebrities and athletes scheduled to take part in the game include model and TV host Chrissy Teigen, Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder of “The Vampire Diaries,” Jaime Alexander of “Thor: The Dark World” — a slew of other TV actors whose names we don’t know because we don’t watch enough TV — comedians Tom Arnold, Tracy Morgan and Artie Lange, celebrity chef Guy Fieri, NFL Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Deion Sanders and Warren Moon, and former pros LaDainian Tomlinson, Tony Gonzalez and Amani Toomer. We asked around for more information, but all we got was the press release sent to us. Probably people are a little scared that there might be a last-minute surprise “blitz” or “prevent defense” by local NIMBY’s for whom the “Celebrity Beach
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GERSON VS. CHIN — AGAIN? So far, it doesn’t sound like Councilmember Margaret Chin is exactly embracing Judge Donna Mills’s recent ruling in favor of the community lawsuit against New York University’s 2031 development plan, in which Mills said the city broke the law by allowing the university to use several public parkland strips for its project. Chin’s two statements to us, so far, seem to be carefully crafted so as not to criticize N.Y.U.’s overall project, while agreeing in a very general way that the park strips, or at least three out of four of them, should be protected — but not necessarily right now! On the other hand, new Councilmember Corey Johnson, in a statement to The Villager, hailed the judge’s decision, and further said it now casts the entire N.Y.U. 2031 plan into doubt. And new Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer told us the judge’s decision “has the potential to change the project significantly,” and that she’ll be monitoring developments closely. Meanwhile, Chin’s predecessor in the First District Council seat, Alan Gerson, who lives on N.Y.U.’s southern South Village superblock, in 505 LaGuardia Place — the block where N.Y.U. still hopes to construct two new buildings — didn’t hesitate to give his opinion when asked. “I would say they should all be parks,” Gerson said of the open-space strips. “This is the legally correct decision, and it’s an environmentally important decision, and it has an impact beyond these two superblocks. The judge is saying: If it looks like a park, smells like a park, is used like a park, feels like a park — it should be subject to the specific requirement that you need state approval to take it away from being a park.” BIKE BROUHAHA PART II? Community Board 2 will be holding its hotly anticipated bike summit next Mon., Jan. 27, at Grace Church School, 86 Fourth Ave., at E. 11th St., Tuttle Hall. The meeting is described on C.B. 2’s Web site as “a public forum to hear concerns from the C.B. 2 community regarding bicycle safety, traffic rules and related enforcement issues.” It’s hard to believe that this meeting could ever top the one at C.B. 2 last year in terms of sheer outrage after the new Citi Bike docking stations were first installed — but, hey, who knows? One thing we did want to know: Has David Gruber, chairperson of C.B. 2, every ridden a Citi Bike? We know he feels the bike station on Carmine St. near his house is an inappropriate spot, but still… . “Yes, I have, it was fine,” he told us. “I was a little nervous. It was late at night. I was on the bike path and the cars were a little close to the bike path. It was raining and I was wearing a very expensive suit.” Now, that’s dedication — maybe not exactly the best time to ride a Citi Bike — but, still…dedication. In case, Gruber or anyone else wanted to push the Citi Envelope even further, the bike-share system
TALLMER MENDING…WRITING: Legendary scribe Jerry Tallmer is still rehabbing at the DeWitt facility on the Upper East Side after breaking his hip back in October. Super theater P.R. man Jonathan Slaff has been visiting him and helping him out. Most notably, he recently brought Tallmer his laptop, which immediately lifted his spirits, Slaff told us. However, he fears Tallmer may have suffered a mini-stroke a few weeks ago. Yet, when we spoke to Jerry on the phone recently he sounded better. J.T., who recently turned 93, is also working on his memoir and has sent us part of it. It’s heavy on his interviews and reviews in the theater world of the past half-century or so, and also includes some writings about his early days as a young journalist. Check out his column about Billy Rose in this week’s issue on Page 10. A beautiful reminiscence as only Tallmer can write ’em. We’ll be running more of his pieces in weeks to come, including memories of his early days at the Village Voice. Meanwhile, his wife, Frances, is worried that Tallmer’s insurance coverage is running out and that he’ll be booted out of DeWitt. She’d like to take him back home, but recently badly hurt her toe and doesn’t feel she can take care of him well enough, let alone herself. R.I.P., AKKAS ALI: At last week’s Community Board 3 Transportation Committee meeting, Chad Marlow reported the sad news that Akkas Ali, the East Village florist who was critically injured by a drag racer who was driving high, recently died. “When you’re in that kind of condition, the treatment has to be pretty invasive,” Marlow said. “I heard it might have been from his trache tube.” Marlow had led a crowfunding effort that raised thousands of dollars for the stricken man’s family. Meanwhile, at East Village Farm grocery on Second Ave., where Ali worked for years, store manager Manan Shah was angry that Ali’s killer was out on the streets. “I read in the Daily News that he’s out on bail,” he told us, taking a break from stocking a shelf. “And that after this he did one more drunk driving and threatened some guy. I mean, why will they not suspend his license? How come they will still rent cars to him? … How many more Alis need to die?” Shah said he visited Ali, who was in his 60s, when he was in a rehab facility in New Jersey, but his co-worker couldn’t speak or move, though “had recognition” through his eyes and understood what people were saying.
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January 23, 2014
Co-op dogged by charges it won’t allow service pets
Within a few days of taking in a stray pit bull, the tenant noted an improvement in her own health.
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abling conditions.” That December, Aaron began seeing a clinical psychologist. That same month, she also filed a complaint with HUD, which found there was cause to believe the co-op had violated the Fair Housing Act, leading to the current federal lawsuit. The eviction issue has been placed on hold until the case’s completion. The other two residents who are now part of the lawsuit, Eisenberg and Gilbert, are also claiming discrimination and violation of the Fair Housing Act, based on their mental disabilities. Each of them has filed a separate complaint with HUD, which found reasonable cause that the co-op was in violation for each case. Eisenberg has lived in the building since 1998, and suffers from P.T.S.D., with symp-
he federal government is suing a housing co-op on the Lower East Side on behalf of three residents who are not allowed to keep their emotional support dogs. The original lawsuit, which was filed against East River Housing Corp., in December 2013, claimed the housing cooperative, located at 573 Grand St., violated the Fair Housing Act, and discriminated against a tenant, Stephanie Aaron, by refusing to accommodate her psychiatric disability. Aaron has chronic depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, and found that the stray dog she took in helped to alleviate her mental health symptoms, the suit states. Under the Fair Housing Act, which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, housing providers cannot discriminate against a person based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or disability. The co-op has a no-pet clause, and prohibits animals without prior written consent. Last Friday, the lawsuit was amended to include two additional tenants of the co-op, Amy Eisenberg and Steven Gilbert, who also want to have dogs in the building, and both suffer from mental disorders. According to the initial lawsuit, Aaron brought home the stray dog, a pit bull, and named her Rosie, in August 2012. Aaron had recently taken a decline. She was feeling “physically ill, unable to socialize and overwhelmed by her circumstances.” But within a few days of taking in Rosie, she noted an improvement in her health. Aaron attributed her quick turnaround to her new canine companion, and decided to keep her. About a month later, East River Housing Corp. demanded Aaron remove Rosie by early October 2012. The corporation alleged she had violated a “substantial obligation of [her] tenancy” by having the dog in her apartment. Aaron then began experiencing more mental health symptoms, and she returned
to the co-op with a note from her psychiatrist, dated Sept. 19, 2012, that requested Rosie remain in the apartment as a “service dog and emotional support animal.” The co-op did not respond, and instead issued a notice for Aaron, a resident since 2003, to vacate her apartment by November 2012. Following a second letter from Aaron’s psychiatrist, the co-op denied the request, on the grounds that the word “disabled” was not used in the letter. Eviction proceedings continued with a court date scheduled for late November. A third request from the psychiatrist was made, stating Aaron “is entitled to a reasonable accommodation to facilitate her dealing with the limitations of her dis-
BY HEATHER DUBIN
toms that manifest as depression, anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia. The lawsuit details that Eisenberg brought home Ruby, reportedly a cockapoo — a cocker spaniel/ poodle mix — in February 2012, and that Ruby is a trained and registered service dog. Ruby’s presence has helped reduce Eisenberg’s P.T.S.D. symptoms, the suit maintains. The dog also fetches medication for Eisenberg if she is unable to do so. The co-op requested Eisenberg remove Ruby from her apartment, and gave her 10 days to so in April 2012. She refused, and the co-op moved forward with eviction proceedings against her. Eisenberg submitted a note from her internist to the co-op that stated she has a “disability.” Ruby enhances Eisenberg’s life, the doctor wrote, adding, “The presence of the dog is necessary for [Eisenberg’s] emotional health.” The co-op disagreed with the letter, and the eviction case went to Housing Court, where it was adjourned several times. The third plaintiff, Gilbert, has lived at East River Houses since 2004, and has chronic psychiatric conditions with limited social interaction abilities. In November 2011, Gilbert had a friend stay with him at his apartment who brought along her dog, Olive Oil. While the dog was in his home, Gilbert experienced relief from his mental disabilities. However, the co-op requested Gilbert remove Olive Oil from his apartment and gave him 10 days to do so at the end of November. He did not, and the co-op then initiated eviction proceedings against him. A letter was sent to the co-op from Gilbert’s psychiatrist, who stated, “The presence of this animal is necessary for [Gilbert’s] mental health.” The co-op did not respond to the letter,
and a hearing was scheduled in Housing Court for February 2012. In advance of the hearing, Gilbert decided to remove Olive Oil from his apartment. In mid-February, Gilbert filed a complaint with HUD, which then referred it to the New York State Division of Human Rights. The coop discontinued the eviction proceeding, but sought attorney fees for the Housing Court case, unless Gilbert dropped the matter at the Division of Human Rights. However, D.H.R. found cause that Gilbert’s rights had been violated, and a hearing was scheduled. Yet, Gilbert’s doctor, who had written a letter on his behalf, withdrew as his psychiatrist, and Gilbert let the complaint go. In January 2013, Gilbert submitted a request to the co-op for an emotional-support dog due to his disability, along with notes from two doctors and a psychotherapist. Shortly after that, the co-op recommenced its effort to recover attorney fees from the Housing Court case. The court found in favor of the co-op and awarded it $30,087.29 in legal fees. Gilbert’s second request for a dog was met with a denial, which included notification that the co-op had “incurred approximately $100,000 in legal fees” involving Housing Court and the D.H.R. case, which, the co-op charged, could be construed as “additional rent.” The lawsuit for all three plaintiffs, which is now pending, seeks relief from violation of the Fair Housing Act, monetary damages, and a civil penalty against East River Housing Corp. The co-op’s management declined comment, and cited their current policy that prohibits them from talking about an ongoing lawsuit. A representative from the U.S. Attorney’s Office also declined to comment on the case.
Chairperson change for Chin BY SAM SPOKONY
ays after starting her second term, Councilmember Margaret Chin on Jan. 22 was appointed chairperson of the City Council’s Committee on Aging. On the same day, the Council’s Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Committee — which was established in 2002, to help revitalize the area following the 9/11 attacks, and which Chin had chaired ever since taking office in 2010 — was officially dissolved. That committee was, in effect, replaced by the new Recovery and Resiliency Committee, which has been established in order to deal with post-Sandy efforts and planning to mitigate future natural disasters. Chin was not appointed chairperson of that new committee, though she will serve as one of its members. Instead, the Recovery and Resiliency Committee will be led by firstterm Councilmember Mark Treyger, who
represents a part of Brooklyn — including Coney Island and Bensonhurst — that was particularly hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. In a statement, Chin, who is 59, said she’s looking forward to her new role on the Aging Committee. “I am both humbled and proud to serve on committees that will make solid, meaningful change in the day-to-day in the lives of New Yorkers,” Chin said. “We as a unified City Council have a historic opportunity to make a positive difference, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to create and advocate for policies that will continue to push our city toward a progressive future. I am especially honored to serve as chairperson of the Committee on Aging, and I am committed to ensuring that our seniors have the resources, support and dignity they deserve. We must build a city where all of us can age in place, without the worry that we will be displaced by increasing rent or cuts to essential services. Now, let’s get to work.”
Extra! Extra! Astor Place vendor returns to newsstand BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
reat news! Longtime newsstand vendor Jerry Delakas is back at his kiosk on Astor Place. A press conference with Delakas, his attorney, Arthur Schwartz, and supporters was held at the stand on Monday afternoon to announce the settlement. Schwartz, of the law firm Advocates for Justice, who represented Delakas pro bono, declared it a victory for the 99%. And while the stand is admittedly small, its reopening — with Delakas manning it — represents a sea change at City Hall, he said. “Jerry Delakas’s license stands as the first action by the de Blasio administration to reverse one of the abusive actions of the Bloomberg administration,” declared Schwartz, who is also the Village’s Democratic district leader. “Jerry Delakas stands for the other New York, particularly small businesspeople who have been drowned over the past several years with escalating rents, increasing bureaucratic red tape, and overzealous enforcement in the form of increased fines. “Bill de Blasio said he was running to make sure that the constituents of the non1% New York were treated with respect,” Schwartz said. “And by reversing four years of policy aimed at destroying the life of one 64-year-old Greek immigrant, Bill de Blasio has taken an important symbolic step in the right direction.” Phil Walzak, de Blasio’s press secretary, told The Villager, “We are glad we could reach an outcome that ensures Jerry’s will remain a part of this community for years to come.” Under an agreement that Schwartz worked out with the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs, Delakas will receive a license — in his own name — to operate the newsstand. But he’ll have to pay a $9,000 fine, to be done in installments through next November. Delakas was required to make a $1,000 payment at the time of the settlement, to be followed by $3,000 in May, $2,000 in August and $3,000 in November. In November, in the final days of Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, D.C.A. suddenly padlocked the newsstand, charging Delakas had been running it illegally without actually holding the license. All of the newsstand’s contents were removed to a warehouse. But the community came to the support of the beloved vendor, holding weekly rallies outside the stand and plastering it with fliers and posters advocating for his cause. The day after Mayor de Blasio’s inauguration, Delakas, accompanied by Kelly King, an East Village visual artist who has championed his cause, attended a “public’s open house” at Gracie Mansion, and were able to briefly meet with de Blasio. They carried with them a small-scale model of Delakas’s stand. Told of Delakas’s plight, the mayor re-
portedly told them, “I know the stand, it’s great. And I know the issue well — it’s a great injustice.” He then told an aide, “It’s most important. Get on this right away.” Schwartz said King and Delakas’s interaction with the mayor was critical, and really started the ball rolling with the city. “It took three of four days, and it was a lot of back and forth with the city,” he said of the negotiations. The judged signed the order later on Monday and on Tuesday morning a D.C.A. inspector arrived to remove the padlock, and give Delakas a new one. As for how the vendor will pay off the $9,000 fine, Schwartz said, “I think people are going to do fundraisers. His supporters are going to raise money. They have a Facebook page set up. Also, the son of the last license holder will give some money. “If he misses the payments, the city will have to give him 30 days notice and 30 days to cure.” However, the special agreement pertains specifically only to Delakas’s case. While operating the stand for 27 years, Delakas was only a sublessee, paying the actual license holders $75 a week. The last license holder passed away a few years ago, but not before willing the license to Delakas. The city, though, maintained that wasn’t a legal transfer. So Schwartz, in a new strategy, decided Delakas had to apply for a new license on his own. At first D.C.A. staffers were loath to take the application packet, but, as Schwartz told the agency’s attorneys, “You’ve got a new boss now.” “It’s not precedential for anyone,” Schwartz explained of Delakas’s agreement, meaning it only applies to the Astor Place vendor’s particular situation. “They don’t want people willing city licenses and passing them down in their will,” he noted. The agreement states, in part, “This stipulation shall not be admissible in, nor is it related to, any other litigation or settlement negotiations… Nothing contained herein shall be deemed to constitute a policy or practice of the City of New York… Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit in any way the authority of D.C.A. to exercise its enforcement powers under…the New York City Administrative Code.” As Marty Tessler, one of Delakas’s biggest advocates, put it, “The de Blasio spirit of the law overruled the letter of the law. Jerry had a relationship with the original licensee — he entered into it innocently.” “Speedy,” a barber at Astor Place Hairstylists down the block, was happy to hear of the settlement. He said he would always buy Delakas a coffee every morning. Told of the press conference on Monday at the newsstand announcing the news, Speedy said, “I’ll be there.” Tuesday morning, after the newsstand had finally been reopened, Delakas told The Villager, “I thank the media. God bless America. I thank everyone in the city from the bottom to the top. Thanks for my nest,” he said, referring to his newsstand.
At Monday’s press conference announcing the good news, Astor Place newsstand operator Jerry Delakas (holding heart), was joined by, from left, artist Kelly King and former Community Board 2 member Marty Tessler — who both championed his cause — and his attorney, Arthur Schwartz. The heart represented all the love Delakas has felt from the community in his fight to keep his stand.
King was there, too, to welcome him back to the kiosk. Explaining how she came to take up Delakas’s cause, she said, “When Taylor Mead got put out on Ludlow St. and died the week later — I said, if they ever strongarm an old man again… . I felt he needed someone to stand beside him.”
She noted that Delakas, who lives in Sunnyside, is also the sole provider for his twin brother and an older brother. People kept stopping by to offer the vendor congratulations. “You see. The atmosphere on the corner has changed,” he said. “It’s a new atmosphere.”
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January 23, 2014
Ex-Stuy librarian was schooling himself on torture, feds say BY SAM SPOKONY
efore his arrest last April, a Greenwich Village man accused of planning to rape and kill women and children owned a disturbing video that depicts two men brutally torturing two women, officials said. Now federal prosecutors hope to use descriptions of that video as evidence against him at trial. The so-called “Pain 35” video was recovered by investigators when Robert Christopher Asch, 62, a former Stuyvesant High School librarian, was arrested inside his apartment in the Saint Germain, at Greenwich Ave. and W. 10th St. The video, which had been stashed in Asch’s home, shows the two nearly naked women being tortured with heinous items, including nipple clamps, a leg spreader, a riding crop, rope, handcuffs and needles, according to federal prosecutors. Officials have also said that experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation believe that the women in the video are not actors, and that they are actually be-
ing painfully tortured. Asch is accused of conspiring with Richard Meltz, 65, to kidnap, rape and murder multiple people — including the wife, sister-in-law, children and stepdaughter of an alleged co-conspirator, Michael Van Hise. Meltz has already pleaded guilty to two counts of engaging in a conspiracy to commit kidnapping — the same charges Asch faces — but Asch’s trial is currently scheduled to begin Jan. 27. In a Jan. 8 letter to the federal judge handling the case, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said prosecutors do not actually aim to play the “Pain 35” video in front of the jury, but are instead seeking the judge’s permission to provide a description of the video. In doing so, the prosecutors hope to show that Asch used the video as a “howto guide” for restraining and inflicting pain on his victims, and to show that he was not simply fantasizing about the plans. “The ‘Pain 35’ video has substantial value in proving that Asch was intent on kidnapping the victims...and was not simply roleplaying,” Bharara’s letter
PHOTO BY MARTIN SECK
University Center’s opening Act II The New School is opening the bottom half — the academic portion — of its new University Center this week. The top half of the building, on Fifth Ave. between 13th and 14th Sts., is a student residence and opened in August. The building’s bottom part includes an auditorium, plus a library on two ﬂoors. There is also 11,000 square feet of ground-ﬂoor corner retail space. The University Center replaces a white-brick, three-story New School building originally built as a Mays department store in the 1930s. Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership business improvement district, said, “We are really excited about that building opening up because it has really transformed that corner of the district.” Falk said a good fit for the retail space would be a home-furnishings store, definitely not anything food-related, since the New School wouldn’t want the tenant to compete with the University Center’s cafeteria. She said the Partnership didn’t receive any complaints connected to the students’ moving-in day.
January 23, 2014
with his own letter to the federal judge, hoping to stop prosecutors from describing the video because he claimed its “shocking and disturbing” nature would unfairly influence the jury. “Such evidence can deeply prejudice a jury against a defendant, for reasons having nothing to do with that defendant’s guilt or innocence,” Waller wrote. It’s also now known that Asch possessed a video and images of child pornography when he was arrested, and that he is a member of the North American Man/Boy Love Association, a.k.a. NAMBLA. But prosecutors have said they don’t plan to address those facts during the trial — that is, unless Asch testifies and they are brought up as part of his testimony. Prosecutors have also said that they don’t plan to mention that Asch had been arrested in 2009 and charged with inappropriately touching male students during his time at Stuyvesant High School. Those charges were later dropped. Asch was arrested last April after federal agents found out about his alleged plans while they were investigating the infamous “cannibal cop,” Gilberto Vale.
Federal prosecutors say Robert Christopher Asch had a disturbing and explicit video called “Pain 35” in his W. 10th St. apartment when he was arrested last year.
states, although he also wrote that the video’s contents will “undoubtedly be shocking and disturbing to the members of the jury.” Asch’s lawyer, Brian Waller, responded
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An image, provided by police, of the suspect in a gunpoint robbery of a Starbucks.
Starbucks armed robbery
Veggie victim A tricky thief duped a young man into thinking he was a police officer before making off with his cash, police said. The suspect reportedly walked into Maoz Vegetarian restaurant, at 59 E. Eighth St., around 8:15 p.m., and approached the victim, 19, who was eating with a friend. He told the unwitting man that he was a undercover cop, demanded to see his wallet and identification, and then got him to hand over the wad of cash from his wallet, police said. The suspect reportedly returned some of the cash, but took the rest and fled on foot, before the victim could understand what was going on.
Not-so-sneaky shoplifter Kevin Bell, 49, was arrested on Jan. 19 after he allegedly tried to steal a pair of sneakers from a chain store not far from Union Square. A store employee told cops that Bell walked into Urban Outfitters, near the corner of W. 13th St. and Sixth Ave., around 7 p.m., and then attempted to shoplift the $100 New Balance shoes. But he was quickly stopped by a store security guard, who detained him until police arrived. Bell was charged with petty larceny.
Snowy service for tragic boy: During Tuesday evening’s frigid snowstorm, members of the Harlem Youth Marines carried the coffin of Myls Dobson during his funeral at Harlem’s First Corinthian Church. In a story that shocked the city, the 4-year-old’s badly beaten and burned body was found in the bathroom of a Hell’s Kitchen apartment earlier this month. A girlfriend of the boy’s father has been charged with first-degree assault, first-degree reckless endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child and unlawful imprisonment. The girlfriend is also reportedly being investigated on suspicion of murder and faces additional charges.
Urine trouble now! Police arrested Daniel Montes, 32, on Jan. 19 after he was caught carrying an illegal knife in the Meatpacking District. Officers initially stopped Montes around 3 a.m. because they had spotted him urinating on a sidewalk near the corner of W. 14th St. and 10th Ave. Once they began searching him, Montes reportedly admitted to having the gravity knife stashed in his jacket pocket, and cops soon found that he was also carrying a small bag of alleged marijuana. In addition to the violation for public urination, Montes was charged with criminal possession of a weapon and unlawful possession of marijuana.
Hummer D.W.I. Police arrested Fernando Ortiz, 50,
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Fighting to make Lower Manhattan the greatest place to live, work, and raise a family.
PHOTO BY Q. SAKAMAKI
Police are searching for a man who robbed a Starbucks near Union Square at gunpoint on Thurs., Jan. 16. The suspect, pictured above, reportedly walked into the coffeeshop, near the corner of E. 15th St. and Third Ave., around 9:30 p.m. and immediately displayed the firearm, police said. He then demanded money from two employees — a woman, 21, and a man, 22 — after which he forced them to lie down on the floor and tied up their hands with zip ties. The unknown perpetrator then snatched around $3,000 in cash from the register and fled the scene, police said. The victimized employees were not injured.
early on Sun., Jan. 12, after he was caught driving drunk at a police checkpoint. Ortiz rolled into the checkpoint, at the corner of Washington and W. Houston Sts., around 12:30 a.m. in his 2008 Hummer H3. It was clear that he’d been drinking because of the strong smell of alcohol on his breath and his glassy, bloodshot eyes, police said. After giving him a breathalyzer test, cops found that Ortiz’s blood-alcohol level was .138 percent — well above the legal limit of .08 percent. He was charged with D.W.I.
Assemblyman Shelly Silver If you need assistance, please contact my office at (212) 312-1420 or email email@example.com.
January 23, 2014
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January 23, 2014
Here’s looking at you, kid(s)! Congratulations to Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership, and her husband, Anthony Corrao, who recently welcomed the birth of twins, a son, Asher Natan, and a daughter, Eliana Bayla, on Oct. 3. They weighed 7 pounds, 1 ounce and 6 pounds, 15 ounces, respectively. Falk just returned to the helm of the business improvement district after maternity leave. She told The Villager she’s looking forward to bringing her kids to Union Square this summer to play in the park’s playground, which the Partnership helped design and build. “It’s good to be back in the square!” she said. Corrao is a financial adviser and professor of business management at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Talk about ironic!
N.Y.U. to FiDi?
To The Editor: Am I the only one struck by the ironic juxtaposition of the Page One headline “Judge says city broke law when it OK’d N.Y.U. plan” (news article, Jan. 9) with a large photograph right beside it of Margaret Chin (a.k.a. “The Developers’ Friend,” and one of the main reasons the plan was approved by the City Council in the first place) grinning as she was sworn in for a second term? As for the accompanying article on Chin (“Among powerful friends, Chin enters her second term”), the “powerful friends” listed in the piece didn’t include anyone from the construction industry — but I have no doubt they were in the background, high-fiving each other for getting their champion reelected.
To The Editor: “Judge says city broke law when it O.K.’d N.Y.U. plan” (news article, Jan. 9): We all must work together to help solve N.Y.U.’s need for more
space. This includes Councilmember Chin and Borough President Brewer. During the campaign for borough president, former Community Board 1 Chairperson Julie Menin suggested finding space for N.Y.U. in the Financial District. That may still be a viable option.
Alan Schulkin Schulkin is Democratic state committeemember, 66th Assembly District E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@thevillager. com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 515 Canal St., Suite 1C, NY, NY 10013.
Are our little kids "political footballs" for the governor and mayor?
Some horse sense from the L.E.S. on carriage horses TALKING POINT BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
ayor 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 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 working-class 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 future L.E.S. documentarian around age 5, with Alex Bull, on the Saracee Reservation.
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.
— 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.
Horses are work animals. Hauling a carriage is what carriage horses have been bred to do.
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 eldersʼ 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
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 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. January 23, 2014
Pitching horseshoes and column ideas with Billy Rose NOTEBOOK BY JERRY TALLMER
here was a period in my confused youth when I was kept alive as a ghostwriter for Billy Rose. Well, not a ghostwriter exactly, but an idea man, one of a handful supplying material for 50-something-year-old Billy’s weekly “Pitching Horseshoes” column in Hearst’s now-long-defunct Daily Mirror. What you’d do is rack your brains, come up with an idea for a column, sit down and write a draft of that column, take the thing by hand to Rose’s quarters atop a theater (also now long gone) on Sixth Avenue at 58th Street, and wait to hear if Billy, in his rooftop office, liked it or rejected it. If he liked it, you’d be handed $100 on the spot by an assistant; if not, $25 consolation cash. If he did like it, he would doctor it up a little, with
showbizzy expressions, and call it rewriting. (In truth, he did — sometimes — actually rewrite what you’d submitted.) One day I was told Billy had so much liked that week’s offering that I should wait; he wanted to see me, meet me. (The piece had been about a do-gooding, 60-yearold, all-purpose, civic peacekeeper in Greenwich Village. It did not include the gentleman’s offhand remark that “the only thing I can’t stand is these black-and-whites” — black guys going with white girls.) Presently, I was ushered in to where producer-impresario-songwriter, showman, much-married, much-divorced (Fanny Brice, Eleanor Holm, etc.) Billy Rose himself, all five feet, six inches of him, was ensconced behind a huge, kidney-shaped desk. On the walls there was one, at least of what to my eye, were actual but inferior works of Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Monet, Manet, Paul Klee, George Grosz and so on and so forth. “Sit down,” Billy Rose said. “I used to write every column myself, first to last. But I finally used myself up.
That’s why I need guys like you.” And he proceeded to tell me the story of his remarkable life (1899-1966), beginning with winning the Gregg Shorthand world championship as a kid followed by apprenticeship under Bernard Baruch and on and on — until he spotted me looking at those paintings, so he veered into letting me know about the time he had visited the art world’s chief honcho, Bernard Berenson, at that deity’s Villa Tatti, in Florence, Italy. There were all sorts of other famous people there that day, and masterpieces everywhere — “but then,” said Billy Rose, pitching a horseshoe straight at me, “then the great Bernard Berenson took me by the elbow, led us out into the garden, and said to me: ‘Now, Mr. Rose, tell me about those amazing long-legged American chorus girls.’ ” As Billy got to his feet behind that enormous desk he said, with warmth: “We’ve got to talk some more. A lot more. A lot. My people will let you know.” I never again heard word one from the pitcher of horseshoes.
Bid to name MacDougal block for founder of BID’s BY SAM SPOKONY
he family of the late Norman Buchbinder — a real estate visionary and founder of two local business improvement districts — has begun an effort to name a Village street after him.
Buchbinder, who died in 2007 at the age of 84, was revered by many area residents, merchants and city officials through his work as principal of the real estate management company Buchbinder & Warren, which, to this day, is still based out of its longtime headquarters at 1 Union Square West. He co-founded the Union Square Partnership, the city’s first business improvement district, which dates back nearly four decades and covers Union Square and 14th St. between First and Sixth Aves. Buchbinder later founded the Village Alliance BID, which mainly covers Eighth St. between Cooper Square and Sixth Ave., sparking a great deal of small business growth within that stretch of the neighborhood. The street-naming application is being led by Buchbinder’s daughter Lori, who is now a principal of Buchbinder & Warren, and his son-in-law Bill Abramson, who also works for the company and is married to his other daughter, Susan. Lori Buchbinder and Abramson made their initial presentation to Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee on Jan. 9, and they are seeking to co-name MacDougal St. between W. Eighth St. and Washington Square North, “Norman Buchbinder Way.” “He loved the Village, and he really threw all of himself into making into making these streets better,” Lori
Buchbinder told the committee. “He was a true visionary, and he recognized how important it was to create strong partnerships and collaborate with tenants, and with city government.” And at this point, they’ve already gotten around 50 people to sign a petition in support of the request, including elite developer Francis Greenburger, C.E.O. of Time Equities, and Walter Melvin, a renowned architect who has been active Downtown, as well as numerous Eighth St. residents and business owners. “To me, Norman is a hero,” said Arnie Segarra, a longtime W. Eighth St. resident and once an aide to former Mayor David Dinkins, who spoke at the C.B. 2 meeting and said that he met Buchbinder when he first moved to the Village in 1967. “He was ahead of his time in terms of diversity, in terms of the people he employed and the people he rented to. So when I think of Norman, I don’t think of a landlord — I think of a friend to folks in the neighborhood, someone who always cared very deeply about the health of the community.” The C.B. 2 committee passed a resolution supporting the street-naming request, and the application will now have to be approved by the full board, which meets Thurs., Jan. 23. The request would eventually have to be approved by the City Council.
January 23, 2014
Brainstorming for a new school
PHOTO BY GIRLRAY
COURTESY FRIENDS OF GULICK PARK
Workshop participants discussed what they’d like to see in the new school. Behind them on the wall were post-it notes with people’s ideas. SCHOOL, continued from p. 1
the six-hour-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 mixed-use 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 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 and co-locations.” According to Donlan, data used by D.O.E. projects 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 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 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 even breaking ground. Other wants included a gym, kitchen, garden, art room, library and a Spanish dual-language school. Cross-disciplinary curriculum, “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 postits], 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 its rationale. “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. “We’re sort of taking this into our own hands,” she added. “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.
A conceptual rendering showing some of the improvements planned for Luther Gulick Park, in addition to those covered by the recent state grant.
Silver nets $2.5 million for Gulick Park renovation BY SAM SPOKONY
apping years of community effort — and perhaps coming full circle in his own life — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has helped secure $2.5 million in funding to revitalize the Lower East Side park where he once shot hoops as a kid. Luther Gulick Park, just south of Delancey St. between Columbia St. and Bialystoker Place, received the money as part of a larger grant distributed by the state’s Department of Transportation to support similar enhancement projects throughout the state. As he has previously in other situations, Silver had heartily advocated for the park to be one of the 63 statewide sites chosen for the new funding. Planned improvements to Gulick Park — which have been conceived by local residents in association with the city’s Parks Department — include the construction of new sidewalks, lighting, bicycle parking, greenery and landscaping. D.O.T.’s $67 million funding push was announced by Governor Cuomo on Jan. 15, and Silver put out his own statement the next day. “I am thrilled that we are able to make these vital improvements to Gulick Park, a treasured part of our Lower East Side community,” Silver said. “In a neighborhood that has long suffered from a lack of open space, Gulick Park serves an enormous need for our children and all of our residents on both sides of Delancey St.” In addition to the overall dearth of parkland on the L.E.S., many residents have been particularly fervent in their efforts to get new funding for Gulick Park because it has been largely neglected for many years. “I remember playing basketball there as a boy, back when it was called Sheriff St. Park,” Silver continued in his state-
ment. “It makes me so proud to be able to create a vibrant new park there today.” The Friends of Gulick Park, a community-based group, has advocated for the space on behalf of residents for the past four years, and was the local organization that actually filed the application for the new $2.5 million, alongside the Parks Department. In addition to the aforementioned enhancements, the Friends also hope to revitalize the park with new and improved play and picnic areas. According to the organization, the new state funding nearly doubles the total cash available for the work, and only around $500,000 now needs to be raised in order to fully fund all of the planned construction. “On behalf of the Friends of Gulick Park and our Lower East Side community, I want to thank Speaker Silver for his important leadership and perseverance in obtaining funding for the restoration of this park,” said David Bolotsky, a Friends member, as part of Silver’s Jan. 16 announcement. “Located in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge, Gulick Park provides an oasis and gathering place for neighbors on both sides of the bridge and from all walks of life.”
HUDSON RIVER PARK FUNDS In related news, the Hudson River Park Trust was also a beneficiary of this same D.O.T. grant. The Trust received nearly $2.4 million that will go directly toward improving the area around West and W. 13th Sts. — where Pier 54 is located — according to D.O.T.’s Jan. 15 announcement. Pier 54 has been a main event pier for the Trust, but part of it has been shut down due to deterioration of the wooden piles underneath. The Trust plans to widen the pier to make it more event-friendly. The D.O.T. funds are earmarked specifically for walkways, bikeways and other parkrelated transportation uses. January 23, 2014
A present fit for a King: A gun into a plowshare M.L.K., continued from p. 1
January 23, 2014
PHOTO BY BÉATRICE DE GÉA
The organizers of this year’s event, Auburn Theological Seminary, the New York City Gray Panthers and Intersections International, located Mike Martin, the founder of RAWtools and a blacksmith’s apprentice, who turns guns into farming tools. Martin, a Mennonite and former youth minister, took three hours to convert the Remington rifle, which was the same model weapon King was killed with, into the mattock. Lewis said of the gun, “It could knock down a rhinoceros from where [the shooter of] King was standing, with 2,370 pounds of firepower coming out of the rifle.” The Remington was donated by a community member, and Martin removed the firing pin and all the bullet-receiver parts before it was brought to the church. About 420 people attended the worship service, and 100 stayed for the teach-in, which addressed five key issues currently confronting the nation: gun violence, poverty, education disparities, a need for comprehensive healthcare and incarceration rates. “All of these disproportionately affect people of color,” Lewis noted. These topics will continue in discussions at teach-ins at the church every third Sunday from February through May. “We’re tired of the gun violence. We’re celebrating his birthday because of gun violence,” Lewis said. “We need to turn the tools for violence into the tools for life.” Reverend Tricia Sheffield, an associate minister at the church, was part of the event’s planning team, and was pleased with the outcome on Sunday. There were lectures, music and artistic readings of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. During the teach-in, small groups broke down large topics, focusing on specific issues. “It was a wonderful time of sharing,” Sheffield said. “When you talk about these oppressions, sometimes people can get lost and feel down. And in the end, people felt very hopeful about the actions we can take, and especially with the new administration in City Hall.” Chad Tanaka Pack, another associate minister at the church, was sitting up close to the action when Martin worked on the Remington. “I was quite blown away by both the symbolism and the significance of having the gun destroyed in our worship space,” he said. When the sermon was over, Martin and Derrick Gregory, a member of The Simple Way, a partner organization, brought the gun up to the pulpit. “They had an electric saw with them and it emitted a huge stream of sparks,” Pack said. “Metal against metal, it was a shower of golden sparks filling in the sanctuary. It was so powerful to see that, I was actually moved to tears in that moment. “I think people connected with the transformational quality,” Pack added. “We’re not only trying to transform our society, but ourselves as well.” In a telephone interview, Martin, 31, who lives in Colorado Springs, revealed his inspiration for altering weapons into pragmatic
The finished mattock, made from the gun barrel of a Remington rifle.
farming tools. “I’d done some work with landscaping and family business, and focused on landscape recycling,” he said. “And I’ve been always drawn to the passages of Micah and Isaiah about turning swords into plowshares.” After the shootings in Newtown and Aurora, Martin was encouraged by friends to get going on his innovative concept. He has been creating tools out of donated weapons since last February, and has converted a dozen so far. In the future, he wants to work with police departments to fashion confiscated weapons into garden-tool kits. “One of the plans is to track each tool from the gun it was made from and vice versa,” Martin said. “You can look it up on a Web site, see what tools are made from it, who bought it, how they’re using it and check how many pounds of food they’re growing with it.” His larger national vision is to establish a network where people can turn over their guns legally with the knowledge they would eventually become garden or hand tools. “It would certainly take a lot of development to do that, but it’s a long-term goal,” he said. Martin returned home to Colorado with pieces of the former Remington rifle, which can be made into a few more tools. “There will be more stories attached to that farming tool,” Sheffield said. The mattock from Sunday will be given to Mayor Bill de Blasio as a gift. He was unable to attend the event. “We are still hoping to get him to Middle Collegiate Church to receive it,” Lewis said. “But in the end, we will take it to his office if he can’t get here.”
Squadron tries to spark pot possession law reform BY SAM SPOKONY
tate Senator Daniel Squadron hopes to pass legislation this year that would amend marijuana laws and, according to him, cut down on the justice system’s unfair treatment of minority citizens. Squadron’s bill, which he introduced last year, would change the statute for misdemeanor marijuana possession to make it unlawful for a person to be arrested unless the drug is either in plain sight or already being smoked. Black New Yorkers in Manhattan and Brooklyn are nine times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, according to a New York Civil Liberties Union report published in June. Those statistics are closely tied to the high rate at which black men have been stopped and frisked by New York City police — although those policies may soon change under Mayor de Blasio — because officers often force people to empty their pockets during a stop-and-frisk encounter, thus revealing marijuana that had previously been kept out of sight. “The unequal effects that this has
across the city and state is unacceptable injustice, and that’s why it’s so urgent to address this with reform,” Squadron told The Villager. The “in plain view” bill passed the state Assembly last year, but it never came up for a vote in the Senate because it was blocked by Republicans. Squadron claimed that more than half the Senate supported the bill in the last session — including some Republicans. But he explained that some of the Republicans involved in blocking a vote on the legislation, in conversations with him, cited “politics” as a concern. “I think that’s just a bad reason to maintain a law that has an inequitable outcome,” he said. State Senator Brad Hoylman, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said he firmly believes the bill would pass if it were brought to the floor of the Senate during this year’s legislative session. “It’s an issue that’s tied to ending stopand-frisk and making sure that people of color are treated fairly in our justice system,” said Hoylman. “And all of these things have come to a focal point over the past year, so it’s not surprising that the public supports this, and support over all is gaining ground.”
Paul Lee, the ‘Mayor of Chinatown,’ dies at age 63 OBITUARY BY JOSH ROGERS
PHOTO BY CORKY LEE
aul J.Q. Lee, a Chinatown small business owner and activist who seemed to revel in uphill fights against the establishment, died Jan. 18 at age 63. Lee suffered a heart attack in the subway on the way to work Jan. 15, and died three days later at Beth Israel Hospital, said Keith Leung, who thought of Lee as a second father figure. Lee and his family owned the 32 Mott Street General Store for more than a century before he had to close the business in 2003, citing the loss of traffic from the New York Police Department’s security closure of Park Row after 9/11. He became one of the leading voices in the neighborhood to reopen the thoroughfare, which passes under Police Headquarters and links Chinatown to the rest of Lower Manhattan. Lee was also an actor with more than a dozen film credits, including small roles in “Big”(Executive No. 4) with Tom Hanks and the 1985 movie “Year of the Dragon” (Jackie Wong’s son), which was set in Chinatown, Lee’s home for most of his life. Geoff Lee, a childhood friend who is unrelated, said Paul was known in the film industry as the “go-to man in Chinatown,” and helped get jobs for him and others in the neighborhood, particularly for “Year of the Dragon,” which was actually shot in North Carolina with a realistic set of New York’s Chinatown. Photographer Corky Lee, also unrelated, remembers Paul brokering a meeting for him with “Dragon” director Michael Cimino to look at Lee’s photos of Chinatown. Corky Lee said Paul knew when to interject during the meeting, and even though Cimino didn’t end up buying any photos, Paul was able to get work for many others on the film. “He was the Chinese-American Al Sharpton,” Corky Lee added. “He’d say things that needed to be said that no one else would say.” In 2004 when the city suggested moving Chinatown’s Chatham Square plaza without a plan to save its memorials to Chinese veterans, Paul Lee told Downtown Express, The Villager’s sister paper, “You’re in for a firefight. I’ll get on the barricades with [veterans groups]. As a community member, I’m not going to let my people be disrespected.” Lee, a gregarious man who was quick with a joke, was always a staunch defender against any slights to the Chinese community. But he also had an independent streak a mile wide, never worrying about his popularity.
A 38-year-old Paul Lee in his Mott St. store in 1988.
At least three times, he passed on supporting Chinese candidates for Lower Manhattan’s City Council seat. “I even gave him an out and said, ‘I don’t want to give you a problem with your community,’ but he stuck with me and stayed till the very end,’” said John Fratta, who received Lee’s endorsement for his unsuccessful Council campaigns in 1991 and 2001. Fratta said, “Paul loved Chinatown, but he also felt it was important to build relationships between all of the neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan.” Last year, Lee endorsed Jenifer Rajkumar in her unsuccessful effort to unseat City Councilmember Margaret Chin. “I get a lot of hostility because I’m not supporting Margaret,” he said after Rajkumar’s announcement last year. He said he thought Rajkumar, if elected, would fight harder to reopen Park Row to general traffic. He confided that he expected Chin to win the neighborhood convincingly, but he just wanted to help her opponent “get a piece of it.” He was often frank about his chances in seemingly quixotic battles. When he and neighbors convinced a judge to order the N.Y.P.D. to reopen a public park it had taken over for parking, James Madison Plaza, Lee said he was “shocked.” “I had all these plans, but none of them were predicated on us winning,” he said. “I was saying, If we lose, we can do plan B or C or D.” Geoff Lee, his childhood friend, said, “Lots of times Paul fought the fight because no one else was doing it.” Lee was also not afraid to acknowledge agreement with his opponents. He had epic
battles with the Bloomberg administration on the street closures, but in 2003 he expressed support for Mayor Bloomberg’s effort to replace party primaries with nonpartisan elections. The position also put him on the side of a community activist he often opposed, Margaret Chin, but at odds with almost all other local Democratic leaders. “Nothing else has worked for Chinatown,” Lee said about the ballot referendum, which was later defeated overwhelmingly. “I don’t think we’re getting 10 percent of the attention we should.” Leung, a surrogate son of Lee’s, said he was always inspired by the older man’s fights against tough odds. Leung’s father got him the job at Lee’s store at age 14 to help avoid the neighborhood’s gangs. Now 30 and an advertising artist, Leung said Lee helped out many neighborhood kids like him. Lee’s college roommate, Jonathan Atkin, said he took many professional headshots of Chinatown teens who got acting work through Lee. Atkin, who met Lee at Lake Forest College in Illinois, where Lee headed the Asian Students Alliance, said he was always amazed by the variety of Lee’s efforts — helping run the family business with lots of side efforts, all the while staying active in politics and helping out neighborhood kids. In the ’80s, Lee promoted visits to the U.S. of table tennis and women’s basketball teams from China. Atkin, said he went to J.F.K. Airport one time to photograph a Chinese team’s arrival and was stopped by the N.Y.P.D., but the Chinese security detail quickly smoothed things over by saying, “He’s with Paul Lee.” Lee also arranged bus tours to Atlantic City, and Atkin remembered anther inci-
dent when a white casino official spoke to Lee in pigeon English. Lee made his roots clear in a profanity-laced response. “How dare you use this racist language with a person who’s a full-blooded American and New Yorker,” was the essence of Lee’s reply, said Atkin. Paul Lee, a middle child, was born in Chinatown, where he lived all of his life, to Peter and Mildred Lee on March 19, 1950. “He learned to play handball on the walls of the Tombs,” Atkin said, referring to the city jail’s nickname. The “J.Q.” initials abbreviate his Chinese name, and he adopted them as an adult to distinguish himself from other Paul Lees. He graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1966, before heading off to Lake Forest to earn a degree in history in 1972. He then went to work at the family business. Lee’s grandfather Lee Lok opened the 32 Mott St. store, Quong Yuen Shing & Company, in 1891. The shop imported goods from China, reselling some to stores in other U.S. cities, including Boston and Philadelphia, Lee said in a 2004 interview. At the time, immigration laws prohibited Chinese women from entering the U.S., so the store also served as a social center for bachelors. In the ’70s and ’80s, Paul ran the store with his father, Peter Lee, before taking over in the mid-’80s. Paul eventually changed the name to 32 Mott Street General Store, and sold Asian giftware. Behind in rent, he closed in 2003, but he still lived on the same block. When Lee watched the store reopen the next year under a new owner he said, “It’s very, very painful. To lose the store — that was my family’s business for 113 years. It’s very shameful, very painful.” Four years later, in 2008, his wife of 29 years, Janny Lee, died of cancer, a loss that friends say he took particularly hard. Lee, who had no children, is survived by his older sister, Patricia Farley, and his younger brother, Warren Lee. There will be a wake Thurs., Jan. 23, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and a service at 6 p.m. at True Light Lutheran Church, 195 Worth St. The church will also hold a funeral Fri., Jan. 24, at 9 a.m. Friends and family request donations be made to the church. Lee worked his final years at the New York City Housing Authority, where he was a borough coordinator. Through his setbacks, he often persevered with passion and humor. He was the first speaker at a 2003 meeting with city officials that neighbors thought was a public hearing to get input on a possible unwanted traffic change. However, they learned hours later that the change had already been approved. Perhaps sensing that there was no chance to stop the plan, Lee had simple advice to the speakers who would follow him: “Be loud.” January 23, 2014
What’cha what’cha want? C.B. 3 boosts Beastie count BY HEATHER DUBIN
proposal for a tribute to the Beastie Boys on the Lower East Side was a no-go Tuesday night at Community Board 3. LeRoy McCarthy, a Brooklyn resident, presented the board’s Transportation Subcommittee with an application to coname the corner of Rivington and Ludlow Sts. “Beastie Boys Square.” Board 3’s guidelines require that 75 percent of residents and merchants in the immediate area support a co-naming. Yet, while McCarthy collected enough signatures — from 17 apartment units out of 20 on Rivington St. between Essex and Ludlow Sts., and eight of nine businesses — this was not enough to satisfy the committee members. McCarthy also had 1,445 online signatures, not specific to the neighborhood. David Crane, chairperson of the board’s Transportation and Public Safety/Environment Committee, opposed the co-naming of the intersection, which the popular hip-hop band featured on the cover of their 1989 album “Paul’s Boutique.” He cited the board’s criteria for street co-namings and also contended there wasn’t enough residential support from the area, noting that three other buildings — 113, 116 and 126 Ludlow St. — were not included in the petition. “I don’t find that there is a strong connection to the Lower East Side, which is the entire point of the guidelines that the board passed in 2006,” Crane said of the application. “The guidelines are looking for a very strong connection from the individual who is deceased and has been in the community for 15 years, or an institution that has been involved in the community for 30 years.” While there are exceptions, Crane noted it would have to be a “highly acclaimed accomplishment linked to C.B. 3 with overwhelming public support.” In this instance, however, Crane is unconvinced the Beastie Boys’ influence on hiphop warrants a square. “We were a set for an album cover,” he said. One of the Beastie Boys, Adam “MCA” Yauch, died of cancer in May 2012. The band’s surviving members are Michael “Mike D” Diamond, of Brooklyn, and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, of Manhattan. “There are lots of talented people on the Lower East Side who are living,” Crane said. “These types of honorific things should be posthumous.” He expressed concern that street namings have become too frequent. McCarthy discussed the significance of the Lower East Side to hip-hop and the band’s significance to the locale. The Beastie Boys lived in Chinatown, recorded music on Avenue A, have had office locations in Soho and Hudson Square, and are from New York.
January 23, 2014
“They are New Yorkers,” McCarthy said. He touted “Paul’s Boutique” as a critics’ favorite and dubbed it a “cult classic” ahead of its time. “This is a symbolic album to the whole New York City underground hip-hop street culture,” McCarthy said. “This is more than one group, this represents a whole culture.” Shannon Sacks, who lives on Rivington St., spoke in favor of the co-naming. “The Beastie Boys mean so much to me,” she said. “It’s important that we recognize them for the great band they are — for what they’ve given to music, what they’ve given to society and what philanthropists they are.” Sacks also mentioned friends from around the world who come to New York and ask her to show them where the album cover of “Paul’s Boutique” was shot. Two other community members also shared their approval for the The album cover from “Paul’s Boutique,” shot at the intersection of Ludlow and Rivington Sts. co-naming. Board members debated the issue for think things changed after I thought I had he noted. “For that free advertisement, almost two hours, and ultimately deter- everything [that they] requested.” shouldn’t New York City government mined more signatures were necessary. He plans to re-approach residents and say, ‘Thank you,’ and show some appreAt one point, McCarthy questioned the resubmit the application in February. ciation?” board, “Are you changing the rules on “I don’t think it’ll be a big problem to A resolution requiring McCarthy to me?” He garnered the necessary 75 per- get additional signatures,” he said. “Peo- secure a total of 500 signatures from cent of residential support, albeit in one ple are elated when I’m telling them about apartment units of buildings and mershort block. it. This is going to move on in a positive chants along Ludlow St. from Delancey “More signatures would tip the scale for direction, I feel.” to Stanton Sts., and on Rivington St. from me,” said Karen Blatt, a board member. McCarthy did not know if the board Orchard to Essex Sts., passed with eight Chad Marlow, another board member, members comprehended the Beastie votes, with Crane abstaining. The resoluwas in favor of the square’s co-naming, Boys’ contribution to the Lower East Side, tion will go to a full board vote on Jan. 28. and urged McCarthy to gather as many and he wondered if there was a cultural If it turns out that the 75 percent benchsignatures as he could from the neighbor- disconnect. mark for this expanded area is greater hood. “I’m not sure how many people on the than 500 signatures, McCarthy is permit“Come back and knock our socks off,” board like hip-hop, buy it or knew who ted to stop at 500. However, assuming the Marlow advised. “Crush it. Let us know the Beastie Boys were before the presenta- number of units is lower, he was given a the community wants this, make us have tion,” McCarthy said. minimum of 150. no doubt. There is no doubt — but just He has a larger goal in mind to bring “This way it’s not an overwhelming efprove it.” recognition to hip-hop in New York City fort,” Crane said. In a follow-up phone interview, McCar- beyond “Beastie Boys Square.” McCarthy McCarthy can return to the subcomthy said he was not deterred by the new wants to have a hip-hip icon honoree in mittee after he has the allotted amount of task ahead of him. He was pragmatic re- each borough. Hollis, Queens is already signatures. garding the board’s response. taken care of with “Run-D.M.C. JMJ Way,” “Other applicants have brought a ton of “They put themselves in the line of fire,” which McCarthy was responsible for. signatures,” Crane said. “All have brought he said of the community board. “They “Hip-hop has more mentions in its mu- hundreds, and some have brought thouhave a job to do. But, at the same time, I sic than media referencing New York,” sands since the guidelines of 2006.”
Finding their voice, at The Inspired Word open mic ‘Poppa Mike’ Geffner gives stage time to hopes and dreams BY MICHAEL LYDON
PHOTO BY MICHAEL LYDON
o open mic or not to open mic? That’s a question that rookie (and even veteran) performers often ponder. The pros: a chance to grab five priceless minutes of stage time, if you’re gigless Tuesday night. The cons: riding two subways to a half-empty bar, waiting for an eternity for those few minutes, then trekking home — well aware that you haven’t earned a penny for your efforts. Never again, you vow: “You want me to play, sing or tell jokes in your blanketyblank dive? You blankety-blank better pay me!” Then another gig-less Tuesday rolls around, you’ve got a new song or routine you’re dying to try out, and you think, “Hmm, Jerry Seinfeld openmiked at the Comic Strip, Lady Gaga open-miked at the Bitter End.” So you swallow your pride, trek the trek, sign up and make one more bid for the big time. Many open mic venues have come and gone over the years — Folk City and Catch a Rising Star are among the best remembered — but open miking will never die. Why? Because, as George Burns said, “Performers need a place to be bad.” You can study at school and rehearse in your living room — but you’ve got to get up on stage and bomb, and keep getting up there and bombing, until the blessed night somebody says, “Hey, you’re good!” and you go home on a cloud. In the past few years Mike Geffner ’s The Inspired Word series (inspiredwordnyc.com), held at a variety of Village and Midtown clubs, has been a hopeful new presence on the city’s open mic scene. Geffner, a buff and chunky former Village Voice sports columnist,
Pop-folk musicians Orlando and Elia, at Bareburger.
began presenting poets at a vegan restaurant in Forest Hills in 2009. The first night a snowstorm blanketed the city, and only a dozen or so people showed up. Soon, the restaurant went out of business. Failure only made Geffner more eager to succeed. After months scouting for new stages, he lined up two nights a month at (Le) Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street, site of the old Village Gate. At first he only booked featured performers. But when he added six open mic slots, they filled up instantly. He expanded to twelve, then fifteen open slots — and he still had no trouble filling his bill. In 2011, Geffner moved the Inspired Word to the Nexus Lounge on First Ave. near Houston, then to MacDougal Street’s old folk club, the Gaslight.
Now, The Inspired Word’s home base is a pleasant upstairs room at the Bareburger restaurant (Second Ave. at Fifth St.), every Monday and Tuesday. Open mikers sign up at 6pm, the show starts at 6:30 and runs until about 10 ($10 admission, including for performers). From the best open mike regulars, Geffner picks five for a featured performers’ night on the third Thursday of every month. At one of those Monday shows, singer and keyboard player Sylvana Joyce, MC for the night, kicked things off with a song, “Just Hold On,” that she dedicated to the open mikers waiting in the audience: “So you want to make your break? Well, you just gotta hold on, hold on.” “I love Sylvana,” said Geffner, watching from the back of the room. “She was my first musician. She came in one
snowy night to a poetry show and asked if she could play a song. I said sure, and she got a standing ovation. Now she has her own band, The Moment, and she’s starting to take off in the alt rock circuit.” Next up, five middle school girls from the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights, accompanied by their English teacher and a mother or two. They read original poems espousing peace on earth and kindness to animals in clear, strong voices, and the crowd cheered them to the rafters. The girls went offstage blushing and giggling but proud of their accomplishment. “They’ve been preparing for this for weeks,” said one mother. “I can see how much my daughter has grown with the experience.” INSPIRED, continued on p.16
January 23, 2014
At The Inspired Word, mic time open to all
PHOTOS BY MICHAEL LYDON
Inspired Word founder Mike Geffner and poet Melissa McGuire.
INSPIRED, continued from p. 15
The girls stayed to see the next act, poet Verandah Maureen Shepard, who recited her poem “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” that slams the commercial standards of female beauty that can make women insecure about their looks: …some corporations are completely driven on selfloathing and low self-esteem. Maybe it means we pay people to convince us that we’re ugly… “I had to do that piece after seeing those young girls,” Verandah said as she came off. “I’d hate them to start worrying if they were pretty enough, when they’re so lovely being themselves.” The teacher and mothers ushered the little girls out before the next act, luckily perhaps, because after asking, “Are we all adults here now?” and getting a resounding yes from the crowd, the next performer, “Miss Represent,” a shorthaired young woman with a mock innocent grin, launched into a raunchy song with the sing-along refrain, “I’m a dirty princess, bitch, bitch! I’m a dirty princess, bitch, bitch!” I’ve been an eager open miker for years and did two songs that night in the middle of the lineup. The sevenminute slot, as usual, flew by, but the crowd seemed to like my mellow love ballads. So I hit my last big note, bowed
January 23, 2014
and grinned through the cheers, then sat down again, sweating but happy. From then on the parade of acts went by, becoming something of a blur as 8:30, then 9:30, came and went. Guitarist Orlando and vocalist Elia charmed the audience with their mellow pop-folk. Eric Lee, a skinny kid with a lively face and mischievous eyes, sang, mugged and snapped a long black whip to pre-recorded hip-hop tracks. His outfit: a black top hat, white shirt, black bow tie, a bright red tail coat and high-heeled lace-up boots. A short, nerdy comedian got laughs mocking his own small stature: “Well, at least I can tell myself I have the potential to be tall.” A lumpy teenager played an ethereal version of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” on guitar, and the whole crowd hummed along with him. “I met my hubby in a bar in Las Vegas,” cracked a comedienne. “He thought I was a whore, but hell no — I just like to drink a lot.” One young musician, who called himself Vlad, wore 60s-hippie clothes — rainbow-striped pants, purple shirt, and furry vest — and asked the audience who he looked like. “Sonny Bono,” a dozen voices shouted in unison. “Far out,” he said, then he played screaming Led Zeppelin guitar solos, all the while looking approvingly at his reflection in the room’s big windows. He got deafening applause as he went off flashing the V-sign and shouting, “Love and peace, peace and love.” Blonde singer-songwriter Valerie Reaper finished her two songs on the dot of 10 o’clock. “Anybody else?”
Singer Eric Lee cracks the whip — and some jokes.
asked Sylvana. No, nodded Geffner. “Okay,” said Sylvana, “it’s been a great night, thanks, everybody, for coming out!” That got a rousing final round of applause. The dozen performers who had stuck it out to the end gathered for a gleeful mass selfie then melted away into the night. “I love Mike’s open mic,” said Valerie as she packed up her guitar. “At other open mic clubs, you feel nobody knows you, nobody cares. But Mike always has an encouraging word. He puts our photos and videos up in Facebook. Here we’re
family. We hang out together, support and learn from each other. It’s beautiful.” “I never dreamed I’d end up presenting young performers,” Geffner said as he and his assistant Marvin Mendlinger straightened up the room’s chairs and tables. “But look, I’m a New York kid myself, Far Rockaway high school, Queens College. My father wanted me to be a lawyer, but I wanted to be a writer like Hemingway. So I understand these kids’ hopes and dreams. Where’s it all headed? Who knows, but when they call me Poppa Mike, I know I love that.”
THE INSPIRED WORD VENUES
Bareburger (85 Second Ave., at Fifth St.) |Every Mon. & Tues, 6-10:30pm: Organic Open Mic (poets, comedians, singers/musicians, storytellers). Every third Thurs. of the month, 7-11pm: All-Star Showcase. Every last Thurs. of the month, 6:30-10:30pm: Slam Master Jam Poetry Slam (21+). The Gallery at (Le) Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker St., btw. Sullivan &Thompson Sts.) | Every third Fri. of the month, 7-9:30pm: Titillating Tongues: NYC Erotica in Poetry & Prose (open mic, 21+). Every fourth Friday of the month, 7-9:30pm: The LOL! Comedy Slam ($50 prize for best set, 21+). Funkadelic Studios (209 W. 40th St., at Seventh Ave., 5th floor) | First two Fridays of the month, 6:30-11pm: The Open Mic Joint (poets, comedians, singers/musicians, storytellers). 18 + unless accompanied by an adult.
Tammany Hall (152 Orchard St., btw. Stanton & Rivington Sts.) The Cafe at Broadway, 310-318 W. 53rd Street (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) One and One’s Nexus Lounge (76 E. First St., corner of First Ave.)
FOR MORE INFO, VISIT inspiredwordnyc.com
From a Lower East Side basement to the big time Eddie Cantor mugged and crooned his way through multiple mediums BY TRAV S.D travsd.wordpress.com
Doctor: On what side are you Jewish? Cantor: On the East Side. (From the sketch “Insurance”) He was born Israel Iskowitz, the son of Jewish Belarussian immigrants, on Jan. 31, 1892. Orphaned at age two and raised by his grandmother in New York’s Lower East Side, Cantor endured poor circumstances. He wore rags, had little to eat and lived in a shabby basement. When his grandmother enrolled him at school as Israel Kantrowitz (her last name), the school thoughtfully took the liberty of shortening it to Kanter. At age 13, he changed his first name to Eddie to impress a girl. Like nearly all children in the Lower East Side at that time, Cantor stole and hung out with street gangs. He was funny from early childhood, making people around him laugh on the streets (as Richard Pryor would later do) to keep tougher guys from terrorizing him. He was bitten early by the show business bug, although
hough all but forgotten by contemporary audiences, there was no bigger star than Eddie Cantor in his heyday. He conquered more media than even Bob Hope, Will Rogers or Jack Benny: vaudeville, Broadway revues and book musicals, films, radio, TV and — because he was much a singer as he was a comedian — record albums. He was the first openly Jewish male entertainer to mainstream (his characters were always Jewish or “Russian” — a euphemism). The first entertainer of either gender to do it was Fanny Brice. Cantor was definitely a creature of his times — very strange by today’s standards. Known as “Banjo Eyes” on account of his huge, rolling orbs, he was equally a singer and a comedian. He sang and recorded several crazy, nonsensical songs that were the very soul of the 1920s, such as “If You Knew Susie,” “Yes, We Have No Bananas,” “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby,” “Ma! He’s Making Eyes at Me” and the title song from his Broadway show and film “Whoopee!” (which Sinatra later covered). On the word whoopee, Cantor would roll his eyes and grin Groucho-style…although who’s to say Groucho didn’t roll his eyes Cantorstyle?
he could seldom afford to see an actual show. Cantor once stole a girl’s life savings of $12 so he could see a production of “Billy the Kid.” Teaming up with his friend Dan Lipsky, he did comedy and sang, performing weddings and bar mitzvahs at Henry Hall, which was next door to his house. He left home briefly at 15 in order to shack up with a 19-year-old consort, but he was forced to go home with his tail between his legs after stealing the woman’s tickets to “45 Minutes to Broadway,” starring Fay Templeton. In 1908, Cantor took the plunge into professionalism by performing at Miner’s Bowery Theatre amateur night. He was so poor he had to borrow a friend’s pants in order to go on. Despite a rough crowd, Cantor won the amateur contest and took home $12 ($10 prize money, $2 in thrown coins). Later that year, he got a job in a touring burlesque show with producer Frank B. Carr called “Indian Maidens” but was stranded with the show in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania (an old story in vaudeville). In 1909, he became a singer at Carrie Walsh’s Saloon, Coney Island. The pianist was 16-year-old Jimmy Durante. They made a sort of loose team, learning every popular song from the past 20 years in order to fulfill audience requests. When they didn’t know a song, they would make one up around the title, and if the requester seemed displeased, say “What, there are two songs by that name?” Cantor diligently saved his money from this work and invested in a new suit and business cards, so he could make the rounds with agents. Worn down by Cantor’s persistence, small time agent Joe Wood finally sent him out to Gain’s Manhattan Theatre just to be rid of him. The theatre was famous for sending acts packing. Shockingly, Cantor did so well he ended up being retained by the theatre. The impressed Wood started sending him to upstate theatres. Cantor was working for the third-rate People’s Vaudeville Company when its owner Joe Schenck (later to become a movie mogul) told him if he came with some new material, he would be held over. Cantor solved the problem by doing the same act for several weeks in different ethnic personae: Hebrew, German, Blackface. The Blackface was a real revelation, as Cantor’s large round eyes read really well through the makeup. Cantor made the big time in 1911 when he was hired by the juggling team of Bedi-
Cantor, in his radio days.
ni and Arthur to join them at Hammerstein’s Victoria. At first, Cantor was little more than a glorified assistant, never on stage, just fetching things for Bedini. After he passed this test for a few weeks, he was given a walk-on part in the show. His job was simply to walk across the stage and hand a plate to Bedini. Yet somehow Cantor managed to get a laugh even at this, walking on with an “attitude.” Bedini, the boss of the act, gradually expanded his part with spoken lines, bits of
business and even juggling. Essentially Cantor and Arthur were Bedini’s stooges, blackface servants who supported the master juggler who was the star of the act. As usual, Cantor gave 110 percent and gradually upstaged Bedini. During this period, Cantor developed a character that would have revolutionized blackface, had blackface survived. His character deviated EDDIE CANTOR, continued on p.18
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PARKER & DIZZY’S FABULOUS JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE RAINBOW
Book & Direction by PETER ZACHARI Music & Lyrics by DAMON MAIDA & PETER ZACHARI
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January 23, 2014
Cantor could do it all EDDIE CANTOR, continued from p. 17
ESTABLISHED SINCE 1880
Famous Dylan Thomas Watering Hole
White horse Tavern 567 Hudson St. NYC * 243-9260
January 23, 2014
from all stereotypes. He was a sort of sissified, bookish character who wore glasses (Groucho Marx called the character “a nance”) and would say mincing things like “He means to do me bodily harm!” By defying stereotype, this was a step in the direction of realism — but of course, total realism came thereafter when black parts became exclusively played by real blacks. Largely through Cantor’s efforts, Bedini and Arthur (Cantor remained unbilled) gradually moved up the bill to better and better spots. After seven months with the team, Cantor got a chance to sing with the act in Louisville when the manager needed them to pad for time. He sang Irving Berlin’s “Ragtime Violin” and scored a huge hit — not just for his singing ability, but for his hyperactive onstage movements, which included handclaps and a sort of crazy-legged dance. Cantor would move this way on stage throughout his singing career. In 1912, he got an offer to perform with the Kid Cabaret. He purposely got himself fired from Bedini’s act so he could take it. Also in the cast of the Kid Cabaret was a young George Jessel, with whom Cantor became lifetime friends. In the act, Cantor played Jefferson, a blackface butler. They worked the Orpheum Circuit in 1913, where Cantor first met Will Rogers, another lifelong friend. Rogers took to Cantor and mentored him, even recommending him to his agent, the powerful Max Hart, who began to represent him. Upon turning 21, he left Edwards. He performed as a single for a few months, visiting London in 1914 to play “Charlot’s Revue” while on his honeymoon. The trip was cut short by the outbreak of World War I, however. Back in New York, he teamed up with Al Lee, Ed Wynn’s former straight-man, in an act called “Master and Man.” Lee sang ballads, which Cantor interrupted with nutty remarks. The act stayed together until 1916, when Cantor was hired by Earl Carrol to play the part of the chauffeur in a show called “Canary Cottage.” In rehearsals, Cantor upstaged the star Trixie Friganza, who threatened to walk if he was allowed to keep it up. Silent comedy star Raymond Griffith, who happened to be in attendance, advised Cantor to lay off until performance and then pull all his stunts. Which he did, to great appreciation from the audience. With such laughs, the producers were forced to back Cantor.
Cantor’s “Kid Millions” was one of his most successful screen efforts.
The next step was Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolics, his rooftop after-hours follow up to the Follies. Cantor was given a one-night trial, and his appearance was a triumph. He constantly did crazy, spontaneous things (like asking the likes of William Randolph Hearst to hold their hands high over their heads for a magic trick and then ignoring them for twenty minutes while they suffered). He gave an entirely different performance each night, a necessity at the Frolics, for the audience was the same each night, mostly composed of New York’s “400 ” (high society’s old money millionaires). Cantor was a very New York sort of character, impu-
dent and familiar. His style in delivering a song was kinetic and eye-catching. He even had a signature exit — a little hankie he waved at the audience. In 1917, he was moved up to the Follies where he got to perform with Bert Williams, Fanny Brice, W.C. Fields and Will Rogers. In these early days, Cantor, in his eagerness to please, overdid everything, overplaying, mugging, etc. His newfound friends in the cast counseled to cool it down a little, and he went over even better. Cantor went on to star in numerous musicals, such as “Make it Snappy” (1922), “Kid Boots” (1923) and “Whoopee!” (1928). His first film “Kid Boots” (1926) was a silent version of his earlier musical. His second silent, “Special Delivery” (1927), was a flop. With and without blackface, he was one of the biggest stars of early talkies. Films like “Whoopee!,” “Palmy Days,” “The Kid from Spain,” “Kid Millions,” etc. were big hits and remain as peculiar artifacts of a bygone era. The films are very much akin to the early Marx Bros. pictures — extremely unpredictable, almost surreal, semi-musicals. Cantor became one of radio’s first big stars. Starting with “The Chase and Sanborne Hour,” he dominated the form from 1931-54. He was also big on TV from 195055, primarily for his show “The Colgate Comedy Hour,” which was successful for its first two years — but then a heart attack robbed Cantor of all of his strength and vitality and greatly reduced the energy of his performance. The television Cantor was very different from the one of the films. Heavier, huskier, he was no longer the skinny “nance” of the 20s and 30s, but a grandfather whose appeal lay primarily in nostalgia. His last recording date was in 1957. Much of his final years were given to causes. Cantor founded the March of Dimes, for example. He had been a founding member of Actor’s Equity, AFTRA and the Screen Actors Guild, and was a big supporter of Israel upon its founding. Eddie Cantor passed away in 1964, far, far away from the Lower East Side basement he’d shared with his grandmother. Trav S.D. has been producing the American Vaudeville Theatre since 1995, and periodically trots it out in new incarnations. Stay in the loop at travsd.wordpress.com, and also catch up with him at Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, et al. His books include “No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous” and “Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and its Legacies from Nickelodeons to YouTube.”
Will it rain on Denver or will it be a mile high for Seattle? WATCH THE SUPER BOWL, SUNDAY, FEB. 2 EastVillagerNews.com
Generating ‘black theater’ for today’s generation The Fire This Time Festival burns brighter than Broadway’s ‘Sun’ BY SCOTT STIFFLER
PHOTO BY LIA CHANG
It’s quite possible that 59-year-old actor Denzel Washington spent this past Monday night contemplating his role as 30-something Walter Lee Younger, in preparation for yet another revival of “A Raisin in the Sun.” That precise scenario didn’t come up during the launch event for The Fire This Time Festival — but its multitude of ironies were certainly on the radar of early career African and African-American playwrights who spent their Monday night exploring the possibilities of 21st-century “black theater.” “People got very passionate about the fact that we’re recycling the old stories as if it’s a representation of where we are now,” says festival founder Kelley Nicole Girod, of what happened when the panel discussion turned to Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play about a black family moving into an all-white neighborhood. Girod herself regards the upcoming Broadway run as “absurd. It might be different,” she allows, “if they were at least doing it with actors that fit the age type. That’s not to say that Hansberry’s expression of her time isn’t relevant. Our history will always be relevant. But it’s about time that people give an accurate portrayal of the black community as it is now. We’re not all Walter Lee.
I don’t see him, or that family, as a representation of what I am experiencing.” Raised in the suburbs of Baton Rouge, Girod was “a bit of a punk” whose love of Depeche Mode made her realize, upon arrival at Columbia, that she “didn’t have what I feel most people would think of as an ‘authentic black experience.’ ” Acutely aware of slavery, civil rights and Jim Crow — but not compelled to write about it — the hungry, post-college Girod found that she “couldn’t be marketed as a ‘black writer.’ And that, really, was the jumping off point for our festival. When we all got together, we recognized that our writing was a response to our own experiences.” Five years later, The Fire This Time Festival is once again back at the East Village’s Kraine Theater for a series of staged readings, a full-length work, a collection of 10-minute plays and an open mic night. The subject matter ranges from a doctor’s Senate run (Judy Tate’s “Disunion”) to an adaptation of “Wuthering Heights” (Jonathan Payne’s “The Weatherin'”) to the culture shock of a former Ugandan child soldier adopted by a suburban Chicago family (Camille Darby’s “Lord’s Resistance”). In years past, the festival has frankly explored gay sexuality and other aspects of contemporary life — while remaining equally committed to presenting work anchored in sci-fi and Greek mythology, and having little or nothing to do with race. The result, Girod notes, is a more “accurate cataloging” of the black experience than what’s currently being bankrolled by Broadway producers. It also inspired a phrase that serves as the festival’s only strict philosophical guideline: “Any play written by a black person is a black expression, even if
The cast of “Lord’s Resistance” — Camille Darby’s play about a former Ugandan child soldier who finds familiar conflict, after he’s adopted by a suburban Chicago family.
it’s about two white people in love.” The Fire This Time’s first-ever presentation of a full-length play, “Lord’s Resistance,” is performed Wed.-Fri., 8pm, through Jan. 31. The 10-Minute Play Festival takes place at 8pm on Jan. 25-27 and Feb. 1-3. Staged readings of full-length plays written by Tracey Conyer Lee, Danielle Davenport, Eric Lockley, Cynthia Robinson, Nathan Yungerberg, Dennis A. Allen II and J. Holtham take place at 6pm on Jan. 23, 24
and 29-31. At 6pm on Tues., Jan. 28, the public is invited to participate in an Open Mic Night (hosted by Dominique Morrisseau). All events take place at The Kraine Theater (85 E. Fourth St., btw. Second Ave. & Bowery). For tickets ($15), call 212-868-4444 or visit horsetrade.info. Admission to the staged readings is Pay-What-You-Will. For more festival info, visit firethistimefestival.com.
Jazz-tinged pop, funked-out rock and a few divine basslines Tribeca singer/songwriter’s latest marked by sheer eclecticism BY SAM SPOKONY
COURTESY OF SHORE FIRE MEDIA
Halfway through the title track to his new album, “Hereafter,” Sean Sullivan imagines himself in the afterlife, taking a scat solo in the presence of God. “Is that OK Lord?” Sullivan asks of the biblical creator, who is apparently playing bass in a band led by Moses, which also features Jesus on saxophone. Well, God seems to dig the solo, while of course reminding the vocalist that “music is the answer and love is gonna set you free!” Aside from the existential implications of picturing this situation — God isn’t even playing a melody instrument? — it
strong-yet-nimble vocal presence. At every turn, “Hereafter” is marked by the sheer eclecticism that the Southern-born, Tribecabased singer/songwriter brings to the table in all aspects of his performance. Including the downhome-bluesy title track, the record features eight originals that move back and forth between the chilled out, ethereal vibes of “Don’t Get Me Started” and the backbeat stomp of “Ready,” as Sullivan’s jazz influences come through in his fluid phrasing, tonal precision and ability to push a big, swinging band forward with every line. The album also shows off Sullivan’s strength as a thoroughly passionate interpreter of tunes, and, among its four covers, highlights include a beautifully embellished ballad version
certainly illustrates the kind of free spirit and engaging sense of humor that Sullivan brings to all of his work, alongside his
of Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain,” and a similarly rich and contemplative take on Stevie Wonder’s “Until You Come Back To Me.” Overall, the album is a joyful romp that is by no means short on serious talent — and it’s clear that the singer is having just as much fun as his listeners. It’s all made even better by inventive solos and interplay by the 10 piece band backing Sullivan, as well as the efforts of renowned jazz producer Matt Pierson, whose experience has helped to shape the record’s full, balanced tone. “Hereafter,” which was released on Jan. 21, is available online. To purchase a copy, visit seansongs.com. Listeners should also check out the site this week to find out when the singer will be playing his CD release show, which will likely be take place within his home neighborhood of Tribeca. January 23, 2014
N.Y.U. plans appeal on park strips, but political landscape has shifted N.Y.U., continued from p. 1
January 23, 2014
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
succeeded Christine Quinn in the Council — is wholeheartedly championing Mills’s decision, declaring that it calls into question the entire “N.Y.U. 2031” plan. And new Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said the ruling “has the potential to change the project significantly.” Last Friday, Crain’s New York Business reported that New York University will appeal Judge Donna Mills’s Jan. 7 ruling, in which she agreed with a community lawsuit’s contention that several open-space strips on the university’s two South Village superblocks are indeed parks. Mills said the park strips cannot be used for construction purposes unless the state Legislature votes to “alienate” them — meaning to remove them from being public parkland. Although the city and N.Y.U. argued the strips are technically under the Department of Transportation’s jurisdiction, the properties have been used as parks for decades, and there has never been any plan to use them as actual streets. Mills agreed with the plaintiffs’ argument that the parcels — which sport official Parks Department signage — are implicitly parks. “We are appealing because we disagree with the court’s designation of three of the strips as ‘implied parkland,’ ” N.Y.U. spokesperson John Beckman told Crain’s. He reiterated the university’s claim that Mills’s decision still allows the university to proceed with the first part of its proposal — the 1-million-square-foot, mixed-use “Zipper Building.” A spokesperson said N.Y.U. would not be commenting further, for now, beyond the Crain’s article. Mills’s ruling was in response to a landmark lawsuit filed by a unique coalition including dozens of local residents and community groups, plus N.Y.U. faculty members, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. Jim Walden, who along with Randy Mastro, both of the law firm Gibson Dunn, argued the case for the plaintiffs, said N.Y.U. is wrong to think it can now proceed with just half of the 2-million-square-foot 2031 plan while the status of the rest of the project is in doubt. Walden gave the example of whether a project that was approved because it had an affordable-housing component would be allowed to go forward if the affordable housing were later removed. “It would be a terrible precedent,” Walden told The Villager last Friday, “if a developer were permitted to proceed with a development plan after part of it was ruled to be illegal. Can you imagine if variances were granted and deed restrictions lifted by the City Planning Commission and City Council specifically based on the inclusion of affordable housing in a development plan,
Melissa Mark-Viverito, left, with her City Council supporters — including Corey Johnson, rear right, and Ydanis Rodriguez, front right — marched toward City Hall on Jan. 8, chanting, “Si, Se Puede!” (“Yes, We Can!”) and “Treinta Y Uno!” (“31!” as in the number of votes she had secured), before she was sworn in as the new Council speaker.
and, upon challenge in the courts, only the affordable-housing component was determined to violate some law? Would the commission and City Council be satisfied with a developer who was determined to charge ahead? I doubt it. “Because the City Planning Commission and City Council approvals in this matter were based on a plan now declared illegal in part, the approvals themselves must be null,” Walden asserted. “We are hopeful,” the attorney concluded, “that, rather than having this dispute fester in the courts toward an inevitable result given the clarity of the court’s ruling on parkland protection, N.Y.U. will come together with its faculty, the community, the new borough president, the new City Council speaker and the new administration to explore other alternatives.” The community plaintiffs’ lawsuit was filed against the city and state. Since N.Y.U. was central to the case, it joined as a so-called “necessary party” in defending against the suit. According to a source, N.Y.U. can appeal the ruling on its own. However, asked if the city — now under a new mayoral administration and with a new City Council speaker — would join N.Y.U.’s appeal, a Law Department spokesperson said it’s not clear yet. Chris Reo, lead attorney of the Law Department’s Environmental Law Division, told The Villager on Friday, “We are still continuing to review the decision.” Assemblymember Glick said of N.Y.U.’s plans to challenge Mills’s ruling, “Well, that’s not surprising, but I believe that the ruling was appropriate and will be upheld on appeal. And I’m confident that the
land grab of parkland will be rejected once again.” Andrew Berman, executive director of G.V.S.H.P., said of the university’s latest move, “It’s ironic because when the decision came down, N.Y.U. tried to spin it as an affirmation of their position and that it was a good thing for the university. But, obviously, their plan to appeal is an admission that the decision was a defeat and a rebuke of the plan.” Mills, however, did rule that the strip with the Mercer-Houston Dog Run (plus the sunken playground and seating area that N.Y.U. has failed to maintain and which are fenced off) is not a park because it lacks official Parks Department signage and because N.Y.U., not Parks, has maintained it (well, at least the dog run). N.Y.U. contends this means that the university can proceed with the Zipper Building — which would sit on part of this openspace strip, which N.Y.U. would purchase from the city. Berman would not tip his hand if the plaintiffs intend to challenge Mills’s decision on this particular open-space strip. “We’re reviewing all legal options available to us,” he said. Meanwhile, new Councilmember Johnson — who succeeded Quinn in representing the Third District — hailed Mills’s ruling on what he, too, like Glick, called N.Y.U.’s “land grab.” And, in fact, he said it now casts the whole 2031 plan into doubt. Quinn, as the Council’s powerful speaker, supported the N.Y.U. plan, and with Chin, as the purported lead negotiator dealing with the university, pushed it through the Council to approval. “I applaud State Supreme Court Justice
Mills’s decision striking down key parts of the N.Y.U. expansion rezoning,” Johnson said. “I agree with the determination that the public park strips on Mercer St. and LaGuardia Place were alienated [removed as public parks] without approval from the state Legislature. This decision calls into question the entire N.Y.U. plan — including the proposed plans for the superblocks, as well as the Zipper Building. N.Y.U. has the right to appeal the decision, but it is my hope that N.Y.U. will not appeal and that the city explores whether or not this project should go back to the drawing board and start over.” When she was still a councilmember, Brewer voted for the N.Y.U. 2031 project — though she admitted to Villager photographer Tequila Minsky on the floor of the Council Chambers right before the vote, that she was “doing it for Margaret [Chin].” Asked for comment this week on Mills’s decision, Brewer broadly praised it. “The judge’s ruling has the potential to change the project significantly, and my office is closely monitoring the case,” Brewer said. “I am particularly pleased that the judge ruled in favor of retaining publicly available open space. Protecting open space has long been a priority of mine, and I will continue to work hard on this issue as borough president.” Meanwhile, Chinʼs office, this Tuesday, offered The Villager an expanded statement on Millsʼs decision. Following Mills’s ruling, Chin on Jan. 9 issued a brief initial statement to The Villager. “Preserving green space is one of my utmost priorities,” Chin said. “I am glad that [Justice Mills’s] decision creates the opportunity for the LaGuardia Corner Garden and Time Landscape to enjoy the same protections as other parks in our community. Throughout the N.Y.U. 2031 negotiations, I worked to ensure that any construction is respectful of the residents that call this neighborhood home — and minimizing impacts on community green space was and continues to be an essential part of that goal.” (The Time Landscape is the long, fencedin plot south of the LaGuardia Corner Gardens, and is intended to represent Manhattan’s pre-Colonial foliage in its natural state. However, N.Y.U. has never expressed any interest in using the Time Landscape for its development plans.) The Villager, in turn, asked Chin, specifically, if she was equally glad that the openspace strips on the north superblock (which include Mercer Playground and LaGuardia Park) will now — due to Mills’s ruling — likewise enjoy park protections. N.Y.U. hoped to use these strips to help construct “infill” buildings for its 2031 project, but now cannot based on Mills’s decision. This Tuesday, “Chin’s office” provided an additional statement indicating they still N.Y.U., continued on p. 21
New funding could cut burden on Section 8 residents BY SAM SPOKONY
ix months after heavily downsizing its Section 8 housing program due to budget cuts, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development expects it will soon receive new federal funding that should allow the agency to consider other — perhaps more popular — policy options. In December, the U.S. Senate passed a two-year budget deal that provides about $22 billion in additional funding for all nonmilitary programs this fiscal year, while putting the allocation of that money back in the hands of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The deal was an important step in restoring some funding levels after the nationwide budget cuts that began in early 2013 with the implementation of the federal sequester. Sources close to the situation in Washington, D.C., said on Friday that there’s been no word yet on how the new funding will be allocated, but that they expect to see some details finalized sometime over the course of the next week. The sequester had forced H.P.D. to take a $35 million budget cut for 2013, and had a devastating impact on its Section 8 voucher program, which provides vital money for housing to around 30,000 low-income
residents across New York City, including nearly 1,200 who live in the East Village or Lower East Side. Last July, the agency scaled back Section 8 by forcing voucher holders to either pay a greater share of their rent or move to a smaller apartment, placing a huge burden on thousands of already struggling families who, on average, earn around $15,000 per year. The move was soon criticized by numerous elected officials, including a coalition led by Congressmember Jerrold Nadler. “We urge H.P.D. to re-examine these changes and consider alternatives that minimize the impact on our most vulnerable families and ensure there are no evictions of people currently receiving Section 8 vouchers,” said Nadler and nine other New York congressmembers, in a joint letter to the agency last September. Now, with the new federal funding on the way, it appears that H.P.D. may in fact be open to considering alternatives. An H.P.D. spokesperson said on Friday that, although Section 8 funding will certainly not be restored to pre-sequestration levels, the agency will have “more options” for managing its budget shortfall once the Senate Appropriations Committee finalizes its bill for allocating the new money. The spokesperson added that, as the agency learns more about its new funding
Congressmember Jerrold Nadler said if the Department of Housing Preservation and Development changes its Section 8 policies, there must be “opportunity for public input.”
levels, it will coordinate with the Mayor’s Office to adjust its Section 8 policies, “if possible and appropriate.” In a statement on Friday, Nadler stressed that any new changes to the housing program should be community-oriented, and should take into account the specific needs of low-income residents.
aSK for DaiLY SPeCiaLS
N.Y.U. plans appeal on park strips, but political landscape has shifted N.Y.U., continued from p. 20
support the N.Y.U development plan in its entirety for both superblocks. In the Jan. 14 e-mail, Chin’s director of communications, Amy Varghese, specifically said the statement is “attributable to the office of Council Member Margaret Chin.” (On the other hand, the e-mailed statement sent the previous week was described in the message as “CM Chin’s quote.” Varghese did not respond to a request for clarification on why Chin did not want to be quoted directly in the most recent statement.) At any rate, in the new statement, “Chin’s office” said: “The City Council approved the N.Y.U. 2031 plan with legislative action to ensure that the north block parcels would obtain the same protections as mapped parkland, and has been working with the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Transportation to bring the remaining parcels under Parks’ protection as well. Residents, Community Board 2, neighborhood stakeholders and Councilmember Chin’s office worked together to include provisions in the N.Y.U. 2031 plan to reduce impacts on community green space in the interim, including staging construction away from these strips and
requiring the use of minimally invasive construction materials. The court’s decision coincides with our continued efforts to minimize construction impacts on green space in our community.” However, the statement does not say that Chin and/or her office no longer support giving N.Y.U. 20-year easements for use of the superblock strips during the construction, which is what the City Council approved in 2012. Under that agreement, only after the 20 years were up, would the two strips on the northern block formally be transferred to the Parks Department. In 2012, Community Board 2 passed an “absolute NO” resolution against the N.Y.U. 2031 plan, recommending denial of the entire thing. On Tuesday, David Gruber, chairperson of Community Board 2, said, “It’s interesting that N.Y.U. is appealing a court decision that mirrors and agrees with the community board’s resolution, as well as the position of a plethora of individuals, elected officials, community-based organizations and the ever-expanding N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan group, and still claims to be a good neighbor and friend. It’s time that N.Y.U. realizes that it’s a part of the Village community and not the reverse.”
“If H.P.D. makes changes to its Section 8 policies, I expect that there would be a real public process and opportunity for public input,” Nadler said in an e-mail to The Villager. “Any policy changes must be structured to be the least burdensome possible for individuals and families who rely on Section 8.”
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After Brandeis had started to pull away, Iyoha Agho (12, with ball) hit a key 3-point shot to spark N.Y.U.’s offense.
With tenacious ‘D,’ N.Y.U. jams Judges, stays unbeaten at home
limited and going
BY DANIEL-JEAN LUBIN
ew York University men’s basketball team picked up its fifth straight victory thanks to a hardfought 64-58 win over Brandeis University on last Saturday at Coles gym in the Village. The Violets (11-1) once again received valuable contributions from sophomore starters Evan Kupferberg and Costis Gontikas, with both scoring in double digits. Kupferberg also pulled down eight rebounds, in addition to his game-high 18 points, while playing 37 minutes. The Jan. 11 matchup against the Judges (8-4) was the Violets’ first University Athletic Association game of the season. Entering the Saturday afternoon contest, N.Y.U. was averaging 74 points per game and on a four-game winning streak. Brandeis came to town coming off a pair of home wins in which they held their opponents to under 75 points. The Violets scored the first five points of the game, but after shaking off the early rust, the Judges got into the action, and the scoring went back and forth. After climbing back into things and cutting New York University’s lead to just 2 points, 9-7 the Judges sunk three consecu-
tive 3-pointers to take the lead. With just under 10 minutes left in the first half and with N.Y.U. trailing by 2 points, sophomore Max Ralby knocked down a go-ahead 3 from the top of the key, putting the score at 24-23. The Violets led most of the rest of the way until the final 1:44 of the first half, when Brandeis guard Derek Retos came up big as he drained back-to-back 3-pointers within the span of 35 seconds, putting Brandeis back on top 36-34 as the half ended. The second half began with the Judges and Violets trading buckets. At the 11:43 mark of the half, with Brandeis ahead by 8 points — the biggest lead of the game — Iyoha Agho sparked N.Y.U.’s offense with a 3-pointer, cutting the visitors’ lead to 52-47. After that, N.Y.U. shut the door defensively, keeping Brandeis to just 6 points the rest of the way, while driving the play offensively, closing out the game with a 12-4 run to win by 6. The Violets remain undefeated at their gym on Mercer St. this season, posting a conference best 9-0 record at home. The Violets will be on the road next weekend for a pair of U.A.A. games. N.Y.U. will face the University of Chicago (7-5) on Jan. 17. They’ll then face Washington University (10-2) in St. Louis on Jan. 19. N.Y.U. will return home for more conference play on Jan. 24 when they’ll host Emory University (9-3).
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January 23, 2014
JANUARY 23, 2014, EAST VILLAGER NEWS