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PRE-K PUSH WORRIES DOWNTOWN ADVOCATES BY JOSH ROGERS f Mayor Bill de Blasio wants effective grassroots help for his push to expand pre-K seats starting this September, there may be no better group to turn to then Lower Manhattan’s school advocates who have fought for and found several school locations in recent years. But if he wants obedient foot soldiers, he’ll have to look somewhere else. Many of the Downtown advocates are worried the push to add pre-K space throughout the city will compete with the need to solve Lower Manhattan’s overcrowding problem [See article, P. 7]. “It seems like they’re giving you a decorated horse, but they’ve already pulled two


Continued on page 6

MAYOR TAPS DOWNTOWN LEADER TO PLAN THE CITY BY LI NCOLN ANDERSON alling it “very, very personal” and “a particularly moving day” for him, Mayor de Blasio last Friday appointed his friend Carl Weisbrod chairperson of the City Planning Commission. As Planning chief, the mayor said, Weisbrod “will have a huge positive impact on the future of this city.” That’s because Weisbrod will be a key partner in helping the mayor realize his vision of reshaping the “tale of two cities” into a single, more equitable city. “We see the City Planning Commission as a central piece of a strategy to change this city’s reality,” de Blasio declared, “to make sure that people can afford to live here and have jobs that they can feed a family on.” The two men have been friends since first working together back in the Dinkins administration in the early 1990s. The new mayor’s confidence in Weisbrod, the former president of the Downtown Alliance, was evident when he tapped him to be co-chairperson of his transition team, helping de Blasio select many of his top administration appointments. Now, in turn, Weisbrod himself has been tapped to be one of the mayor’s most crucial agency chiefs.


Downtown Express photo by Milo Hess

Parade Float Red was naturally the dominant color Feb. 2 in Chinatown for the neighborhood’s annual Lunar New Year celebration. More photos, P. 23.

Continued on page 17



February 13 - February 26, 2014

Battery Park City’s newest condos join neighborhood group B Y SA M S P O K O N Y Two years after a deal that saved many of them hundreds of millions of dollars in ground rent payments, a newly expanded group of Battery Park City condominium owners is now callingon the Battery Park City Authority to negotiate amendments for all oftheir leases, seeking further stability for the future. The B.P.C. Homeowners Coalition, after voting at a Jan. 14 meeting, has announced that it now represents all 17 condo buildings in the area, rather than just the original 11 that were part of the 2011agreement with the state agency. That previous deal, brokered by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, prevented the ground rents for those 11 buildings from skyrocketing from $9 million in 2011 to a total of $804 million over the next threedecades. As a result of the negotiations, the buildings are paying $525 million over that period of time. The coalition’s goal now — and recently announced at Community Board1’s B.P.C. Committee meeting on Feb. 4 — is to get its six new members under the same kind of agreement, which is desired by condoresidents because the uncertainty that goes along with infl ated groundrents will negatively affect their ability to sell or even to afford their units in coming years.

The Riverhouse condo is one of the Battery Park City Buildings that has joined the B.P.C. Homeowners Coalition

The six newly incorporated buildings are 225 Rector Pl., 333 RectorPl., Millennium Tower (30 West St.), the RitzCarlton (10 West St.), the Riverhouse (2 River Terrace) and the Visionaire (70 Little West St.). “Right now, we have to go back to those new buildings and see how their

leases are structured, and we’re just now beginning thatresearch,” said Pat Smith, an organizer of the coalition who residesin Battery Pointe, one of its original 11 members. “We need to getsome consistent, defensible formulas in place for everyone.” Smith seeks to meet with the authority soon to push for the new ground rent

negotiations, which he also hopes can lead to a deal that will run through 2069, rather than the endpoint of the previous agreement, which is 2042. Meanwhile, the authority itself is now in a transitional phase that’s been marked by the appointment of a new president, Shari Hyman, and the addition of Robin Forst -- formerly of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center -- as vice president of external relations. Forst, a longtime B.P.C. resident active in the community, started herjob on Feb. 3, and Hyman took over on Feb. 10. “We are certainly willing to engage in a dialogue with the B.P.C. Homeowners Coalition,” said Kevin McCabe, an authority spokesperson, in an email to Downtown Express. “Providing a forum where the group can voice its concerns is important to building and strengthening our community.” And in an emailed statement on Feb. 5, Silver reiterated a commitment to stay involved in this process as the Coalition moves forward. “I will continue working on behalf of Battery Park City residents seeking to extend their ground leases at an affordable rate,” the speaker said, “and I will continue to fight for a fair settlement that maintains stability in the neighborhood and keeps families in our community for the long term.”


February 13 - February 26, 2014

Jessica Lappin forges Alliance Downtown BY SA M SPOKONY Seven months after the death of former President Liz Berger, the Downtown Alliance announced last week that it has named Jessica Lappin, a former Upper East Side City Councilmember, to lead the organization. Lappin officially took over as president of the Alliance on Feb. 10. “I see this is an incredible opportunity for me,” Lappin told Downtown Express on the day of the announcement. “To be able to take the helm at this moment, when there is so much momentum building in Lower Manhattan, and to take part in this transformation of the area, is really exciting.” The Alliance manages the city’s largest business improvement district, which covers nearly all of Lower Manhattan below Chambers St. Lappin, like previous Alliance presidents, will also serve as president of the Alliance’s sister organization, the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association, which also advocates for the growth of local businesses below Canal St. Before running unsuccessfully for the office of Manhattan borough president in 2013, Lappin had represented the City Council’s Fifth District since 2006. During her time there, she chaired the Coun-

cil’s Land Use Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses. Reacting to the announcement, Community Board 1 Chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes praised the Alliance’s decision, citing Lappin’s family life as a positive factor. “It’s a terrific appointment, and it’s great to have a mother with young children heading the Downtown Alliance,” Hughes told Downtown Express. “It really reflects the demographics changes in the Financial District and Lower Manhattan as a whole, highlighting the needs and services of a growing residential population.” Hughes added that she will soon be setting up a meeting with Lappin, to discuss plans and goals for the future of the area. Lappin also noted the changing nature of Downtown’s residential neighborhoods, adding that a focus on those shifts will be central to overall growth. “The diversification that’s taking place here is great, and it’s a big positive to have this growing mixed-use, live-andwork community, because it adds to the dynamic, 24/7 feel of the area,” she said. When asked why she chose this path rather than trying to get back into elected office, the former councilmember said she

Former Councilmember Jessica Lappin, who was just named president of the Downtown Alliance.

believes she can make the same kind of “meaningful contribution to the city” as the head of the Alliance. “After I had my first interview with them last November, the more I learned


about [the Alliance], the more I liked it,” said Lappin. In the announcement press release, Lappin said “the transformation unfolding in Lower Manhattan is inspiring. Few places anywhere can boast of the constellation of game changing projects underway and nearing fruition,” in apparent references to the scheduled openings of the 9/11 Museum, the Freedom Tower and the Fulton Center transit hub. In the same press release, Robert Douglass, the Alliance’s chairperson praised “Jessica’s energy, policy acumen, skills as a persuasive advocate and track record of substantial accomplishments in public service.” And in a Feb. 3 statement, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also cheered Lappin’s appointment.“Jessica is a smart, talented and dedicated public servant who has spent many years delivering results for the people of our city,” said Silver. “I look forward to working closely with her as we pursue our shared priorities of ensuring that Lower Manhattan remains the greatest neighborhood in the world to live, work and raise a family.” At this early stage, Lappin declined to share any elements of her agenda for the organization. “I’ll hold off on that until I’ve actually taken the office,” she said.

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Police are investigating yet another scam involving theft of money through a prepaid debit card, after a con artist reportedly targeted a Tribeca business on Feb. 5. An employee for Art Et Maison, a furniture outlet at 31 N. Moore St., told cops she received a call that day from someone claiming to be a Con Edison worker, who then threatened to turn off the store’s electricity if she didn’t pay $1,209 immediately. She apparently followed the scammer’s bogus instructions to go out and purchase a Green Dot card, put the money onto the card’s online account and then give him the card’s authorization code, allowing the suspect to transfer the money into his own account. After realizing she’d been had, the employee reported the incident to police on Feb. 10, and First Precinct Captain Brendan Timoney said his officers are currently trying to track down the perp.


An unfortunate photographer learned on Feb. 4 that the old saying still applies — no good deed goes unpunished. The 45-year-old man told cops he hailed a taxi around 2 p.m. that day and took his aunt to New York Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital, at 170 William St., after which he told the cabbie to wait outside for his return, according to police. But when he came back outside about 10 minutes later, the man realized that his $4,000 Nikon camera, which he’d left in the taxi’s back seat, was gone. The cab driver told cops he never saw anyone snatch the camera, but admitted that one of the back windows had been left open while he was waiting outside.


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Community College student as she dozed in the library on Feb. 6, police said. The female student, 27, told cops she fell asleep in the B.M.C.C. Library at 199 Chambers St. around 1:15 p.m. — and when she woke around a half hour later, she realized her backpack, which she’d placed beside her, was gone. The stolen bag also held the woman’s credit cards, student ID and cell phone, according to the report she filed. Cops said they’re still trying to get a picture of the suspect through video surveillance footage from inside the library.


A Chinese tourist fell victim to a thief as she walked past a busy Soho intersection on Feb. 9, police said. The woman, 36, said she was at the corner of Spring St. and Broadway around 6 p.m., wearing a backpack which contained her wallet, when she felt someone bump into her from behind. Minutes later, after taking the backpack off, she found that one of its pockets had been unzipped, and the wallet — which held credit cards, $700 in cash and her passport — was gone.


Police arrested a 28-year-old woman on Feb. 1 after they say she stabbed her boyfriend in their Financial District home. The boyfriend, 45, told cops he and his girlfriend were in their 10 Hanover Sq. apartment when they got into a heated verbal dispute around 4 a.m. Police say the fight became physical when she grabbed a pair of kitchen shears and slashed him on the shoulder and chest. Fortunately for the victim, the blows were only glancing, and he was left with minor cuts that were treated at the scene by paramedics, police said. The woman was charged with felony assault and criminal possession of a weapon.

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Police arrested a 23-year-old man, on Feb. 2, charging him with shoplifting from Century 21 department store. The suspect may have had Valentine’s Day in mind when he entered the store at 22 Cortlandt St., around 7 p.m., because he tried walking out with four scarves, a box of chocolates and a bottle of cologne, according to police. He tripped off the store’s electronic security scanners while exiting, and was apprehended shortly afterward. He was charged with petty larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.


A Soho photographer was targeted by opportunistic thieves on Feb. 2, when $12,000 worth of equipment was stolen outside her apartment building, police said. The woman, 41, told cops she was loading the items into the vestibule of the 15 Greene St. building around 2:15 p.m., when she saw a group of people walking down the street. Moments after the group had passed by, she realized that her Canon 5D Mark II camera, two lenses, a laptop, a tripod and other equipment were gone. The victim said she never got a good look at the group as they were walking by, and didn’t see any of the thefts taking place.


Someone broke into and stole property from a parked car near City Hall on Feb. 3, police said. The car’s owner, a 32-year-old man, told cops he parked it near the corner of Beekman and William Sts. around 9 p.m. It was unclear based on the report, but the man may have forgotten to lock his doors, because when he returned around 11 p.m., the vehicle was unlocked, and his iPod and a pair of sunglasses had been snatched.


A fight reportedly broke out between two construction workers at a Financial District development site on Feb. 4, police said. A 58-year-old employee who was overseeing work at 29 John St. told cops that another man — unidentified, but apparently a construction worker from another Downtown site — walked up and started an argument with him around 2:30 p.m. The dispute quickly escalated, and the unknown worker reportedly punched the John St. employee in the face before fleeing the scene on foot. The victim suffered a cut near his right eye, but was not hospitalized, police said.

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Members of Community Board 1 are concerned that Downtown’s construction center will be taken over by the city Dept. of Transportation’s Lower Manhattan Borough Commissioner’s Office, currently run by Luis Sanchez, above.

tion projects Downtown. First, some of them believe the agency doesn’t have a great track record for responding to and dealing with 311 calls from members of the public. Up until now, residents have been largely satisfied with relying on the construction center to

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communicate their concerns directly to construction managers and city officials. “I just want to remind everybody of the ramifications of the L.M.C.C.C. being dismantled,” Chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes said at the board’s Financial District committee meeting Feb. 5., pointing out that residents with complaints will now have to call 311. “And I don’t know how effective 311 has been for you,” Hughes said in a clearly concerned tone, “but that will be your main mechanism moving forward.” Second, community board members have conflict-of-interest concerns about the fact that D.O.T. — which is in charge of granting permits for construction projects — will soon be overseeing the community’s requests and responses regarding the permitting process. “L.M.C.C.C. has been a watchdog for people who live and work here,” said Hughes, “and since D.O.T. is also the issuer of permits, we will no longer have that watchdog.” Board members immediately agreed with her thoughts in that regard. “We don’t want the fox guarding the hen house,” said Ro Sheffe, chairperson of the FiDi Committee. “We all know about the problems that could cause.” All of this was being discussed at the Feb. 5 committee meeting because Joseph Simenic, L.M.C.C.C.’s executive director,


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was present to take questions on the subject of the upcoming transition. When he was asked about any new updates on the process, Simenic said that would have to wait, explaining that he would have a better idea of what the “final transition” will look like by the final week of February. However, Simenic mentioned that in addition to working with D.O.T., he has been “spending some time” with the Downtown Alliance — which runs the business improvement district below Chambers St. — seemingly in order to nudge them, to some degree, to take over some of the construction center’s community outreach responsibility. “I’ve been seeing how [the Alliance] can provide, if they choose to, useful public information based on all the databases we’ve accumulated, which they can retain or update going forward,” said Simenic. But Nicole Kolinsky, a Downtown Alliance spokesperson, told Downtown Express that, as of now, there have been no discussions about the Alliance assuming any of the “formal responsibilities” of L.M.C.C.C. “[The Alliance] has had discussions with L.M.C.C.C. about how we could use their data to possibly integrate their database functionality into our operations,” she wrote in a Feb. 6 email, stressing that the talks have gone no further than that.


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B Y SA M S P O K O N Y Community Board 1 leaders remain worried about the impending shutdown of the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, and wonder whether the city’s Department of Transportation will be able to fully take over the command center’s role as a kind of public advocate to handle construction complaints. The construction center, which oversees and coordinates public, private and street construction projects south of Canal St., is set to be phased out by the end of this month. Downtown Express first reported on Jan. 23 that D.O.T. will be stepping in to take over its functions, including project coordination meetings and community outreach. Now, it’s also clear that those functions will be directly managed by staff through D.O.T.’s Lower Manhattan Borough Commissioner’s Office, which is led by Luis Sanchez, a Bloomberg administration appointee who has remained in office under Mayor de Blasio. Nicholas Mosquera, a D.O.T. spokesperson, confirmed the staffing details in a Feb. 3 email to Downtown Express. This transition into D.O.T. hands is creating apprehension among community leaders for two main reasons, given that there are more than 80 unfinished — and sometimes complaint-ridden — construc-


February 13 - February 26, 2014

Worry that pre-K push will affect overcrowding solutions Continued from page 1

wheels off the cart,” said Tammy Meltzer, a member of Community Board 1’s Youth and Education Committee. She was referring to the fact that as it now stands, Lower Manhattan will actually lose two pre-K classrooms in September to make way for the growing space needs of P.S. 276 and Peck Slip School, currently housed at the Dept. of Education’s headquarters in the Tweed Courthouse. “The concern is they will open a pre-K center in Tweed and dissolve incubation space,” Tricia Joyce, chairperson of the Education Committee, said Tuesday night at a meeting to discuss the plan. The committee started off with a draft resolution expressing unequivocal support for the pre-K expansion, but the consensus from the beginning was to make it clear that although expanding pre-K was desirable, there was also a pressing need to find more elementary school space. “All I’m being asked to do is support this [pre-K expansion] and I’m not getting an answer to our questions as a community board,” Joyce said. She said C.B.1 was asked to attend a City Hall rally to support the mayor’s plan. Paul Hovitz, the Board 1 committee’s co-chairperson, said, “We are not saying we oppose the plan, we are saying you need to address an immediate emergency situation….

“The mayor has found the money to address a very important need in universal pre-K, we have a very important need for those children as they go through the system.” De Blasio campaigned on the idea of raising taxes slightly on the city’s wealthiest residents in order to pay for full-day pre-K for all children as well as for afterschool programs for middle schools, but

principal, told members of her School Leadership Team that Spruce will be facing a choice in two years to either provide full day pre-K, or proceed with plans to grow the elementary school into a K-8, according to two parents at the meeting, Chris Growney, co-chairperson of the school committee, and Sarah ElBatanouny. Growney said Harris did not say she was being pressured to provide more pre-K

‘We are not saying we oppose the plan, we are saying you need to address an immediate emergency situation….’ Gov.. Andrew Cuomo and State Senate Republicans oppose the tax. Cuomo wants to provide universal pre-K statewide, and maintains the state will be able to fund the city program as quickly as de Blasio can implement it, but he has not identified where the money will come from without the tax. [Disclosure: This reporter intends to apply for a pre-K seat outside of Lower Manhattan this September.] The push for more pre-K space is also creating pressures at Spruce Street School in the Financial District. On Tuesday, Nancy Harris, the school’s

space “but she’s obviously aware of the general discussion about pre-K.” Harris did not respond to requests for comment Feb. 12. Growney said if the middle school is canceled, there would be a “very emphatic negative response to that.” Currently the school goes to fourth grade, and Growney said based on the principal’s report, the school had two more years in which if could maintain its two pre-K rooms, and probably could add at least one more room in September. “We need clarity,” he said.


An Education Dept. spokesperson declined to comment for this article. De Blasio did mention Lower Manhattan overcrowding at a Feb. 4 press conference in response to a question about how he wanted to spend money he cut from charter schools. “I have a number of concerns…overcrowded schools being one of the most pressing. Central Queens, Lower Manhattan, we have areas in Staten Island — North Shore of Staten Island — obviously, Upper East Side and Upper West Side have had waitlists for kindergarten — you know, that’s unprecedented,” he said. “So we have real space issues we have to address, and we think that that 200 million being freed up is for better and more pressing uses. Pre-K could also be an option, but we have not made that determination.” C.B. 1’s Joyce, a P.S. 234 parent who agrees with the goal of expanding pre-K, said she worries that there has been little talk of restoring the school cuts made during the last recession. “We lost a million dollars at P.S. 234 [over three years], and we can self-fund,” she said. “What happens to the schools that can’t raise money? What are we going to say to them: We’re going to put a pre-K in your neighborhood and you know what? We’re not going to refund any of your special education programs, your literacy programs….”


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Birth rate grows like babies & so does the need for schools BY SAM SPOKONY Newly released data shows that 2012 saw a nearly 10 percent increase in child births within the bounds of Community Board 1 compared to the previous year, once again bolstering arguments by Downtown advocates that the Department of Education should commit to building two public elementary schools, rather than one, below Canal St. in its new capital budget plan. But with just a month until the five-year budget plan is voted on by the city’s Panel for Educational Policy — after which it would go to the City Council for approval in June — it seems clear that D.O.E. is still unwilling to include such a commitment. The 2012 data, which was published in January by the Department of Health, represents the most current information on birth rates within each of the city’s 59 community districts. In that year there were 1,191 births in Community District 1 equivalent to C.B. 1 according to the report, compared to 1,087 births in 2011. The overall birth rate for the area was 19 per 1,000 — residents by far the highest in Manhattan (the borough’s average was 11.7) and fourth in the entire city, behind only the Brooklyn districts covering Borough Park, Sunset Park and Williamsburg/Greenpoint. In Lower Manhattan the rate jumped by 1.5 births from 2011. That heavy upward trend is consistent with past population reports, as census data analyzed by C.B. 1 last — showed its community district’s growth between 2000 and 2010 was much higher than any other area in the city. But the more recent rise between 2011 and 2012 has led to a new estimate from the local school advocate who is generally considered by his neighbors — as well as C.B. 1 and the local Community Education Council — to be a key source of statistical analysis regarding population data. That resident, Eric Greenleaf — a former P.S. 234 parent and a marketing professor at New York University — has previously stated, based on the past census data, that he believes 1,200 new school seats will be required below Canal St. to adequately serve the community going forward. “But based on these new numbers, it looks

Lower Manhattan school analyst Eric Greenleaf has revised his estimates on school needs based on the latest birth rate numbers released by the city.

like we’re going to need closer to 1,500 seats,” Greenleaf said this week in a phone interview. That estimation far surpasses what D.O.E. is currently planning for Downtown in its proposed 2015-2019 capital budget plan. The budget currently includes a commitment to building only one 456-seat public school below Canal St., while the other new, 456-seat “Lower Manhattan” school in the budget is planned to be located just north of Canal St., within Trinity Real Estate’s Hudson Square development. Ever since the proposed plan was first announced several months ago, advocates and elected officials have repeatedly urged D.O.E. to instead site two schools of that size within C.B. 1, saying that Hudson Square is too far north to meet the needs of neighborhoods like the Financial District and Battery Park City, and that the Trinity school will primarily serve the growing residential population in Hudson Square and Soho. Greenleaf, who often uses his skills in statistics when publishing complex academic articles in his field, believes that adapting to the aforementioned birth rates should be a relatively simple effort, considering the clear data. “These are not difficult statistics to deal with,” he said. “The biggest mistake that D.O.E. makes is that they refuse to plan at the neighborhood level, and they’re just looking

at the average numbers for all of Manhattan, which are obviously way below those of our community.” Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver recently continued his push for 1,000 new school seats by sending a Feb. 5 letter to D.O.E. Chancellor Carmen Farina, citing the ongoing issue of public school waitlists in C.B. 1. “We continue to face an acute overcrowding problem in Lower Manhattan, particularly in the Financial District and Battery Park City areas,” Silver wrote. “Each year, we see Kindergarten waitlists of dozens of children per school. “I strongly urge that the D.O.E. amend its capital plan so that we have 1,000 seats sited within this community,” he continued. The speaker also asked for a meeting with Farina to further discuss the issue, while also inviting her to attend a meeting of his School Overcrowding Task Force, which convenes monthly (the next meeting will take place near the end of February). Previously, former Chancellor Dennis Walcott had attended one of those meetings last April, when he ordered his planners to take a “deeper dive” into the numbers analyzed by Greenleaf and Community Board 1. As a result, for the first time, D.O.E.’s estimate for Lower Manhattan’s school needs, 1,000, came close to Greenleaf’s at the time, 1,200. Harry Hartfield, a D.O.E. spokesperson did not comment on the possibility of Farina meet-

ing with Silver and Downtown school advocates in the near future. But his statement, in response to this newspaper’s questions about the newly released birth data, maintained the department’s status quo on this issue ever since the new capital plan was first released. “Overcrowding is a serious issue, and one that we are committed to tackling head on,” Hartfield said in a Feb. 11 email. “That is why we have a new building [at 1 Peck Slip] opening in September 2015 with 712 seats, and we have proposed almost 1,000 new seats for Lower Manhattan alone.” That statement comes two weeks after Farina did in fact amend the capital plan, primarily to create new seats for pre-K programs. But the amendments did not directly address the issue of elementary school overcrowding Downtown. Aside from a debate over what “Lower Manhattan” really means in terms of being above or below Canal St., a problem that people like Greenleaf and Silver have with D.O.E.’s responses on this is that they are, at this point, most concerned about a commitment to future seats over the next five years. In that regard, the forthcoming Peck Slip School may only be a kind of bandaid that will have a small effect on the overall issue of overcrowding. “That school will make a difference, but it’s nowhere near enough,” said Greenleaf. “The fact is that, even by the time it opens, more babies will be born here, and more apartments will be built.”

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‘Crossing Delancey’ is unsafe at Pitt St., say pols and C.B. 3 B Y SA M S P O K O N Y Citing numerous accidents and injuries to both pedestrians and bicyclists, Community Board 3 and local elected officials are calling on the city’s Department of Transportation to consider installing safety-improvement measures at the intersection of Delancey and Pitt Sts. The awkwardly shaped intersection, which crosses under the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, was the site of 20 car crashes between August 2011 and August 2013, according to Police Department data assembled by the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. Four pedestrians and three cyclists were injured in these accidents, according to the data. A C.B. 3 resolution passed at the end of December asked D.O.T. to conduct a traffic study, to evaluate whether conditions at the intersection warrant the installation of new traffic signals, right turn-only lanes, additional lighting under the bridge or a pedestrian island within

Google Maps

A pedestrian crosses at Delancey and Pitt Sts.

the crossing area. A month later, the coalition of elected officials — comprised of state Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Speaker

Sheldon Silver, Borough President Gale Brewer, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and Councilmembers Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez — followed with a Jan. 28



letter to new D.O.T. Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, stating the same request. This call on D.O.T. comes about a year and half after the agency last partnered with C.B. 3 and the elected officials, among other local stakeholders, to make similar safety improvements slightly farther west on Delancey St., along the corridor leading to the bridge’s entrance/exit. “Delancey St. has been the scene of far too many tragedies, and [that previous] working group resulted in commonsense improvements — from shorter crossings to improved traffic flow,” the politicians’ Jan. 28 letter stated. “At Delancey and Pitt Streets, we have the opportunity to prevent future tragedies and ensure better safety measures for our constituents.” Responding to the letter, a D.O.T. spokesperson said on Jan. 31 that the agency “looks forward to discussing potential safety enhancements” at that intersection, and is reviewing the request for a traffic study.


February 13 - February 26, 2014



Happy Valentine’s Day! Despite the snow predictions, expect an uptick in Friday night travel as couples hit Lower Manhattan for romantic outings. Fashion Week wraps up Thursday, when a few final shows run Downtown. At Spring Studios on Varick between Laight and Beach Sts. (right at the Holland Tunnel exit), a big show starts 2 p.m. Thursday. Another location to watch is Washington and Houston Sts. (near West St.) on Thursday morning. Monday is a Summons Alert Day. Although Presidents’ Day is a recognized national holiday, only alternate side parking rules are suspended. Many people don’t know this and are surprised to

find tickets for meter violations and No Parking rules. The best way to find out what’s in effect when is to order my parking calendar: Transit Sam’s 2014 Parking Calendar is on sale! The calendar is available as a free download and a hard copy. Visit for both. Public schools are on mid-winter break beginning Monday and running through Friday, February 21. That means morning traffic will be a bit easier for commuters. The Chinese Lunar Festival will close Market St. between East Broadway and Henry St. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. All Manhattan-bound lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge will close 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Thursday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights, as well as midnight Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday, and midnight Saturday to 9 a.m. Sunday. On West St. /Route 9A between West Thames and Vesey Sts., one lane will close in each direction 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

Rector St. will close between Greenwich and Washington Sts. 7 a.m. to noon Monday. Nassau St. will close between Ann and Beekman Sts. 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays. Theater Alley will close 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily between Ann and Beekman Sts. Leonard St. is fully closed between Hudson and Varick Sts. through late March. Washington St. will close between Laight and Hubert Sts. 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays through late February. Northbound traffic will be detoured to Hudson St.

FROM THE MAILBAG: Dear Transit Sam, I love those new digital clocks they have at traffic lights so you can tell how long it takes you to cross. I can cross Houston St. in 13-14 seconds. The clock sometimes starts at 25 seconds. But,

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I see a flashing hand start at the same time. Would I be jaywalking if I cross when there are say 20 seconds left even though I can easily make it across the street? DK, Noho Dear DK, Technically, yes. But as long as you stay away from the Upper West Side it’s unlikely you’ll get a ticket. Rule 4-03 (c) (2) of New York City’s Traffic Rules and Regulations states that “pedestrians facing [a flashing DON’T WALK, red hand symbol or red standing figure] are warned that there is insufficient time to cross the roadway and no pedestrian shall enter or cross the roadway.” Since the countdown clock is accompanied by the flashing red hand, entering the crosswalk during the countdown is jaywalking. Transit Sam


February 13 - February 26, 2014

Morrone & co-defendants reject plea deal, 1 attorney says B Y SA M S P O K O NY A lawyer for Joseph Morrone, the former Southbridge Towers board president accused of fraudulently taking nearly $109,000 in federal disability benefits, declined to discuss a plea deal with city prosecutors at a Feb. 7 court date, according to a source at the hearing. Morrone is one of 102 people charged with stealing Social Security funds, along with four alleged ringleaders who set up the scheme, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s January indictment. At the Feb. 7 State Supreme Court pretrial hearing — which included many of the other defendants — Morrone’s lawyer, Vincent Licata, was one of 10 attorneys called into a closed-door discussion by the D.A.’s office. A similar backroom meeting did not take place for the lawyers representing other people charged in the case. Although Licata did not respond to requests for comment for this article, and Morrone himself was not present in the courtroom, one of the other attorneys present for that discussion

told Downtown Express that, during the brief meeting, prosecutors brought up the idea of a plea. “The D.A. thought we were all going to be interested in taking a plea deal,” said the attorney, who asked not to be named. “But none of us in that room [including Licata] made that kind of commitment.”

that his client has in fact suffered from legitimate medical problems, and seemed intent on pushing forward against the D.A.’s claims. “Mr. Morrone has had documented illnesses over a 10-year period that made him qualify for Social Security disability benefits,” he said at that time. In the same interview, Licata said that he

‘The D.A. thought we were all going to be interested in taking a plea deal… But none of us…made that kind of commitment.’ Morrone, like all 102 defendants accused of taking part in the scheme, is currently charged with second degree grand larceny and fourth degree criminal facilitation, both felonies which, combined, would carry up to 16 years in prison if he were convicted. In an interview last month, Licata declared

expected the D.A.’s office to begin revealing specific evidence Morrone at the Feb. 7 hearing, since few of those details — aside from general statements in the indictment — had yet been put forth. But it seemed that those details did not figure into the backroom discussion that day.

“They just set another [court] date. They didn’t give any of those kinds of facts,” said the attorney who requested anonymity. Morrone’s next appearance for a pre-trial hearing — likely alongside some of his fellow defendants once again — is scheduled for Feb. 19, according to the D.A.’s office. Morrone was president of Southbridge’s board of directors in the late-1990s and early2000s, and currently serves as president of the Southbridge Adult and Senior Citizens Activities Center. He allegedly stole the Social Security disability benefits by claiming to suffer from psychological problems that caused him to fear large crowds, according to the D.A.’s indictment. Morrone was charged in the case after investigators found video footage of him giving an enthusiastic interview to a PIX 11 news reporter while serving cannoli at Little Italy’s San Gennaro street festival — a bustling, crowded scene that investigators believe showed he did not in fact suffer from that phobia.

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February 13 - February 26, 2014

City says reports of hold on Seaport tower are wrong BY JOSH ROGERS The city’s Economic Development Corp. last week contradicted the assertions of Downtown leaders that the proposed Seaport tower is on hold, and is insisting the project is moving forward on schedule. One E.D.C. official pushed back strongly against the claims — reported by Downtown Express and other media outlets Jan. 29. “In short, there is no new ‘halt’ or agreement to halt,” according to the official. E.D.C. manages the South Street Seaport for New York City and is overseeing the Howard Hughes Corp.’s proposal to redevelop the Tin and New Market building with a 600-foot mixed use tower, food market and a marina. Kate Blumm, E.D.C.’s spokesperson, said in a prepared statement Jan. 30: “This proposal is at the very beginning of what will ultimately be an extensive public review process, and we have strongly encouraged Howard Hughes Corporation to work with local stakeholders to solicit their input and understand their concerns. We’re encouraged by the steps the developer is taking in concert with elected officials to more formally structure community involvement, and we look forward to seeing the dialogue evolve. To date, the process is moving as anticipated along the timeline previously agreed upon.” At Community Board 1’s full board meeting Jan. 28, Chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes


Rendering courtesy of Howard Hughes Corp.

A marina is part of the Howard Hughes Corporation’s redevelopment plan for the Seaport, which includes a 600-foot tower.

said a “community-driven” task force will be created and the plan “will not go forward as presented….Any future milestones are on hold until a comprehensive community process has taken place.” The next day, she told Downtown Express that her report was carefully worded after a conference call that included Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmember Margaret Chin. Silver, in his written monthly report to C.B.


1, said of the tower that “the city has now agreed to put those plans on hold.” A source close to Chin had said two weeks ago that the creation of a task force with the Howard Hughes Corp. would likely have the effect of halting the project. The E.D.C. official acknowledged the task force may have the effect of a delay but said that was always going to be part of the project and added it was not true that there have been any changes to the milestones or any hold on the proposal.


E.D.C. did not respond to a request for comment for the original Downtown Express article. The task force’s final membership has not been decided, but it will include all of the elected leaders involved, C.B. 1 leaders, Hughes Corp. executives and yet to be determined neighborhood leaders. Robert LaValva, founder of the Seaport’s New Amsterdam Market, and one of the leading critics of the Hughes plan, has asked the E.D.C. to include him on the committee.



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February 13 - February 26, 2014

God’s Love & yoga are set to be weekend’s hot ticket B Y D A N I E L -J E A N L U B IN With a yoga fundraising event this weekend led by popular local instructor Jason Patrick, Modo Yoga NYC is heating up the frigid city, and hopes to raise mucho funds for God’s Love We Deliver. Modo Yoga NYC opened in January 2012 at 434 Sixth Ave. at 10th St. The studio is co-owned by Sarah Neufeld, violinist and composer for Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire. What makes the place unique is Modo’s commitment to what’s known as “hot yoga.” This yoga style uses heat to develop an individual’s flexibility, plus simulates the heat and humidity of India, where yoga originated. “Modo Yoga is a dynamic system of postures and breathing exercises specifically designed to be practiced in the heat,” explained Patrick, known to some as Downtown’s “Bearded Yogi.” “Modo classes are intended to open, strengthen and detoxify the entire body,” he said. “We’re committed to ethical, compassionate and environmentally conscious living, and believe that the benefits of yoga are limitless and accessible to all.” God’s Love We Deliver provides hot, nutritious meals to New York-area residents living with H.I.V. / AIDS and a variety of chronic illnesses, and also provides food to their caregivers.

Jason Patrick is headlining the yoga-themed benefit.

Patrick hopes his Big Love Weekend will raise $100,000 — which would fund 10,000 meals — for the nonprofit food provider and its Soho location, which is currently being

renovated and vertically expanded. God’s Love also holds a special place in Patrick’s heart since he is H.I.V.-positive. Patrick has teamed up with friends

Shauna Robertson and actor Edward Norton in conjunction with, which will be providing the fundraising platform for Big Love Weekend. Attendees will be able to reserve a spot at one or more events, and will then have their very own personalized Crowdrise page to share with their friends as a means of generating further funds via sponsorship donations. Sat., Feb. 15, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., will see yoga exercises and talks. Sun., Feb. 16, from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., will feature the Big Love Birthday Bash, with performances by Pharaohs, Christine Cole, Robert Locke and Anny Finnestad, followed by the Big Love Dance Party, from 10:30 p.m. to 3 a.m., with performances by Neufeld and Rebecca Foon of Saltland, plus beats by DJ’s. “I believe this fundraiser will raise a significant sum of money for G.L.W.D. over the two days at the Ace Hotel, doubling as a birthday party and a fundraiser for this charity,” Patrick said. “I’m excited by the prospect of having many people in my community become involved in the act of selfless service through their participation in this fundraiser event, as the money they will be raising will go toward feeding a lot of wonderful souls in need of nourishment.” For more information about how to register for Patrick’s Big Love Weekend or to donate, visit

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February 13 - February 26, 2014

Anger builds as escalator is still broken at E. Broadway subway B Y SA M S P O K O NY After 18 months of delays and several missed deadlines, Chinatown/Lower East Side residents and officials are still calling on the M.T.A. to fix a broken escalator at the E. Broadway subway station. That escalator inside the F train station — which is located at the corner of E. Broadway and Rutgers St. and far from other subway stops — has been out of service since August 2012, preventing many elderly and disabled locals from using what is essentially a lifeline for citywide transit. “We need this done as soon as possible,” said Irene Alladice, a senior from the Gouverneur Gardens housing complex, at a Jan. 31 rally outside the station, during which residents and advocates were joined by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and State Sen. Daniel Squadron. Another local senior, Jocelyne CunyPanicker, 75, said that walking down the station’s 81-step staircase causes her intense back pain that worsens with each trip. “But I have to do it,” she added, shaking her head, since it’s the only station within walking distance for her. “I have no choice.” John Raskin, executive director of the advocacy group Riders Alliance, noted during the rally that one of the first complaints his organization received, after its founding in 2012, was from an Essex St. resident who

Downtown Express photo by Sam Spokony

Gouverneur Gardens resident Irene Alladice, flanked by Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, urged the M.T.A. to finally finish its work on the E. Broadway subway escalator.

wanted the escalator to be fixed. “And it’s not just one person,” said Raskin, “because there are 13,000 people who use the E. Broadway subway station on an average weekday, and many of them really need that escalator.” The Metropolitan ‘Transportation

Authority’s work at the station began because the agency was replacing the previous 24-inch-wide escalator with a new 40-inch-wide model, and it was initially scheduled to be completed in August 2013, according to an authority spokesperson. The project was then stalled after

Hurricane Sandy struck in October 2012, when agency resources had to be prioritized for other stations that were more heavily damaged by the storm, according to the spokesperson. Later, Con Edison interrupted the work while replacing two generators within the station, the M.T.A. rep said, which pushed back the deadline to Dec. 2013. Then, after apparent problems with some escalator equipment during recent tests, the transit authority has once again lagged behind schedule — now saying the escalator will be back in service by Feb. 28. In response to the latest missed deadline, the elected officials had a very clear message for the M.T.A. during their Jan. 31 rally. “We will not accept another delay,” said Silver. “We are a community of many seniors,” he continued, “and we pride ourselves on the fact that our seniors don’t need institutionalization, because we provide services that allow them to stay here. This is one of those necessary services.” The electeds also declared that they’d be back on the scene for another rally if the job isn’t completed by Feb. 28. “It’s time for the M.T.A. to prioritize this challenge and get this escalator fixed,” said Squadron. “Not next month, not in three weeks, but immediately.”


February 13 - February 26, 2014

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February 13 - February 26, 2014

B Y J A NE L B L A D O W Snow. Ice. Cold. Hearts. Chocolate. Love. It must be February. What better way to comfort the body and warm the soul than with good food. Two restaurants. Two chefs. Two different approaches to fun. Too cool!


but once you read on, you’ll see what I mean. I recently sat down at Acqua Restaurant & Wine Bar (21 Peck Slip) with executive chef Ivan Beacco and Water St. neighbor Peter Jamros of Regal Wine Imports. The two are cooking up an eating event that is sure to tempt and delight discerning and picky palates alike. “Chef’s Wine Dinner Series” is a fivecourse menu with wine skillfully paired with each dish. A culinary collaboration! “We want to create a memory for people,” the chef explained. “This will be novel for the neighborhood, a whole different caliber of culinary experience.” “I was open to an opportunity like this,” added Jamros, who lives on the next block and was formerly the wine specialist at Babbo on Waverly Place. “We want to creatively pair foods and wines not seen together on a regular basis.” And what a marriage of a meal and wine it is. The program opens with a brilliant “brodetto di pomodoro,” a clear tomato consommé paired with a crisp Soave Classico – Dama del Rovere 2012. Beacco reduces 10 pounds of tomatoes to make one pound of consommé. He strains the broth until it’s a crystal clear golden color bursting with tomato flavor. Slivers of carrot and radish float colorfully in the translucent soup which he sprinkles with rings of raw scallions. For digestion, he said. But the ah! on top is the extra virgin olive oil caviar that pop in your mouth. The second course is as outstanding as it is original – “Crema bruciata al pecorino” – complemented with an equally unusual wine – Palagrello Bianco, Terre di Volturno. What? Crème brulee as a second dish? And with cheese? Chef makes a light, smooth, creamy crème with a sharp pecorino cheese. On top, he caramelizes shallots with a crisp sugary crust. The combination of cheese, sugar and onion is spectacular. No wonder it is his signature dish. The wine is a delicate, crisp white made from the ancient, rare Palagrello green grape that was only rediscovered 20 years ago in the south of Italy. Course three is “fusi all’orso” served with Chianti Classico Riserva ai Frati, which is aged 18 years in wood. The dish consists of handmade and folded penne pasta served with a black bear ragu. Yes, the chef brought in wild-caught bear meat from Arizona that he marinates for 48 hours and carefully simmers for another few hours until it becomes this rich, thick red sauce with tender meaty bits. But the dish that surprised me the most is

the next course, “Polip vasocotto alle radici” with Etna Rosso. Here the chef vacuum pressure cooked Spanish octopus with winter root vegetables, and served it with a squid ink mousse. The presentation is as breathtaking as the dish. Raw octopus, vegetables and herbs are sealed and steamed in individual glass containers and served on a small tray with a small bowl of mousse for dipping. Unsealed lid releases the most aromatic steam ever encountered. The wine is Pietro Caciorgna 2012 from the black soil of Sicily at the foot of Mount Etna. And it all leads up to the final course – “Risotto dolce alle mandorie e cioccolate” – with a Lambrusco Dolce Fiore. Risotto is cooked in almond milk then swirled with slivers of toasted almonds, rich dark chocolate and salty caramel sauce. The texture and taste is tantalizing. The wine is Alfredo Bertolani NV which has just the right sweetness. Acqua hopes to hold the event four times a year, celebrating the foods of each season, drawing on Chef Beacco’s creativity. Peter Jamros will select wines to complement each dish. The first Wine Dinner is on Thursday, Feb. 27. There will be one seating at 7:30 p.m. for 45 patrons only, $95 per person plus taxes and gratuities. Reservations required (212349-4433).


Also cooking up an ingenious idea is SUteiShi (24 Peck Slip). On the last two Saturdays, little chef-wannabes joined sushi chef Paul Tun to learn the intricacies of making sushi rolls. Boys and girls ages 5 to 9 donned aprons and bandanas to cover their hair then washed their hands – a lesson in the importance of cleanliness in cooking. The 45-minute class starts with a knife demo by Tun and an explanation of the difference of sushi rice from regular rice. Seaweed wrappers are laid out for each child who then adds rice and chopped veggies to spool into a cylinder to make their very first, very own California roll. “We help them cut their roll then they get to enjoy it,” SUteiShi’s Victor Chen told us. “They work at the sushi bar and even get to go behind to see how it feels to be the chef.” So far, the kids enjoyed themselves and their rolls while their parents furiously snapped photos with their phones while some sipped sake-tinis. “We wanted to do something to give back to the neighborhood for all the support we received after Sandy. This is a way for us to become involved with the community,” added Chen. “We also want to express how we at SUteiShi are a kid-friendly place.” Kid sushi chef classes are every Saturday at 4 p.m., $9.95, and last 45-minutes. There’s space for five kids only so reservations are a must (212.766.2344).

HILLBILLY HAVEN… Monday night it was a

hot hoe-down time in our local honky-tonk. Cowgirl Seahorse (259 Front St.) played

Chef Paul Tun helps little sushi chef student Aliyah make a California Roll at SUteiShi.

host to their very first “Hillbilly Supergroup Jam.” The night featured an amalgamation of some of New York City’s most popular bluegrass bands – The Crusty Gentlemen, The Idiot Brigade, The Spring Glen Warblers

and The Pens. If you were there, you know the hillbillies kick, er, rock. If you missed it, stop by most Monday nights, 8 p.m., when The Crusty Gentlemen perform, often with surprise guests dropping in. Show is free.

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February 13 - February 26, 2014

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Obama still hesitating on gay rights FACED WITH NEARLY UNREMITTING OPPOSITION

from congressional Republicans, President Barack Obama has, in the past couple of years and even more so in recent days, spoken about moving his agenda forward through the issuance of executive orders and other administrative actions. In perhaps the most dramatic example of that approach, the president used his State of the Union Address last month to underscore his commitment to get around GOP roadblocks against a minimum wage increase by issuing an order that contractors doing business with the federal government must pay their employees at least $10.10 per hour. Currently, the federal minimum wage is only $7.25. In an economy that has experienced a steady widening of the gap between society’s richest and poorest, the president’s actions represent a commendable show of leadership. But his willingness to enforce a minimum wage on federal contractors makes his continued failure to enforce on that very same class of companies requirements that they abide by nondiscrimination practices when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity all the more difficult to understand. On repeated occasions, the administration’s response to questions about a nondiscrimination executive order has consisted of simply pointing to Obama’s support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In fact, in a recent exchange with the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson, who has done exemplary work in bringing this issue up at White House briefings, press secretary Jay Carney was more than a bit petulant, saying,

“Chris, you know, we’ve talked about this a lot” — “this” being something Carney insisted on dismissing as “a hypothetical executive order for L.G.B.T. non-discrimination for federal contractors.” But if that’s the wrong approach, it’s hard to discern the advantages of the administration’s approach — continuing to push for ENDA, which the Republican leadership in the House has made clear it has no intention of moving on. In fact, the Blade also reported, Speaker John Boehner recently told members of the House L.G.B.T. Equality Caucus that there was “no way” the measure, approved for the first time by the Senate — after more than 20 years — in November, would get a floor vote in the House this year. Clearly, Republican intransigence on L.G.B.T. jobs protections is at least as great as their opposition to raising the minimum wage. And the president can address both issues in precisely the same way, by enforcing a mandate on those who wish to profit by doing business with the federal government. That group is far from all companies, of course, but the breadth of businesses that are federal contractors means that such executive action can have profound influence on what the overall environment is for L.G.B.T. employees nationwide. Increasingly, in order to be competitive in the labor market, even companies that don’t do business with the federal government will see the wisdom in adopting workplace fairness guidelines. Currently, 29 states offer no private sector employment protections for L.G.B.T. workers — and lest anyone think that New York has

surmounted that hurdle, it should be remembered that the Empire State is among another six that offer protections based only on sexual orientation, not gender identity. In 2012, Tico Almeida, who as founder of Freedom to Work is among the strongest proponents of a presidential executive order, pressed the administration hard on this issue as Obama campaigned for reelection. Many gay voters, however, largely focused on the president’s embrace that May of marriage equality. Even advocates working alongside Almeida to see an executive order become a reality thought that action was more likely in a second term and so were willing to give Obama time. The time for patience is over — in fact, it was a long time ago. With Democrats widely expected to fall short in their hopes of regaining the House this November, there is a very good chance that Obama will never have the opportunity to sign ENDA into law. But as with an executive order on the minimum wage, the president can achieve a lot with the stroke of the pen. In an interview with Bloomberg News, John Podesta, recently named a White House counselor, broke with the administration’s pattern of dodging the issue, saying a nondiscrimination executive order “is under consideration at the White House. We’re looking at that.” Let’s hope that on this one, it is Podesta and not Carney who speaks for the president. Paul Shindler is editor-in-chief of Gay City News, a sister publication of Downtown Express.


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“A source close to [Councilmember] Chin had said on Wednesday that the creation of a task force with the Howard Hughes Corp. would likely have the effect of halting the project.” Why does Chin always have some flack speak for her? Too worried to speak directly to the people, Margaret? Southbridger Who elected the EDC? No one. Who are they speaking for? David S.

Fish Market site, and only the Public can grant it that right. The Public has spoken on multiple occasions to indicate clearly that it will NOT grant the Fish Market to Howard Hughes. Also, the EDC does not “own” the Seaport. They are its current property manager on behalf of the People of New York. Robert LaValva

The proposal in question differs radically from the Pier 17 ULURP for one significant reason: Howard Hughes does not have a lease on the

Downtown Express welcomes letters to The Editor. They must include the writer’s first and last name, a phone number for confirmation purposes only, and any


The fireworks stopped is why ppl stopped coming. It’s boring. booyaa



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Love watching the lion dances in Chinatown on Chinese New Year. Karlin and the Freemasons are the Best !!! King

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February 13 - February 26, 2014


Downtown reacts to Weisbrod appointment Continued from page 1

He joked that he was no Dick Cheney, who headed George W. Bush’s search for a vice presidential running mate before being selected to run. De Blasio said Weisbrod, 69, “was slightly aghast when I forcefully submitted his own name.” “I’m a little surprised to see myself up here,” Weisbrod said. He noted de Blasio’s “extraordinary powers of persuasion.” Creating affordable housing will be Weisbrod’s chief responsibility, as de Blasio described it. But Planning will also have a hand in helping improve other interlinked aspects of the city that affect the middle class, from job creation and transportation to schools. No one, de Blasio said, is more qualified for the job than Weisbrod, who has deep experience in New York City urban planning and neighborhood revitalization. “Now, he’ll take on the greatest challenge of our time — the crisis of affordability and the crisis of inequality that grips this city,” de Blasio said of his new Planning czar. Planning will also focus on creating new manufacturing and industrial uses to provide “good jobs with wages and benefits a family can actually live on,” the mayor added. “All of that will take an extraordinary effort and we’ve chosen an extraordinary leader to help us get there,” de Blasio said of Weisbrod. The Planning commissioner will work closely with Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen in all these efforts. Recently, Weisbrod spearheaded the Trinity Real Estate-led rezoning of Hudson Square to allow residential use and make it more of a 24/7 neighborhood. He was the founding president of Lower Manhattan’s Alliance, the city’s largest business improvement district, and was at its helm on 9/11. With the help of a national organization, Seedco, Weisbrod was able to get some of the first grants to help small businesses near the World Trade Center begin to recover. While at the Alliance from 1995 to 2005, he developed a strong relationship with Community Board 1, and worked with the board to develop a plan to redevelop the East River waterfront on the Lower East Side, which was largely adopted by the Bloomberg administration. Twenty years ago, he was the founding president of the Economic Development Corporation under Mayor Dinkins. He has often said that the agreement to build what is now the Citi headquarters in Tribeca was one of the best economic development deals he

Carl Weisbrod

ever did because it also included the construction of P.S. 234, which fueled the residential growth of the neighborhood. In the 1980s and ’90s, Weisbrod famously played a key role in the redevelopment of Times Square from a seedy X-rated district

administration of former Mayor John Lindsay. However, during his subsequent career, he has never really been associated with affordable housing — though that will obviously be his primary focus now. “I welcome this opportunity to help shape

‘He listens and he is honest, and though he generally knows more than everyone else in a discussion, I’ve never seen Carl use his advantage inappropriately.’ to the family-friendly entertainment zone it is today. Most recently he was a partner with HR&Advisors, one of the city’s most influential planning consulting firms, and was advising on the creation of a new Meatpacking District BID. Weisbrod, a native New Yorker, started out as a young anti-poverty lawyer in the

New York City’s destiny and especially to help address the challenge of meeting Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious goal of creating and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing,” he said. He added he’s looking forward to working with Deputy Mayor Glen on jobs creation, and also hopes “to solidify and enhance New York City’s status as the greatest city in the


W W W. D O W N T O W N E X P R E S S . C O M

world and the epicenter of culture and commerce. “I’ve devoted most of my career to revitalizing New York City neighborhoods — Times Square, Lower Manhattan and Hudson Square — and I’m excited about doing that in neighborhoods throughout the city,” Weisbrod said. “In the neighborhoods I’ve worked in, I have learned the importance of being part of the neighborhood and not just an emissary from the city. I am committed to having City Planning staff deeply embedded and empowered in the neighborhoods we serve. I learned a long time ago that New York City’s greatest strengths are its neighborhoods and the rich diversity of our residents.” Local leaders had high praise for Weisbrod. Tobi Bergman, chairperson of Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee, said an important job for the Planning honcho will be to work out the new air rights transfer provision for Hudson River Park. “I think everyone knows he has a track record of achievement,” Bergman said. “What I like most about him is that when you disagree with him, as will happen, a conversation begins. He looks for common ground. “It’s a big plus that he arrives fully educated about the importance of Hudson River Park for Manhattan’s Lower West Side and about the crisis the park faces unless longterm revenue sources are secured,” Bergman added. “Using air rights from the park will require either a rezoning or a General Project Plan from the state. Either way, City Planning will be involved.” Rich Caccappolo, C.B. 2 Parks Committee chairperson, who has been active on Hudson River Park issues, said, “I don’t know of anyone with more extensive experience. I’ve always been impressed by him and enjoyed my interactions with him because he listens and he is honest, and though he generally knows more than everyone else in a discussion, I’ve never seen Carl use his advantage inappropriately.” Madelyn Wils, the president of the Hudson River Park Trust and the former chairperson of Community Board 1, called Weisbrod “effective” and a “steady hand.” “Carl is one of the most thoughtful and smartest people I know,” she said. “Our careers intersected multiple times and ways over the last 25 years. The city of New York will be in great hands as he assumes his new position as chairperson of City Planning. One of Carl’s many great gifts is his ability to be effective — a critical talent in any business or endeavor. I look forward to working with him and experiencing his steady hand of leadership.”

With reporting by Josh Rogers


February 13 - February 26, 2014 6 - 6:30 p.m. Trilingual Story Time: Enjoy classic stories, songs, and rhymes in English, French, and Spanish. For children of all ages. Free. Feb. 26, 4 p.m.


BATTERY PARK CITY PARKS CONSERVANCY 212-267-9700 Battery Park City Ballfields: All events are free take place on West St. between Murray and Warren Sts. Winter Games: Kickball, dodge-ball, flag-football, and more. Ages 7 – 12. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays – 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. Ultimate Frisbee: Enjoy a fun game of ultimate frisbee. Bring your own frisbee. For all ages. Saturdays: Feb. 15, 22 - 4 - 6 p.m. Women’s & Girls’ Soccer: Enjoy a game of soccer. Free. Drop in. Ages 12 and up. Sundays, 2 - 4 p.m. BARNES & NOBLE 97 Warren St. (212) 587-5389 Children’s Story Time. Free. Feb. 15, 11 a.m.


175 North End Ave (at Murray Street) 212-790-3499

Toddler/Adult Preschool Afterschool Arts Academy Rock the House Foundations of Fine Art 72 Teen Program Private & Group Instrumental Senior Chorus Birthday Parties

Tween Book Club: “The Face on the Milk Carton” by Caroline B. Cooney A photograph of a missing girl on a milk carton leads Janie on a search for her real identity. Join us for a discussion and snacks. Free. Best for ages 9-12. Feb. 13, 5:30 p.m. Baby Laptime for Pre-Walkers: Babies and their caregivers can enjoy simple stories, lively songs and rhymes, and meet other babies in the neighborhood. Limited to 25 babies; firstcome first-served. Ages 0-18 months. Free. Feb.13, 18, 20, 24, 25 - 11:30 a.m. Picture Book Time: A librarian will share classic stories and new picture books. Free. For children of all ages. Feb. 18, 25 - 4 p.m. Toddler Story Time: A librarian will share lively picture books, finger plays, and action songs with toddlers and their caregivers. Ages 12-36 months. Free. Feb. 15, 19, 26 10:30 am. Feb. 24 - 4 p.m. Slumber Party at the Library: Wind down for the evening with a special bedtime story time session. Be sure to wear your pajamas. For children of all ages. Free. Feb. 20,

103 Charlton St. Admission - $11 (seniors and 0-12 months free, from 4-6 p.m.) 212-274-0986 Tiny Button Time: Children will use an image to create a button to collect or pin to their jacket. Ages 5 and up. Feb. 13, 4 – 6 p.m. Imagination Compartmentalization: Children will use scratch foam and design techniques to design cabinets and label their drawers, doors, and compartments to suggest that they contain improbable treasures. Ages 5 and up. Feb. 14, 3 – 6 p.m. Trading Cards: Children will create three trading cards, using various drawing tools. Ages 5 and up. Feb. 15,16, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Paper Insects: Children will create their very own insect using drawing, cutouts, wire antennas, etc. They will then brainstorm and create a miniature environment for their insect Free. Ages 5 and up. Feb. 18, 12 – 5 p.m. Letter Collections: Children will create a collection of letters, and learn to appreciate the value in font and hand-writing. Ages 5 and up. Feb. 19, 21, 3 – 5 p.m. Mondrian/Lichtenstein Mashup: Children will take inspiration from Piet Mondrian’s abstract works and Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art. With these concepts in mind, they will create a mashup, or a work combining elements inspired by both artists. Ages 5 and up. Feb. 20, 3 – 6 p.m. Watts Tower Weekend: Children will examine detailed images of work by Simon Rodia and make art inspired by his Watts Tower creation, while they explore the strong connection between Rodia and Vanessa German’s works. They will create a miniature version of one of the spires Ages 5 and up. Feb. 22, 23, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Night Blooming Flowers: Examining old botanical drawings and photos, children will then use odd materials to make their flowers, such as foil or plastic, and will have the opportunity to be experimental in their approach. Ages 5 and up.Feb. 24, 3 – 5 p.m. Sock Drawers: Children will attempt to draw every single pair of socks they own and arrange them in the fashion of pinned butterflies within a velvet (or velvety material) lined drawer.Ages 5 and up. Feb. 26, 3 – 5 p.m.


9 Murray St. (between Broadway and Church St.) 212-732-8186 Story Time: Children and their caregivers can enjoy interactive stories, action songs, fingerplays, and spend time with other children in the neighborhood. Free. Ages 18 - 36 months. First come, first served. Feb. 13, 18, 20, 25 - 11 a.m. (doors lock at 10:35), noon (doors lock at 11:35). Scene it @ the Library: Family Movie Matinee: A fun family movie every Saturday on the big screen at 4 p.m. Free. For all ages. Bring your own popcorn. Feb. 15 – “A Charlie Brown Valentine,” Feb. 22 – “The Croods.” Leggo My Legos-Block Time: Children are invited to play with piles of blocks. Bring a toy car to drive around the tiny town on the floor. Join us as children learn to improve and develop their interpersonal skills through play. For children,18 to 36 months. Free. Feb. 19, 26 - 11 - 11:45 a.m.


39 Battery Place, 212-968-1961 Which is the Greenest?: Children will explore different types of communities and their relationship to the environment. They will learn the benefits of living in urban and suburban communities and decide which one is the greenest. Ages 5 and up. $5. Feb. 22, 10:30 - 11:45 a.m.


74 Trinity Place, 212-602-0800 Family Friday Pizza and Movie Night: Relax with your kids and meet other downtown families for free pizza and children’s movies on the third Friday of every month. All families with young children are welcome. Free. Donations to support Family Friday are welcome. (107 Greenwich St., rear of 74 Trinity Place, btw. Rector & Carlisle Sts.) Feb. 21, 6 - 7:30 p.m. For more information contact Lisa Bridge at

Send info for Youth Activities events happening south of Canal St. to:

Friday, February 21 - Sunday, February 23


490 Hudson Street

Spring semester begins Feb. 4th. Register Today! FREE Open house Feb. 9th

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Come Explore The World of Paper! Plus collectables, prints & more! Friday 6pm - 9pm Saturday 12pm - 6pm Sunday 12pm - 5pm


February 13 - February 26, 2014

It’s a Love Revolution

Black Panther Party-based ‘Othello’ has heart, soul and claws THEATER OTHELLO: THE PANTHER

Presented by Rebel Theater Company, Be. Do. Fly!, & The Nuyorican Poets Cafe Conceived, Written & Directed by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj Co-Written by Jonas Goslow Based on Shakespeare’s “Othello, the Moor of Venice” Through Feb. 23 Thurs. & Fri. at 7pm Sat. & Sun. at 6pm (except Feb. 23: 2pm) At Nuyorican Poets Cafe 236 East Third Street (btw. Aves. B & C) Tickets: $25 in advance, $30 at the door To order, visit nuyorican.orgg

BY SCOTT STIFFLER Dressed in the common threads of the cause, fist raised and surrounded by an intense, engaged group of brothers and sisters, you feel like you’re an important part of something bigger than yourself. But beyond the surface of that determined call and response chant (“Power to the people! All the people!”), somebody’s plotting your downfall — and if they get the power, chances are it won’t be used to elevate anyone other than themselves. It’s 1982, and we’re in Oakland, California. After sixteen years of smear campaigns, harassment, infiltration and the jailing of its leadership, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense is on the ropes. Now comes word that the Harlem chapter has been raided, along with talk that the feds are “making mighty preparation to descend on Oakland” for a similar action that will also target the group’s free clinics and breakfast programs for “heavy disruption.” In the midst of crisis, though, there’s opportunity: Honorable Minister Ray has interrupted the group’s political education and synchronized callisthenic session to announce that good soldier Othello has been

Photo by Adam Mace

Come together, right now: a capable, 30+ cast gives “Othello: The Panther” its muscular kick.

anointed to lead a defense and retaliation movement. Ordered to report to his new safe house at 7am, Othello and his new bride, Desdemona, will have a very short honeymoon. So the two lovebirds (one black, one white) retreat for a few hours alone — she, cooing Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” and he, slow-jamming Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” But not everybody is singing a happy refrain. Desdemona’s would-be suitor, Rod Amigo, and her mother, Isabelle, are both locked into rage mode — and the leadership shakeup caused by Othello’s ascension puts Iago and Cassio at odds. With the movement forced underground, jealousy, ambition and love are about to do far more damage than the best efforts of the media, the feds and local law enforcement. That’s the high-stakes plot of “Othello: The Panther” — an ambitious, charismatic and exceedingly well-done adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Othello: The Moor of Venice” that scatters its multicultural cast throughout the theater-in-the-round setting of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Mere feet from rubbing shoulders with them, the air crackles and the floor shakes with the coiled intensity of over two dozen Panthers ready to strike down outside aggressors or, more likely, turn on their own. Seen by this paper for review on the night before its official February 1 premiere, co-writer and director Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj welcomed the audience with a few notes, and one disclaimer. His request to

forgive common dress rehearsal gremlins such as blown lines, missed lighting cues and forced stops proved unnecessary. Every element of the production (a lean, muscular, two-plus hours) was ready for prime time — with its cast navigating the dense script (a 60/40 blend of new and old) with confidence, precision and ease (well, they made it look easy). Maharaj was similarly upfront about the production’s desire to shift hearts and minds from viewing the Panthers as violence-prone race baiters (a false image created by the media and government, he asserts). By setting his “Othello” in the movement’s waning days, all the better to emphasize their selfdetermination, community activism, racial inclusion and gender equality. Truth be told, the Panthers (in any stage of their existence) could do a lot better in that last department. That much is said, and more, in a frank discussion between Desdemona and Iago’s love, Emilia (Kubbi, in a particularly nuanced performance). It’s one of the play’s best scenes, with Emilia lashing out at the “childish jealousies” that are wreaking havoc with group cohesion and domestic tranquility. “Husbands must know,” she warns, that “their wives are human too: they see and smell and have all kinds of tastes for sweet and sour, as husbands have.” To their credit, Maharaj and his collaborators (co-writer Jonas Goslow, and assistant directors/associate producers Adam Mace and Arielle Gannon) don’t let the movement (or mankind in general) off the hook for

these, and other, transgressions. Like any group of people who come together for a single purpose (whether it’s the office Secret Santa pool or a political party), interpersonal conflict is always in a land grab with the big picture goals. As for sussing out the true nature of the movement, there’s more than one play to be written about the Panther Party’s teachings and deeds. But this production, obligated as it is to follow the narrative of “Othello,” does very well by spending the lion’s share of its time exploring “the contemporary role that race plays in politics” and examining “conflicts in groups that advocate for progressive social change.” It’s a trip worth taking, as much for the performances as for the political enlightenment. Initially written (and beautifully played) as a blissed-out hippie chick whose love revolution platitudes seem as empty as they are naive, Kaitlyn Schirard’s Desdemona quickly settles into her role as the production’s closest thing to a pure soul in possession of a solid moral core. That said, the writers (of the new stuff and the original) aren’t above taking a page from scheming Iago’s playbook, by planting seeds of doubt that grow into nagging suspicions. Doth the lady protest too much, when her forceful advocacy on behalf of Cassio is pegged for romantic interest? Hey, if she’ll lie about that, maybe she isn’t even pregnant. And what about the erudite, physically imposing, increasingly brooding Othello? He connects the dots of history, politics, race and class with surgical precision — yet remains blind to the fact that Iago (Jonas Goslow, calculating and brilliant throughout) is feeding him cues that paint his closest allies as sinister traitors. Are we actually supposed to be rooting for this guy? For all but a few of his fellow Panthers, it’s an easy choice to follow the leader — thanks largely to the outward confidence that Kena Anae brings to his deeply conflicted Othello. When he implores his followers to remember him as “one that loved, not wisely, but too much,” we feel it. So who’s the real villain? It’s difficult to tell — a phrase that would make a fitting epitaph for the multitude of gravestones somebody’s going to have to pay for by the end of the play. This being a Shakespearian tragedy, it’s no spoiler to note that most of the main characters, whether drawn as black, white or gray, end up meeting the business end of a dagger. Only falsely accused Cassio (Nathanial Ryan, poignant in wounded mode and even better once redeemed) lives to see another day — and instructs his Panthers to be brave, seize upon the triumphs of past deeds, and know that all who define themselves through love and sacrifice are true revolutionaries.


February 13 - February 26, 2014

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BY SCOTT STIFFLER Back in the day, before a quick Google search did the all the heavy lifting, you had to be an extremely motivated sleuth to piece together a complete stranger’s dossier. Brick and mortar research methods like a trip to the library, poring over the city’s daily papers and informed gossip just might do the job — but even then, your enormous investment of time usually dredged up just as many questions as answers. So when a seemingly happy couple vanishes from their immaculate loft with no signs of struggle — and quick escape essentials like passports left behind — it eats away at a person whose bread and butter involves peering into the domestic life of other people. It’s 1997, and intense navel-gazer Toni Schlesinger — a Village Voice writer who profiles the layout, design and relative affordability of NYC apartments — makes a bid to cover the disappearance of Michael Sullivan and Camden Sylvia from their low-rent FiDi loft. Her editor’s gruff, dismissive response: “I have better people to work on it. Go back to your ‘Shelter’ column.” He might as well have told her she had his blessing, unlimited resources and all the time in the world to solve “The Mystery of Pearl Street.” Maybe he did. Maybe she just imagined his firm opposition so she’d have a righteous springboard from which to dive into the murky waters of a missing persons case. And why not? It’s a perfect fit for her obsessive need to form a single, satisfac-

Photo: ©2014 Jim R Moore

“The vanishing headline is the marmalade on everyone’s toast.”

tory picture from a million scattered puzzle pieces. Flash forward to the present. That nice couple has yet to be found, and Schlesinger still hasn’t abandoned the quest for closure. We find her (or more accurately, an enigmatic doppelganger known only as “The Writer”) nursing a scotch and locked in gumshoe detective mode, having a one-sided conversation with “The Man.” This happens at twilight, mere blocks from the Pearl Street (crime?) scene, at a jazzy cocktail room drenched in dreamy blue light. It’s the perfect setting for spies, murderers and others who do their best work in the shadows. Laying out the tangled web of possibilities (augmented by projected images of tabloid headlines, mystery movies and investigative ephemera), The Writer’s true crime tangent keeps us guessing: Was it a suicide pact? Amnesia? Maybe they joined a cult, or were drowned during a gang attack… or maybe the landlord (whose backstory is plenty suspicious) offed them “just because they were only paying $306, one-tenth the 1997 market rate, for a 1,200-square foot loft and pestering him for more heat all the time.” With almost two decades worth of time to mull things over and no real answers to show for her effort, The Writer’s connect-the-dots curiosity has nowhere to go but inward. “Why did the Pearl Street mystery have such a grip?” she wonders aloud. “Was the street a replacement for my mother who said she never wanted a child?” Maybe it’s more about her own existential desire to disappear, or reconcile the collateral damage of love and loss (her mother’s name was Pearl, by the way). Like the fate of Sullivan and Sylvia, you’ll probably never know — but long after this play closes, you might find yourself up at night, providing your own end to the mystery.


February 13 - February 26, 2014

Buhmann on Art





FEBRUARY 20-22, 2014

For the past ten years, Herzog has stapled found textiles onto walls. Bedspreads and carpets, for example, are mounted by using thousands of metal staples. Parts of the fabric and staples are then removed and sometimes reapplied, leaving a vivid aftermath of shredded material and perforated wall surface in some areas, as well as dense builtup areas elsewhere. Physically, these “sculptural drawings” reflect vigorous acts of penetrating, distressing and ornamenting the skin of the wall. As products of a chain of actions and reactions, they serve as a metaphor for the basic process involved in all human technology.

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Elana Herzog: Untitled (P83). 2013 (handmade paper, textile; 28 1/4 x 21 inches, 32 1/4 x 25 inches framed).



Credit: courtesy of LMAKprojects, NY




February 13 - February 26, 2014

July 18 - 24, 2013



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Trying to have a baby? WE CAN HELP! Genesis Fertility & Reproductive Medicine Where Life Begins Brooklyn | Staten Island | Long island (718) 283-8600 | Building Families for 25 Years!

SERVICES FOR ALL MIGRANTS Scalabrini Center For All Migrants 25-B Carmine Street (x Bleeker) Low cost legal assistance, referrals, classes. Tel: 347-606-4050;

GET HELP WITH MORTGAGE PAYMENTS! CATSKILL VILLAGE DUPLEX FOR SALE A lovely affordable duplex. Live in the 3-bedroom unit and rent out the 2-bedroom one to minimize your living expenses. Both units offer spacious rooms and off-street parking. 3-bedroom has 1 1/2 baths; 2-bedroom has 1 bath. Units are partially renovated; new kitchen appliances, new flooring, new carpets and new paint throughout. Walking distance to town, stores and restaurants. Asking $99,900 Contact Karen Deyo at Rip Van Winkle Realty 518-943-5303, or Colin at 646-641-9327.

CATSKILLS PRIVATE LAKE PROPERTIES Small Cottages and Buildable Beautiful Lakefront Land 2 Hrs, from Lower Manhattan. Call 212-925-0044



LOOKING TO BUY AND/OR SELL A CONDO? Greg Schreiber of CVR Realty/Condo Vultures 786.223.3324


NOHO 6,000 sq.ft. approx. Ground floor with drive-in for service warehouse mfg.......$40,000 per month Call Owner (212) 685-1514 COMMERCIAL SPACE


Leslie Feldman

@leslie4hair Hair missionary. I cut, color, & consult. Where less is more. Private 'non-salon' studio. ChelseaNYC |

(212) 229-1856

Ground Floor aprox 1,550 sqft $120k per Anum. Call 212-226-3100

Trying to have a baby? WE CAN HELP! Genesis Fertility & Reproductive Medicine | Where Life Begins Brooklyn | Staten Island | Long island (718) 283-8600 | Building Families for 25 Years!

February 13 - February 26, 2014


Downtown Express photos by Milo Hess

Year of the Horse Chinatown welcomed something new for its big Lunar New Year parade, Feb. 2 — a horse-drawn carriage to ring in the Year of the Horse, 4712. Lion and Dragon dancers aplenty were also on hand. The crowd seemed larger this year with the warmer weather.


February 13 - February 26, 2014











THURS. – SAT., APRIL 24 – 26 AT 7:30PM









TRIBUTE TO FREDERIC FRANKLIN FRI., MAY 30 – SUN., JUNE 1 AT 7:30PM or call 866.811.4111