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The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933

March 5, 2015 • $1.00 Volume 84 • Number 40

Ansel Kitchen will craft fresh pastries to order... Just don’t ask for Cronuts! BY TINA BENITEZ-EVES


ANSEL, continued on p. 25

Four years in the making, new Tompkins trees map leaves no leaf unturned BY MICHAEL LYDON


ow that’s my favorite tree in the park,” said Michael Natale one bitter cold February afternoon, pointing to a muchtrimmed veteran standing tall at the southeast corner of Tompkins Square Park. “A black locust and one of Tompkins’s oldest trees.”


hose hoping for the second coming of Cronuts won’t find the wildly popular, chewy, flaky croissant-doughnut hybrid at the pastry chef’s second New York City location. Mille-feuilles, baba au rhum, strawberry tarts with freshly

macerated fruit, and other à la minute, or made-to-order, desserts are what the Cronut king has in store at his new West Village bakery. Opening this spring at 137 Seventh Ave. South (between W. 10th and Charles Sts.), the 2,500-square-foot Dominique Ansel Kitchen

A squirrel stuck an inquisitive nose out of a deep fold in the tree’s gnarly brown bark, then ducked back inside. Natale chuckled. “The squirrels’ favorite tree, too — so many crevasses they can hide in!” We wandered serendipitously across the park toward the Ninth St. promenade, TREES MAP, continued on p. 12

It’s been so cold that someone even recently added winter caps to the male figures in George Segal’s “Gay Liberation” monument in Sheridan Square. The caps have since vanished, hopefully to be replaced soon by sun visors!

Mystery and memories of Soho mix in Etan case BY LINCOLN ANDERSON


s the trial of Pedro Hernandez in the Etan Patz case continues in court, it has cast a focus back on the neighborhood of 35 years ago, when the 6-year-old Soho boy tragically disappeared while on his way to school by himself for the first time. Hernandez’s trial began Jan. 5 and, from the outset, was expected to be lengthy. Soho residents from that earlier era vividly recall the

events following Patz’s vanishing, as well as the gritty, artistic enclave that Soho once was. On the morning of May 25, 1979, Etan Patz left home on Prince St., and was last seen walking west toward West Broadway, two blocks away, to catch the school bus to P.S. 3, a dozen or so blocks distant at Hudson and Grove Sts. At the time, Hernandez worked at a bodega — long since closed — at the northwest corner of Prince St. and West Broadway that was one

of Soho’s primary food depots. The school bus stop was located just north of there, midway down West Broadway toward Houston St. The prosecution charges that Hernandez confessed to police that, with the promise of a free soda, he lured Patz into the bodega’s basement. There he strangled him, then bagged and boxed the boy’s body, then dumped him in an alley on Thompson St. After confessing to police, ETAN, continued on p. 10

The Whitney Museum is 2 Boutique bandits strike 6 R.I.P. Amnon and Gray 16 Songs on the 20

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Lower Manhattan politico dismissively told us, “Julie doesn’t want to go to Albany.”


‘MINTING’ NEW OFFICERS? Well, Michael Julian’s efforts to retrain the N.Y.P.D. apparently didn’t go over so well, the New York Post recently reported. After the outrage over Eric Garner’s death due to the arresting officer’s use of a banned chokehold, Commissioner Bill Bratton brought the former Ninth Precinct commanding officer out of retirement to become deputy commissioner of training. But, as the Post reported, some of Julian’s ideas — for cops to pop breath mints when they feel the urge to curse, or to use a shpritz of baby oil to separate protesters who link arms — just didn’t fly. Julian has been reassigned as deputy chief of personnel.

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Julie Menin, at rear left, got into the mix at Chinese Lunar New Year festivities at S.D.R. Park as a nearby lion dancer readied to make a play for a head of lucky lettuce. Joining her in the fun were, from left, Councilmember Margaret Chin, State Senator Dan Squadron and former City Comptroller John Liu.

CONSUMED WITH CONSUMER AFFAIRS: Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Julie Menin recently sat down with the editors of NYC Community Media to update us on everything she has been doing over the past year at her new post. Of course, she’s still best known to Downtowners for her former work ably chairing Community Board 1 for a number of years. Among other things, she said, Mayor Bill de Blasio has made good on his pledge to reduce fines on small businesses — the mayor having stressed that such fines shouldn’t be used as revenue generators for the city. In short, these fines will be cut by $5 million over all in this fiscal year, she said. Also, in the past, very simple signage violations would result in fines, but now D.C.A. is giving merchants 30 days to fix them, she said, calling this “a sea change.” Menin has also been working hard on a campaign to get the message out to low-income families that they can apply to get cash through the Earned Income Tax Credit. D.C.A. also has an Office of Fiscal Empowerment, where anyone with debt can walk in and get advice, and the agency will even do your taxes for free. What we really wanted to know, though, was will Menin run for Sheldon Silver’s 65th Assembly District seat if the former speaker is forced to resign. (She lives just outside the district, but obviously could easily move a couple of blocks if she was interested in running.) But Menin, with a wave of her hands in the air and shaking her head, refused to discuss it, and only said she is totally focused on her job at D.C.A. right now. Offering his two cents, one local

THE WHITNEY WANTS YOU! Thanks to Chelsea’s West 400 Block Association for the tip that the Whitney Museum of American Art is looking to hire locally for its magnificent new Downtown museum. On Mon., March 9, the Whitney will hold a “Community Open House / Community Jobs Fair,” for the new art mecca, which is set to open to the public on May 1. According to Jane Carey, the Whitney’s new community affairs manager, the idea is to reach out to the local area and fill dozens of “front-ofthe-house positions.” These include visitor service assistants, guards, retail staff, stock associates and member service staff. The event will take place at the museum’s new Meatpacking District building, at 99 Gansevoort St., from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Whitney’s hiring managers will be present, and prospective applicants can learn about the new museum, meet the staff, ask questions, share their résumés and apply for open positions. A complete listing of postings with more jobs — such as archives manager, coordinator of youth programs, exhibitions assistant, theater manager and Web developer — is available on the Whitney’s Web site at JobPostings . RSVPs are required for the open house. Anyone interested can RSVP at the link,, or by e-mailing or calling 646-666-5522. WICCANS JUST CAN’T WIN: Try as they might, local pagans simply haven’t been able to cast a spell on Community Board 2. Once again, the Greenwich Village / Lower West Side board has recommended denying the wiccans and warlocks’ application for a Witchfest street fair on Astor Place. There were no publicly professed pagans present at last month’s C.B. 2 full-board vote, when the street fair was nixed. (And we didn’t feel any particularly otherworldly vibrations, either...but, hey, you never know.) As Maria Passannante-Derr, chairperson of the board’s Sidewalks and Street Activities Committee, explained, the board has nothing against druids and necromancers or their ilk, it’s just that there are too many street fairs already each year on Astor Place — five, more than any other street in C.B. 2 — while only two sponsors of these fairs might even have what the board calls an “indigenous connection” to the area. In previous years, Derr noted, the board has denied not only Witchfest, but also streetfair applications for Astor Place by the Village Crosstown Trolley and Pride on Astor “as they have never demonstrated an indigenous presence within the C.B. 2 community.” That said, Derr added, the board is still looking for help from the city’s Street Activity Permit Office, the Borough President’s Office and other community boards “to establish guidelines for a more thorough vetting of street fairs” — because, well, C.B. 2 has way too many and could use a “spell” from them.

Pols call for Albany to end vacancy decontrol BY GERARD FLYNN



hough Mayor de Blasio was notably absent, his progressive voice was resoundingly clear Monday on the frigid steps of City Hall, where Democratic pols and tenant groups repeated their demands that Albany strengthen existing rent laws, which sunset in June. Sounding a bit like Jimmy McMillan, Public Advocate Letitia James called on Governor Cuomo to “step up to the plate and recognize the rent is too damn high” and that the city is in an “affordable housing crisis.” Councilmember Jumaane Williams, chairperson of the Committee on Housing, which is proposing nine new bills to address the situation, told the crowd that a vote in June can only be considered a victory if the rent laws are strengthened. A mere extension — with its many loopholes — won’t be enough, he said. Extending the status quo, they said, would merely extend these loopholes, especially vacancy decontrol, which, if not repealed, will continue the trend of illegal evictions, and the oft-told “Tale of Two Cities” — a city for the very rich and the very poor. Under state law, rent-regulated apartments can become market rate once a tenant moves out or dies, if the rent is above $2,500. However, advocates accuse the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal of being lax in enforcement, allowing landlords to illegally deregulate apartments. Vacancy decontrol, they say, has been a windfall

Corey Johnson, right, encouraged tenants to “get on the bus” and lobby in Albany to close loopholes in the rent laws.

for many landlords and is responsible for deregulating more than 150,000 apartments during the last 10 years. “First thing he can to do is repeal vacancy decontrol,” James said of Cuomo. “Too many landlords are exploiting it.” The rally also called for an end of charges for major capital improvements or “M.C.I. increases,” which allow a landlord to make improvements to a building, then tack the cost onto tenants’ rent in perpetuity. James further called on Cuomo to end the 1971 Urstadt Law, which ended the city’s ability to govern its own rent laws. “The City Council knows best,” she said, “and are

in a position to regulate the rent laws in the city.” The net effect of these loopholes, the politicians charged, has been to create a city more geared toward the wealthy, who can afford ever-increasing rents. Speaking to that point, City Comptroller Scott Stringer told the gathering that, according to city data, between the years 2000 to 2012, there was a loss of roughly 400,000 apartments renting for $1,000 or less and a corresponding gain in the number of units renting for more than $1,000 per month. Today, less than 1 percent of the city’s available rental housing stock rents for under $700 a month, he added. Talking of building hundreds of thousands of new affordable housing units is fine, Stringer said, but he added, “If we are losing the same number of housing units on the other side, we are playing a zero-sum game. We are continuing to plunge people into homelessness.” Similarly, Councilmember Corey Johnson said, “Merely renewal is not a victory. That would not be a victory for tenants. It would lock in the existing slow-motion disaster that is vacancy decontrol — a loophole so big you can drive a truck through it. “We must end vacancy decontrol. We need better enforcement about harassment. And we need a revolution in Housing Court,” Johnson said. Otherwise, tenants will only continue to be victimized by predatory landlords, he warned. “The next three months are game time for tenants,” he declared. “Tenants have got to get on the bus, go to Albany and tell Republican and Democrats there can be no compromise.”

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Outrage as homeless man’s camp is trashed Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association Overall Design Excellence, First Place, 2013 Best Column, First Place, 2012 Photographic Excellence, First Place, 2011 Headlines, First Place, 2011 Spot News Coverage, First Place, 2010 Coverage of Environment, First Place, 2009













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March 5, 2015



bout 10 concerned neighbors confronted police officers on Feb. 11 after the latter came to the corner of Greenwich and Barrow Sts. to remove the possessions of a homeless man who camps there. The septuagenarian Japanese man known only by his first name, Katsuyuki, had left several grocery carts filled with possessions unattended near the intersection sometime before 1 p.m. that day. Meanwhile, as was his habit, he had gone to search for recyclables in the surrounding neighborhood, as temperatures plunged down into the teens. Police arrived soon afterward in response to a complaint from an unknown individual. Neighbors told the group of police officers about Katsuyuki’s situation and offered to stay to watch the possessions until he returned, according to a resident named Diane who asked that her last name not be published due to fears of future harassment from police. But the officers were not deterred by the group’s efforts, she added. A Department of Sanitation of New York garbage truck soon pulled up at the scene. The police and sanitation workers then began tossing Katsuyuki’s possessions into the truck’s trash compacter. “I tried to save some of his things and the police grabbed them out of my hands in a very aggressive manner.... . I was only able to take a yoga mat and a coat he had in a bag,” Diane said. According to a D.S.N.Y. spokesperson, sanitation workers did respond to a police request that day to remove shopping carts filled with bottles and cans from a location near the intersection of Barrow and Greenwich Sts. But no individuals nor personal belongings were present, the spokesperson added. Diane provided The Villager with photos of the incident she witnessed. In one photo, a rolled mat conspicuously sits atop bags filled with unknown contents. Another photo appears to show a blanket inside a cart as well as an umbrella protruding from a bag. Katsuyuki has been a regular presence in the area for about 10 years, according to residents. For many years he made his home closer to the intersection of Hudson and Barrow Sts., until the placement of several large planters and a Citi Bike station there. Police took some of his possessions about a year ago in a similar incident, according to residents. Just who made the complaint resulting in the seizure of Katsuyuki’s carts on Feb. 11 remains a mystery. A spokesperson for the Church of St. Luke of the Fields — whose property is adjacent to the site — denied any involvement with the most recent incident. D.S.N.Y. policy mandates that sanitation workers investigate a complaint, report their observations and take photos in response to such requests for clean-

A sanitation worker got ready to toss Katsuyuki’s possessions into a garbage truck’s trash compactor on Feb. 11.

ups, according to the spokesperson. The department contacts the city’s Department of Homeless Services in situations involving homeless people, and provides D.H.S. with its findings, the spokesperson added. D.H.S. then reviews the case and attempts to contact the homeless individuals, in an effort to offer counseling or shelter placement, according to D.S.N.Y. After completing outreach efforts, D.H.S. then contacts D.S.N.Y and gives the O.K. for cleanup, the spokesperson said. About six such cleanups occur each month, a number that has remained relatively steady in recent years, the D.S.N.Y. spokesperson said. Despite his current setbacks, Katsuyuki has no plans to move into an apartment, despite offers to connect him with social services, according to the neighbor with whom he is currently staying until it gets warmer. “Clearly, he likes the freedom, independence and challenge of camping outdoors,” the resident said in a Feb. 18 e-mail to Diane provided to The Villager. Katsuyuki displays no visible symptoms of mental illness, according to neighborhood residents who have interacted with him over the years. He reportedly came to the U.S. in 1976, some say via Brazil, and may once have worked in a restaurant. His lack of English language skills beyond simple pleasantries further adds to his mystique. Resident Gen Nishino said that he has enjoyed a cordial relationship with Katsuyuki over the years, and like other neighbors has offered him food and other comforts, for which the homeless man has been grateful. “He’s a great guy, very sweet, gentle, a survivor,” Nishino said. “He’s part of the neighborhood, always smiling, always cleaning, taking care of the sidewalk.” Katsuyuki is one of about 3,300 people who avoid the shelter system by living on city streets, according to the most recent city statistics. Many of these individuals suffer from some form of mental illness, with men and military veterans disproportionately represented. During

winter months, many homeless take to the subway system to escape freezing temperatures. The New Jersey-based Bridges Outreach is just one organization that distributes necessities like food and clothing to homeless people in Lower Manhattan. Homeless people “stick out like a sore thumb” in the increasingly swanky West Village, according to Dan RosenHanst, the group’s outreach manager. The organization serves about 30 to 50 homeless people at a distribution site on W. 34th St. and as many as 70 people near the South Ferry subway station, he said. Losing one’s possessions to the police is one hazard of living on the streets, he added. “We’ve heard that before,” he said. “It is something that happens. I don’t know how common it is. People on the streets have to worry about their stuff being taken from all types of people.” In October 2004, in a similar story, The Villager reported how police and D.S.N.Y. had one day abruptly carted away the copious piles of possessions of Leroy Lessane, a homeless man who lived outside Tompkins Square Park. The Ninth Precinct’s Tompkins Square lieutenant at the time told The Villager that Lessane was a major pack rat. On top of quality-of-life concerns caused by the piles of belongings, he said, at a certain point, police have to nip things in the bud or another Tent City could quickly take root in the park, as it did in the 1980s. Constituent complaints regarding homeless people are fairly common, according to a spokesperson for Councilmember Corey Johnson, who represents the West Village. Police told his office that the complaint about Katsuyuki resulted from vermin living near his camping site, according to the spokesperson. “With temperatures at record lows, the homeless need our help now more than ever,” Johnson said in a statement. “We’ve got to help them while balancing their needs with the needs of local residents and merchants.”

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Police have linked the following cases to the above incident. However, in these robberies, there was only one suspect. In each incident, he displayed a knife and demanded currency. On Fri., Jan. 23, around 4:45 p.m., the suspect again hit the East Village, entering Bond Street Chocolate, at 63 E. Fourth St., stealing $250 and fleeing. The robber’s next three targets were in Nolita. On Tues., Jan. 27, at around 8 p.m., the suspect entered an art gallery at 262 Mott St., grabbed $55 and fled. On Fri., Jan. 30, at about 7:40 p.m., he entered a Police and medical examiners carried out the body of a man who was fatally clothing boutique at 251 struck in the subway by an L train at First Ave. on Thurs., Feb. 26. The man Elizabeth St., but fled appeared to intentionally jump into the path of the Brooklyn-bound train, without any cash. witnesses said. On Sat., Feb. 21, at 1:50 p.m., the man entered a clothing store at 260 Mott St., took $275 and fled. Boutique bandits On Mon., Feb. 23, at roughly 7:15 p.m., the sus Police are now linking a crook to seven robber- pect struck in Soho, where he entered the Molton ies of Downtown-area boutiques and shops since Brown bath-and-body shop at 128 Spring St., stole January. In at least some of them, the suspect has $400 in cash and fled. Police have added one more robbery to the pattern, though, this once again included two suspects. The second suspect always acts as a lookout, standing outside the location, according to police. On Fri., Feb. 27, at 9:43 p.m., the pair of perps targeted Wine Therapy, at 171 Elizabeth St., in Little Italy. One of them displayed a knife, they stole $1,000 and fled. The suspect in a sketch released by police is described as 5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet tall and in his 30s. The other man is described as in his late 20s, about 5-feet-8 and 180 pounds; previous police reports have said both men fit this latter description. In addition to the sketch, police have released videos and photos of the suspects, who both wore hoodies during the robberies. Police ask anyone with information regarding this incident to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577TIPS (8477). Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site,, or by texting them to 274637 A police sketch of the main robbery-pattern suspect. (CRIMES), and then entering TIP577. All tips are strictly confidential. been accompanied by an accomplice. In the first robbery, on Wed., Jan. 21, at 5:30 p.m., Ave. D ‘shooter’ nabbed the two suspects entered Goldwater Boutique, at 84 E. Seventh St., in the East Village. One of them, On Thurs., Feb. 26, the Daily News reported that brandishing a knife, approached an employee and the man suspected of fatally shooting an aspiring demanded money. The employee complied, and East Village rapper outside his home in the Lillian handed him $240. The robbers fled and the victim Wald Houses on Avenue D on Mon., Feb. 23, was was unharmed. arrested in New Jersey and was being questioned


March 5, 2015

at the East Village’s Ninth Precinct. Shaquille Fuller, 21, a resident of 60 Avenue D, also in the Wald Houses, was taken into custody in Irvington, N.J., early last Thursday, the News reported. However, as of press time this week, no charges had been filed against Fuller, police said. “He is in police custody and charges in New York are pending,” a police spokesperson told The Villager on Tues., March 3. Another department spokesperson pointed out that, contrary to the News’s report, Fuller has not technically been arrested — and that he cannot be arrested until he is charged by the New York Police Department. Contrary to the News’s report, the spokespersons said it’s possible that Fuller is still in New Jersey, in which case extradition hearings would be needed to bring him back to the city. It was not immediately clear, as of press time, if Fuller was still being held in New Jersey or had been extradited to New York. According to police, Fuller shot Isaac, 33, three times in the chest outside 20 Avenue D, at 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 23. The two reportedly had been overheard arguing before the shooting. Isaac, who rapped as Sham Da God, was taken to Beth Israel Hospital, where he died. Fuller fled into the Wald Houses on F.D.R. Drive, then eluded police for several days. He was ID’d by surveillance video from near the shooting. Isaac’s career as a rapper was reportedly set to “blow up” as he was poised to sign a contract with a major producer.

East River body Police reported that a body was recovered from the East River at E. 36th St. and the F.D.R. Drive on Fri., Feb. 27, at 12:59 p.m. More information was not available by press time.

Cab clash Two taxi passengers, one male and the other female, got into a scuffle with a 30-year-old man after he asked them to leave the vehicle at about 1:30 a.m. on Thurs., Feb. 26. The male rider responded to the request by unleashing a punch and soon he and the other man continued the fight on the ground, resulting in some scraped knees for the victim, police say. A witness at the scene, in front of 388 Sixth Ave., tried to break it up but could not keep the woman from striking the victim as well. Responding police found a gravity knife in her possession upon arrest, according to a police report. John Moroney, 26, was charged with misdemeanor assault. Laura Lombardi, 25, was charged with misdemeanor criminal possession of a weapon. POLICE BLOTTER, continued on p. 7

POLICE BLOTTER, continued from p. 6

Things got pretty hairy Police said that, at about 3 a.m. on Sun., March 1, they observed one woman walk over to another in front of 5 Ninth Ave. in the Meatpacking District’s Gansevoort Square, then grab the other woman’s hair and pull her down into a planter. The attacker then allegedly kicked the victim, age 26, in the ribs. Multiple officers were necessary to dislodge the perpetrator’s grasp on the victim’s hair, according to police. The attack’s motive remains unclear. Sophia Tolbert, 23, was charged with misdemeanor assault. don’t go A 23-year-old man apparently didn’t take kindly to being asked to scram from the Sixth Precinct, at 233 W. 10th St. Police said the man punched a male officer, 25, in front of the Greenwich Village precinct around 3 a.m. on Sat., Feb. 28, after being ordered to leave the premises. The perpetrator then twisted his body in order to resist arrest, police said. Gordon Akhtob was charged with felony assault. A police report did not state why Akhtob came to the precinct in the first place.

Red Lion robbers A pair of sticky-fingered thieves were caught with a bunch of patrons’ filched phones and wallets at the Red Lion at 158 Bleecker St. on Sun., March 1, around 1 a.m. Police said a man and woman worked as a pair in targeting six twenty-somethings at the place’s bar. A vigilant manager observed one of the thieves rifling through one victim’s bag. Police found four iPhones, bank cards, credits cards and two expensive wallets in the female perpetrator’s handbag, according to a police report, which listed the loot as having a total value of $1,350. Clafdya Lahens, 25, and Jean Pierre, 33, were both charged with felony grand larceny.

‘What did I do?’ The driver of a 1997 Nissan Altima ran a stop sign on the morning of Wed., Feb. 25, and police soon realized just how bad a driver they had caught. After stopping the vehicle at about 9:45 a.m., they found the driver had 19 license suspensions under two reported addresses. “What did I do?” the man reportedly asked police after being pulled over. Police charged Mario Jones, 58, with driving without a license and the traffic violation. He was also charged with a misdemeanor and felony for operating a vehicle without a license.

Drummed out of subway A performer attracted the attention of cops on Wed., Feb. 25, for beating drums in the subway station at W. 14th St. and Eighth Ave. Police said he was impeding the flow of pedestrian traffic near a stairway and was a public nuisance. It turned out the percussionist had an open warrant for an unspecified crime, according to a police report. After arresting Gary Bryan, 59, police reportedly found an altered MetroCard in his inner jacket pocket. Bending the card along the magnetic strip is one way to swipe through subway turnstiles without proper payment, a Sixth Precinct officer noted. Bryan was charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument, a felony.

PATH station swingers Four teenagers were swinging around on handrails and poles inside the Christopher St. PATH station on Fri., Feb. 27, and their antics were endangering fellow passengers, police said. Angel Maldonado, 18, and Rayquan Wilson, 19, were charged with misdemeanor unlawful assembly, along with two 16-year-old males whose names were withheld due to their age.

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Caffé Dante not closing, longtime owner assures BY TEQUILA MINSKY



aoul Martinez was bundled up against the arctic blast on MacDougal St. when he blew into Caffé Dante around the corner from his apartment. He mingled with a few patrons also sheltering from the cold. And, it was almost as if he had lit a candle at St. Anthony’s and his prayers were answered: No, Caffé Dante was not closing. “I thought you would have told me [if you were closing],” he said to owner Mario Flotta, who assuaged his fears. Rumors gone wild, begun by Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, of the cafe’s imminent closing swirled on the blogosphere two weeks ago. Even a week later, people were drifting in to ask: Are you closing? Flotta has owned the 100-year-old cafe since 1970. Between fielding calls from press — responding to the rumors — he dismissed the buzz as having possibly been started by a waitress who picked up pieces of table talk. He admitted that last year his monthly rent was raised by $9,000, which is a lot of additional espressos to sell. Last year, as Caffé Dante’s windows were papered over, the neighborhood held its breath in a similar scare. “We’re renovating,” Flotta explained back then. Flotta admits that the cafe lost customers due to being closed for those three months. How did Australians enter the ru-

Mario Flotta, Caffé Dante’s owner, said a recent rumor had fueled a flurry of inaccurate reports online that the place was closing.

mor mill, though? “Last year, they shot a commercial here for the Australian Vittoria Coffee,” Flotta explained. “Paid me $7, 000 [for use of the location]. Al Pacino was in it.” Vittoria Coffee made him an offer: “ ‘If you use our coffee, we’ll give it to you free,’ ” he said. “My coffee [Caffen] comes from Naples. I like this coffee.” Flotta pointed to the expanded bar along a far wall. “We’ve always had a liquor license,” he said. “I’ve had four in this neighborhood,” he noted, ticking off

Joe’s Pizza, Café Donatello and Trattoria Dante as the other eateries he has owned. “You really have to like the restaurant business. Not everyone is cut out for this,” said Flotta, who obviously loves people and schmoozes with the regulars when he’s not busy. “It’s not for everyone,” he reiterated. Flotta is clearly of the ’hood, telling you, for example, which Italian bakeries are good or not. He gets his mozzarella from Joe’s Dairy; though its Sullivan St. location is closed, he buys wholesale from its New Jersey factory. “I did business with Joe’s mother,” he said, referring to the original owner’s mom. Dante’s decor is a mix of huge, aging black-andwhite photo vistas of Florence and a smattering of other vintage-looking photos of Italian village and coastal scenes. Two shots from Naples hang near the window. The rest of the walls are peppered with framed snapshots of celebrities, mostly actors, like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Jerry Seinfeld, posing with Flotta, and also Italian soccer great Paolo Maldini. Flotta pointed out a black-and-white photo above the lintel between Caffé Dante’s two rooms. On the right in A younger Mario Flotta, at right, at Golden Pizza (today Joe’s Pizza) on Carmine St., which the shot, taken at Golden Flotta later bought. Pizza — which today is


March 5, 2015

Joe’s Pizza — is a much, much younger Flotta. Flotta launched into how he got his start in the business. He arrived here from Avellino, near Naples, in 1958 at age 14, joining his mother in her $30-a-month Spring St. apartment. His father had died. His mom worked in a Soho factory, sewing collars on shirts. He labored for 12 years in the restaurant business, starting in Brooklyn. He worked in the kitchen, later waiting tables in Uptown Manhattan. “I started working at Golden Pizza, and a few years later, I bought it for $17,000,” he said. After six months, he had eight people working there and he “changed the sauce.” So, what’s the secret of good pizza sauce? “You must use tomatoes from Italy, good tomatoes, and basil,” he said. “And, you don’t cook it.” “I used to watch my mother cook,” he recalled. “She wanted me to see, once saying, ‘What if your wife doesn’t cook?’ ” Flotta said he oversees everything in Caffé Dante’s kitchen. The menu offers very reasonably priced Neapolitan-style pizzas, lasagna, eggplant parmigiana and salads. But Flotta said, “We’re going to expand our menu.” The menu also lists macchiato, mocha, latte and other coffee choices, served in ceramic demitasse cups or mugs or glasses for the lattes. The delectable Italian desserts, like the “we make it here” tiramisu (ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar and mascarpone), and the house specialty, the cold zabaglione (light custard made with egg yolks and sugar), beckon from a display case. As Flotta talked about his life and the business, he reflected on all the attention he’s gotten since word spread of the cafe’s alleged “closing.” “Why don’t you get the interest and attention when you need it?” he sighed. What really gets him wound up, though, are landlords and rent. “It’s not just commercial rents,” he stressed. “When people pay so much for rent,” he said, gesturing to the Village neighborhood, “they don’t have money to go out. “My advice: Don’t open any business, chances are you’ll go broke,” he said. “The rents, it’s impossible. You fix it up for the landlord and that’s it!” The looming closure of this venue is a rumor gone awry. For now, there is a reprieve, and neighbor Martinez, along with many others in the Village and around New York, are breathing a caffeinated sigh of relief.

C.B. 3 calls on city to curb new Cuomo would bury the news permits for buses in Chinatown BY MICHELLE K. REA



ommunity Board 3 has asked the city’s Department of Transportation to put the brakes on issuing any new permits for discount intercity bus services in certain sections of Chinatown where there is already a proliferation of such bus companies. The nearly unanimous vote on the issue at the board’s Feb. 24 meeting was the culmination of months of discussion by C.B. 3 and its Transportation and Public Safety Subcommittee over what to do about the throng of cheap carriers that are creating congestion and other problems in the area. The only dissent expressed came from board member Karlin Chan. “There was no opportunity for bus operators and merchants to speak on the issue,” he said. Chan also requested that the measure be sent back to committee because, he charged, there was “no quorum” when the committee made its recommendation. Both of his objections were rebuffed by he fellow board members, who nixed the idea of returning the measure to the subcommittee for further discussion. Transportation Subcommittee member David Crane also told Chan that, over the past recent months, operators of these bus companies had ample opportunities to present their side of the story. “This issue has been discussed many times in our subcommittee,” Crane stated, prompting Chan to angrily walk out of the meeting before the vote was held. Disgruntled local residents have long complained that the flood of cheap interstate buses has contributed to gridlock in sections of Chinatown where the bus companies are based. As the board’s approved resolution puts it, “Curbside bus companies have proliferated within the Chinatown core and are contributing to street and sidewalk congestion, air pollution, litter and the obstruction of business entrances by queuing pedestrians.” C.B. 3 said the areas where it wants D.O.T. to refrain from issuing any new permits for the curbside buses are East Broadway between Pike and Rutgers Sts.; Pike St. between Division St. and East Broadway; Division

St. between Pike and Canal Sts.; and Allen St. between East Broadway and Hester St. In other board business, C.B. 3 approved a resolution to “protect the health and safety of school children at P.S. 110,” located at 285 Delancey St. The community board said better pedestrian safety measures were needed in the area around the Florence Nightingale School because there have been numerous cases in recent years in which students there have nearly been struck by cars. The school is bounded by Delancey, Cannon, Broome and Lewis Sts. Cannon and Broome essentially act as service roads used by people parking cars on the streets and by maintenance crews at the Hillman Co-operative, a residential building adjacent to the school. The resolution called for D.O.T. to “investigate the site” and meet with the school’s principal and its P.T.A. “to gain a better understanding of the use of the service roads by cars and pedestrians.” DOT is also being asked to meet with representatives of the Hillman co-op. In other business, the board overwhelmingly voted against an amendment to the City Charter that would have imposed 12-year term limits on community board members throughout the city. In its resolution, the board said, “It takes a long time for members to acquire knowledge and expertise, so that they can play important roles in negotiating with developers, assisting constituents and tackling community problems related to traffic, sanitation, safety, business development and interests that impact all city residents.” City Councilmember Daniel Dromm of Jackson Heights, Queens, introduced legislation in December that would limit the amount of time a board member could serve to six two-year terms. The legislation would only apply to board members appointed after April 1, 2016. Dromm and other councilmembers have argued that the city has undergone a great deal of change in the past 30 years, and that this should be reflected in who sits on the community boards. Dromm said that when people remain on community boards for three and four decades, it creates a “huge power structure that doesn’t always benefit a changing community.”

scure and little-known state agency Web sites do not. • This proposal will not save money. Time after time, when advocating for legislation that would require government agencies to post information on their Web sites, we have been told it is too difficult or expensive. To ensure a tamper-proof publication of these most vital legislative initiatives would cost money, perhaps much more than the legislation estimates will be saved. • Newspaper publication provides a historic record. Government Web sites may not be maintained long term. Newspapers are preserved in libraries and newspaper archives for posterity. • The governor has called for a constitutional amendment to strip public pensions from legislators convicted of crimes, and yet this bill supports making the proposed language available only on obscure Web sites few voters will ever see. The proposed legislation says it will save $342,000. There are more than 10 million registered voters in New York State, so the proposal saves about three pennies per voter. To register your dissatisfaction with the governor’s plan, contact his office at (518) 474–8390 or at the N.Y.S. State Capitol Building, Albany, NY 12224.


e are strongly opposed to the governor’s proposal to eliminate newspaper public notice of proposed constitutional amendments. Instead of publishing public notices, the Board of Elections would post an abstract and brief description of the proposed amendment somewhere on its Web site for three days in the week prior to the election. The Secretary of State would also post a notice somewhere on its Web site once per month for three months. At a time when there is general agreement that there is a need to increase transparency and accountability in state government, it is astounding that this provision is included in a budget bill. Among the many reasons this is a very bad idea are: • This proposal disenfranchises voters who cannot afford a home computer with broadband access. • It assumes that New York voters sift through state agency Web sites when looking for news that affects them. They do not. They turn to a local newspaper. Existing law requires that constitutional amendment notices be disseminated through a newspaper in each state county. Most of these newspapers land on voters’ doorsteps. Ob-

Rea is executive director of the New York Press Association and New York Press Service

EAST SIDE COASTAL RESILIENCY PROJECT JOIN US FOR Community Engagement Sessions Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bard High School Early College 525 East Houston Street


Monday, March 23, 2015

Washington Irving High School 40 Irving Place

Doors open both nights at 6:30 P.M. Presentation begins at 7:00 P.M. Engagement exercise and Q&A to follow Following on HUD’s Rebuild by Design competition, New York City is working to reduce the risks from extreme weather and climate change, as well as improve quality of life. This project focuses on neighborhoods near the East River between Montgomery and 23rd Streets. Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese interpreters will be present. For more information or special needs assistance, please call (917) 339-0488 by Friday, March 13. Light refreshments will be served. Sponsored by NYC Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency

March 5, 2015


A mystery and memories of Soho in Etan case; ETAN, continued from p. 1


March 5, 2015

A missing-child poster from 1979 for Etan Patz that was shown to Pedro Hernandez by police during his first confession, in Camden, N.J. During his confession, Hernandez wrote on the poster that he was sorry he had choked Patz. The district attorney introduced the poster in court as evidence.


Hernandez subsequently led detectives along the street from the former bodega’s corner to show them the spot where he claimed he left the body. Julie Patz, Etan’s mother, testified in court that her son had planned to get a soda at the bodega that day before boarding the bus. Relatives and church group members say that over the years Hernandez has claimed to have killed a child. The defense, meanwhile, contends that Hernandez has a very low I.Q. of 70 and is thus mentally disabled, plus is mentally ill, and made up the story under pressure from police. His lawyers counter that Jose Ramos, a homeless man who hung around Soho and was the boyfriend of the Patzes’ babysitter — and who was long the prime suspect — is, in fact, Etan’s killer. No one from the neighborhood, however, seems to recall Hernandez at all. “I don’t remember that bodega worker, but I do remember that bodega,” said Penelope Grill, who used to live on Prince St. between Mercer and Greene Sts., a block away from the Patzes. “It was one of the only places you could shop in the neighborhood.” She also clearly recalls the police search for Etan. “The detectives came around knocking on my door,” she said. “They were going through all the residences in the neighborhood, especially where there were men living. They mentioned Etan Patz, and they asked me through my door if I lived alone, and I said, yes. When they saw it was just me, a woman, they left.” Grill, a painter, was creating craft items back then in her home, which like the rest of Soho, had been zoned for joint artists’ living/working quarters. She recalled how she used to see Julie Patz and her children, and possibly other neighborhood kids along with them in tow, along the street, scavenging squat cardboard fabric spools left by fabric warehouses. The spools had been cut down into segments and could be used for constructing platforms for beds or tables, she said. “We were scavengers,” she said. “We all were. ... It was much more deserted then.” In 1993, Grill moved back to her native Wisconsin to take care of her ailing mother.

Parents from the Soho Community Playgroup holding a fundraising bake sale on West Broadway near Prince St. circa 1974.

Caroline Keating, again, recalls the bodega but not Hernandez. On the other hand, she well remembers Juan

Santana, his brother-in-law, who also worked at the store, and who still is a familiar sight in Soho.

“I remember Juan, who became the manager of most of the buildings over there,” she said. “Juan took care of the building next to us. He took care of buildings everywhere. Juan ran the bodega back then. He didn’t own it. “He really was kind of ‘Mr. Soho,’ ” she said of Santana. “Everybody trusted him. He was a man with a very good reputation in the neighborhood who worked like a beaver.” Keating, a visual artist, recalled the first residential co-op in Soho, at 80 Wooster St. Jonas Mekas started the Anthology Film Archives in its basement. It was Mekas and a fellow Lithuanian, George Macunias — who went into real estate, though without a license — who “founded Soho,” she said. Keating moved to the Upper West Side a few years ago when her husband needed to enter an assisted-living facility. “Juan is an incredibly nice person,” she said. “It’s hard to attach this to him in any way. He was the most empathetic when my husband had a stroke.” Santana, for his part, has testified in court that he doesn’t believe his brother-in-law did it. First of all, he said, Hernandez never got there before 8 a.m., so wouldn’t have been there at the same time as Patz. Also, he said, the stairs to the basement — which are located outside the building — would still have been locked at that time. In addition, he said, he never saw Hernandez talking with kids, and that he was generally just “a good guy.” However, the prosecution said Santana was “evasive” on the stand and declared him a hostile witness. In addition, the prosecution, pointed out that Patz, the day before he disappeared, had left his lunchbox on a stoop by the bodega and had returned to retrieve it, and possibly may have met Hernandez at that time. According to reports, Santana — saying it was hard to remember from 35 years ago — was vague in his answers as to how long Hernandez had worked at the deli and whether he had left the job the day after Etan went missing. Santana reportedly got Hernandez the job at the bodega, and when Hernandez worked there, he lived with his sister and her husband, Santana, in an apartment right across the street from the place. Yukie Ohta grew up in Soho and was two years older than Etan Patz. ETAN, continued on p. 11

Ex-bodega worker on trial in missing boy’s death ETAN, continued from p. 10

Kids playing in an empty lot on Houston St. around 1973 where the N.Y.U. Coles gym now stands.



Her younger sister was the same age as him. The bodega, Ohta said, was, in fact, considered a safe space by local families. “It was called ‘the bodega’ because we only had one store,” she said. “We were told to go in there if we were ever in trouble in the street; if someone was following us, we should go in the bodega — because it was the only business that was open. There were a few bars and we were told no, I guess. I think we were told we could go into Fanelli’s if we had issues.” Ohta, a writer who maintains the Soho Memory Project blog, still lives in the same Mercer St. apartment that she grew up in, around the corner from the Patzes. She also manages her building. Her dad was an artist who came over from Japan, and her mother emigrated later to join him. Back then, for daycare, Soho mothers took turns running playgroups in their apartments for kids age two to four. Patz’s mom was part of a “core group” who did this. Ohta, her sister and Etan all attended the same playgroup for a while. “Julie Patz had a playgroup in her apartment for a while,” she recalled. “It was like living in a small town.” Kids also used to play on the open lot that was where the current N.Y.U. Coles gym is today, along Mercer St. north of Houston St., she said. “As a kid, I never felt in danger,” Ohta said. “It was a daytime neighborhood. The factory workers left at 5. The Soho Artists Association organized patrols and lobbied the city for trash pickup.” She was eight when Patz was lost. “I have vivid memories of that specific time,” she said, “when parents held meetings, and did a lot of searching and posters. One of the meetings was in my house.” Eventually, though, she said, “Things did kind of go back to quasi-normal. I did continue to go to school by myself. I walked to that bus stop with my sister.” After the playgroups, most of the kids went on to attend P.S. 3, the Charrette School, a specialized arts-oriented school that the community had helped to create. The elementary school has since become more mainstream due to imposition of the core curriculum, Ohta noted. Like everyone else, Ohta recalls one of Soho’s favorite pastimes from that era: foraging for found furniture.

Children in the Soho Community Playgroup, which was formed by neighborhood parents in the early 1970s. A co-operative preschool, parents took turns looking after each other’s children.

“We were on the street a lot,” she said. “Everybody scavenged. There were industrial wire spools — so, you could use little ones for chairs and broad ones for tables. There were rolls of industrial carpeting.” Bill Downey, a longtime Soho resident, said, like the others, he doesn’t remember Hernandez but he does Santana. “Of course,” he said, “because Juan is one of the mayors of Soho.” Downey said he didn’t really patronize the bodega because there

was another store he went to, on Spring St., that allowed dogs. “Back then, Soho was like a company town,” he said. “Everybody was in the arts. The highpoint came a few years later, when the galleries came and you could combine walking the dog with keeping up with the art scene.” When artists first colonized the neighborhood, the buildings were either vacant or home to light-manufacturing uses. “There were strange, odd little

places,” he recalled, “places that bundled up rags. I’ll never forget one place down the street; they had a sign describing themselves as “Manufacturers of Special Machinery for the Chewing Gum Industry.” Like Grill and Ohta, Downey noted, “Scavenging in Soho in the 1970s was really good — there were work tables, rolling carts. You had really failed if you had to buy your own lumber. “It wasn’t a big money neighborhood. We moved here because it was so cheap. We bought our loft for $10,000.” He and his wife didn’t have kids, though, so they didn’t get to know the Patzes. Today’s glitzy Soho is, of course, completely unrecognizable from before. “Back then, you felt like you had something in common with your fellow residents,” Downey said. “Now it’s overrun with young money. And being neither young nor’s a very different community. Back in the 1970s, there probably weren’t more than a couple hundred people who lived in the boundaries of Soho. “When we moved here in 1972, there were only two residential buildings,” he recalled. “On weekends, when the factories closed, it was like being in the country. You would be the only person getting off the R train at Prince St. You could fire a machine gun down the street and not hit anyone.” Downey is now on his fourth dog, a terrier rescue, and they amble daily past the high-end stores that supplanted the galleries, which had replaced the factories, and amid the tourist hordes that now teem along the once-empty streets. “People that have dogs do see the change in neighborhoods,” he reflected. So do bloggers, like Ohta, with her Soho Memory Project. “There’s a whole new demographic here,” she said. “Before all the old-timers fade away, I want to document what was here before.” But that’s not to say Ohta is complaining about having real carpeting and an elevator, unlike when she was a kid. “That’s New York,” she said of Soho’s changes. “That’s the whole nature of the city. I’m not one of those people who says that it was so much better back then — but I feel it’s worth remembering.” An unerasable part of those memories — a tragic and painful wound forever inflicted on those more innocent times — is the loss of Etan Patz. March 5, 2015


New, comprehensive Tompkins trees guide by TREES MAP, continued from p. 1

bundled up against the wind but drinking in the sight of dozens of trees reaching high into the winter-blue sky, their leafless branches silhouetted by the golden afternoon sunlight. Near the semicircle of benches bordering the central lawn — a sunbather’s heaven in July, now a sheet of snow and ice — we passed a noble willow oak, tall, straight and graceful. But Natale kept pointing out more modest beauties: a grove of newly planted cherry trees near Avenue B, the Chinese Scholar trees along Seventh St., and a robust linden just south of the Temperance Fountain. He also made sure we paused by the semicircle for a moment to mourn “Bendy,” a low-leaning American elm that had lived for decades as the modest pal of the “Hare Krishna Tree,” the tall elm beside it. “I hated seeing Bendy cut down last September,” Natale said quietly. “But the park’s arborists did extensive tests that convinced me that Bendy’s toppling was a real danger, particularly in a high wind.” Nearby he pointed out a massive twist in an iron fence along one of the park’s many pathways. “And a falling branch did that, not a whole tree!” Getting a tour of Tompkins Square Park’s trees guided by Michael Natale felt like a rare treat because Natale is the park’s Amerigo Vespucci, a mapmaker who spent four years first surveying the 550 leafy beings (not counting many low bushes and hedges) that reside in the park’s 10 and a half acres, and then rendering their location, genus and size in precise and illuminating detail. A heavyset fellow with a shock of gray-black hair and a friendly smile, Natale is both modest about and proud of his accomplishment. “As I was beginning, I read an article about two fellows who took two years to put out a book mapping Central Park’s trees,” he said. “So, I figured, if they could do huge Central Park in two years, I could do tiny Tompkins in a few months.” He laughed ruefully. “Little did I know!” A Philadelphia native, Natale has lived in the East Village since the ’70s, paying his rent as a housepainter, and photographing Soho street art as a hobby. He’s seen Tompkins go through successive waves of change: punk rock blasting from the old band shell in the ’70s, homeless men and women camped in cardboard boxes along the park’s pathways in the ’80s, drug dealers openly hawking their wares decade after decade.

If you appreciate peace of mind, you’ll understand why it makes sense to preplan with us. We know of no other policies that work as this: • Spares your family from making detailed decisions at an emotional time • Ensures that wishes are expressed • Prevents overspending and can lock in costs

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After the “police riot” in August 1988, the city closed the park to break the downward spiral. When reopened in 1992, Tompkins felt like a brand-new park: children running and laughing in three new playgrounds, dogs frolicking in the city’s first dog run, and New Yorkers of all ages and colors sitting on the freshly painted benches, quietly chatting and watching the world go by. One of many East Villagers who considered the park a blessing not a blot, Natale started bringing his digital camera along on his afternoon strolls; soon he found the park’s flora as fascinating as its fauna. “Tompkins, I realized, was the neighborhood’s only sizable patch of green,” he said, as we passed the snow covered ping-pong table. “I fell in love with these beautiful trees and began to wonder, what kind of tree was this one, that one? The Tompkins Square Park Conservancy had a tiny map with a few indications of trees, but it was way out of date, not helpful for serious study. So in 2011, I decided, O.K., I’ll make my own map and make it available to everyone.” Natale started surveying the park, pacing off distances and measuring sections of the wroughtiron fences to give his map an accurate scale: Unlike most urban “squares,” he discovered, Tompkins is a nearly perfect square. The park’s current and former head gardeners, Deborah Hulse and Michael Lytle, answered his questions when they could and steered him to more-knowledgeable sources when they couldn’t. He researched the history of the park, a salt marsh when owned by Peter Stuyvesant and then by Daniel Tompkins, a governor of New York and James Monroe’s vice president. The City of New York acquired and drained the land in 1834. Yet after making it a public square in the 1840s, the city cut down the park’s trees in the 1860s to make a pa-


Why preplan with us?

Michael Natale’s Tompkins tree map uses leaf shapes as symbols to represent the park’s different tree species.

Michael Natale in Tompkins Square Park.

rade ground for New York’s Seventh Regiment. A few sycamores were spared, and three of those still survive: the two large sycamores on the park’s 10th St. northern boundary, the third on Avenue A between Eighth and Ninth Sts. Fortunately, the city reversed its scorched-earth policy in 1878, planting 450 trees and giving the TREES MAP, continued on p. 13

East Village mapmaker leaves no leaf unturned TREES MAP, continued from p. 12


park the overall design we know today. Working on the map became an engrossing labor of love for Natale. “I learned by doing,” he said with a smile. He consulted tree books and could soon recognize and draw more than 40 leaf shapes. He became versed in digital drawing, but found that Google Maps didn’t help him much: “They took their pictures in the summer when leaves hid crucial details.” Tompkins, he learned, had lost 34 American elms to Dutch elm disease since the 1930s, but thankfully 54 of the elms remain, the oval leaves on their towering branches giving welcome shade through the spring, summer and fall. Oaks are the park’s next most common tree: 28 red oaks, 25 pin oaks and 11 willow oaks, followed by 28 Japanese and 25 hedge maples, then dwindling down to one bald cypress, one pussy willow and the one tall spruce in the central lawn that becomes the park’s brightly lit Christmas tree every December. On the map, Natale noted every tree with a tiny picture of its distinctive

An igloo in Tompkins Square Park, with the Krishna Tree behind it on the left and the Scholar Tree on the right.

leaf shape, and he often added brown circles of varying sizes to indicate each trunk’s diameter. Yet scientific accuracy didn’t stifle his playfulness. A woman in a bikini tells us that sunbathers love the central lawn, an electric guitar shows where rock bands play on summer Sundays, and swirling pink and blue lines in the playgrounds represent giggling boys and girls playing tag and hide-and-seek. Natale also made up plain but affectionate names for the park’s many islands of greenery — Cherry Grove,

Elm Island and Rose Garden — and the map points out where to find the basketball hoops, the ping-pong table and the sprinklers in Peaceful Grove, a popular spot for summertime birthday parties. The sun had sunk below the buildings on Seventh St., and our fingers and toes were getting cold — time to go home! In the ice-covered ball field at 10th St. and Avenue A, a fellow kept throwing a green tennis ball for an indefatigable golden retriever, which raced to scoop up the ball with its

teeth, then trotted back to his human, dropped it, and looked up panting, eager for another run. A dad watched his daughter dig into a Peaceful Grove snow pile with her red mittens. A flock of teenagers laughed and larked their way along the Ninth St. promenade toward Avenue A. We said our goodbyes, and Natale set off back across the park toward Avenue B. Above us, the elms and oaks, maples and pear trees swayed in the chill evening breeze. Patience, patience, their silent wisdom seemed to say; winter may now have us in its icy grip, but springtime buds and blossoms, gentle breezes and green leaves, short sleeves and sandals, are unstoppably on their way. Copies of Michael Natale’s map of the trees of Tompkins Square Park’s trees are available in several sizes at support-tompkins-trees . There’s a PayPal link on the page with prices for each size, as well as directions on how to print your own map, plus an appeal request for donations, so Natale can continue his worthy work to document, photograph and spread the word about the beauties of the park’s plant and animal life.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Affordable Housing Policy: • April 2013: Then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio criticizes former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s annual increases in water rates as a “hidden tax.” • February 2014: Mayor de Blasio increases water & sewer rates 3.6%. • June 2014: Mayor de Blasio calls for Rent Freeze (landlords wind up with 1% rent increase, lowest ever on record).

• November 2014: Mayor de Blasio calls for stricter rent regulations. • January 15, 2015: Mayor de Blasio announces a 13% increase on real estate tax assessments.

Increased Taxes and Costs + Rent Freeze = Landlords Cannot Repair, Improve, Maintain and Preserve Affordable Housing The de Blasio Affordable Housing Equation Just Doesn’t Add Up.

The de Blasio affordable housing policy hurts poor and middle-income families, those most in need of affordable housing – as well as landlords of rent-stabilized apartments, the largest providers of affordable housing.

It’s Time for New Solutions to an Old Problem. March 5, 2015



Hanging on by a Hair Box in Soho The Hair Box is gone from Spring St., but at least its sign is still hanging on above the old storefront, which is now a magazine and candy store. The operator of the frozen-yogurt store next door — which is now connected inside to the old barber shop — said it’s possible that they might even turn it back into a barber shop in the future. But, he said, they want to see how the convenience store does for a little while before considering that idea.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR We need retail rent control To The Editor: Re “Finding solutions to save our small businesses” (editorial, Feb. 26): I’ve listened to the excuses about why we cannot have commercial rent control while I’ve watched the East Village/Lower East Side disappear under tall glass towers and luxury venues. Sweet 14 grew out of the early efforts to save the small stores along E. 14th St. that were fac-

ing huge rent increases. Little came out of that effort other than expensive architects touting the gateway to the East Side, and useless small signs above some small businesses on 14th St. between Second and Third Aves. Unfortunately, the real result was even larger rent increases to the stores at the end of their leases. The state said the city had to pass legislation to enact commercial rent control. The city said the state had to enable it. Business owners are not organizers, but when

the Small Business Task Force came about, there actually were small businesses involved. After the task force’s good efforts but a lack of success, it too faded away. As long as commercial rents are unregulated and landlords can ask for exorbitant increases at the end of leases, mom-and-pops and small stores cannot exist.  Even those merchants that own their buildings are lured to sell out by the large amounts they are offered for their buildings — sometimes much, much more than they could earn. Susan Leelike


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March 5, 2015

Airbnb helped me get my startup off the ground TALKING POINT BY MICHAEL RADPARVAR


hen my parents fled Iran in 1979 during the violence and tumult of the revolution, they came to America, as centuries of other immigrants have. They worked hard and were able to start a business and raise a family. It is thanks to them that my brother and I have also been able to create our own small business — a tech-based lifestyle company called Holstee here in New York City. Of course, we had many assets our parents did not have, including one that turned out to be very important: Airbnb. Hosting through Airbnb helped us launch our company in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. As government officials consider questions around shortterm rentals, they must understand how much people like us rely on it, as well as the economic impact it has on this city. Our company’s earliest days are a perfect example of what makes starting a business in New York City so challenging. We had a bright idea and a Herculean work ethic, but we could not scale the sheer wall of affording the rent for our apartment. I remember looking at our financials, and thinking we could actually get our idea off the ground if the rent weren’t so damn high.   We were living in an apartment in

Holstee co-founders, from left, Fabian Pfortmüller, Michael Radparvar and Dave Radparvar in front of the Holstee Manifesto, a poster of motivational sayings.

the East Village, and, in 2008, became among Airbnb’s first users. Initially, we were one part curious and one part cautious. But when the economy

crashed, it left us with few options, and we jumped in with both feet. Airbnb became our small business stimulus.

Over the next several years, we hosted guests from around the world. Not only have we never had so much as a hand towel stolen, but we made dozens of dear friends. The extra financial wiggle room gave us a boost and our business snowballed. Today Holstee is a team of 12 and we are growing strong. We have a new headquarters in Gowanus, Brooklyn, that allows us to a welcome our growing community into our workspace through yoga classes, potluck dinners and speaking events. We still have to hustle, but we are a thriving company. In hindsight, I’m not sure that we would have even gotten out of the gate without Airbnb. It turns out, our company’s Airbnb roots also reflect something so important to our family — opening your home to travelers who need a place to stay. Soon after we started hosting through Airbnb, my mom was reminded of stories about our grandfather that we had never heard before. He hosted students and Peace Corps volunteers in Shiraz, Iran, throughout my mother’s childhood. It was important to him to give generously in that way; to use what he had — his home — to help people. I’m so proud that we continued this family tradition.   Opening our home to guests is in our family’s blood, and it became a part of our company’s DNA, thanks to Airbnb. Legislators should know that it’s also part of New York City’s heritage. Airbnb is just a new way to do what immigrants and small business owners have done in this city for ages — use what you have to work hard to make your way here.   Radparvar is co-founder, Holstee

My building became an illegal-hotel nightmare TALKING POINT BY AUDREY SMALTZ


moved into my apartment at 15 W. 55th St. in 1977. That building has been my home and its tenants have been my neighbors for more than 35 years. For most of those years, everyone in the building knew one another and there was a genuine sense of safety and community. Now, things have started to change. My friends and neighbors are being replaced by strangers and tourists thanks to booking Web sites like Airbnb and others that allow people to rent out their apartments. Of the 37 apartments in my building, only seven are currently inhabited by rent-stabilized tenants. The entire fourth floor is short-term rentals, as are many units on the third and the eighth floors.  Apartments in our building are blatantly

vertised on and, and it is not clear to guests who book rooms here (online, our building is known as “The Branson”) that they will not be staying in a legitimate hotel. This makes for a lot of tension between guests and tenants. This was described in more detail last month in an article about the building, “The city’s worst ‘illegal’ hotel,” in Crain’s New York Business. We do not want to live in a busy hotel. We are all senior citizens and want to live in the same safe, peaceful building we have always called home. Not only have we lost our sense of safety, but the landlord has chosen to ignore our requests for necessary repairs. Instead, they are doing extensive renovations to make the vacant apartments more appealing to short-term tenants. This is a continuation of a pattern that has been going on for a very long time. Apartments in our building have been warehoused for years, all in an effort to take the units out of rent stabilization. Sites like Airbnb simply give unscrupulous

landlords another incentive to remove affordable units from the market and monetize them for the benefit of tourists, not New York City residents. And it’s a lucrative business. According to Crain’s, an 11-night stay in one of this building’s three-bedroom apartments in May 2014, for example, cost $9,121, or $276 per bedroom per night. Though the illegal hotel business here is finally slowing down — no doubt due to the major lawsuit brought against this building by the city — the renovated units are currently rented out to college students who are in the city for an internship and will be gone in a few months. Not long ago, one of the tourists staying in my building wandered onto my terrace. It was a terribly frightening experience that made me realize just how vulnerable a position my landlord has put me in by choosing profit over safety and community. I hope my story has helped you all to see that short-term rentals do nothing but harm to the communities that New Yorkers like my neighbors and I spent years working to build. March 5, 2015


Amnon Kehati, Sidewalk Cafe partner, dies at 64 OBITUARIES BY ALBERT AMATEAU



mnon Kehati, a partner in Sidewalk Cafe on Avenue A for more than 30 years, died suddenly of cardiac arrest on Thurs., Feb. 19. He was 64. He was stricken on the sidewalk, beside his car parked on Ninth Ave. in Midtown, near another restaurant that he owned, said his daughter, Helah. He had returned two weeks earlier from Israel where he attended the funeral of his mother, Batya Kehati, 92, his daughter said. In addition to Sidewalk at 94 Avenue A, at E. Sixth St., which he ran with his partner, Pini Milstein, Amnon Kehati had other restaurant interests, the latest being Markburger, at 33 St. Mark’s Place, which opened last March, Helah said. One of the fiberglass Swiss cows that dotted the city about 15 years ago is now mounted on the roof of Markburger. Amnon, with Avi Camchi, a friend of 43 years, opened Thalia, a restaurant at 829 Eighth Ave. at W. 50th St. in 1999. Two years ago, Amnon acquired Annabel, a restaurant at 809

At Pisces restaurant in the East Village in the 1990s, Amnon Kehati, standing at rear, with his business partner, Pini Milstein, right, and their chef.

Ninth Ave., where he was just before he died.


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March 5, 2015

Gray Wolf, 6th and B gardener


ray Wolf, a longtime member of the 6th and B Garden, died Sun., Feb. 24. He was both the garden’s grill master and its Web master. According to Lorcan Otway, proprietor of St. Mark’s Theater 80, Gray Wolf was “an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation.” “I knew him for decades and he was always 17 going on 70,” Otway wrote in a commemoration on Facebook. “He was a great storyteller, prankster and kind man.” Anna Sawaryn, a fellow 6th and B gardener, said Gray Wolf was an active member of the American Indian Movement, or AIM, and had been a paratrooper and truck driver. “He was an active member of the garden,” Sawaryn said. “He was into growing


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“Restaurants are a way of life rather than a business,” his daughter said. “People would say that he shouldn’t be working so hard, but it wasn’t work to him.” Amnon also had a heating/ventilation/air conditioning service. “He was a mechanical engineer,” Helah noted. Milstein, his longtime partner, recalled that he and Amnon opened a seafood restaurant, Pisces, at 95 Avenue A across from Sidewalk in the mid-1990s.

“The Times called us ‘Le Bernardin of the East Village,’ ” he said, referring to a renowned Midtown restaurant. “People came from all over. Mayor Koch came, Bill Murray of ‘Saturday Night Live’ would come. But then 9/11 happened, people stopped coming, and we sold the place,” Milstein said. “I’ve known Amnon for 50 years, since I was 14 years old in Haifa,” Milstein said. “I introduced him to his wife, Lucy. I came to the States around 1977. They came in 1979.” Amnon ran a restaurant on Avenue A with two partners for less than a year before he asked his friend Milstein to buy them out in 1984. “We redesigned the place and did a lot of the work by hand,” said Milstein of what would become Sidewalk. “It was still a rough neighborhood then. I used to find people who OD’d in the bathroom, so I put black light in so they couldn’t see their veins to shoot up,” he recalled. “Back then it was only us and 7A, a restaurant a block away.” Sidewalk became known as “a music scene” that played the latest rock ’n’ roll on the sound system. “Amnon’s wife, Lucy, was able to get CDs for us to play,” Milstein said. Sidewalk also has a music room in the back with an open mic on Mondays. “It’s the oldest continuously open mic in the city,” Milstein said. “I was stunned when somebody called and told me Amnon died,” Milstein said. “He was well loved in the community,” said Robert Perl, a neighborhood realtor. In addition to Amnon’s daughter, he is survived by his wife, Lucy, and son, Yotam.

extremely hot peppers.” A memorial is planned in the garden for early June.

Lincoln Anderson

Slammin’ at the Sidewalk Cafe NYU-Urbana is the team to follow BY PUMA PERL (



hen I decided to take a look at the current state of Slam Poetry, I immediately knew that NYC-Urbana, which now meets at the Sidewalk Cafe, was the team to follow. As host and current Slam Master Jared Singer says, they are “the winningest” team in the nation. Urbana, founded 14 years ago by 19-yearold Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, has won the National Poetry Slam competition three times, and was the first to become National Poetry Group Piece champion. I often visited the venue during its long stay at the Bowery Poetry Club and was always impressed by the quality of both the features and the competitors. That term “winningest,” by the way is worth noting — our host does not describe the team as “the best” or “the most talented,” he calls it “the winningest,” which does not detract from the grit and brilliance of opposing teams, but instead references the rules of Slam, which are, contradictorily, the most democratic and the most arbitrary that you will find anywhere. The basic rules of judging are that several random audience members volunteer to rate performances on a scale of zero (a piece so bad that it makes you want to end the world right there) to 10 (one so good, that you will marry the person next to you, and probably the one on the other side, too.) I have never personally witnessed a score of zero and have seen very few tens; no matter how arbitrary the judging may seem, it is a given that no performer is without some merit and that very few reach a zenith of perfection.

Gabriel, competing in a Slam at Sidewalk Cafe.

Our host cautions the judges to be consistent, and to consider the poem’s content as well as the depth of the performance. Before competition begins, a “sacrificial poet” is introduced. By assessing this non-competitive performer, a bar is established; each judge can then decide whether those who follow are better or worse than the one who set the standard. Arbitrary, unfair, and totally democratic — every competitor has an equal chance at a fair decision and a total debacle. Slam Poetry is a continuation of the oral tradition, and its current American form can be attributed to Chicago construction worker/poet

Mark Smith (Slampapi) who, in 1985, started a series called the Uptown Poetry Slam, adding a competition to the usual format of open mics and featured guests. I first became aware of the trend in the ‘90s, but never really understood how it worked. When I began my research for this article, it seemed of primary importance that I get it right and I asked all of the poets to whom I spoke the same questions about a hundred times, before finally grasping the process, which is similar to the NBA. There are four seasons, there are semi-finals, there are chances to compete based on points earned rather than wins, and, once the final

team is established, the opportunity to compete in the Nationals. Finally, for the purposes of this article, none of that really matters. The importance of understanding Slam is not mastering the rules. Slam is, at its best, about building community, providing wide access to poetry and performance, creating national and international networks locally and through travel, and giving participants a chance to become great, or, at least, better writers. Do some poets get caught up in the competition, tending to put performance above content, ending up sounding the same? Is there also the possibilSLAMMIN!, continued on p.18 March 5, 2015


Urbana builds community, opens creative doors SLAMMIN!, continued from p. 17


Jeanann Verlee in performance.

Their work stands up admirably both on page and stage. The competitors’ topics ranged from the political — Ferguson, Eric Garner — to the highly personal, including obesity and gender identity and transitional issues. In general, the personal poems received the highest scores. I am not alone in my attraction to the poetic excellence of these venues. Jeanann Verlee, a veteran coach and former member of many teams, shared that when first introduced to Slam, during its infancy, she was “highly opposed to the idea…I fancied myself non-competitive (ha) and am also highly sensitive.” However, about a decade later, when she moved from Denver to New York, she found that she “thoroughly en-


ity of the most vulnerable members being hurt by this competitive spirit? Of course. Nobody denies that there are some risks. As an artistic movement, it will open creative doors for some and may not be the best fit for others. But, in my observation, the pressure to slam, if you are of a certain age, has been reduced. Other changes include greater diversity, less polarization, and a better understanding of the mechanisms of building poems. Towards that end, Urbana offers a free one-hour poetry workshop prior to the start of each weekly event. The first session that I attended was facilitated by retiring Slammaster Taylor Mali, who had been with Urbana for over 10 years. The exercise involved utilizing clichés in ways that enhance the poem by setting up a belief system for the audience, and then throwing in a reality curve. It is difficult to produce new work in a short workshop, but everyone in the group, including this writer, found a way to get something started on the page. Mali, a well-known poet, humorist and educator, is proof that Slam poets cannot and should not be stereotyped. He discovered the art form of Slam while working toward his MFA in Kansas, in the 1990s, he told me. “It was a godsend for a 20-something like me who was too literary for the actors and too histrionic for the poets.” Following the workshop is the main event, which follows the formula initiated by Mark Smith: open mike, feature, competition. I particularly enjoy the features at Slam venues because curators have a wide network due to the travels that are part of the scene, and Urbana rarely disappoints. On the nights I attended, I was introduced to the work of Ohio poet Will Evans, and Chicago-born Tim “Toaster” Henderson, who currently resides in Berkeley.

Retiring Slammaster Taylor Mali recently facilitated one of Urbana’s free poetry workshop prior to the start of its weekly event.

joyed the earnest and individual performances” of a group of poets she’d met, including Rachel McKibbens and Jeffrey McDaniel, and later learned that they were major players in the Slam community. After winning her first slam, she was “hooked” and devoted herself fully to it for 14 years. My resident expert, my daughter Juliet Gomez, who hosted the Open Room at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the late 1990’s, agrees with Verlee,


March 5, 2015

stating that her “initial uneasiness about the concept of competition and art” took a back seat because of the impressiveness of the poets involved in those early days, including Sarah Jones, Steve Coleman, Lemon Anderson and Suheir Hammad. A couple of decades later, her observation is that the distinctive slam style established at the time has the possibility of preventing people from forming SLAMMIN!, continued on p. 19

Poetry Slams add up to more than 10 SLAMMIN!, continued from p. 18

Urbana Poetry Slam meets weekly at the Sidewalk Cafe (94 Ave. A, at Sixth


their own onstage personas. Verlee agrees in the importance of individual development, which involvement in the Slam community enhances, for those who take advantage of the mentoring, support, and workshop opportunities. As veteran Slammer Thomas Fucaloro put it, “There used to be a lot of Slam impersonators… but now, people seem to take a lot more chances, which is great.” Elliot Smith Vacek, who is now sharing Slam Master duties with Jared Singer describes Urbana as his “family and home away from home.” “Slam has forced me to consider how an audience will engage with my work,” he added, “something that is easy to ignore if you’re just writing and not sharing.” I have known some of the poets since they were newer to the poetry scene, and they have now become the elders, making me, I suppose, a Grand Elder. Although I have never slammed in a competition, I am grateful for artistic communities with the potential to allow support, friendship, and inspiration to defy demographic lines and stereotypes. I wrote the least ironic love poem of my life after being paired with Jared Singer in a workshop challenge. Jeanann Verlee is mentioned in my poem “Making More,” which references a book party in which she was a guest reader, and another one, “The Day I Did Not Go to a Strip Club with Thomas Fuclaloro,” describes what did not happen on the way to a release party for his first volume. Writing is not always easy — but it is a great gift to find a poem amongst your peers, and to feel the torch not only handed down, but also passed back up and around.

Ohio poet Will Evans.

and travel to the Nationals. For more info, visit The next “Puma Perl’s Pandemonium: takes place Fri., April 10, 7 p.m. at the

St.). Free workshop at 6 p.m., $10 admission to Open Mic, Feature and Competition, 7-10 p.m.. Admission goes toward maintaining the venue, and registration

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Chicago-born Tim “Toaster” Henderson, currently resides in Berkeley.

March 5, 2015


When the road was king Roger Miller’s heady celebration of freedom turns 50 BY JIM MELLOAN



ummer of ‘65. My family makes its annual pilgrimage from Jersey to Indiana to visit the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I’ll turn 10 in a couple months; my sisters are turning eight and four. The default place for the overnight stay and meals on the way is Howard Johnson’s. They had those little jukeboxes you could play at each booth. The soundtrack for that trip, requested at every stop by eight-year-old sister Missy (who now goes by Molly) is Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.” Fifty years ago this week the song was climbing the charts. It entered the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 in late February and peaked at No. 4 the week of March 20. It resonates today as a uniquely American synthesis of styles, standing proud in the face of the British Invasion. Miller was genuine country, born dirt-poor in Oklahoma and sent off to live with an uncle and aunt because his mom couldn’t afford to keep him. But he was too quirky, funny and happy-go-lucky to fit into the standard Country genre, with its songs of pining for lost loves. Miller had some success as a songwriter in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and had just enjoyed pop success as a performing artist with “Dang Me” and “Chug-a-Lug,” which hit No. 7 and No. 9 respectively in 1964. Both songs, unusual for pop hits of the day, or pretty much any era, were celebrations of dissolution, and “King of the Road” continued in this vein. But musically, with its jazzy opening featuring just a stand-up bass and finger snaps, it owes a lot to Peggy Lee’s signature “Fever,” from 1958. And musically and lyrically, the tradition could be felt almost 30 years later with Beck’s breakout hit “Loser,” albeit splintered

Released a half-century ago, “King of the Road” resonates today as a uniquely American synthesis of styles.

into a thousand avant-garde pieces. The strange hybrid character of the song is perhaps best captured in The Proclaimers’ 1990 video for their cover, featuring identical twins Charlie and Craig Reid looking spiffy in Country & Western suits and ties, delivering the song with old-style microphones and swingy finger-snaps, thick Scottish burrs intact, amid desolate old roads and rail yards. I think Missy and I especially liked the lyric “I ain’t got no cigarettes.” It was an enticingly adult complaint, rendered with a directness and crudity hitherto unknown in pop. It just felt

modern all around, a heady celebration of freedom with none of the trappings of any kind of success, in that sense a turning point from the aspirational themes of the early ‘60s to the live-andlet-live ethos of the counterculture later in the decade. Today, it has me wondering what would it would be like to crave old stogies, and to actually find and smoke them. Apparently, a lot of guys did. Tons of artists have covered the song. It was a natural for Dean Martin. There’s a YouTube video of him hamming it up while performing it at a Rat Pack benefit in St. Louis for Father Dis-

mas’s Half-Way House, appropriately enough, for ex-cons, in June of 1965. He put his version out on vinyl on the album “(Remember Me) I’m the One Who Loves You,” released in September of 1965. The Ray Conniff Singers, all 25 of them, plus a huge orchestra, took their schmaltzy whack at it in 1966. That cut ends with a satisfyingly dissonant vocal chord meant to sound like a train horn. Rufus Wainwright, son of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, teamed with Teddy Thompson, son of Richard and Linda Thompson, to make a sweet duet of the song in 2005, used in the movie “Brokeback Mountain.” And the Tucson-based band Giant Sand has a great version from their 2002 album “Cover Magazine,” featuring Howe Gelb’s dry-as-a-tumbleweed bass vocals in a honky-tonk arrangement. Another memory: Inc. magazine president-at-the-time Bob LaPointe doing the song with company band the Mansuetones, of which I was a member, at a company holiday party in the late 2000s. Obviously the song’s down-and-out-but-not-beat theme had a resonance for him, as it probably did for much of Inc.’s entrepreneurial target audience. Louis CK once did a bit where he talked about being alone in an elevator, and for that short span of time he could strut about and declare himself King of the Elevator. As with King of the Road, no matter what our station, we can all declare ourselves King or Queen of something. It’s a powerful idea. Jim Melloan is a writer, actor, musician and editor. He’ll be doing occasional columns for The Villager on pop music from 50 years ago. You can hear a lot of playlists he’s created on Spotify.

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March 5, 2015

Buhmann on Art



“Second Tapestry” (2015 / 48” x 36” / Acrylic, gesso, ink, pencil on canvas).

“Place” (2015 / 84” x 63” / Acrylic, gesso, ink, pencil on canvas).

GLENN GOLDBERG: “ALL DAY” Through April 4 Tues.–Sat., 10 a.m.–6 p.m. At Betty Cuningham Gallery 15 Rivington St. (btw. Bowery & Chrystie St.) Call 212-242-2772 Visit


eaturing some of the largest work Goldberg has made recently, this ambitious exhibition continues the artist’s exploration



of his signature vocabulary. Held in a grisaille palette, the latter consists of playful images of dogs, birds or ducks, for example, which are characterized by a graphic clarity reminiscent of billboard signs. These ingredients are woven seamlessly into ornamental landscapes that are rich in geometric detail and reference rugs, banners, tapestries, Danish modern furniture and fetish figures, as well as Celtic, Arabic, Chinese and Hebrew calligraphy. Goldberg is known for his innovative sourcing of cultural eclecticism without any concern for narrative context. In fact, his layered compositions are always revealed slowly, allowing for the personal discovery of visual textures ranging from the decorative arts to childhood fantasy. Meanwhile, the embrace of handmade imperfections continues to play an important role in this new body of work. These paintings are charged with multiple dotted lines that delineate the space in rhythmic waves.

“A Place” (2015 / 84” x 63” / Acrylic, gesso, ink, pencil on canvas). March 5, 2015


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March 5, 2015

To Advertise Call: 646-452-2490 Deadline – 12 noon Wednesday

March 5, 2015


To Advertise Call: 646-452-2490 Deadline – 12 noon Wednesday


March 5, 2015

C.B. 2 O.K.’s sidewalk cafe for Ansel Kitchen ANSEL, continued from p. 1


(DAK) will serve up freshly made desserts, mostly fully prepared — but also finished to order — everything from freshly folded chocolate mousse or a tiramisu soaked a day or two before sale to other delectable sweets. In November 2011, Ansel opened his eponymously named Soho bakery at 189 Spring St. On May 10, 2013, he launched the Cronut and the rest is history. Since then, early mornings have seen patrons wrapped around the corner onto Thompson St. to fill their craving for the quirky confection. Prior to launching his own business, Ansel spent a six-year stint as executive pastry chef at Daniel (the longest tenure of any pastry chef at Daniel Boulud’s Upper East Side flagship restaurant). Remembering how much diners loved getting that rare glimpse inside the kitchen, he decided he wanted to recreate this at DAK. DAK is located in a three-story space that previously was home to the Landbrot Bakery & Bar, a German-style eatery. Patrons will be able to get a peek into the kitchen from any seat in the house. “That’s what I wanted to bring to Dominique Ansel Kitchen — a real back-of-the-house, behind-thescenes peek from the minute you enter the door,” Ansel said. “We’ve designed a nice, open kitchen and a view of it from every seat, so people can sit back and enjoy the theater of it all. And everywhere around you, you can see fresh items being made and smell those cookies baking in the oven.” More than 70 percent of Dominique Ansel Kitchen’s menu will be items that are made, finished or assembled to order, but not everything will be made right when the customer orders. “All items in the kitchen are fresh,” Ansel said. “But certain items don’t require being finished to order. A fruit tart that is assembled to order will always be a fresher tart than one that has been sitting in a case. But certain items, like tiramisu, will actually taste better when it has time to marinate and really steep.” Ansel equates DAK desserts to made-to-order sandwiches: “The bread dough isn’t being mixed up from scratch, and the meat isn’t being roasted when you place your order, but you can get your sandwich toasted and the meat fresh sliced,” he said. “That’s what we’re going for.” Still in the “test kitchen” phase, the menu has not yet been finalized. But Ansel’s team favors more of the Vien-

Master baker Dominique Ansel has a magic touch with whatever he makes.

noisserie items (croissants, brioche, beignet), and want to take something as classic as a chocolate croissant to a whole new level. For instance, the DAK pain au chocolat is assembled with shards of Maldon salted chocolate and is made to order fresh. There’s also a built-toorder mille-feuille (a.k.a. Napoleon) that’s flaky, not soggy, when ordered since it’s layered on the spot and fresh-stuffed with custard. Ansel and his team are also working on an ice cream in which fresh-cut vanilla bean is scraped directly onto chocolate. Over all, most items will take only one-and-a-half to three minutes to prepare. Dessert preparation was timed to the amount of time that people usually wait for a latte — which is something patrons can also imbibe, since Ansel is working with La Colombe for a coffee program to accompany the in-house desserts. The chef wants a well-balanced menu at the Kitchen but professes his love for chocolate, which will be sprinkled in wherever possible. The DAK menu will also switch up every six to eight weeks — something Ansel has continued to do at his Spring St. bakery. After hours, or when the Kitchen closes at 7 p.m., another menu will appear in the second-floor dining area at DAK. This dessert-only tasting menu will be part of an evening program called U.P., or “Unlimited Possibilities.” The evening tasting experience will give eight to 10 diners a full, eight-course dessert menu prepared by Ansel and his team of Michelin-trained cooks. Served at the

chef’s special table, the menu is currently in the works, and the intention is to pair it with wine. “It’s our chance to really, intimately connect with diners and show people what we’ve been working on,” said Ansel. The Kitchen will seat 26 inside, and there will be just as many seats outside, at an unenclosed sidewalk cafe. The Kitchen will open at the same time as Ansel’s Soho bakery, 8 a.m., to catch the famished, breakfast crowd. “Most bakeries open early in the morning for breakfast,” he noted, “which is when we are at our best.” Despite some residents’ concern over the bakery opening during the morning rush (instead of at a later 10 a.m. slot, as some had suggested) and its outdoor seating, which could generate unwanted noise for nearby residents — in addition to the very real possibility of lines outside — most in the neighborhood appear to welcome the second coming of Ansel in the West Village. Community Board 2 recently overwhelmingly recommended approval of the Kitchen’s application for a sidewalk cafe permit. Although, before their vote, the C.B. 2 members did discuss the issue of some W. 10th

St. neighbors’ concerns about potential noise, they ultimately agreed that Ansel is a “good operator” who deserves to be supported. Only two board members voted “no.” (Afterward, one C.B. 2 member told The Villager that she usually supports the resolutions of the board’s committees, and did so in this case, backing the Sidewalks and Street Activities Committee’s favorable resolution. Yet, at the same time, she admitted, sidewalk cafes aren’t noiseless.) Ultimately, the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs officially approves sidewalk cafes. In its resolution, C.B. 2 also urged that a sidewalk bike rack currently in front of the new eatery be relocated, so as to alleviate potential congestion. “We passed with a unanimous vote in our favor with the initial community board committee meeting and then once more at the full board meeting,” said Amy Ma, a co-owner of DAK, and Ansel’s business partner. “The vote is from the community, and the community passed with an overwhelming, positive vote… . We of course will work daily to be the best operators we can be for everyone.” C.B. 2 previously approved a liqour license for DAK.

d a l g h a y t Arch ’n r u o y g n i d a to be re ? r e p a p s w e n y t i n u m m co Don’t miss a single issue! ! r e g la il V e h T o t e ib r c s b Su Call 646-452-2475 March 5, 2015



March 5, 2015

All-Stars...and young players reaching for stars SPORTS BY ROBERT ELKIN


ll-Star weekend in February was a tremendous success in New York City. But it wasn’t only all about the NBA All-Star Game that took place on Sunday night. There were different venues hosting various events, some at the same time. There was something for everyone. However, most of the attention was devoted to the kids. Baruch College hosted the first-ever Basketball Without Borders Global Camp, a development program that has reached more than 2,000 teenage players from 120 countries, and whose alumni include pros Danilo Gallinari and Tiago Splitter. In addition, Nick Sports celebrated the premiere of the documentary “Little Ballers” with a screening at Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers. The film profiles a group of kids chasing their basketball dreams through the Amateur Athletic Union. On hand were many locals who are currently playing or who will play ball with A.A.U., which has sent children to middle school, high school, college and even the pros. Through A.A.U. action, some of these players are eligible to receive college scholarships. The film’s director, Crystal McCrary Anthony, of Manhattan was part of the “Little Ballers” group at the Pier 60 screening. “One day when my son Cole Anthony was playing on an A.A.U. basketball team, I saw that there were so many diverse children playing together on the same team that transcended sports,” she said. “I thought that this would be interesting to profile. Over the course of a season, I saw them win a national championship.

A.A.U. players profiled in the documentary film “Little Ballers.”

“They emerged fast,” she said. “He was 11 years old at that time. I profiled them and produced the film.” Then there was 12-year-old Fulano Libriddi, who attends the Avenues School, a private school in Chelsea. “I’ve been paying since I was five years old,” he said. “I’m here because I did the first screening of ‘Little Ballers’ and DJ’ed for it, and now my goal is to be a DJ.” Also on hand were Baron Davis, a former point guard for the Knicks; the WNBA’s Skylar Dig-

gins, a guard with the Tulsa Shock, and Elena Della Donne, a small forward /guard with the Chicago Sky; center Andre Drummond from the Detroit Pistons; Langston Galloway, who is trying to make a name for himself with the Knicks and has a bright future; J.R. Smith, the ex-Knick shooting guard now with the Cleveland Cavaliers; and Charlie Villanueva, a forward now with Dallas. All of these talents at one time played A.A.U. basketball. All the kids in attendance at the Chelsea Piers certainly enjoyed themselves.


Hawks have something to...umm, crow about The Cooper Union Hawks celebrated winning the Second Annual Northeast Art School Basketball Tournament, held at Baruch College on the weekend of Feb. 21-22. After dispatching RISD, 86-60, they beat The New School Narwhals, 74-60, in the finals.

March 5, 2015


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