The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933
March 12, 2015 • $1.00 Volume 84 • Number 41
Graduate student strike averted at N.Y.U. as new deal with union is reached BY AMANDA MORRIS
GSOC, continued on p. 3
Gas pipeline protests no longer burn, but could problems flare in future? BY EILEEN STUKANE
oday, it’s all quiet on Gansevoort Peninsula where the Spectra Energy pipeline came ashore in 2013 after having been constructed under the Hudson River from Jersey City. But a couple of years ago there was a lot of noise from Sane Energy Project activ-
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
.Y.U.’s graduate student union narrowly avoided a strike and reached a tentative agreement with the university early Tuesday morning. After about five hours of tense negotiations, mediator Martin Scheinman walked
out of the negotiation room at around 1:15 a.m. and said, “Goodnight and congratulations.” The tentative agreement marks what the Graduate Student Organizing Committee-United Auto Workers Local 2110 (GSOC-UAW) hailed as a major triumph
ists, community leaders and Greenwich Villagers, who rallied here to block the new 30-inch high-pressure natural gas pipeline from operating. Possible safety risks of leakage and even explosion, the chance of the gas containing elevated cancer-causing radon levels, and the city’s PIPELINE, continued on p. 8
On Saturday, marking the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, President Obama and the surviving “foot soldiers” marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama. In New York, above, from left, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, civil rights attorney Normal Siegel, spiritual leader Karen Daughtry and State Senator Jesse Hamilton led hundreds across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Forum on small businesses offers a solution within reach BY ALBERT AMATEAU
panel of small-business advocates last week issued a call to action to save “mom-andpop” shops and independent arts groups threatened by the chain stores and bank branches that can afford the city’s sky-high commercial rents. Sponsored by The Villager newspaper and the Village Independent Democrats club, the Thurs., March 5, forum at Judson Memorial Church, on Washington Square South, at-
tracted nearly 100 neighbors who braved snow and frigid temperatures to hear about potential solutions to save small businesses. Nadine Hoffmann, president of V.I.D., gave opening remarks, welcoming the audience and the panel of six experts. The panel was moderated by Lincoln Anderson, The Villager’s editor in chief. “There have been a couple of other local forums over the past year on similar themes,” Anderson noted at the outset.
“But they haven’t always offered solutions because, well, these are very difficult issues. What sets this forum apart is that it will attempt to offer a solution. There is a bill sitting in the City Council, the Small Business Jobs Survival Act — right now — that advocates on this panel say is the solution.” Anderson added that the reason there were no politicians on the panel was precisely because the S.B.J.S.A. S.B.J.S.A., continued on p. 6
Tammany turtle top is toned down.................page 4 Police save woman in East River....................page 10 Editorial: Time to vote on S.B.J.S.A................page 14 Positively Cornelia Street Cafe.....page 18
tion advocating for more schools to alleviate Lower Manhattan’s school overcrowding. He has three children in local public schools. He also is known as a very dapper dresser. The district leaders hailed the selection process for its openness, saying an invitation was extended to all eligible and interested males. Other candidates interviewed included Jonathan Geballe, Dennis Gault and Delay Gazinelli. Their recommendation will be submitted to the State Committee, which will consider it closely at their next meeting. Like district leaders, state committeemembers are unpaid volunteers who serve two-year terms. Midyette is an executive board member of the Downtown Progressive Democrats club. D.P.R.’s Scott said Midyette is exactly the type of community-minded person that they want to get more involved in politics. Said Berger, a member of Village Independent Democrats, “We expect Buxton to represent us well, and to add new energy to the political power of Downtown.” Rachel Lavine, the district’s state committeewoman, said, “Congratulations to each district leader for making the process as transparent as possible, and to Buxton for filling the state committeeman vacancy.”
BUXTON IN A LANDSLIDE! Well...make that 4
to 0. Congrats to Buxton Midyette, who was recommended unanimously by the 66th Assembly District’s quartet of Democratic district leaders — John Scott, Jean Grillo, Keen Berger and Arthur Schwartz — to fill the vacant seat for state committeeman. Alan Schulkin recently voluntarily vacated the post after getting tapped to be deputy chief clerk — Chelsea activist Tim Gay’s former job — at the Manhattan Board of Elections. Midyette, a V.P. in marketing, lives in Tribeca and got involved in community activism when he headed the successful grassroots campaign to keep P.S. 150 from being relocated to the new school at the former Foundling Hospital building, at W. 17th St. and Sixth Ave. He founded and leads Build Schools Now, an organiza-
OCCUPY PETITION! We hear that before The Villager’s article a few weeks ago about Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s proposal to felonize resisting
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March 12, 2015
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SUCCESS VS. 7-ELEVEN: State Senator Brad Hoylman recently gave us the update on the ongoing effort to mitigate the noisy A/C units on the 7-Eleven store on Avenue A that had been driving neighbors nuts. “The offending units were moved to the roof of the Kushner building just before Christmas and the Environmental Control Board lifted the cease-and-desist order as a result,” Hoylman reported. “It’s my understanding that tenants have been able to sleep peacefully since.” The building is owned by Jared Kushner, the young real estate mogul / New York Observer publisher. “The whole situation demonstrates why national retail chain stores typically aren’t good neighbors,” Hoylman added. “This matter should have been resolved in weeks, not months and months. Instead, 7-11 and its battery of consultants and lawyers fought us nearly every step of the way in our attempt to get the A/C and refrigeration units silenced.” The E.C.B. case was between the city Department of Environmental Protection and 7-Eleven. D.E.P. issued a cease-and-desist order to 7-Eleven due to outstanding violations for their air conditioning and refrigeration units, which were in violation of the noise code, and Hoylman then took them to court to get the order enforced. The state senator and a number of residents served as “interested witnesses” and took part in the proceedings.
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LEGAL EAGLE FLIES ON: He’s become a hero in the Village, Nolita and elsewhere around Downtown for his lawyering on behalf of community members battling everything from the N.Y.U. megadevelopment project to the purportedly pesky Citi Bike rack in Petrosino Square — and the N.Y.U. case has been pro bono. Now Jim Walden has left the firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher to form his own enterprise, Walden Macht & Haran. He and his partners, Timothy Macht and Sean Haran, are all former federal prosecutors. Walden, for example, during his stint as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1993 to 2003, was the chief of the Department of Justice’s Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Division and deputy chief of its Organized Crime and Racketeering Section. He successfully prosecuted members of the Bonanno crime family and other mafia figures, and was featured in the National Geographic series “Inside the American Mob.” But the community probably hasn’t seen the last of this soaring legal eagle, as we’re told he’s going to “continue to take cases involving government and government investigations, as well as what could be called ‘public good’ cases.”
arrest, a petition against the idea on change.org had gotten 250 signatures. Convicted Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan, who was featured in the article, subsequently started her own petition on Facebook and it quickly got more than 10,000 sign-ons. As the article’s reporter, Gerard Flynn, said, “Don’t say The Villager can’t stimulate social change.”
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N.Y.U., graduate student union reach agreement GSOC, continued from p. 1
PHOTO BY AMANDA MORRIS
for the union and for students, in that GSOC was able to have many of its demands satisfied. Gains from the agreement, which still needs to be ratified by GSOC, include wage increases, tuition remission, childcare, healthcare and family healthcare. “This contract has big bread-andbutter wins, as well as big wins for young families, which we have always felt was crucial to support the success of women in academia,” said Ella Wind, a student in the Graduate School of Arts and Science and a member of the Bargaining Committee. “Every element of our very diverse bargaining unit won something out of this contract — not an easy task to accomplish. “Moreover, we were able to keep so many different items in the contract, which makes it easier for us to push for even more wins in the long term as a union.” GSOC — representing more than 1,200 teaching, research and graduate assistants at N.Y.U. — is now the only such certified union in a U.S. private university, and, as such, can serve as a model for other student unions across the country. Graduate student workers and other part-time faculty teach roughly 60 percent of the university’s undergraduate classes, among other research, lab and administrative assistance duties. GSOC actually previously had a contract with the university, from 2001 to 2005. However, once that contract expired, N.Y.U. failed to recognize the union’s legitimacy anymore, leading to an eight-year fight by the GSOC to regain recognition, which it won in December 2013. Negotiations for a new contract began in February 2014. On top of the monetary gains from the tentative agreement, it also affords GSOC a union infrastructure, such as having three paid union staff positions, a grievance procedure and a process in which elected representatives can meet with the university. University spokesperson John Beckman said, “N.Y.U. is very pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with the UAW.” Tensions were high even before the negotiations began. Holding up colorful signs, N.Y.U. undergraduate and graduate students stood shoulder to shoulder forming a “gauntlet” in the hallway between N.Y.U.’s administrative offices and the negotiation room. As they stood in solidarity, students chanted and sang the lyrics from a the traditional labor protest song, “The Rich Man’s House,” in which they substituted “rich man’s house” with
A panel specifically to keep undergraduate students informed about the negotiations before the agreement was reached included, from left, moderator Sean Larson, with panelists Natasha Raheja, Jonah Walters and Priya Mulgaonkar. (Not shown, Ryan McNamara).
various other terms — such as “John Sexton’s house,” “Fire Island” [where Sexton has a summer home, purchased with a $1 million loan from N.Y.U.] and “the Bursar’s Office” — in order to criticize the university’s spending. However, Scheinman came out before the final negotiations to tell them that the singing was disruptive to the process. Around 9 p.m., N.Y.U.’s negotiators entered the bargaining room via another hallway, circumventing the student gauntlet. About an hour after negotiations started, David Klassen, a G.S.A.S. student and Bargaining Committee member, emerged with the contract that N.Y.U. offered. Klassen said it was “an insult” because it didn’t bend to any of the conditions that GSOC pushed for. Additionally, there were complaints from GSOC members that GSOC members were not receiving enough talking time inside the bargaining room. During the negotiations, N.Y.U. pushed for a longer contract, a fight that it won, in that the tentative agreement calls for a six-year contract, to last until 2020. GSOC also gave up demands for tuition remission for master’s students, who are currently a source of huge profit for N.Y.U. The tentative agreement will not cover most master’s students. Rajeev Dhir, a journalism master’s student, estimated that roughly one master’s student per program is fully funded, and that out of those students, there’s a 50 percent probability that they’ll be teaching assistants. “Master’s students are obviously in a bind,” said Chris Nickell, a Ph.D. student in music who is GSOC’s Com-
munications Committee point person. “It may look like master’s students’ tuition remission is not important, but it is important. The university really doesn’t want to talk about that because it’s a cash cow. So it’s something we’re not able to pursue right now.” The hope within GSOC is that with the new tentative agreement, students’ positions will be stronger and GSOC can help to support similar fights for students’ rights and workers’ rights. “There are still many issues that we are committed to fighting for, and we’ve demonstrated that through direct action and mobilization we can achieve the goals that we set,” said Claudia Carrera, also a Ph.D. music student. “It’s not over. The fight will go on.” Some graduate and undergraduate students accused N.Y.U. of stubbornness and crooked tactics. The university and GSOC had been in negotiations for over a year, with both sides accusing the other of being unwilling to compromise and of stalling negotiations. Beckman said the reason why negotiations went on so long was due to “the subsequent unwillingness of the Bargaining Committee to identify which among their many, costly demands were their priorities.” However, Wind claimed that N.Y.U. also refused to identify which points of the contract it felt were most important. Carrera said N.Y.U. might try to spin the tentative agreement as being a generous offer from the university, when in fact it was the result of a hard fight. Last Thursday, N.Y.U. sent out a memo to all students that called the union’s threat of a strike “misguided,” and claimed that the cost of meeting
GSOC’s demands “would have to be borne by revenues from tuition.” Students, however, were skeptical of this claim, citing figures showing the university rakes in $400 million in surplus every year. However, Beckman said, that’s false because the $400 million is not an annual surplus, but rather net assets, which cannot be spent. But N.Y.U. sophomore Robert Ascherman, a member of the Student Action Labor Movement, or SLAM, which supports GSOC, asserted that the money for graduate student wages doesn’t have to come from a raise in tuition. “They have enough money,” he said. “One hundred million dollars a year is going toward the N.Y.U. 2031 expansion plan according to the Space Priorities Working Group report. So what we’re absolutely seeing is a pitting of students and teachers against each other so that businessmen can profit.” Beckman denied those claims, saying that students misread the memo that was e-mailed to them. “The e-mail was simply meant to let the university know, in the face of those threats, about the issues involved and the offer N.Y.U. had put on the table — nothing more,” he said. Ryan McNamara, a senior at N.Y.U., accused the university’s system of governance of being “authoritarian.” For example, he said, Sexton’s statement that financial aid has increased more than tuition since he has been president is false, even though annual tuition has increased by about $2,000 and per capita financial aid has increased by roughly $600 during that period. “The trick is that because financial aid expenditures is so much lower of a figure than tuition revenue, you can say it doubled while tuition only went up 50 percent, or something similar,” McNamara said. Prior to these negotiations, conditions were financially tough for part-time teachers, who teach roughly 60 percent of undergraduate class hours. One of the biggest complaints raised by graduate students was that they were getting paid for roughly 20 hours worth of work each week, but in reality, they worked more than that. For example, over the past two semesters, Dhir said, he worked more than 35 hours per week. According to Dhir, he was told by the university to stop e-mailing students or grading their work if he exceeded 22 hours of work per week. However, Dhir said he didn’t follow these instructions because he wanted to be a good T.A. “Teaching is something I’m passionate about,” he said. Besides master’s students, some of GSOC, continued on p. 27 March 12, 2015
Welcome to the Tammany dome: Add-on O.K.’d 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
PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN
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he first plan wasn’t a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle but rather a Tammany turtle rooftop addition. But it could just as well have been one as far as the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which rejected it, was concerned. That design would have added a 30-foot-high, tortoise shell-shaped glass dome atop the old Tammany Hall, at E. 17th St. and Park Ave. South. The shell-shaped addition was intended to evoke Chief Tamanend, a.k.a. Chief Tammany, the namesake of the notorious Democratic organization that built Tammany Hall, which was dedicated in July 1929. The tortoise was the symbol of the Lenape people, and the chief was often depicted standing atop one, a bit like a 17th-century version of a Segway. As for Tammany Hall, well, it was the symbol of political corruption. On Tues., March 10, BKSK architects presented L.P.C. with a redesign of the two-story rooftop addition. It’s now a de facto dome — not scallop shaped — plus now includes a band of dark-colored composite “sun shade” slats, to simulate the building’s existing historic slate roof tiles that would be removed. Harry Kendall of BKSK this time made no mention of turtle-surfing chiefs, instead referring to the new dome as akin to that of Thomas Jefferson’s home at his Monticello plantation. The exteriors of the ground-floor PROPOSED commercial spaces would also be spruced up and made uniform. Although some of the commissioners voiced concerns, in the end, they unanimously approved the new design. Meenakshi Srinivasan, L.P.C. chairperson, said the changes satisfied their previous concerns and would not detract from the building’s appearance. The dome, which would be illu-
COURTESY BKSK ARCHITECTS
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
A view of the current design for the rooftop addition, seen from the west.
minated at night, is part of a plan to gut-rehab the building, which is currently home to the New York Film Academy and the Union Square Theater. The owner’s intention is to convert the building to commercial office use. Jack Taylor, a member of the Union Square Community Coalition, was disappointed at the approval of the design, and said it’s only “minimally better” than the previously shown turtle shell. “It’s nothing that preservationists want, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
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March 12, 2015
A street-level view from the northwest of the previous rooftop-addition design.
It was only a bit more than a year ago that the former “temple of corruption” was designated an individual New York City landmark. “We pressured L.P.C. for 29 years to landmark Tammany Hall — and now we got into this,” Taylor lamented of the O.K.’d dome The building was previously owned by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which, Taylor noted, renamed its auditorium the Roosevelt Theater in honor of New Dealer F.D.R. “Of course,” Taylor noted, “the Tammany building was designed to simulate the old Federal Hall on Wall St., where Washington took the oath of office. The original Federal Hall was a Georgian design — there certainly was no dome.” On top of all that and only adding to the indignity, he pointed out, April marks 50 years since the signing of the city’s Landmarks Law, which created the L.P.C. Preservationists will be partying it up everywhere to mark the anniversary. And so, the building’s owner has now been granted a certificate of appropriateness to construct the dome. But to Tammany Hall purist Taylor, it will forever be inappropriate. He said he’ll also be sorry to see the theater get booted from the building to make way for offices. “A musical version of ‘The 39 Steps,’ the classic British movie thriller, is comPROPOSED ing to the theater in May,” he noted. TheVillager.com
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Small-business advocates say S.B.J.S.A. is the
PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Mark Crispin Miller, right, said powerful forces have long been working to push Manhattan’s property values through the roof. Other panelists included, from left, Jenny Dubnau, Alfred Placeras, Steve Null, Steven Barrison, moderator Lincoln Anderson and Bob Perl. S.B.J.S.A., continued from p. 1
bill has languished for decades, constantly blocked from coming up for a vote by the political powers that be. The advocates all agreed that helping small businesses survive will require political will, but that it will not be easy. “The main problem is that business owners have no rights to negotiate lease renewals with landlords at reasonable rents,” said Steve Null, a former member of the Small Business Advisory Board in the Dinkins and Giuliani administrations. Null was the author in 1986 of a bill introduced by then-Councilmember Ruth Messinger, the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, or S.B.J.S.A. A current version of that bill is before the City Council. The measure would regulate only the commercial rent renewal process and would encourage good-faith negotiations. The bill calls for mediation to bring parties together, followed by binding arbitration if there is no agreement. If a landlord is offered a higher rent, the existing tenant would have the chance to match it. Tenants in good standing would have the right to lease renewals of 10 years. “But in 30 years we’ve had bills that go nowhere in the City Council. No bill ever made it to the mayor’s desk,” Null said, calling for public pressure on Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to move the current version, introduced last year, to adoption. “This is the end of the line,” Null said. “They [de
March 12, 2015
Blasio and Mark-Viverito] were for it when they were candidates. Now they’re silent.” “Arbitration is the best option,” Steven Barrison, a lawyer active in commercial rent negotiations for 25 years, said, referring to the S.B.J.S.A. While commercial rent control has no chance, given the real estate climate in the city, it did exist 50 years ago. “From 1945 to 1963 there was commercial rent control in the city, with a final arbitration step,” said Barrison, co-chairperson of the Coalition to Save New York City Small Business. “During those 18 years, not one landlord could prove he was denied reasonable rent.” What has always stopped the S.B.J.S.A. from coming up for a vote in the City Council? Anderson asked. Barrison held up his hands, making the Johnny Manziel money sign with his fingers — a gesture he would repeat several times during the night. And yet, Barrison said, the politicians are actually more afraid of the popular will of the voters than they are influenced by real estate’s big bucks. Alfred Placeras, a small-business advocate and founder of the New York State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, declared, “There should be disincentives to keeping stores vacant for years.” Placeras noted that landlords often refuse small-business tenants lease renewals at any rent. He remarked that stores left vacant for a long time have a devastating impact on neighboring small businesses.
Village activist Sharon Woolums organized last Thursday’s forum on the S.B.J.S.A. Her columns in The Villager on the issue over the past two years have brought renewed attention to the long-blocked bill.
Panel members were critical of other options. “A zoning solution is 15 years too late,” said Null. He noted that changes in zoning to help small businesses would apply to new commercial tenants and leave old tenants unaffected. Nevertheless, Null and Barrison cited a 2004 San Francisco measure restricting the concentration of chains and franchises. However, the San Francisco ordinance, which provides for community input and final approval by the city, would have most
effect on new locations but leave commercial tenants unprotected. A property-tax credit for landlords who voluntarily limit rent increases for small businesses upon lease renewal was a suggestion the panel found to be weak because it would be voluntary. New York City is currently urging the State Legislature to pass a law along these lines. The idea of creating a small-business retention task force provoked only derision. “Mayor Koch founded a small business task force that we called the ‘Limousine Commission’ because it was made up of bankers and real estate interests,” Null recalled. Mark Crispin Miller, a media studies professor and president of N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan — the group leading the legal fight against the university’s massive South Village expansion project — framed the discussion in the context of the “big picture.” “The city is vanishing right before our eyes,” said Miller, warning that before long the Big Apple will look like Dubai. He cited “The Assassination of New York,” Robert Fitch’s 1996 book that details the attack on small businesses and manufacturing for the benefit of the FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate) economy that started as far back as the 1920s. We are now facing that grand scheme’s end game, he said. “This can be changed — by the peoS.B.J.S.A., continued on p.7 TheVillager.com
answer; Forum draws nearly 100 on snowy night S.B.J.S.A., continued from p. 6
ple, the voters,” Miller said, adding, “There has to be a tremendous effort to organize to make politicians understand that this cannot continue.” Miller noted that the fight against the N.Y.U. expansion got a boost last month when the Court of Appeals, New York State’s highest court, agreed to hear an appeal of an Appellate Division ruling that had overturned a lower court decision that part of the expansion plan was invalid. Rounding out the panel and providing a landlord’s perspective was Robert Perl, president of Tower Realty, whose business is centered in the East Village. Perl warned the other panel members that any solution could have unintended consequences. He also said that rent is often only 10 percent of a restaurant’s costs, for example. “We have to ask ourselves what we are trying to preserve,” Perl added, noting that mom-and-pop businesses keep changing hands, making it impractical to lock in leases for 10 years. But the other panelists were eager to rebut his statements, all of them arguing forcefully that lease renewals are unquestionably the deciding factor on whether small businesses survive or go under. Yet, Perl said he couldn’t see any easy answers. “New York is a magnet for money from all over the world and I don’t see that anything will stop it,” he said, implying that rising commercial rents are inevitable. The only solution he could offer was that people should patronize and support the small businesses that they value. Also on the panel was Jenny Dubnau, representing the Artist Studio Affordability Project. “We want to make common cause with small businesses,” Dubnau said. “Last year over 100 artists lost their studios in Brooklyn.” At the same time, she said, artists are used, unbeknownst to them, by developers as the leading edge of gentrification. During the event’s question-and-answer session, audience members responded to the problems of small-business owners and offered some suggestions of their own. Jeffrey Rowland supported Placeras’s call for disincentives to keeping property vacant. “There should be a punitive vacancy tax,” Rowland offered, emphasizing the word “punitive.” Audience members applauded their approval of the idea. However, TheVillager.com
Steve Null, left, and Steve Barrison forcefully advocated for the S.B.J.S.A. at the forum, saying lease renewals are the key to whether small businesses ultimately survive.
Jenny Dubnau, representing Brooklyn artists, left, and Alfred Placeras, representing bodegas and other small Latino-owned businesses, said prohibitive rents are pushing out creative types and merchants, respectively.
Barrison said such a tax likely would be difficult to implement. Lorcan Otway, owner of Theater 80, on St. Mark’s Place, said that the 67 percent rise in real estate taxes over the past 10 years is jeopardizing the continued existence of small theaters in the neighborhood. Mayor de Blasio’s projection of another 19 percent increase in the next four years will make matters worse, he warned. Jean Grillo, Democratic district leader in Tribeca, agreed that saving small businesses was an important political goal. “You should talk to your councilmember,” she advised. Several audience members wondered why small businesses in Downtown neighborhoods have not posted signs in their stores promoting the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. The answer from the panel was
that landlords are very punitive, implying that there would be payback for posting such signs. “I’ll put one up six feet high,” said Jim Drougas, owner of Unoppressive, Non-Imperialist Bargain Books, on Carmine St. Judy Callet said locals have heard that “a hedge fund guy” who has bought the building with the Avignone health and beauty care shop on Bleecker St. near Sixth Ave., intends to jack up the space’s rent from $20,000 to $60,000 a month. Unable to afford that, Avignone will close in a few weeks. Perl, who said he used to patronize the pharmacy at Avignone before it relocated to CVS nearby, said he was shocked to hear that astronomical sum. “We need a movement, like the one Jane Jacobs started,” declared Ann
McDermott, an East Village resident who said she is affiliated with the Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York blog. Another audience member, a veteran of Occupy Wall Street’s 2011 Zuccotti Park encampment, said that N.G.O.’s like the Regional Plan Association need to be looked at in terms of how they’re working behind the scenes to direct the city’s future course. Karen Loew, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation director for the East Village and special projects, said that G.V.S.H.P. is already on board. The group has previously held a forum on preserving local restaurants. The organizer of last Thursday’s forum was Sharon Woolums, a V.I.D. member. She has written a half-dozen columns advocating for the S.B.J.S.A. that have been published in The Villager over the past two years. The evening’s last word belonged to her. “We are now armed with knowledge,” Woolums said, “and knowledge is power — the power to make changes.” A couple of hardy aides of local politicians made it to the forum on the snowy and cold evening. One of them afterward told The Villager that the S.B.J.S.A. currently only has 14 supporters in the City Council, but needs 34 of the 51 councilmembers to get behind it, since that would make it veto-proof if the mayor doesn’t like the bill. “That’s not true,” countered Null, indicating that the long-stymied legislation should, at last, be allowed to come up for a vote. In addition, at the forum, Barrison revealed yet another looming threat to small stores. He said that Walmart, while having given up on trying to bring big-box stores here, hasn’t given up, by any means, on conquering New York City. The chain plans to open up at least 120 “baby Walmarts” here by 2017, with an ultimate goal of 150, he announced. These “baby Walmarts,” he said, would be housed in smaller spaces than the chain usually operates, ranging from 5,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet, and would be in all five boroughs. For these smaller stores, Walmart would break out the various departments included in its bigbox stores, with one “baby Walmart” housing a pharmacy, for example, another a food store, another an electronics shop and so on, or combinations of a few different departments, he said.
With reporting by Lincoln Anderson March 12, 2015
Could problems flare up with pipeline or radon? PIPELINE, continued from p. 1
March 12, 2015
greater dependence on a hydraulically fractured — hydrofracked — fossil fuel, brought protesters to the Hudson River Park at Gansevoort St. for protests. City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who was only a candidate at the time, was arrested with others for blocking the West Side Highway during a November 2013 demonstration. In addition, Sane Energy Project and other environmental groups jointly sued the Hudson River Park Trust for granting Spectra an easement and a 30-year lease to allow its pipeline on Gansevoort Peninsula for a nonpark use, which they charged was not in compliance with the New York State’s Environmental Quality Review Act. But the suit was dismissed. The Spectra pipeline became operational in November 2013. It terminates at an underground vault — basically a connecting station to Con Edison’s local system of gas mains — adjacent to the basement of the new Whitney Museum. A cantilevered section of the new Renzo Piano-designed museum casts its shadow over the spot. Meanwhile, the community — which had once taken to the streets to protest the pipeline — turned its attention elsewhere. Clare Donohue, program director of Sane Energy Project, “At this point, there isn’t anything more we can do,” she said. “Our lawsuits were dismissed. The pipelines go in and everybody forgets them.” Since pipelines have exploded so often, there is an entire Wikipedia page entitled “List of pipeline accidents in the United States in the 21st Century.” Donohue worries about the underground vault being so close to priceless artwork stored in the Whitney’s basement. “The vault is where the Spectra pipeline connects with the Con Ed pipes, and anywhere that pipes connect is the most delicate place — the place most likely to leak and have a problem,” she noted. “And pipelines create more problems as they get older.” In response to questions about the new pipeline’s safety, Marylee Hanley, Spectra’s director of stakeholder outreach, said there is nothing to worry about. “The NJ-NY Expansion Project [the pipeline to the Village] transports safe, reliable, domestic supplies of natural gas to heat homes and businesses in the area,” she wrote in an e-mail. “The facilities were designed and constructed — and are operated and maintained — to be the safest pipelines in the nation. Monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the facilities meet or exceed all federal safe-
Corey Johnson being arrested for blocking traffic on the West Side Highway near the Gansevoort Peninsula in November 2013 during a protest against the Spectra pipeline.
ty standards and regulations.” Although the Con Ed connection is made at the Gansevoort vault, Con Ed does not inspect the vault since, according to a spokesperson, “It is the property of Spectra Energy.” “Spectra Energy personnel conduct a daily ground patrol and daily physical inspection of the NJ-NY Expansion Project pipeline facilities, 365 days a year,” Hanley added. As for the Whitney’s view of the pipeline’s safety, a member of the communications department there said they are trusting that the appropriate government agencies will stay on top of it. “While the natural gas pipeline does not cross directly onto the museum’s property, we followed the progress of the work because of its close proximity to the site,” the spokesperson said. “Governmental regulators, who oversaw and monitored the pipeline’s construction, are responsible for ensuring that the pipeline’s ongoing operation meets all applicable standards and requirements.” The vault’s location, however, has not escaped the notice of the activist group Occupy Museums. “We are concerned with the roles of museums in facilitating these kinds of infrastructure,” said the group’s Tal Beery. “We’re concerned with the vault because there’s no 100 percent guarantee of its safety.” The Trust, which leased part of the park’s land to allow Spectra Energy to bury its pipeline in a shallow trench under Gansevoort Peninsula, did not respond to a question regarding the pipeline’s ongoing safety. Local parents have expressed worry that the Jane St. Pier with its children’s play-
ground is within the pipeline’s potential “blast zone.” In addition, there is the question of radon. A tasteless, odorless, colorless gas, radon is present in natural gas, and can be cancer-causing if inhaled regularly at unsafe levels. In fact, it is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, and second leading cause among smokers. Initially, anti-fracking activists feared that the radon in the natural gas traveling through the Spectra pipeline was going to exceed safety levels. The Environmental Protection Agency considers 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/l) as a safe level inside homes. The World Health Organization cites a lower 2.7 pCi/l as safe. However, that prediction was based on the assumption that most of the pipeline’s gas would have come from hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale in New York State, and that this gas would have taken only 12 hours to arrive in New York City, as opposed to the usual six to eight days it takes for Gulf Coast gas to reach the city. In hydrofracking, underground shale rock is fractured — blasted open under high pressure with tons of water and sand laced with a slew of unspecified chemicals — which releases natural gas, but also disturbs the shale’s uranium and radium-226. In short, fracked gas contains radioactive radon. Radioactive radon has a relatively short half-life of 3.8 days, after which its concentration drops in half. After another 3.8 days, that half divides in half again, so it’s a fourth of the original’s strength, and so on. Hence, the longer the travel time, the more the radon dissipates and reaches safer levels.
However, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ban on hydrofracking in New York State meant that concern that a substantial amount of the gas in the Spectra pipeline would originate nearby and have a short travel time would be alleviated. Gulf Coast gas — more distant and thus safer for New Yorkers in terms of radon levels — was always going to be mixed in, and would compensate for the lack of fracked gas from New York. For the last three winters, Sane Energy Project conducted citizen radon tests. The organization made 200 test kits available and asked volunteers to test for radon in their New York City homes. The results of this admittedly unscientific testing in 500 to 600 homes showed overall radon levels to be within the E.P.A.’s accepted safe range. Sane would like to raise funds to support a formal study. A future governor could decide to lift the state’s hydrofracking ban. But advocates hope that, as a safeguard, legislation requiring the monitoring of radon in natural gas arriving at the city will be approved. Upper West Side Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal has introduced legislation that would require gas corporations continuously to monitor the radon level in their gas deliveries. Radon levels should not exceed 2.7 pCi/l, and if they do, the bill states that the commissioner of the state Department of Health can order the gas flow stopped and a fine of $25,000 a day imposed on the corporations until radon levels are in compliance. Rosenthal’s bill has passed in the Assembly but still requires passage by the State Senate, where its co-sponsor is Senator Diane Savino. “The governor’s decision not to allow fracking is not a legal ban,” Rosenthal explained. “The radon level still needs to be measured and it’s something that the utilities are very opposed to. This bill has specific instructions on where to monitor, how often, and it’s not at the whim of the operator.” During his tenure, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg mandated that building boilers be converted to natural gas. “Mayor Bloomberg really set the city up for a gas infrastructure before he left,” said Sane’s Donohue, who notes that the current administration is taking a different approach. “After the Climate March, Mayor de Blasio announced a plan to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050,” she said. “It’s a directive, but I see the City Council committed to being environmentally proactive and introducing bills that move the city away from fossil fuels.” Which would also be away from pipelines… . TheVillager.com
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POLICE BLOTTER Riis Houses shooting
PHOTO BY FLY
On Mon., March 9, shortly before 9 p.m., a man, 23, was shot in front of 178 Avenue D, near E. 13th St., in the Jacob Riis Houses, by another man in a group of unknown males. The victim, who was reported not likely to die and in stable condition at Bellevue Hospital, is a resident of 691 F.D.R. Drive, near East Houston St., in the Lillian Wald Houses, according to the Ninth Precinct. According to a source, at this point, the victim is not fully cooperating with police.
Bust in Wald shooting Police have arrested Shaquille Fuller, 21, for a shooting outside the Lillian Wald Houses, but not for the fatal shooting of Shemrod Isaacs, 33, on Feb. 23 that he is also a suspect in. Fuller had been taken into custody in New Jersey on Feb. 26, three days after Isaac, who rapped under the name Sham Da God, was gunned down in front of the Wald Houses’ 20 Avenue
Harbor Patrol police pulled the unconscious woman out of the East River on March 10 before resuscitating her with C.P.R.
D, where Isaac lived. Fuller also lives in the Wald Houses, at 60 Avenue D. Speaking this Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney said Fuller had been arrested in the past few days, was back in Manhattan and was arraigned on his charges on Monday. (He could not be arrested until he was extradited to New York.)
The charges stem from a Dec. 12, 2014, incident in which Fuller allegedly pumped two rounds into a man at the southeast corner of Avenue D and E. Sixth St. Fuller was charged with attempted murder in the second degree, attempted assault in the first degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and assault in the second degree. According to the D.A.’s complaint, the victim in the December assault said Fuller walked up to him at 11:20 p.m. and shot him once in the chest and once in the back of the neck. Police reported recovering two bullet casings at the scene. Isaac, meanwhile, was shot three times, reportedly after an argument with the suspect. According to police, the investigation into Isaacs’s killing remains open. Fuller’s next court date is April 8.
Cops save river jumper
A woman, reportedly possibly in her 40s, jumped into the East River at South St. and Pike Slip shortly before noon on Tues., March 10. A New York Police Department Harbor Unit boat responded and pulled her from the water, at which point she was unconscious and not breathing, according to police. Police performed C.P.R. on the woman and she began breathing again. According to a police spokesperson, the C.P.R. was done onboard the boat. One of the daily newspapers reported that she was taken to nearby
March 12, 2015
Pier 11 where the C.P.R. was performed. “She was dead when they pulled her out,” the spokesperson told The Villager. “They did C.P.R. and brought her back.” The woman was taken to Bellevue Hospital where she was reported to be in stable condition, the spokesperson said. Fly, the East Village squatter artist whose PEOPS cartoons are featured in The Villager, happened to be walking by at the time and said she was only a few meters away (Fly is originally from Canada) when she witnessed the woman jump into the river. She thought the woman looked to be in her 20s, though admits she didn’t get a good view of her face. She thought the woman had died. “She was right under the Manhattan Bridge and she was on the outside of the railing,” Fly told the newspaper on Tuesday evening. “There was another woman there, and I thought they were doing some kind of photo shoot. But as I walked up, I realized something was wrong and the woman was trying to get her to come back over and saying, ‘Don’t do it.’ “The girl was yelling something and she put her hands up and yelled something up to the sky. I was just not close enough to get to her. She jumped too fast. “I was desperately calling 911 and hoping she would come back to the wall and I could make a rope out of my clothes to pull her up,” Fly recounted. “But instead she rolled BLOTTER, continued on p. 11 TheVillager.com
BLOTTER, continued from p. 10
over facedown and just lay there, drifting north and out into the river. “It took about five minutes for EMTs to arrive, but they couldn’t get out to where she was. She had drifted very far out. If only the tide had kept her by the wall! They had a hook! The Fire Department took a bit longer. She was in there about 10 minutes when a police boat arrived to pull her out, DOA. It was awful. “I’m pretty messed up about this.” It wasn’t a coincidence that Fly happened to be out strolling then. “I do a walk around Lower Manhattan and back up through Battery Park every day,” she said. “It’s my meditation time. I used to be a long-distance runner and marathon runner. Since my knees are shot now, I have to walk.” Referring to the police lingo — “floater” — for a dead body in the river, she said, “I have seen several floaters on the East River and on the Hudson. I have witnessed fatal accidents. But I have never seen someone do a suicide and die right before my eyes. It was so heartbreaking, I had to miss teaching my class at the Lower Eastside Girls Club.” She was relieved to hear that the woman, in fact, had survived.
Female floating in river On Sun., March 8, at about 2:40 p.m., police responded to the East River at 23rd St. for a 911 call of a body in the water. Upon arrival, officers observed a female floating in the river about 15 to 20 feet from the shoreline. The victim was removed from the water and E.M.S. pronounced the victim DOA at the scene. She was not immediately identified. The Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death.
Pretty Provocative A 22-year-old woman was hit with a wine glass on the right side of her face courtesy of a fellow female bar patron at Provocateur, at 18 W. Ninth St., early last Saturday morning. The two women engaged in a verbal dispute on March 7, and then Kathleen Ward, 23, allegedly threw the glass at the victim, who suffered a laceration. Ward was arrested and charged with felony assault.
Bad bucks on Bleecker Two men targeted Village businesses with counterfeit U.S. currency starting at 11 p.m. on Fri., March 6. They first hit 1849 bar and restaurant, at 183 Bleecker St., where they attempted to pay a bartender for drinks with the fake cash. But they fled after they were questioned about the fishy-looking bills. They had better luck at their next stop, down the block at Carroll Place, at 157 Bleecker St. Not only did the funny money pass muster for two purchases each, they got some real cash, as well, in exchange for the phony bills, police said. But cops caught up with them at the Red Lion, at 151 Bleecker St., just after midnight. The perpetrators paid the price of admission and coat check at the place with the bogus bills. However, they didn’t have long to enjoy the amenities there. Officers soon arrived and arrested Eddie Ashley and Joseph Fernandez, both age 21. More worthless greenbacks were reportedly found on the pair, though a police report did not state how much. Ashley and Fernandez were charged with felony criminal possession of forged instruments.
Wrong-name ruse A woman who was pulled over at the northwest corner of W. 10th St. and Fifth Ave. for a traffic violation reportedly tried to give police a fake name. Police said they pulled over a brown Ford Explorer after observing it aggressively pass another vehicle in the intersection. The street was particularly wet and slushy just after 6:30 p.m. on Wed., March 4, making the maneuver more dangerous, according to police. After the driver initially provided a phony name, she continued the ruse even after an officer warned her that doing so was a misdemeanor and might make her subject to arrest. A computer check of the name did not reveal her identification, so the officer again pressed the driver to come clean. Further investigation determined that Jainer Lowe was her real name. The 33-year-old also allegedly yanked police around as she was placed under arrest. She was charged with false personation and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors, and a traffic violation.
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The prosecution rests in Etan murder case; BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
fter three weeks of assistant district attorneys presenting the case against Pedro Hernandez in the 1979 disappearance of Etan Patz, the prosecution rested last Friday. On Monday, the defense began presenting its case. It’s expected the historic trial will wrap up sometime in mid-April. Although Hernandez confessed to police nearly three years ago that he killed Patz, his defense team says this was coerced under pressure and that he is mentally ill and hallucinates. Last Friday, the prosecution presented a forensic video made by the District Attorney’s Office that retraced the 6-year-old Soho boy’s planned twoblock route from his Prince St. loft to his school bus stop, two blocks away on West Broadway. The video pauses to film the bodega at the northwest corner of Prince and West Broadway where prosecutors say Hernandez was working at the time Patz vanished. Hernandez reportedly was, in fact, at that time living right across the street in an apartment on the intersection’s southwest corner with his sister and her husband, Juan Santana. Santana ran the bodega and was its cashier. Now a super for a number of Soho buildings, he reportedly still lives in the same place. The D.A.’s video then continues one block further down Prince St. — crossing midway down the block from the north sidewalk to the south sidewalk, then going down a stairway at 113 Thompson St., then through a long, narrow alleyway and into a courtyard. Hernandez had previously taken detectives on this path, claiming it was where he dumped the young boy’s body after strangling him in the bodega’s basement. However, Harvey Fishbein, Hernandez’s lead defense attorney, has previously stated in court that in 1979 a door that was in front of that alley opened directly into a bakery. Last Friday, the prosecution also presented four recorded phone calls between Hernandez and his wife while he was in Rikers awaiting trial. The prosecution played the calls aloud for the jury to try to demonstrate Hernandez’s “controlling” nature and that he, in fact, is mentally competent. In one of the phone calls, Hernandez, speaking in a high-pitched voice, is disapproving of his 24-yearold daughter’s going out with a friend to Great Adventure, fearing she might drink alcohol there. He also demonstrates that he is keeping a careful tally of the money he has left to make phone calls, and urges his wife to add more dollars — in the allowable $25 increments — to his prison phone budget.
Why preplan with us?
A photo of the former bodega at Prince St. and West Broadway, in whose basement, prosecutors contend, Pedro Hernandez killed Etan Patz.
This grasp of basic math, the prosecution argues, clearly shows that Hernandez is not mentally incapable, despite having a very low I.Q. of only 70. In addition, the prosecution called Dr. Michele Slone, the Manhattan deputy chief medical examiner, to the stand, and then played a videotaped confession by Hernandez in which he describes to detectives how he allegedly strangled Patz from behind. In the video, Hernandez claims he somehow couldn’t help himself from choking the boy. “Something took over me and I said, ‘This is more and more,’ and then he went like this,” he said, shrugging to show how Patz’s body and arms allegedly went limp. He said the boy then fell down to the ground, though still gasping. “Even though he was still alive, I put him in a bag, a plastic bag,” he said. He said he then tied the bag, put it in a box and carried it out of the bodega’s basement on his shoulder.
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Part of Pedro Hernandez’s confession, as written down by a police detective, that he gave after his arrest in New Jersey in May 2012.
As to whether anything sexual may have happened — assuming Hernandez really did encounter Patz on that fateful day — Hernandez did say something to detectives during his confession after his arrest in New Jersey in May 2012. A detective testified in court that Hernandez, during his confession, PATZ TRIAL, continued on p.13 TheVillager.com
Defense to shift focus onto original suspect PATZ TRIAL, continued from p. 12
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
at one point, unsolicited by his interrogators, stated, “But nothing happened sexually.” Hernandez, over the years, had claimed to relatives and church group members that he had killed a boy. Subsequent to his confession, though, in December 2012, Hernandez pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and kidnapping. Stan Patz, Etan’s father, sat in court last Friday, as he has every day of the trial from its start. The Patzes long believed that Etan was killed by Jose Ramos, a homeless character who used to hang around Soho and was the boyfriend of the Patzes’ babysitter. Ramos has served two decades in prison on child-molestation charges unrelated to the Patz case. Etan was declared legally dead in 2001. The Patzes filed a civil suit against Ramos, resulting in his being declared legally responsible for Etan’s death in 2004. The defense is expected to argue that Ramos, not Hernandez, killed Etan. This week a forensic psychiatrist testified that Hernandez told him he had seen a number of people in the basement as he allegedly killed the boy. Asked for comment by The Villager last Friday during the jury’s lunch break, Stan Patz declined, as the family has largely done with all media in recent years. He quietly walked down the hall past a battery of news photographers that are stationed there every day to get shots on the ongoing story, one of the world’s most infamous missing-child cases. Bill Dobbs, a Soho resident active in peace, civil
The door to an alley on Thompson St. where Hernandez alleges he dumped Etan Patz’s body.
rights and gay rights issues, was in the audience in court last Friday. He has been attending the trial as often as he can.
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“My fascination with this case is because I moved to Soho three years after [Etan vanished], and because this completely turned American childhood upside down,” he told The Villager. In a phone interview, Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, said he has seen Santana, Hernandez’s brother-in-law, around the neighborhood for years, though has never spoken to him. No one seems to recall Hernandez, though. “He had a son whom I would see around the area, who likely was about Etan’s age, until he left about 20 years ago to join the military and I think now lives in Queens, a decent kid,” Sweeney said of Santana. As for the bodega, now long gone, Sweeney recalled, “It was a real bodega. Hipsters and newcomers call any neighborhood grocery store nowadays a ‘bodega.’ It was run by the Puerto Ricans who lived in the neighborhood, and it had just the basics. There would always be a couple of Hispanic guys hanging around, talking and occasionally drinking spirits out of little paper cups. I think at Christmas time they would offer free shots to people.” The place was kind of run-down, but he noted, “It sold basics, and before Dean & DeLuca arrived, we needed something like that.” Sweeney is also a longtime former president of the Downtown Independent Democrats. Stan Patz used to attend D.I.D. meetings to get the political club’s support for putting pressure on former D.A. Robert Morgenthau to pursue charges against Ramos. But Morgenthau felt there was insufficient evidence. When Cy Vance ran for district attorney, however, activist Dobbs noted, he pledged to reopen the Etan Patz case.
HOLY WEEK at SAINT LUKE’S Palm Sunday, March 29 8:00 am: Said Eucharist, Rite I 9:15 am: Sung Eucharist, Rite II* 11:15 am: Choral Eucharist, Rite II* 12:45 pm: Service of Healing Monday and Tuesday in Holy Week 6:15 pm: Said Eucharist, Rite II Wednesday in Holy Week 6:15 pm: Said Eucharist, Rite II and Stations of the Cross Maundy Thursday, April 2 6:30 pm: Choral Eucharist with Foot Washing, Agape Supper, Stripping of the Altar and Vigil at the Altar of Repose Good Friday, April 3 9:00 am: Morning Prayer 1:00 pm: Good Friday Liturgy* 6:30 pm: Stations of the Cross 7:30 pm : Musical Meditations on the Passion of Christ Holy Saturday, April 4 10:00 am: Holy Saturday Service 10:15 am: Egg Dyeing 8:00 pm: The Great Vigil of Easter—The Paschal Vigil and First Eucharist of Easter with Baptism, Confirmation, Reception and Reaffirmation of Catechumens—Reception follows Easter Sunday, April 5 8:00 am: Said Eucharist, Rite I 9:15 am: Sung Eucharist, Rite II* 11:15 am: Choral Eucharist, Rite II* 12:45 pm: Service of Healing
*Childcare available The Church of Saint Luke in the Fields|487 Hudson Street New York, NY 10014 www.stlukeinthefields.org | 212.924.0562 TheVillager.com
March 12, 2015
Let the S.B.J.S.A. finally come up for a vote! EDITORIAL
ast Thursday evening, The Villager and the Village Independent Democrats co-sponsored a truly historic community forum, “A Call to Action: Solutions for Saving Small Businesses.” Despite a heavy snowstorm earlier in the day that even saw a jet skid off the runway at LaGuadia Airport, 100 intrepid, intensely concerned New Yorkers braved the bad weather to hear about — and offer their own ideas on — what can be done to save mom-and-pop stores in an era of skyrocketing rents. This forum’s expert panel was as grassroots as you can get, including committed small business advocates, the president of N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan and an artists’ representative, plus an East Village landlord. The discussion started with a bold premise: that there exists — right now, at this very moment — a mechanism to help our small businesses survive amid an onslaught of banks, Duane
Reades, Starbucks and other chains, which are among the few types of businesses that can afford today’s astronomical Manhattan rents. And, in truth, this discussion really focuses on Manhattan — which is now nothing less than the epicenter of global wealth. At the forum, we also learned that, threatening to further upend the local retail landscape, more than 100 “baby Walmarts” will be hitting town in just a couple of years from now. In short, the mechanism to save small businesses is a bill that has been repeatedly blocked from coming up for a vote in the City Council ever since the mid-1980s — the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. This legislation would entitle commercial tenants in good standing to 10-year lease renewals. If the landlord and tenant cannot reach terms, then there would be nonbinding mediation, to be followed, if necessary, by binding arbitration. The legislation mandates no minimum or maximum caps on rent increases. Since The Villager first editorialized about the S.B.J.S.A. two weeks ago, support for the idea has snowballed. Following our forum last Thursday, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York has
gotten onboard, with the blog’s Jeremiah Moss penning his support this week in a column in the Daily News. In addition, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has put out an e-mail blast calling on people to write letters in support of the S.B.J.S.A. A press conference —with the requisite celebrity activists — is now being planned to keep the momentum going. It’s wonderful to see this movement building and broadening. What emerged from last Thursday’s forum is precisely that such a movement is what is needed to pressure the political powers that be to finally bring this long-blocked bill to a vote in the City Council. Why has the bill been obstructed so long? As one panelist said, while making the international finger-rubbing sign — it’s all about money. To back up for one second, it’s only fitting to give credit where it’s due. Let the record show that this renewed focus on the perennially stalled S.B.J.S.A. — at least in terms of its coverage in the media — all started with V.I.D member Sharon Woolums’s hard-hitting columns about this issue right in this newspaper, The Villager.
Over the past two years, Woolums has written a half-dozen columns on this subject that we have run in The Villager. Unfailingly, every one of her columns has gotten hundreds of “likes” from concerned readers. Helping Woolums in her effort has been Steve Null, who wrote the original S.B.J.S.A for then-Councilmember Ruth Messinger. Clearly, Woolums tapped into a deep sentiment — namely, that our city is becoming unaffordable, not only for residents, which we all already know, but also for small merchants, as well, who add so much to our communities. As higher-paying retail tenants have been brought in, we can no longer find a hardware store, a shoe-repair shop, an affordable deli in our neighborhoods. The nature of our city is being fundamentally altered — its fabric is being shredded before our eyes — but there is a way to address this. There have been a couple of previous forums that have touched on this issue — yet, a solution has never been offered. One, last summer by G.V.S.H.P., brought together EDITORIAL, continued on p. 16
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Hard facts about Airbnb To The Editor: Re “My building became an illegal-hotel nightmare” (talking point, by Audrey Smaltz, March 5) and “Airbnb helped me get my startup off the ground (talking point, by Michael Radparvar, March 5): Our building in Little Italy on the edge of Soho has experienced similar deregulation to Smaltz’s that we believe is illegal: of 16 rent-stabilized
units, we now have only four. As if the hemorrhage of affordable housing were not enough (and in this housing market, it is very, very bad), the conditions created by illegal hotel rentals through Airbnb in our building were frightful. These included a repeatedly broken front door lock that threw building safety out the window and occasionally trapped some of us in the vestibule, a serious fire safety hazard; drunkenness and smoking in the hallways and on the fire escapes; domestic violence between transients; and finally a burglary that
appeared to be an inside job. But the worst thing about the ways in which Airbnb and its generic versions have diminished our community is that it cuts the ground from under our feet when it comes to concerted action over reduction of building-wide services, such as heat, and in terms of having a robust political process. Which neighborhood would you rather live in: one dominated by registered voters, or one dominated by tourists merely partying on through? According to the New York Attorney General’s Office, which got actual data, 72 percent of Airbnb’s “private short-term rentals” (renting out an entire apartment or private room for less than 30 days when the host is not present) were illegal. In addition, according to the A.G.’s report, 6 percent of Airbnb hosts in New York City accept 36 percent of the company’s private, short-term bookings and make 37 percent of all host revenue here. The top Airbnb commercial operator in New York City ran 272 listings and made $6.8 million in revenue during the period examined. Fortyone percent of host revenue comes from bookings in the Lower East Side/Chinatown, Chelsea/ Hell’s Kitchen and Greenwich Village/Soho. Just 3 percent comes from Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx combined. The group that was renting out units in our LETTERS, continued on p. 25
March 12, 2015
Can small fish thrive if big fish make the rules? TALKING POINT BY KAREN LOEW
n 2015, one of the most glorified jobs you can have is that of an “entrepreneur.” Earlier in the high-tech era, the word connoted a position on the cutting edge of society, where a daring individual would take risks to create or develop a brand-new good or service. Today it is often used interchangeably with “small business owner” or “freelancer”: an individual who takes the risks of running his or her own concern, even if that business itself fits squarely inside the envelope. And so an entrepreneur reaps the outsider status of the rebel or explorer, while retaining the consummate insider’s position of being celebrated by every politician from town councilmember on up to president. An entrepreneur is a good guy, pursuing the bedrock American value of making a buck. Whether he sells ice cream cones, or she sells DIY drones, an entrepreneur is portrayed as someone who deserves support as an essential pillar of society. It’s ironic, then, that in New York City so many entrepreneurs feel their livelihoods threatened — feel that the levers of power are not working in their favor. An entrepreneur can take the risks, “make it” by meeting strong demand and reaping financial success, yet still find his or her busi-
ness on the rocks. Why? The answer is rent. It can be way too high. Or it could be within reach. But after one lease ends, the small business owner doesn’t get a chance to negotiate, because the landlord unilaterally chooses a new renter. That’s the case with Excel Custom Framing and East Village Cheese, located next door to each other on Third Ave. between E. Ninth and 10th Sts. These are two long-lived,
sion — if any, and then for a meaningful length of time, like 10 years rather than two. “We are little fish. The law is in favor of big fish,” one successful but threatened business owner told me repeatedly. He didn’t want to be named, because he has to secure a new lease and doesn’t want to draw the ire of any big fish. “The little fish can do nothing,” he said. This is why the people who are most distressed about independent businesses closing are coming together to rally behind the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (S.B.J.S.A.), a bill introduced into the City Council last year that would require landlords to negotiate with responsible tenants for lease renewals. It would not affect new tenants. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation announced its support for the bill after our board and staff and members couldn’t take the closure of one more Avignone Chemists or Kim’s Video. At G.V.S.H.P., we also try to bolster excellent small businesses through our annual Village Awards, as well as our new Business of the Month program, which just recognized East Village Cheese. The S.B.J.S.A. nearly passed the City Council, in slightly different forms, several times since first being introduced by then-City Councilmember Ruth Messinger in 1986. It is not com-
Small merchants’ top complaint is rental rates, plus negotiating a lease extension.
popular, profitable businesses whose leases end this year. The landlord, Urban Associates LLC, chose to give the spaces to the neighboring Duane Reade for an expansion. What will become of these entrepreneurs, and their employees, and their dedicated customers? No one knows. Talk to an entrepreneur in Greenwich Village — or Bushwick — or Long Island City — and he or she certainly may have other complaints about the business environment. But the top complaint is rental rates, plus the ability to negotiate a lease exten-
mercial rent control (which existed in New York City from 1945 to 1963, by the way), but it gives commercial tenants a bit of leverage, in place of none. Over the three decades since the bill’s first introduction, entrepreneurial conditions have worsened in New York City in important respects, with far more chain stores, more real estate speculators, higher rents and rent increases in real dollars, and even more power held by the real estate lobby, which has generously financed the campaigns of many city and state politicians. The bill’s core backer is the Small Business Congress NYC (savenycjobs. org), which is made up of dozens of neighborhood business groups, from the East Village Community Coalition and the Bronx Council on the Arts to the Queens Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Speculators and gougers are not sustaining local residents by turning street-level retail into a boring monoculture, on the one hand, or keeping storefronts empty for months and years, on the other. Any healthy ecosystem — whether a forest or a city block — grows organically and with complexity, not homogenously or with an imposed order. New Yorkers are not best served by the bloodless order being imposed on our streetscapes by valuing the highest dollar above all else. New Yorkers have other values, too. One is the veneration of the small-business owner. Loew is director of East Village and special projects, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
With political will, a green N.Y. is achievable TALKING POINT BY MARK A. DUNLEA
ast week the Cuomo administration announced that it would seek to redesign how electricity is distributed in New York (i.e., Reforming the Energy Vision), part of an ongoing effort to modernize our electrical system. While the governor has supported several reforms to further the development of renewable energy, such efforts fall way short of the investments needed to protect the state and its residents from the threats posed by climate change. The governor proposes spending $5 billion over 10 years to support the transition to TheVillager.com
renewable energy when probably 20 times as much money is needed. Global warming from carbon and greenhouse gas emissions is driving increasingly severe weather. The increased heat provides more energy and power, pushing the weather pendulum further in every direction. Storms of the century now occur every five or 10 years. Winters can be much colder in some places, like the Northeast, while bears end their hibernation weeks early in the West because spring arrives prematurely. Heat waves during the summer last longer with higher temperatures, which are especially deadly for children and seniors. Historic floods and droughts become commonplace. Insects and their attacks on our food system spread. And deadly diseases, such as malaria, dengue and Ebola, spread as well. Access to food and water will
become more difficult. We can’t stop climate change at this point, but we can reduce how devastating and expensive it will be. We can reduce the number of people who will die from it. A report by 20 nations estimated that 100 million people worldwide will die from climate change by 2030 if we continue on the present path. Most of the predictions by climate scientists so far have underestimated how fast climate change is occurring. Scientists say that, to avoid the worst of climate change, we have to ensure that 80 percent of the existing fossil fuel reserves remain in the ground. Yet the fossil fuel industry is spending hundreds of billions of dollars in ever more extreme extraction efforts that will bankrupt them and our economy, especially if oil prices fail to rebound to much higher levels. Investing in clean energy will
benefit virtually everyone — other than the coal, oil and gas C.E.O.s, with their enormous profits. The debate is not over whether we go to a carbon-neutral energy system, but when. The political will, not technology, is the problem. And while New York State has made some small reforms on electricity, it has done little on transportation and agriculture. Getting to 100 percent clean energy by 2030 will create an enormous number of jobs along the way. The technology to go to 100 percent clean, renewable energy and energy conservation already exists — and is steadily becoming cheaper and more efficient. The time is now for state officials to set a goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2030. Dunlea is president, board of directors, Green Education and Legal Fund March 12, 2015
Let the S.B.J.S.A. finally come up for a vote! EDITORIAL, continued from p. 14
PHOTO BY MARY NELL HAWK
food critics and others to brainstorm about saving restaurants. A second one, by another media group in October, included an agency head and a hotel union representative, and concluded with Borough President Gale Brewer saying, “There is no magic wand” to save small businesses. But the forum by The Villager and V.I.D. took things a big step farther, arguing that there is a solution — the S.B.J.S.A. But, in reality, it doesn’t matter who is leading the charge. It’s time to put egos aside and for this movement to coalesce and gain strength. And yet, we are proud that it was indeed Woolums, The Villager and V.I.D. that jumpstarted this call to action. Right now, we’re told that the bill has 14 sponsors in the Council. One local politician’s aide tells us no, that this isn’t really enough to bring the bill up for a vote. And yet, just five years ago, there were 32 sponsors, including all the members of the Council’s Small Business Committee — but Council Speaker Christine Quinn, again, refused to let the measure come to the floor for a vote. Both Quinn and Bill de Blasio, when they were running for mayor two years ago, tersely told The Villager they had been told by the Council’s lawyers that the S.B.J.S.A. was “not legal,” and declined to discuss it any further. But small business advocates charge that’s just a red herring, a cover for inaction. A legal panel five years ago, specifically assessed those concerns, and found that the S.B.J.S.A. is constitutional and would withstand legal challenge. We’re told that Quinn had no follow-up comment on that finding, nor did she move to modify the bill in any way to make it more acceptable to its silent opponents — the real estate industry. To put this all in context, let’s not forget, from 1945 until 1963, the city actually did have commercial rent control. Following last Thursday night’s Villager/V.I.D.
Another one bites the dust Forced out by an increase of its rent to $60,000 a month, the historic Avignone health and beauty shop on Bleecker St. near Sixth Ave., which until recently also included a pharmacy, will shutter its doors at the end of this month. The pharmacy relocated not too long ago to the nearby CVS on Sixth Ave.
forum, we have repeatedly asked the current Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, if she will let the full Council vote on the bill. To date, we have not gotten a response. However, it’s high time for a vote — and let’s see, for once, where our councilmem-
bers really come down on this critical issue. And a veto-proof vote of 34 councilmembers isn’t need. A simple majority, 26, will do. Would the mayor really dare defy a bill that would be this popular among voters? De Blasio has shown he’ll go to bat for tenants, as the Rent Guidelines Board last year approved its lowest increases ever for rent-regulated apartments. (This year, there should be a rent freeze.) Now, he needs to go to the mat for small businesses. It would be, well...wonderful if things were just like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and beloved local businesses, like George Bailey’s fictional little savings and loan, could be saved by the goodhearted townsfolk turning out to show their support when the ruthless Old Man Potters are moving in for the kill. But as we’ve seen again and again, this just isn’t enough. Yes, the community has rallied more than once in the past to save Ray’s Candy Store on Avenue A, for example, but, sadly, that’s the exception. Simply put, small business owners are more than owed a vote on the S.B.J.S.A. In many cases, they have invested their life’s savings into their stores, making sacrifices, working long hours to sustain businesses in this city. They have created jobs and are employing mostly local residents. Candidates and elected officials, in their speeches, regularly proclaim that small businesses are the “backbone of our economy, the engine of job creation.” That should at the very least entitle these merchants to a vote — that is, if our elected officials really mean what they say. It’s time for local politicians to stop cynically playing both sides of the fence, and show where they honestly stand. It’s time to let democracy run its course. For God’s sake — after all these decades, and before all of Manhattan becomes little more than an overbuilt, unaffordable, soulless mall of “baby Walmarts” and other chain stores — let the S.B.J.S.A. finally come to the floor for a vote!
Extell neighbors are not feeling good vibrations BY ZACH WILLIAMS
eismic monitors are now in place at Extell Development’s construction site in the Lower East Side following complaints that ongoing pile-driving there has caused cracks in nearby buildings and sidewalks. Excavation and foundation work at 250 South and 229 Cherry Sts. will likely finish by the end of 2015, according to a representative of the developer. But for now, the loud pounding of long, steel support poles deep into the ground will remain a recurring and annoying sound for residents living near the construction site. The project features a 68-story condo tower, as well as 204 units of affordable housing in a separate 13-story building. Construction is scheduled for completion by 2018. Local residents had issues about the dual-building project at a C.B. 3 Land Use Committee meeting this week with Extell Development leader Gary Barnett. They were especial-
March 12, 2015
ly concerned about the height of the luxury tower, future plans for commercial spaces at the site — previously the location of a heavily used Pathmark supermarket — and, as The Villager has previously reported, the “segregation” of affordable housing in a separate structure. However, a certain level of acceptance has settled in with the project’s critics, who are now focusing their energy on ensuring that the developer remains accountable to neighborhood residents who will be impacted by it. Lend Lease, the company overseeing construction at 250 South St., sends regular updates in English, Spanish and Chinese via e-mail to those who signed up for a mailing list. Other notices have been placed in nearby residential buildings, though not always in each of those languages. A community meeting was also held on Feb. 25 to address construction-related questions. “The main concern right now is the pile-driving and the noise be-
cause they are pile-driving six days a week,” said Trever Holland, president of Two Bridges Tower Tenants Association, at 82 Rutgers St., which is adjacent to the construction site. The design of the residential tower has yet to be finalized, according to an Extell spokesperson. Ten complaints about the construction have been reported to the city Department of Buildings since July. Some cited cracks in sidewalks and nearby building walls. One from September claimed that construction started too early in the morning while another alleged jack-hammering on Sun., March 1. Seven after-hours variances were obtained for Saturday work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the project for reasons of “public safety” according to D.O.B. records. Listed work was excavation-related and pile-driving, according to the records. Holland showed The Villager several spots where vibrations from pile-driving created gaps in nearby sidewalks which were subsequently
patched up by the contractor. Building residents have also reported new cracks in their apartments, purportedly from the pile-driving, Holland said. “If you are in a building that shakes it is unnerving,” he said. “They can tell you it’s O.K., but I challenge anyone to stand on the 22nd floor while the floor is moving and the walls are cracking and not have a concern.” Seismometers were installed along the construction site’s perimeter, as well as within 82 Rutgers St., Lend Lease said in a March 9 construction update. Notifications are sent via text message to the project team when vibration levels reach a threshold level that is set at “below a value” generally recognized as potentially damaging. Another alert happens when vibrations reach half of the threshold level. “Certain vibrations can be very unsettling to a person, but would have a very low likelihood of causing any damage to the surrounding infrastructure,” Extell said in a statement. TheVillager.com
At Cornelia Street Café, always something to say An eclectic booking policy is its own form of creative genius BY MICHAEL LYDON
PAINTING BY STEPHEN MAGSIG
obin Hirsch sipped thoughtfully on a glass of red wine in a quiet corner of the Cornelia Street Café. For an hour or more, with many a twinkle in his eye, he’d told tall tales of his four decades as the Café’s fearless leader — the legendary toaster oven that served as the their first kitchen, the spindly, splintery ladder down to the junk-filled basement, the night hundreds showed up to hear Oliver Sacks discuss the mysteries of mental abnormalities, and could I guess who had been the first poet to read at the Café? No, I couldn’t. “Eugene McCarthy,” said Robin, “That’s right, the senator, the presidential candidate!” Now for a moment he turned serious. “Our commitment to putting all kinds of music on our little stage, plus prose, poetry, science, drama, puppetry, mime, you name it — 700 shows a year. That’s no accident. I’ve always tried to stick to an open-minded sensibility, never thought that we have to do either this style or that style to succeed. Both — and that’s what I love!” In the constant battle to keep their tables filled through the vagaries of popular taste, most Village club owners find an “either/or” booking policy their safest bet: the Village Vanguard is a jazz club, Sidewalk Cafe a folk club, the Bitter End a rock club. Hirsch knows his “anything goes” policy poses risks — he’s seen many eclectic clubs go belly up — but even through this winter’s deep freeze, the Café has held its own. “By now,” said Hirsch, “people know they’re going to get a you-never-know-what-to-expect variety from us. That’s why they come.” A look at the Cornelia Street Café’s upcoming calendar proves his point: at 6 p.m. on March 12, Slapering Hol Press will feature poet Richard Parisio reading from his chapbook, “The Owl Invites Your Silence,” joined by a half dozen other Slapering Hol poets who will read their work. They’ll finish by 8 p.m., and drummer Harris Eisenstadt and his Golden State group, featuring saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, will take the stage, celebrating the release of a new CD, “Golden State II.” More poetry March 13 at 6 p.m., drawn
from Autumn House’s “Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry,” followed by two jazz sets by bassist Michael Formanek’s Cheating Heart Band. On March 14, award-winning R&B and jazz vocalist Lili Anel has the 6 p.m. slot, and then the Cheating Heart Band will return for two more shows before flying to Europe for a festival tour. Liz Stretch will return to the Café at 6 p.m. on March 15 for “Fork It Over” — a talk about food that she promises will “inspire and entertain,” and the Café’s chef, Daniel Latham, will offer a tasty menu to match her tasty words. At 8:30 p.m., seven-string guitarist Jason Ennis and the Trio Jota Sete will play a blend of jazz, blues, and bossa novas — and for more Brazilian music, stick around for pianist-singer Abelita Mateus at 10 p.m. On March 16 at 6 p.m., Susan Sindall and Nancy Kline, friends for decades, will read from
their poetry and prose. At 8:30 p.m., pop-jazz vocalist Tracy Michailidis will sing tunes culled from the great American Songbook, gathered around the theme “To Build a Home.” And on it goes: March 17 at 6 p.m., Red Hen Press will offer an evening of “witty poetry with a surrealistic twist” that promises “to stir the soul,” and at 8:30 p.m., NYU psychologist Gary Marcus will give a talk: “The Future of Minds, Brains, and Machines” considers the overlap between neuroscience and artificial intelligence. At 6 p.m. on March 18, Philip Giambri (known on the downtown reading scene as the Ancient Mariner) hosts the first night of his new series. “What The Hell Is Love?” is a reflection, Giambri says, of “a lifetime of loving and being loved.” Guitarist Tom Chang’s jazz quartet follows Giambri’s gang at 8:30 p.m., playing new compositions and music from “Tongue & Groove” — Chang’s debut CD. All that makes one ordinarily extraordinary week at the Café, and the week after (story tellers from London, violists from Manhattan, a Jack Kerouac evening…) promises more of the same. Yet even this list doesn’t give a full sense of Cornelia Street’s interwoven bookings. Take me for example: I’ve sung at the Café with my band, as a guest with folk singer Craig Werth, and at Thomas Pryor’s storytelling evenings. I’ve hosted a Mark Twain celebration, acted and sung in the cast of “Gadeng Vadoo,” a folk music musical, and Cornelia Street recently gave me two nights to present my and Ellen Mandel’s opera, “Passion in Pigskin.” Hirsch’s commitment to eclecticism predates the Café’s founding. The son of Jewish refugees from Germany who settled in London, Hirsch came to the States in 1967 to study American avant-garde theater. Soon he was in the middle of it, acting, directing, and producing at La MaMa, Caffe Cino and his own New Works Project (“We put on an early play by John Patrick Shanley. In verse, no less!”). In this bubbling world of ambitious up-and-comers, Hirsch met Charles McKenna, an Irish-American actor and Raphaela Pivetta, an Argentinian-Canadian-Italian visual CORNELIA, continued on p.18 March 12, 2015
Sweet variety spices up Cornelia Street
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
No need to beware the Ides: pianist-singer Abelita Mateus performs at 10 p.m. on March 15.
CORNELIA, continued from p. 17
artist. McKenna convinced his pals that their ideas needed a seedbed to grow in, and after a long search for a place cheap enough for their $2,500 nest egg, they found a one-room former junk shop at 29 Cornelia, a sleepy block between Bleecker and W. Fourth St. “Filthy doesn’t begin to describe the place,” Hirsch remembered with a shudder, “it was an Augean stables.” They swept up piles of dried dog poop, hung Raphaela’s paintings over cracks in the walls, bought an espresso machine and the famous toaster oven, and opened the doors, most appropriately, on Indepen-
dence Day weekend, July, 1977. To the partners’ amazement, people came in, “and not just anybody,” Hirsch remembers, “but people with something to say, people who knew other people.” He asked poet Siv Sedering if she’d like to read with someone. She replied, “How about Eugene McCarthy? He’s a published poet.” Hirsch heard singer-songwriter Carolyne Mas playing at another hole-in-the-wall club up the block, and when he invited her to perform, she in turn invited so many young Village folkies — David Massingill, Jack Hardy, Rod MacDonald, and Suzanne Vega among them — that Hirsch gave them every Monday night. Soon, the New York Times noted the series as a rebirth of Bob
Dylan’s old Folk City days. Through the decades, the Café expanded to three upstairs dining rooms offering a full French-American bistro menu — “But we put Thai spices in our bouillabaisse!” says Hirsch — and a knowledgeable wine list. Yet it’s the downstairs performance room that makes the Café unique, a long and narrow bricklined space with the aura of a Parisian cabaret: Juliette Greco singing “chansons d’amour,” Albert Camus arguing existentialism with Samuel Beckett. Hirsch used to do all the room’s booking. Now, poet Angelo Verga books the 6 p.m. spoken-word
shows, and guitarist Tom Chang the 8 p.m. jazz slot. “I love Cornelia Street,” says one sax-playing regular. “It’s got a big reputation. DownBeat [magazine] calls it one of the world’s top hundred jazz clubs, yet it’s so small that if you draw fifty people, you’ve got a sell-out.” Another advantage Cornelia Street offers: the Artist Salon, informally known as the Schmooze, held the first Thursday of every month at 6 p.m., when anyone hoping for a gig is welcome to stop by for wine and cheese and a chat. Artistic job hunting can be as impersonal and soul-wearying as corporate job hunting — sending out email blasts, leaving never-to-be-answered phone messages. Yet if an artist goes to a few Schmoozes, meets and greets Robin, Angelo, Tom and other hopefuls, maybe gets on stage to give a sample of their wares, the chances are fair that soon he or she will get an evening on their own, or another artist may say, “Hey, I like what you’re doing, could you join me next time I play here?” A growing crowd began filling up the tables around us for dinner, and Hirsch looked about himself with a mixture of pride and disbelief. “The first time we served real dinners here, made in a real kitchen,” he said, laughing at the memory, “we served twenty-nine meals — success beyond our wildest dreams! But our true success is that today, just as in 1977, if someone comes into the Café with something to say, whatever it is, we’re going to give them a chance to say it.” For more information, call 212989-9319 or visit corneliastreetcafe. com.
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March 12, 2015
A fondness for toaster ovens and an eye for talent: Robin Hirsch has presided over four decades of words, music, food and drink at Cornelia Street Café. TheVillager.com
Just Do Art: The Irish Edition
Photo by Carol Rosegg
A scene from Hugh Leonard’s “Da,” at the Irish Repertory Theatre through April 5.
BY SCOTT STIFFLER
A TRIBUTE TO THE TREDWELLS’ IRISH SERVANTS at MERCHANT’S HOUSE MUSEUM
For a place that’s been living in the past since before most of us were born, Merchant’s House Museum has a knack for appealing to contemporary tastes. So whether you’re suffering from “Downton Abbey” season five withdrawal or just looking for one of the city’s most unique Irish experiences, this pristinely preserved 1865-era home has an event custom-made for your tastes. On March 13 at 6:30 p.m., their “Spirit of the Irish Candlelight Ghost Tour” confronts facts, rumors and speculation surrounding the dwelling’s well-earned reputation as “Manhattan’s most haunted house.” Carefully documented by staff and frequently investigated by the Sturges Paranormal team, you’ll hear true tales of inexplicable occurrences from those who actually experienced them. Some of the most compelling incidents have been attributed to the Tredwell family’s all-Irish staff (four at any given time), and this special tour will include a visit to their quarters. $25 ($15 for museum members). Can’t make it that night? Upcoming Ghost Tours happen Fri., April 17, May 15 and June 17. Shades of “Downton” — like the fictional British estate, there was a cook toiling away in the lower level of Merchant’s House, a bell system to alert the staff of upstairs needs and servants working day and night behind the scenes. “In the Footsteps of Bridget TheVillager.com
Murphy” gives participants a rare and detailed glimpse into the daily duties of the Irish servants who were an indispensible part of life in the Tredwell home. This 45-minute walking tour of the surrounding neighborhood explores the world of the immigrants who worked as domestic servants for the wealthy families of the Bond Street area. What did they do on their day off? Where did they shop? How did they find employment when they first arrived? You’ll find out, then proceed back to Merchant’s House for a special tour of the fourth floor servants’ quarters. Sun., March 15. The walking tour begins at 12:30 p.m., house tour at 2 p.m. Participation in this event is included with regular admission. Reservations not required. Merchant’s House Museum is located at 29 E. Fourth St. (btw. Bowery & Lafayette). For event reservations, visit merchantshouse.org/calendar or call 212-7771089. Regular Hours: Thurs.–Mon., 12–5 p.m. Admission is $10, $5 for students/ seniors (free for children under 12).
Courtesy of Merchant’s House Museum
Up a steep and very narrow stairway: the Merchant’s House Museum walking tour includes a visit to the fourth floor (Irish) servants’ quarters.
“Da” is followed by the fourth pro- “A wry and bittersweet portrait of a duction of IRT’s 27th season (April 15– city at war,” the IRT promises, which June 7). Claudia Weill directs the New “forces us to consider what is wrong York premiere of a play developed as and what is righteous.” “Da” plays through April 5. Tues. & part of their 2013 Reading Series. Written by Nate Rufus Edelman, “The Belle Thurs. at 7 p.m. Wed. & Sat. at 3 p.m. & of Belfast” takes place in 1985, as fiery 8 p.m. Fri. at 8 p.m. Sun. at 3 p.m. At the and profane Anne Malloy commiser- DR2 Theatre (103 E. 15th St. in Union ates with her best mate while seeking Square). Tickets: $70. Call 212-727-2737 visitPage irishrep.org. fleshly comfort from her parish priest. Villager.Pawel.2015:Layout 1 2/12/15 12:32orPM 1
LAURA PAWEL DA N CE COMP A N Y
THE IRISH REPETORY THEATER presents “DA”
The latest from Chelsea’s venerable Irish Repertory Theatre — currently ensconced in Union Square’s DR2 Theatre while their W. 22nd St. venue is being renovated — has a theme that speaks to the company’s own inevitable homecoming. Helmed by IRT’s artistic director, Charlotte Moore, “Da” is Hugh Leonard’s melancholy, heart-wrenching and occasionally hilarious memory play. Set in 1960s Dublin, Charlie visits his childhood home after attending his father’s funeral — only to find the patriarch’s ghost in wait, and unwilling to leave the house.
chen dance center 7 0 m ul be r ry s tr e e t- 2 n d f lo o r - in c hinatow n
friday & saturday march 20-21 at 7 pm tickets $20 seniors / students $15
reservations ( 212 ) 349 - 0126
www.laurapaweldance.org Drawing: Alan Koslin, 2015
March 12, 2015
Geek Power THEATER BROOKLYNITE
Buoyant musical celebrates finding your inner superhero
Through March 29 Tues.–Wed. at 7 p.m. Thurs. –Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat. & Sun. at 3 p.m. At the Vineyard Theatre 108 E. 15th St. (btw. Irving Pl. & Union Sq. East) Tickets: $85 Visit vineyardtheatre.org Call 212-353-0303 PHOTO BY CAROL ROSEGG
BY DAVID KENNERLEY
ove over Gotham, there’s a hip new hangout for superheroes: Brooklyn. At least that’s the conceit behind “Brooklynite,” the affable musical crafted by Peter Lerman, who wrote the music and lyrics and co-wrote the book with director Michael Mayer (who most recently helmed “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”). Ripped from the pages of your favorite comic books, the witty piece features six superheroes created when an asteroid crashed into Gowanus. A zippy number at the top of the show introduces these awesome mutants, based on characters dreamed up by Michael Chabon (author of the comic-book themed “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay”) and his novelist wife, Ayelet Waldman.
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Nick Cordero and Nicolette Robinson in Peter Lerman and Michael Mayer’s “Brooklynite,” at the Vineyard through March 29.
There’s El Fuego (Andrew Call), a short-order cook morphed into a master of fire; Blue Nixie (Grace McLean), once a marine biologist who now controls the oceans; Kid Comet (Gerard Canonico), a bike messenger who’s become the fastest dude alive; and the elusive Captain Clear (voiced by Max Chernin), a file clerk given a cloak of invisibility. The black sheep of the bunch is the burly, tough-talking Avenging Angelo (Nick Cordero) with a thick Bensonhurst accent, once an unemployed gamer whose only super skill is to locate open parking spaces. The multi-powered, winsome leader is Astrolass (Nicolette Robinson), a
former middle school student who, after a decade of fighting crime, is ready to call it quits. The goofy plot revolves around Trey (an appealing Matt Doyle, of “The Book of Mormon”), a mild-mannered hardware store clerk in Park Slope secretly synthesizing Brooklynite, a kind of anti-Kryptonite. The crystal will give him the superpowers he needs to avenge the deaths of his mother and father, gunned down in the store a few years ago. Somehow, lemon squares figure prominently into the plan. The diametric forces of Trey, who yearns to become a superhero, and Astrolass, who dreams of being an ordinary Brooklynite, are wonderfully evoked. Naturally, these opposites attract, and the comic caper becomes, in part, a love story. There’s also a romantic subplot between El Fuego and a reluctant Blue Nixie. “I’ve seen how you burn through girls and I will not be another shish on your kebab,” she says, during one of the more clever exchanges. The crime-controlled utopia of Brooklyn is shattered when Astrolass departs and Angelo goes rogue, forming a gang that terrorizes the borough. Sporting a shiny new black pleather outfit, he aims to steal Trey’s Brooklynite for evil and shift
the power nexus to, of all places, Murray Hill in Manhattan. Expectations for this intentionally crafty, low-tech production are particularly high. After all, the Vineyard was an incubator for such sensations as “Avenue Q,” “[title of show],” and “The Scottsboro Boys,” all of which transferred to Broadway. Does “Brooklynite,” with its profusion of local in-jokes that may sail over the heads of tourists, have the right stuff? What makes the endeavor so captivating is the racially diverse, Broadway-caliber ensemble, boosted by Andrea Lauer’s bright spandex costumes. My favorite by far is Cordero, whose Angelo shifts easily from crime-fighter to victim to villain with scenery-chewing gusto. It’s easy to see why he was hailed as the best thing in “Bullets Over Broadway” last season. Angelo establishes headquarters in a warehouse in Red Hook. “Oh yeah, we booted out the artists. No loss. The work was derivative anyway,” he scoffs, an apt poke at the neighborhood’s rampant gentrification. How fitting that Lerman won the 2010 Jonathan Larson Award. Like the uber-talented young Larson, he has a knack for writing bold poprock songs with a gritty, contemporary flair. The lively choreography is by Steven Hoggett. Not that the funny but frivolous “Brooklynite” couldn’t use some recalibrating. Some jokes just don’t land, especially those concerning Captain Clear. Cutting this weightless character would give the others more room to soar. Admittedly, I don’t possess the requisite superpowers to know if the musical will make the leap to Broadway in a single bound. I suspect, however, that it could enjoy a healthy life at New World Stages, the Off Broadway home of similar crowd-pleasers geared to younger audiences, like “Avenue Q.” And if the smart, charming tuner motivates you to embrace your inner superhero, you have a place to shop. Head on over to Park Slope and check out the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company, an inspiration for the show. TheVillager.com
Buhmann on Art: Tomi Ungerer
Through March 22 At The Drawing Center 35 Wooster St. Btw. Grand & Broome Sts. Wed. & Fri.–Sun. | 12–6 p.m. Thurs., 12–8 p.m. (free admission, 6–8 p.m.) $5 admission ($3 for students/seniors) Free admission for children under 12 Call 212-219-2166 Visit drawingcenter.org
BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN (stephaniebuhmann.com)
his exhibition, which marks the artist’s first U.S. retrospective, begins with his childhood drawings and concludes with his mature political and satirical campaigns as well as animaTheVillager.com
CHILDREN’S LITERATURE RESEARCH COLLECTION, FREE LIBRARY OF PHILADELPHIA
TOM UNGERER: ALL IN ONE
COLLECTION OF JACK RENNERT, NEW YORK © TOMI UNGERER/ DIOGENES VERLAG AG, ZÜRICH
COLLECTION RENNERT’S GALLERY, NEW YORK
“Choice Not Chance” (1967 | political poster | 21 x 26 5/8 inches; 53.3 x 67.6 cm).
“Eat” (1967 | Self-published poster | 21 x 26 1/2 inches; 43.5 x 67.2 cm).
tions, among others. Born in Alsace, France, in 1931, Ungerer is best known as the award-winning author and illustrator of such beloved 1960s children’s classics as “The Three Robbers” (1961) and “Moon Man” (1966). However, as this survey skillfully reveals, his interests and talents reached beyond one genre. In fact, at the same time he was successfully working on children’s books for Harper & Brothers, Ungerer also gained recognition for his witty advertising campaigns for the New York Times and the Village Voice — biting satirical illustrations about the business world, and brutal pictorial responses to racism, fascism, and the Vietnam War. As if this would not cover plenty of territory, he also made graphic erotic drawings throughout his career. That Ungerer is not as well known in America as he is in Europe is largely due to his self-imposed exile in 1971 when he abruptly abandoned New York and relocated to Nova Scotia. Nevertheless, he has found much international recognition since. He was awarded the Legion of Honour in Paris and, in 2007, the Tomi Ungerer Museum opened in Strasbourg. The documentary “Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story” was released in 2012.
A 1961 drawing for “The Three Robbers” (page 21, first pub. 1961 as “Die drei Räuber” by Georg Lentz Verlag, Munich | Colored pencil, gouache and watercolor on paper | 11 3/4 x 8 5/8 inches; 30 x 22 cm).
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR LETTERS, continued from p. 14
building through Airbnb had more than 50 units in Manhattan alone. Georgette Fleischer
People take precedence To The Editor: Despite N.Y.U. President John Sexton’s administration’s and his allies’ efforts to the contrary, the fight over who deserves priority consideration in land use continues, and for the better because of it. The so-called N.Y.U. 2031 Plan threatens Greenwich Village with unprecedented skyline buildup and the erasure of its unique character. Moreover, it is roundly opposed by the majority of the Village’s inhabitants, as well as a substantial portion of N.Y.U. faculty and students. Expansionists argue that even though the spaces on which the university seeks to build have been used as parkland for decades now — to the point that one of them is named LaGuardia Park — their official designation for “street purposes” that dates back to the ’50s pre-empts what’s been reality for years and years. As Judge Donna Mills found, land can indeed become “parkland by implication”; that the daily use of space speaks more to what it is than outdated maps and grossly biased Bloomberg-era City Councils. Residents have a right to, within certain limits, take precedence in the determination of how the usage patterns of spaces within their neighborhood unfold, free of meddling influence from homogenized global brands like “N.Y.U.,” desperate for room to grow ad infinitum. The university’s student body growth has not been a process absent agency or causality, but rather produced by very specific and intentional decision-making on the part of the administration, and thus its desire for additional space is not an objective need but a wish list. Commercial activity in Manhattan is not in short supply, while appropriate consideration of residential quality of life is. When it comes time for the Court of Appeals to hear oral arguments, hopefully, those on the TheVillager.com
bench will recognize that while one group would, ideally, like to expand, the other desperately needs to hold onto the little neighborhood green space left amid the looming towers. Maddy Reagan
‘The sanest of us all?’ To The Editor: Re “Outrage as homeless man’s camp is trashed” (news article, March 5): The neighbors seemed to love this guy, admired his resourcefulness. He kept the streets clean and recycled stuff. He is a man who doesn’t want to end up in the shelter system. He can really take care of himself; he is not crazy. He may be the sanest of us all, existing without money in a city that is consumed with the acquisition of it. The cops have their orders: This is a quality-of-life crime; one tent will breed more tents and soon there will be a tent city. Richard Kopperdahl
City’s driving us out To The Editor: Re “Outrage as homeless man’s camp is trashed” (news article, March 5): What’s really required is more affordable housing, so that people such as this homeless man can have a real place to live. The city has outgrown its residents over several decades. Not only do we need rent regulation, but less landlord greed. Similarly, our neighborhood small businesses are being driven out by the unnatural need to continually increase commercial rents. It’s time to take a step back. Sylvia Rackow
Tree-mendous, but... To The Editor: Re “Four years in the making, new Tompkins trees map leaves no leaf unturned” (news article, March 5): Thank you, Michael Lydon, for a really sweet article, but there are a few factual errors and misunderstandings.
What was written about my opinion on the conservancy’s map is inaccurate, and needs to be corrected. The 1998 map was a good map when it was printed, but it was way out of date in 2011, and left me, a novice, confused since there were many missing trees and no indication of what had been planted since then. What I actually said to Michael was that only a small, unreadable image of the conservancy map was on their Web site; the printed map was available only with a membership. I wanted there to be a readable version online, free for everyone to see and use. That’s what inspired me to do all this work. Also most of the trees along the curb on E. Seventh St. are ash, not Scholars, though there is one of the latter there. Michael Natale
Southern slice of life To The Editor: Re “We’re nearly at Dothan; Roll marriage tide, roll!” (talking point, by Troy Masters, Feb. 26): A powerful personal essay on a topical issue. Moving and well written. I read this originally in Gay City News. I’m glad The Villager printed it, too. Kate Walter
Seek and you shall find To The Editor: Re “Getting an apartment in Little Italy back in ’78” (notebook, by Minerva Durham, Feb. 19): Great story. I spoke to Max Isaacs once about apartments in the area and found him to be such a condescending a------ that I walked out. It mattered not, as I found a great place by chatting up an old Italian lady who was leaning out of her first-floor window on Sullivan St., near Prince St. She told me that the super who worked in the deli might have something. He did, and I was there for the next seven years. Patricia Bellucci
History of inclusiveness To The Editor: Re “Irish L.G.B.T. activists accuse parade group of ‘trickery and bigotry’ ” (news article, Feb. 19): To those who charge that many of those who turn out to protest against the St. Patrick’s Day Parade’s lack of L.G.B.T. inclusiveness aren’t Irish, but people of color, I say it’s a specious argument. Many African-heritage people have Irish heritage in part due to the natural affinities that developed between Irish indentured servants and Africanheritage enslaved peoples, as well as the ubiquitous sexual exploitation (including rape) of African-heritage women. As a people who experienced a diaspora due to oppressive forces in our own land, the Irish have made common cause and intermarried with many different ethnicities and “races” — it was one of our great strengths as a people. We also have a terrible history of succumbing to the manipulations of racist dominance best described in the book “How the Irish Became White.” I think I understand banning political banners at the parade, given the explosive history of Irish political strife due to the 800-year colonization and targeting of Irish people — who were at some point considered a different race. Those of northern or southern Irish heritage need a safe space to come together with this heritage without it devolving into internecine conflict. The issue of banning political banners aside, however, I would hope, as a people who come from a history of being targeted, those of us of Irish heritage would readily embrace those who struggle with injustice and welcome all oppressed people into our fold. K Webster E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 Metrotech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published.
March 12, 2015
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March 12, 2015
A whole lot of heart and sole in half-marathon SPORTS BY ROBERT ELKIN
isa Shemie is expected to be one of more than 20,000 runners entering into the Manhattan Half, conducted by the New York Road Runners Club, this Sunday morning, Over all, there will be four separate races. The New York Road Runners is expected to field an international showing but most of the athletes will, as usual, come from the tri-state area. The same women’s race will feature elite athletes, such as Megan Hogan, Caroline Lefrak and Caitlin Phillips, all from the metro area. Anyone could win the race on a given day. But it likely won’t be Shemie. The 46-year-old Shemie, originally from Canada, has been a Chelsea resident for 10 years. Her best half-marathon time is 2:05, turned in last year on the same course that the upcoming 13.1-mile event will be contested on Sunday morning, when she would like to break this time. “My strategy in the race is to take it easy and to try not to go out fast,” she said, during a break from training at Chelsea Piers and along the Hudson River Park running path. Many runners of all ages work out in Hudson River Park, which has become one of the city’s top jogging routes. The race will start in Central Park on the East Drive near 72nd St., then go down through
Times Square, and finish by the intersection of Wall and Water Sts. in Lower Manhattan. In addition to competing in half-marathons, Shemie also runs in full marathons. She competed in the Montreal marathon, finishing with a time of about 4:20. Sunday’s other races include a professional wheelchair division, which starts things off at 7:05 a.m., followed by a professional women’s race, a professional men’s race, a general participant race and — a new addition — a Times Square kids race. Meanwhile, a local runner headlines the met area runners in the field, but probably won’t go in as an odds on favorite. One of the top local talents in the professional men’s race is Brendan Martin, who competed on the Columbia University track team. Martin’s personal best half-marathon time is 1:04.38. Now competing for the New York Athletic Club, Martin is one of the best half-marathon runners around. “I’m excited to compete against many of the world’s best runners right here in New York and in Central Park,” Martin said. “I went to school in the city, so I’ve always identified myself as a New York guy. During my four years at Columbia, I Brendan Martin, who ran track at Columbia University, is ran a lot of miles in Central Park, and it’s one of the top half-marathoners, and will be competing in still one of my favorite places to run.” the New York race on Sunday.
N.Y.U., T.A. union reach deal GSOC, continued from p. 3
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Slush puppies in Soho PET SET A Spring St. resident carried his little dogs across a slush-covered street in Soho recently. In addition to causing wintertime manhole-cover explosions, the corrosive salt is also an irritant to pooches’ paws. Another option is protective booties. TheVillager.com
the other least-paid part-time faculty included engineering students at N.Y.U. Polytechnic, who made about $10 per hour. “They have to pay tuition to study and often have to cover health insurance premiums, so essentially they are paying to work,” Nickell said. “It’s sad because these are some of the brightest minds in engineering.” G.S.A.S. students like Nickell do get tuition remission and make slightly better wages. Yet he asserted that their conditions still weren’t livable. “Even with tuition remission, if I didn’t have the support of my partner, who works full time as an art teacher we would not be able to afford living in the city,” Nickell said. “Not even with me teaching both semesters — because I would then be clearing an even $36,000 before taxes.” For the average graduate student T.A., wages were low enough that it impacted their quality of life, GSOC members say. For example, Kouross Esmaeli, a media, culture and communication Ph.D. student, said that two years
ago when N.Y.U. raised the cost of healthcare, two of his colleagues had to go without healthcare, bucking official policies. “N.Y.U. basically allowed these folks to go without healthcare, against their own policy,” Esmaeli said. He said other colleagues could not afford daycare for their children. “It’s also a feminist issue,” he added. “Women that are responsible for care of children have to be able to get the education they need.” Natasha Raheja, an anthropology Ph.D. student and Bargaining Committee member, said that affording housing was another problem for T.A.’s. Often, T.A.’s had to live far outside the city, or go without housing in order to get by, she noted. Ayesha Omar, a fellow Bargaining Committee member and an Ph.D. student in media, culture and communication, presented students in her class with a table of finances prior to the negotiations. According to Omar, the gross pay per semester for the average T.A. in her field of study at N.Y.U. was $5,208. But after deducting $1,583 in taxes, $1,479 for tuition, $461 for fees and $1,618 for health insurance, the T.A. is left with a takeaway pay of only about $138. March 12, 2015
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