The Paper of Record for East and West Villages, Lower East Side, Soho, Noho, Little Italy and Chinatown
March 19, 2015 • FREE Volume 5 • Number 2
It’s chemistry: Hamilton is the perfect fit for new N.Y.U. prez, board says BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
he N.Y.U. board of trustees on Tuesday announced the appointment of Andrew Hamilton, the current vice chancellor and senior officer of the University of Oxford, as the 16th president of New York University.
The British-born Hamilton is a noted chemist and was formerly the provost of Yale University. He will officially take up his duties at N.Y.U. in January 2016. Professor Hamilton’s selection follows an eight-month, international search process conducted by a search comN.Y.U. PREZ, continued on p. 13
BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC
lected officials and community groups rallied in front of City Hall last Friday afternoon to push Mayor Bill de Blasio to fulfill his campaign pledge that the Lunar New Year would be a school holiday. The rally came on the heels of de Blasio announcing last
week that two Muslim holidays — Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr — will be added to the school calendar. Schools will be closed on Sept. 24 in observance. State Senator Daniel Squadron started off the rally by stating that the mayor had more than enough time to add the Lunar New Year to HOLIDAYS, continued on p. 7
PHOTO BY ELLEN MANDEL
Asians feel eclipsed after mayor snubs Lunar holiday but taps two Muslim ones
Red Bulls players and local youth team members kicked off construction of a new minipitch for soccer and other sports on E. 11th St. on Monday. See Page 23.
Schools take to the streets to protest Cuomo’s reforms BY ZACH WILLIAMS
eachers, students, parents and administrators across the city rallied on March 12 against Governor Cuomo’s education agenda. Particularly vexing for opponents are proposed reforms announced in January that would make standardized-testing scores 50 percent of teachers’ evaluations, as well as grant them tenure only after five consecutive years of “effective” ratings
under the plan. In response, union representatives, as well as teachers, students, and staff from dozens of city schools, participated in demonstrations throughout the day, mostly on a school-by-school basis. In Lower Manhattan, actions were scheduled at a half-dozen schools south of 14th St. These included the Neighborhood School and the Earth School in the East Village, Downtown’s Spruce St. School, P.S. 2 Meyer London School in the Lower East
Side, and P.S. 3 and City As School High School in the Village. For teachers and students at City As School, the governor’s proposed changes are at odds with the alternative high school’s effort to boost student achievement through internships and student projects rather than more traditional pedagogical approaches. About 100 people associated with the high school congregated SCHOOLS, continued on p. 6
City nixes Chinatown / L.E.S. district............page 3 Forum on saving small businesses..............page 8 Cartoonist Fly assists on river save................page 10 Love and greed: Play it again.......page 21 | May 14, 2014
TALKING L.E.S. POLITICS...OR NOT? Depending on who you talk to, either all is not well between the Democratic district leaders in the 65th Assembly District, Part C, or, well...everything’s fine. We recently had a sit-down with John Quinn, the area’s Democratic state committeeman, and he tells us that Paul Newell and Jenifer Rajkumar, the part’s two young co-district leaders, have not been talking to each other for the last three or four months, which roughly coincides with when former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was starting to feel the heat over his repeated refusal to report his outside income. Then, of course, in late January, Silver was arrested on federal charges, and soon after, was pressured into resigning his speakership, then indicted for allegedly scheming to garner $4 million in graft over the past decade. Quinn is concerned, first of all, because he is a big
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STEALTH E.V. HOUSING PLAN: It started off with one East Village squat. Then it was two squats. Now, we hear that two buildings owned by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development that were in the TIL (Tenant Interim Lease) Program are also in the mix. As we previously reported, the de Blasio administration is working on a plan to bring in a so-called “white knight” developer, BFC Partners, led by Donald Capoccia, to renovate a couple of former East Village squats — 544 E. 13th St. (where actress Rosario Dawson grew up) and 377 E. 10th St. — that, after more than a decade, just haven’t been able to get it together and fix up their buildings as up-to-code affordable coops. Now, word has it that BFC and the city are trying to work a deal for two H.P.D.-owned buildings, 507-509 E. 11th St. and 66 E. Third St. (The former was the subject of a 1992 book, “Rock Solid,” about police and drug dealing, we’re told.) In return, for renovating all these buildings, BFC would get the unused development rights from these sites, which it could then use for new market-rate construction elsewhere in the Community Board 3 district. Could all these air rights even be stacked up on top of each other to create a new luxury building? No one really seems to know. John Shuttleworth, a former C.B. 3 member who lives in the E. Third St. building, noted that under the 2008 East Village / L.E.S. rezoning, the area was actually “upzoned” somewhat, which means there are more unused development rights floating around out there now that folks like Capoccia can capitalize on. BFC reps recently met with the E. Third St. tenants. “They came here and they talked to us, and they said absolutely nothing,” scoffed Connie Barrett, Shuttleworth’s partner. “We asked for a written proposal, and they didn’t want to put anything in writing.” The 22-unit building currently has eight vacant apartments. The tenants would all have to be behind the plan for it to go forward. “How can we do anything until we see something in writing?” Barrett asked. “All we’ve been shown is a fact sheet.” “It’s very dangerous, in my opinion,” Shuttleworth told us. “De Blasio is changing things, where inclusionary zoning things can be moved around.” Under the plan, the property would be transferred into the hands of a community-based group, similar to Cooper Square Mutual Housing, he said. So far, the city is being tightlipped about it all. SCOOPY’S, continued on p. 11
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John Quinn — with his granddaughter Ariel, 5 — says he is concerned about his district leaders.
fan of Silver and all he has done for the Lower East Side, but also because the district leaders appear to be on the outs — the assumption being that they both would want to run for Silver’s seat should he eventually step down. But both Newell and Rajkumar told us that everything’s hunky-dory between them, even if they’re not exactly BFF’s right now. “Jenifer Rajkumar is my co-district leader and we continue to work together,” Newell said. “We talk all the time together at events. It is untrue that we don’t talk. When we’re working on a thing together, which is a lot, we’re talking.” As for whether he and Rajkumar would run for Assembly, he said, “I can’t comment on anyone else’s intentions. We’re talking about a potential race a very long way away. I would very seriously consider the race. I’m sure, if there is a contested Assembly race in Lower Manhattan, there will be a number of well-qualified candidates. Right now, I’m focused on renewal of rent regulations and other issues.” Newell added he was planning to go up to Albany this past Monday to lobby for increased capital funding for the New York City Housing Authority. “Lots of balls in the air,” he said. As for Rajkumar, she told us, “When this happened with Shelly, it really was a huge torpedo that changed the landscape. ... If the seat does open, I’d consider it.” She added that she and Newell did recently speak to each other at the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club at a planning session for another “Candles for Clemency” rally to pressure the governor to grant more pardons for prisoners. Meanwhile, Rajkumar, in fact, is doing quite a lot of talking — though not to Newell — in an exciting new gig as a panelist on PBS’s “To the Contrary,” which she described as a “women’s perspective on national issues.” The show airs nationally, and locally on Channel 13, on Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. The panel usually includes two Democrats and two Republicans, and Rajkumar will be a frequent panelist. The last installment discussed healthcare and the economy. Although the conversation is vigorous, it’s “without the tone of ‘Crossfire,’ ” she said. “Everyone politely disagrees.” Another name that has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Assembly is Gigi Li, chairperson of Community Board 3. As for Quinn, he wants anyone who runs for the seat — should Silver vacate it — to voluntarily pledge to serve no more than three twoyear terms. “I need somebody in there who’s going to pick a fight,” he explained, “to come out of the gate, not someone who’s there to settle in.” Above all, the third-generation Lower East Sider is crestfallen over Silver’s downfall. “With Shelly, the Lower East Side had the power. Shelly has been the best thing to happen to the Lower East Side since Alfred
Corne r of Jane & West 4th St. (at 8th Ave.) 212-2 42-95 02
City nixes Chinatown / L.E.S. special district BY GERARD FLYNN
PHOTO BY GERARD FLYNN
t’s been more than six years since the push began for a “special district” for the Lower East Side and Chinatown. The idea drew together community groups, residents and urban planners from around the city, scrambling to save a community facing hyper real-estate development — and growing tenant harassment. The Chinatown Working Group fleshed out a proposal for a “community-based plan.” On top of capping large-scale development in certain areas, the proposal calls for giving New York City Housing Authority residents some say on any push for “infill” development on public-housing property. It also sought to stymie any large-scale development looming along the East Side waterfront. But this month a letter from the Department of City Planning brought disappointment to many from the more than 60 organizations involved. In calling the proposal “far-reaching,” the letter, signed by Planning Chairperson Carl Weisbrod, expressed “appreciation” for the community’s efforts and said that he and the agency “share many of the goals of the C.W.G.” However, the coalition’s plan, the city concluded, is “not feasible at this time.” The letter added that, in a “spirit of shared vision...targeted areas of opportunity for development” were under consideration. A Planning spokesperson said, “The Special Chinatown and Lower East River District study has not been advanced to become an application at City Planning.” Cathy Dang, the director of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, told The Villager that the plan proposes changes in five subdistricts, but only one of them, the “Chinatown Core” district — which runs roughly south from Grand St. — would be looked at. She sounded deeply disappointed at a rally held on the steps of City Hall last week.
Cathy Dang, of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, spoke at a City Hall rally after the bad news on the proposal.
“We knew, we knew this was going to happen,” she told the crowd, mostly members of tenant-rights groups, who gathered to call for a more inclusiveness planning process. Mayor de Blasio came by, but was headed for business inside the Council chambers. Dang promised that the effort has been a “long process” but was far from over. “We are going to push it to the end,” she said. She said City Planning had been in conversation with Community Board 3 about the proposal, and that during those talks, agency officials said, “We are not going to consider your plan.” The agency’s interest in preserving the historic district has raised eyebrows, she said. “My concern with City Planning’s interest in the Chinatown Core was
— ‘I will give you Chinatown Core and we will take everything else around it,’ ” she said. She denied rumors that the city feels the plan is asking for too much. “It downzoned some parts and upzoned some parts,” she said. “It’s not an ambitious plan. We compromised in many parts of the plan.” Gigi Li, C.B. 3 chairperson, noted the proposed special district had “far-reaching boundaries,” reaching as far north as E. 14th St. The plan included some areas — such as the long swath of public-housing developments east of Avenue D — that were left out of the big East Village / Lower East Side rezoning that was approved at the end of 2008. The area roughly between the Brooklyn Bridge and E. Houston St., over to the Bowery and Centre St., was also targeted in the proposal. “C.B. 3 will continue working with City Planning on shared priorities in certain targeted areas of the plan,” Li told The Villager. The mayor, Dang said, is not pursuing the proposal because Chinatown is “not developable” right now. “There’s not much land to develop,” she noted. “The mayor wants to rezone 15 neighborhoods and we are not a priority.”
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March 19, 2015
Tenants get info on Campos, E. 4th renovations Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN
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March 19, 2015
BY ZACH WILLIAMS
bout 50 local residents came to a Community Board 3 meeting on March 9 to hear more details about a deal that recently made Campos Plaza 1 and the E. Fourth St. Rehab developments half privately owned. A partnership between the New York City Housing Authority and two developers, L&M Development Partners and Preservation Development Partners, in December established Triborough Partners LLC as the owner of the two project-based Section 8 East Village complexes, as well as a total of four others in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. The entire deal is expected to generate about $360 million over 15 years for the cash-strapped Housing Authority and finance about $80 million in repairs and renovations for the six properties. Out of the $80 million, Campos Plaza 1 and E. Fourth St. Rehab are respectively slated for $26 million and $7 million in renovations. NYCHA will retain 50 percent ownership of the properties and a first right of refusal — essentially a “first among equals” status within the partnership, according to the agency. The two development partners were chosen for their experience managing similar properties, said Bill Crawly, NYCHA vice president of development. “We have no reason to think that they will not perform,” he said, “but we can replace them if necessary.” Partnership representatives highlighted the renovations planned for Campos Plaza 1, at 635 E. 12th St., and E. Fourth St. Rehab, at 227 E. Fourth St., at the meeting of the C.B. 3 Public Housing and Section 8 Housing Subcommittee, held at Campos Plaza. The renovations and repairs are slated for completion by the end of 2017. New roofs and exterior facade treatments are part of the plan, as well as upgrades of building systems, such as boilers and hot-water heaters to make them more energy efficient. New windows will be installed, plus emergency generators, according to the plan. Residents will get new bathrooms and kitchens, plus other necessary repairs, including painting, window guards and electrical system updates. Building lobbies, entrances, community spaces and outside public areas will receive aesthetic and safety upgrades. No one will be displaced by the renovations, and rents and tenant protections will remain the same under the new management, reps said. Tenants’ concerns will be addressed within 24 hours, according to Richard Doetsch, whose company C and C Apartment Management, now oversees maintenance and operations of the properties. “What I want to emphasize — and this is the most important thing — is
A rendering of the spiffed-up exterior treatment planned for Campos Plaza 1 as part of the renovations.
communication,” he said. But fears linger that the deal could lead to the properties’ conversion into market-rate housing after 30 years, when the deal expires. Crawly said the buildings’ future Section 8 status depends on whether the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will choose to renew the Section 8 contract — which cannot be guaranteed at the present time. There were complaints about a perceived lack of transparency around the deal. Councilmember Rosie Mendez told the representatives that her office still has not received records from public meetings that were purportedly held about the deal. She was told that these would be provided to her office soon. Mendez also chastised the representatives for canceling a meeting with community members in January, as well as not meeting with E. Fourth St. Rehab residents. Brian Honan, NYCHA director of intergovernmental relations, responded that the lack of a tenants association there made it hard to schedule a meeting, but that better efforts would be made to engage her office and the community. Further concern arose after Honan told Mendez that not only did NYCHA sell a 50 percent stake in the buildings
but also the land beneath them. But Honan called The Villager on March 10 stating that he misspoke on that detail. Consultation with NYCHA attorneys confirmed that the land was still entirely owned by NYCHA, he said. Although audience members said they feel the partnership would provide much-needed repairs to the buildings, some questions remain unanswered. C.B. 3 member Lisa Kaplan disagreed with the notion floated by the representatives that the buildings were not de facto public housing. “Although I believe these developers are going to do a reasonable job in the short term, I think we need guarantees for the long term and I don’t see that,” she said. The representatives also dodged local resident Thea Martinez’s question about why union jobs would not be required for the rehab work. Similar complaints were voiced at a Feb. 10 City Council hearing about the deal. The deal’s proponents only said that about $80,000 would be spent per residential unit for repairs. “They were stonewalled at the [Feb. 10] hearing and it seems that they were stonewalled here,” Martinez said. “It would seem that within that $80,000 budget there could be room for union laborers.” EastVillagerNews.com
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A view of the current design for the rooftop addition, seen from the west.
Welcome to the Tammany dome: Add-on O.K.’d
NYU School of Medicine
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
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 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 not be illuminated at night, is part of a plan EastVillagerNews.com
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 03.10.2015 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. 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 coming to the theater in May,” he noted.
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March 19, 2015
Schools take to streets to protest gov’s reforms SCHOOLS, continued from p. 1
March 19, 2015
Students, staff and parents at P.S. 41, the Greenwich Village School, rallied on Thurs., March 12, against Governor Cuomo’s school reform plans.
PHOTO BY ZACH WILLIAMS
PHOTO BY DAVID ALLEE
near its entrance on Clarkson St. in the afternoon, then marched to a “teach-out” in Washington Square Park. “Standardized testing can’t judge what we do,” said Marcus McArthur, an English and social sciences teacher at the school. “We are here and we are raising and creating innovators not test takers. We got the next great generation of poets and authors and artists and scientists — and the tests, they have nothing to do with that work.” Momentum continued for their cause over the weekend when Public Advocate Letitia James held a rally at City Hall on Sunday criticizing Cuomo’s pairing of increased funding with the proposals. Cuomo announced education reforms in January that would make $1.1 billion in new funding contingent on the state Legislature approving his plans. In addition to the changes in teacher evaluations and tenure, the new approach would also require that, if a school fails to show adequate progress through student test scores for three consecutive years, then another school district, nonprofit organization or a “turnaround technocrat” — as the critics put it — would take over management of the “failing” school. Under the current teacher-evaluation system, 40 percent of teacher scores are determined by student growth based on assessments or tests — with half of that from state evaluations, and as much as 20 percent over all from “locally determined” measures that Cuomo is seeking to eliminate. The remaining 60 percent of the scores comes from observations of teachers, which vary by school district. According to a February 2015 report from the Governor’s Office, there is a stark disparity between teachers rated as effective — more than 90 percent statewide in the 2013-14 school year — and the amount of students judged proficient in English and math in state testing, roughly 35 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Four local Manhattan schools below 14th St. were labeled as “failing” in the governor’s report: Henry St. School for International Studies, Marta Valle Secondary School, P.S. 15 and University Neighborhood Middle School. “How can so many of our teachers be succeeding when so many of our students are struggling?” the report asks. Cuomo’s education plan also seeks to raise the cap on charter schools in the state by 100 from 460, as well as make the cap apply statewide rather than by region. Under the current limit, New York City could only add 24 more charter schools. Mayoral control of New York City schools, which is due to expire this year, would also be extended for three more years under Cuomo’s proposal. Many people at the City As School demonstration, as well as others across the city, voiced suspicion that Cuomo’s plan would benefit corporations more than students. They urged the governor to visit more local schools and to address student poverty instead of overhauling the teacher-evaluation process. During the City As School rally last Thursday, current and former students spoke about how
City As School students and staff held a press conference in front of the Clarkson St. school, then marched up to Washington Square for a rally.
traditional education had failed them until they arrived at the Clarkson St. building’s nurturing environment. One current student said she had a troubled experience at another school due to her ADHD. But she said that, thanks to the encouragement she received from teachers at City As School, she now plans on attending a local college after she graduates. The Washington Square Park rally also was an opportunity to highlight the need for curric-
ulum flexibility, especially at schools like City As School that serve students who have experienced difficulties elsewhere, noted Principal Alan Cheng. “People had a chance to talk to our students, talk to our staff, to be able to understand what it is we do,” Cheng said, “our interdisciplinary courses, our project-based learning, our internships and the kind of impact we’ve been able to have on youngsters in our city.” EastVillagerNews.com
Mayor is leaving Lunar school holiday in lurch HOLIDAYS, continued from p. 1
PHOTO BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC
the 2015-2016 school calendar. While applauding de Blasio for making the Muslim holidays part of the school calendar, Squadron said the mayor should keep his promise on the Lunar New Year. Next year, Squadron said, it will fall on Mon., Feb. 8, and families should not have to choose between celebrating the holiday and missing a day of school. “We’re really pushing this,” added Councilmember Margaret Chin, who also called on the mayor to be true to his word. “There is enough time to plan for next year’s schedule. It must be declared a school holiday,” Chin declared. Asian Americans make up about 15 percent of the student population in New York City. Students who miss school to celebrate the holiday receive an “excused” absence that is marked on their record. Congressmember Grace Meng said she was “very puzzled and concerned” when the Muslim holidays were made part of the school calendar, but not the Lunar New Year. Many have rallied for years to make this happen, she said. No one community is more import-
Assemblymember Ron Kim spoke about making the Lunar New Year a school holiday at City Hall, as Assemblymember Sheldon Silver and Councilmember Margaret Chin looked on and state Senator Dan Squadron glanced at a group’s press release.
ant than another, stated Assemblymember Sheldon Silver, who reiterated the call for the mayor to keep his promise. Councilmember Peter Koo said he was “disappointed.”
“Mayor de Blasio, let’s do it now,” he said to applause. “The Asian New Year, the time is here,” said Councilmember Paul Vallone — as others began to chant the phrase with him.
Gee Yeon Ro, 24, and Eunhye Kim, 32, came to the rally to show their support. “I think it should be a holiday,” said Kim. “I think it would be really discriminatory if it wasn’t.”
March 19, 2015
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.
BY ALBERT AMATEAU
panel of small-business advocates last week issued a call to action to save “momand-pop” 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, attracted 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.
March 19, 2015
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
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.
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. 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 tenS.B.J.S.A., continued on p. 9 EastVillagerNews.com
answer; Forum draws nearly 100 on snowy night S.B.J.S.A., continued from p. 8
ants 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 people, 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. EastVillagerNews.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.
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, 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 big-box 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 19, 2015
POLICE BLOTTER 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 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 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.
Riis Houses shooting 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.
Whiskey wild woman On Sun., March 8, a 33-year-old man had a verbal dispute with a woman who was accompanied by another male inside Whiskey Ward, at 121 Essex St. when the first man asked the woman to leave the bar. The female struck him in the head with a glass bottle, causing minor lacerations, police said. The victim was removed to Woodhull Hospital where he was treated for his injuries. Police are looking for the female suspect. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline, at 800-577-TIPS. Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting them to 274637(CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.
PHOTO BY FLY
Harbor Patrol police pulled the unconscious woman out of the East River on March 10 before resuscitating her with C.P.R.
March 19, 2015
SCOOPY’S, continued from p. 2 ARTISTS UPRISING: Tenants at Westbeth have found themselves at legal loggerheads with their own board of directors. George Cominskie, president of the resident-elected Westbeth Artists Residents Council, said WARC recently filed a Freedom of Information Law request with the state Attorney General’s Office for public records for the artists’ affordable housing complex, and the A.G. was all ready to release the documents. But the board of directors of the Westbeth Housing Development Fund Corporation sued the A.G., filing an Article 78 lawsuit — a whopping 101 pages long — to block the records’ release. The A.G. moved to dismiss the suit, so it’s now up to a judge to decide. Basically, residents feel it’s their right to know what’s going on with their legendary full-square-block housing complex, at West and Bethune Sts. Cominskie recently presented a report, “Future of Westbeth Update,” at a tenants meeting. All the tenants really want to do, as the report details, is assure the place’s financial health and future affordability, plus — critically — “develop a culture of transparency.” And there are lots of specific questions, such as about the artist-in-residency program — which the board certified a year ago without any WARC input — the outside waiting list for the place’s coveted apartments
and the in-house moves list, to name just a few. “My gut feeling is why is the board fighting so hard to keep the A.G. from releasing these records?” Cominskie told us. Carmi Bee, the president of the board of directors, did not respond to requests for comment. But Cominskie sent us a copy of the Article 78 suit, the 101 pages of which can be simply summed up by one word, “confidentiality,” which appears repeatedly throughout and which the board seems to feel applies to virtually everything action it takes.
(Re-live...the....hu-man....mi-crophone....ex-per-i-ence!!!) See where hundreds of tents once blanketed a private park in Lower Manhattan, where activists pilloried the 1 percent, and where Ben and Jerry doled out free Cherry Garcia to the revolutionary masses. A new #Occupy TourNYC
was set to launch this week. Sounds like fun. Activist John Penley recently put us in touch with the guy running it...but by this week information about it had vanished from Facebook and Twitter. Hmm...maybe just finding the radical tour is part of the experience? ... Occupy!
INSIDE POOP ON CHARAS: So what’s going on with the stalled dorm project at 605 E. Ninth St., the old P.S. 64 and, more recently, home to the CHARAS/El Bohio Cultural and Community Center? A partial stop-work order appears still in effect, after the Department of Buildings, last fall, found problems with developer Gregg Singer’s contracts with potential tenants. Susan Howard of SOCCC64 (Save Our CHARAS Community Center 64) gave us the update. “Nothing to report yet, except porta potties arrived at CHARAS recently, so work must be imminent. SOCCC64 will be meeting soon to discuss plans.” OCCUPY TOUR? HEL-LO? Relieve the human-microphone experience.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Affordable Housing Policy: • April 2013: Then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio criticizes former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s annual increases in water rates as a “hidden tax.” • February 2014: Mayor de Blasio increases water & sewer rates 3.6%. • June 2014: Mayor de Blasio calls for Rent Freeze (landlords wind up with 1% rent increase, lowest ever on record).
• November 2014: Mayor de Blasio calls for stricter rent regulations. • January 15, 2015: Mayor de Blasio announces a 13% increase on real estate tax assessments.
Increased Taxes and Costs + Rent Freeze = Landlords Cannot Repair, Improve, Maintain and Preserve Affordable Housing The de Blasio Affordable Housing Equation Just Doesn’t Add Up. EastVillagerNews.com
The de Blasio affordable housing policy hurts poor and middle-income families, those most in need of affordable housing – as well as landlords of rent-stabilized apartments, the largest providers of affordable housing.
It’s Time for New Solutions to an Old Problem. March 19, 2015
Extell neighbors are not feeling good vibrations BY ZACH WILLIAMS
PHOTO 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 last June with Extell Development leader Gary Barnett. They were especially 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 because 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
The 250 South St. construction site, viewed from the Manhattan Bridge.
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 Slip, 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.
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N.Y.U. names Andrew Hamilton new president N.Y.U. PREZ, continued from p. 1
mittee of trustees, faculty, students and administrators. The Committee — which began the search with over 200 nominees — unanimously recommended Hamilton to the board of trustees. Hamilton will preside over the largest private university in the U.S., with roughly 50,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. In addition to its “campus core” in Greenwich Village — where the university has had a presence since the early 1830s — N.Y.U. has recently been building up a network of global campuses including in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, as well as 11 additional “study-away” sites throughout the world. According to the university, N.Y.U. both educates more international students than any other U.S. college or university, and sends more students to study abroad. In addition to his duties as president, Hamilton plans to actively teach and do research. Martin Lipton, chairperson of the board of trustees said, “New York University is very pleased and excited to welcome Andrew Hamilton. N.Y.U. — which has done so much over the previous four decades to transform itself into the world-class university it is today and remains committed to sustaining that academic trajectory — demands much of a potential president: wisdom, intelligence, courage, energy, perseverance, stellar credentials as a scholar, and academic leadership of the highest caliber. Andrew Hamilton brings all these qualities and more. We know he will be a superb president and that he will advance N.Y.U.’s teaching and research missions to a new level of excellence. My fellow board members and I are completely confident we have found the right person to lead N.Y.U. and its global network, and we are proud and glad to have him join our community. William Berkley, chairperson of the search committee and chairperson-designate of the board of trustees, said, “What focused us on Andrew Hamilton and set him apart from a formidable field of candidates was the unusual combination of his outstanding scholarship in his field, his record of achievement in leadership posts at top universities, his commitment to academic excellence and support for the faculty, his commitment to teaching and undergraduate education, his accomplishments in fundraising at Oxford, and his global background and outlook. “We were also struck by his great intelligence, personal warmth, energy and entrepreneurial spirit, and natural feel for complex institutions. EastVillagerNews.com
Andrew Hamilton will take over as N.Y.U. president next January.
... And it was clear to us that he understood N.Y.U. — our urban character, our distinctive global presence, our vibrancy, our focus on the future, our innovative spirit, our sense of being on the move and our habit of exceeding others’ expectations. Hamilton said, “I am delighted to be selected as N.Y.U.’s 16th president. I have been a keen observer of N.Y.U., its accomplishments, its trajectory and its renowned president, John Sexton, for some time. It is difficult not to take notice of an institution that has proven itself again and again to be a game-changer in a field in which that is uncommon. I am looking forward with great eagerness to working with N.Y.U.’s faculty, students, administrators and staff, and to joining a university that is so manifestly energetic, innovative and successful.” Hamilton has been vice chancellor of Oxford since 2009. Prior to that, he was the provost of Yale, where he was also the Benjamin Silliman Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry; he joined the Yale faculty in 1997. He joined the University of Pittsburgh in 1988, where was a tenured professor of chemistry and chairperson of the chemistry department. Before joining the faculty at Pittsburgh, he was an assistant professor of chemistry at Princeton University. His area of scholarly interest lies at the intersection of organic and biologic chemistry, with a focus on the use of synthetic design for the understanding, mimicry and potential disruption of biological processes. He is widely published and the recipient of numerous awards and honors. Among his many honors and awards, he is the recipient of the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 2004, and was also elected a mem-
ber of American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Hamilton received a first-class bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Exeter, his master’s degree from the University of British Columbia and his doctorate from the University of Cambridge. He did post-doctoral work at the Université Louis Pasteur. Hamilton is married. He and his wife, Jennie, have three adult children who all live in the U.S. — in New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. N.Y.U. President John Sexton said, “I love N.Y.U., and I could not be more thrilled with the selection of Andrew Hamilton. I know and admire him, and I am certain he will do great things for the university. For my own part, I have had no higher calling in my life than to be a teacher and to contribute to building strong institutions. For nearly 35 years, I have had the exceptional privilege of being able to do both those things at N.Y.U.” Sexton served as the dean of N.Y.U. School of Law from 1988 until becoming the university’s president in 2002. “That N.Y.U. could attract an academic leader of Andrew Hamilton’s stature is proof of how far N.Y.U. has come,” Lipton said. “Many peo-
ple had a hand in building this great university over the decades, but arguably none more so than John Sexton. Doubling the applicants for freshman admission, more than doubling the financial aid budget, improving student diversity, expanding the tenured and tenure-track faculty, launching new areas of scholarly inquiry, growing our international stature, opening new campuses abroad, raising some $5 billion, and tripling the endowment — it seems hard to believe all this and more was accomplished in just a single presidency. For his more than 30 years of distinguished and dedicated service to this university, he has the unflagging thanks of the N.Y.U. community.” As Sexton’s tenure is ending, however, the community is still waging its all-out legal battle against the university’s mega-development plan for its two South Village superblocks. Under the plan, N.Y.U. hopes to add four new buildings with 2 million square feet on the two blocks, which are bounded by W. Houston and W. Third Sts. and Mercer St. and LaGuardia Place. The Court of Appeals — the state’s highest court — recently agreed to hear the community plainN.Y.U. PREZ, continued on p. 23
March 19, 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 preEDITORIAL, continued on p. 16
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Airbnb irony is heavy To The Editor: Re “Airbnb helped me get my startup off the ground” (talking point, by Michael Radparvar, March 5): There is a lot of information missing here, as well as one troubling assumption, and a clear, ironic lack of understanding of the core issue by these obviously well-intentioned young men. The irony, as well as the disingenuousness, is in
the phrase “but we could not scale the sheer wall of affording the rent for our apartment.” First of all, why did you rent an apartment you couldn’t afford? And second, don’t you see through your pro-Airbnb blinders that the issue affecting all young entrepreneurs is overpriced rents? Are you seriously suggesting that the way to overcome skyrocketing rents is to require the assistance of a commercial online partner? Why not just add Airbnb to your lease? That is even more troubling when you open the door to the idea that Airbnb ought to be considered
a crowdfund source for entrepreneurship. Failing to separate the idea of entrepreneurship from the core civic need of affordable housing, or even unaffordable, overpriced housing — an issue that affects every city resident — is naive at best, politically false at worst. Finally, using the emotionally charged facts of fleeing oppression to prop up an argument on behalf of a strictly for-profit entity is not just wrong, it is insulting to any New Yorker who fights for both affordable housing and for peace and justice. And how about some facts? For example, did you have a rent-regulated lease? Did you occupy the apartment when you rented through Airbnb, as your lease required? Or did you rent it out and stay with your parents or partners, for instance? In other words, did you have a legal right to rent your apartment? Were you capitalizing on taxpayer subsidy? I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but your generation has a lot to learn about how things work in the real world, in real communities. Patrick Shields
Where is Hillary Clinton headed? 14
March 19, 2015
E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to email@example.com 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. EastVillagerNews.com
Mayor’s rezoning would undo years of progress TALKING POINT BY ANDREW BERMAN
standard apartments, that certainly has not been the case in the Village and East Village, or seemingly anywhere in contextual districts. People are lining up to live in developments that abide by the current rules, and the developers are making a hefty profit from them. But perhaps the developers see an opportunity to make an even heftier profit. Fewer restrictions on height, allowing grander floor-to-ceiling heights and apartments with more commanding views, would fetch even higher prices. But it certainly would not make these new apartments more affordable. And neighborhoods would pay the price, with less light, air and sky, and a loss of the character and scale that these communities fought so hard to maintain. The main beneficiaries of these aspects of the “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” plan appear to be real estate interests — not those who care about quality design or affordable housing. It’s likely no coincidence that these proposed changes are ones that the real estate lobby has sought for years. Now, wrapped in claims about quality and affordability, they finally have a chance to get them. The Mayor’s “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” plan is not without good points, and its purported goals are worthy of support. But substantial modifications are needed for it to live up to its lofty premise, and real changes are necessary to protect the character of our neighborhoods. These changes must come before this plan, in any form, is considered for adoption. Berman is executive director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
n February the de Blasio administration quietly released a citywide rezoning plan called “Zoning for Quality and Affordability.” Despite the innocuous-sounding name, this plan would actually undo years of hard work by West Village and East Village residents to protect their neighborhoods from oversized development, and maintain their neighborhoods’ scale and character. This scheme would also torpedo plans in the works for the South and Central Village. The plan has many facets, but a key element would be increasing the allowable height of new development in “contextual” zoning districts — areas where specific height limits and streetwall requirements help ensure that new buildings fit their context. In 2005 and 2010, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation worked with West Villagers to secure contextual zoning protections for much of that neighborhood to stop out-of-scale new construction. And in 2008 and 2010, G.V.S.H.P. and a coalition of East Village groups and elected officials secured two contextual rezonings there to similarly preserve neighborhood character. These rezonings took years to achieve, and did not always go as far as we and residents would have liked. But they were compromises we accepted, an improvement over the conditions then, and prevented a lot of bad development that would have otherwise occurred. More recently, G.V.S.H.P. has worked closely with residents of the South Village and along the University Place and Broadway corridors to propose contextual rezoning protections for those areas, where current zoning allows towers of 300 feet or more in height. But now the city wants to loosen those contextual zoning protections — for the existing districts, and for any future districts — lifting height caps by as much as 20 percent to 30 percent. These changes would apply to contextual districts throughout the city, but the Village and East Village would be particularly hard hit by them. The city’s rationale for these proposed changes are improvements in “quality and affordability.” But, arguably, neither of these will result from the current plan. For example, in many cases the proposed height-limit increases would apply to purely market-rate housing. In the most common contextual zoning districts in the Village and East Village, developers would automatically get to build about 20 percent taller than currently allowed for new luxury development. But in the fraction of those districts that are also “inclusionary zones” — where developers get more square feet if they reserve 20 percent of the units for affordable housing — there would be an additional roughly 10 percent bump in the allowable height for such “inclusionary” construction. In short, that adds up to a total of as much as a 30 percent increase in allowable height over what’s currently allowed for market-rate and “inclusionary” developments. Such inclusionary zones currently exist along every East Village avenue. Because the city has said that they will only entertain future rezon-
ings that include this affordable housing provision, any future contextual zoning in the South and Central Village will likely require applying these inclusionary provisions there as well. The rationale for the increase in allowable height in these zones that encourage, but do not require, the inclusion of 20 percent affordable housing, is that it will result in more developers opting to do so. But this conclusion is questionable at best. In the inclusionary contextual zoning districts in the East Village, with the existing height limits we fought for, some developers have chosen to include affordable units, while others have not. These mixed results show no clear evidence that the height limits are an impediment to including new affordable housing. Arguably, instead, it this program’s optional nature, along with a variety of other factors that this proposal would not change, that appear to have a much bigger impact upon the program’s rate of participation. But for argument’s sake, let’s say raising height limits would increase participation. Advocates for this approach point to the two areas of the city where participation rates in this program are highest, West Chelsea/Hudson Yards and Williamsburg/Greenpoint. These areas, however, have much looser height restrictions on new development, and a significant number of the tidal wave of new, luxury developments there include 20 percent affordable housing. At the same time, though, in the 10 years since that program has been implemented in West Chelsea/Hudson Yards and Williamsburg/ Greenpoint, those neighborhoods have seen an astronomical rise in rents and housing prices. In other words, in the two cases where this program has been most successful — where we have seen the highest rates of developers choosing to include 20 percent affordable housing in their new developments — we have also seen among the most dramatic decreases in overall affordability of any areas of the city. That leads to the inevitable question: Is this therefore really the model to follow? Is tying the production of every new affordable apartment to the construction of at least four market-rate, super-luxury ones, as enshrined in this proposal, really the way to solve, or even improve, our city’s affordability crisis? The affordability issue aside, the other rationales for the increased height limits in the plan are also dubious. The city claims current contextual zoning rules result in flat, boxy buildings, undesirable street-level ground-floor apartments, and substandard floor-to-ceiling heights that discourage development. Boosting buildings’ overall height and loosening the contextual zones’ streetwall requirements, they claim, will result in more attractive and livable market-rate buildings that are cheaper to construct. In fact, while some new buildings in contextual zones are mediocre in design, some are actually quite handsome — it really depends upon the architect and developer. But noncontextual zones, with no height limits or streetwall requirements, routinely see some of the most unappealing new buildings in the city, poking a big hole in the theory that less restrictions will lead to better design. So there is little evidence that such changes will result in “better” buildings, and much evidence that they won’t. But we do know they will result in noticeably taller and larger new buildings. And as for the notion that current height limits are discouraging development or producing sub-
‘In feminists’ footsteps’ Chirlane McCray, New York City’s first lady, was among the featured speakers at the International Women’s Day rally in New York City on March 8. “Today, you are marching in the footsteps of generations of feminists,” she told the crowd of thousands. She noted that in 1908, throngs of women marched through the city demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. “We still have a long way to go before we get to equality,” she added. McCray said her husband is a feminist, and she hailed his administration’s progress on key issues affecting women, in particular, universal pre-K and paid sick leave. March 19, 2015
Let the S.B.J.S.A. finally come up for a vote! EDITORIAL, continued from p. 14
Community news Another one bites the dust
Read t the Easr! Village 16
March 19, 2015
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.
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! EastVillagerNews.com
PHOTO BY MARY NELL HAWK
vious 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 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, re-
fused 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. 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 councilmembers really come down on this critical issue.
Vital, compelling and still trusted at 30 Atlantic Theater Co. champions great plays, truthfully told BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC
PHOTO BY DOUG HAMILTON
n early 1988, a young theater company got its first big break: a show at Lincoln Center. “We got very lucky,” Neil Pepe told Chelsea Now. “It really put us on the map.” Pepe was talking about “Boys’ Life,” the first of many milestones in the Atlantic Theater Company’s evolution, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary with a gala. Another production had been cancelled, explained Pepe, who has been the company’s artistic director since 1992, and “Boys’ Life” took the spot. The play got get excellent reviews, was extended and “publicly launched us.” The Atlantic Theater Company was the outgrowth of a series of workshops famed playwright David Mamet and actor William H. Macy taught at New York University. The company was founded in 1985, said Pepe, who joined as an actor in 1986. “I found them to be the hardest working group I’d ever met,” he recalled. After the success of “Boys’ Life,” the next landmark moment, said Pepe, was creating a permanent home in Chelsea in the early ‘90s. They had been looking for spaces throughout the city, when they happened upon the former Parish house at 336 W. 20th St. between Eighth and Ninth Aves. It is now the company’s Linda Gross Theater (their Atlantic Stage 2 space is located at 330 W. 20th St.). Pepe said that the space in Chelsea was just what they needed and the fact that it used to be part of a church with arched windows, high ceilings and brick seemed right. “But at that time, Chelsea was very different,” recalled Pepe. “It was an edgier neighborhood.” There was a wonderful mix of people with art galleries and restaurants starting to flourish. It was a Downtown space that matched what the young company was trying to do: edgy work that pushed boundaries, said Pepe. They renovated the Parish house, which has a beautiful, historic feel to it, said Pepe. They opened up the space and added more seats. In 1991, the company moved in. “It just seemed like a vibrant neighborhood
L-R: Dale Soules, Hamish Linklater, John Noble, Mickey Theis and Henry Stram, in “Posterity” (at the Linda Gross Theater through April 5).
that was willing to embrace change,” he said. “We loved that community feeling that Chelsea has. I really feel like Chelsea was a big part of who we became.” Pepe said that the company’s mission is to produce “great plays simply and truthfully, utilizing an artistic ensemble. Our approach to theater became very attractive, especially to writers,” explained Pepe, who noted that the company has long and strong relationships with Mamet, Jez Butterworth and Ethan Coen — names that stand among those Pepe was referencing when he described Atlantic’s commitment to serve the story of the play, and choose works by writers who have a command of their voice and language. In turn, writers enjoy the culture at the Atlantic, which is one of high-quality productions with an atmosphere of honesty and fun that is, at the
same time, incredibly professional, he said. The company exercises “practical aesthetics,” a reaction to method acting, which “could feel abstract at times.” Practical aesthetics is a “hands-on approach” to plays, he said, helping an actor to get to the essential action of a scene — a set of tools that an actor can call upon at anytime, he said. The company has great foundational principles that have served it well throughout the years, said Pepe. There is a “certain amount of democracy in our work,” meaning that the theater has a culture that is trying to produce great plays and one that is transparent — not about power or hierarchy. “One of the early reason we did well is we have these amazing mentors, Mamet and Macy,” he said. VITAL, continued on p. 20 March 19, 2015
Buhmann on Art: Michael Snow ©MICHAEL SNOW. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND JACK SHAINMAN GALLERY
“That/Cela/Dat” (1999 | DVD projection | 60 min. | loop.).
MICHAEL SNOW: A GROUP SHOW Through April 4 At Jack Shainman 524 W. 24th St. (btw. 10th & 11th Aves.) Hours: Tues.–Sat. | 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Call 212-337-3372 Visit jackshainman.com
BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN (stephaniebuhmann.com)
hough Snow’s oeuvre is multidisciplinary — including painting, sculpture, video, film, sound, photography, holography, drawing, writing and music — his contemplation remains the same.
He is focused on exploring the nature of perception, consciousness, language and temporality. Snow has received honorary degrees from the University of Toronto (1999), the University of Victoria (1997) and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (1990), among others, as well as many prestigious awards, such as the Guggenheim Fellowship (1972) and the Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres, France (1995, 2011). While considered a leading experimental filmmaker, having inspired the Structural Film movement with his groundbreaking 1967 film “Wavelength,” for example, Snow has also been active as a professional musician since the 1950s. He has played piano and other instruments with various ensembles, but most often in free improvisation with the Canadian Creative Music Collective, Toronto. Along these lines, one can expect an exhibition that is multi-faceted and hard to pigeonhole, reflecting the artist’s various interests and substantial expertise.
“Times” (1979 photograph | 74 1/4 x 77 1/8 inches | 73 3/4 x 76 3/4 x 2 1/4 inches | Artist proof | Edition 2 of 2, with 1 artist proof).
Installation view, “Michael Snow: A Group Show.”
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March 19, 2015
A picturesque, Prussian suicide pact ‘Amour Fou’ is thoroughly pretty, surprisingly witty AMOUR FOU Written & Directed by Jessica Hausner Runtime: 96 minutes In German with English subtitles At Film Forum COURTESY OF FILM MOVEMENT
209 W. Houston St. (btw. Varick St. & Sixth Ave.) Info: 212-727-8110 or filmforum.org
BY SEAN EGAN
here’s no real reason that “Amour Fou” should work as well as it does. On paper, it seems to encompass all of the elements that drive people away from so-called “art house cinema.” Its story is a downer. The themes and ideas it plays with are complex and heady — and played out entirely in German. Despite these hurdles, all candidates for limiting its appeal to a wide audience, the movie’s creative team has managed to produce an engaging, beautifully crafted and surprisingly witty little film from some unlikely source material. Set in the early 1800s, “Amour Fou” tells the story of real-life German poet Heinrich von Kleist, during the last few months of his life. Ever the depressive, the film finds Heinrich taking his melancholic worldview — namely that life is inherently meaningless and full of unbearable pain — to its logical extreme, as he begins to plot out his suicide. The catch, though, is that Heinrich is determined to find a female companion to accompany him in his epic act of self-destruction. Enter the demure Henrietta Vogel, whose admiration for Heinrich’s poetry and recent diagnosis with a mysterious and deadly illness make her uniquely receptive to Heinrich’s eccentric offer. The film tracks the development of their strange relationship, as they march forward towards their violent demise. The whole thing hangs together, and overcomes the pitfalls inherent to its unbearably heavy content, largely thanks to Jessica Hausner’s EastVillagerNews.com
Odd couple Friedel and Schnoeink contemplate ending it all in a beautifully shot park.
carefully measured and impressively stylized direction. There’s a certain lightness of touch to it, which ensures that things never end up feeling too oppressive or excessively bleak. Hausner favors striking, symmetrical, masterfully framed shots, gorgeous in the precision of their composition. She also uses unobtrusive editing techniques, and frequently allows action to play out in long, lingering takes. Her work behind the camera establishes “Amour Fou” as a film beautiful in its elegant simplicity. Rounding out the visual palette is the lush cinematography of Martin Gschlacht, who renders aristocratic Prussia awash in eye-catching, saturated color. The costume design uses the film’s setting as an opportunity to deck out its characters in handsome, quietly flamboyant, period-appropriate dress. All of these aesthetic pleasures would be for naught, however, if they weren’t in service of a well-told story. Hausner, who also penned the screenplay, brings the same lightness of touch to her writing as she does her direction, smartly avoiding a melodramatic or overly somber tone. Instead, the screenplay simmers with disarmingly dry wit, accentuating the absurd aspects of the tale and never quite taking anything seriously or at face value (least of all its protagonist). The film finds amusement in poking fun at the pompousness of 19th century Prussian social conventions, and playing up the pretentiousness and self-centered navel-gazing
Heinrich indulges in throughout. It’s a far more clever and entertaining approach to tackling its thematic concerns than playing things straight could ever be. The actors handle their material
with aplomb. As Heinrich, Christian Friedel plays the poet as a sad sack who possesses streaks of pettiness and misplaced confidence. Speaking in a dry, sweetly matter-of-fact tone, Friedel waxes philosophic about existential despair — somehow managing to sound earnest in his fatalism while wringing comedy out of his delivery. On the other end of things, Birte Schnoeink turns in nuanced work as Henrietta, and her ill-fated journey of self-possession is touching without ever being cloying. “Amour Fou” is equally willing to point out the absurdity of its protagonist’s romantically nihilistic worldview, while also seriously considering its implications. It’s not a film that claims to have any answers to life’s big questions, but is content to at least poke at ideas about mortality, love and social conventions with a sense of humor and style to spare. “Amour Fou,” simply, is art house cinema done right.
March 19, 2015
Atlantic’s anniversary season one of legacy and ‘Posterity’ VITAL, continued from p. 17
March 19, 2015
A view of the Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater space, at 330 W. 20th St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.)
PHOTO COURTESY ATLANTIC THEATER COMPANY ARCHIVES
For more information, visit atlantictheater.org.
PHOTO COURTESY ATLANTIC THEATER COMPANY ARCHIVES
There are also certain prescriptions that the company follows, such as do your job and do only your job, explained Pepe. This means focus on your task. So, for instance, if you are an actor, you act, not direct. The company also has an acting school, and if you are late to class, you will not be admitted, he said. The Atlantic has several current and upcoming productions that continue the tradition of working with great playwrights, said Pepe. Written and directed by Doug Wright, “Posterity,” was commissioned around four years ago. Wright had seen a bust of Henrik Ibsen and started to wonder about the relationship between the sculptor and the playwright, explained Pepe. Wright, who has won the Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for his play “I Am My Own Wife,” explores themes of fame and posterity as the sculptor and playwright “wage war over both [Isben’s] legacy and his likeness,” according to a press release. “Posterity” is at the Linda Gross Theater through April 5. Directly following at the Linda Gross Theater is “Guards at the Taj,” from May 20 to June 28th. Written by Rajiv Joseph, a “wonderful writer that we’ve been watching for a long time,” said Pepe, the play takes place in 1648 India, when two imperial guards are “ordered to perform an unthinkable task,” according to the press release. Joseph also wrote “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.” Amy Morton will direct “Guards at the Taj.” It has been a great season so far, said Pepe. “It’s a nice combination of world premieres and the revival of our founder,” said Pepe, referring to the Mamet’s “Ghost Stories: The Shawl & Prairie du Chien,” playing from May 27 through June 28th at the Atlantic Stage 2. Pepe said that the company wants stories that are vital and compelling (regardless if it is a comedy or tragedy) and shed light on the times we live in. The longevity of the company is also attributed to its incredibly loyal staff, board and ensemble members, said Pepe. Over 500 people attended the company’s 30th anniversary gala — its most successful to date — and Pepe called it an amazing celebration. “It’s been an exciting 30 years,” he said.
A cast photo from “Boys’ Life,” the 1988 production that put Atlantic Theater Company on the map.
Just Do Art BY SCOTT STIFFLER
In “Washeteria,” Tribeca-based Soho Rep transforms a Brooklyn laundromat into a fantastical, kid-friendly space.
PHOTO BY JONATHAN SLAFF
The Barn Series may evoke visions of scrappy kids putting on a show in a farmhouse setting to raise funds — but in the hands of Labyrinth Theater Company, it’s an annual reading series that retains the upstart scrap, trades the barn for its Bank Street Theater and welcomes the public free of charge. The featured works, all new plays written by or starring Company members, are: Alex Lewin’s “The Interview” (March 23), in which a potential Big Brother volunteer has a cat-and-mouse interview with a social worker; Cusi Cram’s “…in the fountain” (March 27) finds private school headmistress Kate Maxwell in picturesque Rome, molding young minds while confronting the dangerous behavior of her staff; and Mona Mansour’s “The Way West” (March 30) spins epic tales of pioneer life, as a modern-day California mom on the verge of bankruptcy distracts her squabbling daughters.
I’ve got a Barn Series, let’s put on a show: Labyrinth Theater Co.’s reading series features three new plays.
PHOTO BY DANIEL MURTAGH
LABYRINTH THEATER COMPANY’S 16TH ANNUAL BARN READING SERIES
COURTESY OF LABYRINTH THEATER COMPANY
PHOTO BY LOUISA THOMPSON
Art! Finance! Morality! They collide with unpredictable results, in Untitled Theater Company #61’s “Money Lab” — where the audience is required to purchase tokens whose value fluctuates during performances based on various fiscal scenarios. A rotating cast of four puppeteers, dancers, economists, musicians, and other creative types are on hand during any given installment of the 16-show run. They include Patrice Miller and cohorts dancing to jargon about the 2008 banking collapse; former economist Steve Zimmer spinning a story about the Fed; and (suckers beware!) showbiz historian Trav S.D. explaining P.T. Barnum’s theories on entrepreneurship. Also making a grab for your precious tokens: skilled conjurer Magic Brian frames his classic Monte hustle with questions about gambling and the stock market, while Tatiana Baccari and Hannah Allen’s fleshy dance theater piece parks itself at the intersection of money and stripping. March 20 through April 11. Performance schedule varies. At HERE (145 Sixth Ave.; enter on Dominick, one block south of Spring St.). For tickets $20 (plus a required $5-$10 buy-in), call 212-352-3101 or visit here.org. Also visit untitledtheater.com.
L to R: Jenny Lee Mitchell and Maria Dessena, from “Love and Greed (An Economic Collapse Cabaret)” — part of the mad goings on at “Money Lab.”
Free. All readings at 8 p.m. At the Bank Street Theater (155 Bank St. btw. West & Washington Sts.). Tickets available beginning at 6 p.m. on day of the reading only, released on first-come, first-served basis. For more info, visit labtheater.org.
Tribeca’s Soho Rep goes off-site and into another borough, with its first-ever theatrical experience created for “children and their adults.” This two-episode event (each the length of a single wash cycle) transforms a Brooklyn storefront into a fantastical
“When Black Boys Die” investigates the root causes of gun violence in urban centers. Through March 22 at Theater for the New City.
laundromat where very different people have the same goal in mind. March 21–April 5 at 321 Broadway in the South Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Subways: J, M, Z to Marcy Avenue, L to Lorimer St. or G to Broadway or Metropolitan Ave. For tickets ($10), call 212352-3101 or visit sohorep.org (where you can access the full schedule of 11 a.m., 3:30 p.m. & 4 p.m. performances).
WHEN BLACK BOYS DIE
Writer and director William Electric Black returns to Theater for the New City with the latest drama in his gutsy
and compelling “Gunplays” series, which addresses inner city violence and guns. “It’s no longer about black boys dying — it’s about them living — their hopes, their dreams,” says a character in “When Black Boys Die,” which follows a teenage girl’s determination to understand the circumstances of her brother’s death and the all-consuming effect it has on her mother. Through March 22 at Theater for the New City (155 First Ave. at E. 10th St.). Thurs.-Sun. at 8 p.m. Sat./Sun. at 3 p.m. For tickets ($15, $12 for students/seniors, $10 each for groups), call 212-254-1109 or visit theaterforthenewcity.net. Info on the series at gunplays.org. March 19, 2015
March 19, 2015
Red Bulls pitch in on new East Village mini-pitch SPORTS BY ROBERT ELKIN
our players from the New York Red Bulls recently came to help break ground for a new minipitch in the East Village to be used for soccer and other sports. The park, which already contains basketball courts, is between E. 11th and 12th Sts. east of First Ave. The new field is hoped to be ready by later this spring. In addition to soccer pros Mike Grella, Andrew-Jean Baptiste, Connor Lade and Sean Davis, also in attendance was Marc de Grandpre, the general manager of the Red Bulls. This field, though not regulation size, will certainly help promote and build soccer in the neighborhood as the popularity of the “beautiful game” continues to rise in the city with a new pro team, New York City FC, now playing home games in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium as of this past Sunday. The Red Bulls were also joined by Ed Foster-Simeon, president and C.E.O. of the U.S. Soccer Foundation; Mitchell Silver, commissioner of the city’s Parks Department; staff from the neighboring East Side Community High School, including its principal, Mark Federman; Monique Flores, senior program director of University Settlement’s Beacon and Cornerstone afterschool programs; and Councilmember Rosie Mendez and C.B. 3 Chairperson Gigi Li. East Side Community High School uses the existing outdoor sports facilities during schooldays and on weekends. A youth soccer team that practices inside the school, however, must travel for its home games. When completed, the new field will also be available for use by community members. “I think that we’ll be able to go by the summer,” Coach Louis Azar of the Beacon Program said of when the field will be up and running. “We asked for a better place for the kids to practice. We had no other choice where they would go.” Flores spearheaded the process for getting money for the project from the
At groundbreaking for new E. 11th St. field, from left, Mark Federman, principal, East Side Community High School; Darryl Rattray, assistant commissioner of Beacon, Cornerstone and Service Learning; Monique Flores, program director, University Settlement’s Beacon and Cornerstone afterschool programs; C.B. 3 Chairperson Gigi Li; Councilmember Rosie Mendez; Red Bulls player Mike Grella; Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver; Red Bulls General Manager Marc de Grandpre; and Ed Foster-Simeon, president and C.E.O., U.S. Soccer Foundation.
U.S. Soccer Foundation. The foundation, in turn, helped bring in the Red Bulls as a co-sponsor. “Soccer is really exciting for our Beacon program,” said Amanda Peck, the University Settlement’s assistant director for external affairs and donor relations. “We run the Beacon program out of this school,” she said of East Side Community High School. “For two and a half years we’ve been asking people in the community so we can help fix the field, so we can have competition,” Peck added. “The Parks Department, along with Community Board 3 and the City Council were all very supportive.” At the groundbreaking event this past Monday, the kids of course got autographs from the pro players, who said they were very impressed by their skills in the sport.
Young soccer players showed their skills on what will soon be a top-notch small sports field. EastVillagerNews.com
Hamilton named N.Y.U. prez N.Y.U. PREZ, continued from p. 13
tiffs’ appeal. N.Y.U. and the city had won at the Appellate Division, overturning a ruling at the State Supreme Court that would have blocked two and possibly three of the buildings from being constructed. The plaintiffs — a broad-based coalition of N.Y.U. faculty, community and activist groups and local residents — argue that the “open-space strips” of parkland along the superblocks’ western and eastern edges cannot be used for the project in any way unless they are formally “alienated” — removed as parkland — by the state Legislature. The decision on the case will have far-reaching ramifications for the fate of public parkland all over New York State, the plaintiffs warn. The case will be argued this spring. The N.Y.U. administration has reportedly been telling employees at the school’s Coles Sports Center that a ruling may not come down until October. Under the university plan, N.Y.U. would raze Coles for a new multiuse “Zipper Building” that would be 300 feet tall at its highest point and also include a new sports gym.
Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said, “Relations between New York University and its neighbors, as well as many of its faculty and staff, have reached an all-time low in recent years, largely due to the university’s unrelenting drive to physically expand in Greenwich Village without regard for the concerns of neighbors. We can only hope that Mr. Hamilton will do a better job of listening to his neighbors than President Sexton, and of thinking about ways to address the university’s desire to grow while also respecting the limitations of the historic, humanly scaled residential neighborhood in which it is located. “We consider N.Y.U. a valued part of this neighborhood; we simply do not want to be overwhelmed, swallowed up or dismissed by it. We welcome the opportunity to work with the new president, and we hope he will feel similarly. But ultimately it will be Mr. Hamilton and the university’s actions that determine how that relationship will work.” G.V.S.H.P. is a plaintiff on the lawsuit against the N.Y.U. 2031 expansion plan. March 19, 2015
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EAST VILLAGER NEWS, MARCH 19, 2015