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

March 26, 2015 • $1.00 Volume 84 • Number 43

REBNY president fires back; Says shoppers want more Duane Reades BY LINCOLN ANDERSON


ollowing The Villager’s announcement last month that the newspaper would be co-sponsoring a groundbreaking forum on the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, there has been a surge of public support to pass the long-stalled bill.

The overall effort is being spearheaded by the Small Business Congress NYC ( Basically, the act offers a way to staunch the city’s hemorrhaging of mom-andpop shops in the face of skyrocketing rents and amid the influx of chain stores, which S.B.J.S.A., continued on p. 12



he faded “ghost sign” on the wall advertising Avignone Pharmacy (later Avignone Chemists) overlooks Sir Winston Churchill Square and can be read easily from Sixth Ave. It probably dates from the 1950s, according to the Greenwich Village Society for Historical

Preservation blog. Another testament to Avignone’s long history could be found inside — a massive old prescription book filled with script handwriting from the early 1900s. It was displayed in a red wagon in the window, a glimpse of history for passersby. This past Saturday, AvigAVIGNONE, continued on p. 4


No panacea as historic former pharmacy closes Corey Johnson loves being in the City Council.

Pushing for rent rollback, Johnson rolls into Year 2 BY LINCOLN ANDERSON


ot a freeze — but a rollback! City Councilmember Corey Johnson said he’s hoping for nothing less than that from the Rent Guidelines Board when it decides in three months on lease-renewal terms for rent-regulated apartments for the next two years. A rent freeze is unprecedented in the history of New York City rent regulation. But a rollback — an actual rent reduction for tenants —

is simply unheard of. Yet, this is something that’s achievable, Johnson firmly believes. He’s part of the Real Rent Reform Campaign, which is working hard to turn back the tide of landlord wins. Rent-regulation laws protect the affordability of 1 million apartments in New York City. “I think there should be a rent rollback,” Johnson said. “For years, landlords have gotten — depending on the year — what were un-

warranted increases. Even if you look at this last winter, heating prices are way down because the cost of heating oil is way down.” Johnson made his remarks last Friday during an interview with The Villager at the Good Stuff Diner, on W. 14th St. near Sixth Ave. The eatery is fittingly on the border between the Village and Chelsea, the two neighborhoods at the heart of Johnson’s West Side Council JOHNSON, continued on p. 22

Bernie Goetz unloads on pot 2 Why Village vic didn’t go to 6 Easter bunnies egg you 17


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“It’s worth the trip down the street!” 2

March 26, 2015

it. Finally, he agreed to accept some cash and she gave him $40, but he said it was too much and returned $10 to her. “It was good pot, by the way,” Goetz recalled. A male undercover suddenly swooped up and arrested him. Goetz said the D.A. kept offering him a plea bargain on the misdemeanor charge, but he refused it, since if he got arrested again, he’d become a “repeat offender.” The D.A. kept putting off the case and, eventually, a judge just threw it out. Apparently, the arresting officer never signed a complaint. Goetz said he now plans to sue the city “for a small amount” over the whole thing. While Steve Miller sang of being “a midnight toker,” Goetz takes his marijuana in the a.m. “My normal lifestyle is I take a good toke every morning,” he said. “It’s like my morning coffee. I use a pipe. Lately, I’ve been busy, so I only have one toke every three days. ... I’ve been smoking pot since I’m 16, and I’m 67. When people say that it leads to other drugs, it doesn’t apply to me.” Actually, he said he was not high at all when he opened fire on a crowded Downtown No. 2 train on Dec. 22, 1984. He boarded the subway car at Union Square, then was approached by four black teens, who tried to mug him for $5. He quickly squeezed off five bullets, hitting all four. One of them, Darrel Cabey, was left permanently paralyzed. The reason Goetz wasn’t baked back then is because, well, he didn’t want to be fried: He was working a big job servicing high-voltage equipment and so was trying to avoid getting electrocuted. “Back then, I was earning 100 grand a year working three and a half months a year,” he said. “I would not smoke pot three days prior to working. At that time, I actually hadn’t smoked any pot for 40 days, which was an unusual dry spell for




*V O T E D **



* **


Bernie Goetz outside Manhattan Criminal Court last year after his arrest for selling pot in Union Square.




BERNIE’S BLAST: Bernie Goetz called us out of the blue on Monday. He said Dana Beal had told him to talk to us. Goetz supports the medical marijuana activist, who last week staged a protest outside District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.’s Hogan Place office. Of course, New York has already legalized medical marijuana — to a certain extent. Patients can’t smoke it, and there aren’t many dispensaries to be found. But Beal has a beef about medical pot that extends back to former D.A. Robert Morgenthau. As Beal explained it to us, it sounds kind of complicated, to say the least. But Goetz has a simple solution — legalization. “I believe if the situation with marijuana was more relaxed, you wouldn’t have to push for medical marijuana, because it would be readily available,” he said. “I’m for legalizing it.” It turns out the “Subway Gunman” of the 1980s is a daily pot smoker, too. Goetz, who still lives on W. 14th St., said he backs Mayor Bill de Blasio’s having decreed last year that people found packing up to 25 ounces of pot will now, at worst, only get tickets instead of being arrested. “That’s wonderful. I support it,” Goetz said. But he’s concerned that pot arrests under de Blasio have only dropped 15 to 20 percent, noting, “That’s not enough.” Goetz is still smarting from his own pot bust last year. He told us the whole story. ... It was in Union Square Park. He had been on the east side of the park, just minding his own business (and not shooting anyone), feeding corn and peanuts to a squirrel he had “rescued.” He then walked across on the 15th St. pathway and exited the park, when a pudgy 25-year-old woman loudly asked, “Anybody know where I can get some pot?” Not too surprisingly, she turned out to be an undercover cop. Goetz, who was carrying a small stash, told her, “I have some,” and said he offered three times to give it to her for free, and even to smoke it with her at his nearby office. As he tells it, though, she said she would really rather pay for

me.” However, he boasted, “That wouldn’t have mattered. I can shoot stoned or not stoned.” He explained that the youths were very close to him, plus he had honed his shooting skills from a young age growing up in Upstate New York, so, buzzed or not, he wasn’t going to miss when he started blasting away. O.K., we asked, so he wasn’t blissed out on bud back then, but maybe if he had just learned some karate or kung fu, couldn’t that have given him some more swagger and ’tude ? “I’m not a fighter,” he retorted. “I don’t have a good punch. Why should I have to learn martial arts and lift weights out of fear, to be secure?” He added that he supports the former Department of Corrections officer who recently opened fire in the Borough Hall station in Brooklyn, killing a thug who had just assaulted him on the train. In fact, Goetz said, he really didn’t want to pull out his .38 special back in ’84 since he was carrying it illegally. He claims he hasn’t packed heat in the past 17 years. But for a decade after the subway shooting incident, he said he needed to, for his own defense. “People wanted to kill me,” he said. “There was a smear campaign against me, like George Zimmerman.” Once in a deli near his home he thought he would have to draw again. The “Pakistani guy” behind the counter was giving Goetz a finger signal — a man standing near him was armed. “I just took a shooting stance. I angled my body to give less of a target,” Goetz told us. “He had the gun in his right overcoat pocket, a 9-millimeter, but not in his hand. I could have shot him right in the forehead.” Apparently, the other guy knew it, too. “He went in a great huff. He turned and he left.” Goetz carried his handgun in a “fast-draw holster” in his waistband back then, he explained, and from the sound of it, he fancied himself the fastest draw east or west of Fifth Ave. Asked if he enjoys Clint Eastwood westerns with their squintyeyed gun duels, Goetz offered, “I like ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,’ ” though added, “I’m not into violent movies.” He’s bulked up a bit from his vigilante days, from 150 pounds to 180 today. And he’s packed on those pounds as a vegetarian. He also may still have some problems with black people. He noted that the undercover who arrested him for selling pot last year got up in his face very fast, which Goetz thinks was to provoke him into punching him. “If a black guy does that, you get scared,” he told us. Hmm, what if it had been a white guy? we asked. Oh, that’s scary too, Goetz said. As for Beal, he said that Goetz, back before personal computers, “was part of an extended scene — ‘phone freaking’ — blue box, black box, red box.” Again, we’re not sure we fully understand, but at least it doesn’t sound like any gunplay was involved, perhaps just very aggressive dialing. As for the ’84 subway shooting, Beal said, “Basically, he’s a picked-on nerd. There’s been a lot of movies on this — ‘Revenge of the Nerds.’ ”

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Whitney Museum thinks globally, hires locally BY TEQUILA MINSKY



he hard hats are putting finishing touches on the steps facing West and Gansevoort Sts. With one month to go, the Whitney Museum still looks like an in-progress construction site, but not for long. May 1 is the opening date for the Whitney’s relocation from its Upper East Side address to an expanded new home in the Meatpacking District. A couple of weeks ago, the Whitney held a job fair for customer-contact positions. In the middle of the still-under-construction lobby, tables were set up and job applicants were able to speak to the managers of the museum’s various departments with job openings. “We have 180 positions we’re hiring for,” said Adrian Hardwicke, director of Visitor Experiences, which means pubic-contact jobs. The jobs are in the areas of security, retail, membership services, ticketing and volunteering. “We didn’t want this museum to land as an alien spaceship,” he explained. “We want to include the community.” Not to mention that being able to walk to work is an advantage for everyone. To this end, announcements for the job fair were sent to local community organizations, like SAGE, Hudson Guild and the Lower East Side Employment Network. Fliers were posted in local libraries, announcements

Whitney Museum Visitor Experiences staff, from left, Jane Carey, community affairs; Meryl Schwartz, volunteers; Adrian Hardwicke, director; Wendy Barbee-Lowell, manager; Stephanie Birmingham, membership; and John Balestrieri, director of security.

were made at meetings of Community Boards 2 and 3, e-mail blasts were fired off. At the job fair, 162 job applicants came through the doors, résumés and cover letters in hand. Many came out of curiosity. They were all ages. “They were a diverse cross section, matching the jobs available,” Hardwicke said. Some had backgrounds in retail, catering, teaching or the hotel industry. There were artists checking out the possibilities, including a couple

who had just moved from D.C., having left government jobs. Hardwicke elaborated that of the 180 positions, 120 are in food services. Stephanie Birmingham, membership manager, said she personally spoke with about 100 people at the

job fair. “We never had a dedicated department for volunteer applicants,” noted Meryl Schwartz, the Whitney’s volunteer manager, who actually has a newly created job herself. “I spoke with 15 to 20 job applicants,” she said, astounded that some who walked through the door possibly looking for a job actually might be interested in volunteering, as well. Following receipt of the résumés, Whitney managers have held group interviews and are now holding individual interviews. Is it too late to apply? “It’s never too late,” said Hardwicke, recommending that job hopefuls send a cover letter and résumé to (The Web site About/JobPostings also has a range of additional job openings that are not in the field of customer contact.) The managers will have all hires in place by April 13. Hardwicke emphasized how, along with outreach education programs, the world-renowned museum is trying to create something relevant to the people in the local community. “We want to build relationships to our immediate neighbors while having a global presence,” she said.

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Construction is still going on to put the finishing touches on the museum, which is set to open in a month from now.

March 26, 2015


Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association Overall Design Excellence, First Place, 2013 Best Column, First Place, 2012 Photographic Excellence, First Place, 2011 Headlines, First Place, 2011 Spot News Coverage, First Place, 2010 Coverage of Environment, First Place, 2009



A “ghost sign,” an old ad for Avignone in Churchill Square park, right near the former pharmacy.


No panacea as historic former pharmacy closes









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March 26, 2015

none’s last day of operation, owner Abe Lerner pointed out one prescription in the big book that was dated 1917. Avignone, which operated continuously for more than 100 years, was at this last location, at 226 Bleecker St. / 281 Sixth Ave., since 1929. Before that, it was at 59 McDougal St., but had to move after that spot was slated to be demolished when Houston St. was widened. A little more than a year ago, it lost its pharmacy, when the pharmacy’s owner decided to relocate to the nearby CVS on Sixth Ave. But Avignone continued on as a health and beauty-care shop. According to G.V.H.S.P.’s blog, Frank and Horatio Avignone built the two-story building on Bleecker St. for their pharmacy, and the building has not changed significantly since then. Italian-born Frank (Francis Titus) immigrated to the U.S. in 1890. His son Carlo took over the business in 1956, and in 1974 sold it to Dominic Grassi, whose son, Mike Grassi, assumed ownership in 1978, and worked there until 1991, when he was joined by Lerner. More recently, the building was sold to Force Capital Management, which announced plans to triple the rent to $60,000 a month. Villager Judyth Silverstein stopped by last Saturday and picked up a few final items, which were on sale so that they would “move.” Repeating the sentiments of most of her neighbors, she said, “I feel terrible, horrible. It’s an institution.” And, yes, she said, she did shop there, “enough to miss it.”



AVIGNONE, continued from p. 1

Abe Lerner with a historic prescription book at Avignone, which had a pharmacy for all but the last year of its more than 100 years.

SOUND OFF! Write a letter to the editor A prescription from 1917, in typically indecipherable doctor’s writing.

M.T.A. walks the walk to tour bus-deprived nabe


aking strides, literally, toward improving Downtown’s woeful bus service, Assemblymember Deborah Glick’s office recently organized a walking tour to help illustrate the transportation problems plaguing the community. Input for the Tour to Restore was provided by Terri Cude, first vice chairperson of Community Board 2, and Shirley Secunda, chairperson of the C.B. 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee. The tour follows numerous efforts to highlight and find solutions to the problem, including a town hall meeting held by state Senator Daniel Squadron and Glick, community petitions, two talking points in The Villager (“Bus service a bust for Downtown Community,” by Cude, Aug. 7, 2014, and “Still waiting for the buses,” by Secuda, Nov. 13, 2014), plus letters to the editor by frustrated readers, many of them seniors. The M.T.A.’s New York City Transit agency responded to Glick’s invitation to walk the area as part of its process to determine what solutions can be provided. The tour brought together local politicians

and their staff at the state, City Council and community board level, to illustrate the problems being experienced in the community, and further facilitate an open dialogue in solving these complex problems. The walk started at the C.B. 2 office, at Washington Square Village, on Bleecker St. between La Guardia Place and Mercer St. Stops along the way included Houston St. at LaGuardia Place, as well as Sixth Ave., to show the lack of service formerly provided by the pre-cutback M5 and M6 routes; Bleecker St. and Broadway, to demonstrate the need for more buses heading Downtown below Eighth St.; Bleecker and Lafayette Sts., to highlight where the M1 used to bring people up Centre/Lafayette St. from Downtown through Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho, the South Village and Noho; and then Fourth Ave. from 12th St. up to 14th St., where the pols and activists spoke about the now-missing buses at Union Square on Broadway, the need for the former M3 route, and generally about how the community’s most vulnerable populations have been severely affected since the cutbacks.

From left: Robert Marino, M.T.A./N.Y.C.T.; Assemblymember Deborah Glick; Morris Chan, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office; Senator Brad Hoylman; Jimmy Coyle, M.T.A./N.Y.C.T. (partly hidden behind Hoylman); Terri Cude, Community Board 2; David Dodge, M.B.P.’s office; Shirley Secunda, C.B. 2; Melissa Ginden, state Senator Daniel Squadron’s office; Buckley Yung and Zachary Campbell, M.T.A./N.Y.C.T. Not in the photo but also on the tour were representatives from Councilmembers Margaret Chin’s and Corey Johnson’s offices and Glick’s and Hoylman’s offices.

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Why injured woman wasn’t treated at HealthPlex BY LINCOLN ANDERSON


Trang Thuy Nguyen.

cy department last year in the former St. Vincent’s O’Toole Building across the street, it’s not equipped as a trauma center — and that’s why the decision was made not to take Nguyen there. St. Vincent’s, on the other hand, was a Level 1 trauma center, as is Bellevue. Dr. Eric Cruzen, the HealthPlex’s emergency medical director, explained that this was a decision made by the responding medics. “When EMS providers assess a patient at the scene of an accident,” he said, “they determine whether or not


mergency responders made the snap decision not to take Trang Thuy “Tina” Nguyen to the nearby Lenox Hill HealthPlex last week after she was critically injured by a piece of construction fence that blew off the new Greenwich Lane project on W. 12th St. near Seventh Ave. Instead, they took her crosstown to Bellevue Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. On Tues., March 17, Nguyen was slammed by a 4-foot-by-8-foot piece of construction fence that ripped off the new development in nearly 40-mile-per-hour winds. She was thrown against a parking garage across the street, where she struck her head against a brick wall. Following the fatality, the Department of Buildings issued a full stopwork order for the accident-plagued project, plus a violation to safeguard the site. It’s a cruel irony that the location of the Greenwich Lane residential project was formerly St. Vincent’s Hospital. The historic Village hospital closed in 2010 and its former campus is being redeveloped into high-end residential condos by Rudin Management Co. In addition, although North ShoreL.I.J. opened up a stand-alone emergen-

It was just east of this corner at W. 12th St. and Seventh Ave. that a piece of construction fence blew loose and fatally struck Trang Thuy Nguyen on March 17.

the patient’s injuries require the specialized services only available at a trauma center. Bellevue Hospital is the only trauma center in the immediate area.” Elaborating on what goes into such a decision, Cruzen said, “I don’t know anything about the patient’s injuries, and I have no way of accessing the records, so I can only postulate. But there are certain conditions that mandate immediate transportation to a trauma center, such as severe head injuries, multiple long-bone fractures, or a highspeed accident — such as auto versus bike, or auto versus pedestrian. Gunshots to the chest or back is trauma. “They have specialized trauma teams — with trauma surgeons — on hand 24 hours a day, ready to go at a moment’s notice. They have special equipment. “Had she come to the HealthPlex,” Cruzen said, “we would have done everything we could to have stabilized her, and then we would have likely transferred her to a trauma center.” Ultimately, he said, “time is of the essence” in these cases, in terms of getting the patient to a trauma center. It’s been long established, he said, that it’s best “to go a little farther in the ambulance” to get the victim to the right place for treatment, a trauma center.


March 26, 2015

Making this decision is part of the EMS responders’ job, he said. As for the HealthPlex, according to Cruzen, since opening eight months ago, it has seen about 18,000 patients, or roughly 2,250 a month. “People seem happy,” he said. “We get a lot of positive feedback.” Two days after Nguyen’s tragic death, Community Board 2 passed a unanimous resolution, calling for the city to make construction-site safety a priority on par with the new Vision Zero street-safety initiative. “Community Board 2 is greatly saddened by the tragic death of Tram Thuy Nguyen, a 37-year-old resident of our community who was struck by a windblown sheet of plywood while walking along a sidewalk adjacent to construction at the former St. Vincent’s Hospital site,” the resolution stated. “We express our deepest condolences to her family and friends. “C.B. 2 calls on the mayor and the New York City Department of Buildings to create a program parallel to Vision Zero,” the resolution urged, “so that workers, residents and pedestrians are fully protected from the injuries and deaths that too frequently result from preventable accidents at construction sites throughout the city.”

Planned Service Changes

L Mar 23 – 27, Mar 30 – Apr 3, Apr 6 – 10 Mon to Fri 11:30 PM to 5 AM No L service between 8 Av and Lorimer St A F J , M14 and free shuttle buses provide alternate service L service operates between Rockaway Pkwy and Lorimer St only Travel Alternatives:

• M14 buses provide alternate service between 8 Av and 1 Av. • Free shuttle buses operate between Lorimer St and the Marcy Av J station, stopping at Bedford Av. • Transfer between free shuttle buses and J at Marcy Av. • Consider using the A or J to/from Manhattan, via transfer at Broadway Junction.

Stay Informed

Call 511 and say “Current Service Status,” look for informational posters in stations, or visit where you can access the latest Planned Service Changes information, use TripPlanner+, and sign up for free email and text alerts.

© 2015 Metropolitan Transportation Authority

March 26, 2015



Surveillance images of the alleged Sunglass Hut heist suspects.

Shady characters On Wed., March 18, at 6:35 p.m., two men walked into the Sunglass Hut, at 755 Broadway, and began removing sunglasses from the displays, police said. In all, they swiped 25 Gucci sunglasses, 11 Versace sunglasses, eight Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses and four Prada sunglasses, in total valued at more than $20,000. The suspects then fled the scene. Anyone with information 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,, or by texting them to 274637(CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.

The woman, however, was eventually able to fight him off and he fled. The victim was removed to Bellevue Hospital where she was treated for bruising to her hands and neck. Police described the suspect as Hispanic, in his mid-thirties, 5-feet-9inches tall and weighing 190 pounds. He was wearing a “New York” hoodie. Anyone with information 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,, or by texting them to 274637(CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.

L.E.S. sex attack Police are asking for the public’s help in hunting down a man who sexually assaulted a woman on the Lower East Side on Wed., March 18, at 10:40 p.m. At that time, police said, the victim, 51, was followed into her building by the suspect. Once on the fifth floor, the man approached her from behind, choked her and sexually abused her.

er with either the word “Love” or “Lex” in silver paint. A 71-year-old man who witnessed the graffitist in action alerted police, who caught the young woman red-handed at about 7:20 p.m. on Wed., March 18, according to a police report. Alexis Gines, 24, was charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief.

Catches bad check A man walked into a Chase bank at 204 W. Fourth St. on Jan. 22 and attempted to cash a check for $488.11. He handed a female teller his ID, but then security software alerted her that something was amiss as she started to cash the check, police said. She contacted a supervisor. The teller subsequently informed the purported patron that his check was forged, and then refused to give it and the ID card back. Garbines Myles, 19, reportedly then left the bank, leaving his identification behind. He was arrested on March 19 and charged with felony criminal possession of a forged instrument.

A surveillance image of the alleged suspect in the March 18 L.E.S. sex attack.

Unlucky in Loko Boozy beverage Four Loko was not the most-loco substance one man was indulging in outside 374 Sixth Ave. on Thurs., March 19. Police came said they came upon the man at about 7:45 p.m. and observed him drinking from a 24-ounce can in plain view. After arresting him for the public drinking of alcohol, police found a crack pipe with residue in his left sweatshirt pocket, plus someone else’s Chase debit card in his left pants pocket. Melvin Johnson, 49, was charged with felony criminal possession of stolen property and misdemeanor criminal possession of a controlled substance.

For Love or Lex An air-conditioning unit owned by the Waverly Restaurant, at 385 Sixth Ave., got tagged by a girl graffiti writ-


March 26, 2015

Jun Qin Zhang, top, and Brittania Efteland are both reported missing. BLOTTER, continued on p. 9

BLOTTER, continued from p. 8

Missing on L.E.S. Two individuals were recently reported reported missing from the Lower East Side. On Sat., March 21, Jun Qin Zhang, 30, was reported missing. He had last been seen inside his residence, at 137 E. Broadway, at 11 a.m. on Fri., March 20. He is 5-feet-10-inches tall and weighs 150 pounds, with a medium build, brown eyes and black hair. He was last seen wearing a red coat, a blue NYC baseball cap and blue jeans. Also reported missing is Brittania Efteland, 36, of 91 Pitt St. She was last seen at her home on Tues., March 17, at about 2 p.m. She is 5-feet-8-inches tall, weighs 140 pounds and was last seen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black spandex. Anyone with information 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., or by texting them to 274637(CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.

morning on Wed., March 18, after an argument between a patron and staff and a third party. Ricardo Moddie, 33, threw a drinking glass at another man at about 1:30 a.m., police said. The glass struck the victim in the ribs but did not seriously injure him, according to a report. Moddie then fled the seen but was apprehended nearby. Police said he resisted being handcuffed. He was charged with misdemeanor assault.

Stonewall glass clash Things got rowdy at the Stonewall Inn, at 53 Christopher St., in the early

Police said they arrested a man after observing him skateboarding in the subway station at W. 14th St. and Eighth Ave. on March 18. An officer demanded that the rolling rider produce an identification card and arrested him when he refused to do so. Shaza Bailey, 20, then allegedly tightened his arms, requiring arresting officers to forcibly place his hands behind his back at about 1:15 a.m., according to a police report. No injuries were reported to police or Bailey, who was charged with resisting arrest, a misdemeanor.

Boost pricey purses Shoplifters have been repeatedly hitting the Saint Laurent Paris store at 80 Greene St. in Soho. On Sun., Mar. 15, two men walked into the place at 3:45 p.m., snatched two purses off the display rack, stuffed them inside their jackets and left, police said. The bags were worth a total of $5,640. Surveillance video showed the thieves fleeing north on Spring St. It was the store’s fourth shoplifting crime in three months.

Zach Williams, Lincoln Anderson and Dusica Sue Malesevic

SOUND OFF! Write a letter to the editor

NYU School of Medicine

Skating straphanger

Sticky situation Graffiti charges are not just for taggers but also for illegal stickering. Police said they observed a man slapping a sticker onto a traffic light at about 5 p.m. on Sat., March 21. They reportedly found an additional sticker in his left hand and 48 more in his left-rear pants pocket when he was arrested near the northwest corner of W. Third and Sullivan Sts. A police report did not describe the images on the stickers. Ryan Robertson, 28, was charged with making graffiti, a misdemeanor.


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Billy says he was railroaded by M.T.A. in bust BY ZACH WILLIAMS



March 26, 2015


ill Talen a.k.a. Reverend Billy will go to court on April 8 to contest criminal charges stemming from a Jan. 6 arrest at Grand Central Station that he says has jeopardized his reputation as a nonviolent activist. Talen will challenge charges of obstructing government administration and disorderly conduct in New York County Criminal Court that day, which will determine the future course of a preliminary action taken to sue the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for defamation. Central to his cases is a video of him speaking at about 12:30 p.m on Jan. 6 during a 24-hour vigil when activists read the names of people of color killed by police. (The video is posted at https:// w w w.yout u b e.c om/watc h?v=XPRa8aRSo20& His arrest, Talen said in an interview with The Villager, was arbitrary and came without warning from police. He did not even know at the time what he was being arrested for, he added. “The fact is that we have a culture now that has been well established since 9/11 that the police simply don’t need to know what the case will be,” he said. In Talen’s view, police were unjust-

Bill Talen a.k.a. Reverend Billy, right, with Nehemiah Luckett, the musical director of the Church of Stop Shopping Choir, at a rehearsal at the Lower Eastside Girls Club on March 22.

ly restricting free speech in a public space when they began dismantling the demonstration — small signs on the floor with the victims’ names — on the grounds that the signs were allegedly impeding pedestrian traffic through the station. “You should stand here and respect these human beings,” Talen says in the video right before police

officers began removing the placards from the floor. He continues his performance-artist preacher’s gesticulations in the video as police officers begin directing him away. As he emphatically addresses his fellow activists, police are seen grabbing his arms before the camera shifts away from him. Seconds later, the video shows Talen bent forward with both arms pulled back as he chants, “Black Lives Matter!” before being led away by officers. Talen spent the night in “The Tombs” — the Manhattan Detention Complex, down by the courts — before being released without bail the next day after about 21 hours of confinement. He declined an offer of what is known as an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal, which dismisses and seals charges after six months if a defendant is not arrested again during that period. His attorney Stephan Cohen said that accepting an A.C.D. is not an admission of guilt, but nonetheless would have had a “chilling” effect on Talen’s activism moving forward. “Reverend Billy is known around the world as a peaceful activist who espouses nonviolence, is trained in nonviolent political protest and trains others in nonviolence and de-escalation,” Cohen said. But an M.T.A. spokesperson was quoted in a Jan. 7 New York Post article saying that two protesters were arrested at Grand Central Station in a scuffle with police. The Post did not report the names of the two people who were arrested. M.T.A. spokesperson Adam Lisberg was quoted by the Post as saying that arrests of demonstrators had to be made at the station for the first time since the #BlackLivesMatter movement arose. The transit hub had hosted demonstrations almost every day

for at least a month prior to the arrests. “Two separate protesters got physical with police commanders,” Lisberg told the tabloid. “We had to make the first arrests since the protests began. We can’t and won’t tolerate attacks on our police.” The outcome of the criminal case will determine the future course of Talen’s defamation suit against M.T.A., which would seek $500,000 in damages, according to Cohen. An M.T.A. representative declined to comment on pending litigation. Notifying the M.T.A. within 90 days of the incident was necessary in order to keep their options open, Cohen said. Talen has had success challenging other arrests in the past. For example, in September 2013, after he and choir members, wearing golden toad headdresses — evoking a Costa Rican amphibian not seen since 1989 — swarmed into a JP Morgan Chase Bank, where they sang and acted out a skit, he was arrested, accused of causing “public alarm,” and charged with riot and menacing. He faced up to a year in jail, but the complaint was promptly tossed out of court. In the meantime, Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir — who integrate traditional gospel music with an anti-consumerism message — are readying to tour the U.S., England and Austria. They will perform on April 17 at the Live Ideas festival in Chelsea. But for the group and its “Earthalujah!” preacher, the East Village remains the center of their activities, according to Talen. The choir’s members come from throughout the city and New Jersey. Their first rehearsal space more than 15 years ago was in the former CHARAS Cultural and Community Center (the old P.S. 64), on E. Ninth St. near Avenue B. The group has also had residencies at St. Mark’s Churchin-the-Bowery, at E. Tenth St. and Second Ave., and Judson Memorial Church, at 55 Washington Square South. They currently conduct practices at the Lower Eastside Girls Club, on E. Eighth St. and Avenue D. Efforts to keep what he branded the “corporate monoculture” out of the neighborhood have had mixed success. Starbucks, for one, has made inroads, he noted. But current efforts to assert First Amendment protections in public spaces are merely a prelude of things to come, Talen said. The consequences of “gentrification, militarization and corporatization of New York City neighborhoods” are becoming increasingly obvious to local residents, he added. “The invasion of the 28-year-old stockbrokers is continuing every day,” he said. “I think more and more people are aware of it, but it may be that the real battle to defend our neighborhoods has yet to be fought.”


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March 26, 2015


Big real estate bashes S.B.J.S.A. bill as an S.B.J.S.A., continued from p. 1

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March 26, 2015



are among the few businesses that can afford the astronomical rents. However, last week, a leading voice for the city’s real estate industry lashed back, saying that the measure, if passed, would amount to an “unconstitutional taking,” by limiting landlords from maximizing profits on their property. The bill, in one form or another, has been blocked for coming up for a vote in the City Council since the 1980s. It calls for allowing commercial tenants in good standing to be able to renegotiate “fair” 10year leases: If a tenant and landlord cannot come to terms, there would be nonbinding mediation, followed, if necessary, by binding arbitration. As recently as five years ago, the S.B.J.S.A. had 32 sponsors in the 51-member City Council, but was — once again — blocked by coming up for a vote, this time by then-Council Speaker Christine Quinn. A bill can pass with a 26-vote simple majority, while 34 votes is veto-proof against mayoral opposition. Advocates charge that big real estate has always worked quietly behind the scenes to ensure that the game-changing proposal never sees the light of day. Following The Villager’s publicizing its March 5 forum at Judson Church and the subsequent increased media coverage of the S.B.J.S.A., the number of the legislation’s current sponsors has crept up a bit, from 14 to 16. But Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, blasted the bill, saying that it’s not even clear if it can be legally implemented. “Yes, I’m very familiar with it,” Spinola, head of REBNY since 1986, said of the S.B.J.S.A. “We’ve gone through different administrations with it. We are absolutely convinced that the City Council, the mayor do not have the power to impose control on the leasing of properties. We have had discussions with the Corporation Counsel [the city’s Law Department]. At the very least, it would have to go to the state — and we’re not sure that the state would have the power to impose this.” Even if the bill were somehow to pass, he assured that big real estate would not take it sitting down. “This is a constitutional taking, and it will be legally challenged,” he stated. REBNY has 16,000 members, including property owners, brokers and other real estate professionals. “We continue to have a good dialogue with

Despite recent denials by its owner, Mario Flotta, that Caffé Dante would be closing, the 100-yearold cafe this week finally shuttered its doors, driven under by a prohibitive rent increase.

the mayor,” Spinola said. “We have not had this conversation with the new administration or the leadership of the new City Council yet, but have conveyed that we don’t think it’s legal.” The only way the bill could be approved, he said, is possibly if Albany were to declare a “state of emergency” regarding small businesses, similar to what was done with rent regulation, which is premised on there being a “housing emergency”

‘The city does not have the power to impose control on the leasing of properties.’ Steve Spinola — namely, when residential vacancies are below 5 percent. However, advocates note that five years ago, a legal panel in New York City found that the bill is constitutional. In general, as REBNY members see it, the S.B.J.S.A. would put way too much power in the hands of retail tenants. “It says the tenant, at the last minute, has the right to match the lease an owner is about to do,” Spinola said. “Why would a tenant negotiate with me, if they know that they can be pushed aside because ‘Tenant A’ that is in there has the right of first refusal? The tenant that’s still there, that doesn’t have to pay for moving in, can undercut you by $1 and get the space.”

If anything, Spinola said, he is in favor of giving “tax incentives” to landlords who work to keep commercial tenants in place. The City Council is currently lobbying the state Legislature to pass a bill along these lines. But small-business advocates assert that lease renewals are the number one factor that makes or breaks small businesses. At the same time, Spinola conceded, “Do some tenants have difficulty meeting their rents? Some do.” However, he said, “Areas change. That happens across the country, and across the world.” In short, he contended, the current retail landscape is shaped less by chains forcing out smaller businesses because they can afford to pay higher rents, than by consumers driving the market. “The main reason Duane Reades and Walgreens are there is because people purchase there. There is no Woolworth’s anymore,” he noted, referring to the “five-and-dimes” of a bygone era. “They’re Duane Reades, they’re Walgreens. We went from a drug store to a full-service store. This is a free market. It’s not something that should be negotiated. “Duane Reade is not going to operate in a spot where they’re losing money,” he contended. “They compete to get that customer into the store. I don’t accept that this is unfair competition.” Also, while a mom-and-pop shop might close at midnight, for example, some Duane Reades are open 24 hours, and some people like the convenience of being able to buy a quart of apple juice there at all hours, he noted. As for small stores being forced out by high rents, he said dismissively, “The reason they can’t pay more money is because they weren’t selling enough. Period.” And stores that fill a particular niche come and go with the changing times, the REBNY president added. For instance, there used to be lots of TV-repair shops, but now people just throw out broken televisions, he said. S.B.J.S.A., continued on p. 13

illegal taking; Council support builds slowly S.B.J.S.A., continued from p. 12


Plus, it’s also simply tough to be a merchant: Fifty percent of new businesses close within two years, he noted. But what about the fact that the city actually had commercial rent control from 1945 to 1963? Spinola was asked. “I’m not aware of 1945 to 1963,” he shrugged. “I don’t know what they’re talking about. I could see there would be something during the war, which is when we got residential rent regulation.” In fact, it was progressive Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia who, during World War II, put into place the nation’s first commercial rent-regulation law here. The Villager asked Spinola if, assuming the S.B.J.S.A. were passed, wouldn’t property owners still be making good money, just maybe not squeezing out every last penny of profit? “Should we have a law that says you shouldn’t make more than a certain amount?” he retorted. “I understand minimum wage. But when you take away the profit that you can make, you are taking the property.” The act would apply to commercial office space, too, he noted. Similarly, Spinola didn’t have anything positive to say about so-called “formula zoning,” under which municipalities can block certain types

In June 2013, Ray of Ray’s Candy Store proudly displayed his new lease. After decades working at his hot dog-and-fries shop on Avenue A, Ray, then 80, feared his rent of $4,100 would be doubled in a new lease, meaning he wouldn’t be able to afford to stay. But, luckily, his landlord gave him a one-year renewal, with only a minimal increase. With the S.B.J.S.A., small merchants like Ray would have negotiating power on lease renewals.

to Walmarts and Targets. If big-box stores don’t work — then why are they working?” New York City albeit does have some big-box stores, “but not enough,” he declared. On the other hand, the city’s special zoning that keeps nightclubs and music venues away from residential areas, in his view, is appropriate. Advocates believe the S.B.J.S.A. would help preserve neighborhoods’ character — a special quality, they note, that draws people from all around the world to visit places like the historic, legendary Village. But Spinola scoffed that New York shouldn’t be preserved like a giant museum. “The character of New York is that it’s thriving, it is growing and it is changing,” he said. “Who wants to come to New York if you say, ‘It’s going to stay the same forever?’ We’ve got museums that are exciting to see. But when they walk the streets, people want to see what New York is today.” While it obviously would not be easy — perhaps impossible — to get REBNY to change its tune on the S.B.J.S.A., local city councilmembers have lined up behind the measure.

‘I am working with Councilmember Palma to encourage my colleagues to sponsor this critical piece of legislation.’ Corey Johnson of businesses — like national chain stores — from opening in certain retail zones. This has been done in some other cities, such as parts of San Francisco. “I don’t understand it,” Spinola said of the concept. “That’s basically government deciding where people can shop, and I think that’s wrong. People drive out of the city

Corey Johnson, who represents the Village and Chelsea, said in a statement, “I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the Small Business Jobs Survival

Act. Our small businesses and the people who love them are what make New York special. They shouldn’t need corporate backing to stay afloat. If only chain stores can afford to stay here — something needs to change. I am working with Councilmember Annabel Palma to encourage my colleagues to sign on and sponsor this critical piece of legislation.” Like Johnson, Margaret Chin, who represents Lower Manhattan’s First District, is also a supporter of the bill in the City Council. In a statement to Sharon Woolums several months ago for one of Woolums’s columns on the S.B.J.S.A. in The Villager, Chin said, “I am deeply concerned about the difficulties faced by the valuable small businesses that make our community great. Since ever-rising rents contribute to the closure of so many small businesses, I continue to co-sponsor the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which would create fair rent negotiations and help save many of these beloved stores.” However, Rosie Mendez, who represents the East Village’s Second Council District, currently is not listed among the sponsors of the S.B.J.S.A., continued on p. 24

The Church of the Ascension

Fifth Avenue at Tenth Street • • 212-254-8620 March 29 The Sunday of the Passion Palm Sunday 9 a.m. – Blessing of the Palms 11 a.m. – Blessing and Procession of the Palms A reading of the Passion According to St. Mark 7 p.m. – Meditation and Sacraments April 2 Maundy Thursday 7 p.m. – The Maundy Thursday Liturgy (with Full Choir), With Washing of Feet, Stripping of the Altar, Setting of the Altar of Repose, and Watch with the Blessed Sacrament April 3 Good Friday 12 noon – The Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ (with Choir) With Veneration of the Cross, and Communion from the Reserve Sacrament

Please join us for Services in Holy Week. April 4 Holy Saturday The Vigil of Easter (with Full Choir) 8 p.m. – The Great Vigil of Easter with the Lighting of New Fire, The Paschal Candle, Baptism and Renewal of Baptismal Vows. This is the culmination of Holy Week, including the Celebration of the First Eucharist of the Resurrection.

April 5 Easter Day: The Day of Resurrection 9 a.m. – The Second Eucharist of Easter 11 a.m. – Festal Eucharist (with Full Choir), Easter Egg Hunt for children following the service 7 p.m. – Meditation and Sacraments

Parish Office at 12 W. 11 St. • Office Hours: Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


March 26, 2015


Slow down, and keep new development contextual



he city’s new “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” plan has sparked a firestorm of protest from the Village and Chelsea to Harlem and beyond. Basically, this is a proposed zoning text change that would allow developers to build bigger in contextual districts. Specifically, the change would allow construction of buildings 20 to 30 percent larger than currently allowable in these districts. This could mean buildings up to 15 feet higher near the Village waterfront. Contextual zoning regulates the height, bulk, setback from street and frontage width in new buildings — with the goal of preserving the architectural character of neighborhoods. There are contextual-zoning districts in the Village and Chelsea, the product of years of hard work by local community groups and, notably, organizations like the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. The far West Village has two

such districts. Two things are driving the de Blasio administration’s push to rejigger these districts. First, architects complain that they currently can’t use the full “zoning envelope” — the maximum allowable square footage — for new projects due to a combination of today’s preference for higher ceiling heights and the need to include more infrastructure in between floors. So the existing zoning should be “modernized,” the city says. In addition, the plan would encourage the development of affordable senior housing and care facilities in contextual zones. However, Community Boards 2 and 4 and local politicians and preservationists have — as with one voice — cried out that this “one size fits all” approach would be a disaster, particularly in low-scale areas like the Village and Chelsea. Last Thursday, C.B. 2 unanimously approved a resolution urging the city to slow down its rush to approve this new zoning rejiggering. At the same time, C.B. 2 said, creating senior housing and care facilities is certainly a worthy goal. But City

Hall is not providing the community boards with the sufficient — and, in fact, City Charter-mandated — amount of time to fulfill their duty of reviewing and critiquing the proposal, and holding public hearings to inform the community and gather residents’ input. In fact, C.B. 2 itself hasn’t even been given a presentation by the Department of City Planning yet, or had a chance to have its questions about the plan’s scope answered by the agency. Furthermore, the board noted, the city’s proposal would undermine efforts currently underway to create new contextual zones in the South Village and along the University Place corridor — areas not within historic districts, and thus lacking protection. In general, the city’s proposed zoning text change would encourage “teardowns” of older buildings for new development, opponents warn. Of course, this would absolutely be anathema for historic neighborhoods like Greenwich Village. At the very least, C.B. 2 strongly recommended in its resolution, the

city should extend the scoping timeframe for this zoning text change by an additional 60 days “to allow more community participation.” As Tobi Bergman, C.B. 2 chairperson, told The Villager last week, regarding the zoning proposal, “This is a very, very broad brush over the fine-toothed neighborhoods of our city over all. There certainly are things in this plan that make sense. The problem that offends us is regarding the contextual zoning.” Bergman is well versed in zoning issues, having formerly chaired the board’s Land Use Committee. What the city should do, he said, is not a text change, but an actual rezoning: In other words, leave the perfectly functioning contextual zones in the Village and Chelsea alone — and create a new zoning specifically for other neighborhoods where this plan would be appropriate. In short, the one-size-fits-all approach would be a huge mistake by the de Blasio administration, and will be opposed wholeheartedly by those of us who cherish our livable, beautiful, hard-won, contextually zoned neighborhoods.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR People have the power To The Editor: Re “Let the S.B.J.S.A. finally come up for a vote!” (editorial, March 12): Kudos to The Villager for its reporting on the plight of small businesses and the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. But more is needed. The S.B.J.S.A. is a reasonable measure that we, the voters, should hold all our city councilmembers accountable for enacting or rejecting.


Small businesses are vital to the health of our neighborhood ecosystems and are as endangered as coral reefs. Just as we have regulations protecting our fisheries from obliteration, so too we should also have a sensible measure affording small businesses a reasonable chance of survival. Small business owners are few, vulnerable and without political or economic clout. The citizenry of the neighborhoods are many and have the collective power at the ballot to take away the jobs of councilmembers and other representatives who fail to work on behalf of a healthy, diverse

city. Who are the 35 councilmembers who do not support this bill? Do their constituents know their elected representatives don’t support small business? Who are the “political powers that be” who control our elected representatives, and how do they block this measure for more than 20 years? What petition can I sign and to which politicians send my angry letter? Which councilmember, assemblymember, district leader or congressperson is actively organizing support for this measure? Anyone? I look forward to continued reporting and investigation by The Villager. Chris Gaylord

Flavor keeps city hopping To The Editor: Re “Let the S.B.J.S.A. finally come up for a vote!” (editorial, March 12): Why do we pay a fortune to live in shoeboxes? Because New York City has flavor. To a large part, this flavor is provided by small businesses. Whether it’s your favorite pizza place, bodega, bagelry or Irish bar, these places are being lost. LETTERS, continued on p. 16


March 26, 2015


Nay! Just can’t shake off this snowy winter SCENE

The seemingly unending winter lingered on with snow on Greenwich St. at Duane Park and on a scooter mirror on Jay St. in Tribeca on Saturday.

Vacant former bookstore speaks volumes on retail TALKING POINT BY GEORGE JOCHNOWITZ


here has been a vacancy at the corner of W. Eighth St. and Sixth Ave. since Dec. 31, 2012. That’s when Barnes & Noble closed its bookstore there. When I first moved to the Village, in 1951, there was a Nedick’s at that corner. Nedick’s was a fastfood restaurant that sold hot dogs. One could also get hot dogs on the west side of Sixth Ave. at Chock full o’Nuts. Books and hot dogs still exist, but it is much harder to find a store that sells them nowadays. Two and a half years is a long time for a vacancy to exist. There have been lots of vacancies on W. Eighth St., including five vacant shops at the corner of MacDougal St., at 38 W. Eighth St., which have been unoccupied for a good, long time. Greedy landlords are often blamed for vacancies. High rents are certainly a problem. But how much does a

greedy landlord earn from a site that has been vacant for months or even years? Can a new tenant come in and pay a rent high enough to make up for the extended vacancy? I don’t know, but I doubt it. Mom-and-pop stores have been going out of business. High rents are part of the problem. Nedick’s, Chock full o’Nuts and Barnes & Noble had to leave their locations. They are not, and were not, momand-pop stores.

customers nowadays who don’t want to eat processed meat. Unfortunately, there are all sorts of different stores that are failing. Can it be that retailing is in the process of becoming history? Shopping streets are a major part of life in the city. Busy streets are safe places. When the pedestrians go, the criminals come. A surprising essay appeared in the Sunday Review section of The New York Times on March 22, 2015, called “Viva Gentrification!” The author, Hector Tobar, writes, “In Highland Park, as in other Latino barrios of Los Angeles, gentrification has produced an undeniable but little appreciated side effect: the end of decades of de facto racial segregation.” Hector Tobar is aware that residents may be priced out of the neighborhood and adds, “Strengthen rent-control laws, and develop new ways to find housing for poor and middle-income people.” Perhaps a new way to find housing for poor and middle-income people

Can it be that retailing is becoming history?

There are other factors at work. In the case of bookstores, the Internet is part of the problem. People can buy books online without having to go outdoors. There are e-books, which some people prefer to traditional printed books. As for hot dogs, there are potential

is to build more. Apartments are getting ever more expensive — like everything else. I remember when the subway fare was a nickel. In 1948, it doubled, to a dime. It has just gone up to $2.75. In the case of apartments, there may be a factor that can slow down the rate of increase: the law of supply and demand. If there are more and more apartments available, prices ought to go down as a result of competition. The threat of vacancies in apartments, unlike the vacancies in stores, should allow prospective buyers and tenants to shop around for a good deal. This is different from the case of retail stores, where there are few tenants since there are fewer and fewer customers. We need a more thickly populated city, to keep our streets filled with pedestrians and to provide customers for retail shops, even in this age of computers. Furthermore, if people live closer to their work, commuting time decreases and pollution resulting from automobiles is lessened. We have to build more tall buildings. New York doesn’t have enough people. March 26, 2015


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR If we don’t act now, we’ll be left with the same eating and shopping choices that they have in the rest of the country, where we could have a much larger dwelling space for what we pay here. Preserve the flavor of New York City!

large part of what gives interest to our streets, our communities, our lives. As well as protecting affordable housing, we need this bill and really some kind of commercial rent control. It is so depressing to see these superficial chain stores all over the place, replacing community businesses. There really is no comparison!

Lady Bunny

Donna Hooker

LETTERS, continued from p. 14

Brooklyn in the house? It’s not a bridge too far To The Editor: Re “Let the S.B.J.S.A. finally come up for a vote!” (editorial, March 12): Now we need one of the big Brooklyn community papers to step up and follow this lead. Hello, Brooklyn! Steven Barrison

Mom-and-pops are N.Y.C. To The Editor: Re “Let the S.B.J.S.A. finally come up for a vote!” (editorial, March 12): New York City is in large part our small businesses. They are a

To The Editor: Re “Pols, officials urge a surge of local input on ‘Big U’ design” (news article, March 19): Instead of just building a berm on the east side of the F.D.R. Drive, how about widening the bridge connecting Corlears Hook Park and East River Park from Montgomery St. to Cherry St.? Then the two parks would come together as one. This would serve a flood-prevention purpose while greatly increasing usable parkland along the East River. Joseph Hanania

Maybe shut them down Friend through it all To The Editor: Re “Woman killed by flying debris at the former St. Vincent’s site” (news article, March 19): If it’s true, as reported, that the construction company has garnered a number of violations of this sort, its permit to continue as a construction company should possibly be revoked. At least this should be considered, depending on whether an investigation proves the company is trustworthy or not. Stephanie Low

Live and let live! To The Editor: Re “De Blasio staying the course on St. Pat’s inclusivity” (editorial, March 19): Why do people have so much hate against gay groups? Why not just be happy with your own life and let others enjoy who they are?

To The Editor: Re “Amnon Kehati, Sidewalk Cafe partner, dies at 64” (obituary, March 5): I am stunned and hurt by the death of an old friend. Amnon was able to keep friends for a long time. He had a contagious laugh and a unique ability to keep everyone as friends, even old girlfriends. He will be sorely missed by all who met him in his short 64 years. Rutie Eck

E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to 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.

Randy Garcia


In hopefully winter’s last gasp, wind-whipped wet snow blanketed Washington Square Park on Friday afternoon.


March 26, 2015

These Easter Bunnies Egg You On An insane carnival is your new spring tradition




h, Easter Sunday. We all know how it goes. The sun is shining, the grass is green and new, the brightly colored eggs are hidden — and the giant, six-foot-tall rabbits are waiting to fight you tooth and nail for possession of them… Uh, wait. An Easter experience as demented as that could only be found one place: “Full Bunny Contact.” Described as “NYC’s extreme egg hunt and twisted Easter carnival” in promotional materials, “Full Bunny Contact” (or FBC for short) is a crazy, multi-day, family-friendly celebration of the holiday. Its appeal lies in the wide variety of unique, bonkers-sounding Easter-themed games and events attendees are encouraged to participate in — the centerpiece of which is the titular Full Bunny Contact. In this game, participants are locked in a giant steel cage, full of grass mats and Easter eggs — as well as actors in bunny suits, trained to get physical. The object of the game is to collect as many eggs as possible, all while avoiding these bunnies, who will stop at nothing to knock the eggs from your grasp and prevent you from winning a prize. This all may sound a more than a little nuts, but rest assured, once FBC’s origins are explained, a method to this (hopping) madness becomes clear. “When I was growing up, we’d spend Easter playing these strange, invented games with friends and family,” says John Harlacher, FBC’s director. According to Harlacher, FBC is the result of trying to “create games where the rules are clear,

These bunnies are suited up and ready to engage you in absurd games and gladiatorial combat scenarios.

but the strategies are not apparent, so people can play and have fun in a pure way.” When placed in the context of spring and wrapped in a layer of Easter iconography, these games are meant to emphasize “birth and freshness” and the “joy of experimenting and trying things out” while evoking “feel-

ings of childhood through play for adults.” Still, a lot of planning goes into creating this sense of liberating fun. By Harlacher’s estimation, he and the FBC team started work at least six months prior to the opening. And while an event this singularly strange may seem difficult to

pull off, Harlacher is no stranger to interactive live theater, having helmed the successful “Nightmare NYC” for years, in addition to last year’s installment of “Full Bunny Contact.” BUNNY, continued on p.18 March 26, 2015


‘Full Bunny’ is Hippity Hoppity Interactive Insanity FULL BUNNY CONTACT TProduced by Daniel Demello and Nathaniel Nowak Conception & Directed by John Harlacher Wednesday, April 1 – Sunday, April 5 Hours Vary Daily At the Clemente 107 Suffolk St. (btw. Rivington & Delancey Sts.) Tickets: $10 (Admission Only) $20 (Admission & One round of FBC) $60 VIP tickets Appropriate for ages 10 and up (with an adult under 15) PHOTO BY MICHAEL BLASE


BUNNY, continued from p. 17

His strategy for preparing for an event in which there are so many variables while performing is deceptively simple, but effective. Noting that, of the bunny actors, “You can’t sculpt their actions completely because you don’t know what the audience is going to bring to it,” Harlacher chooses to focus on “a bunch of character work.” Each bunny, he says, has its own persona. Once established, it’s all about “building boxes for the performers to engage in.” The games, in other words — which he notes develop in organic ways with the actors during rehearsals. “This year is a fuller develop-

Egg hunters become the hunted, while vying for prizes.

ment of the ideas of the games, going deeper into what we sketched last year,” Harlacher asserts, continuing, “There’s new games, and the games you thought you knew have been re-imagined.” Harlacher compares many of these games to the show “American Gladiator” due to the athleticism involved. Offerings include Bunny Ball (“a basketball themed game”), Ride the Rabbit (featuring a mechanical bunny, courtesy of FBC part-

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ners Fun & Jump), a gladiator-style joust fought against a bunny, and a game of Tic-Tac-Toe fought against a giant chicken (which Harlacher reveals was inspired by a real life chicken he saw in Chinatown growing up — “He won a lot! It was weird.”). Less physically strenuous (but no less inspired) activities include a “Bunny Beauty Pageant” for attendees’ pet rabbits, and a “Biggest Brat” contest — in which both children and adults throw, and are judged on, temper tantrums. The winner of each division is awarded the prize of a “disgusting amount of candy” and, erm, an adult version of that, respectively. Indeed, there are prizes awarded all throughout FBC. While Harlacher is quick to say that you’ll

never get rich from winning at FBC, goodies include gym memberships, Off-Broadway tickets and Mets tickets. However, Harlacher also adds with a laugh that it is possible to get “crappy prizes, like a can of shaving cream.” But still, he insists, “The biggest prize is the joy of doing this thing.” As for himself, the biggest reward comes during the performances. “I love that moment when people start seeing it, and it starts actually becoming what it is,” he said. And what is it exactly? In Harlacher’s own words, “Full Bunny Contact is the most insane Easter experience you will ever have. It is unlike any other way you have experienced the holiday, and it is your new Easter tradition.”

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March 26, 2015

Shirley Fiterman Art Center finds its voice BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN



ew York’s gallery districts have been in constant flux since the 1980s. Whereas 57th  St. was the city’s first and main art center for decades, it has shifted multiple times since, most notably to Chelsea beginning in the 1990s. However, due to major developments East and West of the High Line, real estate prices keep soaring, forcing out many galleries who rely on renting their premises. The flood following Hurricane Sandy in 2012 has not helped to encourage art dealers’ trust in the area, remembering how much of their stored inventory was permanently destroyed during those events. Despite the promising opening of the Whitney Museum’s new building in the nearby Meatpacking District this May, several galleries continue to move away from this tourist-laden district, putting down roots in the Lower East Side, Soho, Uptown or even the Hudson River Valley. As a result, Manhattan’s formerly exclusive focus on one major art district is becoming increasingly diversified. This trend also applies to Tribeca — which although home to many local artists and their studios, especially since the late 1960s, has never been rich in exhibition venues. In recent years however, smaller newly founded galleries, such as the formidable KANSAS, have sprung up in this neighborhood and more  established outfits, such as Postmasters, have moved there from Chelsea. It seems that although residential developments are in full swing here, some commercial spaces are still affordable enough. In addition, public and semi-public artworks by some of the most prominent contemporary artists add enticing context. Julie Mehretu’s mural at Goldman Sachs (200 West St.), Jenny Holzer’s wall of words in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center, or Jeff Koons’  Balloon Flower (Red) sculpture in the adjacent fountain park are only three examples of several discovery-worthy surprises in the area. In addition, Santiago Calatrava’s incredible World Trade Center PATH  station, which is  finally coming to life fast, will mark a major new destination — not only for local commuters but also for lovers of architecture and art worldwide. In close proximity to Calatrava,

New curator brings BMCC students, faculty into the mix

An installation view from 2014’s “Material Way” exhibit.

Holzer and Koons, a promising art venue is beginning to take shape. Located at 81 Barclay St. (at W. Broadway), the Shirley Fiterman Art Center (which belongs to the Borough of Manhattan Community College) has become a destination for interesting group exhibitions and art performances since last fall, although its history reaches back a bit further. The Art Center was created in honor of Shirley and Miles Fiterman, who donated the original Fiterman Hall in 1993, which was damaged in the 9/11 attacks. The rebuilt Fiterman Hall, which was designed by the architectural firm of Pei Cobb & Partners, officially reopened on Aug. 27, 2012 — adding a state-of-the-art, 4,000-square foot exhibition space to the area. Surrounded by the large and small businesses of the Financial District, it is refreshing to find an art venue free to the public, whose main focus is education. In fact, the Art Center was conceived as a link between art and the diverse student body enrolled at BMCC. However, in addition to being a free public platform for contemporary art, it also offers a means to raise funds for student scholarships: 40 perART CENTER, continued on p. 20

FAMILY THEATER IS BACK IN GREENWICH VILLAGE! Bozomoon Productions in association with

The Telling Company presents




Fiterman Art Center transforming into a valued downtown venue


Curator Kathleen Kucka, speaking at the Art Center. ART CENTER, continued from p. 19


Cater Hodgkin’s “Vortex 2” (2012 | Gouache, Watercolor, inkjet on paper | 44” x 44”). From the “Paper Reveries” exhibit, which closed in Feb. 2015.


March 26, 2015

cent of the proceeds from works that are sold here will benefit the BMCC Foundation Scholarship Fund, whereas the remaining 60 percent goes directly to the artist. While working on spreading the word on its exhibition program to a wider public, BMCC also encourages both students and faculty to get involved. Recently, faculty of the English and Art departments have been sending students in for writing assignments and to teach those unfamiliar with art about the unique language it has to offer. Programmatically, contemporary art is the main focus of the Center and it is consciously aiming to present works of various mediums and styles. To assure the quality of its exhibitions, the Art Center hired the New York-based artist Kathleen Kucka as its curator last year. In addition to putting together thematic group exhibitions, Kucka is also inviting guest curators to realize their own projects. Concepts for the latter are presented to BMCC’s President Antonio Pérez and Elizabeth Butson, who oversee the Art Center’s overall program. “Bringing energy and art to a large gallery space is a challenge,” explains Kucka. “I look for work that will engage BMCC students and

which will start a conversation in the art world of New York City.” As the Art Center is evolving, both the art community and more of BMCC’s students are taking note. “We are fortunate to have students working in the gallery, explains Kucka, adding, “They help to spread the word and communicate about shows and events.” In this regard it is important to keep the program open to art that reflects a wide variety of interests, tastes and media. Kucka’s curatorial debut at the gallery came with “Material Way” (Sept. 30–Nov. 26, 2014) an exhibition that took artists’ materials and processes as its main source of inspiration. Fourteen artists were featured, whose practices not only embraced traditional paint and canvas, but also tables, coffee cups, thread and plastic. In contrast, “Paper Reveries” (Dec.10, 2014–Feb. 9, 2015) focused on no less than 21 eclectic artists who work extensively with paper, albeit in very different ways. In addition to this exhibition, the  Art Center  hosted its first art performance piece last month. It was local artist Elena Berriolo who performed, integrating music into visual art. As the gallery was activated by the music of Edith Hirshtal and Rosie Hertlein, a video camera recorded Berriolo sewing on the sewing machine, projecting her actions onto a screen nearby. When asked what her hopes for the Shirley Fiterman Art Center going forward might be, Kucka noted: “I am excited and encouraged by all the support the gallery has received thus far. I would like to see this momentum continue. We have a roster of engaging shows coming up in the near future. The more diversity in terms of shows, artists and subject matter, the better. Four curated shows a year along with the faculty and student art shows would fill out the schedule nicely.” The Shirley Fiterman Art Center at BMCC is located at 81 Barclay St. (btw. Broadway & Greenwich St.). Hours: 12–6 p.m. Tues.–Sat. For more info, visit


This upcoming run at The Joyce Theater finds Stephen Petronio Company celebrating its 30th anniversary by making a five-year commitment to present iconic works of postmodern American dance alongside world premiere pieces by the troupe’s founder and namesake. Season One of “Bloodlines” will feature two works. A contemplation on animal abstract motion and sound, Merce Cunningham’s “RainForest” (1968) is set to an electronic score by David Tudor, with visual design by Andy Warhol. Stephen Petronio’s twopart work “Locomotor/Non Locomotor” has the company’s dancers shifting through time and space, in an exploration of “movement deep within a torquing center.” Its electronic score, by Clams Casino (Michael Volpe), has vocal elements by the Young People’s Chorus of New York City. April 7–12. Tues./Wed. at 7:30 p.m. Thurs.–Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 & 7:30 p.m. At The Joyce Theater (175 Eighth Ave. at 19 St.). Post-performance discussion on April 9. For tickets ($10-$59), call 212-242-0800 or visit

Gonna fly now: Stephen Petronio Company is at The Joyce Theater, April 7–12.

and joys of singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb’s own youthful sleepaway camp experiences. Full of silly tunes with occasionally tart observations, Grammy-nominated Loeb’s collaborators include Dan Petty (who pens the songs for Disney’s “Club Penguin”) and husband/wife team Cusi Cram and Peter Hirsch (writers for “Arthur” on PBS). It’s sweet nostalgia for adults and no-tech fun for kids. Through April 12. Sat. & Sun. at 10:30 a.m. Also Wed. & Fri., April 8 & 10 at 10:30a.m. At the Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater (336 W. 20th St. btw. 8th & 9th Aves.). For tickets ($20, $15 for kids), call 866-811-4111 or visit


They’ve been braving the heat, taking heat and saving lives for 150 years — and this lecture series speaks to all of those facets of the FDNY. On April 8, Glenn P. Corbett (Associate Professor of Fire Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice) reveals new information surrounding the accusation that Black Joke Engine Company 33 set fires during the 1863 Draft Riots. On April 22, FDNY Honorary Deputy Chief Gary R. Urbanowicz tells the life stories of firefighters buried at Greenwood Cemetery (including those from the pre-1865 volunteer era). The series concludes on April 29, when Paul Hashagen (FDNY, retired) traces the history of Rescue Company 1 — a hand-picked group tasked with dangling from ropes, performing underwater dives, handling dangerous chemicals and controlling toxic leaks (the talk is based on his book, “100 Years of Valor”). Lectures begin at 6 p.m. At the FDNY Fire Museum (278 Spring St. btw. Hudson & Varick Sts.). For tickets ($10), visit


New friends, an acoustic guitar and an emerging gift for saying what she means through song will ease fears and up the excitement factor — when 12-year-old Jennifer Jenkins finds herself away from home for the first time and forced to navigate a long summer stay at “Camp Kappawanna.” This new musical is based on the jitters


Good art makes you think, but great art changes the way you think. It happens all the time at the Rubin Museum of Art. Through April, their Brainwave Festival explores Buddhist notions of attachment and happiness. Pairing artists with scientists, the “Conversation” series includes “Bouquet in a Bottle” on April 1, with sommelier Aldo Sohm and olfaction expert Terry Acree. On April 8, Shaolin Master Shi Yan Ming and neuropsychologist Tracy Dennis ponder “Discipline as an Art.” A Friday night film series exploring fixation includes Hal Ashby’s deathly dry 1971 romp between a youthful Bud Cort and a pushing-80 Ruth Gordon (“Harold and Maude” on April 17). On view through Feb. 2016, RMA’s “Becoming Another: The Power of Masks” features a collection of masks and costumes from the 15th-20th centuries. Intricate and stunning creations from Siberia, the Himalayas, Mongolia, Japan and the Northwest Coast of America highlight culturally diverse (and similar) approaches to shamanism, communal ritual, and theatrical performance. RMA Director of Public Programs Tim McHenry says the exhibit’s connection to their Brainwave Festival theme is “tangential, admittedly, but the reference is nonetheless there.” Donning a mask in ritual or theatrical form, he notes,




Kids spend their first time away from home at “Camp Kappawanna,” a nostalgic musical co-created by Lisa Loeb.



Face yourself at the Rubin Museum of Art — where masks and costumes in their “Becoming Another” exhibit compliment Brainwave Festival themes.

can represent the desire to obtain “a different role, and assume all of its powers and responsibilities.” At the Rubin Museum of Art (150 W. 17th St. at Seventh Ave.). Brainwave Ticket prices vary. Hours: Mon. & Thurs., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Wed., 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Sat. Sun., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Call 212-620-5000 or visit

April lectures at the FDNY Fire Museum question history and remember heroes. March 26, 2015


Pushing for a rent rollback, Corey Johnson JOHNSON, continued from p. 1

Holds panel on R.G.B. Two weeks ago, the R.G.B. held its first meeting, one of a series that will culminate in their final vote — before the usual raucous crowd of tenants and landlords — at a date in June to be determined. The evening before, Johnson had convened a panel discussion at P.S. 3 in the Village entitled, “Reforming the Rent Guidelines Board.” Among the four tenant activists on Johnson’s panel was attorney Tim Collins, who was executive director of the R.G.B. from 1987 through 1994. Last May, Collins testified before the R.G.B., that from 2008 to 2013, the board “indefensibly inflated” the projected operating costs for landlords, leading to excessive rent hikes each year. “Between 2008 and 2011 the average amount of rent paid by stabilized tenants jumped from 31.6 percent to 34.9 percent of household income — the highest rent burdens ever recorded,” Collins testified. “More than one in three stabilized households now devote more than half of their income to rent.” Collins told the guidelines board that there is only one way to “get things back on track.” “The board must act boldly and without hesitation to roll back rents,” he declared. “The needless burdens imposed on tenants over the past five years must be lifted as quickly and as fully as possible.”


March 26, 2015


District 3. Last year, six months into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first term in office, the R.G.B. passed historically low increases of 1 percent for one-year lease renewals, and 2.75 percent for 2-year leases. De Blasio had vowed to push for a freeze, but couldn’t quite pull it off. Since its creation in 1969, the R.G.B. had never passed increases of less than 2 percent and 4 percent. In an encouraging sign, Johnson noted, de Blasio recently appointed three new members to the guidelines board, which could help sway the vote. “Two of them are public members who look pretty promising,” Johnson said, “that they would support a rent freeze or a rent rollback. The other is a landlord.” And rent freezes, in fact, have happened before — in Westchester and Nassau County — the councilmember noted.

Corey Johnson with residents at the Westbeth artists’ affordable housing complex, at West and Bethune Sts. The councilmember warned that the place’s board of directors better “stop hiding the documents” from residents.

In short, Collins said what is warranted is an “across-the-board rollback” of 4 percent on all leases — or, alternatively, a rollback of 6 percent on one-year lease renewals and 2 percent on two-year renewals.

‘Look at the data’ “The R.G.B. has to look at the data in terms of landlords’ expenses,” Johnson stressed. “But in the past, the R.G.B. didn’t care what the numbers said — ‘Just put in the increase.’ They favored landlords over tenants. “I think we have the best possibility that ever existed to get a rollback,” he said. “And it would be a real disappointment and a lost opportunity, if we don’t.” Similarly, in his State of the City speech in February, Mayor de Blasio said it’s not tenable that so many New Yorkers are paying from 30 percent to 50 percent of their income toward rent. Johnson, 32, is feeling the crunch, too, in his studio apartment — and not just because it’s such a tight space. “I live in a 319-square-foot apartment — it’s tiny,” he said. “And my rent just went up to $2,700 a month, which is outrageous. “It’s emblematic of what’s happening all over the city,” he said. “Which is why I feel the most important thing that can happen in Albany is the repeal of vacancy decontrol. We’ve lost too many rent-regulated apartments.” Currently, apartments can be decontrolled when the rent hits $2,500 if they become vacant or the tenant

earns more than $200,000 annually.

Works with Westbeth Also on housing, Johnson said, he’s incensed at what’s going on at the Westbeth artists’ housing complex, where the board of directors has sued to stop the residents from getting access to public records from the state Attorney General’s Office. “The corporation and the board at Westbeth should stop hiding the documents and be transparent,” Johnson stated. “And they should stop warehousing apartments and start occupying them with artists who need affordable housing. “The board should listen to the Westbeth Artists Residents Council’s recommendations. They should listen to the people who live in the building — the will of the population that lives at Westbeth.” Clearly, rent regulation and affordable housing are among the issues on the front burner for Johnson. But the interview at the diner was broader, about Johnson’s first year — plus a couple of months — in office, and the full range of issues he and his constituents have worked on and will be working on.

buildings in so-called “contextual zones.” If developers include affordable housing this would garner a square-footage bonus — but they could also build higher even with 100 percent market-rate housing. “I am a huge proponent of affordable housing,” Johnson said. “But we cannot undermine years of negotiation, compromise, tradeoffs that created certain contextual zoning districts in pursuit of an affordable housing plan. It needs to be tailored to the neighborhoods. “In West Chelsea, there’s a 70-foot height limit,” he said. “That took years and years of compromise and negotiation. The one-size-fits-all solution undermines all that community activism and neighborhood planning.”

‘Today’s defining issue’ However, the biggest issue the city is grappling with right now is income inequality, in Johnson’s opinion. “Forty percent of new Yorkers are living near or below the poverty line,” he said. “Rents are going up, food costs are going up, subway fares are going up and wages have remained either stagnant or gone down. This is the defining issue of our time — as a city and as a country. The rich are getting richer as everyone else falls behind.” To help address this situation, de Blasio and the Council passed the paid sick-leave bill, which covers an additional 400,000 New Yorkers, and the city is building more affordable housing. In addition, Johnson firmly believes that the city’s minimum wage should be raised to $15 an hour, which is what the mayor also supports. However, Governor Andrew Cuomo only wants to raise it to $11.50 in the city and $10.50 for the rest of the state. “De Blasio wants local control, where the city sets its own minimum wage,” Johnson noted. “And, if that happens, I would support $15 an hour — like they just passed in Seattle. Families can’t support themselves on $11.50 an hour — it’s basic,” he stressed.

Contextual zoning

Busy passing bills

A major concern, for example, is the mayor’s new “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” plan, which has blindsided many communities. The plan would allow for taller

Johnson — who chairs the Council’s Health Committee — is proud that he passed five bills last year, the most of any councilmember other JOHNSON, continued on p. 23

rolls into his second year in the City Council JOHNSON, continued from p. 22

than the Finance Committee chairperson, whose position lends itself to bill passing. One of his bills protects domestic-violence survivors by cutting through multi-agency bureaucracy and making it easier for them to get placed in shelters. Another bill Johnson got through requires pet shops to spay / neuter and microchip their dogs and cats. Another piece of Johnson legislation now allows people to change their birth certificates to accurately reflect their gender identity. “It’s a big deal for transgender people,” he noted. “You used to need surgery certificates.” Johnson co-chairs the Council’s Manhattan delegation with Margaret Chin.

No contact with Quinn Asked about the once-powerful Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who previously represented District 3, Johnson said, no, he is not in contact with her at all. “She’s at Harvard, at the Kennedy government school, and she works for the governor, so she’s in Albany,” he said. Facing term limits, Quinn ran for mayor in 2013, and finished a disappointing third, with 15.5 percent of the vote, behind de Blasio and Bill Thompson. On the other hand, Johnson said, he is tight with former state Senator Tom Duane, who held the Council seat before Quinn and was her political mentor — and apparently now is Johnson’s, too, to an extent. “I’m very close with Tom Duane,” Johnson said. “We talk all the time. He’s the definition of a mensch. I rely on him for advice all the time. There’s no one with a bigger or better heart.” For his part, Duane is doing nonprofit consulting these days. Johnson is proud to have introduced a bill, called HASA for All, that would extend H.I.V./AIDS Service Administration benefits — notably housing — to all low-income, H.I.V.-positive New Yorkers. HASA was created by Duane in the 1980s. Of course, a huge issue anywhere in the southern half of Manhattan is development. District 3 sports the Hudson Yards mega-project, among others, which is creating an entire new neighborhood in the far West 30s. “I have more development in my

Corey Johnson makes a point while talking with residents at Westbeth in the West Village.

district than anyone else,” Johnson said.

On the waterfront A lot of that development is actually in Hudson River Park. For starters, Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg have committed to funding the construction of Pier55, a glitzy new landscaped “performing-arts pier” at W. 13th St. A nonprofit headed by Diller has gotten a lease from the Hudson River Park Trust to run the pier for 20 years. “There needs to be community input on Pier55,” Johnson stressed, “and it needs to be accessible and open to people who live in the community. ... And they also have to preserve the historic archway there, which is where the Titanic’s survivors were brought.” Meanwhile, a few blocks north, construction is slated to start this year on Pier 57 to transform it into an artisanal-foods market and shopping destination. The pier will also be home to the Tribeca Film Festival, plus feature small playing fields for kids. Pier 76, at W. 36th St., the city’s tow pound, will also be redeveloped as part of the park. And things are finally getting rolling on Gansevoort Peninsula. The Department of Sanitation recently relocated its garbage trucks from Gansevoort to a newly completed mega-garage for three sanitation districts at Spring and Washington Sts. Meanwhile, at the peninsula, demolition has started on what’s left of the old incinerator building, which

served as the trucks’ garage. A six-member community advisory group, or “CAG,” has been set up to weigh in on Gansevoort’s redevelopment into a park. The mayor, borough president and Johnson each have two appointees on the CAG. Johnson’s are Adam Weinberg, the president of the Whitney Museum, and George Cominskie, president of the Westbeth Artists Residents Council.

Marine waste transfer A big issue concerning Gansevoort will be the marine waste-transfer station that is still planned to share space with the park on the peninsula. The recyclables would be barged from Gansevoort to the city’s new recycling facility in Sunset Park. The plan was for the state and city each to give $50 million to the Trust in return for “alienating” part of the peninsula’s parkland for use for the transfer station. However, Assemblymember Deborah Glick has previously told The Villager that the state feels it shouldn’t pay anything since the waste plan is a city issue. Johnson noted that the volume of garbage trucks going to Gansevoort — since it would only be for recyclables — at least would be less than that expected at the garbage transfer station on the Upper East Side.

Scoping out Pier 40 And then, of course, there is Pier 40, at W. Houston St. — the Lower West Side’s crumbling “sports

pier” — and the issue of development-rights transfers from the pier across the highway to the St. John’s Center site. The funds from the sale would then be funneled back into Pier 40, to fix the badly corroded metal piles that hold up the massive, 14-acre structure. “We are still not close to certification of the ULURP,” Johnson reported of the city’s seven-month-long review process. “The ULURP is for two things: the mechanism that allows for transfer of air rights from Pier 40 to the St. John’s Building, that’s a zoning text amendment; and a zoning map change, to change the St. John’s site’s use from manufacturing to residential. “We’re working with the Trust and City Planning,” he continued. “There’s got to be a scoping process — that’s pre-ULURP. The scoping will determine the size of the project and what the environmental impact is going to be, and which type of environmental study will be done, an E.I.S. or an E.A.S.; and the Trust has to have an appraisal of the air rights.”

$100M is way too low! Earlier reports said that Atlas Capital Group had committed to buying 100,000 square feet of unused development rights from Pier 40 for $100 per square foot, or $100 million. Asked if he felt that price was too low, Johnson said, “It was definitely too low. One hundred dollars a square foot is insane. I would hope that whatever the air rights will be sold for will cover the whole cost of rehabilitating Pier 40. That is why the legislation was passed. “Forty percent of the revenue for the whole park — from Chambers to 59th Sts. — comes from the parking on Pier 40,” he emphasized.

Hope for a hospital During his primary campaign against Yetta Kurland in 2013, the two candidates engaged in a debate sponsored by The Villager and its sister papers, Gay City News and Chelsea Now. At the debate, Johnson and Kurland both pledged that, no matter who won, they would work together to try to restore a full-service hospital to the Lower West Side. Asked last Friday where that effort JOHNSON, continued on p. 24 March 26, 2015


Pushing for a rent rollback New hope that City Hall stands today, Johnson said, “We still need a full-service hospital on the Lower West Side — no ifs, ands or buts.” At the same time, he said, “There are hospitals being closed down all over New York City. We’ve lost 13 hospitals in the last 10 years. This is a public-health crisis. Unfortunately, New York City does not control our own fate when it comes to hospital services — the state Department of Health does, and they’re the ones that shamefully allowed St. Vincent’s Hospital to close.” Plus, he added of getting a new hospital, “Even if you put cost aside, you need to find real estate for it. They should have been forced to put a full-service hospital with a Level 1 trauma center on that site,” he said.

— anyone over age 14 — can vote on how they think $1 million in City Council funding should be allocated among 12 projects in District 3. Voters can support giving all the money to one project, or split it up among several. Twenty-four Council districts are currently doing this, and it’s the first time it’s being done in District 3. The projects include adding a bathroom for the first time ever in the Jefferson Market Public Library, countdown clocks at bus stations and other various improvements for parks, schools and streets. Voting will take place April 11-19 at several locations throughout the district, including the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, the L.G.B.T. Center, Hudson Guild, Fulton Houses and Johnson’s office. Check http:// for details.

Horse ‘compromise’

The Natural

On another health issue — but affecting animals — how about the carriage horses? Their stables are in Johnson’s district. “I think the horses should be moved to Central Park,” he said, reiterating the position he has held for a while now. “The current bill is a ban,” he explained. “I think we should seek a compromise, to get them off the street and confine them to Central Park. The horses would never leave Central Park.” What about the claim, though, by Ally Feldman of NYCLASS — the anti-carriage horse group — that if the horses are put in the park they would need a lot of space — about 70 acres of the famed 800-acre greensward — for a stable and pasture? This would effectively transform a large chunk of the park into the O.K. Corral. Feldman argues that, as a result, the idea would never fly. Unblinking, Johnson simply repeated that he thinks the urban equines should be put in the park.

The son of a Teamster, Johnson famously came out as gay while he was captaining his high school football team in Massachusetts, which landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated. With an impressive grasp of the issues and a firm bead on the political landscape, he certainly has the air of a natural politician. In that vein, when he was running for City Council, he earnestly told The Villager, “This is what I’ve always wanted to do.” Paving the way to his Council campaign, he had previously boldly leapfrogged a more-veteran contender to win the chairpersonship of Community Board 4. Asked how he likes being an elected official now, he said, “I love the Council. I love it. I say this with every fiber, every ounce. Sure, there are days that are difficult. It is a complete and total honor to serve these neighborhoods and this community as a whole.” And, at the end of the day, a councilmember has to have fun, too. A song came on the diner’s sound system, and Johnson lightly sang along to the lyrics as he bopped a bit in his seat. “Kelly Clarkson,” he said, beaming a smile.

JOHNSON, continued from p. 23

Participatory budgeting Finally, he mentioned that he’s very excited about participatory budgeting. His district’s constituents


March 26, 2015

will give bill a chance S.B.J.S.A., continued from p. 13

S.B.J.S.A. Her office did not respond to requests for comment about her thoughts on the bill. A list of the S.B.J.S.A.’s sponsors, more about the bill, a petition to show support and information on how to get involved in the cause can be found at . Palma, who represents the Bronx’s 18th District, and is the bill’s lead sponsor, said she is working to build support for it. The bill’s two newest sponsors are Helen Rosenthal and Laurie Cumbo, who both came on board within the past two weeks. “I am still speaking to my colleagues and trying to get as many to sign on,” Palma told The Villager last week. “We know how important it is for this bill to have a hearing. We want to have a hearing and have both sides speak out. “In our last session [in the City Council under Quinn], we did have a majority of our members sign on and want to pass this bill. I think the sentiment is still there.” Asked if she thinks the new Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, will let the bill come up for a vote, Palma said she’s hopeful. “We’ve seen that there have been a lot of changes in this new Council,” she said. “I’m confident this Council will operate in the way the majority feels.” Ultimately, the S.B.J.S.A. could be a win-win for all involved, according to Palma. “This bill definitely has the best interests of the business community and the real estate industry,” she maintained. “Once you make sure all stakeholders understand that it benefits both sides, bring them to the table.” The Villager has helped jump-start the recent burst of energy for getting the S.B.J.S.A. passed. Interest began to build when this newspaper’s Feb. 19 issue ran an ad publicizing the highly anticipated March 5 forum on the bill at Judson Church that was co-sponsored by The Villager and Village Independent Democrats. The following week, in its Feb. 26 issue, The Villager ran an editorial about the upcoming forum and the bill, further highlighting the issue. That same week, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York blog ramped up its three-month-old online campaign,, with an even stronger emphasis on supporting the S.B.J.S.A. Among the supporters of

the blog’s Facebook page is Mark-Viverito. However, there was no response from the Council speaker to The Villager’s requests for comment on whether she intends to let the S.B.J.S.A. come up for a vote any time soon. Steve Null, a former member of the Small Business Advisory Board in the Dinkins and Giuliani administrations, wrote the original S.B.J.S.A. 30 years ago for former Councilmember Ruth Messinger. He said the fate of the bill today will show how progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio and Mark-Viverito truly are. “We know from history that what is happening to our small businesses today would never have happened under Mayor LaGuardia or the Roosevelts when they were governor, all New Yorkers, all true progressives, all believers in government creating progressive legislation to solve a public problem,” Null said. Sometimes an outpouring of public support can help a threatened business stave off eviction and keep an affordable rent. This has happened at least twice with Ray’s Candy Store on Avenue A in the past 15 years. “Five years ago, I had no money to pay rent,” the store’s longtime operator, Ray Alvarez, a.k.a. Asghar Ghahraman, 82, said last week while, as usual, manning the overnight shift. Back then, a local lawyer working pro bono helped him get a yearlong lease after nine years of being on a month-to-month one. “The reason they renewed my lease,” Ray said, “they didn’t want public anger.” When he took over the hole-in-thewall store in 1974, Ray paid just $120 a month. Now it’s up to $4,500. In July, his landlord will raise it — but just a bit — to $4,800. A regular customer who was keeping Ray company recalled the community outpouring in the ’80s to save Orchidia restaurant, at E. Ninth St. and Second Ave., after the place’s rent was raised from $950 to an unaffordable $5,000 a month. “That was the first one,” he said. “They got all the politicians involved. They lost.” The man requested anonymity. Ray quipped to identify him as “Ray’s son.” Told about the S.B.J.S.A., “Ray’s son” said it sounded to him like “pie in the sky.” But — who knows? — maybe with de Blasio and Mark-Viverito, the bill just may at last have a chance.

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Vernita and her artful friends: Shadow and Jacob PET SET BY TEQUILA MINSKY


ernita N’Cognita, a.k.a. Vernita Nemec, loves cats and has always had them while making art in her Canal St. loft where she has lived since 1972. There was Molly, then Giovanni, Liz Taylor and Laser Beam. “My first cat was Pete, when I was three in Ohio,” she recalled. A few years ago, when a friend found a newborn kitten abandoned outside in a box, Vernita gladly adopted Shadow. He was one week old. Vernita took him everywhere so that she could keep feeding him on schedule, every two hours. He’d drink goat milk from a doll baby bottle. 

“He’d nestle in the crook of my neck,” she said, “and sleep in a box on my bed.” About a month later, she got Jacob to keep Shadow company. The two now-grown felines co-exist, though they’re not particularly friendly to each other. “They never really got along,” she reflected, “maybe because they’re two males. I never had two males together before.” As for Shadow, the artist admits that he is stunted emotionally. “I love the cat and raised him,” she said. “But he never had a mother cat’s love. I didn’t lick him. He really doesn’t know how to be a cat. I think of him as a very philosophical cat. He’s lost in his own thoughts.” N’Cognita is an artist, a curator, a galleryist, poet and art and butoh performer. PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY

Vernita N’Cognita with Shadow and Jacob.

March 26, 2015



March 26, 2015

Knicks award winner has had countless assists SPORTS BY ROBERT ELKIN


espite posting a below .500 record, the New York Knicks have had some bright spots during this dismal season. Some of them, however, have been off the basketball court. Every month during the course of the regular season, the Knicks give out a Sweetwater Clifton City Spirit Award. It’s named after the former Knick, who in 1950 became one of the first African Americans to play in the NBA. The award recognizes individuals, male or female, who have made a significant difference in the lives of others. The award winners are chosen by members of the Knicks’ front office staff. Last Friday night during the third quarter of the Knicks’ game against Minnesota, Antonio Aponte, director of educational services at the Boys’ Club of New York, was the latest to receive the honor. He was presented with a check for $2,000 to denote to a charity of his choice. The son of Puerto Rican immigrants, he grew up in the East Village, playing hoops on the neighborhood’s courts and other sports in its streets. Former Knick great John Starks presented Aponte, 58, with the check. Aponte has chosen to give the funds to the Latino College Expo, which today administers more than $85,000 in grants to deserving high school students of Latino descent. “I’m honored getting the Sweetwater Clifton Award,” Aponte said. “My reaction was not shocked, but humbled. It was nice to get recognized. I help young people further their education. I help provide scholarships for them. “Some 25 years ago, I started a

From left, John Starks, Antonio Aponte and Anthony Goenaga as the City Spirit Award was given to Aponte at center court at Madison Square Garden. Goenaga was part of Aponte’s Latino College Expo program and is now the Knicks’ associate athletic trainer.

program called the Latino College Expo,” he explained. “It’s an event or organization that brings together over 150 colleges and over 1,500 kids in college workshops. It’s very important to me that these kids learn all the options that they have. Since I went to a boarding school, it’s about ‘giving back.’ ” Speaking of giving back, it so happens that the Knicks’ associate athletic trainer is Anthony Goenaga, whom Aponte helped get his start. “I accepted him, and at the time the Knicks were training at Purchase College,” Aponte recalled. “At the time, Mike Saunders, a trainer on the Knicks, helped to get him a student internship with the Knicks. First he worked parttime and now he works full-time. It shows what work can be accomplished when given the chance.” Aponte grew up mainly around Tompkins Square Park, but he

would go anywhere to play basketball. Yet, ultimately, playing hoops wasn’t the dream that he pursued. After playing ball at a boarding

school in Providence, Rhode Island, Aponte went on to Syracuse University where he majored in theater and psychology. He attended ’Cuse during the era of players like Louis Orr and Roosevelt Bouie, and Bernie Fine was associated with the hoop staff. But, while he was glad for his experience at Syracuse, he realized playing on the basketball team there wouldn’t be part of it. “I was more of a Division II or Division III college player,” he admitted. Aponte has been with the Boys’ Club of New York since 2001, and since 2005 has been in his current position. The club has three buildings in Manhattan, including the one at 287 E. 10th St., on Avenue A, just across from Aponte’s old Tompkins Square stomping grounds. “Basketball is a great thing for me, because it opened a lot of doors,” Aponte reflected. “At a young age I was tall. “I coach kids about life and education. That’s my coaching experience. “And about the Knicks,” he added, “I see light at the end of the tunnel for them.”

An L.E.S. league of their own


egistration is now open for OLS Softball, home of the Lower East Side’s Lady Yankees and Lady Twins, for girls ages 10 to 18. Whether a beginner or seasoned player, the OLS veteran coaches can help bring girls to the next level in their abilities. Started in 1959, the program lays claim to being the first of its kind on the L.E.S., and is known for helping

kids with very little experience become competitive, at a very affordable price. Registration will be held every Friday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at 103 Pitt St., between Rivington and Stanton Sts. For more information, call Jose Nieves, the OLS softball director, at 917-749-4786, or e-mail to Also visit OLSSoftballNYC on Facebook.


646-452-2475 March 26, 2015



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March 26, 2015

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