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The Paper of Record for East and West Villages, Lower East Side, Soho, Noho, Little Italy and Chinatown

April 2, 2015 • FREE Volume 5 • Number 3

‘V’ for victory! Villager wins 13 awards in NYPA Better Newspaper Contest


rom news articles and editorials, to photography, design and editorial cartoons, The Villager racked up a slew of awards in a wide range of categories last weekend when the winners of NYPA’s annual Better Newspaper Contest were announced. The paper took home four

first-place awards and 13 awards total at the New York Press Association’s spring convention, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. One hundred seventy-seven weekly newspapers entered the 2014 competition. The Villager earned enough points in editorial categories AWARDS, continued on p. 10

‘Nope!’ is the word at scope meeting for Blaz rezoning plan BY ZACH WILLIAMS

ZONING, continued on p. 24



llicit gas-siphoning is suspected as the cause of last Thursday’s catastrophic explosion and fire that leveled three East Village tenements, badly damaged another building, and left two men dead and more than a dozen people injured. “There’s reason to believe so far that there may have been inappropriate tampering with the gas lines within the building, but until we get full evidence, we can’t conclude that,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday. On Sunday bodies of two men who had been unaccounted for, Nicholas Figuerora, 23, and Moises Lucon, 26, were pulled from the rubble at the northwest corner of E. Seventh St. and Second Ave. They had both been in Sushi Park, a restaurant on the ground floor of 121 Second Ave. Figuerora, who had been on a date, had been going to pay the check and Lucon was farther inside the eatery, when the storefront blew out into the street. This week, demolition of the site continued, as workers got closer to the basement of 121 Second Ave., where they hope to find more clues about exactly what caused the devastating explosion. The incident had ripple effects throughout the area, as residents in a number of nearby buildings were evacuated from their homes. A total of



ommunity board members, politicians and preservationists came together at City Hall on Wed., March 25, to slam a zoning proposal that they warned would wipe away years of determined work by the Village and Chelsea communities to keep develop-

ment in check and maintain the historic fabric of their neighborhoods. The occasion was a scoping meeting by the Department of City Planning to consider what matters should be covered in an Environment Impact Statement, or E.I.S. — a preliminary step to enact Mayor Bill de Blasio’s

Illegal gas tapping eyed in deadly E.V. explosion

A raging fire consumed 121 and 123 Second Ave. on Thursday afternoon after the explosion. In the end, three buildings were destroyed.

144 families were displaced. East Villagers last Thursday initially heard an enormous explosion around 3:15 p.m. Black smoke filled the sky as firefighters rushed to E. Seventh St., where the sec-

ond building north of the intersection’s northwest corner had suffered a partial collapse. Calling from the scene, Anna Sawaryn told The VilDISASTER, continued on p. 4

Big real estate bashes the 3 Catastrophe cat survives on 2nd 8 Weinberg stands with woman 17 Squatter live in ‘Kill City’ 19 | May 14, 2014



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 grams 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 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 me.” However, he boasted, “That wouldn’t

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








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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 squinty-eyed 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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REBNY president fires back; Says shoppers like Duane Reades, want Walmarts 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-and-pop shops in the face of skyrocketing rents and amid the influx of chain stores, which 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” 10-year 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.

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

“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 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” — 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 meet-

ing their rents? Some do.” However, he said, “Areas change. That happens across the country, and S.B.J.S.A., continued on p.15

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Explosion and fire leave 2 dead and 3 Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN













Member of the New York Press Association

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April 2, 2015

lager she had been walking her nephew Lucas Halushka, 10, home from school when they heard the huge boom. “It was really, really loud,” she said. “We heard it all the way up on 13th St.” They rushed down six blocks to where all they cloud see was a thick cloud of smoke at the location. Sawaryn said she saw firefighters put up a ladder on E. Seventh St. and climb up to the top of the corner building, 119 Second Ave., and that other firefighters also climbed up the fire escape on the building’s Second Ave. side. The corner building was formerly home to Love Saves the Day, the quirky toy-and-novelties store, which closed several years ago. Speaking into her cell phone as sirens blared as more fire trucks were rushing to the scene, she said intrepid local residents helped deal with the disaster during the initial chaos. “The nice thing is that community members jumped in and started diverting traffic,” she said. However, the situation rapidly turned even worse, as a fire that started in the basement of 121 Second Ave. soon consumed the building, as well as 123 Second Ave., just to the north. No. 123 soon collapsed entirely, to be followed by No. 121. What was left of No. 119 was later demolished. The situation escalated to a seven-alarm fire, drawing 250 firefighters to the scene. At one point, it was feared two smoke eaters had been lost, and a “mayday” call was put out. But they were found. In the short window of time before the buildings went up in flames, firefighters had heroically searched them to get everyone out. News sources reported that cable workers helped pull victims to safety, while a pedestrian jumped up to pull down a ladder on a fire escape for a woman who was gripped with fear and stuck on it at the second floor. Firefighters were able to confine the inferno to the row of four buildings. No. 125 was left still standing but badly damaged. On Saturday, the pile of wreckage was still burning and smoldering. After the two men’s bodies were found Sunday, the effort turned toward clearing the site and the ongoing investigation into why it all had happened. In another sad development that sparked outrage, the New York Post reported in a Page One article, headlined “Village Idiots,” that tourists and clueless narcissists were now taking “selfies” of themselves smiling and flashing peace signs in front of the wreckage. Dr. Diane McClean, a single mother of two 5-year-old twin girls and an 8-year old boy, lost her four-bedroom rent-stabilized apartment of 35 years. She’s now doubled-up with friends on Grand St. A Go Fund Me campaign for “East Vil-



DISASTER, continued from p. 1

Firefighters continued to battle the blaze on Friday. After the disaster, three building lots are now empty.

lage Fire Relief” ( has already brought in more than $76,000 in donations for her and her family. “The 14th Street Y is rallying around us,” McClean said. “The kindergarten teachers at our school, Children’s Workshop on E. 12th St., organized a ‘celebration of love’ and surrounded the kids with song. “I’m really in awe, really, and very humbled by so much generosity around us,” she said. “But that’s exactly we’ve stayed here. I love the East Village. It’s like nowhere else…I’m a born-and-bred New Yorker. McClean works as child psychiatrist at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, serving disadvantaged youth. “One of the reasons I could serve people in the city is because I had low rent,” she added. “I’m still committed to the East Village and the Lower East Side. I love my community. I’m going to find a way to stay in our neighborhood.” Others who are pitching in to help the fire victims include Virgin Mobil, which has donated fully loaded cellphone for one month. Boka, at 9 St. Mark’s Place, donated free lunch. Trash and Vaudeville, at 4 St. Mark’s Place, donated free pants. The Chinatown YMCA offered a one-month free pass.

Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) has also been helping the displaced residents. About 100 tenants came to an emergency GOLES legal clinic on Monday night. A woman who lives on E. Seventh St. next to the disaster site said her building is “off limits to all tenants — for safety reasons — until further notice.” “Firemen broke down all the doors in my building to see if there were people inside each apartment — and not because of fire,” she said, requesting anonymity. “It was just a precautionary move that firemen usually do when there’s fire involved in adjacent buildings. Lots of windows were also broken in my building.” Meanwhile, the investigation into the tragedy’s cause is ongoing. The focus is on suspected tampering with gas lines. Con Ed inspectors had visited the building’s basement at 2 p.m. on Thursday to check on work being done by a plumber. A second gas-metering system was being installed. However, the setup in the basement did not pass the utility’s inspection, and the Con Ed workers “locked” the new gas line before leaving. Clearly, they had not smelled gas at that time, or they would have done DISASTER, continued on p. 5

buildings leveled; Probe focuses on gas tampering DISASTER, continued from p. 4

something. After the inspectors left, the owner of Sushi Park, smelling gas, called — not 911, as he should have done — but the building’s landlord, Maria Hrynenko. Her son, Michael Hrynenko, and Dilber Kukic, a general contractor, went to the site to investigate, and when they opened a side door to 119 Second Ave., the explosion detonated. Kukic helped carry the injured Hrynenko away from the blast, according to police. Both were being treated at New York Presbyterian Hospital’s burn unit. Maria Hrynenko inherited the two buildings from her late husband, Michael, who started Kiev restaurant, at the southwest corner of E. Seventh St. and Second Ave., and was also a cashier at Veselka. In August, Con Ed had found that the gas line into Sushi Park had been tapped in a dangerous way. Inspectors back then had smelled a “strong odor” of gas in the basement of 121 Second Ave., and found “multiple leaks” in hoses that had been linked to the line. This all created a “hazardous situation,” according to Con Ed. The company shut off gas to the building for 10 days, until it determined it

safe to restore the service. Paul Shay, owner of A Real Good Plumber, said it’s clear that whatever went wrong last Thursday, it happened after the Con Ed inspectors had left. Shay, who has lived in the East Village since 1979, in the past did lots of work on the neighborhood’s squatter buildings. “Obviously, they had an old, inadequate service,” he said of 121 Second Ave. “And Con Ed said they had found an illegal tap before.” Shay said the new second gas-metering service that was recently installed involved putting a metal sleeve in the building foundation and bringing in a new gas line from the street. Not liking what they saw in the basement, the inspectors left the new gas line locked when they left on Thursday. The lock would have been strong metal, while the new pipe would have been CPVC plastic. Perhaps someone tried to tamper with the first pipe again once Con Ed left, causing a major gas leak, Shay said. Or, he said, maybe they tried to hook the new pipe into the old one by installing a “T.” He was just speculating, he said. Though he added, whatever did happen, “That would have been a pretty

good-sized leak.” Clare Donohue of the Sane Energy Project, in a press release, warned of the dangers of natural gas. “Our heartfelt sympathies go out to anyone who has been impacted or injured because of the explosion in the East Village,” Donohue said. “The accident was tragic, devastating — and entirely predictable. The unfortunate truth is that gas infrastructure is not safe. “In 2014, there were at least 18 separate accidents in the United States involving gas pipelines, including the explosion in East Harlem that killed eight people and injured dozens more. “For years,” she said, “New York City has been intensifying its reliance on gas and encouraging the build-out of gas infrastructure. Because of this trend, we have repeatedly argued that another gas accident in New York City was only a matter of time. We are enormously saddened to see these predictions proven true. “ ‘Natural’ gas is often sold to the public as ‘clean,’ a ‘safe alternative’ to coal or oil,” Donohue stated. “But gas is a fossil fuel, like any other. It leaks, it explodes, and it has a devastating impact on our climate. “Replacing old gas infrastructure with new gas infrastructure is not the

answer. The answer is replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.” Alison Flynn and her family, who were in town to visit her son, Kieran, at N.Y.U., were passing by the devastated area on Monday. “It’s kind of eerie,” she said. “Was it natural gas?” she asked. “It’s more dangerous. In England, where we live, we’ve got fracking and we’re trying to stop it.” They said they were all staying for a week at an apartment in the East Village that they got through Airbnb for $2,000. Nearby, Joe Hofmann, a barista at Porto Rico Importing Co., was outside taking a cigarette break. Business has been good, he said, due to all the police and firefighters, plus gawkers coming by to see the scene of destruction. “Everybody is coming in, taking pictures,” he said. “Saturday and Sunday, that corner was full of people,” he said, pointing toward St. Mark’s Place. “I haven’t seen the selfie sticks, but I’ve seen the cameras. Then they come in and ask what happened. Some of them don’t even know what happened.”

With reporting by Sarah Ferguson

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Witnesses to apocalypse on the avenue Crowds gathered to watch the unfolding disaster on Second Ave. on Thursday as firefighters fought the raging flames after the thunderous explosion rocked the neighborhood.



April 2, 2015

A scene of utter devastation as all falls down The disaster totaled cars that were parked below on E. Seventh St., including a Ninth Precinct cruiser. The silver S.U.V. was later towed up to Astor Place and Third Ave. and left there, where this week, it drew a crowd who were taking photos and “selfies� with it. Thursday night, after the fire had mostly been knocked down, firefighters kept soaking what was left of the buildings to put out every last ember. By Friday morning, all that was left of the three buildings was a pile of wreckage.


April 2, 2015


How one cat survived the Second Ave. catastrophe BY YVONNE COLLERY



April 2, 2015


n every disaster, heroes are born, and the Second Ave. explosion brought me two that I would like you to know about. But first, let me tell you about Laszlo and his twin sister, Lulu, 15year residents of the East Village. I adopted them as five-week-old kittens from the motorcycle garage on E. Sixth St. and Avenue C and brought them to live with me at 125 Second Ave. Together we weathered 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, but we were not so lucky with last week’s crisis. Like the building’s other three cats — Ryce, Sebastian and Kitty Cordelia — whose owners were unable to get them out, I was unable to get Laszlo and Lulu out. Their home, partially gutted at the top and unstable at the bottom, is left standing, but no tenants are allowed inside. For four days, frantic pet owners like myself have been going to the Red Cross disaster center trying to get help. The ASPCA did a sweep of No. 125 on Saturday and reported that all of the apartment doors were left wide open and the windows smashed. None of our cats, they said, were in the building.  At this point, I lost hope of ever finding Laszlo and Lulu in my apartment.  My friend Michael and I spent Saturday night posting “MISSING PET” posters, hoping that people in the area would keep their eyes peeled for Laszlo and Lulu, who I thought could be somewhere in the alleys or gardens on the block.  When we got to the perimeter of the fenced-off disaster area, Michael said, “Look, there are still firefighters in your apartment.” I had noticed them in a photo in The New York Times the day before and they were still there.  Fast-forward to Monday. I spent the morning calling different agencies about putting the word out about our “East Village Eight “ (five cats from my building, three from the others). I then went to my friend Laurel, who gave me clothes, since I only had the things that I was wearing last Thursday when everything changed. The next stop was a friend who volunteered to make fliers for all the missing cats. I was on my way to pick up some prescriptions when I got the idea to ask a fireman who was resting in a fire truck on Sixth St. if he knew any of the firemen who were in my apartment. I figured that if they were there anyway, they could grab my ID, good jewelry and underwear, which were all in the same bureau. He said it seemed like a possibility and he walked me past the police to the F.D.N.Y. command center tent, where I put my request to Fire Chief Mike Quinn. He told me that my apartment was being used as the operations command center and that he would ask the deputy chief. Twenty minutes later, Deputy Chief Brosi was in the tent, asking me, “How do I know that you are not some stranger asking for a passport and a gold watch?” I produced my credit cards and a picture ID, which he took upstairs. Fifteen minutes later he handed me a large box, which contained the contents of three bureau drawers. Then, he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “Let me ask you, have you any interest in a cat that’s hiding in a closet?” At that point, I burst into tears and threw my arms around his neck. “Could you get him?” I asked, not knowing which of the two it was. “That depends,” he said. “Is it vicious?” I paused for a second. Although neither is viscious, my cats sometimes like a fight with a stranger. 

Yvonne Collery is reunited with Laszlo, who she feared had been lost in last Thursday’s East Village explosion and fire.

“You paused — that might not be good,” he said, again with that twinkle in his eyes. “I’ll see what I can do.” Ten minutes later, he and Chief Quinn returned. They put the cat carrier in front of me and there was Laszlo peering out. “The guys thought that he might be hungry, so they put a bowl of tuna in with him,” Borsi said. I was ecstatic to see my Laszlo’s perfect face again. Crying with joy, we trundled off — a teary but very happy, newly homeless lady and a small, brave survivor of the Second Ave. explosion — to take a cab to our temporary home. When we got there, I took Laszlo out and hugged him. As I put my face in his fur, I smelled the un-

mistakable odors of fire and fish. My darling Laszlo, who is like a big, beating heart, was finally safely removed from the horrors of the past few days, thanks to the the kindness of two of the true, big-hearted heroes of the F.D.N.Y. If you see any of our lost pets, you can call the pet owner directly, if the phone number is on the poster. You can also bring the cat to Whiskers Pet Store, at 235 E. Ninth St. and leave it at Rescue Ranch. Or you can call 311 and a ask for Animal Control and they will come and pick them up between  8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Update: As of Wednesday evening, the following missing Second Ave. cats have also been rescued: Laszlo’s sister, Lulu, Kitty Cordelia and Sebastian.


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The Villager ranks among state’s top newspapers AWARDS, continued from p. 1


April 2, 2015


to finish in fifth place in the state. The Suffolk Times came in first. The entries were judged by members of the Iowa Press Association. Lincoln Anderson, The Villager’s editor in chief, won first place for News Story for his article on the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who overdosed on heroin in a Bethune St. apartment last February. The judge for this category, out of fairness, consciously tried not to be “starstruck.” “Not everybody has a celebrity die in their midst, so you have to look past the star appeal,” he or she wrote. “With that said, this entry was a hands-down winner. This story covered the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman from all angles, and left the reader with very few unanswered questions. I liked the way he drew the reader in with firsthand reactions from ‘fans,’ before getting to the nitty-gritty details of the death. A great read!” Anderson also won first place for Editorials. The three Villager editorials submitted included a “combo” one supporting Mayor de Blasio’s proposed ban on horse carriages while also advocating for the fledgling Citi Bike bike-share program; another hailing Justice Donna Mills’s ruling in State Supreme Court that three of the “open-space strips” on the N.Y.U.owned superblocks are impliedly parkland — which threw a huge monkey wrench into the university’s South Village mega-development plan; and a third editorial urging leadership from de Blasio after a madman gunned down two officers amid the wave of anti-police protests following the nonindictment in the Eric Garner case. Reading the editorials, the Midwestern judge for this category felt transported to the Village. “The newspaper did a commendable job of engaging readers in the topics of the editorials, and left no doubt about which position it took,” the judge wrote. “The paper also backed up its positions and led readers to see — even if they disagreed with the stances taken — why the paper’s views were supported by the facts. The editorials made me feel like I was a resident living with the issues presented.” The Villager also won first place for Picture Story for a two-page spread of photos of the Pride March, with photos taken by Milo Hess, Q. Sakamaki and Jonathan Alpeyrie. “This collection of photos was bold, colorful, showed emotion, and told quite the story,” the judge wrote. “The pictures were framed wonderfully and sized properly. It was also a bold move going with the picture of

A shot of the Caribbean Day Parade from The Villager’s third place-winning entry for Photo Excellence.

the woman with painting over parts of her bare chest. It worked and was tasteful.” Ira Blutreich nabbed first place for Editorial Cartoon for his toon of Derek Jeter teaching an “Etiquette for Athletes” course to performance-enhancing drugs cheaters Lance Armstrong and A-Rod and woman-beater Ray Rice. “What a great message delivered in a well-drawn manner,” the judge said. The judge for Coverage of Police, Crime and Courts found The Villager’s entry arresting — enough so to award it second place. The judge was especially impressed by Gerard Flynn’s coverage of a Staten Island march led by Reverend Al Sharpton protesting Garner’s death during a police arrest. “For someone who had followed this story from afar,” the judge commented, “I was hoping for a more intimate look at it, and I wasn’t disappointed. Sharply written and loaded with many heart-wrenching personal experiences, a vivid picture was painted in my mind. Readers learned a lot from this feature.” Other articles in this entry included Anderson’s reporting on the arrest of Juan Scott, a cousin of actress Rosario Dawson, for an attempted rape in a Stuyvesant Town elevator and several other alleged sexual assaults in the East Village; Anderson’s article on “Soho Wild Man” Richard Pearson’s near-fatal stabbing of vendor Baare Batchiri; and two articles by Betsy Kim on the trial of Cecily McMillan, the Occupy Wall Street protester who was ultimately convicted of elbowing a cop in the eye. Villager graphic designer Chris Ortiz snagged second place for Best Special Section Cover. His winning Gay Pride section cover blended a shot of a woman flashing a peace sign with one of a Gay Pride rainbow flag.

“Very eye-catching!” the judge praised. “Nice job combining photos and choice of colors.” In addition, The Villager took third place for Best Editorial Page. “Interesting editorials, a strong letters to the editor section, a clean layout and great columns. A great package,” the judge commented. Columns for this entry included the late Jerry Tallmer’s “Birth of a Voice, Chapter 4: The best job in the city,” Otis Kidwell Berger’s “Shoot! Who stole our historic iron coal chute cover?” and Tolly Wright’s “Trying to find a survival job that I could survive.” The Villager’s photography — particularly its photo spreads — stood out, as the paper won third place for Photographic Excellence. “Photo spreads were great,” the judge in this category wrote. Photos in the two issues submitted included Milo Hess’s vibrant shots of the Caribbean Day Parade; Tequila Minsky’s pictures of campaigning governor candidates Zephyr Teachout dancing and Andrew Cuomo marching in that same Brooklyn parade; Sakamaki’s black-and-white iPhone Instagram shots of Jerusalem’s Old City at Sukhot; Arlene Gottfried’s 1970s and ’80s street photography; and the late Rebecca Lepkoff’s 1940s photos of Lower East Side kids playing kick the can. The Villager won third place for Overall Design Excellence — in part due to its outstanding photos. “Design makes this newspaper easy to read,” the judge said. “Photography may be the best in the division.” Minsky and Heather Dubin teamed up to win third place for Coverage of Religion. Dubin wrote about a Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony at Middle Collegiate Church that saw a piece of a Remington rifle hammered into a mattock (a farming tool). Minsky profiled Father Fabian Griffone, the long-

time pastor at Little Italy’s Church of Most Precious Blood, who, at age 88, to the congregation’s sadness, was being forced into retirement by the archdiocese. Minsky also shot photos for the article. “This unique story takes Scripture quite literally!” the judge wrote about the M.L.K. Day article. “Good quotes buttressed the storytelling: ‘I was quite blown away by both the symbolism and the significance of having a gun destroyed in our worship space.’ ” West Village writer Michele Herman won third place for Best Column. Her three pieces included a critical look — as a cyclist — at the city’s expanded network of bike lanes; a recollection of when the late Pete Seeger in 1987 came to play at a Save the Village fundraiser to fight the construction of the 18-story Memphis Downtown building; and her musings on the “high-end” lobby desk planned for her building. “The lobby desk column was one of the best I’ve read,” the judge wrote. East Village lensman Bob Krasner clicked with third place for Art Photo for his hallucinogenic overhead shot of an upraised trombone bell amid dancers at the Golden Fest, an East European hoedown in Brooklyn. “Really fascinating image that captures the excitement in the room,” the judge said appreciatively. “And a good crop too.” Finally, The Villager won honorable mention for Best Obituaries. The entry included Anderson’s obituary on Village Voice founding editor Tallmer, who died in November at age 93, and Amateau’s obituary on L.E.S. photographer Rebecca Lepkoff, who died in August at 98, plus Villager arts editor Scott Stiffler’s remembrance of Tallmer. In addition, The Villager’s sister papers at NYC Community Newspaper and the Community Newspaper Group also had a banner year. Gay City News won first place for Coverage of Religion, plus first place for Best Editorial Page. Gay City News also won second place for Community Leadership, along with third place for both Overall Design Excellence and Coverage of Crime, Police and Courts, as well as Best House Ad. Chelsea Now editor Stiffler won second place for Feature Story for his piece on the closure of three longtime gay-centric stores on Eighth Ave. Dusica Sue Malesevic won honorable mention for a profile of a local filmmaker. Chelsea Now also won second place for Best News or Feature Series for profiles of small businesses, and third place for a series on landlord/ tenant disputes by Malesevic, Winnie McCroy and Sam Spokony. Downtown Express won a first place for Art Photo for Hess’s shot of a leaping dancer in flight.

inner.’ w n w o ands-d

‘A h


ly writ ten.’

Proud winner of 13 awards in New York Press Association’s 2014 Better Newspaper Contest

‘Photography may be ’ the best in this division.

‘Editorials engag e readers.’



























April 2, 2015



Police say Melvin Jones, 49, is the suspect in a Sixth Ave. A.T.M. mugging.

draw money for him. The victim complied, withdrew $400 in cash and gave it to the man, who fled in an unknown direction. There were no injuries reported. According to police, the suspect has been identified as Melvin Johnson, 49, who is about 6-feet-2 and 300 pounds with brown eyes. 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.

‘I’ll cut you’

Big Buddha heist

Police said that on Mon., March 30, at around 10 a.m. hours, a 35-year-old woman entered the Bank of America branch at 390 Sixth Ave., between W. Eighth St. and Waverly Place, when a stranger followed behind her. The man displayed a silver blunt instrument and stated that he would “cut” her and her baby if she did not with-

A woman approached police in traffic on Sat., March 28, with the dire news that a $39,984 gold-plated brass Buddha statue was taken from Nadeau: Furniture With a Soul, at 57 E. 11th St. The perpetrator fled into the urban jungle with the statue at about 1 p.m., on March 28 but didn’t make it very far.

You may be eligible for up to $10,000 from tax credits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Police found Kitty Rotolo, 51, on the northeast corner of E. 10 St. and University Place shortly afterward. He was in possession of the Buddha, police said, and was charged with felony grand larceny.

Drink-and-dash denied The food and drink attracted a man to McKenna’s Pub on the afternoon of Fri., March 27. But after eating and drinking his fill, he had no money to pay, police said. He attempted to leave the establishment, at 250 W. 14th St., but was prevented from doing so. When a police officer responded at about 2 p.m., a crack pipe with residue was allegedly found on the man’s person. Robert Gatell, 55, was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance and theft of service, both misdemeanors.

Meatpacking mauler A witness flagged down police

in the early morning hours of Sun., March 29, as a man was allegedly attacking a 28-year-old woman in the Meatpacking District. The attacker allegedly shoved the victim multiple times, causing her to fall and hit the ground. The man also took the women’s personal effects and flung them into the street. When police arrived in front of 46 Gansevoort St. at about 2:30 a.m., the perpetrator fled on foot. But they soon caught and cuffed him, despite the efforts of the reportedly “highly intoxicated” suspect to resist arrest. A police report did not state the nature of the altercation or relationship between the woman and her alleged attacker. She was taken to a hospital for treatment. Shawn Caughey, 24, was charged with misdemeanor assault.

Missing teen

Police said Shaun Tanner, 13, of 465 E. 10th St., Apartment 5H, is reportBLOTTER, continued on p. 13

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April 2, 2015

BLOTTER, continued from p. 12

ed missing. He was last seen leaving his home on Fri., March 20, at around 10:30 a.m. He was wearing gray sweatpants, a maroon-colored polo shirt, a dark-blue military-style coat and black sneakers. 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.


Brian Porch, 40, was charged with felony criminal mischief.    Threatens

to shoot

On Tues., Mar. 24, a man approached an 18-year-old male teen waiting for a southbound train on the 4, 5, 6 platform at Brooklyn Bridge station at around 2 p.m., and threatened to shoot the teen if he didn’t hand over his cell phone, police said. The teen obliged and the man boarded a train that pulled into the station. Police said that at no time did he show a weapon. Police said the suspect is around 20, weighs 160 pounds and is 5-feet6-inches tall. He was wearing a black hooded jacket and blue jeans.

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An unhappy picture

Shaun Tanner is reported missing.

What aled him? A customer of Bayard’s Ale House was asked to leave the place for unknown reasons at about 12:30 a.m. on Sat., March 28. According to police, the man soon returned to the bar, at 533 Hudson St., and smashed the glass next to the door with his hand, which caused $500 in damages.

A Brooklyn woman, 33, was dining in Soho on Fri., Mar. 27, and left her camera equipment, worth $3,014, on her car’s backseat. When she came back to grab the bag, she found her back passenger-side window smashed and her equipment gone, police said. The woman parked her red 2009 Nissan S.U.V. in front of 3 Wooster St. at 11 p.m. and noticed the break-in just after midnight.

If so, you may be eligible to participate in a study that involves taking an investigational medication or placebo for one week. This study takes place at New York University School of Medicine over the course of five visits. You must be between the ages of 18 and 60, medically healthy and currently not taking medications. You will be compensated for your time.

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‘T’s against gun fatalities Following Palm Sunday services at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery, parishioners planted more than 600 small crosses in the church’s East Yard, along Second Ave. between 10th and 11th Sts., then draped them in T-shirts. Each shirt bears the name or names of people killed by gun violence.

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Call Amanda Tarley Call Brian Rice 718-260-8340 718-260-4537 April 2, 2015


Kenny Gorka, 68, booker/partner at Bitter End OBITUARY BY ALBERT AMATEAU


enny Gorka, who booked a generation of musicians in the Greenwich Village club The Bitter End, and became a partner in the fabled venue 23 years ago, died unexpectedly on March 20. He was 68. He died a year and a month after the passing of Paul Colby, who acquired the club in 1974 from its founder, Fred Weintraub, who opened it in 1961. Paul Rizzo, the remaining co-owner of The Bitter End, intends to manage most of the club’s bookings for now, but is reaching out to others who might take responsibility in the future. “I really don’t think it [the club] will ever be the same, but that’s how life is — you have to go with the flow and you have to change,” Rizzo told the Village Voice Blogs. “It’s something we want to keep going to enhance the legacy of Kenny and Paul. We want to keep it up and we’ll do what we can. There’s a deep connection to the music industry through Kenny.” Kenny Gorka was beloved by countless musicians, famous and obscure, who received his personal attention and respect regardless of who they were. He was also a friendly neighbor. Maurine Remacle, a longtime res-

Kenny Gorka in 2009.

ident of the Bleecker St. neighborhood, said she met Gorka years ago, and recalled often seeing him in front of the club at 147 Bleecker St. talking to musicians and patrons. “Once in a while we would talk about something going on in the neighborhood, as neighbors do,” she told The Villager. “He was always friendly, cool and mellow, with a twinkle in his blue eyes.” Maddy Jarmon, who sang at The Bitter End the night Kenny Gorka died, said she had been looking for him that night. “He always made you feel very special when you were talking to him,” she said. “When my manager found out about Kenny’s death, he texted me. It was very sad, crazy that we played there that night. It was a

great show and we now definitely feel like that show was for him.” Starting as a singer and bass player, Kenny Gorka found success in the 1960s with The Critters, a band that played The Bitter End several times. In 1966, their song “Mr. Dieingly Sad” peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the 1970s after producing music in Canada, Gorka came to work with Colby, booking bands at The Bitter End. A few years later, he was working on the Upper East Side, but returned to The Bitter End in the early 1980s to book bands. He became a partner in the club in 1993. “Kenny’s amazing ear for music helped keep The Bitter End a musical institution,” the club’s Web site noted last week. “Many great musicians credit him with their first gig in New York City and influencing them with the way they sounded and looked, planting seeds that grew into successful careers and important life lessons. Kenny loved music; he spent his life making it and then shaping the industry from the bottom up.” David Fagin, a musician and writer whose band, The Rosenbergs, frequently played the club, said Gorka was an equal-opportunity booker. “Sure, a lot of big-name talent, who came up through the ranks and who won a few Grammies, owe a lot of their success to Kenny and his club,” he said. “But it’s the ones like myself who barely achieved

our ‘15 minutes’ who could always count on the fact that Kenny would treat us the same way he would treat Daryl Hall or Billy Joel. Because to him we were all special: We were all artists.” “No matter what was or wasn’t happening for us, I could always walk into The Bitter End, find Kenny at the bar and within a minute, I would have a date [to perform at the club],” Fagin said on his Web site. “It didn’t matter that we had no draw, no radio play, no label. Like so many others, we had nothing except our supposed talent. Yet I would walk out of that bar knowing my band would have a place to play.” “Kenny was the Prince of Bleecker St.,” his friend Billy Lee, the hit songwriter, said on his social-media page. “He ran The Bitter End for as long as I can remember. I met him in the ’60s when he played with the pop rock band the Critters. He gave thousands and thousands of musicians and artists the opportunity to perform in the Holy Grail of music, The Bitter End in New York City, the club that started careers like Bob Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary, and gave an endless array of artists like myself the opportunity to entertain people in the famous Greenwich Village.” Kenny Gorka’s wife of 39 years, Lisa Gorka, and their daughter, Blake, survive. A memorial date will be posted on The Bitter End Web site.

Robert Knight of WBAI is remembered at memorial BY PAUL DERIENZO


BAI news anchor and award-winning reporter Robert Knight, who died a year ago at 64, was honored by more than 100 fans and family members at Riverside Church over the past weekend. Knight, who hosted “Earthwatch: Terrestrial Radio With Robert Knight” on Wednesday nights for many years on WBAI, was praised for his intelligence and skills at popularizing science and complex political issues. Originally a Jesuit seminarian, he was trained as an electrical engineer. Knight was born in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. His uncle was a Tuskegee Airman and his mom once dated Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Knight had been laid off as senior correspondent for WBAI when the iconoclastic New York City radio


April 2, 2015

Robert Knight.

station recently fell on hard times. Financial difficulties forced Pacifica radio, the Berkley-based nonprofit that owns WBAI, to dissolve its news department. Knight continued on as volunteer programmer with a news commentary program called “Five O’Clock Shadow.” I was a control board operator at WBAI in 1989 when Knight and his longtime friend and partner programmer Dennis Bernstein were co-hosts of “Undercurrents,” a syndicated morning show based at WBAI. The program exposed the Iran-Contra affair and reported on U.S. policymakers’ affinity with mercenaries allied with anti-Communist military forces in Central America. Knight played a major role in covering the Reagan administration’s invasion of

Panama in 1989 to depose dictator Manuel Noriega. He was able to track down Noriega by phone. The military strongman had been in hiding from U.S. forces and the interview was broadcast around the world. Knight won the prestigious George Polk Award for his feat. Robert Knight also traveled the world, and reported from North Korea, Colombia and Nicaragua. Guests at the memorial included Bernstein, who flew in from Berkeley, California, where he hosts a syndicated show on Pacifica radio station KPFA. David Amram, the musician and composer, sang and played. Civil rights attorney Margaret Ratner, a longtime friend, spoke, as did many of Knight’s friends, who remembered him as a brilliant and beloved man and a consummate broadcasting professional, who knew how to use radio to make people think and connect with the major issues of the day.

Council support builds slowly for S.B.J.S.A. S.B.J.S.A., continued from p. 3


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

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.

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. 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. S.B.J.S.A., continued on p. 18

Community news

that matters.

Read t the Easr! Village

April 2, 2015



Nicholas Figueroa, left, died in the Second Ave. disaster last Thursday A police officer sealed off traffic on St. Mark’s Place on Monday as the cleanup and investigation at the site continued nearby.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 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. 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! Lady Bunny

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 busi-

nesses. They are a 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! Donna Hooker

Friend through it all 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

Could you believe the M.T.A. got a raise? 16

April 2, 2015

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.

Forget ‘we’: The fight against ISIS is my fight TALKING POINT BY BILL WEINBERG


ost “anti-war” folks in the U.S. (like nearly everyone else) are in the dangerous habit of referring to the government with the pronoun “we.” This rhetorical convention fosters the illusion that “we” commoners have any voice in Washington’s foreign policy (beyond assenting with our silence or, optimistically, restraining somewhat through protest). It betrays more naiveté than cynicism about the nature of power in this country. There is no area where the U.S. behaves more like an empire and less like a democracy than in waging war. Even Congress is rarely consulted — much less its lowly constituents. This pronoun also burdens the question of U.S. military involvements with a personal sense of (for the anti-war crowd) guilt or (for their jingo opposites) pride, barring a more distanced and objective view. For both the peaceniks and the jingos, the use of “we” constitutes an imperial narcissism — an identification with the empire that makes the question about “us.” So when Ted Rall in The Villager recently asked, “Why are we at war with ISIS?” (talking point, Feb. 19) — my reply is, “Who is asking, and what is your stake in the question?” A question more rooted in human solidarity is: What can we (meaning progressives in the U.S., not our government) do to assist the secular and democratic forces actually resisting ISIS on the ground in Syria and Iraq? And contrary to much nonsense from the “anti-war” crowd, these forces exist. First and foremost, these are the Syrian Kurds. The Kurds of Rojava, as they call their territory in Syria’s north, took power there in 2012, when the rule of the Bashar Assad dictatorship collapsed in the region. They are militantly secular and democratic, with something of an anarchist ethic, power devolving to local assemblies. Their constitution recognizes the equal rights of women, and this is taken very seriously. There are woman commanders in Rojava’s territorial militia, the People’s Protection Units, and an all-female counterpart, the Women’s Protection Units. When ISIS invaded Rojava last year, these women warriors mobilized to great effect. The Rojava Kurds are now allied with the Free Syrian Army, the main military force of the Syrian resistance, fighting both Assad and ISIS. While the F.S.A. is an amalgam of former

This photo led to “Rehana” becoming the poster girl for Kurdish freedom fighters last year. It was said she had singlehandedly killed 100 ISIS soldiers. ISIS soon tweeted that it had beheaded her, sending out a photo of a woman’s severed head as proof. But the facial features did not resemble Rehana’s. Rehana, in fact, may not even be her real name and there is skepticism she really killed that many ISIS fighters. But she reportedly escaped Kobane, fleeing to Turkey, and is still alive. Highly unusual in the patriarchal Muslim world, thousands of women are fighting in the Kurdish resistance.

regime commanders and angry but non-ideological foot soldiers, the civilian opposition that started the Syrian revolution in March 2011 still exists. (The F.S.A. only emerged after the Assad regime repeatedly massacred peaceful protesters.) These activists have kept alive a civilian resistance, even under regime bombardment. They even organized courageous protests demanding the return of their disappeared comrades in Raqqa, the ISIS de facto captial. The U.S. has long backed the military forces of the more conservative and pro-West Kurdish autonomous zone in Iraq, now also fighting ISIS. But Washington aid to the Syrian resistance is limited — again, contrary to much malarkey from “anti-war” circles. The U.S. came to aid of Syrian Kurds only belatedly. The Rojava town of Kobani was besieged by ISIS last September, and the defenders issued urgent appeals for aid. The U.S. took its bombing campaign against ISIS to Syria, but targeted Raqqa — not the ISIS forces closing the ring on Kobani. It was only in late October, after the vastly outgunned and outnumbered defenders of Kobani began to turn the tide against ISIS, that the U.S. began dropping them arms and supplies, and targeting the ISIS positions outside Kobani with air strikes. In January, the siege of Kobani was broken, and the Kurds have since been pushing ISIS back toward Raqqa. Obama was backing (or at least talking about backing) the F.S.A. before he began coordinating with the

Syrian Kurds — but even this aid was never very significant. One reason may be that the White House anticipated a tilt back to Assad (previously enough of a de facto ally in the “war on terrorism” that the C.I.A. “renditioned” suspects to his torture chambers). Indeed, Raqqa has for the past months alternatively come under bombardment by the Pentagon’s and Assad’s warplanes. Some U.S. State Department money may have found its way to Syria’s civil activists. But those who jump on such connections as evidence that the recipients are “astroturf” imperialist creations are unserious. The Syrian resistance was born of popular struggle, and whatever aid it may have received from the U.S. has been little and late. There are two related fallacies in nearly everything “anti-war” voices have to say about Syria. One is that U.S. aid to the Syrian rebels helped create ISIS, with arms leaking to the jihadists. Arguably, the opposite is true. The failure of the U.S. (or anyone else) to meaningfully come to the aid of Syria’s democratic resistance abetted the emergence of ISIS — creating a vacuum filled by the jihadists, with their own financial and arms-smuggling networks. The other is the more ambitious theory that the U.S. has directly aided ISIS. That line is Orwellian — conflating the very people heroically resisting ISIS with ISIS! The U.S. does bear much responsibility for ISIS — through the destabilization of Iraq, and playing the Shi’ites against Sunnis. But that is only half the equation. The other is Assad’s relentless war on Syria’s people — escalating toward genocide with use of poison gas and incendiary “barrel bombs.” This is comfortably invisible to the imperial narcissists. And contrary to the “anti-war” logic, if the U.S. helped create ISIS, it is pretty unacceptable to tell the people now dealing with this monster, “Tough luck, shift for yourselves.” Rall’s minimization of ISIS is particularly distressing. The construction that it is “not run by nice people” is an insult to the victims of its genocidal campaigns. Ironically, Rall does not mention the most persuasive argument against the U.S. bombardment: its counterproductive element, the propaganda assistance loaned to ISIS with every bomb that falls. Being on the receiving end of U.S. firepower gives ISIS anti-imperialist cachet, and each civilian casualty brings ISIS new recruits. This factor is worth weighing, but there are countervailing ones. (That said, Rall’s unsourced “guesstimate” of “tens of thousands” of casualties far outstrips informed estimates by human-rights groups.)

Rall also minimizes ISIS by equating Saudi Arabia with the “Islamic State.” The beheadings carried out by Saudi Arabia over the past year are atrocious, but do not approach the ISIS campaigns of massacre, mass rape and slavery. Rall also throws in Saudi “crucifixions,” without telling us that these mean public display of corpses after execution — not actual death by crucifixion. The practice is barbaric, but inaccuracy does not serve the cause of opposing it. Senator Barbara Boxer is closer to the truth than Rall, who derisively quotes her assessment that the rights abuses of ISIS “are in a class of their own.” But again, more to the point... In World War II, getting the common people on board the fight against fascism meant the Popular Front and a New Deal for the working class. The gains of this era were only reversed with the Reagan “revolution.” Washington was even forced to accept the overthrow of a few odious U.S.backed dictators in Latin America — such as El Salvador’s Maximiliano Hernández and Guatemala’s Jorge Ubico, both toppled in 1944 uprisings — because continuing to back them too obviously contradicted anti-fascist and pro-democratic rhetoric. Similarly, the cost of an alliance against ISIS could (if progressives unite and press for this) be an end to Washington’s blank check for Saudi Arabia and the oppressive Gulf States. The secular-democratic upsurge of the Arab Revolution could find new life in a regional campaign against ISIS. The worst example of Rall’s imperial narcissism is his admonition against “starting another war” — as if Syria were at peace! The war in Syria is a fact: the world’s greatest refugee crisis, over 100,000 dead. The U.S. did not start this war — Bashar Assad did, four years ago. The ubiquity of this error is why I put “anti-war” in quotes. By abetting Bashar Assad’s propaganda, many of those who see themselves as “anti-war” are objectively pro -war. I have no illusions about U.S. imperial interests in the Middle East. But the most critical thing is solidarity with the indigenous forces fighting ISIS, in first place, the Syrian Kurds. And the Syrian Kurds were (and are) desperately appealing for U.S. air support — if not bombardment of towns like Raqqa, where the strikes may be counterproductive — at least targeting ISIS military positions around besieged enclaves that remain free. When I say the fight against ISIS is my fight, I hope not to sound glib. I by no means equate myself with those fighting in Syria and Iraq. But I salute their courage. And I will do all I can from New York City to give a voice to the Syrian Kurds and their allies, and let them know they are not alone. April 2, 2015


New hope that City Hall will give bill a chance S.B.J.S.A., continued from p. 15

Similarly, Spinola didn’t have anything positive to say about so-called “formula zoning,” under which municipalities can block certain types 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 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. 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 dif-

Wing it, but don’t fling it!

Read t the Easr! Village 18

April 2, 2015

ficulties 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. 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.

Squatters live in ‘Kill City’

Ash Thayer captured the community she joined PHOTOGRAPHY Kill City Lower East Side Squatters 1992-2000 By Ash Thayer Hardcover, 9-1/4 x 12 inches, 176 pages, $50



ill City” is literally the inside story about a group of people — mostly teenagers and twentysomethings — who needed a place to live and created a community of “squats” on the Lower East Side. When photographer and School of Visual Arts student Ash Thayer found herself on the verge of being homeless in 1992, she was welcomed into one of the squats as a guest. She would spend the next seven years living in several different buildings, documenting the realities, challenges and joys of a counterculture existence. Squatting — the occupying of an abandoned or unoccupied building or area of property that the squatter doesn’t own, rent or have lawful permission to use — is, in part, a response to the lack of affordable housing. That was certainly the case during New York City’s 1970s fiscal

“Street Rally and Protest Against Thirteenth Street Squat Eviction, 1996.”

crisis, when desperate landlords who couldn’t refinance their property abandoned or burned down their buildings for a shot at the insurance money. The city seized these properties due to unpaid taxes, warehoused them and left them to rot. As the numbers of abandoned buildings grew, so did the homeless population. In the mid-1980s, squatters, which included groups of punk kids, saw the opportunity to reclaim about 30 of these buildings that had been ignored for 15 years. They broke into empty, city-owned buildings located east of Avenue B and began to

clean up the insides, patched holes in roofs and ceilings, installed staircases, put up inside walls and called it “home.” They knew it could be temporary because they were trespassing and the cops could evict them at any time. What they also created was a sense of community — working together to improve their quality of life and becoming politically active to effect change. Living an alternative lifestyle wasn’t an all-new experience for Thayer. Growing up in Memphis, she’d been bullied in high school and left home before graduation to move in with a bunch of punk rock

girls. She says, “I shared a room and a single bed and learned about DIY [do-it-yourself] culture, anarchism, atheism, straight-edge, and hardcore.” Being part of the punk community taught her that she could do something with all the pain and rage she was experiencing by turning it into social activism, music, and artistic expression. So when Thayer moved into See Squat, she felt comfortable in her new surroundings — but as she would learn, living the squatter’s life had its own set of rules. “If you moved KILL CITY, continued on p. 23 April 2, 2015


The Adventures of an Underemployed Urban Elf

Enjoy the earth while it lasts BY REV. JEN (



Springtime means that delectable New York bodies come out from hiding, and sausage swings commando under lightweight Levis, finally freed from the prison of Long Johns — while Sideboob Saturday is illuminated by the sunshine…oh wait…lost my train of thought. Anyway, speaking of going commando…


Be Commando Girl Scouts. Every year, my roommate gets Girl Scout Cookies. He is very slender and can therefore eat them while I can only watch due to fluctuating cholesterol levels and the metabolism of a Slow Loris. Yet the Girl Scout Cookie phenomenon fascinates me, in that while the Girl Scouts masquerade as loveable children, they are actually a street gang who are out to poison America and make us obese. As my fit roommate munched down on his recently delivered cookies, I did some online research, which revealed that a few varieties have even been discontinued due to their trans fat content. Concerned parents have urged the Girl Scouts to address this and other health concerns about the cookies, suggesting that the cookie program was at odds with the Girl Scouts’ healthy living initiative. The Girl Scout organization replied that the cookies were a treat which “shouldn’t be a big part of somebody’s diet,” just as mounds of cocaine shouldn’t be a part of anyone’s massive drug habit. Luckily, said discontinued treats were not Thin Mints or Samoas. My guess is that if there is ever a revolution in this country, it will start at a check cashing place, a walk-in medical clinic or the home of someone who can’t get Samoas delivered to his or her door. What I find


April 2, 2015


t’s that time of year again, when the Marshmallow Peeps come out to roost on the shelves at Duane Reade and the Universe hands you snowflakes one day and swamp-ass the next. Newsflash: Every SINGLE PART of the world has gotten hotter and is melting (insert obligatory photograph of a confused polar bear floating on an ice cube) EXCEPT for the Northeast of the USA. Forecast: We’re doomed. As the world’s most renowned Infertility Goddess, it’s my duty to tell you all to stop breeding now — because we are on the eve of destruction. Thousands of dead sea lions have washed ashore in California in the past few days, so start taking care of Mother Earth. As my friend, Rob Paravonian, once pointed out, “If you are going to drive a Hummer, drive it to Iraq and get the oil yourself.” That said, Happy Spring! Enjoy the earth while it lasts! This installment of The Adventures of an Underemployed Elf is all about how to do just that. What to do with your time in the one week we have left? Here are my tips!

Rev. Jen and John Thomas Foster pick up supplies at Gary’s Liquor, one of the few venues they were not thrown out of during a quest to make the ultimate “Girl Scout Cocktail.”

most interesting about the “Cookie Debacle” is that weed is now legal in a few states while some Girl Scout Cookies are banned. Oh, the irony! Who wants cookies more than stoned people? When this country finally gets its ass together maybe they can combine both Girl Scout Cookies and weed. My investigative research also revealed that a few inventive folks (who were probably stoned at the time) have posted recipes for D.I.Y. Girl Scout Cookies online. A few other people (who were also likely stoned) have posted recipes for “Girl Scout Cocktails.” The “Thin Mint Cocktail” looked especially appealing. I mentioned this to my friend, John Thomas Foster, and light bulbs went off in our heads. What if we were to make our own Girl Scout Cookies and Girl Scout Cookie Cocktails and sell them on the Lower East Side? We could compete with those little shits and maybe make a killing in the process. Obviously, outfits were needed! Luckily, the Internet provides for moments like this. Via eBay, I found two dashing uniforms. Though not “official” Girl Scout uniforms, they came with sashes imprinted with “666” and skirts short enough to show off our sexy, Scottish legs. Less than a week later, they arrived. Proudly, we put them on and attempted, in the freezing cold, to march to Essex Street Market where we hoped to obtain ingredients to make Samoas. We were sidetracked by Lucky Jack’s (129 Orchard St.), which happened to be directly across the street and shone with the promise of beer and basketball. Speaking of balls, it turns out our skirts were so skimpy that John had to borrow a pair of my largest granny panties lest someone think he was attempting to deliver an

inappropriate package. Despite our best efforts at propriety, we were asked to leave the bar after two rounds because we were “causing a scene.” As we were being escorted out, our friend, Claire, joined us in order to shoot video of the Girl Scout Experience. Traipsing down Rivington St., we decided to wander into Babeland (94 Rivington) to examine their panoply of sex toys. It turns out cameras are not welcome and we were escorted out in less than five seconds. “I’m a proud woman!” John announced as we were booted to the sidewalk. From there, we made our way to Economy Candy (108 Rivington), attempting to buy soft caramels for the aforementioned Samoas and for reasons that we have yet to determine, were quickly thrown out. Defeated, we finally got to Essex Street Market (120 Essex St.), where we managed to obtain baking supplies without a hostile reaction. We then sexily traipsed to Gary’s Liquor (141 Essex St.), formerly known as “KGB Liquors” and obtained ingredients for our Thin Mint Cocktails. (We were not thrown out of the liquor store.) What a day! It probably comes as no surprise that we were too exhausted to bake by the time we got home, so we just made the cocktails. Comprised of Baileys, vodka and diced mint, they were so delicious we attempted to deliver them to neighbors — but no one answered the door so we drank the entire batch ourselves, took a bath and passed out. No Merit Badges for us! The Girl Scout Experience might have been a failure but other things are looking up. More on how to make springtime rock: REV. JEN, continued on p. 21

Our Urban Elf, on how to make spring rock REV. JEN, continued from p. 20


Where did he pop the question? At a bar, of course, where all misguided decisions are made. But Double Down might be one of the only cool, cheap bars left in this town. It also serves something called “ASS Juice.” Despite this, it’s got a romantic ambience and a backyard where you can hang with your dog, smoke and drink or simply bask in the sunshine before the world melts.



I’ll be honest. I never went to church. Easter confuses me because I only got through like three pages of the Bible. My parents basically let me watch cartoons and eat Count Chocula every Sunday morning so I still haven’t figured it out. I’m pretty sure “Good Friday” is when Jesus died, which I would be redundant in pointing out, doesn’t seem good at all. But then, I am pretty sure, he came back to life on Sunday and that’s Easter. Somehow this holiday also involves a giant bunny coming into your house when you are a child and leaving you candy, which is awesome. In the ‘70s my siblings and I were taken to the mall around Easter time, and forced to sit on the lap of said giant bunny who completely creeped me out, mostly because you could see its defeated human eyes through the mesh of its mask — and unlike talking to Santa, you couldn’t ask it for, say, a Barbie Dream House beThe constant application of cucumbers to their peepers will help Rev. Jen and cause you knew it would just bring John keep up appearances for those all-important day jobs.


If you’ve noticed that the quality of my column has gone down, it’s because I finally met my match and have spent most of the last year dislocating my Tempurpedic mattress from the bed frame. Yep. I’ve dated every crazy below Houston, north of Canal and west of the East River. I have even reached out to those in Bushwick, BedStuy, Jersey City, California, London, Detroit, Munich and pretty much the entirety of the United States of America. Because my BF Joe Heaps Nelson and I can’t afford to advertise our love in the New York Times like many rich assholes do, we are officially announcing our engagement in this publication. Realizing we are two of the only eccentric artists left in NYC, we have decided to latch onto each other for what I am sure will be an emotionally draining hell. Maybe we’ll get a KitchenAid mixer out of the deal. (Date to be announced…)


Rev. Jen and Rev. Jen Junior at Double Down Saloon (“where you can hang with your dog, smoke and drink or simply bask in the sunshine before the world melts.”).

you a basket full of Peeps. But never mind all that. Easter should be as cool as other holidays. Treat it like it’s New Year’s Eve and go nuts. A good way to start: Check out the Easter Egg Hunt at Lucky Dog in Brooklyn (303 Bedford Ave.). It’s on Easter, and unlike church, they serve more than a shot of wine. Finally, in what might be the most surprising news of the decade, I got a job!


Getting a job is not the most fun thing in the world, but it did save me from eviction. Unfortunately, it’s above 14th St. and in an office. Fortunately it’s above a bar and a block away from where my fellow Girl Scout, John, works. We have done our best to keep our good looks despite our constant hustlin’, via cucumbers on the eyes and memberships at Blink Fitness (16 E. Fourth St.), where we hope to sweat out our Thin Mint Cocktails. Maybe we’ll get our merit badges after all!

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April 2, 2015


Shakespeare springing up all over

Three troupes tackle one classic BY SCOTT STIFFLER


Some random member of the LES Shakespeare Company will be


April 2, 2015

A plague on their houses: Melody Bates and Matt Hurley as Romeo and Juliet, in the zombie-infused “R & J & Z.”




Talk about love among the ruins. With the Black Death in full swing, a scrappy playwright by the name of William Shakespeare penned “Romeo and Juliet” — in which two kids from warring clans fall hard for each other then promptly drop dead. Not so fast, says Hard Sparks theater company. Their “R & J & Z” adds another act to the tale, a third letter that stands for “Zombie” and a reversal of fortune for the doomed lovers. “Romeo and Juliet,” notes director Joan Jubett, “begins as a comedy and ends as a tragedy” But their version “begins as a tragedy and ends as a comedy.” Set against the backdrop of Verona’s plague, playwright Melody Bates (who plays Juliet) blends zombie-style dread and gore with the Bard’s knack for finding humanity in our darkest hours. Told in verse with 18 actors, it all unfolds over the course of 24 action-packed, brain-eating, limb-severing, hard-lovin’ hours. Oh, yes, there will be blood! All shows 8 p.m. In previews April 2. Then, April 3–18, Sat./Sun. and Wed.–Fri. Additional show April 6. At the New Ohio Theatre (154 Christopher St. btw. Greenwich &Washington Sts.). For tickets ($18), visit

One will be drunk and all will be entertained, in LES Shakespeare Company’s roaming production of “Twelfth Night.”

seeing double, during their freewheeling take on “Twelfth Night” — and not just because the plot concerns identical twins. This rov-

ing production, which takes place at a bar or a theatre on any given night, is the latest instalment in the troupe’s “F*ckin Up Shakespeare Series.” When one actor is plucked from their clean-and-sober ranks and required to become thoroughly intoxicated right before the show, anything can happen — to the audience, to the cast, to the plot. All the better, we’re assured, to highlight the play’s absurd elements of mistaken identity, secret loves and sober revelations. It’s not all drunken shenanigans for the Company. Their weakness for courting disaster is nicely balanced by a committed to make Shakespeare accessible for all ages. To that end, they’re laying off the sauce and making plans to host

workshops at schools and provide free shows for the community. Proceeds from this inaugural production of “Twelfth Night” (and the bottle deposits from that one cast member) will fund a June 26–July 24 “dry” run of “Romeo and Juliet,” at the East River Park Amphitheatre. “Twelfth Night” is performed on Sun., April 12 & 19, at, respectively, Poco (33 Ave. B at Third St.) and Parkside Lounge (317 E. Houston St.). Then, Sun. & Mon., April 26 & 27 at Cakeshop (152 Ludlow St. btw. Stanton & Rivington), May 3 & 4 at Treehouse Theatre (154 W. 29th St. btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves. Avenues) and May 10 & 11 at Lucky Jack’s (129 Orchard St. btw. Rivington & Delancy). Start times: Sun. at 7:30 p.m. & Mon. at 8:30 p.m. Running time: 75 minutes. Tickets are $25 (includes two drinks). Reservations: call 800-838-3006 or visit


The resident company of Nuyorican Poets Cafe returns to that space with Adam Mace and Kaitlyn Schirard’s Dixie take on “Romeo and Juliet.” Set in 1863 Kentucky, this production casts its Montague clan as former slaves. Sparks (and bullets?) fly when Romeo falls in love with Juliet, daughter of the Confederate Capulet family. The Civil War setting bodes well for Rebel Theater. Past collaborations between Mace and producing artistic director Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj have been masterfully realized and extraordinarily nuanced contemplations on race, class, ambition and achievement (as seen in last year’s Hurricane Katrina-infused “Salome” and Black Panther Party-themed “Othello”). Many of the young and charismatic cast members from those unconventional adaptations will return for “R+J” — making this one a show to see, from a troupe to watch out for. At 7 p.m. on April 10, 11, 13–19 and 24–26. At Nuyorican Poets Cafe (236 E. Third St. btw. Ave. B & C). Tickets are $20 online, $25 at the door ($15 for students and seniors). For reservations, visit

‘Kill City’ a heartfelt, intimate look at L.E.S. squatters KILL CITY, continued from p. 19

“Ryan on Couch (Toy), Fifth Street Squat, 1995.”


into a building as a guest,” she recalls, “you wouldn’t get your own room at first. You would stay and work and earn people’s trust. If you proved you would be an asset to the building instead of sitting in a corner doing drugs or drinking and not doing anything, then you would earn your own room. But the first step was earning a key to the front door. That’s the process I went through.” Thayer explains that until a building was renovated enough to satisfy NYC’s construction codes, no outsiders could enter. She says, “Some people did drugs, but if they didn’t do their share of the work, they’d get kicked out.” And there was a lot of work to do. Her first building, See Squat, had no plumbing, limited electricity and no heat. “Depending on the building you were in, to prepare for winter you would insulate or sheetrock your room. If there was electricity, you would use it for a space heater or hot plate.” After Thayer moved to Fifth Street Squat and then to one called Serenity House, she began documenting the residents’ daily lives in a way that no outsider could have captured. For example, in the image “Ryan on Couch (Toy), Fifth Street Squat, 1995,” a bare-chested, tattooed Ryan is sitting on his couch holding a can of Rolling Rock, oblivious to the camera, the word “Toy” is scrawled on the wall behind him; the golden light of the afternoon sun illuminates his hair and upper body. It’s a moment of intimacy — Ryan has nothing to hide. “Jen on Bed, Fifth Street Squat, 1995” is another strong portrait. Jen, with ear, nose and lip rings, looks directly at the camera, projecting the trust she has in the photographer. Other photos — the book contains 116 color and 30 black and white images — offer a window into what daily life was like: backyard barbecues, punk rock parties in the basement, relationships, children playing, and different perspectives of people rebuilding their apartments. In fact, “Famous, Pregnant and Building Windows, Seventh Street Squat, 1994” is one of Thayer’s favorite images. Famous is wearing a bra and a big tool belt strapped under her large baby bump and doing her share of the work. The photographer considers this an iconic image of feminism that continues to inspire her. She says, “This was very empowering, considering that the 1990s was the decade of the supermodel and unhealthy, unrealistic projections of womanhood.” Another favorite of hers is “Meggin and Jill Dancing, Fifth Street Squat,

“Meggin and Jill Dancing, Fifth Street Squat, 1996.”

1996” since it exemplified the community of women that Thayer said she needed around her. Another aspect of the squatter’s life appears on a number of successive pages — photographs of street protests in Tompkins Square Park against eviction, and NYC cops in riot helmets lined up and ready to break down the doors. As insightful and intimate as they are, Thayer’s photographs alone can’t tell the whole story of “Kill City.” Her heartfelt prologue certainly helps you understand the historical context, as does the introduction by Reverend Frank Morales, a squatting pioneer and housing activist. So do a number of brief essays throughout the book that offer

varying perspectives on life inside and the real threat outside — eviction. (The threat and protests ended in 2002 when NYC allowed about a dozen of the rebuilt Lower East Side buildings to become co-ops.) Thayer says the most satisfying aspect of this experience was having a supportive community and living life together. “I loved watching people build their homes. We were poor, but we weren’t lazy.” Over the years, Thayer stayed in touch with some of the people. They became environmentalists, human rights activists, social workers, and acupuncturists. They have families, some have farms. One person is creating communal living spaces upstate. And

“Famous, Pregnant and Building Windows, Seventh Street Squat, 1994.”

some of them helped her get “Kill City” published. They told her to get in touch with an editor at the New York Times, which published some of the images online. That got the attention of Powerhouse Books and the rest, as they say, is history — and a story worth telling. Norman Borden is a New York-based writer and photographer. The author of more than 100 reviews for, he is a member of Soho Photo Gallery and ASMP, and currently has work on display in Denver’s “Month of Photography” exhibition. Visit April 2, 2015


‘Nope!’ is the word at scope meeting for zoning ZONING, continued from p. 1


April 2, 2015


citywide rezoning proposal, known as “Housing New York: Zoning for Quality and Affordability.” Concerned that such changes would drastically overhaul regulations on the height, size and shape of new residential developments, more than 100 people attended the meeting to comment on the plan. Critics — including members of Community Boards 2 and 4 — told Planning officials that the approval process has been moving way too fast, neglects neighborhood nuance, and could jeopardize their efforts to balance development with neighborhood character and needs. Right before the hearing, a rally was held on the City Hall steps, at which critics of the plan asserted that the proposed changes, which are intended to boost affordable housing in the city, would instead benefit luxury, market-rate development. Current restrictions of 70 feet in West Chelsea and Greenwich Village were the results of negotiations made years ago during a prior rezoning effort, with the expectation that they would remain firmly in place, according to Councilmember Corey Johnson. “Those rezonings took place because people said, ‘O.K., give us the cap here and we will trade you somewhere else and give you an upzoning.’ This would wipe all of this away in many instances,” he said at the rally, which drew about 50 supporters and politicians from throughout the city. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, also spoke at the rally, and said the zoning changes would wipe away years of hard work. “Just to be clear, this plan that has been proposed by the city would change rules that communities fought for years and years and years to get to help protect the scale and character of their neighborhoods,” he said. “And, in a lot of cases, these proposed changes by the city are really for nothing but market-rate luxury condo development,” he added. Planning wants to expand affordable housing by “modernizing” the zoning regulations in contextually zoned districts, which developers say stymie construction and restrict their ability to maximize building sizes within the current zoning. But critics worry that the changes could lead to more high-rises while not effectively addressing the need for more affordable housing. Approval of the zoning changes could also impose a “one-size-fits-all” approach at the expense of neighborhood character, critics stressed at both the rally and the hearing. A draft scope of the study was made

Borough President Gale Brewer testified at the March 25 public scoping meeting for the proposed zoning change.

public a month beforehand, but community board members said they really only had a single week to prepare their own analysis of the 166-page document, which was released in February. Contextual zoning regulates the height, bulk, setback from street, and frontage width in new buildings — with the purpose of maintaining the architectural character of neighborhoods. At the meeting, Elizabeth Mackintosh, co-chairperson of the C.B. 4 Land Use Committee, expressed the frustration that community board members have felt over the rushed initiative and the lack of opportunity for dialogue and questions about it. “Commenting on the draft scope of work is very challenging since we don’t have the actual zoning text to view,” she said. “So far, it appears that a number of proposed goals are very sound, but of course the devil is in the details.” Mackintosh also offered suggestions to the Planning officials on the scope of the environmental review for the zoning. The agency needs to study on the environmental impact the zoning changes would have on contextually zoned districts — like those in the Village and Chelsea — as well as how increased building heights could affect views, shadows, light, air quality and affordable housing. More research is also needed on just how many market-rate and affordable units exist in these districts now, and would be anticipated in the future. Mackintosh’s committee co-chairperson, Lee Compton, added that study is also needed into a proposed increase in commercial ground-floor heights — especially regarding how they might affect local businesses and neighborhood character. Loosening restrictions on backyard spaces to create more room for residential units necessitates scrutiny, as well, he said,

because that could, in turn, increase people’s use of other open spaces in the neighborhood. Borough President Gale Brewer and 26 other Manhattan elected officials sent a joint letter to Carl Weisbrod, chairperson of the City Planning Commission, expressing their concerns about the current trajectory of the proposed zoning changes. According to Christine Berthet, C.B. 4 chairperson, community board representatives told Brewer at a Borough Board meeting on March 19 that the process was moving too fast and threatening to undermine their previous, carefully considered zoning work. “By increasing height limits across the board, this administration is undermining these agreements made between previous administrations and neighborhood residents,” the elected officials’ March 25 letter reads. “While it may be true that the constraints of the contextual building envelope are stifling the production of housing, we are not convinced that the proposed adjustments are the perfect solution.” Representing C.B. 2 were Tobi Bergman and Terri Cude, the board’s chairperson and first vice chairperson, respectively. “Community Board 2 wholeheartedly supports the stated goals of this plan,” Bergman said. “But the way it is proposed now it will harm the character of many neighborhoods throughout the city, including ours. This plan is deep and wide with major citywide impacts. So we think it is smarter to add 60 days to the beginning of the process and get it right. Otherwise, it’s likely that many who support the goals will end up fighting against the plan.” The current zoning rules went into effect in 1987. Changes are needed in order to meet the demands of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing

push, according to representatives of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, who presented their own research to the C.B. 4 Land Use Committee on March 16. The nonprofit group represents the perspectives of a board including nearly 100 architects, developers and lawyers. Of particular concern to C.H.P.C. is how the limitations on building dimensions (called “the envelope”) reduce the amount of residential units in a new development. A 2014 C.H.P.C. study examined 17 development projects in the city — none of which were in Manhattan south of 96th St. Only the developer of one project out of that sampling was able to maximize floor space under current restrictions, according to the report. In the 28 years since the zoning was put in place, average floor-to-floor heights have increased from about 8 feet 8 inches to 9 feet or more, the study noted. Current building practices also require more infrastructure between floors — such as fire sprinklers and soundproofing materials. As a result, this limits the amount of floors permitted by what C.H.P.C. called the current “rigid” building height limits. Mark E. Ginsberg, C.H.P.C. president, said, factoring in the need to keep down design and construction costs, the current conditions are simply too restricting. “We’ve created this straitjacket, where if you look at a lot of the buildings, there’s very little variation besides the color of the brick, because developers are trying to take all the floor area and fit it into the building,” he told the C.B. 4 Land Use Committee at their regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Limiting a building’s height by floors rather than feet is one way to inject more residential units into a development, according to the group’s report. “Many C.H.P.C. board members,” the report says, “believe that New York City should begin to move away from such prescribed requirements for our built environment and make a shift toward performance zoning — an alternative system to traditional land use planning that uses performance-based, or goal-oriented criteria.” Removing obstacles to housing production and reducing construction costs are key strategies of de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, which aims to preserve or create 200,000 units of affordable housing by 2024. City Planning is in the midst of a yearlong process, preparing recommendations to both the City Planning Commission and City Council on zoning changes. In addition to hearing public comment, the March 25 meeting was meant to refine content for the E.I.S., a draft of which is scheduled to be completed this spring.

Triangle tragedy is not forgotten


Last week saw the 104th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. A commemoration was held at the site of the disaster, at the northwest corner of Washington Place and Greene St., which is now an N.Y.U. building, on Wed., March 25. In one of the deadliest fires in U.S. history, 146 garment workers perished, including 123 women, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants, ages 16 to 23. Last Wednesday, labor members, school kids, workers and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito were among those marking the tragic anniversary. They spoke about workers’ rights, the right to organize, income equality, safe workplaces, immigration and justice.


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April 2, 2015



April 2, 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.”

CALL TO SUBSCRIBE 646-452-2475

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. April 2, 2015



opEN houSE For gradES 7–12 ThurSdaY, april 9, 6:30–8:00 pm Call 212.535.2130 TO RSVP! Rudolf Steiner School, on the Upper East Side, is the first Waldorf School in North America. There are more than 1,200 Waldorf Schools worldwide. From Early Childhood through Grade 12, we merge the visual and performing arts with science, math, and humanities to inspire our students to be thinkers, creators, and innovators. Attend our spring Open House for grades 7-12 or tour our Lower School to find out why Waldorf education is the fastest growing independent school movement in the world.

15 East 78th Street, NYC 212.535.2130

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April 2, 2015

1/16/15 12:39 PM


55 W. 116th St. #176

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