‘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
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 ZONING, continued on p. 29
Illegal gas tapping eyed in deadly E.V. explosion BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
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 144 families were displaced.
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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-
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A raging fire consumed 121 and 123 Second Ave. on Thursday afternoon after the explosion. In the end, three buildings were destroyed.
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 second building north of the
intersection’s northwest corner had suffered a partial collapse. Calling from the scene, Anna Sawaryn told The Villager she had been walking DISASTER, continued on p. 4
Johnson caught in a ‘broken window’............page 3 Catastrophe cat survives on 2nd Ave.............page 8 Budget-by-ballot effort wants your vote!......page 12 Squatter thrills in ‘Kill City’..........page 21
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CORRECTIONS: An article in last week’s issue about Councilmember Corey Johnson, “Pushing for rent rollback, Johnson rolls into Year 2,” had a few errors. The article incorrectly stated that both the city and state would need to pay $50 million to the Hudson River Park Trust in order to “alienate” part of Gansevoort Peninsula to allow for a marine waste transfer station. In fact, the total payment to the Trust would be $50 million — with the city and state theoretically each paying $25 million, though whether the state will agree to do that, remains to be seen. Also, the community advisory group, a.k.a. “CAG,” for planning the park on Gansevoort includes nine, not six members, three each appointed by the mayor, borough president and Johnson. In addition, the article stated that the price Atlas Capital Group would pay for Pier 40’s unused development rights would be $100 per square foot. In fact, it would be around $400 per square foot. Also, Atlas hopes to buy 250,000 square feet of unused air rights from the pier, not 100,000, as stated in the article. Additionally, the article stated that Tom Duane, as a city councilmember, passed a bill to create HASA (the H.I.V./AIDS Service Administration) in the 1980s, but it was in the 1990s. Finally, after Johnson came out as gay to his Massachusetts football team, he was featured, not on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but of The New York Times. ... In addition, in Scoopy’s Notebook last week, “Bernie’s blast” misstated the amount of pot that people in New York City can be found by police to be carrying without being arrested. It’s 25 grams, not 25 ounces.
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The crows and coyotes come home Coyote & Crow — it wasn’t clear who was which, and it didn’t really matter — jammed in Washington Square Park over the weekend to help usher in spring. TheVillager.com
Johnson caught in a ‘broken window’ on C train BY ANDY HUMM
penly gay City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who represents the Village and Chelsea, was given a ticket on Wed., March 25, for walking between subway cars –– an infraction whether the train is moving or not. Johnson reportedly had been walking between multiple cars on an uptown C train between the W. 14th and 23rd St. stations in order to get nearer to the Chelsea station’s exit. The councilmember paid his $75 ticket and had nothing but praise for the police after the incident. But the story ended up in the tabloids when police sources leaked it, characterizing the encounter as an important person trying to get out of a ticket. The Daily News broke the story, putting three reporters on it, citing an unnamed “police source,” who said of Johnson, “He was making a big deal about it. He was saying this is what’s wrong with ‘broken windows.’ He identified himself. He pulled out his cell and started making calls.” The Associated Press wrote that Police Commissioner Bill Bratton “said Mr. Johnson...made a complaint
Police Commissioner Bratton said Corey Johnson, above, and police have “two different stories” of the incident.
about ‘what he thought was inappropriate behavior...on the part of several police officers’ ” and that there would be an investigation. DNAInfo.com reported that, during the arrest, Johnson “tried to call N.Y.P.D. Commissioner Bill Bratton or Chief of Department James O’Neill.” But the next day, speaking
at One Police Plaza, the commissioner stated, “It’s not something that I or Chief O’Neill would have interfered with. The officers stopped him for something that he readily admits did occur. There’s no issue around that.” Johnson sounds as if he wants to put the incident behind him. “The councilmember has the utmost respect for the men and women of the N.Y.P.D. and looks forward to a continued partnership with them,” Erik Bottcher, his chief of staff, wrote in a statement. Bratton also told DNAInfo.com, “There are two different stories. The councilmember’s and the versions presented by our six police officers.” According to the online news site, the commissioner said the issue would be settled by the Civilian Complaint Review Board. However, for his part, Johnson has never said he planned to take the matter to the C.C.R.B., and a source close to him told Gay City News — a sister paper of The Villager and East Villager — that Johnson has not and will not do so. Yet, the councilmember has declined to respond to specific questions about Bratton’s assertions and is not providing his version of the incident, leaving unanswered the
characterization by police sources that Johnson tried to pull rank. Meanwhile, Robert Gangi, director of the Police Reform Organizing Project at the Urban Justice Center, said it was deeply troubling that six officers were needed to ticket a commuter for a minor infraction. “So many police resources are focused on sanctioning people –– usually people of color –– who engage in innocuous activity that many people do not consider dangerous,” Gangi said. “Do we need police officers with badges and guns ticketing people? Why not M.T.A. personnel?” Gangi’s group was a major force behind curtailing the abuse of “stop and frisk” and is now focused on ending the “broken windows” policing that results in tickets and, in some cases, arrests for minor infractions. The policy’s impact falls disproportionately on youth of color, Gangi and advocates point out. Johnson has been a critic of “broken windows” policing and a champion of police reform. Bratton challenges the notion that subway car-hopping ticketing is driven by quotas, citing a recent death of someone falling onto the tracks when moving between cars as justification for strict enforcement.
Pr. 40 needs $104M fix: Report BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
ore than half of the steel support piles holding up Pier 40 are damaged, and 1,000 of them should be shored up A.S.A.P. It’s estimated that repairs to the crumbling 14-acre W. Houston St. pier will cost at least $104 million and take 10 years. These findings are in a new engineering report commissioned by the Hudson River Park Trust and completed in March, Crain’s New York Business reported. To fund the sprawling “sports pier” ’s rehab, the Trust plans to sell unused development rights from it to the St. John’s Center site located across the West Side Highway. Owner Atlas Capital Group wants to redevelop the site with a mixed-use project, including a hotel, probably to be built atop the existing structure. But the logistics of the air-rights transfer is taking time to figure out. City Councilmember Corey Johnson recently told The Villager, “We are still not close to certification of the ULURP,” referring to the city’s sevenmonth-long review process. “There’s got to be a scoping process — that’s pre-ULURP — to determine the project’s size and which type of environTheVillager.com
mental study will be done; and the Trust has to appraise the air rights.” Atlas previously had committed in a “secret M.O.U.” (memo of understanding) with the city to pay $100 million for the pier’s unused development rights. Madelyn Wils, the Trust’s president, told Crain’s, “The timing has been slower than we would like. It was anticipated that the [Atlas] project would have already been out in the public by this time.” In November, DNAinfo reported that it had obtained through a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request handwritten notes from a meeting between Atlas and Borough President Gale Brewer. The notes showed the project’s first phase as containing 450,000 square feet of condos and 100,000 square feet of retail, plus senior affordable housing. The Villager subsequently also obtained those handwritten notes, which additionally state, “430 feet is tallest building,” and “No affordable housing on river side.” The notes indicate that Pier 40, in fact, has 250,000 square feet of unused air rights. Atlas wants all of them for $100 million, which would equal $400 per square foot. However, this price has been criticized as low.
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April 2, 2015
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 Overall Design Excellence, First Place, 2013 Best Column, First Place, 2012 Photographic Excellence, First Place, 2011 Headlines, First Place, 2011 Spot News Coverage, First Place, 2010 Coverage of Environment, First Place, 2009
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April 2, 2015
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-
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
DISASTER, continued from p. 1
Firefighters continued to battle the blaze on Thursday. After the disaster, three building lots are now empty.
lage Fire Relief” (http://www.gofundme.com/q77ktg) 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 TheVillager.com
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.
PHOTOS BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
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 â€œselfiesâ€? 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.
PHOTOS BY J.B. NICHOLAS
April 2, 2015
How one cat survived the Second Ave. catastrophe BY YVONNE COLLERY
April 2, 2015
PHOTO BY BOB KRASNER
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. TheVillager.com
A day of thunder, smoke, flames...and death As the fire burned on Second Ave. on Thursday, local politicians were on the scene, including, from left at photo below left, Public Advocate Letitia James, Councilmember Rosie Mendez, state Senator Brad Hoylman and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Below right, a woman watched the eerie spectacle from her tenement window.
PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY
April 2, 2015
The Villager ranks among state’s top newspapers AWARDS, continued from p. 1
April 2, 2015
PHOTO BY MILO HESS
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. TheVillager.com
inner. w n w o d hands-
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.’
EDITORIAL CARTOON FIRST PLACE
BEST SPECIAL SECTION COVER SECOND PLACE
OVERALL DESIGN EXCELLENCE THIRD PLACE
BEST COLUMN THIRD PLACE
ART PHOTO THIRD PLACE
PICTURE STORY FIRST PLACE
MILO HESS, Q. SAKAMAKI AND JONATHAN ALPEYRIE
PHOTOGRAPHIC EXCELLENCE THIRD PLACE
COVERAGE OF RELIGION THIRD PLACE
HEATHER DUBIN AND TEQUILA MINSKY
COVERAGE OF CRIME, POLICE AND COURTS SECOND PLACE
LINCOLN ANDERSON, BETSY KIM AND GERARD FLYNN
EDITORIAL PAGES THIRD PLACE
LINCOLN ANDERSON, ALBERT AMATEAU AND SCOTT STIFFLER
April 2, 2015
Local projects want your vote! $1M up for grabs BY ZACH WILLIAMS
April 2, 2015
PHOTO BY ZACH WILLIAMS
ith voting time fast approaching, residents of the Village, Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen gathered at a March 24 “expo” to both learn about and weigh in on beautification, repair and upgrade projects set to appear on the “participatory budgeting” ballot. From April 11-19, constituents will be able to vote on a total of 17 projects, with the top vote-getters receiving a cut of the $1 million allocated by Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office for the West Side’s District 3. There was no clear frontrunner among the proposals presented at the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, at 40 W. 20th St., which attracted about 100 potential voters. This is the first time District 3 has taken part in participatory budgeting since it was established in 2011, as an option on how to spend discretionary funding distributed from the city’s capital budget. Currently, 24 districts are taking part. Johnson told the expo crowd that he hopes several thousand people will vote. Anyone who lives Council District 3 and is at least 14 years old is eligible to participate. “I don’t have all the answers and I shouldn’t be the only person in charge of determining what is important and what needs to be funded,” Johnson said of the participatory concept. “This is democratizing the budget process.” There was no shortage of ideas in response. Parks, schools, streets, libraries, bus stops, composting and even public bathrooms were among the top topics. Aidan Collins, 10, advocated for a plan for $100,000 to renovate bathrooms at P.S. 3, plus $35,000 to bring computers to the school, at 490 Hudson St. Boys’ bathrooms at the school lack mirrors, he added. Across the room, Liam Buckley, 14, made the case for restroom renovations and a new public-address system at the Lab School, at 333 W. 17th St. “The bathrooms are definitely dirty and outdated,” he said. “The floors are slanted. There’s urinals missing and there are no locks on the door. We hope this is the last time that we have to address this for years to come.” The lowest proposal on the ballot is for $35,000 and the highest $560,000. Some projects could receive funding even if they don’t win in the voting. What matters is that ideas with strong community support receive attention, Johnson said. He added that no final decisions have been made on how his office will spend an additional $4 million in discretionary funding that he controls. Local transportation safety advoca-
Aidan Collins, 10, stepped into the role of point person for the proposal to renovate the P.S. 3 library — item No. 6 on the participatory budgeting ballot.
cy group Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety (CHEKPEDS) hopes some of the funding will be used to install a prototype of a raised pedestrian crossing at W. 45th St. and Ninth Ave. The crossing would increase visibility for pedestrians and slow down traffic, plus maintain water drainage. Estimates from the city put the project’s cost at $250,000. Another transportation-minded proposal is for $200,000 to install countdown clocks for the M11 and M12 buses. Patrick Shields, a South Village resident, wants a new artificial-turf soccer field in Fulton Houses on W. 17th St. However, he expressed concern about how the proposal’s cost was determined to be $500,000, a high price that he said could work against the project getting done. “Whether it was purposely overbudgeted, I don’t know,” he said. “I hope not. But I’m going to assume not and lobby like crazy.” Supporters of professional soccer will come out to campaign for support, he added. The site is the only spot available in District 3 able to accommodate such a youth sports field, according to Shields. “It’s off the street,” he said. “It’s in between buildings. It’s sandwiched where they aren’t going to be running into the street chasing balls.” Voters can support up to five projects. This could help second and third choices emerge victorious if voters are more split about their top choice. Marking just one or two choices on the ballot might help boost their chances, suggested Bill Borock, president of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations. Borock indicated his support for a proposal to fund demolition and an environmental impact study for a new park on W. 20th St. That effort has been ongoing for five years, said Pamela Wolff, a member of Chelsea’s West 200 Block Association. “There’s some real stick-to-it-ive-
ness among the people who very much have their hearts in it,” she said. Another idea for local public spaces is revitalizing Chelsea Waterside Park. Not only would the installation of an interactive garden benefit local children, but the space also serves as an important physical link between the High Line and Hudson River Park, said Zazel Loven who is on the board for Chelsea Waterside Park. With tens of thousands of potential voters, delegates said they would focus on mobilizing their own supporters through community groups, canvassing and phone-banking rather than knocking competing projects. A workshop held the week before by Friends of the High Line helped project proponents gear up for the campaign, said Erycka Montoya, community engagement coordinator. Undecided voters — including Johnson — said at the event that they will have to think more about the relative merits of each proposal before casting their ballots. Voting will take place April 11-19, with different poll sites on different days. Text “VOTE” to 212-676-8384 for your closest poll site. Poll sites include: Councilmember Johnson’s District Office, 224 W. 30th St., Suite 1206, April 13-17, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tony Dapolito Recreation Center, 1 Clarkson St. April 11, 12, 18 and 19, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; The Fulton Houses Tenants Association Office, 419A W. 17th St., April 11, 12, 18 and 19, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Hartley House, 413 W.46th St., April 11, 12, 18 and 19, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Hudson Guild (Dan Carpenter Room, second floor), 441 W. 26th St., April 12 and 19, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; The LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th St., April 18 and 19, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Pop-up voting sites will also appear throughout the district. Text “PBNYC” to 212-676-8384 for more info. The 16 proposals on the ballot include: • A cooling system for Muhlenberg
Library ($500,000). The library serves as an official city cooling center. • Renovations for Jefferson Market Library ($500,000). Funding would go toward renovating the lobby bathroom to make it ADA-compliant. • O. Henry Learning Campus renovations ($290,000). Hudson Guild, Lab High School, Lab Middle School and Museum School would benefit from new gym bleachers, gym scoreboard and locker room bathroom renovations. • Bathroom Renovations at Lab School ($560,000). Two student bathrooms on each floor and bathrooms adjacent to the cafeteria would be renovated. • P.S. 3 bathroom renovations ($100,000). • P.S. 3 library renovations ($35,000). Library would be modernized to keep up with last decade’s technological advances. • Public-address system upgrade at the Lab School ($500,000). Would also serve two other schools in the building. • A new park at W. 20th St. ($200,000). Funds would pay for demolition of a former Department of Sanitation building and environmental study. • Revitalization of Chelsea Waterside Park ($85,000). An interactive garden for local kids would be created, focusing on ethnobotany and native plants. • Downing St. Playground upgrades ($200,000). New kids’ play equipment, plus a safer, more child-friendly drinking fountain to replace decrepit on there now. • Community composting center ($35,000). A year-round solar-powered, forced-air composting system for residents of Hell’s Kitchen that would have at least two compost drop-off days per week. • New soccer turf playing field at Fulton Houses ($500,000). Would include ball-strike safety fence or netting for neighboring window safety, marked field and durable, permanent mini-goals. • Resurfacing toddler sprinklers at Fulton Houses ($345,000). • Upgrading Fulton Houses basketball court ($425,000). Current court pavement requires leveling and drainage correction. Would include landscaping and new court markings. • Raised crosswalks at W. 45th St. and Ninth Ave. ($250,000). Installation of a “speed table” at the notoriously dangerous crosswalk. • Bus time clocks for the M11 and M12 ($200,000). Clocks would provide waiting passengers with bus-arrival times. • Repair/replacement of badly beatup pavement on W. 26th St. between Ninth and Tenth Aves. ($50,000). TheVillager.com
Planned Service Changes
L Mar 23 – 27, Mar 30 – Apr 3, Apr 6 – 10 Mon to Fri 11:30 PM to 5 AM No L service between 8 Av and Lorimer St A F J , M14 and free shuttle buses provide alternate service L service operates between Rockaway Pkwy and Lorimer St only Travel Alternatives:
• M14 buses provide alternate service between 8 Av and 1 Av. • Free shuttle buses operate between Lorimer St and the Marcy Av J station, stopping at Bedford Av. • Transfer between free shuttle buses and J at Marcy Av. • Consider using the A or J to/from Manhattan, via transfer at Broadway Junction.
Call 511 and say “Current Service Status,” look for informational posters in stations, or visit mta.info where you can access the latest Planned Service Changes information, use TripPlanner+, and sign up for free email and text alerts.
TheVillager.com © 2015 Metropolitan Transportation Authority
April 2, 2015
MEDICAL RESEARCH GUIDE
POLICE BLOTTER police said, and was charged with felony grand larceny.
NYU School of Medicine Police say Melvin Jones, 49, is the suspect in a Sixth Ave. A.T.M. mugging.
Have you experienced a traumatic event? Are you depressed and anxious? Are you experiencing flashbacks? Irritability? 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. For more information, please call 646-754-4831.
Advertise your Clinical Studies Advertise your largest Clinical Studies in New York’s group of in New York’s largest group of community newspapers.
community newspapers. - Weekly bannered directory
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ASK ABOUT OPPORTUNITIES FOR ADVERTORIAL PLACEMENT ASK HOW YOU CAN GET EDITORIAL TO EXPLAIN YOUR STUDY COVERAGE OF YOUR STUDY
Call Amanda Tarley Call Brian Rice 718-260-8340 718-260-4537
April 2, 2015
‘I’ll cut you’
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 withdraw 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, www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting them to 274637(CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.
Big Buddha heist 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. 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,
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.
Police said Shaun Tanner, 13, of 465 E. 10th St., Apartment 5H, is reported 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 BLOTTER, continued on p. 15 TheVillager.com
BLOTTER, continued from p. 14
Stoppers Hotline, at 800-577-TIPS. Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting them to 274637(CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.
Lois Rakoff, Community Director of the Poe Room, and the NYU Office of Government and Community Affairs, announce:
felony criminal mischief. Threatens
Open Call Tryouts
for the Spring 2015 Poe Room Event
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.
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. Brian Porch, 40, was charged with
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.
The Poe Room event is seeking creative submissions to showcase the life and work of Edgar Allan Poe.
Zach Williams, Dusica Sue Malesevic and Lincoln Anderson
Creative individuals of all ages are encouraged to audition. Illuminate Poe’s life and legacy through mediums such as dance, drama, music, painting, readings, performances, or other forms of expression.
PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
‘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. TheVillager.com
Submissions will be accepted on a rolling basis until Friday, April 10. Contact Nichole Huff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212.998.2325. And save the date for the Spring 2015 Poe Room Event on Friday, April 24, 6:00 pm at the NYU School of Law. RSVP today: visit www.nyu.edu/nyu-in-nyc or call 212-998-2400. Community members and NYU come together and partner on the Poe Room event each fall and spring.
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
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. TheVillager.com
Triangle tragedy is not forgotten
PHOTOS BY MILO HESS
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.
The Church of the Ascension
Fifth Avenue at Tenth Street • www.ascensionnyc.org • 212-254-8620
Please join us for Services in Holy Week.
April 2 Maundy Thursday 7 p.m. – The Maundy Thursday Liturgy (with Full Choir), With Washing of Feet, Stripping of the Altar, Setting of the Altar of Repose, and Watch with the Blessed Sacrament April 3 Good Friday 12 noon – The Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ (with Choir) With Veneration of the Cross, and Communion from the Reserve Sacrament
April 4 Holy Saturday The Vigil of Easter (with Full Choir) 8 p.m. – The Great Vigil of Easter with the Lighting of New Fire, The Paschal Candle, Baptism and Renewal of Baptismal Vows. This is the culmination of Holy Week, including the Celebration of the First Eucharist of the Resurrection.
April 5 Easter Day: The Day of Resurrection 9 a.m. – The Second Eucharist of Easter 11 a.m. – Festal Eucharist (with Full Choir), Easter Egg Hunt for children following the service 7 p.m. – Meditation and Sacraments
Parish Office at 12 W. 11 St. • Office Hours: Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
ALL ARE WELCOME!
April 2, 2015
PHOTOS BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
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 Why does it take a tragedy? To The Editor: Re “Why injured woman wasn’t treated at HealthPlex” (news article, March 26): I walk by this monstrosity of a development project almost every day. This could have been me, or me and my dog, or someone I knew and loved. Why does doing the right thing — like safety — always take a tragedy to bring attention to the
obvious? Sharon Mear
Drive to revive the M5 To The Editor: Re “M.T.A. walks the walk to tour bus-deprived nabe” (news article, March 26): To Terri Cude and Shirley Secunda and those who participated in the Tour to Restore, thank
you for all of your hours of dedication and hard work for such a long time and for not giving in or giving up. Thanks also to Sylvia Rackow for keeping us posted and for her inspiring ability to stick with it when most of us want to just scream, “Enough!” The M5 is the key to public transportation for our neighborhood: It can take us directly where we need to go and to connecting public transportation, and it can unshackle some of us from the chains of Access-A-Ride. As voting taxpayers, we need to be heard and we all need to contact the M.T.A. and have input. Terri has the information and the passion, but we cannot sit back and let her and Shirley and Sylvia and our elected officials do it all. I am writing on behalf of all our vulnerable populations and all of my neighbors and friends. Judith Chazen Walsh
Three cheers for M3 To The Editor: Re “M.T.A. walks the walk to tour bus-deprived nabe” (news article, March 26): It would be wonderful to have the M3 bus
Could you believe the M.T.A. got a raise? 18
April 2, 2015
LETTERS, continued on p. 20 TheVillager.com
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 TheVillager.com
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
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR LETTERS, continued from p. 18
restored. It is so hard for so many of us to get uptown. This bus helped us avoid the subway, which is several blocks away. The prices are up. There is no excuse not to act on the community’s request for the restoration of the M3. Tom Connor
Don’t forget rent control! To The Editor: Re “Pushing for rent rollback, Johnson rolls into Year 2” (news article, March 26): It is wonderful to see our elected officials follow through on their campaign promises and truly devote their efforts to working with and for the communities they serve. I applaud Councilmember Corey Johnson for his committed actions toward reforming the Rent Guidelines Board and to all the local politicians who have joined him on this issue. Bravo! However, as a longtime Villager, and speaking for a large population of renters living on the east side of Washington Square, I am tired of hearing snide remarks about how lucky I am to have a $500 rent-controlled apartment. That assumption is made out of thin air! Those of us who have been tenants since prior to 1969 are rent-controlled.
In the city in the early ’60s it was almost impossible to find an apartment. Co-ops were very rare and condos unheard of in those years. If you were lucky enough to find an available apartment at all, it was rent-controlled. Rent stabilization replaced rent control in 1969, as an improvement to rent regulation. So, we existing tenants were grandfathered into the old rent-control laws. We get an increase every single year (and in my building, until recently, we also paid hefty fuel charges). After escalating increases for 45 years, how can anybody think we are paying such low rent? This year’s increase is more than $200 monthly. So, to correct the misunderstandings, our rents are often greater than those of rent-stabilized tenants, and more comparable to the “median market rates” cited in the press. I know no rent-controlled tenant in my neighborhood who pays as little as $500. But it is not a usual topic of conversation for neighbors. Of course, there are some deserving seniors who have qualified for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE), but even so, they certainly pay close to double that figure. The Village’s rent-controlled population, meager as their number is in comparison to the number of rent-stabilized tenants, seems to be forgotten in these campaigns to relieve excessive rent increases that benefit the real estate lobby. In my case, our rental building’s owner is a tax-exempt educational institution.
In these terrible economic times, we need advocates to include rent-controlled tenants in any rent-regulation issues, especially our long-term senior residents who have helped to build our beloved Village communities. Please don’t pass us by in this campaign for fairness! Mary Johnson
Wanna bank on it? To The Editor: Re “Vacant former bookstore speaks volumes on retail” (talking point, by George Jochnowitz, March 26): It is supposed to be a TD Bank. I am not sure why it is taking so long. I don’t think the plans have changed. Cathryn Swan E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to email@example.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 Metrotech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published.
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April 2, 2015
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 powerHouseBooks.com
BY NORMAN BORDEN PHOTO BY ASH THAYER
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. 25 April 2, 2015
The Adventures of an Underemployed Urban Elf
Enjoy the earth while it lasts BY REV. JEN (rev-jen.com)
LOOK AT PEOPLE!
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
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
PHOTO BY CLAIRE ENSSLIN
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. 23 TheVillager.com
Our Urban Elf, on how to make spring rock REV. JEN, continued from p. 22
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.
MAKE EASTER ROCK!
PHOTO BY GEORGE COURTNEY
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.
PHOTO BY JOE HEAPS NELSON
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…)
GO TO DOUBLE DOWN SALOON (14 Ave. A)
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
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
HARD SPARKS: “R & J & Z”
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.”
COURTESY OF LES SHAKESPEARE COMPANY
LES SHAKESPEARE CO.’S “TWELFTH NIGHT”
PHOTO BY KAREN GALELLA
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 hardsparks.com.
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 lesshakespeareco.org.
REBEL THEATER COMPANY PRESENTS “R+J: AN UNCIVIL TALE”
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 rebeltheater.com. TheVillager.com
‘Kill City’ a heartfelt, intimate look at L.E.S. squatters KILL CITY, continued from p. 21
“Ryan on Couch (Toy), Fifth Street Squat, 1995.”
PHOTOS BY ASH THAYER
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 NYPhotoReview.com, he is a member of Soho Photo Gallery and ASMP, and currently has work on display in Denver’s “Month of Photography” exhibition. Visit normanbordenphoto.com. April 2, 2015
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‘Nope!’ is the word at scope meeting for zoning ZONING, continued from p. 1
PHOTO BY ZACH WILLIAMS
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. April 2, 2015
April 2, 2015
Batter up! N.Y.U. fields a baseball team again SPORTS BY ROBERT ELKIN
Shortstop Jonathan Iaione channeled his inner Jeter as he threw while off his feet against University of Rochester on March 10.
PHOTO BY N.Y.U. ATHLETICS
aseball returns to New York University! The last time that the N.Y.U. Violets fielded an intercollegiate baseball program was back in 1974. After that season was over, the college dropped the sport. Last fall, the Village university fielded a club team in preparation for what was to come, as the athletic department worked to build back the sport. The N.Y.U. team is in NCAA Division III and part of the United Athletic Association. The athletic department wants the new baseball squad to achieve the level of play that the university’s teams used to have back in the 1970s. Under head coach Doug Kimbler and assistant coaches Aaron Walsh, Jeff Kamrath and Ray Kim, the fledgling program went out last year and started the recruiting process of high school athletes, and prepared to put together a team to compete in the U.A.A. The coaches and athletic directors decided to try to practice and play their home games at MCU Stadium in Coney Island, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor league team for the Mets. The ballpark by the beach is about a one-hour subway ride from the Village. Like most colleges in Manhattan, N.Y.U. lacks a home field for games and practices. MCU Stadium sports inside facilities for practices when the main field is unavailable because of weather conditions. According to the coaches, the league’s teams are balanced in all aspects of the game — offense, defense, speed and pitching. “We have a young group competing in the U.A.A.,” said Walsh, the pitching coach. “We carry a 30-man roster.” The student athletes are trying to show that they can hang with the conference’s established teams. And the U.A.A. offers tough competition. N.Y.U.’s record after its first 14 games was five wins and nine losses. At one point in their schedule, they played eight games in eight days, all of them against strong teams. “It’s exciting to have a baseball team right here in Manhattan,” head coach Kimbler said. “New York City is a baseball town with the Yankees and Mets. In the good old days, we had three teams,” he said, referring to the pre-Mets era, when the Giants and Dodgers still
Michael Vokulich was the starting pitcher against Rochester. N.Y.U. went on to win in a slugfest, 14-13.
played in Gotham. “We like this baseball facility,” he said of MCU Stadium. “We couldn’t ask for anything better. When it stops raining, we can go outside because the fall field here is all artificial turf.” The ace of the pitching staff is Chase Denison. Other key hurlers include Cameron Serapilio-Frank and Michael Vokulich, both freshmen. “The pitchers are getting better every day,” Walsh said. “They work hard all the time.”
Adrian Spitz, left, and C.J. Picerni celebrated after scoring a run.
So are the infielders, outfielders and batters. “We started recruiting 18 months ago,” Kimbler added. “I’m glad that we play. It’s a perfect place. We also play some of our nonleague games here. “The idea for us is to try to play as clean as possible — throw strikes, catch balls and get timely hits. Right now we do a good job of hitting.” The offense is led by Christian Bloom, a freshman who plays third base, and C.J. Picerni, a sophomore catcher. Bloom recently received
U.U.A. Player of Week honors. “The field here is beautiful and you can’t get anything better than this,” said Picemi, who at this writing is hitting very well, batting .319. “It’s a team thing where we are starting to put all of our strengths and weaknesses into a really clean game,” Kimbler said. “We are starting slowly to figure it out. We are working it through with these young men to get them to be better players, and to come into their own and turn themselves into a pretty good team.” April 2, 2015
IMAGINATION. INSPIRATION. INNOVATION. ThE FouNdaTioNS oF ThE STEiNEr CommuNiTY
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 Steiner.edu
April 2, 2015
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