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

April 30, 2015 • FREE Volume 5 • Number 5

Outspoken critic of Li’s leadership of C.B. 3 is booted from E.V. board BY LESLEY SUSSMAN


n harshly worded language, recently ousted Community Board 3 board member Ayo Harrington lashed out Tuesday night against Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, charging that Brewer’s refusal to reappoint her

as a member of the board was “shameful and disappointing.” Harrington’s comments were made before the full board at its meeting at P.S. 20 on Essex St. just a few days after Harrington — a fierce critic of C.B. 3 Chairperson Gigi Li — was informed by C.B. 3, continued on p. 23



he legendary Judith Malina, co-founder of the Living Theatre, died April 10 at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey. She was 88. Diminutive in stature, immense in her influence,

a passionately committed pacifist and anarchist who respected no rules, but cherished everything and everyone human, Malina spent a lifetime smashing convention and breaking new ground on the world’s stage and in her personal — but never private — life. The theater company she MALINA, continued on p. 15


Living Theatre’s renowned Judith Malina is dead at 88 Police investigated at the scene of Saturday’s fatal police-involved shooting on E. Sixth St. See page 12.

The view from my window BY YVONNE COLLERY


hen I look out my window, I see what isn’t there. I see an absence of life, a sobering, empty brown dirt plot that screams with recent memories of lives changed and others that were stamped out in an instant. I heard the sound of the explosion when it happened. It was like the soundtrack from a Hieronymus Bosch painting. I heard screams that came after a bang that

you can’t describe. They came bubbling up from the depths of hell amid the sound of thick plate glass shattering at a decibel level that was impossible to comprehend. I also see the streetscape that was ripped from us seemingly in an instant, or as if time seemed to have stood still like an eternity, take your pick. These moments seemed to loop around; an infinity squeezed inside of a mere instant. I see the people that I al-

ways saw standing in front of the buildings who are not there anymore. There’s the lovely smiling face of Moises Locon, who always exchanged a pleasant word with me, “When will it stop snowing?” “Will winter ever end?” When I see the view out my window, which was the last place Moises Locon ever saw, I think of him and all the others. When I look out my winWINDOW, continued on p. 10

EASTVILLAGERNEWS.COM ‘The Visit’ will stay with 21 | May 14, 2014


CASTLE OF AAAAUUUGGGHHHH! IN THE HOUSE: Monty Python members, at right, from

POETRY OF PIER 40: You didn’t think David Gruber, former chairperson of Community Board 2, would just “go gentle into that good night” (to quote Dylan Thomas, and why not?) after recently wrapping up his final term leading the Village board, did you? O.K., so he’s not exactly “rage, rage, raging against the dying of the light,” but he will be chair, chair, chairing a new Pier 40 Working Group that will be involved in trying to get a handle on the mega-project that will soon, no doubt, be taking shape at the St. John’s Center across from the W. Houston St. pier. Joining him on the working group will be a really ragin’ crew, including Rich Caccappolo and Dan Miller, two former presidents of the Greenwich Village Little League, along with Ritu Chattree and Robert Woodworth. Also joining the group “ex officio,” as Gruber put it, will be Tobi Bergman, another former G.V.L.L. president, bringing the total of ex-leaders of the baseball league to three. Some might wonder if that’s a bit of stacked lineup. But, let’s face it — other than local car parkers — no one cares about the massive pier more passionately than the local youth sports leagues. ROLLING WITH THE PUNCHES: Speaking

of past community board chairpersons, David McWater, who formerly headed C.B. 3 for a good stint, from 2004 to 2008, e-mailed us last week. “I’m managing boxers (5) and am applying for licenses


STILL MISSING: We were hearing some rumors from readers that people think Michael Thomas of 61 Jane St. might possibly not really be missing. As reported in our Police Blotter last week, according to police, Thomas, 46, had been officially missing as of Mon., April 20, and had last been seen at the Pennsylvania Hotel that day at 4 p.m. After seeing the Blotter item, at least a couple of Villager readers subsequently poked around 61 Jane St., inquiring of staff there what was up, and there apparently was some speculation and skepticism about Thomas’s whereabouts. So we asked a police spokesperson at the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information about it this week, and he promptly checked it out. “The case is still open and being investigated at this time,” the sergeant reported. GIVE PEACE MARCH A CHANCE: Part of the “East Village Diaspora” that Aron Kay, the Yippie Pie Man, spoke about at the recent East Village fire


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April 30, 2015



331 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10003 Phone: 212-473-7833 / Fax: 212-673-5248

benefit, John Penley called us from Carolina this week to tell us about the upcoming Vietnam Peace Commemoration in D.C. on Fri., May 1, and Sat., May 2. The group will sit in the New York Presbyterian Church for a conference, then — to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Vietnam peace march — will ambulate at 5 p.m. on May 2 to the Martin Luther King Memorial. Speakers at the memorial will include Julian Bond, Holly Near and Tom Hayden, among others, while speakers at the conference will also feature Phil Donahue, Leslie Cagan, Congressmember John Conyers, Dan Ellsberg, Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez, Peter Yarrow and more.





to represent athletes in other sports,” he said. “It has all gone very well, I travel all the time and am having a grand time. I’m a partner with Bob Perl in the former DBA space.” He said he doesn’t miss all the community board politics a bit.

* **



left, Michael Palin, John Cleese and Eric Idle, mugged for the cameras at the Beacon Theater last week during the Tribeca Film Festival. They’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

Corne r of Jane & West 4th St. (at 8th Ave.) 212-2 42-95 02

Trustees offer Bharucha, hoping to stop A.G. probe BY ZACH WILLIAMS


state investigation into the finances of The Cooper Union may cost college President Jamshed Bharucha his job. The school’s board of trustees voted three weeks ago in favor of declining to renew Bharucha’s contract once it expires next year, conditional on Attorney General Eric Schneidermen ending his probe into the East Village institution, the Wall Street Journal reported on April 9. Whether such a deal will be reached remains to be seen. But board members told the W.S.J. that the offer could smooth negotiations, as well as possibly assist in resolving the ongoing lawsuit challenging the school’s implementation of tuition last fall. A Cooper Union spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. Bharucha has been a top target of student, alumni, faculty and community advocates for a tuition-free Cooper Union ever since he began pushing for tuition after becoming president in 2011. But some fear his ouster could merely create another power struggle

Jamshed Bharucha.

at the college between “Free Cooper Union” supporters and board members who believe tuition is needed for the school’s fiscal stability. Nonetheless, many welcomed the news that Bharucha might leave in the near future. “I’m pleased that Cooper Union’s board of trustees has taken a positive step by offering to seek new leadership,” state Senator Brad Hoylman said in an April 13 statement. “Now the trustees should select a president

whose goal is to return the college to fiscal solvency and Peter Cooper’s original intention of providing a higher education ‘open and free to all.’ ” Alumni, meanwhile, took to social media — including the Save Cooper Union Facebook page — to discuss the latest development. More leadership changes should be made, but Schneidermen needs to consider how his involvement in the tuition battle will affect the school moving forward, Brian Rose posted on the Facebook page. “The only way for this to play out in a positive way is if the attorney general steps in, replaces the board, and someone is appointed president who is not just a careerist, but someone of prominence who would be willing to take the job on as a public service,” Rose wrote. “We need to support the AG in what he’s doing, but at the same time make it clear that the responsibility for fixing this mess starts with him.” In his fifth year at the school, Bharucha has continued to pursue its reinvention, which includes expansion of academic programs and the school’s brand as additional means to reaching a balanced budget by 2019. He struck an optimistic tone in a March report on the school’s current situation. His opponents charged in a rebuttal that the new academic majors were hastily organized and actually dilute academic quality. The board’s vote came just days af-

ter the school administration backed away from a planned increase of fees for students taking more than 19.5 units per semester. Bill Mea, Cooper’s vice president for finance and administration, said in an April 1 statement that the time was not right for making such a move. Some critics of the school’s administration accused board members of leaking the decision on Bharucha’s contract to the press because they opposed the move. An offer by Bharucha to resign before the end of his term could result in a hefty buyout, some said. Initial reports of the vote were made to the media anonymously by board members, but Daniel Libeskind soon went on the record. Critics said that Libeskind was applying a double standard when it comes to speaking to the press, since several months ago he criticized alumni representative Kevin Slavin for speaking publicly about board deliberations. While his own future remains uncertain, Bharucha defended his record as college president in an interview with The New York Times. The implementation of tuition has been a vital step in saving the school from fiscal catastrophe, he said in the April 10 article. “I have no regrets about taking the job or about the leadership that I have exercised,” he said.

EAST SIDE COASTAL RESILIENCY PROJECT JOIN US FOR Design Workshops on Flood Protection Following HUD’s Rebuild by Design competition, New York City is working to reduce risks from extreme weather and climate change, as well as improve quality of life. You are invited to participate in a series of three workshops focused on ideas for the East River waterfront.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 Thursday, May 28, 2015

40 Irving Place

7:00-9:00 P.M. Henrietta Szold School 293 East Broadway

6:30-8:30 P.M. Church of St. Brigid 119 Avenue B

Focused on the waterfront between E. 14th & E. 23rd Streets

Focused on the waterfront between Houston & Montgomery Streets

Focused on the waterfront between Houston & E. 14th Streets

6:30-8:30 P.M.

Washington Irving School

Spanish, Mandarin, and Cantonese interpreters will be provided; a Fujianese interpreter will also be present on May 20th. For special needs assistance, please call (917) 339-0488 by Wednesday, May 13, 2015. Light refreshments will be served.

Were you there? Providers in the New York City area, and across the country, monitor and treat conditions related to the September 11th terrorist attacks — like asthma, heartburn, certain cancers, depression, and PTSD. These providers treat responders and volunteers who participated in rescue, recovery, or clean-up on or after 9/11, as well as those in the WTC dust cloud or who lived, worked, or went to school or daycare in lower Manhattan south of Houston or into parts of Brooklyn.

Learn More. Call 1-888-982-4748 or visit World Trade Center | Pentagon | Shanksville, PA Image is a model portraying an actual member of the World Trade Center Health Program.

April 30, 2015


Benefit concert for 2nd Ave. fire victims Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN












Member of the New York Press Association

Member of the National Newspaper Association


rom the start, it was clear that the benefit show for the Second Ave. gas explosion was more than just an outpouring of love and dollars for the victims of the horrific disaster: It was also a defiant fist in the air in support of the spirit of the bohemian East Village — a community at risk of being trampled beneath a juggernaut of rising rents and gentrification. As the writer Alan Kaufman, the event’s organizer, put it, while Patti Smith was the night’s headliner, “the real headliner of this show is the East Village itself.” A rally planned before the show, at Theatre 80 St. Mark’s, didn’t quite come off due to low turnout. “It was more of a discussion group,” conceded Aron Kay a.k.a. the Yippie Pie Man, who was hanging out in the theater’s lobby as showtime neared. Saving small businesses had been one of the topics. The place’s 200 seats were packed, with those up front going for $150 and in the back $20. For members of the media lucky enough to get in, it was standing room only. Lorcan Otway, the theater’s proprietor, in his opening remarks, also spoke to the suffering of local small businesses, whether it be from the explosion just two blocks away or, in his own case, skyrocketing property taxes. “A 67 percent tax raise under Mr. Bloomberg — small businesses can’t afford that,” he declared. As for the residential tenants displaced by the disaster, “they have to be allowed back in,” he said to the audience’s applause. Three buildings were totaled in the disaster, in which two men lost their lives, while scores of local families living in neighboring buildings were displaced. Kaufman said he was inspired to put together the benefit after reading an article about a shopkeeper who had lost everything, whose friend was lying in




Patti Smith’s performance was empowering.

Dev Hynes sang solo with an electronic keyboard.

the hospital recovering from injuries suffered in the March 26 explosion. “Each day, I found myself walking past the rubble,” Kaufman said. “I asked myself what we can do — and you’re the response,” he told the audience. Within a 10-day span leading up to the show, Sting gave $36,000 toward the cause, while others who contributed included Yoko Ono, Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam and Gertrude Stein of the Boris Lurie


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The Publisher shall not be liable for slight changes or typographical errors that do not lessen the value of an advertisement. The publisher’s liability for others errors or omissions in connection with an advertisement is strictly limited to publication of the advertisement in any subsequent issue. Published by NYC Community Media, LLC One Metrotech North 10th floor Brooklyn, NY 11201 Phone: (718) 260-2500 • Fax: (212) 229-2790 On-line: E-mail: © 2012 NYC Community Media, LLC


April 30, 2015

Like his gravity-defying pompadour, Kayvon Zand’s turn onstage was no letdown.

Foundation. Meanwhile, the benefit evening netted $11,000, bringing the total to more than $50,000. All the cash is going to Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), the local tenant-advocacy group that has been assisting the explosion’s victims. “We asked around about who to give the money to and everyone said GOLES,” Kaufman said. “After Hurricane Sandy, it was GOLES. They’re boots on the ground.” Michael Callahan of GOLES, co-chairperson of LES Ready!, said, “This is not about the rubble — it’s about going forward.” LES Ready! is the area’s long-term recovery group, formed to address the Sandy crisis and future disasters. “We have drafted a disaster plan for the Lower East Side that’s in phase two. This has taken us to phase three,” he said of March 26. Starting the show on a spiritual note, Kaufman noted that his great uncle, Abraham Cahan, was the founder of the Jewish Daily Forward. Through him, Kaufman met the legendary writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, who told him: “ ‘In Jewish tradition, if a funeral procession meets a wedding procession, the wedding procession takes precedence.’ ... This,” Kaufman said of the show, “is the wedding procession.” This wedding procession, though, was headed by a risquée cowboy, namely, Randy Jones, the Village People’s original Cowboy and an East Village resident. A dynamic and powerful singer, Mollie King, another East Villager, was the evening’s opening act. A theme of the changing neighborhood resonated in her lyrics. “This town is no longer familiar,” she belted out in her first song’s refrain. “Still love yah so!” Next up were Patti Smith and guitarist Lenny Kaye. The audience sat riveted as the pair took the stage and a crew member plugged their acoustic guitars into the amps. “As I was getting dressed today, I touched everything I put on,” Smith said, “my T-shirt, my socks. ... I imagined what it would be like to go off to work or to shop and everything was gone — photos of my daughter…perhaps even my beloved cat.” Her first song was “Grateful,” she said, because “we’re grateful to support them.” As they launched into the song, a burst of camera flashes exploded from the audience. Next it was Kaye who shared words. “I live about a block from here,” he said. “If you go up on my fire escape and you look, you see a big hole in the ground.” But there’s also “a big hole in the neighborhood,” he said. “As a resident of the East Village for FIRE BENEFIT, continued on p. 5

also benefitted community; More shows planned FIRE BENEFIT, continued from p. 4

half a century, I mourn the loss of so many businesses — the old copy shop where I used to get my envelopes,” he said. “I’d like to thank you for helping keep the spirit of the old East Village alive,” he told the crowd. An animal lover, Smith chimed in again about pets still missing since March 26. “All the animals that were lost — it’s not just a pet, it’s family,” she said. “You mourn. ...” “Activism really begins with just being a good neighbor,” added Kaye. “Really, that’s all it is.” They then got the crowd rocking full tilt with Smith’s populist anthem “People Have the Power,” which embodied the feeling of resistance bursting from inside the room. Smith dispensed with her guitar and left the strumming to Kaye as she boogied and punctuated her lyrics with hand gestures. In a second, she had the willing crowd clapping along in staccato rhythm. “People have the powwwwer — to dream — to rule — to wrestle the world from fools...” she sang, elevating the audience. And, in particular, elevating the Pie Man, who — due to his using a wheelchair — had been seated by Kaufman up on stage with a dozen or so survivors of the disaster. Kay hopped up out of his seat and raised his fist to the crowd, pumping it in time to the music. Up next, Tammy Faye Starlite mixed comic patter with song. “Who knows what they’ll build there?” she said of the gaping hole left at Second Ave. and E. Seventh St. Maybe “a giant monument” to a part of Taylor Swift’s anatomy, she quipped. “Where the f--- is she?” she asked angrily. “Shouldn’t she be here representing?” The audience applauded the diss of New York’s official “tourism welcome ambassador.” “I’m really glad this is happening, and right here in this building,” said the East Village’s Jesse Malin as he took the mic next. “I came to this part of town from Queens at 12 years old because I wanted to come someplace where I could wear bungee pants and creepers and not get beaten up. ... I used to come in here and watch Bogart movies when I was a kid,” he recalled of back when the theater showed films. With a ray of optimism, he said, “We still got St. Mark’s Bookshop and Gem Spa and Tompkins Square Park. I was just at B&H [Dairy].” Malin’s rock set was followed by Chris Riffle’s psychedelic folk music. Bringing some drama, Kayvon Zand — a John Sex-like goth/disco act — said he, too, felt right at home in the East Village.

Survivors of the Second Ave. disaster were seated onstage along with the Yippie Pie Man, front row right.

“When you’re a Persian redneck in North Carolina, there aren’t too many places you can live,” he noted. “So I came to New York City, and not just anywhere, I wanted to live in the East Village.” Cowboy Jones added that he’s a North Carolina transplant, too. During intermission, the Pie Man started expounding from the stage about the “East Village Diaspora” and the need to take back the ’hood. “This is our neighborhood — not the real estate maggots’,” he declared. “On with the show!” one woman in the crowd called out dismissively. However, Kaufman sprang to Kay’s side and defended his right to speak. “This is the Yippie Pie Man,” he said. “He’s a neighborhood legend. Please, a little respect.” He asked Kay to list some of the people he’s plunked with pies in the past, to which he replied, William F. Buckley, Senator Patrick Moynihan, Watergate burglar Howard Hunt and conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. “Anyone more current?” someone asked. It was a tough crowd, at least for the Pie Man. The evening also saw the nonprof-

it arts group Slide Luck honor four neighborhood photographers, Q. Sakamaki, Clayton Patterson, Ken Schles and Spencer Tunick. Tunick is known for his public shots of groups of nudes on the city’s streets and bridges, while Schles is renowned for his photo book “Invisible City” (reissued last year), about New York’s 1980s nightlife. Patterson and Sakamaki both covered the Tompkins Square riots of 1988 and the park’s homeless Tent City. “Tonight, it reminds me of one of the great things of the East Village and Lower East Side — it is kindness,” Sakamaki said, recalling how some in the community rallied to defend the homeless from being kicked out of the park. Patterson also helped provide support for the benefit show, though he was in Austria at the time of the event. Penn Badgley of “Gossip Girl” fame performed with his band Mothxr, transporting the audience with their avant-garde jazz/funk sounds. On Ka’a Davis, a member of the East Village’s squatter movement, shredded Afro roots funk on electric guitar. “Straight from the squat,” he said.

David Peel couldn’t have put it any clearer: “Help the Victims To Survive.”

Local favorite David Peel and the Lower East Side belted out the singalong friendly “Help the Victims — Help Them To Survive,” as found-art painter Zito simultaneously created a Lou Reed portrait onstage. Peel then segued into “I Like Marijuana,” and the Pie Man jumped up out of his seat again with a raised fist — though this time he soon had a lit joint in it, and offered a toke to one of Peel’s backup singers. Dev Hynes of Blood Orange and the Bowery Boys also took turns on the stage, while Edgar Oliver read three poems in his inimitable style. There were some groans as cast members of “Grindr: The Opera” did a sexually explicit number — but, hey, you can’t please everyone. The musicians from “The Servant of Two Masters” at Teatro La Tea closed the night — actually, it was already Monday morning, and not many were left in the audience — with a rousing rendition of “Come On Eileen.” Afterward, Kaufman said, while meant to support the disaster’s victims, the benefit also helped the community as a whole. “It was all for them,” he said of the shell-shocked East Villagers seated onstage. “And, it was found out later — we were doing it for each other.” After the show, he said, two people stopped him on the street and both urged him, “You have to do this again.” That inspired him to speak with Otway, and they have now decided, due to the benefit’s success, to hold a regular “East Village Show” at Theatre 80 the last Sunday of each month. “My idea is it would be bands and film, video, onstage interviews — like a live arts magazine onstage,” Kaufman said. “Part of the evening would be brand-new talent, mixed in with better-known people. “One of the things I discovered [in doing the benefit] is that young people are still coming here looking for the East Village that I came looking for — even though the rents are no longer affordable,” he said. “They want to meet the legends — Patti Smith, David Peel, Clayton Patterson, the Yippie Pie Man — and they want to belong to the same thing. And they do. It’s not their fault that greedy developers make it impossible for them to live here.” All of the shows’ proceeds will be split 50/50 between GOLES and a new nonprofit foundation that has been set up to help Theatre 80 and Off and Off Off Broadway theater, in general, the Howard Otway and Florence Otway Opportunity Project (HOFOPRO). So how was the show, the Pie Man was asked after the benefit? “There’s potential,” he said, “as a springboard to reclaim the East Village.” April 30, 2015


Mahfar tenants file more suits over conditions BY GERARD FLYNN



eleaguered tenants from four Lower East Side buildings recently announced three additional lawsuits in Housing Court against landlord Samy Mahfar of SMA Equities. Outfitted in a hazmat suit to protest the hazardous conditions he said he has faced, one tenant from 211 Rivington St. described living under siegelike conditions. He said unprotected workers had blasted layers of paint off tenement walls, raising dust tainted with dangerous levels of lead-based paint. He was joined by other members of the Coalition of Mahfar Tenants at an April 20 press conference. Another 211 Rivington St. tenant spoke of heat and gas interruptions on some of the winter’s coldest days, plus collapsing ceilings. These were just some of a long list of complaints against Mahfar, who couldn’t be reached for comment. Lab tests on air quality during construction at another Mahfar-owned building revealed lead levels “nearly 3,000 times the federal threshold,” tenants said. Rent-stabilized tenants, many of them minorities or immigrants with poor English skills, were visited by “tenant relocators” who tried to per-

Councilmember Rosie Mendez, center, spoke at an April 20 press conference flanked by hazmat suit-wearing Mahfar tenants.

suade them to leave with buyout offers. Among these was Michel Pimienta, who state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last October made pay a $40,000 fine and agree to stop his relocation activities. “Numerous times representatives would ask me to move to another borough every time they came to my apartment,” one tenant alleged. The Mahfar Tenants Coalition also claims that guards were posted at one building’s entrance to block Department of Buildings inspectors from investigating complaints, and that they were successful all but once in turning D.O.B. personnel away. Dust levels got so bad at one building that children were hospitalized

following asthma attacks. Their mother also ended up getting sick due to having no heat for a month during construction, tenants said. As if the hazardous conditions weren’t bad enough, there were also frivolous lawsuits, the coalition charged. These were used to drive terrified tenants out of their units, which were quickly put back on the market at rents up to five times their original value. Repairs were not made, except in renovated apartments, according to the coalition. A speaker from another Mahfar-owned building, 22 Spring St., vividly recalled what happened after Mahfar took over: The lead-dust

levels rose, a phone line was cut, and the relocation specialists turned up, stressful enough to allegedly cause one tenant to suffer a heart attack, prompting her to leave. Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin praised the tenants’ courage in bringing the lawsuits. Chin called for greater coordination between the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Department of Buildings, the latter which, she said, needs comprehensive reform. Chin questioned why D.O.H. is not working with D.O.B. to ensure that proper procedures for lead-paint removal, for example, are being followed. State Senator Daniel Squadron demanded change in Albany and the end of vacancy decontrol, which he said offers incentive for landlords to harass rent-protected tenants. Garrett Wright, a senior staff attorney with the Urban Justice Center, which filed the three lawsuits in Housing Court, said the process favors wealthy landlords, who can afford expensive attorney fees. Tenants, Wright said, often end up “so scared, they will wind up leaving the apartment without going to court because they are afraid of being hit with attorney fees and costs, and landlords know that.”

Standard E.V. is pushing envelope on open spaces BY TINA BENITEZ-EVES



April 30, 2015


eighbors of The Standard East Village are worried about increased noise following the hotel’s proposal to add hours for its outdoor seating areas. The Standard East Village hopes to increase service and extend closing times for its E. Fifth St. garden area, as well as the outdoor seating at the hotel’s Narcissa restaurant. Residents fear the changes would disrupt the neighborhood, including an assisted-living facility directly across the street from the hotel garden. On March 23, E. Fifth St. Block Association members met with hotel officials to review the plans. The Standard said it wanted to keep the garden — located directly across the street from JASA’s Evelyn and Louise Green Residence — open two hours later, until 11 p.m. Additionally, the hotel wants to add another hour to its Narcissa garden’s weekday and weekend closing times, currently 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., respectively. In addition, neighbors charge

that The Standard never followed through with its original plan from May 2012, when owner André Balazs Properties signed an agreement that would keep noise levels down for neighbors by shifting its bar service from its second-floor patio downstairs to its Café Standard. Under its original stipulation, The Standard promised that sound from the outdoor seating — with no music — on the Bowery would not carry to surrounding neighbors, according to an acoustic study. That agreement called for the lobby to be expanded and, in turn, for 60 percent of the garden to be enclosed. However, none of the garden was ever enclosed. “They made a promise they could not keep,” said Stuart Zamsky, a member of the E. Fifth St. Block Association. Zamsky said the hotel insists it attracts a different crowd from other neighboring establishments, and that extending the hours should not impact nearby tenants. Yet, most neighbors do feel that the Café Standard on the Bowery is loud, according to Zamsky, and that increasing

Neighbors worry that The Standard wants more hours for two outdoor areas.

the two open spaces’ hours would just worsen the noise. Block association members note that 2 Cooper Square residents also are already dealing with noise from B Bar at 40 E. Fourth St. and are anxious about the completion of the Village Plaza outdoor public seating

area and park, which has been under construction since 2013. “The Café, when it’s open, is shockingly loud,” said Zamsky. “We want to avoid the same thing in the garden. The Standard is creeping toward table service in the garden, in the exact area that they promised to close. “The hotel comes to us every year asking for things,” he said. “They primarily abide by the stipulations and try to be good neighbors. They’re not difficult, but they’re always asking for more.” Representatives for The Standard are expected to present the hotel’s proposal at the May meeting of the Community Board 3 State Liquor Authority & Department of Consumer Affairs Licensing Committee. “The Standard holds the East Village community in the highest regard, and as such, we are unable to comment on our current decisions,” said Moya Hewitt, a hotel spokesperson. “We are just people trying to live,” Zamsky said. “We don’t want to tell them how to run their business. We just don’t want another Bowery Bar.”


A rodent in Tompkins Square Park a few years ago during the height of the “Ratpalooza” infestation.

E.V. ‘rat reservoir’ seems bottomless, they say BY GERARD FLYNN


he role construction work plays in spreading rat infestations has long been known. Now two East Village women are calling on the city to do more in the wake of their increasing “distress” at the problem’s scale. Jackie O’Quinn lives close to the Ninth Precinct on E. Fifth St. She said construction in recent years at nearby Cooper Park unearthed one of the biggest rats’ nests imaginable — in an abandoned underground comfort station — and that the vermin have relocated closer to her home, with all the nightmarish consequences. “When it rains it pours,” she said. “Oh, my God. You can step on them.” The disease-ridden rodents can often be seen, she said, in the wee hours in the vicinity of Second Ave. and E. Fourth St., picking through pizza scraps and paper cups of soda on the sidewalk, where late-night revelers like to dump their food. O’Quinn questions the logic of Department of Health inspectors who come looking in the daytime when rats are notoriously nocturnal — and, believe it or not –— shy critters, although they have teeth that can bite through concrete and, some say, steel. “You don’t look for rats in the afternoon,” she said. “It’s not a day job,” her friend Anne Mitcheltree agreed. D.O.H. has been out poisoning nearby sewers, which they said are infested, but it isn’t working, the two women say. O’Quinn said the vermin vamoose from the sewers, and then it becomes a game of “hit-and-miss whether you step on one.” O’Quinn has witnessed “sewers full of rats,” prompting her to be among the many who have made complaints to the city, which then comes and baits. But she said, “I didn’t notice a decline.” D.O.H. didn’t respond by press time to questions for this article. But for an article in The Villager last November, an agency spokesperson confirmed that the East Village has

a big problem. A number of local factors contribute to the area’s rat population, the spokesperson said, including inadequate management, storage and removal of garbage, the high density of the population and foot traffic, and older infrastructure, which may allow rats to harbor. “Although the number of properties with active rat sites has dropped citywide, some communities, such as Community District 3, have remained stagnant,” the spokesperson told The Villager last November. Last year, the agency chose Avenue B as a location for its “Rat Reservoir” pilot program because of the area’s “chronic problems” with the pests. Rat Reservoirs are environments that promote large numbers and fast reproduction of rats. But the “reservoir” isn’t even close to drained, the two women lament. “Whatever they are doing with their pilot program, they need to extend it,” O’Quinn said. D.O.H. confirmed to The Villager last year that “[rat] complaints in the Lower East Side have increased in 2013 and 2014 compared to previous years.” In their efforts to reduce the rat problem, the pair have even handed out garbage pails to the local cops to use to trap the tricky vermin. “We have a hub of rats that live under our police station’s parking lot,” O’Quinn stated. With D.O.H. slow to act, in their view, they have come up with a strategy of their own: Do something about the “crazy” people who feed the pigeons — a.k.a. “flying rats” — and, inadvertently, the rats. For those who feed the pigeons, Mitcheltree has two words, “ova control.” In other words, use contraception to cut down on bird reproduction, which would reduce pigeon feeding, and, thus, the rat population. “When they take a birth-control pill and lay an egg, it won’t be fertilized, and it never hatches,” she said. Eventually, “they kick it off the nest.” At this point, the two rat-weary women say, it’s worth a try.




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‘I’m open to new tech,’ Paul tells Bitcoin bigs BY ZACH WILLIAMS


.S. Senator Rand Paul was in town Sunday to raise support and money for his fledgling bid for the Republican presidential nomination at a fundraiser sponsored by local Bitcoin enthusiasts. The free-market-friendly candidate from Kentucky expressed support for wider adoption of the digital currency during his remarks at the Union League Club on E. 37th St. His presidential campaign is the first to accept Bitcoin, which allows users to exchange funds anonymously outside traditional government oversight. “We’re trying to get you to empty your Bitcoin wallet,” Paul quipped at the outset, before adding: “I’m not an expert on Bitcoin. I’m open to new technologies. I’m excited by the possibility and the concept.” Federal Election Commission rules currently say little about the role of Bitcoin in presidential campaign fundraising, according to a spokesperson. A 2014 advisory opinion, though, recommends that political committees not affiliated with a campaign limit themselves to accepting donations equivalent to $100. Committees can also purchase Bitcoin on the open market as an investment. Several dozen local users of the digital currency attended the April 19 fundraiser, which included a

vate meeting with high-rolling donors. Austin Alexander — a founding member of the Bitcoin Center NYC, on Broad St. — urged others at the event to get their smartphones out so that campaign members could collect contributions as they walked around the room. “Get your cameras ready to scan Senator Paul’s QR code,” he said. “And remember, the max donation is only $2,700.” A Paul representative did not provide fundraising totals from the event, Bitcoin or otherwise. The current exchange rate is about $225 to one Bitcoin, a notable decline from the digital currency’s all-time high value of about $1,250 in 2010. Local users can now pay for almost anything with the currency in Downtown Manhattan, including groceries, real estate and even college tuition. But greater integration into the economy has been limited due to concerns that Bitcoin enables nefarious activities through its privacy protections. Supporters remain optimistic that they will overcome setbacks, especially if Paul gets elected president in 2016. “Bitcoin is still in the embryonic stages,” said Robert Morgan, a backer of the virtual currency. “The Bitcoin community is going to want to stop the government from regulating it, and Rand Paul is the guy who wants to stop it.”


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The view from my window will never be the same WINDOW, continued from p. 1

S te


dow I think of my neighbors who will never see their homes again, those who will never see their photo albums, college diplomas, family treasures, favorite furniture and a life’s worth of well-curated possessions. These are the people who were not able to salvage even a single shoe. I see the people who escaped by a hair’s breath, the neighbors that will always have burn scars and — even worse — scarred memories. When I look out my window and think about the people who were until recently my neighbors, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude that my building still stands. Every single one of us caught in this disaster has had a hellish time. Even those of us from the buildings still standing did not know if we would ever get back in. We were all displaced for the minimum of 16 days. We left with only the clothes on our backs. We all had to find places to stay. We all cried an uncountable number of tears. And we all had our moorings knocked out from under us. We felt affliction where before we felt comfort. We are all trying to get back to as normal a life as we can, a new, changed normal. A small handful of tenants are back in 125 Second Ave. Some are back in 41 E. Seventh St., which was also evacuated. The people from the three lost buildings are coping the best that they can. Change was thrown at them and they are valiantly rising to the occasion, quietly rebuilding their now-ragged lives that were busted open in an instant. My apartment is on the south side of the building and we acted as “the fort” that saved the rest of Second Ave. when the wind changed direction. The Fire Department sprayed water for hours and hours on end on our side of the building, wetting it down and keeping our part safe from

the raging fire. We acted as a buffer. Because of this, our side of the tenement suffered serious water damage. I am not back at No. 125 and won’t be for quite a while. Stuart, Kayoko and Hannah Lipsky have the apartment two floors below me. They are one of the only families with children from the whole disaster site. They were eager to move back in when the vacate order was lifted. Stuart came in to clean. “I found the whole thing overwhelming, disgusting,” he said. “I didn’t know where to start, there is so much dirt and grit everywhere.” He found a place for Kayoko and Hannah to stay while he cleans and scrubs and readies his nest, while coughing and feeling sick most of the time from the massive gas fire’s fallout. Kayoko is working very hard, often until 8:30 p.m. She often comes back exhausted to wherever they may be staying. Hannah is a lively and bright 12-year-old who is a topnotch student. She goes to the NEST+m School on E. Houston St. She is still going to karate, practicing her flute and preparing for her Bat Mitzvah in June. Hannah is still missing her cat Ryce and is struggling with this. “I know that there is something to learn in everything, but this is a very difficult lesson,” she said very philosophically. As for the view out their home’s window, Stuart simply said, “It is haunting.” When you walk past No. 125 at night you only see a few lights lit, as most of the residents don’t feel comfortable enough to stay there. Some of us go in for brief periods during the day. Every time I go, I see more things thrown out: piles of stuff or large black garbage bags waiting to be picked up. The building is working double-time to fix everything, and they are doing a good job, but it

The writer’s apartment is still off limits due to heavy water damage sustained during the fire. This is what she can now see from one of its windows — an empty space where three residential buildings used to stand.

is a long and arduous process. Jamil Shafi is one of only a handful of tenants who have already moved back into No. 125. He is spending a lot of his time cleaning, and then cleaning again. He also threw out lots of his clothes, his bedframe and some upholstered furniture. “I am happy to be back in my home,” he said. “I am slowly getting back to normal and I will be really happy to see all my neighbors return, as this is family.”

Jamil said he is so very thankful to all of the people who have made his return possible, including the F.D.N.Y., Police and Red Cross, as well as Igor, Alex, Mikhail and Roman, our crew at No. 125! Jamil looked ruefully at the dull, empty brown dirt plot and said, “As a designer, I could help our mayor turn this into a memorial park for us until this land gets developed. It would be great if artists could come and paint pictures of what used to be here.”

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Prayers, plus infrared scanners in cat search BY YVONNE COLLERY



am sorry to report that there is still no good news concerning the four missing cats, Sago, Sylvie, Leather Face and Ryce. The ASPCA had been concentrating on finding Ryce, from 125 Second Ave., toward the end of their search. They did put catchand-release cat traps in different apartments starting around April 1. However, they pulled them all out on Fri., April 9, without giving any explanation to Ryce’s family, the Lipskys. Despite our constant requests, the interior of the block was never searched. Three team members from RED PAW RESCUE, of Philadelphia, drove up to New York on Sun., April 1, at their own expense to help look for any cats that might be in No. 125. RED PAW is a nonprofit organization that works with the Red Cross. They are specifically geared to look for animals in fi res, gas explosions, hurricanes and other disasters. In

Philly, they come at the beginning of a disaster with the Red Cross and they quickly and actively start to search for missing pets. They use some equipment that our New York groups don’t have, such as handheld infrared heat-scanning devices. (The N.Y.P.D. uses these to fi nd people in fi res.) RED PAW spent the entire day looking for the missing cats. However, the building was so cluttered with dense debris by that point that they could not get good readings from the infrared scanner. Stuart Lipsky now goes into the back of our building shaking Ryce’s favorite cat toys, calling to her. The Lipskys believe that Ryce is somewhere close by. RED PAW says that statistically cats are mostly found within 250 feet of where they were lost. As his wife, Kayoko, says, “They are good little hiders.” Hannah Lipsky says her prayers every night. After she thanks God for the many good things that are in her life, she asks, “Please God, can you protect my cat Ryce and bring her back to us if she is still alive?”

Hannah Lipsky is still holding out hope that her family’s cat Ryce will be found.

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POLICE BLOTTER Booty Benjamin Something did not look right to the cashier of a deli at 78 Eighth Ave. on Wed., April 22. A customer had just provided a $100 bill as payment for food and beverages just after 9 p.m. that night. Perhaps it was the paper or the lack of telltale watermarks, but the 44-year-old man confronted the counterfeit-toting customer, who subsequently fled. Police found Ricky Lebron, 28, a block away in front of 49 Seventh Ave. and identified him as the perpetrator. A search revealed another fake Benjamin within his underpants. He was charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument, a felony.

Deadly police shooting

A man was fatally shot during a violent struggle with police inside an E. Sixth St. building on Saturday. On Thurs., April 23, at 6:20 p.m., a woman, 21, was giving a presentation at City College in Harlem when a man interrupted and demanded to see her, according to police. The victim went

out into the hallway where the two argued and the suspect punched the woman in the body and face. The suspect then removed the victim’s purse, containing cash, her keys, cell phone, ID, bank cards and gift cards, and fled. The victim identified the suspect as a 22-year-old male known to her. Detectives determined he was staying at 538 E. Sixth St. On Sat., April 25, at 1:48 p.m., two detectives responded to the address. While they approached a sixth-floor apartment, the suspect fled out a window and down the fire escape. The two detectives ran down the stairs and confronted him in the lobby. There, a violent struggle ensued between the suspect and the detectives. During the five-minute-long fight, the suspect was able to grab a police radio, and began to strike both detectives in the head with it, causing lacerations and abrasions to both of their heads. During the beating, one detective drew his firearm and fired once, striking the suspect in the torso, police said. EMS responded and transported the suspect to Beth Israel Hospital where

he was pronounced dead. The officers were taken to Bellevue Hospital, both with bruising and lacerations to the head and one with a dislocated shoulder. They were listed in stable condition. The suspect’s identity is being withheld pending family notification. The investigation is ongoing. The Daily News quoted a neighbor describing the E. Sixth St. building as a “halfway house for mentally ill people adjusting to society. It’s been there for 20, 25 years,” the man said. “They treat all kinds of things, including drugs. I’ve never felt scared before. But there’s been some tension.”

Packages perp The landlord of 175 Thompson St. spied a man opening packages in the building lobby on the morning of Mon., April 27, according to police. Police arrived at about 8 a.m. and found that the suspect, identified as Ty Sumpter, 29, was also in possession of two credit cards belonging to other people. He was charged with criminal possession of stolen property, a felony.

Reservoir rough stuff A “touchy feely” conversation among three men did not end warmly on Tues., April 21, police said. A 35-year-old man was talking with two other guys at about 1:30 a.m. that day when an argument arose. The two men then attacked the other man in unison. One hit the victim with a glass while his accomplice punched him in the head and face, according to a police report that did not state the nature of the dispute. Both of the perpetrators fled the Reservoir Bar, at 70 University Place. The victim meanwhile was taken to Bellevue Hospital where he received 12 stitches and five staples to the right side of his head. Police arrested Edwin Sanchez, 32, about two hours later after he returned to the scene to retrieve his cell phone. He was charged with felony assault. The second suspect, known only as Jose, remains at large.

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Pipeline protests heat up before Whitney’s opening


As part of a late-night protest last week over the Spectra pipeline having been built into the foundation of the new Whitney Museum, light painter Vicki DaSilva drew this accusatory message in the air with a fluorescent lamp, above the location of what anti-pipeline activists call the “now-hidden Spectra/ConEd vault.” This time-lapse photo shows the path of her hand. The activists also beamed provocative projections onto the side of the new Renzo Piano-designed building, which is set to open to the public on Fri., May 1. The activists have released a video on YouTube about the pipeline’s path beneath the Whitney at https://www. .

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Kasoundra’s Kafkaesque story To The Editor: Re “The trials of collage artist Kasoundra Kasoundra” (news article, April 16): Bravo for making this explicit and concise account of what has befallen Kasoundra Kasoundra. I speak with her regularly on the phone and feel the frustration of her circumstances. I hope that this account can be copied

and sent to all social-service agencies and she can recover her life and continue to create her artwork. She never goes out of the nursing home, even in good weather. No one deserves such Kafkaesque treatment. The so-called guardians should be removed from their positions and a good friend should be given that position and Kasoundra should be put in his or her care.


Free K.K.! Free K.K. now! Phyllis Segura

Nursing-home nightmare To The Editor: Re “The trials of collage artist Kasoundra Kasoundra” (news article, April 16): What a Dickensian nightmare! The system is hell-bent on making laws but really short on accountability. This report of a woman whose rights are being violated by the very system that purports to be helping her deserves major media exposure. Surely there’s some punishment to be meted out to guardians that abuse their position. Justice has a blind eye yet again. Talia Shafir

Demand accountability Will de Blasio challenge Hillary for the nomination? 14

April 30, 2015

To The Editor: Re “The trials of collage artist Kasoundra LETTERS, continued on p. 16

The Living Theatre’s Judith Malina is dead at 88 OBITUARIES MALINA, continued from p. 1


founded with her first husband, Julian Beck, was a major force in the growth of the artistically innovative and often politically challenging anti-commercial movement that became Off and Off Off Broadway. Her political activism, on and off stage, landed her in more than one jail. The first of those occasions put her in a cell for 30 days with Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day. She observed Jewish rituals while cheerfully breaking many of the commandments. Her marriage to Beck was non-monogamous, and her pleasures famously included smoking pot. Malina and Beck founded the Living Theatre in 1947. They started with relatively conventional productions of works by Bertolt Brecht and Jean Cocteau. But in 1959, their production of “The Connection,” playwright Jack Gelber’s searing drama of addiction, won “the Living” its first Obie award and its leading place in New York’s avant-garde and experimental theater. By 1963, when it produced Kenneth H. Brown’s anti-militarist “The Brig,” the Living Theatre had dedicated itself to politically committed theater, from which it never retreated. The same year saw its first round of trouble with the federal government, when the Internal Revenue Service padlocked the troupe’s theater at 14th St. and Sixth Ave. The company went on to worldwide fame and ever-increasingly improvisational, participatory, intensely political and occasionally nude productions, from “Paradise Now” in 1968 to its 21st-century cri de coeur against capital punishment, “Not in Our Name.” Beck and Malina were arrested in Brazil — for marijuana possession, which they denied — and the company was expelled from more than one country. Yet before the end of the century, the troupe had become known across the globe as a symbol of resistance and hope. Moving from home to home over the years, buffeted by intermittently acute financial and tax problems, the Living Theatre nevertheless survived. And always, for 68 years, it existed under Malina’s leadership, first shared with Beck, and then, after his untimely death in 1985, Hanon

Judith Malina was a committed antiwar activist.

A young Judith Malina.

Judith Malina with the two main men in her life, her two husbands, Julian Beck, right, and Hanon Reznikov.

Reznikov, who had been her lover during her marriage to the bisexual Beck and who became her second husband in 1988. Reznikov co-managed the Living Theatre with her until he died in 2008. Judith Malina was born in Kiel, Germany, in 1926, the daughter of an actor and a rabbi. She grew up in New York City, where her family arrived when they left Germany in 1929. She studied acting at the New School for Social Re-

search with Erwin Piscator, one of the advocates — along with Bertolt Brecht — of the politically charged drama called “epic theater.” Malina and Beck met in 1943. He was a painter, a year older than she was, but he rapidly came to share her interest in theater, which led them to create the Living Theatre four years after they met. By then, she was a committed pacifist and anarchist. In 1955,

before the young Living Theatre had made headlines, Malina was arrested — for the first time — with members of the pacifist War Resisters League and the Catholic Worker in City Hall Park for refusing to leave the park and go to a bomb shelter during one of the civil-defense drills of the time. She served 30 days for her civil disobedience, sharing a cell with Dorothy Day, now a candidate for canonization by the Catholic Church. Years later, she told an interviewer that Day’s interactions with the prostitutes and drug addicts who comprised most of the jail’s inmates had taught her that “anarchism is holiness,” because it treats all people as holy, without “dividing [them] into good ones and bad ones.” By the mid-Sixties, as the Living Theatre became as much an activist project as an artistic one, the two threads of Malina’s life became one. For the rest of her life, her politics were expressed primarily in the company’s works, many of which she wrote. It was an occupation only occasionally interrupted by her forays into film and television. She played Al Pacino’s mother in “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975) and appeared in “Radio Days” (1987), “The Addams Family” (1991) and “Household Saints” (1993). On TV, she appeared in “The Sopranos,” in 2006. After Reznikov died in 2008, Malina went on to lead the company alone, until their then-current home on Clinton St. closed and she moved into the assisted-living facility in Englewood in 2013. She is survived by her children, Isha Manna and Garrick Maxwell Beck, and by her other child, the Living Theatre, now under Garrick Beck’s direction and still very much alive, if aging — 68 and counting — and perhaps less robust than its glory days in the Sixties and Seventies. But the ink devoted to Malina’s death is ample evidence that she will remain a formidable presence in the Living Theatre as long as it survives — and in theater around the world, as long as it survives. The Jewish Daily Forward wrote that one of Malina’s last public appearances was in December at the Bowery Poetry Club. She was in a wheelchair and breathing with the help of an oxygen tank as she read a poem about Eric Garner, the African-American man from Staten Island who died in a police chokehold last summer. Malina’s reading was followed by chants of “I can’t breathe.” April 30, 2015


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR LETTERS, continued from p. 14

Kasoundra” (news article, April 16): To make this personally frightening for everyone reading: Very few of us have as strong a community network as she does, so it’s unlikely we would ever get even the failed oversight she has gotten. Unless we push politically for true accountability measures — and how about the legal recognition of longstanding friends as an alternative to blood family and unconnected “guardians”? — we are each of us just a few years away from living her story. Dudley Saunders

Kasoundra reparations To The Editor: Re “The trials of collage artist Kasoundra Kasoundra” (news article, April 16): Thank you for bringing this horrible situation to our attention with

such a detailed and thorough piece of reportage. Not only must this woman be returned to her home, she should be given reparations for the time she spent unjustly imprisoned, deprived of her work, possessions and friends. Social work is at its worst when it meddles rather than helps. Justice will be done when the guardians lose their freedom and Kasoundra is set free. Thelma Blitz

Sixties 2nd Ave. flashback To The Editor: Re “Alleged gas siphoning only further fuels turmoil at another E.V. building” (news article, April 16): I lived at 128 Second Ave. during the second half of the 1960s. It was great! Eighty-nine dollars a month in 1966 for a fifth-floor walk-up. The Orpheum could get kind of loud on a summer night with the windows open, though, and I sure do wish the Stage restaurant and its

Community news

that matters.

great food had been there then. Lulu Katz

Eat plants to save planet To The Editor: Just in time for the recent 45th anniversary of Earth Day, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee made it official: Consumption of animal products is not environmentally sustainable. Their conclusions match those of a massive 2010 United Nations report that concluded that a global shift toward a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and climate change. Carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, is emitted by burning forests to create animal pastures and by combustion of fossil fuels to operate farm machinery, trucks, refrigeration equipment, factory farms and slaughterhouses. The much more damaging methane and nitrous oxide are released from digestive tracts of cattle and from animal

waste cesspools. Moreover, animal agriculture contributes more pollutants to our waterways than other human activities combined. Principal sources are animal wastes, soil particles, minerals, crop debris, fertilizers and pesticides from feed croplands. It is also the driving force in worldwide deforestation and wildlife habitat destruction. In an environmentally sustainable world, just as fossil fuels are replaced by wind, solar and other sustainable energy sources, animal foods must be replaced by vegetables, fruits and grains. Our next trip to the supermarket is a great starting point. Nico Young E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 Metrotech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published.

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April 30, 2015

Re-Inventing The Whitney New space has a strong sense of place




n May 1, the Whitney Museum of American Art will open its newly Renzo Piano-designed home to the public. That night, the Empire State Building will light up in its honor by re-interpreting 12 iconic works from the Whitney collection by Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol and others. It will seem as if the whole city is celebrating — and the opening certainly has the potential to become New York’s most important cultural event of the decade. However, it will also mark the beginning of a fresh chapter in the Whitney’s history, and not simply a geographical one. Considering its new location, impressive architecture and upcoming programming, the Whitney has embarked on a major identity overhaul, readying itself for a future of growth. In contrast to the Whitney’s previous Upper East Side location at 75th St. & Madison Ave. (1966-2014), its new neighborhood is infinitely more youthful and tourist-laden. It also happens to be closer to its original address on West Eighth St. in Greenwich Village, where Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney founded it in 1931. While on the Upper East Side, the Whitney was mere walking distance from other major museums, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Neue Galerie, the Frick Collection and the Guggenheim Museum, among others. Now, it stands proudly alone. However, situated at the southern tip of the High Line and within the buzzing Meatpacking District, the Whitney is part of a much more lively scene. It is only steps away

Like a good neighbor: the Whitney takes a good first step in establishing itself as a welcome new arrival by throwing a free Block Party on May 2, 10:30 a.m.–10 p.m. in front of its 99 Gansevoort St. location.

from the Standard Hotel, the Gansevoort Hotel, the Headquarters of Diane von Furstenberg, the Chelsea Market, Google, an Apple Store and countless boutiques, fashionable restaurants, bars and clubs. Along these lines, on May 2, the Whitney Block Party (Gansevoort St., in front of the museum, 10:30 a.m.–10 p.m.) will embrace this neighborhood’s youthful spirit. Sponsored by Macy’s, just like the beloved Thanksgiving Parade and 4th of July Fireworks, this party intends to welcome visitors of all ages with free art and

performances. It is further proof of the Whitney’s strong desire to embrace its new location wholeheartedly, while making its architecture a vivid experience for all. No matter how much immediate attention will be focused on the surrounding events and the Museum’s elegant outer appearance, stunning improvements are to be found on the inside. Certainly, Piano’s boat-like vision of a building deserves ample contemplation. It pays splendid homage to the Hudson River and the history of Chelsea

Piers, where in the early 20th century, most major trans-Atlantic liners docked and survivors of the Titanic disembarked. It also respectfully nods to the Frank Gehry-designed IAC building just a few blocks north, whose form is also inspired by ships. Nevertheless, the Whitney’s inaugural exhibition “America Is Hard to See” (May 1–Sept. 27, 2015), whose fantastic title was taken from a Robert Frost poem, is certainly capable of drawing its own significant attenWHITNEY, continued on p.18 April 30, 2015


The Whitney Achieves an Impressive Identity Overhaul WHITNEY, continued from p. 17


tion. It is organized by a whole team of Whitney curators, led by Donna De Salvo, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs, including Carter E. Foster, Curator of Drawing; Dana Miller, Curator of the Permanent Collection; and Scott Rothkopf, Family Curator and Associate Director of Programs; with Jane Panetta, Assistant Curator; Catherine Taft, Assistant Curator; and Mia Curran, Curatorial Assistant. Spanning several floors, “America is Hard to See” celebrates the Whitney’s acclaimed permanent collection in an unprecedented way. No less than 600 works by 400 artists fill up the significantly expanded 50,000 square feet of gallery space and 13,000 square feet of terraces. The show marks the Whitney’s most ambitious presentation of and in-house reflection on its acclaimed collection, which spans from about about 1900 to the present. “America is Hard to See” is organized chronologically with the eighth and highest floor featuring the oldest work. The exhibit is also organized thematically however. Themes are introduced as chapters, and there are 23 total. Bringing together related artworks, each is named after a work that appears in that particular section of the show. This makes for an incredibly extensive but well-structured, and therefore manageable, survey of the many different ideas, beliefs, and passions that have preoccupied American artists during the past 115 years. For those well familiar with the Museum’s collection, “America is Hard to See” holds many surprising treats. Artists rarely featured and works that have never been exhibited before are seamlessly merged with beloved icons. On the eighth floor, for example, the impact of the Industrial Revolution and urban innovation loom large. Here, one of the themes explored is titled “Machine as Ornament” and various depictions of the

Open spaces flooded with sunlight compliment, rather than compete with, the art on display.

Chrysler Building help to illustrate an era when machines and technological advances were viewed with romantic enthusiasm. Floors seven and six present works from the mid20th century, while five, the building’s largest and column-free space, covers the late 1960s to the present. Throughout the different floors, it is a pleasure to follow the detailed curation of the installation. There are plenty of witty pairings to be found, such as George Tooker’s “The Subway” from 1950 and Edward Hopper’s “Early Sunday Morning” from 1930. Though different in style and aesthetic, both paintings fit thematically, as well as compositionally. Both of these compositions are rooted in strong verWHITNEY, continued on p.19


Terraces enable visitors to leave the museum temporarily to rest and soak in the stunning textures of the neighborhood.


April 30, 2015

WHITNEY, continued from p. 18

Renzo Piano’s boat-like building design pays homage to the Hudson River and the history of Chelsea Piers.

version of the Whitney is no longer a dark temple for art, but rather a continuously morphing cloud, on which art hovers just above the city. It remains a wonderful space to view modern art, but for the first time, the Whitney is a fantastic museum to view contemporary work. This will certainly aid the reputation of the Whitney Biennial (spring 2017) and assure interest of a younger generation of artists. Looking at the advance exhibition schedule, it becomes clear that there will be room for both prominent names, such as Frank Stella, whose retrospective will run from Oct. 30– Feb. 7, 2016, as well as the emerging ones, including Jared Madere, Rachel Rose and Sophia Al-Maria. There remains plenty to discover no doubt. I personally look forward to returning one evening in the near future, specifically to visit Edward Hopper’s “Railroad Sunset.” This well-known masterpiece can be found on the seventh floor, installed right across a major window facing the Hudson. It promises to be an epic battle of the city’s two most stunning sunsets. The Whitney Museum of American Art is located at 99 Gansevoort St. (btw. 10th Ave. & Washington St.). Call 212-570-3600 or visit



tical lines that, not unlike prison bars, succeed in stressing an overall sense of isolation. Some chapters thrive thematically but feel somewhat cramped. One entitled “Scotch Tape,” for example, features artists, who worked with non-traditional materials. Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, Lee Bontecou and Jay DeFeo, are among those presented here. However, these works rank among the most complex and significant in the Museum’s collection and finding them so closely installed to each other seems like overkill. In fact, they begin to cancel each other out. In contrast to the old Marcel Breuer building, which to me personally always felt like entering dark catacombs, the new galleries couldn’t feel lighter. Each floor features large windows and the eighth floor has some of the best skylights in town (including an elaborate shading system). Meanwhile, spaces are simple and to the point; they are functional and ready to vanish behind the works of art they are supposed to feature. The ceiling shows an elaborate grid of tracks, from which movable hanging walls can be configured freely. It is clear that Piano’s galleries are supposed to move for, and in the name of, art. It is a nice surprise, because too often museum architecture seems to defy its main purpose: to showcase the art housed inside. Other much-welcomed features include a theater-performance space on the third floor, something the Whitney has lacked thus far. On May 16, a major documentary on the legendary Eva Hesse will premiere here in the context of a private event. The fact that the new theater also features a window with a scenic view of the Hudson River makes it especially enticing. Here, Piano, who might have taken inspiration from Jazz at Lincoln Center at the Time Warner Center, whose characteristic feature is a monumental view of Central Park, has made sure that the Whitney now owns one of the most sought after event spaces in the city — for their own purposes and luxurious private functions. Overall, the Whitney seems to strive for a new sense of openness that goes with its new youthful location. This is reflected in its fresh contemplation of its permanent collection, as well as in the architecture, which fuses art and cityscapes throughout. Terraces enable visitors to leave the museum temporarily to rest and soak in the stunning textures of the neighborhood. In addition, higher floors also allow for views into offices and storage rooms. There is something democratic about this transparency. The new

An elaborate grid of ceiling tracks allow moveable hanging walls to be configured freely.

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April 30, 2015


‘Vengeance” is violent, absurdist fun Vampire tale weak at dawn, strong at dusk THEATER SIX ROUNDS OF VENGEANCE Written by Qui Nguyen Directed by Robert Ross Parker A Vampire Cowboys Production At Betty At the New Ohio Theatre 154 Christopher St. (btw. Washington & Greenwich Sts.) Through May 16, Wed.–Sun. at 8 p.m. For tickets ($18) and info: Artist info:



ix Rounds of Vengeance,” the latest offering from “geek theater” company Vampire Cowboys, is set in “Lost Vegas” — a post-apocalyptic spin on the city of sin. The stage is set with the remnants of once lively and bustling attractions and businesses abandoned and falling into disrepair, surrounded by rough-hewn wooden fences. Behind this, a video projector periodically displays the vast desert surrounding the city — and the whole stage is framed by gaudy, oversized vanity lights, creating a playful atmosphere. This rendering of the city serves as something of an apt visual metaphor for the play itself. “Six Rounds of Vengeance” provides audiences a fun diversion tinged with a sense of darkness, and an expansive sandbox for its actors to play in — but, unfortunately, also is undeniably rough around the edges. The story concerns Malcolm, a former cop, who joins forces with a duo of bounty hunters: the feisty, self-proclaimed “badass” Jess and her burly, hulking sidekick, Lucky. His goal? To avenge the fate of his husband Nathaniel by murdering Queen Mad — a leader amongst the vampires (called “longtooths” here) that have ravaged the country. Yes, true to their name, Vampire Cowboys have pro-


April 30, 2015

Queen Mad (Nicky Schmidlein) and Jess December (Jamie Dunn) face off in one of the titular rounds of vengeance.

duced a vampire revenge western in “Six Rounds.” The most obvious point of reference for this (which the nerdy audience Vampire Cowboys hopes to court are sure to be familiar with) is the collaborative work of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. It resembles the modern exploitation flick-style they popularized with “Grindhouse,” (which is particularly echoed in the play’s campy action and the hysterical Blaxploitation-parody cell phone PSA that runs before the show), and works from a similar plot and setting found in “From Dusk Till Dawn.” Fans of these films are sure to get a kick out of the similar aesthetic the company offers, and they get a lot of comic mileage from the set-up. Unfortunately, with such well-known forbearers, whenever Qui Nguyen’s script falters, it comes across as a pale imitation of those artists’ distinctive sensibilities. This is most notable in the front half of the play, which is burdened with excessive exposition, and pop culture references and zippy quips that should read as effortless, but come across as laborious. Thankfully though, Nguyen seems eager, and his script is bursting with ideas. It doesn’t ever linger too long on things that aren’t working — zooming between flashbacks, video clips, action scenes,

and even a surprise musical number to keep the momentum going. And in the back half, after we’ve invested time with the characters, their titular vengeance comes out in full swing. Everything snaps into place here, and the play becomes the bloody and funny romp it aims to be. The acting is uniformly great. Nicky Schmidlein has an infectious, manic energy as the psychopathic serial killer vampire, Queen Mad, camping things up to dark perfection. With their adorable chemistry Sheldon Best and John Hoche, respectively, bring Malcolm and Nathaniel’s relationship to life, which anchors the best stretches of the show with its tragic trajectory. Here, when the show pushes past its layers of irony to get to the heart of the situation, the play becomes, against all odds, quite melancholy and touching. This makes the Jess/ Lucky pairing work less well by comparison though, as Jamie Dunn and

Tom Myers operate better playing them as an odd-couple comic creation, and can never quite wring the pathos out of their relationship that the show wants to. But when “Six Rounds” is firing on all cylinders — as it does in a climactic fight sequence, bringing its emotional center to the fore, and placing it in the context of a comic and intense battle rendered in slow motion — it’s highly entertaining and strangely moving. Plus, it’s hard to argue with the play’s cracked logic when it leads the uncomplicated pleasures of sword-wielding BDSM vampires, profane and demented Claymation tumbleweeds and a giant, rampaging monster puppet. When staring these things down, it’s easy to forget all the production’s flaws, and simply be swept away by the violent, absurdist humor, and be glad that something this proudly weird and, yes, geeky made it to the stage.

‘The Visit’ will stay with you Dark work by Kander and Ebb is Broadway’s brightest THEATER THE VISIT Book by Terrence McNally Music by John Kander Lyrics by Fred Ebb Based on the play by Friedrich Durrenmatt as adapted by Maurice Valency Directed by John Doyle Choreographed by Graciela Daniele 100 minutes (no intermission) Tues.-Thurs. at 7 p.m. Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed. & Sat. at 2 p.m. | Sun. at 3 p.m. At the Lyceum Theatre 149 W. 45th St. Btw. Sixth Ave. & Broadway PHOTO BY THOM KAINE

Tickets: $29-$149, at

Michelle Veintimillia, Matthew Deming, Roger Rees, Chita Rivera, Chris Newcomer and the cast of “The Visit.”



heard it’s really dark,” said a patron who stood underneath the marquee for “The Visit” on Tuesday night. Sadly, the tone suggested this was not meant as a compliment. It should have been. You’d think that somebody lucky enough to be attending on the very day the show earned five Tony nominations could muster a bit more enthusiasm — if not for the buzz factor, then certainly in recognition of being among the first to see a new Kander and Ebb show, starring a living legend whose early career flourished long before Broadway was dominated by caramelized kiddie shows, jukebox junk food and dead on arrival revivals. Refreshingly adult in its themes and appeal, this morally conflicted battle of wills plays out in the bankrupt European town of Brachen, whose seemingly quaint citizens are in fact driven by greed and regret. Sober but engaging, “The Visit” has a well-marinated nasty streak that wraps itself around you like the vines that have overtaken

scenic designer Scott Pask’s symbolically decaying wrought-iron train station — where bright white rays that shine through broken windows cast shadows and, more often, an unforgiving harshness. Kander’s alternately celebratory and ominous carnival-tinged score, as the track record suggests, is a sublime fit with Ebb’s dark ride lyrics, which repeatedly stab at the heart of why desperate people so easily abandon their better nature. Terrence McNally’s book, full of icy exchanges, won’t allow for anything lighter than nervous laughter — and the transgressions committed in “The Visit” make the crimes of those murderous folks from “Chicago” seem like minor breaches of etiquette. Still reading? Then you’re the kind of person for whom “The Visit” is worth a stay, and maybe even a return. It’s a quite good show about very bad people, both the opportunistic townsfolk and the returning royalty over whom they fawn. That would be (Tony-deserving!) Chita Rivera’s Claire Zachanassian, who fled after a public smearing made the thought of staying

intolerable. In the many years since, she’s widowed often, and quite well. Dripping in jewels and immaculately dressed, the once-shunned woman of Gypsy/Jewish heritage triumphantly returns with a butler, two blind eunuchs, tons of luggage and a sleek black coffin (which glides around the stage, serving as everything from soap box to transportation to the grim thing it was made for). Although every member of this well-traveled group walks with a support stick, the strong-willed lady who pays the bills has little tolerance for crutches — emotional or otherwise. A sparkling, steely-eyed Rivera even uses her cane to put the kibosh on thunderous audience applause, after a look washes over her face that rebuilds the fourth wall and commands the entire house to get back to the business at hand: settling old scores. Patience also wears thin as the townspeople serenade Zachanassian with “Out of the Darkness,” an ode that casts her as a descending angel. “She’s come back to save us,” the song assures, “the town that she loves.” Zachanassian is happy to oblige. Of

course, there’s a catch that requires them to turn on one of their own — dignified but threadbare shop owner Anton Schell (Roger Rees), who stole, broke and still holds the heart of the world’s richest woman. “Claire is one of us,” reasons Schell. “When I tell her how we’re suffering, she will listen.” Listen she does, but is it any use? Though they openly flirt and meet in secret at the trysting place of their youth, Schell has clearly overplayed his hand, betting on forgiveness and losing big. Even so, he strives to make an honorable choice as the clock ticks on Zachanassian’s sinister ultimatum. Literally haunted by the past (younger, ghostly versions of the former lovers hover about), this tense standoff between a revenge-seeker and a betrayer who still can’t keep their eyes off each other is what gives “The Visit” its wings. Late in the evening, an increasingly soaring score and piercingly introspective lyrics put the show on track to a place where greed is good, codependence is king and satisfaction belongs to the queen of mean. April 30, 2015



April 30, 2015

Outspoken critic of Gigi Li is booted off C.B. 3 C.B. 3, continued from p. 1

the Borough President’s Office that she would not be reappointed to the East Village community board. Li was not present at the meeting because she was reportedly on vacation. Harrington, an African-American, had charged that Li “consistently and regularly failed to appoint any black or Latino members of our community board as the chairperson of a committee, subcommittee or task force,” a charge that Li strongly denied. As first reported in this newspaper in January, an Equal Employment Opportunity investigation into these allegations by the Borough President’s Office determined that the charge was “unsubstantiated,” and that Li — the first woman of Chinese descent to lead a New York City community board — had not chaired C.B. 3 long enough (one year) nor made enough appointments (six) to have established a “consistent pattern” of failing to appoint qualified blacks and Latinos. The final report on the matter, which this paper obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request, did, however, find that Li and the board’s leadership “failed to sufficiently emphasize the value of diversity and inclusion.” Harrington, who was passed over by Li last year to head the board’s Human Services and Education Committee, was not the only board member to make the complaint. Li has come under heavy criticism in the past year from a group of board members who were also displeased with several of her key appointments. Harrington, however, became the loudest voice calling for reform and had incurred the wrath of Li, although in past months the two of them seemed to be getting along quite well at board meetings. In her remarks at Tuesday night’s board meeting, which drew loud applause — but few voices of support from other board members — Harrington said she had decided as a matter of principle to “speak out about issues like race that made other people uncomfortable. I am the kind of person who is not afraid to speak out, and I’m also unstoppable,” she said. In her statement, Harrington, who was the interim chairperson of the board’s Health, Seniors and Human Services / Youth, Education and Human Rights Committee, went on to say that she had received broad support from board members and community residents alike for speaking out about the issue of race

Ayo Harrington, who sharply criticized Gigi Li’s appointments on C.B. 3, found out last week that she was not reappointed to the East Village board.

and inclusion on C.B. 3. “That’s why I’m so ashamed and totally disappointed by this outcome,” she said. “But I also know, without a shred of doubt, that my raising of this issue contributed to the recent appointment of three black and Latino people to positions of leadership on this board.” Harrington, who directed her remarks to Lucille Songhai, a spokesperson for the Manhattan borough president, had just finished giving a report to the board on Brewer’s community-related activities. Harrington said the borough president’s action in not reappointing her — after having served the minimum one two-year term — was “an embarrassment for this community, which claims to be so progressive. It’s a shameful outcome. “As a result of all this, my voice in speaking out about issues of racism, inclusion and transparency has gotten much stronger, and my voice will get much louder,” Harrington vowed. Songhai, asked after the meeting for her reaction to Harrington’s remarks, said she had “no comment” and referred questions to the borough president’s press office. The Villager last week tried to find out exactly why Brewer had decided not to reappoint Harrington, only to receive the response: “The Manhattan Borough President’s Office does not comment on the specifics of individual community board appointments.” For her part, Harrington last week told The Villager that the B.P.’s office only told her she wasn’t put back on C.B. 3 because the board had so many applications — more than for any other Manhattan board. Her term officially ends on April 30. Earlier in Tuesday evening’s meeting, only two board members spoke

out in support of Harrington. One of them was Vaylateena Jones, a member of Harrington’s committee. “As an African-American, I was very saddened by the news of her non-reappointment,” she said. “This was an African-American woman who used her voice to say something about racial conditions on this board. It sends a message to young African-American females that they should not speak up about racial matters.” Anne Johnson, a former C.B. 3 chairperson, added, “What kind of signal is it that people are appointed to the board but not allowed to speak up? What message does it send when someone like Ayo is censored for speaking out? This is a despicable action and must be rectified.” Asked after the meeting why so few board members spoke out in support of Harrington, a board member who requested anonymity said there was a “climate of fear” on the board.  “People don’t want to alienate their political sponsors who might be in support of Gigi,” he said. “There’s a lot of hypocrisy on this

board.” In other board business, a proposal in support of making Lunar New Year a city Department of Education holiday was delayed and sent back to committee. Several board members said that while they favored a school holiday marking the Chinese New Year, not enough consideration had been given to the problem of more and more school days off and its effect on working parents who cannot get or afford childcare. Board member Chad Marlow, echoing the concerns of other members, said that while he had the “utmost respect” for this holiday, the proliferation of school holidays puts pressure on working families to find childcare or else they will have to miss work. He said that a better approach was to “let each school choose what best fits their peoples’ needs.  Holidays should work both for children and the parents of those children.”

With reporting by Lincoln Anderson

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April 30, 2015




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April 30, 2015

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