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

May 7, 2015 • $1.00 Volume 84 • Number 49

N.Y.P.D. gets tougher with #BlackLivesMatter marchers after Baltimore BY ZACH WILLIAMS


olice showed little tolerance for #BlackLivesMatter activists who took to the streets in New York City on Wed., April 29, in a renewed push to bring attention to police violence against people of color. About 1,000 people at-

tended a rally that evening at Union Square as activists struck a more forceful tone than in prior demonstrations, when police and activists alike had largely avoided conflict beyond isolated cases. Several speakers remarked that activists should disregard warnings from PROTESTS, continued on p. 4



n Tues., May 19, the Museum of Jewish Heritage will premiere a never-before-seen 1945 documentary directed by Alfred Hitchcock. However, unlike a typical film by the master of suspense, this isn’t a psychological thriller that will leave viewers wondering

A Salute to

until the mystery is finally unraveled at the last minute. Rather, the documentary was made with the opposite intent: to erase any mystery about what really happened in the Nazi death camps, to expose the unvarnished truth about the Holocaust. It’s called “German Concentration Camps Factual FILM, continued on p. 20

Union Square

A special Villager supplement

A Salute to Union Square.....pages 15-18


Long-lost Hitchcock Holocaust film to show at Jewish museum

From left, Whitney Director Adam Weinberg, Michelle Obama and Mayor de Blasio at the dedication of the Whitney Museum on Thurs., April 30.

‘A signal moment’: First Lady and mayor dedicate Whitney BY LINCOLN ANDERSON


irst Lady Michelle Obama, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Whitney scion Flora Miller Biddle were among the speakers at the dedication of the new Whitney Museum of American Art last Thursday. The ceremony was held on Gansevoort St., the $442 million, 220,000-square-foot new museum’s home in the heart of the Meatpacking District. “I took a brief tour and I fell in love with the build-

ing,” Obama said. “This was the most beautiful freight elevator I’ve ever ridden on. Just about every space in this building is magnificent.” Robert Hurst, the museum’s co-chairperson, noted, “Rarely does one have the opportunity to build a museum from the ground up in New York. … This defining location places the Whitney among the city’s cultural icons.” Renzo Piano, the architect who created the massive “floating ship,” spoke over

the occasional din of traffic from the nearby West Side Highway. “Mama mia!… What a joy. Welcome to the brand-new piazza,” he said. “Some like to call it the lobby. I’m Italian, I call it the piazza. It’s a place of meeting — it’s a place of city life. …” The piazza is specifically the 8,500-square-foot public plaza beneath the museum’s dramatic, cantilevered entranceway. WHITNEY, continued on p. 6

Singing a preservationist’s 3 DNA leads to charges in ’95 10 Astronaut takes kids on space 29


a resignation speech to the board two weeks ago. One of his proudest moments, he told them, was pushing to get C.B. 2 to back the Hudson River Park Act of 1998, which led to the creation of the hugely popular 5-mile-long waterfront park. “You may not believe it, but until 1998, C.B. 2 opposed the plan for Hudson River Park,” he said. “In 1995 I was the only vote in favor of a bike path on the West Side. But by 1998, after 500 parents and kids showed up at a C.B. 2 meeting organized by Tobi Bergman, the board voted, narrowly, to support the Hudson River Park Act.” On the other hand, Schwartz, who is still the area’s elected Democratic district leader, said: “I am sad that our efforts have not prevented Greenwich Village and Soho from becoming a haven for rich people, that our community board is possibly the most non-black and non-Hispanic community in the city, if not the country, and that we have lost so many local businesses to high rent. But I know the fight will continue.” The longtime waterfront park activist said he hopes to keep involved with the planning for Pier 40.


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MEET ME AT THE WHITNEY: The new Whitney Museum of American Art invited “friends, neighbors and community members” to a breakfast reception and private viewing of the Gansevoort St. museum on Saturday morning. Among those making the scene, above, with Jane Carey, the Whitney’s community affairs manager, were Community Board 2 members, from left, Chairperson Tobi Bergman, former Chairperson David Gruber and Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance. REACHING THE SUMMIT: Councilmember Corey Johnson will be holding an inaugural West Side Summit on Sat., May 9, from noon to 3 p.m., at Civic Hall, 156 Sixth Ave., between W. 20th and 21st Sts., second floor. Johnson will give a State of the District report, and the results of participatory-budgeting voting will be announced. The event’s keynote speaker will be Margaret Newman, executive director of the Municipal Society of New York. RSVP by Fri., May 8, to or or by calling 212-564-7757. MAY THE SCHWARTZ BE WITH YOU — OR NOT: A member of C.B. 2 for the past 24 years,




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Westbeth’s Gina Shamus tells us that excitement is peaking for the first-ever Westbeth Spring Sale, which will be held Sat., May 9, Sun., May 10, and Sat., May 16, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sun., May 17, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Shamus tells us that the latest new items include two keyboards (seven octaves and five octaves) and a tabletop wood saw. At the Spring Sale, you’ll find everything from residents’ original oil paintings, a treasure trove of art books and occasional new and designer items, to household wares, furniture, electronics and children’s books and toys. The proceeds will be used to buy flowers for the complex, at West and Bethune Sts.

Arthur Schwartz was recently not reappointed to the Village/Lower West Side board. Basically, Schwartz told us, he did reapply, but Borough President Gale Brewer told him his attendance was not good enough. His heavy responsibilities as a top union lawyer have only increased recently. Plus, he has two young children, 9 and 11. Between evening union meetings and having to pick up his kids from gymnastics at Chelsea Piers, he admits, it’s hard for him to attend full C.B. 2 meetings. “The borough president called me and said, ‘Your attendance is spotty,’ ” he said. “They want people to be there at the beginning, to listen to the public session — which is correct.” Schwartz gave

QUAD TEMORARY QLOSING: The Quad Cinema on W. 13th St. — known for its independent, documentary and foreign films — has closed for renovations and will reopen in the fall. Under new ownership, it will reportedly retain its four-screen layout and continue to show the same genres of movies. “Hope it’s true,” said former Councilmember Carol Greitzer, who brought the closing to our attention. CORRECTIONS: An article on the demolition of Our Lady of Vilnius Church in last week’s issue incorrectly identified Ramute Zukas as the president of “the congregation.” In fact, for 10 years while trying to save the Broome St. church, she was president of the Lithuanian Community New York District. Zukas started and led the Save Our Lady of Vilnius campaign. ... At the end of last week’s article on Ayo Harrington not being reappointed to C.B. 3, there was a mention of the board’s vote on another matter, whether the Chinese Lunar New Year should be a school holiday. The article incorrectly reported that the board recommended sending the matter back to committee. However, C.B. 3 unanimously supported making it a school holiday. But it was resolved that the board should spend more time at the committee level discussing how to address the burden that more school holidays can put on working parents.

Morton neighbors celebrate preservation champion BY ALBERT AMATEAU



lbert S. Bennett, a longtime Morton St. resident, has been by turns a musician, a theatrical agent, an editor and an actor. But his greatest satisfaction has been his advocacy for his block and for the greater Greenwich Village neighborhood. Bennett’s friends and neighbors gathered on a recent Saturday afternoon to celebrate his many careers and his long and passionate devotion to the preservation of the Village. The event was also a celebration of two upcoming milestones for Bennett: his 90th birthday in July and, on Sept. 1, the 60th anniversary of his moving to Morton St. Mary Phillips, who served as toastmaster at the gathering in the Morton St. apartment of Tom and Ellen Stevenson, cited Bennett as a founder of the revived Morton St. Block Association 22 years ago. She chronicled his relentless efforts to extend the Greenwich Village Historic District and to preserve the waterfront. In 2010, Bennett won a Village Award from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, she noted. “He calls himself a tyrant, because no matter how careful I am, he always finds a typo in the Morton Street News, the block association newsletter,” Phillips said. “If so, he’s the most beloved tyrant in the world,” said Phillips, editor of the newsletter. Bennett also contributed to “Maritime Mile: The Story of the Greenwich Village Waterfront,” by Stuart Waldman and Zack Winestine, a book about the Hudson waterfront between Canal and 14th Sts., published in 2002. “Albert wrote the captions for the photos — and the book is mostly photos and captions,” Phillips said. Bennett told a visitor from The Villager the story of how he found his home in the four-story row house on Morton St. “There was a ‘for rent’ notice for the apartment in the ladies’ room at J. Walter Thompson,” he recalled. “I was working at the ad agency and someone who knew I was looking for a place showed it to me. “The building used to be a brothel known as the Town House,” he said. “It had a plaque on the front door. It was a very distinguished whorehouse that began during Prohibition and lasted until the end of World War II. The madam was Idetta de Renais — I don’t know what her real name was. The story is that she died around 1945 and left the building to her favorite girl, whose name was Mary Duggan, best as I remember. “By the time I got there in 1955, the

building was owned by N.A. Bruno, a landlord who had other properties in the Village. My building at 40 Morton dates from 1854; it’s in the Anglo-Italianate style, an unusual architectural style,” he said. Bennett, born and raised in East Bay, a suburb of San Francisco, played the organ as a teenager for a local church. He went to the University of California at Berkeley for a year but was drafted into the Army in 1943. He was sent to the Pacific as a chaplain’s assistant (“because I played the organ”) and was on Okinawa during the last battle. Discharged in 1946, Bennett completed his undergraduate degree at Berkeley and then went to the Yale Graduate School of Drama. “My first job in New York out of Yale was as an intern for Audrey Wood, reading plays,” Bennett said. “She was one of the most important theatrical agents in town. Playwrights like Tennessee Williams and William Inge were her clients.” By the mid-1950s, Bennett was at J. Walter Thompson, working as a story editor for the Kraft Television Theater, a program that the ad agency produced. A long career editing reference books followed, first at the American Heritage Dictionary and then at the Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, where he edited the annual yearbook. “I retired as soon as I could and tried to be an actor,” he said. “I was able to get occasional jobs, winding up on ‘Law & Order’ a few times. But it got to a point where I couldn’t remember lines anymore and I decided to call an end to that career.” Theater folk seem to be prominent among Morton St. residents. Erwin Lerner, a guest at the Bennett gathering, is a playwright whose one-acts “Dilemma,” “Happy New Year Love” and “Tea” have appeared Off Broadway. He told a visitor how he first met his wife, who lived in the same building. “I opened the shutters one morning, and there she was in the window across the courtyard,” Lerner said. “We’ve been together ever since.” Elliot Levine, who turned 90 recently, is an actor with many credits. “I played the old Shakespearian actor in ‘The Fantasticks’ at the Sullivan St. Playhouse in 1978,” Levine said. “The two things I liked best were the role — I loved the old Shakespearian actor — and the fact that it was only a five-minute walk from home to the theater.” Responding to the tributes from his Morton St. neighbors about his preservation achievements, Bennett said, “I couldn’t have done it without all of you. This is the most important thing I’ve done. This is my legacy. Who could ask for anything more?”

Albert Bennett at the party on Sat., April 25, that his Morton St. neighbors 15.PR.3929_1.qxp_Layout 4/21/15 11:40Nifty AM Page 1 threw for him. Everyone 1wore “Albert at Ninety” buttons.

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Police crack down on march after Baltimore Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association Editorials, First Place, 2014 Overall Design Excellence, First Place, 2013 Best Column, First Place, 2012 Photographic Excellence, First Place, 2011 Spot News Coverage, First Place, 2010 Coverage of Environment, First Place, 2009












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May 7, 2015

the New York Police Department (disseminated via fliers and loudspeaker) that protesters would be arrested if they marched in the streets. “We’re exercising our constitutional rights and will ignore [the warnings],” said Akua, an organizer with Millions March NYC who declined to give her last name. The event was in solidarity with activists in Baltimore, where protests and rioting erupted following the April 19 death of a young black man, Freddie Gray, following an injury sustained under unclear circumstances while in police custody after an arrest for possession of a switchblade. Gray’s death followed the fatal shooting on April 4 of Walter Scott by a police officer in South Carolina, which inspired #BlackLivesMatters activists to congregate at Union Square on April 14 in what had been their most high-profile demonstration in months. Speakers last Wednesday included several relatives of victims of police violence, including Erica Garner, whose father, Eric, died last summer in Staten Island during an attempted arrest for selling loose cigarettes. Hertencia Petersen told the crowd that the movement should confront elected officials, such as Mayor de Blasio and President Obama — both of whom, she noted, counted on the black vote during election season but have yet to adequately address the underlying reasons for police-related deaths, in her opinion. “The injustice that has been prominent against black and brown lives in urban communities must end,” Peterson said. “N.Y.P.D. and all police departments worldwide have unjustified, preconceived attitudes and opinions toward black and brown lives, and their work is unacceptable and they must be held accountable.” Rookie Police Officer Peter Liang fatally shot Peterson’s nephew, Akai Gurley, in the stairwell of an East New York housing project last November. Liang was indicted for manslaughter in February — in notable contrast to other cases, such as the police-involved killings of Garner and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, where the lack of indictments against the officers inspired the birth of the movement late last year. Up until April 29, police had largely let them march in the streets on many occasions. But last Wednesday, they took a harder line. As the mass of activists made their way out of Union Square at about 7 p.m., they soon found dozens of police blocking their way about halfway down W. 17th St. The first dozen of at least 100 arrests that night occurred as police first herded the crowd onto opposite sidewalks, then split them into quarters at the intersection of 17th St. and Union Square West. The energy of the march seemed de-



PROTESTS, continued from p. 1

Police kept close to the protesters, and began making arrests when they spilled into the street.

flated at that moment, with some activists expressing dismay that the action had met its match so quickly in the form of aggressive police crowd control. Activists noted that they understood the passion behind rioting, which took place in Baltimore after Gray’s death, but added that activists in New York City have not participated in such behavior. “Certain parts of the media just portrays our African-American brothers and sisters as criminals and thugs and n----- and just looting and messing up the community,” said Taven Gibson, 23, a Harlem resident. “Yes, [rioting is] wrong but that’s one of our ways of expressing how we feel.” By 7:30 p.m. — after about a half hour of inaction — the activists split into separate marches, with one group wending its way to the West Side, through Chelsea to Times Square, where they rejoined other marchers. Police lined up along a cross street as the protesters filled Times Square before continuing south along Seventh Ave. The night’s biggest clashes erupted just south of Times Square, when activists began marching in the street again. Police soon pushed them back with billy clubs and shoves, and made arrests. The protesters then began turning westbound on W. 43rd St. in an effort to evade the police. Further clashes and arrests transpired in the vicinity, including the arrest of this reporter for allegedly obstructing traffic while taking photographs. There were reports of some protesters throwing bottles at police after marchers blocked the Holland Tunnel and the West Side Highway near Canal St. In addition, the commander of the 13th Precinct was reportedly hit in the head with a stick and suffered a cut under his jaw. Frustrated activists said earlier that while police were succeeding in controlling the march, such protests would continue, as well as political maneuvering behind the scenes in the coming months. “We are going to our local, state and federal to discuss reform around policing,” said Monica Dennis, one of the

speakers at the Union Square rally, in an interview. “We are working on various campaigns, and there is public direct action. So this will continue, continue to accelerate and you will see more and more of us throughout the summer.” However, Marilyn Mosby, the Maryland state attorney for Baltimore, moved quickly to charge six officers in Gray’s death, helping defuse unrest somewhat in that city. At issue is whether the police purposefully gave Gray a “rough ride,” also known as a “bounce,” in their van, which may have caused his fatal spinal injury. Gray also may have arrested under false pretenses since it turns out he had a legal knife, not an illegal switchblade, as police had stated. “May Day for Freddie Gray” read signs at a demonstration two days later where the annual International Workers’ Day served as the latest forum for #BlackLivesMatter activities — only this time in conjunction with the usual wide array of social, political and economic causes. The typical graying socialists mixed with anarchists and groups like the CUNY Internationalist Club. Family members of Mexican college students kidnapped by corrupt police in cahoots with drug traffickers were just one set of speakers calling for a society more oriented toward the working class. “Most often, exploited workers are black and brown people,” said Elsa Waitha of Brooklyn. “So what you have here is people for different causes all coming together for one central purpose. I think this year the theme incorporates all the different causes. But I think we are all here because black lives matter, and that’s been the thread for the last several months.” At Union Square on May 1, East Village resident Steven Shryock held a sign saying, “They rarely shoot old white guys like me.” “A lot of people like the sign but a lot of people, especially white people my age, say I’m full of s--- because ‘there is no such thing as white privilege’ and that kind of stuff,” he said. “Right now there is so much denial.”


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‘The building is yours,’ says museum’s architect WHITNEY, continued from p. 1


May 7, 2015


“I wanted to make it fly,” Piano said of the design of the building, which sits on enormous support poles, suspended over the glass-enclosed first floor, as if on air. However, Piano quipped, “It’s 28,000 tons — so it doesn’t fly. “Art is freedom,” he said. “Especially American art — a bit wild.” As a result, the building must mirror that feeling, he said: “It’s got to be brave, flying...a bit unpolite.” The museum’s 18,000-square-foot fifth floor is the largest column-free museum exhibition space in New York. “I love making buildings, but I especially like making buildings for public use,” Piano said. “Art and beauty make us better people. Beauty builds curiosity and desire. … I’m pretty sure that beauty will save the world. “Thank you for coming,” he concluded. “The building is yours.” Adam Weinberg, the Whitney’s director, said, “People are calling the building ‘generous’ — airy, open, light, but comfortable and warm.” Mayor de Blasio dubbed the dedication “a signal moment.” “This is an extraordinary day for New York City, for this nation, for art,” he said. Eighty-four years and four locations later, the museum has returned to the neighborhood where it all began. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, an artist, art patron, collector and member of one of America’s wealthiest families, started the museum back during the Great Depression. Back then it was known as the Whitney Studio Club and was located in her apartment on MacDougal Alley. She would hold salons there. Biddle, her granddaughter, received a standing ovation before she spoke. “The need for art has never been greater,” she said, “for art can lift us and tell us who we are and who we need to be.” Both Obama and de Blasio emphasized that art and culture — and the museum — are for everyone, and for all the city’s children and students. Weinberg praised de Blasio for last year increasing the budget for arts funding in the city’s schools by $23 million. “We are fortunate to have a mayor that shows a belief that art is a right not a privilege,” he said. The mayor added, “Our first lady knows that the arts are essential to the development of our young people.” Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Obama recalled, she didn’t think places like the Whitney were for her. Too many children today still feel that way, she said. She and President Obama have

Architect Renzo Piano described the design of the new museum as “flying.”

Flora Miller Biddle said society’s need for art has never been greater. Her grandmother, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, founded the museum as a salon in the Village with the goal of focusing on American art instead of European art.

strived to open up the White House to the people, she said, adding that the Whitney is “sending the same message.” Even a little exposure can go a long

way. “One visit, one performance, one touch — and who knows? — you can change a life,” Obama said. “You can find the next Edward Hopper —

or who knows? — the next Barack Obama.” After the ceremony, Weinberg invited everyone inside for a glass of champagne. Attesting to the new Whitney’s community-mindedness, the crowd was full of local politicians, community board members and neighborhood fixtures. “I think it’s a beautiful building, iconic and now an anchor for the neighborhood,” said Councilmember Corey Johnson, “nestled between the High Line, the meatpackers, Hudson River Park and Westbeth.” “It’s great,” said Tobi Bergman, chairperson of Community Board 2. “It’s going to be a real change for the Village — a good change for the Village.” Jonathan Kuhn, director of Arts and Antiquities for the Parks Department and a West Village resident, said, “From the beginning, I think the architect set the tone — to make it about humanity...and being a friendlier face than many of our cultural institutions. It starts at the top with Adam Weinberg.” State Senator Brad Hoylman said he’s glad his 4-year-old daughter will have the Whitney right nearby as she grows up. “I find it so appropriate that the Whitney is coming back Downtown,” he said. “And to have this asset Downtown is going to mean so much for the community — and my family.” A former C.B. 2 chairperson, he said that, from the start, the Whitney had always worked closely with the community board, keeping it abreast of its plans for the project. John Jobbagy, an owner of J.T. Jobbagy meats in the “meat co-op” building on the same block as the museum, said of the new Whitney, “Fabulous. An incredible addition to the neighborhood.” He said he had noticed an increase in foot traffic down Washington St. in the weeks leading up to the museum’s opening. “I can’t wait to get my membership,” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick. Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of the Huffington Post, was also among the upbeat crowd mingling in the lobby after the dedication. “Oh, absolutely lovely,” she said of the new Whitney. “As someone who lives in Soho, I love what they do for the neighborhood, and opening it up to children... .” The museum officially opened the following day, Fri., May 1. Admission is $22. (Seniors/students, $18. Under age 18 and members, free). Annual membership is about $80.

New look at Tricky Dick and the rest of America


The Whitney Museum of American Art’s inaugural exhibition, “America Is Hard To See,” re-examines the nation’s art from 1900 to today, and features more than 600 works by some 400 artists. The title, taken from a Robert Frost poem that was also used by the filmmaker Emile de Antonio for one of his political documentaries, is the most extensive display to date of the Whitney’s collection and fills the museum.

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Another C.B. 2 member got Soho House freebie BY LINCOLN ANDERSON


ean Sweeney, a member of Community Board 2 and the director of the Soho Alliance, recently reached an agreement with the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board to pay a fine of more than $3,000 for taking a free one-year membership at the Meatpacking District Soho House. In 2003, Soho House, a private-membership club, opened on Ninth Ave. in the Meatpacking District, within C.B. 2. Since then, Soho House has had several matters before C.B. 2 relating to State Liquor Authority licensing. Sweeney, in the final “disposition,” as it’s called, with COIB, states that around March 2005, Chris Sade, Soho House’s president, contacted him regarding a plan to install awnings on Soho House’s roof. Sweeney was then chairperson of the C.B. 2 Landmarks Committee. Soho House is in the landmarked Gansevoort Historic district. Sade wanted to know if the proposed work would comply with landmark regulations and what Sweeney’s committee would think of it. “At Sade’s invitation, I went to Soho House in my C.B. 2 capacity and met with Sade regarding the proposed work,” Sweeney states in the disposition. “My girlfriend accompanied

me...since we planned to have a dinner date nearby that evening. After Sade and I finished discussing the proposed roof work, Sade offered to give us a tour of the building. Near the end of the tour, my girlfriend complained aloud that she was hungry and requested that we both go to dinner soon, as I had promised her. Sade suggested that we have dinner as his guest, and I accepted his offer. Neither my girlfriend nor I paid for our meal. “During the dinner,” Sweeney further avers in the disposition, “I discussed Soho House membership with Sade, who told me that he would recommend me for membership and gave me an application. Thereafter, I submitted a membership application and was accepted as a member. “Although I never asked for or sought a complimentary membership in Soho House, Soho House did not charge me a registration fee and did not send me an invoice, effectively providing me a complimentary membership for 2005,” Sweeney states in the agreement. In 2006, the disposition notes, the Soho activist was a paying member of the club and recused himself from voting when a matter involving modification of Soho House’s liquor license came before C.B. 2.

Sweeney acknowledges to COIB that he “received a gratuity in violation of [the] City accepting a complimentary meal and membership from an entity with potential matters before the community board that I served.” In the agreement, COIB states that it is “aware of no evidence” that Sweeney’s acceptance of the gratuity was “undertaken with corrupt intent” or “resulted in an unwarranted advantage” for Soho House. In the end, Sweeney agreed to pay COIB a fine of $3,192, equaling the estimated $1,192 cost of the one-year membership, plus a $2,000 penalty. In a statement to The Villager, Sweeney said, “Despite an exhaustive twoyear investigation, a team of investigators could not find a single shred of wrongdoing, or even intent, on my part. Because there was none. Indeed, the Conflicts of Interest Board admitted such. “However, my membership in Soho House 10 years ago may have provided to some the ‘appearance’ of impropriety, which has now been addressed.” After the one free year, Sweeney was a paying member of Soho for two years, after which he ended his membership. When, in September 2013, The Villager interviewed David McWater the day before he resigned from C.B. 3, he angrily blasted Sweeney for having taken what McWater incorrectly

called a free “three-year membership” at the Meatpacking Soho House, then turning around and publicly opposing Soho House’s application for a liquor license for its planned Ludlow St. location on the Lower East Side. McWater had clashed with local anti-bar activists over the L.E.S. Soho House, among other liquor-license applications. Last year, Jo Hamilton, a former C.B. 2 chairperson, agreed to pay COIB a fine of $10,660 for taking a free membership at the Meatpacking Soho House for 10 years. The fine included the estimated cost of a decade’s membership, plus a $2,500 penalty. “People employed by Soho House are personal friends of mine, and they offered me the complimentary membership, which I accepted, in 2003,” Hamilton said. She said the club annually renewed her complimentary membership until 2013. Hamilton told COIB that her husband, William Hamilton, was a founding member of the club and did pay full membership dues. She also stated that, during their decade-long membership at the club, they both paid all charges for food, drink and services that they or their friends ordered. As with Sweeney, COIB concluded there was no evidence of corruption on Jo Hamilton’s part in accepting the free membership or that it had resulted in an unwarranted advantage to Soho House.


Speaking out against testing


aying they’ve been “silenced,” New York City public school teachers removed their “gags” and spoke out in Washington Square Park on Tuesday, standing with students and parents in support of “optout” actions against excessive testing. “We are not allowed to look at the tests and our right to speak with parents about our concerns is restricted by ambiguous, threatening rules from the New York State Education Department,” the objecting teachers said in a statement. “Without the ability to view, openly discuss or engage meaningfully around the tests, we are unable to support our students and families, which, as teachers, is our ethical responsibility.”


May 7, 2015

Colin Schumacher, a teacher at the East Village’s Earth School who refused to administer state tests, said, “We have an ethical responsibility to preserve public education.” Marcus McArthur, a Special Education teacher at City-As-School High School in the West Village, said the tests unduly determine students’ future education and employment opportunities. “High-stakes tests are nothing more than legalized income discrimination,” he charged. “We know that your parents’ income is the greatest predictor of how you will do on those tests... . The poor are denied opportunities, not because they’re not just as talented or skilled, but because the game is rigged in favor of the rich.”



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POLICE BLOTTER Charged in ’95 rape


May 7, 2015


On Fri., May 1, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr., announced the indictment of Joseph Giardala, 44, following a recent DNA cold-case hit, for raping a young woman in the West Village in January 1995. Giardala was charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with rape, attempted  rape and robbery in the first degree, among other charges. “If New York City had not taken the initiative to tackle its rape-kit backlog more than a decade ago, this victim’s kit may never have been tested, and this defendant never apprehended,” said Vance. “Appropriately, the prosecutor handling this case is the very same person who indicted the defendant’s ‘John Doe’ DNA profile in 2003, a groundbreaking strategy at a time when New York State still had a statute of limitations on high-level felony sex crimes, including rape in the first degree. “As this case demonstrates, DNA evidence solves crimes across state lines and across decades. That is why my office has committed $35 million to eliminating backlogs of untested rape kits across the country,” Vance said. “We are urging any jurisdiction with untested rape kits to apply for funding by June 1.” According to court documents and statements made on the record in court, Giardala is charged with attacking a 25-year-old woman shortly after midnight on January 23, 1995, as she walked home from a movie theater in the West Village. Giardala allegedly forced the victim into the vestibule of a nearby building, and then robbed and raped her at knifepoint. The victim immediately went to St. Vincent’s Hospital following the attack, where the elements of a sexual assault evidence kit, or “rape kit,” were collected. That kit remained untested until the launch of New York City’s Rape Kit Backlog Project in 2000, through which more than 17,000 previously untested rape kits were tested and analyzed for DNA evidence.  A DNA profile developed from the victim’s rape kit was uploaded to the F.B.I.’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) in 2001, but did not immediately match a pre-existing DNA profile. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office presented the criminal case to a New York Supreme Court Grand Jury in 2003, obtaining a “John Doe” indictment listing the perpetrator by his DNA profile. Earlier this year, in an unrelated matter, Giardala’s DNA profile was entered into CODIS in Florida and matched the DNA profile listed on the “John Doe” indictment. Giardala was charged with rape, robbery, sodomy, attempted rape and sexual abuse, all in the first degree.

As #BlackLivesMatter protesters got ready to march out of Union Square on Wed., April 29, Inspector Elisa Cokkinos was ready to unfurl an orange net to corral them if they swarmed into the street. Beforehand, police had given strict warnings to the protesters to stay on the sidewalks or face arrest. The large orange nets were first seen during the 2004 Republican National Convention, when New York City police used them to make mass arrests of protesters.

knocked one of Snipes’s teeth loose, snapped the cartilage in his ear, and left him with head bruising. York-Adams got Snipes up, at which point the other man rushed over and hit Snipes over the head with the chair. The attackers then fled the scene. The incident reportedly will be investigated as a hate crime. Councilmember Corey Johnson released a statement, saying, “I am appalled and angered by the senseless act of anti-L.G.B.T. hate violence that was perpetrated last night at a restaurant in my district. The fact that this attack took place in Chelsea, a place known around the world for its acceptance of all people, is particularly outrageous. There must be zero tolerance of hate crimes, the most insidious of crimes since they target entire communities of people. “I urge the perpetrators of this act to turn themselves in immediately,” Johnson said. “My office is in communication with the New York Police Department and the NYC Anti Violence Project. I urge anyone with information about this case to contact Crime Stoppers at 646-610-6806.”

Slashes straphanger

Cokkinos and other police arrested a Cro-Mags T-shirt-wearing protester near Union Square on April 29.

Between 2000 and 2003, New York City sent out roughly 17,000 rape kits for testing, creating a model for other large cities to test their own backlogged rape kits. In Manhattan alone, more than 3,700 untested rape kits were analyzed for DNA evidence, generating more than 1,300 DNA profiles. The Manhattan D.A.’s Office pioneered efforts to indict the unidentified DNA profiles developed from these previously dormant rape kits as “John Does,” thereby stopping the clock on the statute of limitations. In total, the Manhattan  D.A. filed 49 indictments based on cold-case hits from backlogged kits.

Vicious BBQ gay bash A diner at Dallas BBQ in Chelsea was hit over the head with a wood-

en chair in an alleged bias attack on Tues., May 5. The incident happened just after 11 p.m. at the Dallas BBQ at Eighth Ave. near 23rd St., according to police. Jonathan Snipes, 32, and his boyfriend Ethan York-Adams, 25, were reportedly celebrating Cinco de Mayo there when Snipes got a text about a death in his family. He told DNAinfo that as they were exiting, they accidentally knocked over a drink. “A table near us audibly started making pretty gross comments about the two of us like, ‘White faggots, spilling drinks,’ ” Snipes said. “I don’t let anyone talk to me like that. I went over there and asked, ‘What did you say about us?’” Things escalated and got physical, and a large man with a shaved head and beard from the table reportedly knocked Snipes down and allegedly called him “faggot” while kicking his face and spine. The attack reportedly

It turned ugly when a woman ignored a man who tried chatting her up at the Brooklyn Bridge subway station on Sat., May 2, around 6 p.m., police said. The man, later described to police as around age 35, 5-foot-6-inches tall and 165 pounds, tried to engage the woman, 34, in conversation. When she ignored him, he spat at her — and she just laughed. But then he whipped out a sharp instrument and slashed her on the arm before fleeing the station. The woman was taken to NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, where she was treated and then released, police said. The suspect wore a Yankees cap, black sunglasses, a blue A-shirt, dark jeans, a medallion on a chain around his neck and a dark backpack. He had a light moustache and appeared to be Hispanic.

Apple picker Police said than on Sat., May 2, at about 11:50 p.m., a man illegally entered a 43-year-old man’s apartment on Stanton St. through the living-room window and removed an Apple iPhone 6 smart phone.

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Working all the angles at the Whitney Whitney Muesum-goers relaxed on a fifth-floor terrace overlooking Gansevoort St. and the Hudson River on Saturday.


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR A pretty chilling message To The Editor: Re “Outspoken critic of Li’s leadership of C.B. 3 is booted from E.V. board” (news article, April 30): First, I have to express my anger and disgust that Ayo Harrington was not reappointed to Community Board 3, and I am not alone in my feelings. C.B. 3 might be a community board that people want to get on, but not a board people want


to stay on. This year we had around a 20 percent turnover. Nearly half of those members whose terms were up didn’t even reapply. What kind of a signal is it that people are appointed to fill seats but then won’t speak up? In Ayo Harrington, we had an eminently qualified member of this community, a hard worker with a track record of doing a lot of good, who was censured for speaking honestly about injustices she saw on this board. And because of what she chose to speak up about, she was not invited back?

What message does this send to the rest of us? A pretty chilling one, I would say. This country has a history of people speaking out against injustice: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc. They may have offended people, but perhaps those people needed offending. This action against Ayo Harrington is despicable and must be rectified.   Anne Johnson Johnson is a member, Community Board 3

Team effort on O.L. Vilnius To The Editor: Re “The long goodbye is over for old Lithuanian church in Hudson Square” (news article, April 30): Thanks very much to Tequila Minsky for covering this final gathering in front of what is left of Our Lady of Vilnius Church. If I had not been ill, I would have been among the “congregants.” I wanted to make a correction and add to what you presented. While Ramute Zukas played a role in the effort to save Our Lady of Vilnius, she does not hold any office in what you call our “congregation.” Ms. Zukas held the office of president of the New York district of the Lithuanian American LETTERS, continued on p. 14


May 7, 2015

Hats off...umm, on! Japan’s attitude on kids RHYMES WITH CRAZY BY LENORE SKENAZY


f you have passed a public playground anywhere in New York City, you have seen this sign: “Playground rules prohibit adults except in the company of children.” That is right — no adults allowed, unless they are demonstrably there in their capacity as a caregiver. Apparently, any adult who simply wants to sit on a bench and watch kids at play could be a creep. Best to just ban them all. The idea that children and adults naturally go together has been replaced by distrust and disgust. Maybe you recall that case in a Washington Heights playground a few years back when seven chess players were fined for — wait for it — playing chess. The chess tables — concrete ones, placed there by the city — were deemed too close to the kids. So the men were booted. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t caused any trouble. In fact, the griz-

zled guys had taken it upon themselves to teach some of the local kids how to play the Game of Kings. The reality of the situation — the men’s kindness — didn’t matter. All that mattered was the fantasies conjured up by “What if?” thinking: What if they turned out to be monsters? By separating the generations this way, we are creating a new society, one that actively distrusts anyone who wants to help a kid other than his own. Compare this anxiety with what goes on in Japan. There, the youngest kids wear bright yellow hats when they go to school. “Doesn’t that put them in danger?” asked a friend I was telling about

this. To her, a kid who calls attention to himself is a kid who could be attracting a predator. It is like she really thinks kids should play outside in camouflage. But attracting adult attention is exactly what the yellow hats are supposed to do. In Japan, the assumption is that the easier it is to see children, the easier it is for grown-ups to look out for them. Japan is coming from the idea that children are our collective responsibility. America sees children as private treasures under constant threat, so why trust anyone around them? Which brings me to the flip side of our obsession with stranger danger: The idea that any time a parent lets her kids do anything on their own, she is actually asking the rest of us grown-ups to “babysit” them, for free. This topic came up last week when a story from Canada went viral: An 11-year-old boy in an Alberta mall was detained by the staff of the Lego store because he was shopping there without a parent. It didn’t matter that he had come there with his own money, intending to buy the Legos he loves so much. It didn’t matter that he had shopped there many times before without incident. And it didn’t matter that he was perfectly well behaved.

All that mattered was that this time, a store employee asked his age and since it was under 12 (the magical age when Lego allows consumers to fork over cash on their own), he was deemed an unbearable burden to the store. The manager had the boy detained until his father picked him up. This detention outraged many people, but a significant contingent sided with the store, saying that the employees there shouldn’t have to “babysit” the boy. But that’s the point! No one did have to babysit him. He was just a person in public, albeit a young one. He was fine. If some problem had come up — say he poked himself in the eye with a Lego block — well, then, yes, some adult may have had to come to his aid. That is not babysitting! That is one human being helping another who happens to be under 12. Old and young have always interacted. Adults who enjoy being around kids are, generally, adults who enjoy being around kids. They aren’t predators. I’m not sure about the yellow hats, but Japan has the right idea. Looking out for everyone beats trusting no one. Skenazy is a public speaker and founder of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids”

Tax credit gets an ‘F’ on church-state separation TALKING POINT BY DEBORAH J. GLICK


or progressive New Yorkers who fully embrace and believe in the separation of church and state, the national movement to erode that article of faith in our secular country is deeply disturbing. We are always looking at Congress or other states, but we should be paying more attention here at home. We may be incredulous over the recent congressional stalemate over a sex-trafficking bill because of the inappropriate inclusion of an anti-abortion clause, which delayed the confirmation of Loretta Lynch for U.S. attorney general. We are shocked by the extreme measures in state legislatures across the country and extremist proposals from citizens, including an initiative in California that calls for the death penalty for L.G.B.T. Californians simply for being gay. We’re stunned by

the number of bills to limit or outlaw methods of contraception in almost every state of the union. But as New Yorkers, we feel immune to these extremist, religious-based initiatives. That sense of security emanates from a history in which the Assembly Democratic majority has protected basic rights from sectarian attacks. In view of the passage of marriage equality in New York, there appears to be reason to believe that our state has moved into this new century without any backsliding. Not so fast. It wasn’t that long ago when a professed pro-choice Governor Pataki vetoed a bill that would have made emergency contraception available over the counter, despite the fact that then-Republican Majority Leader Joe Bruno got the measure passed in a Republican-controlled state Senate. For the past few years, the Women’s Equality Act, a package of bills combined by Governor Cuomo out of individual legislation that was repeatedly passed by the Assembly, was rejected by the state Senate because one part of the package would codify Roe v. Wade in state law. As the Assembly moves forward passing individual parts of that

package, we approved a reproductive-rights bill, without any indication that the state Senate will join us in the 21st century to protect the right of women to make their own reproductive-health decisions regardless of any future changes in the U.S. Supreme Court. But far more insidious is the current fight over the so-called Education Investment Tax Credit, disturbingly named so its shorthand will be the EITC. The real EITC, the Earned Income Tax Credit, provides a tax credit for the working poor. But this education initiative allows for a tax credit — different from a tax deduction — for charitable donations to religious and private schools through a voucher system for scholarships. This year’s budget included $100 million for this purpose. It allows for a credit up to $1 million, which means wealthy folks can direct resources to scholarships for private and religious schools and, in effect, have the state pay for it. Contrast this $100 million to the $75 million the state directed to assist public schools — specifically, those with a 10-year history of poor performance — to assist in their turnaround. The lobbying by religious institutions, primarily Catholic schools and

Orthodox yeshivas, has gained some support in the Assembly majority. This is reminiscent of the struggle in New York City around the use of public school buildings for religious services on weekends. There were many surprising supporters for this unusual breach of the separation of church and state, which recently was deemed precisely that by the Supreme Court. So, it isn’t so surprising that some of the same state legislators, as well as a few others, feel pressure to advance this new education tax credit. Those of us opposed to this new initiative believe it undermines public education by diverting resources to private and religious schools through a voucher program. Anyone can donate to these schools. However, a tax credit, rather than a tax deduction, is a very different approach. If you are concerned, share that concern with friends and family and ask them to find out where their state Assembly and Senate representatives stand. Let’s protect both public education and the basic principle of separation of church and state. Glick is assemblymember, 66th District (West Village, Soho, Noho, Hudson Square, East Village, Tribeca, Civic Center) May 7, 2015


In Chinatown, trying to hold up vs. harassment BY GERARD FLYNN


onna Chiu is a housing attorney with Asian Americans for Equality, a nonprofit in Chinatown, and with more than 10 years on this beat, she has never seen a break in tenant harassment. Recently, residents from a five-story multiple dwelling at 211 Madison St. have been pouring into her office, located nearby on Division St., to get help. They say that their landlord, Silverstone Property Group, is trying to push them out of their rent-stabilized apartments so they can be converted into market-rate units, which command exorbitant prices in gentrifying Chinatown. The 20-unit building was constructed in the 1920s. Its current residents, Chinese immigrants, mostly speak limited English, making them much less likely to fare well in Housing Court. But that’s where their landlord has been taking them since taking control of the building last November. “A lot of owners are coming into Chinatown and the Lower East Side, where long-term tenants are,” Chiu said. “They know the tenants are afraid to speak out,” she said. “They don’t

know their rights. A lot of our residents are getting court papers and saying ‘Oh, my God. What am I gonna do? I don’t even speak English.’ ” Tenants are alleging that representatives from Silverstone, which declined to comment for this article, are banging on their doors and urging them to take buyouts. They say the landlord representatives are even suggesting that noncompliant tenants could face imprisonment, as they also refuse to make repairs and initiate baseless lawsuits in Housing Court. Not speaking English or knowing the ins and outs of Housing Court, Chiu said, places landlords at a significant advantage over the tenants. Housing Court papers in English might not be read by Chinese-speaking tenants, leading to a default judgment against them. “If they don’t know there is a default judgment against them and time lapses, the landlord can get a warrant of eviction,” she explained. “We have seen that happen.” Ted De Barbieri, an assistant law professor at Brooklyn Law School, recently remarked that “nowhere is the gap between rich and poor as stark as in New York City Housing Court.” Chiu noted that almost all land-

lords are represented by an attorney, while most tenants have little or no legal assistance. While tenants at 211 Madison St. have started to organize, they are terrified, Chiu said, about their prospects and insisted on speaking only anonymously to The Villager. One tenant described how many tenants are getting offers of a measly $16,000 to leave. Another told the newspaper that “the new landlord is not taking a downstairs tenant’s rent. Since January they have been returning her rent.” Another tenant is facing a Housing Court action because the landlord charges he is violating the terms of his lease by living elsewhere — a claim the resident vigorously denied. At another building, 43 Essex St., tenants are also alleging harassment, including ominous visits from the infamous Michel Pimienta, a “tenant relocator,” who is also in the pay of Samy Mahfar of SMA Equities. They recently sued their landlord. In October, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman slapped Pimienta with a $40,000 fine and made him agree to stop his relocation activities. Tenants say the owners of 43 Es-

sex St. are doing illegal construction that has compromised the building’s integrity and caused structural damage to apartments. There are gaping holes in ceilings and walls, they say, and one tenant reportedly can see through her bedroom floor into the apartment below. The owners have also allegedly used the building’s air shaft as a makeshift garbage chute, resulting in heaps of construction waste and black dust entering tenants’ apartments through windows and cracks in the walls. In addition, the apartments lack heat and hot water, forcing tenants to boil water for showers. Plus, the building also lacks gas; tenants must use portable gas stoves and purchase ready-made food. Offering hope had been a proposed Chinatown/Lower East Side Special District. But it was recently rejected by the Department of City Planning, under its chairperson, Carl Weisbrod. Without that bulwark, Chiu has a stark vision of Chinatown in 10 years time. “For sure, it’s going to be full of yuppies,” Chiu predicted, “a tourist destination, with pockets where you still see immigrants living in horrendous conditions. Even now, I hear that all the time in Chinatown.”

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR LETTERS, continued from p. 12

Community, an ethnic nonprofit, during our struggle, and helped the cause receive national and international exposure. While the people who gather in front of the church are the most visible sign of devotion to our lost parish, it is the tip of the iceberg. Our appeal to Rome and our civil suit against the archdiocese were supported by prayers and dollars from those with familial, historical and spiritual ties to Our Lady of Vilnius from all over the U.S. The church had great symbolic value for Lithuanians here and abroad. Painfully to us, the church is being dismantled, but its spirit lives on in many hearts. Christina Nakraseive

Losing another one To The Editor: I’ve just learned of the closing of a


May 7, 2015

local gift shop, House of Cards and Curiosities — on Eighth Ave., next to the Jane St. Garden — due to an increase in rent. This charming store, which has just about everything you can think of or want, has been there for decades. It’s not just that I sold my notecards there, it’s also where we could go for something very out of the ordinary to give as gifts. The store with the Cheshire Cat from “Alice in Wonderland” painted on the sign will be missed by everyone. House of Cards and Curiosities will be open through Sun., May 24. Gina Shamus 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.

A Salute to

Union Square

A special Villager supplement Pages 15 to 18

May 7, 2015


The epicenter of wellness, tech, media and more BY JENNIFER E. FALK



ver the last four decades, the Union Square Partnership has worked tirelessly to bring about positive change within the Union Square-14th St. district. We’ve showcased the beauty of our world-class park and created programs to benefit the businesses, residents and visitors who make the area a vibrant success. We take a multifaceted approach to enhancing the public realm and enriching the Union Square experience. We were humbled when the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce honored the Partnership with its Neighborhood Business Advocate of the Year Award, acknowledging our many efforts on behalf of the district’s diverse business and residential community, as well as our beautification and sanitation programs, which have further helped to attract investment to the area. This past year was a busy one as we engaged in a number of new activities to both improve upon our existing work, as well as highlight the strength of emerging new sectors within the district. First, due to the playground’s popularity and heavy use over the past five years, we invested more than $150,000 to replace the play space’s safety surface. Next, we welcomed the opening of The Pavilion seasonal restaurant on the park’s north plaza. In its first year, The Pavilion established itself as a wildly successful amenity within the park, serving dishes featuring Greenmarket ingredients. The restaurant’s operator, Chef Driven, has been a terrific new neighborhood partner, working with the Partnership to provide 24 weeks of free children’s programming. We also connected them with local partners at the Veterans Administration for a special Memorial Day lunch, and they made a donation in honor of their opening day to benefit another terrific local nonprofit, Graham Windham. Equally as important, revenue from the restaurant’s first year of operations has already generated some $300,000 for the city’s general fund, to pay for vital services. In 2014, Union Square saw a record number of daily visitors — 383,000 on a Greenmarket Friday in summer, which is a 10 percent increase since 2012. This rise in popularity has created strong

Jennifer Falk and Fox 5 news anchor Ernie Anastos at the 2014 Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Awards Breakfast.

demand for ground-floor retail space, driving vacancy down to 2.5 percent, among the lowest anywhere in New York City. Filling these ground-floor spaces are a diverse array of retailers and new eateries, many of which further contribute to the area’s reputation as the epicenter of the city’s health-and-wellness scene. Over the past year, the district’s fitness options expanded as Planet Fitness, Reebok FitHub, CrossFit Union Square and specialized studios Fhitting Room, City Row and Pilates on the Square opened shop. On lower Fifth Ave., dubbed “Athleisure Row” by Well+Good, Lululemon will relocate and expand, joining the strong co-tenancy of other athleisure retailers Athleta, GapFit, Nike, New Balance and newcomer Eddie Bauer. To help people explore the area’s health-focused businesses, the Partnership launched Union Square Sweat Fest in February. More than 1,000

people signed up for complimentary fitness classes, gym passes, district discounts and social media giveaways from 40 local businesses during the weeklong event. The Partnership plans on expanding this program in the coming year with more fitness classes at our nine-week, free community programming series, Summer in the Square. Drawn by these amenities and investments, as well as the area’s dynamism, central location and thriving business community, TAMI (tech, advertising, media and information) companies continue to flock to the neighborhood. To help keep the area buzzing, the Partnership’s core services remain the foundation of our work. Our sanitation and landscaping teams have been extensively cleaning and beautifying the district in anticipation of the busy summer months. In 2014, we collected 125,708 bags of trash, removed 334 incidents of graffiti, maintained more than 600 pieces of moveable furniture in our numerous public seating areas, and planted thousands of bulbs, annuals, perennials and shrubs throughout the district. We also maintain a complimentary Wi-Fi system and solar-powered charging stations to keep park visitors powered-up and connected. And we fund a number of important positions, including a seasonal gardener for the park and a playground associate to program the playground. Looking ahead, the year’s highlight will undoubtedly be Harvest in the Square’s 20th anniversary. Our signature food- and wine-tasting event raises funds to benefit the park and our district beautification efforts. Last year, guests helped us to raise more than $334,000. All told, Harvest has raised more than $4.7 million to support the Partnership’s investments in the park, and this year we hope to exceed the $5 million mark. As we approach our 40th anniversary in 2016, we reflect on the incredible work that has taken place over the past four decades. We are proud of what has been accomplished together and thank our board members, community supporters and city and state partners who have worked collaboratively with us to bring about positive growth and continue to make Union Square a neighborhood for everyone. Falk is executive director, Union Square Partnership

Foot traffic, new retail spur commercial activity


nion Square’s central location has made the neighborhood a natural retail hub. Over the last year, the area has drawn high numbers of visitors from all over the city. With a steady rise in district popularity, retailers big and small are seeking new homes in the square. In 2014, pedestrian traffic in and around Union Square hit an all-time high, with nearly 350,000 daily visitors and more than 35 million annual subway riders. Over all, the area has experienced an 11 percent increase in daily visitors since 2012, according to the Union Square Partnership’s 2014 Pedestrian Activity Report. “The area’s increased foot traffic is


May 7, 2015

definitely spurring commercial activity we’re seeing,” said Scott Hobbs, deputy director of the Union Square Partnership business improvement district. “More and more people are spending time here, and it’s building the neighborhood’s reputation as a shopping destination.” A variety of fashion-focused brands have leased space in the expanding retail district over the last year. One of the biggest additions is Banana Republic’s new flagship at the corner of Fifth Ave. and 18th St. The almost 30,000-square-foot store showcases both men’s and women’s styles, replacing the separate gender-specific locations that once stood two blocks south of the new flagship.

Brands such as Aritzia, Bonobos and the popular dress-service startup Rent the Runway have also taken spaces in the area. In close proximity to a number of fashion brands, M·A·C Cosmetics debuted its Union Square location at 853 Broadway, occupying a two-level storefront along 14th St., and gaining 25 feet of frontage along the pedestrian-heavy walkway. International fashion houses like H&M, Zara, Coach, GAP and Express have all completed extensive renovations in their Union Square locations. Hamptons-based brand Homenature has leased a 6,000-square-foot location on 18th St., offering a variety of mid-century upholstery, case goods, bedding, rugs and accesso-

ries. Chilewich chose Union Square for its first brick-and-mortar location in New York City. Known for its chic tablemats and interior textiles, the company manufactures a wide range of products using its proprietary textiles, woven exclusively in the U.S. Chilewich opened at 23 E. 20th St. in December. Health-conscious eateries also continue to dominate with the addition of two Be Juice bars, the area’s second Liquiteria, farm-to-table restaurants Darrow’s and Irvington, and fresh-ingredient-focused Fresh & Co and Roast Kitchen. “It’s an exciting time to be in Union Square,” Hobbs said. “The variety of people and businesses is so unique.”

Fitness, food, fun: Free programs have it all



nion Square is known for its abundance of events, workshops and activities — and this year, there’s even more on the way. With a variety of new and expanded programs in the works, 2015 is shaping up to be the square’s most active year in recent memory. Earlier this year, in the throes of the city’s never-ending winter, the Union Square Partnership gave New Yorkers a reason to leave the house and work out at the first annual Sweat Fest. This weeklong health and fitness festival featured free exercise classes, complimentary gym membership packages, personal training sessions and deals at some of the area’s participating retailers. From Feb. 24 to March 2, more than 1,000 attendees explored Union Square’s wide array of studios, retailers and healthy eateries. “Union Square is the epicenter of the city’s health-and-wellness scene, with its world-renowned Greenmarket, and more than 100 fitness studios and gyms, retailers with the best exercise and sports apparel and gear, and delicious eateries serving healthy meals and juices,” said Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership business improvement district. “We created Union Square Sweat Fest so that people could sample the area’s offerings at little or no cost.” Participants enjoyed tremendous discounts at fitness retailers such as Bandier, Lululemon and Athleta. Stu-

During Sweat Fest, Andia Winslow and her ABSolutely class at Athleta reached to achieve their physical best.

dios such as Bo Law Kung Fu, Body Space Fitness, Crossfit NYC and Yoga Viva offered free class spots and trial passes. Sweat Fest-goers snapped photos, tweeted and posted on social media for the chance to win giveaways, like gym memberships and fitness gear. “Motivating people to maintain a healthy lifestyle is a core mission of so many businesses in our neighborhood,” Falk said. “We’re looking forward to making Sweat Fest a signature event for Union Square.” With warmer weather on the way, Summer in the Square kicks off in just a few weeks. The summer-long

event series returns to the square this June, with a variety of children’s programs, fitness classes and free dance and music performances. Those who attended last year’s wildly popular children’s shows will be happy to hear that even more young people’s programs are coming this year. Events will be held on both Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the season, offering even more opportunities for people to catch a show or participate in a free class. And for film aficionados, Union Square Partnership is offering something new this year: two outdoor movie screenings.

The fun doesn’t end when the weather cools off — the square has a lot to offer through the fall months, as well. This September marks the 20th anniversary of Harvest in the Square, one of the city’s most highly anticipated culinary events. Chefs from the neighborhood’s hottest restaurants gather to prepare signature dishes, using fresh produce right from the Union Square Greenmarket, with all proceeds going toward maintaining Union Square Park. “Harvest in the Square was one of the very first food festivals of its kind in New York City,” said Scott Hobbs, the Partnership’s deputy director. “It’s exciting to see how much the festival has grown since its inception, and this year, we’re anticipating our biggest event yet.” For families spending time in the city, Union Square is the go-to location for kid-friendly activities. The Fall for All festival returns to the square’s north plaza in October, offering face painting, games, a corn maze and a pumpkin patch. At the start of the holiday season, Picture Perfect in Union Square provides professional holiday portraits taken in the pavilion, entertainment and refreshments provided by local eateries. “There’s a lot going on at Union Square this year — and there really is something for everyone,” Falk said. “We’re looking forward to welcoming residents, newcomers and visitors from all over to enjoy our beautiful park and our vibrant community.”

Smooth operator keeps district safe and sightly


o matter what time of day you are in Union Square, you are bound to see a lot of activity: people walking to work; dancers, musicians and artists creating on the street; and visitors and tourists browsing the shops. But behind the scenes of what is visible to the eye lies a crucial network of people and programs that keep the area safe, secure and beautiful for all who pass through. The person in charge of that network is Thomas DiRusso, the director of operations for the Union Square Partnership. As the Partnership’s liaison between the various networks that affect the neighborhood, DiRusso is the person whose work allows Union Square to operate smoothly. In his role, DiRusso is in charge of the day-to-day activities in and around the square. He oversees the Partnership’s supplemental sanitation and public safety personnel, as well as its streetscape and beautification programs. One of DiRusso’s

Thomas DiRusso keeps things running in Union Square.

most important duties is developing strategies to improve quality of life in the Union Square-14th St. district in collaboration with local law enforcement partners from the Sixth, Ninth and 13th Precincts and Transit District 4, as well as city and state agencies. DiRusso’s close coordination with this network of municipal employees and programs has allowed him to plan for additional services and supplies in view of Union Square’s increasing popularity over the last year. “We’ve seen a significant increase in foot traffic in Union Square, so we’re in the process of preparing for a very busy summer,” DiRusso said. “With warmer weather on the way, there’s a lot more activity and communication between us and the Parks Department and our vendors, to make sure that everyone has what they need when the crowds come.” Prior to joining the Partnership in 2014, DiRusso worked for four years

with Lenox Hill Neighborhood House on the Upper East Side, handling facilities operation and security for the nonprofit institution. Prior to that, DiRusso was a 27-year member of the New York Police Department. He retired in 2011 as an inspector, and after having served in a number of high-profile positions, including as commanding officer of the 50th Precinct (Riverdale) and commanding officer of the Firearms Suppressive Division. This June marks DiRusso’s oneyear anniversary as director of operations for the Union Square Partnership. “Tom’s role is critical to the operation of everything going on at Union Square,” said Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership. “His knowledge of logistics and his background at the N.Y.P.D. have made him invaluable in maintaining our neighborhood, and making it a welcoming environment for everyone who spends time here.” May 7, 2015


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The TAMIs are coming: Tech and media drive commercial leasing


hat do Buzzfeed, Yelp and Hulu have in common? Besides their widespread success in online media, they have joined the growing number of technology, advertising, media and information (TAMI) companies that now call Union Square home. In key cities across the U.S., TAMI firms have been a significant source of commercial growth and competition in central business districts. And in New York City, Union Square has emerged as one of the more rapidly developing neighborhoods for these industries. With TAMI firms driving leasing competition, office vacancies in Midtown South (defined, for real estate purposes, as the swath of Manhattan between Midtown and Lower Manhattan) have now reached their lowest level in seven years: The average asking rent in Midtown South has climbed to $83 per square foot for Class A space and $76 for Class B space, according to real estate services firm Cassidy Turley. “We’ve been seeing a significant increase in technology, advertising and media firms coming to the area since 2011,” said Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership. “With all of the activity over the last year, Union Square really has become the epicenter of New York City’s tech and creative scene.” Buzzfeed’s move to 225 Park Ave. South marked one of the biggest leases of the year, not only in Union Square, but in all of New York City. Launched in New York in 2006, the digital media powerhouse now employs more than 900 people in 10 bureaus around the globe. Its new Union Square headquarters occupies 194,000 square feet on the 11th to 16th floors of the 19-story tower at an asking rent of $85 per square foot. Buzzfeed joins a number of leading media and tech firms that have taken up residence in Union Square. In the last year, Yelp expanded its Fifth Ave. office to 70,000 square feet, while Spotify’s headquarters has grown to 123,000 square feet just a few blocks away. In late 2014, The New Republic magazine signed a deal for a 7,000-square-foot space fronting on the square. Digital advertising and media-management software developer Centro Inc. is leasing two full floors at 841 Broadway, bringing the building to full occupancy. And after outgrowing its Sixth Ave. office, tech-focused residential brokerage firm Urban Compass leased a second space at 19 Union Square West. North of the square, 114 Fifth Ave. (at

17th St.) has seen a flurry of activity in 2014, as well. The 330,000-square-foot century-old 18-story remodeled office tower has become the new home of advertising agency AKQA, news Web site First Look Media, Gawker Media and Capital One. These companies join the building’s tech tenants — such as Mashable, which leased its new headquarters in the building last spring — and MasterCard, whose 58,000-squarefoot technology lab houses employees involved in research, development and software design. So what is the neighborhood’s draw for tech and creative companies? Union Square’s unique combination of convenience, office amenities and creative culture seem to be the answer. Steps away from one of the city’s largest transportation hubs, Union Square offices are easily accessible to employees who live in Manhattan, the outer boroughs and New Jersey. Add in the neighborhood’s abundance of restaurants, nightlife and a high concentration of fitness studios and healthy eateries, and you have a very appealing environment for professionals who want to maintain a creative, active lifestyle. Inside the offices themselves, the square’s open, loft-like spaces have played a big role in driving leasing momentum for TAMI tenants.

Convenience, office amenities and creative culture are the draws.

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May 7, 2015

“A lot of offices in this area have qualities like open floor plans, high ceilings and large windows that appeal to creative personalities,” Falk said. “Many of these firms, particularly start-ups, are looking for large spaces, but they don’t want to be in a traditional office setting dominated by fluorescent lights and cubicles. It’s important to them to maintain a creative vibe, and offices in Union Square are very conducive to that kind of environment. “For years, Union Square has been home of architecture firms, publishing companies and marketing groups,” Falk added. “There’s a lot of creativity here, and the start-ups that are moving in like to be around other like-minded professionals.” With new tenants arriving regularly, eager speculation abounds as to who will be next to join the Union Square community.

A hole is left in Gramercy’s heart (and wallet) BY MARY REINHOLZ



he Met Food supermarket at 180 Third Ave. in Gramercy was long known to budget-conscious locals for its cramped aisles, wide selection of beers and low prices on edibles ranging from fruits and vegetables to T-bone steaks.  On April 19 the franchise abruptly went out of business with three years left on its five-year lease. They were unable to sustain more than $50,000 in monthly rent and other costs, according to James Falzon, one of the store’s four independent owners.  “There was a drop in business and we were paying over $50,000 for about 5,500 square feet, plus additional taxes to the landlord and to the city,” Falzon said. “We’ve been subsidizing the store for two years. We had hoped things would get better and we wanted a longer lease to renovate the store.” Falzon noted that the landlord, Sol Goldman Investments, one of the largest real estate companies in the U.S., offered an extension on the lease. But it was “too little, too late. The expenses were unsustainable,” Falzon said. The grocery’s closing put at least 30 people out of work and tore a hole in the hearts and pocketbooks of a gentrified Downtown  neighborhood — especially among its senior citizens, who had come to depend on the decidedly funky store for bargains and free deliveries. “It didn’t always seem clean, but it was so convenient,” said Bernice Schatz, a rail-thin octogenarian who lives a block north in a co-op highrise on Third Ave. and E. 18th St. “It seemed like it had been here forever — at least 15 years.” Others in her age group voiced similar sentiments about an affordable grocer near a bus stop where they could come in and buy things like two fresh ears of corn for a dollar, five boxes of pasta on sale for $5 and rolls of White Rose paper towels for 79 cents each. “This is a sad loss for me,” said an 83-year-old artist who lives in a fifth-floor rent-regulated walk-up apartment on E. 17th St. near Irving Place. “It was only a block away and now we have to walk several blocks to Food Emporium,” at 10 Union Square East. The artist, who asked to remain anonymous, wondered hopefully if another supermarket would take the place of her shuttered mainstay, even while admitting she didn’t expect that a newcomer would offer similar deals.  Glen Bruno, another co-owner of the Met Food franchise, who was

Glen Bruno, a co-owner of the Third Ave. Met Food market, recently cleared things out of the closed store.

clearing out trash at the nearly vacant store on Sat., April 25, said it was more likely that a bank or a pharmacy would come in to replace it. “I think our niche killed us,” he said, noting that the grocery’s prices “may have been too low for the neighborhood.” Bruno said agents for Sol Goldman, the privately owned company that manages the assets of the late real estate tycoon of the same name, had asked for a rent increase two years ago from $42 per square foot to $100 for the commercial space below one of its residential buildings. “And they wouldn’t even agree to  fix the hole in the ceiling,” he recalled indignantly of the negotiations. A colleague of Brett Weinblatt, the Sol Goldman broker in charge of commercial leases, said tersely, “We’re not going to comment on anything like that.” A sign plastered on the Met Food store window thanks customers for their patronage and urges them to shop at the Associated supermarket in Stuyvesant Town — another franchise that Bruno and Falzon operate with their partners — at 409 E. 14th St. between First Ave. and Avenue A. That store is much larger and also offers free deliveries to customers. Several employees who lost their jobs when Met Food closed have found work there. Bruno said his team was “looking for something” for Jose Sera, who had been the main manager at the Third Ave. Met Food store, and noted that the partners would “hire back as needed” other employees now out of work when openings become available. The partners own a total

of three Associated supermarkets, each run as separate corporations. The two others are at 342 E. Eighth St. at Avenue C in the East Village; and at 255 W. 14th St. and Eighth Ave. in Chelsea. An elderly Muslim woman

paused to peer mournfully into the store’s windows on the Monday after it closed. “I live on 27th St. and I came here because they had more of everything,” she said softly. “They were better than anyone else.”


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Long-lost Holocaust film to show at Jewish museum FILM, continued from p. 1


May 7, 2015


Survey.” In English and German, with English subtitles, it runs 88 minutes. When the camps were liberated, extensive footage of them was shot by British, American and Russian military cameramen, as well as by newsreel cameramen. This array of film, in turn, was used by the British Ministry of Information to create a documentary that would condemn the Nazi regime and document the magnitude of its crimes. In short, it was meant to be the film to be shown to German prisoners of war and the German public to shame them into accepting the Allied occupation. Sidney Bernstein, chief of the film division of the Psychological Warfare Division of the Allied Expeditionary Force, initiated the project and fought for its production. Hitchcock — who was described by Bernstein as the film’s director — spent a month overseeing the editing. Ultimately, though, the film was shelved. Now, seven decades later, England’s Imperial War Museums has digitally restored the documentary and assembled it for the first time exactly as Bernstein and Hitchcock originally intended. Bruce Ratner is best known for his development prowess, including building The New York Times building and, in Downtown Brooklyn, MetroTech and the new Barclays Center — home of the basketball Nets, of which he is a part owner. He’s currently constructing three buildings in the Atlantic Yards project — now known as Pacific Park Brooklyn — half of whose total units will be affordable. Work will soon begin on a fourth building, which will be 100 percent affordable. By the end of June, construction will be underway on more than 780 units that are low-, moderate- or middle-income. When fully built, the project will have 2,250 affordable units. In addition to his development work, Ratner takes immense pride in being chairperson of the board of trustees of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a position he has held for the past year. The opportunity for the museum to host the East Coast premiere of the forgotten 1945 documentary is a great honor, he said. “I would say it’s a major moment in Holocaust documentary,” he stated. “When the Russians reported on Auschwitz, it wasn’t believed. This film was meant to prove and show what the German people and what the Nazis had done — and then to tell the people of the world. “It still shakes the soul, shakes the mind to see this film,” Ratner said. “The ‘Holocaust,’ the word, did not exist as we know it now until the 1970s.

“Smiling children through barbed wire,” a still from footage of Bergen-Belsen shot by Sergeant Lewis or Sergeant Lawrie, April 18-20, 1945. The British liberated the concentration camp on April 15.

Had this documentary been shown at the time, it would have accelerated understanding of the atrocities and extreme brutality of the Nazis.” As for why the film, in the end, was left on the shelf, he said, there were a number of factors. “It got delayed, in general, in the summer of 1945,” he said. “They didn’t have the Russian material from Auschwitz.” But the film’s visceral impact and condemning message were also reasons why it was decided not to show it back then: In short, there was a fear of alienating the Germans and driving them toward the Soviets. Rebuilding became the focus, not de-Nazi-fication. “You wanted to win them over, and it was felt that this would not do that,” Ratner explained. “Germany became the focal point of the Cold War.” Ratner was born in 1945, and growing up, heard family members talking about the Holocaust. His family lost about 120 members across Germany and Eastern Europe in the war. Afterward, his father sponsored many survivors who came over to America. In 1976, Ratner went to Poland to see Auschwitz for himself. “It was communist,” he said. “Nobody visited Auschwitz in those days.” The Nazis murdered about 1 million Jews at the infamous killing

“Ex-prisoner claps her approval of strictness shown by Tommies,” another still by Sergent Lewis, April 16, 1945, from the documentary, showing the liberation of Bergen-Belsen by the British.

camp. Other victims included Gypsies, the disabled, homosexuals, dissidents and non-Jewish Poles and Russians. “It’s inexplicable,” Ratner said. “That’s why it very much resonates today.” While the Russians filmed Auschwitz, the British documented Bergen-Belsen, and the Yanks recorded other sites. Other camps shown in-

clude Dachau, Buchenwald and Majdanek. In all, the film includes footage from 14 locations (10 camps and four sites of atrocity) discovered in Austria, Germany and Poland. The combat cameramen who shot the footage used very simple cameras, Ratner noted, but “there were a lot of them.” FILM, continued on p. 28

At 30, Guerrilla Girls still on same masked mission Activists engage at Abrons, on the street BY PUMA PERL

Little has changed since the ‘80s, when the Guerrilla Girls first challenged disproportionate gender representation in the art world.

This is the first New York City exhibit that displays all of the posters that have been used throughout the years. It includes guided tours of the timeline, videos, and a blowout birthday celebration on May 15. Additionally, New Yorkers can expect surprise visits all over town from the Girls — who, with the help of supporters, will be slapping up stickers around East Village and Chelsea art galleries and joining with other activist groups to expose corruption in the art world. On May 1, they participated in the May Day demonstrations that shut down the Guggenheim Museum. In collaboration with the activists who operate the Illuminator (a cargo van equipped with audio and video equipment), they have projected images bearing their message onto the Whitney and various art galleries. Guerrilla style, naturally. One of the most interesting aspects of the guided tour, primarily conducted by Guerrilla Girls founding members Frida Kahlo and




he Guerrilla Girls are not ready to make nice. In all likelihood, they never will be. Celebrating three decades of feminist art, activism and protest, they continue to expand their vision — and they ARE a vision, continuing the tradition of masked avengers by exposing the dirty underside of cultural and artistic inequalities. They are warriors who don gorilla masks (and, occasionally, miniskirts and heels) to educate the public through a blend of outrageous humor and action. There has been little change in the art world since an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art first kicked off their outrage in 1984. Presented as the “most significant contemporary art in the world,” it was comprised of 169 white men and 13 white women. Fact: In 1985, there was exactly one woman represented in single person exhibitions at four major New York City museums — the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan, the Modern and the Whitney. In 2015, there were a total of five women. In 1985, in 18 of the major art galleries, no more than 10 percent of the shows included women. Some galleries showed none at all. In 2014, that number jumped all the way to a high of 20 percent; some galleries still showed none. I learned all of this and more through a visit to the current exhibit at Abrons Arts Center, which is part of the Henry Street Settlement. Titled “Not Ready to Make Nice: Guerrilla Girls Birthday Party, 30 Years and Still Counting,” the retrospective will continue through May17.

Anonymity keeps the focus on issues and avoids the external appointment of leaders.

Kathe Kollwitz (with an assist from newer member Zubeida Agha), is the ways in which the targets and vision have broadened over the years. Triggered by the inequalities of the art world, they have expanded into addressing sexism, racism, oppression and corruption in film,

politics, health care, education and anywhere inequities exist — which, of course, is everywhere. Part of the 2015 mission is drawing attention to the poorly paid employees of museums and the ownership of art GUERRILLA, continued on p. 22 May 7, 2015


Waging ‘Guerrilla’ war in world gone bananas GUERRILLA, continued from p. 21


by the richest of the rich (a current hashtag is #poorlittlebillionaires). Studying the timeline, the visitor becomes aware of technical growth and the ways in which communication and the building of community have been impacted, especially for those increasingly few of us who remember mimeograph machines and heading out at night with a bunch of posters and a tub of glue, throwing them up on any available surface. Today, supporters are encouraged to post photos on Instagram showing the locations where they have placed the stickers distributed by the Guerrilla Girls, who are internationally recognized. The exhibit includes a wall of notes written to them, both supportive and enraged, as well as the opportunity for guests to post up their own messages. An 18-yearold girl writes of “urgent needs for guerilla action here in Pakistan!” A 14-year-old gay teenager tells of picking up the book “Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers” at age 11, and finding the courage to come out. Naturally, there are fair amounts of letters demonizing them as “stupid, lesbian, feminazis” among other epithets and questioning them as to why they “hate men,” totally missing the point that this is about dismantling, redistributing, and redefining power, regardless of gender. Attempts at attacking the Guerrilla Girls personally are doomed to fail, due to the cloak of anonymity — not only in the form of the gorilla masks that are worn in public, but in the early choice that was made not to reveal individual identities. Although there were realistic concerns about the outcomes of targeting powerful individuals, the ways in which the anonymity resonates have more to do with keeping the focus on the issues and avoiding the exter-

Wall of Misogyny: ignorant observations from Confucius and Pythagoras stand alongside modern idiocy from the likes of Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh.

nal appointment of leaders, stars or, as is most often the case with groups of females, preoccupations with looks and personalities that result in overshadowing the message. What has evolved over the years is a group of women, some consistent, some shifting (there have been over 100 Guerrilla Girls to date) who have become the art. There is a shared sensibility, warmth and friendliness, and a sly humor happening behind those heavy masks, as well as a uniform possession of the history and the mission. The

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May 7, 2015

task is serious but the actions and educational techniques are great fun. When asked whether there was a goal to become obsolete, Kahlo replied, with a laugh, “Hope not.” So far, in 2015, there have been Guerrilla Girl gigs in Austria, Spain, California, Georgia and Texas, with more to come. In September of 2016, they will be back in the New York area, at Stonybrook University. They write no proposals, accept no grants, have no funding stream and are indebted to nobody. I asked Kahlo how they kept going and she stated that basically it is the kindness of strangers — people are moved by the message and offer support and requests for exhibitions and other types of gigs. She described its beginnings as a “mom and mom” store — selling materials, gradually expanding. “We do not care about becoming wealthy,” she added. The Guerrilla Girls initially began and added members through word of mouth in artistic circles. Since they are now appearing all over the world, I asked Kahlo and Kollwitz how one becomes a Guerrilla Girl. They smirked behind the gorilla teeth. “Hazing,” said Kathe.

“A lot of bananas,” added Kahlo. Thinking back, I have to laugh at that question too, since the answer is so obvious. Guerrilla Girls share a spirit of rebellion with the world. Through the empowerment of education and hilarity, they encourage others to take a stand and to refuse to accept the unacceptable, to pay it forward and pass it on. Become a Guerrilla Girl of the mind and body — and who knows? You may someday be a Guerrilla Girl, too. The Guerrilla Girls will continue to appear on the streets of New York throughout their stay here. Catch up with their actions on Facebook or Twitter, and learn more about them at For a schedule of activities related to the current exhibit at Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand St. at Pitt St.), visit Puma Perl’s next Pandemonium production will partner with AH Presents and take place on Friday, May 22 at Sidewalk Cafe, 94 Ave. A (at Sixth St.). Bands and performers include The Pin-Ups, Red Gretchen, The Lord Calverts, Puma Perl and Friends and Danny’s Devil Blues. No admission, no cover, all ages, 7 p.m.–1 a.m.

Just Do Art



Amazon #1 Women’s Fiction pick author Amy Scheibe reads, signs books and answers your questions at May 12’s Pen Parentis Literary Salon.

Meredith Nolan’s “Skeleton Key” was a 2014 Dusty Film & Animation Fest winner for Outstanding Achievement in Animation Production Design.


the night’s “Crime Fiction” theme. Tues., May 12, 7 p.m. on the 16th floor of 41 Park Row (btw. Spruce & Nassau Sts.). Free and open to the (21+) public. RSVP strongly suggested via Twitter: @penparentis. Yeah, they’re on Facebook too (facebook. com/penparentis).


Just leaving the house without a small fry or juice box would more than qualify for an evening of therapeutic relief — but a Pen Parentis Literary Salon gives parents who write the chance to meet like-minded authors and access resources to help them become prolific (or at least productive). Their May 12 gathering will be an especially swanky one, given that it takes place in an elegant private library on the top floor of the original home of the New York Times. The guests are best-selling author Sarah Pekkanen, Pulitzer Prize nominee Charles McNair, Amazon #1 Women’s Fiction pick author Amy Scheibe, and triple-threat writing phenomenon Liz Rosenberg. Wine-fueled schmoozing precedes the readings, after which there will be a Q&A moderated by Pen Parentis founder M. M. De Voe and its new Salons curator, novelist Christina Chiu. Purchase books to be signed (or at least read), and proceeds will go to Community Bookstore in Brooklyn. This is the Salon’s season-closer. It returns, monthly, beginning on Sept. 8 — with Ed Lin, Jack Miller and Tim O’Mara already booked for


Some of our favorite film fests can be found at The School of Visual Arts’ wonderfully comfortable twoscreen 23rd St. theatre (the pugilist-themed Shadow Box Film Festival, the Chelsea Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival). So it’s nice to see them rolling out the red carpet for some of their own. SVA’s Dusty Film & Animation Festival screens over 100 works: dramas, comedies, thrillers and documentaries, plus animated shorts and features — all created by students graduating this spring. Free. Sat., May 9 through Mon., May 11 at the SVA Theatre (333 W. 23rd St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). For the schedule, visit Facebook: Twitter:

BENEFIT FOR THE WOODSTOCK COMEDY FESTIVAL An A-team of comics standing in front of a wall, holding a mic and telling one joke at a time adds up to a whole lot of help, when Gotham Comedy Club pitches in to ensure the success of its witty upstate brethren. Hosted by Vic Henley and featuring the talents of Tom Cotter, Myq Kaplan, Bonnie McFarlane and Liza Treyger, the show will benefit the Woodstock Comedy Festival. Subtitled “Comedy for a Cause,” this third annual edition of the fest happens Sept. 18–20 in, as a reasonable person would correctly deduce, Woodstock, NY. Its net profits go to charities that aid victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. Back here at home, the Gotham benefit will also feature a live auction of tickets to “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” Broadway’s “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” and other comedy television and Broadway-related items. Wed., May 13, 7 p.m. at Gotham Comedy Club (208 W. 23rd St. btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). Tickets: $25 ($50, VIP). Info at

May 7, 2015


The positive power of games Games festival champions change BY CHARLES BATTERSBY



May 7, 2015


ideogames are sometimes viewed as mindless time-wasters and murder simulators — but games have been a narrative art form for decades. Modern game designers use their work to address social responsibility, give voice to isolated cultures, and generate empathy. Founded in 2004, the Games For Change Festival focuses on this sort of game and the people who make them. Its most recent incarnation, held as part of the recent Tribeca Film Festival, featured games from around the world that are intended to showcase the positive power of games. Held primarily at the NYU Skirball Center, this year’s festival ran for five days, and included panels given by teams of game designers and journalists. A highlight of the panels was a talk about the game development tool Twine. It is a free program that can be used to create text-based games, a form of interactive storytelling similar to “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. It is particularly effective at letting one-person development teams create short but powerful empathy games based on personal experiences. The festival included a series of 10-minute “minitalks” that addressed highly specialized topics like LGBT issues in games, how to market niche products, and creating games that explore health care and mental health. Attendees could also visit the NYU Skirball Center near Washington Square Park to get handson experience with over a dozen games selected by the festival for their social impact, and to celebrate game development communities in smaller nations. Among the playable games was “Never Alone.” Developed by Upper One Games, the first Native American-owned video game company, it won the festival’s Game of the Year Award. Based on several Native Alaskan folk tales, an Iñupiat girl goes on an adventure to save her village from an eternal blizzard, accompanied by a helpful arctic fox. Players can switch between the girl and the fox, and there is an option to have two players cooperate as they play, with each player controlling one character. Each character has

Dark Knight, bright future: the Games For Change Festival focuses on addressing social responsibility and giving voice to isolated cultures.

their own special abilities, and they have to help each other solve puzzles. This forces players to cooperate, and use their heads, rather than relying on reflexes alone. In addition to playing through stories inspired by Native Alaskan culture, there is also a series of documentary videos included with the game. These “Cultural Insights” feature interviews with Iñupiat people, and are unlocked as the Player progresses through the game. “Never Alone” also won the award for Most Significant Impact. Games set during wartime are commonplace, but in “This War of Mine,” players aren’t lucky enough to be super soldiers. This game is about the civilians caught between two sides of a war. At the start of the game, the players are given a random group of civilians who have to scavenge for supplies in the bombed out ruins of their neighborhood. Food, medicine and fuel are extremely scarce, and players will often be put in morally challenging circumstances, like stealing food from other people, turning away survivors who are seeking shelter, or even killing innocent people to acquire badly-needed supplies.

Aside from their physical needs, each character in the household faces emotional and psychological dangers. The goal of the game is to survive until a ceasefire is declared, but the Player does not know when that will come. They, and the characters they control, must endure their hardships for a seemingly endless period. The characters can become so hopeless and despondent, they will lie in bed all day, unable to work, and in some cases characters will commit suicide to escape their despair. It is an emotionally brutal experience, and most players can expect to be met with failure many times before actually surviving to the ceasefire. “This War of Mine” won the festival’s award for Best Gameplay. Dancing games have been around for decades. In the past they used special floor pads that sense when the Player steps on them. More recently they use motion-sensing cameras to track the Player’s movements. The game “Bounden” doesn’t require any special equipment. It is an app for mobile phones that requires nothing more than a phone and a dancing part-

ner to play. The players each hold one side of the phone, and must twist and swing the device to move a spherical icon on the screen. The app uses the motion-sensing accelerometer built into the phone to sense the players’ movements. The icons on screen guide the two dancers in choreography created by the Dutch National Ballet, and players will end up dancing without even realizing it. “Bounden” won the festival’s award for Most Innovative. Also on the show floor was a selection of games called Gamedev. world Arcade. These games were curated by Rami Ismail of indie developer Vlambeer, in cooperation with voice actress Sarah Elmaleh. They represent the development communities in countries with large non-English speaking populations. A fun inclusion to Gamedev. world was “Broforce,ˮ a satirical action game made by the South African developer Free Lives Games. It parodies American ’80s action movies, and lets players take control of a “Bro” who blasts his way through levels full of bad guys. At the end of each level, the hero plants an AmerGAMES, continued on p. 25

Still on stage at 90 Doc captures independence in a fashion world demanding performance BY STEVE ERICKSON



omen in the public eye face tremendous pressure to look beautiful and sexy. You’d think that by the time they reach their 80s, this demand would relent, but I just read a newspaper article critiquing 89-year-old Angela Lansbury’s appearance. If actresses turn to plastic surgery to look eternally youthful, they run the risk of having it backfire and being ridiculed. Iris Apfel, the subject of the late Albert Maysles’ documentary “Iris,” doesn’t play the beauty game at all. In fact, she frankly says, “I don’t like pretty.” The 90-year-old, who’s had a long career as an interior decorator and now exists as a freelance “rare bird of fashion,” may not be conventionally beautiful, but she has a remarkable sense of style. Iris and her husband Carl, whose 100th birthday is celebrated during the film, founded a company called Old World Weavers, which reproduced fabrics and designs from the 1600s through the 1800s. Although the company was successful, Iris didn’t become a minor celebrity until a 2005 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition launched by curator Harold Koda. Afterwards, she became an “octogenarian starlet,” as she puts it. Maysles is best known for three documentary features: “Salesman,” “Gimme Shelter,” and “Grey Gardens.” That last, from 1975, recently revived by Film Forum and reissued on Criterion Blu-Ray, pioneered the “non-fiction melodrama.” Although its influence wouldn’t be felt immediately, it can be seen in recent films like Robert Greene’s “Actress.” “Iris” departs from Maysles’ classic trio in a number of ways — for one, it was directed by him alone, while his earlier films were collaborative productions with his late brother, David. The result is a thoughtful character study. In her own

Iris Apfel in Albert Maysles’ documentary “Iris.”

way, Iris is just as enthralling a person to watch as Big Edie and Little Edie of “Grey Gardens,” and she’s much more self-aware and in control of her own persona. No one is likely to accuse this film of being a freak show. “Feminist” is not a word ever used in “Iris.” Apfel talks about her curiosity regarding politics and history and how these forces manifest themselves in a humble dress, but she doesn’t discuss her own political views. Nevertheless, “Iris” locates an unconventional woman following her own stylistic guidelines on the margins of the

fashion industry, a field that many have written off as hopelessly exploitative and sexist. Iris is the exact opposite of a vacant, anorexic supermodel. While she’s reliant on designers for her source material, she combines their clothes and accessories in a way that reflects her own creativity, rather than simply copying their dictates. Her sense of style has proven popular enough to get her museum shows, department store windows, and even a teaching position. “Iris” follows its subject around New York and Palm Bach as she shops and sorts through her collection. Maysles appears on camera a few times — he managed to complete another film, “In Transit,” before passing away in March — but a woman, who’s never identified, conducts most of the interviews with Iris. This isn’t the kind of documentary that introduces fictional elements or self-consciously breaks the fourth wall. The camera tends to efface its presence — no doubt, plenty of work went into creating that illusion — but one gets the sense that Iris, like many Maysles protagonists, is performing for it. She doesn’t seem to leave the house without a spiked necklace and African bracelets. “Iris” doesn’t dodge the question of the old age’s aches and pains or the inevitability of death, but it’s clear that Iris would rather go shopping in Harlem than think about her dwindling energy level. In some respects, “Iris” seems remarkably modern for the work of an 88-year-old filmmaker. It finds common ground with “Actress” in suggesting that we — especially the 51 percent of us who happen to be female — are constantly performing. Directed by Albert Maysles. Runtime: 74 minutes. Through May 12 at Film Forum (209 W. Houston St. btw. Varick St. & Sixth Ave.). Info: 212-727-8110 or

Games festival champions change GAMES, continued from p. 24

Charles Battersby is a playwright, actor and video game journalist who has written for sites including Complex, Joystiq, Explosion, Automaton and Dusty Cartridges. Charles founded the organization Press XY, which presents panels and seminars on transgender issues in video games. Visit Twitter: @ charlesbattersb.


ican flag and declares the zone “Liberated.” Beneath the action and humor is thoughtful message about addressing complex global political issues with brute force. Aside from playing on computers and staring into screens, the festival also had a “Public Arcade” that encouraged people to play outdoors. Among the experiences was a “Zombies Versus Superheroes” game that taught about real world disaster preparedness using the theme of a zombie outbreak. Attendees could dress in superhero

costumes and were chased by actors dressed as zombies. The Games For Change Festival is an annual event. More about upcoming festivals can be found at

Aside from playing on computers and staring into screens, the festival also had a “Public Arcade” that encouraged people to play outdoors.

May 7, 2015


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May 7, 2015

To Advertise Call: 646-452-2490 Deadline – 12 noon Wednesday

May 7, 2015


Long-lost Holocaust film to show at Jewish museum

Taking a trick shot at Tompkins Square Park.

No joke: Dude Perfect pledges ‘perfect court’


n Monday, YouTube and the Parks Department announced plans to renovate the basketball courts in Tompkins Square Park to create the “perfect court” with help from YouTube stars Dude Perfect. During Monday’s event, the Dude Perfect guys were on hand to shoot hoops with their fans and community members. Dude Perfect, who recently topped 5 million subscribers, are best known for their trick shots and comedy videos. The renovations will include resurfacing the basketball courts entirely with new concrete, new hoops and new paint. The revamped courts will reopen at the end of June.

“Tompkins Square Park is one of New York’s best-loved green spaces, and the basketball courts have played host to generation of players,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver. “NYC Parks is grateful to Dude Perfect and YouTube for their generous effort to give the East Village a refurbished place to shoot hoops this summer.” Gale Brewer, Manhattan borough president, said, “I’m proud to work with YouTube and Google as a whole, a tech industry leader that takes its role in our community seriously.” Adam Relis, head of YouTube Space New York, said “For myself and the rest of the 4,500 employees at Google and You-

Although Bernstein called Hitchcock the director, a more apt description would be “treatment adviser,” according to a release by the Imperial War Museums, in that Hitchcock was not present for the actual filming or the creation of the rough-cut. The documentary bears a Hitchcock hallmark, Ratner said, namely, long, wide shots that show the scenes in their full context. “That was done to prove it wasn’t staged,” he explained. The movie also uses symbolism to evoke the camps’ horrors. “Hitchcock was always about symbolism,” Ratner noted. “It’s not like the 15-minute newsreels of the day. It’s done with a certain degree of artistry and care.” Five rough-cut reels of the film were originally completed, but a

planned sixth reel was never made — until now. To create the new, digital version, the restorers went back to the original footage — a total of 100 reels of film — and followed the 1945 film team’s instructions. There is also a new soundtrack, with a narrator reading the original script, plus new sound effects added. Ratner has seen five of the film’s six reels. Asked how graphic it is, he admitted, “It’s very hard to watch.” For now, the plan is to show the long-lost documentary on only one night, Tues., May 19, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, at 36 Battery Place, at 7:30 p.m. “They want to be very careful about how this is being released,” Ratner said. Tickets for the premiere are available by visiting the museum’s Web site,, or calling 646-4374202. Ticket prices are $25, $15 for members and $10 for students.

Tube here in New York, this too is our neighborhood,” he said. “On behalf of them and our YouTube stars here, Dude Perfect, we’re renovating this important community space.” Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006. Dude Perfect’s members include Coby and Cory Cotton, Garrett Hilbert, Cody Jones and Tyler Toney, all former high school basketball players and college roommates at Texas

A&M University. They have worked with sports celebrities from around the world, as well as charities, including Charity Water. Hilbert said, “We at Dude Perfect believe in the importance of having fun with those in your community — that is how we all come together! We hope this new court will encourage people to get outside, get some exercise, shoot some hoops and make every day game day.”

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May 7, 2015

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Astronaut takes students on a journey into space BY TEQUILA MINSKY



ouston, do you copy?” You’re in the space command center, practically expecting to hear something along these lines. But, where are you? You’re on Henry and Montgomery Sts. on the Lower East Side, and once you’ve walked through the doors at the end of the ground-floor corridor of the Corlears Complex of three middle schools, you’ve entered another world. You’re in the NYC Center for Space Science Education, which has a mission control center, an “airlock” and a facsimile spacecraft. High school-certified earth science educators staff the program of the Challenger Learning Center, but more on that later. On Fri., April 17, middle school students at 220 Henry St. filled their auditorium to hear special guest Captain Chris Cassidy, a NASA deputy chief astronaut. Cassidy participated in two space missions: the first, in 2009, on the space shuttle Endeavor, followed in 2013 by a longer five-and-half month mission on the International Space Station. Cassidy gave the students the quick version of how he became an astronaut: He grew up in Maine, joined the Navy, became a Navy Seal and was asked to apply to the astronaut-training program. “Half the current astronauts are from the military,” he said, adding that the others are educators, doctors and scientists, pilots and nonpilots alike. Cassidy showed a video of his participation in the two missions, with fascinating images of floating weightless, doing physical exercises and rehydrating dried foods. “Sixty percent of our time, we were doing experiments,” he noted during the video. On the International Space Station, 25 percent of the time was devoted to maintenance and repair. During free time, they would enjoy gazing back at the Earth. “We love to be in the window, like a tank turret, watching the oceans, bodies of water, rivers on Earth. We were traveling five miles a second,” he said. (That’s equal to more than 17,000 miles per hour.) After his presentation, Cassidy generously answered questions, the first bunch prepared by the students. How about problems in space? he was asked. There was a serious malfunction on a colleague’s spacesuit during a space walk, he recalled, but it worked out. Did you get sick? When you first arrive, he said, there is a time of ac-

NASA’s Captain Chris Cassidy told students at the Center for Space Science Education about his experiences in outer space.

Students can man posts at the command center.

Captain Cassidy pulled some middle-school students into his orbit after his presentation.

climation. What do you do when you get bored? You don’t get bored, Cassidy said. How did your parents feel? Excited when he first joined NASA, then a little emotional as the time to blast off into space drew near. How do you contact your family? Call on the phone, videoconference once a week. How about going to the bathroom? You have to aim into a bag. They asked about relations with the Russians. “They have a space program and we cooperate,” the astronaut explained, admitting that sometimes things can get sensitive. He also told The Villager that part of his work, as an astronaut, is to participate in education programs like this one. Usually, private organizations, such as, in this case, Positively Speaking, pay the expenses for the outreach programs. After the presentation, Cassidy toured the L.E.S. space education center. During the school year, the center is open for student field trips. It also has an after-school program and summer camp sessions. When classes visit on a field trip, they meet the “mission commander” and are given an overview of their objective and assignments. The class divides. Some are located in mission control; the others pass through an airlock into the spacecraft. At the nine-year-old NYC Center for Space Science Education, students can take simulated missions into space or learn how airplanes fly in the NASA education lab. Classes come for one two-hour program, or a full-day, combining two programs. The lab is equipped with flight simulators, a wind tunnel, model airplanes and specialized software. Curriculum studies include variables in aeronautics, forces and motion, and the effects or weather. Yes, we’re talking physics here. The space mission program for grades four through high school focuses on comets; for grades seven through high school, a Mars mission is included. High school teachers know how hard it can be sometimes to get students enthused, but the center’s programs break through that apathy. “We take kids to space,” said Zohar Ris, the center’s instructor. “That’s the joy of doing this. They’re in another world.” He remembers hearing one high school student saying as he left, “This is the best field trip ever.” May 7, 2015



May 7, 2015

G.V.L.L. starter program suits tykes to a tee SPORTS BY JAYSON CAMACHO



very Sunday morning at 8 o’clock, you can go to Pier 40 and see the cutest kids learning how to play tee-ball. Tee-ball is Greenwich Village Little League’s youngest and possibly most exciting division. The tee-ball program includes 10 teams, with players aged 5 to 6. For many of the kids, it’s their first time playing a sport. The sponsor of the teams, the Twins, is Bob Berger’s No Mersey Band. Bob is also the team’s manager and has managed teams for the past 8-plus years. “I sponsor a team because I want to give back to the organization that I feel gives so much to the kids,” he explained. “I like to support the cause, and it makes me feel good that I can do something to keep an incredible program like G.V.L.L. alive and well. “It all starts with youth sports,” he said. “These are the breeding grounds that will shape and develop a kid at a very young age. To be able to do something that will help the kids gives me a great feeling inside.” Tee-ball gives the kids the ability to try out a new sport without any competiting. G.V.L.L. provides a fun learning environment for the kids to play in. One of the coaches, Max Kushner, is a friend of mine. He joined G.V.L.L. in 2008 and aged out of the league last year. This year, his family decided to sponsor a G.V.L.L. Tee-ball team, and Kushner agreed to volunteer and coach on the team. The sponsor’s name is AJ and Con’s Bombers, named after Max’s late grandparents. “I decided to coach tee-ball for a handful of reasons,” he said. “I aged out, so I wanted to still be a part of the league. I also wanted to coach because I play baseball for my school’s varsity team and I’m also an umpire, so by coaching, I’m kind of completing the circle of what the different aspects of baseball are. “I wanted to do tee-ball because when I did ‘counselor in training’ at my camp, I only worked with 14-year-olds. So I wanted to learn how to work with 5- and 6-yearolds,” he said. “What makes tee-ball so special is how innocent it is. It doesn’t matter how good you are or if you’re winning. All that matters is that you have a good time.” Max looked like he was having a wonderful time, too, as he supervised his players with nothing but a smile on his face. Coaching Tee-ball seems to be just as fun for the coach

Coach Peter Marino leading the tee-ball Cubs in a throwing drill.

as it is for the players! Peter Marino coaches the Cubs tee-ballers. Peter isn’t a rookie to the coaching scene. He’s coached his older son, also named Peter, in the Minors and Majors divisions of G.V.L.L. This year his youngest son, Alex, is playing tee-ball and Peter jumped at the opportunity to coach his team. “At the upper levels, there’s a lot more ‘baseball,’ ” he explained, “understanding how the game flows and how plays develop, and learning to play particular positions. In tee-ball, it’s more about keeping a mob of 5-year-olds from hitting each other with the bat, learning which direction to run, the basics of how to catch and throw, and most of all, not getting bored. “For a lot of kids, it’s their first introduction to team sports,” he noted. “And it’s hopefully a way to begin to cultivate a love of a very complex sport from a young age, by teaching small elements of it. More important than anything else I think is teamwork, being part of a team and supporting your teammates.” Peter loves being a part of G.V.L.L. and has made amazing friendships through the community. Marino’s Cubs were playing bright and early on Sunday morning. Eight boys and two girls, they were warming up to take on the Reds. The listened carefully to every instruction their coaches gave them. Then they started with fielding groundballs thrown by a partner. The kids were excited to get the balls in their mitt. Even more exciting was hitting off the tee and running around the bases. They eagerly lined up against the fence, waiting to get their chance to hit the ball and enact a home run. What are the players’ favorite

things about tee-ball? “Hitting!” one kid said. “Baseball is funner than soccer!” said another. The parents were also pumped over tee-ball. “He’s proud of his uniform and being a player,” said Meredith, one of

the Cub parents. “He wears it all the time. He’s also learning a lot from the coaches.” Sunday mornings, you’ll find the tee-ballers playing on the northwest field on Pier 40 and on the pier’s roof! These young sluggers are the future of G.V.L.L.

d a l g h a y t Arch ’n r u o y g n i d a to be re ? r e p a p s w e n y t i n u m m co Don’t miss a single issue! ! r e g la il V e h T o t e ib r c s b Su Call 646-452-2475 May 7, 2015