The Paper of Record for East and West Villages, Lower East Side, Soho, Noho, Little Italy and Chinatown
May 15, 2014 • FREE Volume 4 • Number 13
A.G. keeps going after Airbnb to turn over rental records BY SAM SPOKONY
AIRBNB, continued on p. 10
East Village radical attorney pleads guilty to tax obstruction BY SARAH FERGUSON
e’s defended everyone from Lower East Side squatters and the homeless denizens of Tompkins Square Park to the leaders of Hamas and most recently Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law.
Now friends and supporters of radical attorney Stanley Cohen are coming to his defense in the wake of Cohen’s decision to plead guilty to a felony charge of “impeding” the Internal Revenue Service. On April 14, Cohen appeared in U.S. District COHEN, continued on p. 11
PHOTO BY SAM SPOKONY
t ended up being a short break for the nation’s most talkedabout short-term apartment rental Web site. Just one day after a judge blocked state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s subpoena of Airbnb — the popular “home-
sharing” site — based on a technicality, Schneiderman issued a new subpoena that purportedly addresses that technical matter. Through the subpoena, the attorney general seeks to force Airbnb — a San Francisco-based company that operates in cities around the globe — to
Interfaith leaders prayed at the East Village’s Middle Collegiate Church on May 13 for the safe return of 276 Nigerian girls kidnapped last month. One young worshiper filmed the service on her phone, above. See Page 2 for more photos.
Jurors, advocates, a few pols call for clemency for McMillan BY GERARD FLYNN
urors who convicted Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan aren’t the only voices calling for leniency in the sentencing of the 25-year-old New School graduate student, who is facing between two and seven years in prison for elbowing a police officer in the face at an O.W.S. protest on March 2012. Last week, nine of the 12 jury mem-
bers petitioned Judge Ronald Zweibel to “consider probation with community service” when McMillian is sentenced on Mon., May 19. This past Monday, on the steps of City Hall, a handful of city councilmembers followed suit. Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, who was arrested while protesting with the Occupy movement — his charges were later dismissed — condemned the Police Department for
what he called its tendency to use “excessive force” at protests. He said the effort to keep McMillan incarcerated is an attempt by the powers that be to chill free speech. “Many of the arrests at Zuccotti Park were provoked by the police and unnecessary,” he said, adding that protesters often were charged afterward with assaulting a police officer. MCMILLAN, continued on p. 2
Professor Corey, going strong at 99..................page 12 D.A. adds murder charge....page 5 Hoylman gets tough on hit-run cyclists.............page 20 www.EastVillagerNews.com
PHOTOS BY GERARD FLYNN
At a City Hall steps rally for leniency for Cecily McMillan on Monday, speakers included, from left, Yetta Kurland and Councilmembers Laurie Cumbo, of Brooklyn (Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Eastern Parkway), and Ydanis Rodriguez, of Upper Manhattan.
MCMILLAN, continued from p. 1
Rodriguez said those in the justice system want would-be protesters to take a look at McMillan’s case as “an example to all people who join protests.” The Upper Manhattan councilmember called her a “role model” of how hard it can be, under the system, to defend the Bill of Rights. Other politicians who joined the rally to call for leniency for McMillan were City Councilmembers Laurie Cumbo, Robert Cornegy and Helen Rosenthal, while a representative of Jumaane Williams read a statement of support. Randy Credico, who is running for governor of New York, said McMillan’s case is quickly and increasingly gaining international attention. He called that bad for the justice system, as well as for “phony progressives” in the City Council who didn’t turn up at the rally. “Forget about the lack of city councilmembers — she’s quickly becoming an international star,” Credico said. If she’s kept jailed, he added, it will make her more famous than the members of Pussy Riot, some of whom, in fact, visited her recently in prison.
McMillan is currently being held on Riker’s Island without bail. Her supporters are calling for her sentence to be reduced to time served, plus community service. Former City Council candidate Yetta Kurland also spoke at Monday’s rally. Kurland, a civil rights attorney, said it would be “an injustice” for McMillan to be sentenced to jail time for reacting to what she perceived to be a sexual assault: McMillan alleges that a police officer grabbed her breast from behind as she was leaving Zuccotti Park, and that she was then beaten and subsequently arrested. Kurland added that McMillan was one of the very few Occupy protesters to be hit with criminal charges, as many of the others had their charges dropped. “Cecily is a warm compassionate person,” Kurland said at Monday’s rally. “We feel horrible about the decision. We all know the interconnectedness between Cecily’s situation and others who have to deal with the criminal justice system. “I think it’s upsetting to see bruising on her breasts,” Kurland said of photos taken after McMillan’s arrest. “What she experienced seems to be a compelling piece of evidence and shows a level of force. We have to look at the way sexual violence plays out in some of these police brutality cases.”
PHOTOS BY SAM SPOKONY
Call for leniency for McMillan
United to save Nigerian girls Hundreds of interfaith worshipers joined the international call of “Bring Back Our Girls!” on May 13 during a service in Middle Collegiate Church, at 112 Second Ave. Like millions of other people around the world, they were praying for the safe return of the 276 Nigerian school girls who were kidnapped last month by Islamist militants. The interfaith service began with a traditional Muslim call to prayer, and also featured emotional songs and speeches by Christian and Jewish leaders. “Concerned people around the globe, empowered by our prayers and impassioned by the convictions of our faith, must speak truth to all who would objectify women and children,” said the Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister of Middle Collegiate Church, holding a congregant’s daughter, above. Ruth Messinger, former Manhattan borough president and current president of the American Jewish World Service, also gave remarks, below. “We cannot stand idly by as women and girls are attacked by extremists aiming to strip them of their dignity and rights,” she said.
A protester making a sign before Monday’s rally.
May 15, 2014
AGENT OF P.I.Z.Z.A.: Actor Clark Gregg was spotted in the East Village Monday, at First St. and Avenue A. Gregg, Agent Phil Coulson of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and Marvel superheroes flicks fame, was chowing down on some super-’za. GIVE HIM A HAND(PRINT): A theater revival, complete with stars’ handprints in concrete, is turning St. Mark’s Place into Hollywood East. On the evening of Mon., May
PHOTO BY JEFFERSON SIEGEL
HERE WE GO AGAIN! Under former Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the city’s Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications made a couple of aborted tries at selling .nyc Web addresses to New York businesses or even for personal use, if we recall correctly. But, as we’ve reported many times before, Paul Garrin, the East Village connectivity guru, claims full ownership of .nyc and scores of other “top-level domain names” that he created before the Internet boom, and which are available for use, albeit on an “alternate root,” i.e. not the main Internet that most of us use, which is known as the “main root.” Now, Mayor Bill de Blasio is giving it another try, the New York Post reported on Tuesday. “There is no shortage of New Yorkers ready to claim their exclusive dot.nyc identities,” he said. According to the Post, “trademark holders with a physical address in the city will be able to apply through June 20.” We didn’t hear back from Garrin yet on what he thinks about this latest challenge to what he maintains are his legally protected domain-name rights.
5, no less a luminary than actor Alan Cumming arrived at Theatre 80 St. Mark’s to have his hands and signature memorialized in mortar as part of the New York Walk of Fame. “I hope I have bigger hands than Joan Crawford,” Cumming told The Villager before a ceremony on the theater stage. “I live in the East Village and always pass here with my dogs,” the film and TV star said. “He’s at the point in his career as an actor that his place in the history of theater is secure,” said Lorcan Otway, owner of the theater as well as the adjoining Museum of the American Gangster and the William Barnacle Tavern. Like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the New York version, gracing the ground at the theater’s entrance, boasts the handprints and signa-
tures of Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson, Myrna Loy and Joan Rivers, to name a few. Before immortalizing his palm prints on a concrete block, the Scottish actor shared a few thoughts on the city. “I find Mayor Bill de Blasio to be really dynamic,” said Cumming, an early supporter, adding that, “The incentives for film production and Broadway have been amazing.” Like a true East Villager, Cumming also offered some keen observations of his home turf. “Everybody wanted to come to the city because it was diverse and exciting,” he said. “Now a lot of them can’t afford it. Let’s make sure New York is not just a playground for the rich.” Cumming’s concrete “handiwork” will be installed on the street in a few months.
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May 15, 2014
PHOTO BY JEFFERSON SIEGEL
Jamie Pugh, 20, appears at his arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court on Wed., May 14. Pugh is charged with the brutal murder of Wen Hui Ruan, 68, on E. Sixth St. near Avenue D. At left is his defense attorney, East Villager Frank Rothman.
Arrest in senior’s killing
Police are questioning a suspect who allegedly beat an elderly man to death just around the corner from the senior’s East Village home on May 9. Jamie Pugh, 20, was picked up Tues., May 13, on E. 14th St. near First Ave. about 1:45 a.m. after police received a tip through the Crime Stoppers line. Pugh, a resident of 691 F.D.R. Drive, in the Lillian Wald Houses, is charged with second-degree murder, second-degree robbery and assault. The victim, Wen Hui Ruan, 68, a Chinese immigrant who lived with his family on Avenue C, was walking along E. Sixth St., near Avenue D, around 8:45 p.m. when the suspect approached and began yelling at him, police said. The suspect then threw Ruan against a wall, knocking him to ground, and then punched him and stomped on his head three times, after which the suspect fled the scene, according to police. Ruan was rushed to Bellevue Hospital after a bystander called 911, but he died shortly after reaching the hospital. Based on witness statements, police believe the altercation was the result of a robbery attempt, according to a source mentioned in The New York Times. Police said Pugh has a history of robbery and drug sales.
Home invader sentenced
A man who admitted to violently burglarizing five Manhattan homes in 2009, including three in the West Village, has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced on May 12. William Rodriguez, 57, pleaded guilty on April 28 to multiple felony charges of burglary, robbery and kidnapping, as well as two misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child, for the 2009 spree. Before the sentencing for those charges took place, he had also just begun serving a 20-years-to-life prison sentence, which was handed down in March after he was arrested and convicted, through DNA evidence, of an August 2012 burglary of a West Village home, the D.A. said.
May 15, 2014
Rodriguez began his 2009 spree on Oct. 8 of that year, when he followed a cleaning woman in a W. Ninth St. apartment where she worked, then choked her, threw her on a bed and punched her in the head multiple times, according to court documents. He then used a vacuum cleaner cord to tie her hands and feet, after which he stole computers, cash and other property from the apartment. After another burglary in Morningside Heights, Rodriguez struck again Downtown on Oct. 29, 2009, when he pretended to be a deliveryman and brought a fake package to a Bank St. apartment, according to court documents. A nanny, who was watching a 3-year-old child, opened the door, and Rodriguez forced his way inside while flashing a knife, after which he threatened to kill the nanny, tied her up using her own shirt, and stole a computer and camera equipment from the apartment. Then on Nov. 2, 2009, Rodriguez forced his way into the W. 12th St. apartment of an elderly woman, again while wielding a knife, according to court documents. As in the previous incidents, he threw her down and tied her up — this time with a telephone cord — after which he stole cash from the apartment. He finished the spree two days later, with a similar burglary on the Upper West Side. Rodriguez has been arrested more than a dozen times, including once in 1988 for attempting to shoot a police officer.
Drunken limo joyride
Marwan Elbordiny, 24, was arrested early on May 7 after he drunkenly stole a limousine packed with passengers and crashed it into a garbage truck in the West Village, police said. The driver of the white stretch limo told cops he parked near the corner of W. Fourth St. and Seventh Ave. South around 3:15 a.m., with four passengers sitting in the back seat, and briefly stepped out of the car, leaving it idling with the key in the ignition. It was then that Elbordiny reportedly jumped behind the limo’s steering wheel and sped away, knocking over the driver and leaving him with minor injuries, according to documents filed in the Manhattan D.A.’s Office.
With the four frightened passengers still inside — one of whom eventually jumped out of the vehicle — Elbordiny reportedly then began a strange, high-speed joyride that initially consisted of driving in two small circles. After pulling away from the original parking spot, he drove south on Seventh Ave. South for one block, then turned left onto Grove St. (driving the wrong way), then drove for another block and turned left onto W. Fourth St. (again driving the wrong way), then immediately turned left once again onto Seventh Ave. South — after which he made the same loop again, according to the D.A. documents. During his second loop, Elbordiny reportedly continued driving north on W. Fourth St., on which he was soon traveling with traffic, rather than against it, after crossing over Seventh Ave. South. But his frenzied joyride came to an end just a block later, when he slammed into the front of a private garbage truck at the intersection of W. Fourth St. and W. 10th St., according to the D.A. documents. The limo’s three remaining passengers, as well as a passenger in the garbage truck, all reportedly sustained minor injuries in that crash. With the driver’s door apparently inoperable, Elbordiny then climbed through the limo’s passenger-side window and attempted to flee the scene on foot, but was stopped by passersby, according to the D.A. documents. After cops arrived on the scene and apprehended him, Elbordiny took a breath test and was found to have a blood-alcohol content of .181 percent — more than twice the legal limit — police said. He was also carrying two small bags of alleged cocaine and one small bag of alleged hashish, police said. Elbordiny was charged with grand larceny, reckless endangerment, unauthorized use of a vehicle, unlawful imprisonment, driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance, among other charges.
Planned to rob drug dealer
Police arrested three men — two of whom later confessed — as they were allegedly about to rob a drug dealer’s West Village apartment at gunpoint early on May 10. Cops said they saw Aziz Rasheem-Coleman, 20; Devon Davis, 21; and Unique Smith, 35, arrive outside 15 Jones St., the alleged location of the robbery target, shortly after midnight. Davis was reportedly carrying a loaded 9-millimeter handgun and sat down on the steps of a building across the street, while Rasheem-Coleman and Smith approached the target building’s entrance, according to documents filed with the Manhattan D.A.’s Office. Smith was also carrying a knife, a fake pistol, a ski mask and gloves, police said. When cops approached the three men, they all took off running, and tossed away both the real and fake gun, but all were apprehended after a brief chase, and both guns were recovered, police said. It was Smith and Davis who later admitted to the officers that they were planning to commit the robbery, which targeted a drug dealer who was known by RasheemColeman, according to court documents. All three men were charged with attempted burglary, attempted robbery, criminal possession of a weapon and conspiracy.
The out-of-control driver’s car that struck Mohammed Akkas Ali and two other deli employees last June 19 sat in a wreck near the store hours after the crash.
D.A. adds murder charge for driver in florist’s death BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
anhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. on Tuesday announced that an intoxicated driver who crashed into a Second Ave. grocery store last June, injuring several employees, one of whom later died, has now also been charged with murder. Florist Mohammed Akkas Ali, who was in his early 60s, died earlier this year as a result of his injuries from the crash six months earlier. The driver, Shaun Martin, 33, now has been additionally charged in New York State Supreme Court, not only with murder in the second degree, but also two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide. Martin was initially slapped with seven charges, but that has now been boosted up to 15. He faces 25 years to life in jail. Other charges against him include assault in the first degree, aggravated vehicular assault, reckless endangerment in the first degree, driving while ability impaired by drugs, driving while ability impaired by combination of drugs and alcohol, assault in the third degree, and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree. “This defendant is charged with seriously injuring multiple pedestrians, killing Mr. Ali, due to his extraordinarily reckless behavior,” Vance said in a press release on Tuesday.
“Intoxicated driving, whether by drugs or alcohol, is completely at odds with the prospect of making New York streets safe for pedestrians and drivers alike. My office will continue to aggressively prosecute vehicular violence whenever supported by the evidence.” Martin is charged with speeding through the East Village in a white Nissan Altima at around 6:50 a.m. on June 19, 2013, while impaired by phencyclidine, commonly known as PCP, and methamphetamine. He reportedly cut across three lanes of traffic and drove onto the sidewalk. He struck multiple objects, including a fire hydrant, a pay phone, a muni-meter and a tree, before crashing into the flower stand at East Village Farm and Grocery, at E. Fourth St. and Second Ave. Three deli employees were struck, including Ali. The florist was in a coma for a couple of weeks, before regaining consciousness. But he never spoke or moved again, and eventually died due to his injuries. In a prior case, in 2007, Martin was convicted of operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs. After the June 2013 crash, he was initially released on $100 bail. Then he was arrested for another incident, possibly drugrelated, and his bail was set at $1 million. But he was eventually held without bail, and remains in jail.
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May 15, 2014
Ex-Pride Agenda director at home at settlement house BY SAM SPOKONY
n a sense, Alan van Capelle’s first midlife crisis came at age 34. It was then, in January 2010, that he stepped down as executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, less than two months after the state Senate had decisively rejected its first marriage-equality bill. Van Capelle’s seven-year tenure — which itself had come after years as a union leader — made him the Pride Agenda’s longest-serving leader, but he was still a young man. “I worried, after I left the Pride Agenda, that I would never again find something that was so personally significant or meaningful to me,” he said in an interview last month. Van Capelle next became deputy comptroller for public affairs under then-City Comptroller John Liu. Then, about a yearand-a-half later, he switched course once again to become president and C.E.O. of Bend the Arc, a Jewish faith-based, socialjustice advocacy group. This year, van Capelle, now 39, took the next leap in his career by becoming president and C.E.O. of the Educational Alliance, a 124-year-old nonprofit social service organization based on the Lower East Side.
Alan van Capelle on a terrace at the new Manny Cantor Center.
And for van Capelle, that decision certainly wasn’t just about staying close to his L.E.S. home, where he has lived with his husband and two young sons for the past three years.
“After all those worries I had [in 2010], I don’t think they’re going to be a problem anymore,” he said. “In my short time so far at the Educational Alliance, I think I’ve been more personally and professionally fulfilled than anything since my time at the Pride Agenda.” That’s because he plans to bring new life to the advocacy efforts of the organization, which opened its groundbreaking Manny Cantor Center in February. The center is being promoted as a vibrant new source of equality within a community that includes both ultra-wealthy residents and others living below poverty level in public housing. Along with numerous other services, the center features an early-childhood education program that serves both students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds and those from low-income families who receive federal Head Start subsidies. There’s also a fitness center with sliding-scale membership fees to include low-income residents alongside their wealthier neighbors. “It’s really an experiment, because there isn’t another facility in this city that is situated at the intersection of several different communities, and which is designed to be for everybody across the economic strata,” van Capelle said. “My hope it’s a model that can be replicated.”
He said a major part of that push to expand the influence of the Manny Cantor Center, and the Educational Alliance as a whole, will involve a shift in the organization’s approach to reaching the greater public. “What I see often in service organizations is that we do a great job of providing services, and we do less of a good job of actually telling the stories of the people we’re serving,” he said. In other words, he said, the goal is to begin having a “conversation not just about feeding people who are poor, but actually discussing why they’re poor in the first place.” Van Capelle, who remains well connected in the political sphere, also hopes to bring his organization more directly in touch with City Hall — perhaps by bringing City Hall to him. “I hope the mayor will have a cabinet meeting at the Manny Cantor Center someday,” he mused. Does van Capelle see himself committing to these new goals — and his new post — for the long haul? “Yes,” he said. “I feel like every single day that I’ve gone to work so far at the Educational Alliance, I can actually say that the lives of people in my neighborhood have been improved. To me, that’s what’s really important.”
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May 15, 2014
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May 15, 2014
A vision for a safe Canal St., long overdue Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN
EDITOR IN CHIEF LINCOLN ANDERSON
CONTRIBUTORS IRA BLUTREICH TERESE LOEB KREUZER JEFFERSON SIEGEL JERRY TALLMER
ART / PRODUCTION DIRECTOR TROY MASTERS
SENIOR DESIGNER MICHAEL SHIREY
GRAPHIC DESIGNERS CHRIS ORTIZ ANDREW GOOS
SENIOR VP OF ADVERTISING / MARKETING FRANCESCO REGINI
RETAIL AD MANAGER COLIN GREGORY
t almost seems as if there’s been a Canal St. traffic study for every car on the street. The roadway has long been a source of government-funded efforts — some with catchy acronyms like CATS, the Canal Area Transportation Study — so it was not surprising Canal is one of the 13 streets the city is trying to make safer with an “arterial slow zone.” Of the targeted areas, Canal is the deadliest per mile, according to the statistics the city Department of Transportation released with last week’s announcement about the zones. While other city streets, like Queens Boulevard and Atlantic Ave. in the Bronx, have seen many more deaths since 2008 (23 and 25, respectively) than Canal’s six, they’re about a death-per-mile lower than the 4-to-1 ratio on Canal’s shorter, one-and-a-half-mile stretch. And although there were six deaths too many on the Lower Manhattan street, that was actually a vast improvement over some years ago when there were 14 deaths over the six years ending in 2001.
The slow zone will have a modest drop in speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour, but even more important, there will be speedlimit signs, more enforcement and focus. The last one is probably the most important, because the reality is speeding is not the big problem on Canal. No doubt, many frustrated drivers turning off the West Side Highway waiting to get into the Holland Tunnel, or stuck as they wait to cross the Manhattan Bridge, would be willing to pay the price of a speeding ticket if that would get them moving faster. The street is a clear physical barrier that also literally divides Community Boards 1 and 2. That is one of the reasons that Lower Manhattan school advocates don’t see a proposed school just near Canal as a solution to school overcrowding problems because it would mean students as young as age 4 would be crossing the thoroughfare. Vehicles so dominate the area that they overwhelm pedestrians trying to cross the five to seven lanes of two-way traffic, or the long intersection at Hudson St. that sandwiches the tunnel entrance. There have been minor tweaks to the street over the years, which probably have helped reduce the death rate. Still, what is clear is that daily many people are visibly in fear because they walk so
cautiously when crossing. What’s needed is larger, more prominent crosswalks to send the unmistakable Ratso Rizzo message to drivers: “Hey! I’m walkin’ here!” (Dustin Hoffman’s most famous line from “Midnight Cowboy” was ad libbed when an impatient New York cabbie almost ran him over during filming.) Northern Boulevard, the site of D.O.T.’s slow zone announcement, will also be getting safer crosswalks at an intersection near a school. It is almost undoubtedly needed there, although it is notable that the boulevard’s zone is almost three times the length of Canal but has had one fewer death since 2008, five. As of now, there are no plans for additional safety measures in Lower Manhattan. The focus and stepped-up enforcement on Canal will unquestionably help. It’s all part of Mayor de Blasio’s worthy Vision Zero goal of eliminating all traffic deaths. In a practical sense, adding signs will make the speed limit drop infinite since many city drivers are unaware of a specific limit because they rarely see a sign. The arterial slow zone will be a big improvement, nevertheless, more will still need to be done. However, the city is thankfully moving in the right direction by implementing the Canal St. slow zone.
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May 15, 2014
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR C.B. 3 numbers don’t lie To The Editor: Re “C.B. 3 lacks leadership diversity, member charges” (news article, May 1): The fact that the membership of the Executive Committee of Community Board 3 is diverse wins Ayo Harrington’s argument. Fifty members of the community board voted for these appointments. This is precisely why more diversity and balance exists. On the other hand, the committee chairpersons are appointed exclusively by board Chairperson Gigi Li. Ms. Harington has handled this with grace and dignity. She gave statistics. Numbers do not lie. The appointed committee chairpersons under Li (and, I suspect, equally under her predecessors, Dominic Berg and David McWater) do not reflect the diver-
sity of the 50 board members. For context, it was former Borough President Scott Stringer and now his successor, Gale Brewer, along with Councilmembers Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez, who have been responsible for creating the board’s diversity. It was up to Li as board chairperson to make sure these elected officials’ commitment to diversity and representation was upheld. In the aftermath of all this, some commentators are now portraying Ms. Harrington (I’m paraphrasing) as a loud black woman who is using the race card to get something she doesn’t deserve. This to me is disturbing and sobering, a reminder of just how far we have to go to end a legacy of slavery, race and segregation in this country. Finally, there is no way to have an honest conversation about race relations, institutionalized racism, inadequate representa-
tion or prejudice, if you cloud the discussion with a false premise. That Ms. Li is an Asian-American woman does not exclude her from the same scrutiny a Caucasian man or woman may have experienced in these same circumstances. Ms. Li was in a position of power and influence — what did she do with it? Ms. Harrington’s statics provide the answer. Erin Harvey
It’s a collective concern To The Editor: Re “C.B. 3 lacks leadership diversity, member charges” (news article, May 1): The struggle to end racism is a collective one. The momentary relief of finding “the” racist is the work of tabloids. It is a counterfeit fight. And worse, it is ineffective in ending racism because it con-
fuses people into thinking that the depth and mass of the problem is being tackled. The Executive Committee of C.B. 3, in part, is composed of an African-heritage man who is the first vice chairperson; a Latina who is the secretary; and a Chinese-heritage woman who is the board chairperson. How you best fill the committee chairperson posts to reflect racial diversity that is inclusive of African heritage, Latino and, I assume, indigenous peoples is the task at hand. The woman who brought the complaint wants that, the chairperson wants that, and the rest of the board wants that. If achieving this goal is happening too slowly, if it’s not going well, if there is disagreement about it — that is something the group, collectively, is responsible for. Personalizing a systemic difficulty of the magnitude of racLETTERS, continued on p. 23
Shoot! Who stole our historic iron coal chute cover? NOTEBOOK
Market had street-side barrels full of entrails and calf heads in the early morning. You could order fresh milk delivered to your door. A stable for police horses was nearby, and a riding ring with ponies was on Charles St. It was a real Village. And you could buy a house for $30,000. These streets are no longer clogged with horse manure and dirty with coal and coal ash. And our houses are warm, as my “progressive” great-great-grandfather apparently hoped. But the mess hasn’t gone away. It has just gone elsewhere. Mountaintops are blown off. Streams are smothered in coal ash. Skies are blackened. Fracking poisons the land and water. I like to think my “progressive” great-great-grandfather would be pleased that at least some of his descendants — my older daughter, Neall, and her family — have turned from coal to solar power for all their electricity. As for the thieves — what use is a cast-iron coal chute cover bereft of its function and its history? Put it back!
BY OTIS KIDWELL BURGER
n Sat., March 15, a couple perhaps from around Westbeth was seen walking down Bethune St. and taking photographs. The man, tall and fiftyish, kicked the coal chute cover on the sidewalk in front of 27 Bethune St. and found that it was loose. About two hours later, around 2 p.m., another tall man was seen taking an orange D.O.T. cone from a car and placing it beside the fence in front of No. 27, then driving off. The witnesses — including myself — ran over and found ourselves staring at a 15-inch-wide round hole in the sidewalk. A police car happened by. They thought D.O.T. had taken the coal chute cover for repairs. Then five large firemen came and pushed a heavy planter over the hole. Then E.P.A. came, but the hole was now blocked. A policeman strode about my living room shouting into a cell phone, “No, no, not a manhole cover.” A family friend said, “These sell for $2,000 to collectors. There is a black market in historic ironwork.” (And, indeed, in 1960 two ornamental cast-iron pillars had been stolen from our front stairs.) The police finally decided to treat this as a crime.
Once, these sidewalks were brightened by many coal chute covers, in many designs.
It was a handsome cover, like a small manhole cover, cast iron with “Hudson River Iron Works” and stars on it. It came with the house when we bought it in 1959, but it was no longer in use; the old coal-burning furnace had already been converted to oil. In 1821, when my great-great-grandfather William Henry Willcox was born on Cedar St. in New York City, central heating “was far in the future.” He wrote his memoirs when he was in his 80s, describing life in the city. Heating came from fireplaces, and “cooking was done in a fireplace provided with a great crane and hooks...holding pots and kettles over a wood fire.” But “father was somewhat of a progressive,” and soon installed a coal-burning cast-iron range instead, and later a “Nott’s stove” in the hall near the parlor. But “its promise quite out ran its performance.” The parlor, dining room and bedrooms had fireplaces, but the attic rooms, where the boys and servants slept, were “as frigid as the streets,” in winters so cold the Hudson froze from shore to shore. The kitchen was the warmest room in the house. One hundred years later, when I was born, my grandmother’s Staten Island house did have a coal-burning furnace, but her cooks still used a coal-burning cast-iron range. Coal was kept in a bin in the cellar. It was impressively black and beautiful. Magic stones that burned! No.’s 27 and 29 Bethune St. were built in 1836 as an “Uptown Speculation.” They stand on landfill, where there was once a farm belonging to Joanna and Divvie
This classic coal chute cover — made by Hudson River Iron Works, a foundry formerly located at 369 W. 11th St. — was filched from in front of the writer’s Bethune St. home two months ago. Charles H. Fox was a proprietor of the foundry when this particular cover was made, hence the imprint.
Bethune. No. 27 has a big coal storage space beneath the coal chute which opens on the sidewalk. Our coal-burning furnace had been converted to oil, but one neighbor on Bethune St. still remembers coal rattling down the chute of her family’s house in the ’30s and the problems of disposing of the ash. The house next door, No. 25, never did have central heating and was renovated with electric heat in each apartment. Its coal chute cover was stolen 20 years ago, and like many others, the hole was cemented over. I think my cover was the last on the block. Once, of course, these sidewalks were brightened by many coal chute covers, in many interesting designs. …. Coal-burning furnaces lingered here and there for a while. In 1959, a store on Barrow St. still sold coal, ice and kerosene. The West Village was a waterfront area, with rooming houses and seamen’s bars. The rag-andbone man rode a horse-drawn cart with a bell. A scissors grinder proclaimed his services as he walked. “White Wings” sanitation men pushed carts full of brush brooms and a couple of garbage cans. The Meat
Fear and loathing in ’88
he top story in The Villager’s Jan. 7, 1988, issue, “Fear Demolition Will Ruin Neighbor,” detailed how Joe Roberto, longtime curator/director of the Old Merchant’s House, at 29 E. Fourth St., worried that an abutting building’s upcoming demolition and new parking lots could harm the then-155-year-old landmark. The other Page 1 story, “Effective Crack Busts Clean Up the Jane Street Area,” reported on robberies, drug dealing and prostitution around the old Jane West Hotel. However, the problem apparently hadn’t been wiped out. Sandy Anderson, manager of the freshly renamed Riverview Hotel, said, “If [police] do a sweep of Washington Square Park, they (the dealers) come over here. If they do a sweep of that park on Eighth and Gansevoort [he probably meant Jackson Square], then they come here. It’s like spraying for cockroaches, and they don’t have enough Combat.”
It takes a Villager Your community news source
May 15, 2014
A.G. keeps after Airbnb to turn over rental records AIRBNB, continued from p. 1
hand over customer records. Those records would be used to determine if, and how many, users of the site have violated a 2010 state law (sometimes referred to as the “illegal hotel law”) that makes it illegal to rent out a residential apartment in New York City for less than 30 days if the leaseholder or owner of that unit is not also present. “The time has come for Airbnb to stop shielding hosts who may be violating a law that provides vital protections for building residents and tourists,” said Matt Mittenthal, an attorney general spokesperson, in a statement released after the new subpoena was issued on the evening of Wed., May 14. In a decision released the day before, State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly blocked the first subpoena, ruling that it was too broad because it targeted Airbnb customers throughout the state, rather than only in New York City, where the 2010 illegal hotel law applies. Immediately following that ruling, Airbnb seemed to declare victory by releasing a statement in which the company called Connolly’s decision “good news for New Yorkers who simply want to share their home and the city they love,” and saying, “Now, it’s time for us to work together… . We look forward to continuing to work with the Attorney General’s Office to make New York stronger for everyone.” But it now seems that Schneiderman may have the upper hand. As part of his May 13 decision to block the initial subpoena, Connolly also made a number of rulings that will heavily weigh against Airbnb, if the attorney general’s new subpoena is deemed acceptable in its geographical focus. “There is evidence that a substantial number of [Airbnb users] may be in violation of the [2010 illegal hotel law],”
May 15, 2014
the judge wrote in that decision. He also went on to write that “the record before the Court indicates that there are [Airbnb users] regularly using their apartments to provide lodging to guests who may not be complying with the state and local tax registration and/or collection requirements.” That evidence was likely based on research the Attorney General’s Office submitted to the court earlier this year, which stated that as of Jan. 31, Airbnb listed 19,522 apartment rentals in New York City, and only one of those listings required guests to stay for at least 30 days. In addition, 64 percent of those listings were for rentals of the entire apartment, meaning the host “presumably would not be present during the rental period,” according to the attorney general’s researcher. Referring to Airbnb’s other arguments against Schneiderman’s action, Connolly also found in his May 13 ruling that the home-sharing company had failed to prove that the initial subpoena was “unduly burdensome” or that the customer records requested by the attorney general were confidential. That is what set the stage for the attorney general’s subsequent action on the following day. “Since the judge rejected all of Airbnb’s arguments except for a narrow technical matter, our office has served the company with a new subpoena that addresses that issue,” said Mittenthal, in his May 14 statement. The statement did not specify exactly how the technical issue will be addressed, but the new subpoena will likely be specifically focused only on New York City users of Airbnb. Following the issuance of the new subpoena, Airbnb responded by saying it was, “disappointing that the Attorney General’s Office continues to demand private information about thousands of Airbnb hosts, so many of whom struggle
every day just to make ends meet.” In interviews earlier on May 14, even before the new subpoena had been issued, supporters of Schneiderman’s investigation were optimistic. “I feel like it’s a win,” said state Senator Liz Krueger, who sponsored the illegal hotel law, referring to Connolly’s ruling. She has long railed against Airbnb’s media campaigns in New York City. She added that both tenants and landlords have called her office many times to complain about the “nightmare” of dealing with short-term apartment rentals, citing security concerns due to the presence of strangers in their residential buildings.
a building. The Villager reported in March on a Nolita building in which two previously rent-stabilized apartments were believed to have been illegally deregulated after being used for several years as Airbnb rentals. In that case, a broker later advertised the two units online at market rate after removing them from Airbnb, but hastily deleted the listings from his Web site after this newspaper inquired about their history in rent-stabilization. Given the recent release of Mayor de Blasio’s major, 10-year affordable housing plan — which seeks to preserve 120,000 affordable units and build 80,000 more — Airbnb opponents in the city are also calling on the mayor to reject the homesharing site’s efforts to further embed itself within the local economy. One of the most outspoken opponents is Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who, in a May 13 letter to de Blasio, asked him to oppose Airbnb’s business model, and to also oppose recently introduced state legislation that seeks to legalize short-term apartment rentals. “Illegal rentals through Airbnb have to be part of the discussion when we talk about affordable housing, because the fact is that they take rentregulated units off the market,” Brewer told The Villager. “It’s something that deals directly with the preservation aspect of the mayor’s affordable housing plan, so we need to be talking about it in that context.” The Mayor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment. New York State Homes and Community Renewal, the state agency that oversees rent-regulation, also did not respond to a request for comment.
‘Illegal rentals through Airbnb have to be part of the discussion when we talk about affordable housing.’ Gale Brewer
Krueger also stressed her belief that Airbnb’s apartment rentals are having a negative impact on affordable housing in the city. “We’re finding over and over again that a huge portion of the apartments that show up on Airbnb, as well as similar sites, are in 421a buildings and buildings with rent-regulated units,” she said, referring to the state’s 421a program that provides tax breaks to developers for including 20 percent affordable housing in
Stanley Cohen speaks out about tax charges COHEN, continued from p. 1
PHOTO BY JOHN PENLEY
Court in Syracuse, N.Y., to accept a conditional plea deal that could land him in jail for 18 months and cost him his law license. He pled guilty on May 1 in Manhattan federal court on related charges of failing to file taxes in 2006 and 2007. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 21. Last month Cohen’s supporters launched a petition drive via the Web site Change.org to ask that the judge show leniency and “reduce the jail sentence to zero in light of Cohen’s many years of public service.” (The petition is online at chn.ge/1iqAlKM .) The 18-month sentence is part of the terms agreed to under the plea deal. But the judge can reject the plea and call for a reduced sentence “in the interest of justice,” said Jay Liederman, a California criminal defense attorney who worked alongside Cohen to defend hacktivists charged in the so-called PayPal 14 case. Leiderman concedes “it’s a rare day” when judges depart from the terms negotiated under a plea deal, “but then this is a rare case.” “There’s not many people on this earth who have put in the kind of work and pro bono service that Stanley has on behalf of his fellow man, so we’re hoping the court will recognize that,” Leiderman said. At the same time, Leiderman and other members of the newly formed Stanley Cohen Defense Committee have launched an online fundraising drive at Rally.org to help pay off Cohen’s extensive legal bills, as well as the likely cost of restoring his law license once any jail term is served. (The fundraising drive is online at ral.ly/t/1591822 .) They are also hoping to finance a speaking tour for Cohen so he can address what he and his supporters view as a concerted effort by federal authorities to “silence” him for his radical views and his work on behalf of politically unpopular clients. A day before he took the guilty plea, Cohen issued a defiant statement via his Web site, istanleycohen.org, and Twitter. He accused prosecutors of engaging in a political “witch hunt,” starting more than a decade ago, when he claims Department of Justice officials tried to charge him with providing material support to “terrorists” as a result of his work for groups such as Hamas. After that investigation came up dry, he says federal officials trained their sights on his finances. For the past seven years, he says the I.R.S. has been “harassing” him along with his clients and family members. In 2009, federal agents raided his East Village apartment and law office on Avenue D and his Upstate home in Jeffersonville, N.Y., seizing bank accounts along with a safety deposit box and wall safe in which prosecutors claim they found thousands of dollars of marijuana-scented cash. In a press statement, prosecutors accused Cohen of failing to report more than $3.6
Radical attorneys Stanley Cohen and Lynne Stewart in New York State Supreme Court in 1993. After serving jail time and being disbarred for passing notes from a convicted terrorist client, Stewart was freed this past December because she is gravely ill.
million in deposits to his accounts from 2005 to 2010, including some $643,000 in cash deposits that were wired from a convenience store next to the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation, where many of Cohen’s clients reside. (According to court records, a number of Cohen’s clients had been charged with smuggling, transporting and selling bulk amounts of marijuana and cigarettes in and around the reservation.) “Stanley Cohen sought to avoid his tax obligations by consistently failing to file his federal and state tax returns over a six-year period and by operating his law practice in a manner that corruptly hid millions of dollars in legal fees from the Internal Revenue Service,” charged U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian. “No citizen, especially an attorney, is above the law.” Cohen concedes he didn’t file completed tax returns from 2005 to 2010, but says he filed extensions for each of those years — including estimates of projected income — and made partial payments of $30,000 to $40,000 each year. The $3.6 million in deposits cited by the feds does not take into account more than $2.6 million in expenses, he maintains. “To say that I failed to pay taxes on $3.6 million, that’s like smoking crystal meth,” Cohen scoffed, in a phone interview with this newspaper. “The final [tax] reports were not made because there were disputes over the charges,” Cohen explained. “What we’re talking about is a pissing contest over the amount owed with interest and penalties,” Cohen charged. “But lots of people get into disputes with the I.R.S. over their taxes. Tell me, who goes to jail over this type of thing? If I represented different people, in a different kind of practice, I wouldn’t be in this position.” In fact, some of the things he’s pleading to aren’t necessarily crimes at all. Among the complaints listed by the feds are “keeping significant amounts of cash in a safe,”
making cash deposits and paying for expenses in cash, and accepting barter in lieu of payment from clients. Prosecutors say such practices “impeded” the I.R.S. from being able to accurately calculate Cohen’s earnings. Much of it sounds like sloppy bookkeeping. The feds say Cohen failed to file W2 or 1099 reports for his single full-time legal assistant, and neglected to submit Form 8300 reports for cash transactions greater than $10,000. “They are charging me with failure to keep proper business records, when my practice is just one attorney and I don’t charge by the hour and never have,” Cohen told The Villager. Cohen said he operated on a cash basis Upstate, in large part, because most of his clients in the Mohawk territories don’t use banks. “There are no banks in Akwesasne, almost no one has a checkbook,” he pointed out. Cohen ridiculed the notion that he was trying to conceal his income by having clients send MoneyGrams from a convenience store to his American Express credit card account. “If I was trying to hide cash, why would I have people wire money to an Amex account under my name — when there are records for all those transactions?” He also disputed allegations that he instructed clients to wire sums less than than $10,000 in order to avoid triggering automatic reports to the I.R.S. “You can’t send amounts over $10,000 by MoneyGram, $9,000 is the limit,” he noted. “This wasn’t money hidden in offshore bank accounts. There’s no laundered drug money. It’s crap,” Cohen continued. “I dare them to find a single penny anywhere buried, hidden or disguised.” Although federal prosecutors allege he earned more than $500,000 for each of the tax years in question, Cohen estimates his actual earnings were more like $130,000 to $140,000 a year. “I probably owe $25,000 to $35,000 a year beyond the payments that were made. We’ve been fighting with the I.R.S. for a number of years over what we consider to be deductions and expenses, and we’ve been frozen at a standoff.” Nevertheless, Cohen says the seven-yearlong investigation has taken a toll on him and his family, and cost more than $600,000 in legal fees thus far. Facing trials in two separate districts, hundreds of thousands dollars more in legal expenses, and the prospect of several years in jail were he convicted, Cohen said he opted to take a plea. “It had started to impact my practice — particularly the international cases I do,” Cohen revealed. “After going through $600,000 in legal costs and causing everyone stress and strain, and facing another $500,000 to $600,000 and another three or four years of litigation — after a while you
reach a point where you say, f— it,” he said. While Cohen initially assumed he would forfeit his law license of 31 years by taking a guilty plea, he now says that’s not clear. “Impeding” the tax code is a federal offense, but it is not a crime in New York State. It would be up to the discretion of the New York court system whether or not to strip him of his license, he says. (Generally, being convicted of any kind of felony is automatic grounds for disbarment, legal observers say.) Yet even though he is still awaiting sentencing, Cohen was not shy about lashing out at state and federal authorities for pursuing what he portrayed as a vendetta against him — particularly prosecutors in the Northern District of New York, where he says he’s been a “thorn in their side” for decades. “Over the last 20 years, I have successfully sued half a dozen federal law enforcement agencies for things like illegal seizures, government harassment and false arrest — actions that have resulted in federal agents being penalized. One of prosecutors on this [tax] case actually confronted me outside a courtroom in 1995 and said he would have indicted me then if he could,” Cohen claimed. Four years ago, Cohen filed a 40-page complaint against prosecutors in the Northern District, accusing them of “systemic prosecutorial misconduct.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case or any allegations prior to Cohen’s sentencing. Cohen has always seemed to relish his role as an outlaw lawyer. Back in 1990, the Canadian government charged him with “seditious conspiracy” for his role in defending the Mohawk Warriors. Over the years he’s filed suits against the state of Israel for what he called the “theft of Palestine” and has represented dozens of people charged with terrorism here and abroad. He’s also been a diehard defender of activists — from the Weather Underground to the Black Bloc and Occupy Wall Street. But now Cohen seems worn down by all the legal proceedings. During the terrorism trial of Al-Qaeda spokesperson Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Cohen complained of suffering “vertigo” from stress and sleepless nights. After Abu Ghaith was convicted on March 27, Cohen asked the judge to postpone his own trial, claiming exhaustion. (The judge refused.) So isn’t he worried that if he doesn’t sound contrite, the judge could throw out the plea deal and order a trial? “What should I do, go silently into the night, and undo 40 years of my beliefs?” Cohen responded. “It’ll be what it’ll be. S— happens. I’ve had plenty of colleagues over the years go to prison for far longer, or get assassinated.” He says he’ll make use of his jail time by assisting the “unjustly accused” and writing his memoirs. May 15, 2014
‘World’s Foremost Authority’ still going strong at 99 BY ALBERT AMATEAU
May 15, 2014
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
rofessor Irwin Corey, in his frock coat, string tie and wild hair, emerged again last month to deliver another lecture. Corey’s appearance, for 20 minutes at the April 24 showing of Jordan Stone’s documentary “Irwin & Fran” at the East Village’s Anthology Film Archives, brought the house down. Laughter has followed Corey for at least 80 years in a career of stand-up comedy, political satire and as an actor on stage, film and television. At the age of 99 (he was born in July 1914), Corey shows few indications of slowing down. He went to the film showing with his son, Richard, and Jim Drougas, a friend and the owner of Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books, on Carmine St. “He climbed the three flights of stairs to the auditorium,” Drougas said, “and after the film he got up holding his walker in one hand and the microphone in the other and had everyone in stitches.” “An audience always gives him a surge of energy,” his son said later. The film, about Corey and his wife of 71 years, who died in 2011, features the comedian Dick Gregory and is narrated by Susan Sarandon. Last Sunday, Corey entertained Drougas and two visitors from The Villager at his home in East Midtown where the conversation turned to show business, show reviews and politics, the latter a frequent topic with Corey, who embraces the radical left with both arms. “Jim, show them the picture with Richard and Fidel Castro,” he called to Drougas. “You know, Obama has Alzheimer’s,” he told his guests with a straight face. “He forgot all the campaign promises he made.” Corey was blacklisted in the 1950s. “When I tried to join the Communist Party, they wouldn’t have me because they said I was an anarchist,” he said. “I think I am.” A middling review in Variety of “Irwin & Fran” didn’t seem to trouble Corey. “Kenneth Tynan [a distinguished theater critic] came to see me at The Establishment in London, the place where Lenny Bruce recommended me,” Corey recalled. “The Variety reviewer said I was the worst failure he had ever seen and that I ought to change my act — I was held over for seven weeks.” Tynan, however, had written that Corey was “a cultured clown, a parody of literacy, a travesty of all that we hold dear and one of the funniest grotesques in America.” Corey took on the comedy persona of “The World’s Foremost Authority” early in his stand-up career. The act opens with him franticly searching his pockets for notes, losing them again and opening with the word, “However… .” “I was playing the Village Vanguard in 1942 when Richard Dyer-Bennet [a re-
Irwin Corey with a photo binder of family members in his Sniffen Court residence.
A framed photo of Corey embracing Fidel Castro in 1993. Castro signed the piece of paper that goes with it, “For Irwind [sic] Corey, with admiration, gratitude and affection.”
nowned folk singer] introduced me as ‘professor’ because I was giving a lecture on Shakespeare that began with, ‘In the play, “Othello,” which we know as “Hamlet,”’” he recalled. “The Vanguard paid me $40 a week — that was four times the average annual salary at the time, and they raised me to $60,” he said. Corey’s conversation, especially about politics, is full of statistics. How does he remember all those facts and figures? “I make up what I don’t know,” he confessed. Corey was born in Brooklyn, one of six brothers whose parents had to give them up periodically to the Hebrew Orphan Society. “In 1933 I went to California and got into a school, Belmont High in Hollywood,” he said, recalling that he had a part in the school production of “Seven Keys to Baldpate,” a popular play written by George M. Cohan 20 years earlier. In 1934, the budding actor returned to New York. It was the beginning of the Great Depression, and Corey became involved in left-wing politics, show business auditions and boxing in the Golden Gloves as a featherweight — 112 pounds. Corey said he doesn’t remember when he became aware of politics, but one of his many scrapbooks has an article dated 1927 about Sacco and Vanzetti, two anarchists executed for murder. They were a cause célèbre in the late 1920s; Corey was 13 at the time of their deaths. Around 1938, Corey landed a minor part in a Borscht Circuit show, “Pots and Pans,” and his career began in earnest. He is proud of his role as the gravedigger in “Hamlet,” directed by Zoe Caldwell. “I played another Shakespeare character, Christopher Sly [“Taming of the Shrew”], a drunken tinker who thought he
Court, in the E. 30s, where he still lives. The duplex’s ground floor is full of memorabilia, including paintings by his son Richard. One of Corey’s grandsons, the son of his daughter Margaret, who died in 1997, looks after him. “When I bought the house, the taxes were $3,000 a year. Now they’re $18,000,” he said. “That’s illegal. The Constitution says that Congress may levy taxes, not the city or state. If I live another 10 years, it will cost me $180,000 to live here.” Corey is optimistic about his future. “I saw on television,” he told his guests, “that a man in India was 200 years old. Another guy was 250 years old.”
Classic Professor Corey.
was a lord,” he recalled. Corey is satiric and skeptical about religion as well as politics. “Yip Harburg — he wrote ‘Finian’s Rainbow’ — wrote a play called ‘Flahooley’ that I was in,” he recalled. “It was picketed by Catholics for being anti-religious but it ran for 44 performances. “I played the Copacabana in 1947 or 1948. Joe E. Lewis [a comedian and singer of the time] refused to play on Yom Kippur, so he recommended me because he knew I didn’t give a kipper about any of that,” Corey recalled. He likes to say, “I’m a Jew but I’m not Jewish.” In 1974 he bought the house in Sniffen
Restaurant finally opens in Union Square pavilion
PHOTO BY MILO HESS
ell, in the end, Mayor de Blasio didn’t nix the contract for the new seasonal restaurant concession in the renovated Union Square pavilion. Local advocates and politicians, at recent rallies outside the historic park building, had vocally called on him to do just that. As public advocate, de Blasio had written a letter to the State Liquor Authority urging that a liquor license for the place be denied. But the new eatery called, fittingly, The Pavilion Market Cafe, opened late Thursday afternoon for dinner. However, some call it the “most controversial restaurant in New York” due to the protracted legal battle. The private concession had been approved under former Mayor Bloomberg, but was then tied up by a community lawsuit that sought to block it, on the grounds that it represented an illegal use of public park property. The pavilion would first need to be “alienated” — or removed from park use by the state Legislature — the lawsuit plaintiffs argued, ultimately unsuccessfully. Shortly after 10 p.m. last Thursday evening, the place was pretty packed with patrons, both at the tables, as well as at the full bar, in the pavilion’s southeast corner. Waiters and staff, a seemingly disproportionate number of them male, were whisking about in light-green green aprons. The place was suffused with light from white globe fixtures hanging from the ceiling, as well as light glowing up through opaque white glass-block floor tiles. The evening’s warm temperature was, well, just about perfect for dining in the open-air pavilion. There are heat lamps for when it turns colder. Maitre d’ Paula Nielacna said the 160seat eatery will be open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to midnight. In the coming weeks, they’ll be adding lunch, she said, then brunch on weekends and, finally, breakfast, when the place will start opening at 8 a.m. The outdoor seating area in front of the pavilion would be open as of Monday at 11 a.m., she added. The chairs and tables were already out there last Thursday night, but they weren’t being used. Right now, she said, they are taking only walk-in customers, but will eventually be moving to reservations. Theater producer Frank Zuback was exiting after a satisfying dining experience. He said he knows the chef and the owner. “My wife writes a food blog,” he added. “The tuna tartare was spectacular,” he said. For his entrée, he had short-rib ravioli — also tasty, he said.
“The butter here is really good, too,” he raved. “It’s got saffron in it, and it’s really creamy.” He enjoyed a glass of pinot noir, and topped it all off with a devil cake featuring pistachios and raspberry sorbet. The bill came to $60, plus tip. That didn’t include the two Scotches he knocked back at the bar. But the tab didn’t seem to faze Zuback, producer of “Moulah,” which he’s hoping will make it to Broadway. “Not on your cheap list, but not very expensive either,” he offered, giving his overall assessment. “Mario, the chef, has done himself well.” He said he knew that, admittedly, there had been some controversy when the previous chef bailed. “It’s going to be a good place,” he predicted. “I’ll be coming back, and bringing friends.” Former City Councilmember Carol Greitzer has been a leading critic of the pavilion restaurant plan. She and her fellow opponents spent 10 years fighting the eatery initiative, both in and out of court. “The legal case is over, but I’m not so certain that the issue is altogether over,” she said this week. “The mayor took the easy way out by not doing anything, but he does have the power to stop the restaurant and close it down.” Greitzer and her allies feel the pavilion should be used for children’s activities and other community-oriented purposes. “Ironically, the playground is closed now for repairs due to heavy use,” she said. “Disabled kids could have used the pavilion. It could have been a sheltered recreation space during summer storms.” Greitzer also objected to a liquor-licensed premises being located right next to a playground. “I could see beer bottles being thrown over the top,” she said. “It’s probably not going to happen — but it’s a possibility. “The pavilion was also used for freespeech activities,” she added, “like the first Labor Day celebration in 1892. It was these activities that made Union Square a national landmark.” However, Jennifer Falk, the executive director of the Union Square Partnership, sees only good in the new gustatory presence. “This terrific new amenity enlivens the park, activating the north end and making it safer for all who visit,” Falk said. “The restaurant has also created 100 jobs, and patrons should know that a portion of the revenue generated goes back to the city and will fund vital services, like the salaries of teachers and firefighters. “We are grateful to the de Blasio administration for supporting this effort,” Falk said. “And whether it’s to play in our wonderful 15,000-square-foot playground or grab a delightful meal al fresco at the seasonal concession, we look forward to welcoming everyone to Union Square Park this summer.”
In a major renovation project, the Union Square pavilion has been spruced up inside and out.
PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
Waiters were bustling about in the busy new The Pavilion Market Cafe on opening night last week. May 15, 2014
PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY
G.V.L.L.’s pitcher blazed a fastball past a Furies batter. In the end, though, the hot-hitting East Side team’s bats couldn’t be silenced.
Furies beat Cowgirls, 14-7, in cross-town clash SPORTS
n an exciting East-meets-West softball showdown, the Lower East Side’s Lady Furies topped the Greenwich Village Little League Cowgirls last Saturday. The marathon five-inning game lasted a full two hours, and when it was over, the Furies were feelin’ it.
They doubled-up the Girls, 14-7, behind the pitching of Kayla Acevedo. She got the win and the game ball for her eight strikeouts over three innings of pitching. Another highlight saw Joey Ortiz smack her second grand slam of the season with a blast in the third inning deep into the outfield between the left fielder and left center fielder. But it was a total team effort, with each Furies player getting at least one base hit.
The East Side squad didn’t commit a single error. However, the speedy G.V.L.L. runners did swipe four stolen bases, though the Furies caught one. This Saturday, the Furies will play against another Greenwich Village team, at 3:30 p.m., again on East River Park’s Field 5. The Furies, ages 9 and 10, face their biggest challenge in two weeks, when they take on Downtown Little League’s
Lady Furies putting on eye black before the game to help cut glare. Hey, it might have helped — they didn’t make a single error!
May 15, 2014
All-Star team on Sat., May 17, at noon on D.L.L.’s home turf in Battery Park City. “We expect that to be a pitchers’ duel as I know they will have their best pitcher versus our hardest thrower, Athena Robles,” said Furies Coach Damien Acevedo. He noted that for next year they plan to start 12U (age 12 and under) and 14U (age 14 and under) Lady Furies teams during their winter clinics starting in November.
Furies runners on base look in to home plate.
Marxfest, a month at the races, carries on Fest features first-ever revival of Marx Brothers’ debut Broadway musical BY SAM SPOKONY
PHOTO BY DON SPIRO
s the story goes, four of the five Marx Brothers got their iconic nicknames during a poker game in 1914, years before they broke out and became one of America’s most beloved comedy acts. It was the vaudevillian Art Fisher who bequeathed the monikers as he was dealing to each brother — all still in their 20s at that time — around a table in Illinois, about 1,000 miles away from their hometown of New York City. Leonard, the oldest, became Chicko (later Chico), because of his penchant for chasing chicks, and Arthur, a year younger, became Harpo, because — although he couldn’t read music — he was already an excellent performer on the harp. It’s generally believed that it was the especially cantankerous shtick of the middle brother, Julius, that earned him the name Groucho, while younger brother Milton’s rubbersoled galoshes got him the title of Gummo. And it would be only a few years, of course, until Gummo was replaced in the family act by the youngest brother, Zeppo (née Herbert). One hundred years later, the names, faces and, above all, the gags of the Marx Brothers remain imprinted on our culture like those of few other performers in history. “The simple thing is, they’re still funny,” said writer, performer and vaudeville historian Trav S.D., one of the organizers of Marxfest — a month-long, citywide extravaganza marking the centennial of the famous naming, and celebrating the many triumphs of the brothers’ work on screen and stage. “There’s always been this major theme, especially in American comedy, of the outsider who becomes a sort of anti-aristocratic figure, someone you root for as the
L to R: Seth Shelden, Robert Pinnock, Melody Jane & Noah Diamond in the May 23 & 25 Marxfest production of “I’ll Say She Is.”
little guy,” he continued. “And there’s a certain irreverence about the Marxes that really tapped into that feeling, and it’s part of why they remain funny to so many people today, even while so many of their contemporaries became dated.” At this point, we’re halfway through Marxfest, which has included screenings of their movies “Monkey Business” (1931) and “A Night at the Opera” (1935), several historical talks about the era and, perhaps most notably, a May 4 forum featuring famed talk show host Dick Cavett, who, along with chatting many times with Groucho on “The Dick Cavett Show,” also had the honor of introducing the mustachioed, cigar-smoking wisecracker at his famous 1972 appearance at Carnegie Hall. But the hijinks and hysterics are still far from over, with several screenings still to come — including the fan favorite, “Duck
Soup” (1933) — as well as some particularly unique programming that could provide some new insight into the influential comedy team, even for diehards. Meanwhile, for anyone who feels compelled to do some historical boning up in advance of attending a Marxfest event, Trav S.D. has got you covered on that end as well. Aside from being a frequent contributor to this newspaper, S.D. has literally written the book(s) on some of this stuff, authoring both “No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous” and “Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to YouTube.” Tapping into that wealth of knowledge, he’s paying tribute to the Marxes throughout the month of May, by writing a daily commentary about all of their film and television appearances (both as an act
and as solo performers), one at a time, on his blog, Travalanche (travsd.wordpress. com). So if you don’t want to make the embarrassing mistake of letting a Rufus T. Firefly reference go over your head before a screening, check it out! But of course, there’s more to celebrating the Marx Brothers than laughing at your favorite film for the umpteenth time. In the case of this festival, you can also see the Marxes’ first Broadway musical, 1924’s “I’ll Say She Is,” performed live on stage (on May 23 and 25, at The Players Theatre in the South Village). Oh, you’ve never seen that one performed live before, eh? Maybe you weren’t even aware it existed. Well, don’t feel too left out — shockingly enough, “I’ll Say She Is” hasn’t been brought back to the stage since its original run 90 years ago (whose opening night was also the last time the brothers were ever publicly billed as Julius, Arthur, Leonard and Herbert). The show has also become somewhat of a forgotten gem for casual fans, because the Marx Brothers’ second and third Broadway musicals — “The Cocoanuts” (1925) and “Animal Crackers” (1928) — were, of course, quickly adapted to the screen and popularized as the films we’ve come to know and love. The long-awaited adaption of “I’ll Say She Is” was put together by Marx Brothers historian and Marxfest co-organizer Noah Diamond (who will be co-starring in the show as Groucho), and is produced and directed by none other than Trav S.D. “It’ll be an oddly familiar show for fans, because it’s as funny as their early movies, but it’s a different story, with different jokes,” S.D. said of the 90-year-old musical, which he explained is really more of a Broadway revue, with fragmented smatterings of sketches and songs, than MARXFEST, continued on p.18
May 15, 2014
The Adventures of an Underemployed Urban Elf Passings, closings and hopeful rays of weirdness
attended. Sadly, Taco passed away this month from leptospirosis, an infection carried by rats. (Don’t let Disney fool you: rats will not sew you a dress like in “Cinderella.” They are actually kind of assholes.) There is a vaccine for the aforementioned disease and if you are concerned, consult your pet’s vet. We will honor Taco’s legacy with a memorial to be held at Lucky Dog on Sun., May 25 at 6 p.m. All are welcome to read, sing, weep and drink heavily. But, truly, the best way to honor Taco’s legacy is to foster or adopt a pet. What seems like a mangy junkyard dog might just turn out to be man or woman’s best friend. And always be grateful for the existence of Dog.
ALL HAIL GWAR! DAVE BROCKIE MEMORIAL ART SHOW
BY REV. JEN (rev-jen.com) PHOTO BY GEORGE COURTNEY
ome of you might have noticed my face (and elf ear) gracing the cover of a recent issue of TimeOut New York, wherein I am the poster girl for weirdness in New York. This was a great honor and a band-aid on my sorely wounded ego. But don’t let my current stint of fame fool you: I am still a total failure with absolutely no self-esteem, money or shame. Yet, if the cover helps to sell even a single copy of one of my books, I will continue to kiss the buttocks of media outlets everywhere in hopes that I see a royalty check in this lifetime. And as ever, I am committed to bringing you the latest in local news and events. Sadly, many events that occurred since my last column were tragic, and I would be a dishonest writer if I pretended that all was hunky dory on the Lower East Side. Spring is supposed to be about renewal and growth — but this one has pretty much sucked, as the art scene lost far too many cherished badasses. So this
One hundred percent better than Amazon: Kim’s Video stock is 30 percent off, in anticipation of its closing.
installment of “The Adventures of an Underemployed Urban Elf” will focus largely on loss, grief and coping, and trying to regain your strength when you are faced with a miasma of protoplasmic shit. Happy Spring! February saw the loss of writer, Maggie Estep. We became friends while working at the now-defunct SHOUT magazine. Her writing inspired me and if you’ve never read one of her books, go out and get one. I was always envious of her career and I wanted to hate her, but I couldn’t because she was so kind to me. Also, she was about one of ten poets I could actually stand. Her poem, “F**K Me,” inspired my BFF, Faceboy, to want to do just that. They did and then they lived together. She will be missed. In other extremely depressing news:
THE TACO WAGGYTAIL MEMORIAL
When my friend, Holly DeRito, went to the pound to get a dog, she found “Taco” — a tiny Chihuahua who had been severely abused, starved and burned with cigarettes. (Note: Some people suck.) Holly immediately took him home and nursed him back to health. Her love for him inspired her to start Waggytail Rescue, a non-profit that has now saved over 4,000 dogs (waggytailrescue.org). When Taco met my Chihuahua — Reverend Jen Junior — the frightened tail that had been between his legs started wagging (hence, his last name). The two canines then fell in love and went on to have the healthiest relationship on the Lower East Side. After a decade together, Taco and Jen Junior wed in the backyard of Luckydog (303 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn) on April 29, 2011 — the same day as the other, less cool Royal Wedding. Faceboy officiated the “puptials” and many said it was the best wedding they’d ever
May 15, 2014
In other crap news, Dave Brockie (a.k.a Oderus Urungus), frontman for the awesome band, GWAR, passed away suddenly this March. In 2011, I was lucky enough to perform with him at GWAR’s Crack-a-Thon at MF Gallery in Brooklyn (213 Bond St.) At the end of the show, Oderus and I trashed the stage set together, and then drank tall boys. I can honestly say that being able to proclaim that I have not only had beers with GWAR, but tore apart a stage with them, is one of my greatest accomplishments. MF Gallery is now hosting an art show in his memory and to raise money for The Dave Brockie Foundation, a charity fund with the mission of promoting the advancement of music, writing and art. The fund’s first goal is to finance the creation of a memorial monument to Dave in his hometown of Richmond, VA to pay respect to the memory of a very charismatic man. (If you aren’t familiar with GWAR, simply Google “GWAR on Jerry Springer” and you will have all the information you need.) Opening night of the show was packed with GWAR fans and art lovers. If you have money, go to MF and buy art. If you don’t have money, go there and look at the art. You will be inspired.
THE CLOSING OF KIM’S VIDEO
While not on the same tragic level as losing friends and pets, the closing of Kim’s Video really bites — especially if you are a film-addicted insomniac like me. Kim’s has always stocked the films of my film production studio, ASS Studios, as well as the Electra Elf box set, 22 episodes of the superhero-themed cable access show I made with director Nick Zedd. The best thing about Kim’s has always been meeting other film nerds there at weird hours. Given that everything there is now 30 percent off, I recently visited (along with my friend, George). As we browsed the sexploitation section, I noticed two young men about to purchase “Anthole Dickfarm.” “No! Don’t buy ‘Anthole Dickfarm,’ ” I blurted out. “It’s not as good as advertised. I actually sold it back to Kim’s.” They then noticed I was holding “Werewolves Vs. Strippers.” “Don’t buy that,” one of them said. “It’s not that good.” “But it looks like an awesome crappy movie.” “It’s not the right kind of crappy movie. It’s not like Tom Selleck’s ‘Runaway.’ ” These were clearly my new best friends. They introduced themselves as Scott and Tomas. We hung out in Kim’s for two hours, discussing films. Scott claimed he REV. JEN, continued on p.17
Lower East Side scenes, depressing and slightly less so REV. JEN, continued from p. 16
once watched six Ed Wood films in a row, a feat that impressed me. Together, we perused titles such as the “Early Films of John Holmes,” “DILF Porn” and other gems. This is the problem with the Internet and online buying — conversations like this just don’t happen on Amazon. After checking out several sin-sational films, the four of us then proceeded to go to The Library, which is actually not a library at all, but an awesome bar that serves two for one drinks from 10 till 12 on Sunday nights (7 Ave. A.).
LESS DEPRESSING NEWS
Originally from Middle Earth, Maryland, Saint Reverend Jen Miller is an “Art Star, Troll Museum curator, writer, painter, Voice of the Downtrodden & Tired and Patron Saint of the Uncool.” Her latest book is “BDSM 101.” Rev. Jen’s Anti-Slam, a free event, happens every Wed., 8 pm, at Old Man Hustle (39 Essex St., btw. Grand & Hester Sts.). Visit rev-jen.com.
PHOTO BY GEORGE COURTNEY
So, despite the fact this spring done sprung with some terrible events, New York always offers a spirit of redemption. Nothing will ever replace the wonderful people and animals that were lost, but sometimes just wandering into a video store and telling a stranger not to buy “Anthole Dickfarm” can lead to new friends. Sometimes, old friends reappear. Nick Zedd — whom I hadn’t spoken to in years, whom I dated for half a
decade, made countless movies with and subsequently had a bitter breakup with recently — visited New York. I knew that he cared about Taco so I got in touch with him and told him the heartbreaking news. He came over and hung out with my new BF and our former assistant director. We laughed the way we did when we used to sit at Mars Bar all night, and I was happy to let go of everything in the past. If you’ve never seen his movies, you can check out a couple of them, which are screening at Museum of Modern Art on May 26. Though technically not located Downtown, there will be nothing “Uptown” about the event. So put on your finest, hop the F Train, have some fun and help keep New York weird. As the cover girl for New York weirdness, it’s my duty to encourage this.
Head to MF Gallery, for some GWAR art and the chance to advance the work of The Dave Brockie Foundation (named after the band’s late frontman).
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LET US MIX YOU A VIDEO FOR BARTENDER’S CORNER! Contact Colin for a feature at: colin@thevillagercom
May 15, 2014
Groucho and T.S. Eliot, vaudevillian history and much more MARXFEST, continued from p. 15
May 15, 2014
MARXFEST AT-A-GLANCE For a full schedule: marxfest.com May 17: Barx Brothers Dogwalk | in Yorkville The Marxes of Yorkville | at the 96th Street Library You Bet Your Ass | at the Cutting Room May 18: An Elephant in Your Pajamas | at the Bronx Zoo The Pinch Brothers in “The Bawdy House” | at the
Players Theatre May 22: “A Day at the Races” | free screening at Epiphany
Library “Duck Soup” | screening at MoMA The Pinch Brothers in “The Bawdy House” | at the
Players Theatre May 23: “I’ll Say She Is” | at the Players Theatre May 24: “Room Service” | screening at Astoria Historical
Society The Love Song of J. Cheever Loophole | at Kabin May 25: “I'll Say She Is” | at the Players Theatre May 27: Theatre Museum Gala | at the Players Club May 29: “Horse Feathers” | free screening at Epiphany Library We’re All Mad Here | free lecture at Mid-Manhattan
Library May 31: Marx Brothers & Algonquin Round Table Walking Tour Marx Brothers Speakeasy Party, with Wit’s End | at
or old.” Meanwhile, the host himself — who got turned on to the Marx Brothers as a teenager some three decades ago — pointed out that it isn’t only Marxfest attendees who are getting a kick out of all this. “This is like my Comic Con, to be meeting all these people who just as invested in this stuff as I am,” said S.D. “I’m having the time of my life here.”
Amore’s ‘Butterfly’ has Kabuki style BY SCOTT STIFFLER Drawing on his undergraduate studies of traditional Japanese theater, as well as the expertise of several Japanese cast members, director Nathan Hull brings elements of Kabuki into this production of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini’s 1904 opera (which itself drew from an 1887 work by French novelist Pierre Loti as well as the 1990 London stage adaptation by American theatrical titan David Belasco). In Amore Opera’s version, characters enter along a walkway to the left of the house (hanamichi), and then strike dramatic poses during moments of emotional intensity (mie). One of
them is played as a supernatural being who suddenly materializes (recalling the Aragoto style). Performed by a diverse rotating cast, with Douglas Martin conducting a full orchestra, this visually bold production closes the company’s fifth season. Also playing: an all-youth version of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” Part of Amore’s “Opera in Brief” series, it features a cast of 24, ranging in age from 6-13. “Madama Butterfly” (sung in Italian with English subtitles) is performed at 7:30 pm on May 15-17 & 21-24 and at 2:30 pm on Sun., May 18 & 25. “The Mikado” performances are Sat., May 17 & 24, at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $20. “Madama Butterfly” tickets are $40, $30 for seniors/stu-
PHOTO BY B.A. VAN SISE
a solidly plot-driven show. Among other things, he also mentioned that Zeppo’s role in “I’ll Say She Is” is more prominent than his place in the brothers’ later, more wellknown work. “Essentially, this is now a brand new Marx Brothers show, and that’s kind of an incredible gift,” S.D. continued. “So we’d all agreed that Marxfest was clearly the ideal place, the perfect forum in which to bring it to life.” He added that the May 23 and 25 performances will only be the beginning of the “I’ll Say She Is” revival, as a full production run will follow the festival dates (although those details are still under wraps). Another particularly exciting Marxfest event, organized and hosted by Noah Diamond — taking place on May 24 at Kabin bar and lounge in the East Village — will feature the unlikely friendship that grew between Groucho and T.S. Eliot, the famed British poet and playwright who was just about two years older than the comedian. As that story goes, the correspondence between the two began in the spring of 1961, when Eliot wrote a letter to Groucho requesting a photo, in a manner that was, surprisingly enough, not very much unlike any other gushing Marx Brothers fan. After expressing some disappointment that the photo he eventually received didn’t show Groucho holding one of his trademark cigars, the poet was then overjoyed to get another one that did feature a cigar. “You will have learned that you are my most coveted pin-up,” an effusive Eliot wrote to Groucho in April 1961, after receiving that second photo — to which the poet responded in kind, at the comedian’s request, by sending a portrait of himself. Groucho, never one to be verbally outdone, reacted to that image with some compliments of his own. “I had no idea you were so handsome,” the wisecracker wrote to Eliot in June of the same year. “Why you haven’t been offered the lead in some sexy movies I can only attribute to the stupidity of the casting directors.” It should be stressed that this correspondence — consisting of a total of 11 letters — was itself no joke, and revealed a deeply genuine respect between two giants of their generation. “It’s an interesting and slightly offbeat corner of the Marx saga,” said Diamond, whose May 24 event will include a reading of the Groucho/Eliot letters, as well as a discussion of the comedian’s forays into poetry, alongside the poet’s forays into comedy. “I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that these two guys were friends, and had a mutual admiration society.” Perhaps the most striking element of the friendship was displayed after the two men finally met in person in June 1964, when Groucho had dinner with Eliot and his wife. According to letter Groucho wrote, shortly afterwards, to his brother Gummo, he was thrilled to have met Eliot, but just a little bit disappointed by the dinnertime discussion. While the comedian had wanted to talk serious literature — he’d prepared by reading Eliot’s “The Waste Land” three times just before the meeting — the poet was more interested in discussing “Animal Crackers,” “A Night at the Opera” and, specifically, the courtroom scene from “Duck Soup.” In the end, Groucho told Gummo that he and Eliot shared three things in common: affection for good cigars, cats and making puns. But the connection, of course, ran deeper than that. “I like what [the meeting of Groucho and Eliot] says
about art, artists and the supposed line between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art,” said Diamond. “I’ve always considered the Marx Brothers’ best work to be high art, no less than that of a literary giant like Eliot. Eliot’s adoration also reminds us of the special depth of the Brothers’ appeal. It’s impossible to imagine, say, William Carlos Williams writing a fan letter to the Three Stooges. “I find the Groucho/Eliot relationship touching,” he continued. “Groucho always wanted to think of himself as a literary figure; he wrote several books, and co-wrote some plays and screenplays. His best friends were almost all writers, and he preferred their company to that of performers. In Groucho’s literary ambition, and love of writers, I detect a desire to be taken seriously, to be seen as an artist (though Groucho wouldn’t have used that word to describe himself). How many ex-vaudevillians were friendly with T.S. Eliot? Exactly one.” And for yet another event to look out for as Marxfest continues, we turn back once more to Trav S.D., who on May 29 (at the Mid-Manhattan Library, at 40th St. and Fifth Ave.) will host a rousing discussion entitled “We’re All Mad Here: The Marx Brothers in Context.” This will be one for the diehard vaudeville history buffs, during which S.D. will talk not only about the origins of the iconic Marx Brothers act, but also about the early-20thcentury group acts — such as Weber and Fields, Smith and Dale, and the Avon Comedy Four — that paved the way for Groucho and company. “Everyone knows that Groucho continued to be such a big star throughout his career,” said S.D., “but it’s important to remember that the Marx Brothers really came from somewhere, that there were antecedents who had a strong effect on them, and that the brothers also had contemporaries who resembled them.” One of those contemporaries, Eddie Cantor, will certainly factor into that discussion — as any of our readers who saw S.D.’s relatively recent piece on the performer, known as “Banjo Eyes,” might expect. “Overall, I’m just interested in tying the past to the present, because it’s really true that there’s nothing new under the sun,” said S.D. “You can look at somebody new like Sacha Baron Cohen and see the kind of precedents set by the Marx Brothers, because there are these cultural elements, these aspects of the satire, that have always brought people together, whether they’re young
Manami Hattori is among the six who appear in the lead role of Amore Opera’s “Madama Butterfly.”
dents/children. Call 888-811-4111 or visit amoreopera.org. At The Connelly Theater (220 E. Fourth St., btw. Aves. A & B).
Just Do Art BY SCOTT STIFFLER
SALOME: DA VOODOO PRINCESS OF NAWLINS
“Art Stands Up to Power. Corporations Are Not People, Green vs. Greed” is the 2014 theme of Theater for the New City’s annual cross-cultural, multi-generational, family-and-hyphen-friendly, totally free Memorial Day Weekend hodgepodge of performance, music, dance, theater, film and comedy. The event takes place on stages located throughout Theater for the New
Dozens of acts populate the activist-minded Lower East Side Festival of the Arts: May 23-25, at Theater for the New City.
PHOTO COURTESY OF REBEL THEATER COMPANY
THE 19th ANNUAL LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS
PHOTO COURTESY OF THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY
A worthy successor to February’s ethnically diverse and relentlessly intense Black Panther Party version of “Othello,” Rebel Theater Company returns to The Nuyorican Poets Cafe with a similarly ambitious adaptation. Director and playwright Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, the man with the “Panther” plan, sets his “Salome” in New Orleans during the violent height of Hurricane Katrina. Primarily concerned with the devilish deals we make in order to survive, rather than the gross indecency of Oscar Wilde’s original, there’s still enough sin and skin on display to merit that “Adults Only” disclaimer (Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils was so steamy, it set off the smoke detector at last Saturday’s performance). The opening scene finds an elderly man in Holt Cemetery, surrounded by advancing waters and showing signs of a heart attack. Accepting a challenge from the soul-collecting Papa Ga, Noah vows to save himself by listening to the tale of Salome, and resisting her siren pull. It’s a great framing device that ups the stakes of every test of faith and battle of wills to follow. Even better is how the children of Israel are reimagined as zombies trapped in purgatory, each doomed to repeat the particular hell of their own creation. Haunting all sides of the stage for much of the play, and intensely committed throughout, the torment they generate spills into the tension between the deeply conflicted main players. Apart from the occasional pop reference (Salome dances to “When Doves Cry”), the use of a cappella spirituals as a plot-advancing device effectively hammers home the notion that floods may kill flesh, but faith saves souls. Through May 24: Thurs. & Fri. at 6:30 pm, Sat. & Sun. at 6 pm. On May 25, 2 & 6:30 pm. (2 pm matinee, May 25). At Nuyorican Poets Cafe (236 E. Third St., btw. Aves. B & C). Tickets: $25 online, $30 at the door. $20 for students, with ID (door & online). To order, visit nuyorican.org.
Captives of purgatory navigate Hurricane Katrina, sin and temptation, in Rebel Theater Company’s adaptation of “Salome.”
City, and outdoors during the Saturday afternoon Block Party. The dozens of performers include Academy Award-winner F. Murray Abraham, Le Squeezebox Cabaret, NY Lyric Circus (with juggler and bubblemeister John Grimaldi), the aerial dance Constellation Moving Company, Burning City Orchestra, comedienne Penny Arcade, The Rod Rodgers Dance Company and legendary TV pioneer Joe Franklin — plus theater pieces by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, Eduardo Machado, Barbara Kahn and others. A lobby art exhibit features paintings, photographs and sculptures from Lower East Side and East Village artists. If you appreciate the consistent — and decidedly offbeat — tone to the proceedings, seek out Theater for the New City Artistic Director Crystal Field, and congratulate her on re-
cently winning an “Acker Award” — given annually for “Achievement in the AvantGarde.” Free. May 23-May 25. On Fri., performances from 6 pm-1 am. The Sat. Block Party is noon-5 pm, with films from noon-midnight and youth programming from 2-5 pm. On Sun., performances from 6 pm-midnight and poetry readings from 4-7 pm. At Theater for the New City (155 First Ave., btw. 9th & 10th Sts.). For a performance schedule, call 212-254-1109 or visit theaterforthenewcity.net.
FROM MAE WEST TO PUNK: THE BOWERY ON FILM
Coming at you from the “It’s About Time” zone, the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors and Anthology Film Archives have teamed up to present this look at the many
faces and functions of NYC’s oldest thoroughfare: the Bowery. “An incubator for American culture since the 1800s,” organizers note, “the Bowery helped foster tap dance, minstrelsy, vaudeville, Yiddish theater, jazz, Abstract Expressionism, Beat poetry and punk rock.” You’ll see all of that and more, during the four-day festival. Among the offerings: From 1915, Raoul Walsh’s silent film “Regeneration,” shot on location in and around the Bowery, is arguably the first feature-length gangster film. It’s preceded by three brief kinetoscopes — filmed in Thomas Edison’s Black Maria Studio between 1897 and 1901, and originally viewed by peering through a peep show device. From 1933: Paramount Pictures’ homage to the gay 1890s Bowery, “She Done Him Wrong,” elevated Mae West and Cary Grant into the household name realm — and gave us cinema’s best proposition: “Why don’t you come up sometime 'n see me?” On the same program, 1931’s “Sightseeing in New York” is introduced by historian David Freeland (author of “Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville”). Lionel Rogosin’s semi-documentary “On The Bowery” (1956) chronicles three days on New York’s Skid Row, while 1964’s “How Do You Like The Bowery?” is a collection of vivid, sometimes harsh, answers to that question. The program of “Selected Bowery Shorts” includes a newsreel filmed mostly with a hidden camera. Elsewhere on the schedule, “Bowery: Spring 1994” is a promenade trip down the Bowery and across the centuries. Its director, Sara Driver, appears at the screening, with an introduction by architectural historian Kerri Culhane (whose research resulted in the Bowery’s designation to the National Register of Historic Places). Places long gone, historic and otherwise, loom large over the festival’s closing day. Mandy Stein’s 2009 documentary, “Burning Down The House: The Story of CBGB,” was filmed during waning days of American punk’s birthplace. After a screening of 2010’s “The Vanishing City,” filmmakers Jen Senko and Fiore DeRosa will be joined by former Landmarks Preservation Commission chair Kent Barwick, zoning expert and activist Doris Diether and others. They’ll expand on the documentary’s look at “the policies and economic philosophy behind…the process that has jeopardized the social fabric and neighborhoods that have always made New York unique.” May 16-19, at Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Ave., at Second St.). $10 general admission, $8 for students/seniors, $6 for Anthology members and children under 12. For info, visit anthologyfilmarchives.org and boweryalliance.org. This festival runs in conjunction with Lower East Side History Month (leshistorymonth.org). May 15, 2014
Hoylman: Treat hit-and-run cyclists like drivers BY SAM SPOKONY
fter a state Senate staffer was nearly killed last month by an unidentified bicyclist who hit him and fled the scene, state Senator Brad Hoylman is calling for much stiffer criminal penalties for hit-and-run cyclists. The Senate staffer, John Allen, 70, who lives on the Upper West Side, was walking across West 40th St. at Sixth Ave. on Mon., April 7, around 2 p.m., when he was mowed down by the speeding cyclist, according to police. The crash was so serious that the senior was left with a fractured skull, and briefly had to be placed in a medically induced coma after being rushed to Bellevue Hospital that day. Allen is also a personal friend of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. A former Upper West Side city councilmember, Brewer initially explained the incident to Hoylman — along with dozens of Chelsea residents — at an April 21 forum at the Hudson Guild community center on W. 26th St. Brewer’s recounting of the hit-and-run crash came in response to a question from Chelsea seniors — residents of the nearby Penn South housing complex, who frequently raise concerns about cyclists who they claim blow through red lights or ride the wrong way in the Eighth and Ninth Aves. bike lanes around their development. Speaking afterward, Brewer said that Allen has since made positive steps on the road to recovery, and is now back at home, doing outpatient rehabilitation. Yet, while police have since released a grainy image of the cyclist taken from video surveillance footage near the scene of the incident, he has yet to be caught or identified. “I have worked with John, his family and police in trying to find the perpetrator,” said Brewer.
“We’ve looked at every video camera’s footage, and police have canvassed every delivery establishment in the area,” she continued. It’s believed that the perpetrator — who was carrying a plastic bag in the video surveillance images recovered by police — may have been a food deliveryman. “This is a sad case, and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Brewer said. A police investigation into the incident is ongoing, according to a New York Police Department spokesperson. Under current New York State law, if the cyclist who nearly killed Allen is eventually caught and arrested by police, he would be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of three months in prison or one year of probation. And if Allen had died from his injuries, the cyclist would still only be charged with that same misdemeanor. State Senator Hoylman — whose district includes the Midtown site of Allen’s injury, as well as Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen the West Village and the East Village — says he believes the current penalties are too light. Instead, he thinks that hit-and-run cyclists should face the same criminal charges as drivers of motor vehicles who hit pedestrians and flee the scene. If a car driver is caught after a hit-andrun in which the pedestrian suffers only minor injuries, that driver would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to one year in prison and a $1000 fine, according to state law. In a case in which the pedestrian suffers serious injuries, such as Allen’s, a driver who fled the scene would be charged with a Class E felony, which carries up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine. And if the pedestrian is killed, the hitand-run driver would be charged with a Class D felony, which carries up to seven years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Hoylman — who is, in fact, a frequent
Canal St. to be a slow zone BY SAM SPOKONY
iting numerous traffic fatalities along Canal St.’s 1.5-mile stretch, the city’s Department of Transportation announced Thursday that the key cross-town artery will become a slow zone by this June. That move will lower the speed limit along all of Canal St. — which runs from E. Broadway to West St. — to 25 miles per hour. Canal St. currently sports the city’s standard speed limit: 30 miles per hour. The hazardous pedestrian stretch has entrances to the West Side Highway, the Holland Tunnel and the Manhattan Bridge. Canal St. is Lower Manhattan’s first street included in D.O.T.’s new “arterial slow
May 15, 2014
zone” program, which specifically targets major streets. The department has said that while these traffic-heavy, arterial roadways comprise 15 percent of city streets, they account for 60 percent of traffic fatalities. There have been six fatalities along Canal St. since 2008, according to D.O.T. “Sometimes it seems as if Canal St. is a perpetual slow zone — but slowing down traffic on Canal, which bustles with bicycles, pedestrians and vehicles all day long, is the right thing to do,” state Senator Daniel Squadron, whose district covers the street’s eastern portion, said on Thursday. State Senator Brad Hoylman, whose district covers the street’s western portion, also applauded the new, calling Canal St. one of the “most dangerous roadways in my district.”
Citi Bike rider — said he will soon introduce legislation that would change state law to make hit-and-run cyclists liable for those much steeper criminal penalties. “This bill, recognizing that the gravity of the injuries is the same regardless of whether the accident was caused by an automobile or a bicycle, would bring parity to instances where someone flees an accident scene after maiming or killing someone,” the state senator explained. He added that the bill is “largely informed” by the April 7 hit-and-run that left John Allen in a coma. Hoylman’s office stated that the bill will be introduced within the next several weeks. And in advance of that introduction, Transportation Alternatives, the city’s top cycling advocacy group, is already voicing support for Hoylman’s effort — albeit somewhat guardedly. “We support the intent of his initiative, because we support anything that brings justice to injured pedestrians,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “Regardless of how a pedestrian is injured, and regardless of the type of vehicle, if someone leaves the scene of an accident, they should be held accountable.” But another prominent cycling advocate, Steve Vaccaro, who last year founded the pro-bike political action committee StreetsPAC, wasn’t so quick to throw any measure of support behind the planned bill. “I would want to see some empirical evidence regarding [the reasoning for the legislation] before leapfrogging over education and other measures and going straight to strengthening criminal penalties,” said Vaccaro. He added that he would still need to be convinced about why the existing penalties are perceived as inadequate. Although there appears to be very little concrete data at this point regarding hitand-run cycling incidents, when it comes to statistics on the number of pedestrian fatalities caused by bikes versus cars, the picture is lopsided. Between 2000 and 2013 in New York City, 2,291 pedestrians were killed from being struck by motor vehicles, according to city Department of Transportation statistics. During that same period, only eight pedestrians were killed after being struck by a cyclist, according to the same data. Meanwhile, White did stress that he will want to take a “closer look” at Hoylman’s legislation once it’s introduced, to make sure it can actually achieve the aims of “getting justice” for pedestrians. He further stated that, regarding the issue of hit-and-run cyclists, Transportation Alternatives is currently more focused on urging the N.Y.P.D. to utilize its Collision Investigation Squad to review bike crashes and collect forensic evidence at the sites of those incidents. Currently, the Collision Investigation
Squad is only used for motor vehicle crashes. White said that, over all, he believes that evidence-collecting strategy will have a “more immediate” impact on this issue than Hoylman’s bill would. However, Hoylman did mention that he also supports urging the police to deploy the Collision Investigation Squad to review bike crashes. Police did not respond to request for comment on that particular issue. And with regard to Hoylman’s planned bill for increased criminal penalties for hitand-run cyclists, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office — which would be implementing those penalties within the borough — declined to comment. “I think the bill is a step in the right direction, because it makes it clear that it’s not about us versus them, bikes versus cars,” said Will Rogers, a W. 16th St. resident. Along with being an avid Citi Bike rider, Rogers is also a board member of CHEKPEDS, which advocates for safer streets throughout Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. “It’s important to make the same set of rules for bikes and cars, because it shows that we should all abide by the same laws on the road,” he said. But another Chelsea resident, Eleanor Horowitz, who lives on W. 22nd St. and who has been riding her bike “since the ’50s,” wasn’t convinced by Hoylman’s plans. “How’s increasing the penalties going to have an effect when you can’t identify the [perpetrators]?” she asked. “We need to have licensing, especially for the commercial cyclists, and they need to be registered, so they can actually be identified.” Currently, D.O.T. requires businesses — generally, restaurants that deliver — to provide their cyclists with a bright vest that displays the business name and a unique three-digit ID number on the back. However, those ID numbers are managed by the individual businesses, and not registered with the city. D.O.T. enforces the commercial cycling requirements through its Commercial Bike Unit, which currently has a staff of six inspectors covering the entire city. That unit has issued more than 3,300 summonses to rule-breaking businesses over the past year, a D.O.T. spokesperson said. “It’s led to a big improvement in terms of getting them to behave,” said Horowitz, of the rules for commercial cyclists. “But I really think that we still need licensing.” At the April 21 forum at Hudson Guild — moments after he’d heard from Brewer about the incident that nearly killed John Allen — Hoylman also brought up the idea of licensing. “I hope this isn’t headed toward licensing of all cyclists, or other laws that will restrict the rights of cyclists,” he said then, “but if things don’t get better [in terms of pedestrian safety], then everything should be on the table.”
PHOTO BY MILO HESS
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Hard hats and masks at May Day rally in the square In Union Square, on May Day, an ironworker and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito forged a brief connection as they took a selfie together, left. A demonstrator brandished a plastic-protected Guy Fawkes “V for Vendetta” mask, right. Though the mask is used by some as a symbol of anarchy and Occupy Wall Street, the image is licensed by a multinational corporation, Warner Bros., which earns royalties on each mask sold. Immigrant rights was the main issue of the “99 percent” at this May Day’s rally.
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
Love is in the air, with Larry PET SET
Headdresses and hopes for help Women came to Union Square wearing headdresses for a “Rock A Crown for #234” rally this past weekend. They sought to bring awareness to the 234 teenage female boarding-school students abducted at gunpoint April 16 by Boko Haram Islamic militants in Nigeria, who reportedly want to sell the girls as brides.
arry Reddick, a.k.a. “The Bird Guy,” was entertaining people in Washington Square Park last Saturday, as he drew a flock of pigeons with shouts of “Over there!” followed by tosses of handfuls of birdseed. “They know my voice,” he said of the birds. The pigeons like to perch
on him, as well as on unsuspecting tourists who engage him in conversations. While the birds might not be Reddick’s pets per se, they certainly can be called his fine feathered friends. “They’re the most harmless things in the world,” said the formerly homeless man. Ricky Syers has made a marionette of Reddick, who is a companion of “Little Doris,” the marionette of Doris Diether, the veteran Community Board 2 member, another park regular. May 15, 2014
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Continued from p. 8
ism to one person, even if that person is the leader, is destructive to the group’s functioning, is not accurate and is hurtful. Targeting the person of color who leads this group as “the” racist? Completely off. It reminds me of blaming President Obama for the fact that racism still exists in the U.S. And to clarify: Prejudice is different from institutional racism. We all carry prejudice — we live in a society that exploits any difference to divide and conquer. But racism is the one-way, institutionalized, mistreatment of people of color — with white people acting as the agents of that oppression. People of color might carry internalized racism — brought on by racism — but that’s very different in terms of real institutional power relations. K Webster
Tribes, the real deal To The Editor: Re “Steve has left the building, but takes a piece of it” (news article, April 17): A Gathering of the Tribes, Steve Cannon’s salon-style aerie cum gallery, was the real deal in a world of hype and spectacle. Sarah Ferguson’s article was a welcome tribute to a scruffy haven that will be dearly missed. Those of us who frequented Tribes count ourselves lucky to have been a part of L.E.S. history. Steve Cannon truly empowered people. Like so many others, I benefited greatly from his array of programs. I showed art at Tribes. I had the privilege to contribute to Tribes Magazine #10 in the capacity of arts editor. I read poems there and wrote blurbs for several of the dozens of books that Cannon published through his Fly By Night imprint. I heard great music there. All courtesy of the “Blind Professor.” The atmosphere at Tribes in the last days and hours was a mix of nostalgia, defiance, grief and pride, all crowned by a potent sense of fraternity. Tribes as we knew it has undergone a sea change, but the commu-
nity it served lives on, as does the one and only Mr. Steve Cannon. His is a legacy of love — built not on what he did for himself but what he did for others. Jeff Wright
Cannon is the L.E.S. To The Editor: Re “Steve has left the building, but takes a piece of it” (news article, April 17): I am a former back-room tenant of Steve’s. I lived there in the winter of ’93. Later on, I would send friends. Amiri Baraka would stop by. I met Max Roach on the front steps, as he was a friend. Bob Holman and Steve held poetry workshops on the third floor, among them Reggie Gaines. I’m sure “Bring in ’da Noise, Bring in ’da Funk” got its start in those workshops. Jim Jarmusch would come by and grace us with his cagey cowboy glare. This house has seen nearly every significant New York cultural figure pass by at one time or another since the ’60s. Steve’s house was a cultural institution. After the fire, I plastered the stairwell, tore down the plaster-and-horsehair roof in the back gallery. We all pitched in. Every night was full of talk, and I got my first real cultural and cosmopolitan education. Now, of course, the building is a real estate opportunity in an increasingly hightoned market, and nobody cares. Shame on you, Zhang. Another classic case of moneygrubbers using their tight-assed legalese and standards of decency to evict any real vibrancy out of the Lower East Side. Steve Cannon is the Lower East Side, and Steve Cannon is New York City.
gathering of the gear
thursday May 22: 3pM-8pM Here’s a fact: Most Tekservers are also musicians. Come see them in their element. Hear our House Bands. Meet Pro Tools Experts and bring your recording challenges to our top vendors. Graduate from our own School of Rock. The latest and the greatest in audio production, prizes, drinks and give-aways. Boogie on down to our 23rd Street location.
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May 15, 2014
Taste of Tribeca Kick-Off Party at Bouley Botanical
Please join us for the 2014 Taste of Tribeca Kick-Off Cocktail Party honoring our 20-year Golden Participants on Friday, May 2 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM at Bouley Botanical, 281 Church Street. Price per person is $90 which includes one Taste of Tribeca ticket. Specialty cocktails and hors dâ€™oeuvres will be served. EastVillagerNews.com