The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933
June 4, 2015 • $1.00 Volume 85 • Number 1
Stonewall Inn could make history again as landmark based on cultural import BY ANDY HUMM
STONEWALL, continued on p. 8
From gardens and gay rights to anti-apartheid fight, city lawyer did it all BY ALBERT AMATEAU
n the eve of retiring as first assistant corporation counsel of the city’s Law Department, Jeffrey Friedlander, who grew up in the East Village, talked with The Villager about some of the highlights of his illustrious service to
PHOTO BY WILLIAM ALATRISTE / NYC COUNCIL
he New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission will, this week, begin consideration of landmark designation for the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, site of the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969 that sparked the modern
L.G.B.T. rights movement. If approved, it would represent the first such designation from the commission exclusively for a site’s significance to the L.G.B.T. community. At its Tues., June 2, meeting, the commission voted to schedule a public hearing at a subsequent meeting that
the city he loves. The longest-serving first assistant since 1995 and the second longest-serving Law Department member since 1970, Friedlander enjoyed a career encompassing myriad legal issues, including landmarks, community gardens, affordable housing FRIEDLANDER, continued on p. 6
Rosie Mendez, left, and Melissa Mark-Viverito supported a local business — Zoltar! — during last Friday’s cash mob crawl along Second Ave. See article, Page 4.
Pols arrested in Albany as rent war ratchets up BY WINNIE McCROY AND LINCOLN ANDERSON
n Wednesday, Councilmember Corey Johnson, state Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried were arrested in the state capitol for protesting for the extension of rent regulation and the reform of the rent laws. A post on Johnson’s Facebook page shortly after 4 p.m., showed a photo of him shouting as three officers
were handcuffing him. “BREAKING: I’m being arrested for demanding Albany to strengthen rent regulations and protect New Yorkers in our last remaining affordable housing stock,” Johnson’s post read. “We will not give up!” According to Erik Bottcher, Johnson’s chief of staff, Johnson was yelling “Governor Cuomo, do you hear us!” when he was arrested. Johnson was subsequently charged with disorderly conduct. In all, 55 people were ar-
rested, including 12 elected officials. “Today we sent a message to Governor Cuomo that we will not accept anything less than true reform of our rent laws,” Johnson said in a statement. “With eight days left in the session, this is the single most important item on Albany’s agenda. More than 2.5 million tenants who live in affordable housing are counting on the governor and our state legislators to RENT, continued on p. 3
Li running vs. Rajkumar for leader................page 2 Council to hold S.B.J.S.A. hearing..................page 5 Inside the ‘Wolfpack’ den of L.E.S..................page 21 What the Hell (Square)?.............page 29
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June 4, 2015
BLEECKER GAME OF THRONES: If anyone needed further convincing that last Saturday’s Bleecker St. Art and Commerce Festival was the place to be, fans of “Game of Thrones” might have recognized that actor Kit Harrington was among the crowd checking out the many tables of arts and crafts. On the show, Harrington plays Jon Snow, whose chilling family motto is “Winter is coming.” For most of the day, though, it was just the opposite, sunny and beautiful. But by late afternoon, thunderstorm, not winter, was coming. IT’S A RACE! Chairperson Gigi Li told us she’s running unopposed for re-election to a third oneyear term as chairperson of Community Board 3 this month. So The Villager doesn’t have to worry about endorsing in that one, she quipped to us. But this week she announced that she is running for Democratic district leader for the 65th Assembly District, Part 3, challenging incumbent Jenifer Rajkumar. This particular Assembly part is very gerrymandered, with a large chunk of it down in Lower Manhattan and Battery Park City and the rest in part of the Lower East Side, with a bit in the East Village. “I’m proud and excited to be running for Democratic district leader, because I know that together we can make incredible strides and get the real results our community needs,” Li said in a statement. “In the coming weeks I’ll be speaking directly with residents across the district about my plan to take on challenges like preserving affordability, tackling the school overcrowding crisis and protecting the authentic, historic character of our neighborhoods. This September, voters in Lower Manhattan will have an important decision to make about who they think can truly get the job done on the issues that matter — and I’m looking forward to it.” In 2012, Li became the first Asian-American in New York City to be elected a community board chairperson. No question, though, she will have her hands full against Rajkumar. Last month, Rajkumar was glowingly endorsed for re-election by a phalanx of elected officials, including Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James and Assemblymember Keith Wright, the Manhattan Democratic Party leader. In a statement this week, Rakumar said, “For the past four years, I have devoted my energy and emotion to fighting for tenants, families and small businesses in our district. As our district leader, I am excited to continue and expand upon the important work we have done and the great progress we have
achieved. Ms. Li does not live in our district and has no connection to or record in our community whatsoever. She and our community would be far better served if she would pursue her ambitions in the Chinatown district in which she actually lives and in which elected office presumably is offered. I encourage her to do just that.” In fact, Li lives in one of the other three Assembly parts in the district. Sean Sweeney, a leading member of Downtown Independent Democrats, said he checked with all the local party leaders and has come to the conclusion that Councilmember Margaret Chin, if she didn’t outright encourage Li to run, is strongly supporting her campaign. Sweeney feels this is “payback” for Rajkumar having challenged Chin two years ago in the Democratic primary race for City Council. However, an incensed Sweeney said Chin refused to meet with him so that he could personally lobby her to persuade Li not to run. Although district leader is the lowest political office, with no salary and one main responsibility of making sure voters go to the polls, this race seemingly will hold extra significance. Word on the street, we’re told, is that Shelly Silver won’t be seeking re-election next year, which will open up his Assembly position. Names that have been mentioned as potential candidates for the former powerful Assembly speaker’s seat are Rajkumar, Li and District Leader Paul Newell. Is Li perhaps running just to raise her name recognition or is she in it to win it? If she gets trounced in the district leader race, Sweeney said, it’s not exactly going to help her future political aspirations. Plus, the part includes a section of Hell Square, Sweeney noted, and Li banned the LES Dwellers from participating in C.B. 3 meetings two years ago. Does she really expect to get any votes there? he scoffed. But one wonders perhaps doth Sweeney protest too much? Is he afraid Li might actually win? We asked Li why she isn’t running for the Assembly part in which she lives, meaning she would challenge District Leader Jenny Lo, but she didn’t respond. A spokesperson for Councilmember Chin also did not respond to our queries as to whether Chin is, in fact, trying to be the “queen maker” behind Li’s candidacy. “Chin will deny that she is behind this, but I know from the highest levels that she is behind this,” Sweeney asserted. As for C.B. 3, we asked Chad Marlow why he’s not running for chairperson again, after having given Li a spirited challenge last year. He said he’s just feeling like the deck is stacked against him. “The politics of Board 3 are not unlike the election of FIFA,” he said. “No matter how bad things were going at FIFA, based on the internal politics of FIFA, that guy was going to be re-elected.” ... In other district leader races, Terri Cude is challenging incumbent Jean Grillo and Dennis Gault is opposing John Scott. D.I.D. has endorsed both Cude and Gault in what is a further playing-out of a split in Downtown politics that saw a dissident faction break off from D.I.D. and form Downtown Progressive Democrats two years ago after D.I.D. endorsed Rajkumar for election over Chin.
PLAY BALL! Congrats to the baseball team from East Side Community High School, which faced off against High School of American Studies at Lehman College Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium in the PSAL AA Championship game. As of press time, we still didn’t know how the East Village squad had fared, but we will have a report and photos in next week’s issue. TheVillager.com
Corey Johnson being arrested in Albany on Wednesday during a planned sit-in protest outside the governor’s office.
Rent fight ratchets up RENT, continued from p. 1
stand up and do the right thing. The future of preserving affordable housing in New York City depends on it.” Four days earlier, 70 people had gathered at Hudson Guild for a forum led by Johnson on the critical struggle to save affordable housing, including rent-regulated housing. “The costs of rent, food, the subway and clothing are going up, but people who’ve lived in this neighborhood for their entire lives are wondering how long they can hang in there, especially on the West Side,” Johnson told the audience. “Are we going to become a city of luxury housing for part-time residents, or a city of families…that contribute to the fabric of New York?” Johnson hosted a panel of housing experts, including Sarah Desmond of Housing Conservation Coordinators; Katie Goldstein of Tenants & Neighbors; Daniel Hernandez from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development; Brian Honan of the New York City Housing Authority; Alexander Ryley of Volunteers of Legal Service; and Marti Weithman of MFY Legal Services. With the city’s rent laws set to expire this month, tenant advocates are planning to head in force to Albany on Tues., June 9, to lobby for their extension. June 15 is the deadline for the expiration of current rent regulations. Advocates are seeking an end to vacancy deregulation and a change to the practice of rewarding landlords a 20 percent rent increase for vacated apartments — or even more, if the tenant has resided there for more than eight years. Currently, vacant apartments can become decontrolled if the rent is as little as $2,100; the 20 percent rent increase pushes the rent to $2,500, which is the threshold for vacancy decontrol. According to a report in Wednesday’s Daily News, more than 100,000 rent-regulated apartments are on the verge of vacancy decontrol — including more than 11,300 in Chelsea and 8,700 in Tribeca and nearly 9,000 in the Stuyvesant Town/Murray Hill/ Midtown East area. “Vacancy decontrol has done more TheVillager.com
damage to the housing stock than any single item,” Desmond told the audience at Hudson Guild. “The landlord can deregulate the apartment when it’s vacant. Then the next tenant has no right for [a lease] renewal, and no regulations.” Under the current system, landlords can use an assortment of tactics to boost rents. For example, they can make major capital improvements, or MCI’s, and raise the rent one-fortieth of those costs. There has been a loss of 400,000 rent-regulated apartments in the past 20 years, Desmond said. “We want reform in the rent guidelines for the city’s 2.5 million rent-stabilized tenants,” Johnson said, adding, “It’s high time for a rent freeze or rollback.” Rent regulation allows tenants to remain in the apartment as long as they don’t violate the lease, and to have their rent hikes set by the Rent Guidelines Board, a nine-person board appointed by the mayor to determine the permitted rise in rent for one- and two-year leases. Though this usually maxes out at 2.75 percent for a two-year lease, advocates charge it is way too much. In fact, they charge, the R.G.B. has improperly exaggerated landlords’ projected operating expenses in recent years to justify the hikes. As a result, a rent rollback — in short, an actual rent reduction — is now owed to tenants based on landlords’ actual operating costs over recent years, tenant activists argue. “We’re pushing for rent rollbacks, because every year the board rubberstamps rent increases while landlords reap incredible profits,” Goldstein said. “In the next month, there will be public hearings in each borough. Tenants must testify, because landlords are saying they are not making enough money.” Advocates and tenants will rally in Albany on Tues., June 9. Buses will leave at 7 a.m. at 135th St. and Fifth Ave. in front of P.S. 197 and will return to New York City at 6 p.m. Transportation is free, and breakfast and lunch are included. To reserve a seat on one of the buses, call Darren at Tenants & Neighbors at 212-608-4320 x316 or e-mail Darren@tandn.org .
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June 4, 2015
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
ouncilmember Rosie Mendez and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito last Friday led a roving “cash mob” along a small stretch of Second Ave. Dubbed “Follow Me Friday!” the event’s goal was to bring attention — as well as dollars — to businesses still feeling the fallout from the disastrous March 26 gas explosion. First, they started with a moment of silence at the explosion site, the three now-empty lots at the northwest corner of E. Seventh St. and Second Ave. Inside one of the tenements that once stood there, Nicholas Figueroa, 23, and Moises Lucon, 26 — a customer and worker, respectively, at Sushi Park restaurant — died in the horrific explosion. The blast was soon followed by a raging inferno that consumed the buildings. Joining Mendez and Mark-Viverito were a convoy of other local pols — including Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Brian Kavanagh, state Senator Brad Hoylman and City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal — plus around 30 local residents and activists. They visited about eight establishments, starting with Moishe’s Bake Shop and going on to New Yorkers Market, Cafe Mocha, Bar Virage, Gem Spa, Himalyan Vision and Enz’s before wrapping up at Jimmy’s No. 43 bar. Councilmember Rosenthal came down from the Upper West Side for the event. “It was a pretty easy bike ride, actually,” she said. She said, at first, she had been reluctant to come since she had a Shabbat dinner that night, but that Mendez convinced her, telling her she could pick up something for the seder at Moishe’s. Rosenthal held up a chocolate babka cake she had bought. “And they had kichel, which I haven’t seen since... . It’s flour, sugar and yummy,” she said with a smile. The East Village’s Democratic district leaders, Anthony Feliciano and Carlina Rivera, joined the effort. “It’s a good thing for visibility” of local businesses, Feliciano offered. “It’s also an opportunity to talk to the business owners,” Rivera added. “The owner of the New Yorkers Market is a lifelong neighborhood resident. At Moishe’s, the guy in the store was closing up to go home for the Sabbath. I think that was a very real Lower East Side experience, and what makes this neighborhood so great.” Mendez and Mark-Viverito paused outside Gem Spa as the speaker got her fortune told by Zoltar, before going inside for some old-fashioned egg creams. The two countermen tried to give them the drinks for free, but they refused. “No, no, we’re here to support the businesses,” Mark-Viverito insisted.
PHOTO BY WILLIAM ALATRISTE / NYC COUNCIL
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Pols lead cash mob crawl on 2nd Ave.
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Rosie Mendez led the group down E. Seventh St., past the vacant disaster site, to the tour’s last stop.
Outside on the corner of St. Mark’s Place, Jim Power, the East Village’s “Mosaic Man,” was touching up his “Media Pole,” which lists the names of local newspapers and blogs, one of the dozens of lampposts around the neighborhood that he has decorated with his mosaic artistry. As Hoylman admired the pole creation, Power — who has severely degenerated hips — painfully limped around his Mosaic Mobile to say hi. “I’m not afraid to shake a politician’s hand — as long as no one’s watching!” he quipped. Helping out a local businessman, Hoylman dropped a dollar into his bag on the sidewalk. “He deserves it. Oh yeah, they’re beautiful, those poles,” he said as he walked off to catch up to the tour. Hoylman added that he was impressed that Mark-Viverito — whose district also experienced a devastating gas explosion last year — came down to join the East Village cash mob. “She had a similar tragedy in her district, so she knows the impact on momand-pop shops,” he said. The East Harlem explosion leveled two buildings and killed eight people. Mark-Viverito noted that one of the E. Seventh St. victims lived in her district. Hoylman also praised Mendez’s efforts. “Rosie’s been amazing,” he said. “She’s a real crisis manager. One of the things she does is organize around fast-moving issues and deploy her team, and I think that comes from her having been a tenant organizer.” On the other hand, as for the investigation into the Second Ave. disaster’s cause, that has been moving slowly, but hopefully surely. “We haven’t heard from the district attorney,” Hoylman said. “He’s supposed to tell us when they’re able.” The politicians next were buzzed into Enz’s boutique and checked out its hip vintage clothes. Owner Mariann Marlowe said it had been a huge struggle to get back on her feet after the hellish March 26 explosion
and fire. “The merchandise was all destroyed,” she said. “Three thousand dollars in dry cleaning. The owner of Beauty Bar, the owner of Otto’s, all the cool establishments helped us out,” she said. She was also relieved when, after the disaster, she was finally able to rescue her window mannequins that she had brought back from London in the 1970s. It was important that the store could recover quickly after the apocalyptic explosion next door, Marlowe said, adding that she appreciated the politicians’ efforts and anything that could help bring back business. “This is the busiest time of the year for me. I make $1,000 a day,” she noted. The cash mob convoy ended at Jimmy’s No. 43 bar on E. Seventh St. just west of Second Ave., where all the politicians, including Councilmember Antonio Reynoso from Bushwick, briefly took the stage in the small back music room. Reynoso noted he went to high school at La Salle when it was at E. Second St. and Second Ave. “I came here to show support,” he said. “We’re all one city.” Looking up at the place’s authentic 1880s brick vaulted ceilings — as they were about to be serenaded by a ukulele duo — Mark-Viverito said, “This is such a wonderful spot. It’s got the nooks and crannies and the vitality that we would like to see in our businesses.” Jimmy Carbone, the bar’s owner, like Marlowe, said he was grateful for the attention being brought to his business. After March 26, his air conditioning units were knocked out and the bar was left flooded from all the water firefighters had poured on the three buildings to control the enormous blaze. One place, B&H dairy restaurant, isn’t even back open yet because it still lacks gas service. “We had to let people know that we were open again,” Carbone said. He marveled at the politicians’ presence in his place. “No one ever does that,” he said, “the politicians, a state senator, the speaker — you never see that.” TheVillager.com
Speaker commits to hold a hearing on S.B.J.S.A. BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
PHOTO BY WILLIAM ALATRISTE / NYC COUNCIL
uring last Friday’s tour of Second Ave. businesses hardhit by the March 26 East Village gas explosion, The Villager asked Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito where exactly she stands on an important issue affecting small businesses citywide: Namely, if she plans to let the Small Business Jobs Survival Act come up for a vote in the City Council, something that that previous speakers have never done. The long-stymied bill would give commercial tenants facing lease renewals the ability to go through binding arbitration with their landlords to reach a fair rent, and would guarantee a 10-year lease extension. However, a new potential tenant could take over a space if he negotiates terms that the existing tenant refuses to meet. Asked point blank if she would allow the S.B.J.S.A. — which currently has 19 supporters in the Council — to come to the floor for a vote, Mark-Viverito said that a process must be followed first. “The bill gets introduced once the [Council] staff do their due diligence,” she explained. “Then there are hearings to hear from all sides. And then
Melissa Mark Viverito last week at the site of the March 26 East Village gas explosion.
we figure out what the next steps will be — because sometimes options are being explored that legally we don’t have the ability to implement as a city or as a legislative Council. “So we have to do the things we have to look at, so we’re not there yet,” she said. “But people are very familiar [with the S.B.J.S.A.], and I’ve heard a lot from people, and other councilmembers have heard a lot of people [gesturing toward Councilmember Rosie Mendez standing nearby] and
we’re looking into that.” She was then asked about the fact that, two years ago when they were running for mayor, both former Speaker Christine Quinn and then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio were asked by The Villager about the S.B.J.S.A., and both responded tersely that they had been briefed by the Council’s law staff that the bill was “illegal.” Mark-Viverito indicated she might not necessarily be of the same view, but needs to study the issue further before she knows for sure. “Well, I mean, right,” she said of prior assertions that the bill would be illegal. “But, there’s a new administration. I’m a new speaker, and I have to look at it, and take the time to speak to staff and figure out what is possible and not possible,” she stated. “So we’ll look at that. But we’re fully aware of the conversation and we’re hearing a lot from a lot from people on this.” A bit later, inside Jimmy’s No. 43 bar, The Villager asked her about Borough President Gale Brewer’s alternative bill. Brewer’s measure would offer only one-year lease extensions at a 15 percent rent increase to give merchants who can’t come to terms with their landlords time to relocate. Basically, the speaker indicated, every-
thing — from the S.B.J.S.A. to Brewer’s bill — would be in the mix at the upcoming hearing. “We have to look at it,” Mark-Viverito said of the B.P.’s idea. “We want to do an issues-based hearing and would look at all legislation.” Asked exactly when the Council would hold the hearing, Mark-Viverito said she didn’t know, and that they are currently enmeshed in the middle of the budget session. Steve Null, who authored the forerunner of the S.B.J.S.A. 30 years ago and continues to advocate for it today, said the speaker’s emphasis on “process” is a red herring, and that the powerful real estate lobby will merely continue to stall the bill. “Passing just any bill will not be a victory for small businesses unless it has real teeth to change the lease renewal process,” Null said. “Nothing is more fair and just that the S.B.J.S.A.” Other than Dan Garodnick, all the Manhattan councilmembers support the S.B.J.S.A. Null said as soon as the bill is introduced, it would pick up more sponsors. To watch a video of Mark-Viverito answering The Villager’s questions on the S.B.J.S.A., see www.youtube.com/ watch?v=cUMsIh8FPkc
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Gardens to gay rights, top lawyer handled it all FRIEDLANDER, continued from p. 1
PHOTO BY JAMEL BROWNE, NYC LAW DEPARTMENT
June 4, 2015
Jeff Friedlander today.
During his career at the city’s Law Department, Jeff Friedlander — shown with his wife, Marjory, and daughter, Julia — worked with seven mayors, including Ed Koch.
PHOTO COURTESY NYC LAW DEPARTMENT
PHOTO COURTESY NYC LAW DEPARTMENT
and human rights. His service spanned the administrations of seven mayors and 13 corporation counsels (as the city’s chief legal officer is known). He is especially proud of having drafted the anti-apartheid legislation in the 1980s that prohibited the city from doing business with companies that operated in South Africa unless they followed the Sullivan Principles, which demanded equal treatment of employees in that country regardless of race. He is also proud of the way the Law Department carried on after it was displaced from its Church St. headquarters after the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attack and was scattered to 44 locations for seven months. “I grew up on E. Seventh St. in a three-story brownstone that belonged to my paternal grandfather,” said Friedlander, who lives in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, with his wife, Marjory. “Actually,” he added, “the house remained in the family until a few months ago when we sold it.” Friedlander went to a small private Hebrew elementary school on E. Houston St. “The building no longer exists,” he said. He then went to Seward Park High School. “I became interested in American history and just assumed that law would be the next step,” he said. He went to Hunter College, graduating in 1967, and then to New York University Law School, earning his law degree in 1970. While in law school, Friedlander was an intern for U.S. Senator Jacob Javits and also spent a summer in the office of U.S. Attorney Robert Morgenthau. One of his professors at N.Y.U., Norman Redlich, who was then also in the city Law Department in Mayor John Lindsay’s administration, suggested that Friedlander apply for an honors program in the department. Armed with his new J.D. degree, Friedlander took the advice and embarked on his career. The Landmarks Preservation Law was only five years old at the time when Friedlander was involved in its expansion to include interiors. The expansion led to designation of, among others, the interiors of Radio City Music Hall in Rockefeller Center and the Beacon Theater on Broadway. One landmark issue that went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court at the time and helped establish the constitutionality of historic preservation was the Grand Central Station case. “My colleague Leonard Koern-
Friedlander worked under Democratic as well as Republican mayors, including Rudy Giuliani.
er argued it before the Supreme Court,” Friedlander said. “He’s been in the department three years longer than I have. I wanted to retire before he did and leave him unchallenged as the longest-serving member of the department,” he quipped. “I worked on the settlement between the city and the New York State attorney general on the issue of community gardens and affordable
housing sites,” Friedlander said. “I think we were pretty successful preserving some gardens and allowing others to be developed for housing.” The signing of the agreement in 2003 was a memorable occasion for East Village residents, some of who came to the event dressed as vegetables and flowers. Friedlander’s accomplishments
range from the establishment of the Civilian Complaint Review Board to the drafting of the city’s gay rights law. He worked on the city’s Campaign Finance Law and drafted the Watershed Protection Agreement, a pact by the city and state governments and Upstate communities to keep the New York City watershed pure while allowing limited development. He played a key role in the establishment of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the transformation of Governors Island. As first assistant corporation counsel, Friedlander is also responsible for leading the Law Department in the absence of the corporation counsel. He served as acting corporation counsel for five months from November 1997 to March 1998 and for a brief period in January 2014. Friedlander will retire at the end of June. Mayor Bill de Blasio called him “a brilliant legal legend, the epitome of someone who’s dedicated his life to public service and to whom all New Yorkers owe a great debt. His wise counsel helped guide the city and the Law Department through many highs and lows, in particular the Sept.11 tragedy.” Zachary Carter, the current corporation counsel, said, “Jeff is a living New York City institution. He is a legal icon who has served the city through its many ups and downs, including the fiscal crisis of the 1970s and the horrors of Sept. 11. He’s been as solid as a rock, the kind of person everyone relies on and looks to for astute, insightful, laser-sharp legal advice. Since coming here last year, I have come to regard Jeff both as a trusted confidant and a good friend. It’s our great loss that he is retiring.” TheVillager.com
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Stonewall could make history again as a landmark STONEWALL, continued from p. 1
would likely follow soon. That hearing would provide opportunity for comment from experts and the public. In a written statement to Gay City News, The Villager’s sister paper, Meenakshi Srinivasan, the L.P.C. chairperson, said, “The Stonewall Inn is widely known as the birthplace of the modern L.G.B.T. rights movement and holds a truly iconic place in history. In addition to its cultural importance, the building still retains its architectural integrity from its period of significance during the Stonewall Rebellion. “I am proud to bring the Stonewall Inn before the full commission to be considered for designation as an individual and official landmark of New York City — a worthy site that symbolizes one of the most important events in L.G.B.T. history for not only New York City, but for the entire country. Recommending Stonewall Inn’s designation represents the Landmark Preservation’s Commission’s commitment to honor New York’s unique and diverse cultural, social and political heritage.” Local politicians and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation have been pressing for the designation for years — with increased urgency recently given the rebellion’s impending 50th anniversary in 2019. A press conference by G.V.S.H.P., local politicians, including Congressmember Jerrold Nadler and Borough President Gale Brewer, and the Empire State Pride Agenda had been scheduled for Mon., June 1, outside the Stonewall to call for landmark designation for the bar, as well as other sites — including Julius’ Bar at 159 W. 10th St., where gay people won the right to be served alcohol in 1966; the L.G.B.T. Community Center at 208 W. 13th St., where ACT UP and many other community groups were born; and the site of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) Firehouse at 99 Wooster St., the first gay community center in New York. That press conference has now been canceled. The commission has been researching the Stonewall designation for some time and was unaware of the scheduled press conference. Openly gay City Councilmember Corey Johnson, whose district includes the Stonewall, said in reaction to the development, “Wow! It’s shocking that in 2015 the Stonewall Inn was never recognized as an individual landmark given its hugely important symbolism and history. L.P.C. recognition is stronger than federal or state recognition. It brings with it more protection.” The designation would apply only to the Stonewall’s exterior. For a time after the bar closed in the 1970s, a bagel shop and pottery store occupied the spaces before a bar resumed operating in one of the storefronts. While the new bar appears to be thriving, there has been discussion in recent years of its possible use as a national L.G.B.T. history museum. Openly gay state Senator Brad Hoylman, whose district also takes in the Stonewall and has, as well, pressed for the designation for years, said, “The landmarks law has not permitted buildings that have cultural significance but minimal architectural or aesthetic significance to be individual landmarks. I am pleased to see the shift in how landmarks will be considered generally and that it is starting with Stonewall, which is a human-rights icon across the globe.” Hoylman said he would also like to see the site designated by executive order as a national park by Barack Obama. The president mentioned Stonewall
June 4, 2015
Last June, as part of the exhibition “Stonewall 45: Windows Into L.G.B.T. History,” more than two-dozen Christopher St. stores offered their windows as displays for colorful poster panels — like this one —celebrating the 45th anniversary of the start of the L.G.B.T. civil rights movement.
along with Seneca Falls and Selma as sites of three great human-rights struggles in his 2013 inaugural address. Seneca Falls, N.Y., is part of the Women’s Rights National Historic Park, and the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma is a U.S. national historic landmark. The street outside the bar, where the rebellion lasted for several days and nights in June of 1969, was named Stonewall Place by the city in 1989. A George Segal sculpture of gay and lesbian couples called “Gay Liberation” in Christopher Park across the street was dedicated in 1992. The Stonewall Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places and is listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places. But the city had previously balked at individual landmark status since the Stonewall is already within the Greenwich Village Historic District, which was designated in April 1969, two months before the Stonewall made history. The historic district designation report creating the district, as a result, makes no mention of the rebellion. Individual landmark designation for the Stonewall now would preserve those remaining architectural features that it possessed in June 1969. G.V.S.H.P.’s Berman, who spearheaded the landmarking fight for years, called the latest development “fantastic news,” “incredibly important” and “long overdue.” The site, he said, got its federal historic recognition “in 1999 in response to an application from G.V.S.H.P. and others.” Berman said that the Stonewall’s interior is not up for landmark status since it has been modified since 1969. “But we don’t want it to become a Starbucks or a nail salon,” he said. “We and others are looking to make sure that it remains a place that speaks to the history of the L.G.B.T. rights movement.” (In general, in New York City, interior landmark
designations are far more rare than exterior designations.) The preservationist said G.V.S.H.P. will continue the push for recognition of other L.G.B.T.-related sites. “We’re glad the city is taking this first step,” Berman said. Openly lesbian Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who represents the West Village, said, “It has been a good year for gay people, with the Irish voting for love and now the city administration finally recognizing a key location for the L.G.B.T. community. It’s a start.” She said that the Wooster St. Firehouse, where GAA housed its community center in the early 1970s, is in many ways “more compelling.” And she said that “there are sites of gay clubs in Harlem that are far more meaningful because it is where people — particularly African-American people — had their early gay identification.” Glick credited the de Blasio administration with moving relatively quickly on this. “One could ask why the Bloomberg administration paid no attention,” she said. Despite the strong community support for the contemplated designation, at least some of those who participated in the Stonewall Rebellion balk at a special status for the bar. One of them, Village activist Jim Fouratt, recently made public a letter he wrote to the National Parks Conservation Association on the issue. “I very strongly support the designation of the Sheridan Square park [Christopher Park] becoming a national park and designated a historical landmark because of what happened that night in the street in front of the Stonewall Inn,” Fouratt wrote. “I am very opposed to designating a business that was run by organized crime in contempt of the law and with the knowledge of the local police force as a symbol of Lesbian and Gay liberation. It is a private business still in operation. To me it is a symbol of oppression and not liberation. It would be appropriate to mark the street location as the spark that set off a series of events that forever changed the visibility and fight for equality for lesbians and gay men of all gender expression throughout the world.” Councilmember Johnson, for one, has a very different perspective on the bar. “The first time I visited New York City in 2000 — the year before I moved here — the first place I wanted to go was the Stonewall Inn,” he said. “I stood outside. I was just 18. I felt like a deep connection to this place that I had read and heard so much about. To now be the councilmember representing this district and have a chance to vote on it is incredibly meaningful and special.” On Facebook, John O’Brien, a longtime gay activist and historian — and, like Fouratt, a participant in the Stonewall Rebellion — praised the move toward landmarking the Stonewall. “Like many such landmarks, whether around wars, revolutions, or other sites that were the scene of important history, the actual previous usage of the site is not the essential consideration, but what a site came to represent,” he wrote. Tree, a 76-year old bartender at the Stonewall “off and on for 45 years” who was at the Stonewall the day the rebellion broke out, said, “This makes us feel great. It’s about time.” He reported that business at the bar is good and includes a high percentage of tourists, both gay and non-gay, from around the world who know what Stonewall means to history. TheVillager.com
POLICE BLOTTER Teens arrested in rape Three teenagers were arrested Tuesday for raping and robbing a woman, 33, in the Lower East Side / Chinatown area early Monday morning, June 1, at 5 a.m., police said. Video from a deli shows the woman, beaten and bleeding, walking into the store to ask for help, around 5:10 a.m., The New York Times reported. Minutes earlier, she reportedly had been raped by two of the three teens and also robbed of her purse, which held her identification and keys. She had met the three teens at an Internet cafe at 75 Eldridge St., near the deli, according to the Times. According to a source at the deli, police told him the rape occurred in a nearby park. The woman was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side, where she was said to be in stable condition. Police released video of the three suspects entering the woman’s building, located within the Fifth Precinct, at 5:11 a.m., according to the video’s time stamp. As they enter, they appear nonchalant, two of them pulling up the hoods of their sweatshirts, perhaps to better conceal their identities. Though one looked directly at the security camera as he pulled up his hood. They then climb the stairs. About a minute later, the three run down the stairs and leave. The three teenagers — all 16 and reportedly from a Boys Town halfway house on Sixth Ave. in Brooklyn — were arrested at 4:35 a.m. on Tues., June 2. Eric Pek and Emanuel Burrows were charged with rape, robbery, assault, burglary and grand larceny. Pek was charged with petty larceny, and Burrows with attempted petty larceny. The third teenager, Sanat Asliev, was charged with attempted rape, assault and attempted burglary. Pek has been arrested six times before; Burrows 11 times, DNAinfo reported.
Pushed her onto tracks Police are searching for a man who pushed a woman onto the southbound tracks of the No. 6 train at the Bleecker St./Broadway-Lafayette St. station on Mon., June 1, around 9 a.m. According to police, the woman, 28, was approached by the man, who was acting erratically. He said, “What are you looking at?” then ran to a garbage can and removed an empty plastic bottle from it. The suspect then threw the bottle at the victim and pushed her onto the tracks. TheVillager.com
She was taken to Bellevue Hospital where she was treated and released. Police provided video showing the suspect, who was wearing tan pants and a light-blue top and carrying two small bags. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline, at 800-577-TIPS. Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site, www. nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting them to 274637(CRIMES) and then entering TIP577. All tips are confidential. On Wednesday, someone called police to report a man fitting the suspect’s description in the vicinity of the Waverly restaurant, at Sixth Ave. and Waverly Place. However, police said the man was not the suspect, but was an “E.D.P.” — an emotionally disturbed person — acting irrationally and was a danger to himself and others. He was not arrested, but was aided by police, who sent him for treatment, a spokesperson said.
6th Pct. officer busted Ymmacula Pierre, 30, a Sixth Precinct police officer, was arrested on Tues., June 2, within the Fifth Precint after she was caught using a dead man’s credit card information to buy herself a diamond ring. The Daily News reported that, last July 14, Pierre responded to the apartment of Ken Sanden on E. 14th St. near Union for a “wellness check” after he failed to show up for work. Sanden, who suffered from low blood pressure, was found dead inside. Pierre allegedly jotted down his credit card and email information and used his Samsung Galaxy phone to call his neice. Two days later, his card was used to buy a diamond ring online from Zales for $3,283, authorities said. The credit cardit company notified Sanden’s niece about the suspicious charge, and she stopped it from being shipped. The Samsung phone was also reported missing. Pierre was charged with grand larceny, identity theft, criminal possession of stolen property and official misconduct, and faces four years in prison. She has been suspended without pay.
Caught in dragnet Officers conducting a routine safety check at W. Houston and Washington Sts. on Thurs., May 28, detained a Pennsylvania driver at about 1
a.m. who was found to have a history of driving with a suspended license. His offenses in that regard date back to 2007, police said. Tasheen Hand, 38, was arrested and charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle, a misdemeanor.
Getting too hands-on Things got a little grabby after a man allegedly groped a patron’s buttocks inside Amber, an Asian fusion restaurant and bar at 135 Christopher St., on Mon., May 18. Police were notified and arrested Altue Stith, 19, at about 2:15 p.m. He was charged with forcible touching, a misdemeanor.
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nearby Gansevoort Hotel, at 18 Ninth Ave., where police said he racked up an additional $4,027 tab. Staff at both venues did not know for sometime that the spending was suspicious. They notified police on Sun., March 29. Police investigated the incidents and arrested Padilla on Wed., May 20. He was charged with felony grand larceny.
Thief wasn’t Super Fly Jahkeiff Myrick procured a five-finger discount from the Superdry clothing store at 718 Broadway on Wed., May 20. Police said he grabbed unspecified merchandise from the store before fleeing at about 2:30 p.m. When police found him a short time later, he reportedly had burglary tools in his possession, for which Myrick was charged with misdemeanor possession of burglary tools. The fate of the purportedly stolen merchandise could not be determined.
A 32-year-old man was reportedly a big spender at two bars in the Meatpacking District on Sun., March 29, allegedly with the help of copied or stolen credit cards. Police said that Elariel Padilla, 32, first visited BageChriss Williams, telle, a restaurant/bar, at 1 Little West 12th St., where he reportedly spent 15.PR.3929_1.qxp_Layout 1 4/21/15 11:40 AM Page 1 Lincoln Anderson $30,744. He then took the party to the and Dusica Sue Malesevic
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‘Improve our democracy,’ NAACP’s Ifill urges grads
ew York University held its 183rd annual all-university commencement in Yankee Stadium on Wed., May 20. Nearly 30,000 graduates, family members, faculty and guests attended. Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, was the keynote speaker. It was the final graduation ceremony for both President John Sexton (opposite page, top left) and Martin Lipton, chairperson of the university’s board of trustees, who are both stepping down from their positions. Lipton praised Sexton as “the outstanding university educator and leader of this generation.” Ifill, an ’87 graduate of N.Y.U. Law
School, who studied under Sexton there, spoke about the police-involved deaths of unarmed black men that have dominated the news over the past year, from Ferguson to Staten Island and Baltimore, as well as the execution-style killing of Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in Brooklyn. “These are the times that try men’s souls,” she said, quoting Thomas Paine. “These in fact are the times that try men’s and women’s souls. The past nine months have challenged the very soul of our nation, such that we cannot pretend — even as we are here filled with the excitement of this day — that there are not deep challenges awaiting us.” Other challenges, she said, include
crushing student debt, finding employment, police profiling and aging parents with little savings. Ifill told the graduates it’s up to them to wrestle with these hard issues, and help try to solve them. “That is the essence of good citizenship,” she stressed, “that bone-deep sense of obligation that you must work to improve our democracy, and to improve it especially for those who are most marginalized and most in need.” Ifill noted that she was on the Amtrak train that had crashed in Philadelphia a week earlier. The harrowing accident, from which she walked away unharmed, taught her to value even more deeply the people to whom she is close, she said. She encouraged the graduates to do the same with
their own loved ones. Each N.Y.U. school also holds its own graduation. Robert De Niro was the speaker at the Tisch School of the Arts commencement. Bluntly and humorously, the great actor started off by telling the grads, “You’re f----d!” If you’re a doctor or lawyer or go into other more traditional professional fields, you know you’ll always have a good-paying job, he explained. A career in the arts, on the other hand, with writers, painters and actors always scrambling for work and money, will inevitably be a struggle, he told them — inevitably, because if you are an artist, you have no choice but to follow your passion.
June 4, 2015
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June 4, 2015
Storm scheme will also upgrade F.D.R. crossings BY LESLEY SUSSMAN
FILE PHOTO BY ZACH WILLIAMS
ity planners and local residents turned their attention last week to the stretch of East River waterfront between E. Houston and E. 14th Sts. The occasion was the last of three workshops held in May to discuss ways to protect the park, the F.D.R. Drive and adjoining neighborhoods from flooding should another hurricane like Sandy strike the city. The two previous workshops primarily focused on redesign plans for sections of the waterfront from E. 14th St. to E. 23rd St. and from Montgomery St. to E. Houston St. Three more workshops are being scheduled for sometime in July. The $33 million East Side Coastal Resiliency Project calls for the construction of a 10-mile long protective barrier — including sections of levee-like berms — to be built along the East Side’s edge from E. 42nd St. down to the Battery and then around and back up along the Hudson River side to W. 57th St. The project is being funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. On hand last Thursday night at St. Brigid’s Church, at E. Eighth St. and Avenue B, to get the latest update on design plans for the East Vil-
Last August, at a party in East River Park to thank the community for its input into the “Big U” storm-surge projection plan, dancers from Grand Street Settlement, above, put a surge of energy into the crowd.
lage section of the waterfront were co-sponsors of the project, including representatives from the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, the city’s Department of Design and Construction, the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, the Department of Transportation and the Parks Department. There was a large turnout of local
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June 4, 2015
residents, along with representatives from community organizations such as Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) and LES Ready, plus members of Community Boards 3 and 6 who are on the two neighboring boards’ Joint Waterfront Resiliency Task Force. Jeremy Siegel, from Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), the Danish design and architectural firm in charge of the socalled “BIG U” project, presented his firm’s preliminary design plans for this section of the waterfront. These call for more landscaping and open recreational spaces, improved and safer access to East River Park from the Houston St. crossing — which has a heavy traffic flow to and from F.D.R. Drive — and protection of the existing ecology along the riverfront. Siegel added that his firm also plans to widen space for pedestrians and cyclists on the currently narrow Delancey St. overpass leading to the riverfront. The footbridge currently has only 7 to 9 feet of walking space compared to the Corlears Hook Park footbridge, at Jackson and Cherry Sts., which is 30 feet wide and gives cyclists and walkers much easier access to the park. The maintenance of the current recreational space along this strip of the waterfront was also a priority, Siegel said, along with preserving existing trees and “doubling places and spaces” for people to sit and enjoy the river view. He said another idea his firm was considering was a landscaped park situated on top of the protective berms, with “gentle ramps” leading up to the top of the berms and back down to the riverfront. “We have width along this strip of the river, unlike the section from 14th St. to 23rd St., and that’s a great thing,” Siegel explained. “We can al-
low and expand recreational spaces and protect the ecology of the area.” Siegel said that his firm had already inventoried most of the existing trees in the East Village section of the waterfront, was studying pedestrian and bicycle usage, and is doing soil borings and sewage testing to check for any environmental hazards. “We’ve also already surveyed 80 percent of the waterfront structures in this section, including the two bridges, by using divers and boats,” he added. Initial reaction to Siegel’s presentation from local residents at the workshop was generally favorable. Damaris Reyes, a member of the C.B. 3 and 6 Joint Waterfront Resiliency Taskforce and the director of GOLES, was appreciative of the inclusiveness of the process. “I’m really happy that this is being done in collaboration with the community,” she said. “It’s important that people work together on this storm-protection issue to avoid any unintended impact.” Reyes added that she’ll comment further when she sees the final design plan, noting, “I’m not prepared to say anything more about it right now.” Also speaking favorably about the presentation was Alysha Lewis-Coleman, second vice chairperson of C.B. 3. “I really like the fact that they’ve been doing a lot of investigative work as far as the soil samples, environmental studies, and that they even put cameras into the sewage system,” she said. “I grew up in that park and I would love to see it stay beautiful, so I’m waiting to see what the final plan will be.” Lewis-Coleman added that she wanted to see the design firm, along with other city agencies, “retain a cohesiveness with the community. I want to see the greenery and the trees remain the same,” she said, “but I also know that we’re going to have to see some changes in order for safety in case there is any future flooding.” She also agreed that the Houston St. crossing to East River Park was “a very dangerous intersection” and hoped to see the situation improved. “I don’t know how the joggers do it to get across that crossing,” she said. After the formal presentations were concluded, local residents broke up into smaller workshop groups to offer additional suggestions for the redesign of the East River waterfront as part of the storm-protection plan. Results of these discussions will be made available at upcoming workshops. TheVillager.com
Take Charge of Your Health Today! 4th Annual Community Health Forum: “Listen to Your Heart”
PHOTO BY BONNY KAHANE
Cynthia Brennan and Pip enjoying sitting in the park.
Cynthia Brennan, 80; Was active in local club politics OBITUARY
ynthia M. Brennan, 80, a denizen of Greenwich Village who was a Democratic County Committee member, died on May 21 at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx. Brennan was a longtime resident of 780 Greenwich St., between Bank and Bethune Sts. She was an active member of local Democratic political clubs, including both Village Independent Democrats and Village Reform Democratic Club, and worked on a number of campaigns over the years. According to friends, she took her responsibilities as a Democratic County Committee member seriously. She was born Sept. 11, 1934, in Windsor, Vermont. She graduated from Simmons College in Boston in 1956. After moving to New York City, Cynthia Brennan worked at various businesses, including at Macy’s, until relocating to Bermuda, where she worked as a marketing retailer. She returned to New York in 1962, where she was employed by the Pinkerton Detective Agency and did accounting for a nanny service. She most recently was employed by the New York City Department of Corrections until her retirement in 2007. Brennan was an avid reader and was fond of animals and her pets, especially her beloved dog Pip. She also TheVillager.com
enjoyed vacationing on the coast of Maine. She was predeceased by her mother and stepfather, Evelyn and Seth Mead. Survivors include one half-brother, Daniel J. Mead, and his wife, Janet, of Hartland, and two cousins, Harold Conley, Jr. and his wife of Oxnard, California, and James Conley of Pasadena, California. At Brennan’s request there will be no formal services. Committal services will be held at the convenience of the family in the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Memorial contributions may be made to the Lucy Mackenzie Humane Society at P.O. Box 702, Brownsville, VT 05037. The family wishes to acknowledge and thank Bonny, Judy, Vilma and Yvonne of the Village and Beverly of Florida for their friendship and kindness toward Cynthia. She will be sadly missed by her family and friends. The Knight Funeral Home in Windsor, VT, is assisting with arrangements. Condolences may be expressed to her family in an online guestbook at www.knightfuneralhomes.com . In the early evening of Thurs., May 28, friends of Brennan’s, including from her building, held an informal gathering in Abingdon Square Park to share remembrances and say goodbye. After the gathering, some planned to go to the nearby Bus Stop Cafe, across from Abingdon Square, where Brennan was a regular customer and friend.
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PHOTOS BY BOB KRASNER
Jas Walton, left, and Miles Arntzen helped bring Eastern philosopher Alan Watts’s words to new life during a one-night-only performance at Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books.
Watts’s words plus new electronica are entrancing BY BOB KRASNER
en philosopher Alan Watts died in 1973, but that has not stopped him from influencing the many who continue to listen to his abundance of recorded lectures. Musician/composer Jas Walton, who has performed and colloborated with many musical acts over the years — Antibalas, Superhuman Happiness, EMEFE — is one such devotee. Although Watts died before Walton was born, Walton has spent many, many hours listening to a series entitled “Out of Your Mind: Essential Listening From the Alan Watts Audio Archives.” Walton calls it his “favorite piece of recorded history.” Sometime in 2012, Walton decided that the electronic loops that he was creating at home would work well with Watts’s words. Collaborating with the philosopher’s son Mark Watts, he produced a four-track vinyl EP (also available digitally), “Face The Facts: Words by Alan Watts.” Lily Wen, formerly of Nonesuch Records, made it the first release on her new Figure & Ground independent record label.
June 4, 2015
May 19 saw more than 60-plus bodies crammed into the miniscule, non-climate-controlled Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books on Carmine St. to hear Walton, playing keyboards and laptop, and Miles Arntzen, on keyboards and percussion, bring three of their pieces to life. Refreshments were served as the duo provided a musical-trance counterpoint to Watts’s rhythmic ramblings. Vintage video of the absent guest of honor was screened as the new record had its debut and Walton had a chance to consider the brief performance. It was a musical departure for Walton, as he is more often found playing Afrobeat on his sax. The question arose as to whether or not he’d be performing this music in a live setting again. “I hadn’t thought about it before this,” he said. “But now I’m considering it. Hopefully, it will be someplace with air conditioning.” “Face The Facts: Words by Alan Watts” is available from figureandgroundrecords. com . More information about Alan Watts can be found at alanwatts.com .
Through meditation, among other means, Watts explored the outer limits of consciousness, a feeling Walton sought to evoke in his soundtrack for Watts’s lectures. TheVillager.com
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Yet another classic, quirky Village store closes BY KATHRYN ADISMAN
PHOTO BY KATHRYN ADISMAN
emorial Day weekend marked the fall of a West Village veteran, House of Cards & Curiosities, on Eighth Ave. between Jane and 12th Sts. since 1992. The cause was a combination of increased costs, Internet shopping and declining interest in the holidays, said store owner James Waits, speaking about a week before the end. “It boils down to the fact we’re approaching a threshold point where the cost of doing business, unless you have corporate backing, has become untenable in this city,” he said. “With more empty spaces and online competition, one would think rents go down, but that’s not what’s happening,” Waits said. And tax write-offs make it more lucrative for commercial landlords to sit on an empty space than fill it with a tenant. Waits’s lease wasn’t up, and if his rent hadn’t doubled (real estate taxes get passed onto tenants), he could have weathered local factors that contributed to his business’s demise. According to him, these included the Village Nursing Home and St. Vincent’s Hospital closures; a city construction project fencing off his shop for years;
James Waits in his House of Cards & Curiosities during the shop’s final week.
and bike lanes replacing parking. One of the biggest factors affecting him: “The card industry is collapsing,” he said. What’s changed? “The devices!” he said, tapping his iPhone. In dry spells, Waits depended on tourism to keep afloat. But this changed recently with the strengthening dollar. Yet, I witnessed a gen-
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June 4, 2015
tleman from Amsterdam, after some token haggling, buy a souvenir fish fossil for $60 — 50 percent off. “You don’t expect to find someone like me in a little shop,” admitted Waits. He was born in Wyoming and grew up in Colorado, the son of a WWII vet electronics engineer who instilled in him a passion for intellectual pursuits. Waits admits that he was naive and that “having this business was an enormous education.” A musicology graduate student when he moved to the West Village 36 years ago, he saw a “Help Wanted” sign in the window of Wendell’s book and magazine shop, started out as a book buyer in 1980 and became manager and card buyer. The card store opened in 1992, and when Wendell Huston died of AIDS in 1994, Waits took over. “That’s when it took a turn toward the bizarre,” he said. Oddities imply “sideshow;” Waits prefers “curiosities” to describe the encyclopedic contents of his shop, which was stuffed with deer heads, skeleton mermaids, a duck skeleton priced at $500, Chinese silk lanterns, binoculars, shells, even an Annie Oakley action figure. “What do I hope doesn’t sell so I can take it home? Those teeth,” he said. He was referring to prehistoric Megalodon shark chompers. This is a shop my father, a prosthodontist, would have loved. Waits acquired inventory from the Maxilla and Mandible store when it closed in 2011. His ambition as a child was to come to New York City, “not to go to Broadway, not to go to plays or concerts, but to go to the Museum of Natural History!” Waits sat like a gnome inside his shop. “Fastidious, not easy to work with.
I won’t tolerate bulls---,” is how he described himself. His employees were his contemporaries. Grace Hochstadt provided annual handholding as I searched for a Mother’s Day card. Never pausing to pore through the bins, I never knew what I missed — till now. A steady stream of customers stopped to say goodbye and snag a few bargain relics. “This is the Village I moved to,” one woman said. “It’s so particular.” The city now, compared to when he moved here is, “sterilized...homogenized,” he said. Four shuttered storefronts will soon be on his block, including the Chocolate Shop. “I stuck it out as long as I could afford it,” he stated. “The residents are so wealthy, yet nobody lives here,” one customer observed. At the former Village Nursing Home, where an apartment sells for $10 million, Waits said he saw only one floor illuminated. People buy real estate as an investment now. Waits hopes his customers will leave with a good flavor in their mouth. “Alan Rickman came in,” he said. “He shook my hand and wished me luck.” So does he feel like he’s going out on top, like Letterman? “I’m not calling it retirement,” he said. Asked what’s next for him, he said he’ll pursue his scholarly interests. He has a museum in his house Upstate. And...he plans to sell online! His store was a refuge. “You make your own refuge no matter where you are,” Waits said. To quote one customer, “I’ll miss the beauty.” TheVillager.com
PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Bicycle, bicycle, I want to ride my bicycle On Saturday, the Bleecker Area Merchants’ and Residents’ Association (BAMRA) sponsored a free “Learn To Ride a Bicycle” event at Mercer Playground to teach kids ready for a two-wheeler how to balance and ride. Trainers from Bike New York were on hand at the park, on Mercer St. between Bleecker and W. Third Sts., from noon to 2 p.m., and helped instruct more than 20 tykes on the essentials of riding a bike. Terri Cude, the event’s main organizer, was happy to report that a bunch of the children who had never ridden on two wheels before learned how to bicycle in just one session.
PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
The Elizabeth St. Garden was filled on Saturday with activists and actively running kids enjoying the unique green space.
Feting volunteers, planting the seed of an idea BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
n Saturday, the Elizabeth St. Garden celebrated its volunteers on the second anniversary of the effort that has brought the all volunteer-run Little Italy garden to life as a thriving community space. It was a beautiful “Manhattanhenge” weekend afternoon, as golden sunlight streamed perfectly through the garden along its central west-east path. People ate and schmoozed, musicians played and kids cavorted and ran on the grass beside lion monuments and other sundry statuary. There was plenty of free food, from TheVillager.com
rhubarb pie and hummus to hamburgers. And guess who was grilling those burgers? Terri Cude, who had just finished running the kids biking program over at Mercer St. Playground. Also on hand was Tobi Bergman, chairperson of Community Board 2, who recently hit upon a brilliant solution that could save the beloved green space — namely, by shifting the affordable housing project currently slated for the city-owned Little Italy garden instead to a vacant, cityowned site in Hudson Square where C.B. 2 previously had hoped to create a park once the current water-shaft
project there is completed. Councilmember Margaret Chin last week told The Villager that she couldn’t comment on Bergman’s alternative proposal because that site is not in her district. So, The Villager, in turn, asked Corey Johnson’s office if the West Side councilmember would support the housing project at the alternative location at Hudson and W. Houston Sts., which is in his district. “No one has reached out to us yet,” a Johnson spokesperson responded, saying he would have to look into the matter further. Meanwhile, Bergman, who said he
has a good working relationship with Chin, expressed confident hope that the garden can be saved. But it will take some effort, he said. Last Saturday, Sharon D’Lugoff and Gordon Ramsey were enjoying the Elizabeth St. Garden with Ace, their young daughter, who is already modeling for Diesel. It’s only been two years since the community found out the stunning space behind the chainlink fence was actually city-owned property, then gained access to it and started using it heavily. “My other two daughters could only look through the fence,” D’Lugoff said. June 4, 2015
Leading ladies and men at annual Battery gala From left, Former Council Speaker Christine Quinn, sporting a stylish new look; former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly; and former Mayor David Dinkins and his wife, Joyce, along with hundreds of other guests attended the Battery Conservancy’s 20th anniversary gala at the Battery on Monday evening.
PHOTO BY MILO HESS
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR What’s new pussycat? Nothing! To The Editor: Re “Keeping up with Mr. Jones” (arts article, May 28): Yes, Mr. Melloan, Tom Jones really does know what is happening! I knew from the start, reading your article, that I wasn’t going to like it, and I was certainly right. We all have the right to our opinions about people and whatever, but does that include snide remarks and witty (you might think) put-down
comments, such as: “Wasn’t really my cup of tea. I have since enjoyed preforming it myself; it’s easy to play” (talking about the recording of “Green, Green Grass of Home”)? And saying “It’s Not Unusual” was “the first of many iconic tunes that epitomize what Jones does best, brassy bombast.” Please! There was nothing new in the article that hasn’t been published before concerning his private life and his conquest of 250 groupies in a single year. So what! Given all the awards Mr. Jones has received
and his having been knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his contribution to the entertainment arts, it makes me think that all your taste is in your mouth! Nancy Gardikis
Let’s hope it will be ready To The Editor: Re “Stuy Town weighs in on storm-protection plan” (news article, May 28): This will only take around 20 years to complete. See East River Park promenade history. Ed Dunn
Park anti-music master plan To The Editor: Re “Will Board 2 drum loud music out of Washington Square Park?” (news article, May 28): This is simply the next step in the Parks Department and the Washington Square Park Conservancy’s efforts to privatize First Amendment rights in Washington Square Park. LETTERS, continued on p. 31
June 4, 2015
Looking at crime (when it isn’t) and punishment RHYMES WITH CRAZY BY LENORE SKENAZY
mily Horowitz spends a lot of time with people that other professors don’t. Criminals. Domestic violence victims. Domestic violence perps. Sex offenders. Guys convicted of murder. A teacher of sociology and criminology at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, she introduces her students to the same folks she is meeting in an effort to change the lives of all of them. Horowitz is one of those people who walks the walk. Before coming to St. Francis, she got her Ph.D. in sociology at Yale, concentrating in women’s studies, and decided to spend a year in Brooklyn’s domestic violence court, watching as women finally got justice. But...that wasn’t what she saw. “It was just poor and unemployed men being slammed over and over,” says Horowitz, a mom of four. Horowitz agrees that if a man slapped his partner, he should be punished. But she thought the harsh sentences she witnessed weren’t designed to improve anyone’s prospects. She began to regard the criminal justice system with curiosity: How much was overkill baked into the system?
To find out, she started inviting convicts who had been exonerated to speak to her class. People such as Marty Tankleff, who falsely confessed to killing his parents; Jesse Friedman, notorious from the movie “Capturing the Friedmans”; and even Bernard Baran. Who? “Bernard was a working-class, gay teenager who dropped out of high school in the late ’80s because he was bullied. He started working at a daycare center,” says Horowitz. “But a couple went to the head of the daycare and said they didn’t want a ‘homo’ watching their son. And the daycare said, ‘We can’t fire a person because of that.’ Lo and behold, the couple alleged that Baran molested their son,” says Horowitz. Baran was found guilty and given
three life sentences. The judge said that putting a gay man in a daycare center was like putting a chocoholic in a candy store — as if being a gay man and being a child molester were the same thing. The National Center for Reason and Justice championed Baran’s case, and he was finally freed after more than 20 years behind bars. He told the class what it was like to be a gay man in prison who had been convicted of child molestation: They put cigarettes out on his head. He was beaten. He was raped more than 30 times. As he told his story, students wept. Those tears — and those students — will go on to make a difference, Horowitz says, because many of her students pursue careers in law enforcement. “Now they will have a much more nuanced view of the people they’re dealing with,” she says. A couple of years ago, Horowitz taught a women’s studies class at the Bedford Hills women’s prison in Westchester. There she learned that until the ’90s, prisoners could get financial aid for college courses. New York State put an end to that, and the number of inmates getting an education plummeted — even though the recidivism rate for people who get college degrees in prison is under five percent. But a trickle of students still do manage to take classes behind bars, and Horowitz is determined to make
sure that at least some of them get the chance to earn their degrees once freed. So this school year, she arranged for five formerly incarcerated students to matriculate at St. Francis. One has already proved such an amazing scholar — straight A’s — that the school is sending her on a Franciscan pilgrimage to Assisi. After all, St. Francis was all about helping and forgiveness. Her latest project is the just-published book “Protecting Our Kids? How Sex Offender Laws are Failing Us” (Praeger, 2015). Ever the researcher, Horowitz discovered that the belief that sex offenders must be continually monitored to keep kids safe is based on fear, not fact. “Once people are no longer a threat, you don’t have to punish them to the point where you destroy their lives,” she says. “I’m not pro sex offender, I’m pro move-on-with-your-life-onceyou’ve-been-punished.” She’ll be reading from her book this Sunday night, June 7, at the Bluestockings bookstore, 172 Allen St., on the Lower East Side, at 7 pm. Admission is free. If you’re wondering what it looks like when an academic talks the talk, walks the walk, and changes the lives of future cops and former convicts, don’t miss it. I know I won’t. Skenazy is a public speaker and author of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids”
The ’61 Beatnik Riot and music in Wash. Sq. Park TALKING POINT BY DODGE LANDESMAN
ob Dylan, Buddy Holly, Joan Baez and Peter Paul and Mary, just to name a few, made their mark while playing music at Washington Square Park. The park was once seen as the epicenter of the burgeoning folk music and beatnik scene in the late 1950s and early ’60s. There was even a popular folk group called the Village Stompers, who, after gaining a following drumming and stomping live in the park, got their 1963 single “Washington Square Park” onto the Top 20 of the pop charts. Now, history seems to be coming full circle. Nearly 50 years after parkgoers rioted over the difficulty of obtaining a permit to play music in the park, Community Board 2 is yet again looking at silencing one of the city’s most creative public spaces. The board’s reasoning is solid and their opposition to loud percussion music has been formed only with the best of intentions. But which community residents are we protecting here? TheVillager.com
Greenwich Village, while quickly losing its soul due to the overwhelming influence of N.Y.U. and the suburbanization of Lower Manhattan, still retains its authenticity in Washington Square Park. Young people come here to freely display their craft. Whether that’s setting up a couch to have a “Free Conversation,” performing comedy or paying homage to the folk heroes that have come before them, we must keep the park available as a creative space. The C.B. 2 Executive Committee, it seems, is playing right into developers’ plans, aiding their goal of creating a noise-free neighborhood, so that the highest rents can be charged while the poorest residents are pushed out. If we lose a few luxury condo residents who would prefer to live in a “noise-pollution free zone,” the county of Westchester is always available. The yuppie haven of Madison Square Park, where you can buy a most unremarkable burger for $25, is free of musical instruments and not too dissimilar in size. It’s important to respect our history and recognize what Village residents have fought for in the past. In 1961, Izzy Young, the head of a folk music organization in the area, applied, as usual, for a permit to play in the park. At that time there were a few more formalities in place, but they were rarely practiced. But the scene was changing in the Village at the time,
with law enforcement meeting the new influx of artists and musicians with a very skeptical eye. Young was denied his permit and went on to organize a protest a week later. Officers awaited in their police wagons for the protesters and promptly arrested them, inciting a riot that ultimately involved more than 1,000 people. The riot made waves briefly and resulted in a much more relaxed process for musicians to play music in the park. The C.B. 2 Executive Committee said the issue, for them, is really only about noise. Dan Drasin’s documentary film, “Sunday,” captured the April 9, 1961, conflict in the park between folkies and police that became known as the Beatnik Riot. In the film, Izzy Young is shown saying of the then-Parks Department commissioner, “It’s not up to Commissioner Morris to tell the people what kind of music is good or bad. He’s telling people folk music brings degenerates, but it’s not so.” While not intentional, the argument reflexively turns into one about getting rid of the “undesirable” elements in the park by eliminating the noise they make. But when you eliminate noise, you eliminate freedom of expression. You eliminate art. Landesman is a former member, Community Board 2, and a recent graduate from Fordham University June 4, 2015
Hope or hype? Battle of the small business bills TALKING POINT BY SHARON WOOLUMS
or years, and especially recently, Village business owners have looked out their windows in despair wondering what their future would be. Decades of real estate speculation, fueling exorbitant rents that only big banks and franchises can pay, have wreaked havoc on the commercial rental market, destroying for many the American Dream. The sight of successful, iconic businesses closing month after month has led to fear and hopelessness among merchants. Would their business survive when their lease expired? Would the landlord demand such an unreasonable increase that signing would make it little more than an indentured-servitude agreement? Merchants’ futures were more and more in the hands of speculators and unreasonable landlords. Merchants most dreaded outcome was receiving a “Vacate the premises in 30 days” notice. Now a ray of hope is shining on New York City’s mom-and-pop shops. A store owner might discover outside his window customers collecting petitions demanding legislation to save her business. The recent flurry of activity to support small business — from the media blitz and community forums to grassroots social-media public-advocacy groups, community board involvement, political club resolutions and beyond — makes it clear: Politicians may be silent as businesses close but the public will remain silent no more, and we are demanding action. This public outcry recently produced three proposals claiming to address exorbitant rents causing closures. One, introduced in Albany, supporting tax breaks for landlords who don’t rent gouge their commercial tenants, will merely be borne by the taxpayers. And because landlords’ participation is voluntary, it should not be taken seriously as a solution to this crisis. Instead, we will focus on the two measures designated for a City Council vote. The first proposal comes from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who under the City Charter, can introduce legislation in partnership with a councilmember. Brewer chose Robert Cornegy, chairperson of the Council’s Small Business Committee, to introduce her bill. Brewer’s legislation would give rights to retail storefront tenants owners prior to their leases expiring. Mediation could be requested to negotiate new lease terms, though this would be nonbinding upon the landlord. If this nonbinding negotiation process failed to reach an agreement, then the retail tenant would get a one-year lease extension at a 15 percent increase, giving him time to find a new location. The reasoning behind Brewer’s proposal is that, in today’s speculative commercial market, with high rent increases and tenants having no rights, store owners rarely know what their new rents and lease terms will be until shortly before expiration of the old lease. For merchants wanting to find a new location in their neighborhoods where loyal customers can still patronize them, they need adequate time for their search. Brewer’s bill gives that added time to move the business to a new location. The other proposal is the Small Business Jobs
June 4, 2015
On Oct 16, 2009, the City Council’s legal and legislative staff presented a legal memorandum of case law supporting the constitutionality of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. In the front row, from left, are Attorney Sherri Donovan, the longtime legal counsel for the Small Business Congress and an authority of New York State court decisions on commercial rent-control law; her two assistants, and Miguel Peribanez, the founder of the U.S.A. Latin Chamber of Commerce, which, at the request of David Yassky, the then-chairperson of the Council’s Small Business Committee, conducted the largest small business study of Hispanic business owners in New York City. In the back row, from left, are Quenia Abreu, president of the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce; Sung Soo Kim, founder of the Korean American Small Business Service Center; Ramon Murphy, president of the U.S.A. Bodega Association; Miguel Acevedo, a tenant and youth activist from Chelsea’s Fulton Houses; then-Councilmember Robert Jackson, the prime sponsor of the S.B.J.S.A. at that time; R. Kim, a Korean manufacturing leader; Mrs. Sung Soo Kim, and Steven Null, founder of the Coalition for Fair Business rents. In 2009, 32 of the City Council’s 51 members supported the S.B.J.S.A., yet it was never allowed to come up for a vote by the full Council.
Survival Act, whose original version was first introduced in 1986 by then-Councilmember Ruth Messinger. The S.B.J.S.A. deals only with the lease-renewal process, giving business owners in “good standing” (i.e. no illegal activities, pay rent on time, etc.) the right to a minimum 10-year lease. This bill calls first for nonbinding mediation with landlords, with both parties having equal rights to negotiate terms. If mediation fails to achieve a mutual agreement, then there would be binding arbitration, with both parties having equal rights to present their arguments. To break it down in a point-by-point comparison: The S.B.J.S.A. gives the right to a lease renewal. Brewer’s proposal offers no right to a lease renewal. The S.B.J.S.A. gives merchants a minimum 10 years to stay at their location. Brewer’s bill gives them a one-year extension so they can move. Both bills give the right to undergo nonbinding mediation. However, the S.B.J.S.A. calls for binding arbitration, if necessary, for a final decision. In Brewer’s bill there is no arbitration — the landlord makes the decision. The S.B.J.S.A. applies to all commercial tenants. Brewer’s bill applies only to retail storefronts. Brewer is adamant that her bill can pass and that the S.B.J.S.A. can never pass. Does she know something the voters don’t about our elected officials or who really runs City Hall? She said her primary reason for this conviction is that, “[The S.B.J.S.A.] raises serious constitutional issues about contract and property rights.” I asked James Caras, Brewer’s general counsel, if
he advised the borough president on this issue, and, if so, could he e-mail me the case law supporting that position? I also inquired if there was any amendment to the S.B.J.S.A. that could satisfy his legal concerns about the bill and, if so, could he describe the amendment. The reply came from Brewer’s press secretary, Andrew Goldston: “There’s no easy tweak or quick fix that will make S.B.J.S.A. impervious to a court challenge or politically feasible. To help small businesses that are suffering today, we must embrace realistic proposals that can pass today. Mom-andpops have spent decades waiting for action, and it’s time for us to stop tilting at windmills and do something that will help.” Attorney Steven Barrison, a spokesperson for the Small Business Congress (www.saveNYCjobs.org), was more than willing to offer a rebuttal. “The only windmills being tilted here,” he declared, “are the phony bills backed by big real estate to distract from the solution offered by the S.B.J.S.A., which actually does directly attack, and solve the lease-renewal crisis facing small businesses in New York City. Proposals that ‘can pass’ but offer nothing as a real solution are just that, nothing; thus, they are, in fact, unrealistic because they accomplish zero. “No legislation is ‘impervious to court challenge.’ That is why we have a judicial system in the first place! The only reason the S.B.J.S.A. hasn’t passed and was stopped in 2009 — after 32 councilmembers signed on in support of it at that time — was SMALL BUSINESS, continued on p. 28 TheVillager.com
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Hope or hype? Battle of the small business bills SMALL BUSINESS, continued from p. 20
the misleading and undocumented legal advice by the same general counsel’s office to then-Speaker Christine Quinn,” Barrison stressed. “And now that same Quinn’s office adviser is advising Borough President Brewer, and continuing this baseless, meritless empty argument again. “Attorney Caras has not produced a single shred of evidence or documents to demonstrate, in any clear way, a legal problem with the Small Business Jobs Survival Act in over six years and eight months — because there is none! Since that phony claim in 2009, that is another 80,000 lost small businesses costing New York City 864,000 jobs! “The only question is how many more small businesses will go under while Brewer and her legal advisers delay, distract and destroy what is left of the remaining small businesses in New York City, while they lobby for passage of their bill for big real estate,” Barrison stated. “On average, more than 1,000 small businesses are closing each month in our city, with the single biggest issue being the unfair lease-renewal process. The S.B.J.S.A. resolves that issue, and Brewer’s bill ignores the main issue,
resolving nothing.” Defending the S.B.J.S.A. as the only real solution is Sung Soo Kim. Founder of the oldest small business service center in the Big Apple, Kim is often called the “Godfather of Small Business.” For more than 30 years, Kim has negotiated thousands of lease renewals for his Korean members. “In October 2009,” Kim said, “prior to a vote on S.B.J.S.A., certain to unanimously pass the Small Business Committee, someone in the Speaker’s Office made the claim that the bill had legal issues and stopped a vote on it. What usually happens next with legislation is that changes are recommended to the bill’s language or amendments to make the bill more constitutional. However, that never happened with the S.B.J.S.A. once this ‘legal roadblock’ stopped the vote,” Kim noted. “Never once in six years has anyone from the Speaker’s Office made any recommendations to amend the bill to satisfy their legal concerns so it could continue for a hearing and possible vote.” The non-action on changing the bill is a big change of policy by the speaker’s legal and legislative office from what happened with past versions of the S.B.J.S.A. In fact, back in 1989, the Speaker’s Office recom-
mended changes to the bill to satisfy their legal concerns; the legislation’s then-prime sponsor, Councilmember Ruth Messinger, made all the changes requested. And then, again, in 1995, then-prime sponsor Guillermo Linares was asked by the Speaker’s Office to make more changes to the bill to satisfy their legal concerns. Linares accommodated them by amending the bill to satisfy their stated legal concerns. The absolute essential component of any law to stop the closing of businesses is the “right to renewal of the lease,” without which all proposals will fail and all independent owners in New York City will eventually be forced to close. The creation of the largest commercial real estate bubble in the world combined with a pro-real estate City Hall has drawn money from around the world to invest in real estate in New York City, only inflating the bubble further. The Brewer bill — without arbitration that would give rights to small business owners — will not stop the closing of any businesses or stop out-of-control rent increases. As for giving businesses time to find a new location and move, my question is, “Move to where?” Many small businesses have already moved several times over the past decades to escape ridiculous rent increases. How can new shop owners pay these exorbitant rents when well-established storeowners could not? Also, Brewer’s bill will not halt unscrupulous landlords’ illegal extortion of cash payments from mostly immigrant owners under threat of being thrown out of business. Only the S.B.J.S.A. will halt rent-gouging and such extortion. Kim said he had expected a lot more from this new administration in terms of support for the long-stymied legislation. “I assumed electing a progressive mayor, speaker and Council who pledged to take a new direction from the Bloomberg administration, would make passing the S.B.J.S.A. easier not harder,” he said. “However, progressive policies on social issues for the 99 percent, but keeping the 1 percent’s conservative Republican economic policy in place has wreaked havoc upon the 99 percent.”
Brewer said dismissively of the S.B.J.S.A., “It has languished in the Council, perpetually reintroduced legislation that has been spinning its wheels for more than 30 years, a bill that’s spent decades collecting dust.” But Kim took exception to that description of the bill he has steadfastly championed year after year despite the daunting political roadblocks. “Not even the squeaky wheel of injustice has allowed the dust to settle on the S.B.J.S.A.,” Kim declared. “The bill has always had strong support. In fact, in 1988 only last-minute lobbying by then-Speaker Peter Vallone, using the full force of the Speaker’s Office, flipped a ‘Yes’ vote to a ‘No’ vote, causing the bill to lose 4-3 in committee. “How can anyone state the bill has been collecting dust,” Kim said, “when in 2009 it had 32 sponsors, including the entire Small Business Committee and its chairman, David Yassky, who pledged, ‘We have to do something to help small businesses. It is not an option to do nothing. We cannot allow them to be pushed to the point of disappearance, which is what is happening now. The cornerstone foundation to save small businesses,’ Yassky said, ‘is the Small Business Survival Act.’ “ “The ‘collecting dust’ reference is especially strange,” he noted, “when you consider the bill Brewer is introducing was the same recommendation of the infamous ‘Limousine Commission’ from 30 years ago, which business and civil-liberty groups denounced as ‘the Landlord’s Bill’ to stop Ruth Messinger’s Arbitration Bill! It was dismissed as a biased commission made up of bankers, real estate, Wall St. and big businesses; it was never heard of again until this mummified bill was dug up, dusted off and reintroduced as the Brewer Bill — word for word!” So here we have a tale of two bills. This is the litmus test that tells the tale of de Blasio’s two cities. One city is stuck in the quagmire of “Cannot Do”; the other is the “Can Do” city of renewed hope, rejuvenated growth and a frenzy of artistic activity. Resurrect the S.B.J.S.A. Dust off the American Dream long buried in a hopeless hole of despair. Take Back NYC. We Can Do It!
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June 4, 2015
Reform of 7th Community Council is long overdue TALKING POINT BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
Last Saturday night, there was a big fight involving Hell Square bargoers at Stanton and Ludlow Sts. One man had already been whisked away in an ambulance when this bloody pair were photographed waiting to get medical attention.
for ways to deal with the Hell Square nightmare. The Seventh Precinct Community Council’s anti-democratic brushoff of the Dwellers is very similar to the treatment that the late Marcia Lemmon, Elsa Rensaa and I got in the late 1990s, the only difference being that we were summarily banned from attending further meetings. Lemmon was a Community Board 3 member, a vice president on the community council and lived in Hell Square. She had physical disabilities. She began to grow concerned at the growing number While all the police were of liquor licenses in dealing with the noise and our area and all the commotion down the block, new problems as- this guy was urinating in sociated with them. plain view on Stanton St. She asked us to come between Ludlow and Essex to the police meet- Sts. ings to observe and document what was going on. With the rise in problems associated with all the liquor licenses, she was somewhat baffled why President West — again, who did not live in the area — was seemingly so pro-liquor license. Why were her questions about the neighborhood’s diminishing quality of life being blown off? She wanted a record of the meetings and, be-
PHOTOS BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
clash between two leaders has erupted on the Lower East Side. On one side is Don West, the longtime president of the Seventh Precinct Community Council. On the other is Diem Boyd, the head of the LES Dwellers, a new group only a few years old, who is a single mother with a preteen daughter. The block Boyd lives on already had several liquor licenses on it when the empty building next to her was about to be turned into a three-story bar/restaurant and club, sparking her activism. As described on the LES Dwellers Web site, the area they call Hell Square is a small, four-blockby-five-block area between Norfolk and Allen Sts. and Houston and Delancey Sts. Hell Square has the largest concentration of liquor licenses in all of Community Board 3. According to Boyd, there are 171 liquor licenses in Hell Square. After the May 20 Seventh Precinct Community Council meeting, at which the public session was abruptly canceled, the LES Dwellers put out a press release calling for the council’s disbandment. The release was headlined: “Lower East Side Community calls for Dissolving Fraudulent 7th Precinct Community Council; Calls for 26-Year Council Leader Don West To Resign.” “His undemocratic action silenced the nearly 30 voices of residents and local business owners who came to address community concerns and safety,” the LES Dwellers charged. “For the last fifteen years under Mr. West’s leadership, the 7th Precinct Community Council has long been dominated by bar and nightlife operators with very few residents participating,” the Dwellers further accused. I live in Hell Square. I and a sizable majority of local residents understand Boyd’s complaints. The root of the problem is the oversaturation of liquor licenses, which has turned our area into an alcohol theme park. Imagine SantaCon every weekend. What I do not understand is the position of Don West, who does not even live in Hell Square. Why would the head of the Seventh Precinct “Community” Council want so many liquor licenses in this one area? And as the president of the community council, I thought he was supposed to be concerned with the cops’ safety and the connection of police to the residents of the community they serve. First, there is the noise, the vomit, the urine, the petty crime associated with this blitz of bars. Then consider the various kinds of predators who are attracted to the hundreds of barely legal drunks. On the police side, the Hell Square nightshift has to be a nightmare dealing with the problems caused by the, mostly, privileged, drunken youths. The fights, the antisocial behavior, the anti-authoritarian bravado, the vomit. Then how many times have we heard statements like, “My father will destroy you,” “Do you know who I am?” and so on. Whose side is West on? The LES Dwellers’ mistake was believing that the Seventh Precinct Community Council was the right place to go looking
cause the Seventh Precinct Community Council is a nonprofit organization, she wanted to see the books. Videotaping the meetings and pushing to see the books led to all of us being banned. I’ve never been back and I see no reason to go back. Not long after we got the old heave-ho, on my block, across the street from an elementary school, and right next door to a fully licensed club, we ended up with an illegal strip club, an illegal bottle club, group street brawls, shootings, stabbings, drunks and so on. Another point I found curious is that Community Council President West, who is a civilian and not a New York Police Department employee, had the use of a police parking permit, which he would throw on the dash of his car window, then park in a no-parking zone and go into a Hell Square bar for a drink. This abuse of his power was reported in The Villager. Another bizarre question is why would the Seventh Precinct Community Council have two — not one, but two — National Nights Out at the corner of Ludlow and Stanton Sts.? O.K., it is in the immediate vicinity of the bar that West frequented, but there are very few kids in this area. The few families with kids in that area tend not to let them hang out on the street, and very few kids showed up at either National Night Out. If the intention of these National Night Out events was to reach as large a community audience as possible, then both were total failures. The public-housing projects are where the larger mass of people reside. The New York City Housing Authority developments have crime, and a National Night Out there can symbolize a police interest in the area. Meanwhile, most of the crime in Hell Square is connected with the bars — which is what the LES Dwellers had come to the community council to address, yet were never given a chance to speak. Back to the question: Why are the Seventh Precinct Community Council and President West so in favor of liquor licenses in Hell Square? It makes no sense to me. June 4, 2015
June 4, 2015
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR LETTERS, continued from p. 18
Contrary to the various comments in the article, the actual park rules (which no one at Community Board 2 seems to understand) prohibit most of the musical performances that go on there, except for those involving a permit. Parks has been waiting for the chance to begin eliminating performers, while visual artists were completely eliminated in 2010. The pretense will be that they just want to eliminate “loud” music. You can be sure that when New York University does its next event there, no sound meters will be used, regardless of the volume. Under the actual park rules, none of the performers who earn a living there are legal. The performers in Washington Square Park have been operating on borrowed time since 2011, with the Parks Department, C.B. 2 and the conservancy all pretending that the rules still allow performers. C.B. 2 members should try reading the actual rules, rather than the PDF synopsis that Parks put out to mislead performers and the media. These are the actual rules: http://www.nycgovparks.org/rules/section-1-05 . This is the PDF of the synopsis: http://www.nycgovparks.org/pagefiles/57/expressive-matter-faq.pdf Robert Lederman Lederman is president, A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics)
The spirit of Thom strums on To The Editor: Re “Will Board 2 drum loud music out of Washington Square Park?” (news article, May 28): Save Washington Square for guitars, banjos and
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plucked-string instruments. Thom Manno is singing and playing his guitar as his dad gets ready for the world premiere of his opera about another Thomas, Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet. The opera is called “Do NOT Go Gentle.” That was advice Dylan Thomas was giving his own dad. These words may apply to Dylan Thomas, but not to our only son, Thomas. Thom Manno will always be a gentle soul. The photo I am using for the upcoming West Chelsea artists’ open studios tour on June 13 and 14 was taken about 10 years ago. In the photo, Thom is vigorously playing his guitar and singing in Washington Square. When Thom passed away at the age of 40, from swine flu and depression, a friend of his came to visit me and told me about his dream of Thom. In the dream, Thom is playing guitar and singing in heaven and saying, “It’s beautiful up here!” If you can’t get to the world premiere of “Do NOT Go Gentle,” by Robert Manno, in Phoenicia, N.Y., on Aug. 1, come see “The Gentle Thomas,” in the Thom Manno Gallery (Studio D 209), at Westbeth, 55 Bethune St., June 13-14, from noon to 6 p.m. Elizabeth Manno
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June 4, 2015
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June 4, 2015