X-treme pastrami, p. 9
East and West Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Noho, Little Italy and Chinatown
Volume 3, Number 17 FREE
June 6 - 19, 2013
Quinn to children’s garden developer: Tear down this fence! BY SARAH FERGUSON Council Speaker Christine Quinn is calling on developer Serge Hoyda to remove the fence his workers erected in the middle of the Children’s Magical Garden on the Lower East Side two weeks ago. In a strongly worded letter co-authored with Councilmember Margaret Chin, Quinn said she was “very disappointed” in
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Photo by Milo Hess
Bugging out at HOWL! Festival When Allen Ginsberg wrote of “angelheaded hipsters,” he probably wasn’t exactly thinking of this guy — but he still probably would have dug the look. For more HOWL! Festival photos, see Page 17.
Garden hero — or partier amid the plants? Or both? BY LINCOLN ANDERSON It was still unseasonably brisk on the first Sunday in May, as the members of Dias Y Flores Garden gathered around a picnic table in the place’s rear. Whitepetaled seedlets drifted down from a tree, and on the East Village garden’s floor, freshly fallen pink cherry blossoms
lay clustered in small clumps lining the paths’ edges. But, despite the tranquil natural scene, not all was well in the garden, at E. 13th St. between Avenues A and B, and the chill was not just a factor of air temperature. Along with the falling petals, the cherry blossoms and members’
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own vibrant planted plots, there was also an arbitrator, Roland Chouloute, deputy director of GreenThumb, the agency that oversees the community gardens. A few days earlier, Jeff Wright, one of the Dias Y Flores gardeners, had had his mem-
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Hoyda’s sudden move to fence off the portion of the garden owned by his development firm, Norfolk Development Corporation LLC. “We request that N.D.C. remove the fence, for you are not currently acting in the best interests of your local community,” their May 28 letter states. When N.D.C. dispatched
‘Wild Man of Soho’ is causing mayhem, fearful locals warn BY HEATHER DUBIN Residents and merchants from around Spring St. in Soho and Nolita turned out in force at last week’s Fifth Precinct Community Council meeting to voice concern about Richard Pearson, a mentally ill man who, they say, has verbally and physically assaulted pedestrians and retailers alike. Pearson is currently in jail after being arrested for throwing a brick at a person’s head
two weeks ago, for which he was charged with assault in the second degree, a felony. About 50 people, including representatives for state Senator Daniel Squadron and Assemblymember Deborah Glick, were there to address the issue of Pearson, and appealed to police to keep him off the streets. Deputy Inspector Gerard Dowling, the Fifth Precinct’s
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June 6 - 19, 2013
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For many, what irks them most about Citi Bike is its branding aspect. Indeed, some are calling it as much a brilliant advertising campaign as a novel transportation system. In tiny Petrosino Square, where artists and residents are battling a bike-share station placed in their park, Soho artist William Stricklin is taking the idea to its logical extreme. He’s been putting up four or five signs per day branding everything in the square, “Citi Tree,” “Citi Weeds,” “Citi Fence.” However, the signs are stolen every day, so every day he puts up new ones. Asked what exactly he means by the “Citi Eye” sign on the bikeshare kiosk, he responded, “ ‘Citi Eye’ refers to the giant Darth Vader-looking tower... Is it not for surveillance?” It seems even artist Minerva Durham, below right, who vehemently opposes the bike-share station, can’t escape being “Citi-fied.”
June 6 - 19, 2013
notebook MORUS GIVES YOU MORE: Bill di Paola, right, who with Laurie Mittelmann co-directs the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, proudly displayed MORUS’s CHARAS pop-up exhibit last Friday. The new Avenue C museum’s temporary display included vintage photos by Marlis Momber and newspaper clips, including The Villager article that broke the story of Gregg Singer’s plan for a 23-story “towering dorm,” and The Villager’s follow-up story on the developer’s scheme for an only slightly shorter, 19-story “Son of Towering Dorm.” The pop-up was taken down over the weekend, but there’s always something cool and educational going on at MORUS. Last Friday’s event focused on the battle to save the E. 13th St. squats from being evicted and featured presentations by Fly and Frank Morales and Cari Luna, reading from her new squatter novel, “The Revolution of Every Day.” A PEW TO A KILL? Preservationist Andrew Berman reports that developer Douglas Steiner apparently is beginning to remove objects, such as pews and windows, from the Mary Help of Christians Church and Rectory, at 12th St. and Avenue A. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation director notes, “This is probably a precursor to demolition.” Berman and fellow preservationists have pleaded with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and Department of Buildings to commission a full archaeological review of the site, since it once was home to a large Catholic cemetery. However, he told us, “It appears that the city is not requiring any sort of archeological study before digging might begin to determine if there are any bodies underneath which that might be disturbed.” COUNCIL PRIMARY TO OPTIMUS PRIME? One reaction to the recent negative article in the Post’s Page Six about Jenifer Rajkumar seems to be proving the adage that any publicity is good publicity. Page Six pummeled the City Council candidate, noting, for one, that her W-Spin nonprofit organization, intended to help young women around the world achieve leadership positions, never got off the ground. We hear that the sight of Rajkumar’s color photo in Page Six caused a casting agency to e-mail her an offer for a part in the next “Transformers” movie, specifically for a “gorgeous exotic female.” More intent on trying to unseat Margaret Chin than in becoming the next Megan Fox, Rajkumar turned the offer down. What did she think of the offer, and has she ever considered acting? we asked her. “I thought it was hilarious,” she told us. “No, I’m too much of a nerd at heart for movies.” DON’T PUSH HER! Meanwhile, Mary Johnson, a former Community Board 2 member, reported that she got a push-
Photo by Scoopy
poll call last week from the West Coast for Margaret Chin. “I received a telephone call...from a California number asking if I would answer some questions regarding candidates for the upcoming New York City elections,” Johnson said. “I agreed. The lady read off the names of candidates for each office and asked me to select the name of the candidate I was most likely to vote for...or to say ‘not sure yet.’ Then, abruptly, she homed in on Margaret Chin and her challenger, Jenifer Rajkumar... . I was asked to listen to a lot of praise and many embellished accomplishments of Margaret Chin during her almost three years as Councilmember for District 1. On completion of this recitation I was asked, ‘After hearing about all Margaret Chin has done for her constituents, has it affected how you will vote?’ Following that, the woman went on to tell me that Jenifer Rajkumar had no political experience, has lied about her law firm experience and did not divulge that she operates a not-for-profit organization. Next question, ‘Now that you have heard about Jenifer Rajkumar, has it affected how you will vote?’ Now I know what is meant by ‘push polls,’ ” Johnson said. “To me, this seems totally unethical and an unnecessary tactic. I wonder who else was polled? I haven’t heard of anyone else getting these calls.” Johnson said she kept the phone number. NEVER MIND THE BURNING CARS…: We know the Hudson River Park Trust is working hard to restore the power in the park’s Village section, but they’re not quite there yet. “The electrician is still troubleshooting,” the Trust’s spokesperson told us. However, we were relieved (well, pun intended, we guess) to
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hear him say, “All bathrooms opened this weekend, except for Pier 96 [at W. 56th St.]” Apparently several parked cars exploding into flames — what?! — inside the Pier 40 garage last Friday was not connected to the park’s post-Sandy electrical woes. The Fire Department was still conducting an investigation report of the incident. And, fortunately, we’re told, the fire that burned that cars didn’t further damage the park’s electrical infrastructure…and the bathrooms are still working.
June 6 - 19, 2013
Squat spirals into new flap with unpermitted stairs BY LINCOLN ANDERSON Rosario Dawson was famously discovered, at age 15, on her stoop at the squat at 544 E. 13th St., landing her a role in the film “Kids” and launching her acting career. Since then, Dawson’s star has steadily continued to rise, and she was recently seen in the psycho-thriller “Trance.” But the building where she grew up today lags far behind a group of other former East Village squats that have been undergoing conversion into permanently affordable co-ops. In a 2002 deal, the city sold 11 squats for $1 to the squatters, under a deal brokered by the United Homesteading Assistance Board. Many of these former squats have already completed the renovation and conversion process or are well on their way to doing so. But at 544 E. 13th St., it seems that renovations have barely started. There have been accusations of harassment and theft of utility services at the building, whose occupants are divided into two factions. On one side, controlling half the building’s units, are the Dawson family, their friends and allies, led by Rosario’s mother, Isabel Celeste. On the other side are the rest of the building’s tenants, who are hoping that the building’s conversion to an affordable co-op will someday be completed, and that services that have been nonexistent at times — including heat, gas and hot water — will be restored. Things came to a head this past week
Photo by Jefferson Siegel
The squat at 544 E. 13th St. is lagging far behind in the process of being converted to an affordable co-op.
when Celeste, without permits, reportedly drilled through the floor of her ground-floor apartment and then installed a metal spiral staircase down to the basement, in order to create a duplex for herself. She had recently evicted a tenant from the basement unit who was paying her rent, according to tenants. Over the weekend, several tenants reportedly saw the staircase through the window of the
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basement, where the light had been left on. As a result of complaints about the unpermitted work and vibrations through the building, on Thurs., May 30, Buildings Department inspectors and firefighters arrived and conducted a full inspection of the six-story tenement. It was determined that the rear external fire escape was not securely attached, causing a partial vacate order to be issued, for all the units in the building’s rear. Also, firefighters removed a leaning parapet on an unused elevator shaft, feeling it also posed a danger. D.O.B. ultimately issued a stop-work order for the entire building, which was still in effect as of press time. The Villager toured the building about a month ago, led by one of the tenants. The lobby was cluttered with discarded furniture and other junk, and a pile of bicycles were jammed in the bottom of an air shaft. The Villager has spoken to a handful of tenants, all of whom said they did not want their names printed because they fear reprisals. Celeste is physically imposing, and is frequently described in the tabloids as “Amazonian.” It’s said that shortly after the deal with the city, Celeste chased out a worker who was in the hallway trying to install an electrical conduit as part of the process of bringing the building up to code. Recently there was talk that UHAB was so frustrated with the state of the building that it would make it an affordable rental, and scrap the plan to make it an affordable co-op. In a telephone interview several weeks ago, asked about the situation at the building, Marina Metalios, a UHAB organizer, initially said, “UHAB has no comment.” However, she eventually said, “UHAB will work with  13th St. to become a co-op. … We would need to work with a functioning resident group there. We’ll work with them to become a co-op, that’s what we do.” The Villager called Isabel Celeste at around the same time.
“I’ve been here 27 years, and I raised my kids here,” she said. “People malign me because my daughter is a celebrity and they think that her paycheck is mine. Rosario is my kid and she was raised in this building, so we can’t be as horrible as people make us out to be.” Celeste also noted she does a lot of nonprofit work around the world, in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Ghana. “I live a life of service,” she said, adding, “I’m not what you would call your run-ofthe-mill Boricua goddess.” As for whether she and her family members have been taking over apartments in the building, she said, “That’s gossip,” adding, “Ask others what have they done in the past — sweat equity. Anytime any work gets done is when I’m here.” Two or three times during the conversation, Celeste burst into song, including a tune she said she learned at an amputee clinic in Sierra Leone, “Oh, oh, me love, my life — today!” “That’s my mantra,” she said of the African tune. She also said she has turned over a new leaf, and is not the former Isabel Celeste that people may have known. “I have not misbehaved for like a decade, not really-eeely misbehaved,” she said. In fact, she said, she prays daily for everyone in the building, including her “nemeses,” as she put it. “Everyone has a history, but my daughter is a celebrity or nobody would care about me,” she reflected. At another point, she said, “I’m taking everybody upward with me, upward into the light. … I’ve forgiven them,” she said of her critics. But at another point, she indicated she’s tired of their complaining. “You live in the building, but don’t help or work,” she said, before launching into an inspired verse of “Cry me a river!” It’s easy to see where Rosario gets her dynamic talent. She didn’t really want to get into details about the litany of charges and countercharges. “Just Google it, dude,” she said. “It’s all out there, it’s been written about.” When The Villager went by the building this past Tuesday, a young, heavily tattooed man having a beer on the stoop said Celeste was inside sleeping in her first-floor apartment and they had been told they had to be quiet. The Villager phoned a bit later and Celeste answered, sounding hoarse and saying she had a cold. “Things are fine as far as I’m concerned,” she said. “We’re going to get permits, we’re going to be working on the building, because the building needs it. I’m excited about it.” But when asked about the hole she had reportedly drilled in the floor and the spiral staircase, the conversation quickly ended. “O.K.,” she said, “you know what? Good bye,” and hung up the phone. A bit later on, a tenant reported seeing her through the basement window, sitting in a chair and looking at the spiral staircase.
June 6 - 19, 2013
June 6 - 19, 2013
Busted in buffet with big blade, but he wasnâ€™t a chef
Photos by Jefferson Siegel
Morgan Soto being removed from Centre Buffet restaurant after being arrested for allegedly carrying a 16-inch sword in Chinatown while acting erratically.
On the afternoon of Wed., May 29, a police traffic sergeant noticed a man acting erratically and carrying a 16-inch long sword near Canal St. in Chinatown. She gave chase while calling for backup. Within moments, uniformed and plainclothes officers from the Fifth Precinct cornered the man in a Chinese buffet restaurant at the corner of Howard and Centre Streets. The
man, identified as Morgan Soto, 35 of Kips Bay, was removed by ambulance to a hospital for a psychological exam. He was charged with criminal possession of a weapon, disorderly conduct and also false impersonation, because he gave police a phony last name, according to the Daily News. Soto reportedly has more than 30 prior arrests, mostly for drug-related offenses.
A plainclothes officer from the Fifth Precinct holding a 16-inch sword that allegedly had been carried by Morgan Soto.
June 6 - 19, 2013
poLIce bLotter Snuck in to shoot up skirt
Phone thieves in club
A woman, 27, told police that when she walked into her building at 10 Jones St. around 1 a.m. on Thurs., May 30, a man — later identified as Joseph Pagan, 38 — snuck in behind her, sidled up next to her in the building’s vestibule, held his cell phone under her skirt and took several photos. The woman said she didn’t even realize what Pagan was doing until she felt his hand against her leg. After the voyeur fled the scene, she immediately called police to report the incident. Officers were able to apprehend Pagan less than an hour later, during a canvass of the area, and cuffed him after a positive identification by the victim. Pagan was charged with unlawful surveillance at the scene, and a police source said that the District Attorney’s Office has also slapped him with a burglary charge.
Early on Fri., May 31, two men — Ali Afzal, 21, and Adnan Muzaffar, 28 — were allegedly working together, between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., at Tenjune nightclub, at 26 Little W. 12th St., to jostle, sneak up on, and otherwise distract women patrons in order to grab the phones out of their purses, police said. Toward the end of the pair’s spree, one of the victims, 22, informed the club’s management, who reported the activity and got a couple of officers to show up at the establishment. The young woman, along with the help of three other victims — all in their late teens or early 20s — pointed out the two thieves to cops, who quickly arrested them after finding all four of the stolen phones stashed in their pockets. Afzal and Muzaffar were both charged with grand larceny.
Peacemaker gets slashed A man, 38, told police he was trying to step in between his friends and another man, Carlos Dominguez, 22, to stop their dispute, which was occurring near the corner of W. 14th St. and Eighth Ave., around 12:30 a.m. Sat., June 1. But when the peacemaker informed the aggressor that he was about to call the authorities, Dominguez reportedly pulled out a knife and chased him down the street, eventually slashing him and leaving a minor cut on the man’s back. By that time, one of the victim’s friends had already called the police, and officers arrived in time to apprehend Dominguez before he could flee. He was charged with assault and criminal possession of a weapon.
Bodega worker pulls knife Police arrested a disgruntled bodega employee on the afternoon of Thurs., May 30, after he threatened a customer with a knife he had stashed behind the counter. The customer, 32, told officers that while he was inside the store, 256 W. 14th St. Food Corp., just east of Eighth Ave., around 4:30 p.m., he was trying to talk on his cell phone, and asked the employee, Khiballah Al-Aabli, 22, to quiet down after Al-Aabli began yelling at a co-worker. But instead of following that age-old mantra “The customer is always right,” Al-Aabli reportedly picked up the knife and waved it at the man, telling him, “This is my store!” and aggressively asking him, “Do we have a problem?” The customer, fearing for his life, called police, who arrived minutes later. When officers spoke to both men, Al-Aabli apparently realized his error and willingly turned over the knife. He was charged with menacing and criminal possession of a weapon.
Phone-photo fracas Two women turned from friends to enemies all because of a cell phone photo, and now one of them is facing charges after a heat-of-the-moment brawl. The alleged victim, 44, told police that while she was waiting with her friend Vanessa Farley, 43, for a southbound A train at the W. Fourth St. subway station around 11 p.m. on Tues., May 21, she showed Farley a photo she had recently taken on her phone’s camera. The shot was apparently so offensive to Farley that she smashed the phone on the ground — breaking it beyond repair — and then attacked her friend by biting and scratching her ear, neck and finger, police said. The victim reported the incident to police several days later, and Farley was arrested May 30, and charged with assault and criminal mischief.
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June 6 - 19, 2013
Giving the public a real say on NYCHA infill plan TALKING POINT By Brad Hoylman and Brian Kavanagh Leasing off the basketball courts of lowincome New Yorkers to build luxury apartments might sound extreme, but that’s among the proposals by the New York City Housing Authority to raise revenue. Earlier this year, NYCHA announced it was targeting 14 sites, including parking lots, playgrounds and even a community center, in eight Manhattan public housing developments for so-called “infill development,” in order to raise about $50 million annually and help close gaps in its capital budget. Subject only to the approval of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the authority plans to lease the sites to private developers for the construction of new high-rise apartment towers in which 80 percent of the units would be market rate. There’s no doubt that NYCHA is in financial trouble. The authority predicts that its unmet capital needs will more than double to $13.4 billion over the next five years. Its operations budget has been underfunded by $750 million in the past decade. And we’re already seeing the effects — in staff layoffs, youth and community center closures, and multi-year lag times in critical apartment repairs. Residents regularly call our offices seeking help in cutting through red tape on maintenance requests; certainly
NYCHA needs to manage its resources better and expedite critical repairs, but there’s no denying that money plays a role in these issues. Is the infill plan the best option for ameliorating NYCHA’s financial problems? It certainly isn’t the only option. Currently, the city requires NYCHA to pay $100 million a year for police, sanitation and property taxes that are not imposed on other public agencies or low-income housing providers. Whether or not infill development goes forward, these payments — twice the amount of revenue the proposed infill might generate
housing authority’s dire need for cash. NYCHA officials have also made informal promises to residents of affected developments that revenue collected from infill development would be used to make repairs to their developments before being allocated to public housing in other parts of the city, though no funding ratio has been defined. There have also been promising ideas about improving security and energy resiliency for residents — an issue that especially resonates on the Sandy-ravaged Lower East Side — but again, there are as yet no details available
Any disposition of the housing authority’s land or buildings should undergo the city’s ULURP review. — should be eliminated. And on its own terms, the infill development plan raises many questions that have yet to be answered. Since the beginning of the year, NYCHA officials have met with elected officials, tenant associations and the broader public to pitch the proposal. But these pitches have been scant on details and heavy on emotional appeals. Rather than discussing specifics about the proposed new residential towers, the presentations have focused primarily on the
about how this would be accomplished. What’s missing in the infill process is a public forum in which fundamental questions can be addressed and authoritatively answered. Do New Yorkers believe that infill development with mostly market-rate housing is the best use of scarce public land? Would public housing residents, and New York as a whole, get the best possible deal under current plans? What would be required of developers to ensure that any new residential towers are designed with the concerns of the surrounding communities in mind? Even if we conclude infill can go forward at some sites, which ones make sense and with what conditions or limitations? Residents have alternately crowded into community rooms seeking answers at so-called “engagement meetings” and boycotted these same meetings upon hearing from others that the authority isn’t approaching them as honest brokers truly interested in resident input. Many have complained that direct questions to the housing authority have either been ignored or — worse — challenged. For example, one NYCHA official responded to a question at a recent Campos Plaza meeting with this retort: “Come up with a better idea or shut up.” We have suggested improvements to this process, such as it is, and NYCHA has accepted some of them. And the Assembly and the City Council have both held public hearings that have been informative. But here’s a big idea for NYCHA: Subject the infill plan to New York City’s formal land use review process, which ensures transparency and accountability and results in proposals that are better for both developers and the communities in which they build — if and when projects are approved. The Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) includes many checks and balances for major land use actions, including environmental impact studies, a formal role for community boards, the borough president and the City Planning Commission, and a binding decision by the City Council approving or disapproving each project. In fact, any redevelopment of public land owned by a city agency is already subject to ULURP. But because NYCHA is not technically a city agency — it
was created by state law — the authority is not currently bound by the same requirement. That is why we are sponsoring the “NYCHA Real Property Public Review Act,” which would require that any disposition of land or buildings by NYCHA be subject to ULURP. With the leadership of Assembly prime sponsor and Housing Committee Chairperson Keith Wright, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Public Housing Committee Chairperson Rosie Mendez, and the support of other local officials who have played an active role in the infill debate, like state Senator Daniel Squadron and Councilmember Margaret Chin, this legislation would help ensure that residents of public housing and surrounding communities can help shape the future of their neighborhoods through a fair and transparent process. With both clear timelines and requisite opportunities for public input, ULURP would provide the authority with a clear and welltrodden path for community engagement from the ground up. The ULURP process will also enable public housing residents to avail themselves of the same community planning resources that residents of private housing use to evaluate and weigh in on major land use actions. It will bring NYCHA in line with other mayoral agencies, and ensure that the City Council has binding authority in this extremely consequential privatization of publicly owned land. The need for this legislation is clear. According to an August 2008 report by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer entitled, “Land Rich, Pocket Poor,” there are 30.5 million square feet of unused development rights in NYCHA developments throughout Manhattan alone. In other words, there might not be any plan for infill development in your backyard yet, but with all those unused air rights, such a plan may not be too far off. With 630,000 public housing residents and Section 8 recipients, NYCHA is the largest public housing authority in the country and the largest landlord in New York City; it is also one of the oldest, with some buildings nearing 80 years old. To serve all of these people, and maintain these aging buildings, there’s no question that NYCHA needs more money. But it also needs the support of residents, and the partnership of their communities, to tackle the challenges of preserving and expanding affordable housing in the 21st century. Infill development has the potential to generate some revenue to pay for long-overdue capital projects — but at what cost to NYCHA’s relationship with its residents and neighborhood stakeholders? NYCHA will only score a win for the communities it serves by giving them a say and adhering to the standard public review process required of every other developer in the city. It’s about more than just basketball courts, playgrounds and community centers. The integrity of community-based planning is at stake. Hoylman is state senator for the 27th District; Kavanagh is assemblymember for the 74th District
June 6 - 19, 2013
Photos by Tequila Minsky
125 years at famed katz’s Deli; It’s a lot to digest Katz’s Deli, at E. Houston and Ludlow Sts., celebrated its 125th anniversary Sunday with a food-filled affair, featuring pastrami-eating and pickle-bobbing contests. In the pastrami chew-down, the East Village’s own mysterious Eater X put up a good fight, but was edged out by hungrier opponents. For eating the most 7-ounce sandwich halves in 10 minutes — 25, to be exact — Joey Chestnut won the coveted Gilded Pastrami Sandwich Championship Trophy, along with $7,500 in prize money. Runners-up included Matt Stonie, Notorious B.O.B. and Eater X, with 21, 18.5 and 16 sandwiches, respectively. Councilmember Margaret Chin, below, made the scene, hanging with Katz’s owner Alan Dell, left, and Bob Zuckerman, executive director of the Lower East Side Business Improvement District, right. The event was also tied in with the BID’s Day Life series of events, featuring the best of local food and fashion vendors.
June 6 - 19, 2013
Photo by Sharon Woolums
Bono and The Edge get some el-eh-vay-tion on 8th St. Bono, The Edge and drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. of U2 (bassist Adam Clayton might have been hidden from view) performed on top of the world-renowned Electric Lady Studios on W. Eighth St. last Friday, as seen in this photo snapped by Sharon Woolums from her window across the street. Bono later came down and posed with fans, including Woolums, right, but the shot would have come out better if the singerâ€™s handler had allowed flash.
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June 6 - 19, 2013
Yes, make bones about it: Grave moment for church BY LINCOLN ANDERSON On May 22, East Village community members and local preservation groups, in a bid to stop the demolition of Mary Help of Christians Church, called for a full archaeological review of the site. A Catholic cemetery was once located there, with possibly as many as 41,000 people’s remains, they noted. Joining the rally, outside the shuttered church at E. 12th St. west of Avenue A, were representatives of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, the Historic Districts Council and the East Village Community Coalition. The historic house of worship was made famous by Allen Ginsberg, who lived across the street from it and referred to it in his poetry. The property — including its spacious blacktop yard stretching down to 11th St. along Avenue A — was recently purchased by developer Douglas Steiner. Demolition permits have been issued for the church, its 150-year-old rectory and its 90-year-old school building. The opponents note that the site’s large, blacktop yard “would allow a great deal of space for new development without demolishing any of the historic buildings.” Thus far, however, the developer has refused to consider reuse of the historic buildings. While a 2008 rezoning that community groups fought for prevents a high-rise from being developed on this site, the current plans would replace all the buildings with new luxury
Andrew Berman, executive director of G.V.S.H.P., at right, speaking at the May 22 rally outside Mary Help of Christians Church.
residential development and retail space. The church was formerly the site of the cemetery of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where thousands of people were buried starting in the early 19th century following the Asian cholera outbreak of 1832. This was only the third — and at the time the largest — Catholic cemetery in New York. While the graveyard was moved to Calvary Cemetery in Queens in 1909, it is not known
if all remains were removed and cleared from the site or if some still lie in burial underneath, the preservationists contend. Records only state that 3,000 to 5,000 people’s remains were relocated. They recently wrote to Steiner, as well as the Department of Buildings and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, calling for a complete archaeological evaluation of the site, “as required by law,” in such cases
before any work proceeds, to prevent disturbance of any burial site or human remains that may still be there. “It would be a tragic waste and shame if these beautiful buildings, so full of New York’s history, were demolished for expediency’s sake,” said Andrew Berman, G.V.S.H.P. executive director. “Their rich and intricate architecture cannot be duplicated, and would only be replaced by something much less distinctive and precious. A smart developer would recognize that by preserving and reusing these historic buildings, and building on the large adjacent yard, he would not only be doing a good deed, but creating an infinitely more unique and valuable development than simply bulldozing the entire site and starting anew.” Said Sara Romanoski, managing director of the East Village Community Coalition, “The church buildings are a testament to the Italian immigrant legacy in New York City and remain living monuments. As a community, we ask the developer to recognize the opportunity for incorporating these architecturally significant buildings into the new development.” Spokesperson Lisi de Bourbon told The Villager, “The Landmarks Preservation Commission has no jurisdiction over this site, and cannot require any parties to conduct archaeology. However, we have shared a list of accredited archaeologists with the site’s owner in order to assist in any effort to conduct an archaeological study in advance of starting work at the site.”
June 6 - 19, 2013
Pitting bikes vs. art Well, bike-share is off and rolling in New York City, and as of this past weekend, the new program is now open to users on a daily and weekly basis, as opposed to annual membership. The Citi Bikes are pretty much everywhere. Every tenth cycle or so whizzing by on the Hudson River Park bikeway, for example, seems to be one. You can spot them, not only by their distinctive blue hue, but by the fact that their lights are always on — thanks to a reserve power source built up from the users’ pedaling. No, admittedly, these aren’t streamlined racing bikes or even fairly fast hybrids. But they’re solid, serviceable. And it’s good to see that they’re being used, and that more folks are out biking, be they New Yorkers or tourists. There have been glitches and problems, for sure. On Tuesday, we saw a bike-share mechanic replacing a credit-card swiper in the Citi Bike kiosk at 11th St. and Second Ave. — apparently someone had poured a salty substance into the slot, disabling it. But the mechanic seemed very capable, and it’s good to see this program is also creating jobs. However, as everyone is well aware by now, the siting of the bike-share docking stations has been a cause of concern for many residents and merchants. The city’s Department of Transportation has addressed some of the complaints, by shortening certain docks, such as on Bank St., or, in at least one case — on Renwick St., in Hudson Square — by completely relocating the station to another street. We hear the Fire Department has also gotten some docks shifted where they were blocking fire trucks’ ability to make turns. Without weighing in on every bike dock in the Downtown area, we do think one location, in particular, presents a unique situation that D.O.T. needs to consider. We’re referring to Petrosino Square, at Spring and Lafayette Sts., in Soho. As area residents have been saying in their protests and petition — and as The Villager reports in this week’s issue — Petrosino Square has regularly hosted public art displays since 1984. This is, after all, Soho, a neighborhood world-renowned — or at least once renowned — for its artistic life. Although Broadway and Prince and Spring Sts. have long since morphed into glitzy shopping strips, the artistic spirit lives on in Soho, and in what today many call Nolita, as seen in the creative protests that denizens have been doing in the square ever since the bike docks arrived. What’s more, it’s clear that, in Petrosino Square’s recent renovation, the Parks Department designed the triangle’s northern end to be open, in part to accommodate public art. Indeed, Parks e-mails leaked to The Villager by a Petrosino activist state this, and also make it clear that Bill Castro, Parks Manhattan borough commissioner, felt it was inappropriate to site the bike-share dock here. Yet, D.O.T. went ahead and put the bike-share dock right on the spot designated — or, at least, seemingly designated — for public art. Of course, the number-one concern is safety. Cleveland Place, on the square’s eastern edge, actually does get slammed by traffic fairly often, and this five-way intersection has some confusing traffic patterns. If the Petrosino bikeshare dock can be relocated into the street bed somewhere nearby — without compromising the safety of cyclists, pedestrians or drivers — then, by all means, we support this. From what we’ve seen, most of the bike docks actually are in the street bed, so it’s not clear why this Soho location had to be different. Clearly, the Petrosino protesters are fiercely protective of this small public space, and want to see it restored as a display area for public art. The record of 30 years of public art isn’t going away — and neither will the protesters. There’s a simple way D.O.T. can end this standoff: Just move the bike-share station.
letters to the editor C.M.G.: It takes a Village To The Editor: Re “Trouble in paradise as owner fences off part of kids’ garden” (news article, May 23): I want to correct the information on my participation in the Children’s Magical Garden. I have participated as the director of More Gardens!, a community garden advocacy group, since 1998, and am a 23-year resident of the Lower East Side, who has in the past two years become a full-time member of the Children’s Magical Garden. I want to give credit to the committed members, leadership and organizations who have put their hands in the dirt and made the community the green oasis it is today. Dave Currence, the Children's Magical Garden treasurer, stood his ground with a hardy bunch of gardeners, defeating the so-called “rat plague” from close-by developments. Etsuko Kazai has brought many children to celebrate Children’s Day and to share the community garden with many. She is currently folding 1,000 origami cranes to make her wish to save our community garden a reality, and is also our Web developer. Eve Berkson shares her artistic and musical talents with our youth, helping to organize many events and community art projects. This generation’s youth leaders — Amina Begum, 18, and Feng Chen, 17 — who have been coming to the garden since they were 11 and younger, lead garden activities for younger children and their peers. Among her other responsibilities with C.M.G., our community garden director Kate Temple-West has been mentoring the youth in the garden for many years, as well as leading collaborations with surrounding schools and children’s organizations. The community garden is also what it is thanks to the collaboration with teachers, students and organizations from School for Global Leaders, Lower East Side Prep, Marta Valle, P.S. 20, Grand Street Settlement’s after-school program and summer camp, the Cub Scouts, Fiver Children’s Foundation, the Head Start program and Times Up! Also we are grateful to community members and local businesses who have made important financial donations over the years to keep our community garden going. Aresh Javadi Javadi is executive director, More Gardens!, and a board member, NYC Community Garden Coalition
Dorm protest is just hot air To The Editor: Re “Dormitory foes warn Cooper: Don’t get in bed with Singer!” (news article, May 16): If the elected officials really wanted to help the community they would be rewriting the law so that a dorm is not a
“community use,” because really — it’s not! Just by definition a dorm is for people who come from some other community. Marching and speeches are fine, but they will not prevent this from happening again and again in the Village. In fact, elected folks love it when we protest, because they think this gets it our of our system, and then they can say we were heard (just not responded to). Laws must be amended. Anything less from the elected leaders is just posing for votes. After they win re-election, they will care little if the neighborhood gets screwed. Ralph Lewis
The ‘Rapture’ is still there To The Editor: Re “Forget the couture, ‘Just Chaos’ puts focus on punks” (news article, May 23): Debbie looks terrific! I have some great photos of her back in the day from when I shot for Rolling Stone and she is just as naturally sexy now as she was then. Excuse me. I am going to do some sit-ups now. Lawrence White
So we get rejected rack? To The Editor: Re “D.O.T. backpedals, removes Renwick rack in Hudson Sq.” (news article, May 23): We already have a set of racks on MacDougal and Prince Sts., just a block north from these additional racks. We need our extremely limited park space for neighborhood R&R, not just for tourism. These racks from Renwick St. should not have been re-sited in Soho Square, anyway, based on the promise made by Commissioner Forgione, since it is only one block away from Hudson Square. Please place these bike racks in another location that does not inundate the tiny streets of this part of the city with drunken, twowheeled weekend tourists and other non-local bike riders. Susan Freel E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to email@example.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The East Villager, Letters to the Editor, 515 Canal St., Suite 1C, NY, NY 10013. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The East Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. The East Villager does not publish anonymous letters.
WE NEWSP June 6 - 19, 2013
Will a Democrat for mayor stand up for small stores? TALKING POINT By Sharon Woolums After listening intently to each candidate at the Village Independent Democratic club’s mayoral forum, I had a nagging sense there was an elephant in the room. And it wasn’t the Republican symbol. No, I was in a room full of Democrats. The elephant in the room was what was not debated: the closing of our small businesses and a lack of criticism of a 20-year Republican mayoral economic philosophy for New York City that many feel is a disaster for small businesses and the middle class. All the candidates speak of small businesses as the city’s economic backbone and job creators. Yet, at the forum, there was no talk of the dire situation these merchants face. The very stability of our community hangs on the issue of these stores closing. And the politicians must surely know that small businesses cannot compete with banks “too big to fail” and national franchises for rental space on Main Street. So I did my research. Statistics are staggering and speak to a crisis. Between 1994 and 2012 under Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, the Landlord and Tenants Commercial Courts issued 143,202 warrants to evict businesses. Another estimated 235,000 businesses walked away without a court fight. In short, up to 380,000 small businesses closed in New York City under Republican economics. Of all the economic problems facing our government, rent gouging, which is causing the closing of our mom-and-pop stores, is the easiest to resolve, restoring the American dream for our small businesses. There is a bill now pending before the City Council, the Small Business Jobs Survival Act (S.B.J.S.A.). The original version was introduced in 1986 by Councilwoman Ruth Messinger to save small businesses from sky-high rent gouging resulting from out-of-control real estate speculation in New York City; as well as the unscrupulous practice of landlords demanding “cash under the table” to remain in business; oppressive and unreasonable lease renewals, often doubling or tripling rents; and retail tenants even being forced to pay the landlord’s property tax. A survey of Hispanic small businesses by the U.S.A. Latin Chamber of Commerce showed the No. 2 reason small businesses failed was due to paying their landlords’ commercial property tax. All of the current mayoral candidates are aware of the S.B.J.S.A. In fact, in the last election, four of the candidates took strong positions on the bill. Posters highlighting the bill’s supporters were put in the windows of small businesses. John Liu and Bill de Blasio, who had made the bill a central topic of their campaigns, were featured in these posters. Other candidates, however, got negative posters, including Christine Quinn for stopping the bill in the City Council and Bill Thompson for not fighting for it. Many now feel Liu and de Blasio have abandoned the issue that they once championed to get elected as comptroller and public advocate, respectively. When candidates forget what they promised only four years ago we have to remind them! We have to remind them to revisit this crucial issue and make it the top priority it must be.
Four years ago, New York City Hispanic bodega owners endorsed John Liu, Bill de Blasio and Tony Avella due to their support of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. The sign reads: “Dear customers, please vote for [Avella, Liu and de Blasio]. The candidates are fighting to save small businesses and jobs. Your vote counts! Please vote.” After deciding Avella’s chances of winning were slim, they made a second poster featuring only Liu and de Blasio.
Why in this election, have none of the candidates mentioned S.B.J.S.A.’s existence? In the last election, this bill had the sponsorship of the City Council’s entire Small Business Committee, including its chairperson, David Yassky, and 32 members of the City Council, including both then-Councilmembers Liu and de Blasio. May we interpret this new silence to mean New York City will remain a liberal Democratic town continuing a conservative Republic economic philosophy regardless of which party we elect? A major study was released in 2009 by the U.S.A. Latin Chamber of Commerce showing the true crisis state of our city’s small businesses. Small Business Committee Chairperson Yassky opened the public hearing on the bill stating, “I believe that we absolutely have to do something. Period. It’s not an option to do nothing.” Either our small businesses face a crisis and can survive only with government intervention or they are not in a crisis and do not need help. The voters who know the truth have a right to know how their candidates actually stand on this critical issue.
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515 Canal Street, Unit 1C, NY, NY 10013 Phone: (212) 229-1890 • Fax: (212) 229-2790 On-line: www.thevillager.com head E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org BY DUNCAN OSBORNE
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The Villager (USPS 578930) ISSN 0042-6202 is published every week by NYC Community Media LLC, 515 Canal Street, Unit 1C, New York, N.Y. 10013 (212) 229-1890. Periodicals Postage paid at New York, N.Y. Annual subscription by mail in Manhattan and Brooklyn $29 ($35 elsewhere). Single copy price at office and newsstands is $1. The entire contents of newspaper, including advertising, are copyrighted and no part may be reproduced without the express permission of the publisher - © 2013 NYC Community Media LLC.
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The Publisher shall not be liable for slight changes or typographical errors that do not lessen the value of an advertisement. The publisher’s liability for others errors or omissions in connection with an advertisement is strictly limited to publication of the advertisement in any subsequent issue.
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For those candidates who know small businesses are in a crisis, and that the only real solution is the S.B.J.S.A., this bill is still alive in the City Council…waiting for a candidate with the political will, leadership and courage to fight and stand up to the political machine and the powerful real estate industry to get it passed into law. This bill may serve here as a litmus test for the differences in the political parties and the candidates’ willingness to engage on this issue in depth rather than merely spouting platitudes. Any of the candidates’ jobs-creation initiatives, loan programs or economic stimulus plans would be of little value if the businesses continue to close. Hopefully, this issue and a platform distinguishing itself from a failed Republican philosophy will be readdressed and re-enter the debate now that Anthony Weiner, “the scrappy political street fighter” as The New York Times May 22 article calls him, has announced his candidacy. Weiner has claimed, “The ideas that I have will set me apart.” And he will, according to the Times, “likely…depict his opponents as machine liberals…unprepared for the kind of tough financial decisions confronting the city.” The recently deceased Senator Lautenberg nailed it when he said, “If one of the parties is shameless, the other party cannot afford to be spineless.” For this mayoral election, the stakes are high for every middleclass and small-business family. Business advocacy groups predict that if government does not pass the S.B.J.S.A. soon, within 16 years our mom-and-pop Main Street businesses will become extinct. We who love our neighborhoods must demand that one Democratic candidate distinguish him- or herself from the failed 20-year Republican economic policies and reflect a true progressive economic philosophy. I’m not an economist but I — and you — see, hear, discuss, listen, learn and read, and we feel that something is wrong, something has changed, and that we are in trouble and that we must fix it, and that doing nothing is not working. Actions speak louder than words. The record speaks for itself. I have one vote, and so do you. Our vote en masse speaks louder than empty words. Some say money talks, but so do our votes, if we cast them in droves at the polls. And if just one candidate speaks to this important issue, we will prove our one vote is worth more — yes, more valuable than a corporation’s coffers or a real estate’s lobbying dollar. Real estate campaign donations and lobbyists’ influence should never be more valuable to candidates than any one vote from a constituent who has felt the pinch from losing his or her job; or from those investing life savings and years of work into a store, only to have their businesses fail because of ridiculously high rent hikes; or of a young native New Yorker or immigrant aspiring to the American dream only to experience a nightmare of impossibility; or finally the mom and pop who dreamed of passing on their business to their children. If ever there was a time for an elected official to stand up for “the people,” it is now. For it’s not just our quaint stores that are disappearing — but also the faith in knowing whom our government actually serves. That candidate, whoever it may be, may soon inhabit the lovely Gracie Mansion that has sadly been vacant for 11½ years.
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June 6 - 19, 2013
Petrosino Square has seen its share of public art displays By Lincoln Anderson A vocal core of residents around Soho’s Petrosino Square are protesting the siting of a new Citi Bike docking station on the triangular island’s northern end, saying it has “usurped” a spot traditionally used for public art displays.. Indeed, the spot, formerly known as Kenmare Square, has been home to public art since 1984, when a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council-sponsored installation, Lisa Hoke’s “Molecular Motion,” first graced it.
Photo by Lincoln Anderson
New Whitney right on track The Whitney Museum’s new Downtown building is fast rising on Gansevoort St. next to the High Line’s southern end, just east of the Hudson River Park. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, it is slated to open in 2015. The new building will include more than 50,000 square feet of indoor galleries and 13,000 square feet of outdoor exhibition space on a series of rooftops facing the High Line. The building will also sport a huge space for temporary exhibitions — roughly 18,000 square feet — which will be the city’s largest column-free museum gallery.
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‘Greenery had to be taken up to accommodate the large steel plate to which this artwork is anchored, which demonstrates in itself why we need the installation space.’ Georgette Fleischer Other notable works included Stephen Whisler’s monolithic “Tongue of Fire,” in 1985; Rudolph Serra’s unnamed white, ball-like piece perched between the square’s entrance piers in 1988; “Let Them Die in the Streets,” a series of signs about the AIDS crisis and homelessness ringing the square’s fence by the ACT UP artists collective Gran Fury, in 1990; and Minsuk Cho’s 2007 “Ring Dome,” constructed of white hula hoops. In 1987, the park within the square was renamed for New York police Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino (1860-1909), who was a pioneer in the fight against the mafia. Other works in the triangle, at Spring and Lafayette Sts., have included pieces sponsored by Storefront for Art and Architecture, such as Nancy Hwang’s “S: An Urban Oasis,” in 2002, in which people could get their hair cut underneath potted palm trees; and Kim Holleman’s “A Park in a Trailer in a Park,” 2006, featuring a trailer with a park constructed inside it. From 2008 to 2011 Petrosino Square was closed for renovation. After it reopened, public art exhibits continued in the open space at its northern corner, including Carole Feuerman’s “Survival of Serena,” from May to September 2012; and Jessica Feldman’s “The Glass Sea,” from October to November 2012. The latest public artwork, installed last month by the Parks Department and running through September, is Tracey Emin’s “Roman Standard.” But this last piece, critics say, is not in the art-installation space taken over by Citi Bike, but rather in a green, planted area
inside the fenced-in park. “Greenery had to be taken up to accommodate the large steel plate to which this artwork is anchored, which demonstrates in itself why we need the installation space,” said Georgette Fleischer, founder of Friends of Petrosino Square. Images of the public artworks were provided to The Villager by Fleischer, fellow Soho activist Pete Davies and, in some cases, by the artists themselves. Davies noted that the L.M.C.C. Web site states that 30 years’ worth of archives held in the organization’s offices at the World Trade Center were destroyed on 9/11. “So, much of their record may have been lost,” he said. The Villager also reached out the city’s Parks Department to see if it had images of the 30-plus years of art displays in Petrosino Square, but Parks never responded. However, Fleischer forwarded to The Villager e-mails from Parks officials showing that they clearly understood the historic role of public art in the square. After Fleischer reached out via e-mail to Christopher Crowley, a designer with Parks, to convey the community’s concerns, Crowley, in turn, e-mailed Steve Simon, Parks chief of staff, on April 5, saying, “Hi Steve, Georgette is right. There was a lot of effort during the design phase to preserve the front triangle of Petrosino for art display. This is why there is a lack of green in this area.”
‘Please let D.O.T. Borough Commissioner Forgione and the Director of Bike-Share know that Manhattan Parks Commissioner Bill Castro agrees that this is not an appropriate location for a bike station.’ Steve Simon Less than an hour later, Simon e-mailed Colleen Chatergoon, community liaison for Margaret Forgione, Manhattan borough commissioner of the Department of Transportation, regarding the community opposition to a bikeshare rack at Petrosino Square: “Colleen: Please let D.O.T. Borough Commissioner Forgione and the Director of Bike-Share know that Manhattan Parks Commissioner Bill Castro agrees that this is not an appropriate location for a bike station.”
June 6 - 19, 2013
Public artworks in Petrosino Square since 1984 have included, top row, from left: “Molecular Motion,” by Lisa Hoke, in 1984; and Stephen Whisler’s “Tongue of Fire,” in 1985; middle row, from left: Rudolph Serra’s unnamed piece perched between the square’s entrance piers, in 1988; and “Let Them Die in the Streets,” a series of signs about the AIDS crisis and homelessness that ringed the square’s fence by the ACT UP artists collective Gran Fury, in 1990; bottom row, from left, Minsuk Cho’s 2007 “Ring Dome,” made of white hula hoops; and, more recently, Carole Feuerman’s “Survival of Serena,” from May to September 2012.
June 6 - 19, 2013
Quinn to L.E.S. garden developer, ‘Remove the fence’ Continued from page 1 a security detail and work crew to fence the lot on May 15, Hoyda’s reps said they did so to protect N.D.C. against liability claims that might arise if anyone were injured there. Last week, C.M.G. gardeners took out a $2 million insurance policy to indemnify Hoyda and N.D.C. against any lawsuits due to injury in the garden. “This should allow you to continue sharing your unused property, as you have done for the past 10 years,” Quinn and Chin wrote. “By suddenly and forcefully putting up the fence,” their joint letter continues, “N.D.C. has threatened this local neighborhood treasure, damaging the garden and its plantings in the process. Given that there are no immediate plans to develop the plot, we believe that N.D.C. should remove the fence and continue to allow the Children’s Magical Garden to flourish on the corner of Stanton and Norfolk Streets.” Borough President Scott Stringer is also urging Hoyda to back off. “The Children’s Magical Garden has a rich history of serving the Lower East Side’s gardeners, students and residents,” Stringer said in a press statement. “I encourage the property owner to begin a dialogue with the gardeners and community members to find an amenable solution for this precious community resource.” Hoyda, representatives of N.D.C. and Hoyda’s property management firm, S&H Equities, did not respond to requests for comment. Hoyda purchased his small interior lot for $180,000 in 2003. The garden’s other two lots are owned by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Last week, Hoyda reached out to H.P.D. to reaffirm his interest in partnering with the agency to develop the entire garden site as a mix of affordable and market-rate housing. When Hoyda first pitched that plan back in 2006, Community Board 3 rejected it and instead urged the developer to work with the gardeners, greening groups and city officials to find some common ground. H.P.D. says it has made no commitment to develop its lots. “At this point, the proposal [from N.D.C.] is still in a very preliminary state, and there hasn’t been a decision regarding whether or not to move forward,” H.P.D. spokesperson Eric Bederman told The Villager, adding, “We are still working closely with Councilmember Chin and her staff to assess available options with relation to these sites.” The turf battle over this L.E.S. haven comes at a time when gardens and the importance of green space are receiving heightened attention from City Hall and on the campaign trail. At a recent mayoral forum, Speaker Quinn jousted with her opponents on how to preserve and potentially expand the number of community gardens, including those occupying lands under the jurisdiction of
Photo by Sam Spokony
Cynthia Marcelino, 17, and Dalia Rodriguez, 18, put up signs on May 20 to protest develop Serge Hoyda’s actions on land used by the Children’s Magical Garden. Both are high school students who attend classes across the street from the garden, and Rodriguez is one of the garden’s youth leaders. Someone later tore down the signs, and Hoyda’s workers are suspected.
H.P.D. State Senator Daniel Squadron, who is running for public advocate, just penned an op-ed for Sunday’s New York Times calling on the need to help finance parks in underserved communities. “We know that the Lower East Side and other communities in need across the city are lacking in open space and green space. I’ll continue to work with the gardeners and our community to find a solution — and I urge the property owner to work with us,” Squadron said of the situation at C.M.G. According to a survey by the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks, Council District 1 ranks 32nd in the amount of parkland per resident — and that area actually includes the 22-acre Battery Park, on the tip of Manhattan. It was that lack of green space that drove community members to begin clearing what were then abandoned, rubble-strewn lots festering with rats, garbage and junkies 30 years ago. They put up their own fence and began planting peach trees and tomatoes and organizing after-school programs for local children. But C.M.G. was never offered a GreenThumb lease, in large part because a portion of the land was privately owned. C.M.G. has been through its ups and downs over the years, particularly after the death of its co-founder Carmen Rubio in 2005 and the subsequent departure of her partner Alfredo Feliciano, who had been the primary caretaker for the site. But three years ago, the garden revived under the new leadership of longtime member Kate Temple-West and Aresh Javadi of the activist group More Gardens! Working with a pro-bono attorney, they and other local residents formed a nonprofit organization to run the garden. C.M.G. now serves as an outdoor classroom for students at four neighboring
schools and is utilized by groups like the Cub Scouts and Grand Street Settlement, which brings kids there as part of its summer camp and after-school programs. Over the winter, C.M.G. housed 18 chickens on loan from the environmental group Earth Matter, which had been keeping them at its compost project on Governors Island.
Now, gardeners are fighting to save this children’s oasis. They launched a petition calling on Mayor Bloomberg and elected officials to preserve the garden by transferring the two H.P.D. lots to the jurisdiction of the Parks Department’s GreenThumb program. They are further urging the city to “swap” Hoyda’s lot for some other city-owned parcel elsewhere. Chin and the other elected officials say they want to preserve C.M.G. but are waiting for Community Board 3 to vote on the issue first, in order to have a clear sense of what the community wants for this site. On Tuesday, garden members and supporters came to C.B. 3’s full board meeting to plead their case during the public session. Among those speaking were an E.S.L. teacher from Lower East Side Preparatory across the street. She said her students, all recent immigrants, have been planting in the garden. Several other students also said they literally grew up at C.M.G. “I can’t imagine myself without the garden,” said 18-year-old Feng Chen, who has been working at C.M.G. since the sixth grade and is now co-leader of the garden’s youth leadership group C.B. 3’s Parks Committee will be voting on the gardeners’ proposal to save C.M.G. on June 13. C.M.G. members are calling on all “angels, fairies, elves and superheroes young and old” to rally at the garden and then march to the meeting, which will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the BRC Senior Services Center, 30 Delancey St. Hoyda and his reps have been invited to present their plans for the site.
Photo by Talisman Brolin
Dog in distress, needs drugs
June 6 - 19, 2013
Photos by Bob Krasner
At HOWL! clockwise from above left: artist Jeffrey Jameson said, “It’s going to get a lot messier before it’s done”; the Vangeline Theater performed “Mosaic”; Jacqueline Dupree performed her original song “I Came To Win”; working on a nude, Bruce of York said, “It’s my first year at HOWL! I just started painting.”
HOWL! blows into Tompkins with art, music, poetry With poetry, rock and roll, Butoh, drag queens, burlesque, healthcare info booths, a whole section devoted to kids and art that stretched around most of the park, the 10th annual HOWL! Festival indeed had something for everyone. The weekend-long event at Tompkins Square Park began with a group reading of erstwhile East Village resident Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” — for which the fest is named — by a cast of performers that included Lydia Lunch.
Riki Colon’s “Men in Skirts” featured disco diva Jacqueline Dupree and a crowd-pleasing dance show on Saturday night. Chi Chi Valenti and Johnny Dynell once again produced the finale on Sunday, “Bowery Bombshells,” a burlesque tribute to women of the Lower East Side, featuring Bridget Everett and Justin Vivian Bond. The kids carnival kept the families busy with inflatable bouncing houses, slides, miniature golf and arts and crafts, while live music ranged from the surf-and-twang
of the Bakersfield Breakers to the serious goofiness of the TriBattery Pops. Wrapped around the park was an 8-foot-by-900-foot canvas that was decorated by more than 140 artists, who ranged from young to old and had varying levels of artistic experience. Add to all of that a dose of perfect weather and you’ve got the consummate East Village celebration.
June 6 - 19, 2013
Getting to the root of a clash at a community garden was reinstated as a member of Dias Y Flores. “Your suspension is being reversed,” Chouloute announced. Also, it was decided that GreenThumb, working with the garden’s board, would go over the Dias Y Flores bylaws, modifying them where necessary, and these would be voted on in the fall. The GreenThumb deputy director also suggested to Wright that he could switch to one of several other local gardens where the memberships aren’t very active. Chouloute later said that Wright didn’t seem interested in the idea, but Wright told The Villager that actually he was, yet also wants to remain active at Dias Y Flores. However, Chouloute told the newspaper, “I’m not going to give him that option.” He added, “He has some good ideas, to be honest — that he could help gardens that aren’t that active.”
Continued from page 1 bership of 15 years revoked, and had been forced to turn in his key to the front gate. After being cc’d on an ongoing, heated e-mail string of back-and-forths about the flap, Chouloute decided he had to intervene. Chouloute told The Villager he became particularly concerned when he saw in one e-mail that Claude T. Kilgore, one of the garden’s board members, had allegedly told Wright to “Grow the f--- up.” At the same time, Chouloute was also alarmed that Wright was cc’ing local elected officials on his e-mails. “He’s copying people from the Borough President’s Office, the [state] Senate,” Chouloute said disapprovingly. A longtime East Villager, Wright was a leader in the effort to save the neighborhood’s community gardens when they came under threat during Mayor Giuliani’s last term. At the height of the struggle, Wright helped organize a major rally in Bryant Park that saw folk legend Pete Seeger come down to play “Guantanamera” for the garden advocates. But, despite his green cred, Wright has clashed with the board of directors at Dias Y Flores to the point where they recently felt compelled to expel him. Board members say Wright has made it nearly impossible to get anything done due to his obsessive focus on whether various of the garden’s bylaws are or aren’t being followed, and that he has tried to circumvent the board, for example, by signing up new garden members on his own. One person familiar with the situation said simply, “Jeff is an attention-seeking, loudmouth guy, who, when he doesn’t get his way, tries to dominate.” For his part, Wright calls the board a bunch of “bullies,” and charges they have repeatedly flouted the garden’s bylaws, and that he is only trying to ensure they respect the regulations.
‘Wasn’t kicked out — quit’ Some of his opponents at Dias Y Flores say Wright has been kicked out of several other community gardens. But he says that’s untrue, that he has only been booted from one other garden, Green Oasis, on E. Eighth St., and that he merely “quit” some others. An ongoing issue is the garden’s parties. Dias Y Flores has a mandatory party each month — mainly because Wright got this inserted into the garden’s bylaws three years ago. The obligatory parties include the likes of Labor Day and Halloween, as well as Leftover Day (the day after Thanksgiving), solstice, equinox and Imbolc (a Gaelic spring holiday with pagan roots). Using Facebook, Wright blasts out the invites for the parties, by some accounts, from 250 to 1,000 invites per event. The parties, however, had recently been starting to draw complaints over loudness from some neighbors. In addition, there were charges that people were getting drunk and falling down and hurting themselves in the garden. Technically, alcohol isn’t allowed in the
A FREE SPIRIT
Photo by Lincoln Anderson
Jeff Wright in Dias Y Flores garden after the May 5 arbitration meeting, as two other gardeners who don’t approve of his behavior, behind him, looked on warily.
city’s community gardens, but GreenThumb — which is under the Parks Department — is a small organization and doesn’t rigorously monitor this. Wright, however, counters that the garden was being mismanaged and becoming cluttered — for example, with an unstable pile of boards for a long-stalled shed project stacked on the ground — causing hazardous footing that was making people trip and fall.
was Jerry Trudell who, while strumming the guitar, tried to leap over the garden’s cement hob — which is usually lit with a fire for the parties. “The party was over and I said, ‘One more song,’ ” Wright recalled. “This was my fault. He said, ‘I’m Pete Townshend, watch this,’ and he jumped over the pit and caught his foot.” Hill later told The Villager that he witnessed two of the people who fell leave the party in
‘This is the East Village. This is the last bastion of freedom in America.’ Jeff Wright
The three incidents At the May 5 meeting, Everett Hill, a 63-year-old Marine veteran who is a garden board member, referred to the “three incidents” — two people who fell down and injured themselves and one person who tried to jump over a fire pit but fell into it. One woman who was hastily arriving at the meeting quickly spoke up and said she was one of those who fell — she pointed to her forehead, where she had been injured — but said she hadn’t been drinking; that she fell after her foot got wedged between the garden’s paving stones. Wright later identified her as Angela Lehup. As for the other person who fell, Wright said, “He told me he just got dizzy.” Wright, who plays guitar and sings at the parties, also later told The Villager that it
taxis to go to the hospital. “I was right here,” he said. “Serious head injuries.”
Lilacs from Chico All the charges and countercharges were duly aired at the arbitration meeting. Wright had been ordered beforehand by the garden’s board to clear out his plot, but instead he actually added some more plantings to it that very day — including lilacs that he saved from the Chico Mendez Mural Garden, formerly on E. 10th St., before it was bulldozed by a developer back in the late 1990s. In the interim, he had planted them in another garden, El Sol Brillante, on E. 12th St. The upshot of the meeting was that Wright
By all accounts, Wright, 61, is a free spirit. Originally from West Virginia, Wright is a poet who formerly edited Cover magazine and currently edits another art magazine, Live Mag! He’s also a special-education teacher in the public school system. He has two sons who are engineers, and a granddaughter. He said he’s trying to change the garden’s complexion by bringing in new members. Speaking to The Villager after the May 5 meeting, Wright said, “We’ve swelled the membership — this garden’s become the premier art and poetry garden in the city. It’s a music garden too. “This is the East Village,” he stressed. “This is the last bastion of freedom in America.”
Membership war Traditionally, the time when people could apply for membership to Dias Y Flores was one Thursday evening per month. But Wright charged this was unfair, since Thursday — a big evening for gallery openings — is “a working night” for artists. According to other garden members, though, who accused Wright of “subversive activities,” he was trying to sign up new members on his own, but didn’t have the authority to do this. Kilgore said, “He held meetings and made it sound like they could join through him — and he sent out minutes from meetings that should come from the board.” At the May 5 arbitration meeting, it was decided that there would also be one Saturday meeting per month at which new members could join. Wright’s critics were skeptical that the new people he wanted to bring into Dias Y Flores would be interested in planting flowers and composting coffee grounds. However, putting an end — at least temporarily — to any plans by Wright of a takeover of the garden by enlisting new members, about a week after the meeting, Chouloute abruptly announced that membership for Dias Y Flores was closed until the end of fall.
Continued on page 22
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Grand Streeter floats ferry idea to revitalize area By Maeve Gately Since its inauguration as a three-year pilot program in 2011, the East River Ferry has become a key commuting feature for residents of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, carrying a total of more than 1.6 million people during that time. Currently, the ferry stops at 34th St. and Wall St., bringing commuters to Midtown and the Financial District. But many residents have expressed the sentiment that these stops are too limited. Joseph Hanania, a freelance journalist and a resident of the East River Housing co-op, is pushing to have the East River Ferry service expanded to Grand St., where a new dock was recently installed by the city. Hanania got the idea for the ferry stop a few months ago when he was running in the co-op board elections and looking for ways to help revive his neighborhood. Though he did not win election, he attracted the interest of fellow resident and real estate agent Jim Keenan, who encouraged Hanania to pursue the ferry initiative, and together the two started a petition. Hanania believes the ferry would bring economic stimulus to Grand St., an area that from Essex St. to the F.D.R. is relatively dead. “The closer you come to the East River, the deader it gets,” he said. By directly connecting this lightly trafficked area to Brooklyn and Queens, the ferry would bring in an “influx of artists” and commuters from the outer boroughs — including those who don’t bike across the bridges — and help make the Lower East Side a more viable destination. More practically, the ferry would be a viable public transit option for thousands of residents living in an area that is poorly served by the subway system. It would connect commuters from the outer boroughs to three major crosstown bus lines, the East River bikeway (the ferries carry bikes as well as passengers), and provide access to Chinatown, Soho, the Village and City Hall. Keenan expressed his support in an e-mail, saying, “Any additional mode of transportation that steers my neighbors from overcrowded subways and buses and provides access to the other areas is a bonus for the Lower East Side. Also, the ferry service would provide access to the new waterfront parks and piers for visitors and residents.” The East River Park stands in sharp contrast to its Hudson River counterpart, which has a lively and active relationship with the West Side community, hosts a series of events through the Hudson River Park Trust throughout the year and has several restaurants and waterfront cafes, including at Chelsea Piers. As Hanania points out, the East River has not a single restaurant, despite its prime location and impressive views. In addition to seeking grassroots support, Hanania reached out to the city’s Economic Development Corporation, the organization that built the Grand St. dock last year. He had e-mail contact with both the agency’s president, Seth Pinsky,
and Ashley Dennis, in the community relations department. He was told that E.D.C. is looking to increase the number of East River Ferry stops, and is considering Grand St. as a potential addition. Hanania posted his petition on Change. org, and has thus far received more than 300 signatures. He is looking to raise this number to 500 by June 15, the date when E.D.C. needs the petition in order to factor it into its decision. In addition to signing their names, supporters have listed reasons for their support on Change.org. “Grand Street is the missing link in the route of the ferry,” one said. “Additional transportation alternatives would really help this neighborhood, which is underserved by M.T.A. subways,” said another Wei-Li Tjong, president of the Seward Park Co-Op, sup-
ports Hanania’s initiative. “As the Lower East Side continues to develop,” Tjong said, “we look forward to the new generation of waterborne carriers bringing accessibility to our neighborhood, as well as to neighborhoods across the rivers.” A former Santa Monica resident, Hanania moved to New York two years ago, and has become heavily invested in his new city and neighborhood. He is trying to gather as much support for his initiative in the next two weeks as possible, pushing to expand and revive the street he has come to call home. Detailing all of the different ideas he has for such a revival (rooftop gyms and restaurants, sidewalk cafes and more), Hanania promised he will push the ferry initiative forward. “We want to be more than considered,” stressed. “We want to make sure we get this thing.”
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‘Spring St. Wild Man’ is violent, fearful locals say Continued from page 1
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commanding officer, described Pearson as, “6 feet 4 inches…and mentally unstable.” Pearson has been arrested 21 times, with his first arrest on Jan. 28, 1983, for burglary. According to Dowling, Pearson has committed numerous offenses around Spring St., and has been labeled by police as an emotionally disturbed person, or E.D.P. “We had to be assisted by our Emergency Services Unit to control this person,” he said, adding, “He does have issues — criminal, health and drugs.” Several community members spoke, including Christina Nenov, who lives on Spring St. She pleaded with officers for protection from Pearson, noting she had called 911 in the past after he prevented her from leaving a store. “I’m disabled, I can’t run, and he was threatening me with sexual assault,” she said. Nenov was upset to learn that Pearson isn’t just on her block. “It’s Crosby St., it’s tourists, it’s children, it’s Lafayette St. — this man has been a predator in my neighborhood,” she said. Hemal Sheth, manager of Lafayette Smoke Shop, said he has called the police on Pearson 10 to 12 times over the past year. “We have an order of protection [against Pearson] for assault in the third degree,” Sheth said. “He entered the store, broke newsstands, pushed me and tried to hit me.” When the protection order expired, Pearson returned to the store on that very day. “He knows what he’s doing,” Sheth added. Neighbors also claim Pearson has been physically violent with people on her street prior to the recent brick incident. “He will harm people, he cannot control himself, and he’s a known danger,” Nenov stressed. Peter Chong, a crime prevention officer, injured his shoulder while struggling with Pearson to get him into an ambulance. “My shoulder is not the same,” he said. “Dealing with him is not like dealing with anyone else.” Another officer told of arresting Pearson on Spring St. for snapping a tree in half, a criminal misdemeanor. The limits of police response are also an issue. “The cops come, but an officer told me, ‘Well, I didn’t see it, therefore, we can’t really do anything,’” said Nenov. One officer advised Sheth to call police when Pearson entered the store, and they would pick him up for trespassing. “By the time you guys come — 45 minutes to an hour later — he’s gone,” Sheth replied. Since he is considered an E.D.P., Pearson receives different legal and medical treatment. “By law, if you’re mentally unfit and charged with a misdemeanor, your charges are dismissed,” said Assistant District Attorney Kaitrin Roberts. “There is a complicated
analysis when the police can make arrests.” When an E.D.P. is brought to a hospital, New York State law only allows the person to be committed if he is a danger to himself or others, or if a psychiatrist determines he needs to be involuntary committed. Under Kendra’s Law, an E.D.P. can leave At 6 feet 4 inches tall, the hospital, but Richard Pearson is an is not required to intimidating presence, take medicines. people say. “Just because they’re outside ranting and raving, we can’t force them to go to the hospital,” said an officer. “We can only tell the psychiatrist what the person is doing, and the experience of other people.” Pearson’s latest behavior presents community members the opportunity to share their stories about him with a judge, which could lead to substantial jail time and psychiatric intervention for Pearson. On May 29, Pearson was indicted for assault charge, and is scheduled to appear in front of Judge Charles Solomon in State Supreme Court on June 25. A.D.A. Roberts explained that Pearson’s bail was set at $5,000, or $7,500 bond, in Criminal Court, and that if he’s still in jail by his court date, his bail could potentially increase. “A lot of you would like to be heard, and I think it’s very appropriate for those of you who’ve had interactions [with Pearson] to write a letter to the judge,” Roberts told the community council meeting. She suggested residents detail what Pearson has done to the community, and how he has impacted their lives. Frustrated by having to assign two officers to cover Pearson whenever he is in Bellevue Hospital, and the general disruption he causes, Dowling urged residents to write letters. “I get tied up with manpower with Richard Pearson,” the deputy inspector said. “I know how much of a pain he is to you, and I don’t want to escalate this to anything else.” Robert Ianniello Jr., president of the Fifth Precinct Community Council, and owner of Umberto’s Clam House, the renowned Mulberry St. restaurant, agreed that a letterwriting campaign is warranted. “If the judge gets 50 letters saying this guy is terrorizing our neighborhood,” Ianniello said, “he’s going to have to do something about it.”
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Sowing seeds of discontent or cultivating a rebirth? “It’s a city rule — no alcohol,” McGorty said. “It can be done, but it was becoming unsafe,” she said of drinking in the garden. McGorty said she is the garden’s senior member, having been with Dias Y Flores since 1983. As for the missing “Freedom Gate,” she scoffed, “The fence can’t be stolen if it’s not your property. It’s been removed for safekeeping. It’s not a ‘Freedom Gate.’ It’s the property of the garden.” Freedman said the final straw was the Easter “drunken party.” He said someone had peed in the plot of a gardener named Alex. Kilgore later explained what actually happened was that some of the partiers had been emptying beer bottles into Alex’s plot and Alex objected, and they then threatened to urinate in his plot.
Continued from page 18
‘Free — BUT within limits’ Kilgore, who moved to the neighborhood three years ago and works in real estate, said he has heard about the wild times in the old East Village, and wishes he had been a part of them. “We never revoked his membership because of the parties,” he said of Wright. “I love the free spirit. I would have loved to be here 15 or 20 years ago. … “It can’t be limited,” Kilgore said of the revelry, “but it has to be reasonable. Someone has to take responsibility for it when there is drunken behavior and people get hurt. The thing is, with GreenThumb — we’re not even supposed to be drinking in here. He’s inviting thousands of people to these things.” Wright said, “There have been charges against me ever since I joined: ‘Drunken parties, drunken parties,’ always ‘the drunken parties….’ “Did he thank me,” he asked of Kilgore, “for bringing people into their little private garden? “The gardens are really important,” Wright said, “and I’m afraid that GreenThumb is trying to neuter and sanitize them with this power grab that they’re doing.” Wright said he’s also trying to build up the garden’s membership because he’s always worried that it could be seized back for development. But Hill said that’s ridiculous because the garden isn’t lacking for members, and in fact currently has 68.
Beef at Brillante After the arbitration meeting at Dias Y Flores, over at nearby El Sol Brillante, a man who asked that his name not be printed said they decided this year not to give Wright a key because he wasn’t doing the minimal things required of members. Plus, he said, he objected to the huge fires Wright would have blazing, as well as Wright’s trademark wolf howling. They change the lock on the gate annually, which is the way they weed out unwanted members, he said. “He was thrown out,” the man said. “Look at this party — nice, quiet, mellow,” he said, as he nursed a can of Budweiser. A former garden member was having a pre-wedding party. As opposed to a GreenThumb garden, El Sol Brillante is a land trust. As for Wright, the man continued, “This guy used to take a Christmas tree, chop off all the branches, light it on fire and run around the garden. They used to have a flame 12 feet high” in the fire pit, he said. Nick Breeden, another El Sol Brillante member, said with a smile, “I like Jeff,” later adding, “He’s a handful.” Plus, he said, his wolf howl is “horrible.” Both said that, just as at Dias Y Flores, Wright was prone to making a big issue over bylaws at El Sol Brillante’s meetings. “We used to call him ‘Bylaws Jeff,’ ” Breeden noted. For his part, Wright denied he was kicked out of El Sol Brillante. “That’s not true. They just wouldn’t give me a key after 12 years,” he said.
A party of artists Photo by Lincoln Anderson
Susan Yung, left, and Everett Hill had differing ideas on exactly what kind of “community” is meant by the term “community garden.”
After his Dias Y Flores key was initially taken away, friends of his threw him a party, giving him 30 keys, including one 5 feet tall made out of foamcore. The plan is to assemble these into a sculpture. Wright said he sinks about $1,000 of his own money into the parties each year, which includes “refreshments, charcoal and logs.”
How the howl started As for how his signature party howl emerged, he said it was “when we were in the garden struggle — ’95, ’96 — trying to save Chico... . I was looking for a war cry. I tried the rebel yell and the war cry whoop.” Then he was at a family affair in North Carolina and heard a wolf howl in the distance. “I can do it for like a minute,” he said. “I like to do it a couple of times [per party] — when someone really cool comes in or goes out. And why shouldn’t I make a little noise, to let people know that we’re in the garden, and using it, and defending it? There’s no law against howling. Excuse me — get over it, it’s New York City. … I love howling. The people who like it are at the party and they howl with me.” “People don’t like it,” Hill said, “and it seems to me, people don’t like it is why he does it.” Wright noted that he sent food up to Hill in his apartment when he was recently recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery. Hill admitted he used to do the grilling at Wright’s parties. Hill said, however, after neighbors started complaining about noise from the parties, he “tried to help” Wright and went over to the Ninth Precinct to find out exactly what the regulations were. Basically, he was told that guitar playing and loud music at garden parties are supposed to end at 8 p.m., except for Fridays and Saturdays, when they can go till 10 p.m. Not long after the May 5 meeting, another
controversy erupted over the so-called “Freedom Gate” that Wright had stuck in his garden plot. This had been a small prototype section of a new fence that the garden’s board was planning to install. They paid $2,600 for this sample, which came out of the garden’s $5,500 treasury, and were then looking into a grant for the fence’s full $75,000 cost. Wright slammed the process, saying not all members were involved in the approval, and the board ultimately scrapped the project. Wright then took the small mock-up section of the fence and stuck it in his plot, dubbing it the “Freedom Gate.” But the fence recently vanished — and he filed a report for grand larceny at the Ninth Precinct.
‘All of us, I think, love large, outdoor, loud, drunken, s---stomping parties. We just can’t have them on 13th St.’ Ron Kuby This past Memorial Day, per the Dias Y Flores bylaws, the garden had a party. However, feeling his actions are now under the microscope, Wright said that “to be safe” he didn’t send out a mass notice on Facebook.
New zero-tolerance policy Sitting on a bench inside the garden’s gate, Fran McGorty and Robert Freedman explained they were enforcing a “zero tolerance policy” on alcohol, though they suspected it was being violated.
Gathered in the garden’s rear, the Memorial Day party was fairly small and low-key, with only about 15 or 20 people. Most were artists of some sort, including Ron Kolb and Steve Dalachinsky of the loose-knit writers’ collective The Unbearables; Debra Drexler, a visiting art professor from Hawaii; Gary Ray, who formerly ran Darinka, a performance space on the Lower East Side; poets Judy Rifka and Susan Yung; and Patricia O’Rourke, a visual artist from Gowanus. Some were discretely sipping wine from paper coffee cups covered with plastic lids. One gardener who didn’t give her name, but who everyone else told The Villager was Debra Jenks, was circulating a petition for the “immediate revocation” of the Dias Y Flores board. It was a little too mellow, so Wright decided it was time to play some guitar and sing. “It’s the East Village! It’s Memorial Day!” he said with a semi-incredulous expression on his face, aware of the others up at the front of the garden keeping a watch on the party, before he launched into “My Girl.” “Caterwauling” was how McGorky described Wright’s singing, but he actually wasn’t too bad. He later hopped up on the table and did a dance with another reveler. Some partiers who were more into drinking had decided to go over to El Sol Brillante, where they found a secluded bench. But when a Villager reported arrived, one of them promptly tipped off the side of the seat and toppled over onto the ground. “Whoa! I don’t normally do that!” he said as one of his drinking buddies stood convulsing with laughter and woozily tried to fill his own lidded, paper coffee cup with more wine.
Coat-of-arms controversy As the party back at Dias Y Flores petered out about 6 p.m., Jenks, who is an accomplished artist, was painting the garden’s “new coat of arms” — which Wright had mentioned to The Villager earlier — on a wall of the con-
Continued on page 31
June 6 - 19, 2013
EASTvillagerarts&entertainment Brick up your ears Brooklyn theater hosts festival of sound design THEATER sound scape A Festival of Theatrical Sound Design
June 7-29 At The Brick 579 Metropolitan Ave. At Lorimer St., Williamsburg Brooklyn (btw. Lorimer St. & Union Ave.) Tickets: $15, online at bricktheater. com or call 866-811-4111
BY TOM TENNEY The Brick Theater produces a lot of festivals — it’s kind of their thing. But festivals at the Williamsburg experimental venue aren’t your garden-variety observances of artist or genre: they’ve become the theater’s way of exploring aesthetic and cultural intersections. Sure, some of the dozens of festivals produced during the theatre’s first decade have had a chimerical bent (The Antidepressant Festival comes to mind), but just as often they examine critical connections between live theatre and other arts or performative elements. Their annual Game Play festivals, for example, present works that probe the relationship between performance and video gaming. Others, like the Comic Book Theater Festival, bring divergent artistic forms to the theatrical table. It’s what Co-Artistic Director Michael Gardner calls “hybrid theatre,” and it makes one wonder what took them so long to come around to sound design. But come around they did — and for two weeks starting June 7th, the Brick Theater will present sound scape: a festival of 11 productions that celebrates the sound designer as a driving creative force. “I’m a huge fan of sound design,” Gardner said. “It’s an unsung art form, and needed a spotlight. In this festival, the sound designer
is the primary artist, and sound design, typically in the background in most theatrical shows, is foregrounded." While sound and theatre aren’t exactly incongruous forms — sound, of course, is an integral element in theater — the aural is normally relegated to the role of servile valet to the mighty image, and this is precisely what makes it cry out for a festival of its own. Scanning the roster of performances, it’s hard to miss the fact that over half the productions in sound scape are based on past works — a fact that is thrilling to Gardner, who also curated the festival. “There’s a lot of classic text in there, and it spans a wide swathe of time,” he said. “You’ve got Homer, Dante, Beckett and Virginia Woolf. It wasn’t intentional, it’s just how it fell out.” One of the most intriguing of these is a performance of Alvin Lucier’s 1969 recording, “I Am Sitting in a Room.” A classic among aficionados of avant-garde composition, Lucier’s piece is as much a scientific experiment as it is a work of art. In the original, Lucier recorded himself speaking into a tape recorder in an isolated room. The tape was then rewound, played back and re-recorded onto a second machine. This process repeated through several generations, each producing resonant frequencies which harmonized with each other — until the artist’s voice was obliterated, and all that remained were reverberating tones. This was groundbreaking stuff in 1969, and sound designer Ryan Holsopple’s revival as a concert-style performance designed using 2013 technology (the multimedia program Max/MSP) may be considered a scientific experiment in its own right. Holsopple will employ the Brick’s new 5.2 surround sound system, but his use of modern tech is aimed towards maintaining the original piece’s simplicity. “It’s very stripped down and simple at its core,” he explained, adding that a public performance allows the possibility of the audience becoming part of the composition itself, in the tradition of John Cage. “If people get up to go to the bathroom, cough, move around, or if a siren goes by, every sound becomes a part of it because the room is constantly being recorded.” Chris Chappell also plans on exploiting the Brick’s new sound system to its fullest.
Continued on page 24
Photo by Gyda Arber
Sound designer Ryan Holsopple’s revival of Alvin Lucier’s 1969 recording, “I Am Sitting in a Room,” presents the avant-garde composition as a concert-style performance using 2013 technology.
Photo by Chris Chappell
Chris Chappell’s “ELE↓↑TOR” takes place in an elevator in the Empire State Building, slowly ascending through a sonic spectrum on its way to the 80th floor.
June 6 - 19, 2013
The Brick’s latest theater fest shines spotlight on sound Continued from page 23 His piece, “ELE↓↑TOR”, was developed specifically for the kind of theatrical spacialization that a surround system can provide. The play takes place in an elevator in the Empire State Building, slowly ascending through a sonic spectrum on its way to the 80th floor. Elevators are awkward and uncomfortable, and Chappell sculpts his sound to evoke this feeling in the audience. “We’re trying to create a feeling of being pushed into the confinement of a closed space,” he explained. Chappell cites two disparate sonic inspirations for the piece — elevator music, and the “noise instruments” developed by Futurist Luigi Russolo a century ago. He views the former as “a really empty kind of music, with a flattening quality that dampens the sharper emotions” — a perfect soundtrack to the social awkwardness of elevators. Russolo’s influence is a bit more opaque, with pounding, electrical zapping and the sounds of “unfathomable technology” providing a counterpoint to the corporate, anxiety-mitigating quality of elevator music. Chappell says this theatrical noise “is not about soothing the modern man, it’s very loud and threaten-
Image courtesy of Roger Nasser
Director Roger Nasser’s “Commotion Collage” appropriates elements from the Dadaist simultaneous poem.
ing and unpredictable.” Another interesting sonic play on the past is “Commotion Collage,” which appropriates elements from the Dadaist simultaneous poem — a form pioneered in 1916 by Tristan Tzara at the Cabaret Voltaire, in which multiple voices and other sounds combine in a singular sonic composition. Director Roger Nasser’s appropriation liberates the original form from its historic cultural context, and yokes it into service as a building block for a more contemporary version of the acoustic collage. “I’m going to take fragments of the original poems and weave them throughout, as part of the background,” he explained. He’ll also include contemporary sounds, such as answering machine messages,
white noise and a riff from the “Family Ties” theme song — artifacts from an electronic culture that didn’t yet exist in 1916. Given the number of ways the festival’s producers are demonstrating that a focus on sound can spur such theatrical innovation, it’s unlikely that sound scape will be merely a one-off festival, and may even become a staple of the Brick’s annual offerings. “I like the idea that theatre began as an auditory experience,” Gardner said, adding that, “Today, one thinks of going to see a play. But we want to remind the audience that they’re there to listen. I hope this is an opportunity for audiences to reinterpret what the stage is to them, and to re-imagine what a theatre-going experience can be.”
June 6 - 19, 2013
Just Do Art! BY SCOTT STIFFLER
Photo by G. Mozgala
Gregg Mozgala as Blizzard the underworld kingpin. See “The Penalty.”
Like a rundown carnival’s dark ride attraction, Clay McLeod Chapman packs his monologues, short stories, novels and plays with the unnerving sense that serious danger is lurking just around the bend. But unlike promised Midway thrills that rarely materialize, Chapman’s characters always deliver when it comes to crossing the line that separates sinister impulse from violent action. That makes him particularly well-suited for this musical version of “The Penalty.” Chapman’s stage adaptation (with music and lyrics co-written by Robert M. Johanson) is inspired by the Gouverneur Morris novel and the Lon Chaney film version. Set in 1920 New York City, a legless beggar’s plea for spare change is ignored by Lower East Side passersby — who are blind to the fact that the seemingly helpless derelict is actually an underworld kingpin obsessed with executing a macabre revenge plot against the prominent doctor who deformed him. “The Penalty” stars Gregg Mozgala as Blizzard, along with an ensemble that includes actors from Mozgala’s The Apothetae theater company (dedicated to the production of new full-length plays about the "Disabled Experience,” and the only NYC-based company to be run, owned and operated by people with disabilities). Fri. & Sat., June 14, 15, 21, 22, 28 & 29. At 7:30pm, at Dixon Place (161A Chrystie St., btw. Rivington & Delancey Sts.). For tickets ($15 in advance, $18 at the door; $12 for students/seniors), call 212-219-0736 or visit dixonplace.org.
YOU ARE DEAD. YOU ARE HERE.
The debut production from playwright Christine Evans, director Joseph Megel and
media designer Jared Mezzocchi’s Transit Lounge theater company shifts between the past and present, telling the story of a charged encounter between an American soldier and an Iraqi girl blogger. The project came about in 2010 when Megel commissioned Evans to write a script about a U.S. veteran haunted by video game-style flashbacks to Iraq. What ultimately became “You Are Dead. You Are Here.” has been evolving ever since, most recently under the auspices of the HERE Artist Residency Program. Inspired by the ever-blurring line between video game environments, interactive technology and military research, the play incorporates animated landscapes from “Virtual Iraq” — a virtual reality program used in military training, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder therapy and rehabilitation. Dr. Skip Rizzo, the creator of Virtual Iraq, worked with Transit Lounge to retool his cutting-edge software for the stage. Tues.-Sun. at 8:30pm, Through June 22, at HERE (145 Sixth Ave., just below Spring St., entrance on Dominick St.). For tickets ($10 in advance, $18 one day prior, $20 day of show), call 212-352-3101, visit here.org or purchase at box office (5pm to curtain, on day of show). Student rush tickets free with ID.
Photo by Steven Schreiber
Kathreen Khavari, in the Transit Lounge production of “You Are Dead. You Are Here.”
THE LAST OF THE ITALIANS
Once dominant and now dwindling, South Greenwich Village’s Italian community has been captured for the ages — in vibrant and loving detail — by New York-based photographer, writer, installation and mixed media collage artist Anne Kristoff. In “The Last of the Italians,” Kristoff uses expressive photos accompanied by brief interview excerpts to tell the story of a changing neighborhood’s casualties, stubborn survivors and enduring traditions. At its best, as in the case of Frances Ciotta, the exhibit’s combination of visual and audio beautifully conveys both the crystalized essence of a particular person and their universal desire to retain that which they hold near and dear. “We celebrated everything in that place,” says Ciotta of an old haunt. Refusing an invite to join her daughter in the outer boroughs, she insists, “I’m going from here to the cemetery. I’m my own boss. I like it that way.” True to her word, Ciotta passed away in 2012, exiting this world as a Village Italian. Her sense of defiance endures, alongside other exhibit participants — such as 43-year-old Tommy Cannella (who’s been praying in front of the blessed mother at St. Anthony’s for decades) and 16-yearold Christina Auricchio (who admits to spending most of her time out of the neighborhood, yet daydreams about what life would have been like to grow up with dozens of kids her age on the block). Free. On view from June 11-15. Opening reception: June 13, 6-9pm. At Soho Gallery for Digital Art (138 Sullivan St., btw. Houston & Prince Sts.). For info, call 212-228-2810. Visit lastoftheitalians.com for a sneak peek.
Photo by Anne Kristoff
See, and hear, the late Frances Ciotta — one of Anne Kristoff’s “Last of the Italians” (on view at Soho Gallery for Digital Art, through June 15).
Theater for the New City • 155 1st Avenue at E. 10th St. Reservations & Info (212) 254-1109 For more info, please visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net
BENEDICTUS Written by TOM ATTEA Directed by MARK MARCANTE Music composed by ARTHUR ABRAMS
Thursday - Sunday June 6 - 16 Thu-Sat 8pm, Sun 3pm All Seats $10/tdf
FINDING MY WAY BACK HOME
A play about a group of people who find a new path of hope, after a hard and homeless journey.
Yangtze Repertory Theater of America in
THE EMPRESS DOWAGER
Written & Directed by MICHAEL VAZQUEZ
Presented in Mandarin with English subtitles Adapted & Directed by JOANNA CHAN
Thu-Sat 8pm All Seats $10/tdf
Wed - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 3pm All Seats $30 (Fri, Sat, Sun) Studt’s/Srs $25 (Fri-Sun) Wed-Thu: Pay-what-you-can
Thursday - Sunday June 6 - 15
June 5 - 23
TNC’s Programs are funded in part by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts
June 6 - 19, 2013
Aiming high, with a low budget B.Y.O.B. ﬁlm fest lubricates life on L.E.S. BY SCOTT STIFFLER Shoestring filmmakers, and cinephiles wrestling with a similar shortage of coinage, are poised to find some common ground — when the reasonably priced Lower East Side Film Festival returns to its namesake neighborhood to “continue the tradition of showing great low-budget films from around the world.” The sprawling June 13-23 event takes place at venues including Landmark Sunshine Cinemas, Anthology Film Archives and The Crosby Street Hotel. Feature, short, documentary, experimental, foreign, LGBT and animated films populate the festival’s roster — which also offers music, visual art, installations, a block party/Drive-in and a June 17 panel discussion featuring Tamara Jenkins, Ira Sachs and Craig Zobel. In addition to the self-professed “inexpensive tickets,” the screenings will, festival organizers proudly declare, “be BYOB as always.” Curated with attention to the demands of the well-lubricated as well as those more prone to sober contemplation, we’re especially interested in seeing the following:
let’s do something together at TRINITY WALL STREET
All Are Welcome All events are free, unless noted. 212.602.0800
TRINITY CHURCH Broadway at Wall Street 74 TRINITY PLACE is located in the office building behind Trinity Church
ST. PAUL’S CHAPEL Broadway and Fulton Street CHARLOTTE’S PLACE 107 Greenwich Street btwn Rector & Carlisle Streets The Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper, Rector The Rev. Canon Anne Mallonee, Vicar
A longtime local merchant gets his overdue doc treatment, in “The Birdman.”
Director Chioke Nassor’s “How To Follow Strangers” is based on the true story of a woman who died in her apartment, and was found a year later (decomposing, but still looking snappy, in a crisp
music SUNDAY, JUNE 9, 3pm Trinity Youth Chorus: Spring Pops The Trinity Youth Chorus and Outreach Choirs from P.S. 140, P.S. 315, and Hour Children sing hits about New York. Trinity Church
THURSDAY, JUNE 6 & 13, 11am Fellowship Gathering: Job Seekers’ Group Join others seeking to improve and effectively market their job skills. 74 Trinity Pl, 3rd Fl, Room 2 THURSDAY, JUNE 8, 10am—1pm Mosaic Art Project: Workshop Help design a large-scale mosaic for Charlotte’s Place. Facilitated by public artist Jackie Chang. Charlotte’s Place
Chanel suit). When a young man becomes obsessed with this urban tragedy and disappears, a young woman who shares his commuting schedule inserts herself into his life after he resurfaces.
TUESDAY, JUNE 11 & 18, 1—3pm Open Hours Origami Learn origami with interfaith minister Lisa Bellan-Boyer. Charlotte’s Place WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12, 6pm Beyond the Canon This gathering is for those interested in studying Early Christian texts using traditional and non-traditional interpretive methods. 74 Trinity Pl, 3rd Fl, Room 2 SUNDAY, JUNE 16, 5—6:30pm The Family Table An opportunity to relax with family over a healthy meal while donating a meal to a family in need. More information at trinitywallstreet.org/familytable. 74 Trinity Pl, 2nd Fl, Parish Hall
worship SUNDAY, 8am & 10am St. Paul’s Chapel · Holy Eucharist SUNDAY, 9am & 11:15am Trinity Church · Preaching, music, and Eucharist · Sunday school and child care available MONDAY—FRIDAY, 12:05pm Trinity Church · Holy Eucharist MONDAY—FRIDAY, 5:15pm All Saints’ Chapel, in Trinity Church Evening Prayer, Evensong (Thurs.) Watch online webcast
TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 6pm The Poet’s Corner From the Psalms to Walt Whitman— explore how the divine is communicated to us through verse. 74 Trinity Pl, 3rd Fl, Room 3
an Episcopal parish in the city of New York
Photo courtesy of the filmmaker
Joanna Arnow’s “I hate myself :)” charts her dysfunctional relationship with racially charged poet-provocateur James Kepple (including a scene where Kepple razzes her about her online profile pic, while the filmmaker questions why her Romeo needed a wingman for his OkCupid date). Jessie Auritt’s “The Birdman” looks at the life, and livelihood, of Rainbow Music’s 70-year-old proprietor. Still going strong at its St. Marks Place & First Ave. location, the store’s floor-to-ceiling inventory of CDs, VHSs and old cassettes could easily be mistaken for the lair of a world-class hoarder — but the quirky owner’s mastery of the soft sell and ability to find exactly what you want amidst the clutter makes him a treasured neighborhood character (as well as a momand-pop shop survivor whose very existence is helping to protect the East Village from total immersion into a Starbucks and Subway mentality). “If you’re not afraid to come in,” he vows, “you’ll probably end up buying a lot of stuff.” June 13-23, at Landmark Sunshine Cinemas, Anthology Film Archives, The Crosby St. Hotel and other Lower East Side venues. For a full schedule of events, visit lesfilmfestival.com.
June 6 - 19, 2013
Buhmann on Art
Image courtesy of the artist and Salon 94 Freemans
From Betty Woodman’s “Windows, Carpets and Other Paintings.” © The Artist / Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai
Spencer Finch: “Walden Pond (surface/depth),” 2013, mixed media, dimensions variable.
BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN
NICOLE MCCORMICk SANTIAGO: THE SWEET LIFE
McCormick Santiago’s figurative paintings are inspired by domestic narratives and environments. Her recent works are autobiographical, exploring bittersweet scenes of celebration. Lushly painted, these images depict the contrast between unabashed indulgence and the selfless constraints of motherhood. One of the artist’s recurring motifs in these works is cake, which serves as an implication of ritual, indulgence and decadence, as well as gluttony. Through June 15, at First Street Gallery (526 W. 26th St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves., Ste. 209). Hours: Tues.-Sat., 11am-6pm. Call 646-336-8053 or visit firststreetgallery. net.
BETTY WOODMAN: WINDOWS, CARPETS AND OTHER PAINTINGS
Woodman’s career began in the 1950s as a production potter, with the aim of creating beautiful objects to enhance everyday life. Since then, her ceramics have transitioned from functional objects to works of art. For many years, the vase was Woodman’s primary subject. By deconstructing its form, she has created an exuberant and complex body of sculpture. In addition, she has constructed large installations comprised of various ceramic shapes. Woodman is known for her exuberant palette, embracing saturated hues of various shades. Woodman acknowledges Greek, Aztec and Tang civilizations, alongside Southern Baroque, American Slipware and 17th century Japanese Oribe motifs as significant sources of inspiration. Through June 14, at Salon 94 Freemans (1 Freeman Alley, off of Rivington St.,
btw. Bowery & Christie). Hours: Tues.Sat., 11am-6pm. Call 212-529-7400 or visit salon94.com.
SPENCER FINCH: FATHOM
While he works in a wide variety of mediums (including watercolor, photography, glass, electronics and video), Finch is best known for dealing with the elusive concepts of memory and perception through light installations. He is interested in recording the invisible world, while simultaneously striving to understand what might lie beyond it. In the past, he has measured the light that exists naturally in a specific place and time with a colorimeter, for example, and re-constructed the luminosity of the location through artificial means. Through June 15, at James Cohan Gallery (533 W. 26th St., btw 10th & 11th Aves.). Hours: Tues.-Sat., 10am-6pm. Call 212-7149500 or visit jamescohan.com.
THE WOOLWORTH BuILDING @ 100
On April 24, 1913, the Woolworth Building opened with a ceremony attended by hundreds of dignitaries. The brilliant spectacle, which used eighty thousand incandescent bulbs to illuminate the New York night, was a career-crowning achievement for the tower’s owner — the fiveand-dime store king, Frank W. Woolworth. Woolworth paid for the skyscraper with his personal fortune and was very much involved in every decision of its design. This exhibition pays tribute to the great Gothic tower, which has significantly defined the silhouette of the New York skyline ever since. Through July 14 at The Skyscraper Museum (39 Battery Pl., at West St.). Hours: Wed.-Sun., 12-6pm. Call 212-9681961 or visit skyscraper.org.
Image courtesy of the artist and First Street Gallery
Nicole McCormick Santiago: “Baby Cakes (Pregnancy Self-Portrait),” oil on canvas, 42 x 33.
June 6 - 19, 2013
Photos by Tequila Minsky
Cronut craze has them craving in Soho (and Portland) Cronuts are the newest latest thing. People are lining up for before 7 a.m. outside Dominique Ansel Bakery, at 189 Spring St., near Thompson St., to get these scrumptious halfcroissant / half-donuts, which sell out by 8:30 a.m. The delicacies debuted two weeks ago. Just to give a little taste: The â€œrose cronutâ€? ($5) is filled with vanilla ganache, dusted with rose sugar and topped with rose glaze. Lora Woodruff, below, visiting from Portland, Oregon, came straight from the airport to Soho to start her Memorial Day trip to New York, waiting in line for more than an hour so she could buy cronuts. She snapped a photo of her haul to send home to her husband, then offered a cronut to a passing fellow who inquired about them.
June 6 - 19, 2013
Honoring L.E.S. avant-garde with first annual Acker Awards TALKING POINT By Clayton Patterson As the tide of gentrification and the money it brings in its wake continues to wash away the creative culture that made the Lower East Side a world-renowned artistic center, I feel the need to somehow save, at least, an impression of what made the L.E.S. such a creative force. Creating my L.E.S. archive gave me an overview of the community, which inspired me to produce, with the help of others, three history anthologies: “Resistance: A Radical Social and Political History of the Lower East Side,” “Captured: A Film/ Video History of the Lower East Side” and “Jews: A People’s History of the Lower East Side.” The basic idea behind the books is to pick subjects that are of interest to me. Then, the next step is to find editors and writers who are related to the subject of the book or had an interest in the material. Next, develop a general history showing where the content fits into the history of the neighborhood. Finally, try and collect as much information that defines the subject of the book. My approach in these works was to layer the more publicly recognized between the lesser-known people. For example, when a reader is looking for an Allen Ginsberg, they can come across Ira Cohen or Lionel Ziprin. By placing everyone shoulder to shoulder, it makes everyone equal and opens the door to discovering new people, ideas and subject matter. The next step in preserving the area’s cultural history came about in an odd way. The writers organization PEN was soliciting a list of names for a recipient of the Benjamin Bradlee Editor of the Year Award. I heard about this award, suggested Jim Feast, and started a mini-campaign pushing Jim. One of the first people I contacted was Alan Kaufman. Born and raised in the Bronx, and now living in San Francisco, Alan is a writer, and has published a number of anthologies and books. His latest book, “Drunken Angel,” is drawing comparisons to Bukowski. Alan immediately got involved. But as we discussed campaign strategies, the idea rose to the surface: Let’s create our own award. We both agree that one of the major components that fueled so much of the creatively in New York City and San Francisco was the cheap rent and the chance to live an inexpensive lifestyle. And now gentrification has basically killed the muse. Our world has changed, so let’s find a way to bring recognition and honor to the creative individuals who inspired so much of what N.Y.C. represents and who have made, and continue to make, a significant contribution to our avant-
garde culture. Alan suggested we call the award the Acker Awards. It was agreed. Kathy Acker (1947-1997), born in New York City, had lived on the border of the L.E.S., was a radical thinker, had an original voice, produced novels, plays, essays, and was a performance artist. The Acker Awards are a tribute given to members of the avant-garde arts community who have made outstanding contributions in their discipline in defiance of convention, or else served their fellow writers and artists in outstanding ways. The award’s novelist namesake, in her life and work, exemplified the risk-taking and uncompromising dedication that identifies the true avant-garde artist. Acker Awards are granted to both living and deceased members of the New York or San Francisco communities. The cities were chosen for their historic linkage as centers for the avant-garde. In time, though, communities in other cities will be asked to participate. The providers of the Acker Awards are Alan Kaufman (San Francisco) and Clayton Patterson (New York City). The recipients were determined through extensive discussion with members of the arts communities in both cities. This year’s recipients will have the opportunity to both nominate and vote for future recipients of the Acker Awards. For more information go to: http://www. ackerawards.com. The Acker Awards ceremonies will be held in New York City and San Francisco, Thurs., June 6, 7 p.m. local time. The New York event will take place at the Angel Orensanz Foundation, 172 Norfolk St., and the San Francisco event will take place at VIRACOCHA, 998 Valencia St. at 21st St., in the Mission District. Both ceremonies are open to the public and free!
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June 6 - 19, 2013
As ye sow, so shall ye reap? Continued from page 22 troversial shed. It was two large green, crossed keys on a white background. But it turned out they didn’t have board approval, sparking yet the latest garden flare-up. Afterward, Kilgore said, “They went and vandalized and painted some kind of ‘freedom keys’ on the shed. ‘Coat of arms,’ what does that mean? If it was up to me, I would file a police report. I think we’re probably just going to paint right over it. This could be grounds for immediate removal.”
OTHER GARDENERS WEIGH IN Other veteran East Village gardeners offered their take on Wright and the Dias Y Flores situation. Elizabeth Ruf Maldonado, a founding member of LUNGS (Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens) and a performing artist, said, “I think people are standing up for Jeff right now. And I think what they’re standing up for is the spirit of gathering and spontaneous joy. I know that when administrative stuff takes over it can be a downer. I think gardens not only are there for preserving nature but also are supposed to be fun places to relax. “I’ve been at plenty of events where there will be wine,” she said, “but I wouldn’t want to have an event that was built around drinking in a garden... We have a right to celebrate — I mean, it is New York City.” Another longtime East Village gardener, who asked that neither her name nor that of her garden be printed, said that howling in the gardens — specifically, at the full moon — is a neighborhood tradition. But she said she didn’t know Wright, or his particular howl, so didn’t want to comment about him. “We have people that howl like wolves, too,” she said. “That wouldn’t identify him to me.” In general, the neighborhood has radically changed, she said, noting, “We had some of the loudest rock and roll bands play our garden in the early years and nobody complained. Nowadays, the people here have a lot more money. They want to go out and party on the streets, but when they live there [come home], they want quiet.” Liz Christy Garden, at East Houston St. and the Bowery, has its factions, too. “We have a core — I would say, three dissidents,” said Hector Rodriguez. “So you have three that say ‘No’ and 12 that say ‘Yes.’ Tension is just personalities usually.”
HILL HAS HAD IT A few days following the May 5 arbitration meeting with GreenThumb’s Chouloute, Dias Y Flores members held yet another contentious meeting. During this one, Wright accused Hill of dispensing garden memberships without making the applicants go through the normal sign-up process. Afterward, Hill told The Villager that’s it, as far as he’s concerned. “We used to be friends,” he said of Wright. “He comes and lies on me today. I’m sorry to say, I’ve had it. I feel the garden ain’t gonna be
O.K. until we get rid of him. “All I want to see before I die is the garden being peaceable, a new fence and a whole bunch of children enjoying themselves in there,” he said. “You got holidays like Easter, Halloween — you could have thousands of children.” However, poet Susan Yung, a fan of Wright and his parties, countered, “But there are lots of different places around here for kids to go.” Yung recalled that, as an emerging artist from Chinatown, it was Wright who gave her her first reading back at the old CHARAS/El Bohio community center.
‘THINk OF THE GARDEN’ But Chouloute said, ultimately, the focus needs to remain on the garden itself. “He’s too confrontational — his way, or no way,” he said of Wright. “Maybe he enjoys the spotlight. Whoever he really is, it’s not really doing good for the garden. Because people come and go — but the garden stays. At the end of the day, he should ask himself, what exactly is he trying to do.” Meanwhile, for his part, Wright said he’s being unfairly harassed and that he’ll continue to battle the garden’s board. “The board is ‘drunk with power,’ to quote another garden member,” he said. “They remain as they have been for over a decade — bullies, cheats, thieves and liars.” Ron Kuby, the well-known civil rights attorney, and his wife, Marilyn Vasta, a psychotherapist, used to live in the building just east of the garden. In fact, Vasta was a founding member of the garden, and gave it the name Dias Y Flores (“Days and Flowers”) after a song by legendary Cuban folk singer Silvio Rodriguez. Kuby said Wright recently contacted him for legal representation about the garden. But Kuby, in a telephone interview, told The Villager that he gave Wright basically the same advice as GreenThumb’s Chouloute — if you want to party hearty, find another space. “The people who are on the board, most of them have been in the garden for 30 years,” Kuby said. “They’re good people. I can see why it’s attractive to use it as a large, outdoor party space. All of us, I think, love large, outdoor, loud, drunken, s---stomping parties. We just can’t have them on 13th St. It’s a residential area. “It is first and foremost a community garden, an oasis for kids, nature and gardening,” Kuby continued. “If Jeff wants to party and drink — which I totally approve of — he should be allowed to. But my advice to him was: ‘If you want freedom, no limits, hearty party — create your own space.’ I said, ‘I understand your vision, but don’t force your vision on other people.’ “I’m not a prude — ‘smoke ’em if you got ’em, dude,’ ” Kuby said. “But don’t do it where you’re jeopardizing an institution that people worked decades to build. If there are a couple of people having beers at night, no one gets upset. But don’t make it your party space. It can’t work. The garden eventually will get closed down.” As he sniffed a bush of pink flowers on Memorial Day, poet Dalachinsky offered, “Jeff, he should howl a little less. … And this should be the last line of the article: Don’t forget to smell the petunias.”
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June 6 - 19, 2013
THE Union SqUarE ParTnErSHiP iS ProUd To PrESEnT
summer in the
south plaza starting at 7 am Open to all levels. Presented in partnership with Paragon Sports.
THURSDAY June 13 7:00 am 7:00 am 8:00 am 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 5:00 pm 6:00 pm
morning running Club with paragon sports Boot Camp with Circuit of Change yoga with Jivamukti yoga storytime with karma kids Baby Loves Disco new school Jazz performance by peridance Contemporary Dance Company Zumba with Zifa
THURSDAY June 20 7:00 am 7:00 am 8:00 am 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 5:00 pm 6:00 pm
morning running Club with paragon sports Boot Camp with Circuit of Change yoga with Jivamukti yoga storytime with karma kids Cpf marionette show – Little red’s hood new school Jazz performance by peridance Contemporary Dance Company salsa with Baila society
THURSDAY June 27 7:00 am 7:00 am 8:00 am 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 6:00 pm
morning running Club with paragon sports Boot Camp with Circuit of Change yoga with Jivamukti yoga storytime with karma kids meg’s melodies new school Jazz Club Dance with peridance
KiDS pavilion starting at 10 am & south plaza starting at 11 am
MUSiC West side seating area at 12 pm Performed by The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.
THURSDAY JuLy 11
THURSDAY august 1
7:00 am 7:00 am 8:00 am 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 6:00 pm
7:00 am 7:00 am 8:00 am 10:00 am 11:00 am 11:15 am 12:00 pm 6:00 pm
morning running Club with paragon sports Boot Camp with Circuit of Change yoga with Jivamukti yoga storytime with karma kids randy kaplan new school Jazz Zumba with Zifa
THURSDAY JuLy 18 7:00 am 7:00 am 8:00 am 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 6:00 pm
morning running Club with paragon sports Boot Camp with Circuit of Change yoga with Jivamukti yoga storytime with karma kids rolie polie guacamole new school Jazz salsa with Baila society
THURSDAY JuLy 25 7:00 am 7:00 am 8:00 am 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 6:00 pm
morning running Club with paragon sports Boot Camp with Circuit of Change yoga with Jivamukti yoga storytime with karma kids key Wilde & mr. Clarke new school Jazz Club Dance with peridance
morning running Club with paragon sports Boot Camp with Circuit of Change yoga with Jivamukti yoga storytime with karma kids story time with oLivia™ Barry g with ramblin’ Davey new school Jazz Zumba with Zifa
7:00 am 7:00 am 8:00 am 10:00 am 11:00 am 11:15 am 12:00 pm 5:00 pm 6:00 pm
morning running Club with paragon sports Boot Camp with Circuit of Change yoga with Jivamukti yoga storytime with karma kids gazillion Bubble show – the next generation Baby Loves Disco new school Jazz performance by peridance Contemporary Dance Company salsa with Baila society
THURSDAY august 15 7:00 am 7:00 am 8:00 am 10:00 am 11:00 am 12:00 pm 5:00 pm
morning running Club with paragon sports Boot Camp with Circuit of Change yoga with Jivamukti yoga storytime with karma kids hot peas ‘n Butter new school Jazz performance by peridance Contemporary Dance Company Club Dance with peridance
thank you to our 2013 summer in the square sponsors for their generous support
ConneCt With us www.unionsquarenyc.org www.facebook.com/summerinthesquare www.unionsquareblog.org @UnionSquarenY
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We’re here to serve you. Proudly serving the neighborhood for 35 years, the Union Square Partnership is the leading advocate for the Union Square-14th Street community, working collaboratively with area residents, businesses and cultural and academic institutions to ensure the district’s continued growth and success. Our mission is to enhance the neighborhood’s quality-of-life by creating a safer, cleaner and more enjoyable environment.
south plaza starting at 5 pm Learn to dance with our partners at Peridance.
THURSDAY august 8