The Paper of Record for East and West Villages, Lower East Side, Soho, Noho, Little Italy and Chinatown
June 11, 2015 • FREE Volume 5 • Number 8
Storm scheme will also upgrade F.D.R. crossings BY LESLEY SUSSMAN
STORM, continued on p. 6
From gardens and gay rights to anti-apartheid fight, city lawyer did it all BY ALBERT AMATEAU
n the eve of retiring as first assistant corporation counsel of the city’s Law Department, Jeffrey Friedlander, who grew up in the East Village, talked with The Villager about some of the highlights of his illustrious service to
PHOTO BY WILLIAM ALATRISTE / NYC COUNCIL
ity planners and local residents turned their attention last week to the stretch of East River waterfront between E. Houston and E. 14th Sts. The occasion was the last of three workshops held in May to discuss ways to protect the park, the
F.D.R. Drive and adjoining neighborhoods from flooding should another hurricane like Sandy strike the city. The two previous workshops primarily focused on redesign plans for sections of the waterfront from E. 14th St. to E. 23rd St. and from Montgomery St. to E.
the city he loves. The longest-serving first assistant since 1995 and the second longest-serving Law Department member since 1970, Friedlander enjoyed a career encompassing myriad legal issues, including landmarks, community gardens, affordable housing FRIEDLANDER, continued on p. 22
Rosie Mendez, left, and Melissa Mark-Viverito supported a local business — Zoltar! — during last Friday’s cash mob crawl along Second Ave. See article, Page 3.
Pols arrested in Albany as rent war ratchets up BY WINNIE McCROY AND LINCOLN ANDERSON
n Wed., June 3, Councilmember Corey Johnson, state Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried were arrested in the state capitol for protesting for the extension of rent regulation and the reform of the rent laws. A post on Johnson’s Facebook page shortly after 4 p.m., showed a photo of him shouting as three officers were
handcuffing him. “BREAKING: I’m being arrested for demanding Albany to strengthen rent regulations and protect New Yorkers in our last remaining affordable housing stock,” Johnson’s post read. “We will not give up!” According to Erik Bottcher, Johnson’s chief of staff, Johnson was yelling “Governor Cuomo, do you hear us!” when he was arrested. In all, 55 people were arrested, including 12 elected officials. All were charged
with disorderly conduct and given desk warrants. “Today we sent a message to Governor Cuomo that we will not accept anything less than true reform of our rent laws,” Johnson said in a statement. “With eight days left in the session, this is the single most important item on Albany’s agenda. More than 2.5 million tenants who live in affordable housing are counting on the governor and our state legislators to stand up RENT, continued on p. 23
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June 11, 2015
IT’S A RACE! Chairperson Gigi Li told us she’s running unopposed for re-election to a third oneyear term as chairperson of Community Board 3 this month. So The Villager doesn’t have to worry about endorsing in that one, she quipped to us. But this week she announced that she is running for Democratic district leader for the 65th Assembly District, Part C, challenging incumbent Jenifer Rajkumar. This particular Assembly part is very gerrymandered, with a large chunk of it down in Lower Manhattan and Battery Park City and the rest in part of the Lower East Side, with a bit in the East Village. “I’m proud and excited to be running for Democratic district leader, because I know that together we can make incredible strides and get the real results our community needs,” Li said in a statement. “In the coming weeks I’ll be speaking directly with residents across the district about my plan to take on challenges like preserving affordability, tackling the school overcrowding crisis and protecting the authentic, historic character of our neighborhoods. This September, voters in Lower Manhattan will have an important decision to make about who they think can truly get the job done on the issues that matter — and I’m looking forward to it.” In 2012, Li became the first Asian-American in New York City to be elected a community board chairperson. No question, though, she will have her hands full against Rajkumar. Last month, Rajkumar was glowingly endorsed for re-election by a phalanx of elected officials, including Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James and Assemblymember Keith Wright, the Manhattan Democratic Party leader. In a statement this week, Rakumar said, “For the past four years, I have devoted my energy and emotion to fighting for tenants, families and small businesses in our district. As our district leader, I am excited to continue and expand upon the important work we have done and the great progress we have achieved. Ms. Li does not live in our district and has no connection to or record in our community whatsoever. She and our community would be far better served if she would pursue her ambitions in the Chinatown district in which she actually lives and in which elected office presumably is offered. I encourage her to do just that.” In fact, Li lives in one of the other three Assembly parts in the district. Sean Sweeney, a leading member of Downtown Independent Democrats, said he checked with all the local party leaders and has come to the conclusion that Councilmember Margaret Chin, if she
didn’t outright encourage Li to run, is strongly supporting her campaign. Sweeney feels this is “payback” for Rajkumar having challenged Chin two years ago in the Democratic primary race for City Council. However, an incensed Sweeney said Chin refused to meet with him so that he could personally lobby her to persuade Li not to run. Although district leader is the lowest political office, with no salary and one main responsibility of making sure voters go to the polls, this race seemingly will hold extra significance. Word on the street, we’re told, is that Shelly Silver won’t be seeking re-election next year, which will open up his Assembly position. Names that have been mentioned as potential candidates for the former powerful Assembly speaker’s seat are Rajkumar, Li and District Leader Paul Newell. Is Li perhaps running just to raise her name recognition or is she in it to win it? If she gets trounced in the district leader race, Sweeney said, it’s not exactly going to help her future political aspirations. Plus, the part includes a section of Hell Square, Sweeney noted, and Li banned the LES Dwellers from participating in C.B. 3 meetings two years ago. Does she really expect to get any votes there? he scoffed. But one wonders perhaps doth Sweeney protest too much? Is he afraid Li might actually win? We asked Li why she isn’t running for the Assembly part in which she lives, meaning she would challenge District Leader Jenny Lo, but she didn’t respond. A spokesperson for Councilmember Chin also did not respond to our queries as to whether Chin is, in fact, trying to be the “queen maker” behind Li’s candidacy. “Chin will deny that she is behind this, but I know from the highest levels that she is behind this,” Sweeney asserted. As for C.B. 3, we asked Chad Marlow why he’s not running for chairperson again, after having given Li a spirited challenge last year. He said he’s just feeling like the deck is stacked against him. “The politics of Board 3 are not unlike the election of FIFA,” he said. “No matter how bad things were going at FIFA, based on the internal politics of FIFA, that guy was going to be re-elected.” ... In other district leader races, Terri Cude is challenging incumbent Jean Grillo and Dennis Gault is opposing John Scott. D.I.D. has endorsed both Cude and Gault in what is a further playing-out of a split in Downtown politics that saw a dissident faction break off from D.I.D. and form Downtown Progressive Democrats two years ago after D.I.D. endorsed Rajkumar for election over Chin.
IN THE STARS: Don’t say Melissa Mark-Viverito doesn’t believe in transparency! In response to our request, the City Council speaker readily shared with us the fortune that she got from the all-knowing Zoltar outside Gem Spa during the recent “Follow Me Friday” event she and Councilmember Rosie Mendez led to help businesses still impacted by the Second Ave. gas explosion. Zoltar — well, at least this time — appears to have been eerily on target. “...[M]y dear outspoken one... You have a very sharp tongue... You are of a generous disposition... You have a keen mind. Try to improve it. [Ouch!] Your best friends like you for your ready wit. ...” However, Zoltar’s fortune concludes with a cryptic piece of advice: “Try to cultivate a red haired person. Therein lies a great deal of happiness for you.” Hmm... Had this fortune been disgorged a couple of years ago, SCOOPY’S, continued on p. 7 EastVillagerNews.com
Pols lead cash mob crawl on 2nd Ave. BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
PHOTO BY WILLIAM ALATRISTE / NYC COUNCIL
ouncilmember Rosie Mendez and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito last Friday led a roving “cash mob” along a small stretch of Second Ave. Dubbed “Follow Me Friday!” the event’s goal was to bring attention — as well as dollars — to businesses still feeling the fallout from the disastrous March 26 gas explosion. First, they started with a moment of silence at the explosion site, the three now-empty lots at the northwest corner of E. Seventh St. and Second Ave. Inside one of the tenements that once stood there, Nicholas Figueroa, 23, and Moises Lucon, 26 — a customer and worker, respectively, at Sushi Park restaurant — died in the horrific explosion. The blast was soon followed by a raging inferno that consumed the buildings. Joining Mendez and Mark-Viverito were a convoy of other local pols — including Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Brian Kavanagh, state Senator Brad Hoylman and City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal — plus around 30 local residents and activists. They visited about eight establishments, starting with Moishe’s Bake Shop and going on to New Yorkers Market, Cafe Mocha, Bar Virage, Gem Spa, Himalyan Vision and Enz’s before wrapping up at Jimmy’s No. 43 bar. Councilmember Rosenthal came down from the Upper West Side for the event. “It was a pretty easy bike ride, actually,” she said. She said, at first, she had been reluctant to come since she had a Shabbat dinner that night, but that Mendez convinced her, telling her she could pick up something for the meal at Moishe’s. Rosenthal held up a chocolate babka cake she had bought. “And they had kichel, which I haven’t seen since... . It’s flour, sugar and yummy,” she said with a smile. The East Village’s Democratic district leaders, Anthony Feliciano and Carlina Rivera, joined the effort. “It’s a good thing for visibility” of local businesses, Feliciano offered. “It’s also an opportunity to talk to the business owners,” Rivera added. “The owner of the New Yorkers Market is a lifelong neighborhood resident. At Moishe’s, the guy in the store was closing up to go home for the Sabbath. I think that was a very real Lower East Side experience, and what makes this neighborhood so great.” Mendez and Mark-Viverito paused outside Gem Spa as the speaker got her fortune told by Zoltar, before going inside for some old-fashioned egg creams. The two countermen tried to give them the drinks for free, but they refused. “No, no, we’re here to support the businesses,” Mark-Viverito insisted. Outside on the corner of St. Mark’s Place, Jim Power, the East Village’s “Mosaic Man,” was touching up his “Media Pole,” which lists the names of local newspapers and blogs, one of the dozens of lampposts around the neighborhood that he has decorated with his mosaic artistry. As Hoylman admired the pole creation, Power — who has severely degenerated hips — painfully limped around his Mosaic Mobile to say hi. “I’m not afraid to shake a politician’s hand — as long as no one’s watching!” he quipped. Helping out a local businessman, Hoylman dropped a dollar into his bag on the sidewalk. “He deserves it. Oh yeah, they’re beautiful, those
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Rosie Mendez led the group down E. Seventh St., past the vacant disaster site, to the tour’s last stop.
poles,” he said as he walked off to catch up to the tour. Hoylman added that he was impressed that Mark-Viverito — whose district also experienced a devastating gas explosion last year — came down to join the East Village cash mob. “She had a similar tragedy in her district, so she knows the impact on mom-and-pop shops,” he said. The East Harlem explosion leveled two buildings and killed eight people. Mark-Viverito noted that one of the E. Seventh St. victims lived in her district. Hoylman also praised Mendez’s efforts. “Rosie’s been amazing,” he said. “She’s a real crisis manager. One of the things she does is organize around fast-moving issues and deploy her team, and I think that comes from her having been a tenant organizer.” On the other hand, as for the investigation into the Second Ave. disaster’s cause, that has been moving slowly, but hopefully surely. “We haven’t heard from the district attorney,” Hoylman said. “He’s supposed to tell us when they’re able.” The politicians next were buzzed into Enz’s boutique and checked out its hip vintage clothes. Owner Mariann Marlowe said it had been a huge struggle to get back on her feet after the hellish March 26 explosion and fire. “The merchandise was all destroyed,” she said. “Three thousand dollars in dry cleaning. The owner of Beauty Bar, the owner of Otto’s, all the cool establishments helped us out,” she said. She was also relieved when, after the disaster, she was finally able to rescue her window mannequins that she had brought back from London in the 1970s. It was important that the store could recover
quickly after the apocalyptic explosion next door, Marlowe said, adding that she appreciated the politicians’ efforts and anything that could help bring back business. “This is the busiest time of the year for me. I make $1,000 a day,” she noted. The cash mob convoy ended at Jimmy’s No. 43 bar on E. Seventh St. just west of Second Ave., where all the politicians, including Councilmember Antonio Reynoso from Bushwick, briefly took the stage in the small back music room. Reynoso noted he went to high school at La Salle when it was at E. Second St. and Second Ave. “I came here to show support,” he said. “We’re all one city.” Looking up at the place’s authentic 1880s brick vaulted ceilings — as they were about to be serenaded by a ukulele duo — Mark-Viverito said, “This is such a wonderful spot. It’s got the nooks and crannies and the vitality that we would like to see in our businesses.” Jimmy Carbone, the bar’s owner, like Marlowe, said he was grateful for the attention being brought to his business. After March 26, his air conditioning units were knocked out and the bar was left flooded from all the water firefighters had poured on the three buildings to control the enormous blaze. One place, B&H dairy restaurant, isn’t even back open yet because it still lacks gas service. “We had to let people know that we were open again,” Carbone said. He marveled at the politicians’ presence in his place. “No one ever does that,” he said, “the politicians, a state senator, the speaker — you never see that.” June 11, 2015
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June 11, 2015
Speaker commits to hold a hearing on S.B.J.S.A.
Jefferson Market Garden
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
PHOTO BY WILLIAM ALATRISTE / NYC COUNCIL
uring last Friday’s tour of Second Ave. businesses hardhit by the March 26 East Village gas explosion, The Villager asked Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito where exactly she stands on an important issue affecting small businesses citywide: Namely, if she plans to let the Small Business Jobs Survival Act come up for a vote in the City Council, something that that previous speakers have never done. The long-stymied bill would give commercial tenants facing lease renewals the ability to go through binding arbitration with their landlords to reach a fair rent, and would guarantee a 10-year lease extension. However, a new potential tenant could take over a space if he negotiates terms that the existing tenant refuses to meet. Asked point blank if she would allow the S.B.J.S.A. — which currently has 19 supporters in the Council — to come to the floor for a vote, Mark-Viverito said that a process must be followed first. “The bill gets introduced once the [Council] staff do their due diligence,” she explained. “Then there are hearings to hear from all sides. And then we figure out what the next steps will be — because sometimes options are being explored that legally we don’t have the ability to implement as a city or as a legislative Council. “So we have to do the things we have to look at, so we’re not there yet,” she said. “But people are very familiar [with the S.B.J.S.A.], and I’ve heard a lot from people, and other councilmembers have heard a lot of people [gesturing toward Councilmember Rosie Mendez standing nearby] and we’re looking into that.” She was then asked about the fact that, two years ago when they were running for mayor, both former Speaker Christine Quinn and then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio were asked by The Villager about the S.B.J.S.A., and both responded tersely that they had been briefed by the Council’s law staff that the bill was “illegal.” Mark-Viverito indicated she might not necessarily be of the same view, but needs to study the issue further before she knows for sure. “Well, I mean, right,” she said of prior assertions that the bill would be illegal. “But, there’s a new administration. I’m a new speaker, and I have to look at it, and take the time to speak to staff and figure out what is possible and not possible,” she stated. “So we’ll look at that. But we’re fully
Melissa Mark Viverito last week at the site of the March 26 East Village gas explosion.
aware of the conversation and we’re hearing a lot from a lot from people on this.” A bit later, inside Jimmy’s No. 43 bar, The Villager asked her about Borough President Gale Brewer’s alternative bill. Brewer’s measure would offer only one-year lease extensions at a 15 percent rent increase to give merchants who can’t come to terms with their landlords time to relocate. Basically, the speaker indicated, everything — from the S.B.J.S.A. to Brewer’s bill — would be in the mix at the upcoming hearing. “We have to look at it,” Mark-Viverito said of the B.P.’s idea. “We want to do an issues-based hearing and would look at all legislation.” Asked exactly when the Council would hold the hearing, Mark-Viverito said she didn’t know, and that they are currently enmeshed in the middle of the budget session. Steve Null, who authored the forerunner of the S.B.J.S.A. 30 years ago and continues to advocate for it today, said the speaker’s emphasis on “process” is a red herring, and that the powerful real estate lobby will merely continue to stall the bill. “Passing just any bill will not be a victory for small businesses unless it has real teeth to change the lease renewal process,” Null said. “Nothing is more fair and just that the S.B.J.S.A.” Other than Dan Garodnick, all the Manhattan councilmembers support the S.B.J.S.A. Null said as soon as the bill is introduced, it would pick up more sponsors. To watch a video of Mark-Viverito answering The Villager’s questions on the S.B.J.S.A., see www.youtube. com/watch?v=cUMsIh8FPkc
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www.jeffersonmarketgarden.org June 11, 2015
Storm scheme will also upgrade F.D.R. crossings STORM, continued from p. 1
June 11, 2015
FILE PHOTO BY ZACH WILLIAMS
Houston St. Three more workshops are being scheduled for sometime in July. The $33 million East Side Coastal Resiliency Project calls for the construction of a 10-mile long protective barrier — including sections of levee-like berms — to be built along the East Side’s edge from E. 42nd St. down to the Battery and then around and back up along the Hudson River side to W. 57th St. The project is being funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. On hand last Thursday night at St. Brigid’s Church, at E. Eighth St. and Avenue B, to get the latest update on design plans for the East Village section of the waterfront were co-sponsors of the project, including representatives from the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, the city’s Department of Design and Construction, the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, the Department of Transportation and the Parks Department. There was a large turnout of local residents, along with representatives from community organiza-
Last August, at a party in East River Park to thank the community for its input into the “Big U” storm-surge projection plan, dancers from Grand Street Settlement, above, put a surge of energy into the crowd.
tions such as Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) and LES Ready, plus members of Community Boards 3 and 6 who are on the two neighbor-
ing boards’ Joint Waterfront Resiliency Task Force. Jeremy Siegel, from Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), the Danish design and architectural firm in charge of the socalled “BIG U” project, presented his firm’s preliminary design plans for this section of the waterfront. These call for more landscaping and open recreational spaces, improved and safer access to East River Park from the Houston St. crossing — which has a heavy traffic flow to and from F.D.R. Drive — and protection of the existing ecology along the riverfront. Siegel added that his firm also plans to widen space for pedestrians and cyclists on the currently narrow Delancey St. overpass leading to the riverfront. The footbridge currently has only 7 to 9 feet of walking space compared to the Corlears Hook Park footbridge, at Jackson and Cherry Sts., which is 30 feet wide and gives cyclists and walkers much easier access to the park. The maintenance of the current recreational space along this strip of the waterfront was also a priority, Siegel said, along with preserving existing trees and “doubling places and spaces” for people to sit and enjoy the river view. He said another idea his firm was considering was a landscaped park situated on top of the protective berms, with “gentle ramps” leading up to the top of the berms and back down to the riverfront. “We have width along this strip of the river, unlike the section from 14th St. to 23rd St., and that’s a great thing,” Siegel explained. “We can al-
low and expand recreational spaces and protect the ecology of the area.” Siegel said that his firm had already inventoried most of the existing trees in the East Village section of the waterfront, was studying pedestrian and bicycle usage, and is doing soil borings and sewage testing to check for any environmental hazards. “We’ve also already surveyed 80 percent of the waterfront structures in this section, including the two bridges, by using divers and boats,” he added. Initial reaction to Siegel’s presentation from local residents at the workshop was generally favorable. Damaris Reyes, a member of the C.B. 3 and 6 Joint Waterfront Resiliency Taskforce and the director of GOLES, was appreciative of the inclusiveness of the process. “I’m really happy that this is being done in collaboration with the community,” she said. “It’s important that people work together on this storm-protection issue to avoid any unintended impact.” Reyes added that she’ll comment further when she sees the final design plan, noting, “I’m not prepared to say anything more about it right now.” Also speaking favorably about the presentation was Alysha Lewis-Coleman, second vice chairperson of C.B. 3. “I really like the fact that they’ve been doing a lot of investigative work as far as the soil samples, environmental studies, and that they even put cameras into the sewage system,” she said. “I grew up in that park and I would love to see it stay beautiful, so I’m waiting to see what the final plan will be.” Lewis-Coleman added that she wanted to see the design firm, along with other city agencies, “retain a cohesiveness with the community. I want to see the greenery and the trees remain the same,” she said, “but I also know that we’re going to have to see some changes in order for safety in case there is any future flooding.” She also agreed that the Houston St. crossing to East River Park was “a very dangerous intersection” and hoped to see the situation improved. “I don’t know how the joggers do it to get across that crossing,” she said. After the formal presentations were concluded, local residents broke up into smaller workshop groups to offer additional suggestions for the redesign of the East River waterfront as part of the storm-protection plan. Results of these discussions will be made available at upcoming workshops. EastVillagerNews.com
whose clients have included Madison Square Garden, as well as global brands Yahoo! and Walmart, and political heavyweights Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and Andrew Cuomo.
, continued from p. 2
we might have asked if that was then-Speaker Christine Quinn. Mark-Viverito definitely does look stylish in a red dress, so maybe Zoltar — well, at least this time — is onto something.
SEX SELLS: Christopher St. writer Robert Heide is miffed to report that while Boots ’N’ Saddles’ relocating to a new home off of his street is a good thing, its replacement is not what people were hoping to see. The gay bar had become a quality-of-life issue for some neighbors due to its uproarious drag queen lip-syncing nights, but eventually found a new, larger space nearby to move to. “Boots ’N’ Saddles left, but what are we getting there?” Heide said. “A porno shop... that’ll be open all night long, 24 hours, fluorescent lights. It’s an eyesore, in my opinion.”
PHOTO BY WILLIAM ALATRISTE / NYC COUNCIL
EMERGENCY NAME CHANGE: The executive director of the new Lenox Hill HealthPlex, Alex Hellinger, tells us that the facility will be changing its name to Lenox Health Greenwich Village. The name change was required as a result of an agreement between North Shore-LIJ Health System — the regional health giant that runs the Seventh Ave. and W. 12th St. medical complex — and Healthplex, Inc., a dental plan administrator covering 3.4 million people in New York State. It’s expected that signage and marketing materials using the Lenox Hill HealthPlex name will be removed or replaced before Nov. 15, 2015. The six-story medical hub is anchored by Manhattan’s first and only freestanding emergency department, which is open 24/7. North ShoreLIJ has filed a formal application with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to change the building’s signage. CONGRATS! Former Villager reporter Sam Spokony is moving on after a year’s stint as Councilmember Margaret Chin’s communications director. He’s now working for Phil Singer’s Marathon Strategies, which specializes in communications and crisis management, and
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POLICE BLOTTER tracks. Rolan Reid, 32, was arrested and charged with second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime and assault as a hate crime and third-degree assault as a hate crime. In addition, he was also slapped with all of these charges but not as hate crimes.
The victim snapped a shot of the alleged pervy pedestrian.
Subway-push collar Police have arrested a homeless man in the Mon., June 1, incident in the No. 6 train station at Lafayette and Bleecker Sts. when a transgender Uptown woman who goes by “Danny” was pushed onto the train
notice said he was charged with rape as opposed to attempted rape.
Teens arrested in rape
Three teenagers were arrested Tuesday for raping and robbing a woman, 33, in the Lower East Side / Chinatown area early Monday morning, June 1, at 5 a.m., police said. Rape-attempt arrest Video from a deli shows the wom an, beaten and bleeding, walking into Police have made an arrest in an the store to ask for help, around 5:10 attempted rape that occurred in a.m., The New York Times reported. Gramercy on June 5, at 3:25 a.m. At Minutes earlier, she reportedly had that time, according to police, the been raped by two of the three teens suspect followed the victim, 25, and also robbed of her purse, which into her apartment building and at- held her identification and keys. She tempted to rape her in the lobby. had met the three teens at an Internet The victim was able to fight off the cafe at 75 Eldridge St., near the deli, man, who then fled the scene. The according to the Times. According to victim refused medical attention at a source at the deli, police told him the scene. Police released surveil- the rape occurred in a nearby park. lance video and images of the susThe woman was taken to Lenox pect. Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side, On June 9, police reported that where she was said to be in stable Dominique Brown, 20, of 2075 First condition. Ave., had been arrested and charged Police released video of the three with first-degree rape, second-de- suspects entering the woman’s buildgree burglary and sex abuse. ing, located within the Fifth Precinct, Police did not clarify why a press T:8.75”at 5:11 a.m., according to the video’s
time stamp. As they enter, they appear nonchalant, two of them pulling up the hoods of their sweatshirts, perhaps to better conceal their identities. Though one looked directly at the security camera as he pulled up his hood. They then climb the stairs. About a minute later, the three run down the stairs and leave. The three teenagers — all 16 and reportedly from a Boys Town halfway house on Sixth Ave. in Brooklyn — were arrested at 4:35 a.m. on Tues., June 2. Eric Pek and Emanuel Burrows were charged with rape, robbery, assault, burglary and grand larceny. Pek was charged with petty larceny, and Burrows with attempted petty larceny. The third teenager, Sanat Asliev, was charged with attempted rape, assault and attempted burglary. Pek has been arrested six times before; Burrows 11 times, DNAinfo reported.
Crosswalk creep Police said that on Mon., May 4, at BLOTTER, continued on p.9
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June 11, 2015
BLOTTER, continued from p. 8
around 8 p.m., a 24-year-old woman was walking in the crosswalk at the southeast corner of W. 14th St. and Fifth Ave. when an unidentified male grabbed her backside and walked away on foot. The suspect is described as a white male, with collar-length saltand pepper-hair. He was last seen wearing a black jacket, black jeans, yellow work boots, eyeglasses and carrying an AND1 black-and-white book bag. Police released a photo of the suspect taken by the victim with her cellphone. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline, at 800-577-TIPS. Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting them to 274637(CRIMES) and then entering TIP577. All tips are confidential.
Finger gun, boozy threat Unsolicited advice was offered by a Brooklyn man to police after they stopped him for having an open container of alcohol inside Christopher Park at Sheridan Square, at Christopher St. and Seventh Ave. South. He reportedly aimed an imaginary gun at the officers at about 8:20 p.m. on Sat., June 6. DeAnthony Nugent, 37, then told police that stopping people invited consequences, according to a police report. “That’s why you motherf---ers get shot,” he said, adding, “I got that fire coming back with my little brother and I’m going to find you three.” He was arrested shortly thereafter and charged with obstructing government administration, a misdemeanor.
Sixth Ave. groper A Brooklyn man allegedly made
unwanted sexual advances to a woman, 58, outside of 424 Sixth Ave., on Fri., June 5. Police said the woman then fled to the nearby Citarella grocery store just before 7:30 p.m. The perpetrator reportedly followed her inside, reached underneath her skirt and grabbed her buttocks with both hands. Police were called to the scene, where the victim identified him. Police arrested Lesley Richard, 24, for forcible touching, a misdemeanor. A partially smoked joint was found in the possession of Richard, who had an open warrant for an unspecified crime, police said.
Shot to the schnoz A 29-year-old homeless man reportedly punched an unidentified man in the nose on the sidewalk outside of 8 Christopher St. on Sat., June 6. Police could not say what sparked the assault, which erupted just after 8:30 p.m. The two men were not acquaintances, according to a police report. Officers responded to the scene and arrested Percy Hernandez for misdemeanor assault. Hernandez also had an active parole violation warrant.
License too ill Police said they caught a Brooklyn man driving with a forged temporary New Jersey license plate on Wed., 3:30 a.m. He was busted outside of 77 Bleecker St. on felony charges of criminal possession of a forged instrument. Agustin Torres, 29, was reportedly driving with a suspended New York State driver’s license in an uninsured and unregistered 2006 Chevy. He also had an active warrant for a prior unspecified crime.
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A slice of old New York survives on E. Fourth St. RHYMES WITH CRAZY BY LENORE SKENAZY
o me, “old New York” is the city I moved to in 1981. Back then, the subway cars were so covered with graffiti, you couldn’t see out the windows. You always added a 20-minute cushion to your commute, just in case. And Times Square… Well, I’m getting off track. My point is, everyone’s got an “old New York.” The one Edith Wharton was referring to when she was writing a hundred years ago was the “old New York” before the Civil War, already a quaint and distant memory in the Gilded Age. Old New Yorks are always being demolished, or updated beyond recognition, so it is astonishing to learn that one slice of the old, old New York not only still exists, it stands virtually intact, right down to its original furnishings from 1832. It is the Merchant’s House Museum, at 29 E. Fourth St., and last week I went to hear a lecture about it at another amazing venue, the National Arts Club. (Hat tip to Gary Shapiro, the club’s dapper emissary, who alerted me to the talk.) “We call it the ‘Miracle on Fourth Street,’ ” began the speaker, Carl Raymond, a tour guide at the Merchant’s House who is also a professional chef. He combines both those skills to sleuth out what the home’s original owners would have been eating 183 years ago, when they first moved in. But before getting to the meat of his talk — as it were — he explained how the miracle came to be standing at all. When a young man named Seabury Tredwell moved to New York at age 18 to make his fortune in the hardware business, he lived in a boardinghouse. Perhaps predictably, he fell in love with his landlady’s daughter. They married and had seven kids. In 1832 they bought a brand-new house on Fourth St. — the suburbs at the time — and in 1840, when Seabury was 60, they had a surprise eighth child, Gertrude. “Like my mother,” continued lecturer Raymond, “Gertrude never threw anything away.” She also never married. So when she died in 1933, just 20 feet from the bed she’d been born in 93 years earlier, she was surrounded by the very same objects that she had grown up with, right down to 39 dresses. These included the one her mom got married in more than a hundred years earlier, in 1825. Gertrude’s heir was about to sell the
place and all its dusty contents when a distant cousin, George Chapman, realized that this was no ordinary fixer-upper. Stepping inside was like walking into a time capsule — the King Tut’s Tomb of Manhattan. Gertrude had kept the house “as Papa would’ve wanted it” and Chapman wanted that for the rest of us. He purchased the place and turned it into a museum. In 1965, Merchant’s House was one of the first 25 buildings on which our city bestowed landmark status. To this day, 90 percent of the items in the building are original. So what did the Tredwells eat during the century or so that they lived there? Alas, nothing particularly delicious at first. Despite our modern pining for heirloom vegetables, early 19th-century New Yorkers generally boiled these to death. The watery mess was served alongside boiled or roasted meats with perhaps some melted butter as gravy. And since Eliza was raised in a boardinghouse, it is likely she served the same kind of food her mom did, including what one boarder back then described as “the dessert feared by every boardinghouse resident: a sour apple encased in dough.” Historians contend that more change occurred in the 19th century than in any other era, and happily, some of that occurred in the kitchen. By the end of the 1800s, French cuisine was all the rage, along with the new practice of serving food in courses, instead of putting it all out at once. You can still see the dining room table and chairs the Tredwells used, and some of their cookware, and the bells to call the servants, à la Downton Abbey. But threatened is the beautiful original plasterwork in the dining room and elsewhere. The neighboring lots are not landmarked, and a boutique hotel is slated to rise on one side. Vibrations from nearby construction could crack the walls. The museum is hoping to ensure that doesn’t happen by working with lawyers and engineers to develop protection plans. With any luck, the Merchant’s House will be around for another 183 years, when aged locals may remember an “old New York” back when food was created by cooks, not 3D printers, and delivered by bike, not drone. For more information on the Merchant’s House, visit merchantshouse. org or call 212-777-1089. Skenazy speaks at conferences, companies and schools about her book and blog, “Free-Range Kids” EastVillagerNews.com
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Idea for solar WiFi posts is starting to connect BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
ooking a bit like a jumbo-sized solar-powered top hat perched on a pole, a Cooper Lumen will be stationed at Second Ave. and St. Mark’s Place on Sat., June 13, during the Cooper Square Committee’s Second Ave. Festival. However, while it’s certainly a heady idea, the Cooper Lumen is not a hat. Rather, it is a solar-powered WiFi hotspot and free phone-charging station. The model that will be on display at the festival is a prototype. Invented by East Village Internet pioneer Paul Garrin, the Cooper Lumen is being developed in partnership with Two Bridges Neighborhood Council. Engineering students at The Cooper Union helped work on the first stage of the project, creating hardware to fit Garrin’s concept principles and designs. The idea’s genesis was Superstorm Sandy, whose flooding of underground cables and cooper wiring knocked out wireless and Internet communication in large swaths of the East Village, where Garrin lives. The Cooper Lumen is 10-feet tall and designed so that it can function with everything but its top submerged un-
June 11, 2015
Paul Garrin, third from right, explaining the Cooper Lumen to people in S.D.R. Park during Ideas City.
derwater. In addition to a WiFi hotspot and phone-charging station, the Lumen is also a “social space,” Garrin noted, since it has a bench at its base, which also contains its solar-powered bat-
tery. The Lumen will also have a light for nighttime use and, the final version will sport an umbrella for shade during the day. The prototype has been making the rounds lately, and was recently in Sara
D. Roosevelt Park as part of the New Museum’s Ideas City, and was at Two Bridges on Earth Day. “The Lumen was providing fully solar-powered WiFi and phone charging in S.D.R. Park, which was extremely popular,” Garrin noted. “The New Museum allowed me to put a WiFi-NY repeater on the east side of their pristine building.” People were very inquisitive about the project, Garrin said, and were signing a petition he is circulating to put Lumens in local parks, particularly East River Park. The city plans to convert telephone booths to WiFi hotspots. However, since there are no phone booths along the waterfront, Garrin figures this is the perfect spot for the Lumens. The Lumen’s wireless service will be through Garrin’s company, WiFi-NY, whose monthly cost is about half that of other providers. People will be able to connect for free through the Lumens on a limited basis, and will have unrestricted access with a WiFi-NY membership — which is the company’s current policy. “Public access,” Garrin explained, will be “30 minutes on, one hour off, LUMEN, continued on p. 13
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reduced bandwidth.” In the event of another disaster, like Sandy, however — which, again, was the project’s inspiration — public access to the Lumen network will be unlimited for everyone, Garrin said. Because they’re solar powered, the Lumens will continue to operate even if the electrical grid goes down, as happened during Sandy. In addition, he said, in the event that there are sponsorships, public access will also be unlimited at stations where the sponsorships apply. So, for example, a local business might want to sponsor a Lumen, helping provide free WiFi for the community. The area from Stuyvesant Cove to Brooklyn Bridge — as well as the opposite side of the East River in Brooklyn — would be covered by the service. Garrin’s WiFi-NY currently has two transmission sites, at Village EastVillagerNews.com
East, at 411 E. 10th St., and at Two Bridges Tower, 82 Rutgers St., which would provide the signal for the Lumens. He is applying to register WiFi-NY, currently an LLC, as an L3C, or low-profit corporation. “It’s like a nonprofit, but it puts community benefit first,” Garrin explained of an L3C. Now Garrin’s goal is to raise funding to create a “street-ready” model of the Lumen, “so that it can stand on a New York City street and take all the abuse it’s subjected to, and also so that it can be submerged and still function.” A gofundme campaign for tax-deductible donations is at http:// gofundme.com/cooperlumen . A portion of the proceeds from Cooper Lumen sales will be donated to a scholarship fund to benefit students attending The Cooper for the Advancement of Science of Art, of which Garrin is an alumnus. The Lumen project is part of the WiFi-NY People’s Emergency Network in conjunction with LES Ready.
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Battery carousel preview goes swimmingly The Battery’s long-awaited colorful Seaglass Carousel — featuring fish instead of horses — will “definitely” open sometime next month, a Battery Conservancy spokesperson said last week at the new park feature’s preview. The carousel, open till 10 p.m., will cost $5 per ticket and no doubt draw Downtown families, tourists and couples from all over. “It’s absolutely beautiful at night,” a source said. “It’s very romantic.” The exact opening date in July is yet to be announced. Officially, Battery Park is now known as simply The Battery, under a change the city Parks Department quietly made in February. The idea is to limit confusion with Battery Park City. PHOTO BY MILO HESS
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR It’s time to clean house To The Editor: Though Mr. Patterson’s question is a good one, the answer is an obvious one. The Lower East Side has been swimming for years in corruption, cronyism and divisiveness. As the saying goes, the fish rots from the head. While Shelly Silver’s world falls apart and we count down to his inevitable exit, all the double-dealing and wrongdoing that everyone on the L.E.S. accepted — whether out of resignation
or fear of retribution — is finally being exposed, questioned and challenged. The problem, I would say, is not what Mr. Patterson terms the Dwellers’ “mistake” in expecting help from the Seventh Precinct Community Council in dealing with the problems of Hell Square. Rather, the real problem is that everyone, not just the Dwellers, has been forced, at their own peril, to navigate the murky waters of Don West of the community council and Susan Stetzer of Community Board 3 — two egos so big, jockeying for power, desperate for importance and relevance
— that they can’t be in the same room with each other. West and Stetzer are the same side of the same coin — often divisive, manipulative and vindictive. Yet, their dysfunction is cover for Shelly’s puppet, the feckless Councilmember Chin. The only way things will change is if new voices emerge and challenge the status quo. The politics have to change, or groups like the Dwellers or the everyday citizen don’t stand a fighting chance if Shelly’s machine stays in place. C.B. 3 and the Seventh Precinct Community Council need to be overhauled. Chin needs to be voted out office and her replacement, C.B. 3 Chairperson Li, needs to rethink her political aspirations. Erin Harvey
Police have become more polite — but the criminals haven’t. 14
June 11, 2015
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Hope or hype? Battle of the small business bills TALKING POINT BY SHARON WOOLUMS
or years, and especially recently, Village business owners have looked out their windows in despair wondering what their future would be. Decades of real estate speculation, fueling exorbitant rents that only big banks and franchises can pay, have wreaked havoc on the commercial rental market, destroying for many the American Dream. The sight of successful, iconic businesses closing month after month has led to fear and hopelessness among merchants. Would their business survive when their lease expired? Would the landlord demand such an unreasonable increase that signing would make it little more than an indentured-servitude agreement? Merchants’ futures were more and more in the hands of speculators and unreasonable landlords. Merchants most dreaded outcome was receiving a “Vacate the premises in 30 days” notice. Now a ray of hope is shining on New York City’s mom-and-pop shops. A store owner might discover outside his window customers collecting petitions demanding legislation to save her business. The recent flurry of activity to support small business — from the media blitz and community forums to grassroots social-media public-advocacy groups, community board involvement, political club resolutions and beyond — makes it clear: Politicians may be silent as businesses close but the public will remain silent no more, and we are demanding action. This public outcry recently produced three proposals claiming to address exorbitant rents causing closures. One, introduced in Albany, supporting tax breaks for landlords who don’t rent gouge their commercial tenants, will merely be borne by the taxpayers. And because landlords’ participation is voluntary, it should not be taken seriously as a solution to this crisis. Instead, we will focus on the two measures designated for a City Council vote. The first proposal comes from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who under the City Charter, can introduce legislation in partnership with a councilmember. Brewer chose Robert Cornegy, chairperson of the Council’s Small Business Committee, to introduce her bill. Brewer’s legislation would give rights to retail storefront tenants owners prior to their leases expiring. Mediation could be requested to negotiate new lease terms, though this would be nonbinding upon the landlord. If this nonbinding negotiation process failed to reach an agreement, then the retail tenant would get a one-year lease extension at a 15 percent increase, giving him time to find a new location. The reasoning behind Brewer’s proposal is that, in today’s speculative commercial market, with high rent increases and tenants having no rights, store owners rarely know what their new rents and lease terms will be until shortly before expiration of the old lease. For merchants wanting to find a new location in their neighborhoods where loyal customers can still patronize them, they need adequate time for their search. Brewer’s bill gives that added time to move the business to a new location. The other proposal is the Small Business Jobs EastVillagerNews.com
On Oct 16, 2009, the City Council’s legal and legislative staff presented a legal memorandum of case law supporting the constitutionality of the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. In the front row, from left, are Attorney Sherri Donovan, the longtime legal counsel for the Small Business Congress and an authority of New York State court decisions on commercial rent-control law; her two assistants, and Miguel Peribanez, the founder of the U.S.A. Latin Chamber of Commerce, which, at the request of David Yassky, the then-chairperson of the Council’s Small Business Committee, conducted the largest small business study of Hispanic business owners in New York City. In the back row, from left, are Quenia Abreu, president of the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce; Sung Soo Kim, founder of the Korean American Small Business Service Center; Ramon Murphy, president of the U.S.A. Bodega Association; Miguel Acevedo, a tenant and youth activist from Chelsea’s Fulton Houses; then-Councilmember Robert Jackson, the prime sponsor of the S.B.J.S.A. at that time; R. Kim, a Korean manufacturing leader; Mrs. Sung Soo Kim, and Steven Null, founder of the Coalition for Fair Business rents. In 2009, 32 of the City Council’s 51 members supported the S.B.J.S.A., yet it was never allowed to come up for a vote by the full Council.
Survival Act, whose original version was first introduced in 1986 by then-Councilmember Ruth Messinger. The S.B.J.S.A. deals only with the lease-renewal process, giving business owners in “good standing” (i.e. no illegal activities, pay rent on time, etc.) the right to a minimum 10-year lease. This bill calls first for nonbinding mediation with landlords, with both parties having equal rights to negotiate terms. If mediation fails to achieve a mutual agreement, then there would be binding arbitration, with both parties having equal rights to present their arguments. To break it down in a point-by-point comparison: The S.B.J.S.A. gives the right to a lease renewal. Brewer’s proposal offers no right to a lease renewal. The S.B.J.S.A. gives merchants a minimum 10 years to stay at their location. Brewer’s bill gives them a one-year extension so they can move. Both bills give the right to undergo nonbinding mediation. However, the S.B.J.S.A. calls for binding arbitration, if necessary, for a final decision. In Brewer’s bill there is no arbitration — the landlord makes the decision. The S.B.J.S.A. applies to all commercial tenants. Brewer’s bill applies only to retail storefronts. Brewer is adamant that her bill can pass and that the S.B.J.S.A. can never pass. Does she know something the voters don’t about our elected officials or who really runs City Hall? She said her primary reason for this conviction is that, “[The S.B.J.S.A.] raises serious constitutional issues about contract and property rights.” I asked James Caras, Brewer’s general counsel, if
he advised the borough president on this issue, and, if so, could he e-mail me the case law supporting that position? I also inquired if there was any amendment to the S.B.J.S.A. that could satisfy his legal concerns about the bill and, if so, could he describe the amendment. The reply came from Brewer’s press secretary, Andrew Goldston: “There’s no easy tweak or quick fix that will make S.B.J.S.A. impervious to a court challenge or politically feasible. To help small businesses that are suffering today, we must embrace realistic proposals that can pass today. Mom-andpops have spent decades waiting for action, and it’s time for us to stop tilting at windmills and do something that will help.” Attorney Steven Barrison, a spokesperson for the Small Business Congress (www.saveNYCjobs.org), was more than willing to offer a rebuttal. “The only windmills being tilted here,” he declared, “are the phony bills backed by big real estate to distract from the solution offered by the S.B.J.S.A., which actually does directly attack, and solve the lease-renewal crisis facing small businesses in New York City. Proposals that ‘can pass’ but offer nothing as a real solution are just that, nothing; thus, they are, in fact, unrealistic because they accomplish zero. “No legislation is ‘impervious to court challenge.’ That is why we have a judicial system in the first place! The only reason the S.B.J.S.A. hasn’t passed and was stopped in 2009 — after 32 councilmembers signed on in support of it at that time — was SMALL BUSINESS, continued on p. 16 June 11, 2015
Hope or hype? Battle of the small business bills SMALL BUSINESS, continued from p. 15
the misleading and undocumented legal advice by the same general counsel’s office to then-Speaker Christine Quinn,” Barrison stressed. “And now that same Quinn’s office adviser is advising Borough President Brewer, and continuing this baseless, meritless empty argument again. “Attorney Caras has not produced a single shred of evidence or documents to demonstrate, in any clear way, a legal problem with the Small Business Jobs Survival Act in over six years and eight months — because there is none! Since that phony claim in 2009, that is another 80,000 lost small businesses costing New York City 864,000 jobs! “The only question is how many more small businesses will go under while Brewer and her legal advisers delay, distract and destroy what is left of the remaining small businesses in New York City, while they lobby for passage of their bill for big real estate,” Barrison stated. “On average, more than 1,000 small businesses are closing each month in our city, with the single biggest issue being the unfair lease-renewal process. The S.B.J.S.A. resolves that issue, and Brewer’s bill ignores the main issue,
resolving nothing.” Defending the S.B.J.S.A. as the only real solution is Sung Soo Kim. Founder of the oldest small business service center in the Big Apple, Kim is often called the “Godfather of Small Business.” For more than 30 years, Kim has negotiated thousands of lease renewals for his Korean members. “In October 2009,” Kim said, “prior to a vote on S.B.J.S.A., certain to unanimously pass the Small Business Committee, someone in the Speaker’s Office made the claim that the bill had legal issues and stopped a vote on it. What usually happens next with legislation is that changes are recommended to the bill’s language or amendments to make the bill more constitutional. However, that never happened with the S.B.J.S.A. once this ‘legal roadblock’ stopped the vote,” Kim noted. “Never once in six years has anyone from the Speaker’s Office made any recommendations to amend the bill to satisfy their legal concerns so it could continue for a hearing and possible vote.” The non-action on changing the bill is a big change of policy by the speaker’s legal and legislative office from what happened with past versions of the S.B.J.S.A. In fact, back in 1989, the Speaker’s Office recom-
Read t the Easr! Village 16
June 11, 2015
mended changes to the bill to satisfy their legal concerns; the legislation’s then-prime sponsor, Councilmember Ruth Messinger, made all the changes requested. And then, again, in 1995, then-prime sponsor Guillermo Linares was asked by the Speaker’s Office to make more changes to the bill to satisfy their legal concerns. Linares accommodated them by amending the bill to satisfy their stated legal concerns. The absolute essential component of any law to stop the closing of businesses is the “right to renewal of the lease,” without which all proposals will fail and all independent owners in New York City will eventually be forced to close. The creation of the largest commercial real estate bubble in the world combined with a pro-real estate City Hall has drawn money from around the world to invest in real estate in New York City, only inflating the bubble further. The Brewer bill — without arbitration that would give rights to small business owners — will not stop the closing of any businesses or stop out-of-control rent increases. As for giving businesses time to find a new location and move, my question is, “Move to where?” Many small businesses have already moved several times over the past decades to escape ridiculous rent increases. How can new shop owners pay these exorbitant rents when well-established storeowners could not? Also, Brewer’s bill will not halt unscrupulous landlords’ illegal extortion of cash payments from mostly immigrant owners under threat of being thrown out of business. Only the S.B.J.S.A. will halt rent-gouging and such extortion. Kim said he had expected a lot more from this new administration in terms of support for the long-stymied legislation. “I assumed electing a progressive mayor, speaker and Council who pledged to take a new direction from the Bloomberg administration, would make passing the S.B.J.S.A. easier not harder,” he said. “However, progressive policies on social issues for the 99 percent, but keeping the 1 percent’s conservative Republican economic policy in place has wreaked havoc upon the 99 percent.”
Brewer said dismissively of the S.B.J.S.A., “It has languished in the Council, perpetually reintroduced legislation that has been spinning its wheels for more than 30 years, a bill that’s spent decades collecting dust.” But Kim took exception to that description of the bill he has steadfastly championed year after year despite the daunting political roadblocks. “Not even the squeaky wheel of injustice has allowed the dust to settle on the S.B.J.S.A.,” Kim declared. “The bill has always had strong support. In fact, in 1988 only last-minute lobbying by then-Speaker Peter Vallone, using the full force of the Speaker’s Office, flipped a ‘Yes’ vote to a ‘No’ vote, causing the bill to lose 4-3 in committee. “How can anyone state the bill has been collecting dust,” Kim said, “when in 2009 it had 32 sponsors, including the entire Small Business Committee and its chairman, David Yassky, who pledged, ‘We have to do something to help small businesses. It is not an option to do nothing. We cannot allow them to be pushed to the point of disappearance, which is what is happening now. The cornerstone foundation to save small businesses,’ Yassky said, ‘is the Small Business Survival Act.’ “ “The ‘collecting dust’ reference is especially strange,” he noted, “when you consider the bill Brewer is introducing was the same recommendation of the infamous ‘Limousine Commission’ from 30 years ago, which business and civil-liberty groups denounced as ‘the Landlord’s Bill’ to stop Ruth Messinger’s Arbitration Bill! It was dismissed as a biased commission made up of bankers, real estate, Wall St. and big businesses; it was never heard of again until this mummified bill was dug up, dusted off and reintroduced as the Brewer Bill — word for word!” So here we have a tale of two bills. This is the litmus test that tells the tale of de Blasio’s two cities. One city is stuck in the quagmire of “Cannot Do”; the other is the “Can Do” city of renewed hope, rejuvenated growth and a frenzy of artistic activity. Resurrect the S.B.J.S.A. Dust off the American Dream long buried in a hopeless hole of despair. Take Back NYC. We Can Do It!
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Chelsea Music Fest fetes Finns, leaves you ‘Hungary’ for more Food and music, June 12-20 BY SEAN EGAN
COURTESY OF THE ARTISTS
ince its inception in 2010, the Chelsea Music Festival (CMF) has been steadily gaining ground as must-attend event for serious music lovers. Using local landmarks such as St. Paul’s Church (315 W. 22nd St.) as performance venues, the Festival brings world-class music from around the globe to New York City. With events ranging from galas, to late night shows, to family friendly activities, there’s something for everyone. This time around however, as the Festival enters its fifth season, its focus has turned to the music and culture of Hungary and Finland. “The Chelsea Music Festival highlights a different theme every year, a choice that is often based on composers’ anniversaries,” said Artistic Directors Ken David Masur and Melinda Lee Masur in a conversation with Chelsea Now. They note that this year, in particular, they are celebrating the 150th birthday of the influential Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. As for Hungary, the focus will be on works from a handful of masters, including Béla Bartók, Ernö Dohnányi, Zoltán Kodály, Joseph Joachim and Karl Goldmark. But why Finland and Hungary of all places? “The juxtaposition of the two cultures as well as their shared linguistic heritage,” assert the artistic directors. In order to pay tribute to these unique musical cultures, the Masurs set out to assemble a program of diverse and talented musicians from abroad — the first of which is the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, whose
The players of Avanti! Chamber Orchestra will be featured heavily in this year’s CMF.
members will kick the Festival off at June 12’s Opening Night Gala. Avanti!, who describe themselves as “an ensemble consisting of anything from a single player to a symphony orchestra,” that “operates freely over different eras and genres” was selected to be CMF’s Ensemble-in-Residence this year. The Masurs recalled that they wanted to offer the ensemble the position after they “Witnessed the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra in their native Finland and were thoroughly
taken by their fiery music making and unorthodox interpretation,” back in 2009. “Each concert with Avanti! promises to be a breath of fresh Finnish air,” they assure, including their participation in a June 13 “Fiddle Off,” and June 15’s “Carte Blanche” evening. One of the most interesting acts booked for this year’s CMF is Loop Doctors. Representing a slight (or perhaps drastic) change of pace from the classical music and jazz that dominates the program, the Loop
Doctors offer something different, and a little difficult to peg down. The Masurs describe the group’s sound as “A medley of different styles, including jazz, drum ‘n’ bass, jungle, hip-hop and rap. An overall category could be nu-jazz, but Loop Doctors can also be seen in clubs, where people actually dance to the music.” The group is set to play on June 19, at what is known as the “Late Night” event, which serves up a MUSIC, continued on p.18 June 11, 2015
Chelsea Music Fest plays to all tastes
MUSIC, continued from p. 17
“cutting-edge take” on the festival’s theme. The Doctors’ distinctive brand of trippy, funky, infectious music, especially as joined by saxophonist Chris Hunter, certainly fits this bill. “For this concert only, Loop Doctors will prepare four pieces from well-known Hungarian contemporary composers and add their distinct electro-drum’n’bass-jazz touch to the compositions,” guarantee the Masurs. Equally diverse and talented performers populate the rest of the festival, from The Lee Trio (a group comprised of three string-playing sisters, including Melinda Lee Masur) to the Santa Diver Trio (spearheaded by jazz-violinist Luca Kézdy). But the festival’s celebration of Finnish and Hungarian culture extends even further than the music — various events also feature authentic cuisine courtesy of Sami Tallberg and Carl Frederiksen, Culinary Artists-in-Residence.
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
Finnish jazz pianist Tuomo Uusitalo will close the Festival with arrangements of Sibelius.
Loop Doctors set to get you moving with their infectious beats on June 19.
Closing out the festival on June 20 is Tuomo Uusitalo, a Finnish jazz-pianist who, as of 2012, has called New York City his home. Approached to arrange and perform some works by Sibelius himself, Uusitalo notes, “It’s a great thing for me to arrange some of his music for the festival, which I wanted to do already for a while.” He’ll be joined by bassist Myles Sloniker, and, at the request of the Artistic Directors, by Finnish drummer Olavi Louhivuori — “Which is great because I’ve been a big fan of all of his music for years and years,” Uusitalo divulges. In arranging Sibelius’ music to suit his jazz style, Uusitalo tries to find pieces that touch him personally, and then, “try to keep the real essence of what he really meant.” “Most of Sibelius’ music is very, in a positive sense, nationalistic,” he says, noting, “There are a lot of strong feelings about what it means to be Finnish,” and he wishes to capture that feeling, and the feeling of nature, both calm and harsh,
that his music evokes. In addition to Sibelius pieces, Uusitalo plans on performing some original music as well as jazz standards, perhaps including works by famous Hungarian composer of popular songs, Sigmund Romberg. Ultimately, the Artistic Directors see the Festival as an event that will enrich the lives of Chelsea residents, which they refer to as “one of New York City’s most dynamic neighborhoods,” which possesses a “creative spirit.” Their eagerness to take advantage of “the unique spaces including intimate art galleries, former warehouses and beautiful historic churches” to present site-specific work, and their excitement over being able “to contribute to the fabric of the community through family events, outreach and education events at schools and other public spaces,” speaks to the special appeal that Chelsea, and New York as a whole, has for artists, and why festivals like CMF are able to thrive. Uusitalo also speaks elo-
quently of the city’s unique appeal. “There is no other place like New York,” he says of his adopted home. “I think there never was another place that was so full of jazz — especially jazz, but also other culture. You can find, you know, all kinds of stuff. It seems like in New York you have more of everything.” And when events as exciting and illuminating as the Chelsea Music Festival happening regularly, it’s hard to disagree with him. The Chelsea Music Festival happens June 12–20, at venues including Canoe Studios, St. Paul’s German Lutheran Church, Scandinavia House, Leo Baeck Institute, Norwood, and Finnish Lutheran at St. John’s Church. Tickets range from $8-$68. Discounts available for people under 30 and seniors, with ID. For reservations and a full schedule, including info on free events, visit chelseamusicfestival.org. Twitter: @ cmf_nyc. Also see facebook.com/chelseamusicfestival.
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June 11, 2015
Kiss Punch Poem a magnet for ‘beatiful creative panic’ Verse and improv collide at weekly series
PHOTO BY LYNN CAPPIELLO
PHOTO BY LISA FLANAGAN
The Kiss Punch Poem ensemble is not afraid to make light of the darkness.
BY PUMA PERL
hen I first heard about Kiss Punch Poem, a weekly series at the Magnet Theater that merges poetry and comedic improv, my initial reaction was that there were two ways this could go: painfully bad or insanely hilarious. I am pleased to report that my experience reflects the second supposition. The blend of a talented group of improvisers, known as the Kiss Punch Poem Ensemble, with featured writers performing original work, accomplishes its goal of bringing about the unexpected in both comedic and poetic ways. The event follows a specific formula, beginning with an exquisite corpse poem written in collaborative fashion by audience members prior to the show. Exquisite corpse is a poetry game that originated in the Parisian Surrealistic Movement, in which a paper is passed around and each player writes a word or image and the end result forms a poem. In this case, each participant writes a line, and a volunteer reads the finished product. The Kiss Punch Poem Ensemble then improvises a scene based on what they heard. This first improv, pretty much a warm-up for the show, is followed by the first of three featured poets. An improv takes place after each reading, and at the evening’s conclusion one or two of the poet members create a brand new end poem for the audience, inspired by the show. On the night that I attended, I was EastVillagerNews.com
honored to be one of the three features, along with Taylor Mali, a wellknown poet, educator and teacher advocate, and Mason Granger, a talented poet who decribes himself as “part comic and part hip-hop.” Both Mali and Granger were familiar with the format, so I paid close attention to their choices. And then I agonized. I had selected a poem that was rich in narrative and imagery, thinking that it would lend itself to improvisational work, but listening to Mali read a poem called “Undivided Attention,” I wondered whether my subject matter was too dark for the audience to enjoy. Learning that Granger’s piece was entitled “Dr. Seuss” did not boost my confidence. I grabbed my book and quickly chose a lighter poem. I recited it in my head and rejected it. Selected another. Not quite right. “First thought, best thought,” Allen Ginsburg intoned in my head, and I resignedly returned to my original choice. Mali was concluding his poem, about the distraction of watching a Steinway piano being moved out a window while he was trying to give a math lesson, and ending with the haunting line “Let me teach like the first snow, falling.” The troupe raced onto the stage as he exited. My next task would be to stay focused so I could take my place center stage just as they concluded their final improvisational skit — if my timing was off, they would return and continue. Meanwhile, troupe member Nathan was playing the part of the piano, hanging from a window that’s part of the simple set, as a combination of wit and slapstick kept the
Performance poet Mason Granger’s Seuss-themed reading inspired the Kiss Punch Poem troupe to improvise equally farcical acts of silliness.
audience laughing. And thinking. I managed to get onstage in time to read a poem called “Gallery Walls,” about the experience of viewing photographic images of my past at a gallery opening, and feeling invisible in my present. As I said, a bit dark for this sort of thing, but the audience was quiet and attentive. “Photographs lined the gallery walls,” it began. “Kids pushed carts down abandoned streets.” I finished, the troupe raced on, Kiss Punch Poem co-founder Alex Marino leaned back in his chair, crossed his legs and remarked to two troupe members, “Yeah, those little effin’ brats and their shopping carts,” and they were off. The painful aspects of my life that the poem reflected were now hilarious, as presented by The Surreal Three Stooges. When I told Alex later about my trepidations regarding my choice, he responded that they loved to be presented with serious
matter, as it offers a different kind of challenge than a humorous piece, which is already funny. Perhaps a lot of money could be saved on therapy if poets simply bring their angst to the venue and watch it dissolve into the ridiculous. The final piece, “Dr. Seuss,” brilliantly performed by Mason Granger, inspired even broader dimensions of farce and silliness, sort of The Surreal Three Stooges On Acid — and then it was time for the end poem. Poets Thomas Fucaloro and Jared Singer traded off lines, creating a duet of sweet sensibility, picking up words from one another as segue. Although they are very different types of writers, a cohesive piece emerged, including elements from the poems read by the features and highlighting the Dr. Seuss character, Sam (of Sam-IPOEM, continued on p.20
June 11, 2015
Spontaneity and structure give ‘Poem’ punch
PHOTO BY LYNN CAPPIELLO
Riffing on Taylor Mali’s poem, troupe member Nathan plays the part of a distracting piano being moved out of a window.
POEM, continued from p. 19
Wing it, but don’t fling it!
Read t the Easr! Village 20
June 11, 2015
Am) as an innocent voice. “There is an angel to be found in all of us” was one of the parting lines. Kiss Punch debuted in 2011 as part of an experimental performance show the Magnet Theater called “Test Drive.” “If you had an idea for a show you could pitch it, get a slot and try it out,” Alex explained. “If it worked, you would get another chance.” Kiss Punch played to a packed audience, receiving a standing ovation and, eventually, proving its potential to capture an audience. Alex was already teaching improv at the theater when he met Meghan Plunkett, a “poet slinking around the Bowery Poetry Club,” as she put it. She started to attend the initial performances and became interested in the fusion of poetry and improv, convincing Alex to visit the Bowery Poetry Club and meet her poet friends. The two decided that their poet and actor buddies needed to get together and create something, and that’s how the improv group fused into Kiss Punch Poem, with Alex and Meghan co-producing the resulting project. They both participate in the performances as well. The popularity of the series has won it a weekly slot at the theater, and the troupe has toured around the country.
When asked the ways in which improv informs her work as a poet, Meghan responded that a lot of her poems have been inspired by scenes that come from the show. “Improv allows you to look at life with a different lens,” she said. “One of my favorite things to do is to write the end piece, a poem that is written while the show explodes on stage. Having fifty minutes to write a poem based on improv ignites a beautiful kind of creative panic. There is no time to censor yourself, and you begin to wonder, ‘Why did I ever censor myself?’” It was Alex who originally came up with the idea of the end piece. “I had always been really in love with the idea of someone watching the whole show and writing a poem on the spot. I thought it would be so cool if someone could improvise that end poem, and one night we were all playing pool at some bar and Jared Singer said, ‘You know, that’s what I do, right? I started doing poetry by improvising poems for my college improv troupe.’ So that’s sort of how he got involved.” The bonds of friendship and a shared sensibility create the trust that must exist with any group operating without a net. The cast includes performers with credits from NPR, The Onion, Second City and other respected venues. It has been favorably reviewed by Time Out Chicago and The American Reader, and praised by Mark Smith, founder of Slam Poetry. “Their performance took me back to the formative years of the slam,” he wrote. “It was exhilarating.” What I like most is the blend of the raw and the personal with the giddy feeling of jumping as high as you can without knowing where you will land — or when, or if. One of the qualities that separates a great poem from a good one is the element of surprise, and Kiss Punch Poem, on a weekly basis, aims for greatness and brings the audience and the guest features right along with them. “Kiss Punch Poem” takes place every Sat., 9 p.m., at the Magnet Theater (254 W. 29th St. at Eighth Ave.). $10 admission. For more info, visit kisspunchpoem. com and magnettheater.com. The next “Puma Perl’s Pandemonium” will be Fri., June 19, 7 p.m. at Bowery Electric Map Room (327 Bowery at Joey Ramone Place). No cover, no admission, 21+. Poetry and Rock and Roll featuring poets Ted Jonathan, Corrina Bain and Linda Rizzo, musicians Jeff Ward and Sarah Amina, Puma Perl and Friends and more. Visit pumaperl.blogspot.com. EastVillagerNews.com
Just Do Art
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
© LOIS GREENFIELD
Parsons Dance (pictured), the Paul Taylor Dance Company and Ballet Hispanico put feet to Pier 63, at June 17–18’s Hudson River Dance Festival.
Andra Gabrielle’s workspace will be among those open to the public, at June 13/14’s West Chelsea Artists Open Studios Tour.
BY SCOTT STIFFLER
HUDSON RIVER DANCE FESTIVAL
WEST CHELSEA ARTISTS OPEN STUDIOS TOUR
This annual self-guided tour gives you the opportunity to enter the minds — and the work spaces — of more than 30 West Chelsea artists, in nine buildings along the High Line between Westbeth Artists building and the West Chelsea Arts building. In close proximity to the tools of the trade and the fruits of their labors, this event encourages dialogue and provides a window into the creative process. Best of all? Much of what’s on display is up for grabs, at considerably better rates than what you’d pay for in a gallery setting. Free. From 12-6 p.m. on Sat. & Sun., June 13 & 14, in the West Chelsea Gallery District. The self-guided tour starts at the West Chelsea Arts EastVillagerNews.com
PHOTO BY BEN TRIVETT
The inaugural edition of the Hudson River Dance Festival puts its focus on modern American dance, with performances from three dynamic companies known for their frequent appearances at The Joyce Theater (a festival co-sponsor). Among the featured works: The Paul Taylor Dance Company will perform 1991’s “Company B,” which juxtaposes Andrews Sisters songs with the sacrifices made by those who lived through the vocal group’s World War II heyday. “Nascimento,” a classic from the Parsons Dance canon, is a high-flying celebration of the Brazilian spirit penned by one of that country’s premiere composers after he saw the troupe perform at Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro. More graceful athleticism is on display, when Ballet Hispanico performs “Sombrerísimo,” in which six male dancers evoke the surrealist world of the Belgian painter René Magritte (he of the paintings of men in bowler hats). Free. An identical program plays on Wed. & Thurs., June 17 & 18, 6:30 p.m. at Hudson River Park’s Pier 63 Lawn (23rd St. & the Hudson River). For the full schedule, visit hudsonriverpark.org/events.
On June 13, Cyndi Freeman, Erin Barker and Caitlan Brodnick bare their souls on the matter of their breasts. See “Navigating the Science of Genetic Testing for Cancer Risk.”
building (508-526 W. 26th St. btw. 10th & 11th Aves.), where visitors can pick up tour maps. For more info, visit westchelseaartists.com. Maps also available now at the stores of event sponsor, DaVinci Artist Supply (132 W. 21st, 137 E. 23rd & 170 E. 70th Sts.), Westbeth Artists Housing (lobby, 55 Bethune St.), Macelleria Restaurant (48 Gansevoort Ave.), Skyframe (141 W. 28th St. 12th fl.) and Vasari Classic Artists’ Oil Colors 547 W. 27th St. Suite 628).
CAITY & CYNDI’S BOOBS: NAVIGATING THE SCIENCE OF GENETIC TESTING FOR CANCER RISK
A few decades ago, they would have gone to the bookstore and bought a copy of “First You Cry” — Betty Rollin’s culture-changing 1976 account of her breast cancer diagnosis. But for Caitlin Brodnick
and Cyndi Freeman, coping mechanisms deployed upon testing positive for the breast cancer gene included drinking heavily, becoming a stripper, gaining newfound respect for Angeline Jolie and coming up with a killer plan to stay alive. As science rapidly advances in its ability to predict our medical future, prevention becomes a matter of everything from surgery to preemptively choosing embryos based on genetics. Delving into everything from ethics to health care to sexuality, seasoned storytellers Brodnick and Freeman will come clean on their own diagnosis, then converse in a panel session moderated by Erin Barker (a senior producer for Story Collider, which presents true, science-themed stories). A Q&A follows the panel. All three women are veterans of The Moth and prolific autobiographers in a variety of mediums — making this an evening whose sober topic is handled with graphic honesty and a strong dose of medicinal humor. Sat., June 13, 8 p.m. at UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place btw. First Ave. & Ave. A). For tickets ($15, $12 for students), visit horseTRADE.info. June 11, 2015
Gardens to gay rights, top lawyer handled it all FRIEDLANDER, continued from p. 1
PHOTO BY JAMEL BROWNE, NYC LAW DEPARTMENT
June 11, 2015
Jeff Friedlander today.
During his career at the city’s Law Department, Jeff Friedlander — shown with his wife, Marjory, and daughter, Julia — worked with seven mayors, including Ed Koch.
PHOTO COURTESY NYC LAW DEPARTMENT
PHOTO COURTESY NYC LAW DEPARTMENT
and human rights. His service spanned the administrations of seven mayors and 13 corporation counsels (as the city’s chief legal officer is known). He is especially proud of having drafted the anti-apartheid legislation in the 1980s that prohibited the city from doing business with companies that operated in South Africa unless they followed the Sullivan Principles, which demanded equal treatment of employees in that country regardless of race. He is also proud of the way the Law Department carried on after it was displaced from its Church St. headquarters after the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attack and was scattered to 44 locations for seven months. “I grew up on E. Seventh St. in a three-story brownstone that belonged to my paternal grandfather,” said Friedlander, who lives in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, with his wife, Marjory. “Actually,” he added, “the house remained in the family until a few months ago when we sold it.” Friedlander went to a small private Hebrew elementary school on E. Houston St. “The building no longer exists,” he said. He then went to Seward Park High School. “I became interested in American history and just assumed that law would be the next step,” he said. He went to Hunter College, graduating in 1967, and then to New York University Law School, earning his law degree in 1970. While in law school, Friedlander was an intern for U.S. Senator Jacob Javits and also spent a summer in the office of U.S. Attorney Robert Morgenthau. One of his professors at N.Y.U., Norman Redlich, who was then also in the city Law Department in Mayor John Lindsay’s administration, suggested that Friedlander apply for an honors program in the department. Armed with his new J.D. degree, Friedlander took the advice and embarked on his career. The Landmarks Preservation Law was only five years old at the time when Friedlander was involved in its expansion to include interiors. The expansion led to designation of, among others, the interiors of Radio City Music Hall in Rockefeller Center and the Beacon Theater on Broadway. One landmark issue that went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court at the time and helped establish the constitutionality of historic preservation was the Grand Central Station case. “My colleague Leonard Koern-
Friedlander worked under Democratic as well as Republican mayors, including Rudy Giuliani.
er argued it before the Supreme Court,” Friedlander said. “He’s been in the department three years longer than I have. I wanted to retire before he did and leave him unchallenged as the longest-serving member of the department,” he quipped. “I worked on the settlement between the city and the New York State attorney general on the issue of community gardens and affordable
housing sites,” Friedlander said. “I think we were pretty successful preserving some gardens and allowing others to be developed for housing.” The signing of the agreement in 2003 was a memorable occasion for East Village residents, some of who came to the event dressed as vegetables and flowers. Friedlander’s accomplishments
range from the establishment of the Civilian Complaint Review Board to the drafting of the city’s gay rights law. He worked on the city’s Campaign Finance Law and drafted the Watershed Protection Agreement, a pact by the city and state governments and Upstate communities to keep the New York City watershed pure while allowing limited development. He played a key role in the establishment of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the transformation of Governors Island. As first assistant corporation counsel, Friedlander is also responsible for leading the Law Department in the absence of the corporation counsel. He served as acting corporation counsel for five months from November 1997 to March 1998 and for a brief period in January 2014. Friedlander will retire at the end of June. Mayor Bill de Blasio called him “a brilliant legal legend, the epitome of someone who’s dedicated his life to public service and to whom all New Yorkers owe a great debt. His wise counsel helped guide the city and the Law Department through many highs and lows, in particular the Sept.11 tragedy.” Zachary Carter, the current corporation counsel, said, “Jeff is a living New York City institution. He is a legal icon who has served the city through its many ups and downs, including the fiscal crisis of the 1970s and the horrors of Sept. 11. He’s been as solid as a rock, the kind of person everyone relies on and looks to for astute, insightful, laser-sharp legal advice. Since coming here last year, I have come to regard Jeff both as a trusted confidant and a good friend. It’s our great loss that he is retiring.” EastVillagerNews.com
Pols arrested in Albany as rent war ratchets up RENT, continued from p. 1
and do the right thing. The future of preserving affordable housing in New York City depends on it.” In a statement the following day, Hoylman said, “Yesterday, I got arrested in the capitol building in an act of civil disobedience to sound the alarm to my colleagues in Albany that it’s urgent we act now to strengthen the rent laws. I have 50,052 rent-regulated apartments in my district — the fifth most in the state — so the expiration of the rent laws is of tremendous importance to my constituents and me. “The clock is ticking,” Hoylman said. “Rent laws expire on June 15, leaving us only five session days to act and protect the homes of more than 2 million New Yorkers who depend on rent regulation. But a straight extension of the law isn’t enough. We need to end vacancy decontrol and preferential rents and make major capital improvement (MCI) increases temporary, among other reforms, if we’re going to preserve this vital segment of New York City’s affordable housing stock. “Some things are worth getting arrested over,” Hoylman said. “Saving the rent laws is one of them. Albany needs to wake up and strengthen the rent laws now.” Among the other politicians arrested included state Senator Adriano Espaillat, Assemblymember Bill Perkins, Councilmembers Jumaane Williams and Laurie Cumbo. Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Brian Kavanagh were not among the protesters. “End of session is very busy and she was occupied with committee work,” a Glick spokesperson said, referring to the upcoming end of the legislative session later this month when the state Legislature breaks for the summer. According to one of the arrested state legislators, they were taking a risk by holding the protest, as opposed to the city councilmembers. “I still have to work with Cuomo,” he said. The protest was organized by the state legislators. Four days earlier, 70 people had gathered in Chelsea at the Hudson Guild for a forum led by Johnson on the critical struggle to save affordable housing, including rent-regulated housing. “The costs of rent, food, the subway and clothing are going up, but people who’ve lived in this neighborhood for their entire lives are wondering how long they can hang in there, especially on the West Side,” Johnson told the audience. “Are we going to become a city of luxury housing for part-time residents, or a city of families…that contribute to the fabric of New York?” Johnson hosted a panel of housing EastVillagerNews.com
Corey Johnson being arrested in Albany on Wed., June 3, during a planned sit-in protest outside the governor’s office.
Hoylman, Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, behind Hoylman to the left of him, and state Senator Adriano Espaillat, behind Hoylman to the right, as they all waited to be arrested while doing civil disobedience last Wednesday.
experts, including Sarah Desmond of Housing Conservation Coordinators; Katie Goldstein of Tenants & Neighbors; Daniel Hernandez from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development; Brian Honan of the New York City Housing
Authority; Alexander Ryley of Volunteers of Legal Service; and Marti Weithman of MFY Legal Services. With the city’s rent laws set to expire this month, tenant advocates headed in force to Albany on Tues., June 9, to lobby for their extension. June 15 is the
deadline for the expiration of current rent regulations. Advocates are seeking an end to vacancy deregulation and a change to the practice of rewarding landlords a 20 percent rent increase for vacated apartments — or even more, if the tenant has resided there for more than eight years. Currently, vacant apartments can become decontrolled if the rent is as little as $2,100; the 20 percent rent increase pushes the rent to $2,500, which is the threshold for vacancy decontrol. According to a report in last Wednesday’s Daily News, more than 100,000 rent-regulated apartments are on the verge of vacancy decontrol — including more than 11,300 in Chelsea and 8,700 in Tribeca and nearly 9,000 in the Stuyvesant Town/Murray Hill/ Midtown East area. “Vacancy decontrol has done more damage to the housing stock than any single item,” Desmond told the audience at Hudson Guild. “The landlord can deregulate the apartment when it’s vacant. Then the next tenant has no right for [a lease] renewal, and no regulations.” Under the current system, landlords can use an assortment of tactics to boost rents. For example, they can make major capital improvements and raise the rent one-fortieth of those costs. There has been a loss of 400,000 rent-regulated apartments in the past 20 years, Desmond said. “We want reform in the rent guidelines for the city’s 2.5 million rent-stabilized tenants,” Johnson said, adding, “It’s high time for a rent freeze or rollback.” Rent regulation allows tenants to remain in the apartment as long as they don’t violate the lease, and to have their rent hikes set by the Rent Guidelines Board, a nine-person board appointed by the mayor to determine the permitted rise in rent for one- and two-year leases. Though this usually maxes out at 2.75 percent for a two-year lease, advocates charge it is way too much. In fact, they charge, the R.G.B. has improperly exaggerated landlords’ projected operating expenses in recent years to justify the hikes. As a result, a rent rollback — in short, an actual rent reduction — is now owed to tenants based on landlords’ actual operating costs over recent years, tenant activists argue. “We’re pushing for rent rollbacks, because every year the board rubberstamps rent increases while landlords reap incredible profits,” Goldstein said. “In the next month, there will be public hearings in each borough. Tenants must testify, because landlords are saying they are not making enough money.” June 11, 2015
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June 11, 2015
PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY
They’ll be dancing in the street (to a Greek beat) On Sun., May 31, Romaniote and Sephardic Jews celebrated their unique heritage at the Greek Jewish synagogue Kehila Kedosha Janina, at 280 Broome St., between Eldridge and Allen Sts., at the first-ever Greek Jewish Festival. Five live bands played Greek, Sephardic, Balkan and Israeli music. Also part of the festivities and fun were traditional kosher Greek Jewish food, homemade Greek pastries, a marketplace full of vendors, and arts and educational activities for kids. Visitors could take tours of the landmark synagogue building, constructed in 1927.
Nepal fundraiser a good start, but more is needed
PHOTOS BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
Debbie Harry of Blondie fame performed at the fundraiser, where many, like these two men, came in traditional garb.
June 11, 2015
n May 30, local talents and Nepalese performers came together to raise money for victims of the April earthquake in Nepal. The event was organized by Indra Tamang, longtime collaborator on art projects with the late Charles Henri Ford. Tamang is well known in New York art circles, as well as in the Nepalese community. Debbie Harry, Penny Arcade, Felice Rosser and Faith, and Tammy Faye
Starlite, along with Barry Reynolds of Marianne Faithfull fame, joined Tamang in his efforts by performing at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral at Second Ave. and E. 34th St. The turnout was terrific, yet their goal of $75,000 for Nepal has yet to be met. To contribute, visit Indra Tamang’s Go Fund Me page or contact him at 917-913-2693 or Tamang49@gmail. com . He is also considering auctioning off a piece of art by Ford to raise additional funds. EastVillagerNews.com
Reform of 7th Community Council is long overdue TALKING POINT BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
Last Saturday night, there was a big fight involving Hell Square bargoers at Stanton and Ludlow Sts. One man had already been whisked away in an ambulance when this bloody pair were photographed waiting to get medical attention.
for ways to deal with the Hell Square nightmare. The Seventh Precinct Community Council’s anti-democratic brushoff of the Dwellers is very similar to the treatment that the late Marcia Lemmon, Elsa Rensaa and I got in the late 1990s, the only difference being that we were summarily banned from attending further meetings. Lemmon was a Community Board 3 member, a vice president on the community council and lived in Hell Square. She had physical disabilities. She began to grow concerned at the growing number While all the police were of liquor licenses in dealing with the noise and our area and all the commotion down the block, new problems as- this guy was urinating in sociated with them. plain view on Stanton St. She asked us to come between Ludlow and Essex to the police meet- Sts. ings to observe and document what was going on. With the rise in problems associated with all the liquor licenses, she was somewhat baffled why President West — again, who did not live in the area — was seemingly so pro-liquor license. Why were her questions about the neighborhood’s diminishing quality of life being blown off? She wanted a record of the meetings and, be-
PHOTOS BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
clash between two leaders has erupted on the Lower East Side. On one side is Don West, the longtime president of the Seventh Precinct Community Council. On the other is Diem Boyd, the head of the LES Dwellers, a new group only a few years old, who is a single mother with a preteen daughter. The block Boyd lives on already had several liquor licenses on it when the empty building next to her was about to be turned into a three-story bar/restaurant and club, sparking her activism. As described on the LES Dwellers Web site, the area they call Hell Square is a small, four-blockby-five-block area between Norfolk and Allen Sts. and Houston and Delancey Sts. Hell Square has the largest concentration of liquor licenses in all of Community Board 3. According to Boyd, there are 171 liquor licenses in Hell Square. After the May 20 Seventh Precinct Community Council meeting, at which the public session was abruptly canceled, the LES Dwellers put out a press release calling for the council’s disbandment. The release was headlined: “Lower East Side Community calls for Dissolving Fraudulent 7th Precinct Community Council; Calls for 26-Year Council Leader Don West To Resign.” “His undemocratic action silenced the nearly 30 voices of residents and local business owners who came to address community concerns and safety,” the LES Dwellers charged. “For the last fifteen years under Mr. West’s leadership, the 7th Precinct Community Council has long been dominated by bar and nightlife operators with very few residents participating,” the Dwellers further accused. I live in Hell Square. I and a sizable majority of local residents understand Boyd’s complaints. The root of the problem is the oversaturation of liquor licenses, which has turned our area into an alcohol theme park. Imagine SantaCon every weekend. What I do not understand is the position of Don West, who does not even live in Hell Square. Why would the head of the Seventh Precinct “Community” Council want so many liquor licenses in this one area? And as the president of the community council, I thought he was supposed to be concerned with the cops’ safety and the connection of police to the residents of the community they serve. First, there is the noise, the vomit, the urine, the petty crime associated with this blitz of bars. Then consider the various kinds of predators who are attracted to the hundreds of barely legal drunks. On the police side, the Hell Square nightshift has to be a nightmare dealing with the problems caused by the, mostly, privileged, drunken youths. The fights, the antisocial behavior, the anti-authoritarian bravado, the vomit. Then how many times have we heard statements like, “My father will destroy you,” “Do you know who I am?” and so on. Whose side is West on? The LES Dwellers’ mistake was believing that the Seventh Precinct Community Council was the right place to go looking
cause the Seventh Precinct Community Council is a nonprofit organization, she wanted to see the books. Videotaping the meetings and pushing to see the books led to all of us being banned. I’ve never been back and I see no reason to go back. Not long after we got the old heave-ho, on my block, across the street from an elementary school, and right next door to a fully licensed club, we ended up with an illegal strip club, an illegal bottle club, group street brawls, shootings, stabbings, drunks and so on. Another point I found curious is that Community Council President West, who is a civilian and not a New York Police Department employee, had the use of a police parking permit, which he would throw on the dash of his car window, then park in a no-parking zone and go into a Hell Square bar for a drink. This abuse of his power was reported in The Villager. Another bizarre question is why would the Seventh Precinct Community Council have two — not one, but two — National Nights Out at the corner of Ludlow and Stanton Sts.? O.K., it is in the immediate vicinity of the bar that West frequented, but there are very few kids in this area. The few families with kids in that area tend not to let them hang out on the street, and very few kids showed up at either National Night Out. If the intention of these National Night Out events was to reach as large a community audience as possible, then both were total failures. The public-housing projects are where the larger mass of people reside. The New York City Housing Authority developments have crime, and a National Night Out there can symbolize a police interest in the area. Meanwhile, most of the crime in Hell Square is connected with the bars — which is what the LES Dwellers had come to the community council to address, yet were never given a chance to speak. Back to the question: Why are the Seventh Precinct Community Council and President West so in favor of liquor licenses in Hell Square? It makes no sense to me. June 11, 2015
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F A M I LY M O V I E
T H E R A L LY
V I P R O O F T O P PA R T Y
FA N TA S Y
W E PA R T Y
DAN CE O N TH E PI E R
A BURLESQUE MASQUERADE
June 11, 2015
EAST VILLAGER NEWS, JUNE 11, 2015