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storm ProtectIon P. 5

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waItLIsts end – search BeGIns For new schooLs By JOSh ROgERS nd then there were none. Lower Manhattan principals said Friday that their waiting lists have dropped to zero, meaning 5-year-olds without kindergarten seats are receiving offers to nearby schools this week. “I’m very happy — can’t you tell, I’m actually smiling,” said Ariana Massouh, a waitlisted parent who started a petition pressing the Dept. of Education to find space for the 148 children who


Continued on page 10

enJoY ThIS bonuS… ISSue Ark photo courtesy of Tamid, Downtown Express inset photo by Tequila Minsky

A piece of the Mesertiz Shul’s ark, a religious relic which was saved by Tamid, The Downtown Synagogue, a new Jewish congregation that holds services in a church.

This time, the ark itself needed saving By T E Q U IL A MIN S K Y he Lower East Side was home to about a half-million Jewish immigrants a century ago. About 350 synagogues — congregations in 70 discrete prayer spaces — dotted the neighborhoods south of 14th St. Some of these spaces were called shtiebelekh or shtiebels, just one or two rooms set aside


for prayers, others were grand buildings like Eldridge Street Synagogue. In between were tenement shuls; synagogues built within the property line, often, the size of a row house/ brownstone — narrow and long — sandwiched between other buildings. The last of these shuls above Houston St. closed in April, its space leased for luxury condo development. Its


sacred, two-story ark, which housed the Torah, seemed destined for Demolition Depot. But this historic religious relic, integral to the Orthodox synagogue’s building, was saved by Lower Manhattan’s newest Jewish congregation, Tamid, The Downtown Synagogue. Continued on page 26

Time may be moving fast, but not that fast. This week Downtown Express is publishing a special hard copy edition one week after our last issue. The change was made for internal scheduling reasons. We are returning to our biweekly schedule, and our next hard copy publication will come out Wed., July 3. If you like your information weekly, please sign up for our email blasts at

JOHN CATSIMATIDIS FOR MAYOR A New Yorker for all New Yorkers Paid for by Catsimatidis 2013



June 19 - July 2, 2013

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June 19 - July 2, 2013

A wee hour tour to celebrate the U.S.A. By KA I T LY N M E A D E When most people are tucked away in their beds, with visions of July 4 barbeques and fireworks displays in their heads, James S. Kaplan is wandering the graveyards and memorials of Downtown New York’s revolutionary past, his tour group in tow. Kaplan, a tax lawyer at Hertzfeld & Rubin, P.C. in Lower Manhattan for 35 years, has also been a longtime advocate for the forgotten heroes of the Revolutionary War. His 4th of July tour, in partnership with the Fraunces Tavern Museum, takes place in the middle of the night, giving tourists and locals alike the opportunity to see New York in its stillest hours and imagine the city as it was in the days of George Washington. “I feel in the period I’ve been doing this — and certainly there have been great July 4ths — there has been a deterioration of July 4th celebrations. Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is the basement of July 4th celebrations,” said Kaplan, adding, “I think tourism is a growing thing in Lower Manhattan and could grow more if we knew who was down here.” In years past, Kaplan’s last stop on his tour was at Trinity Church, where one well-known revolutionary is buried: Alexander Hamilton. But it is another grave that draws Kaplan back every year — the grave of General Horatio Gates, commander of the American Army in northern New York during the 1777 Battle of Saratoga, which is often cited as a turning point in the Revolutionary War. Gates died in 1806, and while a plaque near the entrance to Trinity’s churchyard notes that he is one of 16 officers of the Continental Army and Navy buried there, his grave was unmarked until last year, after 16 years of campaigning by Kaplan to give Gates his due. “I was visiting the Saratoga Battlefield, and I was curious why Gates was such an obscure figure if he was so important,” said Kaplan. Research showed that Gates had been responsible for the strategy that turned the tide at Saratoga, but that credit for the victory most often went to Benedict Arnold, who was a field commander at the time. Kaplan began to talk about Gates in his tours and wrote several articles on the subject, determined to spread the word about this lost historical figure. Finally, in October of last year, the Daughters of the Revolution, led by Denise Doring VanBuren, installed a marker that now serves as a gravestone and a memorial in Trinity’s cemetery. This year, the walking tour (tickets, $20, $15 for Fraunces Tavern Museum members, must be purchased in advance at; call 212425-1778 for more info) will begin at 3 a.m. It will culminate in a 7 a.m. cer-

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Tour guide James S. Kaplan will be leading his Downtown tour July 4 at 3 a.m.

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emony at the Wall St. graveyard honoring Hamilton, Gates and Marinus Willett, another mostly forgotten revolutionary, who Kaplan calls “a pure New Yorker” — a plaque on Beaver St. commemorates the site where Willett and others stopped British soldiers carrying firearms to quell rebellion in Boston. The Daughters and Sons of the Revolution will place wreathes on the graves of the three men as the sun rises. “I have to change my tour,” said Kaplan proudly. “General Gates’ grave lies unmarked no more, for the very first time.”

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June 19 - July 2, 2013

robbed Almost At GunPoint

A robber pretending to have a gun stole nearly $37,000 from a Soho boutique last week. The store, Kirna Zabete, is a chain that sells designer clothing, shoes and accessories. An employee, 39, of the 96 Greene St. location told police that at 11:50 a.m. on Thurs., June 13, three men entered the store and began to remove handbags from the store shelves. The employee went over to them and asked, “What are you doing?” According to police, one of the men replied, “Back the [expletive] up, I have a gun.” He then pulled out a black cellphone, police said, and menaced the employee with the mock weapon. Perhaps sensing that this would not hold up under scrutiny, the robbers fled from the store on foot with the merchandise and got into a white Chevy Impala with Pennsylvania plates, which police reported was last seen driving westbound on Prince St. Police took the employee to canvass the area, without results. A tally of the stolen merchandise revealed that 14 handbags had been taken from the store, ranging from about $1,800 to $5,600 in value for a total loss of about $36,800.

soho club AssAult

A woman reported to police that she had been hit with a bottle of Patrón while at Soho’s Greenhouse bar and nightclub last Wednesday. The 21-year-old said she was at the 150 Varick

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St. location at about 4 a.m. on Wed., June 12 when a stranger hit her in the face with a bottle of the tequila. According to police, she did not call 911 at the scene but went on her own to a hospital. She received treatment from Jamaica Hospital in Queens and was told that she had multiple fractures to her face and a split lip. She could not provide the N.Y.P.D. with a description of her attacker and it was unclear if video surveillance was available. In a separate incident in March, police arrested a woman at the basement event space W.i.P., which is attached to Greenhouse, for hitting a fellow nightclub patron in the face with an ice bucket.

stolen Purse

Another incident occurred last week at the basement event space W.i.P., listed at 34 Vandam St. when a woman reported that her purse was stolen from a secure space inside the club. The woman, 23, stated that she had left her bag at about 2:45 a.m. on Sat., June 15, in an area designated for customers’ belongings which is secured by an employee of the club. She said she spent about one hour dancing before returning to pick it up, but was unable to find it or any of its contents. The bag contained her credit card, debit card, driver’s license, college ID, insurance card and keys. She said there had been no unauthorized charges on the cards at the time of the report, a day after the theft.

b.P.c. bicycle thief

A man reported that his bike was stolen while he was delivering food to a Battery Park City residence. Police said the man, 37, left his bike outside 395 South End Ave. while making a food delivery at about 7:50 p.m. on Mon., June 10. He said he had chained

the bike to itself, not to a fixed object and left it free standing. When he returned about 20 minutes later, his means of transport (and employment) was gone. The model was a $1,305 red and black Sparrow bicycle. A canvass for video was unsuccessful.

lAPtoP to Go

An employee of Blueberry Fusion Café reported that a customer of the Tribeca coffee shop walked away with the business’s laptop which had been left sitting on the counter. The employee, 36, told police that a man wearing a black baseball cap entered the cafe at about 7 p.m. on Fri., June 14, and ordered a coffee. The employee said he noticed that the man stood close to the counter where the $1,200 silver Macbook Pro was sitting, and lingered there, asking, “Can I have some more sugar?” After the man had exited the store, the employee discovered that the laptop was also gone from the counter, police said. The employee stated there were no other customers in the store during that time, no video surveillance and no other witnesses.

lens lifted

A photographer lost his lens to a thief in the crowd while taking pictures outside the Greenwich Hotel last week. Police said that the 45-year-old man was taking photos on the sidewalk outside of 377 Greenwich St. from 11:15-11:50 a.m., on Wed., June 12. The man said he was in the midst of a large crowd on Greenwich St. while taking the pictures, and when he went to switch the lenses of his camera, he noticed that his $2,660 Canon zoom lens was not in his bag.

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June 19 - July 2, 2013

Storms, Lower Manhattan & the mayor’s report BY T E RE SE LO E B K R E U Z E R Southern Manhattan gets its own chapter in the 438-page report released on June 11 that assesses New York City’s vulnerability to climate change and describes what can be done about it. “A Stronger, More Resilient New York” has become a page turner for anyone interested in trying to plumb the city’s thinking on possible short-term and long-term responses to sea-level rise, hurricanes, storm surges, heat waves, droughts and heavy downpours. “Southern Manhattan” as described in the book is comprised of Battery Park City, Chinatown, Hudson Yards/Chelsea, the Lower East Side, Lower Manhattan, Stuyvesant Town/Kips Bay, Tribeca and the West Village. It was among the places hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy. The other neighborhoods meriting their own chapters in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan were the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront, the eastern and southern shores of Staten Island, south Queens and southern Brooklyn. The mayor’s plan quantifies Sandy’s damage citywide: 43 deaths, 6,500 patients evacuated from hospitals and nursing homes, nearly 90,000 buildings in the inundation zone, 1.1 million New York City children unable to attend school for a week, close to 2 million people without power, 11 million travelers affected daily, $19 billion in damage.

Downtown Express file photo by Milo Hess

Battery Park flooding after Sandy.

As a coastal city, New York always was vulnerable to storms and flooding but many people shrugged. Now, even a prediction from the New York City Office of Emergency

Management for “Moderate to heavy rain and strong winds” elicits tremors of anxiety. At the peak of Sandy’s surge, tides in the Battery were 14 feet higher than they

would be at average low-water height. The water crashed over southern Manhattan’s Continued on page 12

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June 19 - July 2, 2013

New bus regs, but few Chinatown companies remain By Kaitlyn M eade A bill to regulate the safety of intercity buses became city law last week with hopes that the legislation will fuel a revival of Chinatown bus travel, an industry which suffered sweeping station closures in the past two years. The bill was signed by Mayor Bloomberg a few days after another major bus service was shut down by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Boston-based bus service Lucky Star was closed by the feds for failing to meet safety regulations, to inspect or repair buses, document drivers’ hours, or require drivers to pass drug and alcohol tests before transporting passengers. The Boston Herald reported the company also had a bus in operation with a 4-by-2-foot hole in its floor. Lucky Star, which has 21 buses, is the latest in a federal crackdown on intercity curbside buses, particularly in New York City’s Chinatown. Two years ago, 26 bus lines were shut down at once. The largest Chinatown-based BostonNew York bus service, Fung Wah, was closed down in March of this year after refusing to hand over safety records to D.O.T. officials. Ming An issued its last ticket shortly after, leaving a hole in the

business nearly as large as the one Lucky Star was driving around with. “When Fung Wah closed, [business] kind of died down. It’s not picked up since then,” said an employee of the Diamond Hill Cafe, a few doors from the bus service’s former ticket booth. “When they wanted food on the bus, they’d come here.” He said that the company was a good neighbor and would like to see them reopen. “Most people don’t know the depth and breadth of the impact on the area. Chinatown is a hub — a giant transportation hub,” said Wellington Chen, president of the Chinatown Partnership Business Improvement District. Chen said that the buses connect to 233 routes, transporting between five and six million people per year. The buses make relatively short commutes to Boston, but some lines can be found that transport people all the way down the East Coast to Atlanta, Georgia and Orlando, Florida. In 2006, Chen and others proposed a bus shelter to bring the buses to a single location and provide amenities for waiting passengers. The idea, while gaining some momentum, never came to fruition. However, Chen thinks that the legislation will improve the climate for buses in

Downtown Express photo by Kaitlyn Meade

YO! Bus, owned in part by Greyhound, is the only Chinatown bus company that goes to Boston.

Chinatown by making them more reliable and allowing them to compete with bigger companies that have benefited from closing Chinatown routes, such as Greyhound, which operates BoltBus and has recently opened a Chinatown service. “We supported the legislation that [State] Senator Squadron and [City Councilmember] Margaret Chin wrote,” he said, adding that safe, reliable Chinatown buses are “vital, and we need to maintain that vitality, because I want people to come home.” Chin, who sponsored the new city law, believes the legislation, which requires the city’s Department of Transportation to provide a link to intercity bus safety records on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety website, will encourage bus companies to play by the rules by making sure passengers have easy access to safety records before purchasing a ticket. The push by her office to regulate bus safety standards began in March of 2011, when a passenger carrier crashed in the Bronx, killing 15 people. Further state legislation sponsored by State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was passed in August to allow the city to monitor the bus industry. The city D.O.T., at the City Council’s urging, is in the process of establishing regulations for the first-ever intercity bus permit system, according to a June 10 press release from Squadron’s office. “The growing demand for intercity bus travel corresponds to an essential need to regulate these services,” Chin said in a statement on what she called the “wild west” of bus service that still survives elsewhere Downtown. “They shut down so fast and open so fast,” said Teddy Lai, the manager of

Howard Johnson Hotel at 5 Allen St. and member of the Chinatown Partnership’s board. “If they could just control their customers to stay on their property,” he added. His hotel has a bus stop on either side of the entrance and, “when [the buses] have a lot of people, our customers can’t even walk through the streets. Many times we have to call the police to get people out of our properties.” One man looking for his bus stop on Allen St. was told by an agent from another bus stop, “See that orange cone across the street,” he pointed to an abandoned building with a traffic cone on the curb, “that’s bus stop 18.” “Buses have to minimize to get the right people behind the wheel,” said bus driver Ron Louis, whose service, S.T.S.C., started making runs between Chinatown and Philadelphia. While the company has a good safety rating, it only registered one mile driven on the Safety Measurement System, the most common safety rating website provided by the U.S. Transportation Dept. YO! Bus is currently the only operator of non-stop intercity bus service that runs from Boston to NYC’s Chinatown. It is, however, run by Greyhound and Peter Pan. The buses depart daily with one-way tickets starting at $12. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, the tiny YO! Bus kiosk was crowded. There were no more tickets available for the 5:45 p.m. bus to Boston and the agent was handing out waitlist numbers. “Right now, it’s almost all gone. Big companies shut down, now only small companies,” James Sun, the ticket agent, said about Chinatown bus travel. “We don’t know if we’ll be next.”

June 19 - July 2, 2013



June 19 - July 2, 2013

Sandy to shut down R train’s Brooklyn link again By Kaitlyn meade The R Train’s connection between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn will close for over a year to repair damage sustained during Superstorm Sandy, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced this month. The Montague Tube, a pair of mile-long tunnels that connect Brooklyn Heights with the Financial District, will shut down for 14 weeks starting in the first week in August. Despite the reopening of R train service after Sandy, the massive influx of water into the tunnel caused a lot more damage than could be immediately dealt with. A patch job allowed the R to run through the tunnel about two months after Sandy flooded it, but the repairs did not last long, and the M.T.A. is now facing a massive overhaul of the tunnel’s equipment. The tunnel was flooded for a length of 4,025 feet to a depth of 20 feet with corrosive salt water, damaging tracks, switches, signals, controls and communications cables in the tunnel, and resulting in increased equipment failure over the past few months, the M.T.A. reported. The damage was so severe that performing repairs on nights and weekends only would take until 2016 to complete. “The temporary repairs that returned it to operation after Sandy are not enough to provide reliable service,” Fernando Ferrer,

Image courtesy of M.T.A. New York / Marc A. Hermann

M.T.A. staff surveyed the damage to the Montague Tubes on April 15, 2013.

the M.T.A.’s acting chairperson, said in a statement. “This is unfortunately the reality of recovery from Sandy: the damage is insidious and continuing, and repairing it will take billions of dollars over several years. We recognize that these closures will be an

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inconvenience for many of our customers, and we will do our best to provide them with alternatives. But there is no alternative to doing this work now.” A press release noted that the construction will not have a “material impact” on

the authorities finances. The cost is covered by funds already dedicated to tunnel reconstruction projects in the M.T.A.’s Capital Plan Amendment, which set aside money for Sandy repairs. The M.T.A. estimates that about 65,000 daily riders will be affected by the service changes, but promises that they can be accommodated by other trains that connect Brooklyn and Manhattan. Straphangers can transfer between the R train and adjacent subway lines that will cross the East River, such as the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, B, C, D, F, N and Q lines, which are accessible from the R train’s final four stations in Brooklyn. On weekdays, the R will run in two sections, from Forest Hills-71st St. in Queens to Whitehall St. in Manhattan, and then from Court St. to Bay Ridge95th St. in Brooklyn. On weekends, the R will be re-routed over the Manhattan Bridge, and so will skip City Hall, Cortlandt, Rector, and Whitehall St. stations in Lower Manhattan and Court St. and Jay-StreetMetroTech in Brooklyn. Overnights, the N train, which is normally re-routed through the tunnel to replace the R, will stay on the Manhattan Bridge at all times. For more information on service changes, visit

NOTICE TO PERSONS WHO MAY HAVE SUFFERED FROM INADEQUATE ACCESSIBILITY AT 2 GOLD STREET On April 24, 2013, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York entered a consent order resolving a lawsuit brought by the United States Department of Justice against certain owners, builders, and/or developers alleging that they failed to include certain accessible features for persons with disabilities required by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(c), in the design and construction of 2 Gold Street (the “Property”). 2 Gold Street denied the allegations and agreed to the consent order to settle the matter without litigation. Under this consent order, a person may be entitled to receive monetary relief if he or she:  WAS DISCOURAGED FROM LIVING AT THIS PROPERTY BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF ACCESSIBLE FEATURES;  HAS BEEN HURT IN ANY WAY BY THE LACK OF ACCESSIBLE FEATURES AT THIS PROPERTY;  PAID TO HAVE AN APARTMENT AT THIS PROPERTY MADE MORE ACCESSIBLE TO PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES; OR  WAS OTHERWISE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST ON THE BASIS OF DISABILITY AS A RESULT OF THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF THIS PROPERTY. If you wish to make a claim for discrimination on the basis of disability, or if you have any information about persons who may have such a claim, please contact the United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York at 212-637-2800. You may also fax us at 212-637-2702 or write to: United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York Attn: Civil Rights Unit 86 Chambers Street New York, New York 10007 NOTE: You must call or write no later than October 23, 2015. DE: 05/01, 05/29 & 06/19/2013


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June 19 - July 2, 2013

School waitlists drop to zero, but questions multiply Continued from page 1

were originally waiting for kindergarten seats Downtown. Massouh’s daughter, now in pre-K at P.S. 276, will be able to stay in Battery Park City and attend P.S. 89. All students on the P.S. 276 list are expected to be offered a seat at P.S. 89. The three students on the Peck Slip School list will get offers at nearby Spruce Street School. Students on the P.S. 234 list will receive offers to attend school two blocks away at P.S. 150 in Tribeca. The Dept. of Education has proposed moving P.S. 150 to Chelsea in 2014, but officials now appear less gung-ho about making the move, which is not yet final. The topic was barely addressed at the June 14 meeting of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s School Overcrowding Task Force. Immediately after the meeting, Ben Goodman, the director of the D.O.E.’s Manhattan office of public affairs, acknowledged that waitlisted P.S. 234 parents being sent to P.S. 150 could end up being sent to Chelsea in a year, but he also told Downtown Express it was only “if [P.S. 150] does move. We’re still reviewing that.” Community Board 1 has asked the Dept. of Education to keep P.S. 150 somewhere in Lower Manhattan. The city also appears to be considering expanding the space at P.S. 150, which is part of the Independence Plaza North housing complex. “Some of the conversation has been around construction in that building, so we want to sort of not share out too many details before the situation is finalized,” said Carrie Marlin of the D.O.E.’s Office of Portfolio Planning. After the meeting, some were skeptical the city would be able to pursue a P.S. 150 expansion, and Wendy Chapman, the school’s P.T.A. leader, said she doubted whether it was feasible. P.S. 150 will have two kindergarten classes next year, giving up a room shared for occupational therapy, reading specialists and the school psychologist. P.S. 89 will be taking two extra kindergarten classes for a total of five. One will be from the school’s own waiting list and the other from P.S. 276. Education officials said the school would be able to sustain the extra classes for one grade, and Principal Ronnie Najjar agreed. P.S. 89’s parent coordinator, Connie Schraft, told Downtown Express that one of the new kindergarten rooms had been loaned to I.S. 289, which shares the building, and the other was available because the school this year only had two third grade classes, instead of three. The city expects the school’s five kindergarten classes to go down to four or three sometime after first grade due to natural “attrition.” To help clear the P.S. 276 waiting list, it is enrolling 29 students per kindergarten class, rather than 25, in the hopes enough

Downtown Express photo by Yoon Seo Nam

P.S. 89 will have five kindergarten classes, instead of three, this September to accommodate the waiting lists at the school and at P.S. 276.

children will either move away this summer or enroll in a gifted and talented program. The Education Dept.’s Jennifer Peng said the decision to add students to kindergarten classes came as a result of consultations with the principals who are staying in touch with families to see if anyone is unlikely to enroll. Terri Ruyter, P.S. 276’s principal, said she was “moderately comfortable” with adding seats. Children who do not get spots in their zoned school maintain the “right to return” if space opens up there in subsequent grades. Tammy Meltzer, a member of the overcrowding task force and Community Board 1, said it was a “great accomplishment” to clear this year’s lists, but “I’d just hate to say ‘great we’ve solved the problem,’ and everybody walk out feeling so fabulous,” without beginning to work out the pending problems. “It would be nice to have a plan looking forward and to start that plan and get some assurances by the time the year ends,” she said. Paul Goldstein, Silver’s aide, said “now is the time to start scouting and surveying and looking around” for temporary and permanent school sites. He pointed out that the Lower Manhattan community has identified and fought for every elementary school from P.S. 234 decades ago to Spruce, P.S. 276 and Peck Slip more recently. D.O.E. officials, two days prior, had told Silver, Goldstein and some of the school advocates that they believed the southern part of District 2 needed 1,000 additional school seats, and they planned to include that in the five-year capital plan this

November, a development first reported by last week along with the end of the waiting lists. If a school site is found, the city would probably try and set up temporary “incubator” space before the new one opened, perhaps as soon as Sept. 2014. One possible incubator site is D.O.E. headquarters at Tweed Courthouse, now hosting Peck Slip. Maggie Sienna, though, said dividing the classrooms at Tweed will not work, particularly since some of the students are in special education and sensitive to noisy distractions. “I am very reluctant to put 50 children in one of those rooms that can’t be divided with an auditory division,” she said. The D.O.E.’s Marlin said the city is taking a look at adding classroom space on the first floor, a suggestion first made by the Downtown advocates a few years ago. Councilmember Margaret Chin said the city is also surveying 22 Reade St., a cityowned building to be vacated, as a possible school site. Technically, the 1,000 seats, likely two schools, could be placed as far north as the West Village, but given it comes as a result of residential construction primarily south of Canal St., and the fact that the D.O.E. announcement came after being presented with population analyses done by Community Board 1 and parent advocates, it is far more likely that the new schools would be further Downtown. “We’ve been given subliminal assurances at the meeting that C.B. 1 would be receiving those 1,000 seats,” said Paul Hovitz, a Board 1 member who attended the June 12 meeting to discuss the need for

more schools. “We hear you loud and clear as to what your position is,” Goodman said in response. The D.O.E. has not yet directly confirmed the 1,000 seat assessment, but Devon Puglia, an agency spokesperson, said last week that “We are working closely with this community to address the growth in elementary students and to look to the future.” Silver called it a “great victory” and added in a prepared statement that “I am thrilled that all of the hard work we are doing on my School Overcrowding Task Force has once again resulted in a plan for new schools in our Lower Manhattan community.” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott had given Silver and Downtown school advocates hope two months ago when he said he wanted his school planners to take a “deeper dive” into the “pockets” of Lower Manhattan that have had unparalleled population growth. Some of the advocates were disappointed at the next followup meeting in which education officials backed off from Walcott’s words and said the city would continue to analyze school needs along broader geographic lines. Eric Greenleaf, one of the advocates and an N.Y.U. professor who has closely analyzed Downtown birth rates and school needs, estimates that Lower Manhattan needs another 1,200 seats. This is the first time since he has been doing this analysis that the D.O.E.’s estimates comes close to matching his own. The D.O.E.’s estimates in recent years have not been accurate. P.S. 234 for example, has had waiting lists five years in a row.


June 19 - July 2, 2013

Smoke clears for Millennium High gym By KA I T LY N M E A D E A cigar store located at 75 Broad St. will not have its lease renewed after students and parents complained that smoke has been permeating their multi-purpose room, according to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. At a Friday education meeting, Silver’s chief of staff Judy Rapfogel said that Silver had spoken with JEMB Realty, the landlord of the building at 75 Broad St. “The landlord is in full agreement that he doesn’t want children to be suffering from smoke inhalation, so they are not going to be renewing the lease which opens all sorts of possibilities for a gym and all sorts of things that people here have been working on,” said Rapfogel. The Financial District office building houses Millennium High School, but is also home to a number of other businesses, including Barclay-Rex, a pipe shop that sells rare cigars, tobacco and accessories. It is legal to have smoking inside the shop as long as it is enclosed, includes a humidor and has proper ventilation. Students and parents had complained about the fumes and tobacco smell getting into their multi-purpose room on the ground floor of the building, and brought the matter to Community Board 1, which passed a resolution in December asking the School Construction Authority and the

Department of Education to remedy the situation. “This is great news that the students, teachers and administrators at the Millennium High School will now have cigar-free air. Clean air has always been a top priority for C.B. 1, especially for our children that are especially vulnerable since their bodies are growing,” Catherine McVay Hughes, the board’s chairperson, wrote in an email to Downtown Express. Hughes is also the founder and president of Asthma Moms, an online support network for parents of children with asthma. After repair work on the ventilation system failed to fix the issue, Silver spoke to the landlord. The owner, JEMB Realty, did not respond to a request for comment. The school opened in 2003 with no gym, but hoped to build one on the 34th floor once funding came through. However, the city said the planned space was too high for a gym and unsafe. In 2009, the School Construction Authority suggested a groundfloor multi-purpose room as an alternative to having a full gym facility. Empty space on the ground floor may mean opportunities to expand the room into a larger fitness area, which Silver has funded in the state budget. “I am thrilled that the air will be cleared

Downtown Express photo by Yoon Seo Nam

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the 75 Broad St. landlord will not renew this tobacco shop’s lease, which will allow Millennium High School to open a multi-purpose gym space in the building.

and work will move forward on the multipurpose room,” Silver said in statement to Downtown Express. “I want to thank the owner of 75 Broad St. for working with me

and the Millennium High School community to resolve this issue.”

With reporting by Josh Rogers


June 19 - July 2, 2013

Reviews of Mayor’s plan: Rajkumar likes, Chin seems lukewarm By J O S h R O g E R S City Council candidate Jenifer Rajkumar said last week there was a lot to like in Mayor Bloomberg’s comprehensive report on protecting the city from storms. “I like its scope, its level of detail and its commitment to really taking some big steps to protect the city,” said Rajkumar, a Democratic district leader who is running in the Sept. 10 primary against Councilmember Margaret Chin. “I like the idea of these removable storm walls to protect Chinatown, the Lower East Side and the Financial District,” Rajkumar said in a June 14 phone interview. She also liked the focus on things such as changing building codes to allow for relocation of equipment during storms. If elected, Rajkumar would recommend that the next mayor advance many of the suggestions. It’s important, Rajkumar said, that vulnerable poor and elderly residents are included in any plans to prepare the city for something like Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged parts of Lower Manhattan last year. She looks favorably on a City Council proposal intended to insure that these communities are accounted for in emergency preparations. An aide to Councilmember Chin, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Chin shares the same concern, but it’s tricky to formalize that in law, since any list of vulnerable people would be constantly changing.

Chin’s overall position on the mayor’s report, released June 11, is less clear. After agreeing to a phone interview for this article, her staff later canceled citing scheduling problems. She did make the staff member available for an interview. He said there are some ideas such as the temporary barriers that sounded worthy, but all needed to be further studied with lots of consultation with the community. He said other ideas to protect Downtown that should have been included in the report would be building wetlands by Battery Park and using oysters to mitigate wave levels. He called the “Seaport City” idea to construct an East Side version of Battery Park City “half-baked.” Bloomberg in his speech last week, acknowledged it was a long-term idea that would be hard to implement. Rajkumar said if Seaport City ever advanced, community consultation would be required and she’d be concerned with preserving the character of the Seaport’s historic district. “We will need a robust debate and com-

The mayor’s report on climate change protections also includes income statistics for southern Manhattan.

munity input for that long-term-plan,” she said. If elected, she would tell the next mayor that there are a lot of good things to build on and

Bloomberg’s storm report Continued from page 5

Fighting to make Lower Manhattan the greatest place to live, work, and raise a family.

Assemblyman Shelly Silver If you need assistance, please contact my office at (212) 312-1420 or email

implement in the report. Chin’s aide said the next administration should take a close look at the study.

bulkheads. On the east side of southern Manhattan, it raced across the East River Park esplanade, traversed the F.D.R. Drive and pulverized the low-lying South Street Seaport. On the Lower East Side, the water surged inland almost as far as Avenue B, leaving parts of Avenue C under almost four feet of water. On the west side, water inundated Hudson River Park and flowed one or two blocks inland in most neighborhoods. Canal St., so named because a canal once ran under that street, again became a half-mile-long waterway. Only Battery Park City was largely spared. The esplanade, lawns, plantings and ball fields were flooded. Two buildings

lost power. When Battery Park City was designed, its engineers recognized the possibility of flooding and elevated its buildings well above the seawall. Sandy’s floods affected more than 950 residential buildings in southern Manhattan with more than 40,000 apartments. More than 700 commercial and non-residential buildings were affected. Most of the damage was to critical building systems such as electricity and telecommunications, business inventory and personal property. Some office buildings are still running on temporary generators and have not had their telecommunications systems restored. Of the residential buildings affected, 58 percent were in east side neighborhoods, several of them densely populated. The averContinued on page 14


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June 19 - July 2, 2013

A closer look at the mayor’s climate change report Continued from page 12

age population density in New York City is 42 people per acre. In Chinatown, it’s 175 people per acre, and on the Lower East Side, it’s 138 people per acre. The population density caused more people to suffer than would have been true in less densely populated areas. In addition, these neighborhoods have the lowest median household income of any areas in southern Manhattan, so the residents had fewer resources that would have enabled them to recover from the storm. In Chinatown, 43 percent of the population lives in poverty. The poverty rate for the Lower East Side is 31 percent compared with a citywide poverty rate of 19 percent. On top of these problems, which grievously affected many of southern Manhattan’s residents, the mayor’s report explained that outages in southern Manhattan had repercussions throughout the city because key elements of New York City’s electrical, transportation, telecommunications, healthcare and financial systems are located south of 42nd Street. For instance, four hospitals with 2,200 beds — 20 percent of Manhattan’s total — are in southern Manhattan. Two of these hospitals evacuated their patients before the storm, but New York University’s Langone Medical Center and Bellevue evacuated their patients as the floodwaters surged into their lower floors. As the mayor’s report explained, these scenarios and others make the need for protection urgent. “It’s a race against time,” said Klaus Jacob, a research scientist at the LamontDoherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in New York and a member of the City’s Panel on Climate Change that came up with the underlying data on which the mayor’s resiliency report is based. “It’s a race of good will against lethargy and complacency. The mayor is certainly gung-ho for this but we have to see what happens after his term is over.” The 2013 hurricane season has already begun. Some remediation and hardening has already taken place as utilities and telecommunications companies replace damaged equipment and building owners move electrical equipment from basements to higher floors. Other protections will take time to study and implement and will depend on funding from the city, state and federal government for their realization, even if they are deemed desirable or even necessary. “A plan is a plan, but when the plan hits the various stakeholders, they all want to see their priorities so we have to realize what is in the common good vs. what is in individual interests, and that will be the hard part,” said Dr. Jacob. Storm surge barriers across Jamaica Bay, the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek are among the possible long-term protections against climate change that will require much further study and would be expensive

Rendering courtesy of the NYC Mayor’s office.

Rendering of the mayor’s proposal for Seaport City, which will be just south of the Brooklyn Bridge.

to implement. On the East Side of Lower Manhattan, the construction of a “Seaport City” of apartment and office buildings atop levees is another very long-term possibility. Shorter term, in Chelsea, Tribeca, the West Village, Stuyvesant Town and Kips Bay, the mayor proposes to create an integrated flood protection system comprised of temporary and permanent features and landscaping and drainage improvements. This would be fully deployed only during pre-storm conditions. At other times, it would be as inconspicuous as possible. As with many other proposals in the report, it would be “subject to available funding.” Among other measures, in southern Manhattan, there are more than 170 landmarked buildings in the floodplain, including buildings in portions of 19 historic districts. The report states that regulations will be issued in 2013 clarifying how landmarked structures in the 100-year floodplain can and should be retrofitted. It also says that planned and ongoing investments by the city and private partners in the High Line, Peck Slip Park, the Peck Slip school, Hudson River Park, the East River waterfront, the National September 11th Memorial and Museum and other construction projects will continue despite many other demands on the City’s coffers. The report notes that one-quarter of the city’s parks are in the 100-year flood plain. Hudson River Park is among them. As sea levels rise, the 100-year floodplain is expect-

Downtown Express photo by Yoon Seo Nam

ed to take in more residential and commercial areas. The parks act as a buffer to flooding and are, themselves, in need of protection. Strategies could include hardening or elevating park infrastructure, construction of levees or floodwalls to minimize flooding and attenuate waves and using flood-tolerant materials in the construction of parks. The city plans to study the possibilities and to complete that study in 2014. The city also plans to reconstruct and resurface key streets damaged by Sandy.

Citywide, there are 60 lane miles of streets severely damaged by Sandy that the New York City Department of Transportation has to reconstruct. It will repave approximately 500 lane miles of streets with damaged surfaces. Where possible, the reconstructed streets will include resiliency measures to minimize further damage. This work will begin in 2013 with funding from federal and city sources. Continued on page 20


June 19 - July 2, 2013

College bound, by George Blue and white caps flew into the air by Federal Hall June 1, marking the graduation of the first senior class at Léman Manhattan Preparatory School in the Financial District. The 20 students from the private school’s Class of 2013 made the symbolic walk across the stage at a ceremony in its 41 Broad Street Ballroom. The student speaker, Sam Sherman, will be attending Duke in the fall. The Class president, Mikayla Barnett, will be attending the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School for business. photo courtesy of Léman Manhattan preparatory school


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June 19 - July 2, 2013


Pier A and bond issue update:

The Battery Park City Authority is on the verge of turning over Pier A to the Poulakakos family and the Dermot Company so that they can embark on interior construction for a restaurant and visitor center. They expect to open in the middle of 2014. Pier A, the last remaining 19th-century pier in Manhattan, was built between 1884 and 1886 to serve the Department of Docks and Harbor Police. Its clock tower was added in 1919 as the first World War I memorial in the United States. “We’ve sent a notification of project completion to the tenant,” Gwen Dawson, senior vice president, asset management, said at the Battery Park City Authority board of directors meeting June 18. “We’re having a walk–through tomorrow.” She said that the B.P.C.A. has some additional exterior paintwork to do but should be able to turn over the building to the tenants by the end of June. The Battery Park City Authority is still responsible for constructing a plaza for Pier A. That work has not yet begun. Funds will come from the authority’s capital budget, which must be approved by the mayor and city comptroller. “We have a good dialogue going on with the comptroller’s office,” said B.P.C.A. chairperson Dennis Mehiel. “It’s taking a little longer from the city. So we’re doing what we can to expedite those discussions. At the moment, our capital plan awaits the approval of the administration. We’re hopeful that those discussions can mature over the next two to three weeks.” Mehiel said that he hopes the discussions will come to a successful conclusion by the time the board convenes in July. If not, he said, “It could have a potential impact on our calendar and getting into the capital markets.” The Battery Park City Authority wants to

Downtown Express photos by Terese Loeb Kreuzer

The Battery Park City Authority is almost finished with the core and shell work on Pier A and expects to turn it over to the tenants, the Poulakakos family and Dermot Company, at the end of June so that they can fit out the interior as a restaurant and visitor center.

issue $300 million worth of bonds in September, but in order to make that date, Mehiel said, “we’ve got to get to the Public Authorities Control Board at its August meeting for approval. That requires completion of all our work and all submissions have to be in by August 1 to make their agenda. That means we have to get the Administration to sign off in July.” Mehiel said that the process had been “a little bit slow and frustrating, but we remain optimistic that we’ll get there.” In addition to funds for the Pier A plaza, the capital plan awaiting approval includes funds for the bridge to cross West St. at West Thames. “We’ll see where that goes,” said Mehiel.

Sydney Druckman retires:

After 27 years with the Battery Park City Authority, Sydney Druckman, director of

special projects, attended her last board of directors meeting on June 18. She is retiring at the end of June. She was responsible for the art in Battery Park City’s parks and for concert series, ribbon cuttings and other special events. “She served as our ambassador to all who came to visit Battery Park City, to learn about our successes here,” said Robert Serpico, the B.P.C.A.’s chief financial officer. He said that Battery Park City would not have been built out as it was without her. “It has been a privilege to work here,” Druckman said. She alluded to Tessa Huxley’s “green” tending of the neighborhood parks and to Battery Park City having the first “green” residential high-rise building in America. “No one knows we started it [the green revolution in architecture], but we did,” she said. “To be part of that has been my pleasure. It has just been amazing and I have been so delighted to be part of it.”

Brookfield Office Properties update:

Mighty Quinn’s barbecue has joined the lineup of eateries scheduled to open in Brookfield Place (formerly 2 World Financial Center) in 2014. The food court will be on the upper level of the building with a marketplace run by the Poulakakos family on the floor beneath. On the retail side, Brookfield Office Properties has announced that Hermes will join Michael Kors and Burberry in the Winter Garden.

Battery Park City stats:

Asphalt Green Battery Park City officially opened on June 15, but the luxurious swimming pool was almost empty on opening day.

The mayor’s recently released report on how climate change has and will affect New York City (“A Stronger, More Resilient New York”) contains some interesting statistics. According to the 2010 census, Battery Park City now has a population of 13,400 and

a median household income of $170,900 — the highest in southern Manhattan. By comparison, the median household income for all of New York City is $51,300. Whereas 19 percent of New Yorkers live in poverty, only 5 percent of Battery Park City residents do — though it may surprise some people that there is any poverty in Battery Park City at all. The median value of an owner-occupied apartment in Battery Park City is $764,000. There are 1,200 owner-occupied housing units and 19 percent of B.P.C. residents own their own homes.

Midsummer Swedish Festival:

The summer solstice is bitter-sweet as the longest days of daylight end, just as the heat of summer begins, but Battery Park City’s annual Swedish Midsummer Festival takes away the sting. This year it takes place on June 21 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., with dancing between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Beautiful maidens of varying ages with wreaths of flowers on their heads dance with their swains around a Maypole in Wagner Park. Everyone, Swedish or not, joins in the folk dancing led by Barnklubben Elsa Rix, the Swedish Folkdancers of New York and Ross Sutter, singer and Scandanavian folklorist. Paul Dahlin and fiddlers from the Swedish Institute in Minneapolis play traditional Swedish music. There are games for the children and Swedish food. The event is co-sponsored by the Consulate General of Sweden and the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy. It’s lots of fun. Don’t miss it. To comment of Battery Park City Beat or to suggest article ideas, email TereseLoeb10@


June 19 - July 2, 2013

Children’s garden wins backing of C.B. 3 committee By Sara h F er g uson The embattled Children’s Magical Garden got a resounding thumbs up from the Parks Committee of Community Board 3 last week. C.M.G. came under attack last month when developer Serge Hoyda — who has a history of power plays on the Lower East Side — fenced off one of the three lots which make up this garden on the corner of Norfolk and Stanton Sts., effectively bisecting this small green haven. Last Thursday, C.B. 3’s Parks Committee voted unanimously to endorse the gardeners’ request to transfer the garden’s two other lots — currently owned by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development — to the Parks Department for preservation under the GreenThumb program. The committee further recommended that the Bloomberg administration offer Hoyda a deal to swap his relatively small interior lot for a comparable cityowned lot elsewhere. The full board will vote on the committee’s resolution on Tues., June 25, but the community board generally approves the recommendations of its committees. At the meeting’s outset, Councilmember Margaret Chin told board members she had reached out to both H.P.D. and Parks to discuss ways of preserving the garden, but said she needed the board’s “strong support” to move forward. “This garden has been in the neighborhood for 31 years, the same age as my son,” Chin noted. “H.P.D. says their mission is to build affordable housing. But I think this site, because it has been here so long, I’ve said it is important to preserve the green space. That’s what I’ve talked to [H.P.D.] about, but we need the community board to support that, so I hope you will listen to them,” Chin said, gesturing to the gardeners and supporters who filled the meeting room at the Bowery Residents’ Committee off Delancey St. Earlier, Chin accompanied scores of garden fans — including many children dressed as superheroes, sprites, fairies and even a couple of “Angry Birds” — as they rallied at C.M.G., then marched to the meeting site. “Gardens are forever!” and “Make it permanent!” they chanted to the beat of a bass drum played by a member of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. At the meeting, C.M.G. members presented a petition signed by nearly 2,000 people, calling on Mayor Bloomberg to preserve the space. They also submitted letters of support from 35 local businesses and the principals of the four public schools that front on the garden, as well as nonprofit groups that use it as a play and learning space. Mimi Fortunato, the principal of Marta Valle High School, located across the street from C.M.G., spoke earnestly about its role in an area notably lacking in green. Youth leaders from Marta Valle meet every week at C.M.G., and this year the school’s culinary classes even used eggs from the chick-

ens C.M.G. housed to make quiche. “This kind of connection to the real world around us is an essential, essential, essential thing,” Fortunato stressed. C.M.G. board president Kate TempleWest, a writer and herbalist, said she had been tending plants — and children — at C.M.G. since she was a 19-year-old theater major at New York University. Now 36, Temple-West choked up as she described

Specifically, Gregg complained that C.M.G. did not have the “recognized attributes” of a community garden — “well-tended grass, posted hours and specific policies about what is allowed and what is not.” “The area continues to be a blight on the community,” Gregg told the committee, using a term frequently used in condemnation proceedings. “It was rat-infested for

‘She gets to play with chickens and worms... I never dreamed about seeing my child on Stanton St. hold a chicken.’ the evolution of the kids she’s helped mentor there. “There are people I would not know if it weren’t for this garden,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve spoken to teachers who say their children, some of whom have trouble in their classrooms, behave differently in the garden. I get emotional because it’s hard to explain what this community garden means to the children. These children inspire me every day I get to be with them.” Her emotion was echoed by Rachel Kramer, a single mom who spoke with her 7-year-old daughter, Frances, by her side. “In this neighborhood, my kid gets to see people behaving pretty poorly,” said Kramer. “Here she gets to play with chickens and worms. “I grew up in New York City,” Kramer added. “I never dreamed about seeing my child on Stanton St. hold a chicken in her hands. It makes me feel like a good parent.” Many spoke to the way the garden has become embedded in their lives. Emily Wiechers said her 5-year-old, Tristan, walks by the garden every day on his way to kindergarten at P.S. 20, and often plays there after school. Now P.S. 20 is working with C.M.G. to teach its students how to compost and grow tomatoes and herbs as part of the “Wellness in the Schools” program. Yet when security guards and police arrived last month to fence off Hoyda’s lot, Wiechers said young Tristan was told by an attorney for the developer that he could be arrested for trespassing if he and his father did not leave. “It would be a real shame to do anything but preserve it where it’s been for the last 31 years,” Wiechers told the committee, her voice edged in anger. Hoyda and his representatives declined to appear before the committee. The only voice of dissent came from a neighbor, James Gregg, who said he has lived two doors down from the garden for the past seven years. Gregg said he spoke on behalf of “a group” of fellow residents who felt C.M.G. did not benefit the wider community.

over a year. It’s full of junk and generally poorly maintained.” Gregg’s comments were met with loud “boos” and shouts of “Who paid you?” A board member asked Gregg whether he or any of the others in his group had children. He conceded they did not. Thomas Wu, the Parks Committee’s chairperson, asked whether the city had

ever agreed to swap a city lot for private land in the past. Matt Viggiano, director of land use policy for Councilmember Chin, said “H.P.D. has never said to a private owner that it would swap private land for cityowned land elsewhere. That’s not to say that with lots of pushing and prodding it’s not possible.” An H.P.D. spokesperson said its “not a common practice” to swap a private lot for a city-owned one Hoyda, however, may be more open to the idea. C.M.G. board member Aresh Javadi, co-founder of the activist group More Gardens!, told the committee that when he and Temple-West pitched the land swap idea to Hoyda last fall, the developer told them he might welcome the idea. “I think he would be open to some swap or some other incentives — like getting a zoning bonus at another project,” Javadi told the committee. Hoyda, Norfolk Development Corp LLC, Hoyda’s property management firm S&H Equities, and lobbyist Greenberg Traurig LLC did not respond to requests for comment. But Javadi remains optimistic. “I think we can do this,” he told the committee. “I already see the garden fence going down. With the help of our elected representatives, it’s absolutely doable.”

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It’s Pride Month, speak to us, governor Publisher

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There can be little doubt that for

marriage equality in New York State in 2011, Andrew Cuomo was the indispensable man. A short 18 months before he signed legislation giving same-sex couples the right to marry, the issue had gone down to a staggering 38-24 defeat in the State Senate. Within weeks of his taking office in January 2011, the new governor rallied advocates while also making clear that the path to victory was one he would forge. He expected hard work and persistence from the team he assembled but he also demanded discretion, faith and allegiance to his leadership. It all worked. With one vote to spare. When he spoke about the victory, Cuomo, being his father’s son, cast it in the proud tradition of the state’s progressivism. “New York at its finest has always been a beacon of social justice,” the governor said as he signed the legislation shortly after it won Senate approval the evening of June 24. And Cuomo’s leadership did not only inure to the benefit of New York. It is surely no accident that Democratic governors across the nation — not to mention nearly every U.S. senator from that party — have jumped on the gay marriage

bandwagon after seeing all the lovin’ our governor got in the wake of our victory. Sure, some cynics have sneered that Cuomo saw the lovin’ comin’ as he met with wealthy gay men and attended their lavish political fundraisers. But that doesn’t change the fact that “New York at its finest has always been a beacon of social justice.” Then how come 16 states offer their transgender residents protections based on gender identity and expression and New York does not? Why has more than a decade passed since New York enacted a gay rights law with no further statewide action taken to extend those same protections to transgender and gender non-conforming residents who face harassment, violence, discrimination and poverty? And why, despite the governor’s repeated promises he would sign the long-stalled Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, have we not seen him put any visible political capital into making certain such a bill reaches his desk? Surely that has nothing to do with the fact that there are no political fundraisers filled with wealthy transgender New Yorkers with checkbooks in hand. Or so Andrew Cuomo could

prove by leaning in to the fight. The New York State Senate will simply not budge on this bill this session unless the governor leans in. He is leaning in on women’s rights in a big way this month. In fact, Cuomo has never shown the least bit of reticence about leaning in on issues that matter to him. As a gay man who just married my longtime partner, I am frankly embarrassed that GENDA is not yet the law of New York State. We left the transgender community behind when we passed the hate crimes law in 2000. We doubled down on that failure with the gay rights law in 2002. We said that marriage equality needed to go first in 2011 because it affected far more members of our community than would GENDA. What excuse is left to us? This Pride Month, we owe it to our transgender brothers and sisters to tell Governor Cuomo that their lives matter to us — and they should to him, as well. It’s time to pass GENDA. It’s time for the governor to insist that the Senate do so. It’s time to make New York a beacon again.

tend it’s not the same thing. It doesn’t make sense, but it makes the D.O.E.’s sense. Their bottom line is to save money and not build new schools for as long as possible, any way possible.

I think art space is important and I think the people protesting this station placement have some good points. However, I object to the misuse of the terms “bike parking” and “bike rack.” We are not talking about a place to lock a personal bike (though these are also lacking), but rather a public use transit station. This is a case of public art losing out to public transit, not art losing out to bikes. I want to support public art, I just don’t want to bash bikes to do it.

Paul Schindler is editor-in-chief of Gay City News, a sister publication of Downtown Express

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Why is a neighborhood school like P.S. 150 being “re-sited” and effectively closed when there is such a scarcity of seats downtown? Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait until 2015 to consider any changes to P.S. 150 when new schools like Peck Slip are opened? Buxton

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“City agrees Downtown needs more schools, Silver says” (News, June 12): Great. But 2017 doesn’t help P.S. 150. Why don’t they move those kids to The Peck Slip School? Won’t that building be ready at the same time as the one in Chelsea? Since the wait list is for kindergarten, move P.S. 150 1-5 to Peck and make the current P.S. 150 school an early childhood Kindergarten Annex that feeds to the local elementary schools. Parent ‘Parent’ — your point is great — but see the D.O.E.’s odd logic: if they keep 150’s kids in Lower Manhattan, even in Peck Slip, they don’t put a dent in the inevitable waiting lists in Lower Manhattan. So, rather than telling waiting lists that they need to go to school out of zone — an unpopular move they already tried — they just tell a whole school to move out of zone and pre-

J Frank “Art vs. bikes. Parks Dept. quietly backs Soho protesters” (News, June 12): I am eternally grateful for real journalism as it is practiced in this article. The New York Times has suppressed the reporting of the local residents’ impassioned protests to restore the Lt. Petrosino Square Park to its former glory as a peaceful neighborhood pedestrian way with rotating sculptural. Tourists loved our first installation after the renovation... BTW, no one has ever taken a trip to a city or country in order to see bike racks. A popular destination for artist/tourists from Australia and New Zealand is my drawing studio. Not to mention all of the students who come to New York from all over the world to get degrees from universities and spend time during and afterwards at my studio, and, of course, at a handful of other drawing sites. It is not a battle over whether you like art or bikes. A city is great because the people within respect the accomplishments of all the souls who have contributed to its intellectual and artistic life. Without respect for the past, a city becomes degraded. Thank you. Minerva Durham

Oliver The Friends of Petrosino Square make a strong case for moving the Citibike station a few feet out of a park and into the street. It seems an easy enough problem to fix. So hope this will be resolved soon. A.S. Evans Yes, it is a very simple fix the community has been proposing to DOT: simply move the bikes onto the roadbed of Lafayette Street. There are loads of bike stations on the road bed. Why not here? Why is DOT being so stubborn? Sal Dilly Perhaps the artists could paint the bikes. A gallery on wheels. Lawrence White


June 19 - July 2, 2013

Downtown Notebook

Sadly, my time is up as a school volunteer By M ich ele Herman Many of us do things on the side that are formative and possibly noble but hardly get a line on our resumes. For the past 16 years, I have been an active New York City public school parent. Most of those years I’ve served on the executive board of one P.T.A. or another, and for the past three, I’ve been a parent rep on the School Leadership Team at Stuyvesant High. My learning curve was considerable: when my older son entered kindergarten at P.S. 3, my first job was folding the auditorium chairs. During my younger son’s last years at Stuyvesant, when the administration was edging toward a one-size-fits-all educational approach, I was fighting hard for things I believe all kids deserve from their school: humaneness, flexibility and breadth of offerings. Along the way I learned library software, helped hire two principals, organized writing festivals, took a ream of minutes, sent out weekly email blasts, recruited officers, made speeches, and wrote a multi-page monthly newsletter, handbooks and a manifesto. I wasn’t even close to being one of the most involved parents. I bow down before all the good-humored, overtired presidents under whom I’ve served. I bow even deeper before the parents who are working to reform the whole system. And then my little one got the fat envelope in the mail, and I understood that this

thing — this hobby? This advocacy work? This window onto the lives of my children? This part-time job with no salary? — I’ve been doing seemingly forever is about to end. Come September, I will be left doubly bereft: no child and no school. How I will miss my supporting role in the public schools, which may be built on an archaic model and riddled with flaws but are also among the most inherently hopeful and social and democratic places I know. Each fall, we parents organize ourselves into committees to make them a little better. We raise hundreds of thousands that go directly to school programs and materials, and we never ask to have our name put on anything. We roll up our sleeves and support the stretched-thin staff. We remind the administration that it’s all about kids and learning (not just unions and testing). How satisfying it is to walk into a building filled with people I’ve formed solid relationships with, like the parent coordinator who means it when he says that he loves to help and the various teachers who have known and loved my boys. Now that my days are dwindling, I ask myself what all this work has amounted to. I suppose it amounts to the same thing as all effort on this earth — you try to use your finite time well and leave your patch of the world less chaotic than you found it, you find pleasure in the friendship and respect of like-minded people, and hope that entropy or bad intent doesn’t undo

your good works. You teach your kids by example to be good citizens, to get involved, to speak truth to power when power is being mule-headed. And what happens to the accumulated knowledge of us volunteers when our kids graduate? We promise that we’re just an email away. And here’s my best advice to the new parents: It doesn’t matter what skills or how much education you have. If you are reasonable and calm, with a good inner gauge for when to open your mouth and when to keep it closed, you have something valuable to offer your child’s school. A big public school system is always going to be full of contradictions, like the crazy autumn when my sons’ middle school won a national Blue Ribbon award for excellence and a D on its city report card. You will see humanity and committees at their worst but also at their best. Don’t use up all your volunteering energy in elementary school — you have no idea how much they’ll need you in middle school. Refrain from raising an issue you’re having with your own child, no matter how burning, unless it’s of broad concern to the others in the room. Do one thing for your child’s school. Get one ad for the yearbook. Tidy up one shelf of the library. Fold some chairs. It may change your life.

Plan the big fund-raiser in the fall, when energy and idealism are running high. Keep the overhead low and invite the public. Reach out to a recent immigrant parent. What better way to show your kids that adulthood isn’t governed by cliques? Volunteer for any event that involves feeding the teachers. They are Pavlovian and will always associate you with pleasant things. The most confident person in the room isn’t necessarily the smartest, and even people you don’t respect will sometimes make a valid point. Listen before making up your mind. Raise your hand and speak from the heart and advocate for the kids. When you hit resistance or obfuscation, as you inevitably will, you can always say politely, “I don’t understand the rationale behind that policy. Would you mind explaining it in simple language?” Ask in September if your school offers an open classroom day. Find a way to be there, even if you get docked a day’s pay and your kid claims to be mortified. Go to at least one meeting of the S.L.T. or equivalent policy-making body. This is where you’ll learn how functional the school really is. Get elected and you’ll have a real voice. Go in knowing that the work of a school is infinitely harder and more heroic than any challenge the for-profit world faces, and schools need all the help they can get. Motion to adjourn, tearfully.

Downtown Notebook

Notes on traffic safety from the 3rd grade B y Leilani Wizner As a nine-year-old biker (who bikes to school with her younger sister and mother), there are a lot of challenges to face. People walk in the bike paths with headphones on, so they don’t hear us blowing our horns or shouting “excuse me.” This can cause accidents if you have to stop short and the biker behind you bumps into you. Then you can bump into the people walking in front of you. What makes it even harder is that one side of the bike path is closed for part of our ride to school. That means people walking and biking opposite ways have to share one path. Some bikers going the same way as us are faster and in a hurry. They speed by dangerously close, forgetting to say “on your right” or “on your left.” For some of the ride to school, we go in the streets. This is also dangerous because some of the cars go in the bike lanes. Others open car doors on bikers: my friend’s mom also bikes and someone opened a car door on her leg. It was all scraped and bruised. Bikers also do wrong things in the street. Some think it’s okay to go through a red light, and others bike on the sidewalk. It’s okay for kids, sometimes, but you still have to be careful — there’s other people who use the sidewalk. The people who walk shouldn’t walk when there is a bike or a car coming — this can cause an accident even if you run across the

street. I notice that usually kids run across the street. Some parents don’t even care — a few weeks ago I was riding my bike and there was a little girl running across the street. Her mom was calmly walking behind with her other child when it said “don’t walk”. Biking to school is also very relaxing. People do many things near the bike path, including practicing a dance with swords. Those people need to be careful: one guy leaped forward once and almost hit my sister! Also two people sometimes walk facing each other (that means one person is walking backwards). Once I saw the person walking backwards trip and almost get hit by a passing bike. Everyone needs to be safer when they bike, walk and even drive. Don’t just think about you also think about the people around you. If someone’s hurt you should stop and give them a hand. A meeting or something like that isn’t more important than a person. Everyone would be happier and nicer if you give them a hand. You can stop, unless someone is dying or sick and you need to get to them. People are more important than a meeting or being five minutes late for work. You can make a person’s day. You can make the whole world a better place. Leilani Wizner has just completed the third grade at The Blue School.

The author and her sister on their way home from school.


June 19 - July 2, 2013

TranSIT SaM ALTERNATE SIDE PARKINg IS IN EFFECT ALL wEEK The BAMRA Bleecker Street Festival will close Bleecker St. between Broadway and Sixth Ave. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. FASTRACK repairs on the Broadway line mean no trains at N, Q, and R stations in Manhattan from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday nights. Q trains will be rerouted via the D line in Manhattan, and there will be no N or R service in Manhattan. Only one lane of Broadway will be open between E. Houston and Broome Sts., and between Howard and Canal Sts. 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday through Friday nights. In the Battery Park Underpass, the south tube (from Route 9A to the FDR) will completely close 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday nights. Extra nighttime traffic on Canal St. coming from the west and the east: All lanes of the Manhattan-bound Lincoln Tunnel ‘helix’ road (the spiral approach road to the tunnel) will close 10:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday nights, sending drivers to the Holland Tunnel. All Manhattan-bound lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge will close 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday nights, diverting traffic to the Manhattan Bridge. Leonard St. will close between Church

St. and West Broadway 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. nightly through Friday, June 28. Westbound traffic will be detoured to White St. This block will also close all day Thursday. In Tribeca, York St. between Sixth Ave. and St. Johns Lane; and St. Johns Lane between Laight and Beach Sts. will close 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Follow me on Twitter @gridlocksam. FROM ThE MAILBAg: Dear Transit Sam, Are yellow cabs allowed to pick up or drop off at bus stops in Manhattan? Anh, New York Dear Anh, Yes. Statute 4-08(c)(3) of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law states that “no person shall stand or park a vehicle other than an authorized bus in its assigned bus stop…except that the operator of a vehicle may temporarily stand therein for the purpose of expeditiously receiving and discharging passengers.” So, go ahead, but be quick and don’t block incoming buses! Transit Sam

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On another front, local commercial corridors were devastated by Sandy. The city is asking the Public Service Commission and Con Edison to amend the preferential Business Incentive Rate (BIR) program, which discounts Con Edison’s electric delivery charges, to allow it to be extended to small businesses in southern Manhattan and to the other four communities hardest hit by Sandy. Businesses and nonprofits with 10 or fewer employees that have received support from city-sponsored loan and grant programs will be eligible for the discount for five years up to a maximum of $50,000 per business or nonprofit. The maximum aggregate benefit available in southern Manhattan will be $1 million. This money will go to businesses and nonprofits in Lower Manhattan

(Water St., the South Street Seaport and Greenwich St.); Chinatown (East Broadway and Madison St.); the Lower East Side (Avenues B, C and D); Tribeca (Canal St., West Street and Greenwich St.); Chelsea (10th and 11th Aves. and 23rd St.) and the West Village (West St. and Washington St.). All of these initiatives in southern Manhattan will have to compete for funding and engineering resources that must be deployed citywide. Jacob said that the plan “was as well thought out as you can do anything in three and a half months.” But, he said, “There will certainly be kinks that will be found out when we go farther into the engineering. This was a conceptual plan. This was not an engineered plan. Now the engineers will have to get their chores done and once you get to that stage, you will find things that you may have to change.”

June 19 - July 2, 2013


BY SCOTT STIFFLER TRINITY ChURCh PRESENTS FAMILY FRIDAY PIZZA & MOVIE NIghT Trinity Wall Street hosts this third-Fridayof-the-month event for kids who are hungry (for food and entertainment) and adults who are too pooped to cook (or even order delivery!). On the June 21, the screening of Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic “E.T.” is an excellent chance to quiz the kids to see if they know that Elliott’s little sister grew up to play the Cinderella character in 1998’s “Ever After.” Their reward for making the connection? Reese’s Pieces, of course! On July 19, there’s no need to hoof it to Broadway if you want to see “Matilda.” You won’t find any singing or dancing in this version, but the Danny DeVito-directed 1996 film does offer an appropriately dark (but safe for kids) take on the Roald Dahl book. The series rounds out its summer calendar on August 16, with “The Secret of Kells.” Free. From 6-7:30pm, at Charlotte’s Place (107 Greenwich St., rear of 74 Trinity Place, btw. Rector & Carlisle Sts.). For more info, call 212-602-0800 or visit

ThE ChILDREN’S ROOM AT POETS hOUSE This bright and vibrant space encourages literacy and creativity. In addition to housing many poetry books by classic and contemporary authors, the Children’s Room is designed to stimulate the imaginations of young ones and drive them to create poems and art of their own. From Thurs.-Sat., children are free to draw inspiration from the room’s card catalogue full of quirky objects and type up their own masterpieces on vintage typewriters. Every Thurs. at 10am, “Tiny Poet Time” offers poetry readings and music for toddlers. At 10 River Terrace (at Murray St.). Hours: Children’s Room open Thurs.-Sat., 11am-5pm. Admission: Free. For info, call 212-431-7920 or visit

SATURDAY FAMILY PROgRAMS AT ThE SKYSCRAPER MUSEUM Explore tall buildings as objects of design, products of technology, sites of construction and places of work and residence at The Skyscraper Museum. Their “Saturday Family Program” series features workshops designed to introduce children and their families to the principles of architecture and engineering through hands-on activities. On June 29, the “Archikids” workshop (lead by architect Yves Roger) gives kids

ages 9-13 the chance to make their own soaring structures (inspired by images, vintage film and models of actual skyscrapers of the past and present). All workshops ($5 per family) take place at 10:30am. Registration is required. Call 212-9456324 or At 39 Battery Place (btw. First Place & Little West St.). Regular museum hours are Wed.-Sun., 12-6pm. Admission is $5 ($2.50 for students/ seniors).

PRINCESS KATIE AND RACER STEVE La MaMa KIDS: FAMILY PLAYDATE SLANT Performance Group will weave their magical humor through La MaMa’s first Family Playdate — a fun-filled showcase performed by members of the Great Jones Repertory Company. Embracing intelligent dance, music and theatre, this unique event is specially tailored for a theatrical family experience in a relaxed atmosphere. Sat., June 22, at 11am. At La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre (66 E. 4th St., 2nd floor, btw. Bowery & Second Ave.). Admission is $10 per family (no family turned away due to lack of funds). For a full schedule of events and more info, call 212-475-7710 or visit

T.A.g. (TEEN ART gALLERY) Determined to overcome “the limiting environment assigned to us because of our age,” the members of T.A.G. (Teen Art Gallery) make their own opportunities by helping young artists navigate the process of showing in a gallery setting. From July 11-20, T.A.G. will present an exhibition featuring a wide range of work from artists across the country, as well as a selection of creative writing and the introduction of the group’s YouTube channel. Plans are currently being solidified, so visit for updates.

ThE ChILDREN’S MUSEUM OF ThE ARTS is currently celebrating its quarter century of promoting self-expression and esteem. At 103 Charlton St. Hours: Mon. & Wed., 12-5pm; Thurs. & Fri., 12-6pm; Sat. & Sun., 10am5pm. Admission: $11 (Seniors and 0-12 months, free from 4-6pm). Thursdays are pay-as-you-wish. For info, call 212274-0986 or visit


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Hey, kids! Tear the blanket off your bed, pack a picnic basket full of your favorite goodies and get your parent’s permission to dress like a rock star. Then head to Washington Market Park for a night of seriously rowdy fun. Oh, and make sure you do all that by 6pm on June 27 — because that’s when Princess Katie and Racer Steve (along with bandmates Crash and Space) arrive from the Happyville Kingdom to teach Tribeca how to rock out! This high-energy, ultra-entertaining and totally unique concert will have you singing, dancing and laughing until you’re tired or dizzy — or a little bit of both! Free. Thurs., June 27, at 6pm, in Washington Market Park (at Greenwich & Duane Sts.). For more info on the concert and other activities, visit Friends of Washington Market Park, at For the backstory on the band, visit


June 19 - July 2, 2013

River To River Just Keeps Rolling Along Song, dance and play fill the streets of Lower Manhattan JAMES MADDOCK

THE RIVER TO RIVER FESTIVAL All across Lower Manhattan Through July 14 Free For a schedule of events & more info, visit

BY MAEVE GATELY Week one of the sprawling River To River festival is almost over — and with it, the chance to say you were there when it all began. But don’t feel left out if you missed June 16’s nine-hour Bang on a Can marathon. That crew of percussive maniacs will be back next year — and with three weeks left, you’ve still got time to catch most of the 150+ (mostly outdoor) concerts, art exhibits, dance performances and family activities. Here are three of our own must-sees:

This British-born singer-songwriter, a Downtown resident for the past few years, has developed a singularly unique musical identity — by blending his distinct accent with instrumentals that recall the equally unique riffs of American folk music. The result is both soulful and driving (think Bruce Springsteen, with an English countryside lilt). Wi n n e r o f t h e 2 0 1 0 / 1 1 N Y M u s i c Aw a r d f o r B e s t A m e r i c a n a Album (for “Sunrise on A venue C”), Maddock has been writing and recording music for over a decade. These two River To River concerts will feature selections from that body of work, plus his most recent release (“Another Life”). An all-ages event on Tues., June 25, 5:30pm, at Brookfield Place Plaza (220 Vesey Street, at West Street) and Thurs., June 27, 12:30pm, at One New York Plaza (South & Whitehall Sts.).

Photo by Tom Pearson

Are we there yet? “Roadside Attraction” takes you on a family camping trip, 1970s-style.


Nostalgic for the days of Connect Four and summer vacations in popup campers? Third Rail Projects’ seventies throwback, “Roadside Attraction,” is set in the midst of a 1970s family vacation. The work examines issues of nostalgia, family, expectations and acceptance, and features the Bessie-winning group’s signature blend of human emotion, quirky choreography and site-specific set design (the action takes place in a renovated vintage 1977 Coleman pop-up camper, and will be performed outside under summer skies). Performances on June 23-26, at 12pm & 1pm (15 min. in length), and June 27, at 1pm & 7pm (60 min. in length) at Brookfield Place Plaza and on July 1-2 at, 12:30pm (60 min. in length) at One New York Plaza.


Photo courtesy of the artist

British accent, American soul: James Maddock performs, on June 25 & 27.

Come Out and Play is a nationwide organization that turns cityscapes into playgrounds, providing games, activities and teamwork challenges that bring together family, friends and strangers alike. In the past, Come Out and Play events have taken place in Chelsea, the Lower East Side and South Street Seaport, and ranged in activities from city-wide scavenger hunts to whiffle ball

Photo courtesy of River To River

“Come Out and Play” invites you to play ball… and much more, on July 12 & 13.

with paper-mâché pigeons. On July 12, from 7pm-12am, Come Out and Play After Dark will fill South Street Seaport with real life, real time re-inactions of video games and multiplayer activities.

Then, on July 13, from 11am to 5pm Field Day will transform the Governor’s Island Parade Ground with games and events (some of which were suggested by the public).

June 19 - July 2, 2013


The last word on first ladies ‘Tea’ is a sociable trio of waning reign confessions THEATER TEA FOR THREE: LADY BIRD, PAT & BETTY Through June 29 Wed.-Sat. at 8pm Matinees Wed. & Sat. at 2pm & Sun. at 3pm At The Theatre at 30th St. (259 W. 30th St., btw.7th & 8th Aves.) For tickets ($45), call 212-868-4444 or visit Visit

BY SCOTT STIFFLER Three gold frames, containing neither pictures nor portraits, hang on the back wall of a tastefully appointed

room in the White House. It’s where we’re about to meet a trio of first ladies in the waning hours of their reign — and as the tight, 80-minute “TEA FOR THREE” plays out, the conspicuously empty space inside those gilded adornments will speak volumes about how we project our own values, opinions and desires onto the blank canvas of people we think we know (even if we’ve never actually met them). Credit director Byam Stevens for that telling visual metaphor. The writing, by Eric H. Weinberger and Elaine Bromka, has its own effective dramatic hook: Each presidential wife (Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon and Betty Ford) is reflecting on life in the White House, just prior to giving the new first lady her grand tour. Soon to be stripped of their duties (or freed from them as the case may be), this unique place in time affords them the rare chance to offer unusually candid opinions. Depending upon their disposition and the reason hubby is leaving office, the tea room becomes a confessional, a wartime bunker or a speakeasy during last call. It’s a great

premise to throw at Bromka — a finely calibrated theater vet whose interpretation of each woman’s voice, posture and temperament is as far from mimicry as one could possibly hope to expect. She’s especially good when the unspooling of an anecdote requires her to shift from self-aware humor to empathy-inducing melancholy. Played as a fun-loving gal who just wants the party to go on, her Betty Ford is the show’s most complex, compelling watch — a survivor of breast cancer who has yet to be stopped in her tracks by the highball glass that’s molded to her hand like a vital appendage. Seeing the future founder of the Betty Ford Center at a point where she still downs booze and prescription pills with casual aplomb is especially poignant if you know what’s coming down the road. Those coming to the show without an intimate knowledge of the eras in which Ford and her two sequential predecessors occupied the White House will still be drawn in by three very different women’s riffs on power, politics and the way we grasp for wisdom at the dawn of hindsight.

Photo by Ron Marotta

One will get you three: Elaine Bromka, as Betty Ford.


June 19 - July 2, 2013

Ticket to Ride Anthology’s Auto-Cinema series contemplates the car AUTO-CINEMA June 19-25 At Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Ave., at E. Second St.) Purchase tickets: $10 ($8 for students/seniors) at the box office For info: 212-505-5181 or

BY SEAN EGAN With the unveiling of Citi Bike, the MTA increasing subway fare and the seasonal rise in gas prices, the best way to get from point A to point B has been at the forefront of many New Yorkers’ minds — making this a particularly relevant time for “Auto-Cinema.” Curated by Anthology Film Archives, the week-long collection of previously released films that prominently feature automobiles scrutinizes the function and significance of the commonplace machine most take for granted — and in doing so, it examines the automobile’s role in cinema, as well as society at large. The series was reportedly inspired by the relatively close release dates of two of 2012’s most interesting auteur-driven movies: David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis” and Leos Carax’s “Holy Motors.” While the films differ wildly in tone and content, they both featured inscrutable protagonists who spend a large portion of the film riding around sprawling metropolises (New York and Paris, respectively) from the back seat of state of the art stretch limousines. With this coincidence sparking their interest, Anthology dug deeper to find other films raising similar thematic questions through the lens of the car. In “Cosmopolis,” writer-director David Cronenberg — the master of body horror and all things icky and technological — adapts Don DeLillo’s 2003 novel about a gifted twentysomething Wall Street financial wizard, Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), who loses his fortune over the course of the day while stuck in traffic. This simple summary does not do Cronenberg’s slow burn of a film justice, as he uses the limitations of his setting to make a deeply paranoid and unsettling picture. Through claustrophobic camerawork, moody lighting and vaguely science-fiction-y iconography, the limo becomes a hermetically sealed capsule, which keeps out the (literal) anarchy of the outside world (and, in the process, potently uses the vehicle as a meta-

Image courtesy of the distributor and Anthology Film Archives

Stuck in traffic: A Wall Street whiz kid loses his fortune while cruising around town, in David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis.”

phor for the modern world’s over-reliance on gadgetry). These themes of isolation and lack of concern for the world are aided immeasurably by Pattinson’s distant and detached performance as the nonchalant Packer, and the inscrutable, steely grimace he wears for the majority of the film. Both incredibly relevant to today (especially with its presentation of the “one percent” and Occupy-like protests), and timeless in its ideas, “Cosmopolis” is highly recommended viewing. No less potent a rumination on the dangers of technology now than when it came out, Cronenberg’s 1996 psychological thriller, “Crash,” is also an official selection of the Auto-Cinema series. Highly controversial upon release (due to its twisted and explicit portrayals of sex and violence), Cronenberg again uses the automobile to criticize the modern world and unsettle the audience. Set in a future not unlike our own, the film follows a ragtag cast of characters (headed by James Spader and Holly Hunter) who become sexually aroused by violent car crashes and the destruction they produce. The film is classic Cronenberg, liberally and thoughtfully intertwining sex and violence, and the human with the mechanic — all while conjuring up disturbing imagery that would make even the bravest filmgoer squirm (the “leg scene” in this film is definitely not for the faint of heart). “Crash” uses the automobile as an example of how people in the modern world frequently fetishize machinery and technology to the detriment of the ones they love and society as a whole. If Cronenberg’s films show the car to be

indicative of a larger, more sinister problem with technology eating at the heart of society, Carax’s “Holy Motors” is a vibrant and inventive movie about the transformative potential of the automobile and technology. The plot of this mind-bending, genre-hopping, whackedout film — if you can call it a plot — concerns a man named Oscar (Denis Lavant), who uses his limo as a state-of-the-art changing room to get into elaborate costumes while riding to various “jobs” in Paris that seemingly require him to perform as a variety of distinct characters, for some mysterious and/or unknown purpose or audience. This conceit allows for the film to gleefully shift tones on a dime, careening with aplomb from slapstick comedy, to intimate drama, to violent thriller to full-scale musical numbers. The car becomes a symbol with a multitude of potential meaning: as the place where we are most vulnerable and in touch with our real selves, as a place of reinvention where we shape our identities, or as the backstage to some grand scale theatrical performance. These are just some of the heady themes one can mull over once this wickedly clever and visually stunning film has faded from the screen. Celebrated Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, like Cronenberg, has a pair of features being screened for the Auto-Cinema program. “Taste of Cherry” (1997) and “Ten” (2002) both take place almost exclusively within the confines of normal cars, but the scope of the ideas Kiarostami explores within them know no limits. “Taste of Cherry,” a winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or, concerns a man who wishes to commit suicide as he drives around Tehran, interviewing

potential candidates for people to bury his body. With its long conversations and beautifully shot landscapes, the film becomes a meditation on life and death, with the car also acting as a place for open dialogue between individuals. Stripping away the sumptuous cinematography of “Taste of Cherry” in favor of a couple of dashboard mounted digital camcorders, “Ten” explores similar themes, focusing exclusively on a series of conversations between a young mother and her various passengers. These conversations span from the incredibly personal ones with her obstinate son, to encounters with friends, sex workers and a religious old woman. Kiarostami here shows the car to be a space where people can debate and examine societal norms and the “big questions” (particularly those concerning women in society and sexual politics), as well as have intimate and honest conversation with others, including family. The festival is rounded out by a few more screenings of rare works held by Anthology. An impressive short film program promises to be interesting, featuring five films examining the automobile from different social, political, and environmental lenses. Chip Lord’s feature length video, “Motorist,” features Richard Marcus as a driver on a road trip, commenting on his surroundings and the nature of cars, while director Saul Levine presents a conversation in a car with his friend Katha Washburn in a single 82-minute take, as part of his “Driven” video series. These last selections help to ensure Anthology’s AutoCinema program will be expansive, thoughtprovoking and something audiences can’t find anywhere else.


June 19 - July 2, 2013


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June 19 - July 2, 2013

New synagogue saves historic Torah ark Continued on page 27

Liberal and progressive, the congregation only conducts Friday night Sabbath services once a month at a church, St. Paul’s 9/11 Chapel. Architect Jason Friedman evaluated the 100-year-old, Mesertiz Shul at 415 E 6th St. for his firm, which is converting the interior space into condos. He saw the Torah cabinet built into an ornate oak wall carving of panels and other adornment. In an Ashkenazi style of the time, though made-in-America, it was inscribed with Hebrew and Yiddish words, a relic of the old world.

‘It was put together with hammers and screws, and that’s what we used. Each of the right and left panels took an hour to remove.’ Friedman, a Financial District resident, had attended High Holiday services at Downtown Synagogue (distinct from a nowdefunct, similarly-named synagogue). He called Rabbi Darren Levine, its founder, to see if a home for the ark could be found. As it happens, Tamid was in the process of creating a new ark and called into service an expert from this small congregation, Salvo Stoch, who imports rare items from around the world. Stoch evaluated the ark and determined it could be safely extracted, stored properly, and retrofitted for Tamid’s ark. Meseritz’s Rabbi Peseach Ackerman, who died Friday at 84, was relieved. There would be a future for the ark with a new, growing Jewish congregation that needed it. For all, it seemed like b’shert, or destiny. Climbing scaffolding in the dusty and paintFINANCIAL

chip laden space, on Monday, April 28, Rabbi Levine and a small crew began the dismantling. “It was put together with hammers and screws, said the rabbi, “and that’s what we used. Each of the right and left panels took an hour to remove.” They used crowbars to pry the segments off the walls — 30 pieces, roughly 450 pounds of oak carvings, which had been glued on. During their labors, Rabbi Levine reached into the cabinet of the ark and discovered, to his amazement, a Torah in the corner. The shul’s rabbi vaguely recalled this second Torah, tucked away with some smoke and water damage after a fire, some 40 years before. It took two days of delicate work and a lot of sweat to complete the dismantling, the pieces carefully wrapped and taken to a storage facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Tamid hopes to someday restore the ark in a permanent synagogue Downtown. Rabbi Levine presented the Torah, which he also hopes to restore, at his Shabbat service — held at St. Paul’s, that Friday night. Stoch’s daughter, Sophie, who celebrated her Bat Mitzvah last year, held the scroll for all to see. With relatively few Jewish religious institutions in Lower Manhattan, Rabbi Levine felt the need for a spiritual home, a synagogue, and started Tamid, Downtown, with about 55 other families a year ago. Levine had been at JCP (The Jewish Community Project), a Jewish school and center in Tribeca, for six years as its founding executive director, following a stint at 1,500-member Temple Shaaray Tefila on the Upper East Side. Rabbi Levine realized early on that Tamid needed a place to worship and thought of the light-infused St. Paul’s Chapel, across from the World Trade Center. Turns out that a fellow neighborhood basketball dad, who the rabbi knew on the courts for two years as Mark (but didn’t know his profession or title), was Reverend Mark Buzzuti-Jones, his contact at Trinity Church, which came to provide St. Paul’s Chapel to Tamid for worship, gratis. The music component of services is led by renowned musician Basya Schechter, the front woman of the band Pharaoh’s Daughter

Downtown Express photo by Tequila Minsky

Tamid’s Rabbi Darren Levine and Sophie Stoch present the Torah recovered from the Mesertiz Shul at St. Paul’s Chapel.

and a Lower Manhattan resident. During the May service in which the Torah was presented, Schecter’s blend of Hebrew and middle-eastern music, accompanied by guitar and percussion with Schecter singing and sometimes playing the oud, stirred the congregation. Inspiring music was just what the membership wanted. Jamie Propp, a founding member of the congregation,

nudged a friend during the service and whispered, “It’s like going to a Friday concert.” In the middle of the service, the worshipers got up, joined hands, and danced around the chapel for to celebrate the beginning of the Sabbath. “It ignites and unites the congregation as community,” Propp said. Continued on page 27

June 19 - July 2, 2013

Continued on page 27

“Tamid is in its infancy,” he added, explaining the once-a-month service. “You have to crawl before you walk. A number of members aren’t used to going to services. There’s a lot to organize when you’re starting a new congregation. And, it’s about building community.” They also push the geographic boundaries of their neighborhood. “We have bi-monthly book discussions at Pushcart Café on E. Broadway,” Rabbi


Levine notes, pointing out, “Do you know there is no liberal presence in the (below Houston) Lower East Side? And, there are a lot of young families moving into the area.” The word Tamid means eternal, taken from “ner tamid” — the eternal light that hangs above the ark in the synagogue. In a year, the congregation has nearly doubled to 100 families. “We are an easy on-ramp to participate,” said Rabbi Levine. “We’ve taken a lot of risks and experimented with new and fresh ideas.”

Downtown Express photos by Tequila Minsky

The two-story ark before it was taken apart and moved to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, above.

Photo courtesy of Tamid

The now closed Mesertiz Shul on E. 6th St., left. Hauling a piece of the ark, right.


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June 19 - July 2, 2013

5/22/13 5:36 PM

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Downtown Express, June 19, 2013  

Downtown Express, June 19, 2013