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The Paper of Record for East and West Villages, Lower East Side, Soho, Noho, Little Italy and Chinatown

July 10, 2014 • FREE Volume 4 • Number 17

Claws came out as complex fought over L.E.S. feral cats BY SERGEI KLEBNIKOV


here have the Broome St. Alley Cats gone?” reads a flier posted by local residents of the Amalgamated Dwellings apartment complex. The flier calls for help as the last elderly cats of what used to be an established feral

feline colony pass away. The “Broome St. Alley” cats, reportedly one of the oldest and most successfully managed such colonies in New York City, has come to an end. A large number of cats used to populate the alley — which runs next to Luther Gulick Playground FERAL CATS, continued on p. 12



reservationists, poets and a pizzeria teamed up to honor Frank O’Hara with a plaque dedication at his former East Village home. The embossed bronze homage was unveiled June 10 at 441 E. Ninth St., where

the poet lived from 1959 to 1963 with his roommate, Joe LeSueur. The ceremony was a joint effort of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Two Boots Pizza and the Poetry Project. Some of O’Hara’s poems feature East Village referencO’HARA, continued on p. 13


Where poet O’Hara was prolific amid city’s din, a new plaque is placed

The Pride March on Sun., June 29, saw thousands strut and celebrate through the Village. See pages 20 and 21 for more photos.

Market’s proudest product: Immigrants’ American Dream BY ZACH WILLIAMS


ozens of community members had assembled to commemorate his life’s work, but Luis Batista escaped notice beforehand, seeking customers to help as he had for 29 years in the Essex Street Market. June 27, 2014, was Luis Batista Day in Manhattan. So declared Borough President Gale Brewer, who presented him with a framed procla-

mation at a reception within the aisles of his former grocery store inside the market. She said he exemplifies the “mom-and-pop business model.” “We are standing here today in the type of community which is the backbone of New York City,” Brewer said. Batista retired May 1 due to lingering health problems that now make it difficult to endure the physical toll of operating a grocery business. He started working

in the market in 1985 as a recent immigrant from the Dominican Republic, going on to open his own business, Batista Grocery, a decade later. His kind disposition made him like a neighborhood uncle to his regular customers, according to Councilmember Margaret Chin. “It’s just great to be so neighborly and to have so many people love him,” she MARKET, continued on p. 9

Airbnb bills are still up in the 3 Villager gains 11 sister 10 Say it ain’t faux — Simulacrum 11 Ice Factory Fest a cool 18 | May 14, 2014


New NYCHA chief talks about trust at First Houses BY LESLEY SUSSMAN



hola Olatoye, chairperson of the New York City Housing Authority, paid a surprise visit on Wed., July 2, to the East Village’s First Houses, as part of a renewed effort by the city agency to establish “better relations and trust” with its tenants and staff. Olatoye, a Mayor de Blasio appointee who has been on the job a bit more than 100 days, toured the NYCHA housing development, on E. Third St. and Avenue A. Opening in 1935, the First Houses were the nation’s first public housing development. The chairperson visited the apartment of a 92-year-old resident, and then met with the tenants council to field questions and respond to concerns. During that meeting, Olatoye told Brenda Santiago, the tenants council president, that these grassroots meetings were “important to my learning experience and a way to build more trust between tenants and us.” Yet, she said, the Housing Authority’s financial picture was challenging. “We lost half of our federal funding in 1981,” she explained. “And yet we have a significant aging population that needs special care, and many buildings that are over 80 years old and in need of repair. “Our greatest challenge is to make sure that the New York City Housing Authority is here for the next 100 years in order to provide affordable housing to the poor,” Olatoye stated. “Our primary task is to focus in on ways of getting resources to continue our work.”

The chairperson said there are currently more than 150,000 people on a waiting list for NYCHA apartments, and that this list is growing daily. She also stressed that the mayor wants to ensure that NYCHA developments don’t become “disconnected islands” within the surrounding community. “The mayor has asked us to figure out ways to contribute to the community,” Olatoye said, “and that is now part of our mission, along with preserving NYCHA housing for future generations.”

NYCHA Chairperson Shola Olatoye, front right, spoke with a resident, 92, in the First Houses back yard, as Brenda Santiago, theT:8.75” tenants council president, listened in.

Olatoye spoke with workers inside the future home of the St. Mark’s Bookshop, in a First Houses retail space on E. Third St. The bookstore is slated to reopen at the new location later this month.

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July 10, 2014

SOMETHING IN THE AIRBNB? At the Village Independent Democrats’ May 30 endorsement meeting, Assemblymember Keith Wright spoke on behalf of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s re-election bid. That much we understood. What we eventually didn’t quite get, though, was when Wright started riffing about other various issues he’s been dealing with and specifically got on the topic of Airbnb. He held up his smartphone to show that The New York Times’s then No. 1 article, as he put it, was “Airbnb takes to the barricades,” about the home-sharing-style hotel operation’s ongoing battle with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “Airbnb is a big outfit, but basically they promote illegal hotels,” the Manhattan Democratic County leader told V.I.D. “I think people have a right to know if the people in 5A are...[involved in] drugs, a brothel or any illegal activity.” Then, in the part that puzzled us, he emphatically stated, “I’ve had this bill for two years — the bill ain’t going anywhere. I’m holding the bill — ain’t going nowhere.” Wright, who is chairperson of the Assembly’s Housing Committee, noted he had, in fact, even just held an anti-Airbnb press conference with Congressmember Charles Rangel and state Senator Liz Krueger. However, just a week later, on May 6, the Daily News reported that a coalition of affordable housing advocates, labor unions and tenant associations — dubbed the Real Rent Reform Coalition — is fighting two bills that seek to loosen restrictions on using Airbnb in New York. The bills would both exempt so-called “good actors” from a 2010 law targeting illegal hotels that prohibits renting apartments by the night. As the News reported, “One bill — sponsored by State Senator Martin Golden and Assemblymember Keith Wright — seeks to help ‘legitimate individuals’ who lease their apartments as vacation rentals. Another bill — sponsored by State Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman Karim Camara — would make exceptions for ‘individuals that rent out their own units to help make ends meet and earn extra income.’ ” We asked Michael McKee, one of the city’s longtime leading tenants activists, what he made of it all, and he, too, indicated it doesn’t make sense. Basically, he said, if Wright doesn’t intend to move his own bill, why the heck is it even on his desk? More to the point, McKee told us, Airbnb is pouring millions of dollars into its campaign to loosen the rules that currently make what it does illegal, and that includes heavy lobbying of elected officials in Albany. McKee added the decision potentially would ultimately come down to the old

“three men in a room,” meaning Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver would be calling the shots for the Assembly. “It ultimately does not matter what Keith Wright says or does with his bill,” McKee scoffed. “If Airbnb wins a bill at the end of session, it will be a negotiated bill — negotiated behind closed doors by Silver and the other legislative leaders. It will not be Keith’s bill and Keith will not be in the loop.” A Silver spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. Well, the legislative session just ended, and we haven’t heard of any negotiated bill — so apparently the Airbnb debate continues to hang in the air. And, speaking of hanging, so do Airbnb’s plentiful P.R. ads, blanketing the subways, featuring the operation’s smiling, happy “hosts” — in-yourface evidence of the mega-bucks P.R. campaign of which McKee spoke. Local pols apparently aren’t too reassured by Wright’s words, either. On June 4, a dozen of them signed a joint letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, expressing their concern that if the two bills are passed, they would “gut the city’s enforcement system, and have serious repercussions on the housing and homelessness crisis in New York City.” The signatories, who asked for de Blasio’s help in keeping Airbnb in check, included Borough President Gale Brewer, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, state Senators Brad Hoylman, Liz Krueger and Bill Perkins, and Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried, among others — but not Wright, which somehow doesn’t surprise us.

BRING THE NOISE: Extell will start pile-driving

on its Lower East Side residential project, at Cherry and South Sts., at the former Pathmark site in seven days. The developer’s decision to split off its affordable housing component into a separate building still has many in the community steamed. However, an informational meeting on Tuesday night with about three dozen local residents was cordial. There was discussion of installation of vibration sensors, among other things.

PIE MAN’S PLAINT: The news that No. 9

Bleecker St., the former Yippie headquarters, will be a hipster boxing gym/party space isn’t sitting well with Aron Kay. Known as the “Yippie Pie Man,” the peaceful Kay has always made his points with pies — not punches — thrown in the faces of the likes of Phyllis Schlafly, William F. Buckley and former Mayor Abe Beame. Joey Goodwin a.k.a. “Soho Joe” and John Galliano, of the Unruly Heir fashion company, have leased out the building and, along with another partner, are recasting it as the NYC Overthrow boxing gym, after the name of the Yippies’ gonzo newspaper, Overthrow, which was published out of the location. In a video, Goodwin explained the place will be “paying homage to what was here before. It’s going to be boxing meets punk rock/ Downtown New York.” They recently held a “Friday Night Throwdown” there for a release party for Transmission magazine. “I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude,” Kay said. “I’m not happy about it. I feel I’ve been exiled from a space — by the real estate maggots.” He noted that Dana Beal, the Yippies’ leader, can’t even step foot inside the place because he has a restraining order against him. “Will they let me come and do my political work in there?” the Pie Man asked of the fashionista/pugilists.

CORRECTION: In the June 26 issues of The

Villager and East Villager, in the real estate article “Hell’s Kitchen moves up to the head of the pack,” Gotham West’s address was given incorrectly as 420 W. 45th St. The correct address is 550 W. 45th St.





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Court supports ‘home rule’ control on fracking BY ALBERT AMATEAU



Your Food Scrap ScrapS at Greenmarket

Drop off household fruit and vegetable scraps at

Tompkins Square Greenmarket Sundays, 8am–1pm, E 7th St & Ave A

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GrowNYC and DSNY Food Scrap Compost Program

A program partnership between the City of New York, the NYC Department of Sanitation, GrowNYC, and community partners.


July 10, 2014


he state Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, on Mon., June 30, affirmed the right of local municipalities to use their zoning laws to ban fracking to extract gas from deep shale deposits. By 5 to 2, the court made its decision on the narrow issue of the “home rule” provision of the state’s constitution. The ruling was hailed by a coalition of environmental groups who for several years have declared that drilling gas wells by horizontal hydraulic fracturing endangers the supply of drinking water and severely degrades the landscape. Gas and oil industry advocates, however, said the decision casts a pall on the economic future of New York State. The issue has been in the forefront for several years. Since 2008, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has been holding hearings on proposed fracking regulations, but has not yet indicated when a final draft will be made public. In 2012, the state Department of Health began considering the implications of fracking, but has not

announced any conclusions, and still declines to say when it might conclude its study. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who faces an election in November, has so far refused to commit himself on the issue. Nevertheless, Kate Sinding, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said of the Court of Appeals ruling, “This is a tremendous decision. We joined with about a dozen environmental organizations in a ‘friend of the court’ brief on how local governments can use their land use regulations.” Sinding noted that there has been a semi-official moratorium on fracking for six years because of the state’s reluctance to publish new regulations. “When the issue was kicked up to the Department of Health two years ago, there was almost no data on fracking’s effect on health,” she said. “But in the last year and a half, there’s been a lot of development along those lines, and we hope the governor will be able to take new health information into consideration before making a decision.” The two cases before the Court of Appeals began in 2011 in the town of Dryden in Tompkins Coun-

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who legalized gay marriage in New York State, marched in Sunday’s Pride March in Manhattan. He has yet to come down on either side of the fracking issue.

ty, near Ithaca, and in Middlefield in Otsego County, east of Cooperstown. Since then, about 170 towns have passed fracking bans or moratoria and about 40 towns have passed ordinances supporting fracking. The Dryden action was challenged in court by Norse Energy, a Norwegian energy company that went bankrupt after investing heavily in drilling leases on land in the state. The Middlefield action was challenged by Cooperstown Holstein, a dairy farm that had leased out land for drilling. In Ulster County, in the Hudson Valley, the towns of Marbletown, New Paltz, Rochester, Rosendale and Woodstock have banned fracking, according to the Oneida Daily Dispatch. In the past year, three townships in Colorado and one in Ohio have approved anti-fracking ordinances, according to N.R.D.C. Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, said the Court of Appeals decision “puts a chilling effect on investing in New York’s oil and gas industry.” But Sinding suggested that the current relatively low prices in the gas market make drilling unlikely in the near future. Fracking involves injecting high volumes of water, laced with chemicals and sand, under high pressure, into the Marcellus shale de-

posits 2,000 to 5,000 feet deep. Each well could extend horizontally for thousands of feet and each could be “fracked” two or three times. The Marcellus formation has been said to contain gas reserves comparable to those of Saudi Arabia. The Marcellus underlies an area between Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, whose Southern Tier counties along the Pennsylvania border have 20 percent of the regional formation. New Yorkers Against Fracking, a group opposed to the practice, said on Monday, “We applaud the court for once again affirming the rights of New Yorkers to ban fracking and its toxic effects from their communities. But water and air contamination do not stop at local boundaries. Governor Cuomo must ban fracking statewide to protect our health and homes from the arrogant and inherently harmful fracking industry.” Nevertheless, Annie Wilson, senior energy policy adviser of the New York Environmental Justice Committee, said that the decision was very good news indeed for fracking opponents. Paul Gallay, president of the environmental group Riverkeeper, said, “This decision is a big step forward. Now, municipalities have the fate of their environment in their own hands. We’re very proud to have joined Environmental Justice and N.R.D.C. in the amicus [friend of the court] brief in these cases.” Moreover, Gallay said, he did not see any possibilities of appeal, for example, to a U.S. District Court, because no federal law was involved in the cases. The majority opinion of the state Court of Appeals, said, “The towns both studied the issue and acted within their home rule powers in determining that gas drilling would permanently alter and adversely affect the deliberately cultivated small town character of their communities.” While towns could not preempt state jurisdiction regarding gas drilling regulations, “we do not lightly presume preemption where the preeminent power of a locality to regulate land use is at stake,” said the decision by Judge Victoria Gaffeo, joined by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Judges Susan P. Read, Jenny Rivera and Sheila Abdu-Salaam. The dissent, by Judges Eugene Pigott and Robert Smith, held that the towns of Dryden and Middlefield did preempt the state jurisdiction on regulating fracking. Two years ago, the New York State Legislature banned fracking in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds.

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Final frame is played at famed Bowlmor Lanes BY ZACH WILLIAMS



ven on the evening of Mon., July 7, the final day of a 76year run, much remained the same at Bowlmor Lanes. The elevator attendant ran the antique cab up to the second floor of 100 University Place, as he had for decades. Dance music played loudly. The lights were dim and couples romanced between turns. Monday night business appeared slow but steady as the dozen lanes on the second floor gradually became filled with patrons. The walls were festooned with celebrity autographs and old news clippings, as well as oversize flat-screen TVs. But despite the typical buzz of activity and the clatter of bowling balls slamming into pins, the longest continually operated bowling alley in New York City closed at 1 a.m. the next morning to make way for new condominiums. “It’s a painful loss,” said Bowlmor owner Tom Shannon. Bowlmor operated at the location since 1938. And it was here, under Shannon, that recreational bowling as we know it today was transformed. Among the famous who laced up bowling shoes there were Richard Nixon, Jimmy Fallon, Uma Thurman, Julia Roberts and Paul Shaffer. Business flourished during the

Bowling at Bowlmor Lanes on its last night on University Place.

1940s until the 1960s, when a decline hit both the sport and the city. A chance birthday party held there in the mid-1990s inspired Shannon to re-imagine the space, he said. This was where bowling alleys became a bit pricier and more akin to a disco club than the previous business model, where bowling leagues dominated, according to Shannon. “I made bowling expensive,” he quipped. Bowling alleys now emphasize fun and entertainment rather than exclusively athletic competition. He realized such a vision in 1997 when he bought the venue through a $3,000 downpayment on a $2 million loan with 17 percent interest.

What had been a dilapidated bowling alley losing money became the model of what is now the largest bowling empire in the United States with more than 265 locations. Critics at the time said the low ceilings, “rickety elevator” and ongoing decline of bowling leagues would make it difficult to turn a profit on University Place, Shannon said. “When I bought it, we were doing a million dollars a year,” he said. “Within four years, we were doing 10 million, so they weren’t exactly right.” However, the building hosting the recreational hub for the glitterati and neighborhood residents alike is

owned by real estate developer Billy Macklowe, a man with business ambitions of his own, who decided not to renew Bowlmor’s lease on the space. According to Shannon and local media, the site will be redeveloped as residential condominiums. An offer of $20 million for two floors of the building did not pique Macklowe’s interest, Shannon said. A Macklowe spokesperson declined to comment on the future of 110 University Place. The last night of business, though, featured little evidence of the impending closure. The raucous mix of black lighting, Justin Bieber tunes, drinks and bowling attracted new patrons, even as employees huddled to exchange final reflections on what 110 University Place had meant to both their company and their friendships. Brooklyn residents Olga Skyba and Samuel Weisman were there for the romance as well as sport. They said they were unaware that Bowlmor would be closing its original location on the very first day that they came there. The ambiance defines the venue, Weisman said. “I like it better here, the music, atmosphere and everything,” he said. “I’ve been to other bowling alleys in Brooklyn, but this seems to be nicer actually.”

Pink boxes proliferate throughout Lower East Side BY ZACH WILLIAMS



July 10, 2014


ithin 30 minutes via bicycle, The Villager found nine illegal sidewalk clothes-and-shoes-donation boxes around Delancey St., but their origins and charitable legitimacy remain unclear. The boxes are pink and operated by Our Neighborhood Recycling, with a phone number listed below the group’s name. State business registration records link them to an apartment in Jamaica, Queens, as a limited-liability corporation. A call to the number listed on the boxes was answered by a call center in Carlstadt, N.J., where a woman took a message, which was not returned by press time. The unidentified woman said she had no information on what Our Neighborhood Recycling LLC did with the donations. While repeatedly declining to directly address questions concerning these pink bins, Department of Sanitation spokesperson Kathy Dawkins

said owners of illegal donation bins have 30 days to remove them once they are spotted by the department. “The placement of collection bins by any person, other than a government or governmental agency, or its contractors or licensees, on any city property, property maintained by the city, or on any public sidewalk or roadway is prohibited,” she said in an e-mail. On Sunday, The Villager noticed that a pink box, located at the northwest corner of Wyckoff and Bond Sts., in Brooklyn, just north of the Gowanus Houses, had been plastered with Department of Sanitation stickers, saying it was illegal and subject to removal by the department. But none of the pink boxes observed by The Villager on the Lower East Side bore such stickers. According to Dawkins, clothing-box confiscations are already up citywide — 125 this year compared to only seven in 2013. She declined to comment on whether enforcement or the number of bins

One of the dubious pink clothes-donation boxes, at Delancy and Ridge Sts.

had increased this year, but did add in a subsequent e-mail that the department has received about 160 complaints citywide this year, specifically, regarding the pink clothing receptacles. A representative of Viltex, a for-profit company that organizes donations for charities, told The Villager on July 8 that the company does not manage any receptacles in Manhattan

south of Harlem, though their receptacles are pink. Local blog Bowery Boogie highlighted neighborhood concerns on July 9 that the bins’ operators seek to turn a profit for some from the donations of others.

With reporting by Lincoln Anderson

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Have camera, will travel

Activist John Penley — who is a former news photographer — was recently in Tompkins Square Park, new digital camera in hand. He had come to the city a week earlier to organize a protest at the Mexican Consulate over recent attacks on a Zapatista school that left one dead, 15 injured and the school burned down. He also co-organized the “Money Out / Voters In” protest outside David Koch’s, of the Koch brothers, Upper East Side home. Penley planned to return soon to Asheville, N.C., to fight fracking, which he said the state legislature there had just legalized. “I’m going to Mexico in the fall to continue my support of the Zapatistas,” he said, “because I feel what happened was the opening shot in a campaign that involves government officers, narco-traffickers and police to get the Zapatistas off their land.”

tuesdays, 8am–4pm, e 10th St & 2nd ave

We accept clean and dry textiles like clothing, paired shoes, coats, linens, scarves, hats, bags and belts. materials will be sorted for reuse or recycling. 212.788.7964 GrowNYC’s Office of Recycling Outreach and Education is a NYC Department of Sanitation funded program

July 10, 2014


POLICE BLOTTER Meatpacking tenderizer

Forged driver’s license Police said officers pulled over Deonarine Singh, 26, at 1:45 a.m. last Wed., July 2, while he was driving along Christopher St. Police found him to be in possession of a forged Maryland driv-

Hot wheels Last Saturday, a man was observed at 7:35 p.m. riding a Citi Bike against traffic and running red lights along Bleecker St., according to police. When police stopped the man, identified as Naquan Edmundson, 22, they found that he did not have a Citi Bike card authorizing his use of the cycle. A Citi Bike employee confirmed that the bike had been stolen earlier that afternoon from its docking station at Carmine and Bleecker Sts. Police arrested Edmundson, who had an active warrant and was in possession of the stolen bike — valued at more than $1,000 — on felony charges.

Whole Foods shoplifter A man was arrested last Sunday


On Tues., July 1, a man was hit in the face with a metal meat tenderizer at Macelleria restaurant on Gansevoort St. A male victim, 35, stated that he got into a verbal argument with Oscar Orellano, 29, in the basement of the restaurant at 6:25 p.m. As the argument heated up, Orellano picked up the meat tenderizer and reportedly hit the other man on the forehead, causing lacerations and bleeding. Police arrived on the scene, and recovered the weapon as the victim was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Orellano was arrested and charged with felony assault.

er’s license, and he was charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument, a felony.

Victor Greer, 46, was arraigned in court in Manhattan on criminal weapon-possession charges last Thurs., July 2, after he was arrested at 1:15 a.m. the previous day driving through the Village with guns and ammo and a note saying he wanted to “die in combat,” according to law enforcement. The Pennsylvania man is an unemployed civil engineer. According to the Daily News, Greer was initially stopped after police noticed him going the wrong way up southbound Seventh Ave., at the intersection of Grove St. When officers approached the rented 2014 Chevrolet Cruze, the News reported, they noticed a box of ammunition and a 25-round clip in the back seat and took Greer into custody. A .40-caliber handgun, AR-15 assault rifle, .45-caliber rifle and 12-gauge shotgun were in the car’s trunk, police said. A note found on Greer reportedly stated, “I want to die in combat so I can go to Heaven and [be] next to God,” according to police. The News reported that Greer’s mother said he had not left his room much in the past two years, and did not have a history of violence.

at 6:40 p.m. for attempting to steal several items from the Whole Foods Market on E. 14th St. at Union Square. Police received a phone call from the supermarket, as the man was observed removing perishables and putting them into his backpack without paying. When stopped by police, the individual was found with the shoplifted items stored in his bag. James Vigliotti, 47, was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for attempted petit larceny.

Counterfeit clothes Police said a man was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for selling knockoff clothes on W. 14th St. with counterfeit trademarks for the company Burberry on them. On Mon., July 7, a man identified as Javed Muhammed, 41, was observed selling the garments — 13 dresses and one button-up shirt — outside of the Z & Z Luggage & Gift Shop. Police arrived at 3:20 p.m. and


July 10, 2014

charged Muhammed with forgery and fraud. Harry Cheng, a Burberry agent from Allegiance Protection Group Inc., confirmed that the merchandise was counterfeit.

Relish, ketchup and slash On Tues., July 8, at 9 a.m., a man was attacked by a knife-wielding hot dog cart vendor while he was walking along LaGuardia Place at W. Houston St., police said. The victim reportedly told police that Mohamed Ismail, 47, slashed his left arm with a knife from the hot dog cart, causing a laceration and bleeding. Police arrived on scene to arrest Ismail, as the victim was able to identify his attacker before he was treated by E.M.S. medics and transported to Beth Israel Hospital. Ismail was charged with felony assault. The reason for the assault wasn’t immediately clear.

Sergei Klebnikov

Market’s proudest product: The American Dream said. “I think, among immigrant communities, they want to be entrepreneurs, set up their own businesses; and I think Essex Street Market offers this opportunity to a lot of small businesses at affordable rents.” Batista said he will miss “everything” about running the business, though he plans on occasionally venturing from his Bronx residence to the market in the future. He expressed gratitude to God, the city Economic Development Corporation, customers and fellow market vendors. “I want to say thank you for everything in my life,” he said. He sold the business for about $100,000 to Luis Vargas, who learned through his cousin of Batista’s wish to sell the roughly 1,400-square-foot spot. For 20 years, Vargas worked in the grocery industry in the city and New Jersey. He came to the States in 1993 from the Dominican Republic, where he grew up in the same city, Santiago, as Batista. Vargas’s first grocery store closed after seven months due to what he said was a poor location. But he expressed confidence that the Essex Street Market would have the customer base and location for his newest venture to succeed. The new owner added that he will reorganize some of the grocery’s space in the market, though the business will mostly stay the same as it was under Batista, including the staff. “We think we have to have more employees, because we expect the sales to increase,” Vargas said. “In this country, you can be success more than any other one.” Another Santiago native, Fillipe Caba, who works for the adjacent meat vendor, said Batista is a bit like his own father. Chit chat about sports, the weather and their native land were common topics when they interacted, he said. “He’s a nice guy,” said Caba. The enclosed market space was created in 1940 by Fiorello La Guardia, specifically for pushcart vendors, to keep them from clogging up the streets. Today, 20 independent vendors fill the space, according to E.D.C. But the historic market will be reborn in a new space in the near future. It will be shifted into the planned 1.65-million-square-foot Essex Crossing mixed-use development, which will include residential, commercial and community space. Construction will begin in spring 2015, with the first five buildings projected to open by summer 2018, according to the


MARKET, continued from p. 1

Luis Batista was joined by local officials and family members as he spoke at his retirement ceremony at the Essex Street Market last Friday. Councilmember Margaret Chin is second from right, and Borough President Gale Brewer is fourth from right.

New grocery store owner Luis Vargas said the Essex Street Market’s location and customer base are both very good.

Web site of Delancey Street Associates, the development partners. Nevertheless, the market’s mission will remain very much the same, according to E.D.C. officials who oversee it on behalf of the city. Vendors such as Batista reflect the

ideals of the Essex Street Market and the community it serves, said Lisa Thompson, the market’s manager. “He’s a small business owner and entrepreneur, an immigrant who came onboard in the market, specifically at a time that it was not in

as high demand as it is currently,” Thompson said. “And he built a business from a stall, and his footprint is not necessarily the footprint that he started off with. And it’s truly the American story of the small business owner who worked really hard.” July 10, 2014


Villager owners buy newspaper group

Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN














ennifer Goodstein, the owner and publisher of The Villager and NYC Community Media, and her husband, Les Goodstein, have agreed to buy the Community Newspaper Group, which publishes 11 community newspapers in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. “This is an exciting time as we expand to the outer boroughs,” Jennifer Goodstein said of the purchase from News Corp. “My priority will remain the papers serving Lower Manhattan and Gay City News. From an editorial standpoint, the papers remain committed to serving the residents of Downtown Manhattan. Our sales and marketing team is eager to offer our advertisers great opportunities to reach new markets through the C.N.G. newspapers, magazines and Web sites.” In addition to The Villager and Gay City News, NYC Community Media also publishes the East Villager, Downtown Express and Chelsea Now. Les Goodstein created Community Newspaper Group as an executive with News Corp. in 2006, and ran it until 2013. “Besides my love of newspapers, it was an honor to complete this transaction with News Corp.,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to the continued success of the Community Newspaper Group. Both my wife

A tail-wagging tale

Member of the National Newspaper Association

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July 10, 2014

fice caused by Hurricane Sandy. Jennifer Goodstein, who bought the Community Media papers in 2012, said the long-term plan is to set up a satellite office in Manhattan. C.N.G., which distributes more than 235,000 papers a week, publishes Caribbean Life, The Brooklyn Paper, The Bronx Times Reporter, Bay News and Bay Ridge Courier, Bayside Times and the TimesLedger. It also publishes specialty magazines, including the Wedding Guide and Sweet Sixteen Magazine. The terms of the deal were not released. In a statement, Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp., said the sale “helps us reshape the News Corp. portfolio as we achieve greater globalization and digitization of our businesses… . We’re confident that these newspapers and magazines will prosper under the leadership of Les and Jennifer Goodstein.” Phone numbers and e-mail addresses for The Villager and NYC Community Media staff are expected to remain the same after the move.

‘The papers remain committed to serving the residents of Downtown Manhattan.’ Jennifer Goodstein

the Community Newspaper Group’s Downtown Brooklyn office at One MetroTech. It will be familiar territory as the papers temporarily relocated there at the end of 2012 because of damage to the company’s Canal St. of-



Member of the New York Press Association

and I are members of the community and are pleased to continue serving the readers of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. We plan to expand local coverage with local news important to the neighborhoods we serve.” The Villager and its sister papers will be moving later this month to

To The Editor: When I first moved here 40 years ago, there were stray dogs and and cats all over the place. It was heartbreaking! I picked up 10 cats and one dog, the latter which then had a puppy that I raised. In the ’80s, it was terrible. The rents went up, and the nice people I knew moved out and the “new” ones weren’t so nice. I noticed they didn’t like dogs. When walking my two dogs, I hardly saw any dogs in the neighborhood. And I was being harassed by the new gentrified people and they would even say: “Did you clean up after your dog?” Sometimes they were for no reason so mad, I thought they were going to attack me. Then the drug dealers came. They left me alone and I could go after my business unbothered. They disappeared and it was quiet, too quiet. Oh, how I missed the old Sicilian people who were thrown out, some-

times criminally. Of course, most of all, I missed the characters. Back then, walking around the block was a like a show — entertainment. The finest character I met was Jerry The Peddler. The street started to disintegrate into boredom when he left. That went on for a while, until things changed suddenly. There was a new dog run in Tompkins Square Park. That must have drawn people from all over. Whenever I walked my now one dog, there were new people walking their dogs, and there were dogs all over the place. A new cafe opened, Ost Cafe. They have a little “doggie” window where people with their dogs get their coffee. Is this why I call E. 12th St. from Avenue A to First Ave. “Dog Street”? The church is no more; otherwise, I would see Lola, “Queen Lolita,” going up the stairs on Blessing the Animals Day, leading the pack of all the newly arrived dogs on E. 12th St. There is “Pancakes” Charlie Rascal and many, many more. They just appeared

overnight. They are all under the command of Lola, “Queen Lolita,” a Westie. Did she replace Jerry The Peddler? I have to ask her. Charlie also has a story. Adam, a landlord who didn’t want dogs, met a woman. A very nice woman. “Not without my dog,” she told him. Now, when it is really bitterly cold, Adam walks the dog! Of course this dog idyl, with Ost Cafe and the many dogs sitting with their owners on the benches outside, will never replace the old East Village, where we were like a family and where there was music and joy. But “Dog Street,” Ost Cafe and the new, much kinder people make me feel at home again. In the real East Village. Ginette Schenck E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 515 Canal St., Suite 1C, NY, NY 10013.

The East Village is replaced by its own simulacrum TALKING POINT BY BILL WEINBERG


fter more than a generation of living on E. Fourth St. in the East Village, I feel more and more like I’m in the old joke about the city slicker who asks the farmer for directions on a country road. Punch line: the farmer says, “Oh yeah, you make a left where the old red barn used to be.” The irony is that this native New Yorker “is” the old farmer in the joke. This past month, I was hit with a triple whammy. Three longtime businesses that had been there as long as I could remember closed their doors for the last time. The 2nd Ave Launderette, where I’d been washing my clothes for years, run by very sweet Puerto Rican folks, was forced to close by rising rents. Ditto the check-cashing place on 14 St. where I’d been paying my utility bills for years. Yet, somehow it’s the place I frequented the least that hits me the hardest. Plantworks had been on my block for 40 years… . It stuck it out through the rough desolate years of the late 1970s and ’80s, when this stretch of the East Village was still called The Bowery and considered a “bad neighborhood,” before it became gentrified “Noho.” Now Plantworks is also being forced out. I hadn’t actually bought anything there since I procured my indestructible mascot, a golden pothos I call Arnold, some 15 years ago. But the owner was a familiar face, who I’d passed almost every day for a sizeable chunk of my life. I finally learned his name when I spoke to him for this column, approaching him as he stood outside his now near-empty storefront, on the final days of a clearance sale. His name is Chris Baptiste, and he came from Trinidad to open Plantworks back in the 1970s. It had been at its current location on E. Fourth St. between Bowery and Lafayette St. for 30 years, and was at another location on Waverly Place for some 10 before that. He had hoped to find a third location and stay in business, but is starting to despair of this. “We cannot get a space,” Baptiste told me. “Banks and Wall Street and CVS and Duane Reade — they are the only ones who can survive.” Baptiste said the building, which is now a co-op, had tripled the rent on his storefront to $15,000 a few years ago. (It had been a mere $3,000 when he opened.) It is now being jacked up to $40,000 — more than he can afford. With no lease, he has no recourse. “I’m 74,” said Baptiste, obviously struggling for some optimism. “I can still work. I’d like to continue working. One door closes and another opens.” But he admitted: “Small businesses are in big trouble in Manhattan. Manhattan is becoming a place to come and work and then go home to the Bronx or Brooklyn. It’s just for the rich and the tourists.” And Plantworks is to be replaced, Baptiste says, by yet another gym. There is already a gym right around the corner on Cooper Square West, in the new luxury development that went up a few years ago...and another one around the other corner, up Lafayette St….and yet another one where Tower Records used to be, directly across Lafayette. And another one two blocks to the east, on E. Fourth St. near Second Ave. Is the market really not saturated yet? I find myself wondering: How many nar-

cissistic yuppie masochists can there be in Noho? But what hits closer to home still is the news, reported in the New York Post last week, that the former Yippie Cafe, over on Bleecker St., is to be replaced by a boxing gym. The cafe had been closed for several months, as creditors repossessed the building and evicted Yippie Holdings — a surviving fragment of the Yippie radical youth movement of the 1960s. I spent much of my own youth among the latter-day Yips at the notoriously malodorous hangout that we called “Number 9” back in the early ’80s. This was the most gutting line in the Post story: “The new gym will be called Overthrow NYC — a reference to one of the alternative newspapers the Yippies published from Number 9.” Overthrow is where I cut my teeth as a journal-

Like a punch to the gut: The Yippie Cafe will become a boxing gym.

ist. The first reporting I ever did — on the anti-nuclear movement, Native American resistance to mining schemes, revolutionary struggles in Central America — was for the radical rag published on the third floor of Number 9. Now the name is to be appropriated by a joint catering to yuppie narcissists with some kind of prole pretensions — the kind who would patronize a boxing gym? O.K., I hadn’t gone into Number 9 very much since it was resurrected as the Yippie Cafe a few years ago — I found some of the personalities that hung out there to be deeply annoying. But I still felt a pang at its demise. For me, it was rather like that of Junior’s cheesecake emporium on Brooklyn’s Flatbush Ave. I hadn’t gone into the joint in years, viewing cheesecake as a decadent indulgence. But its closure still hurt, as a landmark I had known all my life disappeared from the cityscape. With Number 9, it felt like a part of my past was being erased. It was with this despairing attitude that I dropped by the former Number 9, to speak with Joey Goodwin, the young entrepreneur behind the new “Overthrow” boxing gym. I found him to be a likeable and straightforward kind of guy.

“I found the [Overthrow] magazines covered in cat piss,” he told me. “The name is powerful and has a history behind it.” Goodwin said he grew up in Florida but has been living at various locations around Downtown Manhattan for much of his life, and was long a fixture playing basketball at the court on Sixth Ave. and W. Fourth St. He admits he expects a “white-collar clientele,” and that’s “not the answer the Yippies want to hear.” He insisted, almost apologetically, that he is very “liberal” — not seeming to get that, for the anarchist Yippies, this was a term of opprobrium. He tells me he bought a copy of Abbie Hoffman’s “Steal This Book” to get up to speed on the Yippie ethos. To my relief, he said he intends to erect some kind of marker or exhibit on the premises explaining the name and the building’s counterculture history. But he also admitted that he sees “John Varvatos as a model” — the fashion boutique in the site of the old CBGB, which is self-consciously cashing in on the rock ’n’ roll image and mystique. A particular sinister characteristic of post-modern or “too late” capitalism is its relentless displacement of organic social realities with the pre-packaged oxymoron of pseudo-authenticity — as when Starbucks pushes out Greenwich Village coffee shops, or the Subway chain pushes out authentic New York sandwich joints. This is an appropriation and privatization of what Walter Benjamin identified as the “trace” of authenticity — the false promise that entices us into complicity in the destruction of our own culture. Or, as Jean Baudrillard observed: “Everything is replaced by its own simulacrum.” There are some other obvious and very irritating examples. The upscale DBGB bar and grill in the new luxury development a block down from the former CBGB site is also shamelessly exploiting the legacy of the legendary, defunct rock club. There are still more depressing examples elsewhere on the Lower East Side. The Eastville Gardens housing development on E. Seventh St. is thusly named because it is on the former site of the beautiful Esperanza Garden — which was bulldozed in February 2000 to make way for the housing development! Or the interior concrete courtyard in the shape of a Tao symbol at the housing project on Eldridge St. — where the heart of old Adam Purple’s Tao-shaped Garden of Eden used to be before it was destroyed to make way for the housing project in 1986. EAST VILLAGE, continued on p. 23


Is this the Commissioner Bratton we once knew? July 10, 2014


R.I.P., Scrappy and Co.; L.E.S. cat colony is lost FERAL CATS, continued from p. 1

— spilling over into the Amalgamated Dwellings basement and the neighboring Hillman Housing complex’s grounds. Using a trap-neuter-and-release program, locals had been caring for the cats for decades. However, after adopting out friendly felines, only several elderly ones were left — too old to be moved, and living in a basement of the Amalgamated Dwellings. “There has been a cat colony established here for a long time,” said Janet Jensen, a local resident who took care of the cats and reached out to The Villager. “When I first moved in years ago, there were 40 cats in the alley and park.” Ellen Renstrom has been tending to the animals for almost 10 years. She pointed out that it was indeed a “registered colony” for many years, since the feral cats were vaccinated and had microchips implanted in their ears. However, after the cats’ entrance to the basement was blocked off due to a potentially serious rat infestation, the remaining elderly critters had nowhere to go, according to several residents who were taking care of them. This issue had fueled prior disagreements about the animals between a few residents and the development’s board of trustees. Requesting anonymity, a member of the Amalgamated Dwellings board of trustees explained the board’s decision on closing the basement vents. Last February, he said, after a dead cat and several dead rats were discovered in the vents, a wildlife expert was brought in to check the building and found that there was a rat infestation. With animal laws forbidding the extermination of rats with cats inside the basement, he said, the board gave residents “every opportunity to relocate the cats.” However, he added, “We never gave residents permission to use the building for them.” The board member was quick to point out that being a shareholder in the building does not entitle one to use common space for whatever one wants. He added that that they “didn’t end any colony,” and were acting by order of the rodent control expert to prevent a serious rat infestation. Originally, he said, the board and property manager were against removing the cats. But after waiting a couple of months, it was noticed that rats were getting into the building, and the decision was made to close the vents. The board also cited complaints about the cats that were received by a few shareholders in the buildings. Besides the issue of fear of a rat infestation, there were complaints about


July 10, 2014

Some of the former Broome St. Alley cats eating food that was left for them.

some of the cats carrying diseases. One of the worst cases, the board member pointed out, is that outdoor cats are “the primary hosts” of taxoplasmosis, a disease estimated to infect almost 30 percent of humans worldwide, according to a March 21, 2014, New York Times article headlined, “The Evil of the Outdoor Cat.” Taxoplasmosis, according to the article, produces lifelong parasitic cysts in the brain, and although usually asymptomatic, can be linked to neurological impairments, depression, blindness and birth defects. Brooke Myers, another local resident, started taking care of the cats many years ago after constantly seeing them outside her first-floor window. She said the complaints led to “bad feeling between neighbors” and an “uptight scene.” A petition, “on behalf of Amalgamated Cats,” was even started by several local residents. The Amalgamated Dwellings board received 22 signatures, but the member who spoke to The Villager said that several people who signed didn’t even live in the building complex. The board, along with property manager A.M Katz Real Estate, sent out an e-mail to all of the petitioners to explain the reasons behind their decision, mainly citing the cats as a health hazard. At that point, most of the cat advocates “deserted the cause or apologized,” the board member stated. However, Myers said, “People got screamed at and threatened” for signing the petition. “They could have at least left the shelters,” said Renstrom. She explained that makeshift cat shelters, provided by Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, were repeatedly re-

Scrappy and other Broome St. Alley cats, who have all died since Amalgamated Dwellings cut off their basement access. Scrappy passed away on June 10.

moved by the board. Jensen added that after the vents were boarded up, the elderly cats “had no real shelter anymore.” However, the pro-cat residents agreed that A.M Katz tried to remove the animals “in a humane way,” and pointed out that they were just acting on the board’s orders. The Amalgamated board downplayed the whole affair. The board member reiterated that they had nothing against the cats, and their removal was necessary for the health and safety of the building’s shareholders. Currently, out of the three elderly

cats that remained several months ago, two are dead and one is missing, also presumed dead. The local residents who have been taking care of the cats for so many years were sad to see all of them gone. “There probably won’t be cats in the building ever again, and a lot of people are very sad about that,” said Myers. “The colony came to an unfortunate and sad end,” Jensen said. “The cats didn’t need to die this way,” Renstrom said. “It’s a loss for the neighborhood.”

Where poet Frank O’Hara was prolific, a plaque O’HARA, continued from p. 1


es in their titles, such as,“Avenue A” and “Second Avenue.” In “The Day Lady Died,” he mentions the Five Spot, an East Village jazz club of the 1950s and ’60s. “Early on Sunday” has a mention of St. Brigid’s Church on Avenue B. Born in Baltimore in 1926, O’Hara grew up in Grafton, Massachusetts, and made his way to New York, where he worked at the Museum of Modern Art. He began as a clerk at MoMA’s information desk, and later, with no formal training, became a curator. He was a part of the New York School of painters and writers — who have been called “the last avant garde” — and hung out with them at the San Remo Café on MacDougal St. and at the Cedar Tavern on University Place. “Frank was a groundbreaker in so many ways, which is reflected in his poetry,” said Andrew Berman, G.V.S.H.P. executive director. “He was openly gay at a time when that was not so easy, and he wrote about his sexuality with an ease and casualness that was rare at the time.” During his lunch hours at MoMA, O’Hara penned several poems that contributed to his collection “Lunch Poems.” There is an immediacy and journal-entry-like quality to his work, which creates a feeling of accessibility. A fiftieth anniversary of “Lunch Poems” was reissued by City Lights books, and a reading of O’Hara’s poems was held June 11 at the Poetry Project, at St. Mark’s Church. O’Hara died at age 40 during the summer of 1966 on Fire Island. “What he wrote lives in the hearts and minds of so many people here today,” Berman said. Phil Hartman, owner of Two Boots Pizza since 1987, has been funding G.V.S.H.P.’s historic plaque program through the Two Boots Foundation.

From left, Phil Hartman, Tony Towle and Andrew Berman at the dedication ceremony for the Frank O’Hara plaque on E. Ninth St. Towle, a poet and friend of O’Hara’s, lived in O’Hara’s E. Ninth St. apartment after he did.

The plaque program aims to preserve the Village’s history, and remember people who have made significant contributions to the neighborhood. “Honoring great artists from the past is an important mission for us,” Hartman said. Edmund Berrigan read O’Hara’s “Avenue A” aloud. The Brooklyn poet recalled growing up around the corner on St. Mark’s Place and First Ave. “What this neighborhood is about has drifted away as I’ve gotten older,” said Berrigan, 39. Berrigan is the son of poets, Alice Notley and the late Ted Berrigan, who were friends with O’Hara. Ted Berrigan founded C magazine, and also had a publishing relationship with O’Hara. “My dad was a champion of his poetry,” Berrigan said of O’Hara, “He was one of many advocates.” Berrigan’s parents quoted O’Hara at home and had his books. When deciding which poem to read at the dedication, Berrigan consulted his

mother. “She suggested I read ‘Avenue A,’” he said. “She told me I’d cry when I read it — I didn’t.” Despite his pedigree, Berrigan wasn’t pressured to become a poet. He remembered writing in collaboration with his mom. “I don’t know if I expressed an interest in it, but at age 8 I was given a blank book,” he recalled. “I wrote poems in it, and I’ve never really stopped.” Poet Tony Towle read O’Hara’s “The Day Lady Died” at the plaque event. Towle was friends with O’Hara, and the E. Ninth St. apartment was passed on to him and Joe Lima after O’Hara moved out. “When Frank was here, the place had charm,” he said. “A Motherwell and a de Kooning and other artwork on the walls, the interesting books on the shelves, the bourbon in the glass, the Prokofiev on the record player, and, above all, his engaging conversation.”

When Towle lived there the rent was $56, and he and Lima would buy kielbasa, bread, milk and eggs on credit from the deli across the street, just like O’Hara and LeSueur did. O’Hara’s time on E. Ninth, Towle noted, was a prolific period for the influential poet. “He wrote everything that ended up in ‘Lunch Poems’ [except for the book’s last poem], and what was included in ‘Love Poems (tentative Title),’ that he wrote for Vincent Warren, and also the unique ‘Biotherm,’ ” he said. Towle acknowledged that O’Hara was able to write no matter what his environment. “He just ignored it, if it was hot or cold — something I can’t always do,” Towle said. “He typed his poems on the kitchen table, up there on the second floor between the first and second window, accompanied periodically by the din of the Ninth St. crosstown bus,” he added. A second dedication of a historic plaque for another artist is anticipated for this fall. “There’s so much history in these neighborhoods,” Berman said. “It’s not always apparent to people. This is a way to memorialize it and preserve it in a tangible way.” According to the preservationist, the task is not easy. He sends lots of requests to building owners just to secure one positive response. And then there is the issue of finding an appropriate physical space to attach a plaque. “There are a lot of stars that have to align to make this work,” he noted. “It’s a lot more work than it looks like.” But, he said, “It’s worth it.” Removing a new plaque’s covering at its unveiling is something Berman cherishes. “I always love that moment when I take that stuff off,” he said, “and introduce it to the world.”

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July 10, 2014


Janet Freeman Way honors tireless tenant advocate


Yanking the string to pull off the paper wrapping covering the new Janet Freeman Way street co-naming sign.

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riends, family, neighbors and local politicians recently gathered at Kenmare and Elizabeth Sts. as the city paid one of its highest, and most visible, honors to Janet Freeman — co-naming the street corner for the late community activist. A resident of the neighborhood for more than 40 years, Freeman died in 2011 at age 60. She lived in a graffiti-covered storefront apartment on Elizabeth St. Freeman was a tenant advocate, dedicated and tenacious, helping her neighbors save their homes when faced with harassment and possible eviction. At the June 22 dedication of Janet Freeman Way, neighbor Elizabeth Espada told of how Freeman had helped out when a fire in Espada’s building left residents homeless. Freeman de-

fended tenants with disabilities and immigrants with little English, Espada noted. Maria Muetes, of Housing Court Answers, one of the co-naming’s sponsoring organizations, said Freeman could always be counted on when it mattered. “She was the only one person there through all the meetings and court hearings,” she said. City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, who was friends with Freeman, shared with her a passion for tenant organizing. “Through the years, we joined together in the noble struggle to preserve our Lower East Side community and affordable housing at large,” Mendez said. The councilmember noted that Freeman was a founding member of the Coalition to Save Public Housing and Section 8. Freeman was also

Holding up an honorary co-naming sign that was given to Freeman’s family members, from left her brother, Ed, Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin, Borough President Gale Brewer, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney and Freeman’s sister, Pixie.

active — first as a volunteer, then as a staffer — at Metropolitan Council on Housing and the Citywide Housing Court Task Force, now known as Housing Court Answers. She was known for assisting anyone who was in a vulnerable housing situation, and was often referred to as “the woman on the bicycle with a cigarette in her hand.” She worked with Met Council, Cooper Square Committee, Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES). University Settlement and the Coalition for a District Alternative (CoDA). Freeman also helped create the Lower East Side Co-op Watch, the Croman Tenants Association and Justice for Lincoln Swados. “People in the Lower East Side, Little Italy and Chinatown,” Mendez said, “can accredit Janet for organizing tenants threatened by aggressive landlords and ravenous developers, as she helped the average citizen understand the interworkings of housing court. Janet’s passing was a huge loss for tenants everywhere.”


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That sentiment was echoed by Sook Ling Lai, director of Chinatown Head Start, another sponsoring organization of the street co-naming. Lai said Freeman worked to maintain an intact neighborhood that was appropriate for children. In some cases, that meant fighting off bars and night spots that wanted to open in the area, like Ivan Kane’s Forty Deuce nouveau-style burlesque club. Adverse to bureaucracy, Freeman channeled her intellect, dedication to ordinary people, thoroughness and accurate research into an unbroken series of actions and campaigns for more than three decades, working as a free agent or volunteer. Among those who also spoke were Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilmember Margaret Chin, housing advocates Valerio Orselli, of Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association, and Damaris Reyes, of GOLES, along with Georgette Fleischer, founder of Friends of Petrosino Square, another sponsoring organization, and family friend Sylvia Morse.



Corne r of Jane & West 4th St. (at 8th Ave.) 212-2 42-95 02

A natural connection between words and music On the Bowery, the sum of what was and what will be BY PUMA PERL


nyone remember the song, “Poetry In Motion,” recorded by a guy named Johnny Tillotson? The opening lines are Poetry in motion, walking by my side Her lovely locomotion keeps my eyes open wide


Motion and locomotion — a natural connection between words and music. Any good songwriter feels it, and the best poets develop their own rhythms whether they take it to the stage or leave it on the page. So why do so many of my rock and roll friends believe that they don’t “like” poetry, even with the likes of Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Jim Carroll spinning around on their turntables? (Yes, the hard-core crowd loves its vinyl.) For many of us, our first exposure to poetry took place in the schools. We were force-fed stanzas and forms, some of it in Old English that we didn’t even understand — and it definitely didn’t rock. It didn’t even move. I remember memorizing pieces like “Invictus” and “In Flanders Field.” The first is about awaiting death. In the second, poppies cover the graveyard. Words to rock a 12-year-old heart. Sure, there was always one cool jeans-clad English teacher who included Dylan in the syllabus, but I never had a single class with that dude. I’m not sure if he even existed in my working class, inner city school. The closest I got was a middle-aged woman with shoe polish hair. It was rumored that she’d been observed wearing a black jumpsuit and reading poetry to some guy in a Village coffeehouse. Maybe it was the Dylan dude. So how did I find poetry anyway? The short answer is that I was an undercover nerd who sneaked out to libraries in neighboring areas where nobody would see me. I’d watch the F train from my window and eventually started riding it randomly, often winding up in the

Kee Cartel (Jeff Ward, Russ Brazello, Cynthia Ross, Sam Hariss) perform at Bowery Electric.

Eighth Street Bookshop, located on, of course, Eighth Street, in the heart of the Village (back in the days when it still had one). Upstairs, in the poetry section, there were these little City Lights Books that could fit right into your pocket — just a theory, of course, although I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations has passed. Ginsberg, Corso, Diane DiPrima. Ferlinghetti. Motion. I read all of the Beat poets, and started to hear those bongos and saxophones between the lines. Late one school night, I accidentally tuned in to Symphony Sid on my little clock radio and discovered Billie Holiday singing “Willow Weep for Me.” That was a pivotal moment for a dorky, yet rebellious, seventh grader. There are as many ways to combine spoken word and music as there are ways to create poems. On June 20, I checked out a show a young friend, Sam Hariss, had put together at Bowery Electric’s Map Room (327 Bowery, btw. Second &

Third Sts.). Sam deejays the Friday Happy Hour, which he renamed “Wham Bam Raff & Sam” — Raff being the gorgeous bartender, Mary Raffaele, a founding member of the late ’80s/early ’90s all-girl metal band known as Cycle Sluts from Hell. Sam plays bass in several bands, including Kee Cartel, led by Jeff Ward who is also a prolific writer and the author of several books, including “Parasite: Joyous Flashbacks Amidst a Crystal Meth Nightmare.” Jeff suggested that a few poets be invited to the gig, which also included The Nuclears, Stiletto, and the Bowery Boys. After a stripped down set by The Nuclears, and a rocking one from Stiletto (which included a cover of “Dead Flowers” with guest vocals by Jeff Ward), poet Tessa Lou Fixx opened for Kee Cartel. She allowed her still, ethereal presence to capture the audience before proceeding with a slow, thoughtful delivery of two pieces. The BOWERY, continued on p. 16 July 10, 2014


Poetry in motion, on the Bowery And he concludes:

BOWERY, continued from p. 15

and the sound of coming was always more like the blues than rock and roll and the lights went down once more and came up again just like they always do.


longer one, “Organic Heroin,” set up an original song, “Transatlantic Tales,” written by Jeff Ward. Almost hypnotically, she told of “women on the street, tied to their ankles… open-hearted, crying for it.” It’s that open-hearted thing that hit me the hardest. Her piece not only provided a contrasting segue to the driving beat provided by two bass players (yes, two), but complemented the sensibilities of the Jeff Ward songs as well as the camp/glam vibe. An interesting aside is that Tessa actually knows the subjects of the opening song, but, according to the songwriter, she “doesn’t know she knows.” The members of Kee Cartel are Ward, Hariss, and Cynthia Ross, of The ‘B’ Girls. Russ Brazello of Stiletto and the Bowery Boys sat in on drums. Several songs in, poet Verless Doran stepped into the corner of the room, wearing his usual Bud Lite baseball cap and jeans. The poem he chose is called “7:30 AM Pines Motor Lounge Blues.” Doran’s Tennessee twang and killer words entitle him to call almost anything he writes the blues, especially when it’s a country boy’s love song. He is equal parts storyteller, poet, and hillbilly from hell. This one brings you close to tears, as he describes the hooker “hiding from old Leadbelly... the girl who looks like the blues for real…she’s the quiet girl, used to sit behind you in homeroom.” This room filled with rockers quieted as soon as he began reading and seemed to join in a collective sigh followed by an explosive cheer as he ended and the band immediately launched into a new tune written by Jeff Ward, called, appropriately, “How Could You B-Girl.” Following their set, I honored a last-min-

Poet Tessa Lou Fixx brings a “still, ethereal presence” to the Bowery Electric stage.

Sam Hariss deejays Bowery Electric’s Friday Happy Hour, redubbed “Wham Bam Raff & Sam.”

ute request from Jeff and Sam and stepped up to the podium and performed a piece called “The Perfect Man.” Again, the crowd immediately fell silent and paid attention to the reading. It’s a funny piece, and they laughed in all the right places — giving the next band, The Bowery Boys, a chance to set up, and providing a segue into their set of original work by leader/guitarist Joff Wilson, as well as some covers. Joff’s lyrics paint pictures through color and image — “Rochester Grey” is a good example — and they were the perfect choice to close a night of poetry and rock and roll. I caught up with Jeff Ward to talk about his thoughts on poetry, rock, and the show. “Songs are my poetry,” he said, noting, “I always add the music later. Music gets in the way of really hearing the words at times. Although I like extended readings, it also works well to have

short bursts of poetry and music to switch attention and mood.” Asked what his dream spoken word/music set would be, he replied, “My fantasy would involve Mumia Abu Jamel and The Last Poets…and I’d tap along on bongos.” Hey now! As the night ended, I stood outside for a while with Verless Doran. Even leaning against the rail, he towers over most people — and that boy can lean. We were occasionally interrupted by members of the audience, as well as by residents of several nearby shelters asking for change. The upscale Bowery denizens hurried by. “I like the poetry that’s not what people study in high school,” said Doran. “People back home, they don’t read Shakespeare.” By the next day, he had a new poem illustrating what he meant and describing his lean: “Bonnaroo on the Bowery.” This is a short excerpt from the opening stanza: this dude came pushing his bicycle up to me outside the Bowery Electric where bands and poets play for peanuts, and less for smiles and the way a foot taps against a wood floor sticky with a thousand spills and secretions the way a head sways hypotized the way arms swing like drunk angels toward rusted pipes and wires dangling overhead like old clockworks


July 10, 2014

Just another night on the Bowery, sort of what it used to be, and a little like it is going to be. An 18-yearold plays in three bands, including one with a former B Girl. A 22- yearold bass player curates and deejays the show, and also plays in three bands. A metal goddess serves up drinks. The lead guitarist of Kee Cartel writes novels as well as songs and the Bowery Boys’ lead guitarist paints pictures, both metaphorically and literally. The poets photograph the session and this writer multi-tasks as best she can throughout the evening. And the lights went down once more. ****** “The Wham Bam Raff & Sam” Happy Hour takes place every Fri., 5-9 p.m., at the Bowery Electric (327 Bowery, btw. Second & Third Sts.). Live music in the Map Room is often included, free of charge. On July 11, The Sad Bastards of Brooklyn — a side project of vocalist Charlene McPherson and guitarist Mo Goldner of the New York City band Spanking Charlene — will perform an acoustic set of covers of “some of the saddest songs ever” by artists including Bob Dylan. Puma Perl is a widely published poet and writer, as well as a performer and producer. She is the author of two chapbooks and two full-length poetry collections: “knuckle tattoos” and the recently published “Retrograde” (great weather for MEDIA press). “Puma Perl’s Pandemonium,” a quarterly event, brings spoken word together with rock and roll. As “Puma Perl and Friends,” she performs regularly with a group of excellent musicians. They will appear at Sidewalk Cafe (94 Ave. A, at Sixth St.) at 10 p.m. on July 25. Produced by AHPresents, it is a second book release party for Retrograde (bands start at 7 p.m. and include the Downtown Pidgeons, the Joey Kelly All-Stars, Red Gretchen and Dirty & Naughty). No cover, no minimum, all ages welcome. Perl’s video links and event updates can be found at

It’s melting! It’s melting! The clock is ticking on New Ohio’s Ice Factory Festival THE NEW OHIO THEATRE’S ICE FACTORY FESTIVAL Through August 2 Wed. – Sat. at 7 p.m. At the New Ohio Theatre 154 Christopher St. Tickets: $18, $15 for students, seniors Call 888-596-1027 or visit Twitter:



ike the noonday sun bearing down on a treat from the Mister Softee truck, time has been melting away the New Ohio Theatre’s Ice Factory Festival — its annual summertime showcase, where emerging and established companies develop their work. Already chipped off the Ice block: Rady&Bloom’s June 25 – 28 production of “The Upper Room,” in which quirky small town characters, electronic music, and supernatural tales tackled global warming. From July 2 – 5, the Carroll Simmons collective’s “Too Many Lenas” brought an absurd sense of parody to the “relatable” comedy of Lena Dunham — with a coven of Dunhams buckling under the strain of being themselves for a living. These shows are over, but not to despair: true to the nature of a work-in-progress production, they’ll likely be back soon (to learn about the artists and track future productions:, Four Ice Factory productions remain. Through July 12, “Feather Gatherers” is set in a fictional 1960s Serbia and influenced by Yugoslavian Black Wave film and vaudeville. An eight-piece band

ICE FACTORY, continued on p. 18


Btw. Greenwich & Washington Sts.

and theatrical crew known as The Drunkard’s Wife rethinks Stravinsky’s “L’Histoire du Soldat” in a manner akin to “a village wedding and the 1968 Paris student riots.” Access some of their music, at The festival is rounded out with two works based on documented facts, and another that’s strictly gonzo fiction. From July 16 – 19, Live Source, a group of theatre and film artists, brings their highly stylized performance method to “The Incredible Fox Sisters.” Based on a true story that remains clouded by fantastic claims and multiple recantations, the controversy begins in Hydesville, NY, circa 1888 — when two sisters convince their older sibling (then the town, then the nation) that they can commune with the dead. “There is quite a market for strangeness these days,” says a doctor (and budding tour manager) who’s more P.T. Barnum than altruistic M.D. The two younger sisters became the darlings of America’s budding spiritualism movement — and perhaps the first casualties of reality star culture. Eventually revealed as hoaxters, they both died soon after (one from alcoholism). Like the sisters’ alleged parlor tricks, the script (by Jaclyn Backhaus) takes liberties with the truth — and in doing so, adds an effective layer of complexity to the uneasy sibling dynamic and the enduring question of whether paranormal forces were at work alongside good old-fashioned greed. No matter the nature of their power, Live Source’s version of the Fox sisters are effective mediums for examining the ease with which we permit ourselves to believe when there’s money, power, or peace of mind to be gained. Visit Live-Source. org for more info. From July 23 – 26, the Asian American theater company Second Generation Productions (2g. org) presents “Galois” — and although they’ve only made a synopsis available to the press, the stamp of Sung Rno on this pro-

Paranormal portals, or opportunistic tricksters? “The Incredible Fox Sisters” leaves that question open to debate.

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Ice Factory Fest has ghosts, music, math ICE FACTORY, continued from p. 17

July 10, 2014

L to R: Elizabeth Trieu, Tessa Skara and Sam Corbin, in “Too Many Lenas.”




duction gives it a sight-unseen vote of confidence. Rno, after all, was the man behind “Yi Sang Counts to Thirteen” — the 2001 FringeNYC Excellence for Overall Production award-winner that took a self-described “mathematical-theoretical” approach to the waking world love triangle and the inner life of Korean surrealist writer Yi Sang. In his latest project, Rno once again contemplates the intersection of doomed relationships, art, and politics — as lived by a brilliant-but-unappreciated man who died young (Yi Sang succumbed to tuberculosis at 27, while in a Tokyo jail cell, and the title character of this new work met his doom at 21). Expanding upon the life of mathematician Evariste Galois (1811-1832), Rno elevates the “genius of abstraction” to rock star status, by melding the music of Aaron Jones with his own book and lyrics. The result is a “rock & roll expression” of “contradictory passions.” Locked in conflict with teachers unable to understand and unwilling to nurture his exceptional talents, Galois meets Stephanie at a gathering of Parisian student radicals (“they both like explosions and singing,” the synopsis declares). A botched entrance exam to the premiere science school in France, participation in street riots, and a stint in jail are followed by a duel insisted upon by Galois (to avenge a perceived insult to Stephanie’s honor). Just before that fateful exchange of gunfire in a field outside of 1830s Paris, the mad/brilliant young man secures his legacy by putting down on paper the theory of Galois groups — alternately baffling and fascinating algebra students for years to come. Untimely death is played for kicks — and often done with karate chops — in the Ice Factory Festival’s final entry (July 30 – Aug. 2). It’s a currently untitled offering from writer Qui Nguyen and director Robert Ross Parker, the prolific brains behind Vampire Cowboys. The once-scrappy, now-iconic troupe has earned their cult following by bringing comic book, grindhouse, sci-fi, and horror sensibilities to their pulpy tales of everyday people thrust into supernatural quests. It’s hardcore nerdcore, yes — but you don’t necessarily have to drool over vam-

Julian Cihi (foreground, as Galois) and Andrew Guilarte (as La Forge), in rehearsal for Second Generation Productions’ “Galois.”

pires, werewolves, zombies, highstakes stage combat, and profane puppetry to enjoy the ride. Camp with consequence is what they do best. The deaths (often accompanied by dismemberment and gore) earn a laugh from the audience, yet still manage to

take a lasting, emotional toll on the surviving characters. There’ll be no time for tears for the chosen one from this new project. Set in a utopian future, Vampire Cowboys’ “sacrilegious action-adventure play” compels a young lady in possession of extraor-

dinary powers to murder those who would usher in hell on earth. Yikes! Visit, where you won’t find any further details on their latest bloody slugfest — but you will get a very good primer on what to expect, based on past productions.

An intimate epic about growing up Linklater’s 12-year experiment is an emotionally satisfying masterpiece

FILM BOYHOOD Written & Directed by Richard Linklater 165 minutes Opens July 11 At the IFC Center 323 Ave. of the Americas Btw. W. Third & Fourth Sts. COURTESY OF MATT LANKES & IFC FILMS

Info: 212-924-7771 or



here is, quite literally, nothing like writer/director Richard Linklater’s latest feature. The conceit is simple — the film follows the life of Mason Jr., a young boy from a broken home, as he grows into a young man in Texas. Within this framework, though, lies a quiet tour de force of innovative production and storytelling techniques — an intimate epic that muses on what it means to mature and discover who you are. It’s impossible to discuss “Boyhood” without first considering its unprecedented production. In order to show the development of its main character, Linklater shot the movie over a period of 12 years, allowing him to grow up on screen. Texas native Ellar Coltrane played Mason from age six onward, filming scenes that trace his journey from elementary school student to college freshman. Growth and development permeates all other aspects of the movie, as the world slowly shifts from landlines to iPhones. Right from the outset, the film whisks viewers back to the nottoo-distant past by using period-appropriate pop songs (the strains of Coldplay’s “Yellow” are put to particularly good use in the opening moments), while characters reference current politics and fads (the War on Terror and Britney Spears, to name a couple). Though it’s a kick to get glimpses of politics and pop culture from the past decade, Linklater avoids nostalgia just for the sake of it — instead, allowing the film’s in-the-moment reflections on the cultural climate to invoke realism and universality. The success of “Boyhood,” however, is not contingent on the novelty of its

Back when a tablet was something made of paper: Mason (Ellar Coltrane), at age 7.

production, but on the story Linklater and company chose to tell. Since his iconic 1991 feature, “Slacker,” Linklater has consistently subverted traditional narratives in order to tinker with more challenging, experimental structures. “Boyhood” may be his greatest use of this method to date. While it fits snugly in the “coming of age” genre, it is anything but ordinary. Eschewing clichéd milestones of youth, Linklater focuses on the day-to-day minutiae of growing up and small snapshots of highly particular moments in time. These vignettes never give the film much narrative thrust, but they all inform one another, creating a larger mosaic of Mason’s young life, showing how his experiences shaped him into the intelligent young man he becomes. The cumulative effect is akin to having an introspective browse through a family photo album, reminiscing on formative influences and experiences to better understand oneself. The film vividly captures the confusion and motivations of childhood, while tempering it with the benefit of adult hindsight and understanding. The principle cast is excellent at grounding the movie. Every character is fully realized, and each actor digs into their increasingly nuanced relationships and internal lives as the movie marches on. Patricia Arquette brings depth and a deft touch to the role of Olivia, Mason’s divorced mother. Her character’s efforts to improve her family’s lives provides the film with some

of the most emotionally vulnerable and affecting moments. Ethan Hawke, a Linklater regular, plays Mason Sr. as a flawed yet loving father, and gives the movie a lot of heart and energy. Lorelei Linklater (the filmmaker’s daughter) as Sam, Mason’s older sister, is an effective female counterpoint to Mason (far more talkative than her brother, her rapier wit the yields some big laughs). Collectively, they are totally believable as a family, and help to expand the scope of the film — allowing it to examine parent/child dynamics, sibling relationships, the effects of divorce, and more. Yet the show ultimately belongs to Coltrane’s Mason. Through serendipity, the young boy of the opening reel grows into a highly capable actor, and his transformation from wideeyed child to an intelligent young man with a burgeoning interest in art is amazing to watch. Coltrane’s low-key charm and charisma help make Mason an engaging character to follow, and his performance is one of the most emotionally complex depictions of a teenager on screen — all grand ideas, yet frustratingly inarticulate. And though “Boyhood” is ambitious in concept and execution, it plays like classic Linklater through and through. His dialogue, as always, feels real and naturalistic — even when the characters begin to wax philosophic, it retains its well-observed, colloquial Texan flavor. His direction is unobtrusive, but elegant. High and low angle shots are repeatedly used to place the

audience in the mind of both parent and child, and show how their relationships shift with time. Elsewhere, Linklater’s signature walk-and-talk tracking shots, a mainstay of his “Before” trilogy, find a welcome home. Throughout it all, Linklater and cinematographers Lee Daniel (a longtime collaborator) and Shane F. Kelly find the beauty in the film’s lived-in locations, suburban idyl, and sprawling Texas landscapes. The care put into every aspect of the production gives the film a genuine sense of warmth and compassion, drawing you into its world and allowing the audience to appreciate every moment (the sizable running time breezes by). It is, in short, something of a culmination of Linklater’s work to date — a capstone of sorts for one of America’s best, most overlooked directors. It’s a masterpiece, sure, but it never announces itself as such. On paper and in theory, the film is a truly monumental achievement, but its greatest feat is how personal and small-scale the film feels. While it has the swollen running time and heady themes more familiar to biblical and historical epics, it never becomes overblown or pretentious — in fact, the film is as unassuming and charming as Mason becomes through the years. This accessibility is key to the movie’s greatness. Whether one’s childhood and teenage years are in the distant past, or fresh in the mind, “Boyhood” is a relatable, beautiful, and emotionally satisfying whole. July 10, 2014


Laverne, love and lots of angels at Pride March With rainbow flags, balloons, music-pumping floats and thousands of participants and spectators, the 44th Annual Pride March turned the lavender-striped route from Fifth Ave. from Midtown down to the Village and then along Christopher St. to Greenwich St. into a joyous celebration for the soul and senses Sunday afternoon June 29. Transgender star Laverne Cox, of the hot Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black,” opposite page, in convertible, who recently scored TIME magazine’s cover, was a grand marshal. After a year of amazing gay civil rights gains, the mood was even more euphoric than usual.


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East Village as simulacrum East Village ‘Spartan’ will join SIMULACRUM, continued from p. 11

These are fast becoming meaningless symbols, as their origins fade from memory. I try to tell myself this is a natural process that has been going on in New York City since the beginning. After all, the Bowery itself is named for the Dutch word for farm — because it cut through what was the sprawling estate of Peter Stuyvesant. Who remembers that today other than history buffs? Or that Clinton St. (as well the new moniker for what used to be Hell’s Kitchen) is named for DeWitt Clinton, New York state’s early and influential governor? Or that Morrisania in the Bronx is named for the aristocratic Revolutionary War hero Gouverneur Morris? But these examples reveal more of an organic process rather than conscious acts of cultural appropriation. A bitter irony of this process is that the hipsters (who followed the Beats, punks and Yippies) made the Bowery/Noho and the L.E.S./East Village fashionable for the more upscale crowd that, in turn, followed them — and who are now making the enclave increasingly sterile and domesticated. This process is also evident in the changing names of the business establishments. The once-fashionable Bowery Bar (which was an abandoned gas station when I moved onto the block) is today known simply as B-Bar, an admission that “The Bowery” is now déclassé — or that the clientele has changed from “slumming” edgy types to tourists and suburbanites. The slightly upscale Mexican joint a few doors down is called Hecho en DUMBO — a Manhattan business establishment named for a neighborhood in Brooklyn. This is an admission that the cutting edge of chic has long since jumped the East River. Another few doors down is the Deth Killers boutique (in the site of what was until recently an auto repair shop), which pitches its designer

jeans as “Bushwick style.” Us old-school hipsters who played our paradoxical role a generation ago in making the district fashionable have now become strangers in a strange land. Check-cashing places are closing because yuppies pay bills online, and paranoiacs like me who prefer to pay cash are apparently seen as doomed to extinction. As for laundromats — I’m really not sure where yuppies are supposed to wash their clothes, but they clearly don’t want to live in the same neighborhood with anything so quotidian and working-class as a laundromat. Chris Baptiste recalled the old days as we chatted in front of his empty storefront. “This block — it was bad,” he said. “There were crackheads, violence, theft, arson. If you left a bicycle on the block, the crackheads would take it around the corner to sell it.” I remember those times, and they were certainly challenging. Romanticizing squalor is clearly perverse. But back then, when my building was on rent strike because the landlord wasn’t doing any upkeep, we had a tenants association. It was factionalized and dysfunctional, but it was capable of organizing an ultimately successful rent strike. (The city took over the building from the slumlord, ultimately flipping it to a new and more respectable landlord.) Today, the notion of organizing the tenants in my building is unthinkable. They are mostly yups, who stay just a year or two, facilitating massive rent hikes with each new lease, and have contempt for the few rent-stabilized holdouts in the building, such as myself. As to the bigger question of actually trying to organize the neighborhood to protect small businesses and fight back the tide of luxury development, one wonders if it’s still possible over to the east in Alphabet City. But I see few signs of potential here in “Noho.” If anyone out there has any ideas, I’d like to hear ’em.

CALL TO SUBSCRIBE 646-452-2475

300 in the ‘ultimate challenge’



eing a New Yorker means being able to handle everything that this crazy city throws at us, right? Well, for one New Yorker, that’s not enough of a challenge — not by far. East Villager Brian Hennessy will be pushing himself to the limit in the Spartan Death Race. The three-day, challenge-driven, obstacle-course event in Pittsfield, Vermont, is a transformational, growth-enhancing experience for participants. You either finish or you don’t. Most of us are consumed with work, family and / or school, and have little time to be physically fit. However, Joe Desena, the death race’s director, believes that we need to push ourselves more, and that it’s therapeutic to test our limits. “We’re so soft now as a society,” he said. “We live a sedentary lifestyle. Everyone is catered to. We’re all told we’re winners and we can do it. People just kind of sleepwalk through life. With the race, we’re trying to recreate that everyday life struggle.” Unlike other athletic events, this multi-day event has no set start and finish times, and participants won’t know what to expect until race day. Although there are checkpoints along the way to ensure participants’ safety, organizers provided no support. The 10 percent completion rate is a testament to the physical and psychological barriers faced by the participants. Hennessy, who works in TV production, is set to accept this challenge. He’s one of the 300 elite athletes accepted to participate. Tired of living a sedentary lifestyle and feeling physically drained, Hennessy was working 18-hour days. Nine years ago, he broke out of this routine and started running on city streets just to get active. He has since participated in other obstacle-course races, triathlons, and road and trail events. Just this year he ran the New York Road Runners’ Gridiron Classic 4-Miler and the Brooklyn Half-Marathon, plus, in Vermont, the Peak Races 50 Mile Ultra Marathon. In addition to working out in gyms during the week, Hennessy runs and hikes in the mountains in Vermont and New York with a 50-pound weighted backpack on the weekends. The 37-year-old endurance athlete sees the upcoming event as “the ulti-

Brian Hennessy, here toting a heavy pack, plus a wood beam, regularly competes in and trains for grueling endurance competitions.

mate challenge.” “It is the culmination of everything that I have learned and experienced in life,” he said. He has already completed Death Race Training Camp, also in Vermont, a 28-hour precursor to the main event. The theme of this year’s race is “Exploration.” The Death Race has attracted a diverse group of “Spartans,” ranging from veterinarians and realtors to professional athletes. Among them is Joe Decker, a two-time winner of the Spartan Death Race who holds the title of “World’s Fittest Man.” In last year’s race, women were 40 percent of the participants. Possible challenges that participants may face include “chopping wood for two hours; completing a 30-mile hike with rocks and weighted packs; building a fire from scratch or after 24 hours of racing; memorizing the names of the first 10 U.S. presidents or a Bible verse, then hiking to the top of a mountain and reciting them back in order.” Completing the taxing contest is its own reward. There are no cash awards, though, finishers will receive a plastic human skull. Pushing oneself to his or her physical and mental limits isn’t just about getting an endorphin rush. It also means not taking anything for granted, and it can help bring meaning to one’s life. These values of hard work, self-motivation and fitness have resulted in a global surge of obstacle-driven events, and even a “Jr. Spartans” obstacle course for youngsters. July 10, 2014


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July 10, 2014