The Paper of Record for East and West Villages, Lower East Side, Soho, Noho, Little Italy and Chinatown
July 23, 2015 • FREE Volume 5 • Number 11
Amid signs of progress, #BlackLivesMatter still pushing for more reform BY ZACH WILLIAMS
REFORM continued on p. 6
Borscht mecca still struggling to reopen after 2nd Ave. blast BY YANNIC RACK
n March 26, when the East Village was rocked by a colossal gas explosion on Second Ave., Fawzy Abdelwahed was in Williamsburg picking up his son from school. His restaurant, the kosher dairy B&H at 127 Second
PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
meandering march from Columbus Circle in memorial of Eric Garner brought hundreds of #BlackLivesMatter protesters to the West Side on July 17. One year after the Staten Island man’s death helped inspire a national
movement against police brutality and institutionalized racism, activists acknowledged progress while pressing for more. Speakers at the evening rally spoke to similar themes heard throughout the year of protests, which reached their highest volume last
Ave., although on the same block, was unaffected by the blast and subsequent fire that would destroy three buildings. But the effects are still felt more than three months later. “We haven’t served a cup of coffee since March,” Abdelwahed said, standing in B&H continued on p. 8
As Steve Herrick, in orange shirt, of the Cooper Square Committee spoke about the project, Carl Siciliano of the Ali Forney Center, in white shirt looking toward camera, and gay youths and advocates listened.
Bea Arthur Residence a Golden moment for gay homeless youth BY DUNCAN OSBORNE
sing a $3.3 million grant from the City Council, the Ali Forney Center will renovate an East Village brownstone and open a residence for homeless queer youth there in late summer of 2016. “The last 13 years have been extraordinary,” Carl Siciliano, AFC’s founder and executive director, said at a July 20 event marking the start of the renovation of the E. 13th St. facility. “Our com-
munity has woken up to the need to help our L.G.B.T.Q. youth.” On June 29, AFC, which was founded in 2002, purchased the vacant building for a dollar from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The City Council money, which was originally budgeted in 2012, will pay for the renovation. Because AFC owns the building, cash for operations from two grants the agency has from the federal Depart-
ment of Housing and Urban Development can go toward providing services, as opposed to paying rent. “It’s the first building we own, which is a real game changer,” said Alex Roque, AFC’s director of development. The 18-bed residence is named for actress Bea Arthur, who left $300,000 to AFC in her will. Arthur died in 2009. The beds will add to AFC’s existing inventory of HOMELESS continued on p. 23
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of existing buildings,” she said, “or demolishing a building and getting all the rent-stabilized tenants out...harassment issues.” The buildings include the two former squats, 544 E. 13th St. and 377 E. 10th St., as well as 507-509 E. 11th St. and two other buildings, one on Avenue A and the other on E. 12th St. that were co-ops that defaulted on their mortgage plans. The tenants from these last two buildings were relocated some years ago, we’re told, and were supposed to return home to the refurbished affordable units after the renovations, which were never done. Why? “We had 20 years of Republican mayors,” Mendez said. Meanwhile, Herman Hewitt, who sits on the C.B. 3 Land Use Committee, said when the developers came to their meeting seeking approval, the plan was all completely new to the board members, but the builders acted like it was already a fait accompli.
CARBONE COMMOTION: Twitter was burning up last Friday night with observations of heavy police presence, “SWAT” and so forth on Thompson St. near Bleecker St. and the word was that President Barack Obama and his daughters were eating at Carbone. Stacey Rosenstock, who lives just doors down from Carbone, posted on Facebook: “Tried to take Ollie for his usual evening walk but the second I stepped out the door some guy in plainclothes asked what I was doing, and then said I couldn’t walk north. So I went south but there were two police dogs, police barricades with motorcycles and white shirts [police supervisors] stopping anyone from coming in. So I asked them if I’d be able to come back if I crossed the barrier and they asked if I had ID. So I told them I shouldn’t need ID just to walk my dog around the block.” She observed that the president must really like it there because he’s eaten at Carbone before with the neighborhood, again, being on lockdown. THROWS DOWN THE GAUNTLET: The Strand bookstore tweeted out a photo of Dante de Blasio at The Strand pitching some pages. “Dante de Blasio gave us a great comic book recommendation! Check out The Infinity Gauntlet by Marvel,” the store tweeted. SAY ‘CHEESECAKE’! At the groundbreaking for the new Bea Arthur Residence on E. 13th St., pols told us that they just always connected with the TV shows that the L.G.B.T.Q. facility’s namesake starred in. Councilmember Corey Johnson watched “Golden Girls,” and state Senator Brad Hoylman, quipping that it dated him slightly, said he was a big “Maude” fan. “Sexual orien-
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July 23, 2015
tation is an innate, intrinsic quality — and so is being a ‘Golden Girls’ fan!” Johnson said later, beaming a smile, as he feasted on a piece of, of course, cheese cake.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING HOOPLA: Councilmember Rosie Mendez and Community Board 3’s Land Use Committee are strongly against the city’s plan to have Donald Capoccia of BFC or L + M Development Partners renovate two beleaguered former squats, plus three other city-owned East Village buildings, in return for development rights. Under the plan, for every square foot that he fixes up, he would get oneand-a-quarter square feet of development rights to build market-rate housing along the “IZ” (inclusionary housing) corridors that were created in the East Village / Lower East Side rezoning of 2008. According to Mendez, Capoccia says he would resell these development rights. But the question — and the concern — is, who would he sell them to? “My problem is that there are no restrictions on who can get these air rights,” Mendez told us. “They could sell it to anyone — including someone who has questionable, bad-actor status. And it doesn’t just mean new buildings. It could be adding new units on top
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In the infinite wisdom of Dante de Blasio, it’s a cool read.
THE DORIS REPORT: Veteran C.B. 2 member, Doris Diether tells us that Uber robocalls were driving her crazy earlier this week. The messages told her to ask the mayor to can the bill that would have capped the number of the app-hailed cabs. “I got three calls in three days, one call each day,” she told us. “ ‘Contact the mayor and tell him he’s wrong, and that Uber is hiring all these people and keeping the economy going and so on and so forth,’ ” she said. “I don’t know where they got my number from. I don’t use it anyway,” she said of Uber. “But if they want to be able to drive their cars, let them drive their cars.”
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Extra! Library digitizing Villager’s entire archives BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
he Villager’s archives have entered the digital age, thanks to the Jefferson Market Library. Corinne Neary, the senior librarian at the Sixth Ave. book and research haven, successfully applied for a $2,000 Innovation Project grant from the New York Public Library, which is being used to fund the project’s first phase. So far, The Villager’s first 26 years have been digitized, from April 1933 to April 1959. The Village library had all of these issues on microfilm. This, in turn, was sent to a facility in Florida, where it was scanned to create raw PDF images that can now be viewed on a computer screen instead of manually cranking through spools on a clunky microfilm machine. For now, though, the early issues of The Villager can only be viewed electronically on a single computer marked “Catalog” in the library branch’s basement. “It’s dedicated to The Villager,” Neary said of the terminal. But the ultimate plan, she said, is to “find a home” for The Villager’s archives on the N.Y.P.L. Web site, making it widely publicly available. This will also improve the archives’ searchability. Currently, the search process is rather slow: The results load chronologically. “It’s very basic right now,” Neary explained. “Right now, it’s best for people who are looking for a specific thing.” Once the newspaper archives are put onto the
Corinne Neary at the computer terminal at the Jefferson Market Library where the newly digitized archives of early issues of The Villager can be read. Neary is overseeing the digitization effort.
main N.Y.P.L. Web site, however, more targeted searches of the Village’s hometown paper will be possible. Frank Collerius, the manager of the Jefferson Market Library, said he’s been enjoying “playing with” The Villager’s archives and learning some fascinating history. “I found one article — Prohibition had just been repealed,” he said. “Jefferson Market Library was a courthouse back then. The article’s headline was that it was not very exciting: ‘Night court spectators disappointed.’ They had been expecting a lot of cases for drunkenness, but it wasn’t too exciting. And they had something called ‘near beer’ back then.” He also found interesting another article about the Eighth St. gallery scene of 1933. Only $1,100 of the grant money has been used.
To complete the digitization of the newspaper’s archives, in addition to using the rest of the grant, the Village branch will also dip into some of its own funds. Neary, who feels a close attachment to the historic neighborhood, is enthusiastic about the undertaking. “I’m just interested in the Village, and I’m close to a lot of older Villagers,” she said. Although The Villager is on microfilm through the 1990s at the library, this won’t be done anymore as a result of the digital archives, Neary said. Other places with the first 50 or 60 years of The Villager on microfilm include the periodicals room at N.Y.P.L. main branch on 42nd St. and N.Y.U. Bobst Library. As for the last two decades or so, the Jefferson Market Library branch still has the print issues. The Villager’s own print archives took a beating during Superstorm Sandy, which flooded the basement of the newspaper’s former office on Canal St., in which the old bound volumes were stored. And even the public library might be missing an issue or two here or there. So, in that sense, the digital archives effort is also an important preservation project. In some more exciting news, Neary said last week a man who works on putting things up on the N.Y.P.L. Web site stopped by to get a copy of The Villager electronic files. “Maybe things are moving more quickly than we expected!” she said. “We don’t know yet where exactly it will be on the Web site, or how people would access it, but stay tuned!”
July 23, 2015
Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association Editorials, First Place, 2014 Overall Design Excellence, First Place, 2013 Best Column, First Place, 2012 Photographic Excellence, First Place, 2011 Spot News Coverage, First Place, 2010 Coverage of Environment, First Place, 2009
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EDITOR IN CHIEF LINCOLN ANDERSON
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PUBLISHER EMERITUS JOHN W. SUTTER
Member of the National Newspaper Association
The Villager (USPS 578930) ISSN 00426202 is published every week by NYC Community Media LLC, One Metrotech North, 10th floor Brooklyn, NY 11201 (212) 229-1890. Periodicals Postage paid at New York, N.Y. Annual subscription by mail in Manhattan and Brooklyn $29 ($35 elsewhere). Single copy price at office and newsstands is $1. The entire contents of newspaper, including advertising, are copyrighted and no part may be reproduced without the express permission of the publisher - © 2011 NYC Community Media LLC. PUBLISHER’S LIABILITY FOR ERROR
The Publisher shall not be liable for slight changes or typographical errors that do not lessen the value of an advertisement. The publisher’s liability for others errors or omissions in connection with an advertisement is strictly limited to publication of the advertisement in any subsequent issue. Published by NYC Community Media, LLC One Metrotech North 10th floor Brooklyn, NY 11201 Phone: (718) 260-2500 • Fax: (212) 229-2790 On-line: www.thevillager.com E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org © 2012 NYC Community Media, LLC
With commercial rent increases all over Manhattan, people are seeing so many of these signs lately. This one was at the former Imperial Coffee Shop at Church and Chambers Sts. in Lower Manhattan.
Residents sound off on rising noise
CIRCULATION SALES MNGR.
Member of the New York Press Association
Another sign of the times....
July 23, 2015
BY AMY RUSSO
or the residents of Downtown Manhattan, the steadily climbing level of noise has been a torturous and ongoing issue that has plagued some communities for years. At a Community Board 2 Quality of Life Committee meeting on Mon., July 13, locals gathered to attest to the ear-pounding conditions with which they have been forced to cope. Davide Gentile, a resident of University Place, reported that an HVAC noise problem there is now going into its sixth year. “The noise floor continues to creep up in New York City...making my bedroom unlivable, abandoned,” he complained. Indeed, Gentile claimed to have been so disturbed by the constant noise that he now is unable to sleep in his own bedroom and cannot make full use of his apartment. As a possible solution, he proposed the creation of a password-protected message board through which locals could exchange ideas and information about ways to lessen the noise generated by construction sites, bars and sidewalk cafes.
He suggested that various tips be posted, such as “how to schedule a D.E.P.” — Department of Environmental Protection — “reading for an opportune time” and how to successfully make an Environmental Control Board complaint. Gentile stated that community residents need to be “armed.” As for others in New York, he remarked, “Let the rest of the city figure it out for themselves, personally.” Micki McGee, a West Soho resident since 1991, claimed that over the last three years, a total of six major construction sites have been introduced into her area, and that five are still currently active work sites. She attested to having spent “hundreds of hours on the phone and online” with various city agencies to try to find some relief from the noise. McGee reported that one sound test of one loud construction site determined the noise to be 40 decibels, peaking at 49 decibels — a level seemingly low compared to what she has reportedly experienced. According to Industrial Noise Control, Inc., 40 decibels is equivalent to bird calls or a library, while 50 decibels is a quiet suburb. “The system seems to be completely corrupt. This is not legal,” McGee de-
clared. “The issue is how law is written both at the S.L.A. level and at the city code level,” stated Robin Felsher, a member of the Mid-W. 10th St. Block Association, referring to the State Liquor Authority. Felsher offered that legislative changes are the solution, but he also said he believes that elected officials are “pulled between the businesses that they represent and the residents that they represent — and therein lies the problem.” He claimed that residents who wish to speak out are afraid to do so because they have allegedly been harassed and their leases threatened. Committee Chairperson Robert Woodworth acknowledged the validity of the residents’ complaints. He described the general sentiment of those at the meeting as “agencies are unresponsive and the laws are badly written.” David Moss, a representative of Councilmmember Corey Johnson, attended and suggested calls to Johnson’s legislative office. But he said that 311 should always be the first call. Sympathizing with the frustrated community members, he remarked, “It takes an extraordinary amount of time to get nowhere on these issues.” EastVillagerNews.com
Tompkins Square Bagels to roll onto Second Ave. BY TINA BENITEZ-EVES
PHOTO BY ANGIE DYKSHORN
or the past year and a half, Christopher Pugliese has been looking to open another Tompkins Square Bagels. His first shop, at 165 Avenue A, has been feeding droves of hungry East Villagers daily since opening in 2011. As customers wait in the winding line, they can get a view of the bagel-making process. The place offers freshly baked whole wheat everything, French toast, pumpkin, spelt with flax and other hand-rolled, kettle-boiled and oven-baked bagels, creamy cream cheese — including the lightest tofu — and other spreads and made-to-order sandwiches. Now, Pugliese is hoping to spread the love — and bagel goodness — to a second location at 184 Second Ave., between E. 11th and 12th Sts., the former location of Open Pantry, by this December. Coincidentally, Tompkins Square Bagels also had a winter opening, in December 2011. The new 1,200-square-foot space will mirror the original 1,600-square-footer on Avenue A, from the line setup to the on-premises baking. Construction will run Pugliese $500,000, including rein-
thinking about moving for more than a year to ensure that Tompkins Square Bagels stays in business. For the past few years, he’s watched local stores open and close amid stiff competition and rising rents, and even felt some pressures from his own landlord. The second location is like security for Pugliese so he can remain in the neighborhood he loves. “My goal is to plant roots in the East Village,” said Pugliese, who hopes the Second of Tompkins Ave. subway will also be open in time for the new opening. “I want to stay here another 20 or 30 years. There’s no ambition of having 25 stores. I’d rather have one great store.” When he met the new space’s owners, father and son Temis and Dean Pappas, he knew it wasn’t all about the dollar signs. The Pappases wanted to bring in a small business and keep it local. They ended up hashing out the lease’s final details in Dean’s
Kids and adults alike get a kick out Square Bagels.
forced floors and an extended backyard to increase the space, which will make it closer in size to the original location. All the work will take months to complete. The only difference will be the seating, which will all be in the front of the shop. On Avenue A, the seating is in front and back. This was not an overnight epiphany for Pugliese or an attempt to create an East Village bagel empire. He had been
car. In addition to owning the building, the Pappases ran the Open Pantry coffee and grocery shop, which closed this January after 45 years. Broker Conrad Bradford, from Miron Properties, worked with both sides to close the deal. He said he worked with Pugliese for the past nine months to find a new location. “It came down to putting the right puzzle piece in the right place,” Bradford said, adding it was one of his more challenging deals because of the amount of work on the space that will be involved. “It’s going to take an extensive amount of work to make this into a carbon copy of the Avenue A location,” he said. A genuine East Village eatery where old and new meet is what Tompkins Square Bagels is all about — and always will be — according to Pugliese. “There’s this tension between the old East Village and the new East Village,” he said. “I always wanted Tompkins to be accessible for the older East Village and the younger, newer crowd.” Pugliese plans to hire an additional 15 to 20 people in the new location. “I created 20 jobs from thin air,” he said. “It makes me happy.”
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SERVING OUR COMMUNITY SINCE 1970 — AND STILL RUNNING STRONG! EastVillagerNews.com
July 23, 2015
#BlackLivesMatter still pushing for more reform REFORM continued from p. 1
July 23, 2015
PHOTOS BY ZACH WILLIAMS
fall. Thousands of people swarmed local streets back then following the grand jury announcement that the New York Police Department officer who placed the fatal chokehold on Garner would not face criminal charges. Last Friday, there was evidence that the year of protests and activism have had some effect. The Civilian Complaint Review Board argued in State Supreme Court on Fri., June 12, that they should be allowed to get the grand jury records of the Garner case from the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office. Governor Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, issued an executive order on July 8 mandating that the state attorney general investigate all deaths of unarmed civilians by police. If a grand jury declines to press charges against an accused police officer, a report must be made public indicating why. Similarly to the Garner case, last November a grand jury declined to indict a police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last August. Speakers at the July 17 march demanded that Cuomo’s executive order become law. Legislation before the City Council and the state Legislature, though, did not receive much mention at the rally. Rather, speakers focused on what they called examples of police violence that followed the deaths of Garner and Brown, as well as ways that violence predominately against black and Latino men ultimately threatens society as a whole. The disproportionate percentage of black men in state and federal prisons received fresh scrutiny in the past year, culminating in the first visit to a federal prison last week by a sitting U.S. president. But it took the experience of Kalief Browder to end solitary confinement this year for inmates 21 years old and younger at Rikers Island. Browder was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack and imprisoned at the notoriously violent jail for about three years before charges were dropped. He committed suicide earlier this year, haunted to the end, according to his brother Akeem Browder, who spoke at the rally. He added that police and court resources would have been better spent pursuing more serious offenses than that allegedly committed by his brother, who maintained his innocence despite multiple offers of release in exchange for a plea bargain. Akeem Browder’s remarks reflect the ongoing debate within city politics surrounding the N.Y.P.D. emphasis on the “Broken Windows” school of policing championed by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. And as Akeem Browder spoke, a large re-
Marchers last Friday first gathered at Columbus Circle for speeches before heading down to Times Square and W. 34th St.
corded message began to vie for the crowd’s attention. This was a message from the Police Department informing them that people who obstructed vehicular traffic would be subject to arrest for disorderly conduct. “We should not be arrested for nonviolent crimes. They are here to protect and serve us against the violent offenders,” Akeem Browder said of the police. Examples of police involvement in the deaths of unarmed people of color continued to mount following Garner’s death. In April, a South Carolina policeman fatally shot a fleeing man in the back after a traffic stop. Eight days later, the death of Freddie Gray in police custody sparked riots in a longtime restive neighborhood of Baltimore. #BlackLivesMatters and police reform once again loomed large in national discourse despite a cooling-down period over the winter when supporters of police, in turn, rallied. Then last week Sandra Bland died in police custody three days after being arrested in Waller County, Texas, for a minor traffic faux pas. She was reportedly on her way to interview for a job as a college outreach worker. Such examples suggest that black people cannot take safety for granted in public places. Two prominent examples concern a boy fatally shot for toting a toy gun and a man checking out a BB gun in an Ohio Walmart. “Tamir Rice…you can’t play in the park. John Crawford…you can’t go shopping, so where are you safe to be black in this country?” Brooklyn resident Elsa Waithe asked rhetorically. After about an hour of talk, the crowd of activists mobilized for action — or at least chants, including the longtime favorite of Amer-
Holding a moment of silence for Eric Garner outside Macy’s.
ican radicals: “Whose streets? Our streets!” They moved through Central Park to avoid the dozens of police officers determined to maintain public order in the face of potential civil disobedience. The march reached the park’s southeast corner before heading south on Fifth Ave. One person was arrested soon thereafter as the march cascaded across the avenues before reaching the southern end of Times Square. Along the way, people watched from restaurant windows. Chinese tourists took snapshots with their cameras, asking in their native language: “What is this?” An elderly couple waited patiently to cross through the crowd after stepping out from an upscale restaurant. The costumed characters of Sesame Street, Disney and Marvel Comics shooed protesters away from “photobombing” their tip opportunities with tourists.
The protesters continued on to Macy’s flagship store on W. 34th St. and held a one-minute moment of silence there in memory of Garner, who, as they noted, uttered “I can’t breathe” 11 times before he died one year ago to the day. A short scuffle erupted when protesters challenged police for control of the street in front of the department store. The result was the same as it had been for just about every demonstration except the largest. In short, it appeared to all outward appearances that the streets were very much in the possession of N.Y.P.D. that night despite protesters’ chants to the contrary. A siren came closer and closer and booing swept the crowd. Yet, the mass willingly divided and the protesters now cheered as, from the back of the vehicle, acknowledging them was a lone figure — an emergency medical technician cheering them on. EastVillagerNews.com
How to guarantee peace of mind when installing shades? By Camille Sperrazza
Take a look around your home. If the shades are faded or broken, it’s time for a makeover — and DTV Installations is the company that will modernize the house. Owner John Lysy says selecting and installing the right window shades will add beauty to any room. They also provide protection against the sun’s rays in the summer, and help keep out the cold winter drafts. Gone are the days when you’d tug on a shade and it would fall off the roll. Likewise, there’s no excuse for shades being uneven. Today’s motorized shades make it easy to keep everything in its proper place. DTV Installations takes away all the guess work. The professional staff makes purchasing new shades simple and convenient. The company will come to your house with samples of all types of shades — fabric, honeycomb, verticals, horizontals, Roman style, wooden blinds, and more. There is a shade and style to complement every décor, whether the company is installing in a residence or a commercial establishment. The skilled installers will discuss all design and budget options, the cons and pros of each option, take measurements, and provide a free estimate. “If your order is over $10,000, we install free of charge,” says Lysy. They’ll talk with you about important factors. For example, selecting a shade with the right UV protection translates to saving as much as 25 to 40 percent on your energy bill, says Lysy. It can also help protect furniture from fading. Or, maybe you have a room in the house that is always cold in the winter. Trapped air is an insulator that conserves heat, and a honeycomb shade might offer an energyefficient way to solve the situation. Sometimes we don’t even think about how shades can impact our lifestyles. If you EastVillagerNews.com
have trouble sleeping at night, evaluate your bedroom. Is there an abundance of light flooding your sleep space? Installing blackout shades may be better than what any doctor might prescribe, as science tells us that melatonin
levels drop when it is bright, and increase when it is dark. The proper shade can lead to a solid night’s sleep — not just for one night, but for every night. Blackout shades also work well in conference rooms at the work place, easing eye strain by allowing employees to better see material that is being presented on screens. Commercial establishments in New York must have an energy efficient program in place, and shade installation is one way to meet state law
requirements, says Lysy. The trusted company is authorized by Lutron, a leading provider of energy-efficient products and motorized shading systems. DTV is meticulous when it comes to home and office installations. Workers treat your property carefully, and they clean up after themselves. “We respect your house as if it’s our own,” says Lysy. Today’s shades can be controlled by remote control, via an app on the phone, or be
integrated with a home automation system. DTV Installations can run new wires, hiding them so there’s no unsightly mess hanging around the walls. Or, it can install battery-powered shades, a clean and neat way to avoid any patching or painting whatsoever. You won’t have to worry about replacing the batteries for a long time. They last from three to five years, he says. As to how loud these motorized shades are, never fear — at 38 decibels, they’re nearly silent. “[It is] the quietest in the world,” says Lysy. “When raising or lowering blinds, you don’t hear any sound at all.” Programming can be arranged to open all motorized shades at once, or to open shades individually. And they will all be perfectly level, he says, controlled by the touch of a button. Amazing. DTV Installations LLC [(888) 428–3330, www.DTVinstallations.com. Call seven days a week, 8 am–7 pm. July 23, 2015
B&H dairy restaurant still struggling to reopen B&H continued from p. 1
July 23, 2015
PHOTO BY YANNIC RACK
front of his shuttered storefront on Fri., July 10, while contractors were working inside. The dairy, which has served up borscht and other classic fare since 1938, was closed by the Department of Buildings and Con Edison inspectors who surveyed the buildings in the area in the aftermath of the explosion. Abdelwahed, an Egyptian native who runs B&H with his wife, Alexandra, has since had to upgrade his fire-suppression system at a cost of $28,000 and replace all of the place’s gas piping. On top of that, his monthly operating costs run up to roughly $30,000. “On March 26, we worked and everything was fine. After it, my life stopped. I don’t know what we have done wrong, I don’t understand. I really don’t understand. We really suffered very much,” Abdelwahed said, as customers stopped by in regular intervals to express support and ask when the restaurant would reopen. One of them, Erik Lewis, who passed by on his bike with his daughter Zoë, said he used to frequent B&H in the Sixties when he was a taxi driver. “I love the place. I used to live in the neighborhood and come here all the time,” he said. “I took my mother here once and it was the previous owner, but the same kind of style. The food is delicious, and not too expensive either. I’m bringing my whole family — one at a time.” With permits from D.O.B. and the Landmarks Preservation Commission now finally in hand, the contractors started work last Mon., July 6. Abdelwahed hopes he will finally be able to open his doors in early August, but stressed that he won’t hold out any longer. An online fundraiser for the restaurant was organized in April and brought in $25,000, but the money has come and gone. Another one was set up last week by Andy Reynolds, who has been a loyal customer since he moved to the neighborhood in 1993, 10 years before Abdelwahed and his wife took over. Reynolds has been lending a hand by reaching out to the media and local blogs, as well as liaising with the city agencies involved in the ongoing renovations. The YouCaring campaign, which runs until mid-August, has already raised more than $7,500 in the first week. “Everything is going as well as it can right now; they’ve got all the permits they need, they got the contractors there,” Reynolds said. “It’s been a real financial blow. I have faith that they’re going to re-
Owner Fawzy Abdelwahed inside B&H kosher dairy restaurant as repairs were being made this week.
open but he’s out of money. Hence the crowdfunding campaign — which is going to be a drop in the bucket. With all the expenses they have, the money from these campaigns is helpful but it basically evaporates,” he said, adding that B&H didn’t collect any insurance because the building wasn’t directly impacted by the explosion. After it emerged that apparently illegal tapping of the gas lines had been made in one of the buildings involved in the explosion, the remaining businesses on the block and in the neighborhood were put under the microscope by city inspectors as well as Con Ed. “One minute Con Ed said, ‘You’re fine, we’ll turn the gas back on next week’, which was like the week after the explosion, and then they turned on the gas for other buildings but they didn’t turn it on for the building where B&H is,” Reynolds said. “And then the guy was telling them they need to do these upgrades, and it got complicated.” Now that the permits are approved and work is underway, both Abdelwahed and Reynolds are quick to praise the cooperation with city agencies over the past months, especially the Department of Small Business Services. “Following the East Village explosion, S.B.S. has worked with more than 40 impacted small businesses,” a department spokesperson wrote in an e-mail on Wed., July 15. “S.B.S. has helped these businesses through the recovery process, with insurance matters, accessing documentation to
recoup for lost or damages goods, and a number of other services. S.B.S. has been working very closely with B&H to help guide them through the recovery process, and expedite licenses and permits.” The e-mail also mentioned the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, which announced back in April that it had raised $125,000 to support businesses and families affected by the disaster. “It is truly characteristic of our city to join together in the face of adversity, and to show compassion and love to our fellow New Yorkers when they need it most,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement in April. However, City Hall didn’t reach out with an application to B&H until last week. A request for comment from the Mayor’s Office was not returned by press time. Now, before the restaurant can go back to business as usual, final approval is still needed from the buildings and fire departments, as well as Con Ed and the Department of Health. The eatery’s staff, some of whom have found part-time work, will all return once the kitchen is up and running again. “It’s just got a long history in the neighborhood, so people really want this place to make it,” Reynolds said. “If B&H were to disappear from the East Village, it would be like a hole in the block.” The restaurant has been a local staple since the 1930s, when Second Ave. was known as the Yiddish Broadway and the restaurant attracted its share
of actors and actresses. Its founder, Abie Bergson, opened the dairy with the help of credit from the surrounding restaurant supply stores. The deal was sealed “on a handshake” back then, according to Florence Bergson Goldberg, his daughter, who sent a letter to the mayor urging him to support the restaurant. Goldberg, who was born in 1941 and now lives in Florida, last week described how she and her older brother grew up in the restaurant. “It was wonderful, we knew everybody,” she said over the phone, speaking in an unmistakable New York accent. “Everybody was very attentive to us as children. They were like second parents almost; if we had to go some place, somebody would take us across the street or take us over to the movies, different things like that. They would look after us. A lot of them had their businesses in the area. “To me, it’s like a landmark, it’s the only surviving dairy restaurant in the whole area from that era,” she said. “You know, the smallest one lasted the longest,” she said, adding that they used to dot every other block. Of course, the most famous of the dairy restaurants was Ratner’s on Delancey St., which closed in 2004. Goldberg’s father sold B&H in 1969 and it has passed through multiple owners since then. Despite the changes, some customers have been coming since as far back as the Fifties. Goldberg said her father actually wanted to be an actor, a fact he reflected upon in his unfinished memoirs, of which she possesses the only copy. “He had a lot of stars come into the store,” she said. “They used to come in and eat and talk, schmooze around. “He always aspired to be an actor but life didn’t take him there. So this place, when it opened, to him it became his stage. And everybody in the store, whoever worked there and whoever came in, they were all the characters in the play. It was entertainment, and that’s how he described his own business. He was the director and everybody was an actor, and they all played a part in this ongoing play.” Almost 80 years on, Abdelwahed said he still feels the same way when he stands behind the counter serving up challah French toast and matzo ball soup. “It feels like a show that runs every day,” he said, one that all involved hope will resume very soon. “Knock on contractor’s ladder,” Reynolds added with a smile. EastVillagerNews.com
POLICE BLOTTER $40 and fled in an unknown direction. The victim was uninjured, said the police who searched the surrounding area. They located Dembo Sanyang, 26, later that day and arrested him for felony robbery.
Extreme X-ray assault PHOTO BY C4
A police officer talking to tenants at 21 Spring St. last Wednesday after an armed mugging inside the building.
Spring St. robbery On Wed., July 16, around 9 p.m., a tenant at 21 Spring St., the LIRA residence, was robbed at gunpoint inside the building. There were reportedly two muggers, one of whom brandished a firearm. There were no reported injuries.
Dump truck kills senior On Fri., July 17, at around 1:05 p.m., police responded to a report of a pedestrian struck in the vicinity of Canal St. and Bowery. Upon arrival, responding officers discovered the victim, an elderly male, lying on the ground with serious body trauma. E.M.S. also responded and transported the victim to Downtown Beekman Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The victim was identified as Ka Chor Yau, 83, of 72 Columbus St. A further investigation revealed that the victim was crossing Canal St. when he was struck, while in middle of the intersection, by a dump truck, which was traveling westbound on Canal St. from the Manhattan Bridge. The driver, a 24-year-old man, was taken into custody at the scene. He was subsequently ID’d as Maykel Felix-Tejada, of Paterson, N.J. He was charged with aggravated unlicensed operator. The Police Department’s Collision Investigation Squad is continuing the investigation.
Screwy mugger Police said that an unknown perpetrator brandishing a screwdriver robbed a man in front of 200 W. 14th St. on Wed., July 15. The mugger approached the 22-year-old victim at about 3 p.m. and got straight to the point. “Give me your money,” he said. The tool-wielding tough received EastVillagerNews.com
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An X-ray technician was attacked at the Lenox Hill HealthPlex on Wed., July 15, according to police. The 29-year-old victim was dealing with a patient when the patient’s girlfriend burst into the room and snatched the technician by the hair, police said. The girlfriend then threw the HealthPlex employee to the ground and began pummeling her, resulting in scratches and bruises to the victim’s face, head and neck. Police arrested Suzielin Frade, 21, and charged the Bronx resident with felony assault. Police said the victim did not know her alleged assailant. They did not state a motive for the attack.
Escape, he wished Cops on patrol came across an alleged burglary lookout, aptly waiting in a 2003 Ford Escape around 6:30 p.m. on Fri., July 17. Angel Vega, 24, was stealing his way through a construction site while Joe Rivera, 21, waited in front of 40 Bethune St., police said. They were both charged with felony burglary.
BK/NJ beatdown Four New Jersey residents ran into some scrappy twenty-somethings from Brooklyn in front of 848 Washington St. on Sun., July 19. The former were walking to their vehicle when the two groups got into a verbal dispute at about 3:25 a.m., according to a police report. The Brooklynites then began wailing on the other group, resulting in serious physical injuries to the victims, who ranged from 20 to 34 years old. In addition, the assailants allegedly snatched a purse, iPhone, keys and $50 cash from the Garden State group, police said. Steven Sutera, 21; Vincent Dimari, 20; John Miley, 21; and Michael Spindler, 19, were all arrested and charged with felony robbery.
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Feeling the funk in Union Square with Milo Z As part of the Union Square Partnership’s Summer in the Square series of free entertainment and activities, Milo Z and his band put on quite a show on Thurs., July 2. They play an infectious brew of music called “Razzamofunk,” a blend of rock, rap, jazz, blues and funk, that Milo Z says suits the diversity of New York’s culture. Summer in the Square brings live performances to Union Square Park every Thursday afternoon from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
July 23, 2015
PHOTOS BY GERARD FLYNN
Eye in the sky watching homeless in Tompkins Sq.?
n Tuesday, the police rolled one of their portable observation towers into Tompkins Square Park. The immediate suspicion was that it was a response to the reported spike in homeless people lolling about in the park on cardboard boxes on the lawns and sleeping on benches during the daytime. Over the past two weeks, Mayor de Blasio, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Manhattan Parks Commissioner Bill Castro have all visited the East Village park after articles in the New York Post quoted residents and park workers saying that the homeless situation in Tompkins was
getting out of control. This Wednesday afternoon, however, beneath the tower’s looming presence, things were quiet in the park. Crusty Row, where homeless “travelers” and heroin addicts have traditionally hung out, and nodded out, was empty. The chess tables area near the park’s southwestern corner — where beer drinkers typically sit among the occasional chess players — were also more lightly populated than usual. Asked about the observation tower, one man sitting at the chess tables, said, “I don’t think it’s appropriate.” He said he figured it was there “for drugs.”
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July 23, 2015
Feigning a blackout to shed light on readiness BY CODY BROOKS
PHOTO BY CODY BROOKS
lphabet City’s East Village Towers hosted its first-ever Disaster Festival on Saturday, showcasing how to respond to a power outage due to natural disaster. The Avenue C apartment complex’s board organized a simulated power outage drill followed by an awareness festival out on the development’s promenade. The drill saw residents volunteer to suit up with reflective vests, flashlights and a checklist, and go to participating floors to knock on doors and make sure everyone had enough food, water and medication; they also checked to see if the tenants had an evacuation plan for themselves and any pets. The lights stayed on. “We used our imagination,” said Dan Myers, the event’s organizer and co-chairperson of the complex’s disaster-readiness team. The festival’s impetus was to promote a reliable emergency plan. But Myers also wanted to emphasize prevention. Maps and photos showing Manhattan’s elevations and the extent of the blackout that Hurricane Sandy caused were displayed alongside the message of mitigating climate change — explaining how more frequent storms and rising water levels due to higher
Residents wearing headlamps prepped to help during the simulated power outage.
temperatures can increase the threat of storm surges. Myers noted that the East Village Towers board is seeking funds to install flood doors in key spots to seal the buildings in the event of another watery disaster. Myers also wanted to encourage prevention as a way to promote the Mitchell-Lama housing
program, of which East Village Towers is a part. He worried that if a disaster caused more damage to the complex than could be repaired with public funds, the place could be sold off to a private owner and the residents kicked out due to higher rents. According to Myers, Sandy caused an estimated $750,000 in damages to the development. After the drill, residents heard from a variety of authorities about disaster preparedness at the festival. Paul Garrin of the new Lumen project demonstrated solar panels that could be used to power WiFi and cell phones in a blackout. The city’s Office of Emergency Management handed out emergency plan packets, the Lower East Side Long Term Recovery Group provided a disaster-preparedness newspaper, and Councilwomember Rosie Mendez, who represents the East Village, answered questions. East Village Towers, with nearly 400 apartments, was flooded, along with much of the East Village. The complex is near the E. 14th St. Con Ed plant, which was also swamped by the superstorm. “Where the cars were floating on Avenue C during Sandy — that was us,” Myers said. Alphabet City is on manmade land that juts out into the East River; so rising waters have an easy time jumping over into the streets to flow south and connect back with the main artery.
After 25 years, Time’s Up for Styrofoam in NYC BY YANNIC RACK
ay goodbye to Styrofoam cups, takeout boxes and packing “peanuts,” because they’ll soon be a thing of the past — at least within city limits. A decades-long campaign came to a close this month, as a ban on polystyrene foam went into effect on July 1 across the five boroughs. The ban specifically prohibits the sale, distribution or use of single service expanded polystyrene (EPS) products or polystyrene loose-fill packaging. “These products cause real environmental harm and have no place in New York City,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement announcing the move in January. “We have better options, better alternatives, and if more cities across the country follow our lead and institute similar bans, those alternatives will soon become more plentiful and will cost less.” Although it’s hard to estimate the exact environmental impact this change will have, the city says the restriction will remove around 30,000 tons of expanded polystyrene waste from landfills, streets and waterways. The decision met some resistance, though. In April, the Restaurant Action Alliance NYC sued the city in Manhattan State Supreme Court over
July 23, 2015
the decision. Bill di Paola, the founder of the environmental nonprofit Time’s Up, said last week that he was “super-excited” to see results after campaigning for the ban for more than 25 years. “This was one of Time’s Up’s first campaigns and we’re so happy that it’s finally completed,” he said. “At one point, we had posters all over the city letting people know about Styrofoam packaging — ‘Just say no to Styrofoam’ was one of our big slogans.” The interdiction stems from a law passed in 2013, when the city’s Department of Sanitation was given a year to determine whether EPS could safely be recycled — and decided it could not be. “We’re never going to know how big it is,” di Paola said about the ban’s impact. “But we know right off the bat that years ago, the CFCs were in Styrofoam, and by taking that out, the ozone layer is healing itself. So that was one major victory.” The production of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which were used in the production of plastic foam products, was phased out under the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer that came into effect in 1989. “McDonald’s fought back hard,” di Paola remembered of the time. “And we did more research and found out
that the CFCs were actually going up into the ozone layer and destroying it. So that was put out on the street and backed up by NASA, who had a picture of the hole in the ozone layer.” By last September, a United Nations report detailed how the atmospheric layer was gradually rebuilding itself, a fact that scientists credit to the reduction of chemicals — like CFCs — that were used in refrigerators, air conditioners and aerosol cans in the 1980s. The new law includes a six-month grace period, so businesses have until Jan. 1, 2016, to comply with the ban. After that, violations will be punishable by fines, though the city says that for the first year businesses will only be slapped with a warning. In the meantime, outreach will be conducted citywide to make restaurants aware of the change. “We know people are still going to be using it, so it will still take a lot of community effort,” di Paola said. “We’re going to put the word out, just to remind people in a friendly way. That’s our focus now.” Leith Hill, founder of Ellary’s Greens, an organic restaurant on Carmine St., also thinks that businesses will keep using Styrofoam as long as possible. “It’s so much more expensive to do the right thing,” she said, adding that
the restaurant’s takeout containers, made of recycled paper, cost between 21 and 27 cents apiece, compared to a mere 3 to 5 cents for a Styrofoam container. “I’m really delighted that we are finally banning Styrofoam, which will never go away, it will not decompose,” Hill said. “It will disintegrate into little balls, which animals will eat and it will kill them. Personally, I’m really happy to see the city taking this step. It’s quite a bold step for New York City to ban Styrofoam. We are now joining countries that banned it 30 years ago.” Di Paola said that Time’s Up will continue its campaign against Styrofoam and added they were currently planning a recycling-themed fashion show in early August. This will be organized together with the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, a.k.a. MoRUS, which di Paola co-founded. The environmental activist also expressed hopes similar to the mayor’s for the effect the ban could have on other parts of the country, although many other cities, like San Francisco and Seattle, have already outlawed EPS. “New York City is so famous that if you can ban something here, people will copy that,” he said. “So we predict that very soon other cities are going to follow.” EastVillagerNews.com
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July 23, 2015
Punk rockers clock in at new Schrager resto
PHOTO BY THE VILLAGER
The walls of the Clock Tower restaurant, on the second floor of Ian Schrager’s new The New York EDITION hotel, in the Metropolitan Life Building, at 5 Madison Ave., are plastered with framed photos of iconic New York scenes and figures. More than a few feature punk rockers, like the small one, at left, in the place’s billiards room, with Joey Ramone and David Johansen of the New York Dolls in front of C.B.G.B. Other shots show a mohawked Joe Strummer and The Clash cruising in a convertible, the Sex Pistols and even that “proto-punk,” Bob Dylan, in a photo at the Newport Jazz Festival by legendary lensman Bob Gruen. (O.K., so that one wasn’t from New York — though Gruen does live in Westbeth in the West Village.) The pictures are hung high, all about 12 feet off the floor or higher, but it’s still worth a look.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Exciting news To The Editor: Re “People for Bernie” (Scoopy’s Notebook, July 9): I was thrilled to read that Arthur Schwartz is set to organize for Sanders. If I were still in New York City, I would be tempted to un-retire and join him. Good luck, Arthur. Howard Hemsley
Nobody does it better To The Editor: Re “Riots at the Stonewall and magic at Caffe Cino; Gay revolution in Greenwich Village in the ’60s” (Gay Pride, June 25): I can think of no one better than Robert Heide to have written this piece. Besides all the theater and books he and John have created, he is the go-to guy if a researcher is looking for Greenwich Village history and gay history of the 1960s forward. I include Andy Warhol’s scene in his expertise.
I know Robert was a resource for John Strausbaugh when he was writing his well-received “The Village: 400 years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, a History of Greenwich Village.” Thanks, Robert, for writing this. Clayton Patterson
Write time for Cino book To The Editor: Re “Riots at the Stonewall and magic at Caffe Cino; Gay revolution in Greenwich Village in the ’60s” (Gay Pride, June 25): Bob, advising you as a friend, please take all these bits, pieces, columns, and get the real book done. Madeline Hoffer
Is Mayor de Blasio bringing back the “good old days”? 14
July 23, 2015
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The joy of sax: I busked without getting busted NOTEBOOK BY DAVID SOBEL
PHOTOS BY SUSAN FARLEY
n the Fourth of July, I arrived in Washington Square Park with my tenor saxophone in hand, but I wasn’t just another busker. I was there to get an insider’s account of the ongoing music noise debate for The Villager. A 44-year-old guy from the Upper East Side, I hadn’t played my horn in four years. After getting laid off in March, I felt the urge to perform again. My friends, girlfriend and parents had suggested that I busk around the city. When The Villager gave me the assignment, it felt like kismet. Walking into the park was like arriving at a music festival. A banjo duo strummed bluegrass on the west side. Near the arch, a jazz quartet fronted by a young alto saxophonist burned through bebop tunes. Folk singers with guitars played on benches near the fountain plaza’s east side, where the piano usually is. I looked for someone to jam with. The bebop kids had a focused vibe. I didn’t want to interrupt them. The folk singers seemed a mellow bunch, but tenor saxophones are powerful. The late Stan Getz had a soft tone that filled auditoriums without a mic. I imagined drowning out the folkies while they tried singing light acoustic melodies. It would make for good comedy, but I decided against it. Eventually, I approached a young guy playing Dylan tunes on guitar and harmonica. A fedora stuffed with cash was on the ground in front of him. “Want to jam?” I asked. He responded as if I were a recording producer offering him a contract. He was a 19-year-old Los Angeles transplant named Andre Romiel, and he was here to make it in New York City’s music scene. I smiled as I remembered moving to Brooklyn two decades ago for the same reason. I took out my sax. I could barely hear the instruments and singers from the other groups. That was probably because they were facing into the square. I heard splashing water, kids yelling and people laughing. The music was in the background. Andre struck up a blues on his guitar. I leaned into “Night Train,” the classic melody played by the dance band in “Back to the Future.” I tensed up as a Park Enforcement Patrol officer with a decibel meter walked toward us.
David Sobel, on sax, jammed with folk singer Andre Romiel, on guitar and harmonica, in Washington Square Park on July 4.
The PEP officer looked at me and moved on. “He checked me yesterday,” Andre said. “He said I was in the acceptable range.” I laughed. There were people talking louder than Andre’s guitar playing, and my saxophone was more forceful than his harmonica. Maybe the PEP officer wasn’t a Dylan fan. We continued our session as tourists put money in the hat and snapped pictures. Locals on bikes stopped to listen. People filmed us with video cameras and applauded. “I want to thank you for making this a lovely afternoon,” an older man told us. “It’s so nice to hear good music in this park for a change.” I was nonplussed. It was one of the busiest days in the park, and I was playing as fully as I could. None of the people relaxing on the grass seemed the least bit upset. Maybe it was because of the holiday. I took a few bucks from Andre’s fedora, thanked him, and packed my horn. On the following weekend, this time it was Tic and Tac, the park’s premier performance troupe, who were getting all the attention. Their routine was a vaudeville-like combination of slapstick comedy, breakdancing and acrobatics backed by two percussionists pounding out polyrhythms. The crowd cheered. Noise enforcers were nowhere to be seen. “They come after us because of the drums, and it’s usually at night,” the
drummers told me later. “They never bust anyone else.” I felt relieved, but sad. Washington Square was Tic and Tac’s stage. I was an amateur. I didn’t have to defend myself at community board meetings or worry about my livelihood being shut down. Such was the guilt of a privileged white saxophonist. Still, I wasn’t sure how late these guys played. I’d probably be upset if I could hear loud drums outside after nine or ten o’clock at night. There was still no pianist near the east side entrance, but a trumpet player was improvising on “Autumn Leaves.” I sensed he didn’t want another horn stealing the spotlight. I went back to a bench near the fountain. The trumpet echoed over
the tourists’ voices. It made me think of my college big band days. The trumpets were always the most prominent. I got my horn out and played some bossa nova tunes. People dropped a few bucks into my case. A toddler came by and pressed the sax keys, throwing me off. I didn’t mind it, but her father seemed annoyed. “Don’t worry,” I said. “She’s a budding musician.” After an hour my chops were shot. The sun was going down. I packed my horn and stood up. Tomorrow, I’d send out more résumés. If I were lucky, I’d get an interview for a desk job and go back to being a responsible citizen. If only busking paid the bills. July 23, 2015
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July 23, 2015
BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC
ould it be the start of a Belgian fries turf war? Newcomer Friterie recently opened in the East Village at 36 St. Mark’s Place, just around the corner from where the popular Pommes Frites had been at 123 Second Ave. The longtime local starch staple had been open 18 years. But its last day of business came on March 26 when a gas explosion and massive fire that started in the next door building subsequently caused No. 123 to collapse. Like Pommes Frites, Friterie’s menu consists of Belgian fries, sauces and poutine — a Canadian dish of fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. Friterie’s owner, Eddie Adi, said in a phone interview that he had been to Amsterdam many times over the years and that he always liked the idea of Belgian fries. When Pommes Frites closed, he said, he saw an opportunity. Friterie opened about a month ago. Tim Shum, an East Villager since 2007, was eager to try the new establishment. He was a huge fan of Pommes Frites and frequented it often. The staff knew Shum well enough to immediately call out the sauces he wanted — eggplant mayo, roasted garlic mayo and mango chutney. “Every time I was wowed at Pommes Frites,” he said. “The lines were out the door every single night.” Over the years, Shum wondered why there wasn’t another Belgian fries shop to challenge Pommes Frites. He had seen ramen shops and pizza joints open and then close, but Pommes Frites seemed untouched by what plagued other businesses in the neighborhood. One day last week at Friterie, The Villager and Shum ordered a large fries that came wrapped in a paper cone, along with three sauces — chipotle mayo, spicy mayo and roasted garlic mayo. To this reporter’s palate, the fries were good, albeit slow in coming, and the sauces were just O.K. As for Shum, he was unimpressed by the sauces. He had tried Friterie already when it first opened, and this time when asking a worker about which sauces to accompany his order, the response was unenthusiastic. “For a business that is daring to convert Pommes Frites loyalists, you can’t be disinterested when a customer asks about the sauces,” he said. There were other differences, he said, noticeably the blaring music.
PHOTO BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC
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New fries shop tries to fill Pommes Frites void
Katherina Thompson, who had been a fan of Pommes Frites, tries the fare at the new Friterie.
Friterie is inviting, with one wall plastered with antique ads in French and English and another wood-paneled. Tables, small and round, and wooden stools dot the slender restaurant. Shum said he hopes Friterie does well since “competition can only be great for us customers.” Omer Shorshi, who owns Pommes Frites with his business partner Suzanne Levinson, said he has seen many imitators come and then quickly go. In a phone interview, he said some competitors went so far as to copy their name or use some close variation of it. As first reported by The Villager on June 11, they have found a new space at 128 MacDougal St. and are currently raising money to reopen there. “We’re grateful for every dollar we get,” he said. On Monday, Katherina Thompson, from Queens, 26, was trying Friterie’s fries for the first time. She said it was really sad what happened to Pommes Frites, where she went often. Asked if he was concerned about Pommes Frites’ expected reopening in the Village in late fall, Adi said it was the “same product but different neighborhood” and that there was room for both businesses. For his part, Shorshi said he wasn’t worried about the competition. “We have room for everybody,” he said. Of course, Ray’s Candy Store on Avenue A at E. Seventh St. also serves up tasty Belgian fries. EastVillagerNews.com
Diving deep into a gesture of dignity and pride Meet the two minds behind ‘Five on the Black Hand Side’ BY ZACH WILLIAMS
PHOTO BY ZACH WILLIAMS
ive on the Black Hand Side/Dapline!” generates plenty of punch from the intricate handshakes most commonly associated with Black men. They called them DAP during the Vietnam War, when Black soldiers found that “dignity and pride” could maintain their social cohesion during times of trauma — whether looking for enemies in the jungle or battling racism within their own ranks. Visual artist LaMont Hamilton and choreographer André Zachery take their audience through action more abstract, but every bit as animated, as any recreated battlefield. Their collaboration directs its fire through the traumatic trajectory of the African American experience in the last half-century. There were the racial struggles of the late 1960s and the drug epidemics of the 1980s, and plenty of troubling times before and after. But it was in Vietnam where inner city Black draftees found a means to strengthen their ranks against White soldiers who ostensibly were on their side — but could sometimes loom as dangerous a threat as the Viet Cong. “There were a lot of soldiers killed where the cause wasn’t friendly fire. It was race wars, and the DAP came out of that,” Hamilton said in an interview. “DAP was a way to show that solidarity. DAP was a way to watch each others’ back.” Sometimes before or after a mission, a dozen or more Black soldiers would assemble and form a “dapline,” where they would perform the elaborate gesticulations in rituals lasting as long as 20 minutes, according to Hamilton. A fist bump could start a sequence of interactions
Choreographer André Zachery (left) and visual artist LaMont Hamilton address the history and implications of DAP, without overt demonstrations of the gesture.
— with symbolism as direct as two touching shoulders establishing a mutual commitment to watch each other’s back, or as subtle as the thousands of combinations observed by Hamilton. Unlike a secret handshake, the practice is visible for all to see, even if they are not themselves initiated into the act. Perhaps no person has studied the topic as thoroughly as Hamilton, whose research took him to Los Angeles, Detroit, Omaha, New York City, Chicago and elsewhere during
his time as a fellow at the Smithsonian Institute. What he found inspired him to give his fascination a fresh representation, by developing “Dapline!” — where a ritual of unity and recognition continues to evolve as Hamilton and Zachery throw new variations into their dancers’ movements throughout the performance. Where the meaning of words cannot venture, dance provides an opportunity to explore the full spectrum of race, gender, and society at large. “Dance is the physical manifesta-
tion of the space between words… where it comes together. It creates something, and then, it’s over,” said Zachery. Despite its inspiration, the performance will not demonstrate DAP overtly, nor will audience members simply sit in their seats and watch dancers as ten-figured grips send them flipping over one another. The former will “be implicated,” as the performance reflects the history of DAP, DIVING DEEP, continued on p.18 July 23, 2015
‘Dapline!’ shows a way to connect in the face of oppression
PHOTO BY ZACH WILLIAMS
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DIVING DEEP, continued from p. 17
while not explicitly portraying it. The comradery of war gives way to the struggles of Black liberations. The poetry of Amiri Baraka inspires the movement just as much as the greetings of recognition between gang members. The pedagogical intentions of Paulo Feire (author, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”) linger above the action, ready to open minds — just as eagerly as a dapline informs participants that they’ve found a safe space. There is not so much a plot as a “narrative,” said Hamilton — who, like Zachery, opted to speak more of artistic vision than the literal play-byplay of this 40-minute performance. The origins of the work are less obscure. Hamilton confided that his fascination with DAP began following a conversation with a Black Vietnam veteran during an artistic residence in Omaha, Nebraska. He had dapped with his father, uncle, nephew and even complete strangers — but the more he researched the origins of DAP, the more universal its implications seemed, he said. He still continues to search for just how far the “connective tissues” extends among soldiers, Black liberation rebels and millions of Americans. Yet despite the ubiquity of DAP, its underlying power was left behind by its appropriation from the “dignity
and pride” of Black culture under constant threat, according to Hamilton. “When we see youth, athletes, or even President Obama giving a fist bump or DAP, we think of these gestures as mere greetings, and are not aware of the origins and historical significance of this language,” he said in a statement from University Settlement, where he and Zachery work as artists-in-residence. Upcoming performances of “Dapline!” are mere previews of the wider “Five Fingers on the Black Side” project, where Hamilton will continue to explore the topic through other artistic mediums including narrative, music and poetry. The boundaries among artists, performers and audience will continue to dissolve as local youth continue to explore their artistic horizons under his tutelage, and local art enthusiasts can see just how far down the DAP wormhole they wish to travel. Hamilton and Zachery may fly high in the abstract, but the rewards could be lofty for adherents to authenticity who want history to (quite literally) jump in their face. At 8 p.m. on Thurs., July 30, Fri., July 31 and Sat., Aug. 1. At University Settlement’s Speyer Hall (184 Eldridge St. btw. Rivington & Delancey Sts.). For tickets ($15, $10 for students and seniors), visit brownpapertickets.com.
Outrageous Sophie Tucker, praised and preserved The Eckers’ obsession shared by Bette, Beatles and Bennett BY TRAV S.D. (travsd.wordpress.com)
COURTESY THE SOPHIE TUCKER PROJECT
hen the popular entertainer Sophie Tucker passed away in 1966 at the age of 79, she was an international institution. A contemporary of Al Jolson’s, her career had lasted 60 years, spanning three generations. Both the Marx Brothers and the Beatles made jokes about her in their acts; in both cases they were making topical (and local) humor (she was as popular in the UK as she was in the US). The cracks were about her voluminous girth, unusual in female performers in that or any time. (Kate Smith and Mama Cass were among the later ones with this attribute). Tony Bennett called her “one of the most underrated jazz singers who ever lived.” Michael Feingold called her “a pioneer of vocal syncopation.” Equally identified with big weepie numbers like “After You’ve Gone” and “Some of These Days,” and sexy, sassy double entendre songs like “Last of the Red Hot Mamas” and “The Angle Worm Wiggle,” Tucker was to become one of the highest paid, most sought after entertainers of her day: queen of vaudeville, night clubs, concert halls, radio and record albums. And an idol to Jews everywhere. Yet, not long after her passing, pop culture largely forgot her. But one important show business figure remembered. To Bette Midler, she always remained a major hero. In a 1973 concert at Ithaca College in upstate New York, Midler spoke in glowing terms about Tucker to the audience. This intrigued a young couple who attended the concert together on their first date, and soon became married: Susan and Lloyd Ecker. It is safe to say the Eckers became obsessed with Tucker and her legacy. So much so that when they made a fortune at an online business a couple of decades later, they retired early and decided to devote their lives and their treasure to raising the public’s awareness of Sophie Tucker. The first fruits of this project, launched last year, included a website (sophietucker.com) and a book, “I Am Sophie Tucker: A Fictional Memoir.” Since May, they have been touring the country with their new documentary film “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker” — which opens at Cinema Village on July 24. And
From the set of 1934’s “Gay Love,” shot in London, England. The pianist is Ted Shapiro, Tucker’s accompanist from 19221966.
much like Richard Attenborough in “Jurassic Park,” they have “spared no expense.” The late record producer Phil Ramone was executive producer on the project. To direct the picture, they hired William Gazecki, best known for the critically acclaimed and controversial “Waco: The Rules of Engagement” (1997). The result is anything but monstrous — in fact, it’s quite terrific. At the center are the Eckers themselves, who drew from Tucker’s 400 scrapbooks (which reside at NYU and Brandeis) to tell the story. The Eckers are talking heads in the film, alongside such luminaries as Tony Bennett, Barbara Walters, Carol Channing, Shecky Greene, Paul Anka, Connie Stevens, Tony Martin, Mickey Rooney, Brenda Lee, Kaye Ballard, Joe Franklin and (inexplicably) Mamie Van Doren. For some reason, Michael Feinstein is identified in the lower third as “music historian.” Well, sure, but that’s a bit like calling Houdini a “magic historian.” The man knows his applesauce, but don’t most of us regard him primarily as an entertainer?
In addition, we get insight from several other scholars and historians, and family members (grand-nephews and nieces mostly) and lots and lots of commentary from Ms. Tucker herself from countless interviews done with her in later years. She speaks to us a lot throughout the film. Those 400 scrapbooks we mentioned were of course created by Tucker herself, allowing the filmmakers thousands of photos, theatre programs and similar ephemera to supply the visual element. In addition, Gazecki has enlivened the presentation with many clever animations of still photos, and even some hand tinting of black and white imagery. The documentary features clips from her very few film appearances, as well as television guest shots on programs like “The Jimmy Durante Show” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.” There’s stuff to touch the heart here, too. A U.S. soldier in World War II had a plan to play his record of “My Yiddishe Momme” in the streets of Berlin as the allies marched in. But he was killed in action, so his buddies carried out his dream for him. And there was
Tucker’s courageous decision to appear at Miami’s Copa City nightclub alongside Josephine Baker in 1951 to help her confront the climate of racist death threats. The heartbreak of three worthless husbands and one useless son. And yet the testimony of other relatives is heart-warming. Several in the film talk of playing cards with their famous “Aunt Sophie.” This must have been the early 1960s at the latest, and these relatives must have been children. Then it begins to dawn on you: this world famous woman loved her family so much that she spent time on her vacations playing games with her sister’s grandkids. I defy you not to fall in love with her. “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker” is unrated, with a runtime of 96 minutes. Opens July 24 for a three-week run. Daily screenings at 12, 2:15, 4:30, 6:45 & 9 p.m. at Cinema Village (22 E. 12th St. btw. University Place & Fifth Ave.). The filmmakers will be doing a Q&A after every screening. More info at sophietucker.com, facebook.com/OutrageousSophieTucker, twitter.com/SophieTucker and sophietucker.tumblr.com. July 23, 2015
Aiming for realness on LA’s gritty streets First-time trans actors tell a story of sex work, connections, drama BY GARY M. KRAMER
angerine,” Sean Baker’s funky little comedy — shot entirely on an iPhone — is full of dram-ah as motormouthed transgender sex worker Sin-dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) finds out from her BFF Alexandra (Mya Taylor) that her boyfriend Chester (James Ransone) has been cheating on her while she’s been in jail. As Sin-dee wanders around Los Angeles on Christmas Eve trying to find Chester, Alexandra prefers to focus on her performance that night. Meanwhile, Razmik (Karren Karaguilian), a cab driver, seeks out both women for personal reasons.
GARY M. KRAMER: Sean, You tend to make films about marginalized, struggling, and/or disenfranchised characters. Why do these kinds of stories appeal to you? SEAN BAKER: I try to stay away from being too self-analytical. In all four of my films, I dealt with subject matter I didn’t know about. I think that those were small cultures I was interested in exploring. Each project began a different way and led to what it became. With “Tangerine,” it was a street corner in LA that was infamous as a chaotic red light district. I had just explored sex work in my previous film, “Starlet.” I think I’m doing a trilogy. It was pure curiosity that led me there. The collaboration of befriending and getting the trust of the people from that world is how the stories were developed. GMK: Mya, how do you see the characters and their situations?
The film thrives on its characters’ manic energy, and will win viewers over because Sin-dee and Alexandra have tremendous heart. In separate interviews, Baker and Taylor spoke via Skype about making “Tangerine.”
Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, first-time actors who are the stars of Sean Baker’s “Tangerine.”
MYA TAYLOR: Before I started this movie, I told Sean not to make it sad, but to make it raw and real and funny and exciting. The story is sad as fuck. I don’t like a theater full of crying people. I’ve had a sad life. To keep myself going, you have to be fun. I made Alexandra like Mya Taylor. I wanted it to be happy. If you’re having a hard life, you have to make yourself happy. Life isn’t easy. GMK: What input did you have with your character? MT: Basically, the only thing that changed was the language. We brought our own personality into it. Everything else was Sean. What really happened and how the girls really talk. I wanted the story to be as real as possible. Why are Alexandra and Sin-dee in the streets? They are trans. They don’t have family; they have been shunted away. That’s my story, Mya
Taylor’s. It happened to me. It’s been six years since I have spoken to my family. I applied to 186 jobs, but didn’t get one. I didn’t want to turn to selling my body. Santa Monica and Highland is full of trans girls and gay guys who are forced to go out and sell drugs or sell ass. You have to use what you got to get what you want. GMK: Sean, you shot the film entirely on an iPhone. What can you say about that decision and that process? It certainly adds an immediacy to the film. SB: It began as a budgetary constraint, and it became more than that. At first it was because we didn’t have the money to shoot with other equipment. We said we’re going to embrace this and exploit the benefits from shooting on the phone, and suddenly the benefits revealed themselves to us. I knew we could be more clandestine, but I was much more mobile. The camera moves became more fluid. The most important thing was that these first-time actors had their inhibitions stripped away. Mya and Kiki were never intimidated by the camera. GMK: How much of the film was improvised? SB: For the girls’ dialogue, im-
July 23, 2015
provisation was encouraged. Chris [Bergoch, the co-writer] and I recorded every interview we did. We used the interviews as a guide for the dialogue. I gave the characters the script and told them if you don’t like it, put it into your words, and that’s what they did. They sometimes said the script, or came to the table with their own wording. The only time we couldn’t deviate from the script was during the Armenian dialogue because I don’t know Armenian. GMK: There’s a fantastic scene in a car wash, but you cut away in the middle of it, which both increases and interrupts the dramatic moment. Can you discuss that strategy? SB: The car wash was a scene I wanted to shoot — a long take in the car wash. I didn’t know what I would do and when Mya told me that women take their clients into the car wash for a quickie, that’s what led us to write that scene. What I did with the music and the cuts were abrupt and jarring. I edit my own films. It’s done organically, following my instincts. “Tangerine” is directed by Sean Baker. At Landmark Sunshine Cinema (143 E. Houston St. btw. First & Second Aves.). Visit landmarktheatres.com. EastVillagerNews.com
Just Do Art
PHOTO BY GIANCARLO OSABEN
IMAGE BY LAURA PARDO
Talent-challenged Lance won’t let that minor detail prevent him from entertaining you (July 23 & 30 at Triple Crown Underground).
Bad people get what they deserve, in “Trigger Happy” tales spun by Dandy Darkly (at Dixon Place on July 25).
BY SCOTT STIFFLER
DANDY DARKLY’S “TRIGGER HAPPY”
Born with a superhuman belief in his capacity to enthrall — but gifted with very few skills other than the ability to access a bottomless well of optimism — “wannabe cruise ship entertainer, celebrity stalker and pathological musical theater fanatic” Lance is making what he honestly believes will be a triumphant return, after a 15-year absence from the cabaret stage. But when invited guests Liza Minnelli, Hugh Jackman and Miami Sound Machine don’t show (they’re just running late, right?), Lance forges ahead with an escalating series of ridiculous and increasingly desperate solo performances — including a five-minute version of “The Sound of Music” and a bittersweet homage to the film “Fame” (depicting kids from NYC’s High School of Performing Arts, which once rejected his application). This brief run of “Late With Lance,” a warm-up for its appearance in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, is written and performed by Peter Michael Marino. A winning talent with a knack for playing losers, Marino earned MAC and Bistro award recognition in the mid-90s for “All About Me!,” then saw his musical based on “Desperately Seeking Susan” tank. Tapping his inner Lance, Marino toured the world for
PHOTO BY EMILY BRIGGS
If Aesop and Rod Serling locked lips after hopping into a malfunctioning transporter pod filled with confetti bearing Rip Taylor’s DNA, the creature coming out on the other end might resemble something like Dandy Darkly. But then again no, because there is nothing in all of creation quite like this swishy storyteller with a taste for blood, a sick sense of justice and an affinity for alliteration. Part of Dixon Place’s queer-themed Hot! Festival, the contagiously dangerous Mr. Darkly’s “Trigger Happy” offers a batch of all-new tongue-twisting morality tales dispensed with macabre glee — performed in anticipation of a summertime stint at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and a late October run here in NYC (at UNDER St. Marks, site of past Darkly atrocities). Sex and death with an all-American focus is the theme this time around, featuring tales of guns, PTSD, hypersensitivity “and good ole American sodomy.” Free. Sat., July 25 at 7:30 p.m. at Dixon Place (161A Chrystie St. btw. Rivington & Delancey Sts.). Artist info at dandydarkly.com and venue info at dixonplace. org.
LATE WITH LANCE!
A sleepy Caribbean island gets a rude awakening, in “Welcome to Paradise” (at Hudson Guild Theater July 28–Aug. 1).
two years with a well-received solo show based on the debacle, then created NYC’s SOLOCOM Festival to nurture NextGen one-person-show talent. Now the circle of life comes full circle, as Lance sails into our harbor (from his current gig on the cruise ship circuit) for one more shot at success in the Big Apple. Thurs., July 23 at 7 p.m. and Thurs., July 30 at 8 p.m. at Triple Crown Underground (330 Seventh Ave. near 28th St.). Admission is pay-what-youcan. Visit lanceshow.com and petermmarino.com.
WELCOME TO PARADISE
The fictional Caribbean island of St. Sebastian — whose tourist indus-
try caters to “bland suburban honeymooners and sedate folks whose wild party days are well behind them” gets an unexpected jolt, in “Welcome to Paradise.” Presented by Theater Now New York as part of the 2015 Thespis Theater Festival, playwright Julie Mario puts the character of Evelyn onto the tranquil, titular vacation spot — then presents her with a series of encounters that throw meddlesome family members for a loop while challenging Evelyn’s own notions of encroaching old age. Tues., July 28 at 9 p.m., Wed., July 29 at 6:15 p.m. & Sat., Aug. 1 at 6 p.m. At the Hudson Guild Theater (441 W. 26th St. btw. 9th & 10th Aves.). Tickets ($18) available at brownpapertickets.com. For artist info, visit tnny.org. July 23, 2015
July 23, 2015
Residence a Golden moment for homeless gay kids HOMELESS continued from p. 1
PHOTOS BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
89 beds and another 18 that are expected to come online in the fall. The city took over the building in a tax foreclosure action in 1991. It has fallen into disrepair since then. The front of the building is closed off with a chain-link fence and the interior, which is largely inaccessible and will be gutted, shows significant deterioration. While New Yorkers are known for generally supporting social services agencies as long as they are serving clients in someone else’s neighborhood, this facility was welcome. “I know the residents on this block are happy there’s going to be a beautiful new building here,” said Steve Herrick, executive director of the Cooper Square Committee, an East Village nonprofit that develops affordable housing and other facilities. The committee partnered with AFC in developing the facility. The groundbreaking included references to “Golden Girls,” the TV series that aired from 1985 through 1992 and starred Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty, and “Maude,” another series that starred Arthur that ran from 1972 through 1978. Cheesecake, which was an ongoing bit on “Golden Girls,” was served following the groundbreaking. “This is going to be an incredible tribute to Bea Arthur and her compassion,” said City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, an out lesbian who represents the East Village. Mendez was joined by City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who heads the Council’s L.G.B.T. caucus, and state Senator Brad Hoylman, who noted he constitutes an L.G.B.T. caucus of one in that body. “This is the conscience of our community,” Hoylman said. “We need to look after the kids who are coming after us.”
Standing in front of a photo of Bea Arthur, from left, Steve Herrick, state Senator Brad Hoylman, gay political activist Allen Roskoff, Carl Siciliano — with cheesecake — and Councilmember Corey Johnson. It was reportedly Roskoff’s friendship with Arthur through a “Broadway connection” that got her involved with the Ali Forney Center.
Johnson, who noted that Arthur’s character in “Golden Girls” was his favorite among the four leads, had a similar comment. “This is more than a building. This is more than bricks and mortar,” he said. “This is a beacon of hope.” Mendez said, “I am filled with pride as I stand with the Ali Forney Center and Cooper Square Committee for this extraordinary event. I am filled with joy, not only because I am a part of this but because it’s happening in my district, which has a long and rich history of welcoming, housing and providing services to all individuals in need.”
CALL TO SUBSCRIBE
646-452-2475 A view of the run-down tenement that will soon be renovated into an L.G.B.T.Q. homeless youth transitional shelter.
July 23, 2015
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