VOLuMe 26, nuMber 5
FrInGe FestIVaL returns, P. 25
JuLy 31-august 13, 2013
cracKdown as soho shoPLIFters maKe out LIKe BandIts By Kai tLyn M eaDe iamond Goins was seen last week walking out of Soho’s designer Balenciaga boutique with a $1,200 handbag under his arm at 3:30 in the afternoon, police reported — without paying for it. The manager chased after 19-year-old Goins, who ran out the front door only to be tackled by a passerby who was walking down the sidewalk, recalled Luis Rosario, a security
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seaPort FIrm owes $1.8m, LIu saYs By terese LOeb KreuZer ity Comptroller John Liu released an audit last week saying The Howard Hughes Corporation owes almost $1.8 million in back rent for leases at the South Street Seaport. The report faulted the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the master leaseholder at the Seaport, for failing to ride herd on the Dallas-based developer
Downtown Express photo by Milo Hess
SHADOWY FIGURES A man and his kite on Saturday night on Tribeca’s Pier 25.
CATS For MAYOR
Continued on page 8
JOHN CATSIMATIDIS FOR MAYOR A New Yorker for all New Yorkers
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July 31 - August 13, 2013 In fact, 2000 — Read mayoral
Kelly was quoted as criticizing the policy in a point Quinn did not make. more about our interviews with her and other candidates in the next Downtown Express.
Who’s stopping who?
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has been the most frequent defender of N.Y.P.D.’s stop and frisk policy, but City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told us she holds Mayor Bloomberg responsible for the large number of stops. “As it relates to stop and frisk, Ray Kelly has implemented, I believe, the plan as his boss has told him to do it — that’s not how I would tell him to do it,“ Quinn said July 25 during an interview with the editorial board of Downtown Express and other NYC Community Media papers. Quinn once again said if she’s elected mayor she’d like to keep Kelly on, but said she does not know if he’s interested since she thinks it’s a “jinx” to talk about any administration jobs before the election. She did not say she thought Kelly disagreed with Bloomberg, but she did point out that the city’s crime rate began to drop without stop and frisk during Kelly’s first stint at Police Plaza under Mayor David Dinkins.
Speaking of Christine Quinn, she and Julie Menin seemed to be engaging in a little trash talk as they bumped into each other at our offices last week, but it was not at all like the traditional variety. Actually, each was pretty friendly with the other as they may have been chatting about the proposed E. 91st St. marine transfer station. Quinn, the City Council speaker, was a strong supporter of the proposal, and Menin, a candidate for borough president and the former Community Board 1 chairperson, recently penned a Daily News op-ed in favor of the plan because the alternative would be to send more garbage trucks through lower income neighborhoods. Not coincidentally, some of the most vocal opponents of the plan are also running against Menin, Councilmembers Jessica Lappin and Gale Brewer. Menin also picked up the endorsement of Councilmember Margaret Chin Friday, solidifying her support in Chinatown, where the nabe’s major competing factions are now supporting her. Chin’s reelection opponent, Jenifer Rajkumar, has also endorsed Menin.
Mayoral candidate John Liu told us the constant polls are a “pain in the neck” because they are so persistent and none even try to calculate the AsianAmerican vote. “Something’s missing there,” Liu, the City Comptroller, said last week. “The Asian-American
vote in this year’s primary is going to outpace the overall turnout.” He predicts he’ll get over 80 percent of AsianAmericans, whom he thinks will turn out in slightly higher percentages than other groups. He said polling firms can’t hire people who speak a dozen or so Asian languages or dialects. He thinks he’s really at 20 percent, not the 7 or so that the polls consistently show.
To the veterans of the Korean War and their loved ones, we’d like to say we honor their service six decades ago. Saturday was the 60th anniversary of the July 27th armistice agreement ending the war, and we were disappointed there was no ceremony at Battery Park’s memorial to the war’s veterans, and that it did not appear any visitors were aware it was a historic day. But we were pleased that President Obama did declare it Korean War Veterans Armistice Day and held a ceremony in Washington.
Anthony Weiner’s poll numbers may be plummeting, but we noticed two very unscientific indications that all may not be lost for the mayoral wannabe, who perhaps is a recovering sexter. Weiner heard boos last week when he took the mic at a hearing at Pace University to discuss the possible sale of NYCHA land, but the crowd, made up mostly of low income NYCHA tenants, started cheering him when he said he opposed the sale of public land. Next. “Anthony Weiner is going to be the next mayor,” a Downtown C train rider said Tuesday loudly enough for most in the subway car to hear. We’re not willing though, to bet on his prediction or on whether he was sober at 10 a.m.
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July 31 - August 13, 2013
P.S. 150 move to Chelsea still ‘on the table’ By Ka i t Ly n M e a D e Amid the panic and protests over moving Tribeca’s P.S. 150 elementary school to a new building in Chelsea next year, the city Department of Education appeared to be backing away from the proposal, but three months later, parents are discouraged that the plan is still, technically at least, on the books. “We’re not as optimistic as we have been,” Wendy Chapman, a P.S. 150 parent and head of the school’s P.T.A., said at Community Board 1’s Youth and Education Committee meeting July 9. Chapman subsequently said she felt the D.O.E. was playing “coy” with parents by not responding, despite widespread pressure to keep the school Downtown. She said that the superintendent of District 2, Mariano Guzman, told her and several other parents at a June meeting with the Community Education Council that the plan to move P.S. 150 to Chelsea is still an option. “What Guzman said, despite what the local politicians have said, is that Chelsea is still on the table,” Chapman said in a phone interview. She said the private comment left families wondering what will happen to their school in the next two years. The initial outcry came in late April when parents were notified of the plan to shift the school in the fall of 2014, ending its one-classper-grade-model at 334 Greenwich St. — which the D.O.E. deemed inefficient — and growing
the school out in the Foundling Hospital site as a Chelsea and Village-zoned school. While P.S. 150 is a “choice school,” it gives enrollment preference to Lower Manhattan students. The school also has a strong connection to Tribeca, with the entire school singing onstage during the Tribeca Film Festival and partnering with P.S. 234 and local restaurants for “Taste of Tribeca” to raise money for arts programs. At this year’s “Taste” in May, P.S. 150 students wore hand-painted T-shirts and held up signs in protest.
‘We’re not as optimistic as we have been.’ The D.O.E. postponed its decision on the move until September, when it is set to issue an “educational impact” statement that would move the plan forward. Chapman has said that 80 percent of parents do not want to send their kids to Chelsea, and some kindergarten parents, most of whom live in Lower Manhattan, have already dropped their places at the “choice school” in favor of zoned schools
near where they live. “This fall, if the D.O.E. issues the educational impact statement for us to go to Chelsea, I’m sure the immediate response is that more families will push back into their zoned schools,” said Chapman. One recent D.O.E. move that is seen as positive by the Downtown advocates — finding space in Tribeca’s P.S. 234 for its waitlisted students — also has the effect of making it easier for the city to move P.S. 150 out of the neighborhood. P.S. 150 was going to take a kindergarten class of waitlisted students and had that happened, it would have been more problematic to move the school since it could have forced families who enrolled in their zoned neighborhood school into a “choice” school miles away. “Clearly, [Guzman] is in a bit of a bind,” Paul Hovitz, co-chairperson of C.B. 1’s Youth and Ed Committee, told Downtown Express. “They want to grow that Foundling School all grades at once and the only way to do that is to pull one class per grade into the school. And since they don’t want P.S. 150 to function as it does now [one class per grade], it works well with their plan, on paper at least. They have this, ‘build it and they will come’ mentality, but it doesn’t work in this case.” But Hovitz said that there is “every reason for 150 parents to hope that their kids are going to continue going to school Downtown.”
The D.O.E. has acknowledged a need for 1,000 school seats in Lower Manhattan, and is expected to include an allotment in the city’s capital budget to build a new, large elementary below Canal St. The hope is that P.S. 150 would stay in its current location for the next few years as a temporary space for this new school rather than using its oneclass-per-grade to populate classrooms in the Foundling School. But until the capital budget is approved in November, the D.O.E. will probably not change its official stance, said Hovitz. “Officially, the D.O.E. and the [School Construction Authority] can’t do anything until funding occurs,” said parent Buxton Midyette. “That’s why it is so important that P.S. 150 be considered part of the overcrowding.” A recent letter signed by U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Borough President Scott Stringer, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Councilmember Margaret Chin urged Chancellor Walcott to officially postpone the discussions on moving P.S. 150 until the D.O.E. clarifies its plans to address local elementary school needs. Walcott’s spokesperson, Devon Puglia, wrote in an email “We’re continuing to listen to feedback and ensuring a transparent process, and that’s going to continue as we consider the resiting.”
July 31 - August 13, 2013
A man was robbed in the middle of the afternoon in Soho by seven teenagers, police reported this week. The attack took place on the corner of West Broadway and Prince St. from 4:30 to 4:45 p.m. on Fri., July 26. The victim, 36, told police that he was approached by a young man, between the age of 15 and 17, who grabbed his white iPhone 4S from his hand. The man tried to get it back and was punched in the face by the robber, who was soon joined by six other teens, who also attacked him before fleeing down Prince St., the man said. Police reported that the victim sustained lacerations and bruises to the face and head. A canvass of the area did not yield results and when the man tried to track his lost phone, it was offline. The leader was described as about 5’9”, 150 pounds with his hair in braids.
Police arrested a different suspect for a robbery on Lispenard St. last week. According to the report, Wilfredo Morales, 52, was arrested and charged with robbery when he grabbed $110
from a man’s hand who at about 6:25 a.m. on Tues., July 23. He got into a struggle for the cash with his victim, 57, before fleeing down the street. However, he was caught in short order, and police recovered the money from Morales’ front pocket before cuffing him.
Ex exits train with wallet
A man with an open warrant for a domestic violence stole his ex-girlfriend’s wallet from her while she was on the train Downtown, police reported. Despite a protection order against him, Nicola Landi, 24, according to police, stole his 18-year-old ex’s purse from her, police reported. The woman told police that she was traveling home from Coney Island at 1 a.m. on Wed., July 24 when Landi came up to her on a northbound 2 Train. He tried to engage her in conversation, and then grabbed her purse from the seat next to her and ran off the train into the Park Place station. The woman pursued him up to the exit at Broadway and Park Place, where he removed her wallet and dropped the purse to the ground.
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She said the wallet contained her driver’s permit, insurance card and debit card.
Look out below, for the scurvy villain who stole a bag from the crew’s dining table inside the historic steamship Lilac, docked at Pier 25. The bag was taken sometime between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m., on Sat., July 20, and belonged to the director of the Lilac Preservation Project. She left her bag on the dining room table and returned an hour later to find it missing, with $115 accrued in unauthorized charges on a debit and credit card, and more charges that did not go through, according to police.
Two men were apprehended for thefts while at the Chambers St. subway station. On Tues., July 23, police arrested a 15-year-old for grabbing a $700 iPhone 5 from the hands of a 40-year-old woman who was sitting on a northbound C Train. The woman said that her phone was snatched out of her hands at around 8:25 a.m., and the thief jumped off the train into the Chambers St. station just before the doors closed. He was arrested at 8:45 a.m. on the corner of Church and Fulton Sts. Anthony Boyd, 42, was arrested on Sun., July 28 when he was observed removing the wallet from the pocket of a sleeping passenger on a northbound E train at the Chambers St./World Trade Center station at 6:15 a.m. The victim, 40, got his wallet (with $231 in cash) back after the arrest.
Wall St. on Sun., July 21. When he finished his work out at about 2 p.m., he unlocked his locker and left it unsecured while he went to rinse off. One quick clean up later, his wallet was missing along with his credit cards, several of which had been charged at the Century 21 department store. A different Equinox gym, at 54 Murray St., was the site of locker room larceny on July 20. The 27-year-old victim told police he had closed and locked his unit at 9:50 a.m., but when he returned to it 20 minutes later, the lock was gone and so were his belongings, including a $520 iPad Mini, a $20 backpack, a $40 wallet, $50 iPod shuffle, his credit cards, debit cards, New York ID, two pairs of shoes, a tank top and his keys.
A group of shoplifters with a peculiar penchant for pricey red shorts hit a popular jeans brand location in Soho. An employee, 31, told police that three people, two women and a man who were all about 20 years old, entered the True Religion store at 132 Prince St. and walked out with about $1,300 in merchandise. The e m p l o y e e s a i d t h e s t o r e ’s s u r v e i l lance camera showed the three shoplifters conceal seven pairs of red cargo shorts and leave the store at 5:11 p.m. on Sun., July 21. The video also showed that none of them touched any surfaces in the store, though police did find a cup that one of them had left behind to dust for fingerprints.
— Kaitlyn Meade
Cleaned out while cleaning up
One man lost his wallet when he left his locker unlocked during a quick shower. The victim, 44, said he was working out at the Equinox gym at 14
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July 31 - August 13, 2013
Downtown Express photos by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
Artful play The annual Figment art installation opened on Governors Island in June but the art work, including many pieces designed for children, will be there for the rest of the summer, including a tree house with art pieces, which is back for its third year. The house is made from old doors found on Brooklyn streets. The seesaw piece, “Scratching the Surface,” by Michael Borowski, right, scoops dirt when two people push and pull at either end. T:9.75”
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July 31 - August 13, 2013
City turns toward more Tribeca bike lanes By Cyn t h ia M a g nu s Bicyclist safety, traffic congestion, and expanded transportation options for Tribecans were among Community Board 1 Chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes’ concerns during a morning bike tour of Downtown on July 15. Following a city Department of Transportation presentation about new bike lanes to C.B. 1’s Tribeca Committee on July 10th, this reporter was invited on a twowheeled survey that covered part of the planned route. Hughes said the D.O.T. plan addresses some problem streets that are unsafe now for bicyclists and pedestrians, and she thinks the agency is trying to respond to a community need for more bike routes. The tour also featured parts of the plan that Tribeca Committee members denounced. Hayes Lord, director of D.O.T.’s bicycle program, told C.B. 1 that the agency wants to create new bikeways between Tribeca and Greenwich Village, and provide continuous north/south routes to Union Square. The committee approved most of the plan but rejected the scheme to put a bike lane on the sidewalk along the west border of Albert Capsouto Park. Bicyclists riding south from the Village would travel down West Broadway (many already use Thompson), west on Broome to Varick, then south across Canal past Capsouto Park, down Varick to West Broadway and continue to Warren St. The uptown route would guide riders from Warren up Church St. to Franklin, to Sixth Ave. to West Broadway, to Houston, then LaGuardia Place to Washington Square and beyond. D.O.T. wants to implement the plan sometime in August. “It’s a big change,” committee member Bruce Ehrmann said later. “I don’t think the D.O.T. gave us enough lead time. It’s not atypical of the way D.O.T. has operated under this administration.” Part of the plan will include what Lord called an “enhanced” shared lane on Varick St. from Laight St. to Beach St. Bikers and drivers would use the same space for this stretch. Ehrmann says that there is no viable solution for bike travel on Varick between Canal and Beach Sts. and that, “Beach St. is routed hellaciously between Varick and Avenue of the Americas,” with “tremendous” rush hour traffic. As an alternative to the proposed southbound bike lanes, Ehrmann suggests the “beautiful dedicated routes on the waterfront.” West Broadway from Canal St. to Thomas, says Ehrmann, “is a mess already.” He identifies the junction at Leonard St., Varick St., and West Broadway as one major choke point for traffic in Tribeca. “Now you’re going to add a bike lane,” he said of the D.O.T. plan, “It strikes me as ill advised.” The committee told Lord to come
back with something else regarding Capsouto Park. Named for Tribeca resident, restaurateur, and long-serving C.B. 1 member Albert Capsouto who died in 2010, the park’s sidewalk along Varick St. between Canal and Laight Sts. would be would be shared by pedestrians and riders. Committee member Mark Costello told us, “The fact that Albert’s park is there puts the issue in sharper relief for me, but the basic point is needlessly reducing pedestrian safety. Why not compromise and keep bikes in the very wide street?” Lord had told the committee that the sidewalk has low pedestrian volume, and that bike riders “probably won’t” ride on cobblestone. When a member asked if bicyclists could be asked to ride on it for the one block, Lord said, “Honestly we couldn’t put anything [like paint or bike stamps] on that street because it’s cobblestone, so anything we put will just disappear, so all we could put is a sign and nobody’s going to read that sign.” When the member asked then how a ‘yield to pedestrians’ sign would work, Lord said, “It’s a real challenge.” Though the D.O.T. created an ad specifically against bicyclists riding on sidewalks and posted it around the transit system including the A/C/E subway station at Canal and Thompson, across the street from Capsouto Park, Lord said sharing a 10.5 foot sidewalk is workable. The D.O.T. did not respond to requests for comment about how the agency would deal with the city street light that occupies the sidewalk reducing its width to 5.5 feet at one point. Officials said at the meeting that they would not run the lane on the sidewalk if C.B. 1’s full board voted against it, which it did July 30. While some C.B. 1 members say the plan for southbound bikes will not mitigate traffic congestion, others say it may harm business in an area that has already lost through-streets to pedestrian plazas. Mitch Frohman, a committee member not present on July 10, said, “The people who are driving are not the people who will switch to bicycles.” Frohman, a Tribeca resident and professional musician, sometimes borrows a car to transport instruments. He also says blocked throughways are a problem for emergency vehicles. “The worst part of this ideology is that the elites will still have their vehicles,” said C.B. 1 member Allan Tannenbaum, a photographer who uses his car to transport equipment. “I find that all these things they’re trying to do to Copenhagenize the city interferes with people’s ability to do business.” During our ride, Hughes cited traffic congestion and air quality as critical issues for Downtowners and said the problems are partly caused by commuters who drive just because they can afford to do so.
Image courtesy of NYC Dept. of Transportation
The Dept. of Transportation plans to put an “enhanced shared” bike lane like this one on Varick St. between Laight and Beach Sts. Other parts of Varick will have tradional bike lanes. Below, D.O.T. had suggested a bike lane on this sidewalk adjacent to Capsouto Park.
Downtown Express photo by Cynthia Magnus
As we wove our Citi Bikes south along West Broadway next to moving traffic, we saw idling trucks forced to load next to cars parked in no-parking lanes. Hughes questioned why the vehicles, some government-issue, were parked where it is prohibited. She also recognized traffic-and-construction-caused choke points that other C.B. 1 members worry will be exacerbated by the proposed bikes lanes. She thinks, though, that the D.O.T. plan can help Tribecans handicapped by fewer public transportation options. At Capsouto Park, Hughes suggested the possibility of installing raised mark-
ers along the cobblestone that would not wear away, and alternatively wondered if directing pedestrian traffic through the park might help resolve sidewalk safety issues. “It’s lovely in here,” she said, adding, as we pushed our bikes through the park, that walking through the park was a minor detour from the sidewalk and it might encourage people to enjoy the oasis. She hopes that improving bike ways will encourage more riding and less driving. “See?” said Hughes as we proceeded from Capsouto Park down Varick St. “Riding over cobblestone isn’t so bad.”
July 31 - August 13, 2013
Cleared of assault, ‘Soho wild man’ faces misdemeanor By H e at h e r D u b in Second-degree assault charges are no longer on the table for Richard Pearson, a mentally ill man accused of waging a reign of terror on the streets of Soho by verbally and physically harassing residents and merchants. After two grand juries failed to indict Pearson on assault, the prosecution opted not to pursue a third presentation to a grand jury, and informed Judge Charles Solomon of this in State Supreme Court on July 19. Both grand juries have indicted Pearson for possession of a narcotic, a misdemeanor. He was arraigned in State Supreme Court on July 12 for possession of cocaine and his next court date is Sept. 4. Pearson, 48, has been dubbed the “Soho Wild Man” by some community members who have experienced his erratic and frightening behavior. He had been charged with seconddegree assault, a felony, for allegedly throwing a brick at a person’s head on May 17. He entered the courtroom July 12 wearing a white T-shirt, and his hair had been shaved off. Once Pearson, 6 foot 5 inches tall and 240 pounds, was seated at a table next to his attorney, Alex Grosshtern, three officers moved in to stand close behind him. “At least for now, there are no additional changes,” said Solomon. Grosshtern appealed for Pearson’s release from jail. “This is a misdemeanor, an ordinary crime — minus all the hoopla around this case,” he said. “The time he’s had in, almost two months, would generally be time served.” Assistant District Attorney James Zaleta countered by referring to Pearson’s character and criminal history, which includes six convictions. “He has no fixed address, and his mental issue is an issue,” Zaleta added. Additionally, the recommended jail time for a misdemeanor, Zaleta argued, is one year. Solomon reduced bail from $7,500 bond to $5,000 bond, or as an alternative, $5,000 cash to $3,500 cash. “The D.A.’s Office has finally given up on pressing felony charges,” Grosshtern said. “After unjustified repeated attempts by the D.A.’s Office to indict, it is now clear that the evidence was always insufficient.” Speculating as to why two grand juries did not indict on the assault charges, the attorney said, “There may have been a credibility issue with the witness, which Pearson has been saying all along.” Unable to divulge the facts, since grand jury proceedings are secret, Grosshtern merely said of the witness, “According to my client, it is also someone without a permanent address.” Pearson, who nodded his head at certain points during the case, was decidedly calmer than his previous court appearance a week before. Grosshtern acknowledged the court cannot mandate medi-
Photo by Jefferson Siegel
Richard Pearson at an appearance in State Supreme Court last month.
cines, but, he said, “Maybe on Riker’s they could be sustaining him and put him on something.” Five people had turned out for Pearson’s July 12 court date, but only two members of the Spring St. community were present in the courtroom on July 19. “The word ‘hoopla’? I found it quite offensive,” said Minerva Durham, owner of Spring Studio, a figure drawing studio. “We have created hoopla around a case because a man has terrorized the neighborhood,” she said. “The way the lawyer is defending this man is to attack us.” Christina Nenov, who lives on Spring St. was extremely upset at the development. “It’s highly alarming that this man may be allowed to come back and torment the community,” she said. Nenov attributed the low turnout to the fact that people in the neighborhood had to be at work. But she said many people had e-mailed her for updates on the case. And 50 people turned out for a Fifth Precinct Community Council meeting in May to express their concerns about Pearson. “There is a false sense of calm right now,” she said. Citing ongoing questions about the Police Department’s CompStat figures — specifically, underreporting of crimes — Nenov spoke about police protocol involving Pearson. She said there is “a very long list of people that have had crimes committed
against them [by Pearson],” but that “90 percent of police in these cases haven’t reported anything on Spring St. They come, and they walk [Pearson] down the street,” she said. Nenov referred to the May community council meeting, where a police officer explained to the public how to ensure a better response. “Get the cop’s name, the badge number, and insist they write the complaint,” the officer advised. Nenov identified the witness to Pearson’s alleged assault as Willie Walker,“ ‘Sunny,’ we call him. He’s a parttime super, he lives Uptown…. “People like him because he’s cheerful, and that’s why his nickname is Sunny.” Nenov said she thought Walker was the person hit with a brick by Pearson, and that his arm had been hurt. “He’s usually working the corner Monday through Friday,” she said. “He’s a very nice man, and I don’t know anything about his background, but whatever it is, no one deserves to be hit with a brick.” At the July 12 hearing, Pearson, who had been shaking his leg and his head during the proceeding, grew more agitated and yelled something. The bailiff got up from his desk and joined the three other officers who were surrounding Pearson. In an even tone, the judge admonished Pearson, and told him he had to behave in court.
“You may not be satisfied with some of the decisions,” he said, “but you have to respect this is a courtroom.” Pearson then yelled obscenities as he was led from the courtroom by the officers, his shouts still audible after the door to a corridor lined with jail cells shut behind them. There was also the sound of something being kicked. “That’s what we have to live with, and he’s on the street,” said Durham, who was present in the courtroom. She recalled one experience with Pearson as she was holding a life-drawing art class outside in Petrosino Square. A clothed male model was posing. Durham said Pearson interrupted the class by urinating on the ground near the model, and also pushed an old man. Durham called police, but said their response time was slow. They didn’t file charges, and no arrest was made. “Police told our model, ‘Touch him [Pearson], and we’ll arrest you,’ ”she said. “He’s terrifying the neighborhood.” Jason Menkes, a Spring St. resident, told of how the panhandlers on Spring St. are scared of Pearson, and that he has seen four officers needed to control him. In a phone interview three weeks ago, Grosshtern defended Pearson to Soho residents. “He’s a sight they’d rather not see,” he said. “It’s a wealthy area. His only crime — he’s poor and a panhandler in a wealthy neighborhood.”
July 31 - August 13, 2013
Liu says city was a lax landlord by the Seaport Continued from page 1
and for giving it preferential treatment. “How sad that we must report that the management of the Seaport by the Economic Development Corporation has badly served the Seaport itself, the city and our taxpayers,” Liu said at a July 25 press conference on the Seaport’s Pier 17. “Especially at a time when retail here is struggling to recover after Superstorm Sandy, it is discouraging to find that the company that the E.D.C. contracted to run this historic area, the Howard Hughes Corporation, has shortchanged the city on its rent.” Liu said that the E.D.C. had not noticed the underpaid rent until his office pointed it out. By the terms of its lease, Hughes is supposed to be paying $3.50 a square foot for its leasehold. Liu said that the Hughes Corporation had understated the amount of square footage it was leasing and that the E.D.C. had never performed its own survey of square footage “so it had no idea that Howard Hughes was shorting it.’ Liu went on to say that he found it even more distressing that in 2010, “E.D.C. went out of its way to help Howard Hughes when the company emerged from bankruptcy.” E.D.C. erased part of Howard Hughes’ debt and modified the lease terms to lower future payments to the city. Patrick Muncie, an E.D.C. spokesperson, said Liu used inaccurate square footage numbers and should not have signed off on the bankruptcy agreement three years ago if he had any problems with it. Liu told Downtown Express Friday that his office typically relies on information provided by the city’ administration’s attorneys, but “that doesn’t mean we don’t then check a few years later to see what actually happened.” He said the idea that there was a miscalculation is ridiculous. “My auditors are pretty decent at math,” he said. “It’s not that difficult to determine how much space is rentable — a tape measure, some basic multiplication and you can find out how much space there is. But
Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
City Comptroller John Liu, flanked by members of his audit staff, at a July 25 press conference outside Pier 17.
E.D.C…. never measured the space.” At the press conference, Liu said “If this is the best and most qualified candidate that the E.D.C. could find to manage the world-famous South Street Seaport, then we might be in trouble.” He was referring to the fact that Howard Hughes is already redeveloping parts of the Seaport with its eye on more of it. “As part of this impending redevelopment, there are significant amounts of revenue that the city and taxpayers should realize from this very important city asset,”
said Liu, “and yet, because of what’s happened these past few years, it shakes our confidence that the city will actually get what it deserves in what it realizes.” Liu, a Democratic candidate for mayor, has recommended that E.D.C. obtain an independent survey to determine the leasable square footage under its management and regularly review Howard Hughes’ financial reports to ensure they are accurate. The comptroller’s office has also recommended that E.D.C. put Howard Hughes on notice that it owes rent and interest and that the failure to pay what it owes within 15 days would constitute default under its lease. “It is now up to the Economic Development Corporation and City Hall to get the money back for the taxpayers,” Liu said. E.D.C.’s Muncie said the bankruptcy agreement precludes it from going after outstanding debt, but Matthew Sweeney, a Liu spokesperson, said “there is no reason why the E.D.C. cannot collect the $1.8 million that Howard Hughes Corporation owes to the city. The E.D.C. didn’t know it was being underpaid in 2010, and wasn’t aware that it was being shortchanged until Comptroller Liu’s audit pointed it out.” The Howard Hughes Corporation responded by saying that it was “extremely
disappointed with today’s announcement by Comptroller Liu in regard to this audit and reject their findings. We have acted in good faith and are confident there is no merit to their report. We look forward to a timely resolution.” The audit takes place in the context of an impending deadline for Hughes to announce its plans for a “mixed-use project” in the Seaport. Based on a letter of intent, it would presumably entail construction of hotels, apartment buildings and additional retail. Save Our Seaport, a coalition of Seaport stakeholders and individuals opposed to this prospect, is lobbying for a moratorium on land use approvals until the issues raised in the comptroller’s report have been resolved. S.O.S. is also proposing that governance of the Seaport should be in the hands of a local development corporation instead of E.D.C. “We were anxiously awaiting this report and it hits all the high points that we’ve been talking about,” said Michael Kramer, a member of the S.O.S. steering committee. “It talks about how E.D.C. has been asleep at the wheel and not adequately monitoring The Howard Hughes Corporation… We need a new form of governance at the South Street Seaport.”
— With reporting by Josh Rogers
July 31 - August 13, 2013
Finally, papers are signed for new 75 Morton school BY L IN CO L N AN D ERSO N Despite a commitment early last year by the city to buy 75 Morton St. for use as a new public school, anxiety among local advocates had been steadily rising when after, more than a year later, the building’s ownership still hadn’t been transferred from the state to the city. Worries began to set in that the shining dream of a new school would turn into nothing more than a sad mirage. But the nervous waiting finally came to an end last week, when, on Fri., July 26, local elected officials announced that a purchase agreement between the state and city finally had been signed, paving the way for the building’s future use as a public school. An ambitious opening date has been set for fall 2015. The city’s plan to purchase the building for use as a school was announced in March 2012 as part of the approval for the Rudin company’s residential redevelopment project at the former St. Vincent’s Hospital site. As City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who brokered the deal, said at the time, a new school was one of the “gets” that was needed for the community. In a joint press release last Friday, Quinn, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, State Sen. Brad Hoylman, Borough President Scott Stringer and
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The announcement comes more than four years after residents and elected officials spearheaded a campaign for creating a new public school in the West Village. The campaign was a result of growing concerns regarding overcrowding
‘I never thought it would take so long.’ — Assemblymember Glick
that the city must complete in order to site a new city facility. The city’s School Construction Authority and New York State reached the agreement over the future of the seven-story commercially zoned West Village building on Morton St., which is now on track to become a new school, delivering much needed additional educational capacity. In terms of the specific type of school use, community discussions have focused on the building being converted into a middle school, with a 600-student total capacity.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 1 & 8, 10:30am-12pm Fellowship Gathering: Job Seekers’ Group Join others seeking to improve and effectively market their job skills. 74 Trinity Pl, 3rd Fl, Room 2 THURSDAY, AUGUST 1 & 8, 6:30pm Fellowship Gathering: Summer Dance Aerobics Stay cool and feel great as you dance away the stress of the day in this low-impact dance aerobics class. 74 Trinity Pl, 2nd Fl, Parlor TUESDAY, AUGUST 6 & 13, 6:30-8:30pm Fellowship Gathering: The Blessing Group Learn how to bless your way through every day and bless others you meet along the way. 74 Trinity Pl, 3rd Fl, Library
and space limitations in many of Lower Manhattan’s schools. The city has come to terms on the $40 million purchase for the Morton St. property, which is currently occupied by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. The building has roughly 177,000 square feet of space, including an auditorium, and has access to elevators. “Each and every child in New York City should be poised to receive an invigorating and rewarding educational experience as they grow,” Quinn said
in a statement. “With the purchase agreement signed and site selection moving forward, we are taking muchneeded steps to reducing overcrowding and bringing much-needed educational capacity to the Village.” As a middle school, the building is likely to enroll students throughout District 2, including neighborhoods like Tribeca and Battery Park City, which have had severe elementary school overcrowding. “I am thrilled that we are one step closer to having a school at 75 Morton St.,” Glick said in a statement. “This contract is a sure sign of the finalization of the state sale, and city purchase, of the building. When I first identified this excess state building as a potential school, I never thought it would take so long [to transfer ownership to the city]. “I have vivid memories of the past five years,” Keen Berger, 75 Morton Task Force chairperson, said in a statement. “It began with parents spotting sites for desperately needed ‘rooms to learn.’ Then Assemblymember Glick spied a ‘for sale’ list — the state had put 75 Morton up for sale. Then years of rallies, many community groups, hundreds of parents, all our local leaders standing united. We all chanted, ‘Just imagine,’ louder and loudContinued on page 14
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Congressmember Jerrold Nadler and advocates hailed the development as a major victory for neighborhood schoolchildren and parents. The city’s Department of Education will now begin the public review process
July 31 - August 13, 2013
Soho shoplifters with eyes for the trendy & the pricey Continued from page 1
guard at Balenciaga. The suspect dropped the merchandise and security was able to recover it, he said. Two days later, Goins was arrested and charged with grand larceny not only for the Balenciaga bag grab but he was also accused of taking a five-fingered discount on a $1,495 Versace purse from the brand’s 160 Mercer St. location. The Soho arrest is only the latest in what security guards in the area have called a police crackdown on shoplifting. Several guards commented that more officers are walking the streets south of Houston as well as contacting stores with video stills and photos of offenders over the past week in response to a summer increase in shoplifters who target designer goods. A First Precinct officer, speaking on background, confirmed the crime spike, noting that the number of larcenies alone increased last week by 58 percent in the first precinct, mostly from incidents in Soho. About 72 percent of this year’s serious crime in the precinct, which covers much of Lower Manhattan up to Houston St., is classified as grand larceny. “It’s getting out of control,” Rosario said during his break outside the 138 Wooster St. boutique. “To be honest with you, [shoplifters] have been here six times in six months. This month, they’ve been here three times.”
Downtown Express photo by Kaitlyn Meade
The Frist Precinct has been cracking down on thieves targeting Soho shops.
Earlier in the month, Balenciaga’s manager reported to police that a woman walked out with a $1,695 black perforated handbag, after distracting the sales associate by asking to see shoes in a different size and then leaving.
“[Police] are trying to fix it, because it has been worse this month, trust me,” Rosario said. At a June 17 meeting between stores’ risk prevention managers and police, the N.Y.P.D. attempted to work with stores on ways to minimize risk, such as moving more valuable items to the back of the store instead of near the doors, putting up surveillance cameras, and hiring security, but received a mixed response, said the officer. Eight managers of Soho boutiques declined to comment for this article as did a few of their corporate offices. Moving more expensive items like handbags to the back of the store is out of the question for brands that are known for their designer purses, despite the fact that they are common targets for shoplifters because they are easy to carry and have a high resell value. “That’s how they make their living,” said Rosario, the security guard. “They steal one bag for $1,500 and resell it for $500. They do that a few weeks in Westchester and then a few weeks in Manhattan, and by the time they come back, you’ve forgotten them.” And until the stores share video of shoplifters among their locations, Rosario says he believes it will keep happening. Installing security cameras and sharing security footage may not prevent shoplifting, but it would provide police with more information after the fact, preventing a situation like the one this week at Anthropologie, where $1,081 worth of women’s shirts went missing from the shelves at 375 West Broadway. Police were unable to get an exact time or description of the theft because the location does not have security cameras and the employee only noticed the missing items during a store inventory on Friday, July 19. Even then, she waited until the next day to call the police. Of course, most designer brands have some form of security team, but some guards said that shoplifters know their hours and aim for the times when they are on break. An
increased security presence might alleviate it, but the question for corporate headquarters is, “Is it worth it?” If hiring security for a year could cost $45,000, said one police officer, and they only lose several thousand-dollar bags per store, the money spent on full-time security does not add up. However, it does make employees safer and prevents losses in higher numbers. Especially when teams hit the store for several thousand, as the chain boutique Kirna Zabete learned last month when thieves made off with a number of bags that added up to a $36,800 retail price tag in one go. Three men entered the location, then at 96 Greene St., and began to take down handbags ranging from $1,800 to $5,600 in retail value. When an employee confronted them, police said that one of the robbers replied, “I have a gun” and pulled a black cellphone from his pocket as though it was a weapon and fled the store with 14 designer bags and into a getaway vehicle. The store has since moved location around the corner to 477 Broome St., and the new security guard, Adrian Fox, did not seem overly worried, since he said he has worked as a club bouncer and hospital security. “Presence is the key in all security. Retail security — that’s all about protecting property and people and still being a deterrent.” Jonathan Adolphe agreed as he stood inside the front door of Chanel at 139 Spring St., opening the door for customers and keeping a wary eye on the floor. “We have five people on the floor at all times, three security guards... Once they find out that a lot of people have eyes on them, they try to back out,” he said. “We’ve had three incidents in the last four days here, but they didn’t get away with the bags. We’re pretty good at making sure our merchandise stays in our store, and not in anyone else’s hands,” he laughed.
July 31 - August 13, 2013
Grand cheers in Chinatown as building reopens BY CL ARISSA-J AN L I M Elected officials and several tenants of 289 Grand St. two weeks ago celebrated the tenants’ return to the building after it was ravaged by a fire in 2010. Joining the tenants were Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Councilmember Margaret Chin and State Sen. Daniel Squadron, as well as Mathew Wambua, commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, representatives of Asian Americans for Equality and other local elected officials, plus members of the local Chinatown community. In a hard-fought legal battle lasting nearly two years, the 289 Grand St. Tenants Association, with the help of AAFE, the H.P.D. legal team and the support of the area’s local politicians, won their case in early 2012 against the building’s landlord, Wong’s Grand Realty Corp. The court ordered the property owner to fully restore all apartments to the tenants by March 1, 2013. It is also significant win for the community in terms of protecting affordable housing. Elected officials at the press conference stressed their dedication to protecting affordable housing. “This victory belongs to the tenants of 289 Grand St.,” Chin said. “Since the devastating fire in 2010, we have fought for their right to return home and rebuild their
lives. Protecting tenants’ rights and affordable housing is of the utmost priority in Chinatown and Lower Manhattan, and I will continue to make sure these voices are heard.” Silver expressed gratitude to AAFE H.P.D. and other officials “for their hard work and advocacy in protecting the rights” of the 289 Grand St. tenants. He pledged to continue in his effort to “preserve and protect affordable housing in Chinatown and throughout Lower Manhattan.” The 2010 fire torched three residential buildings, of which 289 Grand St., despite heavy fire and water damage, emerged in the best shape. The other two buildings, 283 and 285 Grand Sts., sustained such severe damage they were deemed unsalvageable and required demolition. Two hundred people were displaced, 33 injured and an 87-year-old man died in what was deemed one of Chinatown’s worst fires. Property owners declared the repairs needed for 289 Grand St. “economically infeasible” and pushed for razing the residential building. However, H.P.D. and the Department of Buildings inspected and concluded that, despite the damage, the building could be repaired and restored to habitability. H.P.D. lifted the vacate order in April of this year, and all residents of 289 Grand St. returned to their newly renovated, still rentregulated homes.
Downtown Express file photo
289 Grand St. as it looked over a year ago.
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July 31 - August 13, 2013
Is Tribeca pier too alive with sound of music? By Cyn t h ia M a g nu s Music concerts and other events with amplified sound may or may not continue next summer at the Hudson River Park’s Pier 26, depending on whom you ask and where you check. Tribeca residents who live opposite the pier say that recent concerts have rocked their world — and not in a good way. After enduring what they say was intolerable noise from the Pier 26 rock concerts in July, and from earlier Heritage of Pride events in June, Tribeca tenants and community representatives want more input with the Hudson River Park Trust about Pier 26 programming. Some want remaining concerts in the ten-show summer series on the pier to be canceled unless a remedy is found. The Trust has a contract for ten shows with The Bowery Presents production company and cannot cancel scheduled slots or refuse to book open dates, Madelyn Wils, H.R.P.T.’s president and CEO, said in a July 24 interview. Wils said the fee-based concerts are a temporary feature on the pier while the Trust works to develop other amenities there. She said they generate $9,500 per show in lease fees, plus a percentage of the sponsorship sales, and that this helps pay for the park’s free programming. Wils distinguished the pride events from the concert series as ones the Trust did not co-produce, and said H.R.P.T. has yet to evaluate whether the events should return to the pier next year. Heritage of Pride management is more optimistic, though, and is soliciting volunteers for next year’s rally on June 27 at its new “home” Pier 26, according to its website. Diane Lapson, president of the Independence Plaza North tenants association, and a Community Board 1 Quality of Life Committee member said that during the June 30th pride Dance on the Pier, “When Cher was on I heard every word she said — I was able to tell what shape her voice was in.” Angry Tribecans had spoken out at a July 18 C.B. 1 Quality of Life Committee meeting also attended by Heritage of Pride managing director Chris Frederick, and the commander of the First Precinct, Capt. Brendan Timoney. Frederick acknowledged his group should have communicated better with neighbors, but added tearfully that not holding the event would be a “disaster,” because Heritage of Pride could not survive without the ticket revenue. Longtime Independence Plaza resident and community activist Liz Berger (distinct from Downtown Alliance president Liz Berger) told the committee that during the July 17 Specials concert, the walls in her 36th floor Harrison St. home were shaking. She also suggested
the possibility of moving the stage to face west toward the river. Wils, also a Tribeca resident and former C.B.1 chairperson, said she requested the engineer for the band “fun.”, who played on July 22 and 23, to lower the volume to 80 decibels from the allowable 85. She said, “I live in the community, I want people to be happy.” Wils explained that repositioning the stage to face the river is impossible, though, because of egress liability. Philip Brandt, a 200 Chambers St. resident who had attended the July 18 C.B. 1 meeting, disagrees that it’s too late to rework the concert series — “I renegotiate contracts all the time,” said the Royal Bank of Canada financial advisor, now community activist. “This is not the Ten Commandments.” Residents at Independence Plaza said that any reduction in the volume output has not improved conditions. Berger and others signed up for a Dept. of Environmental Protection technician to come take an in-home noise reading during the July 22 concert. A D.E.P. spokesperson said that they were given access to one apartment on July 22 and the decibel level was 70, a permissible level, during the concert. North Moore St. resident Grazia Vita said the D.E.P. technician who came to her 39th floor home on July 22 said the reading during the concert was 76 decibels. She says the July 26 concert was just as disruptive and that the series has become professionally as well as psychologically injurious. An artist with a home studio, Vita, said she was unable to conduct business calls that night. Berger said her experience with the D.E.P. technician was a burden in itself, and she had not been asked if a tech could stay for the entire concert. “It was a giant drag to have him there for four hours.” Berger is also concerned that large scale paid events at Pier 26 will mean limited access to adjacent free areas. Before the meeting started, Wils reminded the committee that the Trust had notified them in April about the series and that the committee had been “game” for trying it. She said, “If it doesn’t work out we won’t do it next year.” Lapson said last week that if the plan had come to the Quality of Life committee it would have been recognized as a potential noise issue. “I think the Tribeca committee looked at it as a cultural event,” she said. “I.P.N. residents have always had a problem with sound.” Wils acknowledged last week that the configuration of the buildings with the river that carries noise presents a “physics question.” A police department spokesperson said a permit is issued to an operator at the allowable 85 decibel output,
Downtown Express photo by Cynthia Magnus
The band fun. performed on Pier 26 July 22.
and that no special vetting is involved because of the location, or acoustic qualities of the setting. Quality of Life committee chairperson Patricia Moore said of the current situation, “If people are disturbed — regardless of the allowable decibel level
— if people cannot come home from work and relax, then something concrete needs to be done.” Moore will meet with Lapson and other stakeholders. Lapson says she is cautiously optimistic about working with H.R.P.T. “I’d like to think we can solve it.”
Trust looks for groups to study the river at Pier 26 Madelyn Wils, president and C.E.O. of the Hudson River Park Trust said last week that plans for the new estuarium on Pier 26 are developing. The Trust will be sending out a request for proposal in the next month to prospective operators of the park’s future wet lab and educational facility. Wils said the goal is to have a premier research institution or consortium of institutions who can provide operating funds come to the pier. “We’ve talked to all of them,” including Cornell, Columbia, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, and the Stevens Institute of Technology,
across the river in Hoboken, Wils said. “Now we’re waiting to see who’s interested.” Included in the recent proposed amendment to the Hudson River Park Act is an allowance for an increase in building size on Pier 26, up to 12,000 square feet. This could help attract one prospective institution whose operators, Wils said, expressed a need for a two-floor structure should they decide to come to Pier 26. Wils said the completion of a twostory estuarium building would be advanced through fundraising, not with Trust capital.
— Cynthia Magnus
July 31 - August 13, 2013
Montague Tubes Closed
No trains running between Court St, Brooklyn and Whitehall St, Manhattan beginning 11:30 PM Friday, August 2, 2013 until October 2014 Weekday Service Monday-Friday, 6 AM to 11:30 PM R service operates in two sections: 1. In Brooklyn only between Bay Ridge-95 St and Court St 2. In Queens and Manhattan only between Forest Hills-71 Av and Whitehall St R customers and B D F N Q customers who transfer to/from the R should consider alternate service on the 2 3 4 5 A and C. Weekend Service Saturday-Sunday, 6 AM to 11:30 PM Operates between Forest Hills-71 Av and Bay Ridge-95 St via the Manhattan Bridge. Six R stations bypassed: City Hall Cortlandt St Rector St Whitehall St-South Ferry Court St Jay St-MetroTech Late Night Service Every Day, 11:30 PM to 6 AM Normal R shuttle between Bay Ridge-95 St and 36 St in Brooklyn. Connect with D N at 36 St. N service rerouted via the Manhattan Bridge with six stations bypassed: City Hall Cortlandt St Rector St Whitehall St-South Ferry Court St Jay St-Metro Tech Stay informed Visit mta.info for planned service change information or to use TripPlanner+. Sign up for free email or text alerts. Look for posters and brochures in stations, or call 511. Follow us:
ÂŠ 2013 Metropolitan Transportation Authority
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July 31 - August 13, 2013
Morton St. school Continued from page 9
er as the years rolled by. Our old vision is not just shimmering; it is real, with a new vision — hundreds of public school children streaming into 75 Morton.” “Not only did the community finally get 75 Morton, we also got all our elected representatives to agree that 75 Morton will be a zoned public middle school — not a charter, and certainly not a private school,” Berger added in an email. “A small — about 60 students — school for children who need self-contained classes, probably autistic children, will be in the building too, with their own teachers, principal and a separate entrance. This is a great victory.” Berger noted the school building needs to contain all the right things to allow students to excel. “We are not finished,” she stressed. “We need science labs and art studios, a large gym and cafeteria, an advanced library and language program, a health clinic and community space. We must find a strong leader and gifted, dedicated teachers. The school should open in fall 2015, far sooner than the usual schedule. Impossible? They said that about buying 75 Morton.”
“This is such wonderful news, but we know that there is still a lot of work to be done,” Shino Tanikawa, president of Community Education Council District 2, said in a statement. “We want to ensure that 75 Morton becomes all that parents, administrators and community members have envisioned — and, especially, that it happens in the timeliest manner possible.”
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Chinatown building manager confesses to $1.5 million fraud A former Chinatown building manager confessed to stealing more than $1.5 million from the business accounts of two of the buildings in his charge, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. announced on Friday. Kee Lin, 43, plead guilty in Manhattan Supreme Court on July 19 to writing unauthorized checks to be cashed or paid to his company AIP Real Estate Service, Inc. and creating fraudulent bank statements to conceal the pay-outs, according to a statement from the Manhattan D.A.’s office. He pleaded guilty to the Class B felony of first degree grand larceny. Lin admitted that he wrote a series of checks between November 2006 to August 2009 while he was the manager for buildings at 128 Mott St. in Little Italy and 11 East Broadway in Chinatown. According to his guilty plea, he would then create false banks statements which he would present to the buildings’ board of directors. He was only discovered after a board member noticed that the statements from Lin did not match those coming from the bank. The dodgy manager reportedly lost a significant amount of the stolen cash to
gambling establishments. He also reportedly started a Chinatown Gamblers Anonymous association in atonement. “This defendant abused that trust by stealing more than a million dollars from two buildings in the heart of Chinatown,” Vance said in a statement. “When large sums of money are stolen from commercial buildings, those costs are often passed down to the buildings’ tenants. Lin’s actions not only jeopardized the financial stability of the buildings, but could have affected the many doctors, dentists, travel agents, and other small business owners who work there every day.” The 128 Mott St. building hosts a large number of doctor’s officers and healthcare professionals as well as other small businesses. The building at 11 East Broadway is home to an HSBC Bank, and offices of dentists, a health insurance agency and lawyers. A representative of the D.A.’s office said that Lin was ordered to pay $750,000 in restitution as part of the proposed sentence, but will not be officially sentenced until October 1, 2013.
— Kaitlyn Meade
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July 31 - August 13, 2013
We Are The Champions! CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL SPONSORS, COACHES AND ESPECIALLY THE PLAYERS OF THE DOWNTOWNLITTLE LEAGUE IN A GREAT SEASON FROM SHELDON SILVER, BRYAN BEARY, JOE DANIELS OF THE 9/11 MEMORIAL, DEBORAH GLICK, JULIE MENIN, MARGARET CHIN, BOB TOWNLEY OF DOWNTOWN DAY CAMP, AND DOWNTOWN EXPRESS
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Julie Menin Former Community Board 1 Chair (Pitcher)
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July 31 - August 13, 2013
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July 31 - August 13, 2013
Battery Park City trees still taking hits from Sandy BY TERESE LO EB K REU Z ER The trees on the Battery Park City esplanade between North and South Coves took a one-two punch this past year — first from Superstorm Sandy last October. Then weakened by Sandy, nine trees — seven lindens on the esplanade and two honey locusts on the Gateway Plaza property occupied by Merchants River House — were blown down by a violent storm on May 11. The Battery Park City Parks Conservancy recently concluded that three trees have died as a result of Sandy and will have to be removed. In addition, it now appears likely that five more linden trees will have to come down because their root systems have been compromised and it would be unsafe to leave them standing. The conservancy will soon hire an arborist to evaluate the situation. “We want to get a formal report on the trees as well as recommendations on how we should prune trees moving forward to alleviate this sort of a risk in the future,” said Eric T. Fleisher, the conservancy’s horticulture director. The conservancy will not be able to replace fallen trees until autumn at the earliest. “Then,” said Fleisher, “if we are putting something back, we should reassess how they’re planted, where in the bed they’re planted and things like that. We’re looking at a different environment now than we were looking at 20 or 30 years ago.” After Sandy, he said “we did everything we could to save the trees. We watered them non-stop for two weeks. We flushed the soil.” About three-quarters of the parkland in Battery Park City was inundated with salt water, Fleisher added. The salinity levels immediately following the storm were more than six times higher than normal. The conservancy’s horticultural department had to wait until spring and summer to see whether the treatment had been effective. The outlook worsened when the trees were assaulted by the May 11 storm or microburst, which narrowly targeted several blocks of the esplanade. Immediately afterward, the conservancy removed most of the fallen trees. “We didn’t take them all away because there’s so much wood there,” said Fleisher. He said the conservancy will contract with an independent firm to finish the job. “We don’t have stump grinders and the kind of equipment that’s going to have to pull that stuff out,“ he said. In the weeks following the microburst, the conservancy identified five linden trees whose roots had been so compromised by the storms that it was deemed prudent to trim the canopies. We had to take the weight off the tops of these trees because we couldn’t risk having them topple over,” said Fleisher. He would not say if the five damaged trees were the same ones the conservancy thinks are likely to come down, and said much more would be known after an arborist evaluates them.
Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
The canopies of a few linden trees on the Battery Park City esplanade were trimmed after damage from Hurricane Sandy and a violent storm in May.
The esplanade trees are around 35 years old. “It’s difficult to say what the expected life would be in an urban environment,” he said. “You’re going to have less life expectancy of a tree in the city because it doesn’t have the same soil volume as it does in a natural landscape,” he explained. He thinks the trees fell over because of the storm damage and not because their root systems were inadequate for normal conditions. In addition to some of the esplanade trees, two willow trees next to the Museum of Jewish Heritage and a dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) at the junction of the esplanade and Third Place (just north of South Cove) have died and will have to be removed. The Metasequoia will be replaced with a Taxodium distichum, whose common name is “bald cypress” or “swamp cypress.” These trees are able to handle excess salt. Taxodium fossils from around 100 million years ago have been found in North America, indicating the hardiness of this species. They were alive during the time of the dinosaurs. Battery Park City was not the only park to be affected by Sandy’s inundation. “At Brooklyn Bridge Park, they lost all their Metasequoias but none of their Taxodiums,” Fleisher observed. Park organizations from as far away as Boston are now working together to come up with best practices. “Besides watering, some folks put gypsum down,” Fleisher said. “Gypsum is actually a salt itself but it will neutralize some of the salt effect in soils. We have done that here in relation to road salt in the past, but it’s not something that we like to do because it compromises the biology of the soil….
“It’s really a great thing. All these public parks are learning from the event.” He said the conservancy will look to
see what adjustments it might have to make now that storms are more violent and more frequent.
July 31 - August 13, 2013
BY TERESE L O EB K REU Z ER
Electrical installation at the Police Memorial postponed:
Superstorm Sandy dumped around nine feet of water into the vault that holds the electrical equipment for the New York City Police Memorial fountain, for the Kowsky Plaza dog run and for the playground known as “Pumpkin Park.” The equipment hasn’t worked since. Recently, the Battery Park City Authority issued an R.F.P. to replace it and got one proposal — from D’Onofrio General Contractors Corp. Its bid of $532,000 for the job was acceptable and the repairs could have started immediately, but they won’t. “So we’re going to do all this just in time for the new hurricane season?” B.P.C.A. chairperson Dennis Mehiel asked Gwen Dawson, who is in charge of asset management for the authority. “I would just feel like a moron if we finish this thing on Oct. 15 and on Nov. 1 we had 12 feet of water.” Board member Martha Gallo suggested that it might be better to wait a couple of months, or possibly until spring. After some discussion, the board determined that that would be an excellent idea. The equipment will be ordered immediately because it takes awhile to obtain, but it won’t be installed until after Nov. 15, when presumably the hurricane season will have passed. In the meantime, there are two important commemorations at the Police Memorial – one on September 11 and one on October 11, when police officers who have died in the line of duty are remembered. Dawson said that all of the stones in the pool at the memorial are currently being cleaned and reset. For the commemorative occasions, the pool will be filled with water, but it will not course along the side of the memorial and flow into the pool as it did before Sandy. Eventually, a new, above-ground vault will be built for the electrical equipment,
but it will take awhile to prepare a site for it and to design it. Besides, Dawson explained, the insurance company would only pay to replace exactly what had been there before, not an improvement. Dawson said that it’s possible that FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] will pick up some of the cost of a new structure. Dawson told the board that the Police Memorial electrical system is not the only storm-vulnerable part of the Battery Park City infrastructure. “There are a number of things we will not be completely ready for in terms of major storm events for a little while,” she said. “It may be months, it may be a number of months. In some cases, it may be closer to a year.”
Funding for Connection bus approved:
Since its inception, the Battery Park City Authority has helped to fund the free Connection shuttle bus service run by the Downtown Alliance. Since 2010, it has been costing the B.P.C.A. $632,000 a year. That funding was questioned at a board meeting earlier in the year, apparently because the New York State Inspector General had cracked down on the authority for making contributions to things not directly associated with its mission, which is “to plan, create, co-ordinate and maintain a balanced community of commercial, residential, retail, and park space within its designated 92-acre site on the lower west side of Manhattan.” The shuttle bus runs daily between the South Street Seaport and Broadway near City Hall and is heavily used by Battery Park City residents. The board has decided to renew its funding for the 2013 calendar year but is tying its allocation to the service rendered. “All funds given to the Alliance must be used for additional bus service,” said Anne Fenton, who introduced the shuttle bus topic at the board of directors meeting on July 30. “Any funds not used for that purpose must be returned to the Battery Park City Authority.” This is the first time that the money has been given with this stipulation. Previously, it had been described as a “contribution” although it was actually a fee for service. It costs approximately $2 million a year
Relatives of David and Jacob Kestenbaum at the opening of “Against the Odds: American Jews & the Rescue of Europe’s Refugees 1933-1941.”
Downtown Express photos by Terese Loeb Kreuzer
The New York City Police Memorial in Battery Park City is being partially repaired, but the Battery Park City Authority board of directors decided not to install the fountain’s new electrical system until after the hurricane season has passed.
to run the shuttle bus service. Chairperson Mehiel wondered how the Downtown Alliance went about selecting the bus vendor and whether there might be another company that would offer an equivalent service for less money. He said that the B.P.C.A. would look into that in the future.
New member of Battery Park City Authority Board:
At the B.P.C.A. board of directors meeting on July 30, Mehiel welcomed Lester Petracca to the board. Petracca is president of Triangle Equities, a real estate company that develops, owns and manages commercial, residential and mixed-use properties in the New York metropolitan area. His company is an outgrowth of a construction company founded by his family in 1916. His nomination to the B.P.C.A. board was approved by the New York State Senate on June 20.
‘Against the Odds’ at the Museum of Jewish Heritage:
At a time when immigration reform is front-page news, an exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City has particular resonance. “Against the Odds: American Jews and the Rescue of Europe’s Refugees, 19331941” tells the story of the Jews who managed to escape from the persecutions that began in Nazi Germany in 1933. “Most countries refused to accept large numbers of Jewish refugees,” the exhibit’s signage says. “Many German Jews hoped to come to the United States, but laws passed by Congress in the 1920s had ended the era of open immigration. The new policy set strict quotas that made no special allowances for refugees. Jews in flight from the Nazi regime reached out to family, friends, and strangers in America, whose sponsorship was essential if they hoped to secure U.S. visas.” By 1941, it was no longer possible to escape. An estimated six million Jews died in the Holocaust. When the exhibit opened, former New York City district attorney Robert Morgenthau introduced it. “There are many here tonight who are related to American Jews who went to great lengths to bring
people to safety from Nazi domination in Europe,” he remarked. Among them were descendants of William Thalhimer, Sr., a department store owner in Richmond, Va. In 1938, he bought a farm called Hyde Farm in Burkeville, Va. and was able to rescue about 36 German-Jewish teenagers who were from an agricultural school in Gross Breesen, Germany — now Poland. “He never spoke about the story to his grandchildren,” said Elizabeth Thalhimer Smartt, one of his great-granddaughters. But she did hear her grandfather talk about it. She thought that her great-grandfather had been disappointed that he hadn’t been able to save more people, but the people he did save have hundreds of descendants. One of them, Nadine Angress, was at the exhibit when it opened. Her father, Werner Thomas Angress, had written a book about his experiences called “Between Fear and Hope.” “It was amazing to connect with his daughter,” Smartt said. Jonathan Alger, the lead designer for the exhibition, said he had worked on it for the better part of a year. “The most challenging thing was to find a physical way to make a history mostly made of documents into something interesting and tangible,” he said. “At this time of history, paperwork could be the difference between life and death for people coming out of Europe.” Among the documents in the exhibit is a letter from Albert Einstein to Eleanor Roosevelt in which he asked that she consider the plight of Jewish refugees from Europe. He entreated her to find some important people with whom to share that information in order to try to change the outcome. Dr. Ruth Westheimer, herself a refugee, said, “What I’m particularly happy about is how many young people there are here, how many families, how many grandchildren. [A lot of people don’t know the stories because] a lot of people never talked about it.,” The exhibit consists of film clips, documents, artifacts and interactive presentations. It will be at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, through the spring of 2014. To comment on Battery Park City Beat or to suggest article ideas, email TereseLoeb10@ gmail.com
July 31 - August 13, 2013
transit sam ALTERNATE SIDE PARKING IS IN EFFECT ALL WEEK Friday is an Accident Alert Day, kicking off the most dangerous month statistically on the road. With summer construction ramping up and lots of families heading out of town, early August sees four of the year’s ten deadliest driving days. I urge drivers to be especially cautious this month: Obey the speed limit, slow down in work zones, don’t drink and drive, and don’t text and drive. The D.O.T.’s Summer Streets program will close Centre St. between the Brooklyn Bridge and Foley Square, and Lafayette St. between Foley Square and Astor Pl. (and Park Ave. all the way up to E. 72nd St.) 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Manhattan-bound traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge will take the F.D.R. Drive or the Park Row South exits. Several crosstown streets will remain open for cars during the event: Chambers, Reade, Worth, Canal, Broome and Houston Sts. Warning: Cars will be towed from Centre, Lafayette and Park starting at 11 p.m. Friday the night before. The Summer Seaport Festival will close Water St. between Fulton and Broad Sts. 12 p.m. noon to 7 p.m. Saturday. The lower Broadway reconstruction project is set to begin on Monday, with crews beginning on the west side of Broadway at Rector St., working northward towards Pine St. in two-block increments. A minimum of one lane will be kept open at all times meaning slow-go all day long. Tribeca closures will be concentrated this week: Franklin St. will close between Hudson and Varick Sts. 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The closure will repeat on the weekends of August 10 and August 17. N. Moore St. will close between Hudson and Greenwich Sts. 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Greenwich St. will close between Franklin and N. Moore Sts. 8 a.m. to
6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Detoured drivers will head to southbound West St. and eastbound Chambers St. All Manhattan-bound lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge will close for 29 hours 12:01 a.m. Sunday through 5 a.m. Monday, as well as 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m. Saturday, and 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday and Tuesday. Inbound traffic will be detoured to the Battery Tunnel and the Manhattan Bridge, which means more cars on West and Canal Sts., respectively. In the Battery Park Underpass, one of two eastbound lanes will close between Route 9A/West St. and the F.D.R. Drive 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. On West St., one lane will be closed in both directions between West Thames and Vesey Sts. 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday nights. Two lanes will be closed in both directions between Canal and W. 14th Sts. 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. Wednesday through Friday nights. From the mailbag: Dear Transit Sam, If my car is parked in front of the white pedestrian line and the front bumper of my car sticks out across the white line but my wheels do not touch or pass the white line, will I still get a summons? Iris, New York Dear Iris, You might. You can park all the way up to the crosswalk, but no part of your car may reach over the crosswalk lines. Now don’t confuse the “Stop Bar,” the white line painted in advance of the crosswalk, with the crosswalk lines. The stop bar has no bearing on parking and you may park atop it. Transit Sam
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July 31 - August 13, 2013
New Pier 42 project hooks people with art, fishing
Downtown Express photos by Tequila Minsky
Beyond Eco Dome: Mary Mattingly, seated above, is creating “Triple Island,” a unique eco exhibit with a geodesic dome-like structure. Outside the dome, free fishing gear and lessons are being provided. The trees in the planters, below, will eventually go to nearby NYCHA complexes, but for now provide shade on the East River waterfront.
By T e q uil a Min s k y With support from a bevy of Lower East Side community organization partners and sponsors, including the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Parks Department, the pop-up park/art installation “Paths to Pier 42” celebrated its summer launch on Sat., July 20. Fluttering flags overhead mark Pier 42, on the East River waterfront, just south of East River Park and the F.D.R. Drive crossover at Corlears Hook Park. The opening of the installations by five artists and architects was coordinated with City of Water Day — events happening along all the boroughs’ waterfront venues, Governors Island and New Jersey’s coast. Braving the blazing sun and snacking on slices provided by Cowboy Pizza, artists and neighborhood residents sat on custom planter benches made from recycled lumber, with the planters containing trees that are on “temporary hold.” Entitled “Tree Grove /Rest Stop,” by Interboro Partners, this installation’s trees are intended as replacements for those lost during Hurricane Sandy in nearby Housing Authority developments. Mary Mattingly’s “Triple Island,” a threepart installation, is the most visually engaging of the lot. The sculpture/environment is a habitat promoting interdependent sharing and living in New York City, an experimental response to increased ecological instability. Some of these works are pretty far-out. Kay Takeda of L.M.C.C. noted of the Pier 42 installation creators, “Part of the artist’s role is to create dialogue and thinking around sustainable living systems.” A funky pull cart from the Lower East Side Ecology Center, laden with fishing poles and related paraphernalia, contained the nec-
essary tools for New Yorkers who wanted a really new experience, at least in the city — learning how to fish. As part of the “catchand-release” fishing clinic, children and adults alike were provided with basic fishing instruction, and practiced casting techniques. Victoria Booth, who is working on an ecological project to track and monitor fish populations, appreciated the offering, since she thought learning to fish should be part of her background. The project’s education director, Daniel Tainow, was on hand for guidance. Also, thanks to the Ecology Center’s “touch tank,” which was on location, visitors could get up close and personal with river dwellers: mud crabs, sponges and oysters. “Paths to Pier 42” is a summer series of events at the small, temporary park and is intended to encourage use of the pier “while it awaits permanent transformation into a new public park over the next several years.” For now, community access and enjoyment are the primary goals, giving a taste of events and activities that will take place once the location is fully redeveloped. Upcoming events include a mask-andpuppet theater performance about the city’s water supply, on Thurs., July 25, from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.; the GOLES SummerFest on Sat., Aug. 3, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; the “Public Space Potluck with the Design Trust for Public Space,” on Thurs., Sept. 12, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., which will give people more information about the project and how to get involved (R.S.V.P. to email@example.com); the Two Bridges Kite Festival, on Sat., Sept. 14, from noon to 4 p.m.; and Waterfront Community Day (the end-of-season event), on Sat., Oct. 12.
July 31 - August 13, 2013
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July 31 - August 13, 2013
Forgive us if we judge, but we liked what we heard
Jennifer Goodstein Publisher EMERITUS
John W. Sutter Editor
Josh Rogers NYC RECONNECTS ASSOCIATE EDITOR
Terese Loeb Kreuzer Arts Editor
Scott Stiffler Reporters
Lincoln Anderson Editorial ASsistant
Sr. V.P. of Sales & Marketing
“Who am I to judge?”
Those simple words said so much. Since Pope Francis became leader of the Catholic Church in March it was clear that unlike his predecessor, he would be a unifying figure with a message to be embraced, not just by Catholics, but also by many people of all faiths and of no faith. The Pope said Monday that he would not judge gay priests who had goodness in their hearts. One such priest who surely would have qualified was Father Mychal Judge, the F.D.N.Y. chaplain who died on 9/11 after he rushed to the collapsing Twin Towers to give spiritual comfort to firefighters and other rescue workers. The Catholic church is one of the world’s most important institutions, and what it says and does has implications far beyond its faithful, which is the reason why we are taking a moment to celebrate the Pope’s most heartening comments.
Perhaps the most significant part of his words are that he uttered the word “gay,” a probable first for any Pope. The Vatican’s hostility toward gays under leaders like Pope Benedict XVI — who called their actions “evil” — does not end with one statement, but it represents important movement. To be clear, there is no reason to think that the Vatican will be ready to fully accept gays this year or even this century, but Pope Francis’ remarks are a clear change in tone and yet another indication that he is part of the best of what the church has to offer the world. His emphasis on aiding the poor helps explain why he drew millions of Catholics during his trip to Brazil. It was only a year ago that the Vatican was chastising the largest group of American nuns,
the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, for spending too much time worrying about the health and well being of the poor. We can’t imagine a similar order coming down under Pope Francis. The church has much to overcome. There’s the pedophilia, the coverups, the flirtation of at least a few with anti-Semitism, and the treatment of gays. But despite these instances of evil, there are also enormous acts of good done in the name of the church — from the saint-like acts of people like Mother Teresa, to the quiet and countless acts of kindness by nuns, priests, educators and others who do it out of their love for Christ and his teachings. The church has so much power to help the world and Pope Francis showed again he wants to do just that.
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Letters to the Editor
Allison Greaker Julius Harrison Gary Lacinski Alex Morris Julio Tumbaco
Good stand on Stand Your Ground
Art / Production Director
To The Editor:
Thank you for your outstanding editorial on the Trayvon Martin killing (editorial July 17 – 30, “The Trayvon verdict”). Your analysis of George Zimmerman’s actions within the larger context of so-called “volunteer” security officers enlisted in too many neighborhoods around the country got to the crux of this case. Reforming these dubious law enforcement activities and overturning existing Stand Your Ground laws in nearly two dozen states is an important effort for justice in our nation. Of all the popular media analyses I’ve read on this tragic and unnecessary killing, yours was uniquely useful in its discussion.
Michael Shirey Graphic Designer
Arnold Rozon Contributors
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Downtown Express photo by Yoon Seo Nam
Restful lunch One worker last week found a peaceful spot not far from the Wall St. bustle near the memorial to veterans of the Vietnam War.
Downtown Express welcomes letters to The Editor. They must include the writer’s first and last name, a phone number for confirmation purposes only, and any affiliation that relates directly to the letter’s subject matter. Letters should be less than 300 words. Downtown Express reserves the right to edit letters for space, clarity, civility or libel reasons. Letters should be emailed to email@example.com or can be mailed to 515 Canal St., New York, NY, 10013.
July 31 - August 13, 2013
Downtown Express photo by Yoon Seo Nam
Flights of fancy The East River and the Downtown Heliport provided a scenic backdrop for this couple last week.
A quieter Occupy came back to Zuccotti
Many dozens of Occupy demonstrators returned to Zuccotti Park July 6. The scene, although sometimes loud, was far from the drama of two years ago when the international Occupy Wall Street movement began in the Lower Manhattan park. Only about 10 uniform and whiteshirted police officers were on hand for the Occupy Town Square event and they mostly observed. In one instance, police apparently tried to remove pamphlets, but protesters sat down on them and yelled, which ended the confrontation. Demonstrators yelled at police a few
other times, but there were no arrests. Katrina Oaks, 27, of Trinity, said she and her fellow protesters have learned something from 2011. “When cops came at you, unfortunately when they were cracking you, we had no choice but to push them off your people,” she said. “So this time we’re trying to be more peaceful with them.” Police on the scene as well as their spokespersons had no comment. Throughout the event, which was planned to go from noon to 8 p.m., Occupy participants sat in a large circle to discuss issues and sing songs, replenishing themselves with organic food. With many fewer demonstrators, arrests and confrontations, there was also dramatically less attention at Zuccotti. Saturday’s event drew no celebrities and there did not appear to be any media presence except for a Downtown Express photographer. Downtown Express photos by Yoon Seo Nam
— Yoon Seo Nam and Josh Rogers
There were no arrests at an Occupy Wall Street event earlier in July.
July 31 - August 13, 2013
BY MAEVE GATELY & SCOTT STIFFLER
Photo by Johnny Ramos
DCTV’s Summer Media Intensive grads screen their films on Aug. 15.
Photo courtesy of Hudson River Park Trust
Big City Fishing is free, and appropriate for ages five and up: Sundays, 1-5pm, on Pier 25 (at N. Moore St.).
BIG FUN ALONG THE HUDSON
There are more than enough events on the banks and piers of the Hudson to keep your little critters active all summer long! The fun begins with Story Pirates, a national organization based in New York and Los Angeles whose teaching artists use student-guided action and improv techniques to create unique and educational stories. Come to Pier 25 on August 12 to see the performers dance, sing and craft a never-before-seen tale. Also on Pier 25, Thursday mornings from 10-11am, River Tots caters to the younger crowd. Bring your toddler (ages two to five) and engage in an hour of hands-on eco-crafts exploration, music and story time led by Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) environmental educators. The CMA Pier Pop Up Art Program provides budding Picassos and Pollocks with an afternoon of guided activities and collaborative projects, inspired by the waterfront and led by educators from the Children’s Museum of Art. For a more mellow end to your evening, head to Pier 46 for Riverflicks for Kids — where every Friday after dusk, families can enjoy free popcorn and an outdoor movie. Upcoming favorites include the zany zoological adventure “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” (Aug. 2) and the creepy-crawly cult classic “Beetlejuice” (Aug. 16). By the time you head home, your little ones will be sleepy, satisfied
and ready for another day by the water! Two days later, they’ll get their chance — with HRPT’s Big City Fishing program. Urban anglers can drop a line on one of four piers — and they don’t need to bring anything other than patience and enthusiasm. HRPT educators will provide formal instruction, rods, reels and bait (and answer questions about technique and maritime ecology as the day goes on). The rule is catch and release, so don’t expect to bring your prize bluefish home for dinner! What you can look forward to is an afternoon spent with your family or fellow anglers, learning the ins and outs of city fishing and watching the ferries go by — until your line gets a bite, and you reel away! Story Pirates happens Mon., Aug. 12, 6:30-7:15pm on Pier 25. River Tots: Thurs., 10-11am on Pier 25 in Tribeca (at N. Moore St.). CMA Pier Pop Up Art Program: Tuesdays and Thursdays 1-4pm on Pier 25. Riverflicks for Kids: Fridays at dusk (usually around 8:30pm) on Pier 46 in Greenwich Village (at Charles St.). Big City Fishing is free, and appropriate for ages five and up. Weather permitting, 1-5pm, Sundays, on Pier 25 in Tribeca (at N. Moore St.), on Pier 63 in Chelsea (at W. 23rd St.) and on Pier 84 in Hell’s Kitchen (at W. 44th St.). Also 1-5pm Tuesdays, on Pier 46 in Greenwich Village (at Charles St.). For more info, visit hudsonriverpark.org.
DOWNTOWN COMMUNITY TELEVISION’S SUMMER MEDIA INTENSIVE SCREENING
own, DCTV offers other free media arts training programs for youth throughout the year (for info, visit dctvny.org/youth/ activities). Over 13,000 New Yorkers walk through DCTV’s doors every year — and past graduates of the Summer Media Intensive have walked away with the drive and experience necessary to have their work selected for exhibition at Sundance, the Asian American International Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival and the Museum of Modern Art. Thurs., Aug. 15, at 6pm. At DCTV (87 Lafayette St., btw. Walker & White Sts.). Free and open to the public. RSVP to Esther Cassidy, at 646-484-4633 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit dctv.org and twitter.com/dctvny.
FringeNYC TO TRUMP ‘SPONGEBOB’ RERUNS
(and the kids at school who bully her for being different). Fri., Aug. 9 at 5pm, Sat. Aug. 10 at 2:30pm, Wed., Aug. 14 at 4pm and Thurs., Aug. 22 at 5:45pm. The Young Olympians and the Most Amazingly Awesome Adventure Ever: Mix the noble quest of “The Goonies” with the wacky hijinks of “ScoobyDoo” — and added lots of audience sing-along opportunities — and you’ve got this all-ages origin story from The Maryland Ensemble Theater. When the gods of Mt. Olympus suddenly develop amnesia, young Hercules, Perseus, Jason and Andromeda go on an epic adventure to find a cure. Along the way, they learn what it really means to be a hero. Mon., Aug. 19 & Wed., Aug. 21 at 5:30pm, Fri., Aug. 23 at 2pm, Sat., Aug. 24 at 3pm and Sun., Aug. 25 at noon. Special $10 FringeJR tickets are available for purchase at the box office (15 minutes prior to curtain) or 24 in advance, at FringeCENTRAL (27 Second Ave., btw. First & Second Sts.). Meet the cast of all three shows, at Fort FringeJR (located at FringeCENTRAL). For Olympians: Sun., Aug. 8, at noon. For Sarazad: Fri., Aug. 9, at 4pm. For Peter Pan: Sun., Aug. 11, at 2:30pm. For more info, visit fringenyc.org.
For the past six weeks, a group of NYC students ages 14-21 have been learning the intricacies of filmmaking, storytelling and digital post-production. On August 15, the graduates of Downtown Community Television Center’s 2013 Summer Media Intensive will premiere their work, in a screening event that’s free and open to the public. The films tackle issues including body image and behavior, the meaning of adulthood, finding identity, the pursuit of dreams, life after college, self-expression through art and the impact of popular culture. If you’re inspired by their work and want to learn how to create films of your
Relax, kids. SpongeBob will still be there in September. So don’t spend the rest of your summer vacation glued to the TV, watching repeats. It just doesn’t make sense — not when North America’s largest multi-arts festival is about to bring some new tricks to the dog days of August? FringeJR will provide plenty of live theater, air conditioning and exclusive meet-thecast opportunities. For the first time in the sprawling festival’s 17-year history, The Theater at the 14th Street Y (344 E. 14th St., btw. First & Second Aves.) will serve as the exclusive home to these three short plays, designed for children ages 5-12: Peter Pan and Stardust Dances: Enter a world of twilight magic, in which J.M. Barrie’s timeless characters (including Peter Pan and Tinkerbelle) meet free-spirited gypsies and floating dancers on circus globes. Sun., Aug. 11 at noon, Mon., Aug. 12 & Sat., Aug. 17 at 4:30pm, Wed., Aug. 14 at 5:45pm and Wed., Aug. 21 at 4pm. Sarazad and the Monster-King: Pirates, robots and a cranky MonsterKing are no match for Sarazad — as the shy nine-year-old girl uses her imagination to confront her fears
July 31 - August 13, 2013
They came from the academic milieu
For some, FringeNYC is an off-campus lab experiment THEATER FringeNYC: THE NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL FRINGE FESTIVAL
August 9-25 185 shows, at 20 Downtown venues Fringe Central: 27 Second Ave. (btw. 1st & 2nd Sts.), open 12-8pm daily Tickets: $15 in advance, $18 at the door Call 866-468-7619 Visit fringenyc.org
BY MARTIN DENTON (of nytheatre.com) At the 2001 New York International Fringe Festival, you could have seen the original production of the cult camp musical “Debbie Does Dallas,” one of Clay McLeod Chapman’s early versions of “The Pumpkin Pie Show” or Mike Daisey in his first NYC solo show, “21 Dog Years.” But I think my most vivid memory of that fifth FringeNYC was a piece called “Awaiting Repair in the Eternal Hootenanny,” which was performed by a remarkable and intrepid cast of eight in Henry Street Settlement’s Experimental Theater Space. “Hootenanny” was not a show in any conventional sense. It was, resolutely, thrillingly, an experiment: the product of several months of workshops led by director Julia Lee Barclay, whose objective was to “teach and discover new tools for the creation of a theatrical language based on ever-shifting reality fields, rather than a static interpretation of a given set of circumstances.” From my seat in the audience, it was (I wrote) an exciting adventure into theatrical creativity; a rare and thrilling glimpse of a process-in-process. Very much what a fringe festival is supposed to be about. “Hootenanny” taught me many things, but none so important as the fact that the New York International Fringe Festival is not simply a playground for new and emerging indie theater artists (though of course it is that). FringeNYC is also a laboratory for serious theater creators from the world of academia — an off-campus
Photo by Dixie Sheridan
Walt Whitman guides a repressed young man, in Evergreen Valley College teacher Kristian O’Hare’s “Like Poetry.”
place where they can put work on its feet and then share their ideas and discoveries with a likeminded group of artists. Barclay has since gone on to earn her Ph.D., doing work that was rooted in the experiments of that FringeNYC show a dozen years ago. She’s just one of hundreds of FringeNYC artists whose careers are based in colleges and universities. As we head into the 17th annual edition of FringeNYC, I thought it might be fun to explore the festival from this angle, previewing some of the shows in this year’s festival that come from the academic milieu. A FUTURE IMPERFECT, by William S.E. Coleman, imagines an oppressive government that regulates human contact. Coleman was a professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. The play is actually directed by a former student of his, Allison Moody. Coleman recently told Chelsea Now’s content partner, nytheatre. com, “Contemporary theatre veers between the Brecht-Artaud polarities; but some theatre artists are able to combine them into one coherent event. “A Future Imperfect” was designed to realize this aesthetic fusion by moving and entertaining audiences, stimulating thought and discussion about our world and the direction it’s heading.” EX MACHINA comes to FringeNYC from the University of California at San Diego’s Wagner New Play Festival; both
playwright David Jacobi and director Sarah Wansley are students in the MFA theater program there. Here’s the official blurb: “Two smartphone factory drones must learn to coexist while under threat from fascist anti-union politics, drunk guards and a sexy anarchist unfettered by the laws of physics.” Wansley talked to us a bit about the play’s themes: “The problem in this world isn’t the machine, it’s the people behind the machine. What happens when humans have started acting like machines?” GERTRUDE STEIN SAINTS was developed at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama — where 23 collaborators led by director Michelle Sutherland worked to adapt Gertrude Stein’s avant-garde jazz opera “Four Saints in Three Acts” for the 21st century. The music is drawn from exclusively American music genres such as rap, bluegrass, New Orleans jazz, soul, Motown, folk and gospel. Sutherland invokes Stein in her enthusiastic description of this work: “You look ridiculous if you dance. You look ridiculous if you don’t dance. So you might as well dance.” INEXCUSABLE FANTASIES is, according to the FringeNYC program guide, about “Martha Stewart’s marzipan, motorcycles and Panasonic personal massagers…lesbian (in)visibility and the unmistakably erotic powers of Grandma’s Oil of Olay,” Intriguing, yes? It’s the brain-
child of actor/playwright Susan McCully and director Eve Muson — both of whom teach at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Previously seen in Baltimore and at the Prague Fringe Festival, “Inexcusable Fantasies” is the only show at FringeNYC, Muson promises, that features a bronzed Panabrator II Personal Massage Wand. (“The play isn’t especially vulgar but it’s thick with sexual innuendo.”) LANDSCAPE WITH MISSING PERSON: A COMEDY ABOUT FINDING WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE LOOKING FOR is the handsdown winner of the Longest Title Award at this year’s FringeNYC. It’s by John Crutchfield, who has had a long career in academia and currently teaches writing at the Master’s program at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina. In this new drama, a teenage railroad punk helps a strange middle-aged man search for his mysteriously vanished wife. Crutchfield will perform in this play, as he did in his 2009 FringeNYC solo play, “The Songs of Robert.” True story: when I asked Crutchfield if he would like to publish “The Songs of Robert” in my anthology “Plays and Playwrights 2010,” he told me that he had used my first anthology “Plays and Playwrights for the New Millennium” as a required text for a course he taught Continued on page 26
July 31 - August 13, 2013
Academic Achievements, at FringeNYC Continued from page 25
at Appalachia College years before. That book included three scripts from the earliest FringeNYC festivals — proof that the link between academia and the world of FringeNYC is palpable and enduring! LIKE POETRY is by Kristian O’Hare, who teaches at Menlo College and Evergreen Valley College in Northern California. O’Hare cites as influences on his writing “Tennessee Williams, the makers of ‘50s educational films about hygiene and teen sexuality, Joe Orton, Arthur Russell, Suzan-Lori Parks, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, PJ Harvey, Larry Kramer, Nan Goldin and, obviously, Walt Whitman, who literally creeps into my play to offer guidance to a repressed young man.” OCCUPY OLYMPUS: BASED ON ‘PLUTUS, GOD OF WEALTH’ is directed by George Drance, a theater professor at Fordham University, and features an original score by Elizabeth Swados. As the title suggests, the show puts a very contemporary spin on a 2,500-year-old comedy by Aristophanes. Drance is a longtime veteran of the indie/experimental theater
Photo by Jordan Harrison
A collaborative effect, at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama: Michelle Sutherland led 23 others, to create “Gertrude Stein Saints.”
scene in NYC, where he’s worked with collaborators as diverse as Ellen Stewart, Ping Chong and Dario D’Ambrosi — and has created many inventive works of physical theater with his company, Magis Theatre.
STRANGE RAIN is described as “a noir journey of conspiracy about a relentless rain and its link to the 1950s and a scientist building weather-control machines.”
Its author is Lynda Crawford, who teaches theater at SUNY Empire State College in Greenwich Village (her show is running Continued on page 28
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July 31 - August 13, 2013
Shopping for answers, before the world ends Reverend Billy connects local dots to global concerns BOOKS THE END OF THE WORLD
By Reverend Billy EBook: $7 Print: $12 Published by OR Books Visit orbooks.com and revbilly.com
BY SCOTT STIFFLER You’re halfway home to making a sale if your book jacket delivers a compelling promise of things to come — and boy, does Revered Billy nail it. But is it too late to for salvation, even if you buy the message? With his shiny white polyester suit,
windswept pompadour hair, stiff cleric’s collar, bugged-out eyes and mouth agape, the guy on the cover seems to be mortified by the sight of gathering storm clouds. It’s a knowing, almost burlesque version of the hand-in-the-cookie-jar look a toddler gives you when he’s about to pay the price for some very naughty and destructive behavior. Hey, even two-year-olds know it’s wrong to do something they’ve been warned about time and time again — so when the oceans swell, the cities flood and the last rebooted Twinkie has disappeared from store shelves, don’t say you didn’t read about it here first. With “The End of the World,” Reverend Billy has crafted his own Book of Revelation. At just over 100 pages, it’s full of ominous warnings that make the consequences of Superstorm Sandy look like an anemic prelude to what’s just around the corner. It’s an incredibly fun and breezy read, which is quite an achievement considering the grim subject matter — a gloomy forecast, to be sure…but at least it won’t affect your purchasing power. In Monday morning quarterbacking mode, the good man of the cloth recalls, “It was a distraction, as the End of the World
approached, that there were still such great sales…The accelerating Apocalypse got us hot. The really bad disasters were on Pay-Per-View. What didn’t kill us made us watch.” And with that, the nature-loving Wisconsin lad, born Billy Talen, makes the not-so-great leap from bullhorn street crusader to bully pulpit author. For the uninitiated, Reverend Billy is a purpose-driven marriage between a revival tent evangelist, a performance artist and a civil yet disobedient activist. With his robed gospel choir in tow, the Church of Stop Shopping first cut their teeth by flash mobbing the 42nd Street Times Square Disney Store, in an attempt to convince the masses to repent their spendthrift ways. Mind you, this was back when there was a Disney store on 42nd, and before “flash mob” entered the lexicon. Now we’re as tired of that fad as we are of the original Tickle Me Elmo. Not to worry. The fickle public will always find a hot new gotta-have thing to do, buy or covet — and Reverend Billy will be there, charting the demise of mom and pop shops, the rise of corporate chain stores and the mallification of Manhattan. With his latest book, though, local causes
Photo courtesy of OR Books
Continued on page 29
July 31 - August 13, 2013
Your 2013 guide to resources in d owntown M anhattan
Out of class but back to school, at FringeNYC
Gateway to Downtown Guide to community, educational, health and recreational resources also featuring interviews with over 20 Comedians from New York City. Distributed in all NYC Community Media indoor locations below 34th Street in Manhattan, as well as select community resource locations.
Photo by Jim Carmody
Factory drones, drunk guards and sexy anarchists collide, in UCSD student David Jacobi’s “Ex Machina.”
Continued from page 26
Directory will be available on all NYC Community Media websites ChelseaNow.com, GayCityNews.com, DowntownExpress.com, TheVillager.com, & EastVillagerNews.com
Sent to 29,000+ of our eNewsletter subscribers iBook version available for iPads
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at the newly christened Lynn Redgrave Theater, just a mile or two to the east). Crawford told me recently that this play began as a dream. “The dream stayed with me,” she says, “and so I had to write it.” Other shows in this year’s festival with academic credentials include “Down the Mountain and Across the Stream” by Wagner College teacher Jake Shore, “The Unfortunates” (whose author Aoise Stratford works at Cornell University) and “Very Bad Words” — written by Jacob Presson, a rising junior at Marymount Manhattan College (Jake’s older brother James won a 2010 FringeNYC award for directing a punk rock adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Richard III”). I am sure I will discover more connections between FringeNYC and the aca-
demic world as the festival progresses, especially at the FringeU special event that my company, Indie Theater Now, is co-hosting (on Tuesday, August 13 at 6:30pm), featuring past FringeNYC participants and other academic voices advocating the use of contemporary dramatic literature in the classroom. The panel will include FringeNYC Producing Artistic Director Elena K. Holy, FringeNYC alumni/professors Omar Sangare, Edward Elefterion, David Dannenfelser, Joe Salvatore and yours truly. It’s moderated by Cate Cammarata of SUNY Stony Brook. Coverage of FringeNYC is already underway at nytheatre.com (which I edit). Interviews with hundreds of artists participating in the festival are online now, and reviews of all 183 shows in FringeNYC will be published daily starting on August 9.
July 31 - August 13, 2013
Shopping for answers, before the world ends Continued from page 27
have given way to a big picture crusade. The author of “What Should I Do If Reverend Billy Is In My Store?” and “What Would Jesus Buy?” has gone global, connecting the dots between the conspicuous consumption he’s long railed against to rising tides, species extinction and “sensual disengagement from others.” All the apocalyptic scenarios described in the book, he asserts, “come from separation” between man and nature, producers and consumers. “The more terrible the End of the World, the clearer the call to look into each other’s eyes and start something. Earth in me recognizes Earth in you. The Earth wants to reunite.” That little sliver of hope comes early on in the book — followed by the bleak prognosis of a June 2012 study, by an international group of 22 natural scientists. Their premise, that Earth is a single ecosystem in rapid decay, is “as grave a warning as I have ever read,” Reverend Billy bemoans. “Yet these natural scientists are so isolated from mainstream culture that no one much noticed it.” It’s especially worth noting, he says, that the study (“Approaching a State Shift in Earth’s Biosphere”) doesn’t even have the usual cushioning “sentence that calms me down” about how we’ve got a little under a century until complete
destruction. “That 80- or 90-year gift,” he reasons, “would give Lena a life.” Lena, his 2-year-old daughter, figures into the first of the book’s three sections. In it, Billy and the kid stand in the doorway of their Prospect Park home, at dusk, surveying the post-Sandy damage as everybody goes about their humbled-by-nature business, after “our city was swallowed by something so dark and huge, with the name of a 50’s teenager.” At least there’s one upside. “We can’t see a single logo from our front door,” Reverend Billy giddily recalls, not clarifying if it’s only because the 24-hour glow of CitiBank and 7-Eleven storefronts were denied juice by that downright inconvenient blackout. Elsewhere in the tome, a definite pattern emerges, in ominously titled chapters like “Apocalypse of the Forests,” “Apocalypse of the Mountaintops” and “Apocalypse by Tornado.” Welcome to the new normal, folks! For some local color, there’s also a flashback chapter to an Occupy Wall Street actions that landed Reverend Billy, Cornel West, Chris Hedges and a dozen others in the clink — following a people’s trial in Zuccotti Park, during which Goldman Sachs was fined $87 billion. The jailbirds were cuffed while presenting the bill to Sach’s “glossy, giant building at 200 West Street, just by Ground Zero and its clouds of tourists.” Later, in the chapter “Ritual
Gratitude and the Robots of Death,” Church of Stop Shopping and Picture the Homeless members transform an ATM lobby into a makeshift Thanksgiving dinner celebration. Along with the guest of honor, a recently evicted casualty of the “Bank of America foreclosure mills,” the group feasts, sings and feels “the honest slowed-down emotions” that “come up in us during our ritual meal.” With such a “devil as Bank of America,” the author beams, “we are able to protest environmental and social justice at one and the same time. The bank that illegally evicts the most people is also among the top investors in Dirty Coal. So the destruction of the family home is equated with the destruction of the large home of Earth.” These two forays into the Church’s street theater work are told with Reverend Billy’s usual wry humor. But if you’ve seen him live, there’s a little something lost in the translation. Missing is that utterly unique delivery and genuine sense of showmanship. Backed by a swooning, swaying hallelujah choir, Reverend Billy’s twangy vocals and sweaty, desperate, end-of-telethon TV preacher pleas are delivered with a mix of satire and sincerity that keeps you guessing. Am I supposed to laugh at this guy or cry at what he’s telling me? A little bit of both, I suspect. No matter. The Billy of the printed page still has plenty of moral
and comedic heft. Whatever’s lost in translation from the stage to the page is more than made up for in one of the final chapters. “Earth Riots” is a crisp little three-page work of sci-fi in which the police are curiously placid as an Earther movement sees refineries on the outskirts of Newark go off-line following “three-pronged attack by bird, fish and forest people,” as thousands of tree people cross the Hudson, “establishing beach-heads along the Westside Highway, planting trees, then disappearing into the Greenwich Village area, apparently taken in by sympathetic local residents.” Traffic jams clog the Bronx Queens Expressway, with families pouring out of their vehicles to take “bird-like positions on the roof or the hood, soaring with their arms in winglike gestures.” By this point, Reverend Billy has slipped the surly bonds of denial and complacency, providing (at least within the realm of fiction) a happy ending where man once again embraces nature without the usual consequences visited upon the Church of Stop Shopping when they cross the line to tell a truth. “No arrests have been reported,” the chapter concludes, “as the BQE continues its conversion to a strange inter-species bio-highway.” Given the alternative, it’s enough to make you stop shopping and start paying attention.
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July 31 - August 13, 2013
Former N.Y. Press editor covers Village, ‘A’ to ‘Z’ By J ERRY TAL L MER Take a letter, any letter… . After all, there are only 26 of them in our language. Take the letter “K,” for instance — “K” as in King Street in Greenwich Village, where one evening six years ago I was knocked down by a car driven by a lively young woman who stopped, dusted me off, spotted a couple of books under my arm, and, this being Greenwich Village, asked me what one single book I liked best to read in all this world. When I said maybe Stendhal’s “The Charterhouse of Parma,” she looked at me strangely. I said: “Oh, well, how about Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ then?” “Now you’re talking!” the girl said. It is early (Page 13) in a superb new book, not of fiction but of fact, an heir of Stendhal in scope, length, complexity, sophistication and human voice, that we learn of the post-Colonial role of South of Houston’s parallel King, Charlton and Van Dam Streets in replacing the golden splendors of Richmond Hill (now Varick Street), where once Abigail Adams reigned supreme and Aaron Burr and John Jacob Astor had built their mansions. All of that was replaced with a fly-speckled “museum” and such 1830s tourist traps (50 cents box seats, 25 cents in “the pit”) as a Richmond Hill Theatre and a Miss Nelson’s Theatre, where Off Off Broadway still has its outposts today. Perpetual story, then and now. … The book, all 624 pages of it (HarperCollins, $29.95), is simply titled “The Village,” with all the rest in the subtitle: “400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues — a History of Greenwich Village,” by John Strausbaugh, former editor of the now defunct weekly New York Press. On the evidence of those 624 pages, Mr. Strausbaugh is a natural writer, i.e., he writes the way he breathes and breathes the way he thinks. You know, the old William Saroyan “breathe in, breathe out,” daring young man on your flying trapeze. Better yet, E.M. Forster’s “Only connect.” Mr. Strausbaugh connects everything to everything across 400 years of U.S. and Greenwich Village history. Reading straight on, for instance, from the bottom of Page 13 to the top of Page 14, we’re reminded of the neon sign on an aged town house at 39 Grove Street proclaiming it the locale of Marie’s Crisis Café, a hiddenaway piano bar in the basement where this observer many years ago first laid eyes on entertainer Mark Nadler ripping the joint and the piano apart a la Jimmy Durante. Well, I’ve been vaguely aware of that neon sign and Marie’s Crisis Café for — what? — sixty-something years? — but I never knew till I read it on Pages 13 and 14 of Mr. Strausbaugh’s masterwork that one of this country’s (and my own) greatest heroes, Thomas Paine, “didn’t do much in the Village except die there,” at this very spot, unloved, unsung, unwanted, on June 8, 1809, despised as an atheist who defiantly proclaimed: “My own mind is my own church.” The “Crisis” in that neon sign is for Tom Paine’s battle-cry pamphlet, “The American Crisis,” and its “These are the times that try men’s souls,” eight gleaming words that, 165
years later, carried one future Greenwich Villager all the way through World War II. The Marie in the sign is for Marie Dumont, the original proprietor of Marie’s Crisis Café. The index alone of Mr. Straussbaugh’s opus is a masterwork of another sort, 30 pages of tiny type adding up, if my arithmetic is correct, to some nearly 3,000 entries, from “Abbey Players (Dublin),” Page 108, to “Zoo Story, The (play),” Pages 356-357. Let us revert to the letter “K” and pick out a just few of its indexed highlights of interaction with Greenwich Village. “Kaddish,” the wrenching poem by Allen Ginsberg mourning the death of his mother. Kaposi’s sarcoma, an AIDS-related cancer. Kaprow, Allan, creator of “happenings.”
“Lenny Bruce and” to “On the Road” to “The Town and the City.” Kettle of Fish, watering hole and hangout on Christopher Street. Kiesler, Frederick, architect, artist, theatrical designer Kilgallen, Dorothy, gossip columnist. King, Martin Luther, Jr., civil-rights leader. “King Kong,” motion picture. Kingston Trio, song group. Kirkland, Sally, actress. Kitchen, The, culture gallery. Kitt, Eartha, actress/singer. Kluver, Billy, artist.
Karp, Ivan, pioneer Soho gallery owner.
Koch, Ed, mayor.
Kaufman, Murray (“Murray the K”), disc jockey.
Koch, Kenneth, playwright.
Kennedy, John F., president. Kennedy, Robert, senator, attorney general. “Kennedy’s Children,” a play by Robert Patrick.
Kornfeld, Lawrence, director. Kramer, Larry, playwright. Krasner, Lee, painter. Krassner, Paul, satirist.
Kent State shootings (1969).
Krim, Seymour, writer.
Kern, Jerome, songwriter. Kerouac, Jack, a dozen entries from
Kubrick, Stanley, moviemaker. Kupferberg, Tuli, musician of The Fugs.
That should give you some idea of the range, grasp, and impact of Mr. Strausbaugh’s “The Village,” in the lines and between the lines — just for the letter “K.” And much of the history of Greenwich Village starts in the 1600s, way before all the above, with “half-free” blacks given tiny patches of land to protect New Amsterdam’s Dutch settlers from sporadic raids by the displaced Lenape Indians. What is now Washington Square was then and subsequently a potter’s field burial ground for the criminal and impoverished, a military parade ground, and the gallows for executions by hanging (but not from the great, over-credited “Hanging Elm” that still spreads its arms over the northwest corner of the park). Strausbaugh begins this all-embracing story with a loving pen portrait of the now-going-on 83 years young David Amram, composer, conductor, multiinstrumentalist, author, memoirist, actor (“Pull My Daisy”), and keeper of the eternal flame — a Villager to his roots even when not always a resident of Greenwich Village. When we leave Amram, far deeper in the book, he has pulled out a flute and is playing “Amazing Grace” at the May 2012 memorial services at The Cooper Union for Samuel Beckett’s good American friend, lifelong radical Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset. It was one of Rosset’s favorite songs. Much of “The Village” — the book and the place itself — pivots around the concept of Bohemia and its Bohemians, terms invented in 1834 by French journalist Felix Pyat and echoed 15 years later, Strausbaugh tells us, by Henry Murger’s international smash hit “Scenes de la Vie de Boheme.” Everybody his own artist. “Greenwich Village is a state of mind,” as we used to say when creating The Village Voice. Or as Strausbaugh wryly puts it, “With all these new freedoms came another: the freedom to starve.” Two of its greatest exponents: doomed, restless Edgar Allen Poe and “two-fisted,” London-based butterflying James McNeil Whistler. David Amram has been too productive all his life to be tagged “a Bohemian,” though I’m sure he has done his share of starving. So have we all, including, I’m further sure, John Strausbaugh. Let us pray that his tide has now turned. The closing pages of his book dramatize the hatred of warrior playwright Larry Kramer for the rigidly closeted Mayor Ed Koch, two men who frequently had to face one another every morning in the same Eighth Street apartment-house elevator. “Plague had played a significant role in the early nineteenth century,” Strausbaugh writes. “Now another plague” — the H.I.V. that swept like the black death through the 1980s — “contributed to its transformation at the end of the twentieth.” May that be not the end of the story, just one of Greenwich Village’s thousand and one new beginnings.
July 31 - August 13, 2013
DOWNTOWN EXPRESS, JULY 31, 2013