The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933
September 10, 2015 • $1.00 Volume 85 • Number 15
Attorney and police don’t see eye to eye in spy cameras case BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
SPY CAMS continued on p. 10
A tale of two Catholic churches in the East Village, now merged BY MARY REINHOLZ
he Redemptorist priest, resplendent in a bright green cassock, stood outside Most Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic church in the late summer sunlight, greeting the faithful that streamed out of a 10:30 a.m. Spanish-language Mass at his
PHOTO BY Q. SAKAMAKI
n July, Village District Leader Arthur Schwartz made headlines when he turned himself in for arrest at the Sixth Precinct for grand larceny. His alleged crime: taking five small surveillance cameras from a hallway at 95 Christopher St. that had been
installed outside the apartment door of Ruth Berk, a nonagenarian longtime resident for whom he was acting as legal guardian. Schwartz said he was simply trying to stop the landlord’s harassment of the senior chanteuse. A court date was set for
soaring cathedral-like edifice, at 173 E. Third St. between Avenues A and B. The Reverend James Cascione, the parochial vicar and a member of a missionary order that established the parish in 1842 for a then-German Catholic neighborhood, also dispensed blessings on CHURCHES continued on p. 12
Judging by the looks of this officer and dancers at Brooklyn’s West Indian American Day Parade, police-community relations definitely were warm — make that hot! — on Labor Day. See Pages 6 and 7 for more photos.
Garden advocates hoping to nip housing plan in bud BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
s the date looms for the hearing for the city’s application for $6 million in funds to build affordable housing on the Elizabeth St. Garden, members of the green oasis are furiously scrambling to try to head off the project that would destroy their beloved public open space in the heart of the Little Italy / Soho area. Meanwhile, City Councilmember Margaret Chin is continuing to stand stead-
fastly by the plan as a rare opportunity that should not be lost to create affordable housing. But the garden’s supporters counter that the Little Italy and Soho district has only 3 square feet of open space per resident — or .07 acres per 1,000 locals versus the city goal of 2.5 acres — plus that most of this is paved. The funding application was made by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development to the Lower Manhattan
Development Corporation. The L.M.D.C. hearing will be held Thurs., Sept. 17, at Borough of Manhattan Community College’s Fiterman Hall, 245 Greenwich St., between Park Place and Barclay St. (a block north of the World Trade Center), at 4:30 p.m. The money would come out of a pot of $50 million the L.M.D.C. received in a lawsuit settlement over the 2007 fire at the Deutsche Bank GARDEN continued on p. 9
Board backs MC cop helmet cams..................page 3 The Bean and Goliath: A caffeinated tale.......page 4 ’59 flashback: the birth of landmarking.........page 14 La loca Ricky ticket contest!.......page 16
lyn Fare, which also has an outlet in Hell’s Kitchen, the market’s goal is to be “Your 21st-Century Neighborhood Grocer.” Brooklyn Fare, says the site, is “a place that you and your family will come back to again and again for gourmet groceries, deliciously prepared meals and more. A place where you’ll fi nd the prices and processes of a modern-day supermarket, plus the perks and services of an old-school neighborhood grocer.”
GONE GARDEN: We got a tip last week — really, a plea for coverage — from Stephen DePiero, a volunteer gardener at Village View, at 60 First Ave., that the residential complex’s management had informed him they planned to plow under — make that pave over — his garden. According to DePiero, management allowed a rat infestation problem to get out of control, was getting fi nes and, as a result, wanted to take away his backyard piece of paradise. Well, it didn’t take long. Last week the garden was summarily cemented over. Villager reporter Lesley Sussman tried to check it out, but the co-op manager declined to return phone calls and the co-op association president sent an e-mail saying he was on vacation and unavailable.
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THE DOO-NALD: Donald Trump may be continuing to score high in the polls, riding high on a wave of outrageous bluster, putdowns and xenophobia. But at least one local graffi ti artist, Hanksy, thinks The Donald is, well, full of it, as a new mural on Orchard St. just south of Canal St. attests. ANOTHER LOST COS: New York University has just become the latest addition to the list of schools that have distanced themselves from comedian Bill Cosby. The Village university has dropped the Cos’s name from a fi lm workshop for high school students. The Future Film Workshop, a free program, until recently bore the name of the once-popular entertainer, whose reputation has melted faster than a Jell-O pudding pop in the past year after decades of sexual assault allegations against him by dozens of women came to light. “The Future Filmmakers Workshop has removed the Cosby name in light of recent events. The university is not commenting further,” Matt Nagel, an N.Y.U. spokesperson, wrote in an e-mail. According to the school, Cosby supported the workshop early on by staging a series of benefi t concerts in the mid-to-late 1990s. The university’s decision to quietly remove William H. Cosby from the title was fi rst reported by the student-run N.Y.U. Local on Tues., Sept. 1. The online news outlet found that the university’s Web site featured a page for the program until as recently as Aug. 17. It has now been taken down. Among the schools that have offi cially distanced themselves from the disgraced comedian so far are Central State University of Ohio, Temple University in Philadelphia, High Point University in North Carolina and Spelman College in Atlanta, according to The New York Times. YO, BROOKLYN! We hear that the D’Agostino supermarket in The Archive building, at Christopher and Greenwich Sts., is going to be replaced by Brooklyn Fare. According to the Web site of Brook-
AN EL OF A CLIFFHANGER: In an article in last week’s issue about the closing of Charlie Mom Chinese restaurant, the article’s writer, LindaAnn Loschiavo, noted that in 1892, two disgruntled Sixth Ave. landlords sued the Metropolitan Elevated Railway Company, charging it for lost income, as well as the loss of the peaceful enjoyment of their abode, due to the “steam, smoke, cinders and vibrations from the overhead trains.” Some readers might have wondered how the lawsuit turned out. Loschiavo, who is the unoffi cial historian of the Central Village area, tells us: “Mr. and Mrs. Hoops fought in court for years and years. After exhausting every judge at the Jefferson Market Courthouse, they went to the Supreme Court and Appellate Division. Both buildings at Sixth Ave. and 11th St. — where Charlie Mom was — were mentioned in the lawsuit. Testimony came from people who sold and rented Sixth Ave. buildings between Waverly Place to 12th St. — to testify for the railroad or to testify for Maria Hoops. The Hoops lost. Realistically, how could they have won? Every other Sixth Ave. landlord would have followed with their own lawsuit against the El, right?” As for Loschiavo, who is known for her annual Mae West tribute and play at the former courthouse, which is now the Jefferson Market branch library, she said, “I’m saving pictures of all my happy theater cast parties at Charlie Mom.” TIME TO BOOGIE! Speaking of Trump, John Penley, who co-organized last month’s Campout New York Post in Tompkins Square Park to protest the SkyWatch police tower that had been there, is ready to vamoose because of the caustic candidate. “Doing some serious thinking and have pretty much decided that after I attempt to do one more anti-rich real estate developer and housing protest in N.Y.C., I am going to try once again to go back to Playa Zipolite,” Penley recently posted on Facebook. “I think I will be able to afford to leave in Jan. or Feb. and at that time I will shut all this social media stuff down and be an aging beach bum for awhile again. That’s the plan because I am absolutely sick of the U.S.A. Any country that would seriously be considering Donald Trump as its leader is one seriously insane place. I will return for the convention protests but then leave again. I’m 63 and have spent too much time tilting at windmills... . Time to buy a boogie board and hit the surf.” TheVillager.com
Use helmet-cam cops vs. texting drivers: C.B. 2 BY AMY RUSSO
ccording to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, a car traveling at 55 miles per hour can cover the length of a football field in just five seconds, the time it takes to look at a text message. AT&T drew much attention this year on the subject after the release of its powerful texting-while-driving commercial, which depicts a graphic crash and the tagline, “It can wait.” In June, Community Board 2 passed a resolution promoted by its Traffic and Transportation Committee to crack down on distracted driving by suggesting the implementation of a new police program. The initiative would involve a motorcycle unit that looks for drivers on phones and computer tablets and monitors other infractions, as well. However, the inspiration behind this proposal originated a long way from New York. In 2013, the Western Australia Police Department successfully began a trial program to catch distracted drivers in the act by using both uniformed and undercover police on motorcycles, which can easily move in between traffic, especially at opportune times when drivers are sitting at stoplights. According to data cited in C.B. 2’s June resolution, over the course of an eight-hour shift, a member of the W.A.P.D. catches 20 drivers using cell phones or other visual displays while on the road. After just six weeks, the department made a total of $175,600 (in U.S. dollars) from infractions. While discussing the proposal to the New York Police Department, Shirley Secunda, chairperson of C.B. 2’s Traffic and Transportation Committee, stated, “At this point, we have not heard anything from any part of the N.Y.P.D. We sincerely hope we get a response.” Nonetheless, Secunda remains a proponent of the program. “People have become so concerned about the impact of this distracted driving that they want something to
New York State Senator
“Four times in the last two years, I have personally witnessed drivers watching television while driving,” he said. In one video, which he posted on YouTube, he shows how just a quick whisk of his helmet cam can catch a distracted driver in the act (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOjm76LxNE8). Erlbaum has decided to keep riding with the helmet cam, just as a matter of public safety. He believes that motorcycles would be particularly useful in ticketing drivers because they can reach cars, which are too fast to pursue on foot, and can Jesse Erlbaum’s motorcycle helmet with a camera squeeze into tight areas mounted on top of it. For the past two years, he’s between vehicles where been riding with the helmet cam to document driv- police cars can’t. As ers texting and watching monitors while on the road. opposed to Erlbaum’s camera, the Australian be done about it,” she said. cops’ ones are more discreetly mounted Jesse Erlbaum, a public member of on the side of their helmets. the committee, as well as a motorcyclist and volunteer for a motorcycle safety organization, discussed the program with a W.A.P.D. sergeant, including its parameters, resources used, successes and issues. “As a result of this program, car drivers have become more aware of motorcycles,” Erlbaum said the sergeant told him. This translates beyond motorbikes, he explained, noting, “Motorcycles and bicyclists have the same problem — which is drivers don’t see us.” As an experiment, Erlbaum — who is a software engineer — mounted a camera on his helmet and rode around, and reportedly witnessed no shortage of distracted driving.
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While discussing the safety of an officer moving in between traffic on a motorcycle, Erlbaum referenced a Berkeley study published in May 2014, which states that, contrary to what some might believe, lane-splitting is quite safe and is not the cause of most accidents involving motorcycles. As for the lack of response on the idea from the N.Y.P.D., Erlbaum remarked, “I don’t know how open they are to receiving suggestions about their tactics.” While local law enforcement may be reluctant to take suggestions from those not on the force, Erlbaum noted that this is not his idea or the community board’s. “Law enforcement in Western Australia made up this idea,” he said. “The proof is in the numbers.” According to Erlbaum, about 75 percent of all crashes involving a motorcycle are the result of another vehicle failing to yield, which is very much the same for bicyclists and pedestrians. Reducing distracted driving would go a long way toward reducing those numbers, in his view. “The problem is clearly visible to anyone who has the means to see what is going on on the roads,” he said, “which is much more evident from the higher perch of a motorcycle seat.”
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The Bean: The little cafe that could Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association Editorials, First Place, 2014 Overall Design Excellence, First Place, 2013 Best Column, First Place, 2012 Photographic Excellence, First Place, 2011 Spot News Coverage, First Place, 2010 Coverage of Environment, First Place, 2009
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September 10, 2015
he Bean found itself in a David and Goliath story when giant Starbucks muscled the independent favorite out of its home in 2011. But the neighborhood coffee shop fought back. And therein lies a tale. Ike Escava, owner of the original The Bean, at First Ave. and E. Third St., was at the end of his 10-year lease, negotiating with the landlord for an extension. One day, as Ike told it, “Somebody walked in and started measuring. The manager said, ‘Can I help you?’ ‘We’re here for the renovation.’ ‘Which renovation?’ ‘The Starbucks renovation.’” A customer called The New York Times to report that a local shop was getting displaced by a chain. “When Starbucks took over the location we had spent so much time building up,” Escava recalled, “it felt that the roof was caving in. It was scary. I was basically out of business.” Luckily, a childhood friend of his, Sammy Cohen, came to the rescue. A wholesale clothing importer in Bangladesh, Cohen offered to become a working partner and had enough capital. “We’ll open three shops!” Cohen declared. And it came to pass. They were able to open in a new space a block away, at Second Ave. and E. Third St., that was bigger and nicer — and before Starbucks opened in their old space. The new place sports a mural of the original shop by Jim Power, the Mosaic Man. “The amazing part of the whole story,” said Escava, “was we opened up the Broadway shop across from the Strand by the end of August” — two weeks before they were evicted on First Ave. He closed and went to work the next day and saw the same faces. Some people were just coming to show support. “I felt like George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life!’ ” Escava recalled. They opened on Second Ave. in December and then on First Ave. at E. Ninth St. in June 2012. Thus, in under a year, they grew an insulated presence in their neighborhood, the East Village. Escava thinks there’s a story in how supportive the neighborhood is. “When Starbucks took our store, there’s an invisible picket line that people still don’t cross,” he said. “The East Village is unique,” Cohen said. “Customers here are very loyal. They always root for the underdog.” Escava, who described himself as a Sephartic Jew from Brooklyn, has deep roots in the neighborhood. He was previously a partner in a family-owned clothing business on the Lower East Side. But, he said, “The world changed.” He found himself competing with chains. He decided to go into coffee because he loved the product and wanted
PHOTOS BY KATHRYN ADISMAN
BY KATHRYN ADISMAN
A menu showing The Bean’s caffeinated creations, painted sideshow-style by Nicolina.
to do something smaller on his own. “I wasn’t planning to do partners,” Escava admitted. “I’m lucky Sammy came along.” “Being in business with your best friend,” co-owner Cohen concurred, “it all boils down to trust.” In April 2014, the team extended their reach into Williamsburg, where Escava said they’ve been accepted. Typically, they look for a corner space with wraparound windows. Every location features an exposed brick wall, tin ceiling, cushioned benches and outdoor seating. The Bean also prides itself on promoting local artists and being part of the community. With four stores and 60 employees, they might be a chain themselves. However, Escava said, “We consider ourselves a small shop — not cookie-cutter.” Cheyenne, the shift lead at the E. Third St. street shop, agreed, saying, “This is a place about not fitting in.” At the Broadway shop, Jordan, who formerly worked at Starbucks, said the difference is in the drinks and the vibe. Starbucks, he said, is “candy drinks.” The Bean’s signature coffee drinks have names that pun on cultural icons — the NutElla Fitzgerald, “a fine romance”; the Frozen Mona Lisa, “a blended masterpiece”; the Great BamBeano, “a Ruthian blast.” The caffeinated creations’ names are painted on the wall behind the counter like sideshow posters by Nicolina, evoking a vintage East Village vibe. “Contemporary throwback,” was how barista Tanya described it. “The decor is part of the vibe,” explained Andrew, shift lead at the E. Ninth St. shop, who worked at Yaffa cafe on St. Mark’s Place until it closed last October.
Ike Escava, The Bean’s original owner and now co-owner.
“The customers make the store,” he said. Beyond coffee (their house blend is from Gillies, in Brooklyn), The Bean’s menu includes 30 teas, 20 smoothies, an organic juice bar, and vegan, gluten-free and kosher food options. Finding a gluten-free bagel that tastes good isn’t easy, Cohen noted, adding, “We’re very picky.” Escava sees the coffee ritual as an escape. And, ironically, in escaping from Starbucks, The Bean itself sprung to life again, stronger than ever. “Starbucks created this niche,” he said. “Starbucks helped us have a rebirth. They did me the biggest favor of my life!” The score so far: The total number of Starbucks stores in New York City: 283? The Bean: 4. And counting… . TheVillager.com
“Unique even in NYC – and one of my favorite spots, with games, coffee and beer!” RYAN S. – WHO’S AN UNCOMMONLY BIG FAN.
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September 10, 2015
PHOTO BY MILO HESS
Feeling irie on Labor Day at West Indian Parade With festive costumes and floats, golden glitter and paint galore and steel drums beating out a Caribbean beat, the West Indian American Day Parade sashayed down Eastern Parkway on Monday. Mayor de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, greeted paradegoers, this page, below right.The upbeat day, however, was tragically marred earlier that morning, during a Jâ€™ouvert celebration, by the shooting of a top Cuomo administration lawyer. Reportedly caught in the crossfire of a gun battle between rival gangs, Carey Gabay, first deputy counsel for the Empire State Development Corporation, was struck in the head. He was listed in critical condition. At least police-community relations were looking good, judging by the photo of the officer and dancers.
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
PHOTO BY MILO HESS
September 10, 2015
PHOTO BY Q. SAKAMAKI
PHOTO BY MILO HESS
PHOTO BY Q. SAKAMAKI
September 10, 2015
Antiques, Collectibles, Food, Music, & Vintage Clothing
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IFC hopes to double size BY YANNIC RACK
ewer Americans go to the movies every year and thus New York’s independent theaters have been steadily disappearing from the streetscape. But that’s not stopping one cinema in the city from doubling in size. The IFC Center, on Sixth Ave. at W. Third St., recently fi led an alteration application with the Department of Buildings to double the theater’s space by adding a nearly 10,000-square-foot expansion onto the back of the building. The plan would fi ll in a currently vacant lot at 14-16 Cornelia St., which has been owned along with the theater by Midtown-based Friedland Properties since 1985. If approved, the new structure would increase the number of screens from fi ve to 11, though the building wouldn’t get any taller than its current three stories. Right now, the theater’s fi ve screens are split between the fi rst and second fl oors. The D.O.B. fi ling shows that two theaters would be added to the basement level, two to the second fl oor and two to the third fl oor. One of the fi rst-fl oor screens would relocate to the basement, and another one would gain a second-fl oor mezzanine.
The movie theater last made changes in 2009, when it grew from three to fi ve screens. According to reports, talks have been underway with community and city offi cials for the past month, and approval by Community Board 2 and the Board of Standards and Appeals is hoped for by early next year. “IFC Center has spent the past 10 years celebrating fi lmmakers from New York and around the world by showcasing their documentaries, fi ction features and short fi lms for Greenwich Village audiences hungry for the best in contemporary and classic cinema,” John Vanco, the center’s senior vice president, said in a statement. “Expanding our facility is crucially important in allowing us to continue to fi ll a unique and important cultural space in the Downtown arts scene, as well as helping vital works of cinema get launched into broader release.” The Sixth Ave. expansion is not the only good news for local movie buffs. Just last month, it was announced that a new two-screen arthouse movie theater will be opening on the Lower East Side. Called Metrograph, it is set to open in February 2016 at 7 Ludlow St., showing a mix of fi rst-run independent and international movies, as well as repertory fi lms.
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September 10, 2015
Garden advocates hope to nip housing plan in bud GARDEN continued from p. 1
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
building that claimed the lives of two Greenwich Village firefighters. On Sept. 1, Kent Barwick and Jeannine Kiely, chairperson and president, respectively, of Friends of Elizabeth St. Garden, wrote to Joseph Chan, the L.M.D.C. chairperson, urging him to abort the project at the site, whose official address is 21 Spring St. “Because the overwhelming sentiment in our community favors creation of a city park at this location,” they wrote, “this proposal should not be funded because it cannot meet the first mandatory guideline for L.M.D.C. funding, that the proposal has a ‘high level of community interest and support.’ “Furthermore,” they added, “while supporting preservation of Elizabeth St. Garden, Community Board 2 has sought to work with H.P.D. to help preserve an affordable and diverse community, and has identified a site that can provide five times as much housing in a preferable location without destroying a cherished and needed amenity.” They also penned a letter to Vicki Been, the commissioner of H.P.D. “Our local community was not advised of this funding request by H.P.D., no proposal to use this site for housing has ever been publicly reviewed, nor has the specific proposal to be funded been presented to Community Board 2 or even publicly announced or made available to the public in any way,” Barwick and Kiely wrote. “We request that you withdraw this funding allocation and work with Community Board 2 and our local elected officials to assess the best opportunities for affordable housing in the district.” As first reported by The Villager back in May, the alternative location cited by Barwick and Kiely — which was identified by Tobi Bergman, the C.B. 2 chairperson — is another cityowned property, a water-shaft site in Hudson Square. A former open-air parking lot on the east side of Hudson St. between Houston and Clarkson Sts., this property was used as the spot to drill a water shaft to access the new City Water Tunnel No. 3. Unlike the Elizabeth St. Garden, the Hudson Square location is not restricted by the Little Italy Special Zoning, so a project there could be built significantly larger. Not only is the block-long site bigger, but it could be rezoned to allow even more square feet for development, Bergman argues. “It’s a much better space,” Bergman said. “It would allow five times as much affordable housing. It’s close to parks — the Hudson River Park is just a few blocks away — and public
Councilmember Margaret Chin recently spoke at Greenwich House’s senior day program on Washington Square North and mentioned the Elizabeth St. Garden issue.
transportation. And it doesn’t involve a battle with the community. It’s a win-win.” The board chairperson said that the Hudson Square spot could be rezoned to allow a 290-foot-tall building, as opposed to a seven-story one on the garden site. Ideally, it would have a range of affordable housing, he offered. “Why are they so set on that site?” he asked of the Elizabeth St. Garden. “I have no idea. It’s not something that we’ve able to figure out.” On the other hand, he said of the Little Italy location, “You have a site with thousands of supporters — basically, a movement — with hundreds of volunteers.” Chin and the city earmarked the garden for affordable housing as a sort of add-on to the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, or SPURA, plan, after Chin and housing advocates were unable to achieve 100 percent affordable housing at SPURA. The main SPURA plan went through intensive and excruciating community review at C.B. 3. However, C.B. 2 never heard about the Elizabeth St. project until after the site had already been designated for housing. This remains a real sore sport for the community board, which considers the project nothing less than a “stealth plan.” Local residents subsequently realized that the Elizabeth St. open space was actually city-owned property, and not owned by an adjacent gallery, which since 1991 has been leasing it to store monuments and hold weddings. The neighbors mobilized and, working with the gallery owner, who was fully cooperative, soon turned the spot into a thriving and active com-
munity space, as it remains today. Chin has been unyielding in her support for the housing scheme. In a statement this week to The Villager, she said, “I was elected on a platform to provide affordable hous-
ing for the people that desperately need it. Based on that promise, and as chairperson of the Council’s Committee on Aging, I am in full support of the city’s efforts to develop this H.P.D. site to provide up to 100 units of affordable housing, and will work to ensure that the housing at this site is set aside specifically for seniors. Too often, I see elderly people subject to tenant harassment and the threat of eviction. We as a city have a responsibility to our seniors to make sure that they age with dignity in the neighborhoods they helped build.” A Chin spokesperson said that the project is currently slated for affordable housing, and that Chin wants to push for it all to be senior housing. So far, public hearings on the garden’s fate have been totally skewed toward one direction — saving it from destruction and ensuring its survival as permanent open space for the community. A November 2013 hearing on the issue at C.B. 2 drew around 160 local residents in support of the garden. Only a handful of people at that hearing, including a few members of C.B. 2, spoke in favor of the housing project. The community board passed GARDEN continued on p. 26
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Attorney, police don’t see eye to eye on cams case SPY CAMS continued from p. 1
ATTORNEY IS UNWORRIED Schwartz, who is a top labor lawyer and a principal with the law firm Advocates for Justice, is not worried that he will be found guilty of grand larceny. “If I got convicted of grand larceny, sure, I could get disbarred...suspended,” he said. “I’m really not concerned that I’m going to get convicted of intent to steal. And if you just google ‘steal,’ you’ll find ‘without permission to take surreptitiously for one’s own use.’ I was on camera when I took it. I
September 10, 2015
PHOTO BY JEFFERSON SIEGEL
Oct. 15. So what has happened since Schwartz’s arrest? For his part, Schwartz continues to maintain his innocence, saying he did not steal the cameras, not by the definition of the word. Meanwhile, police at the Sixth Precinct assert they followed the law to the letter in arresting him. As for Berk, who recently turned 92, she simply continues to do what she loves best — sing. Meanwhile, radical attorney Ron Kuby told The Villager he considers Schwartz nothing less than his “hero” for taking down the cameras. Not long after removing the spy cams, Schwartz sent them to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Tenant Harassment Unit, hoping to get the attorney general to investigate this case and other related ones. However, in the latest update, Schwartz recently reported that the A.G. has declined to take the case. “Their Tenant Harassment Unit won’t get involved in cases involving one person being harassed,” he explained. “They only want serial harassers.” In turn, the Manhattan district attorney asked the A.G. to turn over the cameras because they are integral to the grand jury proceeding, and the A.G. complied. In addition, a judge scheduled a hearing to evaluate whether Schwartz should be removed as Berk’s guardian due to his arrest, but this was subsequently nixed. “Adult Protective Services visited Ruth as part of that process and gave a glowing report,” Schwartz said. “Ruth gave a performance for her.” Jessica Berk, Ruth’s daughter, who lives with her, said, “The court canceled the hearing on Arthur being guardian. Mom recently celebrated 92 with a beautiful bouquet from the Village Apothecary, sparkling apple cider and a Verizon tablet from Mr. Schwartz — on which she was finally able to watch all her own press.”
(Jessica Berk indicated that she thinks the cameras may have been placed there partly just for her. Schwartz said the landlord also has filed a “nuisance suit” against her. Berk, in turn, has a history with the Sixth Precinct, having sued them at least twice for previous arrests.)
did not take it for my own use.” Jessica Berk videoed him as he took down the pinhole cams, which were mounted behind a sconce with five obvious holes punched in it for the devices to record through. Schwartz himself also filmed removing the cameras as he did it. In addition, the Village activist attorney continues to maintain that the cameras’ value was not $1,000, as the police report states, but closer to $400, which would make it petty larceny, not grand larceny. “Four of them were for $79 on Amazon.com and one of them was $119,” he said.
‘IT WAS HARASSMENT’ He continues to assert that he was simply trying to stop Ruth Berk from being harassed by the landlord. “If someone has a camera pointed at your apartment — actually five cameras — and you complain about it, and they keep doing it, it’s harassment,” he stated. As for how he became Ruth Berk’s guardian in the first place, Schwartz was visiting a former ballerina, a tenant of his, who suffers from serious dementia, at a nursing home. In the next bed was Ruth Berk, who was there based on the intervention of the landlord, who is trying to evict the Berks from their rent-controlled penthouse apartment. It’s a complicated case that also involves Jessica Berk. But Schwartz said he immediately recognized there was clearly no reason for Ruth Berk to be in the nursing home. Subsequently, Ruth Berk sang for a judge in court — belting out “Summertime” and “My Funny Valentine” — convincing the judge she was in her right mind, and was allowed to return home.
TOOK DOWN SPY CAMS As part of the negotiations on the ongoing eviction case, court-ordered repairs, long overdue, were scheduled to be made to the Berks’ apartment in June. It was then that Jessica Berk pointed out the spy cams to Schwartz, and he took them down, leading to his eventual arrest. (Jessica Berk indicated that she thinks the cameras may have been placed there partly just for her. Schwartz said the landlord also has filed a “nuisance suit” against her. Berk, in turn, has a history with the Sixth Precinct, having sued them at least twice for previous arrests.) When Schwartz subsequently turned himself in at the Sixth Precinct, he was handcuffed behind his back and driven down to central booking, where — after waiting four hours with his hands still cuffed — he was released on his own recognizance after being given a return court date.
POLICE: IT’S JUST THEFT Detective Jimmy Alberici, a Sixth Precinct community affairs officer, explained that the precinct “has nothing against Arthur Schwartz.” The police know well that he is a local elected official and important community figure who has been a member of the Hudson River Park Advisory Council, among other things, Alberici said. In short, though, the detective said, police don’t see this as a tenant harassment issue but rather as theft of property. Based on the complaint filed by the building’s managing agent, Sophia Lamas, police initially put the cameras’ value at $4,000, but later “checked it” and lowered it to $1,000, the detective said. That amount, however, is
still the threshold for grand larceny, which is why Schwartz was required to be handcuffed when he was taken down to court. Had the amount been lower, Schwartz could have gotten a desk-appearance ticket, allowing him to come down to court on a set date, not in handcuffs, and not escorted by police. As for being cuffed behind the back, that’s “standard,” Alberici said. Police don’t take arresting someone for something like this lightly, and don’t arrest a person “for nothing,” he assured. As for the cameras, not all five of them were pointed right at the door, he said, but were angled in different directions, with some aimed down the hallway and so forth. Alberici said he has checked the case out with the Police Department’s legal department, and has been told that everything police have done so far is correct. Even if Schwartz himself documented his removing the cameras — and thus didn’t do it surreptitiously — and even if he didn’t keep them for himself, but gave them to the A.G., Alberici said, it doesn’t matter; it’s still stealing. “He took it,” he said. “It was Arthur Schwartz’s decision to take those cameras.” In addition, as to why Schwartz was taken to court in cuffs, Alberici said that Inspector Joseph Simonetti, the precinct’s new commanding officer, didn’t want to give Schwartz “special treatment,” as compared to other defendants. The community affairs officer expects Schwartz will speak on his own behalf before the grand jury on Oct. 15, which, he said, may decide whether or not to indict that same day.
‘WE FOLLOWED THE LAW’ For his part, Inspector Simonetti has been a bit reluctant to comment on the case publicly, since Schwartz has been keeping up a steady drumbeat of “Simonetti Must Go!” in a local monthly publication. The new C.O. only just arrived at the precinct in June. He led the police detail last week in Washington Square Park at the rally against the N.Y.U. 2031 plan and the university’s high tuition. Asked then about the situation with Schwartz, Simonetti responded, “There’s no issue there. We were following police procedure. Our precinct detectives said they were following the law. We followed the law 150 percent.” Brushing off further questions, he said he didn’t want to give a whole interview on the subject. SPY CAMS continued on p. 27 TheVillager.com
POLICE BLOTTER Killed by incensed vendor An argument between a straphanger and an ex-con incense vendor inside the subway station at Essex and Delancey Sts. on Aug. 28, around 10 p.m., led to a brawl that turned fatal. Police responded to the scene and found Alfredo Ramos, 51, of Jersey City on the subway platform with injuries to his head. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital where he died from his injuries. Police subsequently arrested David Green, 57, of the Bronx and charged him with manslaughter in Ramos’s death. The New York Post reported that Green — who had managed to slip away after the deadly fight — served 12 years in prison for a 1982 manslaughter conviction.
Shoe scuffle Police said that on Fri., Sept. 4, at 4 p.m., officers responded to a 911 call of a shoplifter at the DSW shoe store at 40 E. 14th St. Upon arrival, the responding officers were told by store officials that the suspect attempted to take several items from the place. The two officers went to place the suspect under arrest, when he reportedly began to fight with them, with the suspect punching one of the cops in the face. All three continued to struggle, falling into one of the clothing racks. The suspect was able to get to his feet and flee the location in an unknown direction. Both officers were removed to Lenox Hospital, one with bruising to the face and the other with a complaint of pain to the body from falling into the rack. The suspect is described as having short braids and wearing a yellow plaid shirt, brown hat and glasses. Anyone with information is asked to call the New York Police Depart-
ment’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800577-TIPS. Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or texting them to 274637(CRIMES) and then entering TIP577. All tips are confidential.
Tow-truck trouble A car displaying a registration sticker belonging to another vehicle was being confiscated by police shortly after midnight on Fri., Sept. 4, police said. However, a man jumped into the car and got the engine going when a traffic cop brought a tow truck to the scene in front of 242 W. 14th St. The officer tried to detain the man. Multiple officers eventually caught him after a short foot chase. They allegedly found a marijuana joint in his possession and a fake $100 bill inside the car. Teron Battle, 24, was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument.
Called out by cabbie A four-person crew’s plan for taxi thievery went awry just after 4 a.m. on Wed., Sept. 2. A cab picked them up at Seventh Ave. South and Christopher St. One of the passengers quickly snatched the driver’s phone and then put a black object to the 31-year-old man’s right temple. The driver complied with an order to stop the car at the curb. A second perpetrator then patted down the hack, located his wallet and removed $110 cash from it. All four of the perps then fled. The cabbie searched the surrounding area for the four fares-turnedrobbers and found three of them. They accepted his offer to buy back the phone — which the driver then
promptly used to call police. Quantasia Johnson, 18, Curtis Tucket, 19, and a 17-year-old girl were all subsequently arrested and charged with felony robbery. A fourth suspect, Nicholas Lowell, 19, who reportedly wore a wig during the incident, remains at large, police said.
Burgled Jane in vain Some after-hours liquor hunting landed a guy in the slammer on Sat., Sept. 5. A woman, 26, told police that she found a man inside of the closed Jane restaurant, at 100 W. Houston St., around 3:30 a.m. The man was reportedly in possession of three bottles of liquor worth $130. Police arrested Christopher Steele, 31, and charged him with burglary.
grab some merchandise, after which two clerks tried to stop him. The alleged freeloader then allegedly struck one of the employees, 33, in the face with an unknown object causing a bad cut to the side of his lip. The second clerk, 23, was hit with the beer can in the side of his face, resulting in minor injuries. Azariah Brundage, 24, was arrested and charged with felony robbery.
Strangers in the night A burglar was caught in the act in the Village on Sat., Sept. 5. Police said that a 51-year-old man found the crook inside his residence opposite of 805 Greenwich St. around 10:50 p.m. and quickly confronted the man, who fled the premises. The victim followed the perpetrator and alerted police, who joined in the chase. John Pacheco, 50, allegedly resisted arrest once police caught him. He was charged with felony burglary.
A $1 beer became a weapon inside of the Gourmet 157 convenience store, at 157 Christopher St., on Sat., Sept. 5. Police said that a man entered the store at about 8:45 p.m. and tried to
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September 10, 2015
A tale of two Catholic churches, now merged CHURCHES continued from p. 1
PHOTO BY MARY REINHOLZ
former members of the nearby Church of the Nativity, at 44 Second Ave. That humble house of worship was built in 1970 out of brick and cinder blocks and mostly paid for with parishioners’ personal funds after a predecessor sanctuary was demolished in the wake of an electrical fire. Nativity closed Aug. 1 and merged with Most Holy Redeemer, part of a massive downsizing within the Archdiocese of New York that reduced the number of parishes from 368 to 296. Asked about the consolidation of the two East Village churches, which created a new as-yet-unnamed parish amid emotional protests from Nativity attendees torn from their spiritual home, Cascione said it was going pretty well, all things considered. He introduced a reporter to Cristina Tejada, 36, a slim woman from the Dominican Republic, noting she had been at Nativity for 21 years. “I’m one of the few who doesn’t mind” the merger, Tejada, a naturalized citizen and teaching assistant, said later. “Other people are enraged. I don’t know why they are so attached to that building,” she said of Nativity, the now-empty church that is often derided as an eyesore by
Reverend James Cascione and congregants outside Most Holy Redeemer after a recent Sunday Spanish-language Mass.
locals. “It’s beautiful right here,” she said. “It’s a new day.” She noted that the former Nativity parish — created by the archdiocese in the 19th century to serve waves of Irish Catholic immigrants — lost its resident Jesuit pastor in 2007. A year earlier, the church faced closing but fought back with a letter-writing cam-
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paign. The archdiocese responded by attaching Nativity to St. Teresa’s, at 141 Henry St. Most Holy Redeemer acted as an administrator of the church starting in March 2014. “We didn’t have a real pastor after the Jesuits left,” recalled Tejada. She was referring to the religious order known as the Society of Jesus, which had led Nativity since the first part of the 20th century, when it was housed in a Greek-revival sanctuary purchased by the archdiocese from the Second Avenue Presbyterian Church in 1832. “We had diocesan priests coming in from other parishes to say Mass,” she said. “The Redemptorist fathers also helped out. We were like a flock without a shepherd. We didn’t even have an office for years.” She is clearly comfortable in her transition to Most Holy Redeemer, which was built in 1852 with a majestic array of imported stained-glass windows and marble, along with a tower containing eight bells. Yet, Tejada sometimes joins other former Nativity congregants in saying the rosary outside their shuttered church on Sunday mornings. Some say they are fearful that the archdiocese will sell Nativity to developers eyeing the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. “Cardinal Dolan could do that,” mused Claudio Marte, 60, a cab driver for a private service who attended Nativity for 32 years. He was among about a half-dozen other Latinos praying outside Nativity on Sept. 30 and hoping it wouldn’t become luxury condos. Marte described Nativity as having been “all about love” and like a second family, especially for a congregation of about 250 that he said had became largely Hispanic over the years. Dolan, in his Nov. 2 decree, attribut-
ed the Second Ave. church’s closing to a lower attendance, fewer priests and changing demographics. “Dolan talks about demographics,” Marte said. “But for 30 years, we celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, and there would be 700 to 800 people coming to Mass, lined up around the block.” He now attends Mass at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, on 263 Mulberry St, saying it’s near his Lower East Side home. Mercedes Sanchez, 33, a leader in an aborted effort to stop the closure of Nativity, noted in a series of e-mails that Dolan’s decree had been announced at the church, but there was no mention at the time that parishioners had only 10 “useful” days to appeal his decision, a deadline that she and her group missed. Both the archdiocese and the Vatican rejected appeals to keep the church open. Sanchez is now attending Most Holy Redeemer and claims to have moved on. “We didn’t get a chance for a fight, but we’ve accepted our fate and we will help to rebuild the new parish,” she said. “We’re gradually finding our place as lectors and ministers.” In the meantime, Sanchez, a media relations specialist at a New York business college who grew up in the East Village, seeks alternatives for Nativity. Along with others, she is proposing that the archdiocese consider turning part of the church’s rectory into a retreat center and chapel, with services for the homeless, named after the late activist Dorothy Day, co-founder of the anarchist Catholic Worker movement and a prospective candidate for canonization as a saint. Day, who worshiped at Nativity for decades, was 83 when she died in 1980 at Maryhouse, a Catholic Worker residence at 55 E. Third St. Her granddaughter Martha Hennessy, who lives most of the year on a farm in Vermont but stays at Maryhouse when she’s volunteering for the Catholic Worker, said she supports the idea of making Nativity available for the homeless and “providing them with showers and mailboxes.” The Right Reverend Sean McGillicuddy, pastor of Most Holy Redeemer and superior of the Redemptorist order at the church, said on Fri., Aug. 28, that he had just returned from vacation and hadn’t entered into any discussions about what to do with Nativity’s two buildings, which are now the property of the new parish but under the authority of the archdiocese. He said he believes that when the archdiocese listens to the concerns of the parishioners, “I’m sure it will do the CHURCHES continued on p. 24 TheVillager.com
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In ’59, fighting for a New York landmarks law FLASHBACK BY YANNIC RACK
ver the last few weeks, a sweeping bill affecting the landmarking process that is currently wending its way through the City Council has received a flurry of attention, as alarmed preservationists scramble to stop it from becoming law. If the bill is O.K.’d, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, the principal safeguard of New York’s architectural history, would be required to consider any landmarks application within a set time frame. Critics argue this would merely hand over many buildings worth preserving to eager developers since the commission currently has a backlog of 95 buildings, some of which have been on its calendar for decades, and often takes considerably longer than the proposed time frames to consider an application. But not so long ago, the city didn’t have any protections in place for its historic buildings. On Sept. 3, 1959, an article in The Villager tried to
The demolition of the beautiful old Penn Station, above, helped spur the creation of New York City’s Landmarks Law.
bring attention to the area’s preservation needs. “Protection of Greenwich Village’s remaining studios and structures of historic and architectural interest and importance was discussed at an emergency meeting last week in the home of Arnold Henry Bergier, well known sculptor, 131 W. 10th St.,” the article began. Headlined “Emergency Plans to
Protect Village,” the article detailed the assembled activists’ aim to amend the city’s zoning ordinance to restrict density and also require new buildings to conform to the neighborhood’s character and be limited in height. The “picturesque studio house” where the gathering took place was, in fact, itself scheduled to be razed soon to make way for a six-story apartment
building and a parking lot. “It was brought out at the meeting that 19 American cities have such special zoning safeguards for historical and aesthetic values,” the article continued, adding that one architect and city planner who was present was currently working on drafting a similar proposal for New York City. “The meeting also expressed the unanimous opinion that an appeal should be made without delay to Mayor Robert F. Wagner to suspend the granting of further permits for demolition of Village buildings, until a program of protection can be worked out,” the report stated. The whole group likely rejoiced a few years later, in 1965, when the mayor signed the city’s Landmarks Law, which also established the Landmarks Preservation Commission — in response, partly, to outcries over the destruction of Pennsylvania Station in Midtown. Today, there are more than 33,000 individual landmarks in New York City, most of them located in 114 historic districts and 20 historic district extensions in all five boroughs. Whether the commission and its process for considering new landmarks will be overhauled anytime soon, remains to be seen.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Don’t give up the fight! To The Editor: Re “ ‘N.Y. Corporate U.’ is crushing us, critics cry” (news article, Sept. 3): Thanks to N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan for strength and leadership over the years and for organizing the rally, and thanks to the speakers who represented thousands of people. Special thanks to the 200 who stood in the heat
and listened and brought the messages back to the thousands opposed to N.Y.U. 2031. And kudos once again to Terri Cude and CAAAN2031 for leading the foot soldiers every day, in every way. If N.Y.U. had taken advantage of the vast knowledge, expertise, talent and dedication of those willing to work with them, free of charge, to come up with a non-destructive plan years ago, it could have been occupying academic, lab, office and student space, with room to grow, for years now, instead of spending academic money for
lawyers and architects and PR people. The superblocks community of residents, faculty, staff, children, seniors and small businesses has been living with uncertainty and anxiety, without any real contact with the N.Y.U. administration and real estate developer trustees. N.Y.U. has still not answered why it needs to demolish Greenwich Village — the Greenwich Village that has made N.Y.U. a unique location for years. What if Paris tore down its Latin Quarter and the Sorbonne? Stay strong, my friends. Chin and Quinn did us in, but we will fight and we will win! Judith Chazen Walsh
Can’t beat the corp.? To The Editor: Re “ ‘N.Y. Corporate U.’ is crushing us, critics cry” (news article, Sept. 3): It’s staggering that New York University keeps winning versus an entire historic, unique anti-N.Y.U.-expansion neighborhood. Money talks, and overcomes everything else. The corporatocracy has taken over. Cynthia Crane LETTERS continued on p. 16
September 10, 2015
Substitute’s book a valuable lesson on schools RHYMES WITH CRAZY BY LENORE SKENAZY
hat’s it like to be a substitute in the New York City public schools? That’s not what Elizabeth Rose’s new book, “Yo Miz!,” is about. It’s about what it’s like to be a sub at 25 New York City public schools over the course of one year. The songwriter and playwright had been teaching at the same school for 10 years — Vanguard, on E. 68th St. — and loving it. But then came a Department of Education edict regarding about 2,500 “excessed” teachers — teachers not fired, but whose school no longer had a paid position for them. What becomes of a teacher without a school? Rose’s cohort was to be churned through the system: Substituting a week at a time at school, after school, after school. Rumor had it that this was supposed to drive them so crazy, they’d all quit — which is something Rose considered. But then she reconsidered. Outsiders aren’t generally allowed into the schools. Here was her chance. “It was,” she decided, “irresistible.” And so began a year that swung
from inspiring to infuriating on pretty much a weekly basis. Her first placement, Baruch High School, was filled with students eager to study the Code of Hammurabi and what makes for a just punishment. It’s the kind of place most of us wish our kids could go — but only about 450 of the brightest of the bright get in. This deployment was quickly followed by one at an unscreened school on the Lower East Side where Rose was thrown into chemistry class — she’s an art teacher — and threatened with assault. One student had a gang insignia tattooed on his face. Stints followed at the High School of Fashion Industries, a buzzing hive of creativity with students’ handiwork draped on dress mannequins. Then there was a week she spent guarding an unused door in a fetid hall-
way at another school. The principal screamed at her when she requested a bathroom key. From the students to faculty, everyone looked beaten down. There was another week at a high-energy graphic design school where students worked on the latest video-editing equipment. And then came a week at a school in Washington Heights where she was put in charge of the art class. Here the supplies all fit into one cardboard box: a bunch of colored pencils. “They all needed sharpening,” says Rose. And naturally, “Someone had run off with the sharpener.” Someone had also run off with any kind of leadership. Rose learned that she was there only so the school could claim its students had fulfilled their art class credit. “It was a scam.” She took a deep breath and decided it would at least be a week worth remembering. “Take out your pens,” she told the class. “We’re doing self-portraits. What is your most interesting feature? Exaggerate it.” A table full of boys refused. “They said, ‘No, this is whack.’ ” So Rose went to the whiteboard and started drawing them. This enraged the boys. What right did she have? They retaliated by drawing her — and not kindly. But she had the last laugh. They were drawing. The next day Rose brought in some art supplies from home. The next day,
some more. On the last day, however, she brought in Oreos instead, and announced, “Today we’re going to do an art project.” Her assignment? Write on the whiteboard all the things they thought an art class should have. Paper! Paint! Field trips! “We Deserve a Great Art Class!” Rose scrawled at the top of the board. Then she gathered the students in front of the board, backs to the camera for legal purposes, and told them they could make whatever gesture seemed appropriate. It’s a gesture you’ve seen on the highway when you cut somebody off. The photo summed up Rose’s outrage and what she hopes will be ours, too: How can a school of 600 young people have no art supplies in the creative capital of America? How can some kids never go on a field trip when they live just a few subway stops away from one of the greatest art museums in the world? How can some schools have video-editing equipment, or discussions about Hammurabi, and others have dank halls, screaming principals and just one week of art? “Once you meet these kids, you’ll feel how much you want them to have a chance at success,” says Rose. Feeling it. Skenazy is a keynote speaker and author and founder of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids”
How V.I.D. saved Theo Bikel and the von Trapps NOTEBOOK BY CAROL GREITZER
PHOTO COURTESY CAROL GREITZER
heodore (Theo) Bikel, a versatile actor and singer who died July 21 at the age of 91, probably first came to the attention of most Americans when he created the role of Baron von Trapp in the Broadway production of “The Sound of Music,” playing opposite Mary Martin. Bikel was living in Greenwich Village then, and when he became a citizen in 1961, he looked forward to casting his first vote as an American in the September Democratic primary. This was also an exciting time for other Villagers, as well. Democratic “boss” Carmine De Sapio not only was mounting a campaign against the re-election of Mayor Robert Wagner, but he was also being challenged, for the third time, for leadership in the Village by the then-insurgent Village Independent Democrats political club. On primary day afternoon several of us were comparing notes on how the voting was going, when into the clubhouse on W. Fourth St. strode a larger-than-life Theo Bikel, very angry that his local
A committee — enjoying Saul Steinberg’s “The Labyrinth” — while planning a V.I.D. fundraiser at the Village Gate, with Theo Bikel, center, and Villagers, including Carol Greitzer, far left, and Mitch Rein, far right.
polling place had no record of him and would not allow him to vote. “This will be my first vote as a citizen of the United States,” he told us, “and I intend to cast my vote — even if I have to hold tonight’s curtain to do so!”
We were all thrilled at his passion, though, in the spirit of “the show must go on,” such a drastic step proved unnecessary. A member of the club took him to the Board of Elections and straightened matters out. Theo got to vote, the von Trapp family once again escaped the Nazis, Wagner won, we defeated De Sapio, and Theo subsequently joined the club. He participated in numerous activities from launching civil rights initiatives to fundraising. I particularly recall a meeting at his Washington Square Village apartment when he invited Villagers to exchange views with a group of young black leaders of the new Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). They had come up from the South to meet with sympathetic northerners, and V.I.D. frequently demonstrated its support for the civil rights movement. How, one might ask, could a working actor be active in a political club? Easy. The club met Mondays — a night when the theaters were usually dark. We were, of course, sorry when marriage, babies and his career — like touring as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” — took Theo away from New York. But we enjoyed the many character roles he created in such films as “My Fair Lady,” “The African Queen,” “The Russians are Coming” and “The Defiant Ones.” September 10, 2015
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR LETTERS continued from p. 14
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September 10, 2015
To The Editor: Re “Couldn’t be saved” (Scoopy’s Notebook, Sept. 3): Idrissa Camara, the security guard at the federal building on Hudson St. who was so brutally gunned down by a madman, was taken to the Lenox Health Greenwich Village stand-alone emergency department, between 12th and 13th Sts. on Seventh Ave. The Villager reports that the executive director of Lenox Health said efforts were made in the ambulance and at the E.D. to save this man’s life, or at least stabilize him so that he could be sent to a hospital trauma center that was farther away. He was deemed “too unstable” to have survived being taken directly to a more distant trauma center: Bellevue Hospital, with a level-one trauma center, is at 27th St. and First Ave. Tragically, all efforts were for naught and Mr. Camara died at Lenox Health. Dial back to early 2010, and there would have been a fully functioning level-one trauma center across the street from Lenox Health. If Mr. Camara could have been saved, St. Vincent’s Hospital would have been ready to try. Lenox Health was created as a consolation for the enraged and sorrowful West Village community residents who lost their beloved hospital, so that Bill Rudin, a mega-rich developer, could build a whole lot of totally unaffordable, unneeded and unwanted luxury residences on the former hospital site, further gentrifying the neighborhood, driving up local prices and causing numerous neighborhood businesses to close. It’s a fine facility, but it’s no substitute for a hospital. St. Vincent’s, ludicrously mismanaged by the uncaring people at the top, folded with $1 billion in debt, though many devoted staff members tried to keep it going, like the crewmen on the Titanic. Local politicians bemoaned the loss and then mysteriously all fell silent. People are really dying this way. Carol F. Yost
Grr! Commercial noise! To The Editor: Saturday afternoon I headed for Tompkins Square Park — where I rarely go, because it is so noisy. And sure enough, there was dreadful noise pervading the whole park, produced by JS Telecom, where the band shell used to be. It was music to some and a few people dancing, but noise to me. I talked to a friendly policeman and
Park Enforcement Patrol officer, who suggested I call 311. I asked a few people on the benches how they felt about it. Most just shrugged their shoulders. One couple heartily agreed with me. To me this was just advertising noise for JS Telecom. I was disgusted — and am heading today, Labor Day, for Central Park. Marianne Landre Goldscheider
Not quite to her taste To The Editor: Re “Mrs. Green’s, thanks for schwag, but who are you?” (Notebook, by Michele Herman, Aug. 27): A little northwest Village-centric. ... D’Ag certainly isn’t the “only full-service supermarket” in the Village. And not every Villager is “schlepping to Chelsea for food.” Stacy Walsh Rosenstock
Blameless on homeless To The Editor: Re “Crusty punk whose pit bull terrorized East Village is dead” (news article, Sept. 3): Protest Bloomberg, Giuliani and Trump for creating the massive rise in homelessness on Sun., Nov. 15, at 3 p.m., at Fifth Ave. and E. 79th St. The real cause of the massive rise in homelessness in New York is former Mayor Mike Bloomberg — one of the richest men on the planet — who turned New York over to luxury high-end real estate developers, like Donald Trump and his son-inlaw, Jared Kushner, and was behind runaway gentrification to help his wealthy elite friends and himself. The protest will start at Bloomberg’s mansion, followed by a march to the homes of Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump in New York City, who, in addition to Bloomberg, share the blame for the massive rise in homelessness and are instead saying Mayor Bill de Blasio caused it. Bring your drums and please take the time to invite your Facebook friends. Paul DeRienzo E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 Metrotech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Anonymous letters will not be published. TheVillager.com
Brooklyn’s finest is a West Village survivor The essential Everett Quinton on life, Ludlam, Lutheranism BY DAVID NOH
verett Quinton, an undoubted New York theatrical treasure and character actor extraordinaire, has had quite the busy year. He was wonderfully on point and true to leering form in “Horse Play,” Trav S.D.’s bio of Adah Isaacs Menken, at La MaMa, starring a luminous Molly Pope. Great reviews came his way for a relatively straight, classical role in Red Bull Theater’s “Tis Pity She’s a Whore.” Now he stars in the revival of Erasmus Fenn’s campfest, “Drop Dead Perfect,” recreating his role of Idris Seabright, the doyenne of a Key West estate, dealing with shady characters who are after her fortune and mysterious maybe-love interests materializing out of the blue on her picturesque Gothic estate. Quinton is a longtime neighbor of mine in the West Village, and how well I remember the thrill I’d feel whenever I would see him out strolling with his partner, the late, great playwright and performer Charles Ludlam, whose Ridiculous Theatrical Company was such an integral part of New York cultural life for some three decades. Meeting Quinton at a favorite haunt of ours, the Hudson Diner, I remarked on how wonderfully busy he’s been and he replied, “I just ran into Kathleen Chalfant, and she said, ‘Isn’t it great? They still want us!’” Originally from Brooklyn, Quinton is the second of 12 Irish Catholic-born children: “A friend of mine said, ‘We were poor but didn’t know it.’ Well, we were poor and we knew it! My parents didn’t really know up from down and never encouraged me in my acting. Oh, but I remember for TheVillager.com TheVillager.com
PHOTO BY JOHN QUILTY
L to R: Jason Cruz and Everett Quinton in Erasmus Fenn’s “Drop Dead Perfect,” directed by Joe Brancato.
my first audition for the Gallery Players in Brooklyn, I was living at home and so nervous. My mother gave me a Valium. She died of a heart attack two years before I really started acting and my father died afterwards of cancer. I had just gotten into [Ludlam’s Wagner spoof] ‘Der Ring Gott Farblonjet’ and my name was listed in the cast in the New York Times. I remember taking that to the hospital and showing it to him.” “They were stupid to have twelve kids, not really stupid because I have
my brothers and sisters, after the fact, and it’s fun. But it was a nightmare, not only never enough money but never any joie de vivre, and unfortunately I’ve inherited that. I have joie de vivre, but I have to remind myself that I have it. In that sense, I am my mother’s son, a Sagittarius. I’m pretty introverted. I know a lot of actors who are outgoing. I’m not, maybe only when I’m with my friends.” “I always knew I was gay, but didn’t come out until I was twenty-three and decided no more girl-
friends. It’s funny because I was sexually active as a kid and used to cruise Prospect Park, still thinking I was the only faggot on earth. It had nothing to do with my being Catholic, I was just a dope [laughs].” Quinton’s main theatrical education probably came from childhood TV viewings of the famous Million Dollar Movie, which showed vintage features over and over in the course of a week. His favorite film is the QUINTON, continued on p.18 September September10, 10,2015 2015
Quinton sets up camp in ‘Drop Dead’ perfect role QUINTON, continued from p. 17
wonderfully campy women’s prison opus “Caged.” He cites two of its actresses with particular admiration: Agnes Moorehead (he’s ﬂattered when, while he’s in drag, anyone compares him to her) and Eleanor Parker, whom he considers one of the most underrated performers of our time. “I never ﬁnished school, got a GED. I was at Hunter College, taking some theater classes, like improv. Then, one day, I met Charles Ludlam, cruising Christopher Street old-school style, back in the day when Christopher was the place. That’s why, in front of the Lucille Lortel Theatre, his star on the Playwright Walk of Fame is right there, where we met in a doorway. “I didn’t see him for six months after that because I lost his phone number. One day, I was walking past a restaurant where McNulty’s now is. He was eating in there and he came out and said hello to me. I still live in our Morton Street apartment.” What was living with such a fecund theater genius like? “It was many things. He was always thinking and writing, his mind never stopped. It’s difﬁcult for me because I’m not really a writer. I get these thoughts in my head, but don’t take the action to write, whereas Charles did. Unfortunately, at the end, he actually had two plays going at once, neck and neck in his head, ‘Houdini’ and ‘The Artiﬁcial Jungle,’ and we had to get just one play up. Crazy, right?” Was Ludlam fun? “When he was fun, he was fun. When he wasn’t, he wasn’t. He didn’t have one of those work ethics — like a certain number of hours a day to write. He was also an actor. He died on May 28, 1987. I observe that day by praying for him in church. I’m Lu-
theran now, out of the ﬁre back into the frying pan [laughs]! It just happened. The pastor of my church was a friend before I went there. One day, I just decided to go. He was outspokenly gay, and that’s not the opinion of the whole church. “When [Ludlam] got AIDS, we thought we’d made it through it, because then they talked about an incubation period. If you survived ﬁve years, things would be all right. We were coming up on the ﬁve years and he went to the dentist, who discovered he had thrush. There was a rapid deterioration after that, which was a blessing because he didn’t want to live sick.” Ludlam’s death came, ironically, at a time when he seemed to ﬁnally be crossing over into the mainstream with ﬁlm and TV roles: “At his funeral, a ﬁlmmaker came up to me and said he had just gotten a callback for another movie and the director said the ﬁrst audition was so energized, but at the callback he had no energy.” Ludlam’s funeral was held at St. Joseph’s Church: “[Artist and Stonewall veteran] Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt and Charles were buddies from way back. The priest was a young, decent guy, perhaps gay, and he was going to ofﬁciate. Tommy was sitting right next to me, and he saw the vestments the priests were going to wear. He got up and went back into the sacristy, and threw a scene, ‘Do you know who you’re burying today?! Put some better vestments on!’ “That was nice, and then one of the cars broke down on the way to the cemetery and we had to pick up all the people from that car in ours. He’s buried on Long Island in St. Charles Cemetery, in his family plot.” Quinton does not have a favorite Ludlam play, “but the one I don’t like is ‘Hot Ice,’ about a crime family and cryogenics — they get frozen.
PHOTO BY DAVID NOH
Everett Quinton at the Hudson Diner.
It struck me as presumptuous. But with his ‘Galas’ [a spoof of Maria Callas’ life], I got lucky with Bruna [the diva’s faithful, wacky maid and companion] because I did half the work and got all the glory. I got the role because [longtime Ludlam actor] George Osterman decided to leave the Ridiculous Theater while we were rehearsing in Toronto. By then I had proven that I could act.” Quinton had the ultimate theatrical “aha!” moment in rehearsal for the show. “We were doing the tea scene when Charles throws a strawberry in the air and catches it. Funny scene. Honest to God, I don’t know where it came from, but I was sitting there, looking at him, and suddenly thought, ‘This fucker will leave you in the dust if you’re not careful.’ And that’s where my whole notion of what acting is came from. I always compare it to a horse race, two horses running neck and neck to the end. Luckily, Charles was very generous and liked to encourage people to keep up with him.
You’re always funnier when you’re with funny people. “I had been acting for seven years by 1983, and Bruna was the ﬁrst time that I really felt I was a good marksman, ﬁring the shot.” When Ludlam died, the company went on under Quinton’s direction for another 10 years. “It was tough because I really don’t have any entrepreneurial ability. Now I’m smarter than I was then and would have done things differently. We certainly had a bunch of hits, like ‘Brother Truckers’ [a spoof of the Warners epic ‘They Drive By Night,’ with Quinton as the shrewish Lila Ballskin], but they just barely paid for themselves, and could never quite get us out of hock. “The biggest difference for me was I was once the big cheese and now I’m a little cheese and it’s kind of painful. It’s hard to go from starring roles and not feel like a loser. That’s my constant struggle, but every now and then a [role like] Florence Wexler in ‘Devil Boys from Beyond’ or Idris in ‘Drop Dead Perfect’ comes along.” Although Quinton has an agent, he said, “I can’t get arrested — no ﬁlm or TV offers. I don’t know why. It makes me sad. I’m prone to selfpity and don’t want to get into that state. The thing is to have gratitude for what I have. Lots of people in the business feel this way, but it’s especially bad for drag queens. For all of the acceptance that has come to us, we are still not considered employable, unless you got a gimmick like Barry Humphries [aka Dame Edna Everage].” “Drop Dead Perfect” is at Theatre at St. Clements (423 W. 46th St. btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.) through Oct. 11. Mon., Wed. & Thurs. at 7 p.m. Fri. & Sat. at 8 p.m. Sat. & Sun. at 3 p.m. For tickets ($69–99) and more info, visit dropdeadperfect.com.
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September 10, 2015
Just Do Art
PHOTO BY ERIC MCNATT, COURTESY FIAF
Part 3 of “Age & Beauty” has Miguel Gutierrez joined by his “utopian ideal of a dance company.”
MIGUEL GUTIERREZ: AGE & BEAUTY
PHOTO BY KAZUHIRO ONUKI
In “News From Fukushima,” a multicultural cast of musicians, actors and dancers join Tokyo-based artist Yuri Kageyama, to lament Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster.
BY SCOTT STIFFLER
GALLERY OPENING: JoAnn Artman
Declaring her solidarity with the neighborhood’s “instinct to re-invent and re-imagine,” Laguna Beach, CA-based gallery owner JoAnne Artman has established a West Chelsea presence by bringing the work of contemporary artists to the walls of an 1893 commercial manufacturing building. The gallery stakes its claim as a contender by stepping into the ring with “America Martin: The Boxer Series.” The kinetic and colorful inaugural exhibition, says Artman, compels the viewer to “become the fan and spectator, watching in singular obsession as artistry in motion spills over the canvas. Visually stimulating and emotionally penetrating, America delivers that one-two punch.” Opening reception on Thurs. Sept. 10, 6–8 p.m. JoAnne Artman Gallery is located at 511A W. 22nd St. (btw. 10th & 11th Aves.). Regular hours: Wed.–Sat. 11 a.m.–5 p.m. “The Boxer Series” is on view through Nov. 15. Visit joanneartmangallery.com.
“What a drag it is getting old” was easy for Mick Jagger to sing back in 1966, when he was young — a full five years before Miguel Gutierrez was born, quite possibly already imprinted with the sort of emotional intelligence and intellectual curiosity about one’s place in the world that distinguishes his work as a performer and choreographer. “I make performances,” he says, about “how to live in the world, how to love, how to feel about being yourself.” And how does he feel about entering the ranks of middle age? This NYC premiere of the three-part “Age & Beauty” series finds Gutierrez working within the realms of celebration, defiance and contemplation while touching on the subjects of queerness, creation, and mortality. Part 1 (“Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note”) is a frenetic duet with Mickey Mahar in which queer theory and club dance collide. Part 2 (“Asian Beauty @ the Werq Meeting”) delves into the dynamic between Gutierrez and his frequent collaborators: choreographer Michelle Boulé, lighting designer Lenore Doxsee, and producer Ben Pryor. Part 3 (“Dancer or You can make whatever the f*ck you want but you’ll only tour solos”) is both a melancholy lament and an aspirational vision, in which the choreographer’s work exists when he no longer does. For this, Gutierrez assembles his “utopian ideal” of a company, in which members of wide-ranging ages, shapes and skills “disrupt the traditional image of the dancer.” A Crossing the Line festival presentation: Thurs. Sept. 16 through Sat. Sept. 26 at New York Live Arts (219 W. 19th St. btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). Tickets start at $15. For reservations and the schedule (times vary; 3, 7:30 & 10 p.m.), visit fiaf.org or newyorklivearts.org. For artist info, visit miguelgutierrez.org.
COURTESY THE ARTIST AND JOANN ARTMAN GALLERY
America Martin’s “Boxer I” (Acrylic and Pencil on Canvas. 72.25” x 34”). On view at the newly opened JoAnn Artman Gallery.
NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: MEDITATION ON AN UNDER-REPORTED CATASTROPHE BY A POET
Tokyo-based writer, filmmaker and spoken word artist Yuri Kageyama’s solemn and provocative “literary prayer for Japan” combines her poetry with documentary footage, a trio of actor-dancers, and a multicultural cast of musicians. “News From Fukushima” seeks to bring Japan’s March 11, 2011 nuclear disaster back into the realm of public awareness. “Some 100,000 people were displaced from the no-go zone,” Kageyama reminds us, “But the story barely makes headlines. Radiation is still spewing from the multiple meltdowns, reaching as far as the American West Coast.” By exploring different dimensions of friendship between women who were impacted by the disaster, Kageyama provokes by juxtaposing the loss of home and the emotional chasm between people, as well as the intimate and the catastrophic. Free. Sept. 11–13. Fri. & Sat. at 9 p.m. and Sun. at 1:30 p.m. At The Club at La MaMa (74A E. Fourth St. btw. Bowery & Second Ave.). For info: yurikageyama. com. Also visit lamama.org.
September10, 10,2015 2015 September
Laughing in the face of madness ‘Queen of Earth’ has a perceptive, unsettling grip
COURTESY SEAN PRICE WILLIAMS
L to R: Patrick Fugit, Elisabeth Moss, and Katherine Waterson take a less than idyllic canoe ride.
BY SEAN EGAN
lex Ross Perry is a tough nut to crack — everything’s kind of a joke to the writer/ director. That is to say, he finds a way to insert humor into every situation he tackles in his films. They all feature less than pleasant characters that speak with some variation of his distinct authorial voice — and that voice never fails at being acidic, and darkly humorous. But (as in last year’s fantastic “Listen Up Phillip”) underneath all of the quips and jabs, there lies an impressively perceptive grip on characters, relationships and emotion. This penchant for mixing humor into all aspects of his filmmaking is no more disarmingly put to use than in “Queen of Earth,” his fourth feature. Even more of a departure than usual, the film finds Perry entering the territory of psychological thriller — not necessarily a genre closely associated with having a sense of humor. In this case, it plays out almost as if someone added jokes to Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona.” But instead of being the trainwreck of tones that may suggest, punctuating the intense psychodrama with humor makes the
September 10, 2015
insanity on display more discomforting — and the laughs, unsettling as they are, hit harder. Perry’s never been as perceptive and thoughtful with regards to character relationships and internal psychology as he is here — making for his most well-rounded film. “Queen of Earth” chronicles an intense week, as Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) attempts to work through the double blows of a bad breakup and her father’s death by staying with her best friend Ginny (Katherine Waterson), at the latter’s cabin in the woods. As Catherine slowly but surely unravels completely, viewers are also offered glimpses of another trek to the cabin about a year earlier, when Ginny was working through a rough patch. The relationship between Catherine and Ginny feels as genuine as any between long-term friends depicted onscreen — displaying both deep-seated affection for each other, and the resent and bitterness that can only build up between people who’ve known each other so long. Perry’s natural ear for dialogue helps to articulate the prickly specifics of the relationship without ever overplaying his hand. Everything else one needs to know is filled in by the performances.
Moss, who turned in one of the best performances of 2014 in “Listen Up Philip,” manages to top herself here. It’s easy to overplay “crazy,” but as Catherine, she shows nuance and a mind-boggling range — managing to be alternately vulnerable and infuriating, hilarious and terrifying, with the slightest change in vocal inflection and body language. As the more grounded Ginny, Waterson conveys the frustration of trying to deal with a person like Catherine, who refuses to be helped, while also legitimately caring for them — as well as displaying some crack comedic timing. The two have a palpable chemistry, which brings their dysfunctional relationship to life. “Queen of Earth” is also complex in its structural formalism, but unassumingly so. It moves with a chilling, confident rhythm, with Perry intuitively knowing exactly when to relieve tension with either a laugh or gasp (oftentimes using a well-placed reaction shot to do both). His frequent use of close ups is the perfect choice for capturing the small gestures and expressions that speak volumes of the characters’ interpersonal relationships. On the technical end of things, it’s deftly edited by Robert Greene and Peter Levin to highlight similarities between the two leads and the trips depicted in
the film, as well as disorient viewers’ sense of temporality. And using his preferred 16mm format, Perry and longtime cinematographer Sean Price Williams create a gorgeous, natural color palette that’s full of deep greens, browns and grays. In it’s best moments, all the disparate elements coalesce into something great — such as in a stunning long take midway through the film, where the camera pans back and forth between Catherine and Ginny as they recall past lovers. It’s a bittersweet, tense and realistic scene, performed beautifully by the leads, and heighted by the level of craft on display. As the film draws to a close, a smash cut jarringly juxtaposes one character’s anguished sobs and another’s hysterical laughter — and it’s in this uneasy play between lightness and darkness that “Queen of Earth” gets you. Perry recognizes that the lines between tragedy and comedy, sanity and insanity, and friends and enemies are inextricably blurred. Anchoring his film in this mindset allows “Queen of Earth” to feel real and unsettling. “Queen of Earth” is written and directed by Alex Ross Perry. 90 minutes. Now playing at IFC Center (323 Sixth Ave., at Third St.) and On Demand. TheVillager.com TheVillager.com
Buhmann on Art
Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s past revealed
PHOTO BY JOSHUA STEVENS, COURTESY MAI
PHOTO BY JOSHUA STEVENS, COURTESY MAI
Ceramic stamps used by various indigenous groups of Central America, including the Maya, to decorate cloth, paper, or the human body, dating from 300 B.C.–1500 A.D. Tubular stamps (bottom right) were rolled across skin or fabric to create continuous designs.
Each of these human form figures represents a specific culture from one of the seven geographic regions examined in “Cerámica de los Ancestros.” The case greets visitors at the exhibition’s entrance.
PHOTO BY JOSHUA STEVENS, COURTESY MAI
Ceramic pottery dating between 550–1400 A.D. from the Greater Coclé region of present-day Panama. The objects are highlighted for their use of animal iconography.
BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN (stephaniebuhmann.com) This bilingual (English/Spanish) exhibition illuminates Central America’s diverse and dynamic ancestral heritage and aims to shed light onto some of its vibrant civilizations. The ceramics, combined with recent archaeological discoveries, aid in telling the stories of these dynamic cultures, each with unique, sophisticated ways of life, value systems, achievements and art. More speciﬁcally, “Cerámica de los Ancestros” examines seven regions representing distinct Central American cultural areas that are today part of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Spanning the TheVillager.com TheVillager.com
period from 1000 BC to the present, the ceramics featured, were selected from the museum’s own collection and are augmented with signiﬁcant examples of work in gold, jade, shell and stone. This extraordinary show succeeds in reﬂecting on the complexity and dynamic qualities of the Central American civilizations that were connected to peoples in South America, Mesoamerica and the Caribbean through social and trade networks sharing knowledge, technology and artworks. Free. Through January, 2017. At the National Museum of the American Indian’s George Gustav Heye Center (1 Bowling Green, at Broadway & State St.). Open daily, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (open Thurs. until 8 p.m.). Call 212-514-3700 or visit nmai.si.edu.
PHOTO BY ERNEST AMOROSO, COURTESY MAI
Pre-Classic period Maya human-monkey figure, 200–300 A.D. Villa de Zaragoza, Chimaltenango Department, Guatemala. Pottery.
September10, 10,2015 2015 September
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September 10, 2015
Catholic churches merger CHURCHES continued from p. 12
On Sunday, tugboats converged in the Hudson River off the West Side for the 23rd Annual Great North River Tugboat Race and Competition. Along with a race, there were nose-to-nose and stern-to-stern pushing shows of might, a line toss competition, and — in honor of Popeye himself — a spinach-eating competition. The decommissioned fireboat John J. Harvey, a hero of 9/11, added to the festivities by shooting streams of water arcing through the air.
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September 10, 2015
PHOTO BY MARY REINHOLZ
PHOTOS BY MILO HESS
Working it on the waterfront, tugs get pretty pushy
best for everybody.” McGillicuddy noted that there had been numerous Catholic churches built in “years gone by” — especially Downtown around the City Hall area — for the large number of Catholics arriving in New York more than a century and a half ago. “But as time went on, the numbers decreased, so the need wasn’t there for so many churches,” he said. “Holy Redeemer has a small congregation. By uniting it with Nativity, it’s a stronger congregation.” Father Cascione, who is also associate pastor at Most Holy Redeemer, said that church attendance at Sunday Masses had “increased quite significantly” since the merger. “We were around 120 at the Spanish Mass and now we’re 180,” he said. “We were 35 at the noon Mass and now we’re about 50.” He noted that the church also has a 9 a.m. Sunday Mass and one at 7:30 in the evening, plus a Saturday Mass at 5:30 p.m., which used to draw 20 to 25 and now has close to 40 attendees. But Cascione said that the merger also caused Most Holy Redeemer to lose parishioners from Nativity. “A little more than half are going to other churches and a few have dropped out completely. But I honestly believe that it has gone as well as it can go,” he said of the merger. He estimated the combined attendance is now about 350 to 400, whereas before at Most Holy Redeemer, “it was 250 to 300.” Cascione also noted that a painting from Nativity has been transferred to his church. A photograph of Dorothy Day is now in a side altar of the church, “and we definitely want to have some kind of a shrine” for her, he added. Copies of the Catholic Worker are on a table in the back of the church that people can see as they enter for services. In addition, he said, McGillicuddy is in the process of naming the merged parish. Cascione said the pastor will submit three names and Cardinal Dolan will pick one. Despite such glad tidings, there is still lingering resentment and allegations of “secrecy” over the manner in which Dolan issued his decrees about the church closings and mergers throughout the archdiocese, which encompasses Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island and six counties to the north. “Within all of this was the grave chaos that Cardinal Dolan created because he did not make the decrees available to any of the parishes, including Nativity,” said Sister Kate Kuenstler, a nun and canon lawyer in Rhode Island who is a member of
Cristina Tejada, a former Nativity parishioner, at Most Holy Redeemer before the start of a Mass.
an international religious congregation called Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ. She represents a number of parishes in the archdiocese that have appealed Dolan’s Nov. 2 order. It was Mercedes Sanchez who contacted her for help. Sanchez said she wasn’t able to read Dolan’s decree for Nativity until Dec. 22 — and was monitored as she did so by two women at the archdiocese’s office on First Ave. — weeks after the deadline for appealing had passed. The Vatican’s Congregation of the Clergy required a copy of the decree for the appeal process. Joseph Zwillling, a spokesperson for the archdiocese, said he and other administrators went to “extraordinary lengths” under church law to publicize the decisions that were reached regarding the parish mergers. He said they did so in a variety of ways, including having letters read in all of the parishes that were involved, issuing a press release, and having Dolan available for multiple interviews. Zwilling insisted that it was not necessary “or required” for the archdiocese to post the decrees on its Web site, but acknowledged that not doing so was an oversight on his part. “When this was brought to my attention, the decrees were posted immediately, and they were posted at the time of the follow-up announcements in May,” he said. Responding to other questions, Zwilling said there were no additional mergers contemplated “at this time by the archdiocese.” He added that he did not know the total number of appeal cases currently before the Congregration of the Clergy in Rome. TheVillager.com
September 10, 2015
Garden advocates hope to nip housing plan in bud GARDEN continued from p. 9
a resolution overwhelmingly recommending that the garden be saved. However, while the public turnout so far has been one-sided, the Chin spokesperson said it will be different at the Sept. 17 L.M.D.C. hearing, when, he assured, there will be many people attending in need of affordable housing who will testify in support of the project on the garden site. Asked by The Villager why this garden is any different from ones on the Lower East Side that Chin recently has rushed to try to save when they were threatened by development projects, the spokesperson called it “apples and oranges,” since the Little Italy site offers an opportunity for so much affordable housing. An H.P.D. spokesperson provided a statement indicating that the agency, in fact, wants the project to be senior housing. “The city has had an agreement in place since 2012 — determined in relation to the Seward Park development project’s land use process — to build badly needed affordable housing for seniors in Lower Manhattan. H.P.D. applied to L.M.D.C. for support as a preliminary step in the process, but there will be significantly more con-
sultation with the local community and elected officials as H.P.D. develops a plan later in the year.” According to an agency source, H.P.D.’s thinking is basically that the Elizabeth St. Garden is “a recent addition” and that, unlike many other community gardens that have agreements with H.P.D. and / or the Parks Department, this one “never sought or had permission.” Regarding the West Side alternative proposed by Bergman, the source said the city is “assessing” it — as it does for all of its publicly owned land — for how it can be used “to provide affordable housing or other critical community needs.” The property at “388 Hudson St. is under evaluation, but we are just beginning to develop ideas for the site, and will engage the public fully before making any specific proposal for its use,” the source said. Bergman expressed frustration that the community has not even seen a glimpse of a plan yet for Elizabeth St. However, when asked this week to provide the plan, the H.P.D. spokesperson told The Villager, “There isn’t a plan for the site yet.” Bergman blasted what he called the secrecy surrounding the project. For example, he and others only recently learned about the $6 million applica-
tion after someone saw a mention of it in the Real Deal, which only referred to a development planned at 21 Spring St. “It’s upsetting when the first that you hear about this is when your read it in the Real Deal,” Bergman said. “Thankfully, there was an alert person who knew what 21 Spring St. was. We haven’t heard about it from H.P.D. It kind of feels like it’s happening in secret. And it’s happening as part of SPURA, which isn’t even in C.B. 2. “If there is support for the project, why is H.P.D. proceeding secretly and refusing to discuss alternatives? We are just asking the city not to turn its back on the community, and at the same time promising that we are ready to support a better project.” Obviously, just as they did at the November 2013 C.B. 2 hearing, garden supporters plan to turn out in massive numbers at the upcoming L.M.D.C. hearing. Expressing the sentiments of many of his neigbors, Aaron Booher said, “I have lived on Elizabeth St. for more than 18 years and have never seen the neighborhood come alive in such a wonderful and unified way. Elizabeth St. Garden has become a dynamic center for the community — a unique place of respite off the busy streets, a place for
children to learn about nature, and a place to get to know your neighbors. The Soho and Little Italy neighborhood desperately needs and deserves this green space to become a permanent park. I strongly encourage L.M.D.C., H.P.D. and our elected officials to recognize this special opportunity and act to preserve the garden, not destroy it.” During a visit to Greenwich House’s senior day center on Washington Square North last week, Chin spoke at length about the need for senior housing and, specifically, the project slated for the Elizabeth St. Garden. “I like parks,” she said, “but housing is more important.” The Hudson St. site is in Councilmember Corey Johnson’s district, who so far has stayed silent on the issue, apparently not wanting to cross Chin. Bergman, though, said he believes Johnson privately would back the West Side alternative. Meanwhile, Assemblymember Deborah Glick — who doesn’t sit in the same legislative body with Chin — told The Villager, “The Clarkson St. site actually makes a lot of sense. It’s two blocks from Hudson River Park,” she added, regarding the location’s benefits. “It seems like a reasonable compromise and something we would support.”
This Mister is a natural-born ‘ham’ of a cat NYCritters BY FACEBOY
September 10, 2015
PHOTO BY FACEBOY
s previously mentioned, cats communicate and humans interpret. When we came to take a photo of Mister at Greenwich Village Animal Hospital, he slowly slid down the counter, sauntered over and said, “We cats here are three but you will write about me.” This fine feline’s father, Dr. Tracy Sane, and his wife, Joan Reilly, thought it best to collaborate for this interview, conducted via e-mail. Mister, 18, was adopted by Reilly from the North Shore Animal League at nine months old and was unfortunately declawed. “Declawing is a painful amputation that should be performed only when medically necessary,” noted Eric, at the front desk. Nevertheless, Reilly said, on the cab ride home, “He tore his way completely out of the cardboard carrier they gave me, and curled up on my lap.”
Mister joined 6-year-old brothers Carl and Archie at G.V.A.H. in 2012. “After thinking that maybe he was needing way more attention than we could ever give him, and keeping us awake all night, we thought we’d see if he liked all the stimulation at the hospital,” Sane and Reilly said. “He did, so he stayed. It’s the perfect environment for him. He has a wide fan base, and a cartoon cat face. “He’s highly social and a nudge,” they added. “He does so much socializing at the hospital that he wears himself out by the end of the day. He loves anyone who will love him back, especially if they will rub faces with him.” Asked if Mister has any quirks, they enthusiastically responded, “He’s all quirk, all the time. One is that he loves to eat red food. Tomatoes, stolen off a sandwich, watermelon, Doritos, etc. — but only what you were just about to eat. And not Swedish fish or strawberries, we’ve tried that. Also, his meows sound remarkably like he’s saying the word ‘ham.’ And he walks like an erector set cowboy.”
There’s no escaping Mister at Greenwich Village Animal Hospital.
Declawed cats should remain indoors. “Once when he was still quite young, he managed to escape into the backyard of a Brooklyn apartment,” they said. “But once out there, he was so overwhelmed by the vastness of space and lack of a
ceiling that he just sank down into the grass on his back and stared up at the sky in awe. Clearly, a natural-born indoor cat.” Greenwich Village Animal Hospital is located at 504 Hudson St., near Christopher St. For more information, go to www.gvah.com . TheVillager.com
Attorney, police don’t see eye to eye on cams case SPY CAMS continued from p. 10
KUBY GIVES HIM KUDOS
STILL SINGING Meanwhile, the Berks continue to enjoy their 15th-floor apartment at the corner of Christopher and Bleecker Sts., whose terrace has a stunning panoramic view of Manhattan to the north, west and south. Their formerly cluttered home is looking much better following a court-mandated cleanup last March. As exclusively reported by The Villager, an unloaded .22-calTheVillager.com
PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
Ron Kuby, the well-known activist attorney, is familiar with Schwartz’s case. “My hero!” he crowed. Regarding whether the cameras outside the Berks’ apartment represent harassment, Kuby said, as a general matter, landlords can monitor video surveillance of a building’s common areas. But pointing a camera right at a tenant’s door is a different matter, in his view. “If they were to stick a person outside their door 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that would be viewed as harassment,” he said. “I believe actually ‘stalking’ is the criminal violation. Stalking is a form of harassment.” Kuby disagreed that Schwartz stole the cameras. “It certainly is not theft,” he said. “Theft is taking property from another person with the intent to presumably deprive them of the property. Whether it’s some lower-degree offense, I think the point is that Arthur Schwartz tied to stop the harassment of an elderly tenant who was harassed by her landlord; and he did, and I’m glad, and we need more people like him. “They had been trying to get her out of that apartment. … You know, stop already. You’re not going to beat up an old lady, especially an old lady who is one of New York City’s little treasures. And Schwartz did what lawyers do, which is to put himself between the powerful and the powerless. “I probably would have just smashed the cameras with a baseball bat,” Kuby quipped, “so he certainly used better judgement than I would have.” As for Schwartz being handcuffed behind his back, Kuby said, “As a general rule, when making an arrest as opposed to issuing a summons, they handcuff.” And, like Simonetti, he said, it wouldn’t be right to make an exception in this case: “Why are you handcuffing the young black guy but not the white Jewish guy?”
Ruth Berk singing “Fly Me to the Moon,” with her daughter, Jessica Berk, chiming in.
iber handgun was found in the apartment back then, and Jessica Berk was charged with weapon possession. She said the gun might have belonged to her late father. The case ultimately was dropped after the district attorney could not prove it was her gun. In fact, Jessica Berk told The Villager during a visit to the apartment this July that she even had an old-school “three-quarter inch” Bill Cosby sex tape — involving a prominent female music industry figure — lying around the house somewhere, but had lost it amid all the previous mess. “I’m still looking for it,” she said. Using a walker, her mother came into the living room. Jessica grew up in the place. Ruth has lived there since 1961. “They want this apartment,” Ruth said of the landlord, BLDG Management. They had lost the original lease, signed by Ruth’s late husband, Leo, but found it again last year. During The Villager’s visit, Jessica lost the lease again, but then found it again atop a bookshelf. Ruth sat on the bench of an upright piano, on whose music rest was perched a collage of four photos of her in her glamorous heyday. Jessica perched next to her in a chair and her usually hyper Chihuahua, Angelina Jolie, dozed strangely calmly nearby
on a couch. “I was a singer,” Ruth said dramatically. “That was my purpose in life — a singer.” Her husband, Leo, ran the Waverly Lounge, which was located in the Washington Square Hotel’s current restaurant space. “I sang at the bar, sitting next to the piano player,” she said. “My husband ran the business. The place was usually crowded, and I loved it.” Ever since Leo, who was about 20 years her senior, died some decades ago, the owner has been trying to get them out, she said.
LANDLORD WANTS THEM OUT “The landlord wants these apartments, we know this,” she said of their unit and at least one of the other penthouse abodes, “and they’ll go to any lengths to do it.” They currently pay $783 a month, with the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption, or SCRIE, helping keep their rent low. The actual rent is $2,200, but the government pays the landlord the balance. “This is a two-bedroom penthouse with a terrace in the Village,” Jessica chimed in. “This is like caviar. This is the crème de la crème.” A call to BLDG Management was not returned by press time.
Ruth told the story of how she became a singer, starting with her performance at an Avenue B vaudeville theater at age 2 in the 1920s. She later overcame her shyness of singing thanks to the head of the music department at Evander Childs High School in the Bronx. Her big breakout came in Detroit: She was on her way to perform when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor; she momentarily considered not going onstage, but decided to go ahead with it — and the rest was history. At one point, a mouse darted under the piano. The Berks blamed it on unsealed holes left from the recent repairs. Sitting in their Christopher St. aerie, Ruth gave a sample of her pipes, launching into “Fly Me to the Moon,” a Frank Sinatra hit. All the words came effortlessly to her as she belted them out in a brassy style. After a few verses, Jessica started to sing along with her. Fly me to the moon Let me play among the stars Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars In other words, hold my hand (Jessica took her mom’s hand and they leaned their heads together) In other words, baby, kiss me... September 10, 2015
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September 10, 2015