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The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933

October 1, 2015 • $1.00 Volume 85 • Number 18

Code Green! C.B. 2 makes emergency plea to save Eliz. St. Garden BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

B

y an overwhelming vote, Community Board 2 last week passed an “emergency resolution,” reiterating its support for the permanent preservation of the entire Elizabeth St. Garden as a public open green space, and urging the city to transfer the site to

Parks Department jurisdiction. The resolution also urged the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to “adhere to its own guidelines” and not provide funding for “a project that has not even been presented to the community, much less demonstrated a ‘high level of comELIZ. ST. continued on p. 6

‘We need protection!’ LES/Chinatown must be rezoned, hundreds cry BY YANNIC RACK

H

undreds of protesters marched on City Hall last week to rally against the rapid change of their neighborhoods, where they say luxury developments are allowed to rise and displace longtime residents. The demonstrators, most-

ly residents from the Lower East Side and Chinatown, gathered below the Manhattan Bridge on Fri., Sept. 25, to call for more protective zoning in the area. “We have a message for Mayor de Blasio: We want our community protected now,” said David Tieu, ZONING continued on p. 7

This week, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, our paper is pink and proud. For more, see a note from our publisher on page 12, and articles on Pages 13 to 18 and 23.

Singing and strumming, surviving breast cancer BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC

W

hen performer D’yan Forest was diagnosed with breast cancer 24 years ago, she took the dictum “the show must go on” to heart. “I went every morning to get the radiation, and in the afternoon I’d sing in Staten Island and be a French chanteuse,” Forest, 81, said. “I wasn’t going to stop. I drove to Staten Island and I performed.” Continuing to work while

she got treated for cancer, she said, helped her to get through it, since she was focused on the performing, not on herself. A five-decade Village resident, Forest said that both her mother and aunt had breast cancer. She credits having a very good gynecologist for discovering her own illness in the early 1990s. “What happened was I said, ‘My breasts are getting bigger,’ ” she explained. “I had just had the mammogram and everything a cou-

ple months before. He said, ‘Go in again.’ ” Forest took his advice and got X-rayed once more. While away for Christmas, her answering service kept getting calls from a phone number she didn’t recognize. She finally connected with the caller, who turned out to be a doctor filling in for her regular one, and was told her mammogram showed something was amiss. She went to a specialist. SURVIVING continued on p. 14

Johnson tackles desnudas, Cowboy...............page 2 Papal poultry proclamation: ‘Delicious!’.......page 4 N.Y.U. SLAMmed by tuition activists................page 20 Making light of a dark diagnosis....page 23

www.TheVillager.com


Bernie Sanders, left, and Arthur Schwartz at the Town Hall on Sept. 18.

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Aspen Matis, left, and Lux Sommers.

WRITE ON! No, these aren’t some supermodels during Fashion Week, but upcoming writer Aspen Matis and her copywriter/guitarist pal Lux Sommers. The venue was New School writing professor Susan Shapiro’s W. Eighth St. home last Friday night, which, as usual, was the local literary hot spot. The occasion was a party for Matis’s new adventure memoir, “Girl in the Woods” (William Morrow), which is being hailed as the female “Into the Wild.” Look for more in The Villager in a few weeks about Matis and her journey to publication... . Also making the scene at the soiree were the likes of N.Y.U. journalism prof Jessica Seigel, Westbeth writer Kate Walter, Washington Square sax busker/writer David Sobel and playwright Mark Williams, who said he loved Yannic Rack’s review of his play about a dysfunctional Thanksgiving, “Straight Faced Lies.” “It’s on the wall of my Facebook page,” he said. Time Out had given Williams a terrible review, so the positive article in The Villager was a big lift, he said. BERNIE MANIA! Climbing in the polls against Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders was in New York on Fri., Sept. 18, for a fundraising event at Town Hall, on W. 43rd St., before going on the “Tonight Show.” “Amazing,” said local Bernie booster Arthur Schwartz. “He spoke for around an hour, after a halfhour ‘VIP’ meet-and-greet, which I got invited to. He went through his whole platform: ‘No one else is speaking about the continued growth of the wealth of the top 10th of 1 percent and the impoverishment of so many others. We are the only advanced industrial country in the world that does not provide healthcare for all. And the only country that does not provide, by law, for paid sick leave, paid family leave and paid vacations. We are the only country in the world which does not have a system of free public universities.’ He talked about how quickly things change. He said that four years ago no one even came close to calling for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, but now it is being

PRAISING DAY: Pope Francis namedropped Dorothy Day during his address to Congress, which, as the Daily News put it, looked like he was “measuring her for a halo.” “In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the servant of God Dorothy Day,” Francis told the representatives. “Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith and the example of the saints.” In 1933, Day founded The Catholic Worker newspaper. She also opened “hospitality houses,” including Maryhouse, on E. Third St., and St. Joseph House, on E. First St., in the East Village, where people can find a room, a meal and a spiritually nurturing environment. COREY DOES DESNUDAS: Never one to shy away from tackling the tough issues, City Councilmember Corey Johnson is part of the task force trying to figure out what exactly to do with the Times Square desnudas — plus Elmo, Oscar, Spider-Man and the other costumed quality-of-life-cramping cuckoos. Johnson, Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmember Dan Garodnick are proposing to “redefine the plazas as public space,” and create what would be called the Times Square Commons, which would stretch from 42nd St. to 47th St. Within the pedestrian areas of this commons, the city would create three zones — basically, boxes or strips — “that protect the diversity of people and activities.” “General civic zones” would have tables and chairs, arts programming and occasional events. “Designated activity zones” would allow any activity involving the immediate exchange of money for goods, services or entertainment. “Flow zones” would be dedicated exclusively to the flow of pedestrian traffic without physical obstacles of any kind. Eric Bottcher, Johnson’s chief of staff, said the plan would require transferring the plazas from the city Department of Transportation to the Parks Department. In a recent “Good Day New York” interview, Johnson explained that he has nothing against the “painted ladies” or the Naked Cowboy. “It’s really the costumed characters, who have been grabbing kids and harassing people,” Johnson said. “Times Square should be a harassment-free place, but still creative and quirky where people can make money.” ALL YOU KNEE(D) IS...REHAB: Best wishes for a speedy recovery to David Gruber. The former Community Board 2 chairperson is rehabilitating at VillageCare, on W. Houston St., for five weeks after knee-replacement surgery. Why so long? Climbing up the five flights of stairs to his apartment in his walkup building would be a nightmare without rehab. TheVillager.com


A Question To The Readers of The Villager from Arthur Schwartz

The Villager

TheVillager.com

October 1, 2015

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E.V. chef prepared papal poultry 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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The Villager (USPS 578930) ISSN 0042-6202 is published every week by NYC Community Media LLC, One Metrotech North, 10th floor Brooklyn, NY 11201 (212) 229-1890. Periodicals Postage paid at New York, N.Y. Annual subscription by mail in Manhattan and Brooklyn $29 ($35 elsewhere). Single copy price at office and newsstands is $1. The entire contents of newspaper, including advertising, are copyrighted and no part may be reproduced without the express permission of the publisher - © 2011 NYC Community Media LLC. PUBLISHER’S LIABILITY FOR ERROR

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ll of Francis’s many papal pronouncements on his recent U.S. tour seemed to come right from the heart. But one of them also came straight from the gut: “Me encantó el pollo” (“I really loved the chicken”). Those were the words the Catholic Church leader thanked Ismael Alba with after the East Village restaurateur, his mother-in-law and an assistant prepared Argentinian-style lemon grilled chicken for the pontiff’s lunch last Thursday afternoon. Alba, 56, has lived in the East Village since 1994. His Argentinian restaurant, Buenos Aires, at 513 E. Sixth St., is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary. His landlord is Bob Perl of Tower Brokerage, who tipped The Villager off to the story. Before Buenos Aires, Alba was a silent partner in Coup restaurant, which also used to be on E. Sixth St. The New York Post reported that about two months ago, Bernadito Auza, a Filipino archbishop who is also the permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, ate barbecue at Alba’s eatery and had an epiphany: He urged Alba to cook for his holiness on his New York visit. And so it came to pass... . The East Village chef was tapped to cook for the Argentinian-born Francis — the first Latin American pope — on an outdoor patio at the Vatican’s U.N. mission, on E. 72nd St. off of Fifth Ave. But first, Alba had to fabricate a special 20-inch-wide grill because a traditional 35-to-40-inch Argentinian grill would not fit inside the place’s basement entry door. The custom-made, collapsible cooker was crafted by an Argentinian steelworker in Queens. On Thursday, they drove uptown in a van, escorted by a police car, then assembled the grill on the patio. First the fire was prepared with wood and coal. Starting at 11 a.m., the chicken was cooked over the coals for two hours and twenty minutes. Alba’s mother-inlaw, Maria De Marco, actually did the cooking, along with assistant Jorge Hernandez. The grill sports a pulley that allows the chicken to be raised and lowered in a delicate temperature tango to achieve perfection. “We did it Argentinian style — we did it slow,” Alba said. The lunch was served at 1 p.m., leaving Francis plenty of time to dine before the next stop on his agenda, a visit to an East Harlem school. The papal poultry was cooked without salt or spices, but plenty of “lemon, lemon, lemon,” Alba said. The meal was prepared for 14 people. The others’ chicken was done with garlic and parsley. There were also vegetables, and some

PHOTOS COURTESY ISMAEL ALBA

ALBERT AMATEAU IRA BLUTREICH SARAH FERGUSON TEQUILA MINSKY CLAYTON PATTERSON JEFFERSON SIEGEL ZACH WILLIAMS SHARON WOOLUMS

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

Restaurateur Ismael Alba, holding an Argentinian flag, speaking with Pope Francis after the lunch. Alba asked the pope to bless the banner, which he proudly took back to hang in his restaurant.

fruit for dessert. Alba brought along four cases of Argentinian Malbec wine for the pope and others to wash down the feast. They also made beef empanadas and bread pudding for the nuns and security staff, including the pope’s contingent of Swiss Guards. Francis may possibly have scarfed down an empanada, too, Alba isn’t sure. Like the pope, Alba was born in Argentina. He came to New York on a student visa in 1981 and wound up staying. After the meal, he spoke to Francis briefly, about 10 minutes, and took some photos with him. “I think he’s a saint, this pope,” Alba said. “He means good. I’m so happy to be a part of it. It’s a blessed day for me. “I say, thank you very much for what he did in Congress the day before,” Alba said. “We talk about soccer. His team is San Lorenzo, mine is Boca Juniors. ‘Next World Cup,’ I said, ‘please pray for Argentina.’ He said, ‘We beat the Germans in 1986 in Mexico.’ “He loves tango, a lot. And he likes to talk to people, to interact with people — we say, ‘el papa de la gente’...‘the people’s pope.’ “He gave me a rosary from the Vatican. He talked with my wife, Karina, with my mother-in-law.” For his part, Alba gave the pope three letters from sick children, one of whom

The pope’s lemon grilled chicken, hot off the Argentinian grill.

Alba knows personally. The other two letters were given to him by a journalist. “I am from a family of immigrants, and I say, thank you very much what he is doing for the immigrants,” Alba added. “I say, thank you very much for what you are doing for the planet.” TheVillager.com


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October 1, 2015

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C.B. 2 passes emergency measure to save garden ELIZ. ST. continued from p. 1

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October 1, 2015

PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY

munity interest and support.’ ” The vote was about 40 to 4. However, the de Blasio administration and City Councilmember Margaret Chin, so far, have turned a deaf ear on C.B. 2 and the majority of neighborhood residents living near the garden, instead doggedly pushing ahead with plans for a senior affordable housing project on the large, block-through lot, officially known as 21 Spring St. The board’s resolutions are advisory only. The city is seeking a $6 million federal grant from L.M.D.C. for the housing, whose total cost would be $20 million to $24 million. The development would include from 60 to 100 apartments, as well as ground-floor retail. Yet, L.M.D.C. regulations for allocating the funds, as noted by C.B. 2 in its emergency resolution, mandate a “high level of community interest and support.” To the contrary, community opposition strongly outweighed community support at a Sept. 17 L.M.D.C. hearing on the funding application. More than 200 garden supporters who live right around the green space turned out in force, versus only about 50 housing advocates — many of them brought over by van from Chinatown by Hamilton-Madison House, which is located more than a mile away from the garden. That said, both sides were passionate about their cause. The vote by C.B. 2 on its emergency resolution roughly mirrored the one from early 2014 when the board first voted to save the garden, while also vowing to work to relocate alternative sites for affordable housing in the district. Since the first resolution, the board’s chairperson, Tobi Bergman, has identified an alternative city-owned site for the affordable housing — at Hudson and Clarkson Sts. — which the board’s Executive Committee last month unanimously supported by a 16-0 vote. Speaking last Thursday evening before the board voted on the emergency “reso,” Bergman said it was “problematic” that the thorny problem involved “a big issue for the city and the mayor,” namely, affordable housing. C.B. 2 has been unable to establish any dialogue about the issue with the Department of Housing and Preservation, the lead agency on the planned housing project, Bergman said. “We can’t get any traction with the agency,” he said. Bergman said that H.P.D., by not working with C.B. 2 to help save the Elizabeth St. Garden, would be setting itself up for failure on other potential housing projects coming down the pike. “It’s a liability for affordable housing in any other area,” he said. “You can’t run over people in one area and then expect them to lie down on the tracks in another area. The St. John’s Building will have affordable housing. That will be a very big building. “It kind of sounds like a threat, but it’s not a threat. The world doesn’t work that way. I don’t know if anyone from H.P.D. is here today, but that’s the message we want to send,” he told the meeting. Developers of the St. John’s Center — the former High Line rail terminal, located across the West Side Highway from Pier 40 at W. Houston St. — would be expected to buy available development rights from the pier to add into the massive project. In turn, C.B. 2 would be expected to push for affordable housing as part of the St. John’s development.

Who says you can’t fight City Hall? Tobi Bergman, chairperson of C.B. 2, is refusing to back down in the face of unbending pressure by Councilmember Margaret Chin and the city to build affordable housing on the beloved Elizabeth St. Garden.

Bergman later clarified that he wasn’t saying the board would try to “punish” H.P.D. if the Elizabeth St. Garden is destroyed. Rather, he said, “What I was trying to say is that there are important projects coming up in C.B.2 and there are great opportunities. But they will all involve building big buildings that some people will object to, and it will be hard to build support for affordable housing projects when people are angry about another affordable housing project that would be harmful to the community.” Tom Connor was among a few board members who spoke in favor of the housing on the garden site. “The way the pope said today, you have to listen to your conscience,” said Connor, chairperson of the Greenwich House Senior Advisory Board. However, Sandy Russo, another senior on the board, said she welcomes the garden because the neighborhood so sorely lacks open space. “I’m 75. As a walker, I like to sit there. The powers that be set it up as an either-or-situation,” she said of the garden-versus-housing struggle. “There are sites now that are vacant that no one has put their marker on,” she said, “especially in the West Village, a block away from where I live.” In that vein, Elaine Young offered, “We can have both. I don’t know why there’s this ‘either or.’ I think it’s horrible if we don’t protect this park.” The lot at Hudson and Clarkson Sts. was used for drilling a water shaft down to the new City Water Tunnel No. 3. Identifying another potential alternative site, Sean Sweeney noted there’s also a water-shaft site not too far away at Lafayette and Grand Sts. “Why don’t we use that site and build the housing there and save the garden?” he suggested. Meanwhile, Susanna Aaron, who voted for the affordable housing in January 2014, last week reversed herself and said she now supports saving the garden. “In the two years since we have taken that vote, the facts on the ground have changed,” she said. “The [Hudson Square] alternative site isn’t exactly the same as having affordable housing in Nolita but it’s a workable compromise.”

Striking a poetic note, Keen Berger quoted the song “Bread and Roses,” by legendary folk singer Joan Baez. “A person needs bread and roses to live,” Berger said. “You really need beauty and sustenance. You need housing (bread) — but that doesn’t mean you take away the garden (the roses).” Robin Goldberg, who lives in the area, said of the garden, “It’s already established. It would really be an injustice to chop down those trees.” Dan Ballen voted for the housing in January 2014, but, unlike Aaron, has not changed his view since then. It doesn’t matter, he asserted, if more families currently use the garden than would benefit from the housing. “Even if the housing is less impactful for more families, it’s a safer, better neighborhood [for the affordable housing tenants],” he said. Throwing cold water on Bergman’s idea of a West Side alternative, Ballen implied that such ideas are ultimately unrealistic. “The alternative sites are a red herring,” he argued, adding that trying to shift the housing project’s location would be impractical in the “morass of city agencies.” Simply put, he said, the board should only consider the options for the one site and not complicate matters. “This is, in a vacuum, a park or affordable housing,” he stated. A bristling Bergman snapped at Ballen, “It seems to me that you’re taking the side of an agency when they ignored us,” adding that the “process has not begun” for the garden. In the audience, Soho activist Pete Davies, a staunch garden supporter, clapped his approval of Bergman’s defiant stance, and thrust his fist up in the air in support. Supporting Bergman, Rich Caccappolo, chairperson of the board’s Parks and Waterfront Committee, said H.P.D. has so far given the board barely any specifics about the housing project. “Do you have any idea how many units? What it’s going to look like?” he said, looking toward Ballen. “We spoke to H.P.D., they told us it’s not even a great lot for what they want to build there.” Bergman, speaking to The Villager, later chided himself for taking a sharp tone with Ballen. “Board members, especially the chairperson, should debate in a collegial manner,” he said. “Passion is great, but not anger. I think it is the first time I have done that in my 17 years on the board, so I hope it will be like a 17-year locust.” Meanwhile, The Villager asked H.P.D. to respond to Bergman’s accusation that the agency has, thus far, ignored the community board’s pleas to discuss ideas on how the Elizabeth St. Garden can be saved. The response indicated that the agency considers the housing to be nonnegotiable. “As we’ve publicly stated,” an H.P.D. spokesperson told the newspaper, “we are in the very early stages of the planning process at the site located at Spring and Elizabeth Sts. We will continue to meet and engage with members of Community Board 2 and all stakeholders before the release of any future Request For Proposals for the site. We look forward to working alongside the board, local elected officials and residents to discuss this site and other projects in their district.” Told of the agency’s answer — that they are willing to work with C.B. 2 on the planned housing — Bergman said, “And we are happy to work with H.P.D. on anything but.” TheVillager.com


Marchers call for rezoning to fight development ZONING continued from p. 1

TheVillager.com

PHOTOS BY YANNIC RACK

speaking on behalf of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side. “We built this community and we will not be moved.” The rally was held on the sidewalk of Pike St., between Cherry and Queen Sts., a carefully chosen location because a much-hated 72-story apartment tower is currently being built right next to it. Some of the protesters held up signs proclaiming it the “Building from Hell” and blasting Extell, its developer. Speakers at the event criticized the company for erecting a tower that will eventually dwarf the entire neighborhood and even the bridge across the street, but they also had some words for Mayor de Blasio. “Our schools, our senior centers, our libraries and other programs are being cut,” Tieu said. “Yet you continue to support the 421-a tax subsidiary, which gives billions of dollars each year to luxury developers like Extell to push us out of the neighborhood we built.” The building, which some fear will displace hundreds of longtime minority tenants from the area, was also held up as a symbol for the largescale development that is threatening the Lower East Side and Chinatown, in general. “They’re stealing from the poor to give to the rich,” said Louise Velez, a lifelong Lower East Sider and a member of National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, or NMASS, which is part of the coalition. “Extell has opened a can of worms.” Another contentious topic is the smaller, 13-story building right next door to Extell’s tower, which will house affordable units but was blasted as “racist” and a “poor door” by some protesters. The event’s main objective was to respond to the Department of City Planning’s dismissal of a rezoning plan drawn up by the Chinatown Working Group over the last seven years. That plan calls for similar protections to the 2008 rezoning of the East Village and part of the Lower East Side, which now safeguards the area from overdevelopment with strict height limits on new buildings. Chinatown and the Lower East Side below Grand St. were not included in the 2008 rezoning plan, and critics argue that this has driven luxury residential and hotel development into those areas, causing rents and property taxes to skyrocket. “My constituents on the Lower East Side are being displaced from their homes. Big luxury towers are being built instead of the schools and af-

Protesters held up signs of the “Building From Hell,” Extell’s planned high-rise that has become a symbol of overdevelopment in the Lower East Side and Chinatown.

fordable grocery store that we need,” said Jenifer Rajkumar, district leader for the 65th Assembly District, part C. She was referring to the popular Pathmark supermarket that previously served the neighborhood but was closed due to the Extell development. “I am here today to say: Not in my district,” Rajkumar added, to loud cheers from the crowd. The C.W.G. proposal would see the creation of five subdistricts with different zoning regulations, in order to recognize the unique characteristics of the neighborhood — including a separate area for the Lower East Side waterfront, as well as a designated Bowery corridor. The City Planning EV / LES rezoning in 2008 was done as a means of preserving neighborhood character and discouraging luxury development, while including some upzoning for greater density to provide opportunities for affordable housing development. C.W.G. has fought for years to cap large-scale developments in the areas left out of the plan, and to give local New York City Housing Authority residents some say on any push for “infill” development on public-housing property. But the group’s hopes were squashed earlier this year, when City Planning dismissed their proposal, determining it “not feasible at this time.” That comes as a disappointment to people like Shuifang Zeng, a 17-year resident on the Bowery who told the rally how her landlord has refused to make repairs and actively tried to evict people from her building since buying it, along with 10 other buildings in the area, in 2013. “It is because Chinatown has no protection from displacement,” she said. “In 2008, the East Village rezon-

Young local activists added their energy to the march and rally.

ing plan only protected the majority white community.” It was not just longtime residents who complained about the current situation. Jose Serrano-McClain, who showed up at the rally with his son, said he only moved to the neighborhood last month. “I support stable communities and a future for New York City that is inclusive and integrated and hopeful.

Clearly this is not creating a sense of cohesion in this neighborhood,” he said of the Extell development, where workers were doing excavation work as the protesters chanted on the sidewalk. “More than anything, it’s creating a sense of rupture. So something’s not right.” The crowd’s real size became apparent once the procession started moving west toward City Hall, accompanied by a large police escort despite the pope’s presence Uptown. Taking a few breaths in between chants of “Extell, go to hell” and “Lower East Side, not for sale,” Tieu, who grew up in Chinatown and now lives in Queens, said he just wanted the same protections that other communities enjoy. “Rents are so high, and landlords are using shady tactics to push people out of their apartments,” he said. “We feel that this has to stop. Coming from a mayor who pledged to fight inequality, this is just plain ridiculous,” he said of the city’s dismissal of their zoning proposal. The masses eventually gathered in front of City Hall Park, where frustrated residents from Harlem and Brooklyn joined in the angry rants against the mayor, delivered from a makeshift stage. One of the marchers who had continually riled up the crowd was Michael Casiano, a graduate of New Design High School on Grand St. and a lifelong Lower East Sider. His parents immigrated from Puerto Rico and Peru more than 50 years ago, and his mother also attended the rally. “I am here today to make sure that, if another high-rise is going to be built — whether or not we’re successful in stopping this one — that they involve the community,” he said. “We’ve been here for a long time. “Before you come in and build stuff, come ask us. Get some feedback from the people in this community. We are the Lower East Side. We are Chinatown.”

October 1, 2015

7


No, say it ain’t faux! M.T.A. plant hits the fan BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

I

PHOTO BY JESSICA SEIGEL

s that it? Unfortunately, basically — yes! The fake facade being erected around an M.T.A. fan plant at Mulry Square looks incomplete, but actually that’s pretty much what it’s going to look like. The phony facade will conceal emergency exhaust fans for the Seventh and Eighth Ave. subway lines that run underneath it. Jessica Seigel, a lifelong Villager who teaches journalism at N.Y.U., recently was passing by the strange structure, at the intersection of Seventh Ave. South, Greenwich Ave. and W. 11th St., and was shocked at what she saw — and even more shocked at what the construction workers there told her about it. According to Seigel, two hard hats on a break said they were perplexed at the unfinished cement facade, so contrary to their experience in construction, in which exposed, pocked cement generally goes underneath an exterior finishing layer. “We can’t believe it either,” one man, who identified himself as a supervisor, told Seigel, declining to give his name for fear of repercussions. Repeatedly asked if they were sure the design was complete, both men said yes because they had worked erecting the structure — and felt bad they had to execute such an ugly plan. “It’s really something, isn’t it?” the supervisor asked, both men snickering at the hulking, raw cement shell. “It is hideous beyond words and outrageous,” Seigel told The Villager. “I don’t understand how

Yes, this is what the M.T.A. fan plant really is going to look like, according to Community Board 2. The windows at least will be prettied up a bit.

any licensed architect could design and any agency approve what looks like a cement bunker wearing a brick Mardi Gras mask on one side of its face. It’s bizarre that the Landmarks Preservation Commission is charged with protecting our historic community, down to even the color of the mortar on my own family’s 1835 brownstone renovation, yet the M.T.A. is allowed to build what looks like an unfinished, three-story fallout shelter in the heart of Greenwich Village with no oversight whatsoever.” Shirley Secunda, chairperson of the Communi-

ty Board 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee, sadly confirmed the workers’ report. “It pains me to say, this is it,” she said. “Horrendous, right? In 2011 we asked M.T.A. NYC Transit to go to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to review the latest iteration of the plan at that time. L.P.C. hated it and suggested, more or less, that a design that reflects what the building’s doing would be better. “NYC Transit used that as an excuse to go ahead with the current barebones, cement-block-like ‘fauxcade’ design,” Secunda said. “Never mind that in 2010 we had submitted a beautiful, industrial-type alternative housing designed by architect and C.B. 2 member Anita Brandt that would be more in keeping with the purpose of the building. Never mind that in 2014 we again implored NYC Transit to withdraw the fauxcade design — to no avail.” Ironically, the M.T.A., since it’s a state agency, didn’t even need L.P.C. approval. Basically, the earlier design included brick facing around the whole structure, but this was then later modified, leaving large expanses of exposed concrete. The new design provoked an outcry, but NYC Transit wouldn’t budge. And it doesn’t end there. Secunda said the transit agency is now even resisting the community board’s efforts to try to “soften” the Brutalist-Federalist mashup facade, plus determine what will go on with the small amount of open space in front of the fan plant. “We suggested using Boston ivy vines, which hardly need any maintenance, or a mural,” Secunda said, adding despairingly, “I don’t think this thing even qualifies as a fauxcade!”

FIGHT CANCER WITH KNOWLEDGE. Early detection of breast cancer helps saves lives. PenFed supports Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And we would like to remind our female members, employees — and all women — to get regular breast exams and mammograms in accordance with the American Cancer Society’s guidelines.

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POLICE BLOTTER Smith Houses homicide

Citi Busted

On Sat., Sept. 26, at 5:44 a.m., police responded to a 911 call of a male shot inside the lobby area of 10 Catherine Slip, in the Smith Houses. Upon arrival, officers found a 19-year-old male, unconscious and unresponsive, with a gunshot wound to the head. EMS medics responded to the location and transported the victim to New York Downtown Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The victim was identified as Nathaniel Szeto. The New York Post reported his nickname, “Chao,” and said he worked as an attorney’s assistant. The Post quoted a friend of Szeto’s who said, “He went to high school, was in college... He was a very smart kid.” As of Wednesday, police had not reported an arrest.

Police said they caught a man with a stolen Citi Bike in front of 66 Bethune St. on Wed., Sept. 23. The alleged perpetrator was reportedly acting suspiciously in an alley when police arrived at 4 a.m. A search of the suspect turned up a crack pipe and a knife, according to police. Akins Caresquero, 35, was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a weapon, a felony.

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Police said that on Mon., Sept. 28, at 11 p.m., two men armed with a gun entered the VideoGamesNewYork store, at 202 E. Sixth St., struck the clerk on the head with the weapon, removed an undetermined amount of cash from the register and fled. The clerk was transported to Bellevue Hospital where he was treated and released. The first suspect was described as 5-foot-6 and the second as 6-feet tall. Both were in their early 20s. One wore a blue baseball cap with the word “Dodgers” on it, an olive-colored hoodie and sunglasses. The gun wielder wore a black mask over his face, an orange baseball cap and a patterned grayish hoodie. Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Department’s Crime Stoppers Hotline, at 800-577-TIPS. Tips can also be submitted by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting them to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.

Stunning arrest A woman came clean soon after police stopped a black car near the southwest corner of Horatio St. and Greenwich Ave. on Wed., Sept. 23. The stop began simply enough; the driver failed to use a turn signal at about 3 a.m. But police soon found that a passenger in the car was guilty of a more serious offense — possession of an illegal stun gun. Police arrested Richard Yates, 32, who was listed in a police report as female, and charged her with criminal possession of a weapon, a misdemeanor.

Heavily armed ninja? A man was allegedly heavily armed in front of 149 Bleecker St. on Thurs., Sept. 24. Police said that they observed Tobois Larland, 23, using a taser in public view a few minutes before 1 a.m. They searched him and reportedly found a full arsenal in his possession, including seven retractable batons, three pairs of brass knuckles, one metal knuckle knife, two Chinese daggers, two belt knives, one butterfly knife, two neck knives, one gravity knife, one blow dart and one garrote. Police said he also had two grappling hooks, three lock-pick sets and 10 firecrackers, plus a bag of cocaine. Wicked Willy’s bar is located at the address in front of which Larland was arrested. The Queens resident received a full load of criminal charges to boot: felony criminal possession of a weapon; misdemeanor possession of burglary tools; misdemeanor possession of a dangerous instrument; criminal possession of a firearm, and a violation for unlawful possession of fireworks. A police report did not state any charges for the coke.

‘Triangle offense’ The other woman paid a price on Sat., Sept. 26, when her girlfriend’s wife attacked her at the Cubby Hole bar, at 281 W. 12th St. Police said the wife punched the third wheel in the face at 2:30 a.m., resulting in a cut and plenty of blood. The 45-year-old homewrecker identified the wife to police, adding that the she drives a 2002 Ford Taurus. Police arrested Connie Yildirim, 47, and charged her with misdemeanor assault. Her alleged victim refused medical attention.

Zach Williams and Lincoln Anderson TheVillager.com


Sign for Selman on Bedford St. What the truck? Seeing red

A

street co-naming ceremony for Larry Selman will be held at the corner of Bedford and Grove Sts. on Tues., Oct. 6, at 6 p.m. There will be a reception held after the ceremony at Greenwich School of Music, 46 Barrow St. For questions or more information, e-mail info@welcomechange.org . Selman, who was developmentally disabled, died on Jan. 20, 2013, at age 70. As Albert Amateau wrote in Selman’s obituary in The Villager, he “was considered by many to be the glue that brought the Bedford, Barrow and Commerce Sts. community together.” Though Selman lived on the edge of poverty himself, he raised more than $300,000 for various charities over the years, as immortalized in the film “The Collector of Bedford Street.” The Oscar-nominated 2002 documentary was made by Alice Elliott, a Village neighbor. As a result of the film, Selman became known far beyond the neighborhood where he had lived since 1968. Since 1970, Selman had been soliciting contributions, a dollar or so at a time, for causes that included cancer care, disabled firefighters, families of 9/11 victims, The Caring Community, the former St. Vincent’s Hospital and a Jewish Association for Services to the Aged project to provide pets

over Mrs. Green’s garbage

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON

M Larry Selman collected more than $300,000 for charities, one dollar at a time.

for the elderly. Selman shared his small Bedford St. apartment with his dog, Penny, and a cat, Happy, the latter which died shortly after Hurricane Sandy. At Selman’s shiva (mourning reception), firefighters from the firehouse at Sixth Ave. and Houston St. came by to pay their respects. “Larry the Raffle Guy” was a frequent visitor to the stationhouse to sell raffles benefitting charity.  The film “The Collector of Bedford Street” gave Larry Selman the opportunity to travel. Elliott took him with her to Los Angeles to the Academy Awards in 2003. A documentary on the World Trade Center towers won that year.

rs. Green’s natural and organic grocery store opened at the end of August at Hudson and Bank Sts., with a pledge to provide “clean, healthy food.” But neighbors of Mrs. Green’s have been seeing red over the store’s garbage. First, the store was putting its trash out on the curb on Bethune St., but it was a mess and residents complained. The store then rented a long Ryder truck to store its garbage, leaving the vehicle parked out in front of the place 24 hours a day. “Because they used a maximum amount of floor space on two floors for their grocery items, Mrs. Green’s didn’t leave enough space for their garbage,” charged Tony Hoffmann,

a leading member of the Village Independent Democrats political club. However, a Mrs. Green’s spokesperson said a Health Department inspector came by the store Monday and gave it “a clean bill of health.” “The truck will be gone this week as we develop a new process that will allow us to keep the garbage in the store,” the spokesperson said, adding he couldn’t say exactly what that process would be. “We don’t have any issue with the garbage now,” he said. He assured that the store was built with adequate space to store its own garbage. “This is not the first time we’ve opened a store,” he said. The truck will be gone by Thursday, he said.

Neighbors say this truck, parked outside Mrs. Green’s, was used to store garbage before pickups.

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A message from the publisher... BY JENNIFER GOODSTEIN

small measure to the ordinary people who rise to the extraordinary occasion, demonstrating time and again the incredible strength and power of unity when affliction strikes. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an opportunity for us at NYC Community Media and Community News Group to praise altruists of all stripes, share some of their stories, and herald them for commandeering the spirit needed to aid and support the stricken on their difficult journey to good health. Like most people, my husband and I have had friends and family who have battled cancer, including a close friend who has survived three bouts with breast cancer. Anyone who has watched the impact of this terrible disease on sufferers and their loved ones understands the urgent need to find a cure.  We hope our second annual “pink paper” publications and their inspirational stories about our common human desire to help others will encourage our readers to volunteer in their communities, in order to give breast cancer patients the hope and support they urgently need and deserve.

O

ur best scoops come from you, our loyal readers. You told us how much you enjoyed our inaugural Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx “pink paper” issues last year to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and asked us to make it an annual print tradition. We are delighted to oblige, with a focus this year on volunteers. They are the unsung heroes whose efforts behind the scenes are instrumental in turning tragedy into triumph for millions of Americans every year. These selfless individuals, families, community groups, schools and corporations toil diligently and mostly without fanfare — sometimes around the clock — to do their part in helping to conquer a potentially killer disease that will claim the lives of 40,000 women and 440 men before the year ends, according to the American Cancer Society. The good news is: • There are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States today. • The five-year relative survival rate for female invasive breast cancer patients has jumped from 75 percent in the mid-1970s to 90 percent today. The strides can be attributed in no

Goodstein is publisher, NYC Community Media, and president, Community News Group

Jennifer Goodstein.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Settlement seniors’ payback To The Editor: Re “A hard row to hoe: Garden or housing at Little Italy lot?” (news article, Sept. 27): The article on the Elizabeth St. Garden reports that a group of senior citizens from HamiltonMadison House in Chinatown — located well over a mile away from the garden and in a different community board — were bused in by

Hamilton-Madison House personnel. No doubt this was done to try to bolster Councilmember Margaret Chin’s flimsy argument of “community” support for the destruction of the beautiful garden. It would have been admirable if these senior “activists” and Hamilton-Madison House were motivated by altruism or concern for affordable housing. However, a check of the City Council’s budget data base reveals that Chin has given Hamilton-

IRA BLUTREICH

Can the M.T.A. really be this dumb?! 12

October 1, 2015

Madison House $211,000 since 2011. See www. council.nyc.gov/html/budget/database.shtml . This tit-for-tat payback is yet another example of the pay-to-play and divisive politics that Margaret Chin continues to employ to destroy the Elizabeth St. Garden. Sean Sweeney

Chin shows insensitivity To The Editor: Re “A hard row to hoe: Garden or housing at Little Italy lot?” (news article, Sept. 27): Destruction of the garden would be a travesty — like destroying a work of art. As a senior in Community Board 2, I pass the garden several times a week on my way to the Chinatown Y / University Settlement House Community Center, and consider this little park to be a jewel — a beautiful spot, a unique refuge and a place for many in the community to enjoy. There are other options in Lower Manhattan to build affordable housing with many more units. Margaret Chin’s advocacy for building housing on this garden site is misplaced and shows her insensitivity to the needs of this community, where there are few parks and where quality-of-life issues are LETTERS continued on p. 19 TheVillager.com


Helping, healing, volunteers are the difference BY SHAVANA ABRUZZO

V

olunteers have been the heart and soul of our nation since the early colonists helped each other plant crops and survive in the New World. The figures show we continue to rely on one another for aid and comfort through tough times, making selflessness a national pastime. More than 62 million Americans volunteered more than 7 billion hours last year, reports the Corporation for National and Community Service. Volunteers are twice as likely to donate to charity as nonvolunteers. More than 138 million Americans are engaged in “informal volunteering” in their communities, including carpooling, helping neighbors with such tasks as watching each other’s children, and helping the elderly with shopping or house sitting. There are many local vollies who go the extra mile for breast cancer patients. Brooklyn Development Center worker Annette Thomas was a cancer warrior long before she became a cancer survivor, putting her best foot forward in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Walk for more than 20 years before learning she had esophageal cancer during a routine endoscopy in 2008. “I was called back to the doctor’s office to hear the dreaded words — ‘You have cancer!’ ” said the Canarsie resident, 58, who conquered the disease within a year through surgery and chemotherapy. The close brush with death gave her a new lease on life, and renewed her desire to keep volunteering. “It is an exhilarating feeling to know I fought cancer and won!” said Thomas, who plans to walk with family and friends in the Making Strides fundraiser at Prospect Park on Oct. 18. She is more than happy to walk the walk. “I am so blessed in my life on a daily basis, so volunteerism is only a small token of my appreciation for what I receive,” Thomas said. “We should help out in any area to make the world a better place.” Clinton Hill resident Diane Greene, 71, enjoys robust health — she bikes, skis, roller blades and goes dancing each week. “I am thankful that my body works and that I can use it — it’s a gift and I appreciate that,” said the retired aesthetician, who began volunteering three years ago with the American Cancer Society’s Look Good, Feel Better and wig-styling programs. Greene worked for 30 years at Bloomingdale’s, Elizabeth Arden and other top-tier establishments, TheVillager.com

Along with her 700-strong squad of “Sheryl’s Warriors” foot soldiers, Sheryl Phillip, far left, has raised $10,000 — and counting — for breast cancer research through the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Walk.

Annette Thomas participated in the Making Strides Walk for 20 years before being diagnosed with cancer herself.

counting celebrities among her clients. But these days she finds fulfillment in helping cancer patients look and feel their best with free makeup and wig-styling lessons at medical facilities. “Appearance is everything to a woman,” said Greene, who volunteers at Hematology Oncology Asso-

ciates in Midwood and the Brooklyn Hospital Center in Fort Greene. “We are all hardwired to appreciate beauty, and people react to you in a kinder way when you look nice.” Women who have never worn makeup before become devotees after a brush with Greene’s expertise. “You do their eyelashes, put some

color on them, and they begin to smile again,” she said. “It really transforms them.” A breast cancer patient in her early 50s was so moved by her stunning new look that she handmade Greene a pair of scarves in appreciation. “She said I had done something nice for her and she wanted to do the same for me,” she said. “It made me really happy.” A world in turmoil is all the more reason to help one another, claims Greene, who has participated in breast cancer walks and provided free makeup for opera singers. “As humans we should be helping, not hurting each other,” she said. “The success of mankind is that man has always reached out to help other humans, that’s how we’ve progressed.” “Sheryl’s Warriors” are raring to kick breast cancer to the curb — using 1,400 pairs of steel-nerved feet. Team leader Sheryl Phillip’s 700-strong squad of foot soldiers has raised $10,000 — and counting! — for research through the Making Strides Walk, in a dream come true for the East Flatbush resident, 39, who two years ago was battling a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer that tore through her chest like wildfire. “I went from being in Stage 1 to Stage 3B in six weeks,” said Phillip, who survived grueling chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, afterward pledging to become a volunteer with the American Cancer Society. “I made a promise to myself that when I got better, I would help someone else as those before me did.” The youngest of Sheryl’s Warriors is 5 years old and the oldest is 78, but they all stand shoulder to shoulder in their mission to torpedo cancer. “We have all been touched by this disease, and are walking for someone we love,” said Phillip, who will lead her warriors in the Prospect Park trek. Volunteers are integral to the healing, she stressed. “People with cancer don’t like to ask for help,” noted Phillip, who participated in case studies and clinical trials during her treatment. “But we need help, preparing meals and taking care of ourselves. And just knowing that someone is there and willingly helping you is such a relief.” The anti-cancer drug she takes every day was made possible in part through the fundraising efforts of volunteers, she said. “I would not be here today, if it wasn’t for monies raised by others for research,” stated Phillip, whose success story is the best pill of all. “It feels wonderful to be a survivor. Knowing that I have won this battle makes me feel great!” October 1, 2015

13


Joking, singing and strumming, she’s surviving SURVIVING continued from p. 1

PHOTO BY STEPHEN GREVING

“We looked and looked and sure enough, there was something,” she said. Forest had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue. “My girlfriend had gone home and I was all alone in the room,” she recalled. “I woke up and I didn’t know what had happened. I could hardly touch my breasts.” The surgery was successful, but she also had to have radiation. Yet when she went to New York Hospital, she was told she would have to wait more than a month. “I wasn’t going to put up with that — that’s not right,” she said. “I’ve done very well navigating the system because I won’t put up with anybody putting me off. I said, ‘Forget this.’ So I went to a private radiation guy.” The radiation and the surgery left her breasts burned and scarred. “The breast cancer, you think, ‘Oh, my God, nobody’s ever going to look at me again. I’m not going to have a relationship,’ ” she said. “But the right person doesn’t care.” While Forest said she didn’t like the disfigurement, she has found a way to address the cancer, albeit obliquely, in her solo shows and comedy act. She said she wanted to get her breasts evened out — after the radiation, one was drooping while the other was not. In her act, she explains how once she got a lift, the left breast was fine, but the right began to droop. To the tune of “East Side, West Side,” Forest sings, “Left breast, right breast,” she said with a laugh. Another joke originated with her mom, who had a mastectomy as a re-

Ukulele lady D’yan Forest didn’t let a morning radiation treatment stop her from driving to a gig on Staten Island.

sult of breast cancer. “My mother didn’t want to wear this prosthesis stuff or anything,” she explained. “So she’d go around playing golf and everything with just one breast in the bra. She said, ‘I’m one hung low.’ ” She added, “One of the things that I use in my act is, I don’t say it was cancer — but I say as I got older, I noticed that one of my breasts was drooping longer than the other one. And my Asian boyfriend started calling me One Hung Low.” She talks about the experience of cancer, she said, but never mentions the word because she doesn’t want people to feel sorry for her, but rather laugh.

Forest grew up in a nice Jewish family in a conservative town near Boston and moved to New York City in 1966. “I got a master’s degree in education, and now I’m sort of talking risqué comedy,” she said. She has done several one-woman shows, including “I Married a Nun” and “Around the World in 80 Years.” About 10 years ago she decided to give stand-up a try. She said that after 9/11, her singing and piano-playing gigs dried up and she was sick of not performing. “I got home and I looked in my closet with all the instruments — the glockenspiel, the trumpet — and I see my old, old, old ukulele,” she recalled.

Her parents had bought her a ukulele when she was a teen in the ’50s, though she had wanted a guitar. “They said, ‘A ukulele is for girls, a guitar is for boys,’ ” she recalled. “Even then, they knew I was AC/DC.” The ukulele has found its place in her comedy — she begins and ends her show with it. Forest has traveled to Europe and around the United States performing. She was in Germany when she started to experience stomach pain, she recalled. “When they took the CAT scan two years ago, the doctor said, ‘Nothing’s wrong with your stomach but there’s something wrong with your lungs,’ ” she said. Forest had lung cancer, and the doctors are now saying it could have come from the radiation that she received when she had breast cancer. “This cancer haunts you forever,” she said. “You just don’t know what’s going to show up.” Again, Forest found solace in her work. For the majority of the time, she didn’t stop rehearsing or practicing during the development phase of “Around the World in 80 Years.” She did have to stop for two weeks after the radiation and headaches started, but then began again. “I put cotton in the gown, in the bra, so it wouldn’t hurt when I was performing,” she said. Both cancers have been in remission and Forest shows no sign of slowing down. “I’m only 81 and everybody says, ‘Why don’t I go to Florida?’ I said, ‘Performing is what keeps me going. This is what keeps me happy.’ ” For more information, visit dyanforest.com.

Q&A with Soho’s Darlene Lutz; Doing it her way Darlene Lutz is a fine-art dealer and longtime resident of western Soho — which she adamantly refuses to call Hudson Square. For years, she was Madonna’s personal art adviser. Earlier this year, she protested the loud and disruptive Nike Zoom City temporary venue for the NBA AllStar Game that was built on Trinity Real Estate’s vacant lot at Duarte Square, at Canal St. and Sixth Ave. Back then, she told The Villager that the beeping, construction noise and diesel fumes from the site all were not helping her recovery, and was planning to spend some days at the James Hotel a bit farther away. Lutz declined to have her photo run with this Q&A, noting she values her anonymity walking down the street. Plus, she said, “I’m a vain woman!” Villager: Hi, Darlene. As a breast cancer survivor, what does Breast Can-

14

October 1, 2015

cer Awareness Month mean to you? Lutz: I don’t identify with the “survivor” label. Having B.C. is an endurance test. I actually loathe the pink wash that accompanies Breast Cancer Awareness Month. V: When were you diagnosed? L: I received my diagnosis three years ago, in the form of, “The bad news is, it is breast cancer. The good news is, it’s garden variety.” The pregame was an intense eight weeks. There are many cogs to the diagnosis wheel. Everyone was a lot nicer and responsive once I had invasive, but nonlethal, breast cancer. V: How are you now?

L: I no longer have breast cancer. There are as many types of breast cancer as there are breasts. One treatment size doesn’t fit all. Having breast cancer became my full-time job. I focused on obtaining the best course of treatment for my specific case. I just finished the last of my reconstruction surgeries a few months ago. V: Are you involved in the breast cancer community? L: I’m not really a joiner. But I try and keep up on recent medical data, and I participate in an online community forum from time to time. I’m good at aggregating data, and I have binders full of doctors I consulted with. V: Do celebrities with breast cancer

who go public help or hurt? L: In my opinion, it depends on how they present their case. B.C. is really complicated and highly individual. I think Angelina Jolie did a great job articulating her case by disclosing personal medical data publicly. On the other end of the spectrum, our governor’s girlfriend appeared uninformed and hysterical about her B.C. She didn’t disclose the diagnosis, and said her days were numbered, which apparently wasn’t true. V: Anything else? L: It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so feel free to lower your eyes to my breasts. They’re not real and pretty spectacular. TheVillager.com


Prospect Park was a vibrant stage of excitement, activity and fundraising at last year’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. In Manhattan, the Making Strides of Central Park walk will be held Sun., Oct. 18, at 8 a.m.

How to get involved

BY SHAVANA ABRUZZO

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olunteers of all ages and walks of life fuel and energize the American Cancer Society, donating their time and skills to help eradicate a disease that has claimed so much from so many. Here are some ways to give the greatest gift of all — yourself — to help someone battling cancer: Road to Recovery recruits volunteer drivers who use their own personal vehicles to drive cancer patients to and from treatment and other cancer-related appointments. You must be above 18 years of age and have a current, valid driver’s license, proof of automobile insurance, and own a safe and reliable vehicle. Look Good, Feel Better provides free cosmetics, and makeup and wig-styling lessons to women dealing with the aesthetic side effects of chemotherapy. Volunteer hairstylists, aestheticians, makeup artists, nail technicians and other beauty professionals conduct group programs or one-on-one salon consultations for a few hours a month at medical and health facilities. DetermiNation volunteers participate in a marathon, triathlon, cycling race or other endurance event to raise funds for cancer research, making the finish line just the beginning! Cancer Action Network enables the politically minded to help enact laws and policies to make the fight TheVillager.com

against cancer a national priority. Meet with legislators, plan events, encourage new membership, and help make phone calls. Network campaigns have led to 35 states going smoke-free, and increased federal funding for research. Relay For Life teams camp out overnight and take turns walking or running around a track or path at a local school, park or other community space to raise money. Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk offers behind-thescenes opportunities to raise awareness and funds. The Society in Second Life is a three-dimensional virtual world built entirely by users. Volunteers can reach out to millions of people around the world to share the group’s mission, and advocate for those touched by cancer. Leadership Council volunteers serve as ambassadors in their communities, collaborating with corporations, health systems, advocacy leaders and other community stakeholders to broaden the span. Reach To Recovery matches trained volunteer breast cancer survivors with people living with the disease. Volunteers provide understanding and hope through face-toface visits or by phone. To volunteer for these and other American Cancer Society programs visit www.cancer.org/involved/volunteer/index or call (800) 227–2345.

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Breasties: Finding new friends

RHYMES WITH CRAZY BY LENORE SKENAZY

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he upside of cancer? Not sure there is one. But there does seem to be one side of cancer that is the opposite of terror, loneliness and pain: The unexpected friendships that grow just like those damn cells. “I was diagnosed pretty young — 31,” says Stacey Gordon, a Bronx native living in Alabama who is now — knock wood — 51. Gordon had already moved down there with the Air Force when she found herself facing breast cancer.  “I wasn’t married, I was all alone,” recalls the personal trainer. So she decided to gather a group of other breast cancer comrades to exercise with. This, despite the fact that the doctors back then “wanted to wrap you in cotton.” The group exercised to the point where they were fit enough, a few years later, for a bigger challenge: Mt. Kilimanjaro, which, Gordon hastens

wearing scarves, and breast cancer-related jewelry. I approached her and said, ‘I’m sorry to bother you but … are you dealing with breast cancer?’ ” to add, “was not a cliché back then.” The woman — Robin — answered As close as she was with the group, “Yes” and gave her some friendly tips it wasn’t until she was climbing on how to get through the biopsy. with them — and realizing that she When the results came back positive, couldn’t make it to the top — that she Stephanie contacted her again and the really got to know another member stranger became a mentor. named Jane, who couldn’t go any furIt was Robin who gave Stephanie a ther either. basket filled with lip balm, a lap blan“We probably had almost nothing ket to keep her warm during chemoin common. She was married and had therapy, and tissues. older children and was very Southern. Lots of tissues.  Perfectly coifed, perfect makeup. She’s “I was like, ‘Why am I going to need also very religious and Christian. Me, I these?’  ” says Stephanie. Robin exwas young, I’m gay, I’m Jewish.” plained that when hair falls out, it all Somehow, they talked about it all falls out — including nose hair. This — even while touring Tanzania — leaves people sniffling. and went back tight friends. So tight Once again, an odd couple was that when Jane grabbed her hand to born: Robin went to Bible study. pray, “I used to be embarrassed about Stephanie was covered with head-toit,” says Gordon, “but that kind of toe tattoos.  changed.” “I think we would never have interAnd so did Gordon. Something acted if it weren’t for breast cancer,” very angry started melting away. (She says Stephanie.  also went back and summited Mt. But once the two became friends, Kilimanjaro a few years later.)  Stephanie turned around and became For Stephanie Johnson, a new the “Robin” to other women with the friendship began even before she same diagnosis — right down to deknew for sure she had breast cancer.  livering gift baskets of blanket, balm “I was working part time at a bar,” and Kleenex. says the beauty consultant and pho“In some ways, helping someone tographer. She’d just learned she else deal with their fears makes it needed a biopsy on her left breast, easier to face your own,” says Jenn when into the bar walked a woman McRobbie, author of “Why Is She ActT:8.75”ing So Weird? A Guide to Cultivating “covered in pink everything. She was

Closeness When a Friend Is in Crisis.” Cancer friendships may be based on some powerful mix of empathy, courage and desperation, but at their root is always kindness.  “It happened to me on various levels,” says McRobbie. “When I was walking through the mall and I was bald as a cue ball, I would have women walk up to me and hug me and just say, ‘Solider on, sister,’ and then they’d just keep walking. They didn’t feel the need to tell me why they felt that way.” But as close as she grew to some of the strangers she met, she was also surprised to see some of her usual circle of friends slip away, simply freaked out by what she was going through. That’s another reason cancer friends can be so crucial. “We’re all in the same boat,” says Haralee Weintraub, a breast cancer survivor now selling pajamas that keep women cool during the night sweats that can accompany the disease. She’s been in an exercise and support group for nearly a decade.  “Our conversations go beyond, ‘What do you do for a living?’ ” says Haralee. “They’re about what’s more important in your life.”  And what’s more important than feeling loved and connected?  Skenazy is a keynote speaker and the author and founder of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids”

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17


Self-exams are the first line of breast defense

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n addition to scheduling clinical screenings and mammograms, women should routinely examine and massage their breasts to detect any abnormalities. These breast self-exams can be an important part of early breast cancer detection. Although many women are aware that they should become familiar with their bodies, many are unsure about just how frequently they should conduct breast examinations. Experts at Johns Hopkins Medical Center advise adult women of all ages to perform self-examinations at least once a month. That’s because 40 percent of diagnosed breast cancers are first detected by women who feel a lump. Establishing a regular breast self-exam schedule is very important. Begin by looking at the breasts in a mirror. Note the size and appearance of the breasts, and pay attention to any changes that are normal parts of hormonal changes associated with menstruation. Breasts should be evenly shaped without distortion or swelling. Changes that should cause concern include dimpling, puckering or bulging of the skin. Inverted nipples or nipples that have changed position, as well as any rash or redness,

should be noted. In addition, the same examination should be done with arms raised over the head. The breasts should be felt while both lying down and standing up. Use the right hand to manipulate the left breast and vice versa. Use a firm touch with the first few fingers of the hand. Cover the entire breast in circular motions. The pattern taken doesn’t matter, so long as it covers the entire breast. All tissue, from the front to the back of the breast, should be felt. The same pattern and procedure should be conducted while standing up. Many women find this easiest to do while in the shower. It is important not to panic if something is detected. Not every lump is breast cancer. And bumps may actually be normal parts of the breast, since certain areas can feel different than others. But bring any concerns to the attention of your doctor. Breast self-exams are a healthy habit to adopt. When used in conjunction with regular medical care and mammography, self-exams can be yet another tool in helping to detect breast abnormalities. Doctors and nurses will use similar breast examination techniques during routine examinations.

Health experts stress the importance of regular breast self-exams.

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October 1, 2015

Annual mammograms are recommended for women over age 40. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam at least every three years. TheVillager.com


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR LETTERS continued from p. 12

It’s smart writing with a lot of heart. I like that.

so important to many of us.

Umberto Tosi

Susan Fortgang

Thanks for the paper, Barry!

Who could even afford it? To The Editor: Re “A hard row to hoe: Garden or housing at Little Italy lot?” (news article, Sept. 27): A number of housing groups have suggested that “affordable housing” should be renamed “incomebased housing” because income guidelines are still beyond the means of many New Yorkers. Question is, how many of the people Margaret Chin bused in from Chinatown will actually be able to afford these apartments? Stacy Walsh Rosenstock

Hail Mary! To The Editor: Re “No hope for a visit by pope in East Village, but a few score tickets” (news article, Sept. 27): If Francis is the people’s pope, Mary Reinholz qualifies as the people’s pundit with this excellent piece of neighborhood vérité — a walk around the East Village that I found vivid, insightful, ironic and relevant to some of the major issues of Pope Francis’s visit.

To The Editor: Re “Honoring Benepes’ benefits to gardens and more” (news article, Sept. 27): Many years ago, Barry Benepe, my next-door neighbor on Jane St., gave me the gift of a year’s subscription to The Villager. This led to my religiously reading the paper from cover to cover each week. One week I wrote a letter to the editor about one of the articles I had read. That letter led to my writing for The Villager for more than 12 years and launched me in a career I would never have considered — writing for newspapers and magazines. Just another — granted, this is a personal note — extraordinary accomplishment of the remarkable Barry Benepe. Merci, Barry! Patricia Fieldsteel

No. 7 funding was flubbed To The Editor: “New Hudson Yards Station is on another level” (Rhymes With Crazy, by Lenore Skenazy, Sept. 17) missed part of the story. 

The original cost of the No. 7 subway extension to W. 34th St. Hudson Yards was $2.1 billion, and is now $2.4 billion, not counting the subway station that had to be dropped from the original scope of work, along with additional subway cars necessary to provide opening day service. Neither the city nor the M.T.A.  could find $500 million to cover the planned new intermediate subway station to be built at 10th Ave. and 41st St. Deletion of this second station kept the project cost at $2.4 billion rather than $2.9 billion.    What the public is unaware of is the M.T.A.’s decision when the project was in the planning stage several years before 2007. The agency instructed staff not to follow the federal National Environmental Protection Act process or enter the U.S. Department of Transportation New Starts process. The M.T.A. did not want to go after New Starts funding for this project. This would have had this project compete against both the L.I.R.R. East Side Access and NYC Transit’s Second Ave. subway projects for federal New Starts funding. The M.T.A. provided no financial assistance and  insisted the city pay for virtually all of the project costs. The M.T.A. could have leveraged the $2.4 billion in locally committed funding to apply for up to $500 million in New Starts funding. This could have convinced U.S. D.O.T. to provide $500 million in federal funding that would have paid for the deleted station at 10th Ave. and 41st St.    Larry Penner LETTERS continued on p. 28

Taking a stand against harassment by construction TALKING POINT BY ANNE HAYES

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y home of 25 years is a rent-stabilized apartment in one of a set of three aging but stable East Village walk-ups. The year 2012 brought a lot of stress and rapid changes as the developers who bought the buildings began a massive reconstruction project. They repeatedly offered buyouts accompanied by warnings of disruptive construction. Over time these tactics reduced the number of rent-regulated apartments by half in my building alone. First a sidewalk shed was erected. Then surveillance cameras were installed on each floor. An electronic front-door entry system was installed with an encoded key fob that tracked the user’s entry history. One fob was issued per leaseholder, but that would be overturned in tenants’ favor by a Division of Homes and Community Renewal hearing. Then construction began, and soon nonunion workers were demolishing TheVillager.com

units and common areas throughout the building. Disruptive work was scheduled during high-traffic periods. Unfinished work left open walls, hanging wires and debris. One day, as tenants were leaving for work, individual stone stair steps and full landings were being replaced. Tenants had to walk over shaky plywood bridges just to get out of the building. Whatever overt challenges the unprotected construction brought, the more troublesome threats were those of the potential long-term environmental variety. During demolition and construction, little was done to mitigate dangerous conditions. There was no air-quality monitoring equipment, no HEPA-filter vacuums and minimal sweeping/mopping. Plastic sheeting was taped up but never cleaned or replaced as it sagged and deteriorated. Most of us developed dry coughs and suffered from irritated, dry eyes. The image of a layer of dust on the surface of my eyes was captured at an eye exam. In 2013, our building filed a D.H.C.R. complaint concerning conditions. A D.H.C.R. inspector issued violations for excessive dust, inadequate janitorial services and broken stairwell steps. To my knowledge, violations still stand, though general conditions improved

as sledgehammers and saws inevitably gave way to paintbrushes and brokers. Our experience with the Department of Buildings was mixed, with inspectors either not responding to repeated complaints or claiming no access to the building. Alternatively, inspectors noted no work in progress at the time of inspection, despite a consistent weekday construction schedule of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for almost two years. Finally, months into the job, D.O.B. issued a stop-work order. Many of us suffered through ceiling collapses, cracks in walls and leaks, and all of us were subject to gas and electric shut-offs with little or no notice. Some notices were posted, but after utility interruptions had occurred. I often worried about whether the workers were actually qualified to work with live gas and electricity as utilities were reconfigured to match the redesigned layout of new, compact apartments. Last year, two days before vacation, my bathroom ceiling collapsed when workmen dropped a beam through the open floor of the apartment directly above. Other tenants had the added burden of legal bills resulting from nuisance cases filed by owners seeking proof of primary residency status. Most of these were dropped after numerous postponements and before final court

dates, but not before running up costs to tenants for retaining counsel. Tenants are hit from so many directions that even the most knowledgeable can feel overwhelmed, unsafe and unsure which agency to contact in the acronym soup. Living in the hyper-vigilant state that is required to stay on top of conditions takes a toll. We survived by internal tenant organizing, aided by GOLES and Cooper Square Committee. These organizations help us link to tenants on neighboring blocks who stood their ground while enduring similar aggressive construction projects. As one of the many tenants living through these tactics of landlord harassment, I fully support the new Stand for Tenant Safety campaign. S.T.S. has brought together community-based tenants’ rights groups and legal service organizations to fight back against landlords’ use of disruptive and harmful construction as a harassment tactic. After the two years of harassment I experienced from dangerous work in my building, I now strongly believe that real, meaningful changes must be made at D.O.B. to keep tenants, workers and our affordable housing stock safe. For more information about the Stand for Tenant Safety campaign, visit http://www. standfortenantsafety.com October 1, 2015

19


SLAM blasts N.Y.U. on tuition critic’s treatment BY YANNIC RACK

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tudents at New York University staged a sitin two weeks ago to protest the university’s alleged retaliation against a debt-laden stu-

October 1, 2015

Robert Aschermann, a SLAM organizer, speaking at the Sept. 18 protest.

N.Y.U.’s chief spokesperson, instead. “We talked a lot about student debt, and how N.Y.U. talks about being a place for everyone and diversifying, but not being able to make sure that [those students] are staying in,” Ascherbach said afterward. “They wouldn’t talk a lot about Nia’s case.” Beckman said later that the accusation of retaliation against a student was “complete hogwash” and that the university generally denies requests for exemptions to the housing policy — in fact, he said, it only granted a single exemption to the freshmen-housing rule over the last three years. “N.Y.U. doesn’t retaliate against students because they seek additional financial aid or policy exemptions,” he said. “Thousands of students every year do that, and common sense should tell us that the fact that N.Y.U. cannot always honor every request is not retaliation.” Although Beckman noted that federal law prohibits colleges from speaking about a particular student’s circumstances, he offered a hypothetical explanation. “If the university found itself in the position in which an administrator had incorrectly told a student that living in N.Y.U. was not mandatory…in such a case, we might try to honor our mistake by granting an exemption, but only if that exemption were in line with our regular standards, including living with a close relative,” he said. “If the student’s living circumstances changed, the exemption would no longer be valid, and the student would be expected to live in N.Y.U. housing, as is clearly required.” Beckman also noted many colleges — like Amherst, University of Chicago, Yale and Stanford — require freshmen to live in campus housing. But Ascherman wasn’t convinced.

PHOTO BY BOB KRASNER

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PHOTO BY YANNIC RACK

dent. Nia Mirza, a freshman from Pakistan, was promised a housing exemption to offset the cost of studying at the university’s Washington, D.C., campus, allowing her to move in with relatives in Virginia instead of living in student housing. But when she requested a change to her living arrangements, asking if she could move in with a cousin who lives much closer to the campus, administrators told her to immediately move to N.Y.U. housing or withdraw from the university. The school’s Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) staged the protest on Sept. 18 to call attention to what it charges is unfair treatment and “retaliation” against Mirza, based on the fact that she started a petition against N.Y.U.’s whopping tuition fees earlier this year. “I’ve had three friends drop out in the midst of fighting the student debt campaign,” Robert Aschermann, a senior and one of SLAM’s organizers, said at the protest. “And I’m not about to see a fourth good friend of mine drop out because N.Y.U. doesn’t care about us. “We want N.Y.U. to remedy this situation,” he said. “If they’re so insistent that freshmen live on campus, give Nia free housing. If they don’t want to give her a $10,000 discount, then allow her to live with her family.” In an abrupt U-turn, the university has now offered to allow Mirza to apply for financial aid to meet her housing costs. “The dean called me and clarified some stuff, starting with that I’ll be required to live on campus, and secondly that — since affordability was the problem — I would need to file an appeal and they would try their level best to meet my needs,” Mirza said in a phone interview last week, adding that she was, however, still wary of the university. “I think that because of the pressure, yes, my issue might be resolved. But I would expect them to do the same with me and other students in the future.” Mirza’s problems with the school started even before she began studying there. In a Change.org petition that has collected around 5,500 signatures so far, she detailed how the tuition figure she was quoted before enrolling at N.Y.U. suddenly went up after students paid the enrollment deposit — meaning the cost of her first year of college jumped to $71,000, several thousand dollars more than her family had put aside. “This happened when ‘early decision’ students had taken the decision to enroll and withdrawn applications from other schools, as the decision was binding,” she wrote in the petition. SLAM argues that the school’s backtracking on Mirza’s housing exemption was retaliation for her comments about the high tuition costs. On Fri., Sept. 18, around 25 students who had gathered for the protest negotiated with an administrator to gain access to the university building at 726 Broadway, where they planned to stage a sit-in in the office of Beth Haymaker, the school’s director of global programs. The students were eventually allowed into a meeting with the university’s dean of liberal studies, Fred Schwarzbach, and John Beckman,

“They say this wasn’t a case of retaliation, which just proves our point even more — that N.Y.U. doesn’t care about students at all, because this is how they treat the average case,” he said. “We would hope that this is retaliation because the scenario is so bad. The fact that it’s the normal operations of this university is horrifying.” Students at the rally also raised more general concerns about the high cost of attending N.Y.U., one of the country’s most expensive colleges. “This is zooming in on a larger issue, which is that N.Y.U. is unaffordable in its housing, in its tuition, and there’s also a lack of jobs,” Ascherman said. SLAM is working to increase wages for students who do part-time administrative work for the university, demanding they be paid $15 an hour — much like fast-food workers, who will soon earn the same amount across New York after years of labor protests. As for Mirza, she said her personal victory would not have been possible without the organized support of her fellow students. “I owe 90 percent of this to SLAM and 10 percent to my own effort,” she said. “I’m very happy, and I’m convinced that the university is going to help me. But I also feel they’re inconsistent.”

Strike a pose Well, umm...O.K. sure...yeah, that’s a pose! Madonna, recently performing at Madison Square Garden on her Rebel Heart Tour, put a new spin on Spinal Tap’s “Smell the Glove.” TheVillager.com


Reanimating classic stories at Lovecraft Festival Horror, and one great old time, at Radiotheatre’s fest BY CHARLES BATTERSBY

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efore modern sci-fi appeared, there was a brief period in which horror, mysticism and science blurred together in fiction. The greatest writer of this chimeric genre was H.P. Lovecraft, a prolific short story writer from the early 20th century. For the last seven years, Radiotheatre has performed adaptations of Lovecraft’s work live onstage, in the style of a radio drama. They return this month with their Seventh Annual H.P. Lovecraft Festival — whose seven adaptations include some of his most famous stories, like “Reanimator” and “The Call of Cthulhu” — showing how Lovecraft’s singular style holds up in the 21st century. A recurring theme in Lovecraft’s prose is that alien beings and supernatural creatures would inherently be impossible to describe in any human language. He created his own distinct manner of writing, and often used a set of “Lovecraftian” adjectives to describe the eldritch, unnamable, squamous horrors in his tales. Dan Bianchi, the Artistic Director of Radiotheatre, talks about the genesis of this unique style. “He had this talent to create another world, another system of beings. He didn’t want to write science fiction with the same kind of robots and creatures that we’re used to seeing. Why can’t they be, if they’re going to be from another world, another dimension, something that we have no description for? Why must it be on humanity’s terms?,” he asks. Audiences have to use their imaginations when reading Lovecraft’s prose, and this works well with Radiotheatre’s style of production. Bianchi’s performers dress in black, and sit on stages with virtually no sets. The audience has to picture in their mind what the nightmare realms look like in the story of “Hypnos,” or the sea beasts of “The Horror at Martins Beach.” “I still don’t know if Cthulhu is seven feet

TheVillager.com

COURTESY RADIOTHEATRE

Radiotheatre challenges audiences to use their imaginations to bring Lovecraft’s words to life.

tall, or forty stories tall,” Bianchi says of the deliberately vague descriptions in Lovecraft’s works. “We have a whole generation that grew up with $200 million movies every week, so you just sit back, turn your brain off. [The special effects] have done everything for you.” Lovecraft had limited success in his own lifetime, dying young, unable to support himself on his income as a writer. However, he was a major influence on 20th century horror writers. “People like Stephen King, and Joyce Carol Oates regard Lovecraft as the grandmaster of twentieth century American Horror,” Bi-

anchi explains. “After Edgar Allen Poe comes H.P. Lovecraft, then everybody else after that. People revere his work now.” Lovecraft is best known for creating the “Cthulhu Mythos,” which concerns humanity’s relationship to god-like alien beings called “The Great Old Ones” who appear in many of his stories — notably, “The Call of Cthulhu.” The mythos itself has been picked up by other authors, filmmakers and video game designers. “Now it’s an industry,” BianLOVECRAFT, continued on p.22 October 1, 2015

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The (curtain) call of Cthulhu lures Lovecraft fans LOVECRAFT, continued from p. 21

COURTESY RADIOTHEATRE

Herbert West is brought to life in Dan Bianchi’s adaptation of “Reanimator.”

Theater for the New City Executive Director Crystal Field presents

chi says about Cthulhu’s cult status. “I know young people who say, ‘I know that Cthulhu,’ but they don’t know H.P. Lovecraft. The know because they grew up playing the games.” The same is true for another of Lovecraft’s most infamous creations, “Herbert West-Reannimator.” This serialized short story was an early example of zombie fiction, but modern audiences might know it best from the 1980s movie series which re-imaged Lovecraft’s tale as a dark comedy. “It’s something that you still get people like, ‘That was my favorite movie,’ and they come looking for the movie,” Bianchi laughs. “Even though Lovecraft hated that story. It was a job for hire.” Fans who never read the original versions of “Reanimator” and “Cthulhu” will be able to see more faithful adaptations of both stories during this year ’s festival. “Reanimator” is adapted by Bianchi, and “Cthlulhu” is adapted and performed by David Neilsen. A couple of other stories in this year ’s festival are of particular interest to New Yorkers. “The Horror At Red Hook” and “He” both take place in New York City. Lovecraft lived most of his life in New England, and set many of his stories in creepy New England towns, but during his brief marriage, his wife persuaded him to move to New York City. “They lived in Red Hook in Brooklyn, and the house is still there. And when he was here in New York, he was miserable,” according to Bianchi. Lovecraft’s wife left him after two years, and he returned to Rhode Island. This

short and unhappy exposure to New York and its multitudes of immigrants led him to write tales about ancient horrors brought to the modern world. Bianchi points out, “This is where the argument about Lovecraft comes in: ‘He’s a racist, why are you even doing his work?’ ” Lovecraft’s race issues are one of the many recurring xenophobic themes in his writing, along with phobias of the ancient and unknown. “You could take into account the time, place and society that he came from. These were old New Englanders, people who came on the Mayflower. To him, they were the New England nobility,” Bianchi says. “When he came to immigrant New York, he thought the masses were filthy and downtrodden. But it was odd that, even though he talked about the ‘swarthy’ immigrants, he married a Jewish woman. “He even wrote a story called ‘The Outsider,’ and that’s what he envisioned himself as,” Bianchi explains. “He is someone who communicated by writing to lots of other writers, and so they knew of him, and these small magazines kept him going.” Lovecraft’s influence and creations live on nearly 80 years after his death — and audiences who dare witness a cyclopean, unutterable theatrical event that humanity was not meant to behold can catch the H.P. Lovecraft Festival. The Seventh Annual H.P. Lovecraft Festival runs Thurs. Oct. 1– Sun. Oct. 11. At the Kraine Theater (85 E. Fourth St. btw. Bowery & Second Ave.). Programs start at 7:30 p.m. Thurs.–Sat. and at 3 p.m. on Sun. Tickets $20, at horsetrade.info. Artist info at radiotheatrenyc.com.

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Funny about cancer

Comics who lived to laugh at it BY SCOTT STIFFLER

strength than we think we have. I never set out to be funny [about cancer], but for me, humor always makes it comfortable to talk about something.” After performances or while sharing her story elsewhere, Marcs says it’s not uncommon to encounter “people who say, ‘Oh, I could never do that.’ Because they haven’t had to. But I’d hope they see my show and think, ‘Oh, I guess I can go through a lot more than I think I can.’ It’s a huge thing for a woman to lose her breasts, and [so often, so many] people don’t talk about it. I want them to know they’re still vibrant, beautiful, and sexy.” “Nice T!its” plays at 8 p.m. on Thurs., Oct. 8 & 29 and at 4 p.m. on Sun., Oct. 11 & 25 at The PIT (123 E. 24 St. off Park Ave.). For tickets ($15), visit thepit-nyc.com/event/nice-tts-5.

T

he moment in life when we realize we’ve become our parents is as shocking, sobering, and forkin-the-road-decisive as the diagnosis of a potentially fatal disease. Cancer, which sometimes asserts itself alongside all the other blessings and curses of heredity, doesn’t give you a choice. It does, however, give you plenty of new material to work with — especially if you happen to carry the gene for looking at tragedy and finding comedy. This is the case for three women whose breast cancer wasn’t much of a joke at first, but ended up being something they, and plenty of others, have found themselves laughing at.

AMY MARCS (thepit-nyc.com/event/ nice-tts-5) Ever since those first stirrings at her sixth grade birthday party, after retreating to the basement laundry room with a fumbling Larry Stomba for seven minutes in Spin the Bottle heaven, “I was always the girl who had the great boobs,” says Amy Marcs. Many years and a double mastectomy later, Marcs’ solo show “Nice T!ts” is an alternately introspective and crass, frequently absurd and occasionally surreal look at how medical consultations, surgeries, cancer support groups and conversations with Barbie by Mattel changed her “perceptions of femininity, womanhood, confidence, and mortality.” “This whole ordeal,” explains Marcs in her show, “began when I was diagnosed with DCIS [ductal carcinoma in situ] in my left breast [a non-invasive breast cancer]. It doesn’t spread beyond the milk ducts. Some doctors consider it to be pre-cancer, and some doctors consider it to be cancer. I just wish they’d make up their f***ing minds. It’s like telling someone, ‘Congratulations, you’re half pregnant.’ ” Nine months after her second lumpectomy, Marcs was told there was cancer in the other breast. “I have a family history of this disease. My mother died from it at fifty-one,” she says, noting that with her own breast cancer diagnosis came “an unbelievable gut instinct that I had the TheVillager.com

DEB CASTELLANO (debsbrain.com)

PHOTO BY CASSIDY HORN

No, they’re not hers — and yes, they’re spectacular. Amy Marcs’ “Nice T!ts” plays at The PIT Oct. 8, 11, 25 & 29.

emotional strength to go through this — because if I could survive losing my mother at seventeen, I could pretty much survive anything.” The ability to assess, accept and persevere, Marcs notes, “was already in me.” In the show, she recalls thinking, “As much as I love my perfect perky breasts, and many others have loved my perfect perky breasts, going all the way back to Larry Stomba, they are not worth my life. They must go!” In 2009, Marcs underwent a double mastectomy, skillfully performed by Dr. Karen Hiotis (of the NYU Cancer Center), with reconstruction to be handled by “my Michelangelo,” plastic surgeon Dr. Nolan Karp. In an ironic moment during the consultation phase with Dr. Karp (who, she notes, is rather easy on the eyes), Marcs discovered her “quest to find the perfect set of boobs” would be complicated by another aspect of her physical self. “He explains a procedure called DIEP [Deep Inferior Epigastric Artery

Perforator] Flap Reconstruction and another called TRAM [Transverse Rectus Abdominus Myocutaneous] Flap Reconstruction,” says Marcs in the show, “where they take the fat from either your stomach or your back, and make your new breasts out of that. Apparently I am not a candidate for either one, because I don’t have enough fat. This is the first and only time in my life I’m upset that I’m too thin. ‘Can’t I gain some weight and then come back?,’ I ask. But Karp quickly replies that it doesn’t work that way.” Tissue expanders followed by implants were her only option — leading her on a Google binge wherein she weighed the relative merits of saline or silicone. It’s here, in the self-styled learning process, that Marcs’ “reconstructive comedy” began to emerge, as a way to use “the topical container of a breast cancer diagnosis to talk about the resiliency of the human spirit. When we’re put to the fire, we have so much more

“Breast cancer was easy,” Deb Castellano tells audiences. “Relationships are hard. That is my disease. That is where my healing is needed.” Bogged down by a series of interpersonal challenges and rigorous fertility treatments, Castellano found herself, solo, in her bedroom — belting out sad karaoke songs, then screaming into a pillow at night so as not to disturb the neighbors. But the garbage bag she’d occasionally slip into as an idiosyncratic coping mechanism ended up functioning more as a chrysalis than a place of retreat. In one of many transformational moments that occur in “Swamp Girl” and its sequel, Castellano notes that although the fear of dying alone was driving much of her behavior, she was also in possession of a core strength that allowed her to “undergo five cancer surgeries…give myself three hundred injections in the belly with fertility drugs…hoist myself up a twelve-foot pole, flip upside-down and hang there with no hands, sing a song that brings me to tears in front of two hundred people, scuba dive with sharks…and sit on a meditation cushion without moving from 4:30 in the morning until 10:30 at night for five days at a Zen Buddhist monastery.” FUNNY, continued on p. 24 October 1, 2015

23


Humor’s in the genes of these cancer survivors FUNNY, continued from p. 23

Like that realization, those achievements (and the show they spawned) didn’t happen overnight, or according to plan. Castellano, who grew up in Southern California’s Orange County, was a television writer in LA before moving to NYC 15 years ago. At the age of 41, while working in advertising and writing short plays, she “decided to get pregnant using an anonymous sperm donor.” Three months after a miscarriage, she was preparing for another round of fertility treatments, when “I was at my weekly meditation class, changing in the bathroom, which was dimly lit with a candle.” In the mirror, Castellano noticed a shadow next to her left nipple, and felt a small lump, “like a corn kernel. I saw my GP [general practitioner], and she gave me the number of a breast surgeon. A needle biopsy showed it was a papillomatosis, which has a fifteen percent chance of being related to breast cancer.” Upon accepting the recommendation of a lumpectomy and returning for a follow-up, she discovered it was DCIS. “I had just come off of a year and a half of solo fertility treatments, giving myself hundreds of injections, and then a miscarriage at eight weeks, which is the worst thing I’d ever been through at that point. Then, to get the [breast cancer] diagnosis three months later? It was like, ‘BAM! BAM!’ ” After that, Castellano says, “I never went to a doctor’s appointment alone, even for my follow-ups. That was the good news, realizing that I had tons of support and loads of friends. My brother flew out [from California] for two of my surgeries, and my mom came for one of them, too. “From there, I had another lumpectomy, but they still didn’t get clear margins. Then in January [2008], I got new health insurance that included Sloan Kettering, so I switched to them.” Her previous surgeon, and the new one, both said a mastectomy of the left breast was the best option. Ten days after she had the unilateral mastectomy, Castellano enrolled in a women’s course “about finding your pleasure and being in your femininity. It helped me love my body, which I desperately needed.” Around this time, she recalls, “I had a very short relationship which ended

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October 1, 2015

DESIGN BY ARMANDO MERLO, PHOTO BY KARINA FASSETT

Deb “Swamp Girl” Castellano’s postcard from the 2014 FringeNYC production.

abruptly — and I tanked. That’s when I wound up in this emotional ‘swamp.’ I thought, ‘I have to do something that connects me with me, that heals me.’ ” She’d started taking singing lessons while undergoing fertility treatments, discovering her literal voice; now it was time to hone the figurative one. She enrolled in a solo performance class, which led to the “Swamp Girl” productions (as well as “Waste Management: The Show,” a comedic work-in-progress about environmental responsibility). For a writer whose career thus far focused on putting words in the mouths of others, Castellano was reluctant not only to put herself out there on the stage, but also to reveal the emotional and physical turmoil that she was still in the process of overcoming. It was her solo show instructor, Matt Hoverman, who convinced Castellano to take a mission-oriented view of comedy performance. “One of the things he told me when I wrote ‘Swamp Girl,’ ” she recalls, “was,

‘You are being of service. You’ll be helping anybody who’s been through this — or anything difficult.’ Ultimately it is a show about overcoming adversity and grief — and doing it with humor…and sexiness.” Looking back on her experiences (and having “accepted that I am not going to have a biological child”), Castellano says she “would have never become a performer if it weren’t for the one-two punch of a miscarriage and breast cancer in the same year. It’s certainly not the life I chose, but how many people can say they’ve gotten onstage to strip out of a garbage bag to AC/DC, sing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ into a hairbrush, and recite an ode to their breasts?”

CAITLIN BRODNICK (caitlinbrodnick.com)

“Eight weeks after my double mastectomy, and I think I’m ready to be funny again” — and with that, Caitlin

Brodnick puts her own time stamp on the utilitarian comeback “Too Soon?,” which has served many a comedian after making a biting, if not textbook respectful, observation about a fresh tragedy. That “eight weeks” quote is an episode title from “Screw You Cancer” — Brodnick’s wry, wrenching, and obsessively informative docu-series on Glamour.com, in which she uses webisodes and companion blogs to take audiences through her decision to have preventative surgery. “It was terrifying. I didn’t want to be a part of this,” says Brodnick — not of baring her soul on the World Wide Web, but of confronting what she long felt was her genetic destiny. Her father — the only member of his family to survive after cancer took the others — learned of the test for BRCA1 [the genetic mutation that provides instructions for making a protein that acts as a tumor suppressor] a decade before Brodnick would finally take it, only to be told she had a mutation that put her at high risk. “I ran from it for years,” she recalls. “When he [my father] found out about this gene, I did not want to get tested because I knew I had it. Technically, everyone has the gene, but I’m Ashkenazi (a sect of Jewish ancestry), and that gives us a higher risk. I have a sister who’s younger, and she’s negative for the gene. I didn’t get tested until 2010, and it was just devastating when I got the news that I was positive. My father’s sister died at thirty-two of cancer, which we believe started at twenty-seven. So I was always very afraid of cancer growing up, anxious and nervous. I felt that cancer was around the corner, ready to come and get me.” Testing positive became a surprisingly effective facilitator for confronting a number of other issues. “I’ve always had a tumultuous relationship with my breasts,” Brodnick says. “I thought they were too large for my body. I didn’t like how sexualized they made me. They’re 32G, as in ‘Go.’ It was very hard for my five-foot-one frame.” Although she won’t make the claim on her own, one gets the sense from watching “Screw You Cancer” that alongside other less desirable aspects of genetic predisposition, Brodnick was born with self-awareness and the ability to take decisive action. FUNNY, continued on p.25 TheVillager.com


Making light of a dark diagnosis FUNNY, continued from p. 24

“I realized,” she said on weighing the option of preventative surgery, “that I was [and had been] very angry at my body. I actually fantasized about being in my forties and fifties — the time they typically recommend you have the surgery. I saw myself having children, breastfeeding them, and then getting the surgery. But I was not living a happy life, waiting to be fifty years old.” She also came to realize that, early on in her marriage, “I was subconsciously pushing my husband and I to have children, because I wanted to get breastfeeding over with. That’s when I brought the idea [of breastfeeding our future children] to my husband, and he said he didn’t care, because he hadn’t been breastfed. I realized, I never even asked him, and you know, although it’s very trendy now. We didn’t care at all about breastfeeding. “That was a turning point for me. I knew deep in my heart that I wanted this surgery.” Now 31, Brodnick says she is “very happy with my decision. I have a lightness about my future that I’d only hoped for.” After reconstructive surgery, “I feel more free, in a lot of ways. I love my breasts. It’s lighter, to have less [breast] tissue, and it’s mentally freeing not to have to go to these intense screenings every six months. I have physically redesigned my body, and it feels very powerful.” But besides children, there’s one thing Brodnick still doesn’t have: nipples. “It’s such a funny topic,” she says with assertive glee. “I go to my doctor’s office and they pull out this enormous catalog. I’ve become a nipple pervert, in the sense that I can’t stop shopping, by staring at other women’s nipples!”

For her doctor, she notes, “It’s like finishing the art project, like she has one last piece to do.” Brodnick does find herself experiencing flashes of self-consciousness while changing in front of family or friends, “but it quickly goes away. So I haven’t made the full decision, so what? I’m browsing. You pick your size, color, and areola. You can also tattoo with a 3D effect. For me, I want that tactile feeling.” But that may not be important to others. “In the beginning,” Brodnick recalls, “my husband was very delicate. It was like the elephant in the room, but on my chest. I even found myself asking him, ‘Is this sexy or weird?’ But he doesn’t care if I have nipples. He says he’s used to the way my boobs look now, because it’s an honest depiction. Here I am, his wife, who had a double mastectomy to save her life. He really doesn’t require the smoke and mirrors.” Even prior to making the decision to have the surgery (then putting off children, nipples), Brodnick was making appearances on the comedy and performance circuit, most notably with The Moth — telling true stories whose appeal stemmed more from frank assessments of everyday life than punchline-driven flights of fancy. During that period, “I knew in the back of my mind I was going to talk about this [the surgery]. It’s such a scary thing. When I went online, I didn’t come across anybody in my age bracket. This was when Angelina Jolie was ‘coming out’ [about her preventative double mastectomy].” What Brodnick took away from YouTube was, “This is a really sad, difficult thing to do. I realized a lot of younger women must be put off by this very negative portrayal, and it also seemed like an older woman’s

PHOTO BY MELISSA GOMEZ

In the Glamour.com docu-series “Screw You Cancer,” Caitlin Brodnick takes viewers through the emotions and logistics of a breast cancer diagnosis.

decision.” Brodnick pitched an idea to a friend of hers who worked for Glamour: videos created by Brodnick in her home before and after doctors’ appointments. Glamour responded with an offer to make it a full documentary series. Having a director, producer, and sound editor was a powerful form of motivation.

“There were times,” Brodnick recalls, “when all I could think about was the next step in the surgery — and if it was just me, I might not have reported those moments. But because Glamour was there, I knew I could relax and they would take care of my story. I thought, ‘This is a service I can provide. I can’t cure or prevent cancer, but I can share my experience.’ ”

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR LETTERS continued from p. 19

A selfless volunteer To The Editor: Re “C.B. 3 member, wife, future in-law die in car crash” (obituary, Sept. 17): Morris and I were friends for more than 30 years. We served together on Community Board 3. Although he was from Grand St. and had what appeared to be a more conservative voting record than I did, we had a lot in common and agreed on many issues. When he knew he had to vote against an issue I supported, he talked to me and we came to an understanding. What many people don’t know about him, and wasn’t mentioned in the obituary in The Villager, was that not only was he a volunteer for the Hatzolah ambulance corps and the auxiliary police, but he recruited many so-called minority kids and helped them eventually join the Police Department. When I was elected chairperson of C.B. 3, Morris brought his prized ambulance over to Smith Houses, where I lived at the time, and showed me all of the equipment and took me for a ride. He was very proud that he had been able to secure such lifesaving equipment. People may not know that in 2001 he was hit by a fire truck when he was on a volunteer ambulance call. He was hospitalized more than a month. As a result, he was on modified duty at his job as a security officer in the World Trade Center. Because of that, he was reporting to work at 10 a.m. instead of his regular 8 a.m. Had he been there at 8 a.m., knowing Morris, he certainly would have been running up the stairs to help save people and probably would have been killed. I always thought that the accident saved his life. At least we had him for another 14 years. His loss and the loss of his wife and future son-in-law is a tragedy not only for his family but for this entire community. There should be more people like Morris Faitelewicz. We will miss him. Anne Johnson

A pioneer in recycling

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To The Editor: Re “Adam Purple, gardens godfather, 84, dies biking on Williamsburg Bridge” (news article, Sept. 17): One of the things I remember about Adam Purple — and the obits have touched on it but have not gone into detail about it — is that he was recycling things in large quantities before most people had even thought about doing it or even called it recycling. He was a true pioneer in this respect.

I remember that after he was evicted from his Forsyth St. building, the word got around that there was a party there and people could come and take anything they wanted. I went and was amazed at all the different things he had in the building and how it was separated into different rooms. There was a room packed with magazines, a room with bike parts and other spare parts, a room with bottles, plates, eating utensils and on and on. It was pretty amazing and things were orderly and separated. But there was a massive amount of stuff he had collected over the years and people were blown away and took a lot of the things. It must have been very sad for him to lose his garden and his building and all the things he had collected over many years. One thing for sure, there will never be another New Yorker like him. It’s too bad because he was a visionary and a creative genius. His garden was like no garden I have ever seen before, and he used organic garden techniques before any of us had even heard the phrase “organic gardening” used. Adios, Adam, and the cosmos must be spinning faster because you are part of it now. John Penley

Writing of Rev-Les Ego To The Editor: Re “Adam Purple, gardens godfather, 84, dies biking on Williamsburg Bridge” (news article, Sept. 17): Adam, I first saw your writing on a wall in 1972, the stoned brilliance of the Reverend Les Ego changed my life. You were the original Mr. Natural. Bless you for your many contributions. Robert Sommers

Bean’s cold press To The Editor: Re “The Bean: The little cafe that could” (news article, Sept. 10): Let us remember that the Bean on E. Ninth St. is responsible for putting a bakery and coffee shop out of business that had served the neighborhood and beyond for close to a 100 years. That’s “tradition.” Jack Brown E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@thevillager.com or fax to 212229-2790 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


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Children’s Museum eyeing SPURA site BY YANNIC RACK

T

he Lower East Side will soon get an injection of youth, if plans for a new museum inside the Essex Crossing development are approved. Andy Ackerman, executive director of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, said the institution is eyeing a relocation to Site 4 of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area project, at the southwest corner of Delancey and Clinton Sts. “We’re in conversation with the developers. It’s not a done deal yet but it’s what we’re trying to do,” Ackerman said last week. The museum currently occupies a 37,000-square-foot space on the Upper West Side but would almost double its size to 70,000 square feet on the Lower East Side, according to Ackerman. Since Essex Crossing, a nearly 2-millionsquare-feet mixed-use development at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, was announced two years ago, details of prospective tenants have continued to trickle out. A Splitsville bowling alley, a Regal cinema and a Planet Fitness gym have all been announced for various locations, and a deal for an extension of N.Y.U.’s Langone Medical Center is currently being finalized. The children’s museum would replace an outpost of the Pittsburgh-based Andy Warhol Museum, which was originally slated for a different site in the project but bowed out earlier this year. Last month, Isaac Henderson, a senior project manager for the developer, told The Villager that they were still looking for a replacement. The children’s museum would get considerably more space, however, which Ackerman said would be used for major new features, like a multi-story climbing structure and a water installation, among others. “We’d also continue doing cultural exhibits, a major early-childhood floor, continue our focus on health and so on,” he said. “We

believe the museum would be transformative to the Lower East Side, vibrant and full of life.” Ackerman said the museum currently attracts around 375,000 visitors a year, including 65,000 children who visit as part of a school group or through one of the museum’s community partners. “That’s a huge amount of people for this building, and they come from all over — the five boroughs, the metro area, national and international,” he said. “So the demand is certainly there for a larger children’s museum.” CMOM, which originally opened in Harlem in 1973, offers a range of interactive exhibitions and programs aimed at early-childhood education, fostering creativity and inspiring a healthy lifestyle. The developers of Essex Crossing, Delancey Street Associates, wouldn’t confirm whether the museum would move into the area. “We are talking to a number of worldclass cultural institutions about coming to Essex Crossing,” a spokesperson wrote in an e-mail last week. But Ackerman said the museum’s board has been in serious discussions with the developers for about nine months, though he added that there was no prospective opening date yet. “It’s certainly not before three years, and most likely some time thereafter,” he said. The location he mentioned for the museum, Site 4, is part of the development’s second phase and won’t begin construction until 2017. Ackerman said the accessibility of this part of the Lower East Side, together with its diversity, make the area a dream location. “We love how quintessential New York the Lower East Side is, how it embodies the American Dream in terms of immigration,” he said. “And we think it’s exciting to be part of a neighborhood that’s developing.”

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The female body as the embodiment of her poetry BY JESSICA MILLIKEN

poems are filled with a sultry satisfaction as she scrutinizes the vulnerability of coming of age. Her dark musings read elegantly in her poem “Solitaire,” depicting the quirky transition from girlhood to reproductive being: “In the pool, I was more heavy than light./Pockmarked and flabby in a floppy hat./ What will my body be/ when parked all night in the earth?Midsummer. Breathe in. Breathe out./I am not on the oxygen tank./Twice a week we have sex./ The lithe girls poolside I see them/at their weddings I see them with babies their hips/thickening I see them middle-aged./I can’t see past the point where I am. Like you, I’m just passing through.” While Landau looks far too glamorous to be living in Brooklyn with her husband, three kids and dog, her life hasn’t been as easy as it seems. “Because I lost my own mother early, at 29,” she said, “I’ve felt I didn’t have anyone to show me the way. There’s a line by Lisel Mueller that stays with me: ‘the death of the mother hurt the daughter into poetry.’ My mother and I were very close. I had two sons and thought I’d never be part of a mother/daughter pair again. Then, 10 years later, my daughter showed up. This book is dedicated to her.”

D

eborah Landau, the longtime behind-the-scenes literary caretaker of Greenwich Village, is finally getting the spotlight. For years, Landau directed the prestigious creative writing programs at New York University and The New School while crafting her own poetry in obscurity. This past spring, Copper Canyon put out her newest and best collection, “The Uses of the Body.” The New Yorker published one of her poems, plus a long, thoughtful review of her book. Interview magazine published a beautiful photo of her, accompanied by a lengthy Q&A, and the L.A. Times issued a rave, calling her a “cross between Dorothy Parker and Sylvia Plath.”   At a recent interview at The New School, where she used to teach, the 40-something Landau — who lived in Soho for decades — spoke about her third collection. It starts at a summer wedding, where she provocatively explores the rites of passage of a woman’s existence — sexuality, marriage and motherhood.  “ ‘The uses of the body’ was the engine driving the poems along,”

Deborah Landau.

she said. “It helped me to riff on the many ways in which we can be ‘used,’ and then, eventually, find ourselves ‘used up.’ I was haunted by the question — ‘what is a woman’s body good for post-reproduction?’ ”  With catchy lines like “these are the ABC’s of my fear/The doctor says, I don’t have a pill for that, dear,” Landau’s

When she’s not assisting students at N.Y.U.’s prolific townhouse on 10th St., Landau looks forward to creative spurts while instructing the university’s summer M.F.A. program in Paris. “Teaching is a great source of sustenance,” she said. “I learn so much from the students, from what they’re reading and trying out.” Landau loves writing to music at home. Her second book, “The Last Usable Hour,” was composed to Chopin, and she claims the tones of Lana Del Ray open a fertile pathway that pours out her deepest language. Landau’s fascination with literature was sparked by reading Walt Whitman as a young girl in Ann Arbor, Michigan. At 13, her mother gave her a poetry book by Anne Sexton. With a love for English, Landau attended Stanford and Columbia and received her Ph.D. from Brown. Despite her impressive education, Landau’s talent is passion based. “I write, then come back later and try to piece it together,” she said. “Life is temporary and the way I like to create is existential, without purpose in mind. I hope readers will find their experiences mirrored or articulated in my poems.”

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Following a hero’s footsteps A young athlete got a hand during the recent 3.5-mile-long Tunnel To Towers Run & Walk. The event was founded to honor the sacrifice of Firefighter Stephen Siller, who lost his life on 9/11 after strapping on his gear in Staten Island and running through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers. The event also honors the military and first responders. TheVillager.com

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