The Paper of Record for East and West Villages, Lower East Side, Soho, Noho, Little Italy and Chinatown
October 2, 2014 • FREE Volume 4 • Number 23
Kushner must respect tenants’ rights, pols say BY ZACH WILLIAMS
PHOTO BY ROBERTO J. MERCADO
ocal politicians, housing activists and tenants are urging landlord Jared Kushner to respect tenants’ rights through better communication and management of renovation work at 170-174 E. Second St. Ceiling collapses, unannounced utility stoppages, incessant pounding and construction-related dust
demonstrate Kushner’s lack of concern for tenants’ safety and quality of life, critics charge. City Councilmember Rosie Mendez and Borough President Gale Brewer joined the tenants and Cooper Square Committee earlier this month outside the buildings, saying that they would hold Kushner KUSHNER, continued on p. 11
Confessions of a reluctant climate-change marcher BY SARAH FERGUSON
hat was the impact of the recent massive People’s Climate March? Was it, as 350.org founder and march instigator Bill McKibben claimed, “the most important day” in the history of the climate movement? I confess when I first heard about the march, it seemed
Standing across from the old P.S. 64 (the former CHARAS / El Bohio Cultural and Community Center) on E. Ninth St. Sunday, politicians and CHARAS’s Chino Garcia hailed the city’s decision to issue a stop-work order on a college dorm planned for the building. Clockwise from front row center, former Councilmember Margarita Lopez, Garcia, District Leader Anthony Feliciano, Councilmember Rosie Mendez, District Leader Carlina Rivera, state Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and State Committeeman Michael Farrin.
like another big protest parade to nowhere through the canyons of N.Y.C. With slick subway ads pledging to unite “hipsters and bankers” and even a glossy promo video celebrating the organizers and their mission to “make history,” the march sounded more like Live Aid for the planet — with no central demands on world leaders or
Pols cheer victory on former CHARAS BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
elebrating what they called a major win in their effort to reclaim the former old P.S. 64 for community use, politicians, advocates and community members rallied Sunday afternoon outside the historic East Village building. The city’s Department of Buildings issued a stopwork order for the project, at 605 E. Ninth St., between Avenues B and C, on Sept. 22.
CLIMATE, continued on p. 23
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
The radiant Rococo Rouge..........page 15 | May 14, 2014
The building’s owner, Gregg Singer, has signed contracts with The Cooper Union and Joffrey Ballet School to take a total of more than 200 beds on about two-thirds of the building’s floors. Councilmember Rosie Mendez, whose district includes the building, had written twice to D.O.B., charging that the project violated the “Dorm Rule,” but never heard back. A few weeks ago, Mendez — feeling both frustrated
and insulted — wrote one final letter to the agency. At the time, she told The Villager that if D.O.B. didn’t respond to her — or rejected her argument — she would promptly stage a community protest. But in a surprising turnaround, D.O.B. now sided with Mendez, and it became occasion, not for a protest, but a victory party. D.O.B. said the rescinding of the permits for the dorm was based on “failure to proCHARAS, continued on p. 4
Shaoul must shed E. 5th penthouse..............page 7 A cyclist sounds off on bike lanes................page 13 Ch-ch-changes at an E.V. school.....................page 20 www.EastVillagerNews.com
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Warren in the White House is Charles Lenchner, who was the digital director for Zephyr Teachout’s recent surprisingly competitive primary-election race against Governor Andrew Cuomo. Lechner was holding up a “Run Liz Run” banner on W. 42nd St. and handing out stickers during the recent People’s Climate March, below left. “She’s good on any issue because she doesn’t take corporate money,” he said of Warren. “She would be a good environmental president.” But is she running? “We’re doing our best!” he said. As for Teachout’s campaign, which really started to gain steam toward the end, he reflected, “We should have started that ‘Whistleblower Tour’ two weeks earlier.”
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LIKING LIZ A LOT: Local activist Jean-Louis Bourgeois reports he’s launching the West Village campaign to get Elizabeth Warren to run for president. The scion of renowned sculptor Louise Bourgeois recently met Warren at a Park Ave. fundraiser for a New Hampshire Senate candidate. “I am really keen to have Elizabeth replace Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for president because Hillary’s record is tarnished,” he said. “Hillary was a director of Walmart for six or seven years. That just takes her out of consideration. She’s not a progressive anymore — if she ever was one — and Elizabeth is a superb progressive.” Bourgeois added he hopes to persuade the Village Independent Democrats club to endorse the Massachusetts senator for president, assuming she’s interested in running. “But that’s a tall order, and I know it,” he admitted, “but it’s an interesting goal. ... I delayed the construction of the $26 million Talo Dam, in Mali, for six years,” he said. “I’m used to fighting extreme odds.” So who else is joining him in backing a potential Warren campaign for POTUS? “At this point, it’s just me,” he said. Also pushing for
PATROL FINDS NEW PLACE: The Christopher St. Patrol found itself on the outs, literally, after the flare-up over Boots N Saddles at the Community Board 2 State Liquor Authority Committee meeting last month. To recap, David Poster, the volunteer anticrime patrol’s president, told the meeting that the longtime local gay bar was no longer wanted in the area — or anywhere in the West Village, for that matter — because of what he called its bad behavior. We had heard word got back to Pastor Mark Erson, of St. John’s Lutheran Church, which is located across the street from the bar, and the patrol was promptly “booted” from the church, where it had always gathered before its quality-of-life sorties onto the Village’s mean nighttime streets. But the patrol quickly landed on its feet at a new location — which is being kept secret, at least for now — perhaps out of fear of protests by angry drag queens? “We’re not going to publicize where it is, but it’s in the Village,” Poster told us this week. “We got a new space immediately. After being at St. John’s 21 years — and never having a word said about us after 24 years of patrolling — we have a new space, and we’re going to continue doing what we’ve been doing for 24 years. See something, say something, we’ll continue to do it.” Their new assembly spot, he said, is “close enough to Christopher St. for us to do what we need to do. It sure is! It sure is!” Poster confidently contended that his group — as seen by the large turnout at the C.B. 2 meeting — has the overwhelming support of the area’s residents and block associations. “The residents, the whole community wants us, respects us,” he said. “It’s the bar, their patrons, the pastor who are upset. For 38 years, we never had a problem with Boots N Saddles. They were there 40 years. The problems started two
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‘Drop the appeal!’ N.Y.U. project opponents cry BY TEQUILA MINSKY AND LINCOLN ANDERSON
nder the eyes of the Fiorello LaGuardia statue — which had “STOMP”-style garbage can-lid cymbals added to its clapping hands for the occasion — opponents of the N.Y.U. South Village expansion plan rallied last Wednesday. The community’s fight against the development scheme was poised to enter round two, at the Appellate Division, shortly afterward. Speakers included Mark Crispin Miller, of N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan; attorney Jim Walden, the opponents’ attorney; former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern; Public Advocate Letitia James; Assemblymember Deborah Glick; state Senators Brad Hoylman and Daniel Squadron; Congressmember Jerrold Nadler; Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, and Broadway actress Kathleen Chalfant. More than one speaker indicated that Bill de Blasio — who is an N.Y.U. alumnus — should be there with them. “The mayor should not be on the wrong side of history,” James declared. “Drop the appeal!” the crowd chanted. N.Y.U., the city and the community opponents have all appealed Judge Donna Mills’s Jan. 7 decision, in which she ruled that three of the “strips” of open space along the eastern and western edges of N.Y.U.’s two South Village superblocks — Mercer Playground, LaGuardia Corner Gardens and LaGuardia Park — are, in fact, parks, and thus can’t be used for the massive, planned four-building construction project unless they are first “alienated” from park use by the state Legislature.
However, the community coalition argues that the Mercer-Houston Dog Run — which N.Y.U. says it needs to create its new “Zipper Building” on the current Coles gym site — is also parkland. Stern previously submitted an affidavit for the court case, detailing how, he said, N.Y.U. repeatedly undermined the open-space strips’ ownership from being officially transferred from the Department of Transportation to the Parks Department. Members of the East Village show “STOMP” joined the crowd and performed following the speeches. University spokesperson John Beckman issued a statement slamming the community rally. “Protests like this make for a good photo-op, but N.Y.U. will remain focused on the court case,” he said. “As we did in the lower court — which ruled that we should be allowed to proceed with the initial and largest phase of the 2031 core plan [the Zipper Building] — we will make the case to the Appellate Division that on the one outstanding issue — the lower court’s holding that some of the D.O.T. strips should be treated as parkland — the court was in error. “The need to create additional academic space is clear, and has only become more evident,” Beckman’s statement continued. “Since the lower court’s ruling, a faculty-led committee has affirmed the pressing need for additional academic space at N.Y.U. We intend to move forward in developing the space needed to ensure that N.Y.U. maintains its academic excellence and standards.” At Wednesday’s Appellate hearing, each side had 15 minutes to give oral testimony before a panel of judges, who then could ask questions. In such appeals, a decision can come at anytime afterward, but not on the day of the hearing.
“STOMP” cast members made some noise in support of the community.
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All for one! From left, Connie Masullo, of 505 LaGuardia Place; veteran activist Doris Diether and former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern at last Wednesday’s “Save the Village” rally. EastVillagerNews.com
October 2, 2014
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Pols cheer victory on former CHARAS CHARAS, continued from p. 1
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At Sunday’s victory rally, CHARAS’s Chino Garcia spoke to the crowd gathered in front of the group’s former home, the old P.S. 64.
October 2, 2014
vide all necessary information” about the tenants and the plan. “This former abandoned building holds the aspirations of thousands of schoolchildren who dreamed of a better future and the hopes of an entire community that reclaimed this space from drug dealers to determine community use from the needs and desires of its residents,” Mendez said on Sunday. “This building should be returned to the people of the Lower East Side/ East Village and we will continue our struggle to keep that hope alive.” Singer bought the old school at city auction in 1998 for $3.2 million. Today, at fair-market value, it’s likely worth $30 million to $40 million, which the city would have to pay to reclaim it for community use, Mendez said. A few years after purchasing the old P.S. 64, Singer evicted CHARAS/El Bohio, the Latino-run group that had squatted it years earlier and had turned it into a community and cultural center. “In the last 15 years, since Singer took control of the building, we haven’t bothered him and have been cool,” said Carlos “Chino” Garcia, CHARAS’s executive director. “But after this last fiasco with this mega-dormitory, he should sit down and negotiate with us. “The reality is this guy is a developer,” Garcia added. “Like every devel-
oper, they think they can come in with ideas to beat the community. He should sit down and negotiate with us. We’re getting sick of this!” Under Mendez’s predecessor, former Councilmember Margarita Lopez, the city landmarked the old P.S. 64 right under Singer, throwing a curveball into his development scheme to raze all but the front facade of the existing historic building and add a high-rise tower. Working closely with Lopez was the East Village Community Coalition, which was founded to fight the tower plan. So, can Singer’s plans, at last, be beaten and the building restored as a community center? “Absolutely,” Lopez told The Villager, “with the work that Rosie has been doing to make sure that he doesn’t get any illegal loopholes. “We need to move forward to the next step,” she said. “This is an injustice. We have carried the message again and again. He’s not entitled to make a mockery of the rules and regulations of this city, and that’s what he has done time and time again. “The moment he applied for that permit, it should have been denied,” Lopez said of Singer’s latest plan with The Cooper Union and Joffrey Ballet School. “I’ve seen this community do the impossible time and time again,” Lopez assured. “We can get that building back.”
Cooper alum Paul Garrin, who is a member of the school’s Hall of Fame, was also at the rally. An Internet pioneer and originator of the .nyc top-level domain name, he said he hopes D.O.B.’s ruling gives the school an out, legally speaking, so it can break its contract with Singer. “I think it’s awesome,” Garrin said of the latest twist in the building’s ongoing saga. “Seeing that stop-work order over there pasted on the construction fence, in red letters, made it real.” In a statement to The Villager, Justin Harmon, a school spokesperson, said, “Cooper is proud to be a part of the East Village, and we know the community respects Cooper’s history in the neighborhood. We are aware of the Department of Buildings correspondence to the developer. We are currently reviewing all the information relevant to determining the best course of action under the circumstances. We will continue to work with community representatives to identify an equitable and fair solution that balances the community’s wishes and Cooper’s contractual obligations.” The Villager reached Singer by phone on Monday. He said he was tied up in a construction meeting. “I don’t want to add comment to what’s going on with all this nonCHARAS, continued on p. 8 EastVillagerNews.com
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Occupiers pour into Wall St. for sit-in protest BY ZACH WILLIAMS
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
n response to rising sea levels and climate change’s other effects, more than 100 activist groups converged in Lower Manhattan on Mon., Sept. 22, to promote environmental justice as part of Flood Wall Street. Police preemptively blocked streets leading to the New York Stock Exchange, but about 1,000 activists succeeded in blocking Broadway for about eight hours at its intersection with Morris St. before extending the demonstration to include the intersection with Wall St., as well. “People gonna rise like water. We’re gonna calm this crisis down,” went one prominent slogan from the march. “I hear the voice of my great granddaughter saying shut down Wall St. now.” In contrast to many past protests, police officers largely left the demonstrators alone while at the same time preventing them from penetrating further into the Financial District. Some demonstrators suspected that Mayor de Blasio was behind the surprisingly restrained police presence. “I think people seem happy and engaged. The police don’t seem to be too bossy,” said Joanna Burgess, a
Blue shirt-wearing Occupy Wall Street activists held a Flood Wall Street action on Monday.
Battery Park City resident. She said she saw neighborhood residents that morning seemingly dressed for Flood Wall Street. About 100 arrests — including of an activist dressed as a polar bear — were made at about 7 p.m. after police moved in to clear the street. The event followed the People’s Climate March the day before, which drew hundreds of thousands of activists, political leaders and celebri-
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ties to Midtown. Most in Flood Wall Street took part in that demonstration, some remaining in town one more day in order to participate in direct action against the financial industry, which they charge, enables a global system of inequality, as well as global warming itself. “I’m very concerned about climate change, and Wall St. is part of the problem,” said Cara Jennings, a Florida resident who came to New York, her toddler in tow, for the protests. “This is where the financing comes from for oil extraction and pipelines, so we have to convince Wall St. to solve the climate problem.” The group assembled in the morning at Battery Park to the tunes of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, the local activist marching band. Author / activist Naomi Klein told the crowd that climate change’s consequences must continue to inspire activists who came together three years ago for Occupy Wall Street. “We are powered by the knowledge that the same system of short-term profit and deregulated greed that deepens inequality and forecloses on homes is the very same system that is foreclosing on our collective home,” Klein said. “We never went away. We were organizing in our communities and now we are back with the power of water behind us.” While activists originally planned to stage a sit-in in front of the stock exchange, they did so on Broadway instead. Several vehicles were caught in the mass protest for at least an hour before being let through. “I didn’t plan on it, but it’s a good cause,” said Sean Vander from an automobile stalled at the intersection of Morris St. and Broadway just a few doors down from his destination at 25 Broadway.
Residents trying to enter Wall St. were told by police to walk several blocks north in order to get home. As the sit-in continued, some activists grew weary with the tedium of occupation. The group’s numbers dwindled by half by late afternoon. Scuffles with police broke out when some protesters tried to swarm the police defense of Wall St. Police pushed back, smacked hands holding onto metal crowd-control barriers and pepper-sprayed several protesters and a journalist before things settled down. Protesters bounced around a 25-foot-tall “carbon ball,” but police eventually deflated it. Demonstrators for the most part remained seated, discussing environmental issues among themselves. Later, some would draw chalk doodles on the street and play soccer. One demonstrator watching a game said such activities promote more free use of public space in a city known for its consumer culture. “This is a space in which we don’t see relaxation very often,” said Jason, who declined to give a last name. “That creates an energy that is helpful.” But some protesters, and onlookers, said hours of sitting on Broadway was not effective enough in inspiring more people to put pressure on Wall St. firms to confront global warming. “I thought it was supposed to be about economic inequality and laying some plans for some kind of coherent action that could be taken on a political level,” said Eric Rassi, a resident of E. 10th St. and a former squatter. “But there’s nothing being discussed here, as far as I can see, on a political level at all. So, obviously this is not a movement that is going to be a political force. It’s going to be playtime politics.” EastVillagerNews.com
Shaoul agrees he will remove seventh floor of E. 5th building BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
ast Tues., Sept. 16, the city’s Board of Standard and Appeals, reached an agreement with Ben Shaoul under which the developer conceded he would remove the seventh story that he added to 515 E. Fifth St. Shaoul was given 60 days to comply, and a week from the B.S.A. hearing date in which to obtain a Department of Buildings permit to remove the seventh story. If he was unable to do so, the B.S.A. would intervene. It’s not clear how the B.S.A. will rule on the building’s sixth story, which was also added by Shaoul. A follow-up B.S.A. hearing was scheduled for Nov. 25, at which time the issue will be further discussed. According to a representative of Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Shaoul is continuing to seek a variance for the sixth floor. However, one case involving the building’s rooftop additions under the Multiple Dwellings Law is on hold, while another involving the zoning resolution has been deferred. The B.S.A. won’t rule on the sixth floor until the one above it comes down, the Mendez aide said. However, it’s possible the developer will earn some “goodwill”
with the board by removing the topmost floor, the aide indicated. Mendez meanwhile is withholding comment until the Nov. 25 hearing, her staffer said. Mendez and state Senator Brad Hoylman were at last week’s B.S.A. hearing. The 515 E. Fifth St. rooftop addition has a long, complicated history. D.O.B. initially granted a waiver to allow it. But in 2008, the B.S.A. ruled D.O.B. lacked authority to grant the waiver. In 2012, Shaoul applied to the B.S.A. for a variance allowing the extra floors. Since 2008, the pair of additional stories have been rented to tenants. There are four duplexes, all spanning the two floors, which would have to be reconfigured to remove the seventh story. In a very similar case, in June In June 2013, workers removed material from the illegal seventh-floor pent2013, Shaoul, based on a September house at 514-516 E. Sixth St. The B.S.A. had ruled in fall 2012 that Ben Shaoul 2012 B.S.A. ruling, finally removed had to take the penthouse down. The developer is now facing nearly exactly the the seventh-floor penthouse he add- same situation with another building he owns at 515 E. Fifth St. ed atop another building, 514-516 E. Sixth St. A sixth story he added was neither building had an elevator or heights on lots narrower than 45 allowed to remain. adequate fire escapes, as required feet. “This seems to be a tougher deciAt both the E. Fifth and Sixth St. by law. buildings, tenants — working with Tenants at the Fifth St. building sion than on Sixth St.,” Alice Baldthe Urban Justice Center — chal- also filed a lawsuit charging D.O.B. win, a 515 E. Fifth St. tenant, said of lenged the rooftop additions under had issued Shaoul the permit for the the latest B.S.A. ruling. “This story has ramifications for the rest of the the 1929 Multiple Dwellings Law, T:8.75”rooftop additions in violation of the charging they were illegal because “Sliver Law,” which caps building neighborhood.”
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Pols cheer old P.S. 64 victory CHARAS, continued from p. 4
sense,” he said dismissively. Asked if he has to re-fi le for new building permits at this point, Singer, sounding unworried, said, no, that he will “just clarify” what he has already submitted to D.O.B. “You’ve got Cooper Union and Joffrey Ballet, they’re legitimate tenants,” he said. “I’m with people, gotta go,” he said, before ending the conversation. But apparently he, in fact, may be a bit concerned about recent developments. Mendez told the newspaper that Singer had gone over to MoRUS (the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space) on Avenue C the day before the rally to say that he wants to make sure the “real story” of the old P.S. 64 is being told. Bill di Paolo, the museum’s co-director, confi rmed that Singer had spoken to Sheila Jamison, their volunteer community liaison director. In an e-mail to The Villager, Jamison wrote, “Just before 3 p.m. on Saturday as I was processing visitors for the tour, a man casually dressed in shorts and a baseball cap, looking every bit the regular East Village Saturday afternoon tourist, entered the
museum and began looking around. When he approached the desk, I asked if he were there for the tour. He responded with, ‘Is the building on the corner [the old P.S. 64] part of the tour?’ I responded, ‘It depends on who is doing the tour. Saturday is gardens and squats; Sunday is activist spaces.’ “He then asked if we had anything about the building on our Web site,” she continued. “I told him there may be some postings because MoRUS has been supporting the efforts to reclaim the building for the community. At that point, he introduced himself as Gregg Singer, the owner of the building, and he implored that if we talk about the building on our tours or on our Web site, that we should know the truth. He said that he has been unfairly portrayed as a bad guy in the media and no one in the media wants to tell his side of the story. “He further went on to imply that Chino and Councilwoman Mendez had some unsavory fi nancial dealings surrounding the building back in the day. At that point, other visitors approached the desk and I had to turn my attention to them. He thanked me, asked for my name and left with a MoRUS brochure.”
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felony assault charges. Police did not say what the attacks’ motive was.
Thief singin’ the blues
An arrest has been made in the hitand-run that killed 33-year-old financier Doohee Cho as he was crossing Fifth Ave. near his home early Sunday morning, police said Tuesday. The car’s driver was Macgyver Beltran, 25, of East New York, Brooklyn, according to police. Cho, a vice president at GE Capital, was struck while crossing midblock between E. 15th and E. 16th Sts. at 3:15 a.m. He lived in a high-rise on the block. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital with severe head trauma and died on Sunday. On Monday, police released a surveillance video showing a white, 2014 four-door Chevrolet Impala sedan driving away from the fatal collision, heading down Fifth Ave., then quickly turning left onto 14th St. A tip resulted in the arrest of Beltran, who was charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving death. The suspect was reportedly named after “Macgyver,” the late1980s action-adventure TV series.
A woman, 23, left her purse on top of the bar at Karaoke Boho, at 187 W. Fourth St., in the early hours of Wed., Sept. 24, and around 1:45 a.m., found that someone had taken it, police said. When the perpetrator fled the place, a man, 29, pursued him. Police arrested Anthony Beacham, 33, after he was found in possession of the woman’s bag and credit cards. An Apple iPhone 4S valued at $200 was also in his possession, police say. Beacham faces a felony charge of grand larceny.
A guy allegedly went berserk inside Little Italy Pizza, at 122 University Place, around 3:35 a.m. on Thurs., Sept. 25, according to police. Wielding a spatula, he reportedly attacked four men, ages 27, 28, 30 and 36. He then reportedly intentionally damaged items in the place in excess of $250. At least one victim was cut on the head and body, requiring stitches. Mohammed Hardy, 28, faces four
Police say a man picked a 43-yearold woman’s purse around 3:30 a.m. on Sat., Sept. 27, at Gaslight Cafe, at 400 W. 14th St. Officers caught up with the alleged perpetrator several blocks away. He resisted the cops by pulling his arms away and refusing to put them behind his back. Police said they found bank cards, a driver’s license and nearly $200 in
Police said a man lifted a $1,495 Vince brown shearling jacket from a fancy Meatpacking District boutique at 827 Washington St. shortly before 5:30 p.m. on Thurs., Sept. 25. An employee, 22, followed the suspect after he left the store, and told police that the theft was caught on video. Kai Chi Tuug, 26, was charged with felony grand larceny.
U.S. and European Union cash. Teddy Toussaint, 28, was charged with grand larceny. Although the victim’s credit cards were recovered, she canceled them anyway, police said.
Guitar picker A man, 28, inside 119 MacDougal St. in the early morning of Sun., Sept. 28, left his guitar in its case outside, while keeping his eye on it, police said. It wasn’t clear whether he was sitting inside Caffe Reggio or waiting on line or eating inside Mamoun’s Falafel, which both share the address. Just before 5 a.m., according to the report, another man came by, slung the guitar in its case over his shoulder and began walking away. Two men, both 31, joined the victim in pursuing the “guitar picker,” and managed to hold him until police arrived and arrested him. Jhonathan Carmona, 21, was charged with grand larceny. The victim got his $2,500 guitar back, as well as the $50 case.
Zach Williams and Lincoln Anderson
October 2, 2014
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PHOTO BY ZACH WILLIAMS
From left, at the Sept. 4 press conference outside 170-174 E. Second St., Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Cypress Dubin, Fredy Kaplan, Mary Ann Siwek and Borough President Gale Brewer.
Kushner must respect tenants’ rights, pols say KUSHNER, continued from p. 1
accountable should the current situation continue. Speaking at the Sept. 4 press conference, Cypress Dubin, a resident of 174 E. Second St., said, “Their pattern of responding after the fact to critical issues which could have been anticipated shows a complete lack of concern to prevent emergencies, maintain services and protect the daily lives of the tenants.” A few weeks earlier, a ceiling had collapsed in an apartment occupied by Mark Fritsche at 170 E. Second St. That Aug. 13 incident followed a series of leaks in his apartment. The ceiling collapse could have been prevented had workers sent by building management been more careful, he said. According to a Westminster City Living representative, building management tried to address the situation as soon as possible, but Fritsche barred access to his apartment. Westminster oversees about 600 residential buildings throughout Manhattan on Kushner’s behalf. About 70 percent of residents moved out of 170-174 E. Second St. in the months after Kushner purchased the buildings for about $17 million at the end of last year. Those that currently remain, the Westminster spokesperson said, are simply instigating trouble in order to boost buyout offers. Dubin is one of several tenants locked in ongoing legal battles with Westminster, which maintains the tenants are not rent-regulated and illegally occupy their longtime homes. Fritsche, president of a tenants association organized against Kushner, did receive a rent-stabilized lease after he proved that his apartment had been inappropriately deregulated by a previous landlord. Mendez said at the Sept. 4 press conference that the remaining tenants at 170-174 E. Second St. should be able to count on the local community and government to prevent both their eviction and damage to their property and quality of life. “You are not alone,” she told them. Patrick Crosetto, C.E.O. of Kushner Companies, EastVillagerNews.com
reiterated assurances from July that the situation in the buildings will improve despite the tenants. The company remains “proud of its strong track record of providing quality service to its residents,” Kushner said through the spokesperson. The two East Village buildings were in disrepair upon their purchase in December, according to Westminster. A $3 million effort will update utilities and building amenities, Crosetto noted. Air filters installed in 170 E. Second St. to mitigate dust subsequently disappeared, the company spokesperson added. The lack of mailboxes for two weeks in 174 E. Second St. was because the replacement process required U.S. Postal Service inspections, the spokesperson said, adding that tenants could get their mail from a local post office branch during the interim. Building management has tried to make necessary repairs to the tenants’ apartments only to be denied entry, the spokesperson stated. Forty-eighthour notice is given to residents before nonemergency utility shutdowns, he said. The situation with tenants in the two buildings is an anomaly, Crosetto said. “As always, we will continue our ongoing communication with all of our residents to address any of their concerns, despite the actions of a handful of illegal tenants who continue to sabotage our efforts for their own personal gain,” he said. Tenant Julia Foote said her experience with the company has been fine at 201 E. Fourth St. However, other Westminster tenants in four other East Village buildings tell a different story. Ten of them said in interviews with The Villager that unannounced utility shutoffs, basement floods and sluggish responses to tenant complaints are part of the Westminster experience. At 201 E. Second St. residents said their hot water was turned off two weeks ago without warning. Management assured them the problem would be resolved within a day, but two more days passed before service resumed, said resident Alessandro Harabin. When he moved into the building in August, there was no knob on the sink, the bathtub did not
drain and a window would not shut, he added. “Basically, it’s really tough to get in touch with them,” another resident, Kate Curran, said of building management. “I wonder who is in charge of all this? Is anyone competent?” Luxury amenities attracted four young professionals to move in together at 199 E. Fourth St. in 2013, when the building was still in the real estate portfolio of Ben Shaoul. Similar problems that the four men experienced under Shaoul continued after Westminster took over the building last year, including no winter heating, more flooding, mold and a robbery two months ago thanks to an unprotected window. A promise to install protective bars within a week has yet to be fulfilled, they said. All told, the four men have lost about $12,000 worth of property to water damage and theft in their $6,100-permonth apartment, according to one of them, who requested anonymity since months remain on their lease. Westminster furthermore did not let them know beforehand when it did address an ongoing mold problem caused by the flooding, according to another one of the men. “We came home to a warning sign that said, ‘Don’t come in for 24 hours,’ ” he said. Another tenant in the building, though, said she has not had to fight to remain rent-regulated, a contrast to suggestions from Mendez and others that Westminster targets rent-protected tenants. However, that has not made it any easier to have leaks fixed in her apartment, as her landlord, all the while, continues to encourage her to move out, she said, on condition of anonymity. “[Westminster] doesn’t harass you,” she said. “Every few months they put a notice up for a buyout. They just don’t fix anything.” The spokesperson said on Sept. 16 that buildings inevitably need repairs, and echoed previous assurances. “Westminster management is always responsive,” he said, “and constantly works to improve the high-quality service it provides to its residents.” October 2, 2014
Kids learn to be easy riders BY TEQUILA MINSKY
PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Instructor Cecilia Casey, of Bike New York, gave a young cyclist some pointers at the Mercer Playground event.
AMRA (Bleecker Area Merchants’ and Residents’ Association), Community Board 2 and LMNO(P) co-sponsored a Kids’ Learn To Ride afternoon at Mercer Playground on Sat., Sept. 20. With instruction provided by Bike New York, 31 local children, ages 5 to 12, from the West Village to the East Village had the chance to ride a bike for the first time or — if they already had some cycling experience — hone their balancing and pedaling skills. The event was scheduled for two hours but was extended to three. Some of the tykes came with their own bikes. But once it was clear there would be a shortage, one organizer ran to Kmart and bought a small two-wheeler that was shared among the newbies for practice. The bike — along with a helmet — was sold to one of the parents afterward. One of the techniques used for children who have never bicycled before is to push off and practice balancing on a bike with its pedals removed. Once the child appears com-
Ray Cline spent a lot of time taking pedals off and putting them back on — as part of the “gliding” technique for learning how to bike.
fortable with balance, the pedals are put back on. Ray Cline, BAMRA resident chairperson, spent the afternoon taking off and putting on pedals. “Eight to nine children who had never been on a bicycle before learned to ride,” said instructor Cecilia Casey, of Bike New York. The event had a Parks Department permit.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR ‘Eyewitness’ pot shot To The Editor: While hosting “Up Close With Diana Williams,” Bill Ritter of Channel 7 “Eyewitness News” recently stated that New York State shouldn’t be like California and legalize medical marijuana, so that “anyone with a hangnail can smoke a joint.” Now I don’t want to rehash old and established facts like the economic advantages of industrial hemp, the ecological benefits of paper made with hemp hurds, or the fact that marijuana is among the oldest and safest members of the pharmacopeia.
I would, however, like to ask Mr. Ritter just what, exactly, is so terrible about a person with a hangnail smoking a joint? Jerry The Peddler
Nauseating blame game To The Editor: Re “D.O.E. now says adult league can use schoolyard” (news article, Sept. 11): Here’s how real estate in this community works:
You see an apartment during the day or early evening. You immediately rent the apartment before anyone else can. Then you unfortunately find out later how bad, how seriously bad the problem with noise, puke, defecation, broken bottles, underage drinking, and catcalling obnoxious “bros” and drunkards looking for a fight really is. This I have heard time and again when I meet people in the streets in the Hell Square area: “I really didn’t realize how bad it is down here at night before I moved here. So, Principal Polin, where is the fully informed “choice” that people have made to live among out-of-state vomit on the street of their own community? Polin’s outrageous presumption completely disregards the people who have lived in the community for decades and have seen their neighborhood transformed into an alcoholic theme park. Polin, if you have time to organize flower-arranging classes, great, more power to you. Our community members are too busy at State Liquor Authority and community board meetings stopping other nightclubs from springing up. David Troutman
Derek Jeter can teach his fellow athletes a thing or two! 12
October 2, 2014
E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@ thevillager.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 Metrotech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager does not publish anonymous letters. EastVillagerNews.com
In bike nirvana, trying to stay sane in the lane TALKING POINT BY MICHELE HERMAN
PHOTO BY DOUGLAS GOWLAND
’ve been thinking about the ’80s lately. I’ve been remembering how mad I was then, and how I swore at strangers on the street. I was mad because I rode my bike in the city every day, and let me tell you — Manhattan in the ’80s may have been on the upswing, but those streets were mean. I should clarify: The streets themselves were fine. I loved the streets. I loved the rubber on the blacktop, sticking out an arm to signal and leaning in to take a turn. I loved being out there in all weather, going to all corners of the city, usually quicker than the subway. I loved the coasting-with-the-current feel of riding down the surprisingly steep hills of Fifth and Ninth Avenues I loved looking up and finding my little 10-speed self in the seamy razzle-dazzle of Times Square, the center of the universe. It was just the pedestrians, drivers, motor vehicles and the city’s cockeyed priorities that made me crazy. Pedestrians jaywalked in front of me while giving me dirty looks or yelling at me. Drivers told me I had no business being on their road, and sped up at puddles. Doors opened a crack, hands emerged and cigarette ash or cold coffee tumbled toward my feet. Worse, doors swung wide open without warning. Older men in sedans rolled down their windows to lecture me: The streets are not safe for a young lady like yourself. Cars were mostly small but they stank. Buses snorted out hot clouds of particulates as big and black as ground pepper. Bike racks were nearly nonexistent; theft was a fact of life. Bicyclists got ticketed all the time, but speeding drivers and jaywalkers — never. I got so mad that I got involved in the movement to improve cycling conditions. I wrote articles and essays about biking and bike design, all aimed at making the city a more bike-friendly place. In the early ’90s I co-wrote the Bicycle Blueprint, Transportation Alternative’s booklength master plan for bringing bicycling into the mainstream in New York City. It was a stirring document, full of hope and exhortation and sensible action plans. Life on the streets settled down for me in the years since. I learned to count my breaths and not engage. And, as drivers gradually resigned themselves to sharing the road, I experienced far less overt provocation. Cars got less noxious (though unfortunately much bigger). Bus breath
Michele Herman in 2002, back in the “bad old days” before the city’s current bicycle revolution.
switched from a solid to relatively odorless gaseous state. The Hudson River bike path, our very own Northwest Passage, provided a calm and much-needed route from the Lower to the Upper West Side. And now, with last year’s rollout of Citi Bikes and the ever-expanding network of bike lanes — two of the more revolutionary signatures of the Bloomberg years — the big change is a’coming, the one we cyclists marched for and dreamed of: a relative golden age for bicycling in New York City. The streets are starting to look like an architect’s rendering of a friendly, green city, complete with flowers in the traffic-calmed intersections and smiling couples riding side by side. (Note: Doing so is dangerous and inconsiderate.) It’s becoming possible to imagine the post-petroleum city we rhapsodized about in the Blueprint. So then why am I mad again? Why am I yelling at strangers? This time, weirdly, I’m rarely mad at the worst offenders — the actual drivers of motor vehicles — I’m just mad at the fact of them. What’s getting to me, I’m sad to say, is being relegated to, segregat-
ed in, stopped in my tracks by bike lanes that are great in theory but often a mess in practice. I’m mad at the pedestrians and my fellow cyclists who use them thoughtlessly, but I’m even more mad at the city for doing the biggest rijiggering of public space since one-way streets — while completely failing to prepare or educate the public. I have no beef with the painted lanes on the cross streets. They carve out a narrow safety zone, and lately I’ve been noticing that drivers are starting to respect it. Sometimes the protected lanes on avenues are O.K. — if traffic is light and I’m not venturing into Midtown and there’s no broken glass (and since the street sweepers can’t get in, the shards remain until they’re ground to sand), and there’s no truck unloading or cars parked or a work crew tearing up the lane. I didn’t include pedestrians in my list because there are always pedestrians — ears plugged, eyes down — blithely crossing the lane midblock. I defy anyone to ride a bike up through Midtown on the Eighth Avenue bike lane during rush hour and not emerge from the experience shaken and disgusted. The side-
walk is unusually narrow, and a chunk of it is taken up with subway grates. Between the Bolt Bus stops, the hotels, the Theater District, Port Authority and a major construction site, the western sidewalk is thick with luggage-toting tourists and weary commuters. The dike inevitably breaks and a sea of pedestrians fills the bike path. They trudge along as if they have no idea the bike path isn’t a courtesy lane designed for them. I don’t swear anymore. I just yell, “It’s a bike path, people!” shake my head and wait for them to scatter. I’ve read the statistics about bike lanes, all of which point to an impressive increase in safety. But I can tell you that on the ground the lanes require a kind of exhausting vigilance that I find far more enervating than riding with the traffic. Please understand that I am not minimizing the twin dangers posed by cars: the physical danger of being crushed and the chemical and geopolitical danger of petroleum. But cars have one thing going for them: They can’t go sideways. And when you ride with the cars you have a little flexibility to get around obstacles. I understand that we city cyclists stir up a lot of emotion. I have friends who admire me, friends who think I’m reckless or insane, and others who think I’m not militant enough in my denouncement of private cars. What I try to remember is that my life could easily have traveled a slightly different path. Instead of being a 30-year veteran of the streets, I could find myself wobbling for the first time on a Citi Bike, completely unaware that it would be polite for me to ride on the right side so that faster riders could pass me. I could be a driver complaining (quite legitimately) about cyclists who dart stealthily without signaling, angry at being expected to give up a chunk of what until recently had been considered my turf. I could even be one of those tourists in the Eighth Avenue crush who doesn’t see the harm of stepping onto the nearly empty strip of land just off the curb. I will now take a deep breath and count to 10. And I will say to the de Blasio administration while it’s still new and idealistic: Keep on slowly squeezing the cars until the tipping point arrives when it’s just not worth the aggravation of driving in Manhattan. Until that great day comes, bombard pedestrians, cab riders, drivers and bicyclists alike with signs and public-service announcements. And to all pedestrians and new cyclists, I say, Welcome. Exercise your muscles, but also your eyes and ears and common courtesy; I wish us all a long, safe and exhilarating life in the metropolis. October 2, 2014
SCOOPY’S, continued from p. 2 years ago, when they started these loud shows, loud music blasting out on the street. They open the door, the music’s blasting out...and sometimes they leave the door open. They want a place, but it’s the negative effect on the community that we don’t want.” As for Poster, a retired menswear buyer, he’s lived in the Village 36 years. And he said he’ll continue to speak out, as he sees fit. “I could have not spoken out and continued to be there,” he said of staying at St. John’s Lutheran. “But you know me. My agenda is to make sure everyone is safe in the community — I mean everybody.” Pastor Erson tells a different story than Poster, though. First of all, he clarified that the church’s leadership had decided to boot the patrol before last month’s C.B. 2 S.L.A. Committee meeting. Boots N Saddle had previously eyed moving into a different new space, which had been met with a similarly strong opposition from the community, and it was at that time, Erson said, that other members of the patrol — not Poster — had made harsh statements about the gay bar. “I had spoken to Dave before,” Erson said. “I know these were members of his group. Somebody from the watch group attacked the
October 2, 2014
ministry of this church. I don’t want to see one group all being lumped together and vilified.” The Christopher St. cleric added that Robert Ziegler, Boots N Saddle’s owner, is a member of St. John’s congregation. “Dave and I have disagreed since the beginning,” said Erson, who became the church’s pastor several years ago. “He supports closing the pier at 9 p.m.; I disagree. He says he speaks for the Village. No, he doesn’t. This is New York — hello — every block has a diversity of opinions.” The Lutheran leader acknowledged, “Yes, Boots N Saddle’s door swings open and the music is loud, and Robert’s trying to find a bigger space. I think the business has outgrown the space. All the spaces he’s been looking at have been larger. ... But Dave using the word ‘mayhem’ at the community board — oh, come on, that’s so inappropriate.”
NOT HAPPY WITH THE NEWS:
Figli di San Gennaro, the group that runs Little Italy’s annual Feast of San Gennaro, is fuming over the recent Daily News exposé — they have a different name for it — that reported that the multiday event’s charitable donations are skimpier than a mini-cannoli. John Fratta, whose grandfather was a co-founder and president of the first feast 88 years ago, said he told
the News’s reporter all about the expenses, but the guy just didn’t seem to listen. “I spoke to the reporter for 45 minutes,” Fratta told us. “He totally ignored the expenses. I went through the 990’s [expense forms] with him line by line. Maybe this reporter wants to make a name for himself. It was really libelous in my opinion.” For example, in 2012, the famed street festival brought in more than $768,000 but gave only $55,000 to charity, which is accurate, Fratta said. But there was $700,000 in expenses, he noted, including $239,000 for lights, $21,700 for publicity, more than $200,000 for sanitation, $35,000 for an event manager, $10,155 for the Mass and procession and so on. And the city gets 20 percent of the gross from all the vendors, in this case, $143,651, he added. Yet, the News article reported that the feast’s charitable giving is barely above the level from the years before 2006 when the mafia ran it — of the $4.4 million the event collected between 2007 and 2012, just 4.7 percent was given to charity, versus 3 percent in the mob-run years before then — and that the board legally is required to be giving more. And in two of the years since 2007, the feast gave zero percent to charity. The News reported that, “Nonprofits like the San Gennaro group generally donate at least 60% of what they raise to charities, according to Daniel Borochoff, of Charitywatch, a group that monitors charitable giving.” But Fratta countered to The Villager, “We’re not a foundation, we’re a charity. Our real purpose is to continue to honor San Gennaro. A foundation has to give a certain amount. We give 80 percent of what’s left over — we give it to the Church of Most Precious Blood — and Figli di San Gennaro holds onto about $13,000 for the feast through the year. The monitor we have [Richard Mark] came to us through the Rudy Giuliani cleanup of the feast. We continue to keep him, and he does kick back on some things.” Fratta said that Joseph Mattone, Figli’s present, sent a letter to the News demanding a retrac-
tion and apology, but that the paper wouldn’t print it. Adding insult to injury, Curtis Sliwa came out with a piece in the News eight days later, in which he called for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate the festival so that it can become “an honest festival.” “I guess it’s sexy to jump on the bandwagon,” Fratta said of the Guardian Angels founder. The News ran yet another article charging the feast’s lighting is still being run by mobsters, according to records. But Fratta said the guy whose firm formerly did the feast’s lights was booted from the event years ago after being “caught in Jersey accepting a bribe.” The News reported that John Cappelli was charged in 2006 for conspiring with mafiosos to intimidate a competitor from underbidding him for the San Gennaro lighting contract. As for Figli di San Gennaro’s response to the News’s coverage, they might sue, or might take out a fullpage ad listing all the feast’s expenses “that the reporter left out,” according to Fratta. “It’s a shame,” he said, “because after the article, I had Jill Jilker, the manager of my complex, Southbridge Towers, call me and ask me if I was O.K.” The News did not respond to a request for comment by press time. Neither, for that matter, did area politicians whose districts include the feast, namely, Councilmember Margaret Chin, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, state Senator Daniel Squadron and Borough President Gale Brewer. As usual, the Italian-American institution is a hot potato — or make that, a hot cannoli! Mess with San Gennaro and you could potentially lose a lot of votes. A few years ago, when Community Board 2 was considering recommending shortening the feast’s physical length, local politicians ultimately mostly all chimed in in support of the festival. On a positive note, according to the News, Fratta said the group gave more to charity in 2013 — about $113,000 — and hoped to do the same after this year’s event.
The radiant center of all things New Lafayette St. space reflects Company XIV’s decadent aesthetic
THEATER ROCOCO ROUGE Presented by Company XIV Conceived, Directed & Choreographed by Austin McCormick Runtime: 90 min. 21 & over admitted Through November 2 Tues.–Sun. at 8 p.m. Oct. 25 show at 10 p.m. only | No Oct. 28 show PHOTO BY PHILLIP VAN NOSTRAND
At XIV 428 Lafayette St. (btw. Astor Pl. & E. Fourth St.) Tickets from $55 to $125 Visit companyxiv.com or call 212-677-1444 Facebook.com/CompanyXIV Twitter: @Company_XIV Instagram: CompanyXIV
“Rococo Rouge” presents a succession of numbers, jaw-dropping in their beauty, rigorous precision, and illusion of effortlessness.
BY TRAV S.D. (travsd.wordpress.com)
ompany XIV has single-handedly spoiled it for all of the other New York indie theatre companies as far as I am concerned. They are so bloody good, they speak to me on so many levels, that the bar is too high for most of them to clear, and I’d just as soon stay home. I first learned about the company when assigned to write a feature about them for this very paper back in 2010. Since then I’ve seen them about a half dozen times in venues ranging from the Minetta Lane Theatre to their former headquarters, which was unpleasantly situated near the headwaters of the Gowanus Canal. (Those waters are the very reason the company is no longer based at the Brooklyn location. They were among the unlikely victims of EastVillagerNews.com
floods caused by Hurricane Sandy). The displacement had a happy long-term result however, for now they have a splendorous new home. In early September they unveiled their new combination lounge and 100-seat theatre, simply called XIV, fortuitously located on Lafayette Street across from the Public Theater, and a couple of doors down from the Astor Place Theatre, long-time home of Blue Man Group. This little stretch of road is brimming with historical resonance and meaning — it’s been a center for theatrical activity for well over 150 years. The building they’re in on Colonnade Row dates to the 1830s. A symbolic location like this is the perfect place for Company XIV to make their home base. The clue as to why is embedded in their name. The moniker is a nod to the pleasure-loving French monarch Louis XIV (1638-1715), affectionately known to poster-
ity as the “Sun King,” because he aspired to be the radiant center of all things. The resident Sun King of Company XIV is Austin McCormick, the company’s founder, artistic director and choreographer. McCormick was trained in the archaic art of Baroque dance, and that is the core of what he does, although he incorporates later artistic movements that resonate and productively speak to that original aesthetic, mixing in ideas from the Second Empire, Orientalism, the fin de siècle, Weimar, burlesque, and contemporary pop and hip hop. The bottom line is a striving for the beautiful and the sensual, and McCormick invokes all of the arts to achieve a kind of helpless intoxication: ballet and other types of dance, opera as well as more folkish song forms, poetry, costume, and lighting ROCOCO, continued on p.18 October 2, 2014
Art thrives along the great divide On 14th Street, AiOP fills public space with free thought
Free Thurs. October 9 through Sun. Oct. 12 Along 14th Street, from Ave. C to the Hudson River Opening Reception: Oct. 9, 6–9 p.m. at Pedro Albizu Campos Plaza (enter on E. 14th St., btw. Aves. B & C) Visit artinoddplaces.org
BY SCOTT STIFFLER
hether you’re the kind of person who rails against change, stands on the sidelines in passive acceptance, or welcomes it with pom poms and a cheer, one thing’s for sure: New York is not the town it used to be — but at least 14th Street has managed to retain some of the personality that has made it an effective divide between Uptown and Downtown sensibilities. Chain pancake houses and chicken emporiums notwithstanding, there are still authentic notes of grit and moments of free expression to be found — especially next week, when 64 artistic projects can be seen from Avenue C all the way to the Hudson River. It’s the tenth season for Art in Odd Places (AiOP), which engages and responds to the history and hetero-
October 2, 2014
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
AiOP (ART IN ODD PLACES)
geneity of 14th Street — where, AiOP curators assert, there’s room for creativity to thrive among the ever-expanding presence of corporate and private interests. That creativity will show up in everything from art installations and new media projects to no-tech interactions and roving performances — all in the spirit of using this crosstown stretch as “a test site for the possibilities and limitations of public space…to highlight the spectrum of civil liberties, forms of exchange, and personal and collective freedoms in forming a critical idea of what our urban common looks like, and how it functions.” Alongside your reflective conversation with project creators Sasha Sumner and Nick Porcaro, the video installation “Free Slurpee” draws attention to the 7-Elevenification of Manhattan at the cost of mom and pop shops, by projecting humorous references and word plays onto storefronts. In “Chess Draw,” artist and activist Clark Stoeckleyv (aka the WikiLeaks Truck Driver) sets up a chessboard in the southwest corner of Union Square, alongside fellow strategists. Beckoning passerby to join him, Stoeckleyv’s strategy involves quick moves and no attacks. Each time the opponent takes their turn, he uses that time to draw them. When the match concludes (by draw or with the artist in checkmate), the opponent gets sent home with the drawing, after contributing to Stoeckleyv’s own collection by having their picture taken (while holding their just-created work). Another take-home opportunity happens at the end of a free ride, provided by altruistic artists 0H10M1KE & TJ. After placing a call to dispatcher/driver TJ, you’ll soon be enjoying
John Craig Freeman’s “14th and AR” uses augmented reality technology for mobile devices to detect, and depict, the collusion of virtual and real worlds.
crosstown shuttle service from one festival location to the next. During the trip, their “Drive-By Portraiture” sends you on your way with a commemorative drawing made from “free cardboard materials sourced directly from 14th Street.” Suitable for framing, perhaps with a purchase from Big D discount store (22 W. 14th St.)? In “Flux Flags,” dozen of flags inspired by nautical signal designs fly atop the old pilings between Piers 54 and 57, evoking the maritime romance of opportunities that lie beyond. Two events ask audiences to digest the notion that we are what we eat. “Loisaida” is from Lima, Peru-born (and NYC-based) video and performance artist Maria Builes, who will abandon the press normally used to make Tostones, and instead prepare them by hand — as a representation of struggles experienced by immigrants who have settled in Alphabet City. She’ll then offer the food to the pubic “as an act of solidarity and as an affirmation of immigration.” Brazilian artist Felipe Cidade’s “Taste of Freedom” project is a recipe for contemplation about international boarders, cultural differences and notions of territorialism. You’ll be served an American classic — the hot dog — made with ingredients and spices from countries the U.S. has gone to war with. Based on the Bernard Herrmann score from “Taxi Driver,” the music of experimental easy-listening band Jantar’s “Eight Spaces of Empty Place” will be staged from a storefront interior, with images projected into the street that evoke Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic. By conjuring the dirty, dangerous New York of old in the middle of this much-changed thoroughfare, Jantar asks us to con-
sider our nostalgia for a bygone era within the context of an “increasingly uniform city of luxury consumption.” Interdisciplinary artist (and city resident) Amanda Davis’ “14th in Fifteen Parts” provides a downloadable recording meant to be played on headphones as you walk from Avenue C to 11th. The sounds were recorded along 14th Street, over a sixmonth period, with the intention of giving the listener an experience specific to their block-by-block journey. Several public programs encourage you to take action in response to the festival’s omnipresent concern about gentrification and development. “Horizontal Art and Action” is hosted by The Free University of NYC, which offers open education in parks and public spaces. Artists and community activists will be given skills and strategies to help further social change (through mural-making, youth organizing, pamphlet design, Guerilla media, street journalism and other methods). It happens on On Sat., Oct. 11, from 2-5 p.m., at Pedro Albizu Campos Plaza (enter on E. 14th St., btw. Aves. B & C). FreeUniversityNYC.org for more info. A pair of un-moderated roundtable discussions take place (1-2 p.m. & 2:30-3:30 p.m.) on Sun., Oct. 12, at Hudson River 14th St. Park (at 10th Ave). Topics include urban planning (or unplanning), big data and digital interfaces, gentrification and development, and the changing face of 14th St. — all in an effort to create a dialogue around the future relationship between art and public space. A “Walking Endnote” begins at 4 p.m. in the park, then wanders about the urban landscape as artists and audiences reflect on the themes of this year’s festival. EastVillagerNews.com
Just Do Art BY SCOTT STIFFLER
TENDER BUTTONS: OBJECTS ROOMS FOOD
The incredibly specific pop culture knowledge possessed by Anne Rodeman and Damian Bellino makes those “Big Bang Theory” guys seem like ill-informed wannabes. The fact EastVillagerNews.com
In the know: Anne Rodeman and Damian Bellino are big on “Little Shop of Horrors,” in the October installment of their “So Into It” show.
Lauren Farber in “Objects,” from “Tender Buttons: Objects Rooms Food.”
that they developed their obsessions in an era when comic conventions didn’t garner national press and allout devotion to a particular cause was still something to be ashamed of just makes the “mutual sick fanaticism” of these two in-synch pals all the more heroic. Bellino freely admits spending his childhood in Philly obsessing over Garbage Pail Kids, X-Men comic books, and the board game Clue. Rodeman wrote fan letters to the NBA dream team and love letters to Daniel Stern from her waterbed in Missouri. Now all grown up, they’ve planted their freak flag in the Big Apple, surrounded by other highly functioning pop culture savants. The perfect conduit for all of this nerdish drooling? “So Into It” is a monthly show in which the hopelessly devoted duo celebrates a beloved obsession, with the help of fellow comedians, writers, and performance artists. October’s topic is “Little Shop of Horrors.” Naomi Ekperigin, Anissa Felix, Chris Tyler and Hannah Rose DeFlumeri join our hosts to deconstruct every film, stage and cartoon version of the comedy/horror (and sometimes musical) story about shy flower shop worker Seymour, whose sickly plant becomes a giant, voracious devourer of human flesh. Special attention is paid to the iconic creation of Ellen Greene, who played love interest Audrey in the original Off-Broadway production and the 1986 screen adaptation (directed by the man behind Miss Piggy and Yoda, a fact they’ll surely mention along with much more obscure trivia). Tues., Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. at UCB East (153 E. Third St. btw. Aves. A & B). $5, cash only. For info: 212-366-9231 or east. ucbtheatre.com.
PHOTO BY GARY HEIDT
SO INTO IT: THE “LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS” EDITION
PHOTO BY GARY HEIDT
Virtually impenetrable if taken literally — but quite possibly sublime if you can abandon the impulse to nail down a specific message — “Tender Buttons” has been inspiring raves (and rants!) ever since Gertrude Stein answered publisher Donald Evans’ request for a play with this “beautiful and befuddling text.” That’s how Van Reipen Collective describes the work. After four years after of mulling it over (first by forming a band, now as a stage adaptation), they’re no closer to a comprehensive decoding than when they started — but as the collection of words chosen for their complimentary sounds and rhythmic possibilities celebrates its 100th anniversary, they’ve found their bliss by embracing the notion that this three-part piece “does not make one single bit of sense. It makes sense in a hundred ways all at the same time.” Acted and directed by overlapping members of the collective, this five-hour project is performed in three installments (self-contained nights that stand on their own, we’re assured). “Objects” is a darkly comic operetta for 12 performers, in which acts of love and betrayal take place inside a human aquarium whose warring inhabitants include an AWOL soldier and his amphibious fiancée. The dining room drama “Food” has its guests sitting on bottomless chairs, as a chicken (and a man in a chicken suit) are stripped bare. “Rooms” presents the psyche as a series of shifting physical spaces in which the dreams and memories of two women address matters of war, solitude, wonder, desperation, companionship, and mysticism. Through Oct. 19. Thurs.–Sat. at 8 p.m. & Sun. at 3 p.m. “Objects” is presented Oct. 2–5. “Rooms” is presented Oct. 9–12. “Food” is presented Oct. 16–19. At Theater for the New City is (155 First Ave., btw. 9th & 10th Sts.). For tickets ($15), call 212-254-1109 or visit theaterforthenewcity.net. For info on the presenting artists: VanReipen.org.
Mark Dendy, Heather Christian, Stephen Donovan and Matthew Hardy go down the rabbit’s hole, Greek myth-style, in “Labyrinth.”
LABYRINTH (a dance-play)
As Superstorm Sandy approaches, an aging Downtown bad boy’s (sellout!) trip to choreograph a Rockettes number takes a hero’s journey turn — in Mark Dendy’s quasi-autobiographical dance-play retelling of the Theseus myth. “Labyrinth” has Dendy, Heather Christian, Stephen Donovan and Matthew Hardy playing multiple disenfranchised characters representing the personal fears and professional doubts of Athens, Georgia native Theseus — whose midlife crisis is complicated by a series of hallucinogenic events brought forth
by his excessive consumption of absinthe and anti-anxiety pills. Besieged by inner demons and trapped in a Jungian underworld as ugly as the new Times Square, transgender addict/sex worker Pawnie (aka Ghost of East Village Past) offers Theseus a possible path toward redemption, or at least a little wisdom: “You know it’s getting bad when the place you ran away to starts to look like a giant version of the place you ran away from.” From Oct. 9–12: Thurs.–Sat. at 8 p.m. & Sun. at 5 p.m. From Oct. 15–26: Wed.–Sat. at 8 p.m. & Sun. at 5 p.m. At Abrons Arts Center’s Underground Theater (466 Grand St., at Pitt St.). For tickets ($25), call 212352-3101 or visit abronsartscenter.org.
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Company XIV invokes all of the arts to achieve ‘a kind of helpless intoxication’ ROCOCO, continued from p. 15
RS of SERVING 50 Y E A THE BEST B IG G E S T &
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is extraordinary. Many of the numbers remind one of the acrobatic roots of early ballet; and we come close to the artistry of the circus with an aerial act, a pole dance, and a show-stopping cyr wheel. The latter is done by a female dancer in male drag as a macho Italian man (later to be balanced out in the show by a male dancer in female drag who lipsyncs). One vignette is set to the “Habanera” from “Carmen.” Watson closes out the show with the old Peggy Lee classic “Is That All There Is?” (which Mistress Astrid used to use at a closer at the now defunct Va Va Voom Room). Achingly beautiful scenic effects are achieved: a never-ending snow of shimmering red glitter flutters to the ground, where it seemingly vanishes. A can-can dance demonstrates the amazing effects that can be achieved by moving colored fabric in dim light — it made me realize how the “Serpentine” dances of Loïe Fuller must have evolved. I only caught a couple of names. Katrina Cunning-
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Corne r of Jane & West 4th St. (at 8th Ave.) 212-2 42-95 02
cornerbistrony.com October 2, 2014
Long may they reign: In Trav. S.D.’s estimation, Company XIV’s debut on Lafayette St. immediately establishes the troupe as Manhattan’s premiere indie theatre company.
*V O T E D **
V I L LE S T A B A RGE
“Rococo Rouge” opens on an elaborate court dance, the company decked out in carnal red, waving fans.
PHOTOS BY PHILLIP VAN NOSTRAND
design all serving the same end. A marked feature of their work is the crossing of boundaries, the mixing together of many notions and ideas. Gender bending plays a strong role, as does the harmonious blending of black and white and the tongues of many lands — Spanish, Italian, German and French are spoken and sung almost as much as English in Company XIV productions. Darkness and light, humor and pain, fantasy and real-life spectacle are all swirled together. In the tradition of masque and Carnival, Company XIV’s ritual of art is especially well-suited to holidays, and I’ve seen them do Christmas, Halloween and Valentine’s shows. Their aesthetic serves them all equally well. In fact, if you were to add the three holiday traditions together you might arrive at something like Company XIV. One has always regretted the lack of an appropriate setting for this elegant troupe; now they have one. The new space reflects the company’s decadent aesthetic, sporting chandeliers, large ornamental gold crowns suspended from the ceiling (evoking their namesake), a blow-up of a poster for a Moulin Rouge show called “Follements,” and a theatre curtain featuring erotic images including depictions of both sex organs. Victorian waiter-girls in silk top hats and ribbons take your drink order. They appear to enjoy their work. Their inaugural show in the new venue — “Rococo Rouge” — is a smasheroo, a kind of solid restatement of the kind of work the company has always done, but also an ambitious announcement about the kind of work they intend to do going forward. Essentially it’s a complex, highly thematic variety show with song and dance being a common denominator, but articulated in so many clever, different ways, it is essentially a vaudeville. Shelly Watson is our hostess, streetsinger, Virgil, madam and opera diva, equal parts Texas Guinan, Sophie Tucker and Marian Anderson. And she guides us through a succession of acts that feels every bit like a menu of some sumptuous repast with nothing but lobster, oysters, caviar, chocolate and champagne. (And something forbidden: say, live monkey’s brains). It opens on an elaborate court dance, the company decked out in carnal red, waving fans, and then a succession of numbers, each fairly jaw-dropping in their beauty, rigorous precision, and illusion of effortlessness. Every single artist in the collaboration
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Katrina Cunningham stands, as “a never-ending snow of shimmering red glitter flutters to the ground, where it seemingly vanishes.”
ham is a gorgeous chanteuse. Rob Mastrianni is a kickass classical guitarist and electric sitar player. (He even got me clapping to his difficult rhythms, and I never clap with crowds in time to music!) But as I said, every single person in the cast is extraordinary, and they all feed into this almost cosmic sense of true collaboration, a group of people coming together to make something that is somehow a part of all of them. And when the show was over, people were audibly bummed. In sum, I propose that you get there as quickly as possible. The night I went, the audience was a mix of tourists and bold-faced names like Nolé Marin from “America’s Next Top Model” and former Village Voice dance editor and critic Elizabeth Zimmer. Reigning royalty of New York’s burlesque scene are to be found there every night. And mysterious characters. In the audience behind us was an amazing trio of African American gents decked out in matching grey top hats, tails, scarves and KILTS. We predict that in the wake of the buzz that’s already circulating, the audience will be composed entirely of people like THOSE guys — and those tourists in their kickin’-around clothes won’t be able to get within five miles of the place. “Rococo Rouge” plays through November 2, to be followed no doubt by something equally breath-taking. EastVillagerNews.com
Buhmann on Art
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST & GEORGE BILLIS GALLERY, NYC
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST & GEORGE BILLIS GALLERY, NYC
Wes Hempel / “Language Vaccine II (Vow of Silence)” / oil on canvas, 52x76” / 2014.
Wes Hempel / “Burying The Evidence” / oil on canvas, 72x52” / 2014.
BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN (stephaniebuhmann.com)
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST & GEORGE BILLIS GALLERY, NYC
Wes Hempel explores notions of masculinity by setting portraits of present-day men against backdrops that resemble paintings of the historical Neoclassical and High Renaissance era — Nicolas Poussin and Guido Reni frequently come to mind. Hempel’s work especially reflects his interest in masculine sexuality as it has been represented throughout art history. When studying works of the past in museums, Hempel has found that absent to him as a gay man was the depiction of his own story: “…paintings of the old masters on the walls of museums like the Met, the Louvre, and Rijks museum still have a certain cache. They’re revered not just for their technique but because they enshrine our collective past experience. Of course, it’s a selected past that gets validated.” By choosing to present contemporary males as objects of desire in familiar looking art historical settings, Hempel wittily and romantically imagines an art discourse that never excluded the gay experience. In a time when this subject is still able to shock the unenlightened, Hempel’s paintings are not simply aesthetically stimulating, but serve as a poignant reminder that art, no matter how seemingly liberal, has also had its historic limitations. Sept. 30–Oct. 25. At George Billis Gallery (525 W. 26th St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves.). Hours: Tues.–Sat., 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Call 212-645-2621 or visit georgebillis.com.
Wes Hempel / “Identity Question (study)” / oil on canvas, 24x20” / 2014. EastVillagerNews.com
October 2, 2014
Forty-five years later, an East Village school has BY YANNIC RACK
hen Joyce Pearlman started teaching kindergarten in the East Village 45 years ago, the neighborhood was, to put it mildly, a little different. It turned out that living in Mt. Vernon and teaching in the Bronx hadn’t quite prepared her for the move to Avenue C and E. 10th St. in 1969. “The first week I lived here, I opened up my window shades on Sunday — I moved in on Tuesday — and there’s a dead body in the middle of Avenue C!” she recalled. “And then I would see the drug exchanges — it was really Alphabet City.” “But what saved me, what was really great, was teaching at that school, teaching the neighborhood kids,” she said. Pearlman lived just a couple of blocks away from P.S. 61, at 610 E. 12th St., her new workplace, in the brand-new Village East Towers, three apartment blocks that were built as part of the state’s Mitchell-Lama Housing Program for middle-income families. One of the neighborhood kids was Todd Ferrara, who went to P.S. 61, too, although Pearlman said she didn’t teach him. Today, he lives just a few floors up from her apartment, with his wife and two daughters, in the same building he grew up in. Mitchell-Lama complexes “were mostly built in neighborhoods where nobody wanted to live,” Ferrara said of the building. “You know, this neighborhood, back then, was pretty decrepit. I would say a good 50 percent of the houses were just burned out or abandoned lots or whatever.” His parents, biology teachers at nearby Stuyvesant High School, were also among the towers’ original occupants. They moved from the 12th to the 20th floor in 1982, Ferrara’s last year at P.S. 61. Now, more than 30 years later, his older daughter, Julia, is about to start kindergarten in his old school building, at the East Village Community School, which goes from pre-K to fifth grade. She couldn’t attend the same school her dad had, even if she wanted to: The original P.S. 61 was shut down in 1996. At that time, it had already operated as a satellite school, hosting The Children’s Workshop School and The S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M. School, and in 2001 the newly renamed East Village Community School moved into the building. “I guess, in retrospect, there were some odd things about it that were hallmarks of a troubled inner-city
October 2, 2014
Ms. Oliver and her class at P.S. 61 in 1950.
school, but it was not something that we really felt,” Ferrara said of his time there. He is glad his daughter is going to a safer school than he did. The playground, he remembered, would sometimes be littered with “drug paraphernalia,” especially on Mondays, and it wasn’t uncommon to have glue-sniffing junkies hanging around (adults, not kids), as well as other “unsavory characters.” And then there was the semester when everybody was buying knives. “One semester there was this hardware store that decided that selling $5 knives to kids was a great idea,” he recalled. “Everybody had one. I don’t think I did because I knew my parents would kill me. But when the school started finding out about it, the kids would give me the knives at lunch to carry into the school in my backpack. Nobody would suspect me, I was the tiniest kid, the assistant principal lived right downstairs on the 19th floor of this building. ... I think there would be more of a community outcry about that sort of thing today.” At the same time, Ferrara mourns parts of his old turf that are gone, particularly the family-owned grocery stores and the mom-and-pop businesses. He keeps a folder with
menus of closed restaurants, artifacts of a changing neighborhood. “When the 2nd Ave. Deli went, that was a blow,” he said. “When Di Bella [Bros.] went, that was a blow. When the Polish butcher closed, that was a blow. I’m just wishing the hipsters could afford to be here and open their butcher shops and their crazy stuff — you know, pickle stores or whatever — ’cause that’s what I miss!” Pearlman agreed that the neighborhood around her has transformed, for better or worse. “Well, in a sense, the neighborhood got safer and it got better, because the crime left, and the drugs,” she said. “Of course now it’s ludicrously expensive. I mean, we’ve lost all the ethnic businesses and the mom-andpop businesses.” Another thing that has changed since her early teaching years is education, and not just the curriculum. “Teachers can’t be like I was, they can’t hug and kiss their kids!” she said. “They can’t be affectionate. Teachers can’t touch a child, it could be child abuse, it could be sexual. They’re afraid to touch kids!” Some of her methods would be less controversial but still unusual nowadays. For example, when one of
the mothers of her students (she affectionately calls them “my moms”) would be running late because of her job, Pearlman said she would simply take the child home and babysit. “I really became part of their lives, and they became part of mine,” she said. “I still see them now. In fact, two or three kids that were in my kindergarten classes live in my building.” “I knew the kids, I knew the neighborhood. And I knew what kind of life my kids had in Campos Plaza and the buildings they lived in at the time. I just made sure that my class was the safest place in the world for them. And they wanted to be in school, because they knew I was there for them.” Pearlman taught at P.S. 61 until 1996, when the school closed after more than 80 years in operation. The building itself just celebrated its 101st anniversary as a school last weekend. An official celebration was actually scheduled for last year’s centennial but had to be pushed back because of construction work. Since P.S. 61 first opened its doors in 1913, a year after the building was built, the school has witnessed a lot. That’s why, intrigued by a large hisMY OLD SCHOOL, continued on p. 21 EastVillagerNews.com
changed radically, just like its neighborhood MY OLD SCHOOL, continued from p. 20
torical plaque in its auditorium, Jason McDonald started getting interested in the place’s history three years ago. McDonald teaches history at Grace Church School, at E. 11th St. and Fourth Ave., but has a son at East Village Community School. Over the past two years, he has put together a book about the E. 12th St. school’s history, which will be used to teach children at all three schools that currently use the building. The book is also a guide through the last century. In it, McDonald de-
scribes the neighborhood during both world wars, as well as the effects of the 1950s red scare. He also quotes from a 1952 Life magazine article that profiled the school and its principal, Max Francke. Back then, some of Francke’s teachers had 50 students in their classes. In fact, the school had 2,011 students in 1,470 authorized seats in October 1952, making it New York City’s most overcrowded school. Back in 1914, there were 2,550 students enrolled in the building, according to Bradley Goodman, the current principal of East Village Community
Todd Ferrara in front of P.S. 61, when he was a student there. EastVillagerNews.com
School. This year, there are barely 600 kids enrolled across all three schools located there. “I don’t even know how they fit them into the building back then — in the same exact space!” he said. By the time Ferrara attended the school in the ’70s and ’80s, the overcrowding problem wasn’t so bad anymore. But that doesn’t mean the school had the best reputation. To escape school zoning, he said, many of his peers would give false addresses to attend schools that were considered better than P.S. 61. “Third grade was sort of the di-
viding line,” he explained, “when a lot of the kids whose parents had a little more wherewithal to game the system, all figured out that they could find a friend in the West Village or someone else and make up an address and send their kids there.” Nowadays, according to Principal Goodman, it’s usually the other way around, as the schools in the E. 12th St. building are more sought after. “We’ve become very popular,” he said. “Now we have families in Brooklyn. I don’t know if they’re faking it, but certainly there’s a much higher demand!”
Todd Ferrara and his daughter, Julia, who attends the East Village Community School, in the former P.S. 61 building, sit in front of the school, which is now graffiti-free. October 2, 2014
October 2, 2014
Confessions of a reluctant climate marcher CLIMATE, continued from p. 1
PHOTO BY MILO HESS
threats to corporate power to give it teeth. Having walked through the soles of my boots at marches to stop Bush’s Iraq War, I’ve experienced the limits of simply putting our bodies in the streets. But after marching with my sixyear-old, and running around to various panels and plenaries hosted by climate groups all weekend, I’ve emerged energized, if overwhelmed, by the depth and urgency of the grassroots organizing here and around the world. While the media focused on the spectacle of 400,000-plus bodies jammed along Central Park West as far as the eye could see, it was the networking that took place between all these grassroots groups and the connections made at events leading up to the march that gave it its real power. Scores of workshops and gatherings were held in East Village community gardens and other parts of Lower Manhattan as part of the New York City Climate Convergence — which coincided with the annual Lower East Side Harvest festival — creating a synergy of art, music and activism that I haven’t experienced here for some time. There were people from Cochabamba, Bolivia, schooling Detroit activists on their successful campaign to stop the privatization of public water, and Canadian tar sands activists mingling with bike advocates and African Green Belt activists on Avenue C. “Like cramming for the apocalypse,” quipped one organizer. You couldn’t walk into a garden without hearing about some environmental crusade. On Saturday, instead of morning tai chi, I raced to a talk about global water crises at the new St. John’s University campus on Astor Place, where the halls and classrooms were brimming with eco and lefty groups. I dipped into “War and the Climate Crisis,” then headed back east to Graffiti Baptist Church on E. Seventh St., where the folks from the group Sane Energy Project were unveiling a new interactive map that documents the growing web of natural gas pipelines, compressor stations and waste facilities for storing toxic frack brine from Pennsylvania that is emerging across New York State, in spite of Governor Cuomo’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. “We have to understand, the moratorium is temporary, it’s not a ban,” Sane Energy founder Claire Donahue told the audience. “What this map
He’s got the whole world in his hands — at Sunday’s People’s Climate March.
shows is, we are in effect being fracked in New York.” (You can view the map at www. youareherenymap.org.) Even places that aren’t getting drilled are being overrun by the gas industry in ways you wouldn’t expect. At a meetup of frack activists in Tompkins Square Park, I encountered Robert Nehman, a former house painter from Allamakee County, Iowa, who has spent the last 18 months crisscrossing the country to speak out about how mining for silica sand, which is used to open fissures in the rock during frack drilling, has transformed the rolling hills of northeast Iowa. “In 2010, we had three sand mines within 100 miles of my house,” he said. “It’s now 140, and another 70 are proposed, each of them anywhere from 20 acres to 5000 acres apiece. It’s insane, it’s unbelievable. It’s clouding up the air. People can’t even hang their clothes out to dry anymore.” Later, I listened to Native women tell powerful and heart-wrenching stories of resisting frack operations in tribal lands in Canada and the U.S. at a jam-packed symposium at the New School called #Frack Off. Kandi Mossett, an activist from the Fort Berthold Reservation in the Badlands of North Dakota, showed slides of natural gas being flared off oil rigs in the Bakken Shale Play. “Where I live, they’re fracking for oil,” Mossett explained. “The gas that’s on top of the oil is just a byproduct because the pipeline infrastructure to capture it currently does not exist. “Every day more than 100 million cubic feet of natural gas is flared away,” Mossett continued. “Just to put it into perspective, that’s enough gas to heat half a million homes.”
It got me thinking, if the natural gas is just flared off out West, how then can it be worth tearing up our woods and streams and poisoning wells in New York, Pennsylvania and beyond? “It’s a ponzi scheme,” Jill Wiener, a frack activist from Callicoon, N.Y., told me. “It just shows it’s more about fracking paper and capital than actual gas.” If my weekend crash course in climate catastrophe left me with a bleak portrait of the world being plundered and colonized by “extreme energy” production, on the march I found hope. I marched with my six-year-old, Christopher, and other community gardeners in the “We Have Solutions” bloc, intended to highlight things like renewable energy and organic farming. At the front of the bloc, Will Allen, an organic farmer from Vermont, held up a recent study by the Rodale Institute showing that organically farmed soil can actually sequester more carbon than trees do. “We’re seeing yield increases dramatically going up in two to three years,” Allen declared before a field of people waving vegetable signs with the slogan “Cook organic, not the planet.” “It doesn’t take very long,” he said. “This isn’t rocket science. We can fix this. We can fix climate change!” Close by, an ad-hoc group of contractors was towing a float featuring a five-foot-wide planet Earth that was spinning on a rotisserie motor powered by solar panels. “I’m marching for a safe green economy,” said Erl Kimmich, an energy efficiency consultant from the Upper West Side. “New York State is ready
for this. They’re already gearing up the power grid to switch to more intermittent energy coming off wind farms and solar. All the contractors I work with are busy. They want to buy more trucks and hire more people.” Next to him, Cindy Kerr, a school administrator from the Lower East Side, marched while pushing her fouryear-old in a stroller. “I feel like we don’t have enough marches anymore,” she said. “Right now, we have this whole build to war. Where are the marches? I personally don’t think bombing ISIS or arming one faction or another in Syria is going to solve anything. We need to be in the streets.” The awesome turnout made for a long slog. It took two hours for our section to move, and for every step forward we took, it seemed, the cops would hold us back to allow feeder marches to enter from the side streets. By the time we got to 42nd St., many people gave up and dispersed. Still, the excitement of the marchers was palpable. “I’m amazed at the sheer volume of people who chose to be here today,” remarked a drag queen named Hucklefaery, who was done up in black spandex and polka dot wings to symbolize the plight of the monarch butterfly (whose annual migration failed for the first time last year). “If nothing else, we’re a huge economic force,” she said. “The corporations who support warming have to see this volume of people as a threat.” I’m not so sure about that — yet. But the seeds have been planted. “I think what we achieved by the march was people having confidence in themselves and their power to act,” remarked anti-G.M.O. campaigner Vandana Shiva. She was speaking at a press conference Monday with other scientists to promote organic n0-till farming and “regenerative” grazing as ways to actually reverse climate change by restoring the ability of soil to absorb and store excess CO2 from the atmosphere. “There’s been so much discouragement in the environmental movement,” Shiva said. “This was about people knowing they have the power to act and to bring hope for the future. “Now, of course, a march in itself is not going to bring about change,” she added. “What will bring change is what people do with that hope. So that is why you find us at panels like this, discussing the role of organic farming, which can be an answer for everyone. Not everyone around the world can afford a wind tower or a solar panel. But everyone has to eat.” October 2, 2014
This walk lk This wae us to s t g gets us to e e n n li i l h is h fin s i n thet i f he faster. faster.
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MakingStridesWalk.org Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Manhattan Central Park 72nd Street Bandshell, October 19, 2014, 8 AM
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October 2, 2014