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October 15, 2015 • $1.00 Volume 85 • Number 20
E. Fifth St. tenants are still trying to figure out; Who is the real ‘Raffi’? BY TINA BENITEZ-EVES
TOLEDANO continued on p. 14
On Second Ave., trying to rebuild apartments, and lives, is taking time BY YANNIC RACK
hen Yvonne Collery returned to her apartment for the first time after the explosion and fire that devastated her block in the East Village in late March, she didn’t immediately grasp how bad the damage really was.
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
en dressed in black, late-night phone calls, a knock at the door with no advance notice, photo requests and chocolate — some East Village tenants don’t know what to think about their new landlord.
Raphael (“Raffi”) Toledano, who purchased 16 properties in the East Village this September from the Tabak/ Garfinkel family for $97 million, hasn’t made the best of impressions this year, according to some tenants, who have met their new landlord or his associates.
“At first I thought it was just the plaster hanging down,” she said of the ceiling in her home of 30 years, which had collapsed almost entirely. “It wasn’t until I tapped it. I said, ‘Holy crap, that’s the walls from the apartment [above] sticking through, SECOND AVE. continued on p. 8
Doris Diether, the legendary zoning maven of Community Board 2, and marionette master Ricky Syers — plus Little Doris and twerk-happy hillbilly Mr. Stix — joined Brandon Stanton, left, at the book signing for his new “Humans of New York Stories” at Barnes & Noble on E. 17th St. Tuesday evening. A photo of Diether and Syers is featured on the surefire bestseller’s back cover and they have a page inside. See Page 4.
Big stars and bucks come out for Hudson River Park BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
he carpet for celebrity photos was green, not red, and the green — as in cash — came flooding in at the Friends of Hudson River Park Gala at Chelsea Piers on Thurs., Oct. 8. More than $2.8 million was raised by more than 1,000 donors and guests at the glitzy confab for the West Side waterfront park, which stretches from Chambers St. to W. 59th St. Tickets reportedly started at a cool $500 per plate.
In addition, Citigroup announced a $10 million gift to the park to be used to complete Pier 26, located across the West Side Highway from the multinational financial giant’s Tribeca headquarters building. The star-studded evening was hosted by Padma Lakshmi of “Top Chef,” while Seth Meyers of “Late Night” presented an honor to Martha Stewart, and the affair ended on a high note with performances by The B-52s and The Dolls.
Also honored were Chelsea Piers’ Roland Betts, Tom Bernstein and David Tewksbury in recognition of the groundbreaking sports complex’s 20-year anniversary, plus Scott Lawin, vice chairperson of the Friends’ board of directors. The gala’s co-chairs were Michael Novogratz, president of the Friends, and his wife, Sukey, along with Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos, and Diana Taylor, chairperPARK GALA continued on p. 6
Pier 57 ‘Asian market’ to be 24 hours?..........page 3 Ex-parks commish: Save Eliz. Garden!..........page 10 Still savoring soup kitchen memories............page 17 Comic Con knocks ’em out!........page 24
RETURN TO ‘DILLER ISLAND’: A community meeting about the planned Pier55 project in Hudson River Park will be held Mon., Oct. 19, at 6:30 p.m., at the Clinton School for Artists and Writers gym, 10 E. 15th St. The meeting, which is open to the public, is being hosted by Pier55, Inc., the nonprofit group that plans to oversee programming for the new pier. According to the organizers: “The community meeting will be a roundtable discussion with folks from the Pier55 team, focusing on the future of local arts and educational programming at the new park. Community attendees will have the opportunity to share their ideas for the kinds of local arts, educational and community programming they would like to see at Pier55.”
er Otis Kidwell Burger called to say she was recently rubbed the wrong way when a caller from Mrs. Green’s, the new Hudson St. natural market, rang her up and peppered her with personal questions. Despite her irritation, Burger stayed on the line out of curiosity. “It was some survey,” she said. “They wanted to know how old I was, my marital status, income, all sorts of private matter, all these things about me. We need to find out more about them!” Burger retorted. “The place was boarded up for a year while they settled their union problems. If they’re going to be calling around about us, I think we should know more about them.” In a statement, Mrs. Green’s Pat Brown, C.E.O. of Natural Markets Food Group, said: “Mrs. Green’s is proud to have opened its first New York City store in the West Village. While the response has been incredibly positive — with customers enjoying our sustainable seafood, humanely raised meat and farmfresh, organic produce — we always want to learn more about what residents want from their local grocery store. This community outreach gives the West Village another opportunity to share their ideas and help us serve them better.” The store also sent residents a coupon / mailer when it opened. As for the union issue, Brown responded: “Our associates are part of our Mrs. Green’s family, and I’m extremely proud of how we care for them — providing industry-leading wages and benefits.” A spokesperson added, “The union has withdrawn or settled all complaints. There are currently no issues pending at any Mrs. Green’s stores.”
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October 15, 2015
STUDENTS STRUT THEIR STUFF: The models at the recent Givenchy fashion show at Pier 26 in Hudson River Park have nothing on the kids at P.S. 110! The parking garage next to the Florence Nightingale School, at 285 Delancey St., was used for the Fall Fashion Week event’s star-studded after-party. The school is miffed that the fashionistas didn’t think to cough up some cash for them. “Rumor has it the fashion label paid a lot of money to rent out the space,” said a release from the P.T.A. and its president, Kathleen Keene. “If they could pay a lot of money to empty a parking lot and close our sidewalk for three days to create a ‘favela’ atmosphere for their celebrity clientele, then maybe they could make a healthy donation to the public school next door to support art enrichment.” The P.T.A. has sent letters and a donation packet to the appropriate people. But in the meantime they had another idea: “Why not shoot a video showcasing the talented students and thanking Givenchy for the donation they are going to make!” In short, on Tuesday afternoon, the kids shared their personality on camera in a “faux fashion show” to the song “Power of Love,” by Deee-Lite — which was the after-party’s theme. The kids were styled by the “Law & Order” wardrobe department. Keene tells us the final cut of the video should be ready by Monday, and that she’s rustling up some photos taken by the “stage moms and dads” that were there. THERE GOES THE ’HOOD: A panel discussion on gentrification, “This Land Is Not For Sale: Forgotten, Past and Foreseeable Futures,” will be held at Jonathan Levine Gallery, 557C W. 23rd St., on Tues., Oct. 20, starting at 6:30 p.m. Writer Alan Kaufman will moderate the panel, which will include L.E.S. documentarian Clayton Patterson, artist Brett Amory, Jose “Cochise” Quiles — the former leader of the notorious Satan’s Sinner Nomads gang — and Lincoln Anderson, The Villager ’s editor in chief. The panel discussion ties in with Oakland-based Amory’s art show, which will be his third at the gallery. Amory’s landscape painting style has been likened to Edward Hopper. The show’s opening reception is Thurs., Oct. 15, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
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STUY TOWN SQUATTERS? Following last week’s Villager article on the city’s plan to have Donald Capoccia’s BFC Partners renovate two former East Village squats as affordable housing, we got a concerned phone call from a P.R. rep for Stuyvesant Town, saying they had subsequently received calls from other media inquiring about this, but that they don’t know anything about squatters being offered temporary housing for two years in the complex at a steeply discounted rent. A former squatter had told us that they were being given that option, and a representative of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development did not contradict that when we inquired about it for last week’s article. Told of the P.R. rep’s call, the H.P.D. spokesperson this week told us, “Our understanding from the developer is that Stuy Town was an option, but we aren’t sure if any of the residents chose to take that option and are actually going there.” She told us she would “check and see if anyone knows why their P.R. folks would be disputing that,” but as of press time, we hadn’t heard anything back. Meanwhile, we had heard the residents of the two former squats — 544 E. 13th St. and 377 E. 10th St. — have been dispersing all over in search of somewhere affordable to hunker down for the next two years, from Brooklyn to Boston and Philadelphia. After the renovation, they can return and buy their spiffed-up units for $2,500. But Janet Nash, a resident at No. 544, called us in dismay, saying that she spent a decade of hard work, and her own money, fixing up her apartment. So the article was unfair, she said, to state that the tenants — including Isabel Celeste Dawson, the mom of famous actress Rosario Dawson, who will be starring in
B BIIS STTR RO O ******
BURGER: DON’T GRILL ME! West Village writ-
the upcoming “Clerks III” and the TV series “Luke Cage” — have made scant progress in bringing the buildings up to city code. All that work of hers is now going to go down the drain, she lamented.
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Pier 57 hawkers market plan ruffles some feathers BY WINNIE MCCROY AND LINCOLN ANDERSON
new plan by chef Anthony Bourdain to turn 25 percent of the currently vacant Pier 57 into a massive Singapore-style “hawkers market” has some Chelsea residents choking on their nasi lemak and noodles in concern. The scheme was discussed at the monthly meeting of Community Board 4 on Oct. 7. The project calls for an international food hall, plus a restaurant at the end of the mammoth 560,000-squarefoot pier complex at W. 16th St. The chef has been candid about his plans to revamp the abandoned complex and create Bourdain Market, a sprawling gourmet food extravaganza with 155,000 square feet of bakers, artisanal food merchants, butchers, a fishmonger and oyster bar, and restaurants. Restaurateurs April Bloomfeld and Ken Friedman have already signed on. In addition, Google has scooped up 250,000 square feet inside the pier. In an article last month in The New York Times about the plan, Bourdain described his vision for the pier as “an Asian market. Eating and drinking at midnight.”
However, some C.B. 4 members, re- cil — countered that it was inapprosponding to Bourdain’s “up all night” priate to create a stipulation about remark about the project, noted that something that was not set in stone. Hudson River Park is a public park She said that these late hours would with a nightly curfew of 1 a.m., and be “highly unlikely” since it would be said Bourdain’s business would likely against park policy, plus that it would have to follow those operating hours. be something they could discuss Board Chairperson Christine during a public hearing of the lease. Berthet said that the applicant had Rubin added that she had recentmet with the Hudson River Park Trust ly called RXR Reality directly to ask and C.B. 4’s Business License and Per- about this project, yet they had not mits Committee about the proposed mentioned Bourdain at all or comrestaurant and would next go before mented on the operations that would the City Council’s Business and Li- occur inside the pier. censing Committee. Regarding traffic congestion outMeanwhile, C.B. 4 recently com- side the pier, Rubin said that in the pleted a traffic study of the area. event Google implements a shuttle Jay Marcus and Ernest Modarel- service for Pier 57, there would have li, co-chairpersons of the board’s to be adequate outreach to consult Transportation Planning Commit- with everyone potentially affecttee, looked at the potential for traffic ed before devising and putting into congestion in the area around Pier place a pedestrian safety plan. 57 and found that it would be negliThe Times article quoted one food gible. But board member Burt Laza- expert who raised concerns that Bourrin questioned whether their study dain’s marketplace might merely be had taken into consideration Bour- geared toward affluent foodies. dain’s 24-hour operating model. However, asked about that before Berthet suggested putting a friend- the Friends of Hudson River Park ly amendment into their resolution Gala last Thursday, Madelyn Wils, the saying that C.B. 4 did not want this Park Trust’s president, said it’s simply project to be open around the clock. not accurate. But board member Delores Rubin —B:8.75” “We’re not done with it yet,” she who is also a past president of the said of the planning for Bourdain’s T:8.75” Hudson River Park Advisory Coun- marketplace. “It’s a great idea and it
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fits right into what we’re doing in the park — to be able to part of a project with food from all over the word, at a price point that people can afford. The word they use is ‘democratic,’ ” Wils said of the Bourdain group. Assemblymember Deborah Glick also was troubled by the sudden developments on Pier 57, which she said did not happen in the public eye. “There really was a process that resulted in the people selecting the Young Woo plan for this pier,” she said. “This is now Young Woo plus RXR. They’re going to do some office space for Google, and they needed a change for that. I’m not opposed to tech / office use — I supported Douglas Durst’s plan for Pier 40. “They did make a presentation to Board 4. But there were some things left out — the possibility of a shuttle bus, the news in the paper that Bourdain wanted to make his restaurants and marketplace operate 24/7. Those things were not part of a public presentation. “I’m not specifically opposed to Google being a tenant there,” Glick said. “I’m just concerned that it was sort of more of behind-the-scenes pulling details — which really isn’t acceptable. A rooftop park of some sort seems to still be in the mix.”
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C.B. 2 member, activist icon...Human Doris Diether, one of the city’s longest-serving community board members, shared the spotlight at the book signing for Brandon Stanton’s new “Humans of New York Stories” at Barnes & Noble’s Union Square store on Tuesday evening. Diether, 86, shares a page in the book with her Washington Square Park pal Ricky Syers, who turned her into a virally “trending” Internet phenomenon after he created a Little Doris marionette of her. After she and Syers cabbed it over to the bookstore, Big Doris — who is nobody’s puppet — with her trademark chuckle, characteristically took all the hoopla in stride as she signed copies of the guaranteed bestseller. Stanton started his blog in 2010, crisscrossing the city, capturing New Yorkers and their stories, even going on to meet with President Obama. The new hardcover book, with 400 full-color photos, is $17.99 in hardcover and $14.99 on Kindle. TheVillager.com
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Stars and bucks come out for Hudson River Park PARK GALA continued from p. 1
PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY
son of the Hudson River Park Trust. The crowd started off sipping cocktails by the carousel on Pier 62, where they also enjoyed fresh oysters from roaming shuckers, plus a water show from a boat parade. Everyone then marched over to Pier Sixty for dinner, propelled along by the pounding rhythms of the Cobra Performing Arts Marching Band, with the path dotted by flight attendants from Delta — a sponsor of the night’s auction — flicking glowing red safety wands. In an interview after posing on the green carpet with Trust Chairperson Taylor, Stewart said she is a huge user — and fan — of Hudson River Park. “Oh, every day,” she told The Villager. “I walk in it. My granddaughter lives on it — in the Village. I’ve looked down on the park from my office in Chelsea every day for years, and I’ve seen it grow. I’ve been driving down the West Side to work every day for years. I watched the piers go from stubble in the water to piers.” Stewart is a member of the Friends’ board of directors. Taylor, for her part, was overjoyed about the Citigroup announcement. “Citigroup, wow! What great people,” she enthused. Earlier, after her own green-carpet spin with Stewart, Madelyn Wils, the Trust’s C.E.O. and president, had hinted at some “big news,” referring to the Citigroup gift. Lakshmi said she and her daughter enjoy the park. “I like to roller skate,” she said. Technically, that would mean she
Martha Stewart posed with Gregory Boroff, director of Friends of Hudson River Park, left, and Madelyn Wils, C.E.O. of the Hudson River Park Trust, right.
uses the adjacent bikeway, which actually is not part of the park, since rollerblading isn’t allowed on the park esplanade. But, hey — this wasn’t a night for nitpicking. Also gracing the green rug was Miss U.S.A. Olivia Jordan. She admitted she is new to the city, having only been here three months, and is still “checking out the parks.” But the beauty queen — a native of landlocked Oklahoma — said it’s all about location, and that the Hudson
Olivia Jordan, Miss U.S.A., thinks waterfront parks are out of this world.
October 15, 2015
River Park definitely has got it. “You have to be by the water,” she said. “You need water to stay grounded — think about it.” Ryan Serhant of the TV show “Million Dollar Listing New York” was also among the boldface names enjoying the riparian revelry. Asked by The Villager if he agreed that local property values along the waterfront have benefited from the park’s presence, he said, definitely. “Ten thousand percent,” he said.
Yet, asked about a former scheme for residents living near the park to be assessed a special tax that would go toward the park, he summarily slammed it as a terrible idea. “What? No!” he blurted out. “We pay enough taxes! It’s New York!” It would be unfair to single out people around Hudson River Park, he argued, so anyone with a good view should have to pay the extra fee. PARK GALA continued on p. 12
Ryan Serhant, with his fiancée, Emilia Bechrakis, said a NID would have been way too taxing for Lower West Siders. TheVillager.com
October 15, 2015
On 2nd Ave., trying to rebuild homes and lives; SECOND AVE. continued from p. 1
October 15, 2015
PHOTOS BY YANNIC RACK
pushing through my ceiling.’ They had to go from the bottom and chainsaw them out.” Collery’s apartment on the fourth floor of 125 Second Ave. was among the most damaged — but at least her building was still standing. The explosion, which was caused by suspected illegal gas tapping at 121 Second Ave., and the subsequent fire, leveled three buildings and claimed two lives. Now, more than six months later, Collery and some other tenants still have not been able to return to their apartments in her building. She has been staying with friends and family since the tragedy that uprooted her life, but she said she never expected to be gone for this long, despite the destruction. “I keep changing the date for the moving company,” she said. “It’s been pretty grueling, but at least we know we’re coming back, unlike the people in the three buildings [that were destroyed]. That keeps me in perspective.” The feeling is echoed by others in her building. “People lost way more than I did. There’s still an apartment for me to go back to. Some people lost everything,” said Jennifer Porto, who shared a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate on the building’s sixth floor. Her roommate is not moving back. Their unit suffered especially because flames from the burning building next door reached it. “It was pretty burnt,” Porto said. “The entire living room area was completely burnt, my roommate’s room was the same. My room was not as bad with the fire damage, but the water and smoke damage ruined all my clothes and everything.” Porto, who moved into the apartment two years ago and works at a digital media company in Midtown, vividly remembers the day of the explosion. She was at work and first saw footage of the fire on Periscope, a live video-streaming app. “All that we saw was just the disaster unfolding. It was so sad and so scary to be watching it,” she said. “I mean, I’m glad that I wasn’t home, but it was also so weird to just be watching, not knowing what you would come home to. And then that night, no one was allowed to go over there. I tried to go home after work, but the firefighters wouldn’t let me through.” She initially stayed in hotels after the explosion but soon switched to couch surfing with friends on the Lower East Side and living with her boyfriend in the Bronx. The Standard hotel initially offered victims a free three-night stay at its locations in the East Village and in the
The Lipsky family in front of the vacant site at E. Seventh St. and Second Ave. where three buildings were leveled and two men died after a gas explosion and fire on March 26. Their building, 125 Second Ave., survived the blast.
Meatpacking District, which Porto took advantage of. In addition, organizations like Good Old Lower East Side and the Cooper Square Committee organized short-term housing for displaced tenants. “I think they’re in the process of refurbishing it and they’re probably another month or two away from finishing,” Porto said of her apartment last month, adding that she hasn’t been back in the building since April. “Whenever I’m in the area, I pass by and it makes me sad that I’m not there,” she said. “I say to people, ‘Can we go down First Avenue, or can we go down this way?’ I just don’t want to pass by because I loved living there.” Although most of the tenants have moved back into 125 Second Ave., there is still no cooking gas. At 41 E. Seventh St., the other building around the corner that was also damaged by the blast, the gas was only turned back on at the end of August. The remaining tenants at that building are currently trying to get a rent abatement from their landlord, according to Steve Herrick, executive director of the Cooper Square Committee, which provided temporary housing to about seven households from the three buildings that collapsed. According to Herrick, many tenants at 41 E. Seventh St. waited for a few weeks until the air quality got better, while some didn’t return at all, even though their apartments were largely undamaged. “Over all, people told me almost half the apartments got vacated, and people just didn’t bother to come back,” he said. “Because they were without gas and the smell was a concern, people just went and found other apartments. In a way, the landlord benefitted from this — they have to resolve their insurance claims, but I’m sure they get a vacancy increase on all
Diane McLean and her three children lost their apartment in the disaster and had to relocate.
those apartments.” Stuart Lipsky and his family were also among the victims that took advantage of the free stay at The Standard, which they described as an odd but uplifting experience. “You’d expect to be depressed and shocked — but it’s such a nice hotel,” said Kayoko Lipsky, his wife. The hotel staff cleaned their clothes and gave them care packages with gift cards for J.Crew and Bloomingdale’s, as well as socks and other necessities. Stuart has lived on the second floor of 125 Second Ave. since 1980 and the couple raised Hannah, their 13-yearold daughter, in the building. Just three months before the explosion, they put in a new kitchen. The family moved back in late June after Stuart, a retired chemistry teacher, spent three months fixing up the whole apartment, replacing the win-
dows, cleaning out mold and broken furniture and painting the walls. He still has to replace the floor. “If I was waiting, I would have been just sitting here, sucking my thumb,” he said, sitting in their living room, under a set of landscape paintings made by his late father, which were unharmed, save for some chipped paint. “During three months, Stu came here every day,” Kayoko said. “Eventually, it became O.K.” He also put movable metal grates on the windows, as protection against burglars. There used to be a narrow airshaft outside, but since the buildings collapsed there has been an empty lot next door — vacant except for two symbolic graves that are regularly tended by the families of the two men that died in the disaster. “We’re the crypt masters now. The parents still come every other day,” Stu said, adding that he sometimes lets them in through their building, which has a backdoor that opens onto the lot. The Lipskys didn’t know either of the men personally. (One of the victims was a customer at Sushi Park restaurant in 121 Second Ave.; the other worked there.) But they still grieve their own loss: One of their two cats, Rice, has been missing since March. Although the Fire Department found two incinerated animal bodies after the fire, Stuart is still hanging up missing posters around the neighborhood, in the hopes Rice will eventually turn up. When the explosion hit, none of the family were at home, but Stuart arrived even before the firefighters did. Contrary to everyone else, he ran back into his building, to try and save the two cats. He managed to find only one by the time the apartment was filled with smoke so thick he couldn’t see his feet. “Everyone said it was stupid to go back for the cats,” he said. “I’m just sad I left when I did. But it was time to go. I wanted to see my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.” Both Stuart and Kayoko said that their daughter, a student at the NEST school on the Lower East Side, was the key to moving on. With the planning around her Bat Mitzvah, in June, there was barely time to stop and reflect on what had happened. “It’s like when a boat sinks, and you’ve got three people just holding each other in the water,” Stuart said, describing the catastrophe’s aftermath. “You just manage to stay afloat.” One of the many people that did not have a home to return to after the explosion was Diane McLean, a single mother who lived with her three SECOND AVE. continued on p. 9 TheVillager.com
Some have left the area
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
The shapes of two graves have been marked out with stones and memorials left at the explosion site, in memory of Nicholas Figueroa and Moises Lucan, who both died in the fiery explosion at Second Ave. and E. Seventh St. on March 26. SECOND AVE. continued from p. 8
young kids in a four-bedroom apartment at 45 E. Seventh St., another address for 119 Second Ave., one of the three buildings that were reduced to rubble by the blast and fire. McLean lived in the apartment for 35 years, almost her entire adult life. “My three children were born into that apartment and it was the only home they’ve ever known,” she said. “All of my roots are in the East Village. I have neighbors in my building who I’ve known for 45 years.” She said that, thanks to her job as a child psychiatrist at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, she could afford the apartment because it was rent-stabilized. But it proved impossible to fi nd a similar home in the area at market rate. The Cooper Square Committee offered them housing. McLean says two of her neighbors took the offer. However, all that was available was a studio, way too small for four people. She eventually found an apartment in Bushwick in late April. It is actually larger than their old place, but also far more expensive. “That’s an issue of course. And it isn’t in our old neighborhood,” McLean said, adding that her kids still attend the Children’s Workshop School on E. 12th St. She also emphasized how much support her family received from teachers, parents and students at the East Village school, who raised monTheVillager.com
ey, donated clothes and, most importantly, provided emotional support. “We are walking around in clothes that friends have given us,” she said. “We’re wearing people’s care. That’s actually pretty wonderful.” McLean, along with everyone interviewed for this article and many others, started online fundraisers to get by. Most of these are hosted on a dedicated Web site, helpeastvillage. com, and not all have reached their funding goals yet. Without exception, everyone still praises the help and kindness of strangers and friends alike, who offered their apartments and donated money and necessities. McLean said her family desperately needed all the help they could get, since all of their belongings were lost, including things that “can’t be replaced” — like portraits of her grandmother’s family from the 1920s and ’30s. “I think we’re really lucky. I’m grateful every day,” she said. “But every day it’s sad at the same time. My older daughter can’t sleep at night. She still worries that anywhere we are, we’ll have a gas explosion and a fire. She has these images of the fire in her head. She won’t go near that block.” She described the loss of their home like a death in the family, with their whole lives changed forever by the disaster. “You build a life, piece by piece, and fabric by fabric. To have that destroyed in a day is devastating.”
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Ex-parks chief supports saving Eliz. St. Garden BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
October 15, 2015
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
alling the Elizabeth St. Garden a unique and precious open space in the heart of historic Little Italy, former Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe last week told The Villager that he opposes a plan for affordable housing on the city-owned site and that the garden should be preserved as permanent parkland. He’s just the latest current or former public official to come out against the housing plan, joining a growing list of opponents, including Assemblymember Deborah Glick and state Senator Daniel Squadron, as well as the community’s representative voice — Community Board 2. Despite the mounting resistance, the project is being doggedly pushed by City Councilmember Margaret Chin and the de Blasio administration. With from 60 to 100 apartments for seniors, the building would cost up to $24 million to construct. Benepe served as the city’s parks commissioner for nearly 11 years under former Mayor Mike Bloomberg. With a year and four months left in Bloomberg’s third term, Benepe left the administration for a job at the Trust for Public Land, where he is the national nonprofit’s senior vice president and director of city park development. Benepe noted that he was speaking to the newspaper as former New York parks commissioner, not as a representative of T.P.L. “I think this is an unparalleled opportunity to preserve some open green space in an area that is very populated but sorely lacking space,” he said of the Elizabeth St. Garden. The national goal of T.P.L., he said, is that every person living in an urban or suburban area have a park, green space, trail or playground within a half-mile — about a 10-minute walk — of where they live. Another group, New Yorkers for Parks, uses a different “metric” of one-quarter mile for how close everyone should be to a park or green space, he noted. “By either measure, this area of the city is underserved,” Benepe said of the garden, which spans from Elizabeth St. to Mott St. midblock between Spring and Prince Sts. Creating a permanent park on the site obviously would be easy, since it is already being used that way. “This is a great way to grab some open space without big acquisition costs — the city already owns it,” he said. “I’ve been there several times. I think it’s a delightful and quirky public space just as is.” Probably, however, most of the statues and other ornaments currently in the garden would have to be moved
Adrian Benepe, right, with his father, Barry Benepe, in the Jefferson Market Garden last month, each holding a Brooke Astor Award for Outstanding Contributions to Urban Gardens. The Jefferson Market Garden honored the two at a fundraiser and celebration of the 40th anniversary of the beloved green oasis, which is located at Sixth and Greenwich Aves. on the former site of the Women’s House of Detention. Barry Benepe founded the city’s Greenmarket program.
out, he offered. “I would imagine they wouldn’t stay,” he said. “They’re worth money, and there are safety issues.” Benepe said he also supports the idea of shifting the senior housing project to an alternative, larger city-owned site, at Hudson and Clarkson Sts. “I am sympathetic to the argument put forward by Tobi Bergman, chairperson of Community Board 2, that there are a lot of better sites in this community board to build affordable housing, such as the water-shaft site over at Hudson and Clarkson Sts.,” Benepe said. “For a long time, that was envisioned as a sub-nominal playing field. But with Pier 40, you don’t need it anymore.” Whereas the Hudson Square spot is both larger and could be rezoned to allow for even greater height — and five times as many apartments, according to Bergman — the Elizabeth St. location is part of the Special Little Italy District, under which building heights are capped at 75 feet, or seven stories. Plus, Little Italy is simply a densely built historic neighborhood that needs this kind of open space, he noted. “Yes, affordable housing is important,” Benepe said. “I totally support the idea that affordable housing is important for this administration. But this is not a neighborhood of empty lots that have no housing on them. It’s not just that parks and gardens are nice amenities — they provide
all kinds of health benefits. They lower the ambient temperature that can create a heat-island effect. They contribute to physical and mental health. They provide a place for kids to run around in.” Keeping the garden while building the affordable housing on Hudson St., which can accommodate more units, is a “win-win,” Benepe said. Housing advocates, however, point to other nearby green spaces, notably DeSalvio Playground and Sara D. Roosevelt Park, arguing that the neighborhood doesn’t lack for open space. But Benepe said it’s apples and oranges. “DeSalvio is a miniscule park that’s already overburdened by use,” he said. “It really has no grass at all. It’s a sheet of asphalt. Sara Roosevelt Park also has mostly asphalt, and there’s very little that’s natural. You’ve got the community garden and trees and seating areas. But otherwise, it’s basketball courts and soccer fields. It doesn’t offer the oasis that Elizabeth St. Garden is.” On the other hand, Benepe said, “Elizabeth St. Garden is sort of like a natural space in the city. It’s in a relatively quiet stretch of the block, it lends itself to that feeling.” He added that while the East Village benefits from an “abundance” of community gardens, this unfortunately isn’t the case in Little Italy and neighborhoods to the west, where there is a dearth of community gardens.
Meanwhile, staking out yet a different position, Gale Brewer, the Manhattan Borough President, in a statement to The Villager last week, said she thinks the future of the garden site doesn’t have to be an either-or situation. “Gardens and open space versus affordable housing is a false choice — if we’re careful and smart we can have both,” Brewer said. “This site is large enough to accommodate both new affordable housing and significant green space for the community. If we work together, we can strike a balance and get this right.” But Benepe strongly disagreed that both uses could co-exist at the site. “No, I don’t think that’s the case,” he said. “It’s a very small site. You’d be shortchanging either one. I think the site is barely large enough for housing. You might be able to have a little sitting area. You would use up most of the site for housing and leave behind a little cul de sac.” On a recent visit to the garden, Benepe again saw just how much people were enjoying it. “I often go out bike riding,” he said. “I stopped by. There had just been a concert. It was full of people, kids running around. It’s transformational. You can hear birds. There are butterflies. If it’s filled with housing, it’ll be hotter and you won’t have trees to clean the air. “So my hope is they’ll take advantage of the opportunity to create more housing on a different site,” he said, “and also create a park in a community that is basically underserved by parks.” As for whether his position puts him at odds with Bloomberg, his former boss, under whom the housing plan was hatched out of the public eye as part of an add-on to the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area development, he called it a “non-issue.” For starters, Benepe said, the subject wasn’t even on his radar when he was parks commissioner: It was only about two months before he left the administration that local residents even discovered that Elizabeth St. Garden was, in fact, city owned, and have since worked to turn it into a thriving public green space. “The Bloomberg administration was very park friendly, and believed that you cannot have a good residential neighborhood without parks,” Benepe said, “and as a result, invested a lot in creating and improving and expanding parks.” At any rate, he said, “It’s three years later. He’s not mayor. I’m not parks commissioner.” And this is how Adrian Benepe — a committed, lifelong city parks advocate, now national leader on parks — feels about it. TheVillager.com
Sign honors love that Larry Selman ‘collected’ BY TEQUILA MINSKY
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
he corner of Bedford and Grove Sts. is now Larry Selman Way, named for the street’s relentless fundraiser and community activist who died in 2013 at age 70. On Tues., Oct. 6, the sidewalk was packed with members of the Bedford St. Block Association and Community Board 2, and other neighbors and friends spilling into the streets to mark the occasion. Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Councilmember Corey Johnson emceed the event. Larry Selman, who lived on Bedford St., would often base himself at that corner, hitting up passersby — neighbors, tourists, everyone he encountered, for causes like cancer, St. Vincent’s Hospital, 9/11 victims, the annual AIDS Walk, muscular dystrophy, juvenile diabetes, cerebral palsy or for disabled firefighters. He sold thousands of dollars of raffle tickets for the block association and got to know everybody. Johnson reminded those present that he did it for $1, and sometimes only a few cents, at a time. “He built a community on a foundation of generosity and service,” Johnson said.
At the dedication of “Larry Selman Way,” from left, Alice Elliot, Deborah Glick, Kathy Donaldson, Corey Johnson and Sally Dill.
Selman was developmentally disabled with an IQ below 60 and was practically living in poverty himself, which made his community participation so much more remarkable. When neighbors learned of his financial situation, they pitched in to contact social services and other support that helped him live comfortably and independently. Glick highlighted how significant it was that this block of neighbors came together in the true sense of community. She noted that, in a time of rising rents, and changing demo-
graphics, this sort of solidarity is increasingly hard to find. Selman’s life gained more attention when his neighbor Alice Elliot made a short documentary about him, “The Collector of Bedford Street.” The film was nominated for an Academy Award in 2003 and the two attended the awards in Hollywood that year. With the movie, Selman’s life changed. For eight years, he attended film festivals and premieres of the film, traveling to 18 states and two countries, Canada and Dubai, accom-
panied by his neighbor and friend Sally Dill. At the street sign dedication, Dill recounted their travels. “Larry received The Caring Award [for outstanding contributions as a volunteer] in 2009 along with Colin Powell at the Frederick Douglass Museum in downtown L.A.,” she recalled. “He hit up Powell for a donation following receiving the award.” Powell gave him a bill — a $100 one. After the remembrances of Selman, those who knew him so well yanked the rope to pull off the paper covering and unveil the sign. They then gathered in the yard at the Greenwich House Music School, at 46 Barrow St., for a casual reception. A plaque with his name sits in a tree pit outside of his Bedford St. apartment building. But the Bedford Barrow Commerce Block Association, led by its president, Kathy Donaldson, wanted to recognize Larry Selman in a larger way. The co-named street was the result of the dedicated efforts of the block association, the C.B. 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee, the City Council and the Mayor’s Office. Mayor de Blasio signed a bill authorizing “Larry Selman Way” on Aug. 10, 2015.
October 15, 2015
Stars and bucks come out for Hudson River Park PARK GALA continued from p. 6
PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY
“Then everyone around Central Park would have to pay higher taxes,” he said. “Everyone with arched windows would have to pay higher taxes. Anyone with a view of the Statue of Liberty would have to pay higher taxes. “It’s discrimination,” he flatly declared. Under the tax plan — floated by an earlier incarnation of the Friends — a Neighborhood Improvement District, or NID, would have been created to assess the fees. But the NID idea was nixed two years ago after a potentially lucrative funding stream for the park was created, when the state Legislature approved the park selling its unused development rights to development sites across the highway. Meanwhile, Adrian Benepe, the city’s former parks commissioner and a former director of the Park Trust, said the Friends’ annual gala has vaulted it into the ranks of the city’s top private park fundraising groups. The Friends are the Trust’s main private fundraising wing. The Trust is the state-city authority that is building and operates the park. “It puts them really in the big
After the gala’s opening event on Pier 62, City Councilmember Corey Johnson, left, and Carl Weisbrod, director of the City Planning Department, were planning their next move — namely, to the dinner at Pier Sixty.
leagues of park conservancies, like the Central Park Conservancy and others,” Benepe said of the Friends. “Eight auction items went for $30,000 to $40,000.” Those items ranged from a swanky sailboat cocktail cruise for 40 people to a private luncheon by Mar-
tha Stewart and Momofuku’s David Chang. Citigroup’s gift is also very impressive, he added. “It’s a tribute to the park, because Citigroup is a very cautious investor,” Benepe said. The Citigroup donation’s amount
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ranks it among the top 10 gifts ever made to New York City parks, he said. Last year’s pledge of $113 million by Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg to build Pier55 off of W. 13th St. in Hudson River Park ranks as the largest park gift in the city’s history and the second largest in U.S. history. The Lower West Side power pair have also given $35 to help build the High Line park. Some West Siders, however, recoil at the infusion of all this private money into Hudson River Park. The “Diller Island” plan, for one, has come under fire from both environmentalists and park advocates, the latter who fear its many planned ticketed entertainment events will essentially privatize much of the new pier for too much of the year. The plan for Pier55 — which would be constructed on a new “footprint,” on a spot in the river where no pier previously existed — is also currently being challenged by an environmental lawsuit by the City Club of New York. But the Trust argues that the cashstrapped park, construction of which is still not fully completed, needs private funding since government funding for parks has dried up, plus Hudson River Park is expected to be financially self-sustaining.
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POLICE BLOTTER Police said that a woman who got on a bus in front of 250 W. 14th St. on Fri., Oct. 9, around 10:30 a.m., went berserk. The flipped-out fare allegedly threw an unknown object at the bus driver and then punched him at about 10:30 a.m. The 49-year-old driver reported some pain but no major injuries, according to a police report. Angelique Mejias, 37, of Brooklyn was arrested and charged with felony assault.
Cooper crook On Wed., Sept. 30, around 10:30 a.m., a man broke through a deadbolt lock and gained access to the roof of 110 W. 14th St., police said. Once on the roof, the suspect removed 20 pounds of copper wire and two copper grounding plates valued at a total of $900 from a Verizon cellular tower at the location. The suspect, who was last seen wearing a white hard hat, a dark T-shirt with a large, bright red or orange Nike swoosh mark on the front,
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tan pants and white footwear, fled to parts unknown. Surveillance photos of the suspect were taken from the Verizon cellular tower. 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.
Dalone Jamison, 26, of the Bronx, was walked out of the 13th Precinct on Tues., Oct. 13. Jamison is alleged to have fired into a crowd outside Club Motivo, at 915 Broadway at 21st St., around 4 a.m. on Monday morning Oct. 12. Three women were hit by the bullets and one died. Jamison is charged with murder, assault and criminal weapon possession.
surveillance, a felony.
Standard surveillance A man entered a gated area at the Standard Hotel and began peering into a nearby residence with a telescope on Fri., Oct. 9, around 11 p.m. A police officer observed the man’s activities for several minutes before confronting him at about 11 p.m. The suspect did not offer a convincing reason for why he was looking at the apartment from the hotel, which is located on Washington St. between Little W. 12th and 13th Sts., according to a police report. Police arrested Nazario Arines, 46, and charged him with unlawful
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Macdougal melee A brawl in front of 109 Macdougal St. left a man and a police officer with injuries. Several people attacked the unknown man at about 4 a.m. on Sun., Oct. 11, according to police. Once police arrived to break things up, one man kept on fighting. The man allegedly elbowed an officer in the face, causing a laceration requiring four stitches below the cop’s right eye. Chad Carwell, 24, of the Bronx, was arrested and charged with felony assault.
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Lie really bombed A woman called 911 on Sat., Oct. 10, to try to speed up a police response to a lost purse. She first told an emergency dispatcher that there was a family dispute, then upped the ante by stating that a bomb might blow up at the Gansevoort Hotel, at 18 Ninth Ave. Police arrived at the Meatpacking hot spot just before midnight and determined that the bomb scare was unfounded. Upstate resident Lisa Ruberto, 26, was charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor.
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Tenants are still trying to figure out Toledano TOLEDANO continued from p. 1
These allegedly odd interactions left some feeling threatened or harassed. In May, tenants at one Toledano property, 444 E. 13th St., sued the landlord for alleged ongoing harassment and threats and for not providing heat and hot water for more than a month, plus for the building’s having more than 200 open violations, including vermin and bedbug infestations, cracks in the infrastructure and more. (The number of violations has dropped since June.) Toledano’s own family members are not immune to the bad behavior. In August, his uncle Aaron Jungreis took him to court, claiming he was cheated out of a 50 percent share of a nearly $100 million deal to take over the East Village properties. Toledano, 25, who became president of Brookhill Properties in January, closed on the deal early last month. Now, tenants along E. Fifth St., in buildings Nos. 223, 229, 231, 233 and 235 have been documenting their own interactions with “Raffi.” To date, tenants in six of Toledano’s E. Fifth St. buildings have documented more than 140 interactions, altercations and outright threats by Toledano and his camp during the two-month period
from this July 8 through Sept. 8. Some have reported being followed in the street by Raffi’s cousin Isaac Toledano, while others report encounters with a group of men dressed in black stepping out of SUV’s and insisting on entering and inspecting tenants’ apartments. Other properties involved in the sale include 323-325 E. 12th St., 327 E. 12th St., 329 E. 12th St., 510 E. 12th St., 514 E. 12th St., 53 E. 10th St., 334 E. Ninth St., 27 St. Mark’s Place, 95 E. Seventh St., 66 E. Seventh St. and 228 E. Sixth St. Toledano might be fixated on pushing rent-stabilized tenants out of his East Village buildings, or perhaps he just has a strange way of introducing himself. “I think he’s just trying to make his first sweep of who he can get out of the buildings and see where he stands,” said Stuart Zamsky, a member of the E. Fifth St. Block Association. “We can’t figure out what he’s up to.” April Diaz’s 88-year-old grandmother (who asked to remain unnamed), a tenant at 229 E. Fifth St. since 1946, was confronted by Toledano following a community meeting, according to Diaz. The landlord told the senior it must be difficult for her to walk up her building’s stairs, and
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Raphael Toledano cuts a suave figure, perhaps, but what are his intentions with his new East Village buildings?
that she might be annoyed once construction starts in the building, and he doesn’t want to bother her, according to Diaz. This somewhat passive-aggressive behavior is what tenants have grown to expect from Toledano and his cohorts, who often show up at the buildings and ask to randomly inspect apartments and rarely reveal their names or affiliation. Diaz, her mother and sister all grew up in her grandmother’s apartment. She still lives with her grandmother in one of the four currently occupied apartments in the 10-unit building. That the building is more than half empty, Diaz said, is part of the problem. She believes Toledano would like to get them all out and bump his new buildings’ market value up. But it won’t be easy. “I learned that if we don’t need to leave, we don’t have to leave,” Diaz stated. “We don’t really have to leave. What better place to live than in the middle of the East Village?” Yet, Diaz is concerned about the well-being of her grandmother, who she said is still sharp as a whip, but might be alarmed if several men come to inspect her apartment. Currently, no permit has been issued to begin renovation work inside the building. (The last work permit on file is from last year, according to Diaz.) But Toledano’s personnel continue to randomly visit to inspect tenants’ apartments. “I’m not uncomfortable with my grandmother being there alone when this happens,” Diaz said. “But I would much rather be there, because I do know that seven men walking into an apartment is kind of like bullying to
an 88-year-old woman.” Nina D’Allessandro, a tenant at the neighboring 231 E. Fifth St. since 1978, had her first interaction with Toledano in late August. She was dealing with an emergency, on the phone with the nurse for her 92-year-old mother, and received a call from Toledano, who wanted to come over to introduce himself. In a whispery voice, Toledano said, “Hi, it’s Raffi,” according to D’Allessandro, who instantly knew who was on the other line. When Toledano asked if he could come over and introduce himself, D’Allessandro declined since, he was not officially the owner yet. D’Allessandro said she also heard another side of Toledano: There was a shift in his voice from frail and willowy to louder and more authoritative when she told him that tenants had not been informed that he was officially the new owner. He then returned to soft-spoken and said that when they finally meet he would like to take a photo with her, because he heard that she’s a famous actress. D’Allessandro contacted Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), a housing and preservation organization working to protect tenants’ rights, and then reached out to affected tenants to form the Tabak Tenant Coalition, which now includes Toledano’s 16 East Village buildings. As Toledano purchases more buildings, d’Allessandro said that tenants are welcome to join the group to better understand their rights. (Toledano is currently under contract to purchase an additionTOLEDANO continued on p. 28 TheVillager.com
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alvatore Romano, an artist and Soho resident of more than 40 years, died on Sept. 18 at the age of 90. He was born on Sept. 12, 1925, in Cliffside, N.J. He served in the U.S. Navy in the 1940s. Sal Romano then studied painting and drawing at the Art Students League in New York and at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris during the 1950s. He was a member of the Brata Gallery, a cooperative gallery in New York that included many artists involved with Minimalism. In 1965 Romano was included in the iconic exhibition “Primary Structures” at the Jewish Museum. This show was followed by many others, including major installations — some involving water and kinetic elements — at the Sculpture Center in Manhattan, at the Brooklyn Bridge and at Socrates Sculpture Park, in Long Island City. Exhibitions of his constructions in copper and brass were held at TheVillager.com
Rutgers University and at numerous galleries in New York City and Upstate New York. In his artist’s statement, Romano said, “The theme of my work remains complexity and contradiction. My sculpture embodies the idea of change, of fluidity of motion on the one hand, and of minimal forms pushed to their essence, in some instances made transparent, in others impermeable bulk, but in every case serving as vehicles of movement and reflection.” Romano was a sculpture professor at the City University of New York’s Lehman College for 30 years. He resided in Soho with his family since 1973. For five decades his work has been exhibited in New York galleries in Soho and Chelsea, and his art has also been shown in Brazil and Italy. During the 1970s Romano’s work grew to the ambitious scale and proportions found in the art of Minimalists Ronald Bladen and Tony Smith, among others. He is survived by his daughter, Joyce Romano, and his wife, Connie Romano.
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Drumming up lots of dough for Hudson River Park Revelers at the Friends of Hudson River Park Gala entered the dinner at Pier Sixty to the beats of the Cobra Performing Arts Marching Band.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Fauxcade frustration To The Editor: Re “No, say it ain’t faux! M.T.A. plant hits the fan” (news article, Oct. 1) and “Desnudas, Fauxcade...O.M.G.! (Scoopy’s Notebook, Oct. 8): Thank you for your coverage of the finished, but unfinished-looking, cement facade of the M.T.A. fan plant at Mulry Square. M.T.A. New York City Transit’s Kevin Ortiz is correct that we had some
recent meetings (two) concerning the tiny patch they’ve allotted to “public space” in front of the building, but his statement masks their resistance to key C.B. 2 improvement suggestions. Contrary to Mr. Ortiz’s claim, M.T.A. NYC Transit didn’t “offer” to plant a tree in that small space. We’re very grateful to our neighbor George Vellonakis of the Parks Department, who has created several well-known and admired New York City parks and also is dedicated to bettering our community, for providing us an alternative, prefer-
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October 15, 2015
able design for the space pro bono. It was George who recommended planting a tree to screen the building a bit, and provide shade in a very sunny area, while “not requiring much maintenance other than watering during the first two years in order to establish a healthy root zone.” While M.T.A. NYC Transit accepted some parts of the proposed alternative design, they refused to plant a tree, citing interference with the structure below. When George showed it would require little depth of soil, then they agreed to do this — but only if we could assure a maintenance partner. When we assured them there would be a maintenance partner, they upped the ante to requiring a certified arborist, impossible to do without funding! And we don’t have that kind of funding for something that’s not even needed for a tree’s first few years. So, unless we can figure out another approach, the tree in the tiny triangular space is out. The agency also didn’t “offer” to plant trees in the Greenstreets (sidewalk) area. They agreed when we reminded them that they had committed to doing this in their original reconstruction plan. As for not planting Boston ivy along the walls (which would provide needed coverage) because, as Mr. Ortiz stated, it wouldn’t be on their property, M.T.A. NYC Transit easily could have reached out to the one adjacent private property owner and to the Department of Transportation, the other LETTERS continued on p. 18 TheVillager.com
Soup kitchen nourished both stomach and soul NOTEBOOK BY PATRICIA FIELDSTEEL
That first spring, we discussed having a homeless Seder.
artisanal bread of every variety imaginable, baby artichokes, Japanese eggplants, mesclun lettuce, haricots verts, wild mushrooms and hothouse fruits. From the Greenmarket, farmers donated apples, pears, strawberries, New Jersey beefsteak tomatoes, fresh-picked corn. Our coffee wasn’t any old coffee — we had mocha mint, vanilla almond, Puerto Rican dark, French roast. One temple member bought kitsch-designed tropical-fruit oilcloth for tablecloths; others arrived with fresh flowers and patterned paper napkins. Our guests became rabid gourmets, connoisseurs of fine food. They’d walk in the door and know from the wafting aromas what was being served right down to the coffee flavors. Any food, including from the garbage, is good when you’re starving, but high-quality cuisine prepared and served with love brings smiles to hardened faces, makes people happy, makes them feel appreciated and respected. A number of our regulars were rough characters, men with long and ongoing criminal careers. Others were people down on their luck who’d lost their jobs, run out of savings due to illness and no medical insurance, people made homeless by fires, the elderly poor and the mentally ill. Everyone was treated as a welcomed guest; consequently, we had no problems. This was a policy insisted on by my co-chairperson and I. If there was one thing I knew in my bones, to the very core of my being, it was how it felt to be unloved and uncared about, to be hungry, alone and hopeless. One of our temple members was a nationally prominent disability lawyer. He joked he’d doubted the soup kitchen “would ever get off the ground,” and then came around to volunteer his services every other week. He recruited a friend who was a housing lawyer. The lawyers represented everyone pro bono (for free). The disability lawyer was so moved by a few of his mentally ill
clients, he let them nap on his office couch. Our first crisis involved a roach — not of the crawling, but of the cannabis kind — found in the upstairs bathroom. Several board members complained to the synagogue’s superintendent and me that the homeless were smoking pot in the loo. We insisted they weren’t. The situation was awkward since we both knew the weed smoker was none other than the rabbi. Then there was the ham debacle. Friends owned an upscale meat supply company and offered to donate cooked turkey, roast beef, Swiss cheese, cheddar, beef salami and, er, what about ham? I didn’t think so, but since the congregation was Reform (and therefore not kosher), my co-chairperson and I double-checked with the rabbi. Sure, sure, why not? When we weren’t convinced, he insisted — don’t turn down gifts! We were nervous but gave the O.K. for ham-and-Swiss sandwiches. Several members of the temple board went berserk. I was accused of personally profaning the synagogue, which one woman told me could never ever be pure again. The rabbi claimed ignorance that we had dared to serve pork. Next we had a committee meeting at the home of an older conservative temple optometrist and his wife. A couple who had never volunteered or been active showed up. She was introduced as a “caterer,” but when we asked about leftovers, she claimed to never have them. She and the rabbi, who visibly took out his wallet, needed to meet privately behind closed doors in our hosts’ bedroom. They both emerged mellow and happy, a slight cloud of a certain sickly sweet aroma following them from the boudoir. The meeting began. A committee member had brought along an elderly friend. We discussed organizational concerns and future plans, including a monthly food pantry and permitting guests seeking jobs and benefits to use the temple’s address as their own. The elderly friend was becoming increasingly agitated and distressed. She interrupted. “I have been a member of this temple for over twenty years and I have NOT given my money to have dirty schvartzes come into my shul!” The rest of us looked at the floor, we looked at SOUP KITCHEN continued on p. 28
PHOTO BY SHARON WOOLUMS
YONS, FRANCE — Alone, they came. Old women lugging torn shopping bags, filled with…clothes, newspapers, rancid food, discarded dreams? Most people didn’t notice as they furtively made their way, leaving little more than fairy dust on the streets of New York. Forgotten souls, so close, it seemed, to the ends of their days. Several years later in London, 1979, after an expense-account dinner at The Connaught — Bélon oysters bathed in brackish liquor; rare roast rib of beef — its fat crunchy, succulent, properly charred — accompanied by Yorkshire pudding and thick green asparagus smothered in Hollandaise; a crisp Pouilly-Fuissée and plump juicy strawberries with clotted cream (a meal whose price could have fed a family for months), I saw, almost with excitement, another one, creeping silently along Carlos Place, Mayfair. I pointed her out to my parents. Don’t look. Back in New York, the Shopping Bag Ladies soon vanished with about as much fanfare as had heralded their arrival. They were rapidly replaced by a younger, scragglier multitude of men. The Homeless. Everyone saw now. Rosh HaShanah Eve 1987, entering the Great Hall of Cooper Union (where Abraham Lincoln had railed against the spread of slavery), I spotted sixteen unfamiliar mounds clustered outside. Afterward, it was late and it was cold. The mounds were covered now with fresh-fallen snow, lending a magical air to the East Village. Curious, I approached as one of the lumps shifted. Cardboard box panels, tattered blankets, rags, and underneath people slept. Later, I spoke to the rabbi. Why weren’t we doing anything? The churches were. I suggested a soup kitchen to follow Shabbat morning services. For weeks I pressed; he prevaricated, found reasons not to. Sherri Donovan, a temple member and prominent family and divorce lawyer, joined me. Finally, an opening date was set. We had no food and no money. The rabbi refused to contribute from his discretionary fund. The late Joan Stoliar, a friend and activist neighbor, wrote a check for $125. We asked each synagogue member for $5; some gave nothing, others gave more. We planned to distribute paper bags of sandwiches, fresh fruit, cookies and takeout coffee. A supplier offered paper goods, our largest expense, at a discount. We distributed fliers to homeless people on the street. That first Saturday, after 30 minutes, we ran out of food. The following week, we promised we’d be better prepared. Greenwich Village had two of the best gourmet markets in New York at the time, Balducci’s and Jefferson Market. There was also Porto Rico Coffee with its dozens of fresh-ground blends; there were family-owned bakeries; Italian food shops, specialty stores and the famed outdoor Union Square Greenmarket with more than 100 farmers trucking in their goods to sell. The old 14th St. Meat Market was also still operating. We asked for contributions on a regular sustaining basis and no one refused. We had too many volunteers. Relationships were being formed with our guests. Sherri and I pushed to invite them inside for a sit-down meal. The rabbi said no; ultimately he and the temple board relented. The same activist neighbor who’d provided our seed money volunteered to make soup every
Saturday, soup for more than 100 people. Once a month we served hot dogs and beans, the handsdown favourite; lasagna, meat loaf or spaghetti with homemade sauce and meatballs. Our guests gave us tips, made requests: Please no green peppers in the spaghetti sauce; peppers caused gas and made them fart. The Sisterhood ladies enthusiastically cooked, they baked; they served; they were Jewish mothers. Eat! Every week, I went to Balducci’s on Sixth Avenue, where I was allowed to pick anything I wanted from the stockroom of food they couldn’t sell because a label on a can was torn, or a box had a dent. Tinned wild salmon, organic nut butters, Tiptree jams, pâté, Spanish tuna and anchovies packed in oil, dried fruits from the Middle East — the assortment was dazzling. While I selected, five elderly Italian men sat nearby in a tiny room, spending their days making mozzarella from an enormous vat. Balducci’s gave day-old
Claws and effect
A red-tailed hawk in Washington Square Park’s northwest corner perched atop one of the park’s lights, which are all topped by little eagles. Later it could be seen nearby on the park’s lawn with a pigeon it had caught. October 15, 2015
Transit big wheel’s call: Cars are in free fall RHYMES WITH CRAZY BY LENORE SKENAZY
am Schwartz grew up tearing through Brooklyn on his bike, making deliveries for his family’s mom-and-pop grocery. He rode the subways, too, and sometimes took them all the way into the train yards with his friend — “which was pretty scary,” he admits. But his dream form of transit was none of the above. When he finally scraped together the cash, he purchased his prized possession, a 1960 Chevy Impala with huge flat fins. Like everyone else in Bensonhurst, he spent an inordinate amount of time waxing his beloved. Pull up next to him at a stoplight? He’d gun it. He was such a car fanatic that in between getting his physics degree at Brooklyn College and his master’s at the University of Pennsylvania in — what else? — civil engineering with an eye toward traffic planning, he worked as a cabbie. Eventually, Schwartz became the city’s chief
transit commissioner and then our Department of Transportation’s chief engineer, even while he wrote the book — literally — on New York’s traffic shortcuts. His column in the New York Daily News was called “Gridlock Sam.” (And in the Yiddish press, “Gridlock Shmuel.”) It currently lives on in our sister paper Downtown Express as “Transit Sam.” “I don’t think I’ve driven my car in three weeks,” he said. “It’s gathering a lot of dust.” We’re sitting in the buzzing Chelsea office of Sam Schwartz Engineering, surrounded by brainy-looking millennials doing the work he is dedicated to today: figuring out how to get more people out of their cars and onto subways, buses, streetcars, bikes and their own two feet. Oh, he still tackles traffic. In fact, Barclays Center folks hired him to figure out how not to make game nights a snarling, honking nightmare for all of Downtown Brooklyn. But Schwartz sees the writing on the asphalt, even if the federal government, intent on building ever-more highways, does not. The future isn’t on four wheels. If you want your area to attract young people, entrepreneurs and capital, you have to make it walkable. That’s the premise behind his new
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book, “Street Smart: The Rise of Cities and the Fall of Cars” (Public Affairs Books). His facts are hard to refute. “Something happened around the millennium and nobody noticed and it’s nothing short of a revolution,” Schwartz says, eyes twinkling as he points out that in 2003 — for the first time since World War II — Americans drove fewer miles than the year before. And then they drove even fewer in 2004. And even fewer in 2005. “It went down for 10 straight years, and nobody noticed it.” Talk about a cultural shift. Schwartz only began to notice the decline about 2010, but he also noticed nobody else was noticing it. He’d go to conferences about the future of transportation and see graphs with highway construction projections pointing up, up, up, as if to meet a growing need for a need that wasn’t growing. So his mission today is to explain the real trend: Young people don’t want to spend their lives behind the wheel. They’d rather call Uber or hop on a bike or commute virtually. “In 1990, about two-thirds of 19-year-olds had licenses,” says Schwartz. “Now it’s less than half. In 2014, more cars were retired than bought for the first time.” The auto companies are worried,
but cities should be excited. They’re already poised to attract the kids without cars, and Schwartz’s research shows that the more walkable a city is, the higher the G.D.P. — the gross domestic product. So, fewer cars equals more capital. What irks him, then, is the way government funding still flows to highway construction, and yet any money earmarked for public transit is dubbed a “subsidy.” “As if highways aren’t subsidies, too — for drivers!” It looks like the future is a break from the past, but Schwartz says it’s really a return. For millennia, humans lived in small, densely populated areas. It was the 70-year suburban experiment that was radical. And now, he believes, its time is up. And New York is obviously poised to reap the benefit of being the ultimate walkable town. “But New York could lose its edge if we lose a tunnel or a transit facility,” Schwartz warns. Cars have their place — someplace else. The future belongs to the cities that can pack us in and get us around. Skenazy is a keynote speaker and author and founder of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids”
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR LETTERS continued from p. 16
owner — both of which would have no reason to object — before turning this down cold. We are still hopeful that these needed improvements can be worked out. Shirley Secunda Secunda is chairperson, Community Board 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee
Not sold on Mrs. Green’s To The Editor: Re “Mrs. Green’s, thanks for the schwag, but who are you?”(Notebook, by Michele Herman, Aug. 27): I buy most of my food at Greenmarket or at Integral Yoga and plan to continue. Integral Yoga gives a senior discount and I never have to worry about reading the labels. I live close to Mrs. Green’s and checked it out. Every time I went inside there was nothing — or almost nothing — on the hot food bar, my main interest. I also don’t like shopping at stores that have gone out of their way to ban a union. That’s why there were pickets outside with fliers about “Mrs. Greed’s.” That is a turnoff to me. And, the last time I checked, the store
needed to do a much better job with handling its garbage on Bethune St. Kate Walter
Politics in this town To The Editor: Re “D.I.D. did not help our slate in the 65th A.D.” (talking point, by Georgette Fleischman, Sept. 24): The city, once so vibrant and open, is politically gridlocked, like its street traffic. The young educated voters are so busy trying to earn a living that they appear not to be participating as much as they might under different conditions. Thanks to Georgette Fleischer for speaking up. She got sucked in, then spit out, and now will she be dumped on the road because she spoke out? Minerva Durham E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to firstname.lastname@example.org 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
Science fiction theater triple feature ‘Honeycomb’ chronicles an alien invasion through the years
PHOTO BY DEBORAH ALEXANDER
By “Sovereign,” the trilogy’s final part, the humble living room set has transformed into a throne room for a post-alien government.
BY CHARLES BATTERSBY
cience fiction has been a part of theater history since the early 20th century. Even the first use of the word “robot” dates back to “R.U.R.” — a Czech play from 1920. Although these early works used their futuristic themes to address serious issues, modern sci-fi theater tends towards parody and camp. The upcoming “Honeycomb Trilogy” of plays by Gideon Productions bucks the trend of campiness, and instead takes an earnest and thoughtful look at life on Earth TheVillager.com
following an alien invasion. The “Honeycomb Trilogy” consists of three full-length plays. “Advance Man” takes place in the near future, following the first manned mission to Mars. “Blast Radius” is set 12 years later in a world where mankind shares the Earth with aliens. The story is concluded in “Sovereign,” which takes place even further into the future as humanity struggles to create a new society after a devastating war. The trilogy was performed in 2012, each play coming a few months after the previous. Audiences who enjoyed the first play had to wait six
months to find out how the story ended, and people who missed the first two couldn’t catch up on the story when “Sovereign” rolled around. In its current run, the three shows are performed in repertory, including weekend marathons where audiences can see the entire trilogy in one sitting — with breaks for meals. An epic interplanetary conflict might seem inherently unsuited to the intimate nature of theater, but playwright Mac Rogers explains how he addressed these concerns. “Don’t try to imitate film, or television, or literature. Make it a theatrical experience. And one of the de-
finitive theatrical styles is the Living Room Play,” he says. “How could you tell an entire story like this? Take the American Living Room play and explode it. Use it to tell a story of an epic, sweeping the whole world. The only way to make that work was to make that living room have three different functions over three different plays.” That idea is realized by using the same basic living room set in all three plays. In the first play, it looks much like a modern living room. In the second, humanity has regressed HONEYCOMB, continued on p.23 October 15, 2015
Straight outta Bellevue
Rev. Jen, on joie de vivre in the face of adversity BY REV. JEN MILLER
lot of people think that, because I wear costumes and elf ears, I must love Halloween. Truth be told, I hate it. My father ruined the holiday for the whole family when he died the night before Halloween six years ago. In fact, I hate October entirely, given almost everyone I’ve ever loved who passed away did so IN OCTOBER. My sister and I are both terrified of turning the calendar page come October 1st. I suggested we make little advent calendars counting down to November with a Xanax or a nip of vodka in each window. Amazingly, October now has a new rival for worst month ever: July, which has always been my favorite month. First, my birthday is July 24th, which according to “The Book of Birthdays” is “The Day of Exciting Instability.” Apt, when you consider the fact that Zelda Fitzgerald, J-Lo, Amelia Earhart and Ruth Buzzi were all born on July 24th. Like all good Leos, I like sun, surf, hair products, attention and excitement. But sometimes there’s too much excitement, too much instability — and it breaks you even if you’re a fierce Lioness. There are only two ‘C’ words I hate: the first is continuity, the second, cancer. Hearing the second produces a lump in your throat and a heartache that lasts for months. On July 12, while visiting his sister in Boston, my fiancé, Joe (who you might remember from previous columns as the light of my life and the fire of my loins) suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, and it was discovered he had a brain tumor, which I am told resembled a large flan. Luckily, Mass General (rated the #1 hospital in the nation) is in Boston, and as they continue to radiate him, I know he’s in great hands. Plus, even
PHOTO BY JOHN FOSTER
Pumpkin courtesy of Black Tree, curiosity courtesy of a black cat.
Friends, of Dorothy: Faceboy, Reverend Jen Junior and Rev. Jen work the no-hassle Halloween gingham look.
though he no longer has long, blond Viking locks, he’s got Viking blood, which goes a long way. Obviously, the secondary tragedy here is that I’ve had to go to Boston several times. If I seem weird in New York, everyone in Boston thinks I’m two cans short of a six-pack. There is no room for eccentricity in Boston. Just wearing a Yankees cap there is considered rebellion. Hence, I’ve been sneaking off to Cape Cod and staying with friends’ parents. Even though I am the least preppy person alive and Cape Cod is swarming with whale pants and polo shirts, it’s peaceful there. Rarely do I need nature (I prefer industrial waste), but the ocean and stars are there to remind us that we’re part of a bigger picture, oneness and love. Sometimes, in NYC, we get so caught up in trying to “make it” here that we forget how important love is. Apparently my boss forgot about love and kindness — or she is actually
a reptile, which I suspected all along — because she fired me for taking (unpaid) leave to visit Joe. See everyone back in Housing Court! Looking for work — but in the meantime, hedging my bets on scratch-off tickets, a dollar and a dream. My birthday came and went without a party, a piñata or a pizza (though a random fan sent me a Cookie Puss). Though all I really wanted was Joe, his touch, his laughter and his willingness to take out the garbage and refill the ice trays. Having recently been called a “chronic complainer” by an employed person whose fiancé doesn’t have brain cancer, I hesitate to even elaborate on more woes, but it would be dishonest were I not to share the icing on the cake. While on one of my various trips to Boston, I got a bladder infection! I’m guessing it’s either from the velour of the $15 bus, or being so miserable that I forgot to bathe. Off to Bellevue I went, where they gave me
an unfamiliar antibiotic. Next thing I knew, my body broke out in a neck-to-toe red rash and I developed a 104-degree fever! While I am always dishonest with potential employers, I am honest with medical professionals, given they can save your ass from death. I told them that, yes, I am a heavy drinker and yes, if you ask me how many partners I’ve had, the answer will be, “I have no clue.” This was a bad idea, as they simply forgot about what was obviously an allergic reaction to medication and focused solely on my depraved lifestyle. What followed were three days in Bellevue lockdown. Have you ever stayed in Bellevue? It’s crazy! If I were to write a Yelp review for Bellevue, it would say, “like a crack house without the benefit of crack.” First, no one in Bellevue is allowed to sleep. I was in a ward with four 90-somethings who screamed all night and day for no reason other than to torture me. If you do manage a second of shut-eye, an orderly invariably appears to eiREV. JEN, continued on p. 23
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October 15, 2015
Just Do Art WIN TICKETS TO “THE VELVETEEN RABBIT”
PHOTO BY ROWA LEE, COURTESY FRIENDS OF THE HIGH LINE
So fun it’s scary: Oct. 24’s High Line Haunted Halloween has food, puppet shows, music, and mild mayhem.
The Atlantic Theater Company begins its 2015/2016 “Atlantic for Kids” season with a world premiere musical adaptation of “The Velveteen Rabbit.” Long before the days of Woody and Buzz Lightyear, the nursery toy characters of author Margery Williams Bianco helped children explore matters of longing, loss, wisdom, and friendship. A young cast brings life to the book’s beloved tug boat, wooden lion, porcelain doll and sawdust-stuffed rabbit, as they explore what it means to be real. A talkback session after each performance offers kids the chance to interact with cast members and discuss the themes of the play. For the chance to win four tickets to the Nov. 1 show, send an email to Scott@TheVillager.com. Include a daytime contact number. The winner will be notified on Oct. 26. Best suited for ages 3 to 9. Sat. & Sun. at 10:30 a.m., through Nov. 1. At Atlantic Theater Company’s The Linda Gross Theater (336 W. 20th St. btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). Not content to take your chances on our raffle? Call 866-811-4111 or visit atlantictheater.org to purchase tickets ($15 for ages 10 and under, $20 for adults, with group discounts available).
BLESSING OF ANIMALS AT CHELSEA COMMUNITY CHURCH
PHOTO BY AHRON R. FOSTER
Enter our raffle for the chance to win four tickets to the Nov. 1 performance of Atlantic Theater Company’s “The Velveteen Rabbit.”
HIGH LINE HAUNTED HALLOWEEN
Ghosts of the past come to life for a fall afternoon of mild frights, sweet surprises, and haunted history lessons that harken back to when freight trains ran at street-level on 10th Ave. — causing so many collisions that the area became known as “Death Avenue.” To prevent pedestrians from becoming ghosts, “West Side Cowboys” used to ride their horses in front of trains, to warn of approaching traffic. Some of them will return on Oct. 24, along with other historical characters from the neighborhood’s industrial era (and instead of giving warnings, they’ll be handing out treats). So come in costume and get TheVillager.com
into the spirit, as you trick-or-treat and participate in frighteningly fun free activities that include face painting, a photo booth, a puppet show by Penny Jones & Co., horn-powered tunes from The Rad Trads, the spooky storytelling of April Armstrong, Caribbean-influenced brass hip-hop music by Bombrasstico, and sweet treats (Day of the Dead cookies! Hot chocolate! Pumpkin pie ice cream!) from fiendishly creative vendors La Newyorkina, Melt Bakery, and Terroir at the Porch. Free. Open to all ages (costumes encouraged!). Sat., Oct. 24, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. on the High Line (btw. W. 14th St. & W. 17th St. Enter via the stairs or elevators at W. 14th or W. 16th Sts.). For info, visit thehighline.org or call 212-206-9922.
The nondenominational Chelsea Community Church (CCC) is really serious about that “all are welcome” policy — especially when it comes to their annual Blessing of Animals service, where the pews are full of paws (and feathers, and even scales). The guest speaker is Eric Barsness, of Puppies Behind Bars — a program that trains prison inmates to raise service dogs. Tenor Otto Walberg, the service’s longtime lay leader, will perform a new
COURTESY HIGH LINE OPEN STUDIOS
Maria Fragoudaki’s workspace, seen here, is one of the destinations on your High Line Open Studios self-guided tour (Oct. 17 and 18).
song composed by singer-songwriter and guitarist Phil Marsh, who will accompany Walberg. On Nov. 1, the church celebrates its 40th year with a service that includes special music and an overview of CCC’s history. The Blessing of Animals service takes place on Sun., Oct. 18 at 12 p.m. at St. Peter’s Chelsea (346 W. 20th St. btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.). Free (a collection will be taken). Visit chelseachurch.org and puppiesbehindbars.com.
HIGH LINE OPEN STUDIOS SELF-GUIDED TOUR
Finding out how the hamburger’s made will be as much fun as having it for lunch — when over 60 artists peel back the curtain to reveal their creative process, and allow you to walk away with a deal on stuff from their studio inventory. The High Line Open Studios event provides the chance to get a rare glimse of artist workspaces, along the High Line between the Westbeth Artists building and the West Chelsea Arts building. Sat. & Sun., Oct. 17–18, 12–6 p.m. The self-guided tour starts at the West Chelsea Arts building (508–526 W. 26th St. btw. 10th & 11th Aves.), where visitors can pickup tour maps and info on participating artists. Visit highlineopenstudios.org.
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646-452-2475 October 15, 2015
Nightmare Horror Show brings terror to the theater Seven short plays scare on Suffolk St. BY SEAN EGAN
his actually isn’t a haunted house, it’s a performance. It’s a theater festival this year,” the woman running the box office at the Clemente explains to an inquisitive couple drawn in from the street. It will not be the last time she will recite some variation of this spiel. Visitors to the Nightmare Horror Show could be forgiven for making that mistake. Psycho Clan, the creative team behind the festival, are also responsible for the Nightmare New York haunted house, which has been a Halloween staple in this location for years. This year, however, Psycho Clan chose to mount a theater festival comprised of short, original horror works. The switch is not such a stretch for Timothy Haskell, Psycho Clan leader and Nightmare New York creator, who explains that he always saw Nightmare New York as a kind of link between theater and haunted house. “My roots are in theater, but I love horror, so putting them together is the perfect combo,” Haskell says, noting that theater hasn’t really attempted something like this before. “We’re growing, we’re learning, we’re figuring out what horror theater really is.” It’s a different and ambitious project to be sure, but one Haskell sees as being worth it, and ripe with unexplored potential for delivering “visceral and effective” scares. “Films are quite successful at it, haunted houses are very successful at it,” he elaborates. “I felt like theater, live theater, where you’re sort of entrenched for however long and forced to watch this thing, whatever it is, and feel the sweat and the vibrations of the screams — you know, all that — I was like, ‘It’s gotta be more terrifying than any of it!’ ” Haskell, for his part, is exceedingly busy, wearing multiple hats to ensure things are terrifying — curating the festival’s submissions, keeping everything running smoothly behind the scenes and at the box office, creating and directing his own piece, and, now that the festival’s in full swing, making trips to the laundromat around the corner to clean bloodstained clothing (he’s got the “really high quality” fake blood that makes washing out of costumes a cinch). Despite the stresses of running the festival, he still remains enthusiastic about the whole undertaking.
October 15, 2015
PHOTO BY MICHAEL BLASE
In Timothy Haskell’s “Smile,” society’s most primal fears are prodded — including a visit from monsters under the bed.
“The thing about horror in general, as an artistic form, is that it has the fewest rules and restrictions artistically,” he asserts. “Whatever the medium, it can be as creative as you are.” The festival’s lineup certainly supports that thesis, as it features an eclectic program of seven shows, which run the gamut of horror subgenres and theatrical styles. “Eddie” is an unnerving sketch about real-life serial killer Ed Gein’s internal dialogue, which employs a gorgeously macabre puppet as its central figure, while “Me_irl” is a wordless piece involving a man eating lunch near a disconcertingly interested crow, brought to life via metallic, steampunk puppet (both puppets were created by “War Horse” alums, Haskell notes). “Broken,” is a haunting and beautifully choreographed dance piece that chronicles a woman’s unraveling mental state to a layered, pulsing score. Elsewhere, the zombie flick sendup “Night of the Touching Zombies” pro-
vides a respite from the chills, as does “Necromancer,” whose audience-participation séance serves some dark humor. Meanwhile, “Bane” is a tense and fully realized character-based living room drama, which examines the relationship between a married couple in the aftermath of an accident. Best of all, however, is Haskell’s own piece, “Smile.” An immersive “4-D” work (inspired, in part, by Dario Argento), “Smile” tells the story of a deranged photographer who goes to great lengths to capture disturbing pictures. This brief description does little to prepare the viewer for the insane, overwhelming sensory experience of the piece — which features, amongst other things, killer clowns, flying viscera, and an eerie Dresden Dolls cover. It also takes full advantage of another benefit of theater Haskell cites: the ability to take its time to create tension and ambiance that heighten fear. “I think that theater can play on the anticipation of fear, if they do it, better
than a haunted house or anything else,” he says — and the scares found while held captive here are a different beast from any other horror experience. Still, with the festival, Haskell has his sights set on more than just scares. “I’m hoping that I can introduce a non-traditional theater-going audience to an art form that I know that they’ll enjoy, and that might turn them into theater-goers, theater lovers,” he says. “I think when they come, they’ll realize ‘Wow, this really is entertaining.’ ” And judging by the gasps and screams emanating from audiences, it seems highly likely that he’s accomplished just that. The Nightmare Horror Show runs through Fri., Oct. 30 at the Clemente Soto Vélez (107 Suffolk St. btw. Rivington & Delancey Sts.). Tickets are $25 for each program (and $15 at the box office for any subsequent program). For the full schedule of shows and artist info, visit nightmarenyc.com. TheVillager.com
Confined to a living room, ‘Honeycomb’ looks to the cosmos HONEYCOMB, continued from p. 19
to an unindustrialized state, which is reflected by the items in that same room. By the third show, the once-humble living room has become the throne room of a newly formed government. The aliens are revealed to be massive insectoid creatures — too large to fit inside human houses, and therefore they never actually appear onstage. “We don’t show very much of the invasion,” says the director of the trilogy, Jordana Williams. “Our sound designer creates an alien invasion through sound. There’s a little bit of lighting that’s happening, but you hopefully believe it from the sound and the actors believing it themselves.” The only physical representation of the aliens ever seen on stage is a severed alien leg. This provides, as Rogers explains, “Just enough so that we can understand the scale of what we are talking about. By far the better representation of the aliens outside of the house is always going to be in how the actors are reacting to the idea that they are out there. Your best special effect in theater is always going to be human bodies. Actors’ faces and actors’ bodies.” Sean Williams, the trilogy’s producer, who also plays a lead role in “Advance Man,” adds, “The most important thing that we don’t do, is that we don’t make light of the genre. When people talk about comic books, that is a word that is loaded
for some people. They think it’s for children.” Jordana Williams points out, “There’s an assumption. When people hear about sci-fi plays, they think it’s going to be ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space.’ ” Because the story takes place over 20 years, some of the roles are played by multiple actors. Ronnie, the leader of the human resistance, is played by Becky Byers as a teenager — but in the third play, she is portrayed by Hanna Cheek as a battle-scarred veteran. “Each show stands alone, remarkably well,” Cheek notes. “I love each of these plays, together as a whole and separately. They remind me that you never know just how far theater can go.” Even though the onstage events are themselves epic, the cast and crew can still discuss in detail what happened in the intervening years that aren’t shown. Ms. Cheek recounts the unseen origin of her character’s limp, Sean Williams describes the meticulous timeline of the offstage war, and both Rogers and Jordana Williams explain the painstaking decisions in creating the alien leg. All of these efforts create a world as richly defined as what would be expected in science fiction cinema and literature. “The Honeycomb Trilogy,” presented by Gideon Productions, runs through Nov. 14. Individual plays run Tues., Thurs. & Fri. at 8 p.m., and the whole trilogy
PHOTO BY DEBORAH ALEXANDER
“Advance Man” (part one of the trilogy) takes place in the near future, following the first manned mission to Mars.
runs Sat. & Sun. starting at 2 p.m., at The Gym at Judson (243 Thompson St., btw. W. Third St. & Washington Sq. South). For tickets ($25, $75 for marathon packages) and artist info, visit gideonth.com.
Rev. Jen’s spooktacular seasonal tips REV. JEN, continued from p. 20
ther jab you with needles or serve you food that looks like a rat ate and then puked it up. But as the antibiotic left my system, I returned like a phoenix from the ashes and was released. There are plenty of good doctors and nurses at Bellevue but the best thing about the joint is leaving it and feeling the sun on your skin. Maybe this column, which I didn’t want to be full of rants and complaints, but is, can end on a high note. How to end on a high note when things are whack? Here are my suggestions for recapturing joie de vivre in the face of adversity, thus making autumn “spooktacular.”
PUT ABSOLUTELY NO EFFORT INTO YOUR HALLOWEEN COSTUME
Because I’ve been doing shows for over 20 years, I have a million costumes. So often, on Halloween, I invite friends over and all we do is put on costumes and take pictures. Sometimes I discover rations of getups I wasn’t even aware of. For instance, TheVillager.com
who knew I had three “Wizard of Oz” Dorothy dresses, including one for a Chihuahua? Not me! But they looked great on Faceboy, Reverend Jen Junior and me and they required no effort! I’m also a fan of the plastic costumes sold at Woolworths in the ’70s. If you have two safety pins, you can still wear them by just pinning them to the outside of your clothes. I recently acquired both a “Barbie Princess” and an “Alf” costume on eBay. The great thing about these costumes is that if you are a Barbie Princess, no one will mistake you for anything else because it says “Barbie Princess” directly on the costume.
HAVE A PUMPKINCARVING PARTY
Because there are so many new “pumpkin spice” products on the market, we often forget the sheer joy of carving these festive members of the genus Cucurbita family and trashing one’s home in the process. Recently, I threw a party where guests turned pumpkin-carving into an art form. I made a “Trumpkin,” simply by gluing a bad wig to the pumpkin. Aside from mopping, the only real effort required when throwing a pumpkin
PHOTO BY JOHN FOSTER
Rev. Jen on the Cape with King Foster, who daringly wears a Yankees cap while commandeering the waters of Massachusetts.
party is finding pumpkins. Traipsing three blocks and finding none, I sat down for a drink at Lucky Jack’s (129 Orchard St.) where I noticed the chef from Black Tree, (131 Orchard St.) taking a break. Frenzied, I ran outside and asked him where all the pumpkins had gone. Graciously, he then gave me one. Go there because the food is good, but also because they gave me a pumpkin.
WATCH FOOTBALL AT GRAYSON
Really, the only good thing about October is football, my favorite excuse for sitting on my ass and yelling
at the television. A lot of chicks don’t dig football, and I will never understand why, given it features hot men in tight pants playing with balls. Having grown up around the Beltway, I have the great misfortune of being a Redskins fan, and yes, the slanderous name should be changed. Because everything in D.C., down to the last square of toilet paper, is now named after Reagan, they’ll probably just call them “The Reagans,” but I suggest they call them “The Hogs” in honor of the nickname given to the Skins’ early ’80s offensive line (football trivia!). These days, I spend most Sunday and Monday nights watching my favorite team lose at Grayson (16 First Ave.) where my dear friend, Matt, (formerly from Lucky Jack’s) now bartends. Go there and over-tip him, because his cat just died. Upon writing this, I have had a catharsis normally only induced by Willie Nelson songs, and am suddenly crying. I’m not wise, especially when I’m watching football. I’m also not one to give advice, not even to myself, but here goes: Don’t take one second of this shitshow for granted. Try to look at the stupid, asshole fall foliage and not think about the impending hell of another Polar Vortex and your radiator not working. Think about the warmth of the person next to you. Give them a (not creepy) kiss, and tell them you love them. October 15, 2015
PHOTOS BY MILO HESS
Wham! Bam! Comic Con really knocks ’em out! Thousands of fans of comics, graphic novels, anime, manga, movies and video games swooped into the Javits Center on Oct. 8-11 for New York Comic Con. The event was first held in New York in 2006, and last year attendance topped 150,000, making it North America’s largest Comic Con. This year, actors Jared Leto and Mark Ruffalo got in on the fun by hitting the convention floor in costume and avoiding recognition. Leto went as an especially twisted version of Rafiki from “The Lion King,” while Ruffalo was disguised as a mustachioed man in a floppy driver’s cap and chomping a big stogie.
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much trouble in terms of how he manages his properties,” D’Allessandro said. “To sell to Toledano was really a slap in the face, and it really scared us.” When the properties — including 301 residential apartments and 15 retail spaces — were sold by the Tabak/Garfinkel family to Toledano, D’Allessandro said that the way tenants were treated prior to the sale was “disrespectful, unkind and sloppy.” Now that it’s official, tenants are concerned about their future living conditions, including heat and hot water once the weather starts to drop, according to D’Allessandro. There have been no recorded complaints or reports of harassment by Toledano and his team by the tenants’ coalition since Sept. 8. As a welcome, Toledano sent tenants a letter on Sept. 22, confirming that the transfer of ownership had occurred on Sept. 10, along with a box of chocolates and the address where tenants should send October’s rent. On Sept. 28, tenants received another letter from Morton
Tabak confirming the change of ownership to Toledano. The years following Tabak’s retirement have been difficult for some tenants. And now, with her building a part of Toledano’s portfolio, D’Allessandro hopes life can return to normal, like it was when Tabak was landlord. Yet, she and other tenants don’t know what to expect. “We’re hoping that we can move into this next phase without great struggle and without incident,” she said. “But it doesn’t look that way.” For Diaz, 229 E. Fifth St. is the only home she’s ever known. And her grandmother won’t leave her apartment of nearly 70 years without a fight. “It’s unfortunate,” Diaz said. “I wish they would understand that it’s not a situation that we’re prepared to back down from. If they want to get rid of us, it’s going to be tough. We’re not just going to roll over and play dead.” Toledano did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
Why Pay More?
TOLEDANO continued from p. 14
al 11 buildings in the East Village, West Village and Murray Hill for $55 million.) “Our whole purpose is to gather and disseminate information about our rights and our responsibilities and the resources that are available to us,” said D’Allessandro, who added that the buildings, when they were under former landlord Morton Tabak, who is now nearly 100 years old, always ran smoothly. Tenants had heat and hot water. At times, Tabak would even lower the rent for tenants suffering some financial hardship. “He was very paternalistic,” D’Allesandro said. “He treated us with respect and expected us to treat him the same way.” However, once Morton’s daughter, Janet Garfinkel, and the rest of the Tabak family took over, everything changed, she said. “They just didn’t care anymore, and we think it was unethical on their part to sell to somebody [Toledano] who has been in so
Soup kitchen nourished stomach, soul SOUP KITCHEN continued from p. 17
the ceiling, we looked sideways, this ways and that. The woman who’d brought her audibly gasped and looked as if she wanted the sofa to swallow her up. The meeting came to an end. From then on, in those days before e-mail, we did business by phone. That first spring, as Passover approached, we discussed having a homeless Seder. The board said O.K., provided we invited only Jews. Sherri and I weren’t convinced, but we went along and eventually realized it was a sound decision. There were more than 200 homeless, destitute and/or seriously mentally ill Jews frequenting the streets of the East Village and Lower East Side. Around 25 were regulars at our soup kitchen. We invited them to attend a Passover Seder led by the rabbi. One of the better Downtown French restaurants in Manhattan, Capsouto Frères, offered to donate the entire Seder dinner, requiring only that we neither name nor give them credit. The three Egyptian-Jewish Capsouto brothers had founded their landmark Tribeca bistro, renowned for its soufflés, in 1980. One of the brothers and his wife were temple members. All we needed to do was prepare the ritual foods for the Seder plates. A few months ahead, I asked
the butcher at Jefferson Market to start putting aside lamb shank bones. On the first night of Passover, on my way to Seder at friends’, I dropped by to pick up what I anticipated to be five or six bones, which I’d intended to broil in my toaster oven. The butcher greeted me warmly and sent two burly men into the meat locker. Each emerged with an enormous shopping bag filled to the brim with frozen shank bones. I stammered and spewed and stumbled to thank him, trying not to panic over what I was going to do with several hundred raw bones. I could barely lift the bags. Once outside, I reasoned the temple was several long blocks away and I could leave the bones in the refrigerator there. I struggled, advancing slowly with one bag, then with the next. The high heels I was wearing did not help. An escalating noise resembling a sounder of swine seemed to be rapidly approaching behind me. I heard gasping and panting and frustrated voices shouting, “Slow down, slow down, stop!” I turned around to the sight of a dozen straining dog walkers, their assorted canines hot on the scent. Quickly, I stuck out my hand and hailed a cab. Everyone we’d invited showed up promptly for the Seder, wearing the best clothes they had. The rabbi wel-
comed them, gave a speech and began to read from the Haggadah. He then asked for volunteers. Sylvia, a schizophrenic regular who babbled incoherently and always wore two or three pairs of eyeglasses, one on top of the other, raised her hand. She removed her glasses and read, reciting melodiously in flawless Hebrew. When we came to the “Four Questions,” traditionally sung by the youngest child, Isaac, another regular, who was 96, asked to do the Mah Nishtanah. His chanting was exquisite, haunting, from another time and place, perhaps harkening back to the shtetl in Poland, where he’d told us he’d been born. When the Seder came to an end, after we’d repeated its closing words, “Next year in Jerusalem/ Next year may we all be free,” I think everyone, guests and hosts alike, felt lighter, freer, imbued, if just for the moment, with the spirit of redemption. For many of our guests, the Seder was a return to the past, to happier times, when they’d had families, homes, money, health and dreams, dreams for a future that was better. Today, close to thirty years later, from my home in Provence, I’ve heard the soup kitchen continues. This makes me happy and this makes me sad. Sad the need is still there, happy so many people have continued the work.
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‘The Butcher’ made headlines in ’89 FLASHBACK BY YANNIC RACK
PHOTO BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
e was known among locals as the rooster man, Jesus, a cop-hater, a marijuana advocate and dealer, and just plain weird. He stood out from the crowd in an area where it is easy for unusual people to blend in with the scenery. He eerily made threats as he smiled, boasted of feats, and at times his behavior was volatile. But no one took him seriously.” So began an article in the Sept. 28, 1989, issue of The Villager, headlined “Murder in the East Village.” The story, by Betsy Herzog, was published a week after Daniel Rakowitz, a 28-year-old Texas native, was charged with killing and dismembering his roommate in their E. Ninth St. apartment. His arrest ended a two-week search for the woman, Monika Beerle, a 26-year-old dance student from Switzerland, who had been missing for a month. After denying he knew anything about her whereabouts, Rakowitz eventually led detectives to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where he showed them Beerle’s skull and bones, stored in a five-gallon bucket. “ ‘They got into an altercation, he beat her, then stabbed her, resulting in her death,’ ” said [Deputy Chief
Daniel Rakowitz in Tompkins Square Park.
Ronald J.] Fenrich. ‘Rakowitz kept her body in the apartment at least a week before decapitating it, boiling the flesh away, and cutting the larger bones into smaller ones.’ ” The couple had been living together for a few months, according to the article, and neighbors in their building claimed the two frequently argued over the rent. When one neighbor started smelling “something funny” one day, they became suspicious. But it wasn’t until Rakowitz allegedly boasted to the building’s super of killing Beerle that a tenant notified police. “Detectives located Rakowitz through his beeper, common to many drug dealers,” the article read.
A jury eventually acquitted Rakowitz by reason of insanity — he admitted to dismembering Beerle’s body but not to killing her. In one of the more gory details to emerge at the time, it was said Rakowitz had served soup cooked from Beerle’s brains to the Tompkins Square Park homeless. According to The Villager article, Rakowitz had, in fact, first appeared in the neighborhood around the time of the Tompkins Square Park riot of 1988. “The tall blond-haired and blueeyed man was easily recognizable with his long, straggly hair and beard,” Herzog wrote. “He was especially known to police because he continually threatened them.” In a separate article, Villager reporter Michael Crewdson recounted how he had met Rakowitz the month before in Tompkins Square Park, bringing groceries for the homeless people there. “He was weird, perhaps, but in no way do my notes or my memory suggest he was the least bit menacing,” Crewdson wrote. “He was just a guy in the park with an umbrella over his head who was trying to help people who couldn’t help themselves.” In 2004, a jury found Rakowitz no longer dangerous but decided that he was still mentally ill and should remain at Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center on New York City’s Wards Island.
Melo & Co. hope to rebound from fiasco SPORTS BY ROBERT ELKIN
ast season was the worst ever for the New York Knicks, even with high-scoring Carmelo Anthony in the lineup. At the same time, Melo was one of the team’s injured players, sidelined for almost half the season with a knee injury. After their dismal season, Knick management traded for players, brought rookies up from the Development League,
October 15, 2015
selected players in the NBA draft, and signed free agents and ballers from overseas. Knicks President Phil Jackson entered training camp feeling very optimistic about the future. He has what he calls a “new team.” In other words, they’re rebuilding. Incoming rookies include Thanasis Antetokounmpo from the D-League, Darion Atkins from University of Virginia, Jerian Grant from Notre Dame, Latvian project Kristaps Porzingis, Wesley Saunders from Harvard, and Trivas Trice from University of Michigan, to name a few newcomers. The coaches are particularly high on Grant, who comes from a basketball family — his father, Horace, was on the Bulls championship teams — and is very familiar with the triangle offense, which he played in college. He can play either the point or shooting guard. “I can be a potential point guard with the team,” the 6-foot-4 Grant said on Media
Rookie Jerian Grant could be a key cog for the Knicks.
Day at the team’s training camp. “Coming to New York is big time,” he added. Last year’s rookie sensation Langston Galloway, brought up from the D-League, could battle with Grant for a starting guard position, or pair with him in a deep backcourt. TheVillager.com
William Electric Black and Laurie Cumbo, fifth and sixth from left, joined L.E.S. Girls Club Moms Speak Out members at the “A Gun Is Not Fun” campaign launch.
Moms throw the book at gun violence
n Oct. 1 mothers and young women from the Lower Eastside Girls Club’s Moms Speak Out campaign — women who have been affected by gun violence — gathered outside P.S. 188, at E. Houston St. near Avenue D. They were joined by Councilmember Laurie Cumbo and peace advocates from Middle Collegiate Church to launch the distribution of 3,500 copies of William Electric Black’s illustrated early reader “A Gun Is Not Fun.” Black a.k.a. Ian James is an Emmy Award-winning former writer of “Sesame Street.” “I wrote this book because we are losing too many young people of color to gun violence,” he said. “It is a plague facing our nation. So I decided to use
the ‘Sesame Street’ target audience and start educating them about this timely, and too-often deadly, issue.” Among those at the event was Arlene Delgado, whose son Raphael Sadonte Ward, Jr., 16, was killed by a neighbor, also 16, in January 2013, at Rivington and Columbia Sts., a block away from Ward’s home in the Baruch Houses. During October, Moms Speak Out members plan to distribute “A Gun Is Not Fun” in front of every public school and daycare center with pre-K through second-grade classes in the East Village / Lower East Side community. Cumbo chairs the Council’s Women’s Issues Committee and is a member of the Youth Services and Public
Housing Committee. “I’m so happy that this publication has been produced,” she said. “This is an issue that starts at a very young age.” Reverend Jacqui Lewis is founder and executive director of The Middle Project, which prepares ethical leaders for a more just society. “It is unacceptable to us that our children are growing up in a culture where violence has become the norm on the streets and in the media,” she said. Said Lyn Pentecost, Girls Club executive director, “We believe that it is never too early to create a climate of peace! We’re starting now and we’re starting here — in our own Lower East Side community.”
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A front row seat on Whitey Bulger trial BY JACK BROWN
istinguished crime journalist and Village resident T.J. English has written an authoritative and entertaining account of the rise and fall of Boston’s notorious former crime in his new book, “Where the Bodies Were Buried: Whitey Bulger And the World That Made Him” (HarperCollins). The year 2013 was a gut-wrenching one for Boston. There was a terrorist bombing near the finish line of the marathon in April. The trial of 16-year fugitive gangster James “Whitey” Bulger began June 12. The trial dredged up and exhumed the depraved parade of heinous crimes committed by Bulger and his associates. But perhaps there was no greater offense committed against the people than that by the Department of Justice itself. Joe Salvati did 30 years in jail for a murder he and three other victims of the Confidential Informant TheVillager.com
Program did not commit. Salvati was convicted by the bogus testimony of Joe “The Animal” Barboza in September 1967. The ends-justify-the means approach was to dismantle the New England Mafia. In fact, Bulger, like Barboza, was a top-echelon confidential informant. “The prosecutors wanted it to appear as if what happened to Joe Salvati had nothing to do with Whitey Bulger,” English writes. “Perhaps the entire criminal justice system was a grand illusion.” Teresa Bond, who was a young girl when her father, Bucky Barrett, was murdered, got to Bulger with forgiveness during an impact statement uttered with near kindness. “I just want you to know that I don’t hate you,” she said. “I hate the choices our government has made in allowing you to rule the streets and perform horrific acts of evil.” Bulger — who, in fact, disliked being called Whitey — and his brother Billy dominated Boston politics and crime
for more than 20 years. Billy became one of Massachusetts’ most powerful politicians, serving from 1978-96 as state Senate president. With his C.I. F.B.I status, his brother’s influence and his control of the gang, Bulger seemingly hovered above the law. And he took full advantage. English uses the trial as his format and diverges to provide historical and biographical background and penetrating insight. His writing is fair, balanced and authoritative. He also employs a wry sense of humor. He refers to Billy O’Shea, a trusted former Bulger business associate, as “Kermit the Frog’s aging Irish Uncle.” Some agents, like handlers H. Paul Rico and John Connolly, come from the same social milieu as Bulger. They readily become thick as thieves. They also wind up in jail — Connolly, a seeming scapegoat to F.B.I damage control. But as English concludes, “The system protects itself.” Which begs the question: What is needed to protect “We the People” from the system? October 15, 2015
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