The Paper of Record for East and West Villages, Lower East Side, Soho, Noho, Little Italy and Chinatown
November 13, 2014 • FREE Volume 4 • Number 26
Two Croman tenants keep up their constant fight against landlord BY GERARD FLYNN
ary Ann Miller, a host on WBAI radio, recently recalled an encounter she had this year with landlord Steven Croman’s “private investigator” Anthony Falconite. As she was coming down
the stairs of her building on Prince St., Miller heard a terrible disturbance heading her way. “Someone was pounding really heavy with the flat side of his fist yelling, ‘I have to get in here. I’m an independent contractor. I have to check the plumbing,’ ” she recalled. CROMAN, continued on p. 3
Chin calls for safety study on truck routes after Canal St. deaths BY ZACH WILLIAMS
ddressing the hazards of commercial trucking on Canal St. requires more than a 25-mile-per-hour speed limit, according to Councilmember Margaret Chin. The city Department of Transportation should study
how designating that street and other major thoroughfares as trucking routes affects pedestrian, cyclist and driver safety, asserted Chin, who will introduce a bill to that effect next month. In addition, the inequitable Verrazano Bridge toll situation continues to enCANAL ST., continued on p. 8
Phil Hartman, of Two Boots Pizza, a co-sponsor of the plaque initiative, held the umbrella as Lenny Kaye performed “Uncle John’s Band” at the Fillmore East plaque unveiling.
Fillmore East memories rock on with new plaque on 2nd Ave. BY TEQUILA MINSKY
went to my first rock concert there. I was 11 years old,” said Neva Wartel, on hearing that a historic marker would be placed at the site of the Fillmore East. “I saw Jimi Hendrix, whose Band of Gypsies album was recorded live that night.” Neva is now an ethnomusicologist and DJ. Wartell was not the only one with fond memories of the short but very sweet
life of the East Village rock venue, on Second Ave. near E. Sixth St., created by rock promoter Bill Graham, for whom the street is conamed. The Fillmore East was the sibling to his Fillmore West in San Francisco. On a dreary drizzly autumn afternoon, denizens of the East Village and rock fans, most of them graying, joined the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s Andrew Berman to unveil a historical plaque at the site. The location’s ground floor
now is an Apple Bank, which, along with Two Boots Pizza, co-sponsored the event. Berman recounted some history of the building. In the 1920s it was a Yiddish theater — one of many on the avenue; then, it became the Loew’s Commodore movie house; and then the Village Theater. From March 1968 through June 1971, the Fillmore East rocked the spot. It was followed in the ’80s by The FILLMORE, continued on p. 10
L.E.S. kayak plan makes waves....................page 6 Former squatter’s true fish story..................page 15 Jerry Tallmer, newspaper legend, 93.............page 26 Bowery |Gallery: A look back........page 19 May 14, 2014
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VYING FOR VICE CHAIRPERSON: On Thurs., Nov. 20, Community Board 3’s Executive Committee will meet to pick a board member to fill the second vice chairperson position. The seat has been open since Ricky Leung stepped down from it earlier this year. We’re told there are four candidates in the running, including Chad Marlow, Ayo Harrington, Enrique Cruz and Alyssa Lewis-Coleman. Marlow has been on C.B. 3 the longest of them, two years, though previously served on C.B. 2 and represented the Yankees at Bronx community board meetings when the team’s new stadium plan was under review. Harrington and Lewis-Coleman have been on the board about a year, and Cruz a bit less than that. It will be interesting to see the Executive Committee’s thinking on who they’ll pick, since it could offer insight into how the board is dealing with some of the contentious issues that too often dominated C.B. 3 last year. It’s also a strategic position, since vice chairpersons can often climb the ladder to become board chairperson. The meeting is open to the public, though nonboard members can only observe, not actively participate in the discussion. Stay tuned!
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November 13, 2014
DYNAMIC DUO: Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership business improvement district, and Ernie Anastos, the Fox TV news anchor, were honored by the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce last week at the chamber’s annual Business Awards Breakfast. “The Union Square Partnership is honored to be named 2014 Neighborhood Business Advocate of the Year by the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce,” Falk said. “Our collective efforts on behalf of our business community have greatly contributed to the district’s overall success and have made Union Square one of New York City’s most dynamic neighborhoods. We look forward to bringing even more amenities and community programs to Union Square and continuing to support the vibrant businesses that attract people from all over the city and world here each day.” Anastos was named New Yorker of the Year. Tim Zagat, of restaurant guide fame, and Jill Kaplan, publisher of Crain’s New York Business, were the lead award presenters. CORRECTION: Our item last week about possibly tainted peanut butter being found smeared in the Leroy St. dog run cited a dog activist’s belief that there had been similar incidents in the Washington Square dog run. But Eileen Shulock, a board member at the latter, said the talk this past summer was that poison was allegedly found along the sidewalks of the Washington Square Village residential complex to the south of the park — not in the park — though she was never able to confirm if this was true with any vets in the area. However, she assured, “No dogs have been poisoned in Washington Square Park dog run!” CREATING SOME BUZZ...: Reverend Billy, a.k.a. Billy Talen, and his choir will be holding a “Standing With Ferguson” fundraiser with famed folk singer Joan Baez at Middle Collegiate Church on Wed., Nov. 19. The funds will go toward for their bus trip to Monsanto headquarters in St. Louis, where they will host an “organic Thanksgiving” to highlight the chemical and seed giant’s devastating effects on the world’s bee population. They’ll also give additional money from the show to activists in nearby Ferguson who are keeping up the protests over the police shooting of Michael Brown. Before that, though, Billy and his Stop-Shopping Choir will open their holiday run at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theatre, with their show called — guess what? — “Monsanto Is the Devil.”
Jennifer Falk and Ernie Anastos. EastVillagerNews.com
Two tenants keep up constant fight vs. Croman CROMAN, continued from p. 1
PHOTO BY GERARD FLYNN
“My neighbors are Chinese and their English is very limited and were scared to death,” she said. But Miller, whose tenant activism goes back to 1970, was not. Falconite’s job, she said, was to frighten tenants, then offer them a low amount of money to move. “I said to him, ‘What are you doing and why are you doing this?’ ” The bulky ex-cop, when asked by Miller to produce credentials, refused, she said. Instead he turned around, “furiously yelling all the way down the stairs.” This alleged incident wasn’t Falconite’s first job for Croman, who is currently being probed by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, possibly for using illegal tactics to oust tenants in rent-stabilized buildings. In July, the A.G.’s office slapped the Croman goon with a cease-and-desist order, and he “has now been assigned to desk duty,” Miller chuckled. “He did this to the elderly, mostly to people who couldn’t speak English,” she said. “He terrorized them.” Falconite has also been known to push the door open, force himself inside, then photograph everything around him. According to a Croman spokesperson, Falconite denies ever having met Miller. Miller was involved in the first Stop Croman Coalition, which died. Five years ago, its second incarnation was born when she was hosting a feminist program on WBAI and got a call from Cynthia Chaffee, another distressed tenant of Steve Croman. Chaffee, who uses crutches, had been battling Croman in and out of Housing Court since he took over her rent-regulated apartment building on E. Sixth St. in May 1999, clearing out most regulated tenants in the process. She’s been to court with him eight times, alleging, among other things, a flood of water pouring down the ceiling light onto the front room floor, plus no heating or hot water. “She wanted to restart the Stop Croman Coalition,” Miller recalled. Despite their failing at first try to revive the group, the two women later met up with 70 Croman tenants on, of all days, July 14, Bastille Day. “I thought it was a good day to begin a fight,” Miller mused. But the momentum eventually slowed down as the “horrendous stories” of “aggressive harassment” began to build up: no heat or hot water, aggressive buyouts, etc. “You name it he was doing it,” Miller said. But the coalition’s second coming struggled with declining support from Croman’s tenants. Chaffee and Miller, however, will never forget the efforts of state Senator Brad Hoylman and his predecessor, Tom Duane, whose work on their behalf they praised. The Stop Croman Coalition recently made a third comeback. The group now numbers about two dozen dedicated members, with about half of them doing the demanding work of documenting harassment and identifying Croman’s large property portfolio throughout the city. The likelihood of their future success could hinge on the A.G.’s investigation. Both women have been visited by members of Schneiderman’s office, which declined to discuss the ongoing investigation with The Villager. Chaffee is currently in Housing Court with Croman. Like Miller, she is not afraid to face down her
Cynthia Chaffee and her husband, Peter, inside their E. Sixth St. apartment, where she stores her voluminous files on her landlord, Steven Croman.
deep-pocketed and well-connected foe. Croman is a philanthropist and Democratic Party donor. “I have had open-heart surgery — that I am afraid of. But not Croman,” she said. “He’s a punk. With all my heart and soul, I will not stop until they put a stop to him because what he has done to people is horrible.” Driving around the city for years and researching online, they have compiled a list of his citywide portfolio, which at last count, numbers more than 180 buildings. Chaffee also boasts a room half filled with files on his properties. Chaffee wants to know why Croman has for years been allowed to get work permits from the Department of Buildings, when for years he has owed the agency an allegedly huge sum in unpaid fines for violations. Both women hope the attorney general’s investigation will yield some results and perhaps even prison time for Croman. But they dismissed the recently amended Tenant Protection Act, co-sponsored by City Councilmember Margaret Chin and Jumaane Williams. Miller described the act as “timid.” A $10,000 fine, she said, is hardly a deterrent for the likes of Croman, a view some in legal services share. “They don’t pay their fines, now,” Chaffee said. “He owes almost a million in fines, not including sanitation fines or tax liens. It’s unbelievable.” Few landlords have been fined by Housing Court judges since the act was passed in 2008 — “possibly” 42 out of 3,200 cases brought by tenants, according to Department of Housing Preservation and Development records. As a veteran of Housing Court, Chaffee said, “A court case drags on for more than a year because
landlords want to wear tenants down emotionally and financially.” As if that wasn’t enough, then “there is blacklisting,” she said, referring to a disputed move by Housing Court, which places tenants’ action in Housing Court on a nationwide database, thus affecting a prospective tenant’s credit rating and likelihood of being offered another apartment. On a final note, Chaffee described the case of another tenant of Croman’s, an elderly man living Uptown who, like her, had open-heart surgery. “They knew he was sick and vulnerable and recuperating,” she said, adding they stopped depositing his rent checks. After more than a year of threats of court action, “he caved in,” she said, leaving behind a potentially lucrative seven-room apartment, and is now a resident of the Salvation Army somewhere uptown. In a statement, a spokesperson for 9300 Realty, Croman’s company, said: “We provide high-quality, reliable housing for New Yorkers and prioritize the safety and well-being of our tenants above all else. These two individuals are part of a small group of tenants who have a long history of litigation and making unfounded accusations about conditions in our buildings. “It is our company policy to promptly address and make repairs wherever they are needed, or when requested. Our ratio of violations per unit is very low and the majority of the ones that remain open are due to the tenant’s refusal to grant us access to make repairs. “We are proud of the work we have done to beautify and maintain our buildings, which include several historically significant properties in the Village and East Village.” November 13, 2014
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C.B. 3, pols support Siempre; Nursing home’s future unclear
November 13, 2014
verything came up roses for local community garden advocates at Community Board 3’s recent full-board meeting. They cheered loudly as the board voted unanimously to support a resolution by its Land Use Subcommittee recommending that the popular Siempre Verde Garden become a permanent community garden. At Stanton and Attorney Sts., the city’s youngest GreenThumb-licensed garden is at risk because a developer hopes to build a mostly luxury 16-unit building on the small parcel of greenery and two adjoining plots of land now under control of the city’s Department of Housing, Preservation and Development. The project would include a small number of affordable units. The William Gottlieb company, which owns the 137 Attorney St. lot, plans to combine it with the two cityowned parcels, 181 Stanton St. and 139 Attorney St. Siempre Verde Garden has operated since 2012. Garden advocates packed the Oct. 28 full board meeting, urging C.B. 3 members to ratify the subcommittee’s resolution, which recommends H.P.D. turn over control of its two plots to the Parks Department. Speakers from an array of gardening advocacy groups — from the East Village Community Coalition to the New York City Gardening Coalition — testified for saving the garden. Claire Costello, a Siempre Verde volunteer, said, “When we first started the garden, it looked like a pile of rubble, and we transformed it. We need to keep it because there are only five gardens left below Houston St. in a population of about 80,000 people.” Also speaking out strongly for saving Siempre Verde as permanent open space were representatives of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Councilmember Margaret Chin. Some advocates expressed concern that the garden’s GreenThumb contract is due to expire at this month’s end. But a Chin rep said the councilmember has “already begun working on getting an extension on the contract. This is not going to be a problem.” C.B. 3 member Ayo Harrington urged the mayor’s representative at the meeting to make de Blasio aware of the situation. “Please tell the mayor that community gardens in our community are coming under attack,” Harrington said. “We want to make sure that our 47 remaining community gardens are protected. We used to have 57, but we already lost 10 of them to developers.”
A developer’s plan for Siempre Verde Garden is “producing” great concern as seen by the turnout at C.B. 3.
“We’re already very aware of the situation,” said de Blasio liaison Tommy Linn. “It’s already on our radar. We are going to try to find a resolution for this.” Zack Bommer, a Silver aide, said the speaker has already expressed his support for maintaining the garden as an open space and urged its transfer to Parks. Silver believes the garden is “a vital green space that is enjoyed by so many of our neighbors,” Bommer said. “Here, on the Lower East Side, public parks and gardens are at a premium, and we cannot afford to lose this important community treasure.” The board voted unanimously in support of retaining Siempre Verde. C.B. 3 Chairperson Gigi Li told the placard-waving crowd, “This garden will become a permanent community garden.” On another important issue, the board supported a resolution calling for Rivington House, at 45 Rivington
St., one of the city’s largest nursing homes for AIDS patients, to be converted to a nonprofit general nursing home with the maximum number of beds. VillageCare, which operates the current 206-bed home, has said the facility will close this month, reportedly because it is operating at a huge financial loss. Justin Carroll, chairperson of C.B. 3’s Human Services, Health, Disability & Seniors Subcommittee, said VillageCare has assured that any new nursing facility located there will operate on a nonprofit basis. Rivington House, which opened in 1995, is already empty of patients, Carroll said. However, board member Enrique Cruz said, “Our concern is that months later the owners could turn around and make it a for-profit operation.” Carroll said changing the nonprofit status would require a lengthy process involving city approval. He said he has not heard of any potential buyer for the facility. EastVillagerNews.com
November 13, 2014
L.E.S. residents mutiny over Pier 42 kayak plan BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC
ier 42 plans presented at a recent Community Board 3 meeting roused anger from Lower East Side residents who want a pool and not a proposed area for kayaking. After Noriko Maeda of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects gave her presentation of the trees, shrubs and plants that may populate the waterfront for the project’s phase one, residents expressed their unhappiness with a proposed kayak area. “We are a community that is tired of being disengaged, disenfranchised by everyone else and being ignored,” Nancy Ortiz, president of the Vladeck Houses Resident Association declared at C.B. 3’s Parks, Recreation, Cultural Affairs, Landmarks & Waterfront Committee on Oct. 21. “This is the first time we are seeing this,” she said. “Kayaking does not fit the demographics of our community.” Pier 42, between Gouverneur and Jackson Sts., received more than $10 million in funding from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in March 2012. Lawrence Mauro, the Parks Department’s program manager for Lower Manhattan projects, said there has been extensive
community outreach. “We’ve handled this progressively, step by step,” Mauro said. There have been several meetings with C.B. 3 for both direction and approval, he said. Ortiz said later in a phone interview that with all the projects — and meetings — going on in the Lower East Side, including about Pier 42, the “Big U,” and the general waterfront plan, it is hard to keep track. But one thing is clear: The community does not want a kayaking area. One of the reasons Parks wants a protected area for teaching kids to kayak, Mauro said, is to expose them to the water during educational programs. “They could learn about the river, learn about the ecology, learn about what’s in the river in a supervised way,” he said. C.B. 3 has already approved the Pier 42 master plan. Mauro said that the committee was only voting on phase one, which currently does not include any of the proposed amenities, such as a playground, concession stand, an area where residents could watch movies, roller-skating rink and the kayaking area. Phase one includes taking down most of the pier shed, lead and asbestos abatement, removing toxic soil and the pavement, painting and
planting trees and shrubs to make the area safe and green, Mauro said. The overall plan to build out the site would cost more than $90 million, he added. “I lived in Smith Houses for 38 years, I never saw anybody with a kayak,” said Anne Johnson, a C.B. 3 committee member, to loud clapping and an “Amen!” at the meeting. “I also remember that we absolutely said there had to be a pool — somehow.” Aixa Torres, president of the Smith
Houses Tenants Association, agreed with Johnson and said C.B. 3 should table the issue. “We want a pool. We need a pool,” Torres said. “This is what our community needs.” The committee passed a resolution approving the phase one plan. Later, in a phone interview on Oct. 25, Torres said that she would picket if there is kayaking. “We don’t want it,” she said. “We have the same right as someone in Tribeca.”
Hallelujah! Synagogue is landmarked
fter nearly 50 years in landmarking limbo, Tifereth Israel Town & Village Synagogue, at 334 E. 14th St., was designated an individual landmark on Oct. 28 by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. The historic house of worship was built in 1866 as the First German Baptist Church. In 1926, it became the Ukrainian Autocephalic Church of St. Volodymyr. In 1962, it became the Town & Village Synagogue. Shortly after New York’s landmarks law was adopted in 1965, the building was formally considered for designation, yet never received a vote. Howev-
er, for the next five decades, it remained officially “calendared” by L.P.C. Last year, the building was advertised for sale, prompting the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and other preservation and East Village groups to lobby L.P.C. to vote on landmarking it. When Meenakshi Srinivasan was appointed the new Landmarks chairperson in July, G.V.S.H.P. urged her finally to move ahead with a vote on designating the building. “This venerable piece of our neighborhood’s history will finally receive the protection it deserves,” said Andrew Berman, G.V.S.H.P. executive director.
Help pours in for a butcher who is a cut above BY ZACH WILLIAMS
November 13, 2014
PHOTO BY ZACH WILLIAMS
ower East Side butcher Dionisio Silva has a big trip to look forward to once he exits the hospital. The Essex St. Market regular has received more than $5,000 in donations since Sept. 17 to fund his first trip in three decades to his native Brazil, as well as offset ongoing medical costs. More than 90 friends, colleagues and customers participated at www.gofundme.com/silva — through the same Web site that hosted a successful fundraising effort earlier this year for the East Village’s Dr. David Ores. Though they reached their stated goal online, the effort for Silva continues, according to Patrick Martins, owner of Heritage Foods U.S.A., which owns the shop at the market where Silva, 68, works. “We have raised thousands of dollars to date, but for his healthcare and travel to Brazil we still need to raise much more,” Martins said. Silva has worked in the market since 2001, first at Jeffrey’s Meat Market. After that longtime business folded, he became the head butcher at Heritage Meat Shop — based in the same location — an offshoot of Brooklyn-based Heritage Foods U.S.A. Despite his medical problems, Silva said in a telephone interview from Bellevue Hospital that working at the market has been “awesome.” Community support keeps him thinking optimistically about his medical situation, he said. “They are my family and best friends,” he said of his workmates. “I cannot complain because
Dionisio Silva at the Essex St. Market.
they’ve always been there for me.” Silva has battled prostate cancer since 2001. Symptoms flared in recent months requiring him to lessen his presence at the market. Swelling in his legs has been particularly vexing, he said, and will have to be addressed before he can depart for Brazil to see a brother and daughter there. His native country has undergone great change since Silva emigrated in the 1980s. This year’s World Cup and the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics are just two examples of Brazil’s increasing international prominence. When he left, his home region in the Amazon had yet to achieve statehood, he noted. Though there is much too see once he arrives, Silva said specific plans for the Brazil trip will have to wait for now. “It all depends on my health,” he said.
Friends describe Silva in both serious and jocular terms. His past exploits include a three-mile trek through a blizzard to deliver meat to a sick elderly woman. He also reportedly delivered a raw chicken to a co-worker’s musical performance as a joke. What you see is what you get with Silva, according to Sharon Hoahing, an employee of Roni Sue’s Chocolate shop in the market. Silva rather enjoys coconut truffles, but not as conspicuously as Brazilian soccer, she added. Talking “futbol” evidentially is serious turkey for him, according to Hoahing, as indicated by the flags and jerseys Silva brings out in support of his native country’s team. “He listens if you talk about other teams, but you gotta be really careful ’cause you don’t want to push him too far,” she said. A “bombastic” energy accompanies Silva at work, said Emilie Frohlich, who has worked with him for about two years. Martins characterized him as a devoted employee who was a natural fit as Heritage Meat Market’s head butcher. “Silva is a fantastic butcher and an honest man,” he said. “He is old school in both his craft and in his personal style.” However, his traditional inclinations don’t necessarily extend to a conventional fashion sense, Martins noted. “Silva wears the most colorful tiger- and alligator- motif shirts ever made by the textile industry or the reptile industry,” he said. EastVillagerNews.com
November 13, 2014
PHOTO BY ZACH WILIAMS
Heavy trucks on Canal St., such as at Bowery, above, mean the boulevard is at greater risk of fatalities, according to Councilmember Margaret Chin, victim’s family members and activists.
Chin calls for new safety study on truck routes CANAL ST., continued from p. 1
courage trucks to be funneled dangerously onto Canal St. and through Lower Manhattan, in general, Chin and others charge. Family members of accident victims and representatives of Community Boards 1 and 3 joined her on Mon., Nov. 10, at the intersection of Bowery and Canal St. not only to call for increased safety, but to demand that drivers in three recent fatal collisions be criminally charged. “To end a life and not be held accountable is something New Yorkers everywhere should be very concerned about,” Chin said. Motor vehicles struck and killed three elderly residents crossing local streets within crosswalks between Aug. 28 and Oct. 14 of this year. Details are less clear in the death of a 59-year-old Canadian man who was struck at an unknown location along Canal St. on Oct. 30 by a private sanitation truck, which continued moving until stopping at the intersection at Centre St. While the first three incidents did not involve commercial trucks, Chin said that diverting such traffic elsewhere could ultimately save lives. While Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative has led to improvements in traffic safety, more must be
November 13, 2014
done along the entirety of Canal St., according to Chin and activists. “I believe that if we do take the trucks off Canal St., we will see a safer place for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers — and that includes both tourists and residents,” she said. According to data compiled by nyc.crashmapper.com, there were 267 traffic collisions at the intersection of Canal and Bowery between August 2011 and February of this year. Further west, 110 such incidents occurred at Canal and West Broadway during the same period. More than two collisions per month occurred at the intersection where Sau Ying Lee, 90, died on Oct. 14 just steps from the curb at Elizabeth and Canal Sts. “Legally, my mom had the right of way when she crossed the street,” said Michael Cheung, Lee’s son, who added his opinion that the driver lied when telling investigators that he could not see Lee. The driver of the S.U.V. that killed his mother faces no charges, though that and the other incidents remain under investigation, according to Chin, who said she recently discussed the matter with the District Attorney’s Office. She and others have called for criminal charges against that driver, as well as those who struck Shu Fan Huang, 82, on Aug. 28 and Sui Leung, also 82, on Sept. 25.
The purported lack of accountability on the part of drivers is a “disgrace,” according to attorney Steve Vaccaro. He said that responsibility for pursuing such cases can fall by the wayside amid the city’s bureaucracy. “There are plenty of laws on the books but they are not being enforced the way they should be,” he said. Trucks and buses exacerbate traffic congestion on Lower Manhattan streets, resulting in overcrowded streets and a greater likelihood of fatal collisions, according to C.B. 1 Chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes. Some outside-the-box thinking would help address the situation, according to C.B. 3 Chairperson Gigi Li. She referred to recent cooperation between C.B. 3 and D.O.T. on Allen and Delancey Sts. as reasons for optimism. “We really need to think about how we can proactively redesign and be smart about vehicular patterns,” Li said. But for family members of crash victims, there is a sense that the death of a loved one must be properly acknowledged and commemorated. Without justice in these cases, Vision Zero cannot succeed, according to Hsi-Pei Liao, whose 3-year-old daughter died in a traffic collision last year in Queens. “We just want to see justice happen,” he said. EastVillagerNews.com
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7/16/14 5:13 PM
Fillmore’s former home rocks new historic plaque FILLMORE, continued from p. 1
PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Saint, a gay nightclub. “It was so powerful in its brief life, presenting defining and iconic music,” Berman said. “This was a cultural institution for the Lower East Side, New York and the world.” Among the many musical acts that performed there were The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Frank Zappa, the Chambers Brothers, Janis Joplin and John Lennon and Yoko Ono. A slew of hands flew up when Berman asked the crowd, “How many of you came here?” “I came here all the time and had a friend who was a friend of the ticket-taker. I never, ever paid,” said Bonnie Rosenstock, a longtime East Villager. She ticked off Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jethro Tull and Blood, Sweat and Tears as some of the acts she saw there. “I was there listening to The Who when an actual fire broke out,” Villager Jim Fouratt remembered. “The Who continued to play as they evacuated the auditorium row by row, starting from the back. This was all by design
from the Fire Department and The Who, to prevent panic.” Connie Martin, Apple Bank’s marketing director, saw the Allman Brothers, Joe Cocker and Iron Butterfly at the Fillmore East. Joshua White of the Joshua Light Show was among the speakers at the Oct. 29 ceremony. His “liquid lightshows” — psychedelic colors projected on the walls — was a lighting backdrop for many of the acts. “The light show was as important as the music,” Berman said. Lee Erdman showed up at the event wearing an original T-shirt from the era. Its back read “1970” and the front, “Happy Fillmore New Year.” Back then, he had been an N.Y.U. student and was a special projects stagehand. “The light show was the background to every show,” he said. Lenny Kaye, guitarist of the Patti Smith Group wrapped up the street-side honors singing “Uncle John’s Band” by The Grateful Dead, with lyrics slightly modified for the occasion. Fiddler Leon Hartman, son of Two Boots’ Phil Hartman, accompanied him.
Joshua White, of Joshua Light Show fame, whose psychedelic “liquid lightshows” were an integral part of the Fillmore East concerts.
The plaque, the latest installment in a program by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and the Two Boots Foundation.
November 13, 2014
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November 13, 2014
POLICE BLOTTER 7 women vs. 1 A war of words between women escalated to a seven-on-one melee at Hudson and Morton Sts. around 4 a.m. on Sun., Nov. 9. A group began punching and kicking a woman, 37, in front of 438 Hudson St. The victim suffered serious injury to her right eye, according to police. Arrested for gang assault were Jennifer Hall, Malgorzat Branch-Piatkowski, Keisha Blair, Shakima Smith, Tiara Donaldson, Gabriella Rowe and Jaquaya Clark, all in their early to mid-twenties. It was not immediately clear if the incident had any connection to Henrietta Hudson, the lesbian bar located at that address.
Wok window throw A man needed 40 stitches to his face after being thrown through a Chinese-food restaurant window at about 5:30 p.m. on Sat., Nov. 8, according to police. The altercation occurred in front of King Wok, at 222 Varick St. Police searched the area and found
Raheen Jones, 35, nearby in front of Houston Hall, at 222 W. Houston St. Three witnesses identified him as the perpetrator, according to police. He was charged with felony assault.
Brought to heel Police learned of an assault in the subway station at W. Fourth St. and Sixth Ave. at about 4:20 a.m. on Sat., Nov. 8. According to two witnesses, three men attacked a 25-year-old man with their fists and also a high-heeled shoe. The victim required medical attention for a laceration and minor cuts to his face. Shanique Campbell, 20; Kevin Gil, 21; and Danay Howard, 21, were charged with felony assault.
Meatpack attack Four individuals got away after attacking a 36-year-old man in front of The Griffin nightclub, at 50 Gansevoort St. Two other suspects
weren’t so lucky. The group of six attacked the victim at about 4:30 a.m. on Sat., Nov. 8, police said. They kicked and punched the man, causing facial and body injuries requiring him to be transported to Bellevue Hospital. A woman, Rama Motakhabi, 29, and a man, Jermaine Morrison, 34, were arrested and charged with gang assault. Police did not provide descriptions of the other suspects.
High thiefs low point Marijuana smoking in the subway led to the arrest of a cell phone thief on the morning of Fri., Nov. 7. At about 5:40 a.m., an officer observed a man puffing on a joint in an unidentified station, according to a police report. When the officer approached, the man threw the reefer onto the rails. The officer searched the man upon arrest and found a stolen cell phone in his left pants pocket. Suspected cocaine was also found in a jacket pocket. According to police, the cell phone was stolen from a 24-year-old male outside the McDonald’s at 136 W. Third St. Hector Cuevas, 24, was charged with grand larceny
Three days later, Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton announced that persons caught with 25 grams of pot or less — a quantity presumably for personal use, not for sale — will now only be ticketed, not arrested. Smoking pot in public, though, is still subject to arrest.
‘Clipped’ in subway Finding an illegal switchblade came easily for one astute police officer during the night of Thurs., Nov. 6. A man, 43, was win the subway station at Eighth Ave. and W. 14th St. at about 11:30 p.m. that night. The cop noticed a metal clip protruding from the man’s right pants pocket. He stop and frisked the suspect, finding the black-handled knife. Julian Dorville, whom a police report stated is a transit system recidivist, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon. As detailed in a recent Village Voice article, possession of any pocket knife that can be opened with the flick of one hand — as opposed to using two hands — is an arrestable offense.
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PHOTOS BY JOHN PENLEY
Fighting for an end to war Veterans for Peace held their 29th annual convention this summer at the University of North Carolina, in Asheville. This year’s convention was titled, “Peace or Perish: Abolish War on Planet and Poor.” T:8.75”
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Eye on the sky An interesting contrast to the photographer’s eye was the gleaming new One World Trade Center soaring in the distance with an old-style Corvington, long-armed lamppost in the foreground, with perching city pigeons that, well, weren’t exactly soaring.
PHOTO BY MILO HESS
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Helped save St. Mark’s To The Editor: Re “Judith Edelman, 91, pioneering female architect” (obituary, Oct. 30): Thanks for the wonderful remembrance of late architect Judith Edelman in your latest issue of The Villager. She and her husband played a major role in restoring St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery after the devastating fire in 1978 (not 1969 as stated in your article). St. Mark’s is still going strong under the leadership of Reverend Winnie Varghese. I joined St.
Mark’s in the aftermath of the fire and am still a parishioner there. Jimmy Fragosa, formerly part of the Youth Preservation Project sponsored by St. Mark’s, is our longtime sexton. Katharine B. Wolpe
She’s N.Y.C. ambassador? To The Editor: Taylor Swift?... Are there no New York City songwriters or musicians who could write a song
and be a face representing the city? There is no talent in New York City? What is the message being sent to struggling or successful artists? Where are our politicians on this corporate insult to New York City talent? Where are the agencies that represent our local talent? What is the message to the average New Yorker? Tell me de Blasio is different from Bloomberg. It is one thing to make New York City into a corporate mall filled with cookie-cutter corporate businesses. But now we have an individual with almost no relationship to New York City as the face and voice representing the city. It is like we have lost our mind. Clayton Patterson
Who’s blurring the issue? To The Editor: Re “Famed actress’s cousin is charged in Stuy Town elevator attempted rape” and “Novel plan to save ‘dysfunctional’ former squat” (news articles, Oct. 23): Lincoln Anderson made the link between the crime issue and the building on E. 13th St. because Juan Scott lived in this infamous building. Juan
Some Republicans seem to be salivating over a Clinton candidacy. 14
November 13, 2014
LETTERS, continued on p. 17 EastVillagerNews.com
From the Cliffs to L.E.S., an urban fish story NOTEBOOK BY ANDREW CASTRUCCI
grew up on the lower Hudson River. I fished the piers from Hoboken and Edgewater to under the G.W.B. Fishing the Hudson River since I was 12 years old, I caught thousands of eels, hundreds of tommycods, shad, perch, snapper and cocktail blues, bullhead catfish, blue crabs — and my first striper in 1974, the year they passed the Clean Water Act. Watching the Hudson come back to life was a fascinating experience for a young teen. From my kitchen window growing up in Cliffside, I stared daily at the Seatrain pier off the cliffs in Edgewater, wondering if life existed in these waters. I was always on the lookout for fishermen. But most of the time, the action on the pier was criminal mischief, a place to ditch your car or have a secret meeting. Finally, in 1972, Chippy Quinn and I gathered our gear on a rainy Saturday morning. At the river, we were greeted by the strong odor of saltwater, urine and a toxic brew of an old forgotten industrial era. The Seatrain dock had rusty cables swinging, a constant whisper of loose rattling steal — you could feel the ghosts, some sort of time warp like it was 1950. Our bait was sand worms...2-ounce weight, No. 2 hook, as the tide started to move. We were on the longest pier on the Hudson. Its corners had two huge steel bulkhead ties the size of massive breasts, holding boats loading freighter ghost ships. We caught six eels each that day. My hands were slimed as I struggled to unhook them. I sold all of mine for a dollar a pound to my German neighbor Willie Walter on Adolphus Ave. They stayed in his basement sink overnight, still alive. In the morning, he nailed them to a tree and peeled their skin, then pickled them. Eels were a delicacy for the Italian and Germans from the old country, especially during the holidays. At this point in time, I was afraid to eat the fish from the Hudson. Chippy Quinn and I, and later, Mike Petrosino, Paul Clark and Frank Napoli returned every weekend in those days to fish the Seatrain pier. We were getting used to the bite habits of migratory and native fish. Tommycods with colder water, stripers till December, catfish when the cherry trees blossomed. One day, Willie Walter was waiting at the top of the cliff, knowing from his binoculars that the bite was hot that day. He was waiting like a EastVillagerNews.com
Andrew Castrucci with a keeper striped bass that he caught in the East River.
child for his candy, but I wanted $3 a pound for my first keeper striper. I settled on $2. That equaled $15 for a fat-bellied striped bass, plus an extra $ 5 for five eels. Oooh did he love those eels! He lived to 94. Later, Willie would try to catch his own eels — until they stole his Mercedes hubcaps. I soon became Willie’s hired fisherman. I had good cannabis money at age 13. By my late teens, the Seatrain pier was becoming a big hangout 24/7. We hopped freights back and forth to the Meadowlands, typical juvenile behavior. It took me 23 years to cross the river. It felt like I was crossing an ocean, to the newfound land. In the early ’80s, I moved to the Lower East Side and opened up the A&P Gallery with my brother Paul on rough-and-tumble E. Fourth St. between Avenues B and C, later moving into a squat on E. Third St. between Avenues C and D — from the frying pan into the fire — later calling it Bullet Space. A strong cultural scene was developing Downtown mixed with the
criminal element — squatters, junkies, punks, runaways, graffiti artists and art school dropouts. A lot of fish roamed Alphabet City at this time. It was junkie haven... CBGB’s, St. Mark’s Place. There were Gringo, Harley, Squid, Slim, Bubblegum, Cheese, Jimmy Gestapo, Charlie Bananas — names like out of a “Bowery Boys” episode or a Charles Dickens novel. There were squats, abandoned buildings, the fallen American dream, a dystopian landscape. Abandoned cars littered the area under the F.D.R. The city was slowing coming out of its recession. Reagan was elected president. I needed to find some beauty, an escape from the decadence around me. Art didn’t fully cut it for me. Between gallery openings, on my days off, I started trekking the East River. Striped bass where making a big comeback. PCB’s where being reduced in river fish. Mostly Puerto Rican and Chinese immigrants fished the river. Fishing was a religion to the Chinese. Puerto Rican men were dreaming of their island youth; in-
stead of living on subsistence diets with food stamps, they caught their own food. East River striper fishing soon became a black market on the sidewalks of Chinatown. Puerto Rican kids made some loose change on these sidewalks — loose change that turned into 30 pounds of bass for $60 to $90, sometimes topping $100, in a 30-minute rush hour. This was mostly under the cover of night under subway bridge overpasses, hidden around corners. I felt an adrenaline rush, like a sexual buzz, from passing Chinese workers with stripers laid out on newspaper on the sidewalk. They knew fresh fish when they saw them: clear eyes, red gills. They sold them for only $2 a pound when the fish markets ran up to to $6 a pound. The river was starting to get cleaner by the late ’80s. It was safe to eat stripers, one a month. I would keep only younger fish, “schoolies” — 22 L.E.S. FISHING, continued on p. 16 November 13, 2014
From the Cliffs to L.E.S., an urban fish story L.E.S. FISHING, continued from p. 15
inches to 26 inches long — safer to eat. Big ones were carrying too many toxins. I also threw back stripers under 20 inches. One out of 50 fish was a legal 28-inch keeper. We had to hide our catches. I was getting better at finding stripers. I became a dock rat. Pre-9/11, docks were freer to roam. I was beating out the Chinese and Puerto Rican master striped bass fisherman. I had the touch. Reeling in not too fast, a few jiggles of the lure, 20-pound test line, shad lures weighted down soaked in bunker oil. Some guys used spark plug weights, anything you could recycle out of abandoned cars that littered the area under the elevated F.D.R. Drive. I was catching about a 100 stripers a migration cycle, returning half back to the sea. On Pier 17, a Chinese man quoted me a proverb: “You will live a long life since you return some fish back to the sea.” But the Chinese were the worst, keeping everything — even 12-inch stripers. As soon as I caught a striper, I would bleed it right away, cutting it above the tail fin. When I got home, I gutted them. At first, with no running water in my squat, I washed
them outside and gutted them with fire hydrant water. I had to fight off junkies cleaning their needles. My next step was cutting out the belly fat, dark meat, then eliminating the skin. These three cutouts eliminated most of the toxins. Later, in 2006, when my squat was legalized and we had gas, hot water, electricity, I would bake bass in the oven. I would first soak the bass in wine for a few hours, add some salt, pepper, lemon, a little butter, then cook for seven minutes at 350 degrees, a white light meat. I would often serve it with brown rice, asparagus and white wine. Cooking became a lot easier when we our squat was legalized. But it was amazing how much we learned to cook on a hotplate with jimmied wires. Sometimes I would cook on my potbelly stove. We collected wood crates in Chinatown, and washed-up logs under the Brooklyn Bridge. I carried a 5-gallon jug of water up five flights of stairs every other day. I didn’t need to go to a gym: I chopped wood and carried water. When my squat was legalized, I sort of fell apart and gained 15 pounds. On the Lower East Side, the Chinese taught me a lot about fish. They were the best fishmongers. When I
Andrew Castrucci with another massive East River striper, inside the entranceway of Bullet Space, on E. Third St.
overfished a few stripers and needed some extra money, I would sell a few on the sidewalks of Chinatown during the nighttime rush hour. I sold my fish a few hours after I caught them. I would always find ice at the South St. Seaport market while they where unloading trucks. My presentation was sharp, with the fish laid on top of burlap on the sidewalk, sprayed with some ice and river water. In 10 to 15 minutes, I had sold out. I once sold a 32-inch, 16-pounder for $50. I had to be fast and quick. I felt like a drug dealer. I escaped into the night, after a quick hit-and-run. I felt like a true New Yorker eating fish from the East River, a real dock rat. I became that Edgewater Rat of my youth, the ones the Cliffside Boys would battle in gang fights if caught climbing the cliffs. I started growing a tail, moving faster, growing fins. My skin started to shine in silver, iridescent lines. I became slippery, not with olive oil skin, but with fish oil. My sense of smell increased, I could see in the dark.
November 13, 2014
I became a hardcore urban angler, addicted to the bite. I became a junkie with a fishing pole and hook, trying to get the big one that got away last night. I stalked the piers at night, where the only people out were junkies, hookers, tranies, suicide jumpers, fishmongers, South St. fish market workers unloading with gaffe in hand, around a 50-gallon drum fire, staying warm in November cold spells. With my visions, I was seeing tears showing up in the sidewalk cracks where stripers formerly roamed. I become an expert on finding them, under docks, rips, rock formations — in the sidewalk cracks, abandoned cars, in the canyons of the Lower Lower East Side. Full moon, new moon. ... Slack tide, ebb tide. ... Two days before, two days after spring and fall migrations. ... I became that fish, that striped bass. Like they say, you are what you eat. This piece will appear in an unconventional cookbook, to be published in Italy next year, in which artists share their personal stories and recipes. EastVillagerNews.com
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Continued from p. 14
Scott has allegedly attempted to rape one woman and sexually abused two others recently in the neighborhood, and for this he is now in jail awaiting trial. The building at 544 E. 13th St. was supposed to be completed as an H.D.F.C. for low-income people years ago, and UHAB has been unable to complete the task. Aggressive and unfounded hate comments about Annie Wilson are inappropriate responses to these articles. Trudy Silver
Sobering thoughts To The Editor: Two years after Sandy, what is being planned will help. But it won’t solve the long-term problems of climate change and storm surges. And the problem keeps getting worse. Congress refuses to deal with
the problem. The National Weather Service is woefully understaffed. The insurance companies are not writing flood insurance policies. The repair work from Sandy is taking much too long, and it is questionable if much of it will ever be completed. Why is Europe so far ahead of us in dealing with its flooding problems? They have 50-year plans for the future that they are dealing with now. They are not playing catch-up like we are. Robert Trentlyon
A better berm and bridge To The Editor: Re “New storm-surge berm for L.E.S. could begin taking shape by 2017” (news article, Oct. 30): Does anyone know if the berms will be placed on the west side of the F.D.R., effectively making the park bigger by the Grand St. co-ops? Or will they be built on the east side, on existing parkland?
Also, has any thought been given to widening the bridge over the F.D.R. from Corlears Hook Park to East River Park, effectively making the two parks into one large park with the bridge serving as part of the berm? Building the berm on the west side of the F.D.R. and widening the bridge to join the two parks together would not only provide protection against flooding, but would also give the LES a much larger — and needed — park. Joseph Hanania
Lost without labyrinth To The Editor: Re “Union Square pavilion restaurant could be cooked, local pols say” (news article, Oct. 16): I have long mourned the fact that the public no longer had free use of the pavilion in Union Square. I remember sitting there having snacks and quiet conversation with neighborhood friends back in the early ’70s. Later on, we never got over being
stopped from entering the structure unless you paid to get in. It is a community park, after all is said and done! Community life is not all about money, kids and dogs. We also are saddened that the wonderful labyrinth, which used to be just to the north of the pavilion, was paved over and never redone. Many people actually took meditative walks in that labyrinth — at all hours. Once you began the walk, it was amazing how the traffic sounds and city’s bustle retreated as you centered your thoughts and energy away from them. It had become a tradition for many — now it is lost. George Jones E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to email@example.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 Metrotech North, 10th floor, Brooklyn, NY, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. The Villager does not publish anonymous letters.
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Bowery Gallery’s radical notions persist Exhibit features work from artist-run co-op’s founders BOWERY GALLERY FOUNDING MEMBERS 1969 Free Through November 29 Wed.–Sun. 1–6 p.m. At Westbeth Gallery 55 Bethune St. (corner of Washington & Bank Sts.) Visit bowerygallyer.org and westbeth.org
BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC
resh out of Cooper Union, the School of Visual Arts, Pratt and the New York Studio School, a network of young artists banded together to start a co-operative. Nearly 45 years later, their legacy is being highlighted in an exhibition that showcases work from the late sixties to the present. The 23 young artists who founded Bowery Gallery first met through their professors, neighborhoods and various drawing classes. There was also a gathering called the Alliance of Figurative Artists, which took place for every Friday night on East Broadway, recalled original Bowery Gallery member Anthony Santuoso. The Jewish organization that owned the building, which was called the Educational Alliance, let the artists use the space for free. There would be dialogues, discussions, panels and critique of work, which would sometimes get very savage, he said. “It was like an Italian opera. If they don’t like it, they would throw rotten tomatoes at you,” said Santuoso, who paints, in a phone interview. The Bowery Gallery was an outgrowth of those meetings, and several members said that Lawrence Faden was the catalyst, the connector who got the group together to found Bowery Gallery in 1969. EastVillagerNews.com
at the docks with another founding member, Howard Kalish. Another member, the late Tony Siani, once told him that there was a wealthy benefactor who would back a new gallery for the artists. But Faden, who paints, grew tired of waiting. “One day I got disgusted and I just said ‘I’m starting a gallery,’ “ he said. “I invited other people to participate.” For young, still-evolving artists, said Faden, it was hard to get the art world interested. “We wanted to have this place to examine our work in public,” said Faden. “We got a place in the Bowery that was a total wreck.” The space had no floor. The artists had to patch up and paint the walls, put in lights and install a floor. Several of them were working in construction while they pursued art. Faden said Richard Uhlich, who was a painter and watercolorist, also had carpentry skills. “We had to build the Lawrence Faden: “Wild Bird” (1971, oil/linen, 40 x 30 in.). place ourselves,” said Santuoso. “He basically gathered people together and Nancy Beal says she remembers taking a wire made it seem like it was possible,” said Santuobrush to scrape the walls of the gallery. Beal, so, who grew up in New Jersey. who was from Pittsburgh, knew Sam Thurston, It was an idea whose time had come, Faden who invited her to join. told Chelsea Now in a phone interview. Faden, who grew up in Brooklyn, was working BOWERY, continued on p. 20 November 13, 2014
Bowery Gallery exhibit features founding BOWERY, continued from p. 19
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
“I was onboard right at the beginning,” she said in a phone interview. “It was a very exciting time, 1969. When we did get together, we became fast friends so quickly.” Beal, who was a grade school teacher, said she remembers hauling the garbage that had been inside and the group sitting on the heap of junk to take their first photo. “We pulled it together somehow,” said Beal. Beal says that she paints outdoors, which is also her subject: “What I paint is what I see.” The co-op gallery was opened October 31, 1969. Out of the Bowery Gallery, two more were started: Prince Street Gallery (at 530 W. 25th St.) and First Street Gallery (at 526 W. 26th St.). A co-op gallery is one where the members pay a monthly fee and are then guaranteed to have their work shown, explained Lynda Caspe, who paints and sculpts. To become a member, the others vote an artist into the gallery. In 1969, it cost $10 a month to be part of the Bowery Gallery, Caspe told Chelsea Now during an interview in her Tribeca apartment. “It turned out to be the best investment I ever made in my life,” said Caspe about her apartment, which she brought in 1973 in a neighborhood that has now transformed. Caspe grew up on the Upper West Side, but attended university in the Midwest and traveled through Europe before returning to New York City. She lived in an apartment on Delancey St. for $25 a month and lived around the corner from Faden. Both had attended the New York Studio School. Many art schools were focused on teaching figurative art, such as Cezanne, said Caspe, but figurative
Anthony Santuoso: “Friending Death” (2014, oil/canvas, 56 x 64 in.).
art was not in vogue. “Students came out steeped in figurative art and the art world was not into that kind of thing,” she said. Caspe said that at first the group showed together and then there were individual shows. The gallery moved from the Bowery to Greene St., and is now at 530 W. 25th St. BOWERY, continued on p. 21
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members’ work, 1969 to present BOWERY, continued from p. 20
She stayed with the Bowery Gallery until 1976. Caspe came back to the Bowery Gallery in 2001 and stayed for the next decade. During that time, she was the director and had thought about a show that would feature the work of founding members. Caspe, along with Santuoso, both credit Eugene Maiese as the driving force behind this current exhibition at the Westbeth Gallery. The venue is connected to the Westbeth Artists Housing, which provides space for artists, and has been showing its resident artists, international artists and other artists for the past 40 years. Maiese wanted to draw attention to the group, said Santuoso, and what happened in that time period. In his essay that begins the Bowery Gallery catalog, Maiese writes that the artists “dared to challenge the conventions of the day” and “believed in the radical idea that artists could represent themselves, that they didn’t need to be presented in
fancy galleries, or represented by agents or supported by big money.” The Bowery Gallery, at its current location, said Caspe, would not be big enough for this exhibition, which features 19 of the 23 original founding members. “This Bowery Group had a certain connection,” said Beal, who was recently at the gallery to help put up her work. “I was thrilled to see the new paintings. I am so impressed how good people got over time.” Beal said this exhibition was an opportunity for those who hadn’t been able to show their work recently. Some of the founding members have died, some have moved on from art, but several still create art as well as teach, such as Santuoso, who now teaches at the Fashion Institute of Art. “You would think that, lots of the time, [galleries] evolve for a period of time and then they dissipate and disappear,” said Faden. “These galleries have become a consistent thing on the scene. How many things have lasted 45 years?”
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
Linda Caspe: “Autobiography” (2014, bronze, 23 x 15 in.).
COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
Nancy Beal: “Melo Mel Red Tub” or “Cat on the Porch” (1977, oil/canvas, 28 x 21 in.). EastVillagerNews.com
November 13, 2014
Jerry Tallmer, 93, wrote with heart about the soul BY SCOTT SITFFLER
PHOTO BY JONATHAN SLAFF
hen a theater critic passes away, those in his workplace orbit don’t normally rush to pen glowing testimonials. Most of them simply aren’t moved to do so, while the rest are too busy jockeying for position on the graveyard backhoe. The reaction to Jerry Tallmer’s death was, like his work, beyond the scope of standard protocol. A New York City native, Tallmer was just weeks shy of his 94th birthday when he died on November 9, taking with him an unyielding drive — and an exceedingly rare ability — to communicate the essence of an author’s message, an actor’s method, or a person’s life. While lesser human beings (and, therefore, lesser writers) are miserly with generating content that doesn’t bolster their opinion or assert their authority, the arts and entertainment features written by Tallmer for this publication regularly surrendered long stretches of his available word count to excerpts from the script. This was done in the service of calling attention not only to the playwright’s craftsmanship, but also to the heart and soul of the work. Combine that with Tallmer’s ability to place contemporary productions within the context of versions seen decades ago, and the scope of his loss begins to take shape. Not exactly given to hyperbole or fits of unearned praise, show business historian (and The Villager/East Villager’s Downtown theater columnist) Trav S.D. recalls that upon meeting Tallmer a decade ago, “He gave me a look, the sort of expression only a New Yorker could love, not of bewilderment, but of fatigue, a look that said, ‘What’s that? Some kind of a joke name? I got no time or energy or patience for even trying to understand what you’re telling me.’ But I sure knew who he was. Small in physical stature, he was a giant (or ought to have been) in Off-Broadway. After all,
Jerry Tallmer, at his 2012 induction into the Players Club Hall of Fame.
he was the man who named it. He was the guy who reviewed all of those legendary experimental productions for The Village Voice in the late fifties and early sixties, and founded the Obie Awards. He encouraged thousands of artists to be brave. In essence, he was midwife to the very culture that
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inspired me to adapt a pseudonym in the first place. Theater in the sixties operated according to the premise that this is a world of infinite possibility. We need the likes of Jerry Tallmer right now more than ever.” The ripple effects have never abated from that decisive moment when Tallmer (then with The Village Voice) committed to frequent ventures below 14th Street, in the interest of spotlighting a new form of theater. His method of covering Downtown paralleled that less formal world of shoestring budgets and a black box sets, resulting in an equally unique and personal style of criticism. Those familiar with his many years of feature/review hybrid work in this publication will recall, hopefully with fondness, how Tallmer frequently went off-topic. Childhood memories and pop culture references from the first half of the 20th century were momentary diversions, though, and lovingly (though not always strongly) anchored to the topic at hand.
Readers only saw in passing the physical effort it took to cover a story. Half of any job, after all, is showing up — and Tallmer, at every stage of his life, did it with gusto. Actor and theatrical press agent Jonathan Slaff recalls a lasting impression, while Tallmer was working for the New York Post: “I was amazed at how many small theaters he would cover for a big paper. Like the time in the very early 1990s when he came to review a version of ‘Hamlet’ set in 1930s Bulgaria at the House of Candles Theater on Stanton Street. It was maybe the second show after that new space opened. There was torrential rain that night. Transit was broken and cabs were scarce. He was already elderly and seemed frail. I wondered how he would get to the theater. He did. He came splashing to the theater on time. The audience, what there was of it, sat there dripping wet. He began his review, ‘This swimmer...’ He came to the work of new artists with an eye for discovery. He was not only a discerning critic, he was also a great reporter. That was the difference between him and many other people who write about the arts.” Rolling Stone co-founder Michael Lydon, a musician on the current Village performance scene, only knew Tallmer through his work. As a writer who recently handed in, early, an assignment to this publication’s arts section, Lydon had no reason to reach out to us this week, other than to note, “I always felt he was on the artist’s side. He knew and sympathized with the struggles to do original work, meaningful work, and also, the struggles to get gigs, recognition, bodies in seats. New York is a tough town. Jerry Tallmer understood the whole battle and did his best to cheer us on.” When I became The Villager/East Villager’s arts editor several years ago, Jerry left the polite greetings in the dust and got down to the real work of forcefully advocating for his favorite artists and producing entities (he was a soft touch, rightfully so, for anything from the Mint Theater Company). We often clashed on what to cover — but agreed that bad reviews, even at two words (“Don’t go!”) were not the best use of finite newsprint space. So began the process of messengers delivering scripts to Jerry’s apartment, where he’d put aside the best and consign the also-rans to the dustbin. When it came time to whittle that list down even further, Jerry never played the “Obie” card or reminded me of the fact that his legacy as a writer and editor predated my birth. He didn’t have to. Jerry got the gig like he covered the show: on merit. For more on Jerry Tallmer’s life, see the obituary in the news section of this paper — also available on the website, along with an archive of his arts and entertainment articles. EastVillagerNews.com
Just Do Art BY SCOTT STIFFLER
DOC NYC: DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL
Revelations wreak havoc on relationships, in “Negative is Positive.”
niors/children. Panels and Master Classes: $12 adults, $10 seniors, $9 students.
NEGATIVE IS POSITIVE
A little honesty is all it takes to level the playing field and change the game — in Theater for the New City’s world premiere production of “Negative Is Positive.” Christy-Smith Sloman’s slow-burning dramedy centers around the suspicions, ambitions and expectations of driven pastry chef Simone, whose husband David has given up a steady gig to pursue an unlikely goal. Recently transplanted to Gowanus from the Upper West Side, the newly married couple’s dynamic is about to become as ugly (and potentially toxic) as “the weird brown goo that bubbles up from the drain every so often.” When Simone makes a shocking confession just before happi-
ly coupled George and Brianna arrive for a pleasantly sociable night of binge viewing, all four find themselves occupied by the ripple effects of their own selfish, and very human, actions. Through Nov. 30. Thurs. Fri. & Sat. at 8 p.m. & Sun. at 3 p.m. At Theater for the New City (155 First Ave., btw. 9th & 10th Sts.). For tickets ($15), call 212-868-4444 or visit smarttix.com. For info: negativeispositivetheplay.com and theaterforthenewcity.net.
CultureHub Presents REFEST
An experimental incubator where multiple disciplines and mediums intersect, the annual art fair and technology festival known as REFEST touches down at La MaMa’s CultureHub from Nov. 21–23. On opening night,
PHOTO BY SCOTT ANGER
“The Return” considers the unique reality of being Jewish in contemporary Poland (Nov. 18 & 20, at IFC, as part of DOC NYC).
“Soul Boys of the Western World” charts the rise, fall, and rise of Spandau Ballet (Nov. 15, as part of DOC NYC).
PHOTO BY MAGALI CHARRON
PHOTO BY LYNN GOLDSMITH
True crimes, intimate struggles, epic personal journeys and sweeping social movements are among the tales told — dozens of them by local directors — when America’s largest documentary film festival unspools on the screens of SVA, IFC and Bow Tie Chelsea cinemas. Consult the DOC NYC website (docnyc.net) for a complete list of the 150+ films and events. We’re highlighting these three on the strength of their premise, as well as the fact that the filmmakers will be in attendance for a post-screening Q&A (as is the case with many of the festival selections). “Soul Boys of the Western World” looks at the rise and fall and rise of Spandau Ballet, a group of working class Brits who made 1980s synthpop safe for introspective lyrics, while making ravenous fans of both sexes swoon over their trend-setting clothes and voluminous hair. Director George Hencken convinced the members to tell their own stories, and intertwined that with period footage and never-before-seen home movies. Nov. 15, 9:45 p.m. at Chelsea’s SVA Theatre. Visit spandauballetthemovie.com. Sentenced to death for a 1892 double homicide that took place in a Chicago park, Anthony Porter was 48 hours from being executed — when an investigation by Northwest University journalism students led to the confession of Alstory Simon and the exoneration of Porter. “A Murder in the Park” argues that there are holes in this too-good-to-be-true plot twist, and that both men in question were “just pawns in a much larger plan.” Nov. 17, 9:30 p.m. at IFC Center. More info at facebook.com/PorterMovie. Filmed in Israel, Prague and Brooklyn, longtime Village resident Adam Zucker’s “The Return” looks at the religious and cultural awakening of four Polish Catholic women who discovered their Jewish identity while in their teens, then struggled to create a community in a country that was once the epicenter of the Jewish world. This film screens Nov. 18 & 20 at IFC, as part of DOC NYC, then has a Dec. 3 screening at the Museum of Jewish Heritage (in Battery Park City). Visit thereturndocumentary.com. Through Nov. 20, at the IFC Center (323 Sixth Ave. at W. Third St.), Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas (260 W. 23rd St., btw. 7th & 8th Aves.) and the SVA Theatre (333 West 23rd St., btw. 8th & 9th Aves.). For schedule info & tickets, visit docnyc.net. Regular screenings: $17 adults, $15 se-
“WordHack” (8 p.m.) uses code poetry, digital and e-lit, and devArt to explore the intersection of language and technology. At 9 p.m., “Close Up” is a full-immersion art party hosted by media artists Tal and Omer Golan and dancers from LeeSaar The Company. It encourages well-lubricated attendees to ditch the notion of audience passivity and become active participants in “an ever-changing environment that combines live dance, theater and music with interactive video and audio recorded, mixed and projected in real time.” The evening concludes with Bubblyfish’s 9:30 p.m. performance of “Moori,” which incorporates the SMS of a smart phone. Nov. 22’s 11 a.m.–5 p.m. offering challenges kids and their parents to explore an arcade full of 3D games. At 5 p.m., Anna Barsan hosts a salon where artists present projects designed to subvert the practice of video surveillance. At 7:30 p.m., an electroacoustic performance by foci + loci considers the usage of video games as virtual sound stages. At 8 p.m., “Artcade” is This Near Future’s merging of old school video arcade socialization with contemporary, independently designed video games. The final event, at 8 p.m. on Nov. 23, brings the festival concept of interactivity and technology full circle — when The Fast Food Collective’s Eric Barry Drasin curates an evening of audio-visual speed dating. REFEST happens Fri.-Sun., Nov. 21– 23. At CultureHub (47 Great Jones St., 3rd Floor, btw. Bowery & Lafayette). For event prices, schedule and more info: culturehub.org/refest. November 13, 2014
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November 13, 2014
November 13, 2014
Jerry Tallmer, founding Voice editor, legendary OBITUARY BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
n oversize presence in the world of New York journalism for six decades, Jerry Tallmer, died on Sun., Nov. 9, at the Dewitt Hospice on the Upper East Side. He would have turned 94 in December. Tallmer was a founding editor of the Village Voice in 1955 — as its first film and drama critic and associate editor. In later years, however, he was a regular and prolific contributor to The Villager. He had been in and out of the Dewitt facility over the past year. While at the Voice, Tallmer founded the Obie Awards to honor the best in Off Broadway theater. During his career, Tallmer interviewed everyone who was anyone in theater, as well as many figures in film, jazz, literature, politics and even sports. According to his daughter, Abby Tallmer, a freelance editor and writer who lives in the Village, he reviewed and publicized the first production ever of Jean Genet’s “The Blacks,” and played a pivotal role in doing the first write-ups on the work of Edward Albee and on Tom Stoppard’s work in the U.S. He also reviewed and publicized the first U.S. production of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” she said. When Stoppard first came to New York and had nowhere to stay, Tallmer arranged for him to sleep on a cot in the Voice’s office. But after seven years at the fledgling alternative weekly, Tallmer, then a new father of twins, moved to the New York Post to make decent money. Starting the Voice was the idea of its co-founders, Ed Fancher and Dan Wolf. Norman Mailer was an early financial backer of the paper and had a weekly column. Tallmer was quickly brought on board. He had honed his newspaper skills early on in college as an editor of The Dartmouth. “Jerry was somebody very special,” Fancher told The Villager. “A great loss. ... We followed his pieces in The Villager. We’re subscribers. ... Jerry was a wonderful person. And one of the ironies was, when we started the Voice, we were in competition with The Villager — and Jerry wound up writing for The Villager.” Tallmer and Mailer famously feuded, in large part because the bombastic Mailer would always turn in the copy for his column, “An Advertisement for Myself,” so late on deadline, and sloppily written. Mailer would then get furious if it wasn’t proofread perfectly. Things came to a head when one phrase in one of his columns came out
November 13, 2014
Jerry Tallmer with Julie Harris in 1962 when he received the George Jean Nathan Award in Drama Criticism.
“nuisances of growth” when Mailer apparently had meant for it to read “nuances of growth.” “Norman would come in very late with his copy,” Fancher said. “And Jerry was working 20-hour days. ... Norman was crazy in those days, nutty.” Mailer, in a closed-door meeting, told editor Wolf and Fancher that it was either him or Tallmer — that one of them had to go. They told Mailer to take a hike. “Mailer didn’t want to edit. He just wanted to talk about sex, drugs and jazz,” said Tallmer’s daughter. According to her, her father always did, in fact, consider himself one of the “four founders” of the Voice. However, Fancher said, “Whether you consider him a founder or not — I don’t give a good goddam. He was very important to us. I don’t think we could have put the paper out without him.” In fact, Fancher said, if Tallmer had stayed at the Voice, he would have surely succeeded Wolf as the paper’s editor. “Dan was nine years older than I was. He wasn’t well,” he said. “Once we began to make a little money, Jerry would have made a better salary.” As for which one of them actually thought of the name the Village Voice, Fancher said no one is really sure. Jules Feiffer, the famed cartoonist, who was discovered by Tallmer, recalled the Voice’s beginnings — and how Tallmer helped create what came to be known as New Journalism. As they were moving ahead with the idea of starting the Voice, he said, Fancher, Wolf and Mailer “looked around for someone who knew something about putting out a paper, because Ed, Dan and Norman were intellectuals and theorists, so they didn’t know about this other stuff — like
every Wednesday, your paper somehow gets on the newsstands. So they hired Jerry, who, at least, had worked on a newspaper once. And by the time I walked in the door a year later, Jerry had taught himself what he needed to know to put a paper together that didn’t read or look like any other. “And since a cultural organ operating out of the Village must have a critic who reviews plays, Jerry took on that job, as well. And in no time, in a voice and style that was not lofty, not all-knowing, not out to prove how superior the critic was to the play under review, Jerry introduced openness to theater criticism. ... He helped invent the kind of voice that, within a few years, almost everyone was trying out in one form or another. Talking to the reader as if he’s a friend. He was my friend. He and his comrades at 22 Greenwich Ave. changed my life. And I am but one of many.” Ever since being laid off from the Post by Rupert Murdoch in 1993 — when Murdoch broke the paper’s union and fired more than 250 Post employees — Tallmer had been a contributor to The Villager, as well as its sister papers, Downtown Express, Gay City News and Chelsea Now. Tom Butson, a former editor of The Villager, eagerly snapped up the renowned scribe upon hearing he had been cut by Murdoch. Elizabeth Butson, Tom’s wife, was publisher of The Villager when they owned the paper from 1992-’99. “We were thrilled when Jerry Tallmer joined us as a columnist for The Villager in 1994,” she said. “They don’t make them like Jerry anymore. He was the consummate columnist. You hardly had to edit his copy. Knowledgeable just about on anything on New York. His big love was the theater and New
York City memories. Mention a name and he would tell you a story about that person. His prose glided and treated you with some tender turn of phrase. The Villager will miss you, Jerry. I certainly will.” Tallmer continued writing for The Villager under its next publisher, John W. Sutter, who owned the paper until two years ago. “One of New York City’s greatest writers of the past 60 years is gone,” Sutter said. “Over the years Jerry Tallmer regaled us with his unparalleled understanding of the New York City arts scene, its lineages, its deep wiring. Jerry understood talent and wrote about it with intelligence, wit and an unstoppable energy. It was one of my great pleasures as publisher to work with him.” Under Sutter, Tallmer helped start a specialty publication for older New Yorkers, Thrive, under which he could really show off his writing chops in longer-format articles. “Jerry helped me launch Thrive in 2005, and gave it its pulse,” Sutter said. “He knew everyone in the theater, art and literary worlds, and his Thrive interviews appeared to pick right up from conversations he was having with all of them. Barney Rosset, Peggy Pope, Cindy Adams, Edward Albee, Steven Lang, Earle Hyman, Eli Wallach, Tony Bennett, Leroy Neiman, Peter Falk, Marian Seldes, Jules Feiffer, Joe Franklin, Sidney Zion — the list goes on and on. Jerry was committed to making Thrive thrive, and some of his best writing was in there. Thrive had a great five-year run, but went down in the 2009 recession.” Tallmer was married four times, with the first three marriages ending in divorce. His first marriage was to Peggy Muendel, who was an “eccentric artist,” according to Abby. “She moved to New Mexico. My cousin Jill told me she had a pet monkey, that’s all I know,” she said. He next married Louise Tilis, a freelancer at the Voice who wrote its “Voice Feminine” column, with whom he had his children. She died in 1992. His son, Matthew, of Alexandria, Virginia, is a senior staff member for Congressmember Darrell Issa. Tallmer was next married for about 20 years to Marsha Levant, the daughter of “An American in Paris” actor Oscar Levant. For the past 20 years, he was married to Frances Monica Tallmer, a Spanish and ballet dancer who was doing P.R. for Art Insight Gallery when they met. They met there at an art opening. “He loved writing,” Frances said on Monday. “He was a very kind and gentle person, really. I loved him. I miss him terribly. I can’t get over it.” TALLMER, continued on p. 27 EastVillagerNews.com
theater critic and Obies founder, is dead at 93 TALLMER, continued from p. 26
In general, as a columnist, Tallmer deftly wove his memories and personal experiences together with contemporary events, providing a unique perspective. His pieces were always written fluidly and beautifully. In a fitting recognition, in 2012, Tallmer’s talking point and notebook columns in The Villager won first place for Best Column in the New York Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest. The judge wrote that he or she wanted to get a subscription to The Villager just to read Tallmer. The previous year, his Villager columns had won second place for Best Column. In 2003, a moving piece of Tallmer’s on the 40th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, in which Tallmer recalled how he reported the events of that devastating day, helped The Villager win first place for Best Editorial Pages. “This one is for Tallmer,” the awed judge simply wrote in his or her comments. Due to his having known so many influential figures, couple with his wonderful writing, Tallmer also helped The Villager win Best Obituaries numerous times in the NYPA awards. In October 2012, in recognition for his pioneering theater criticism, he was inducted into the Players Club Hall of Fame, where he was effusively praised by Albee as the country’s pre-eminent theater writer. Over the past two years, The Villager ran a number of Tallmer’s columns in which he reflected on the early history of the Voice. These were part of a collection of his writings on theater, his own life and the Voice that comprised his as-yet-unpublished autobiography. Tallmer’s last piece in The Villager, “Blue Moon Johnny; I wasn’t my brother’s keeper,” a reflection on his difficult, early family life, ran on the paper’s op-ed page just three weeks ago. The piece, however, had been submitted earlier this summer. Up until the very end, though, Tallmer was still writing on his laptop, with the help of Jonathan Slaff, an actor and theatrical press agent, who would assist him remotely if Tallmer had any problems with the computer. “I installed an application on his computer called TeamViewer,” Slaff said. “If he couldn’t figure out how to make the text larger, or needed to rename a file, I’d help him.” Even while at the nursing facility, Tallmer continued to pen previews of plays — by reading the scripts. Last year, Tallmer previewed “Daylight Precision,” a play at Theater for the New City about the dropping of EastVillagerNews.com
Jerry Tallmer, center, in front of the old Village Voice building on Greenwich Ave., with Ed Fancher, left, and Dan Wolf, right.
the atom bomb on Nagasaki. For this one, though, the cast members all came to his room at the nursing facility for the interview. The play held special significance for Tallmer, because he had been aloft in a U.S. military plane when the bomb detonated, and he had chillingly witnessed the horror of the mushroom cloud. When The Villager called him last Friday, Tallmer, though now bedridden and very weak, said he hoped to get his laptop back soon and start writing again. About a month ago, Tallmer had been transferred to Lenox Hill Hospital and then spent a short time at Bellevue Hospital’s hospice, before being transferred back to Dewitt. In the interim, his wife, Frances, had taken his laptop — given to Jerry by former publisher Sutter — for safekeeping. Slaff brought the computer back to Tallmer on Sunday. “He had called Friday, asking could I look up Tom Stoppard’s new play and could I bring him the laptop,” Slaff said. “Sunday, I brought it to him. I stayed for an hour, and then I left.” A few hours later, Tallmer had died. “A nurse said he had called and said he knocked the laptop off his table tray,” Slaff said. “I think he was trying to look up the Tom Stoppard show. I think he was trying to open Google. Jerry loved Tom Stoppard — and Tom loved Jerry, too.” Albert Amateau, The Villager’s former veteran reporter, who was about a dozen years Tallmer’s junior, said — from one pro to another — Tallmer
Jerry Tallmer with his wife, Frances, in 2006 when he received a Legends of the Village Award from VillageCare.
was the tops. “He was a consummate newspaper man, in my opinion,” he said. “He could to anything. He could report, write, edit, layout, design.” Although due to never having a pension — thanks to Murdoch — Tallmer always had to keep writing...and writing, as much to survive, as for the sheer joy of it. “He always needed money,” Amateau recalled, “and health insurance... . I loved him.”
One Sunday afternoon, Amateau, who had an especially heavy writing load that week, came in to The Villager’s office to work on an article. He found Tallmer there, writing away, as he usually did on Sundays. “Why don’t you get a life, Tallmer?” he cracked wise. Tallmer looked up from his keyboard and, with a light laugh, said — “This is my life.” Funeral arrangements were still being worked out. November 13, 2014
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