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BY ALI NE REYNOLDS hough many hurricanedamaged small businesses Downtown are loath to take on more debt than they have already accrued, loan programs remain the predominant sources of financial aid that is currently available to them. But a few grant programs have become available, including one dubbed “Lower Manhattan: Back to Business” created by the Alliance for Downtown New York, the area business improvement district (B.I.D.). It is open to businesses south of Chambers Street that are located in the city-designated Flood Zone A and have lost property from the storm or experienced business disruption for up to 10 days. The grants, which offer up to


Continued on page 3

PLAZA SPACE IN NAME ONLY Downtown Express photo by Milo Hess

THEY AIN’T AFRAID OF NO HEIGHTS A month before Christmas, Ladder 8 gave firefighters more than enough lift Sunday for them to decorate the Tribeca firehouse, a spot best known as the main location for “Ghostbusters”.

Scenes from Sandy: Black & blue with yellow stains, but rosy for others BY J OS H R O G E R S Tom Park rattled off some addresses that keep him in business: 88 Greenwich, 21, 75 and 90 West Street. All were either closed or recently opened but none had enough people living there last Friday to help him much. “One week we had no income totally,” Park, owner of New Rector Cleaners in the Financial District, said on Black Friday. Now more than four weeks after Superstorm Sandy smacked Lower Manhattan, he thinks daily revenue at his dry cleaner is down about 75 percent at 106 Greenwich St. He’s been able to avoid firing anyone because, he said, business is back to normal not too far up the street at his Tribeca store at 275 Greenwich St.

The laundry service was sandwiched between two of the Department of Buildings’ yellow “Restricted Use” stickers that have permeated the East and West Sides of Lower Manhattan. The stickers typically have handwritten information about storm related damaged but are often blank in the section headlined: “Entry, occupancy, and lawful use are restricted as indicated below.” But around the corner from Park’s store, the scenes were remarkably different. A small crowd, presumably tourists leaving the World Trade Center Memorial, was waiting to pay $ 17 an hour in parking at the Battery Parking Garage. In the other direction, Gerry Pryor was literally walking Pretty, his English Setter. He lives

at 125 Cedar St., within a block or few of the addresses Park listed. He said he felt badly for his displaced neighbors and other areas that had more damage, but for him, “there was just four or five days we had no power.” His deli reopened quickly after the storm and life soon got back to normal. A block away, large crowds streamed toward the W.T.C. down Thames St., which had been a quiet, narrow stretch prior to the memorial’s opening last year. Catty-corner to the memorial, Zuccotti Park was occupied by street dancers performing for tourists. Police did not stop the dancers from soliciting donations, and were Continued on page 26


BY ALI NE REYNOLDS o quit smoking, Financial District worker Brooke Sweet took up hula-hooping during her work breaks in spring 2011. Sweet, a data assistant at a mental health nonprofit at 50 Broadway, still hula-hoops 15 to 30 minutes a day in a plaza across from her building. “I thought I was being sneaky using private space for my own public use just to find out, ‘Wait a minute, I’m allowed to do this,’” she said. Though the plaza is designated by the city as a privately owned public space (POP), it is currently void of all public amenities, including the neces-


Continued on page 27



November 28 - December 11, 2012

Council district lines drawn

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The new proposed City Council district lines do not change Lower Manhattan’s District 1 much.

B Y L IN COL N ANDERSON The Districting Commission has released its final revised boundaries to be submitted to the U.S. Justice Dept. and Council Member Rosie Mendez is feeling happier about the latest lines. In the previous round, the northern part of her District 2 had been pushed crosstown and uptown significantly, zigzagging up through the West 30s and 40s. Now, she just has a few blocks added along her existing district’s northwest edge. “I think they paid attention to my testimony,” Mendez said, “where I said, ‘I’m an East Side council member and you’re making me a West Side council member.’” Advocates for an Asian-Latino district were once again unhappy with the new lines, in that they’re very close to the old lines. Margaret Fung, executive director of Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said, “We’re disappointed by the Districting Commission’s revised map, as to Districts 1 and 2. It was clear that the majority of Asian-

American groups that testified at the commission’s public hearings supported a different configuration — one that would unite Chinatown with the Lower East Side. This neighborhood has residents of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, with particular concerns about jobs, the loss of affordable housing units, public education, language access to services and more. Over the next decade, Asian and Latino residents will have greater difficulty in electing candidates of their choice, as the number of white residents continues to increase in Districts 1 and 2.” However, Council Member Margaret Chin never expected there would be major changes and supports something very close to the existing district lines, feeling that the current configuration represents the best chance to elect Asian-American candidates in Lower Manhattan’s District 1 — illustrated by her own election. The Justice Department is expected to review the plan by March.

November 28 - December 11, 2012


Small businesses Continued from page 1

$20,000 each, will be given to qualifying businesses that have 50 or fewer employees and gross annual revenues of a maximum of $5 million. To be eligible, businesses must also have to have been open for at least a year or have signed a five-year lease. Businesses that are still closed are also eligible, but they have to be scheduled to reopen by April 2013. The program is “about big businesses acknowledging the important role of small businesses and coming together as we have so many times so we can all move forward,” according to Downtown Alliance President Elizabeth Berger. Last weekend, Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced a new citywide small business grant of $5.5 million, $500,000 of which has been earmarked exclusively to businesses in Lower Manhattan south of Canal Street [See related NYC Reconnects story after P. 14]. The payments, valued up to $10,000 apiece, will be awarded to businesses with fewer than 100 employees that need to replace damaged supplies and other inventory. Additionally, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce is offering $500 grants toward businesses’ rent, payroll, cleanup and other storm-related expenses. As of Mon., Nov. 26, 86 Downtown small businesses had applied for S.B.S. loans, 17 of which had been approved. Another 68 loan applications were pending receipt by the city. These were among the approximately 350 merchants who have visited or called the S.B.S.’s Business Solutions Center at 79 John St. for assistance with these and other Sandy-related issues. Several Downtown merchants, some of whom are still paying back debt associated with 9/11, will not so much as consider applying for loans. Fernando Dallorso, owner of Stella, a bistro located on Front Street — one of the most Sandy-battered areas of the Seaport — is faced with approximately $400,000 in repairs and other damagerelated costs. Stella’s refrigerators alone — of which the restaurant has 10 — will cost $3,000 each to replace, Dallorso noted. To add insult to injury, he and his nearly 30 employees are currently out of work. “The floors have to be redone, the walls have to be redone, all the equipment…whatever is now being destroyed or ripped off is being renewed,” he said. As is the case with most Downtown businesses, Stella lacks flood-related insurance for the damages and economic losses. Though Gregg Bishop, deputy commissioner for Small Business Services and his team at the Downtown-based

Business Solutions Center have been advising merchants on insurance coverage, most of the insurance-related matters have been directed to the state Department of Financial Services (D.F.S.). “There a few businesses that I’ve seen that didn’t fully insure for flood damages,” he said. “I’ve also seen a lack of business interruption insurance, which is key, obviously, in this particular case.” “If there is a discrepancy,” Bishop added, “D.F.S. steps in on behalf of the business owner and talks to their carrier or insurance agent.”

Seaport Mall Still Closed Meanwhile, Pier 17 will remain closed until further notice, forcing all of the waterfront businesses, including several mom-and-pop shops, to close indefinitely. At a recent Community Board 1 meeting, Ann Marie Delaney, whose Harbour Lights Restaurant has been closed since the storm, accused the Howard Hughes Corporation, the pier’s leaseholder, of poorly communicating with its commercial tenants about the status of the pier. “We got two generic e-mails from [developer] Howard Hughes that the building is still being assessed,” she said. “If the Downtown Alliance is going to give me $20,000 if I can prove that I’m going to reopen in April, and then Howard Hughes is going to close me in May or June [for the reconstruction of Pier 17], it’s not a win-win situation.” Delaney added, “We’re part of the community for over 25 years, [and] we’re not getting any answers. It’s just very frustrating. At the end of the day, what do I tell my 55 employees? We can’t pay them now.” In a written statement, Howard Hughes said that the developer is committed to reopening the pier as soon as possible, but that it will likely be several weeks before a timetable can be established as experts evaluate possible structural damage from the storm. “To that end, we are working diligently to coordinate all necessary assessment, remediation and inspection of the many buildings that make up South Street Seaport,” read the statement. “In fact, remediation in some areas is already underway.” In the meantime, the pier’s merchants are permitted to access their stores in order to assess damages. Time is indeed the biggest obstacle facing the Downtown merchants, according to Ro Sheffe, chair of C.B. 1’s Hurricane Relief Small Business Task Force. Sheffe fears that the additional cash flow supplied by grants and loans will not be sufficient to salvage many languishing businesses in the area. “They’re faced with several things at once,” he said. “Many of them had a lot of structural damage, so they have no

Downtown Express photo by Aline Reynolds

Sara Williams (right), owner of Fresh Salt, a South Street Seaport restaurant devastated by Sandy, speaks with U.S. Small Business Administration chief Karen Mills about loans and other forms of financial aid.

electricity, water or heat. Even after they surmount these obstacles, then they’re faced with the problem of a greatly diminished customer base.” Sheffe added that, while the Downtown Alliance grant program is a good beginning, the businesses still

have a ways to go before they get the amount of financial backing they need to recover. He said of the program, “I hope it will shame the federal and state governments into kicking in with a grant program adequate enough to save these folks.”


November 28 - December 11, 2012

FIDI PARKING ATTENDANT KILLED IN ACCIDENT A worker at a Financial District parking garage was killed on Mon., Nov. 26, after an apparent mistake caused a car to roll of an elevator lift and fall on him, police said. Victoriano Vizciano, 45, of the Bronx, was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 7 a.m. inside the Icon Parking garage on Barclay Street, between Church Street and Broadway. He was crushed by a Mercury Mountaineer S.U.V., which fell from a height of approximately six feet, police said. Another garage attendant had accidentally left the S.U.V. in neutral while it was still on the lift, according to police.

A TEEN SLASHED A 15-year-old boy was viciously attacked by another teen while waiting for a subway train in Bowling Green on Wed., Nov. 21. The victim told police that, as he was walking down the northbound 4 train platform at the Bowling Green station at around 3 p.m., he was suddenly punched in the face by an unknown perp whom he didn’t catch sight of. The attacker was apparently holding a sharp weapon of some kind, police said, because the punch left a deep slash in the side of the victim’s face.

The boy was taken to New YorkPresbyterian Hospital, where he was reportedly in stable condition. Witnesses described the attacker as a black male, approximately 15 years old, 5’9’’ and 140 pounds.

LAPTOP STOLEN A woman’s laptop was stolen after she inadvertently left it behind inside a Starbucks in the Financial District on Thurs., Nov. 8 — and then she thought she saw the same laptop being sold on the Internet just days later. The 27-year-old woman told police that she forgot to take her $1,500 Macbook out of the Fulton St. Starbucks that night, and when she returned to find it, it was gone. The identity of the perp remains unknown, but the woman returned to police on Nov. 19 to tell them that she might have found the stolen laptop being advertised on Craigslist. In the police report, it was unclear how the woman was able to distinguish the computer as hers, and cops have not yet identified any suspects from the listing on the popular website.

SUBWAY ROBBERY A woman was shoved and robbed while riding an E train through the Canal Street station early on Tues., Nov. 5. The victim, 30, told police that she

had gotten onto the subway train at the Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer stop in Queens at around 4:50 a.m. and fell asleep about a half hour later as the train headed toward Manhattan. When her train pulled into the Canal Street stop at around 5:30 a.m., the woman said she felt a man reach into her front jacket pocket, where she had placed her cell phone. The woman attempted to get up and fend off the unknown robber, she told police, but he pushed her forcefully, snatched the phone and fled through the open train doors. She described the perp as a black male with Afro-textured hair, approximately 35 years old, 5’11’’ and 215 pounds.

LUNCHING LARCENY This visitor from Cambridge, England found her wallet lifted from under her nose while eating lunch. On Tues., Nov. 20, a woman, 66, placed her handbag beneath the table at her feet and continued her luncheon at Arome, a cafĂŠ on 5 Dey St. She reached down for it at the end of her meal and noticed that it had mysteriously migrated to the next table over. After retrieving it, the woman realized that the chain on her wallet had been cut, and the wallet, containing $105 in cash, was gone. Her cell phone, a Samsung Galaxy II valued at $750, had also been purloined.

FIRE AT 55 WATER ST. Twenty-seven people were treated for smoke inhalation after a fire broke out in the basement of a Downtown office tower at 55 Water St., according to news reports. At about 9:30 a.m., on Fri., Nov. 23, a fire erupted in the water-ravaged basement of the office building and created large quantities of smoke. Four people were taken to New York Downtown Hospital for medical treatment. Brad Gerla, representing the C.B.R.E. Group, a broker for the property, said the building is set to reopen on Thurs., Nov. 29. The 53-story building is home to the Department of Transportation, the financial rating company Standard and Poor’s and other city agencies and private companies. According to the New York Times, the cause of the fire appeared to be a faulty feeder cable, which was re-energized that morning during repair work to electrical cables that were damaged during the storm. However, a Fire Department spokesperson would not confirm this information and otherwise declined to comment. Con Edison reportedly denied responsibility for the blaze, claiming that the problem was on the customer’s side. Reportedly, four Con Edison power lines run into the building, two of which were seamlessly restored. More than 80 firefighters responded to the incident. At least one of the 27 people treated for smoke inhalation was a firefighter.

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In override vote, Council blocks sale of Downtown building BY A L I N E R E Y NO L D S The City Council overrode a veto by Mayor Mike Bloomberg Tuesday, blocking his plan to try and sell a Downtown building to private owners. The Council voted against putting 22 Reade St. on the market, but is backing a possible sale of 49-51 Chambers St. The mayor has said that unless both buildings are sold together, neither of them will be able to house the much-needed community facilities which the Council and Community Board 1 want. In mid-November, the City Council’s Land Use Committee voted against the Department of Citywide Administrative Services’ proposal to sell all 750,000 square feet of space to private developers. The Council approved the committee’s decision on Nov. 27. C.B. 1 is in line with the Council position since the current plan fails to include schools and other vital community infrastructure. The city’s Civic Center Plan would likely result in the transformation of the buildings into luxury housing or hotels. The sale, which would involve moving city agencies currently housed in those buildings elsewhere, would garner an estimated profit of about $100 million for the city. Were the sale to go through, the Department of City Planning along with C.B. 1, the Board of Standards and Appeals and other government agencies, would be

relocated to 1 Centre St. and other government locales. Downtown Council Member Margaret Chin and most of her colleagues were against the sale of the three-structured Reade St. building because of its potential to house a museum that would accompany the nearby African Burial Ground. Prior to the override, Bloomberg slammed the Council’s position, claiming that it is impeding the city from carrying out its mission to improve working conditions for its employees (by moving them to nicer offices) and to consolidate its government operations. “Additionally, this disapproval would result in the loss of significant tax revenue for the city, newly created jobs and much needed economic development,” the mayor wrote in a Nov. 19 letter to the City Council. During a City Council hearing on Nov. 13, two weeks prior to the override vote, Downtown residents and elected officials railed against the city’s proposal to sell the government buildings, arguing that the current plan doesn’t take into account critical community facilities and that it disregards a separate plan to construct a historical museum on one of the sites. Tricia Joyce, who chairs the Board 1’s Youth and Education Committee, said the sale of both buildings should not go through without conditions attached. “The absolute last thing we need is any

more luxury housing in Lower Manhattan, because we haven’t provided the infrastructure for the already 20,000 apartments we’ve added,” she said. “It’s impossible, and it’ll destroy the very thing they set out to create, which is a vibrant community…. “They owe us 1,200 elementary school seats, ball fields and parks in our neighborhood. We’re going to keep saying this until people get it.” Joyce and others also objected to the sale of 22 Reade St., in particular, because the city’s R.F.P. neglects to mention how the sale could impact the African Burial Ground, which is situated adjacent to the site at 290 Broadway. The fact that it wasn’t part of the discussion about the proposal is incomprehensible, said Joyce. “It should have been explored before this R.F.P. was even discussed,” she said. Early last year, Congressman Jerrold Nadler introduced federal legislation proposing the creation of an institution called the African Burial Ground International Museum and Educational Center, which would memorialize the enslaved Africans and African-Americans that are buried in the area. Ilan Kayatsky, a spokesperson for Nadler, said the congressman’s office has repeatedly asked the city to hold onto 22 Reade St. as a possible site for the museum. “It’s something we’ll continue to explore,” he said.

Downtown Express photo by Kaitlyn Meade

A new museum to commemorate the African Burial Ground has come in the way of the city’s wish to sell 22 Reade St. to a private developer.

Upon hearing about the possible museum plan at the Nov. 13 hearing, Council Member Chin decided to only approve the sale of 49-51 Chambers St. “All throughout our discussion with the mayor’s side, this never came up,” she said, “and at no point during D.C.A.S.’s presentation did they bring it up…it really upset some members on the committee. That was important, and we didn’t know the history behind it.” Chin had been in negotiations with the Continued on page 12


November 28 - December 11, 2012

City drops red flag on 9 Downtown buildings

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Nine storm-battered buildings in Lower Manhattan have been deemed uninhabitable by city officials. Several buildings along South Street — with the addresses 104, 105, 106, 107 and 108 — have been issued red placards by the city Department of Buildings, according to city D.O.B. spokesperson Ryan FitzGibbon. A building situated at 502 Canal St. has also been red-flagged as unusable until further notice. “Red placards do not mean a building must be demolished,” she noted, “just that it was severely damaged by the storm.” The D.O.B. did not provide further information about the current condition of these buildings. City inspectors red-flagged the Downtown buildings during inspection visits to close to 900 buildings in Lower Manhattan south of Canal Street and east of Delancey Street, FitzGibbon said. Of the remaining 900 Manhattan properties that were evaluated, approximately 300 experienced some degree of flooding and had various levels of electrical or plumbing damage. Edifices that sustained moderate or small amounts of electrical or plumbing damage

received yellow “restricted use” placards, while those that had no apparent damage received green tags. All of the buildings that were given red placards require immediate attention, according to Byron Munoz, the D.O.B.’s community affairs liaison. “To address that,” he said, “we issue what is known as an ‘immediate emergency declaration.’ If the owner is unable to address the situation, the job is then taken over by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which then contracts the work to have the issue remedied.” The D.O.B. is waiving violations building owners would normally be subjected to if they lack the proper permitting to begin renovations, he noted, saying, “They don’t need to file permits until two days after having commenced the work.” Speaking of all of the surveyed properties, Munoz said, “We are engaging in detailed assessments of these properties, which means that…we’re going back to those locations to further assess what situations may be affecting those locations.” — Aline Reynolds

Millennium High students return to school After occupying space at two schools on the Lower East Side following Hurricane Sandy, Millennium High School’s students and teachers were happy to be back in their own building — though it is still under repair. On Mon., Nov. 26, the school returned to its 75 Broad Street location for the first time since it was flooded by the storm. The day the building reopened, it was still lacking phone and Internet service, and electricity was temporarily being supplied by a transformer. The day that school was back in session, trucks and work crews who were repairing a massive building across the street blocked Millennium’s main entrance on South William Street. While the doors were functional, white, chemically-scented steam was billowing around the entrance, and large trucks lined both sides of the street, making it difficult to access. Instead, students were directed to the entrance on the corner of Broad and South William Streets. “Mr. McEvoy [the principal] told students when they went out to lunch that they should stay off the plaza, because they are working on the building across the street at 85 Broad St.,” said Angela Benfield, Millennium’s parent coordinator. While it is not business as usual yet, Benfield was positive about the first day, saying, “Everybody is thrilled to be back. There were balloons, and everyone was smiling.”

The teens’ parents were relieved their children were back on Broad Street, having petitioned the city to get moving on the building’s restoration. Parents’ Association president Tara Silberberg had organized a letter-writing campaign among the parents and was regularly phoning the Department of Education and other representatives for updates on the situation. “The D.O.E. was saying two months before they were going to get us in,” said Silberberg, who voiced frustration about the changing timelines and lack of clear information. “I said, ‘Get the building open or let the kids go back up and get the stuff out of their lockers. We are a textbook-free school. They need their notes.’” The building’s interior has been almost completely renovated. The cafeteria staff cleaned out the kitchen the weekend prior to the reopening and the custodial staff cleared the multipurpose room, which was used to store much of the school’s equipment. Students were pleasantly surprised to find two of Millennium’s three elevators functioning properly, but, had they been out of service, the teens would still have attended class in the upper floors. “The kids took a school-wide vote,” said Silberberg. “They voted to climb the stairs [13 flights of them] rather than stay in the other schools. I was really proud of them.” — Kaitlyn Meade


November 28 - December 11, 2012

Quinn floats raft of ideas for fighting future floods BY L I N CO LN A ND E R S O N Saying that strengthening New York City’s defenses to withstand the impacts of future Sandy-strength storms is “the single most important infrastructure challenge of our time,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is offering a sweeping blueprint for critical planning and preparation in an era of global warming. Her package of proposals to combat flooding ranges from massive, harbor-spanning storm surge barriers to sponge-like, water-absorbent sidewalks. In backing the barriers, which Quinn wants federally funded, she is clearly breaking with Mayor Bloomberg, who deems it impossible to secure the necessary money for the project. But on Tues., Nov. 13, Quinn announced she now has a more powerful ally in U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, who has pledged to ask the federal Army Corps of Engineers to study the idea — the first required step in the process. “Two weeks ago we were reminded that our city is vulnerable to the forces of nature,” Quinn said, “that the reality of climate change puts our homes and our safety at risk. What we do in this moment will determine whether we allow that reality to define us, to hold us back — or to inspire us, to push us to do what we know is hard.” Not only hard — but expensive. It could cost up to $20 billion to surge-proof the city,

under Quinn’s proposals. That price estimate includes one big-ticket item, she said, namely a storm surge barrier — strategically sited sea gates intended to hold back hurricaneforce waters. “If we decide to install a storm surge barrier, it could cost roughly $16 billion alone,” she noted. However, Quinn said, evaluating the response to Hurricane Katrina gives some sense of the scope of federal investment that must follow a storm as destructive as Sandy. At the time, Congress authorized more than $110 billion in spending for the Gulf Coast, including $25 billion for New Orleans. While acknowledging that Sandy was “a different storm than Katrina,” the speaker said that to many New Yorkers it was just as devastating. “And just to put things in perspective, there are 360,000 people in New Orleans,” she said. “We have nearly half a million residents in Staten Island alone. We need the federal government to invest in our citizens, to help us rebuild New York safer than [it was] before. New York City suffered an estimated $26 billion in economic damage and losses. That doesn’t even take into account the losses we will suffer if we don’t rebuild correctly, if businesses flee our city because they think Lower Manhattan is too risky a place to invest.” With much of the city’s population liv-

ing right near the water, New York ranks number five among 140 port cities around the world in terms of vulnerability to flooding from storm surges. Forward-thinking London, for one, already has 10 enormous surge barriers in place in the River Thames. “In the last 100 years, New York Harbor has already gone up 12 inches,” she continued. “According to the New York City Panel on Climate Change, sea levels are projected to increase roughly 1 to 2 feet by 2050 and 3 to 4 feet by 2080. So if we don’t act now… flooding will be even more common…and places that never had to worry about serious flooding will suddenly find themselves vulnerable in major storms.” Quinn, an expected candidate for mayor in 2013, presented her vision in a speech in Midtown before the Association for a Better New York, a coalition of the city’s most influential businesses, nonprofits, arts and cultural organizations, educational institutions, labor unions and entrepreneurs. Specifically, in her remarks, the Council speaker announced an agreement with the Bloomberg administration to accelerate the completion of two studies that analyze the flooding risks facing the city and that recommend protections. Both studies are slated for completion by April 2013. Quinn also reported that Schumer would lead the effort in Congress — working with the Obama administration — to obtain an

Army Corps of Engineers study that conclusively assesses whether or not to build storm surge barriers or other flood-protection structures around the city. The time for “casual debates” about surge barriers is over, according to Quinn. “It’s now crystal clear that we need to build protective structures,” she said. “This will include both hard infrastructure, like sea walls, bulkheads or floodgates, and more natural defenses, like sand dunes, wetlands and embankments. And there are places where the best solution may be to raise the land above the flood plain.” Quinn said the work of building and strengthening these defenses would take years, if not decades. However, in responding to Quinn’s advocacy for surge barriers the day of the speaker’s speech, Bloomberg said he didn’t know where the money would come from. “It would take billions and billions of dollars,” he said. “Before the federal government would get involved, you’d be doing it from the Florida Keys to the southern edge of Maine…People just can’t do that.” In addition to the cost, the mayor has questioned surge barriers’ feasibility in a harbor as large as New York’s. In addition, Quinn said, all utility companies should erect structures around power plants and substations in at-risk locations to protect Continued on page 8

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from storm surges of at least 20 feet. Sandy’s surge was 14 feet — 2 feet higher than Con Ed was prepared to deal with at its East 14th Street power plant, resulting in Lower Manhattan’s four-to-five-day blackout from the East 30s south. In addition, the city’s sewer system needs to be improved to be able to handle massive flooding conditions, the speaker said. Currently, the city’s combined sewer system — for rainwater and wastewater — often becomes overloaded, causing sewage to be dumped into the city’s waterways, she said. During Sandy, the entire system backed up, which in some cases led to sewage coming out of the drains of sinks and bathtubs. To help combat storm surges, the city also needs to speed up the installation of “soft infrastructure,” Quinn said, including green streets and green roofs.“And we’re going to pass legislation requiring the city to use new pavement materials that absorb rainwater and prevent sewer overflows,” she added. The transit system — above all, the subways — must be safeguarded against swamping, Quinn stressed. This can be done, she said, by installing raised buffers around subway grates and elevating station entrances a few feet off the ground. New technologies such as industrial balloons can be used to seal off subway or car tunnels from flooding.Also, the city will need to modify building codes, she said. Quinn said the City Council will be holding a series of hearings in the coming weeks

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SUNDAY, DECEMBER 2, 10AM Discovery Advent Series: Jesus in the Margins Bob Scott, Trinity’s Director of Faith Formation & Education, will explore how Advent scriptures help us to see how those who have been marginalized and excluded may be the very ones to lead us into the kingdom. 74 Trinity Place

and months on all aspects of how the storm was handled, from public safety and medicalcare to Con Ed’s management of the city’s electricityand heat.“Our greatest danger is inaction,” the speaker warned. “We stand in a unique moment that carries with it a unique opportunity. The future of our planet, the world our grandchildren inherit, depends on what we do in the months and years ahead.” Chelsea community activist and former Downtown Express publisher Bob Trentlyon — a leading advocate for storm surge barriers in New York City — felt a surge of elation at Quinn’s speech. Minutes after her office sent out a press release on her remarks at ABNY, Trentlyon forwarded it to his e-mail list with the tag line, “This is really a giant step forward!” For the past three years, Trentlyon, 83, has almost singlehandedly sounded the alarm over rising water levels’ threat to Gotham, lobbying everyone from community boards to local politicians to Governor Cuomo. “It’s just wonderful news,” Trentlyon said the day of Quinn’s talk. “Getting Schumer to come along was a good move, because he has a good relationship with Wall Street — and Wall Street doesn’t want to get drowned out [by another storm surge].Chris Quinn is aware that this is probably the most important issue in a generation — and I would say, in the 21st century — for people living in New York City. It’s a wake-up call to all of us, that there’s probably going to be a lot more storms like this and we have to protect ourselves. And building storm surge barriers is a part of it.”

worship SUNDAY, 8am & 10am St. Paul’s Chapel · Holy Eucharist SUNDAY, 8pm St. Paul’s Chapel · Compline – Music & Prayers SUNDAY, 9am & 11:15am Trinity Church · Preaching, music, and Eucharist · Sunday school and child care available MONDAY – FRIDAY, 12:05pm Trinity Church · Holy Eucharist MONDAY – FRIDAY, 5:15pm All Saints’ Chapel, in Trinity Church Evening Prayer, Evensong (Thurs.) Watch online webcast


November 28 - December 11, 2012

Knickerbocker rent refunds won’t wash away anger BY SA M S P O K O NY After tension and complaints nearly boiled over into a rent strike, residents of a Lower East Side affordable housing complex will be awardedrent refunds for the weeks they have been without power, heat or running water following Hurricane Sandy, the development’s ownership announced on Tues., Nov. 13. At a public meeting attended by hundreds of tenants, elected officials and emergency relief personnel, a representative for the owner of Knickerbocker Village — a 12-building, 1,600-unit complex that takes up two blocks of Monroe Street — explained why it took so long for maintenance workers to act on the massive basement flooding that shut down the buildings’ boilers and electrical equipment. Around 140 units remained without electricity on Wed., Nov. 14. Many residents of Knickerbocker Village had been without all essential utilities since Sandy struck on Oct. 29, and the lack of elevator service forced them to walk up and down the stairs of their 13-story buildings in the dark. About half of the development’s apartments still lack heat and hot water — management assured residents that those services would be restored by the end of the week. Ten out of the 12 elevator banks

were functioning as of Wednesday night, and management said that all of them would have at least one working elevator by the end of the week. AREA Property Partners, which owns Knickerbocker Village, agreed to provide the rent rebates after a recent intervention by state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the city Division of Community and Housing Renewal (D.H.C.R.). “We will ensure that not a penny of rent will be paid for the days on which you didn’t have essential services,” Jim Simmons, a representative for AREA, told the residents at the Nov. 13 meeting. He did not specify how soon the refunds would come or how they would be handled. Without explicitly apologizing, Simmons answered to criticism that management was virtually unresponsive to tenants who were seeking answers about when the services would be restoredin the first two weeks after the storm. He explained that, for better or for worse, the owners were preoccupied with safety issues regarding the basement flooding. “Should we have been more communicative and said to the residents this is exactly what’s going on? Yes,” Simmons said. “You’re 100 percent correct. We were 110 percent focused on assessing the situation correctly, and it was our mistake to not be as forthright and communicative as

you deserve.” He went on to paint a troubling picture of the unprecedented flooding, which in some cases put maintenance workers in danger. “The force of the water did some things to the building which, quite frankly, I’ve never seen before,” Simmons said, adding that the surging waters managed to dislodgethe basement’s four-inch-thick steel doors and its 20,000-gallon oil tanks. The toxic oil spills that ensued forced management to wait for more than a week to pump the massive volume of water out of the basement, since the water needed to be treated by specialists before being flushed out into the East River. Perched in the submerged basement were the complex’s boilers, electrical panels and copper wiring, which were all severely corroded by the saltwater. Gesturing to the dozens of maintenance workers who stood behind him as he addressed the crowd, Simmons said that, once the boiler rooms were drained of water, the workers had to be evacuated several times in order to avoid exposure to dangerous fumes. In addition to acknowledging the immense hardships faced by Knickerbocker Village residents, many of whom are elderly, Simmons recognized the workers for their own labor and sacrifices.“To the people who have

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been working tirelessly around the clock on behalf of this building, I give you my personal thanks, because I know that you all have families, too,” he said. Simmons noted that there are now daily meetings and flyers to inform residents about important updates on the condition of the building and its services. While welcoming the rent rebates, some Knickerbocker Village tenants who attended the Nov. 13 meeting were not impressed by what they heard. “The speech was a lot of hot air,” said Manuela Kruger, 73, an eight-year resident of the complex. She voiced concern about the difficulties she and other residents continue to face, as so many other buildings throughout the city have already recovered from Sandy’s impact. The steam and elevators in her building were still out of service, she noted. “It’s dispiriting,” she said, “and the quality of life is just very poor.” Despite her feelings of frustration, Kruger went on to say that she chose to continue paying her rent out of principle, and because she felt that funds shouldn’t be withheld when they could be directed to necessary building maintenance and repairs. Another resident, who has lived in Continued on page 15

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Sandy-battered businesses need grants, not loans IN THE WAKE OF SUPERSTORM SANDY,

small businesses throughout Lower Manhattan have once again found themselves in an economic swamp. Shuttered mom-andpop shops along Front Street, Avenue C, Front Street and elsewhere are struggling to find a way out of the marsh, while several hundred employees who are out of work are scrambling for income to keep food on the table. Many other businesses are suffering not from damage, but from the loss of customers due to closed buildings. Some of the businesses were in a financial deficit prior to Sandy’s arrival and are still saddled with loans from the aftermath of 9/11. On Nov. 20, Karen Mills, the administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, visited businesses in the South Street Seaport to assess the damage of the storefronts and to talk to the merchants about their economic woes. Mills championed the S.B.A.’s approval of $20 million in loans for small business relief from Sandyrelated damages and financial losses. Mills pledged, “We will stay the course and make sure that this area becomes as vital as it has been in the past, and even more so.” But what the taxed Downtown entrepreneurs really need are grants. While some people consider grants to be unwarranted

financial hand-outs, these businesses are in dire need of unrestricted cash flow that they don’t have to pay back. The business owners themselves say the notion of borrowing money is just as frightening as shutting down altogether, since they’re already swimming — if not drowning — in months or years of debt accrued from 9/11 or otherwise. Yet Mills dodged press questions about grants, saying loans are the most effective and efficient means of supporting the small businesses. Applying for a loan from the S.B.A. requires a minimal effort of filling out a threepage form on the agency’s website, she noted. Moreover, unlike grants, which require (attimes lengthy) legislation, the federal loans have a turn-around time of just 10 days. The disturbing reality is that neither the S.B.A. nor the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has the authority to administer grants to businesses. The S.B.A. only authorizes low-interest loans, while FEMA offers grants to homeowners and renters only. President Obama would have to issue a federal declaration or sign a federal law in order for the government to authorize small business grants. He should give strong consideration to this, and should not let the current Beltway obsession with the so-called “fiscal cliff” be a roadblock. Just as in the aftermath of 9/11, it is once

again the onus of the federal, state and city governments to determine how to allocate taxpayer money to the businesses and residents — who have this time suffered from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. It will be up to Mills, Obama, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Mike Bloomberg to weigh the importance of supplemental funding for the ailing businesses that are in many ways the cornerstone of Lower Manhattan’s well-being. We applaud the Downtown Alliance for setting up a grant program and working to raise $1.5 million for it. The mayor also took a step in the right direction Saturday in announcing a public-private plan to make the loans less daunting by tying them to matching grants. But the Alliance and the city have limited resources. We side with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has emphasized time and again the need for grants as a means of financial backing for the businesses. As the Speaker told Mills during her visit to the Seaport, “To add debt in order for them to continue to operate and to make up for some of the renovations that they have to do…is an extreme burden that will not allow some of them to [re-]open.” It is imperative that the South Street Seaport and Lower East Side businesses that stuck it out in the years after 9/11 be given a fair chance to stay in business. They are the lifeline of Lower Manhattan.





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November 28 - December 11, 2012


SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLUE… Home is where the heart is — and for Matthew Rosenstein and Nicholas Kurczewski, it was the ground-floor space on Front Street between Jeremy’s Ale House and SUteiShi Restaurant. For three years, they made the spot their home, often watching and waving as people passed by their windows and the door to chat with neighbors and friends. It all came to an end with Superstorm Sandy. “We evacuated during Irene last year,” Rosenstein told the Seaport Report. “It was no big deal, so we decided to stick it out this time.” But as the forecasts grew more frightening, the couple and their black pug Merlin went to stay with friends nearby at 200 Water St. They stowed their belongings, including the ones that had sentimental value, in a loft storage area in their apartment, and stacked lighter furniture and other items on top of the refrigerator and counters. Throughout the dark, bleak night on Mon. Oct. 29, they watched the surge flood the streets and received texts from friends with an even better vantage point. That night, the water rose more than six feet high in their apartment, knocking over furniture and the refrigerator and smashing a dresser through the wall. “It was worse than we thought,”

Rosenstein recalled. “We lost everything.” Like almost everyone in the neighborhood, the couple depended on mixed messages — some of them complete rumors — over the next few days. “There was no word [about] what we were supposed to do. We took pictures, started cleaning up, put stuff out on the street to dry out,” said Rosenstein. He and Kurczewski began exchanging emails with the building’s management, Vanguard, which assured them that it would take care of the repairs. In the meantime, the couple bounced around town, staying with different friends. They even made a stop at the management

office, where an employee wrapped her arms around Kurczewski. “We love you guys,” Rosenstein said she assured Kurczewski. “In 30 to 45 days, you’ll be back,” she said, “and it looks like you’ll finally get that new kitchen and bath you’ve been begging for.” Two days later, they received a call from an agent that crashed their world yet again. The company had decided that, due to extensive damage, it would end the lease and turn what had been their home into retail space. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” said Rosenstein. He refused to discuss the matter with the agent over the phone and demanded the information in writing. Then a letter came, claiming that the owner had the right to terminate the lease that would have run until October 2013 because of a clause in the lease agreement. The couple was shocked, especially since Kurczewski had offered to extend their lease. Said Rosenstein, “They offered us a place on the fourth floor — a walk-up — that costs $800 more a month! We want to stay in the neighborhood to be a part of its recovery.” As if fighting for their home weren’t enough, Rosenstein and Kurczewski have been planning their Dec. 8 wedding before 120 family and friends at Gary’s Loft in Midtown. The honeymoon has been put on hold until they find a place to live. “People have been really helpful,” said Rosenstein. “Everything else we lost is just stuff. But what’s really hard is losing our sense of home. We don’t have a place to call home now. We want to stay here. The Seaport and the people have a special place in our hearts.”

A PAUSE AT THE PAW… The Salty Paw Photo courtesy of Matt Rosenstein

Matt Rosenstein sits on his destroyed furniture outside his Front Street apartment.

at 38 Peck Slip is closed indefinitely, but that hasn’t stopped owner Amanda Byron Zink and her staff from servicing their four-

footed community. Thanks to the generosity of the Seaport Animal Hospital, located in Southbridge Towers at 90 Beekman St., Downtown’s dogs are still looking spiffy. The pet grooming business has temporarily set up shop in the hospital’s basement. In the meantime, dollar-for-dollar coupons are for sale to help the business raise money. For every dollar you contribute, you receive credit toward services or merchandize once the business is back up and running on Peck Slip.


While many restaurants in the ‘hood won’t be reopening for a while, Acqua, at 21 Peck Slip, is trying its best to get back in shape. The restaurant is employing the same technique as the Salty Paw — every dollar you contribute to help the business rebuild will go toward a gift certificate. Details are on its website, Other places, meanwhile, are just outand-out fundraising. Salud is collecting donations on its website,, through And while other neighborhood spots such as The Bridge Café, SamSara Cafe, Nelson Blue, Paris Café, Bin 220 and Keg 229, to mention a few, are closed indefinitely for now, other cherished hangouts like The Cowgirl Sea-Horse, Meade’s and Jeremy’s Ale House have reopened. Be sure to patronize them!


In a speedy 21 days, Marco Pasanella and his team had Pasanella and Son Vintners completely renovated. Even the beautiful enoteca in the back of the store has been completely restored. Stop by to get a bottle of wine and have a look! The shop reopens on Sat., Dec. 1.

No jail for ‘leader’ in Danny Chen case BY A L I N E R E Y NO L D S A staff sergeant for the U.S. Army has been sentenced to just 15 additional days of hard labor, and a rank reduction for bullying Chinatown-based soldier Danny Chen prior to his suicide in October 2011. Sergeant Andrew Van Bockel is the seventh of eight soldiers who have been tried and sentenced in the Chen case, marking the near completion of four months of trials tied to the apparent suicide of the19-year-old U.S. Army private during his deployment last year in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Van Bockel was convicted of hazing, dereliction of duty and maltreatment on Wed., Nov. 20 following a court-martial at the army’s Fort Bragg, North Carolina military base. The sergeant was sentenced to a reduction in military rank and 60 days of hard labor. However, Van Bockel only has 15 days of work to complete, since he already performed labor for 45 days upon initial charges prior to the trial, according to military officials. Elizabeth OuYang, president of Chinatown-based activist group Organization of Chinese-Americans’ New York chapter, said Van Bockel is a “disgrace” to the army,

and deserved harsher punishment. She has been attending the Fort Bragg trials with Chen’s parents, Su Zhen and Yan Tao Chen, and a handful of others. Reportedly, Van Bockel testified that he ordered Chen to crawl over 100 meters of rocks and watched other soldiers lob stones at him. The sergeant also mockingly called Chen names such as “Dragon Lady” and Fortune Cookie” and ordered the soldier to give his Englishspeaking platoon instructions in Chinese. “He not only fostered a climate of unrelenting and escalating hazing that ultimately cost Danny his life, he instigated the hazing,” said Ou Yang. Council Member Margaret Chin said, “Van Bockel was the leader, and his racist and violent behavior set the standard for his platoon.” The sentence followed the Nov. 9 conviction of Sergeant Jeffrey Hurst, who was found guilty of dereliction of duty for overlooking the maltreatment of Chen by two of Hurst’s subordinates. He was sentenced to 45 days of hard labor and a reduction in military rank. Like Van Bockel, Hurst will not serve time in jail.

Danny Chen who killed himself after being harrassed.

“His light sentence is no deterrent to turning a blind eye to unlawful conduct,” said OuYang. Three of the seven soldiers already tried in connection with Chen’s death have been sentenced to jail time, while only two of the

seven soldiers have been discharged from the army for poor conduct. OuYang said, “The public is watching this case closely to see if those in power who not only knew about the hazing but ordered it will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”


November 28 - December 11, 2012

Council overrides Bloomberg’s veto Fighting to make Lower Manhattan the greatest place to live, work, and raise a family.

Continued from page 5

Assemblyman Shelly Silver If you need assistance, please contact my office at (212) 312-1420 or email

city about adding 10,000 square feet in mandated community space to the R.F.P. The council member wasn’t happy with the way the city approached the proposal, she said. “There should have been more consultation up front so that there’s real input, to really look at what is really needed in the long-term for our community.” “It’s important,” Chin added, “because the buildings are in our district and we have tremendous need in many areas — affordable housing, schools, a senior center.” But in his letter to City Council, Bloomberg said that, if 22 Reade St. were not sold with 49-51 Chambers St., the city would not be able to generate the necessary revenue to build the agreed upon community space in either that building or the future building at 49-51 Chambers St. Bloomberg also countered the concept of setting aside 22 Reade St. for the museum. “The desire for a new African Burial Ground National Monument Museum is laudable,” he wrote, “but requires a realistic plan for space, funding and long-term operations. Until then, the preservation of the African Burial Ground Historic District…ensures that this vital part of the city’s history is properly commemorated.”

But after the override, the mayor said in a prepared statement that the plan would have allowed the museum. “While today’s vote will enable other elements of the plan to go forward, 22 Reade Street — which needs more than $20 million in capital repairs just to remain usable in the near term — will continue to deteriorate rather than host a new museum and generate the considerable property tax revenue projected under the Civic Center plan.” The landmarked building at 49-51 Chambers St., which was erected in 1912, formerly housed the Emigrant Savings Bank. It is a limestone-face Beaux Arts skyscraper that contains 230,000 feet of space. The building was acquired by the city in 1965 and was supposed to be demolished as part of a wider overhaul plan of the Civic Center that was ultimately abandoned. The edifice at 22 Reade St. comprises three structures that were built between 1859 and 1886 to house local merchants. They were also acquired by the city in 1965 as part of the original Civic Center Plan. The three buildings were combined into one structure measuring 99,000 square feet of space. Beginning in the late 1970s, they were renovated in order to be able to house the Dept. of City Planning and the City Planning Commission.


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Some hiccups as PATH returns to W.T.C. The Port Authority announced that weekday PATH train service has been restored to the World Trade Center, just weeks after Hurricane Sandy crippled the system. On Mon., Nov. 26, the PATH line resumed service weekdays, 5 a.m to 10 p.m. at Newark, Harrison, Journal Square, Grove Street and Exchange Place in New Jersey as well as to the W.T.C. stop. Disabled access is available at the Newark and W.T.C. stations, only. The line was still plagued by problems when it reopened. A malfunction on Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. stopped cars on the Newark-W.T.C. track for 90 minutes, according to news reports. The Port Authority’s PATH alert’s page listed the cause as a “power problem.” Service was restored at 10 a.m. On Tuesday, the line was running with a 30 minute delay at 11 a.m. because of a malfunction of car equipment, according to the alerts page. By 11:30 a.m., the site said trains would resume their normal schedule. Weekend service on the W.T.C. line is not yet available as crews work to finish the repairs. Floodwater from Sandy’s storm surge

covered the tracks at the W.T.C. station with several feet of water, according to the Port Authority. PATH crews had to remove millions of gallons of water from the tracks and platforms to restore service to the station. The switching and signal systems also needed to be repaired or replaced. The switching equipment at the Hoboken station was so damaged that service to that station remains suspended and is not expected to resume for another several weeks. To fill the gap in transportation, the Port Authority and New Jersey Transit have organized ferry service that is running from the Hoboken Ferry Terminal to Pier 79 at 39th Street in Manhattan. The ferries run on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The fare is $5. Additionally, free shuttle buses are available from Pier 79 to Midtown Manhattan. To accommodate the extra commuters, the NJ Transit has also increased the supply of 106 buses that travel from Hoboken to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in both directions. For more information, visit the Port Authority’s website at

Downtown Express photo by Lincoln Anderson

Gas guzzlers to beer guzzlers Houston Hall, a new Bavarian-style beer hall, is getting set to open inside a former garage on West Houston Street between Varick Street and Sixth Avenue. A contractor at the site a few weeks ago said the huge, exposed, wooden ceiling beams were already in place from the space’s previous use, and that they just stripped them of paint. A cobblestone-like, suds splash-ready floor was also being installed when a reporter popped in for a look. Asked if there would be live music, the contractor said no. But a woman — not a contractor, but who looked like she might be a bartender at the place when it opens — said with a broad grin that they’ll definitely be serving beer, “a lot of beer.”


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November 28 - December 11, 2012

Organized tours of Hurricane Sandy’s damage BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER Led by tour guide Annaline Dinkelmann, founder of Wall Street Walks, a dozen people set out on a recent afternoon to see exactly what Superstorm Sandy had done to Manhattan’s Financial District and how the cleanup was going. This was the first of Wall Street Walks’ “Sandy” tours, which will continue on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to the end of the year. Starting at 55 Wall St., Dinkelmann showed a map of Dutch New Amsterdam and pointed out how much of Lower Manhattan rests on landfill — vulnerable to Sandy’s incursions. At Broad and Nassau Streets, a head of steam coming out of a grate in the street proved to be a Sandy artifact. Many buildings in the area are heated by steam, Dinkelmann told the group, and were without heat when flooded boilers failed. The steam came back on in that area around a week after the storm. In front of the New York Stock Exchange, Dinkelmann said that it continued to run during and after Sandy because it had back-up generators. She also explained that after 9/11, the U.S. government implemented new regulations for business continuity planning. Companies such as the Stock Exchange were required to have back-up sites geo-

Downtown Express photo by Terese Loeb Kreuzer

Annelinne Dinkelmann offers tours showing where Sandy struck.

graphically removed from their main site so that business could go forward. At first these sites were 50 miles away, she said, then 100 miles. Now, with new technology, they can even be in another country. The New York Stock Exchange has a back-up site in London. Dinkelmann said that she began her research for the Sandy tour four days

after the storm had departed. She walked through the entire Financial District, taking photos and notes. A trek through the area with Sandy in mind provided clues as to why some buildings suffered more than others. Slight variations in terrain turned out to be significant. A sloping street would cause water to run downhill and pool at the end of it.

Broad Street, as Dinkelmann pointed out to the tour group, had a canal running through it in Dutch times. The wide street was a perfect conduit for Sandy’s bloated waters. It turns out, in fact, that the Dutch canal was actually an inlet of the East River. Dinkelmann said that in many cases, Sandy’s water found its old paths and tore through what humans had interposed. Pumping equipment still lined much of Broad Street, with sandbags, plywood and trash strewn around it. As the group crossed State Street to the east of Battery Park, Dinkelmann called attention to a light wind. That was where the Dutch had their windmills, she said. The natural winds in that area stirred Sandy’s winds to even greater fury. The periphery of Battery Park was hard hit — the center, relatively intact. In addition to showing Sandy damage, Dinkelmann wanted to show that Lower Manhattan was not a wasteland. After a herculean cleanup effort, some stores had reopened. They are eager to have customers know they’re back. Dinkelmann’s “Sandy” tours take place at 1 p.m. on weekends and cost $25. She is donating the profits to the South Street Seaport Museum, whose lower floors were badly damaged by Sandy. For more information and to sign up for a tour, go to www.




November 28 - December 11, 2012

Your doctor retired to where?

Downtown Express photo by Sam Spokony

Jim Simmons, a representative of AREA Property Partners, the company that owns Knickerbocker Village, addressed hundreds of residents on Tues., Nov. 13 alongside elected officials including State Senator Daniel Squadron (far left) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Continued from page 9

Knickerbocker Village for upwards of 40 years, said he found the meeting informative but that it should have happened at least a week earlier.“ It probably only happened now because we inundated our elected officials and ended up getting all this media attention,” said the resident, who declined to give his name because he works for the city. When asked about the living conditions at the complex over the past few weeks, he said, “It’s worse than being in the army…and I’ve been in the army.” Ann Valentino, 64, who has lived in the complex for 35 years, also took issue with the fact that the building’s ownership waited until the mid-November meeting to relay the information. She said that her knees were killing her from walking up and down the stairs to her 10th floor apartment every day. “We never saw them for the first two weeks, and now all of a sudden they’re com-

ing with all these flyers and updates,” Valentino said. “It’s just because we stuck out, and now everyone’s watching.” Valentino and many of her neighbors were able to band together throughout the crisis in order to help those who needed supplies.“I must have given away 15 flashlights,” she said. “It was tough, but this is still a neighborhood, so we stick together.” One person who was satisfied with Simmons’ speech was Victor Papa, president of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, which has supported thousands of area residents — including those at Knickerbocker Village — with donations and deliveries since the storm hit. Papa acknowledged that Knickerbocker’s ownership had initially been too tight-lipped. But he gave Simmons and AREA credit for finally admitting to their communicative shortcomings and for outlining the reasons why they couldn’t immediately remove the water from the basement. “They redeemed themselves,” he said. “They regained my respect.”

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November 28 - December 11, 2012





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November 28 - December 11, 2012

Southbridge group presses its board for more input BY KAITLYN MEADE Some Southbridge Towers residents came together last week to discuss the future of the housing complex — a future some do not feel involved in. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, many residents felt less secure about their ability to cope with future disasters. Others sought to discuss ongoing problems that had surfaced long before the storm. On Nov. 20, the Southbridge Towers Shareholders Association held its second meeting in the apartment complex’s community room. The association, created a few weeks prior to Hurricane Sandy, attracted enough residents to pack the room at the first meeting, according association to chair Paul Hovitz, but last Tuesday there were only about 30 or so people. Southbridge Towers’ 1,651 apartments are filled with middle-income shareholders, not tenants. The difference is that residents own shares of the complex, much like a corporation, and pay maintenance fees rather than monthly rent. As such, they are supposed to have a greater say in the day-to-day governance of the facilities, according to Hovitz, who served on the board for 12 years. However, some shareholders feel that they are not being granted adequate input by their neighbors on Southbridge’s board of directors. “The board holds open meetings, but the only things that they can query at the open meetings are those already on the agenda,” said Hovitz. “They’re lucky if they have a dozen shareholders attend the meetings now. People have been feeling they don’t have a voice or the opportunity to weigh in.” Southbridge’s board of directors president Wallace Dimson said the board is “above reproach,” and that the majority of shareholders are sufficiently represented by their chosen delegates. “There is a reason this board had been elected for seven consecutive years,” he said. “That’s why we have elections.” The board of directors is composed of 15 shareholder representatives, five of which are up for election each year and serve terms of three years. It also includes a representative from the New York State Division of Housing

and Community Renewal (D.H.C.R.) — though, according to Hovitz, the representative rarely attends meetings at Southbridge. At its first meeting, the association chose five issues for the association’s liaison, board member John Fratta, to discuss at the next board meeting. The opening item on the list was a request for better communication, including a time during board meetings when residents could address topics that are not on the agenda. They also requested a monthly “Meet the Manager” night for shareholders to speak face-to-face with building managers. The board of directors is not going opening the meetings to unrelated comments, but in response to the requests, they did agree to hold quarterly Meet the Manager nights, with the first one scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wed., Dec. 5. The shareholders also petitioned to view “in-force” contracts, or contracts that had been approved and put into action under the supervision of the board’s office — something that was possible a few years earlier, according to Hovitz. But, after consulting with its attorneys, the board replied that making the documents publicly available would violate confidentiality agreements it has with its commercial tenants. The viewing rights of shareholders are limited to annual financial statements, minutes of meetings and lists of shareholders. “The board has a judiciary responsibility that shareholders do not have,” said Dimson. Shareholders can request to see confidential documents through the state’s housing department, he noted. The complex’s parking arrangement also drew censure, with many members contributing stories of their own about their difficulties. Icon, which operates Southbridge’s parking garage, has furnished a number of residents with “floating spaces,” which means that residents’ cars are parked at whichever spots are available at a given time. Specifically, the shareholders objected to cars being parked on the ramp, which makes entering and exiting the garage difficult. Hovitz

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November 28 - December 11, 2012

TRINITY CHURCH’S FAMILY FRIDAY PIZZA & MOVIE NIGHT Every so often, every family should get together for pizza and a movie. To help make that noble goal a regular thing, Trinity Wall Street hosts this third-Fridayof-the-month event for kids who are hungry (for food and entertainment) and adults who are too tired to cook (or even dial for delivery!). The December edition of “Family Friday Pizza & Movie Night� features a 1995 Disney/Pixar classic: “Toy Story.� This is the part of the listing where we usually describe the film. Not this time, though, since you probably already know how this “Story� unfolds. But this is no mere repeat screening — it’s a cheese and pepperoni-infused social event where a room full of kids can watch the familiar tale as they giggle in unison at favorite funny moments. Also encouraged to attend: your kid’s own well-worn Buzz Lightyear, Sheriff Woody Pride, Rex and Hamm (toys from the sequels, including all manner of Barbies, are also welcome). Fri., Dec. 21, 6-7:30pm. At Charlotte’s Place (107 Greenwich St., rear of 74 Trinity Place, btw. Rector & Carlisle Sts.). For more info, call 212-602-0800 or visit For Twitter: @CharlottesPlc. For Facebook,

CharlottesPlaceNYC. Charlotte’s Place is a free space. Open to everyone, it is supported and operated by Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopal parish in the city of New York. HANUKKAH FAMILY DAY AT THE JEWISH MUSEUM A busy afternoon full of music, art workshops and tours will commemorate the 164 BCE liberation and reestablishment of Jewish worship in the Temple of Jerusalem — by shining a light on that event’s most enduring image: a lamp whose one-day supply of oil burned for all eight days of the victory celebration. Now a beloved ceremonial object as well as a symbol of freedom that resonates with us all, the Hanukkah lamp speaks to a complex interaction of historical events, Jewish law, artistic expression and personal experience. From 12-4pm, children can create their own Hanukkah lamp sculptures by transforming wood, metallic objects and collage papers into scenes inspired by the illuminated works on view in the exhibition “Crossing Borders: Manuscripts from the Bodleian Libraries.� There will also be wooden dreidels, to decorate with whimsical patterns and colors. From 1-3pm, the Light Box Installation Project challenges kids

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Yosi and the Superdads: Dec. 9, at The Jewish Museum.

Photo courtesy of Maya Blank

Play Me a Story will do just that on Dec. 2, when they tell the musical tale of “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins.� to make a glowing light box in honor of Hanukkah (after entering a black light space full of glow sticks and fluorescent design materials). Spotlight Tours, at 1:15pm, 2:15pm and 3:15pm are led by an educator who will give a brief gallery tour then be on hand to advise as you create sketches inspired by the Museum’s renowned collection of Hanukkah lamps. Families can also take their own self-guided tours of “Crossing Borders� as well as the permanent exhibition, “Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey.� Music and laughter fill the air at 12:30pm and 2:30pm concerts Singer and songwriter Yosi Levin, backed up by his band of Superdads, will perform sing-along-friendly Hanukkah songs—including the Cajun-infused “My Little Dreidel� (an excellent opportunity to teach the little ones about Buckwheat Zydeco) and “Maoz Tzur� (a great conversation starter for those ready to learn about U2 and The Yardbirds). Sun., Dec. 9, from 12-4pm. At The Jewish Museum (1109 Fifth Ave., at 92nd St.). Appropriate for ages 3 and up. Free with museum admission ($12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $7.50 for students, free for children under 12). Visit or call 212-423-3200. HERSHEL AND THE HANUKKAH GOBLINS Play Me a Story will do just that on Dec. 2, when they tell the musical tale of “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins.� Adults may recognize Israeli-born teacher Maya Blank and instrumentalist Uri Sharlin from HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords� — but kids know and love them from their work as the musical storytelling duo Play Me a Story. For this gig at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the story is

“Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins� — an interactive adventure tale in which out titular hero outwits the goblins that haunt an old synagogue and prevent the villagers from celebrating Hanukkah. After the tale has been told, kids can stick around to create holiday-inspired crafts. Sun., Dec. 2, 2pm. Appropriate for ages 3-10. At the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust (Edmond J. Safra Plaza, 36 Battery Place). For tickets ($10, $7 for children 10 and under), visit or call 646-437-4202. POETS HOUSE The Poets House Children’s Room gives children and their parents a gateway to enter the world of rhyme through readings, group activities and interactive performances. For children ages 1-3, the Children’s Room offers “Tiny Poets Time� readings on Thursdays at 10am; for those ages 4-10, “Weekly Poetry Readings� take place every Sat. at 11am. Explore a perfect day with Carin Berger on Sat., Dec. 1 at 11am, as she presents her book of collages to help children make their own silhouette collages of a “perfect winter day.� Filled with poetry books, oldfashioned typewriters and a card catalogue packed with poetic objects to trigger inspiration, the Children’s Room is open Thurs.-Sat., 11am-5pm. Free admission. At 10 River Terrace. Call 212-431-7920 or visit WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE YOUR EVENT LISTED IN THE DOWNTOWN EXPRESS? Please provide the date, time, location, price and a description of the event. Send to


November 28 - December 11, 2012

Slipper Room Rises as Sun Sets on Column Mayan calendar called it: December is Trav S.D.’s swan song BY TRAV S.D. ( Well, the big news this month is that The Slipper Room is back. After a twoyear-long renovation, the Orchard Street resort quietly opened towards the end of October — just in time for Sandy to quash their planned launch bash. But it’s always good to get your bad luck out of the way up front. I predict smooth sailing from here on in. With a new upper level to their Orchard Street facility, the joint has improved sightlines and more room for audience (always a problem in the old days). Music concerts have now joined burlesque shows on the calendar. For a full schedule of what’s up, go to Through December 29, HERE Arts Center is premiering “Chris March’s Butt-Cracker Suite.” Written, directed and designed by Chris March (“Project Runway,” “Christmas with the Crawfords” and Bravo’s “Mad Fashion”), this version of Tchaikovsky’s perennial classic is set in a trailer park and features “dancing pink flamingos, cans of Spam and ugly Christmas sweaters come to life.” March is a Drama Desk awardwinning costume and fashion designer. Look for this show to be all about the outlandish gear. Visit for more details. Through December 31, The Flea will be presenting the New York premiere of “Restoration Comedy” by Pulitzer Prize-finalist Amy Freed. The play mashes up Colley Cibber’s “Love’s Last Shift” (1697) with John Vanbrugh’s satirical answer to it the following season: “The Relapse.” Wicked adultery, trickery and intrigue rule the day in this comedy, aided by immersive accoutrements such as baroque music and a burlesque dancer in the lobby, passed hors d’oeuvres, bottomless cocktails and a post-show dance party. Currently in previews (with its official run from December 9-23), Red Bull Theater’s rare revival of Ben Jonson’s “Volpone, or The Fox” at the Lucille Lortel Theatre is the tale of a miser so stingy that he is tricked into making his own life a living hell. The story has been making audiences laugh for centuries, although it is more commonly revived nowadays in Garson Kanin’s latterday adaptation. But don’t be dissuaded by the density of Jonson’s Elizabethan era patois. With a first rate roster of Broadway comic talent like Stephen Spinella, Tovah Feldshuh, Alvin Epstein and Rocco Sisto, it’s bound to be every

Photo by Clint Hild

These sisters are worth the schlep.

bit as laugh-provoking. All the info is at December 3-23, terraNOVA Collective [sic] will be presenting “P.S. Jones and the Frozen City” — a new play by Robert Askin (“Hand to God”) at the New Ohio Theatre. Described as a “superhero adventure story,” the play concerns a young manure shoveller who is called to leave his job and save the world by making a journey to the titular cold place. Well, I guess if my job involved poop, I would require very little inducement to play hooky! If you’d like to step into the adventure, check out

December 4-15, Horse Trade Theater Group’s resident acting ensemble, The Drafts, brings Michael McGuire’s campy “It Comes from Beyond!” to the stage. It evokes Fifties horror films like “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” and “The Blob,” and also promises to “explore American archetypes, xenophobia, fate and the monsters that lurk within us.” Well, YOU maybe. Tickets for the show, which will be performed in the Red Room, may be procured at December 9, The Schlep Sisters present their sixth annual “Menorah Horah” at the Highline Ballroom. Eight girls will vie for positions as “Menorah Royalty.”

The proceedings will be hosted by Sherry Vine and will feature Minnie Tonka, Darlinda Just Darlinda, Little Brooklyn, Bastard Keith, the Maine Attraction and more. Go to and for the full scoop. Two shows at Joe’s Pub caught my eye this month. Anna Copa Cabanna’s previously announced Halloween-themed variety show has been rescheduled for December 14 under the new title “Oh Unholy Night.” The Australian honey will be joined onstage by her Copa Cabanna Dancers, along with Esther Crow of the Electric Mess, singer Joy Dragland and “hula hoop harlot” Melissa-Anne. Then, on December 23, look for the comical, clowny burlesque duo The Wau Wau Sisters to unleash their crazy madness just in time for Santa to put them on his “naughty” list. Information on both shows can be found at On December 21 (the end of the world according to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar), don’t miss the incomparable, trash-talking Tammy Faye Starlight as she brings her “Defense of Opposite Marriage Tour 2012” to The Duplex. There are so few people you can say this about nowadays — but I think I’m on safe ground when I say that in a Tammy Fay Starlight show there is something there to offend everybody. Plus, she’s got some pretty decent pipes and a wonderful feel for country music even while she’s skewering it. One thing I do know? That band of hers is going to be getting all close and intimate with each other on the tiny Duplex stage whether they like it or not! Audience members are encouraged to dress in “wedding attire.” For more info, go to Lastly, on a sentimental note, this is my final “Downtown Theater” column for the Community Media family of papers. It was fun while it lasted, but I’m realizing now that I’ve lost track of how long that is. Three years? Four? One thing I do know is that after you’ve done something many, many times, there’s a danger of getting repetitive. As much as I esteem the beat I’ve been covering, the coming New Year simply feels like a good time to step off the merry-go-round. I want to thank my editor and publisher — and you, dear reader — for this opportunity to bring you the news about some of my favorite New York theater artists. Happy Holidays, and here’s hoping the world doesn’t end before 2013!


November 28 - December 11, 2012

Just Do Art!

This non-profit music library and research center collects, preserves and provides information on popular music of every permutation, from 1950 to the present. Since its humble founding in 1985, ARC’s archives have grown to over 2 million sound recordings (plus over three million books, magazines, videos, films, photographs, press kits, newspapers clippings, memorabilia and ephemera relating to the history of popular music). What does this bone-dry bounty mean to you, the humble consumer? Funny you should ask. Coming up just in time to find the perfect gift for the old school music lovers on your “nice� list, ARC’s Winter Holiday Record & CD Sale functions as their major fundraiser of the year — and provides you with the chance to peruse their reason-


HO-HO HOMO COMICUS Finally, host Bob Montgomery and his “Homo Comicus� crew have the perfect excuse to string up some festive lights, don their gay apparel and troll for kisses under the mistletoe. That’s a pretty accurate description of what you’ll find all year long at Gotham Comedy Club’s long-running monthly comedic showcase of all things gay (and lesbian and trans and bi and queer and questioning). The December installment (called “Ho-Ho Homo Comicus�) features the good humor of Mr. Montgomery and three top gay comics: Judy Gold (from HBO and Off-Broadway solo shows), Frank DeCaro (host of his own SiriusXM show) and Erin Foley (from “Comedy Central Presents Erin Foley�). Yeah, you’ve heard them on the radio and seen them on TV... now enjoy them live, from spit-take distance! Wed., Dec. 5, at 8:30pm. At Gotham Comedy Club (208 W. 23rd St., btw. Seventh &* Eighth Aves.). The cover is $20, with a two-beverage minimum. For reservations, call 212-367-9000. For info, visit

ARC’S WINTER HOLIDAY RECORD & CD SALE “We’re high and dry post-Sandy, but are taking in tons of material from others and all of this needs care, cleaning and cata-

able prices and highly eclectic selection of books, CDs, LPs, singles, VHS tapes, DVDs, sheet music and‌more. Join ARC as a member and you’ll score an invite to their December 6 party (which also serves as Jamie Records’ launch of the ARCTIC records reissue package and ARC’s launch of the Bill Adler Holiday Record Collection). Local classified startup hosts, with champagne courtesy of Tribeca’s Bubble Lounge and food by Two Boots Pizza and Brooklyn’s Bonnie’s Grill. ARC’s Winter Holiday Record & CD Sale happens Sat., Dec. 8 through Sun., Dec. 16 from 11am-6pm. At ARChive of Contemporary Music (54 White St., btw. Broadway & Church St.). Visit or call 212-226-6967.

Photo by Jim Colucci

Will the Frank DeCaro and the rest of the Homo Comicus crew make the Yuletide gay? Damn straight!

loging,� says ARChive of Contemporary Music co-founder B. George. With so many irreplaceable treasures swept away or damaged beyond repair by storm waters, the ARC mission seems more relevant — and urgent — than ever.

Photo courtesy of ARChive of Contemporary Music

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November 28 - December 11, 2012

Expect Invention, Passion and Authentic Theater Know-How Less Than Rent’s aesthetic ‘rooted in the notion of the mashup’ THEATER DESIRE! [A VARSOUVIANA] Written by Rachel Buethe, Patrick Fleury, James Presson Directed by Jenna Grossano Adapted from the plays and journals of Tennessee Williams Presented by Less Than Rent Theatre Company Nov. 29-Dec. 15 Thurs.-Sat., 7pm At UNDER St. Marks 94 St. Marks Place (btw. Ave. A & First Ave.) For tickets ($18, $15 students and seniors), visit Visit

BY MARTIN DENTON (of and Less Than Rent (LTR) is only two and a half years old. Its three co-artistic directors — James Presson, Rachel Buethe, and Charlie Polinger — are all in their very early 20s. But do not confuse all this youthfulness for inexperience. LTR already has five NYC productions behind them, and a brand new show — “Desire! [A Varsouviana]” — is slated to premiere at UNDER St. Marks (in the East Village) on November 29. Their very first production won two awards at the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival, and their terrific 2011 show “Friends Don’t Let Friends” was recently published on (my website, where you can browse a diverse selection of new American plays). I advise you to catch these remarkable young artists now, so that you can brag to your friends in ten years that you knew about them before the other 300 million people in America did. James Presson, the company’s founder, is one of those rare individuals whose talent and energy radiate from him, drawing other talented people to him. I met him as he was preparing to launch LTR at FringeNYC two

Photo by Hunter Canning

Hey, Stella: Nicole Ventura and Patrick Fluery star in LTR’s “Streetcar” mashup.

summers ago, with the punk rock musical “Richard 3” (co-created by Presson and actor Jake Ahlquist). The show was already getting some pre-festival buzz because James, its director/co-writer, was a 19-year-old rising junior at Fordham University — and the entire cast was comprised of college students.

On one action-packed August evening, I moderated a discussion at the (sadly gone!) Borders Books at Time Warner Center featuring several FringeNYC participants who had adapted classic works for the festival. James Continued on page 22

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November 28 - December 11, 2012

Continued from page 21

was on that panel, holding his own with artists twice or three times his age. And then he and I shot off in a taxi down the West Side Highway to do a second appearance at the Brecht Forum. I was the emcee of a preview of FringeNYC shows, and James and his LTR colleagues brought the house down with a raucous, rockin’ excerpt from “Richard 3.� Along with everybody else in the room, I was impressed. I vowed to keep my eye on this young company, and I haven’t stopped watching since. James is from Fairfield County, Connecticut, and he didn’t have any particular interest in

theater until his sophomore year in high school. The following year, he and several classmates wrote and appeared in a play about Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans called “Voices in Conflictâ€? — which became something of a cause cĂŠlèbre when the school’s principal canceled the production after objections to its content surfaced. There was a New York Times story (with James prominently featured in the lead photo), coverage on CNN and, eventually, a production at the Vineyard Theatre. “I got to see what it was like to perform with people who care desperately,â€? says James. The 16-year-old learned about media and the theater from the inside out — and found his calling. Three years later, James — in love with

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the plays of William Shakespeare — submitted an application to the New York International Fringe Festival for “Richard 3.� To make it look impressive, he made up a company name (derived from the fact that the show’s minuscule production budget was smaller than his monthly rent). He also included a full cast list with 20 names on it. When “Richard 3� got accepted (“the best day of my life,� notes James), he realized that he had to now tell those 20 actors about the show and actually form a company. Colleagues Rachel Buethe (another Fordham student) and Charlie Polinger (who will graduate from Yale next spring) signed on as coartistic directors. Most of the 20 actors agreed to appear in the show. Jake Ahlquist, who played Richard, won an acting award from FringeNYC and James won a directing award. And so, LTR took hold. The company’s aesthetic is rooted in the notion of the mashup, taking classic work from the canon and finding a way to retell it in a way that’s engaging and compelling in this first decade of the 21st century. “Richard 3� is mostly Shakespeare, remixed. Their next show, “Little Town Blues� (co-written with Buethe) translates Chekhov’s “Three Sisters� to an Iowa girls’ boarding school and the military school across the way. “Friends Don’t Let Friends�(which premiered at Walkerspace in December 2011) morphs Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler� into the tale of a young sitcom star who feels trapped in work that doesn’t feel artistically fulfilling to her — and the forthcoming “Desire! [A Varsouviana]� blends

“A Streetcar Named Desire� with Tennessee Williams’ own notebooks and journals to explore what James calls the “masochistic autobiographical nature� of the play. “Less Than Rent addresses the way in which people read classics,� James explains. With “Desire!,� the company is juxtaposing a great American play (all the famous lines are sampled) with Williams’ own internal struggle over whether to lobotomize his sister Rose. “Our play is Williams’ fever dream about this situation,� says James — who takes the role of the playwright, with Buethe as Blanche and Patrick Fleury as Stanley. The three are co-authors of the piece, and Jenna Grossano (who played a key role in “Friends Don’t Let Friends�) directs. The show kicks off a threeplay season at UNDER St. Marks, where LTR is a resident company with Horse Trade Theater Group. Coming up in April is “Words, Razors, and the Wounded Heart,� a Jacobean tragedy written by James, set in present-day Connecticut. “Desire!� promises to be one of the most interesting new indie shows of the fall. What I’ve learned as I’ve tracked the progress of this extraordinary young company, is to expect invention, passion and authentic theater know-how from these artists. It’s not just wisdom that comes from the mouths of babes, but also — in this case — a level of professionalism that belies their youth. I’m already a lifelong fan of LTR. If you care about the future of American theater, you need to become one too.

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November 28 - December 11, 2012

Artwork Š Mark Bradford / Image courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

AS REAL AS IT GETS “Tell me about yourself,� says Rob Walker, “and you might mention where you’re from...but I doubt you’ll mention brands or products.� So what does it matter if nothing in this Walker-curated exhibit actually exists? “All brands,� he asserts, “are imaginary.� Rather than simply mocking our love/hate relationship with material culture, “As Real As It Gets� uses the work of artists, designers, writers and musicians to illustrate how “fictional products can become a means of expressing joy, fear, humor, unease, ambivalence.� After perusing this collection of never-was stuff, make the not-so-great leap from targeted consumer to product creator, courtesy of the “Imaginary Brands with MakerBot� 3D Design Tutorial (Sat., Dec. 8, 11am and 2:30pm). On view through Dec. 22. At apexart (291 Church St., btw. White & Walker Sts.). Hours: Tues.-Sat., 11am-6pm. For more info, call 212-431-5270 or visit

In the past, acclaimed New York-based artist, writer and curator Fyfe has worked with combining more traditional methods of painting with textile collages. The latter were often sparked by his extensive travels to Asia and Europe. More recently, his paintings have become increasingly three-dimensional — or, as he put it, “off the stretcher.� By featuring paintings that incorporate found signs and commercial kites (as well as several free-standing sculptures), Fyfe is not easily categorized. This show is the first major public step in that direction. Through Dec. 15. At White Columns (320 W. 13th St., enter Horatio St., btw. Hudson & Eighth Ave.). Hours: Tues.-Sat., 12-6pm. Call 212-924-4212 or visit

— Scott Stiffler

— Stephanie Buhmann

Image courtesy of the artist and White Columns, New York


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November 28 - December 11, 2012

Celebs join homeless as they all give thanks BY HELAINA HOVITZ Thanksgiving dinner usually doesn’t take place at noon on a Monday, but when you have more than 1,000 hungry mouths to feed in a single day — and a slew of highprofile celebrities to schedule in — you’ve got to make it work. The holiday came early for many of the city’s homeless men, women and children living in shelters and on the streets, courtesy of the New York City Rescue Mission’s 14th Annual Great Thanksgiving Banquet on Nov. 19. The mission sent buses to pick up guests from dozens of homeless shelters citywide and served up a meal in seven shifts to about 150 people at a time throughout the day. Those in attendance, representing the city’s struggling population, were excited to be dining in an elegant setting, listening to live music and waited on by celebrities and politicians. Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb of the Today Show, Irv “Mr. G” Gikofsky from PIX11, actress Susan Sarandon, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, City Council Member Margaret Chin, Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler and former NYC Mayor David Dinkins joined 100 other volunteers to host a traditional turkey dinner for the adults, chicken nuggets for the kids and apple pie with ice cream for all. Several years ago, Mayor Mike Bloomberg proclaimed the next-to-last

week in November as Great Thanksgiving Week in honor of the Rescue Mission’s work with the homeless, praising the mission as a wonderful organization “doing great work for vulnerable New Yorkers.” An average of 500 people frequent the shelter every day — a number that continues to grow as a result of budget cuts and the closure of the nearby the John Heuss House in recent years. Now, the mission’s intake capacity is even more limited due to a construction project that will take at least another year to complete. The renovations will provide a much-needed three-story addition to the shelter’s 90 Lafayette St. building, but, as a result, its capacity has been temporarily reduced to 24 bunk beds on the second floor and 36 mobile mats on the ground floor. Due to the space shortage, the banquet was held across the street at the vacant Engine 31 firehouse this year. Actress Susan Sarandon, who has a long-standing history of volunteering with the mission each year, was one of the servers. “I like the people I serve with, and it’s more fun to volunteer rather than just write a check,” she said. “They are always so surprised and grateful to see me.” Kathie Lee Gifford was also there to help dish out Thanksgiving dinner for the 11th consecutive year. “When you look into the faces of the people here, you see despair,

Downtown Express photo by Helaina Hovitz

Actress Susan Sarandon helped serve early Thanksgiving meals to more than 1,000 of the city’s homeless at the NYC Rescue Mission’s 14th Annual Thanksgiving Banquet.

but you also see the glimmer of humanity in everybody’s eyes,” she said. Close by was former Mayor Dinkins, who said it is important that the homeless community knows it is cared about. As the son of a mother who cooked and cleaned houses for a dollar a day during the Great Depression, Dinkins said he understands how hard life can be. “I get a lot more out of it than they get out of me,” he said of volunteering. The gala came just weeks after Hurricane Sandy rolled through Lower Manhattan — a time during which, despite its decreased capacity, the mission made room for everyone that walked through the doors in search of a bed. Rather than stay with his family at home, the mission’s executive director, Craig Mayes, reported to the shelter right before Sandy hit. Residents of the mission, who participate in a 12-step alcohol and drug abuse recovery program, stepped up to the plate, collecting flashlights, filling buckets with water and bonding with one another as they hunkered down for the night. According to Mayes, the 30 men became “like staff,” cooking, serving, cleaning and otherwise taking care of things. “One of our residents, T.J., was an alcoholic sleeping underneath the boardwalk in Atlantic City six months ago,” said Mayes. “During the storm, he somehow got phones and lights working with a little handy rewiring. He was our hero.” At the Thanksgiving banquet, mission residents worked side by side with the

celebrity servers to make sure that everyone was fed and entertained. Mission resident Wendell Herden, who graduated from the 12-step program back in June, is still living at the mission while he saves up for his own home. “We come from backgrounds that include drug and social issues, but the mission helped us turn our lives around so we can show up and come together for others,” said Herden, who is currently working for an outpatient clinic in Harlem as a certified substance abuse counselor. “To be here with my brothers and help other people is the most rewarding part of all.” Reality, unfortunately, did not elude some of the guests who feasted on Thanksgiving dinner in the crowded room. Among the many joyful, laughing attendees were those who were downcast, quietly eating their food alone; soon they would have to board the buses to return to where they came from. Most of the adults and children were elated to receive the “blessing bags” on the way out. The adult bags contained New York Rangers sports gear, while the children’s bags contained baby wipes, hand sanitizer, placemats, pain relievers, stuffed animals, candy, thermoses and hats. “It didn’t matter that we were all here on a Monday afternoon,” commented mission resident Richard Johnson, one of the banquet volunteers. “Thanksgiving is about giving back and being with others. Today, everyone had something to be thankful for.”


November 28 - December 11, 2012




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November 28 - December 11, 2012

Many still ‘stuck’ with problems after Sandy Continued from page 1

much more tolerant than they had been with the Occupy Wall Street protesters who brought world attention to the park a year ago. Across the street, Century 21 department store was crowded with shoppers. Far from spreading the pain equally, the storm targeted only some in Lower Manhattan, while others on the same block were relatively unscathed. The Seaport suffered much more than Tribeca, yet some buildings remain closed, and others reopened quickly in both neighborhoods. Downtowners still struggling in the aftermath can’t help but notice the differences.

One of many restricted use signs in Lower Manhattan.

“I have friends in Battery Park who are fine — most of my friends Downtown are fine. If you are in the Financial District, the Seaport, if you have Time Warner cable you’re still disrupted at this point,” said Samantha Tse, who lately has not been living much at her 90 Washington St. home. Her building reopened last week, but

she has been living on the Upper West Side and spending more time in her office, a web startup, because she hasn’t gotten internet service back, and she needs to work off hours. For Jenn Gilbert, who has no idea when she and her family will move back home, the storm has more than stretched the limits of her optimistic nature. “I’m the type of person, if someone says, ‘it can’t be done,’ I’m going to find a way,” she said in a phone interview. “But every time I think of a plausible way out, it just doesn’t work.” Gilbert, her husband, their son, 2, and dog spent Thanksgiving in Vermont with family — “we did get away for four days to avoid the rent” — was the way she described it. The family owns a condo at 88 Greenwich St. but has been mostly staying in hotels. Early estimates had the building’s reopening in 4 to 6 months, but now that’s been moved up a little to between 1 and 4. Finding hotels or short-term rentals has been difficult with a dog. Many brokers wanted $4,000 fee for one month, doubling the rent on a $4,000 apartment. On Monday, the couple signed a one-month lease for a one bedroom on the Upper West Side without a broker’s fee. She and her husband moved Downtown when she was pregnant in order to be in Battery Park City’s P.S. 276 school zone, but now “I feel bitter. I feel the need and urge to get out of our living situation.” The first week after the storm, she felt Downtowners were in it together with so many people scrambling for places to live, but now “I’m a little jealous because everyone is moving on with their lives, unless they’re the ones who don’t have a home.”

Tom Park says business is down at his cleaning service because his customers have not moved back.

Downtown Express photos by Josh Rogers

A street performer jumps over tourists in Zuccotti Park.

Crowds outside the World Trade Center memorial.


November 28 - December 11, 2012

Trees and benches missing from ‘public space’ Continued from page 1

sary trees and benches required by city law. According to a Parks Department sign posted on the side of 40 Broad St. directly adjacent to the space, the plaza is supposed to have 64 linear feet of seating and three trees. The POP is one of approximately 50 such spaces in Lower Manhattan that the Municipal Arts Society of New York is hoping to

‘It’s a public space, and I should be able to use it as should everyone else, and they need to hold up their end of the bargain.’ publicize through a new digital resource, The POP’s owner, 40 Broad Delaware, Inc., recently incurred several violations after an angry employee complained about the misuse of the space in mid-October. Per the inspection, “We found they were actually missing all required seating and three trees,” said Ryan FitzGibbon, a Dept. of Buildings spokesperson. The requirements for the space date back to the early 1980s, when the city determined that the owners were entitled to 16,800 feet of bonus floor area so long as they established the area on New Street behind their building as an urban open space consisting of benches, planters and trees. However,

when the city discovered that public amenities were missing from the POP in 1999 following a site visit, officials took the owner to court for not following the covenant. Consequently, in late 2004, the company was slammed with a $28,000 fine for not complying with the law and was ordered by the State Supreme Court to install the necessary public amenities and to keep it open to the public 24 hours a day. It is unclear to what degree and for how long the court order was obeyed. A spokesperson from Choice NY Management, which represents the owner, declined to comment for this story. According to the book “Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience” by urban planner and lawyer Jerold S. Kayden, the space effectively functions as a loading dock for car deliveries. “The space had become an empty strip…no better than the street that it had so effectively countered,” the book reads. “No record of city approval that would permit removal of the required amenities or changes to the design of the space has been located.” Meanwhile, Sweet has made calls to 311, the First Police Precinct and the building’s owner to no avail. Last month, she arranged a demonstration in the space that she named “hooping for a freer cause” in protest of the space’s misuse, where several hula- hoopers showed up to show their support. “I’m frustrated because it’s not right,” she said. “It’s a public space, and I should be able to use it as should everyone else, and they need to hold up their end of the bargain.” Sean King, who works at 40 Broad St. and stands in the POP while talking on his cell phone a few times a day, is also unhappy that the space doesn’t have the public amenities it is entitled to. Judging by the layout of the space, “I never knew this was a park,” he said. “If it’s going to be a park space, it should be used like a park — because it literally just seems like a freight area behind a building. “Grass would be nice,” King added, “but considering it’s Lower Manhattan, that might be asking too much.” Additionally, people have been illegally parking in the POP, according to area employees. King said he often sees vans unlawfully pull into the space. “There would be days where you’d come out and there would be like a line of five or six trucks,” he said. At times, the parked vehicles have prevented Sweet from hula-hooping and have nearly hit her. “When cars are here, it’s a really hard thing for me to even use the space,” she said, “because my hoop can mar surfaces, so I have the potential to mess up their cars.”

Downtown Express photo by Aline Reynolds

Brooke Sweet is one of several Financial District workers who are contesting the management of the public space behind 40 Broad St.

Southbridge Towers shareholders demand input Continued from page 17

proposed the creation of a garage committee to start looking into these and other problems facing the residents. Meanwhile, the board advised them to contact Southbridge management if they have trouble parking. The residents have also been hoping for some kind of fitness facility in one of the ground-floor vacant spaces that are allotted to commercial tenants. Dimson reported that the board voted to begin negotiations with Martin Addo, a personal trainer who already runs a core conditioning class at Southbridge, on a multi-year lease for 850 square feet of space adjacent to vacant doctors’ offices in the interior of the complex. Though not visible from the street, the space is accessible from Fulton and Gold Streets. Addo plans to offer a mix of classes and training equipment that would be open to the public and include discounts for Southbridge residents if a deal is reached. Of course, the most recent problem facing the residents is the devastation caused by Sandy. Upper-floor residents were concerned about mounting the multiple-story buildings in the dark, especially in the event of medical emergencies. “We have four towers here that go up; it was certainly very dangerous to climb up and down in the dark, especially because some people were carrying water in buckets and the water was spilling on the stairs,” said Hovitz. Sylvia Meyers, a longtime resident of

Southbridge, asked a question that was on everyone’s minds: “The last emergency we had — 9/11 — we were able to get generators. Why were we not able to get generators [this time]?” “When we realized how bad the storm was going to be,” replied Fratta, “we tried to rent generators, two big ones like we had after 9/11, and we couldn’t get them.” Unlike in the aftermath of September 11, Lower Manhattan could not rely on generators loaned from Brooklyn or New Jersey, since those areas needed the generators for residents living in their emergency zones. Currently, alternative sources of power proposed for future emergencies have been set aside for further inquiry, since they lack sufficient research to be put into use, he noted. The board was working on forming a Southbridge Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), much like those deployed by the city Office of Emergency Management during Hurricane Sandy. The board would also be updating the list of Southbridge residents who are especially in need of assistance in the event of another natural disaster. The board will continue to take the association’s requests into consideration and invites shareholders to open board meetings, the next of which is on Thurs., Dec. 6. For more information, check the “resident information” section of


November 28 - December 11, 2012

Downtown Express, 11/28/12  

an's Downtown Express is the community newspaper serving Lower Manhattan

Downtown Express, 11/28/12  

an's Downtown Express is the community newspaper serving Lower Manhattan