The Paper of Record for East and West Villages, Lower East Side, Soho, Noho, Little Italy and Chinatown
December 12, 2013 • FREE Volume 4 • Number 2
Cooper, community team up to create emergency system BY SAM SPOKONY
PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
group of Cooper Union students will soon work to develop a unique new tool to help residents of the Lower East Side — and perhaps, someday, people all over the world — cope with the destructive impact of future storms like Hurricane Sandy.
Under the direction of a longtime Cooper professor, and in association with Lower East Side neighborhood organizations, students from the university’s schools of art, architecture and engineering will collaborate to design a solarpowered product that can LUMEN, continued on p. 6
Bob Gruen in his Westbeth studio in front of silkscreen color prints of one of his famous photos of John Lennon.
SantaCon begone! Some bars will ban sloshed Claus crawl BY HEATHER DUBIN
antaCon is coming to town, and not everyone is thrilled about it. The annual booze-fueled bacchanal features large crowds dressed in Santa Claus costumes who travel from bar to bar throughout the city for a day.
A national and international event, SantaCon started in Manhattan in 2000, and has since boomed from a small group of merrymakers to a throng of thousands. This year, the army of alcohol-seeking St. Nicks are slated to start knocking them back on Sat., SANTACON, continued on p. 6
Rock photographer’s key to success: Just roll with it BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
id Vicious had cut himself. That was hardly unusual. He sliced himself all the time. But this wound was seriously deep and ugly, and it was festering. It was January 1978, and the Sex Pistols were on their headline-grabbing, beer-and-spit-spewing, 12-day
tour of America. Riding along on their bus with them was top New York rock photographer Bob Gruen. Vicious had taken a knife from one of the band’s bodyguards and, apparently skeptical of its sharpness, drawn it across his arm. It turned out that, yes, in fact, it was sharp, very sharp. He was drinking steadily, which was probably numbing him to the pain from the now two-day-old,
bloody gash, along with numbing him to whatever else was going on. In Atlanta, a hospital had refused to treat the surly English punk rocker, very likely because he was so difficult, Gruen speculates. Since no one else was doing anything about it, the photographer, a former Boy Scout, took it upon himself to clean out the GRUEN, continued on p. 8
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High Line crew unsure how foreign roaches got into park BY SAM SPOKONY
he organization that oversees the High Line said on Monday that it’s not sure how a rare breed of cockroach — which has never before been spotted in the U.S. — ended up in the popular elevated park. On Monday it was reported that Periplaneta japonica, a species of roach that can apparently survive New York’s cold winter weather, was first seen on the High Line by an exterminator in 2012. The Periplaneta japonica can reportedly survive subfreezing weather, and is unique among roaches in its ability to walk on ice. The beastly bug — also known as the Japanese cockroach and the Yamato cockroach — has entered the news because of a recent scientific article in the Journal of Economic Entomology, which confirmed that this was the roach’s first sighting on American soil. “We spotted species Periplaneta japonica last year and, as with all insects and other creatures that inhabit the space, have
been monitoring any impact,” a High Line spokesperson said. “Fortunately, we do not believe this insect is having a negative impact on the park.” Previous reports speculated that the bug might have come to the High Line through foreign soil imports, but the park’s operating body implied that that assumption is, at best, very unlikely. “The [scientific] study speculated the source of the insect’s arrival, but we understand it did not check other parks, natural spaces and buildings nearby — so it’s truly anyone’s guess!” the High Line spokesperson said. “We source our plants through plant nurseries located mostly in the northeastern U.S., which go through routine U.S.D.A. inspections to identify harmful pest/disease issues. No issue was raised with us.” Although the japonica roaches haven’t yet caused any noticeable problems around the area, the High Line crew will apparently be ready to act if the need arises. “Our team of experts will continue to keep an eye on it,” the spokesperson said.
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Did these Santas know the route at last year’s SantaCon? Does anyone known the route — ever???
BLOGGERS OFF BASE ON SQUADRON? Although Jenifer Rajkumar says she’s raring to run for his state Senate seat, should it open up, according to Daniel Squadron — or at least his chief of staff — she should look elsewhere to fulfill her political ambitions. Bloggers have recently speculated that Squadron may be tapped for a post in Bill de Blasio’s administration, such as possibly Parks Department commissioner, and if that happens, Rajkumar would run to succeed him. But Amy Spitalnick, his chief of staff, quashed those rumors. “Senator Squadron will vigorously campaign for re-election on the strength of his record,” Spitalnick told us. “Anyone expecting a vacancy will be disappointed.” It’s funny but we recently kept seeing Spitalnick at the Talking Transition tent in Duarte Square, first when members of de Blasio’s transition team, Carl Weisbrod and Jennifer Jones Austin, toured the place, then when “BdB” himself came there. We naturally asked Spitalnick if SHE was eyeing a spot in the de Blasio administration. No, she told us, she was “just helping out.” SANTACON PLEDGE A CON? There have been recent media reports that SantaCon has finally agreed to provide the route of its annual bar crawl to local police precincts, community boards and politicians. However, that’s not the whole story, state Senator Brad Hoylman told us on Tuesday — mainly because SantaCon still has not actually provided the route to anyone, and there are only a few days left until the Santas start swilling and staggering about on the morning of Sat., Dec. 14.
Hoylman wrote to the annual booze-fueled St. Nick-themed bar romp in October, requesting that the route be provided. Seven other local politicians jumped on the sleigh, er, wagon recently, signing on to a joint letter along with Hoylman to SantaCon, again, stating forcefully that a route be produced and shared. Last week, Hoylman and all the local elected officials who signed on to the letter — or their representatives — held a 45-minute conference call with four SantaCon volunteer organizers. During the parley, the SantaCon reps promised they would deliver the route. “These are volunteers, people who have stepped forward,” Hoylman told us. “These were some of the original organizers from years ago who believe SantaCon has gone off track.” However, he added, “I’m reserving judgment to see what their ability is to enforce this agreement. But it’s a very positive step forward. As far as I know, the precincts are awaiting information. [SantaCon] said they would share with any precinct that asks. The proof will be in the pudding, so to speak,” he said, tossing in a quick, inadvertent Christmasthemed pun. “It’s a good first step, but it’s certainly no guarantee,” the state senator continued. “I don’t know if they were negotiating in good faith. … Does anything with the SantaCon volunteer organizers mean anything?” Hoylman asked rhetorically. “Look, it’s a flash mob — people come because they were invited through social media.” The politicians also stressed to the four SantaCon volunteers that the event needs to police itself for bad behavior — such as puking on the sidewalks, public urination, general rowdiness, etc. — and the volunteers said they would. “Again, it’s on them. It remains to be seen,” Hoylman said. “I’m not saying we solved this problem yet. How are they going to self-police thousands of people who come in from all of the metro region?” Hoylman provided a real name (i.e., not “Blitzen,” etc.) and phone number for one of the volunteers, and we called and only got a “Ho! Ho! Ho! You’ve reached the
New York City SantaCon line,” recorded greeting. We also emailed an address Hoylman gave us for SantaCon, and “Santa” himself eventually e-mailed us back: “I am not sure where you are getting your information (or lack of information) from? Are you expecting Santa to give the route to you? Santa has clearly been meeting with state legislators, the Parks Department, police precincts and local community boards to discuss the route. Even a basic Google search can tell you that. [The e-mail linked to a recent Daily News article, “SantaCon working with politicians, police to turn naughty event nice.”] What exactly are you trying to find out?” we were challenged by the snippy “Santa.” The route, we told them, that’s what everyone is trying to find out, not just us! So will they provide it? we asked again. “Santa is good on his word,” came the response — but still no route. Meanwhile, Bob Gormley, district manager of Community Board 2, said that despite SantaCon’s claims, no one has ever contacted him from the event. “Nobody reached out to me — zero,” he told us late Wednesday afternoon. He said he was going to check with some of his district manager colleagues at Midtown community boards to see if SantaCon might have called them. The soused Santas do definitely come to C.B. 2, he said, noting, “I have seen them on Bleecker St.” As of now, all we know is the thirsty Santas will meet in Tompkins Square Park at 10 a.m., and then head to Brooklyn around 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. Oh yeah — and there will be an estimated 30,000 of them.
DETECTIVE DORIS: As if Obamacare didn’t have enough problems, now Doris Diether, the legendary Community Board 2 activist and frequent target (though never victim) of phone scammers, says there’s another brewing crisis. Diether tells us she recently got a phone call from a man saying he was with the Affordable Healthcare Act and wanted to send her a new card for it. He asked her what bank she used, to which the senior sleuth — used to these sort of scams, and immediately suspecting foul play — answered “various.” Then, he cut to the chase and said he needed the digits of her bank account. “That’s when I hung up,” she told us. Diether has seen just about every scam under the sun, but this one threatens to bamboozle and fleece countless seniors — and perhaps others would be targeted, too, who knows? “This is new,” she said. So, surely, she called the police right away? “No, I called you!” Diether responded. FUNKY FINDS FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Looking for a “relaxed and joyful” holiday shopping experience? (Wow, could such a thing even exist?) Search no further than La Plaza Cultural, at E. Ninth St. and Avenue C, where garden member Sheila Garson is organizing the inaugural FUNKtional Arts Fair, “a holiday fair of functional art for the funky at heart.” There you will find Christmas wreaths and trees, holiday decorations, clothing, costumes, jewelry, housewares, leather goods, paper goods, customary millinery and children’s items. The FUNK fair will be in full effect on Saturdays and Sundays, Dec. 14-15 and Dec. 21-22, from noon to 9 p.m.
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Billy very hoppy as charges reduced in ‘toad case’ BY SARAH FERGUSON
PHOTO BY THE VILLAGER
arthalujah! Looks like the Manhattan district attorney is not throwing the book at Reverend Billy after all. Last week The Villager reported that performance artist William Talen (a.k.a. Reverend Billy) and Nehemiah Luckett, musical director of the Stop Shopping Choir, were facing up to a year in jail and a whopping $30,000 bail for staging a protest romp through a JPMorgan Chase bank in Midtown in September. The pair were charged with riot in the second degree and menacing in the third degree after Talen and Luckett led choir members dressed in papier-mâché hats depicting the golden toad — a now-extinct amphibian of Central America — up an escalator and into the third-floor lobby of the Chase branch on Sixth Ave. and 56th St. to evangelize about the threat of climate change. JP Morgan is one of the top financers of mountaintop removal coal mining and other fossil fuel projects around the world — industries that are the main engines of climate change. According to prosecutors, several bank employees somehow mistook people singing in toad hats for bank robbers, and at
After the charges were reduced, Nehemiah Luckett, left, spoke outside court, as Reverend Billy, a.k.a. Bill Talen, gestured toward him. Standing between them were their defense attorneys, Wylie Stecklow, left, and Samuel Cohen.
least one of them reported a robbery to police, prompting the cops to arrest Talen and Luckett as they were waiting for the F train. Talen was cast as the “ringleader using
violent tactics,” and the toads, prosecutors claimed, had approached customers with the ominous refrain, “We are coming for you.” But faced with a barrage of incredulous
media coverage, the Manhattan D.A.’s Office sharply reduced the charges at a court hearing on Monday. Assistant D.A. David Bornstein told the judge that after re-interviewing witnesses and reviewing the bank’s surveillance footage, he concluded that the group’s actions were “more in line with what we consider actual protest.” Bornstein dropped the more serious charges and reduced the remaining offenses to Class B misdemeanor criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly. Talen was offered a plea deal of one day of community service, while Nehemiah was offered an A.C.D. — Adjournment Contemplating Dismissal — meaning that if he does not get arrested again in six months, all charges will be dismissed and the record sealed. That’s a big shift from how the case was presented at their arraignment in October. Then, a prosecutor accused Talen of engaging in a “violent and terrifying masked criminal stunt, which demonstrates his utter disregard for the law.” On Monday, the prosecutor termed the action a “musical presentation.” Defense attorney Wylie Stecklow — who TOAD CASE, continued on p. 17
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December 12, 2013
Judge halts City Council’s suit
against NYCHA infill plan, for now BY SAM SPOKONY
judge has dismissed a City Council lawsuit against the New York City Housing Authority’s plan to lease public land to private developers, declaring that the suit cannot be brought until NYCHA actually chooses the developers. State Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Kern’s Dec. 4 ruling allows the land lease, or “infill,” plan — which would place predominantly market-rate housing on sites within eight of NYCHA’s Manhattan complexes, including five in the East Village and Lower East Side — to move forward for now. However, it’s still unclear whether Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio will take action to stop or modify the plan once he takes office in January. A day after the judge’s decision, Council Speaker Christine Quinn released a statement that stressed that the door is still wide open for another lawsuit to be brought in the coming months — by whoever replaces her. “This court decision is about timing — not an affirmation of NYCHA’s authority to implement the land lease initiative,” Quinn said. “The ruling does not prevent the City Council from returning to court on the merits if and when the NYCHA board approves a developer.” NYCHA issued a request for expressions of interest, or R.F.E.I. — which precedes a request for proposals, or R.F.P. — to potential developers in August, and received all responses by Nov. 18. The Housing Authority has repeatedly claimed that its plan is the best way to provide necessary funding for tens of millions of dollars’ worth of building repairs across the city. De Blasio could not be reached for comment following the Dec. 4 decision, but he has given somewhat conflicting remarks on this issue in the past. “NYCHA land is not for luxury condos,” the mayor-elect said in a statement earlier this year, after which he implied that he would in fact consider such a plan, adding, “Any future infill plan must include substantial amounts of affordable housing, the hiring of NYCHA residents for construction and permanent jobs, and the resources generated must be used to improve conditions for NYCHA families.” Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is a frontrunner to replace Quinn as speaker, and whose Upper Manhattan district includes three of NYCHA’s proposed land lease sites, has made it clear she thinks the plan — at least as it stands
now — should be halted. In July, Mark-Viverito joined local Councilmembers Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez in urging the Housing Authority to back off the plan. “As a chorus of resident voices are raised [against it], we call for NYCHA to immediately cease the current [land lease] plan and instead work hand in hand with residents on solutions that are sound, sustainable and community-specific,” the three councilmembers said in joint testimony. Before that, Mark-Viverito joined Chin, Mendez and a dozen other councilmembers in passing a resolution calling on the state Legislature to require NYCHA to follow the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP, in any lease or sale of its properties.
‘This ruling is about timing. It does not prevent the City Council from returning to court if and when NYCHA’s board approves a developer.’
If it were approved, NYCHA’s plan would grant developers 99-year leases to build new housing on sites within the grounds of the Lower East Side’s LaGuardia Houses, Smith Houses and Baruch Houses, as well as the East Village’s Campos Plaza and Meltzer Tower, and within Upper Manhattan’s Douglass Houses, Carver Houses and Washington Houses. The housing would be so-called “80/20,” in which 80 percent of the units would be market rate, with the other 20 percent being affordable. The land lease plan also faces an ongoing legal challenge from NYCHA tenants who are being represented by the Urban Justice Center and the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project. That lawsuit — which claims NYCHA violated state and federal laws by failing to conduct environmental reviews and a floodplain analysis before issuing the R.F.E.I. for the infill plan — was filed in November. The case is pending.
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December 12, 2013
Cooper, community team up SantaCon begone! some say to create emergency system SANTACON, continued from p. 1
LUMEN, continued from p. 1
simultaneously provide public wireless Internet, emergency lighting and a charging station for computers or cell phones. Community leaders supporting the project hope to install the innovative, three-inone power stations around public spaces — starting near the East River waterfront, where so many people suffered after losing power when Sandy struck. “It’s really a fantastic opportunity for the students,” said Dr. Toby Cumberbatch, who teaches the interdisciplinary class, titled “Sustainable Engineering and Development,” that will host the project once the next semester begins in mid-January. “It presents a lot of stimulating challenges,” Cumberbatch added. “But the big thing is that this involves real people and a real need on the Lower East Side, and it’ll push students to provide a great benefit to the neighborhood.” The project — which has been named the Cooper Lumen Design Challenge — was conceived by Paul Garrin, an East Village resident and Cooper alumnus who in 2003 created WiFi-NY, a member-supported, noncommercial Internet provider that has grown to serve the East Village, Lower East Side and western Brooklyn. Back in 2010, Garrin reached out to the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council in order to bring his wireless Internet service to their community. After Sandy struck last year and left many Two Bridges residents stranded, without power or access to vital online information, he also began working with them to develop the WiFi-NY People’s Emergency Network, which aims to connect people in case of a devastating storm that knocks out service from major corporate Internet providers. Garrin explained that when he recently began thinking of the possibilities for a new three-in-one product that could provide lighting and a charging station,
as well as Internet access, he decided to bridge a gap, and brought Cooper and T.B.N.C. together. “I feel it’s important for me, as an alum, to offer the students the chance to do something unique, while also allowing Cooper to engage the local community more than they have in the past,” Garrin said. Now, he’s serving as a mentor and community liaison for the Cooper Lumen Design Challenge, while T.B.N.C. acts as the primary fundraiser. The neighborhood group has set up a Web site — indiegogo.com/projects/ support-the-cooper-lumen-design-challenge — to collect donations that will go toward purchasing supplies for students as they design and eventually produce the triple-feature power station. They hope to raise at least $10,000 by Jan. 15. “Paul’s a genius, and rather than being motivated by profit, he’s just totally committed to this idea, and so we’re glad to fully support him on it,” said T.B.N.C. President Victor Papa. Garrin said he hopes to show off a prototype of the students’ work by the end of the coming semester, at Cooper’s Founders Day event next April. Once the design is perfected and more products can be made, he plans to work with T.B.N.C. and other community groups to place them in vulnerable Lower East Side areas. Cumberbatch noted that, beyond serving a local need, the innovative Cooper Lumen power station could eventually be used by people in other places that are underserved or heavily affected by natural disasters. “If it turns out to be really good, you could take it to a place like the Philippines, which has been destroyed by an even bigger natural disaster [than Sandy],” he said, “and, really, I could imagine someone taking this out to remote villages all over the world.”
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Dec. 14, at 10 a.m. SantaCon’s Web site requests a $10 donation for charity, in exchange for secret SantaCon venues to frequent. Technology has amplified the fun, as participants are instructed by the Web site to text for the event’s starting point. In anticipation of a roving drunkfest, several Downtown bar owners are gearing up to take precautions. Douglas Bunton, co-owner of the Grassroots Tavern, a 38-year-old bar on St. Mark’s Place near Third Ave., recalled his first experience with SantaCon. “It wasn’t going to happen,” he said. “A crowd of people came in and were chanting, ‘Santa Claus doesn’t pay! We’re a charity!’ And then a guy a poked me with his candy cane — and that was that. From that day to this, we just lock the door until they go away.” Bunton’s tactic works, and SantaCon has spared the Grassroots Tavern in recent years. Regulars will be welcome on Saturday, but Santas will be stopped at the door. Other area bars are also intent on discouraging the mass groups from entry. “People don’t want to deal with it, and don’t want a place roaring. They don’t like the atmosphere,” Bunton said. “I don’t need money that bad. “When a crowd like this behaves like this, it’s a mob of people too big to mess with,” he said. “And they stiff the bartender. It’s hell on earth.” Rich Corton, co-owner of Josie’s, Mona’s and Sophie’s bars in the East Village, shared their game plan for SantaCon. “We’re incapable of servicing large groups, and we’re looking out for overly intoxicated people,” he said. They have hosted SantaCons in all three bars before, and found it overextends their staff. “The bar will fill up with 60 people, it’s terrible,” Corton said. “We kind of get overwhelmed. It’s for a brief period of time, maybe an hour, but it’s an hour of bedlam.” Corton noted that staff members who have worked SantaCon for 10 years, “aggressively” do not want the shifts. They also tell him that SantaCon Santas are notoriously bad tippers. “I’m kind of hoping there’s enough pushback that they’ll end up in another neighborhood,” Corton added. However, there are some places in the East Village that welcome SantaCon. Brendan Cregan, a daytime bartender at Bull McCabe’s, an Irish pub across the street from the Grassroots Tavern, had a different take. Cregan has worked during SantaCon in the past, and will do so on Dec. 14. “We let them in, and we’re very supportive of it,” he said. According to Cregan, the bar gets a huge and older crowd of Santas, and lots of money has been raised for charity. “Santas do tip — every crowd is different,” Cregan said. “The crowd we got last year was unbelievable, all the bartenders were happy. We had three bartenders, a barback and a
doorman. We were ready for it.” While the bar was prepared, Cregan did have some advice for parents on Dec. 14. “If anybody has kids in the neighborhood, tell them to not bring them out that day,” he said. At the Continental, on Third Ave. near St. Mark’s Place, bar owner Trigger is also SantaCon friendly. In an e-mail, he wrote, “Make no mistake about it — Trigger and Continental LOVE SantaCon!!!” “I didn’t start NYC’s SantaCon, but they came to Continental their very first year — when they could all fit into my little bar!” he said. Trigger has not had problems with the Santas in the past, and claimed his bartenders all want to work the event. The Continental offers several drink specials, such as five shots of anything for $10. But Trigger has his staff make sure the Santas do not get drunk enough to pass out. “We don’t let in the wasted Santas, helpers or elves,” he said. “We’re nice about it, but strict when they stumble up. It goes with the territory.” The Santas do not just inundate the East Village. Maureen Remacle, president of the Sixth Precinct Community Council, said they usual flood the block where she lives, Bleecker St. between LaGuardia Place and Thompson St., because it has wall-to-wall bars. “Every year, without a doubt, they hit Bleecker St.,” she said. “And there are some bars that won’t let them in. Other bar owners want to make every penny.” A SantaCon representative, who signed an e-mail response to interview questions “Santa,” has hopes this year’s event will be a real departure from the consecutive-drinking theme of years past. “Santa” was unable to estimate the number of people at SantaCon this year since the event is nonticketed and open to the public. When asked if the recommendation from a local police precinct to ban SantaCon from bars and lounges in Midtown and Hell’s Kitchen would only cause an influx of Santas Downtown, “Santa” replied that no ban exists, and attached a YouTube video from New York 1 touting SantaCon as a fun time. “However, Santa is working with local community boards, police precincts and the NY Parks Department to make this a different kind of SantaCon,” he said. “One that is about gifts, charity, carols, celebration and general merrymaking.” To do this, social media orchestrating the event is spreading the word that bad behavior is not Santa-worthy. There is a “Santa Code” on the Web site with practical suggestions, including, “Santa spreads JOY. Not terror. Not vomit. Not trash.” The code also cautions Santas not to mess with “kids, cops, bar staff and NYC,” in general. “Outreach has expounded the virtues of being a respectful Santa — not getting trashed and not trashing the city,” he said. “Gifting, giving, participating, creativity are our focus.”
Loving spirit of Tompkins tree keeps shining brightly BY HEATHER DUBIN
PHOTO BY HEATHER DUBIN
ight snow only added to the holiday mood on Sunday for the 22nd annual tree-lighting at Tompkins Square Park. Many neighborhood residents and local vendors came together to celebrate the season, and participate in a tradition sponsored by the Tompkins Square Park Neighborhood Coalition. There was caroling led by actors in Shakespearean costume from the Theater for the New City, with musical accompaniment by the Mandel & Lydon Trio on trombone, guitar and piano. A crowd of about 300, adults and children alike, sipped hot chocolate with marshmallows, and cider, compliments of Veselka restaurant. Albert Fabozzi, president of the Tompkins Square Park Neighborhood Coalition, began the tree-lighting ritual 22 years ago in honor of Glenn Barnett, his late partner, who died of AIDS. The couple were together for 18 years, and Barnett was an advocate of the park for the community. The anniversary of his death was Sunday. “I think my boyfriend would be very happy if he was alive today to see this,” Fabozzi said. Fabozzi, who lives on E. Seventh St., has been an East Village denizen for 30 years, and was chairperson of Community Board 3 in 1992 when the eight-foot evergreen was planted. The tree now rises more than 30 feet tall. “This is my home, this is my family,” he said. “I fought to renovate the park. It was a battle — believe me, I had police protection.” Fabozzi’s efforts have paid off, and Tompkins Square Park has evolved into a beautiful and vibrant place for everyone in the community to enjoy.
Albert Fabozzi handing out raffle tickets to Melanie Kletter and her two daughters, Julia and Layla, at the tree-lighting event.
“Every year I worry about the weather,” he said. “It rains, it snows, and we still get a crowd. It’s very happy, it’s the neighborhood.” Rain did not deter locals at last year’s event, and the frigid, snowy weather this past Sunday was not a showstopper either. The Carolers of Olde New York energized the crowd with “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls” and “Feliz Navidad,” and everyone sang along. “The spirit is so incredible,” Fabozzi said. Heather Mihalic and her husband, Reid Betz, live on 14th St.,
Fighting to make Lower Manhattan the greatest place to live, work, and raise a family.
and attended with their two children, ages two and four. “This is our second year,” she said. “I love this, it’s such a cute neighborhood thing. It’s so much easier than going Uptown for the Rockefeller tree.” Mihalic also applauded the event’s coordinators, and was elated about the weather. “It’s snow, it’s Christmas,” she added. Melanie Kletter, another neighborhood resident, from Avenue C, was with her two daughters, Julia, three and a half, and Layla Ferrara, one and a half. Although they have lived in the East Village for six years, the family has never witnessed the tree-lighting. A friend tipped Kletter off this year. “We’re in the park all the time and we like to do things in the neighborhood,” she said. “It’s a fun way to be outside. Michael Bailey traveled from where he lives in Murray Hill to see the tree. “Albert really promotes this, and I’m happy to come support him,” he said of Fabozzi. “Cher isn’t there,” Bailey said, as he nodded toward the performers. “But there are a lot of people here. It’s not about a big headliner. It’s a nice event that brings the community together.” As the snow picked up speed, Bailey speculated that there might be a white Christmas this year. Nearby, Fabozzi was busily distributing raffle tickets to children. Dinosaur Hill, the local kids’ clothing and toy store, donated $25 gift certificates for the occasion. Fabozzi noted that he gave out more raffle tickets this year than ever before. The annual tree-lighting occurs on Sunday during the second week of December, and the tree remains lit until the end of January. “My biggest joy is when I plug in the tree,” Fabozzi said.
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Hanging with Lennon, jetting with Zeppelin or bandaging GRUEN, continued from p. 1
PHOTOS BY BOB GRUEN
bass player’s wound with some alcohol, then closed it up with some butterfly bandages. That’s one of Gruen’s defining characteristics: He just does it. In fact, that’s also why he was on the bus in the first place. He had asked Malcolm McLaren, the band’s manager, if he could come along at the last minute, and it turned out there was one seat left. “Yeah, I jumped on the bus,” Gruen recalled, during a recent interview in his Westbeth studio in the West Village. “Malcolm said, ‘Come along,’ and I did. It was very spur of the moment — like most things in my life. Malcolm said only 12 could come. They were on a bus in a parking lot ready to pull out. I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time, so I didn’t have to come home. … I woke up 10 days later in San Francisco.” As for his impromptu field surgery on Vicious, Gruen said, “He appreciated it.” As for the tour itself, it was bedlam. “Oh yeah, people threw things at them all over the place,” he said. “They tried to encourage a hostile, anarchist atmosphere.” Gruen’s assessment of the Sex Pistols: “They were just the most obnoxious…. I didn’t know what the fuss was about. They weren’t very good.”
ICONIC ROCK IMAGES In a decades-spanning career, Gruen has photographed everyone and anyone in rock ’n’ roll. Some of his shots are among rock’s most iconic images. At the other end of the spectrum from the Sex Pistols was John Lennon, Gruen’s friend, who famously advocated for peace and love. It was Gruen who captured the signature shot of the ex-Beatle wearing a sleeveless “New York City” T-shirt, and the one of Lennon flashing a peace sign in front of the Statue of Liberty. Gruen grew up just outside New York City on Long Island. His father was an immigration lawyer and his mother a real estate lawyer. “So I grew up knowing how to negotiate,” he quipped. “It’s helpful if you’re trying to get a backstage pass.” As a youth he started taking photos with his dad’s Minolta. His mom’s hobby was photography, so that helped hone his eye. However, without going into detail, he said of his family picture, “The whole thing was a situation I left as soon as I could.” He tried a couple of colleges, but, as he put it, “It didn’t work out.” So, 1965 found Gruen, at age 18, moving to the Village, sharing a Sullivan St. apartment with friends in a psychedelic folk band, the Holy Modal Rounders. “They did the vocals for the movie ‘Bar-
December 12, 2013
Tina Turner was dancing off the stage with a strobe light on her in this The story behind how this famous 1974 shot of John Lennon came about 1970 photo. “I opened the camera for like one second,” the photograhas been “embellished” many different ways, Gruen notes. Contrary to one pher explained of how he got the effect. For most photos, the camera popular version, Gruen did not cut off the sleeves right then and there, but aperture is open only 1/60th of a second. had done it several years earlier.
barella.’ That’s their claim to fame,” he noted. His photos of the band caught the eye of the record label’s publicity department, and that got him started on his way shooting top acts, such as Tommy James and the Shondells (“Crimson and Clover”). Gruen went on to photograph Ike and Tina Turner, and thoroughly enjoyed working with them. He said that, at the time, he wasn’t aware of Ike’s abusive behavior toward Tina.
LENNON’S PERSONAL LENSMAN He met Lennon while photographing him for an article. They hit it off and he became the personal photographer for John and Yoko. “When they wanted a picture taken, they would call me,” he said. For example, Gruen took a very intimate shot at the Dakota of a ponytailed John wearing a white bathrobe holding a newborn Sean as a smiling Yoko looks on. But Gruen said he didn’t want that one published in The Villager because it’s too private.
Regarding the photo of Lennon in front of the Statue of Liberty, it was actually Gruen’s idea. Most of his shots aren’t set up or posed, but this one was. It was October 1974. Lennon was 34, Gruen 29. “I took it to help John Lennon in his deportation case,” he explained. “He was the kind of guy I thought we should keep here. I didn’t think we should be throwing him out. I thought we were supposed to be welcoming great artists. Nixon thought Lennon had been thinking of leading a protest against the Republican Convention. Lennon was propeace and anti-Vietnam. And it was the first time 18-year-olds could vote.” Ultimately, the defense proved that the U.S. government had unfairly singled out the singer for deportation. Gruen visited Liberty Island last year, and noticed many people striking the Lennon peace-sign pose in front of Lady Liberty. “In just the short time we were there, a lot of people were copying that pose,” he noted. “I think a lot of people think of John Lennon like they think of the Statue of Liberty — ‘peace and freedom.’ ”
STORY OF THE NYC T-SHIRT As for the T-shirt shot, taken in August 1974, Gruen said there are many inaccurate accounts about it. “People have embellished the story of it,” he said. One version has it that Gruen was about to take the shot, but felt it just needed something more — or less — so he ripped the sleeves off right then and there. “The T-shirts were sold, not in a store, but by a guy on the sidewalk in Times Square,” Gruen explained. “I would buy them, and just cut the sleeves off because I felt it gave it a better New York City look. I used to give them to friends. “Years later, Lennon was back from his ‘Lost Weekend.’ He had a penthouse apartment in the East 50s — he wasn’t back with Yoko. He was back from L.A., sobering up. I didn’t know if he still had the shirt. It was during a session for an album cover.” As for why the photo has become one of GRUEN, continued on p. 9
Sid Vicious, rock photographer always just rolled with it GRUEN, continued from p. 8
the best known of Lennon, Gruen said, “I don’t know what it is…. . I just believe in good, powerful graphics. I’m proud to be from New York. I like the energy of the city, and it was just a cool thing to say back then. He’s very accessible [in the photo] — yet he’s still a pop star with the sunglasses.” Neither of the two Lennon photos was immediately popular when they were taken in the early 1970s, but they became so after Lennon’s death in 1980.
BONDED WITH EX-BEATLE
PHOTOS BY BOB GRUEN
Gruen both admired Lennon and clicked with him. “Oh yeah, he was a very cool guy,” he said. “He was very smart, very perceptive, very funny. So he was always fun to hang out with because he was always making jokes. He had a cynical sense of humor — we shared that in common. We could relate.” What about the flip side of Lennon’s personality, the troubled, fragile side? “I didn’t really get into psychoanalyzing him,” Gruen stated bluntly. “He was a friend. I didn’t ask him about his mother. You don’t interview your friends.” However, he did share an anecdote about Lennon, about how the photographer stopped by the Dakota one time and the rock star, as he often did, was watching television. “He liked to watch TV a lot,” Gruen noted. “He watched everything. I complained that I was trying to talk to him but couldn’t because of the TV. He said, ‘Well, you can talk if the window’s open. This is my window to the world.’ “I’m sure he would have a field day with the Internet,” Gruen reflected. “John would have used it for peace and freedom and being funny.” The lensman is very proud of his connection to Lennon. “It gives me a chance to be able to keep talking about peace and freedom,” he said, “which is a good message to have.”
On a whim, singer Robert Plant asked Gruen to take this shot of Led Zeppelin in front of their jumbo-sized plane, the Starship, in 1973. It became one of the band’s best-known images.
“Because I wasn’t a girl, they hardly spoke to me,” he said. “I mean, they were mostly into girls.” Ironically, he noted with a smile, “Nowadays, they talk to me.” Although he was documenting rock’s lavish lifestyles, he wasn’t necessarily making too much cash himself, a situation that continues to this day, he noted. “It’s not that lucrative — because people are stealing stuff off the Internet,” he said. “I do sell signed prints through galleries, but I’m not rolling in dough.” Yet, the positive part of people ripping off his photos from the Internet, he said, is that, “The more people see it, it makes the actual prints more valuable.” (For this article, Gruen sent high-resolution digital images for the print version, but lower-resolution versions, with his name stamp on them, for online use.) Now, he said, he’s more into the “history” of rock photography, which is something he can provide through his countless classic prints.
MAKING THE MAX’S SCENE Gruen also spent a lot of time hanging out with the New York Dolls, the genderbending, early punk band, and became part of the Max’s Kansas City scene. He got to know Blondie and Patti Smith. Unlike others, he never liked watching TV at night, instead preferring to go out to Max’s. It was just what he would do in the evenings. “I enjoy going out to clubs. I enjoy seeing bands play,” he said. “I enjoy meeting people. And I turned out to be not wellsuited to working a 9-to-5 job. Luckily, I was a good photographer.” After the Sex Pistols’ U.S. tour, he went to England, with McLaren’s phone number being his only contact there. He covered the Sex Pistols again, but also The Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Elvis Costello and Billy Idol, among others. “My life has always been ‘one thing leads to another,’ ” he said. “You wake up in the morning, the phone rings, and you make the best of it.”
FLYING HIGH WITH ZEPPELIN
CHANGES IN PHOTOGRAPHY
Although he spent far less time with them, Gruen also captured one of the best-known shots of Led Zeppelin, with the band posing in front of their privately chartered Boeing 720, the Starship. “That’s on the very first roll of film I took of them,” he recalled. “I think we were on the way to Cincinnati or something like that. At the time, I took four or five shots, just a little souvenir for the band — it turned out to be one of the icons of ’70s rock excess. I think Robert Plant asked me to shoot it.” However, Gruen had little interaction with Led Zeppelin during the actual flight.
Things have changed so much in photography, first with the advent of autofocus in 1990 and later digital photography, and then the explosion of the Internet. He’s been shooting digitally since 2000. But Gruen, 68, is not one to bemoan change. Nor does he romanticize the past over the present. “There was so much going on,” he said of rock photography’s heyday. “Now, with the Internet, there seems to be more, but there’s less, because everyone’s home with the Internet with their little window. You
The Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious sported a sliced-up torso during the band’s anarchic 1978 American tour. Fortunately, photographer Bob Gruen had cleaned and bandaged a deep, self-inflicted cut on the inside of the bass player’s left elbow. The bandage is visible in this photo. However, by one account, Vicious later tore it off and flung the bloody mess out into the crowd at one of the shows. But Gruen said he didn’t see that. There are a lot of conflicting accounts about what happened on the tour, he noted. “It’s like ‘Rashomon,’ ” he said, “depending on where you were at the time.”
GRUEN, continued on p. 24
December 12, 2013
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December 12, 2013
Mandela, an inspiration for all humanity EDITORIAL
he world lost a towering figure last Thursday with the passing of Nelson Mandela at age 95. The father of a free South Africa, the great humanitarian and leader endured more than a quarter century in prison, most of it under extremely harsh and cruel conditions. His struggle became the symbol of the fight to end South Africa’s racist apartheid system. Many of us remember the South African divestment campaigns that swept American college campuses in the 1980s. That effort definitely contributed to bringing an end to apartheid and to Mandela’s finally being released from prison in 1990. Today, students at New York University, The New School and elsewhere across the country advocating for their schools to divest from major fossil fuel companies take inspiration from Mandela
and the anti-apartheid divestment campaign that occurred during a previous generation. Mandela was a profoundly inspirational figure. President Obama has cited his transformative influence on his life. Even arch conservatives like Newt Gingrich and Ted Cruz recognize the importance of Mandela, and what his struggle and what he stood for mean for all of mankind. “Real conservatives” have been blasting Gingrich for
this, charging that Mandela was, in fact, a communist. Yes, he was, that’s true — but that doesn’t diminish in any way the profound significance of what he accomplished. Mandela embodied humility, and also forgiveness. After his liberation from prison, he even remarkably found it within him to befriend his former jail guard. Sadly, the daily tabloids have chosen to focus on ridiculously trivial matters, such as Obama’s
“selfie” that he took of himself and the Danish prime minister at Mandela’s memorial service, or the sign language interpreter who, well…wasn’t. Hey, thank God, at least they didn’t put Lindsay Lohan on the front page again. Yet, many people were angered by such salacious news judgment regarding such an important occasion. Thankfully, most of us will never have to go through what Mandela did during his long incarceration on Robben Island and other prisons. But, thankfully, Mandela never gave up — and his steadfastness, fortitude and courage helped forever change South Africa…and our world. And, thankfully, it was Mandela upon whose strong shoulders such an inhumane burden, and then, after his release — as he became his country’s leader — such great responsibility, was thrust. Very few others could have done it. As they used to say during the struggle: Amandya! Away Tu! … Amandya! Away Tu!
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR The large and the small of it To The Editor: Re “East Villagers map out a plan to keep chain stores in check” (news article, Nov. 28): Whether “small is beautiful” or not is a judgment based on one’s value of heterogeneity, creativity, community and intimacy versus... all those things I think less of. Try to leave your keys at The Source Unltd for a friend to come feed and walk your dog — and say hi to Santo. Then try to leave them at Kinko’s. It’s all one’s choice. We choose, in the East Village Community Coalition, for the intimacy of community. A local business owner shops in stores nearby, eats in neighborhood restaurants. Their children play in the park. Or send community profits to Bentonville, Arkansas, the home of Walmart. Ours is serious analysis — not “M.B.A. speak” of efficiency. As to E.V.C.C., it is the same organization that achieved landmark status for the old P.S. 64, the former CHARAS / El Bohio. It’s the same organization that spearheaded the successful rezoning of 111 square blocks of the Lower East Side. It’s the same organization that took critical steps in the saving of St. Brigid’s Church — and took steps with wonderful other groups and individuals in the commu-
nity’s larger landmark zone. And more. As for me as a dreaded “developer”... such nonsense. Most of my Lower East Side (and New York) real estate development was building housing for women exiting the prison system, shelter for beaten women, New York City Partnership and Lower East Side People’s Mutual Association housing, housing for homeless veterans and homeless people with H.I.V. and more. I developed one residential building in the
Lower East Side. I spent more years as a community organizer and writer in the Lower East Side than as a developer. Now I am building an agriculture company here in Vietnam. Wonderful street life here in Hanoi. Hello to my friends back home. Michael Rosen Rosen is a founder, East Village Community Coalition LETTERS, continued on p. 18
Bill Bratton is in the spotlight again!
How to achieve zero traffic deaths in New York City TALKING POINT BY KEEGAN STEPHAN
De Blasio has committed to Vision Zero, but does he have the political will to make it a reality?
warn drivers of the illegality and danger of their two most deadly behaviors: speeding and failure to yield. Speed limit and “Yield to Pedestrians” signs reinforce the rules of the road and remind motorists of the dangers they could pose to others — yet they are almost impossible to find in New York City. These signs should be ubiquitous across the five boroughs. As for engineering, the city needs more so-called “complete streets.” The city has identified and proven which street redesigns save lives. It has also identified its most deadly streets. Many communities have even gone to great lengths to request the installation of those lifesaving street features in their neighborhoods. Yet, the city has not touched many of its most dangerous streets, and has specifically denied applications in some areas for “slow zones,” stop lights and speed humps. The city’s reluctance to inconvenience drivers should not take precedence over safety. If the city has identified things it can do to save scores of lives, it should just do them. For example, the city has said that lowering the speed limit to 20 miles per hour would save scores of lives, but it worries that doing so would violate state vehicle and traffic law. Why not pass, post and enforce a citywide 20-mile-per-hour speed
PHOTO BY BARBARA ROSS
ill de Blasio promises to eliminate traffic deaths by 2024. He calls this plan “Vision Zero” after the successful campaign launched by Sweden in 1997 that has been modified and implemented in cities around the world. A cornerstone of Vision Zero — and the entire urban planning and Safer Streets movement — is that cities can calm traffic using the “Three E’s”: Education, Engineering and Enforcement. The Bloomberg administration improved our city’s engineering and, to a lesser extent, its education about street safety, but it failed to motivate the New York Police Department to improve enforcement. Over all, traffic fatalities have decreased 30 percent over the last seven years. But, as the New York Post reported this past Saturday, pedestrian fatalities are on the rise, and more than 220 New Yorkers have been killed in traffic this year alone — more than 220 families, neighborhoods and communities have been left grief-stricken. Just last week, four people were killed by drivers within a 30-minute span. One was an 88-year-old woman hit on Avenue C on Nov. 27 at 5:15 p.m. by a Con Ed truck driver making a left-hand turn onto E. 16th St. It is abundantly clear that de Blasio must do more in all three categories to end these tragedies and achieve Vision Zero. Here’s what needs to be done in each category: In terms of education, more signage is critical. In the last five years, our city changed the layout of its streets more than it did over the previous 50. Yet there are very few signs educating people about these redesigns, and even fewer that
Right of Way members stenciling at the scene of a child fatality during their recent “8 Under 8” action. The activists biked more than 50 miles, to eight sites where young children — all under 8 years old — have been killed by automobiles in New York City this year, painting a stencil at each fatal crash site. They say the Police Department must increase enforcement and investigations for traffic violations and serious accidents.
limit and see if the state sues the city for making its streets safer and saving lives? Regarding enforcement, the three key words are Enforce, Investigate and Automate. Proportionally to the danger they pose, drivers who speed and fail to yield are rarely ticketed, and even when they injure or kill people while breaking these laws, they are almost never charged with a crime. This must change. The N.Y.P.D. must target the most deadly driving behaviors, thoroughly investigate injuries and deaths, and release those investigations to the public, so we can further sharpen education and engineering practices. The N.Y.P.D. can be aided in this effort by legislators, who can designate speeding and failure to yield as crimes instead of violations, and make drivers criminally liable when they break these laws and injure or kill. Installing speed and red-light cameras would also calm traffic and save lives. Albany routinely pushes back against the city’s request for traffic cameras. However, one pillar of de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan is the simple but brilliant idea that New York City have home rule over the placement of traffic cameras on its own streets. Yet, none of these changes will come easy. There will be pushback from some drivers, industries, politicians and tabloids. The most important thing we need to end traffic violence on our streets by 2014 is political will, but it is not clear where it will come from. Bill de Blasio has committed to Vision Zero, but we do not know if he has the political will to make it a reality. Members of the City Council have proposed lifesaving legislation, but it is often watered down or rejected because of technicalities or lack of support. The city’s Department of Transportation and the N.Y.P.D. have made improvements and touted their successes, but our streets are still unsafe, and our fellow New Yorkers are still dying. Thankfully, one unwavering voice has grown more loud and clear than ever before — that of activists for safer streets.
The movement for safe streets has grown in remarkable ways this year alone. In addition to the ever-present work of Transportation Alternatives, a political action committee called StreetsPAC was formed specifically to endorse candidates who support safer streets. Also, families of victims have become leaders in the movement, while communities in every borough have organized locally, and direct action has flared up across the city. The Tao-Liam family, whose 3-year-old daughter, Allison, was killed by a driver who failed to yield right of way, published a powerful op-ed in the Daily News calling for better traffic enforcement citywide. The CohenEckstein family, whose 12-year-old son, Sammy, was killed by a driver reportedly going the speed limit, have led the push for a 20-mile-per-hour limit on all residential streets in New York City. Two new groups — Three Children Too Many and Make Brooklyn Safer — formed and organized rallies exactly one week apart from each other in Jackson Heights, Queens, and Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Each rally drew more than 100 people, and these groups are not going away. Activists with Right of Way have created guerilla signage, infrastructure and memorials that highlight lack of enforcement and prosecution at sites like that of the 88-year-old woman killed last Wednesday whose family will likely never see justice. The safer streets movement is poised and ready to support every grieving family and every advocacy effort that could save a life. We will put pressure on every politician and agency we must to make Vision Zero a reality. We will support Bill de Blasio and others when they fight for the change we need, and call them out on it when they do not. Continuing to let people be killed on our streets is not an option. Stephan is a member, Right of Way, an advocacy group for safer streets in New York City December 12, 2013
D.A. and partners go to the mat to fight elder abuse BY HEATHER DUBIN
ore than warm holiday meals were delivered last week to those in need, thanks to a partnership that is raising awareness about elder abuse. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Citymeals-on-Wheels and the Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale have joined forces to help train staff and volunteers to recognize signs of elder abuse, which is a frequent and underreported problem. Rachel Sherrow, chief program officer at Citymeals-on-Wheels, discussed the ongoing program. “Over Thanksgiving the city shuts down, and meals served to the homebound are done by us,” she said. “We made sure people had food the day before, day of and day after, because some places were closed last Friday.” In addition to providing 20,000 meals throughout the five boroughs for three days to seniors, including 18,000 homebound and walk-ins, Citymeals-on-Wheels staff and hundreds of volunteers also distributed placemats designed by the Manhattan D.A.’s Elder Abuse Unit. “We created these placemats in Spanish
and English, which give basic information — what is elder abuse, who to contact and don’t be afraid — in larger font,” Sherrow said. “It’s to go along with their lovely meal to keep, in case they, or someone they know, is a victim of elder abuse.” The placemat prominently displays a hotline number from each partnership member that seniors can call anonymously. After they do, an assistant district attorney from the Elder Abuse Unit will investigate the case. According to the D.A.’s Office, 20 attorneys who are specially trained in elder abuse work on roughly 900 elder abuse cases per year, on top of their regular caseload. Since the partnership began in 2011, more than 300 Citymeals-on-Wheels staff and regular volunteers have been trained to look for evidence of physical, verbal or financial abuse in meal recipients. “They’re the first line of defense,” Sherrow said. “They would notice if something wasn’t right. They’re there every day, and they develop relationships.” There have been seven trainings so far led by a representative from the D.A.’s Office or the Weinberg Center, who outlined specific cases and examples of elder abuse. “We want people to understand elder abuse can happen to anyone,” Sherrow
“Outside people see them as caregivers, and can’t see them as abusers. We want to break them from these ideas.” Sherrow noted that age should not be a factor when it comes to guaranteeing people’s rights; exploitation has no bounds, especially with seniors. “It’s mostly financial, physical, verbal and mental abuse, but sexual abuse does happen, and no one believes them — it’s very intense,” she said. The initiative has been successful, and the training sesA Citymeals-on-Wheels volunteer recently delivering a sions are making an impact. hot meal to a local senior. During Thanksgiving, the volun“We’ve gotten some feedteers also handed out specially designed placemats from back from supervisors at the District Attorney’s Elder Abuse Unit sporting phone agencies that there’s a lot more numbers for seniors to call to report any abusive behavior talk about what their delivertoward them. ers have seen, and a lot more questions,” Sherrow said. Sevsaid. “There isn’t one type of a person who eral deliverers have called the D.A.’s hotis abused.” line to report abuse incidents, but Sherrow Elder abuse is often perpetrated by se- did not have follow-up information on nior citizens’ own family members and whether action had been taken. children. The D.A.’s Office will conduct trainings “There’s so much shame and stigma for other groups soon, while Citymealsinvolved because elders don’t want to on-Wheels plans to do one more session get their relatives in trouble,” she said. next year after it secures funding.
James Gallagher, 61, Downtown actor turned therapist OBITUARY BY ALBERT AMATEAU
ames Gallagher, who attracted a legion of devoted friends during his years as an actor in the Theatre of the Ridiculous in the 1970s and later as a psychotherapist, was finally laid to rest Thurs., Nov. 21, a year after he was found dead at the age of 61 in his Perry St. apartment. He had been buried in a potter’s field in New Jersey until childhood friends were able to establish his right to a family plot, and had him reburied along with his father and mother in Mount St. Mary Cemetery in Flushing. “Jamie was a brilliant, charming, multifaceted and very talented guy,” said Gary LeGault, an artist and filmmaker in Los Angeles with whom Gallagher often visited. “He was a darling to the gods of Off Off Broadway — Jackie Curtis, Charles Ludlam, Holly Woodlawn, Harry Koutoukas, Jimmy Camicia and Elaine Stewart,” LeGault said. David Kaufman, a Perry St. writer who, along with Justine Pippett, another neighbor, discovered Gallagher’s body, recalled that Gallagher had had a hip replacement a few years before he died.
December 12, 2013
“He lived on the top floor of the walk-up, no place for someone with a hip that gave him pain,” Kaufman said. “But he loved his apartment. “When I first moved here in 1986, we had problems with the building, and Jamie had the kind of street smarts that enabled us to deal with it,” Kaufman added. Holly Woodlawn, who attended Gallagher’s formal introduction to the world of transvestite theater at a celebration of his 21st birthday in 1973, recalled him as “a lovely, sweet guy,” who always took everyone seriously. “He led a straight life during the day and partied and played with us at night,” she said. Gallagher never mentioned that he was in pain when Woodlawn would see him later on her trips back to New York from Hollywood. “He was beyond brave,” she said. “Jamie had a booming, resonant voice that could have filled the Metropolitan Opera,” LeGault said. He recalled that Gallagher was a close friend of Jackie Curtis, acted in some of his plays at La MaMa and co-wrote a Curtis play. Gallagher was also a friend of Marsha P. Johnson, a transvestite Village character, and appears in a documentary about her, “Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson,” which can be seen on YouTube. As a teenager, Gallagher got a job backstage at the Winter Garden during the 1965 run of “Funny Girl,” walking Barbra Strei-
sand’s dog, Le Gault said. It was there that he first met Curtis, who was working at the Winter Garden’s candy counter, LeGault added. Joey Miller, who grew up with Gallagher in Astoria, recalled that they used to come to Manhattan as teenagers to “second act” Broadway shows by joining the crowds reentering after intermission. “We were about 15 when we lied about our ages and got jobs as pages in Rockefeller Center,” Miller said. “Jamie didn’t last long because he really wanted to be on the stage.” When Gallagher was working with Curtis at La MaMa, they used to hang out at Slugger Ann’s bar on E. Third St. near Avenue C. “Jackie Curtis lived in an apartment above the bar,” Miller said. “Slugger Ann was Curtis’s grandmother. It was her bar.” Jamie Gallagher was born in 1951 to James Sr., a page copy editor at The New York Times, and Beatrice Quinn Gallagher, a former Ziegfeld Girl in the Ziegfield Follies. He went to Immaculate Conception parish school in Astoria and then to Rice, a Catholic high school in Manhattan, Miller said. Later, Jamie attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He met Joan Crawford many times as an adolescent when his sister worked as a receptionist for Pepsi Cola, where Crawford had become an executive after she retired from film, LeGault recalled.
“He cherished a cigarette lighter that Crawford gave him,” LeGault noted. “Jamie had a huge collection of Greta Garbo memorabilia,” Pippett recalled. “He also had stuff relating to Marlene Dietrich, whom he loved.” Gallagher’s career took a new turn when he went back to school after a recurring struggle with alcohol. He went first to John Jay and then to New York University, where he earned a master’s of social work and became a therapist. His first job after graduate school was managing the psychology department at Gracie Square Hospital, according to LeGault. Until shortly before he died he also had a private practice in an office on W. 14th St. at Eighth Ave. “He helped a lot of people stay sober,” said Yvonne T, a friend from Alcoholics Anonymous. “He was a very funny guy and could provoke sidesplitting laughter,” Yvonne said. Diane Greenspan, a Charles St. resident who met Gallagher in 1990, recalled that he had an alcohol relapse in 1998. “Still, he was a great friend,” Greenspan said. “He could engage people on the street in conversation. When Hillary Clinton was campaigning for the Senate in the Village in 2000, he got her to pose with him for a photo,” Greenspan recalled. “He was loved and respected by all who knew him,” said LeGault.
Live auction not too lively, but, hey, there’s still online BY BOB KRASNER
PHOTO BY BOB KRASNER
espite the help of mainstream press (Wall Street Journal), radio (“All Things Considered”) and local outlets (such as this paper), the live benefit auction held by St. Mark’s Bookshop last Thursday was not an auspicious start to its campaign to fund the shop’s upcoming move. Eleven signed, first-edition books were offered, but hands stayed down, with only one exception — Anne Waldman’s “First Baby Poems,” which sold for $100. Peter Straub, Sam Shepard and Richard Hell were a few of the authors whose works were returned to the shelf. These and many others, however, are still part of the online auction, which continues until Dec. 15. Bob Contant, the bookshop’s co-owner, was not bemoaning the results. “Expectations were not high to begin with” for the live portion of the ongoing auction, he noted. “We are happy that people showed up. At least the word is
out and attention is being paid.” East Village resident Brittney Ingarra, an auctioneer from Swann Galleries who provided her services pro bono, gracefully sailed through the lack of action as one lot after another failed to generate any interest. Her participation was the result of a connection to Swann through former St. Mark’s Bookshop employee John Larson, who is now a book specialist at the auction house. Many of the people involved in the project were not paid, having donated their services to the cause. Erica Hunt, a consultant who specializes in nonprofit organizations, is one one of them. Hunt actually came up with the idea for the auction and is seeing it through without compensation. She is optimistic about both the outcome of the project and the future of the store. “We are fortunate that the auction will continue online,” she said, adding, “This is the right community to support the store — highly educated and cultured.” Bidding continues online through Sun., Dec. 15, at 10 p.m. at http://benefitevents.com/auctions/stmarksbooks.
An unsold work — an autobiography by Richard Hell — being presented for inspection before the bookstore’s auction.
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December 12, 2013
Pier 42 design features lawns, playground, inlet, more BY SAM SPOKONY
he city’s Parks Department and its hired architect proposed their conceptual master plan for the redevelopment of Pier 42 on Dec. 5, offering a park design that focused heavily on wide open lawn space, waterfront marshes and near-complete removal of the large shed that currently stands on the Lower East Side pier. Community Board 3’s Parks Committee approved the master plan — with an estimated cost of $94 million — and also approved the proposed Phase 1 plan for construction on the pier, which could begin as early as the start of 2016. Phase 1 — which is already funded and will cost $9.8 million — includes demolishing the majority of the shed, planting lawns and trees along the 8-acre pier’s upland portion (which is currently a parking lot), creating walking paths, providing interim park lighting and adding a garden near the pier’s main entrance, at the intersection of Montgomery and South Sts. If the master plan and Phase 1 are approved at C.B. 3’s full board meeting on Dec. 17, both proposals will be sent to the city’s Public Design Commission for approval. During the Dec. 5 presentation Signe Nielsen, of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, stressed similarities between flood-resistant, eco-friendly aspects of her firm’s design and Borough President Scott Stringer’s East River Blueway Plan, which was proposed earlier this year and would transform the waterfront between the Brooklyn Bridge and E. 38th St. “I feel that this park is doing exactly what the Blueway Plan is doing, and that it addresses what everyone is thinking about in terms of producing a resilient shoreline,” said Nielsen, alluding to widespread concerns of storm surge flooding after Hurricane Sandy. “I think this is the poster child for all these proposals that say what we should be doing along the East River.” The ambitious Pier 42 master plan also includes removal of an interior portion of the pier’s deck, which sits directly over the river and needs to be overhauled anyway, since it is currently in a state of severe deterioration, according to the Parks Department. That removal would leave a tiny inlet of water between the remaining deck — which would be covered by a lawn — and proposed waterfront marshes, creating a “soft edge” along that part of the river. Green infrastructure advocates have long claimed that the inclusion of marshes and other soft edges will help protect the waterfront from adverse impacts of future storms like Sandy. The planned inlet would also be bridged by two small pedestrian paths, which would connect the deck lawn and the park’s upland green spaces, according to the plan. “It’ll almost feel like you’re walking on an island out in the river,” said Nielsen. In addition to more lawns along the upland area, the master plan calls for a portion of raised land, just east of the waterfront’s existing bikeway, that Nielsen said would serve as a buffer to the noise and sight of cars on the busy F.D.R. Drive, in addition to helping prevent storm surges. The master plan also includes a new playground near the Montgomery and South Sts. entrance, as well as a concession stand and restroom facilities in the same area of the park. A more uncertain part of the plan relates to the portion of Pier 42, also near that entrance, that is currently used for operations by the city’s Department of Transportation. “Our first job as part of this master plan is to find a new home for the D.O.T. site, although that may not be very easy,” said William Mauro, of the Parks Department, at the Dec. 5 presentation. When — or if — the current D.O.T. space can be incorporated into the park, Nielsen’s design currently calls for
December 12, 2013
A schematic overview of the proposed master plan for a new park at Pier 42.
A rendering showing the planned inlet and bridges across the pier deck that would be built as part of the proposed master plan for Pier 42.
both a seasonal fountain plaza and a small swath of artificial turf to be placed on that site. Nielsen later explained that, as an alternative option for the space currently occupied by D.O.T., her firm is considering placing a docking station for small boats and kayaks at that site. But after the presentation, Rob Buchanan of the New York City Water Trail Association — which is representing various boating groups interested in Pier 42 — told the architect he believed that the pier’s planned inlet, rather than the current D.O.T. space, would be a much more accommodating location for boats or kayaks. “We agree with you,” said Nielsen, though she added that her firm is now doing studies of the riverfront waters, and has found the currents around the proposed inlet to be higher and potentially unsafe. “So let’s wait and see what the rest of those studies show,” she said. It’s still unclear how the remaining estimated total of
around $85 million will be raised to fund all of these elements of the master plan, beyond the lawns and relatively simple aspects of Phase 1 of construction. After the presentation, Mauro admitted that the cost of the full plan is “a good amount more than we thought it would be,” mainly because so much money will have to be spent tearing down and replacing the structurally unsafe pier deck. All of the funding for Pier 42 to date — which will pay for Phase 1, and has already paid for community outreach, site inspections and other elements — was secured in November 2011 by U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and state Senator Daniel Squadron. After the Dec. 5 presentation, Mauro said that the Parks Department has continued to meet with Squadron to discuss the subject. Mauro further stated that, during those meetings, Squadron said he would continue to support the Pier 42 redevelopment, specifically, in terms of trying to secure additional funding.
Store tax hike is raising anxiety BY GERARD FLYNN
PHOTO BY SAM SPOKONY
David Hitchner, a co-owner of ABC Beer Co., says that a new wine license will help expand his business’s “educational clout.”
East Village’s educational beer joint hopes wine is next on tap BY SAM SPOKONY
ne of Downtown’s hottest craft beer purveyors is hoping to liven up the mix by adding wine to both its menu and its drink-friendly educational programming. A year after recovering from the impact of Hurricane Sandy flooding that submerged parts of the East Village, the owners of ABC Beer Co. — at 96 Avenue C, near E. Seventh St. — are now planning to offer new classes in which bartenders and customers can discuss pairings of both beers and wines with cheeses or other foods. “Getting a wine license will definitely allow us to expand our educational clout a bit,” said David Hitchner, a co-owner. “And from a business standpoint, we just want to be able to offer some more options to people who come here.” Hitchner, an East Village resident, is no stranger to fermented grapes. He’s also a co-owner of ABC Wine Co., at 100 Avenue C, and also In Vino, a wine-centric restaurant on E. Fourth St., between Avenues A and B. ABC Wine Co. offers both wine and liquor, as well as free tastings on Thursdays and Fridays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Since it opened in May 2012 — and barring those tumultuous post-Sandy months — ABC Beer Co. has become a prime local watering hole. It boasts around 350 craft beer varieties that cater to both casual and hardcore brew lovers, while also offering a selection of meats and cheeses. Now, ABC Beer Co. representatives will go to Community Board 3’s State Liquor Authority Committee on Dec. 9 to request support for their application for an up-
grade to a beer and wine license. Hitchner explained that he and business partner Zach Mack plan to start slowly with the Beer Co.’s alcohol expansion, by offering one house and one premium variety of both red and white wines, as well as a sparkling option and possibly a New York State wine. The Beer Co. currently offers classes — generally once a month, at about $40 per ticket and 90 minutes long — in which customers can learn more (and taste more) about the fundamental differences between various types of beer, as well as classroom-type discussions in which certain beers are paired with cheeses. With wine on tap, Hitchner said their educational programming would benefit by allowing customers to learn about the differences between beer and wine pairings — and why wine and cheese may not always be the most optimal match. “The French drink wine and the French eat cheese, so most people assume that it’s a good pairing, but that’s generally not the case,” said Hitchner. “So it’ll be fun to try matching some cheeses with a beer and with a wine, to see what people really think about it, and allow them to talk about why they think that.” And with some experience of the stresses of Community Board S.L.A. applications already behind him, Hitchner also noted that he has no plans of trying to get a full liquor license at ABC Beer Co. “We’re not slow-playing the wine alteration just to try to get liquor in here two years from now,” he said, laughing. “We have a really good crowd of people who come here, we’re a neighborhood place, and we don’t need to have liquor to keep that going.”
ithin the last few weeks, small business owners along E. Fourth St. and First Ave. have been getting news in the mail that is making quite a few concerned and some outright fearful. Storefront lessees have been learning from their landlord, the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association, a low-income housing organization, that a long-term tax impasse with the city has been settled — for better and for worse. According to the M.H.A.’s executive director, Val Orselli, Cooper Square would not have to pay a $10 million tax demand from the city, going back nearly two decades. Following lengthy negotiations, a deal was struck and passed by the City Council last year, allowing a retroactive tax abatement for all the M.H.A.’s tenants — both residential and commercial. But there’s a cruel caveat. Although the “Article 11” settlement lets residents in the 342 low-income units off the hook, the letter announces that, going forward, commercial tenants, who are already feeling the pinch in the economic downturn, will have to pay an additional and substantial property tax, and may have to come up with creative ways in order to meet it. While market-rate commercial rents around the corner on E. Fifth St. can go for thousands more, the M.H.A.’s commercial tenants, on a strip that 30 years ago was derelict, pay only a couple of thousand a month,
Orselli said. While tenants were only notified recently, the property tax payments go back to Jan. 1 of this year and will be levied annually. Some tenants have been hit with a tax bill of nearly $7,000, adding more than $600 on top of a monthly rent of more than $2,500, one tenant said. While the M.H.A. has offered one cashstrapped merchant a plan to pay off the tax bill incrementally, even then, the business faces an uncertain future. Orselli said the organization was working with tax attorneys to negotiate with the city to lessen the impact on its tenants, but that tenants’ leases indicate they may have to pay taxes, and that since this is a city tax demand, there is little he can do. Although Cooper Square has a preference for low-income tenants, it will consider market-rate leases when replacing commercial tenants, Orselli said. The M.H.A. and its sister organization Cooper Square Committee are nonprofits, he noted. As such, they rely on a not-so-lucrative revenue base, as is, and additional revenue is needed, even if it means market-rate commercial tenants, he noted. Alex Harsley, a celebrated photographer, founded the Minority Photographers in 1971, and two years later opened 4th Street Photo Gallery in a nondescript storefront at 67 E. Fourth St. Harsley called the tax hike “a scary story, basically.” He said he’s “counting on” Cooper Square locating discretionary funding to give assistance.
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December 12, 2013
Amid a sea of de Blasio blue, Lhota takes Pier 40 BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
December 12, 2013
VILLAGER GRAPHIC BY PASHA FARMANARA
ill de Blasio won more than 73 percent of the vote in New York City on Nov. 5 in his landslide victory against Joe Lhota. The pattern more than held true in Downtown Manhattan, where Democrat de Blasio practically swept the grid from river to river. After the election, The New York Times created an interactive map, with election districts won by de Blasio shown in blue and those by Lhota in red. One can “mouse over” the E.D.’s and see the numbers for the individual districts. Using the Times map as a template, The Villager created its own map. Red E.D.’s don’t even begin to crop up until the 30s, in areas like Tudor City. Farther Downtown, there are some scattered red regions in spots like Battery Park City and the Financial District and near City Hall. But in between those rare red patches the map is saturated with a solid swath of de Blasio blue. Parts of the East Village, Lower East Side, Soho and, to a lesser extent, the West Village went even more heavily for the public advocate than the citywide average, supporting him with 80 percent or more of the vote. However, on the edge of this unbroken blue expanse, one lonely speck of red stands out — namely, the 70th Election District in the 66th Assembly District, in Hudson Square. Here, Lhota actually won, with 24 votes to de Blasio’s 15 (14 on the Democratic Party line and 1 on the Working Families Party line). Adolfo Carrion, Jr., the former Bronx borough president, got 1 vote on the Independence Party line. Could this red anomaly be the start of the Republican revival in Downtown Manhattan that new G.O.P. District Leader Richard Stewart recently told The Villager he is hoping to spearhead? “It may be a spark — I did notice that,” he said of the 70th E.D. He said the Republican County Committee gives the election results to its members, which is how he had noticed it. However, as for the wider area, he noted, the idea of flipping all that blue over to red remains more than daunting. “I think, demographically, there are very few Republicans in the Village,” he admitted. Arthur Schwartz, who recently regained his Democratic district leader post, chalked up the 70th E.D. going for Lhota to shifts in the area’s population. When Schwartz bought his townhouse in the Village in 1991, he noted, his five tenants were artists, but over the last 10 years, four of the five have been replaced by international corporate types. His immediate guess was that the re-
A map of Manhattan south of 18th St. showing how people voted on Nov. 5. The 70th Election District, won by Joe Lhota, includes Pier 40. No one lives on the pier, though — at least not yet.
sult in the 70th E.D. was a product of new luxury residential buildings there, including the 142-unit Morton Square, which fills the block bounded by Morton, Washington, Leroy and West Sts., as well as the Urban Glass House, at Spring and Washington Sts. The New York Times’s map is a little unclear on whether the Urban Glass House is actually in the 70th E.D. But Tim Gay, a deputy chief clerk at the city’s Board of Elections, confirmed that both 330 Spring St. (the Urban Glass House) and Morton Square are in the election district. Pier 40 is also included the E.D., though no one lives on it. While the Election Day numbers were
indeed low for the 70th E.D. compared to others, it wasn’t only due to low voter turnout. According to Gay, most E.D.’s have around 850 to 1,000 registered voters, but the 70th E.D. has only 298. Maria Passannante-Derr, former president of the Village Reform Democratic Club, owns a condo in Morton Square, though she lives elsewhere in the Village. She couldn’t really explain the results for the red anomaly by the river. “Maybe Lhota had a contact over there,” she speculated. “I would think over there would be Democrat.” Some locals declared that Lhota’s win in the 70th E.D. was backlash over Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s ap-
proval of the new megagarage at Spring and Washington Sts. for three districts’ worth of Sanitation Department garbage trucks. “There’s been some change in the neighborhood. There’s been some new people,” acknowledged Eli Hausknecht, the wife of former Democratic District Leader David Reck. However, she added, “I wonder if there was some reaction to the Sanitation garage. That was an issue down here. It will continue to be an issue until it’s done.” As she spoke recently while standing outside the door of her Greenwich St. home, Spring St. nearby was snarled with construction work. It’s for a steam pipe that is being extended to the new Sanitation garage. Posted prominently inside the front window of her and Reck’s home were campaign signs for de Blasio and Councilmember-elect Corey Johnson. Similarly, Victoria Faust, an artist who lives at 533 Canal St., and Martin Sheridan, the owner of the Ear Inn bar and restaurant, just east of the Urban Glass House, both felt the 70th E.D. result was tied to the hated garage project. “Look at the Urban Glass House — they really got screwed,” Faust said. “Christine Quinn got slapped [in the primary] — I’m so glad.” And yet, the neighborhood’s complexion is changing, as well, she noted. “It’s an interesting area,” she said, adding, “I mean, I’m eventually going to move. Because all these wealthy people...the neighborhood’s really changed. Thank God for the Ear Inn, it still has a community feeling to it. But not much anymore, because people who are buying all these things, they’re just buying them for investment — we call them ‘black houses.’ They come in once in a while, they’re not involved in the community at all.” Sheridan, who described himself as not just a Democrat, but a socialist, said he shunned the polls this year because of his anger over the garage project. He lives just outside the 70th E.D. “Quinn pissed so many people off down here in the political world — and that carried on against de Blasio,” he explained. “They didn’t vote ‘blue’ because they were pissed off at Quinn.” For his part, Tony Hoffmann, president of the Village Independent Democrats club, didn’t make much of the one small district going red. “I joined V.I.D. in 1976,” he said. “As long as I’ve been involved in politics, I’ve heard, ‘The Village is changing. The Village is getting more conservative.’ But it’s not changing. “Maybe it’s self-selection,” he said. “The people that live in the Village, as opposed to the Upper East Side, are more liberal.”
Big turnaround in ‘toad case’ as charges are reduced TOAD CASE, continued from p. 4
sported an “Occupy” button on his lapel —commended the D.A.’s Office for reducing the “almost comical” charges, but declined to accept the plea deal. Instead, he asked for the charges to be dropped entirely — both on factual grounds (they are subpoenaing the surveillance footage) and through what’s known as the “necessity defense”: That the rate of species extinction and climate fluctuations have become so severe that provocative acts are justified to call attention to the earth’s plight. “Any harms that may have been caused by Nehemiah and Billy are far outstripped by the continuing harm caused by Chase bank,” Stecklow told The Villager. “Who causes more harm in the world, Reverend Billy or Jamie Dimon?” quipped Luckett’s attorney, Samuel Cohen, referring to JPMorgan Chase’s chairperson. A smiling Luckett said he felt relieved to have escaped jail time. But he said the notion of pleading guilty to even a lowlevel misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass was “still upsetting.” “It was the public lobby of a bank, so we don’t want to set a precedent that would make future actions by us or others illegal,” Luckett told The Villager. “We are going to press forward until
we get a clear constitutional mustering of that,” added Talen. “I want our campaign to continue,” the performance-artist preacher declared. “Nehemiah and I and the Stop Shopping Choir want people around the world to enter hedge funds and banks that are participating in the destruction of our biosphere and expose them.” Of course, when it comes to exposure, Talen couldn’t have asked for a better press agent than the Manhattan D.A.’s Office. The threat of an actual jail sentence landed Talen and his toad warriors coverage on WNYC radio and WBAI’s “Democracy Now,” as well as in Vice and the British Guardian, even Forbes. Index on Censorship, which monitors free speech worldwide, compared Talen and Luckett’s plight to the persecution of the feminist band Pussy Riot in Russia. And at Monday’s hearing, Al Jazeera America was there to film the proceedings. As the two activists went into court, nearly 14,000 people had signed a petition calling for the charges to be dropped, and they’d raised more than $15,000 to pay for their legal costs via indiegogo.com. Even better, Reverend Billy’s show this Sunday at Joe’s Pub is sold out. Not that the Rev is out of hot water entirely. The current complaint still claims he engaged in “tumultuous and violent
conduct likely to cause public alarm.” At the hearing, Bornstein told the judge that one bank employee locked herself in the bathroom in tears. The judge ordered all parties to submit their responses in January, after which she is scheduled to issue a written opinion on Feb. 27. Her ruling may help define the parameters of free speech in the city. Talen insists his troupe’s actions were in no way threatening. Although bank employees claimed the choir toads were shouting, “We are coming for you!” Billy says they were actually singing a song from the point of view of the toads and other threatened species, with the lyrics: “Humankind, we’re around you, we surround you.” It’s the same song and dance that he and the Stop Shopping Choir have performed at scores of Chase branches and other banks across the U.S. and Europe. What perhaps made the response to this protest different, Talen says, was that this was a “wealth management” branch of Chase that caters to higher-income clientele. Talen concedes he flamboyantly urged the bank customers, several of whom were in cubicles meeting with portfolio managers, to either withdraw their funds from Chase or use their leverage to
change the bank’s investment priorities. “It’s not a crime for a preacher to make someone cry,” observed Stecklow. In fact, Luckett’s role in the demonstration, Talen says, was to pass out fliers and inform customers and employees, “This is a protest.” With the threat of jail time over, Talen and Luckett and an exultant crowd of supporters gathered outside the courthouse for a press conference. They posed before giant puppets of the Statue of Liberty and the Scales of Justice, as members of the Stop Shopping Choir performed the Bill of Rights a cappella. Talen vowed to continue his campaign targeting Chase as America’s leading “fossil fuel bank.” Some may ask, Why single out Chase? According to BankTrack.org, the company is a leading underwriter of controversial mountaintop removal mining projects here in the U.S. and abroad, and is heavily invested in the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadian tar sands extraction, and the construction of new coal power plants around the world — though it’s a bit of a leap to tie Chase to the demise of the golden toad. “We’re losing ecosystems. We’re losing species every day,” Talen warned, before getting into a cab to take his young daughter to preschool.
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December 12, 2013
Jim Hall, 83, top jazz guitarist, longtime Villager OBITUARY BY SAM SPOKONY
egendary jazz guitarist and longtime Greenwich Village resident Jim Hall died on Dec. 10, at age 83. Hall was widely regarded by both players and critics as a true master of the instrument, and his influence as a keenly melodic and modern guitarist continues to be felt throughout the jazz world. Along with leading his own bands, some of his most famous recorded collaborations include those with the saxophonist Sonny Rollins and the pianist Bill Evans in the 1950s and ’60s. In his later years, Hall taught for some time at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, and he continued to perform up until his death. His final gig took place less than a month ago, on Nov. 23 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room. Hall died in his sleep at his W. 12th St. home — where he lived for four decades — after a short illness, according to his wife, Jane, to whom he was married for 48 years. “He was such a sweet, wonderful man,” she said, “and
he had a million friends.” Elizabeth Butson, a former publisher of The Villager and a resident of the same W. 12th St. building, echoed that sentiment, explaining that Hall was revered within the community. “He was beloved everywhere he went, whether it was as a musician, a teacher or a neighbor,” said Butson. Among Hall’s friends toward the end of his life were a group of fellow New York City-based guitarists — many of them younger musicians who had grow up listening to him — whom he sometimes met for lunch at French Roast, at the corner of W. 11th St. and Sixth Ave. The group always sat either in the restaurant’s back room or at a large table near the back. They talked shop and shared stories, but most of all, they laughed, according to one of those guitarists, Julian Lage, who added that the meetings were each jokingly referred to as “The Jim Hall Invitational Luncheon.” “Nothing made Jim happier than hearing a funny story, and we spent the whole time laughing our heads off,” said Lage, 25, who performed alongside Hall numerous times, most recently at this year’s Newport Jazz Festival. The last of the lunch meetings took place less than a week before Hall’s death, but it was particularly special because it was a celebration of his 83rd birthday.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Continued from p. 10
Smaller businesses do it right To The Editor: Re “East Villagers map out a plan to keep chain stores in check” (news article, Nov. 28): Small business makes the world turn. It is the main economy. As a small business owner and employer of 16 people in the East Village for the past 10 years, I can tell you
that my employees have been much better paid, by far, and much better treated, by far. Why would they stay with me for four, five, six — and some, seven years? Can they make $9.50 an hour as a starting salary, $13.50 as a salesperson and $18.50 as a manager at a big-box store? I don’t think so. My friends who work in large corporations, which I have done as well, are envious of my ability to actually make decisions, to turn on a dime, and to actually take advantage of market trends. Small businesses are, ounce for ounce, 10 times more productive than big ones. Dominique Camacho
E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to news@ thevillager.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 515 Canal St., Suite 1C, NY, NY 10013. Please include phone number for conﬁrmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. The Villager does not publish anonymous letters.
“No one’s had a greater influence on my musical trajectory. And at every stage of my development, I’ve thought, ‘Thank God for Jim Hall,’ ” said Lage. “But it was those lunches that’ll remain some of the most enjoyable moments of my life.” James Stanley Hall was born Dec. 4, 1930, in Buffalo, N.Y. Coming from a musical family, he first picked up the guitar at age 10, and was playing professionally by the time he was a teenager. He studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and then lived in Los Angeles before moving to New York in the early 1960s. Hall’s vast musical contributions earned him America’s highest jazz honor in 2004, when he was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. In addition to his wife, Hall is survived by a daughter, Devra Hall Levy, who also served as his manager.
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December 12, 2013
Have yourself a darkly odd Christmas Essential viewings balance the treacly and the treacherous BY TRAV S.D. (travsd.wordpress.com)
I’d never heard of this movie until they began to show it on cable television in the 1980s. It rapidly became my favorite holiday film, for it is every bit as bizarre and dark as it is charming and festive. For some reason, Hal Roach liked to
“BABES IN TOYLAND” a.k.a. “MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS” (1934)
HAL ROACH STUDIOS
hristmas is usually associated with brightness: the North Star over Bethlehem, the lights on a Christmas tree, the whiteness of snow, the silver of tinsel. Fairy tales, on the other hand, are notoriously dark, with their stories about lost children and the wolves, witches, ogres, giants and trolls out to get them — unconscious maps of the anxieties that lie just underneath every human psyche. In any good yarn, the characters need to get into trouble. For the most part, the best Christmas stories walk a fine balance between the treacly and the treacherous: the Abominable Snowman, the Winter Warlock, the Mayor of Sombertown, the Grinch and that evil magician who harasses Frosty for his top hat are all fine villains. Yet all are redeemed and transformed by the Christmas spirit. The psychologies of some people who make Christmas movies and television specials, however, are apparently so badly wired or damaged that they unconsciously produce nightmarish effects far beyond the normally accepted bounds of the genre. Those are the shows I like to watch again and again and again and again and again.
Laurel and Hardy, in the sweet but unsettling “Babes in Toyland.”
Bizarre: Santa battles a devil.
experiment with starring Laurel and Hardy in operas and operettas (he’d done the same with “The Bohemian Girl” and “Fra Diavolo”). Here of course, the team adapted the popular 1903 Broadway show by Victor Herbert. Much is changed from the stage version, however. The film is set in a land populated by all the characters from nursery rhymes and other children’s literature (Stan and Ollie are versions of Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, two toymakers who live in the Old Woman’s Shoe). Much more enjoyable than the conventional plot about young lovers and a rapacious landlord/suitor are the film’s memorable details: a guy in a cat costume and a live monkey inexplicably dressed as Mickey Mouse; little people (or children?) costumed as the Three Little Pigs; the army of
USA make a pretty poor showing indeed. Don’t forget to keep an eye peeled for the “Dance of the Giant Dolls” nightmare. At any rate, this is the NEW classic around my house. I’ll need to watch it many more dozens of times until I get it out of my system.
hairy little bogeymen — and then there’s the scene where Oliver Hardy, nabbed for burglary, is made to receive a medieval dunking punishment while Old King Cole laughs merrily at the spectacle. My favorite line is “Oh, help! I’m smothering!” The whole thing is both sweet and unsettling and I can never get enough of it.
“SANTA CLAUS” (1959)
This is a bizarre film, no two ways about it. In this Mexican-made Christmas story, Santa and one “Pitch,” a devil, battle for the souls of several children on Christmas Eve. On Santa’s side are Merlin the Magician and contingents of child labor from all over the world. The first 20 minutes of the film are eaten up by a concert featuring songs from each nation. It gets quite preposterous after a while, and I must say the delegates from the
SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (1964)
Back in the day, people used to laugh at the kind of “cheap production values” evinced by movies like this. On the contrary. From where I sit, it’s more like an example of the kind of magic you can make on a shoestring. Everything you need to know is in the title. The leaders of Mars are concerned about the growing apathy and depression of their children (one of whom CHRISTMAS ESSENTIALS, continued on p. 20
December 12, 2013
Bizarre but festive seasonal must-sees CHRISTMAS ESSENTIALS, continued from p. 19
is a very young Pia Zadora). To bring them joy, they kidnap Santa Claus, and (by accident) two stowaway earth children. Some of the Martians are good, some are evil. The evil ones are dispatched by an army of Santa’s wind-up toys, in a scene that is truly a triumph of early psychedelia. I find the colors in this movie beautiful to look at. There is no more perfect film to watch on a double bill with “Santa Claus.”
THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS (1974)
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December 12, 2013
This 1964 cheapo has shoestring magic — and Pia Zadora!
Trav S.D. has been producing the American Vaudeville Theatre since 1995, and periodically trots it out in new incarnations. Stay in the loop at travsd.wordpress.com, and also catch up with him at Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, et al. His books include “No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous” and “Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and its Legacies from Nickelodeons to YouTube.”
May your Christmas be as White as our Horse!
White horse Tavern
I lied when I said I watched all of these shows over and over. I’ve only watched this one two or three times, and it was at least three times too much. My substitute name for this made-for-TV holiday movie is “The Worst Christmas Special Ever.” Some may take umbrage (given entries number two and three), but I stand by it. Those movies at least have entertainment value. They provide a spectacle and entertainment, however bizarre. That sort of thing is never “bad” in my eyes, although that’s the word people often resort to. Much worse than that in my eyes is bland mediocrity. The only true sin in cinema is to be boring. This one has almost the identical plot to “The Year Without a Santa Claus.” Charles Durning’s Santa is so depressed he does everything but drink whiskey and smoke cigarettes. “I don’t know why I’m knockin’ myself out,” he sighs, as though Santa were some under-paid, under-appreciated civil servant. Fortunately (or unfortunately), he is accosted by a very disturbing, oversized elf creature who tries to stir him back into action. The day will be saved by none other than Wayne Osmond (not even Donny or Jimmy), who plays piano at the mall, and his wide-eyed little daughter. Wayne Osmond, as you have already surmised, is not a towering paragon of thespianism. One only hopes that Santa will leave a coupon for acting lessons in his stocking!
EMBASSY PICTURES CORPORATION
This popular Rankin/Bass show premiered when I was nine years old, and I can’t tell you the unspeakable excitement with which we fourth graders greeted the event. All the previous Rankin/Bass specials had premiered before our time (“Rudolph the Red-Nosed” in 1964, “The Little Drummer Boy” in 1968, “Frosty the Snow Man” in 1969, and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in 1970). And while we gave this new one high marks (especially the Heat and Snow Miser songs), something was different. In modern parlance, it seems to me that with this special, the series jumped the shark. How many holiday angles can you hit? Eventually you have to go downbeat. “What if, one year, there was no Christmas?” Though this show was based on a book written in 1956, it certainly feels very much in tune with the spirit of 1974, with its soaring divorce rates and cynicism. It was perhaps inevitable that given the tenor of the times, we would be given a Santa who is clinically depressed, who is having some kind of nervous breakdown or identity crisis. “I don’t know, maw,” he mutters, “There just doesn’t seem to be any reason to bother any more.” My favorite part is during the show’s closing number, when Santa shouts to the heavens: “I dreamed unpleasant things!”
IT NEARLY WASN’T CHRISTMAS (1989)
Celebrate and have a drink with us!
All Grandmas allowed No Reindeers! Giddy-up & Have a Merry Christmas!
Snow Miser’s the real star of 1974’s “The Year Without a Santa Claus.”
Just Do Yule BY SCOTT STIFFLER
GREENWICH VILLAGE CAROLING WALK
Have songbook, will travel: Carolers make a stop at Washington Mews, during 2012’s Greenwich Village Caroling Walk.
LESS THAN RENT’S “HOW LTR STOLE CHRISTMAS”
PHOTO BY WAYNE VALZANIA
Considering the source, the tagline “LTR’s First Annual Holiday Variety Show” sounds like a threat wrapped in a promise — but it may be the perfect gift, for those prefer to fill their seasonal plate with dark meat, dark matter and edges that cut. “We aim to navigate the complexities of our generation and the modern world by exploring the vast canons of the past in new and imaginative ways,” says the Less Than Rent collective — who are currently bringing that mission statement to the stage in the form of three wild, profane, chaotic and “highly unwholesome” Christmas-themed variety shows. Elf choirs, holiday sweater
One in six (at the least) will stop by Stonewall, when groups of singers fan out across the area, for Dec. 21’s Greenwich Village Caroling Walk.
PHOTO COURTESY OF LESS THAN RENT
PHOTO BY DAVIS FOULGER
There’s no need to hop across the pond to have yourself a merry little “Christmas Carol”-type experience. The Village has an ample amount of cobblestone charm and picturesque Dickensian pathways to navigate — without the hassle of 19th century London’s flower women, fishmongers and roving gangs of pickpocketing urchins. Soak up the atmosphere, and create some of your own — by taking part in the West Village Chorale’s 39th Annual Greenwich Village Caroling Walk. Songbooks will be provided, upon arrival at the Meeting Room of Judson Memorial Church. From there, groups of singers will head out on six routes, as the solstice sun dips toward the horizon. Refreshments await you at Judson, when the event comes full circle (at which point there will be a bit more singing, and much conviviality). Free. Sat., Dec. 21, at 3pm. Meet at Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Square South, at Thompson St.). For info, call 212-5171776 or visit westvillagechorale.org.
Why so glum? Mike Schwitter is among the Less Than Rent members plumbing the depths of holiday depression, in Dec. 17’s “A Blue Christmas Without Jew.”
stripteases, a reenactment of the Hanukah story and staged readings of the worst-ever TV holiday specials figure into the mix on any given night. Now for some bad news: You’ve missed the first two installments (Dec. 3’s “A Miracle on East 4 Street” and Dec. 10’s “America’s Next Top Virgin Mary Christmas Beauty Pageant”). The good news? Dec. 17’s “A Blue Christmas Without Jew” gives you one last chance to catch the troupe’s profane proceedings. It’s hosted by Brandon Zelman, directed by Nicole Ventura and will feature various seasonal atrocities by guest playwrights, as performed by LTR members including Cory Asinofsky, Ben Diserens, Mark Levy, Olivia Macklin, Tom Sanchez and Catherine Weingarten. Certain unpleasant truths will be told — and latkes will be served! Tues., Dec. 17, at 9pm. At The Kraine Theater (85 E. Fourth St., btw. Second Ave. & Bowery). For tickets ($10), call 212-868-4444 or visit smarttix.org. Also visit lessthanrent.org.
Theater for the New City • 155 1st Avenue at E. 10th St. Reservations & Info (212) 254-1109 For more info, please visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net
SHAKESPEARE AND ELIZABETH I: THE REALITY SHOW Written by PHOEBE LEGERE Directed by MARK MARCANTE & DAVID “ZEN” MANSLEY
Thursday - Sunday December 12 - 15 Thu-Sat at 8pm, Sun at 3pm All Seats $15/tdf@$9
WELCOME HOME SONNY T Written & Directed by WILLIAM ELECTRIC BLACK
Thursday - Sunday, December 12 - 22
Thu-Sat at 8pm, Sun at 3pm All Seats $15/Studt’s & Srs $12/tdf@$9
TWO ALONE, TOO TOGETHER Written by PETER WELCH Directed by JONATHAN WEBER With DAN KELLEY & PETER WELCH
Thursday - Sunday, December 12 - 22 Thu-Sat at 8pm, Sun at 3pm All Seats $15/Studt’s & Srs $10/tdf@$9
NEW CITY, NEW BLOOD
TNC’s New Play Reading Series! “FOR CHANCE” Written by CHIMA CHIKAZUNGA Monday, December 16th 7:00pm Sugg. Donation $5
TNC’s Programs are funded in part by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts
December 12, 2013
Just Do Art BY SCOTT STIFFLER
THEATER FOR THE NEW CITY PRESENTS: “WELCOME HOME SONNY T”
December 12, 2013
PHOTO BY MICHAEL DE ANGELIS
Cut from the same cloth, but wearing different colors: Eliza Bent and Dave Malloy are the titular mojo workers, in “Blue Wizard/Black Wizard.”
BLUE WIZARD / BLACK WIZARD
PHOTO BY JONATHAN SLAFF
Written in the tradition of Steven Carter, Lorraine Hansberry, Charles Fuller and James Baldwin — who confronted black family and community issues with gripping realism — “Welcome Home Sonny T” is the first in playwright/director William Electric Black’s five-part “Gunplays” series, which addresses inner city violence and guns. “Activist” theater is nothing new for Black (a.k.a. Ian Ellis James, who serves as Artistic Director of La MaMa’s Poetry Electric series and is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning writer for his work on “Sesame Street”). In 2009, he directed Theater for the New City’s “Lonely Soldier Monologues: Women at War in Iraq” — a series of solo performances based on a book by Helen Benedict. With this debut installment in the “Gunplay” series, Black spotlights the social impact of alienation and unemployment on young black males, as well as the declining influence of the church. Part of a seven-member cast, Richard Pryor Jr. (son of the comedian) plays a prominent black minister (and former 60’s radical) grappling with his own inability to restore order in a neighborhood scarred by gun violence. Through Dec. 22, Thurs. through Sat. at 8pm and Sun. at 3pm. At Theater for the New City (155 First Ave., at E. 10th St.). For tickets ($15, $12 for students/seniors), call 212254-1109 or visit smarttix.com. Also visit welcomehomesonnyt.com and theaterforthenewcity.net.
A mother (Verna Hampton) confronts her son (Kadeem Harris) in the presence of a lost brigand (Brandon Melette, center) who would lure him into hate crimes — in “Welcome Home Sonny T.”
Like a two-person Barry Manilow, Eliza Bent and Dave Malloy write the songs — and they also write the script. Busy enough behind the scenes, the duo also stars in “Blue Wizard/Black Wizard.” Mikeah Earnest Jennings and Nikki Calongev play referees, charged with judging a series of battles and contests meant to save onlookers from the “Great Mediocrity.” As the Incubator Arts Project production plays itself out, mounting evidence suggests that the two opposing mojo workers might not actually be wizards — just regular people trying to inject some meta-theatrical excitement into their mundane lives. A score written in the style of “Prince-inspired medieval techno” seeks to “warp the conventions of musical theater and classical art song to intersect with the sensibilities of electronic music.” That, along with the presence of a 12-person chorus, ought to ensure that spectators won’t suffer from the on-stage display of wizardly ennui. Through Dec. 22, Tues., and Thurs. through Sun., at 8pm. At Incubator Arts Project — located inside St. Mark’s Church (at 131 E. 10th St., at Second Ave.). For tickets ($18), call 866-811-4111 or visit incubatorarts.org.
Flea Theater breaks ground on bigger digs Bats will soon have a better place to hang BY SAM SPOKONY
Good art works on many levels: A rendering of the new Flea Theater depicts its three performance spaces.
residential neighborhood in New York.” Funding for the purchase and renovation of 20 Thomas St. came nearly equally from public and private sources — $5 million from the city and $3.75 million from the state, with $8.15 million coming from private donors, according to Ron Lasko, the theater’s spokesperson. He added that the Flea is still hoping to raise an additional $2 million in private
PHOTO BY SAM SPOKONY
Actress Sigourney Weaver, a founding partner of Flea Theater, left, with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Dept. of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin, helped bust down a ceremonial wall at the Dec. 5 groundbreaking event for the Flea Theater’s new home at 20 Thomas St.
money to finish renovating the building, and to fund an endowment to cover future operating expenses. Film star Sigourney Weaver, who is married to Simpson and was a partner in founding the Flea 17 years ago, also spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony. In addition to co-starring in two productions at the Flea, she had played a vital role in lobbying for the theater’s public funding
in recent years. “The Flea has renewed and energized established artists like myself, sustained emerging artists in theater and dance and showcased the next very talented generations,” said Weaver. “We couldn’t be more proud, or more grateful to the city, the state and the countless individuals who have made this dream come true for all of us.”
What’s new, at the Flea’s old digs BY SCOTT STIFFLER
amily Furniture” is playwright A.R. Gurney’s eighth world premiere at The Flea. Thomas Kail, a 2008 Tony nominee for “In The Heights,” directs a cast whose familiar ranks include Peter Scolari (“Girls” and “Newhart” on TV, and recently seen on Broadway in “Lucky Guy”). The play is described by the Flea as a return to “home territory” for Gurney — whose coming of age tale, set in Buffalo, happens over the course of a decisive summer during which an upper class WASP tribe girds themselves with gin and tonic, to navigate “tennis doubles with the Baldwins, vichyssoise and so much more, in this heartfelt tale about parents and children.” In 2014, the Bats will be busy bees while their new three-theater hive is under construction. Back at the Flea’s “classic” White St. location, its resident acting company (named for those sleek, nocturnal, winged cave-dwellers) is prepping for a January world premiere from Brooklyn’s Brian Watkins. Helmed by resident director Danya Taymor and featuring members of the Bats, “My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer” finds Sarah, Hannah and their needy mother stuck in a forgotten prairie town with Vicky — lone survivor of the family’s formerly robust flock of sheep. Tasked with housebreaking the woolly beast, the sisters face a similar challenge: learn to behave civilly, or sacrifice their future. “We haven’t heard the howls of the prairie — that vast expanse of America — since the early days of Sam Shepard,” says Producing Director Carol Ostrow of the playwright. “Watkins,” she asserts, “is an original, and he is a real find.”
PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS
IMAGE COURTESY OF FLEA THEATER
ne of Downtown’s leading OffOff Broadway theaters is moving to a space that’s nearly double the size of its old one. Directors and supporters of Tribeca’s Flea Theater celebrated the groundbreaking of their new 20 Thomas St. home on Dec. 5, and jubilantly announced that — thanks to city, state and private funding — they now own the building. “This is truly a most thrilling step in our story,” artistic director Jim Simpson said at the Dec. 5 ceremony, “and I could not be happier to be at the helm of the Flea right now.” Since it was founded in 1996, the Flea has rented its 7,400-square-foot space at 41 White St., which has two theaters. Once the company moves a few blocks to 20 Thomas St. — construction is expected to be completed by fall of 2014 — the Flea will enjoy an 11,500-square-foot space that will include three theaters, as well as a rehearsal room. The Flea was certainly able to thrive in the smaller facility — presenting more than 100 plays, as well as dance and music performances, and winning numerous Obies and other awards — but those who backed the move financially believe it will give a new and valuable boost to the Downtown arts scene. “This little Flea is going to help make big dreams come true for a lot of young artists,” said Scott Stringer, Manhattan’s borough president. “The cultural life of the city will really be defined by how many young people get an opportunity to come here from all over the world, just because they want to sing and dance and express themselves.” Stringer, who will take office as the city’s next comptroller in January, said he had hoped to find a new home for the Flea ever since he became borough president eight years ago. “So I’m glad that, with 27 days left as borough president, we finally got this thing done,” he quipped. Keeping with the lightheartedness of the ceremony, Kate Levin, commissioner of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, proclaimed the Flea’s new space to be “groovy doovy” — a phrase she said Simpson had taught her years ago. “The Flea really has been a key part of transforming Lower Manhattan,” said Levin, “and in making sure that it is a cultural hub as well as a vibrant business destination, not to mention the fastest-growing
A tried and true WASP, in a ‘Bats’ cave: A.R. Gurney’s “Family Furniture” is the playwright’s eight world premiere, at the Flea.
“Family Furniture” plays through Dec. 22. Tues.-Sat. at 7pm, Sun. at 3pm. Tickets are $15-$70 (Pay-What-You-Can Tuesdays, at the door). Previews for “My Daughter Keeps Our Hammer” begin Jan. 15, with the run from Jan. 25-Feb. 15, Wed.-Sun., at 7pm. Tickets are $15-$35. Both plays take place at The Flea, 41 White St. (btw. Broadway & Church). For reservations, call 212-352-3101 or visit theflea.org.
December 12, 2013
Photography, Village and music all keep on changing GRUEN, continued from p. 9
used to take a photo at a concert. It was published two weeks later in a magazine, and that was news. Now, before the band has finished their first song, you can send a photo. I can’t compete, and don’t want to compete, with that kind of speed. “It used to be a lot harder work. You used to have to carry a lot of heavy equipment. When I started, I had to carry flashbulbs.” He quipped, “Today, people use Instagram to mess up the picture. We just used alcohol and drugs. … “But you can’t go back,” he said. “You don’t get milk delivered in a bottle by a guy in a wagon pulled by a horse. I’d rather be riding a horse, but… . I’m just happy to be here.”
“Here,” as in Westbeth, “used to be west of nowhere,” Gruen noted. The neighborhood has changed radically since 1970 when he moved in as one of the artists housing complex’s original tenants. “Nobody knew where Washington St. was,” he recalled. “When you got past Eighth Ave., it was like no-man’s land — abandoned factories and piers. In the ’80s, AIDS killed off the kind of hedonistic sex with strangers. In the ’90s they cleaned up the whole neighborhood. They took down the highway, built the park,” he said, referring to the formerly elevated West Side Highway and the new Hudson River Park. “I always wanted to live in a nice neighborhood,” he deadpanned. “Now we live in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in New York. But we’re surrounded by tourists, and the high rents have forced out the mom-and-pop shops.”
FLIPPING OUT AT SUPERIOR INK
December 12, 2013
Bob Gruen in his Westbeth studio in front of his photos of Deborah Harry of Blondie, left, during the shooting in Coney Island for the “Mutant Monster Beach Party” fumetti (a comic strip of artfully altered photos by Punk magazine), and The Clash playing in Boston, right.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE… Just as photography and the Village have changed, so, too, has the music scene. While Gruen said CBGB was a good venue for its time, he doesn’t put it above what’s happening today. “Right now, there are dozens of clubs in Brooklyn where young people in their 20s are having a good time,” he said. “They’re doing it their own way. It’s spread out over the world now with the Internet.” As for bands that he documented that never made it, Gruen mentioned the Steel Tips and the Miamis. “Everybody loved the Miamis,” he said. “They wrote like 70 No. 1 hits that were never recorded.” Nowadays, he likes the Sex Slaves and Barb Wire Dolls. He’s also a big fan of Billie Joe Armstrong and Green Day. At Gruen’s recent 68th birthday party, Armstrong gave him a skateboard with a graffiti-style painting of Joey Ramone on it, which the photographer hung up prominently in his studio. In his personal life, Gruen is married to Elizabeth Gregory, a fashion designer and artist, who is also currently helping him archive his work. Gruen has a son and a daughter and four granddaughters. “They’re actually the biggest joy in my life, which was a surprise for an old punk rocker,” he said of his grandkids. “I enjoy visiting them.”
PHOTO BY BOB GRUEN
Gruen isn’t too happy about the new Superior Ink building, one of whose empty penthouses looms darkly directly across the street from his studio window, blocking his north view. “You can see the pipes and wires hanging from the ceiling — no one’s ever lived there,” he said. “They paid $25 million for it, then resold it for $34 million.” In fact, that’s exactly the idea, he said: No one will ever live there, and the place’s owners will keep flipping it as an investment. “These people have other apartments,” he said. “They should have parked their money in the bank instead of that penthouse.” On the other hand, he added, “It’s better than the crack addicts” that used to hang around the area.
PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
CHANGES IN THE VILLAGE
Patti Smith, left, and the late Lou Reed in 1976. Gruen said of Reed, whom he photographed on occasion, “He was a great artist and a difficult person.“
Sad news on Astor Pl. as city shutters longtime paper kiosk BY ALBERT AMATEAU
erine Ashley, who died in 2006. Jerry then ran it for Katherine’s husband, Sheldon, who died in 2009. D.C.A. in 2010 ruled that Delakas’s operating the stand was illegal because the permit was not in his name. His lawyer, Gil Santamarino, took the case to State Supreme Court, the Appellate Division and finally to the Court of Appeals in Albany, the state’s highest court, but they all ruled in favor of D.C.A. Arthur Schwartz, a Democratic district leader and Community Board 2 member, has now taken on the battle, taking over from Santamarino. Another issue is that D.C.A. has imposed a $37,000 fine against Delakas for operating illegally — $100 a day from the time the Court of Appeals decision came down on Oct. 28, 2012. Local City Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Dan Garodnick, the latter the chairperson of the Council’s Consumer Affairs Committee, have weighed in on Delakas’s behalf. Schwartz said he hopes that Mayor-elect Bill De Blasio’s new D.C.A. commissioner, replacing Jonathan Mintz, would recognize Jerry Delakas’s right to continue running the newsstand. In fact, for the last half year or so, the word had been that the Astor Place newsstand issue would be laid over for the next administration to deal with.
hen vendor Jerry Delakas arrived on Tuesday morning at the newsstand on Astor Place that he has been operating for 27 years, he found the padlock broken on the pavement and a new lock in its place. “I thought it was a break-in and the police had put on another lock, but then I spotted the sticker,” he told The Villager. “This establishment has been operating illegally without a license,” said the sticker posted by the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs. It appeared to be the end of a very long battle that Delakas has been waging for the last couple of years with D.C.A. But there remained one last hope: On Wed., Dec. 11, Delakas’s new lawyer, Arthur Schwartz, went to New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan to seek a temporary restraining order to allow time for another appeal. The issue was still pending at The Villager’s press time. Delakas has been trying to hang on, with the support of countless regular customers and neighbors, especially Martin Tessler, a resident of Stewart House, a nearby co-op apartment building on E. 10th St. Delakas began working at the stand nearly three decades ago as an assistant to the franchise holders, Abraham and Stella Schwartz. After they died, he ran the stand for the subsequent franchise holder, Kath-
Jerry Delakas has operated the Astor Place newsstand for 27 years.
Politicians demand D.O.E. fund school at SPURA BY SAM SPOKONY
he city’s Department of Education is not planning to fund a public school within the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, or SPURA, until at least 2020. But local politicians and Lower East Side school advocates say the commitment should be made right now. A recent D.O.E. statement on the issue came in response to this newspaper’s question about why funding for the future school was not included in the agency’s proposed 2015-2019 capital budget, which will be finalized next summer. SPURA is mentioned in the capital budget, but that is as far as D.O.E. has gone, with regard to the potential school. “Based on our understanding of the housing to be built in the SPURA redevelopment area, and the existing school capacity in that area, we believe a new school will not be needed until the 2020-2024 Capital Plan period,” said D.O.E. in the Dec. 3 statement. “As noted in the Capital Plan, we are watching this development closely, and update our
projections annually.” However hesitant D.O.E. may be to fund a school as part of the development project, a 15,000-square-foot space at the corner of Clinton and Grand Sts. was, in fact, set aside for a new school when the city announced the overall SPURA development proposal earlier this year. Along with various retail and commercial components, a total of 1,000 new residential units are planned to be built at SPURA, a 1.65 million-square-foot swath of land around Delancey St. near the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge. More than half of those residential units are expected to be completed by summer 2018, according to the city’s Economic Development Corporation. Out of the total number of new housing units, 100 will be designated solely for senior citizens — a factor that may have contributed to D.O.E.’s views on the potential need for a new school within the development. In fact, the current text of D.O.E.’s proposed budget for 2015-2019 states that cityowned land at the SPURA site has been reserved for future school construction “should it be deemed necessary.”
But many local school advocates and elected officials believe that a school within SPURA is not only necessary, but should be funded as soon as possible. “Smart development means anticipating and addressing projected community impacts before they reach a critical point,” said Councilmember Margaret Chin. “That is why I worked with the SPURA Task Force to strongly advocate for a public school as part of the project — to serve the hundreds of working families that will make this community their home in the coming years. It is important that the city develop these new school seats in the SPURA site now, rather than waiting until school overcrowding is at a crisis.” Chin had previously signed on to a Nov. 27 letter to D.O.E. — along with state Senator Daniel Squadron (who organized the letter), Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Borough President Scott Stringer and Councilmember Rosie Mendez — urging the agency to include funding for the SPURA school in its 2015-2019 budget. Lisa Donlan, president of the District 1 Community Education Council, summed up the collective frustration of school advo-
cates by stating that they simply don’t trust D.O.E.’s decisions on this — or practically any — issue of new school construction. “D.O.E. has been wrong on so many of their projections in so many neighborhoods, regardless of what kind of data parents have shown them, so it’s just hard to have any confidence at all in what they’re stating in this case,” she said. While explaining her fears of future overcrowding for Lower East Side schools, Donlan alluded to another Lower Manhattan neighborhood that has already suffered from a lack of school seats while its residential population quickly swelled. “We keep telling D.O.E., ‘Don’t make us the next Tribeca,’ ” she said. With all this in mind, the fact remains that, by the time D.O.E.’s budget is finalized next summer, Bill de Blasio will already have taken office as the city’s next mayor. At that point, he — and whoever he may choose to replace current Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott — will have the final say on the plan that is sent to the City Council for approval. However, de Blasio is already taking some heat for not being open enough about who he’s considering to appoint chancellor. December 12, 2013
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Currently sporting a paintjob by Hellbent, the University Place outlet’s exterior will be a canvas for a rotating cast of artists.
Polo store goes to Hell(bent) BY PASHA FARMANARA
olo Ralph Lauren is known for its subdued khaki pants and buttondown shirts, but its Denim & Supply store on 12th St. and University Place has taken on a splash of more colorful flair. With the help of local artist Hellbent, the store has launched its first installment of the Art Wall Project. The project helps raise money for the School of Visual Arts. S.V.A. students and alumni were invited to the project’s opening. The store is selling a shirt inspired by Hellbent’s work, which is available for both men and woman for $50. Hellbent’s facade treatment of the store is the first installment of the Art Wall Project. According to the store’s Web site, the place’s exterior will continue to be used as a canvas for future artists. “The Art Wall Project is a new initiative that supports self-expression through collaborations with emerging artists, who transform the Denim & Supply New York store’s facade into a large-scale work of art,” states the store’s Web site. Neither the store nor the company had a role in designing or even influencing the facade artwork. “That’s all me,” Hellbent said. “They had seen my work. I have murals like that everywhere, so they had actually teamed up with refinery29, a fashion art blog and
found me. They then just gave me free rein to do whatever I chose with the store.” The outlet’s daring to be different may be due to the fact that it is not a traditional Ralph Lauren store. “It’s Denim & Supply, an offshoot brand of theirs which is geared more toward music and art background, I guess,” said Hellbent. “So that’s my color palette and my style.” The store on 12th and University is one of only two Denim & Supply stores in the U.S., and is the brand’s flagship location. Denim & Supply is also available in select department stores, online and at its only other store, in Boston. Villager-area resident Alex Dreyshner said he liked the shop’s new edgy appearance. “It looks pretty funky, almost like graffiti,” he said. “Some may think it’s vandalism. It is different, and different is always good.” Dreyshner suggested, “It would be cool if they continued to get new artists, for them to keep putting up new murals,” before he was told that those were the store’s exact plans. Going forward, the store is planning on continuing the Art Wall Project. It will keep recruiting local artists to design and make new murals on the store’s exterior. As for Hellbent, he’ll be doing some traveling in the coming year. In April he’ll showcase his art in Chicago, then in September he’ll participate in a mural festival in Sweden.
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Home for the Holidays! Chips and Salsa Platter
Cocktail Sandwich or Wrap Platter
An elegant selection of bite size gourmet sandwich or wraps, freshly prepared with an array of cold cuts and assorted cheese from around the world on a bed of lettuce and tomatoes. (served with mayonnaise, mustard and honey mustard on the side)
Sm $50.00 (35 pcs) Md $65.00 (45 pcs) Lg $80.00 (65 pcs)
Large Shrimp Cocktail Platter
The perfect platter for any occasion. Choose one of the following homemade fresh salsas: mild, medium or hot, plus complimentary guacamole.
Sm $30.00 (6-8p) Md $45.00 (10-12p) Lg $55.00 (15-18p)
A wide variety of crispy fresh vegetables. Complimentary with the platter is a choice of two dips.
20 pcs rolls- California Rolls
(Chicken or beef) $8.99 p/p
California Roll Platter $35.00
Amish Sushi Platter
70 pcs rolls- Tuna, salmon, ebi, eel, yellowtail, avocado and cucumber
Sushi Delight Platter
Poached large shrimp beautifully arranged and garnished with lemon wedges and cocktail sauce.
Sm $50.00 (8-10p) Md $65.00 (12-14p) Lg $85.00 (16-18p)
35 pcs rolls- Tuna, salmon, eel, avocado, cucumber. 10 pcs nigiri- Tuna, salmon yellowtail, shrimp, octopus, squid.
Sm $70.00 (6-8p) Md $90.00 (10-12p) Lg $130.00 (15-20p)
Heroes By Foot
Fresh Mozzarella Platter
The perfect appetizer: homemade mozzarella cheese, sliced Holland stem tomato, sun dried tomato, fresh basil with olive oil and balsamic vinegar elegantly designed in a floral display.
Pick from these delicious options; Amish Style, American, Vegetarian and Italian (served with mayonnaise, mustard and honey mustard on the side). Chicken Cutlets, grilled or fried (served with roasted vegetables and fresh mozzarella).
Sm $45.00 (8-10p) Md $55.00 (10-12p) Lg $70.00 (14-18p)
2 foot $45.00 (6-8p) 4 foot $90.00 (12-14p) 6 foot $130.00 (18-20p)
Assorted Cheese Platter
Royal Sandwich or Wrap Platter
A unique selection of imported and domestic cheeses garnished with fresh fruits or a gourmet selection of olives with assorted crackers or sliced bread on the side.
X-Sm $40.00 (4-6p) Sm $60.00 (8-10p) Md $80.00 (12-14p) Lg $100.00 (16-18p)
Oven Baked Hors D’oeuvres
A delightful selection of bite size, handmade hors d’oeuvres, including potato puffs, spinach turnover, mini meatballs, mushroom crowns and pigs in a blanket.
Md $55.00 (50 pcs, 8-10p) Lg $110.00 (100 pcs, 16-20p)
An endless array of fresh cold cuts and wraps, all made with assorted cheeses served on a variety of artisan breads and wraps with lettuce and tomato. (served with mayonnaise, mustard and honey mustard on the side)
A delicious assortment of brownies, cookies, and chocolate garnished with fresh berries.
Served chilled or poached with dill sauce, or grilled with teriyaki glaze.
Sm $60 (6-8p) Lg $100 (10-15p)
with special house sauce $8.99 p/p
Mini shrimp kebab $11.99 p/p Stuffed chicken breast
with spinach and feta cheese $8.99 p/p
Mini meatballs $8.99 p/p Buffalo chicken wings with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing $7.99 p/p
Eggplant rollatini $7.99 p/p
Hot Pasta Trays
Marinara, Ala Vodka, Alfredo Siciliana, Milanese Suggested with penne
Ziti Baked with Ricotta, Mozzarella, Romano Cheese, Spices with Red Sauce
Half Tray $40.00 (8-10p) Full Tray $80.00 (20-30p)
Stuffed Turkey or Chicken Breast with Spinach and Feta Cheese
Chicken Parmigiana Chicken Franchese in Lemon Sauce Chicken Marsala Swedish Meatballs Italian Meatballs
For all meat entrees please choose one side dish: mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, white or yellow rice.
Half Tray $55.00 (8-10p) Full Tray $100.00 (18-20p)
Half Tray $50.00 (8-12p) Full Tray $100.00 (18-25p)
Mushroom, Cherry Tomato, Parmesan Cheese
Romaine, Onion, Olives, Cucumber, Tomato, Feta
X-Sm $35.00 (4-6p) Sm $50.00 (8-10p) Md $65.00 (12-14p) Lg $85.00 (16-18p)
Fancy Mesclun Salad Cucumber, Tomato, Mixed Bell Peppers.
Md $40.00 (10-12p) Lg $50.00 (15-18p)
Please check out our full Holiday Menu at www.amishintribeca.com. Amish Market Tribeca 53 Park Place, New York, NY 10007 T: (212) 608-3863 • F: (212) 608-3864 • email@example.com
December 12, 2013