The Paper of Record for Greenwich Village, East Village, Lower East Side, Soho, Union Square, Chinatown and Noho, Since 1933
January 1, 2015 • $1.00 Volume 84 • Number 31
Franz Leichter, co-author of Hudson River Park Act, to resign from Trust board BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
LEICHTER, continued on p. 23
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
ormer state Senator Franz Leichter is stepping down from the board of directors of the Hudson River Park Trust. Leichter announced his intention in a Dec. 23 letter to the Trust’s chairperson, Diana Taylor, and his fellow board of director members. He noted that he had informed Madelyn Wils, the Trust’s president, a week earlier. Leichter, 84, co-wrote the 4-mile-long waterfront park’s founding legislation. He said he had initially planned to resign at the end of this year, but wanted to be present at the Trust board’s meeting on Feb. 11 when they will take up the matter of Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg’s proposed Pier55 project, and will then resign after that meeting. “I have been involved in working with the staff to assure that this pier will be accessible to the public and an integral part of our
magnificent park and want to participate when this issue is taken up,” Leichter wrote. “I take great pride in the Hudson River Park as the architect, with Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, of the passage of the Park Act in 1998,” he added. “I have served as a board member since then in working with an exceptionally dedicated staff and you my colleagues on the board to realize turning a deteriorated waterfront into what is becoming a world-class park. I have been fortunate to travel to many of the world’s great harbors and have not seen anything that is its equal,” he said of Hudson River Park. “I know we have some ways to go to finish the park and put it on solid financial footing,” Leichter went on. “I would have been ready to continue to serve. However, Gale Brewer the current borough president, has made it difficult for me to
Ride ’em, Doris! Friends of Doris Diether, the legendary C.B. 2 “zoning maven,” recently celebrated her — again! See Page 11.
Feds probe Silver over law firm money, Grand St. taxes BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
heldon Silver, the powerful, longtime leader of the New York State Assembly, is the focus of a federal investigation, The New York Times reported in its lead article on Page One on Tuesday. According to the Times, prosecutors from the office of Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, are investigating “substantial payments” made to Silver by a
small firm that specializes in seeking tax reductions for commercial and residential properties in New York City. Prosecutors from Bharara’s office, along with F.B.I. agents, have allegedly found that Goldberg & Iryami, P.C. — a two-person firm — has paid Silver the sums roughly over a decade, but that he did not list this income on his annual financial disclosure forms, as required. The payments were not made to Silver as campaign contributions, but as outside
income as part of his private law practice. In addition to being the Assembly speaker, Silver is a personal-injury lawyer with the firm of Weitz and Luxenberg. The U.S. attorney and F.B.I. reportedly are now trying to determine exactly what work Silver did in order to receive the payments. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the investigation — and would SILVER, continued on p. 12
A sea of blue at officer’s funeral...................page 6 Reflections on Christmas dinner...................page 9 The state(s) of pot legalization......................page 10 Guardians rock galaxy................page 17
PHOTOS BY TEQUILA MINSKY
Tim Wu talked at V.I.D. about the importance of ’Net neutrality.
CALL IT A DYNASTY: The new president of the Village Independent Democrats political club is Nadine Hoffmann, who succeeds her husband, Tony, in the position. Hoffmann faced a challenge by Jim Fouratt, though he actually ultimately withdrew from the race. Before club members cast their votes, each candidate spoke for 10 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of audience questions. Fouratt protested that he wanted a full-fledged debate on the issues — which never happened. Where was the club during the protests against
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CORRECTIONS: In last week’s Police Blotter item, “Fur vendors gone wild,” any information
attributed to the Antivivisection Coalition should have been attributed to Robert Banks, a spokesperson for the anti-fur activists who protest regularly outside the weekend sidewalk “fur stall” at Broadway and Spring Sts. Also, the address posted for the N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan auction Web site was a nonworking one. The correct address is https://www.indiegogo. com/projects/get-nyu-fasp-to-the-state-appealscourt/x/3438236 . In addition, contrary to an item in Scoopy’s Notebook last week about a neighbor’s lawsuit against Mario Batali and his Babbo restaurant, the David Gruber who is a Batali spokesperson is not the same David Gruber who is the immediate past chairperson of Community Board 2. The C.B. 2 Gruber’s Web site for his David Gruber Real Estate business notes, “David Gruber Real Estate (DGRE) is a Retail Brokerage Firm Specializing in Restaurants, Cafes, Catering Operations and Food Service Companies”...and “David Gruber and Restaurants — Salt and Pepper — We Blend Well!!” However, he is not the salt to Batali’s pepper, as in, he is not Batali’s spokesperson. We apologize for the error.
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Nadine Hoffmann was elected V.I.D.’s new president.
the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital and the building of the Spectra pipeline? he asked. He then promptly announced he was pulling out of the contest. Nonetheless, he got a few votes — eight. Hoffmann took things in stride, even putting in a plug for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s new book, which she called “empowering” for women. Also, Tim Wu, who ran for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Zephyr Teachout, was the featured speaker at the V.I.D. meeting. The Columbia law prof expounded on his subject of expertise, ’Net neutrality, which is actually a phrase he coined. Basically, the term means that big corporations shouldn’t be allowed to pay to have their Web pages load faster than, for example, that of an obscure blogger. Wu also expressed his deep appreciation to the progressive club for endorsing him and Teachout against Governor Andrew Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul, saying that it really meant a lot and helped add “credibility” to the seriousness of their campaign.
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PHOTOS BY MILO HESS
Straphangers swing back in time on the M line During the holiday season, the M.T.A. offered straphangers the chance to ride on vintage subways and buses. The “Nostalgia Train” operated on the M line between Queens Plaza and Second Ave. on Sundays only, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 28, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Kicking things off, swing dancers in period costume performed on the platforms and rode the train. It included subway cars in service on the lettered lines between the early 1930s and mid-’70s and featured ceiling fans, padded or wicker seats and incandescent light bulbs. “It’s worth the trip street!” 146 Tenth Ave at 19th St. down the 212-627-3030 www.sourceunltd.com Private parties for 10 to 400 - Reservations Suggested Phone: 212-473-7833 / Fax: to 212-673-5248 Seating everyday noon midnight 331 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10003 -ZAGATV2009 I G @ STORE! & PICK UP it’s been around for so long’ SAVE TIME: SEND YOUR FILES TO: email@example.com of ‘tude helps explain why
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Visit twelfthnightfestival.org for tickets and a list of free events. Performances at Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel. Circle of Frans Francken II the Younger | GemaeldegalerieAlte Meister, Kassel, Germany ©Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel | Ute Brunzel | Bridgeman Images
January 1, 2015
Pro-cop group, protesters face off Named best weekly newspaper in New York State in 2001, 2004 and 2005 by New York Press Association PUBLISHER JENNIFER GOODSTEIN
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January 1, 2015
ueling contingents of protesters demonstrated outside City Hall on Fri., Dec. 19, engaging each other in a heated battle of words the night before a lone gunman would fatally shoot two police officers in Brooklyn. The verbal sparring began in the early evening hours, soon after about 100 people assembled for a #ThankYouNYPD rally, organized in response to the ongoing protests against police brutality, which have been dominating headlines for weeks. About 100 more people came to oppose this counter-protest and highlight their support for reforming New York Police Department practices. Rhetoric would only grow more heated in the subsequent days following the fatal shooting of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a man who posted antipolice statements on social media, as well as references to Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who was killed during an arrest by a police officer on July 17. At the dueling City Hall protests, police stoically manned the middle ground between the two groups, who were each confined to protest corrals — set up by police for the occasion — on the eastern sidewalk of Broadway near Murray St. For several hours, the two sides rallied, spoke to the media and cast aspersions at the other side. Police supporters emphasized the rule of law and the dangers endured by law enforcement. For some among that group, the death of Garner — an unarmed black man who died after a police officer choked him during an arrest — was not representative of the department, which they said has distinguished itself, particularly since 9/11. “I think they did such a great job then and they do a good job now,” said Peggy Padovano, a Staten Island resident. “I think they are getting a really bad rap because of the incident that happened on Staten Island.” The ongoing protests are “awful,” and target police officers for simply doing their job, said Carmen Rios, a Chelsea resident and wife of an N.Y.P.D. officer. “Don’t even get me started about them,” she added of the protesters on the other side, who at that moment were chanting: “How do you spell racist? N.Y.P.D.” Some activists protesting police brutality moved into the midst of N.Y.P.D. supporters to debate police practices, such as “Broken Windows,” a public-safety philosophy championed by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton that emphasizes enforc-
PHOTO BY ZACH WILLIAMS
IRA BLUTREICH SARAH FERGUSON TEQUILA MINSKY CLAYTON PATTERSON JEFFERSON SIEGEL ZACH WILLIAMS
BY ZACH WILLIAMS
Demonstrators against police brutality showed up at City Hall on Dec. 19 to do a counter-protest to a scheduled pro-police rally. Police manned the middle ground between the two groups. The next day, two police officers were executed by a gunman in Brooklyn.
ing laws against minor offenses to prevent violent crime. “While we do respect police officers,” said Eleni Zimiles of Brooklyn, “we really feel that the Police Department needs to be held accountable for its work, and we need to have an accountable system, and we need to end the criminalization of black and brown bodies.” Only one police officer has ever been convicted of a crime out of the 179 N.Y.P.D.-related deaths since 1999, according to the Daily News, which noted in a Dec. 8 article that 86 percent of the dead were Hispanic or black. Three police officers were indicted among the 179 incidents. The next day, Brinsley killed the two officers in Bed-Stuy, after shooting his estranged girlfriend in Maryland earlier in the day. The deaths followed months of escalating tensions between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the police. “That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor,” said Pat Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the police union. Former Governor George Pataki and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani also criticized de Blasio’s handling of recent protests. De Blasio, for his part, urged protesters to adopt a moratorium on street demonstrations out of respect for the fallen officers. But cop critics say they will continue their activism, though they reiterated they must do so through nonviolent means. In a statement signed by 20 activists groups, they accused Lynch and N.Y.P.D. leadership of appropriating the two officers’ deaths
for political purposes. Brinsley’s actions do not reflect the belief of the thousands of New Yorkers who have taken to the streets in recent weeks, according to the statement. “This individual acted as a lone wolf and committed a heinous crime,” Pete Haviland-Eduah, national policy director for the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, one of the 20 groups, said in a telephone interview. He said the ongoing protests seek to develop a social consensus around how best to police local neighborhoods, but doing so will take time. Even in the middle of the Dec. 19 demonstrations, activists from both sides of the issue could find common ground despite the angry arguments and obscene gestures made by people next to them outside City Hall. A young black man from the Upper East Side and a white, middle-aged woman from Staten Island spoke at length about police relations with minority communities from respective sides of the protest corrals. They agreed that more needs to be done to ensure fairness in the judicial system, while also recognizing the contributions made by police to public safety over all. “He heard me through all of the noise and we started to talk back and forth, and we were able to agree on certain things and find some common ground,” said Diane, a woman who came to support police and only gave her first name. “And I think that’s what people need to do not only in this city but around the country.” TheVillager.com
POLICE BLOTTER Smith Houses homicide On Sun., Dec. 28, about 7:10 p.m., police responded to a 911 call of a male shot at 78 Catherine St. Upon arrival, officers found a 31-year-old male shot in the head outside of the location, which is in the Al Smith Houses, just north of the Brooklyn Bridge. Emergency medics responded and pronounced the victim DOA at the scene. No arrest has been made and the investigation is ongoing. The man was identified as Rashaun Nicholson, of 54 Catherine St. According to the Daily News, Nicholson had been carrying a bag with Christmas gifts for his wife and children when he was killed. His brother Kevin said Rashaun had been shot in the back of the head by an unknown gunman. A motive for the murder was not immediately clear.
A screen grab from a surveillance video provided by police, showing the alleged attempted-rape suspect inside the E. Sixth St. building.
E. 6th rape attempt Police are seeking the public’s assistance in locating and identifying a male suspect wanted in connection with an attempted rape in the East Village on the morning of Sun., Dec. 28. On that date at around 6:06 a.m., the suspect followed a 22-year-old woman into an apartment building on E. Sixth St. and sexually assaulted her in the stairwell. The victim sustained minor injuries and was transported to Beth Israel Hospital in stable condition, according to police. The suspect is described as darkskinned, around age 25, weighing
about 180 pounds, with short-cut hair, wearing a dark baseball cap, black bubble jacket, blue jeans and black sneakers. Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call the Crime Stoppers hotline, at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). People can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Web site, www.nypdcrimestoppers. com, or by texting them to 274637 (CRIMES), then entering TIP577. All tips are strictly confidential.
Big restaurant takeout Cy Vance, Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, on Tues., Dec. 30, announced the indictment of John McKee, 40, a financial consultant, for embezzling more than $250,000 from three West Village restaurants: Whitehall, Agave and Highlands. McKee was charged in New York State Supreme Court with multiple counts of grand larceny in the second degree and one count of scheme to defraud in the first degree. According to the indictment and statements made in court, between March 2012 and August 2014, McKee, who owns an accounting company called Bambina Magra, was hired as a financial consultant by Whitehall, at 19 Greenwich Ave.; Highlands, at 150 W. 10th St.; and Agave, at 140 Seventh Ave. South. He was authorized to write and sign checks to restaurant vendors and to his own company for compensation. McKee, however, allegedly stole tens of thousands of dollars by depositing unauthorized checks in excess of his prearranged fees into his company’s account. McKee is also charged with diverting and depositing checks made out to his clients’ vendors and checks written by outside parties to the Bambina Magra account, which he controlled. As a result of McKee’s alleged conduct, more than $72,000 worth of payments to or from Whitehall, more than $80,000 worth of payments to or from Highlands, and roughly $102,000 worth of payments to or from Agave were deposited into the Bambina Magra account without authorization, totaling nearly $255,000 in theft. The investigation is ongoing.
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January 1, 2015
PHOTOS BY Q. SAKAMAKI
Vice President Biden also spoke at the funeral.
Mayor de Blasio at Saturday’s funeral for Police Officer Rafael Ramos.
A sea of blue floods in to send off slain officer
earing black tape across their badges, 20,000 police from New York City, around the country and as far away as Canada, gathered in Queens on Saturday for the funeral of Police Officer Rafael Ramos. A week earlier, Ramos and his patrol partner, Wenjian Liu, had been executed in an ambush by a crazed gunman. After watching protesters bash police following the verdicts in the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Gar-
ner, officers at the funeral said this was their turn to answer back. In his remarks, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “All of this city is grieving. And grieving for so many reasons, but the most personal is that we’ve lost such a good man, and a family is in such pain.” He described Ramos — a native New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent — as a devoted father who was studying to be a chaplain and “loved blasting Spanish gospel music from his car.” “Police officers are called ‘peace of-
ficers,’ because that’s what they do — they keep the peace,” the mayor said. “They help make a place that otherwise would be torn with strife, a place of peace. “Officer Ramos put his life on the line every day so other New Yorkers could live in peace, so they could live in safety.” However, as de Blasio spoke, hundreds of officers watching him on a big screen turned their backs. Many cops feel the mayor has been more supportive of the protesters than the Police De-
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who attended the service, has criticized de Blasio for being anti-police for the way he reacted to a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in Eric Garner’s death.
January 1, 2015
partment, an agency of 34,000 that de Blasio oversees as the city’s leader. Vice President Joe Biden said New York can show the nation how to heal and come together. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he hoped New Yorkers could see Ramos and his partner Liu, who was Chinese, as real people, and that this would help defuse the current mistrust between many city residents and the police. Liu’s funeral is set for Sun., Jan. 4, at 10 a.m. in Brooklyn.
Officer Ramos’s son, Justin, 19, a sophomore at Bowdoin College in Maine.
Police Officers saluted as Officer Ramosâ€™s coffin was carried out of the church after the funeral.
In a show of solidarity, police came to the funeral from near and far, including these officers from White Plains and Cranston, Rhode Island. TheVillager.com
January 1, 2015
PHOTO BY LINCOLN ANDERSON
PHOTO BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
Signs of the turbulent times After the Eric Garner verdict and protests and the subsequent killing of two police officers, signs show that it will take a while for the wounds to heal. At left, graffiti on the Lower East Side commemorates Garner and others who were killed by police, including Michael Brown, as well as Oscar Grant, who was shot in San Francisco in a BART train station, and Israel “Reefa” Hernandez, who was Tasered to death in Miami after being caught graffitiing. Meanwhile, in Chelsea, the day after the two officers were killed, a man who said he formerly worked for the Department of Homeland Security was walking in the Sixth Ave. bike lane holding up a pro-cop sign that was getting honks from passing police cars.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Fracking win isn’t final To The Editor: Re “Behind the ban: Why Governor Cuomo nixed fracking in N.Y. State” (news article, Dec. 25): Congratulations to all those who have put heavy pressure on Governor Cuomo, but let’s not let down our guard and declare a complete victory. The ban can be reversed by another governor and Legislature. Gas companies have been building new pipelines, such as the Spectra Pipeline that runs under
Greenwich Village, and they plan to build a pipeline through the Rockaways and another at Seneca Lake Upstate. Some of these pipelines can transport fracked gas from other states. Gas is often touted as a clean alternative to coal and oil. But we must continue the fight to get off all fossil fuels, as well as nuclear energy, and rapidly phase in safe, clean and sustainable solar, wind, wave and geothermal energy, not only here in New York but throughout the nation. Tom Siracuse
Pro-frack freakout To The Editor: Re “Behind the ban: Why Governor Cuomo nixed fracking in N.Y. State” (news article, Dec. 25): The fearmongering antis have polluted the minds of the New York State lemmings! Cuomo values Downstate votes more than Upstate jobs and prosperity! Natural gas is being obtained through directional drilling and hydrofracturing in 30-plus states. That is to say, all these states believe it can be done safely through regulations. Somehow New York State just does not get it. New York State and Governor Cuomo never miss an opportunity to miss a opportunity. Truly pathetic! Gary Kline E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to email@example.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to The Villager, Letters to the Editor, 1 Metrotech North, 10th ﬂoor, Brooklyn, NY, NY 11201. Please include phone number for conﬁrmation purposes. The Villager reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. The Villager does not publish anonymous letters.
January 1, 2015
A changing of the guard at Christmas this year NOTEBOOK BY KATE WALTER
Mom helped me through a bad breakup. Now I was confronting her frailty.
The doctors said it would take six weeks until she fully recovered, but she was out before December 25, and spent time recovering at my sister’s home. After Mom had helped me through a bad breakup, we finally became closer. Now I was confronting her frailty. I was glad to have a big extended family. No way could I hold a dinner party in my small West Village apartment, and I am not a chef.
So my 37-year-old niece Monica stepped up and graciously offered to host Christmas dinner in her rustic lakeside house in suburban New Jersey — with a fireplace! She and her doctor husband have three adorable girls. I like playing Aunt Kate and bringing gifts to my great nieces and nephews. Monica wanted to make it relaxing for my mother. I was grateful that at my age I still had Mom in my life, but I had to accept that we’d light the plum pudding in a new place. It took an accident for our feisty matriarch to step down. When I got there, my mother was in the TV room, with a glass of red wine, watching a classic holiday DVD with her great-granddaughter. I kissed Mom hello. She was cheerful, ready to enjoy the evening. At Monica’s spacious house, the adults sat at long tables on the large sun porch, turned into an all-season room; the kids ate in the dining area. The place settings featured fancy china with holly leaves. My niece made the traditional turkey dinner along with a Moroccan stew, over quinoa, for us vegetarians. She even had organic wine and pale ale. For the first time, we were not cramped into one floor of an ancient house in a bad neighborhood. Now the kids ran up and down the stairs and played in the yard before dark. My five nieces joked about not having to do the dishes — a big chore since my mother didn’t have a dishwasher. Everyone was relieved they could pull into a long driveway and not have to look for parking on the street. Monica’s husband, who my mother describes as “tall, dark and handsome,” rose to give the toast. “We’re so happy to have you at our home,” he said, “but whether we are here next year or back in Paterson, the most important thing is that we are together as a family.” As we raised our glasses, Monica turned to me and said quietly, “We’re never going back there.” The next generation was taking over. The change was good.
PHOTO BY TEQUILA MINSKY
or the first time in six decades, I didn’t spend the holidays at my childhood home in Paterson, New Jersey. My 93-year-old mother recently fell and she was not up to hosting Christmas dinner. Last year, she made a big turkey with trimmings and served 25 people. My nieces set the table and added vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. I brought flowers and good wine. We squeezed around the antique dining room table while the kids sat at a smaller one set up in the living room. The tree was in the same spot where it’s stood since my grandparents built their Victorian house more than 100 years ago. The Nativity scene was on top of the piano where I once took lessons from my late father. I used to bring Slim, my Jewish girlfriend, who had a good voice and loved singing carols. My conservative Irish Catholic mother was surprised when I came out after college, but she eventually accepted Slim into the family. As a liberal gay writer, who couldn’t wait to flee to Greenwich Village 40 years ago, I was the rebellious middle child who had the rockiest relationship with my parents. My older sister was the star child, scholarship winner, and best friends with my mother. My younger brother was the baby and only boy, “the little Prince” who could do no wrong. Now they are both married, with adult kids, and live in suburbia. For years, I clashed with my mother, accusing her of being too controlling. Dad defended her while my brother and sister huddled close to my folks. Even now, they still go to my mother’s house for their birthdays and she makes a cake. Years ago, I’d told my parents I thought this was juvenile, so they would schlep into the city for my birthday. I was the one who resisted the family rituals that never changed over the years. But now, ironically, I wanted nothing more than to return to my childhood home for the holidays. After my father died in 1999, Mom became more open. She accepted that my niece was not raising her sons Catholic and my nephew was living with his girlfriend. She was incredibly supportive when my partner of 26 years broke up with me and I felt lonely and lost. “You guys were together a long time,” said my mother. “It’s just like getting a divorce.” My energetic mother refused to slow down, even after two knee replacements. This fall, she was busy closing our Jersey Shore cottage. When she went to the laundry, she tripped on a platform, fell and gashed her knee. A neighbor drove her to the E.R. She needed 22 staples. My practical mother remembered to put a note on her car so it wouldn’t be towed from the lot. My brother picked up Mom, who stayed with his family for a few days, but she insisted upon going home to finish packing. Two weeks later, she held her annual holiday party, where she made the traditional plum pudding with her great grandkids, using the recipe my grandfather brought from Ireland. My niece Monica shopped for the ingredients but Mom directed as usual. The little kids had fun mixing flour, eggs, milk, currants, raisins and candied fruit into a big pot. Everyone stirred and blessed
the pudding with the sign of the cross. My mother said it in Gaelic. By the end of the night her leg was swollen and she had to elevate it. But the pudding was tied in cheesecloth and ready for the main event. In mid-December, Mom left her house in Paterson with my niece to go the cemetery to place a wreath on Dad’s grave. As they closed the gate, my mother lost her balance. She came down again on her knee, reopening the gash that was starting to heal. This time when she went to the emergency room, she needed plastic surgery. My sister met them in the E.R. at St. Joe’s Hospital in Wayne and the surgeon worked on my mother for two hours. Admitted to the hospital, Mom was put on intravenous antibiotics. When I visited, she said how disappointed she was. “But I want to host dinner in 2015,” she said with steely determination. I felt sad because my mother loves being active and loves this holiday. Now she was immobilized.
A Christmas decoration in the Village had a Seussian bent. January 1, 2015
The state of pot today as more states legalize it BY PAUL DERIENZO
arijuana legalization is on the move as ballot measures to free the weed are spreading like a prairie fire across the American landscape. In November voters legalized marijuana for recreation in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia. They join voters in Washington State and Colorado who legalized pot for recreational purposes in 2012. Advocates in California, where medical marijuana was legalized in 1996, are considering plans to revisit the issue in 2016 after a hard-fought loss in 2010. According to a poll, well more than half of Americans currently support marijuana legalization, and 23 states have ether legalized, decriminalized or passed medical marijuana laws. Marijuana legalization has been a tax windfall in Colorado. Denver newspapers and the Colorado Department of Revenue report the state is on track to sell 130 metric tons of pot this year and has been raking in more than $3 million a month in cannabis taxes. Washington has been slower to jump on the marijuana bandwagon, but several licensed retail marijuana shops have opened. In Alaska, decades of debate ended in a victory for legalizing recreational weed in the state. The new law’s language is similar to that of Colorado, but the rollout of the licensed pot shops is slower and is expected to take about two years. Oregon was one of the first states to have passed a medical marijuana after California, but failed to legalize cannabis in 2010. This year the vote was reversed and legalization sailed through. Washington, D.C., saw marijuana legalization win by a wide margin. But a provision buried in the $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus” budget bill prohibits D.C. from using federal money “to implement any law or regulation that repeals or reduces marijuana-related penalties.” D.C. laws are subject, under the U.S. Constitution, to final approval by Congress. Mason Tvert, a spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project, said that Congress is ceding control of marijuana policy to lawbreakers by refusing to allow the District to regulate pot sales. “If drug cartels and gangs had lobbyists on the Hill, preventing marijuana regulation would be their top legislative priority,” he said. But the “Cromnibus” bill was not entirely bad for pot. The budget bill contains an amendment barring the Justice Department from using its
A purple pot plant in a greenhouse in Colorado, where taxes on legalized cannabis sales are bringing in $3 million a month.
funds to target patients and providers. The feds’ threats had resulted in the closing of 600 legally operating pot business in both California and Colorado. There have also been numerous threats of asset forfeiture and prosecution of landlords who rented to marijuana shops and dispensaries. But with the new federal law, Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, said, “It’s not a question of if, but when, federal marijuana prohibition will be repealed.” In 2011 the New York Police Department ordered its officers to stop using minor marijuana possession charges as a pretense to justify the department’s stop-and-frisk policy, which was discontinued by Mayor de Blasio. With stop-and-frisk, police would get people to expose their marijuana, exploiting an “open to public view” loophole in the state’s pot decriminalization law. Possession of a small amount of pot is a simple violation in New York, punishable by a ticket. But if the officer saw the pot in an open wallet during
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a stop-and-frisk, the person could be arrested. In 2011, 50,000 New York City residents were arrested for small amounts of weed. This November, after mounting criticism of the tactic, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor de Blasio announced that New Yorkers arrested with less than 25 grams of pot would be served with a ticket and not arrested on a misdemeanor charge. The use of pot laws to bust people has been criticized for racial disparity. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, 86 percent of people arrested for marijuana in New York City are black and Latino and 74 percent have no prior convictions. Yet, despite the recent policy change, pot arrests in the city are on track to match arrest numbers during the administration of former Mayor Bloomberg. The Police Reform Organization Project puts the blame on the city’s continued adherence to the “Broken Windows” policing policy. The Mayor’s Office claims that there is a small but steady decrease in marijuana arrests as the new policy is being implemented. In July 2014, New York passed a medical marijuana bill — signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo — becoming the 23rd state to do so. The law was based on two decades of advocacy by state Assemblymember Richard Gottfried. Although New York’s Compassionate Care Act is considered a positive step, the Marijuana Policy Project claims the bill falls short by requiring detailed patient certification procedures; limited qualifying conditions — such as cancer, H.I.V./AIDS and A.L.S. — a ban on smoking pot; and stringent guidelines with tough penalties for violations by doctors. In short, marijuana remains a sticky subject in Albany, where state Senate Republicans routinely kill Democrat-sponsored marijuana decriminalization and legalization bills. Internationally, marijuana is strictly illegal in most countries, although decriminalization movements have been growing. Notably, Uruguay’s president José Mujica announced that marijuana would be totally legalized in his country starting in 2012. Although still technically illegal, marijuana is widely available in such nations as Canada, Italy and the Netherlands. The United Nations has raised concerns that easing pot laws violates treaties signed by its members that prohibit legalization of drugs. The next few years promise to further clear the smoke around the issue of pot legalization. DeRienzo is host of “Let Them Talk” on the MNN Lifestyle Channel every Tuesday at 8 p.m.
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Clockwise from above left, Doris Diether laughed as the “Little Doris” marionette rode a blow-up pig; a creative custom cake featured the park arch, Diether, “Little Doris” and the pig; marionette master Ricky Syers was up to his usual tricks; Harvey Osgood opened his house for the party.
Oink if you love Doris! Parties keep on coming
riends of Doris Diether, the beloved veteran Community Board 2 member, threw her yet another bash the other week to celebrate her decades of activism. The fete, held at the W. Ninth St. apartment of Harvey and Helen Osgood, was “for everyone who wasn’t invited” to the get-together for Diether in September at Richard Stewart’s place that marked Diether’s 50th anniversary of being a member of C.B. 2. That prior party was really for community board members and politicians.
This most recent shindig featured an incredible cake from a West Village baker that included cardboard images of the park arch and Diether holding her “Little Doris” marionette. Diether is shown walking a pig, made out of icing, plus pigeons and the fountain’s piers, also made of icing. Diether, 85, famously gamely walked a pig on a leash — while in her high heels — outside Governor Rockefeller’s office to protest greed and corruption. The Osgoods’ home was festooned with blowup photos of Diether that have appeared in The Villager, plus a poster listing her many accomplishments. Among the guests at the party were Cathryn Swan, who writes the Washington Square Park blog; Ricky Syers, the marionette master and comic behind “Little Doris” and her pal “Mr. Stix”; and a contingent of musicians from Washington Square Park, including at least five guitarists and one banjo player, who jammed most of the evening. In still more Diether news, not only is she everyone’s favorite community board member, now she is also becoming a majorly trending meme. An image of her holding “Little Doris” feeding a peanut to a squirrel has gone viral on Reddit. The meme features countless creative combinations of Diether, the marionette and the critter — with one even showing a Godzilla-sized squirrel pulling the strings. January 1, 2015
Feds probe Silver over cash, co-ops connection SILVER, continued from p. 1
not confirm or deny to The Villager if there even is an investigation. No one has even been charged yet, the spokesperson noted. Silver’s spokesperson did not respond by press time to a request for comment. Meanwhile, in a confusing twist, the New York Post reported that the sum Silver received from Goldberg & Iryami was “not substantial.” The Post may have gotten this mixed up with the campaign donations that the firm has given to Silver. Since 2001, the firm has reportedly made six donations to him, totaling $7,600. New York State legislators are allowed to hold outside jobs, which are described as “part-time,” but which often pull in income far in excess of their government paychecks. Good-government groups have long criticized this situation for creating the potential for conflicts of interest and payoffs. In Silver’s case, his salary as speaker is $121,000 while his outside income as a private attorney was more than $650,000, according to what he reported in 2013. The federal probe stems from the Moreland Commission, the anti-cor-
ruption panel that Governor Andrew Cuomo created in 2013 but then abruptly terminated this March. Legislators had challenged the commission’s investigation into details of their outside income. According to the Times, Silver “is not known to have any expertise in the complex and highly specialized area of the law in which Goldberg & Iryami practices, known as tax certiorari, which involves challenging real estate tax assessments and seeking reductions from municipalities.” In addition, the Times reported of Silver, “He has long listed the personal injury firm Weitz & Luxenberg on his financial disclosure forms. Still, almost nothing is known about his role at the firm.” Goldberg & Iryami has represented “a sizable number of properties on the Lower East Side,” seeking real estate tax reductions for them, the Times reported. These include large co-op complexes, including Hillman Housing Corporation, on Grand St., in which Silver lives. Goldberg & Iryami has also represented the neighboring East River Housing Corporation, according to records. Both the Hillman and East River complexes are managed by Harold “Heshy” Jacob, a close Silver ally.
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Sheldon Silver has been the Assembly’s speaker since 1994.
A recent letter from Gary Altman, the East River board president, to shareholders, the Times reported, noted that its “tax certiorari firm” — unnamed in the letter — had successfully reduced the complex’s taxes. Jacob, in a 2009 letter to shareholders, noted that the city had raised East River’s assessment to $28 million, and that its tax certiorari lawyer “was very successful in reducing what could have been a $3,000,000 increase to a $750,000 increase” in taxes. Jacob told the Times that the firm and a predecessor firm, Jay Arthur Goldberg, P.C., had been seeking tax reductions for the developments since Jacob began managing them, more than 25 years ago. Jacob admitted that he knew Jay Goldberg from growing up in the neighborhood together, but that the legal work for the developments is bid out competitively. Tax certiorari lawyers get paid roughly one-third of any reduction they obtain, but Jacob told the Times Goldberg has been paid “substantially less.” In a Times article last month on Silver and his outside income, a Silver spokesperson commented of the Assembly speaker, “None of his clients have any business before the state.” Currently, state ethics laws do not require legislators to disclose details about their outside work or who their clients are. Several local politicos did not re-
spond to requests for comment for this article, including Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried and District Leader Paul Newell. District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar responded but declined to comment. One elected official who did deign to comment about the powerful speaker was District Leader Arthur Schwartz. “I have problems with legislators getting paid for work when they don’t do work,” Schwartz said. “It’s an easy way to pass a bribe. ... I am curious to see to see what tax certiorari work Speaker Silver did. Very curious.” Silver has been the Assembly speaker since 1994. Most recently, his leadership took a major hit during the Vito Lopez scandal, in which it was revealed that Silver arranged for hush money to be paid to two female staffers who said they were sexually harassed by the powerful Brooklyn Democratic leader. Two other female Lopez staffers who said they were also sexually harassed subsequently sued, charging that the secret $103,000 settlement — using taxpayer funds — merely allowed Lopez to continue his abuse. Silver was recently set to testify in the two women’s federal lawsuit against Lopez, but his deposition was delayed, which the Daily New reported, suggests that a settlement may be looming. The state has already spent $1 million in taxpayer funds to defend the disgraced Lopez. TheVillager.com
Ten top flicks and honorable mentions The sweetest apples and oranges of 2014 WHIPLASH
BY SEAN EGAN
© 2014 CAUSEWAY FILMS
aking year-end lists is something of a difficult and arbitrary task, as comparing the relative quality of radically different films against each other becomes an exercise in trying to pick apples over oranges. That being said, 2014 seems to be an even more difficult year than most to write a “best of” list, as theatrical releases of all shapes, sizes and genres have been of an unusually high quality across the board. It seems a shame to only highlight a few of the best — but as it is, I present my personal (obsessively deliberated over) top ten films of 2014, followed by some thoughts and observations on many of the year’s excellent offerings that didn’t quite make the cut, yet are entirely worth your time.
An expertly executed chiller, “The Babadook” taps uses the power of suggestion to unsettle.
PHOTO BY DANIEL MCFADDEN, © SUNDANCE INSTITUTE
This Australian horror export from first-time director Jennifer Kent is hands down the scariest movie of the year. An expertly executed chiller, “The Babadook” taps into primal phobias, and cannily uses the power of suggestion to unsettle. It also helps that Kent’s titular monster is one of the most ingenious and viscerally creepy horror creations in recent memory. Taut and terrifying, “The Babadook” is guaranteed leave you Baba-Spooked (forgive the pun, groan-worthy wordplay is just a coping mechanism to deal with how genuinely unnerving this movie is).
The drama “Whiplash” is so tightly wound, it essentially functions as a psychological thriller.
Damien Chazelle’s little drama is so tightly wound, it essentially functions as a psychological thriller. Centering around a young jazz drummer ’s (Miles Teller) obsessive quest to be one of the greats and his relationship with an emotionally abusive bandleader (J.K. Simmons) who demands perfection, “Whiplash” turns the screw and spirals in satisfying, unexpected ways. Simmons is larger than life, in a bravura performance, and the whole film builds to a fever pitch, culminating in a blood pumping, transfixing finale that’s one of the most breathtaking scenes of the year.
LISTEN UP PHILIP
Alex Ross Perry’s deadpan dramadey focuses on Philip (Jason Schwartzman), published novelist and all-around asshole, as he burns bridges and destroys relationships while trying to get back on track creatively. It’s a movie that refuses to pander, offering a damning takedown of the self-important, white male artisté cliché — while remaining exceptionally humorous and witty throughout. Schwartzman turns in the best work of his career as Philip, giving him nuance and vulnerability while never sanding down his unlikable edges. As his long-suffering girlfriend Ashley, the exquisite Elizabeth Moss delivers one of the year’s best performances. Captured via Perry’s inTOP TEN, continued on p.14 January 1, 2015
Highlights of a high quality year for film INHERENT VICE
PHOTO BY ASHLEY NGUYEN, © 2014 ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS
One of the most acutely observed character studies of the year, “Dear White People” focuses on four drastically different black students. TOP TEN, continued from p. 13
timate direction (he favors extreme close ups and shoots in expressive 16mm), “Listen Up Philip” is a special, small-scale treat.
This is by far the best, most ruthlessly inventive action movie of the year. Set in the not-too-distant future where the world has frozen over, rebellion and class warfare erupts aboard the self-sustaining train carrying the last of humanity. Director Bong Joon-ho structures the movie as if it was the world’s most exciting, Gilliam-esque video game, each progressive train car carrying new and exciting action set pieces or visual wonders. All the while he manages to imbue the film with a sneaky sense of humor, excellent performances (Tilda Swinton is a hoot and Chris Evans proves he has more to him than leading-man looks), and political messages for the age of the Environmentalist and Occupy movements — making “Snowpiercer” a smart, thrilling spectacle.
With the approach of every new feature, it seems a distinct possibility that Wes Anderson’s unmistakable style may collapse into self-parody and forced whimsy. Fortunately, Anderson defies the expectations of his doubters with his wonderful seventh picture, a
January 1, 2015
UNDER THE SKIN
Jonathan Glazer’s darkly hypnotizing film is pretty difficult to describe, as there’s really nothing else quite like it. That’s part of its appeal — there’s a certain thrill to not knowing where a movie is going, and experiencing something totally new. It’s best to enter this movie knowing as little possible, and let it run its course unfettered by expectations (though Scarlett Johansson’s brilliantly cold and calculated performance deserves special mention). But be warned: “Under the Skin” is profoundly disturbing and intense in ways that very few movies aim to be, and even fewer are successful at. For those who make it through, it’s a visionary, visually sumptuous work of science fiction.
takes everyone to task — from blatant bigots to well-meaning micro-aggressors — in order to expose the inherent injustices black people face in both the collegiate system and society at large. But “Dear White People” is not simply a means to preach a message. It also happens to be one of the most acutely observed character studies of the year. Focusing on four drastically different black students, the film captures each with an impressive amount of lived-in detail — particularly Tessa Thompson’s radical activist/filmmaker/DJ, Sam, and the shy, gay reporter, Lionel (played sympathetically by Tyler James Williams). Everything about Simien’s debut feels vital — from its funny, whip-smart script to its sure-handed direction (which sometimes recalls Wes Anderson) — and it’s exciting to see what he’ll do next.
Director David Fincher plays the role of a modern day Hitchcock, elevating a pulpy tale of infidelity, deceit and murder into a carefully constructed, first-rate mystery/ thriller, and an accomplished work of art. Working from a sterling script by Gillian Flynn (adapting from her own novel), Fincher employs his signature meticulous compositions and cool-hued cinematography to TOP TEN, continued on p.15
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comedy spanning multiple generations (and aspect ratios). The movie might be his most humorously irreverent, manicured and diorama-like to date, but the secret to its success is the unexpected vein of darkness and melancholy that runs through it, and its commitment to character. Funny, emotionally affecting and possessing a surprising depth, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” ranks amongst Anderson’s very best.
If “Gone Girl” represents the effectiveness of meticulously structured filmmaking, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” represents the opposite end of the spectrum — the exhilarating results that can be achieved by throwing caution (and structure) to the wind. Based on a Thomas Pynchon novel, “Inherent Vice” is a rambling, druggy, shaggy dog comedy by way of noir-ish P.I. narrative — but the plot is largely beside the point (and more than a little inscrutable). With Joaquin Phoenix’s stoner P.I. “Doc” Sportello at the center of the proceedings, Anderson presents viewers with a beautifully hazy, fully realized world to get lost in, populated by characters strange and strangely specific (like the never-better Josh Brolin’s Det. “Bigfoot”). It’s also quite possibly the funniest movie of the year. Visual gags abound, dialogue escalates absurdly, and reaction shots are deployed to devastating effect. If you’re on the wonky “Vice” wavelength, you’ll laugh till you’re in pain, and immediately want to revisit this wonderfully weird movie.
DEAR WHITE PEOPLE
Writer/director Justin Simien’s campus dramedy is required viewing, more so than ever unfortunately, in light of recent events. Set on a faux-Ivy League campus as racial tension begins to boil, the movie
Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon emerge from the smoke clouds that surround Paul Thomas Anderson’s trippy, hilarious “Inherent Vice.” TheVillager.com
Top theatrical releases of 2014 TOP TEN, continued from p. 14
COURTESY OF MATT LANKES & IFC FILMS
ratchet up tension and construct a thoroughly engrossing mystery. The film’s real strength, however, lies in the way Fincher and Flynn seamlessly intertwine their tale with a nuanced examination of gender roles and identity. Boasting a powerhouse performance from Rosamund Pike (and an unexpectedly charismatic turn from Tyler Perry), a moody Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross score, and featuring more “Holy s**t!” plot twists than any other film per capita this year, “Gone Girl” is dark, intelligent and thought-provoking entertainment of the highest order.
Richard Linklater’s greatest masterpiece in a career full of them, “Boyhood” follows Mason (Ellar Coltrane), over the course of 12 years.
ful, emotionally satisfying and just about as perfect as a movie can hope to get.
Outside of this top ten, plenty of other movies had a lot to offer. In terms of action-blockbusters, no movie could top “Edge of Tomorrow.” The criminally under-seen Tom Cruise vehicle was “Groundhog Day” by way of futuristic scifi — featuring hyper-kinetic action sequences, a wicked streak of dark humor and some of the most excitTOP TEN, continued on p.16
Was there really any other choice for the best film of 2014? While that may sound a tad presumptuous, writer/director Richards Linklater’s “Boyhood” would have been one for the books based on its conceit alone. The filming of a fictional narrative over the course of 12 years in order to track the physical and personal growth of the actors and their characters was an unprecedented strategy. That “Boyhood” wound up being this great almost seems like a bonus. Aided by an excellent cast and strengthened by his gentle yet elegant directorial style, Linklater constructed an instant-classic coming of age story like no other, capturing the universal in the specific, and finding the significance in the minutiae of daily life. No other movie’s ambition, both formally and artistically, was as great, and no other movie made excellence seem as effortless. In a career full of them, “Boyhood” is undoubtedly Linklater’s greatest masterpiece. It’s relatable, beauti-
Christoph Waltz turns in a nuanced performance in “The Zero Theorem,” thoughtfully chewing on Terry Gilliam’s sumptuous scenery.
January 1, 2015
Worthy films that didn’t quite make the Top 10 cut
The offbeat, comedic team dynamic found in “Guardians of the Galaxy” made for Marvel’s most unique offering yet.
TOP TEN, continued from p. 15
ing use of 3D in a mainstream movie in years. And with “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Marvel scored not only the biggest commercial hit of the year, but also one of their most unique and artistically accomplished films to date. Helmed by Troma-veteran James Gunn, “Guardians” was a cinematic sugar rush packed with action, offbeat humor, endearing characters and a killer soundtrack. Directing team Phil Lord and Chris Miller continued their winning streak — via unlikely properties with both “The Lego Movie” and “22 Jump Street,” which were not only better than they had any right to be, but wound up being two hilarious and surprisingly heartfelt delights. There was good to be found in smaller-scale films as well. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s
obsters • Seaf aks • L ood
“Birdman” was graced with an excellent ensemble cast (particularly Ed Norton and Michael Keaton), and the most stylish and showy direction of the year. In “Nightcrawler,” a malnourished-looking Jake Gyllenhaal turned one of the best performances of the year as the livewire freelance videographer Louis Bloom, in a shockingly tense thriller about uh, media ethics. And Brendan Gleeson brought a devastating grace and humanity as a put-upon priest in John Michael McDonagh’s probing “Calvary.” In 2014, a number of established auteurs built on their legacies by challenging themselves. Darren Aronofsky tried his hand at a biblical epic with “Noah,” and ended up with an excellent, if deeply weird and personal take on the story — half grandiose fantasy adventure (complete with giant rock monsters) and half bottle movie, and featuring one of the year ’s most beautiful scenes in a lyrical retelling of the creation story.
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L to R: Logan Lerman and Russell Crowe in Darren Aronofsky’s epically idiosyncratic, moving take on “Noah.”
In “The Zero Theorem,” Terry Gilliam returned to a “Brazil”-like dystopian future for a visually overwhelming rumination on faith, anchored by a prickly Christoph Waltz performance (amongst the best in the actor ’s filmography). Elsewhere, Jim Jarmusch brought his unmistakable rhythms to the vampire flick, humanizing the bloodsuckers in “Only Lovers Left Alive,” while Tim Burton brought some of his distinctive brand of unreality to the true-life tale, “Big Eyes.” And Kevin Smith’s polarizing horror-comedy “Tusk” is a movie that (love it or hate it) must be seen to be believed — perhaps the only film ever to be caught at the crossroads between Cronenbergian body horror, midnight b-movie schlock, Pink Panther homage and Smith’s own talky, blue-humor laden dialogue. Perhaps most exciting were the indie debut features. Video artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard made the leap to non-fiction feature filmmaking with “20,000 Days on Earth,” their stunning Nick Cave documentary that’s as effective as any depiction of the creative process has been captured on film. In the Iranian language, Lynchian vampire-western “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” Ana Lily Amirpour proved she could synthesize her mad scientist array of influences into a cohesive whole, and create atmospheric images of disarming beauty all her own. Best of all, however, was the Israeli dark comedy (and hopeful sleeper-hit in the making) “Zero Motivation,” from writer/ director Talya Lavie. Telling the story of a group of young women during their required service in the Israeli military, “Zero Motivation,” is a clever satire — a well-observed serio-comedy that’s as assured and original as anything released by more established directors — setting Lavie apart as a singular voice and a promising new talent. TheVillager.com
Four friends, many spirits ‘Ghost Quartet’ casts its immersive, cathartic spell THEATER GHOST QUARTET Mon. & Tues., Jan. 5, 6, 12, 13 at 8 p.m. Sun., Jan. 11, 18 at 5 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. At The McKittrick Hotel 530 W. 27th St., btw. 10th & 11th Aves. Tickets: $45–$65 Visit events.mckittrickhotel.com/ ghostquartet Also visit davemalloy.com For “Sleep No More” info, visit sleepnomore.com
L to R: Brittain Ashford, Gelsey Bell, Dave Malloy and Brent Arnold are “Ghost Quartet.”
Such close proximity to the Quartet compels the audience to physically absorb the rattle and hum of every cello, guitar, Celtic harp, piano, dulcimer, accordion, ukulele and percussion instrument. Rest assured, this side effect of the show’s theater in the round setting is more of a perk than a source of discomfort, as the storytelling musicians invoke murder ballads, doo-wop, angular bebop, Chinese folk, Islamic adhan, and the work of Bernard Herrmann and George Crumb. The narrative is similarly varied, comprised of four (there’s that number again) interwoven tales spanning seven centuries. Intense connections and heartbreaking divisions bless and curse the lives of two women who keep crossing paths. Cast as strangers, sisters, lovers and a mother/daughter, the pair navigates a number of ghostly tales told within the context of everything from a Poe horror story to a contemporary fable about the victim of (and the witness to) a subway murder. There’s also a spectral appearance by Thelonious Monk and trouble stirred by an
PHOTO BY RYAN JENSEN
tare into a champagne flute and you’ll find little beyond a fleet of rising bubbles and the prospect of a momentary buzz — but sink your peepers down a glass of whisky after a few lusty swigs, and the dark brown liquid becomes a portal to “blurry, sloppy, boozy and blind” deeds whose consequences last beyond the last drop. That’s the promise of a refrain from “Four Friends” — a rambling, affectionate ode to the distinguishing characteristics of various whisky brands (and the sort of drinkers they attract). As played and sung by the Ghost Quartet, from their show of the same name, its moody tone and multilayered narrative is typical of the selections that make up this “song cycle about love, death and whiskey.” A critical hit during its 2014 run at The Bushwick Starr, “Ghost Quartet” will have its Manhattan debut within Punchdrunk theatre company’s cavernous, fictitious McKittrick Hotel — home to “Sleep No More,” a walkabout reimagining of “Macbeth” playing through March. For this live version of their 20-track CD, Ghost Quartet makes good use of the McKittrick’s eccentric setting and interactive nature by placing themselves amongst the audience and letting rip a series of overlapping yarns that thrive in the air pocket between immersive theater and concert performance.
PHOTO BY RYAN JENSEN
BY SCOTT STIFFLER
Based on the debut recording of the same name, “Ghost Quartet” materializes in the McKittrick Hotel, Jan. 5–18.
evil (but lazy) bear. What these disparate tales have in common — besides the desire of composer/writer Dave Malloy to tear down walls and prompt a cathartic experience — is the presence of Brent Arnold, Brittain Ash-
ford and Gelsey Bell. Alongside Malloy, they bring the same colaborative spirit to “Ghost Quartet” that made their “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” such a spellbinding interactive experience. January 1, 2015
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PHOTOS BY MILO HESS
Taylor Swift, the heart of it all, and a fish Seen around Downtown in Tribeca this past week were a couple of girls singing Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” while jumping up and down with joy outside the transplanted country/pop crooner’s new loft. Apparently, Swift’s new role as New York City “cultural ambassador” may be having the desired effect of luring tourists — or at least luring them to Tribeca — since these gleeful girls were from Boston. Meanwhile, on Harrison St., there was something fishy going on inside a parked car. And literally on Beach St., in the crosswalk, could be found...a heart.
January 1, 2015
PHOTOS BY CLAYTON PATTERSON
‘Displaced’ artist Zito returns for retrospective
nthony Zito’s recent show, “Displacement: Anthony Zito Then and Now,” at the Mark Miller Gallery, at 92 Orchard St., brought together 20 years of the longtime Lower East Side artist’s work, which was exhibited on two floors. Zito has painted the portraits of countless East Villagers and Lower East Siders, always using found objects from the street as his canvas. These materials can range from a radiator grill to a 3D mirror to — in one case, for a married couple who own a pizzeria — a cardboard pizza box whose flaps must be opened in order to see the pair painted inside. Pictured on this page, at last month’s closing party for the show, are clockwise from above left, Zito, right, with Nicolina — who did the “13 Portals” interactive street-art project on the Lower East Side in summer 2013 — with a portrait of Nicolina done by Zito; artist Steve Ellis — who is known, among other things, for his series of cool lighter paintings — with Zito’s portrait of him done on a lighter; and the gallery’s basement, where people could pick something for Zito to use for a canvas to paint a portrait of him or her on. Zito opened a gallery on Ludlow St. after the 9/11 attacks, when few were willing to take a risk on the area. But he ultimately had to leave the space in TheVillager.com
September 2006 due to escalating rent. The gallery’s closing was marked by a 200-person-strong party with
revelers carrying a coffin marked “L.E.S.,” to mark the death of bohemia in the famed enclave.
Zito now lives on a farm in Connecticut with his father, who is also an artist. January 1, 2015
January 1, 2015
Filmmaking duo capture ‘Cage’ in all its glory SPORTS BY ROBERT ELKIN
t’s winter now, but plans are continuing once again for the W. Fourth St. spring-summer basketball league. The outdoor Village league is broken down into various divisions, and used to include one for former pro players. When well-known players, especially New York-bred talents, stage their league games, spectators pack the pavement outside the fences at the court’s north and south ends to catch all the action. Fans are urged to bring their own chairs to watch the games, if they so desire. Known as “The Cage,” the court was created when the IND subway line was built under Sixth Ave. in the Village. “The city of New York allocated this area for the park,” said Simeon Soffer, a TV and film director who recently happened to be shooting the park and the court. Soffer has knowledge about most of the W. Fourth St. League. “Because there weren’t any basketball courts in Washington Square Park, the city put them here instead,” he explained. Soffer recalled that Ken Graham took over as head of the league, which also included a tournament, some time ago. In fact, Graham and a committee have been running the league for more than three decades. Some of the New York-area players
The action at the W. Fourth St. court is fast and furious, with no sidelines.
who have competed in the W. Fourth St. League over the years include Mario Elie, Anthony Mason and Smush Parker. This trio also played in the NBA. It’s said that Parker basically “grew up” on the W. Fourth St. courts. “Now there are rules and regulations that the pro players can’t play at all on the asphalt,” Soffer noted. He and a friend made a film about the park and they’re looking forward
to its release. “It’s called ‘West Fourth Street: A Portrait of a Park,’ ” Soffer said. “It’s coming out soon. I’m the director.” Ethan Sprague, one of the film’s subjects, helped finance it. He’s been a photographer for many years, too, and has been active organizing the league. “The film that we made is not just about basketball,” Soffer said. “It’s about all the things that happen in this park. The big part is the
basketball.” Although Soffer played a bit of hoops at Manhattan’s High School of Art and Design, he admits he really was not much of a player. He said he was “very good at running around,” though. But a bop in the face produced a bad bloody nose, which he took as a signal that the NBA wasn’t his calling. But filmmaking has kept him involved in the game, and he has been quite busy at it.
Franz Leichter will resign from the Trust board LEICHTER, continued from p. 1
function and represent the neighboring communities. “She has during the whole year not met once with all the community board members, has ignored requests to meet with her and has not returned phone calls,” he charged of Brewer. “If she doesn’t have confidence in me after my long involvement with the park, I do not believe I can be as effective a board member as I want to be. I hope she will be supportive of the park and realize that it exists to serve the neighboring communities as well as the city.” Leichter concluded by expressing his admiration for Taylor’s leadership as chairperson, as well as for the work of Wils and her two predecessors, Connie Fishman and Rob Balachandran. However, Brewer wrote Trust TheVillager.com
Former state Senator Franz Leichter.
President Wils on Dec. 23, saying that it was Leichter who had been avoiding meeting with her, not the other way around. Brewer said Leichter canceled a meeting scheduled for Dec. 22, and that her scheduler set up another one for Jan. 8 and that she was looking forward to meeting with him then. Obviously, it sounds like that meeting is now moot, and likely won’t happen. The Trust’s 13-member board has five members appointed each by the governor and mayor and three by the borough president. Arthur Schwartz, a Community Board 2 member and longtime waterfront park activist, said of Leichter’s resig-
nation, “He is a true hero of Hudson River Park. He and Dick Gottfried pushed the park bill through over [Assemblymember] Deborah Glick’s objections, and clearly crafted very protective legislation. “I do, however, think it’s time for the community boards to each have a representative on the Trust board,” Schwartz added. “I believe that this was the original notion, but right now none of them do. I hope the borough president asks the community boards for recommendations for all three slots, since the terms of all three are up this year.” The other two community appointees are Lawrence B. Goldberg, who was formerly on C.B. 2, and Pam Frederick, who formerly was on and chaired C.B. 4. January 1, 2015
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