THE WEST SIDE’S COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER SERVING CHELSEA, HUDSON YARDS & HELL'S KITCHEN
Warming Up to the Zoo
Hopper-Gibbons Supporters Prevail in Court BY ZACH WILLIAMS Preservationists scored a long-sought legal victory in an ongoing effort to restore Manhattan’s only documented and landmarked stop on the Underground Railroad back to its original height. The appellate division of New York Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 24 that Tony Mamounas, owner of the HopperGibbons House (339 W. 29th St.) would need approval from the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in order to finish a fifth story. An attorney for a local group seeking to remove the buildContinued on page 3
Modified Pier55 Gets Park Trust Green Light BY ALBERT AMATEAU The Hudson River Park Trust’s board of directors has approved the $130 million Pier55 project funded by Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg. The innovative new pier, to be located between the pile field of the historic old Pier 54, where the survivors of the Titanic landed, and the Pier 56 pile field, will still need approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation before construction can begin in May 2016. Continued on page 2
Canine Communication See page 11.
Photographer Jenny Rubin captured these images of deeply embedded winter and impending spring, during a trip to the Central Park Zoo (64th St. & Fifth Ave.) last week. “It’s an inexpensive, great getaway right in the city!” said Rubin, who noted that the cold weather kept crowds away and afforded her some quality face time with the animals. Visit centralparkzoo.com for more info.
Progress Report: Affordable Housing BY EILEEN STUKANE The outlook for affordable housing in New York City can seem good or bad depending on your perspective, but there’s no denying that a lot of energy is being devoted to the cause. Just this week, Eric Bederman, spokesperson for NYC’s Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) reported to Chelsea Now: “We have a target to finance 16,000 affordable units in Fiscal Year 2015, and we’re currently on pace to exceed that goal.” Closer to home, NYC’s Department of Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and HPD have already begun meeting with the Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen community in relation to the development of one of the sites suggested in the Community Board 4 (CB4) Affordable Housing Plan — a call for 11,000 affordable apartments.
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Initially drafted in June 2014, the CB4 Affordable Housing Plan has grown from its original 60 pages to 81. It has yet to be rubber-stamped by the board, but that hasn’t stopped elected officials and city agencies from noticing the sites on city-owned land that would be the most economically feasible for development. This month brought Mayor de Blasio’s State of the City address, with his commitment to the construction of 80,000 new units of affordable housing by 2024 — which as he says, “means building new affordable units at twice the average annual rate of the past 25 years.” The implementation of suggestions in the CB4 Plan by city agencies dovetails with the de Blasio administra-
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VOLUME 07, ISSUE 07 | FEBRUARY 26 - MARCH 11, 2015
‘Arts Island’ Approved by Hudson River Park Trust
Courtesy of Pier55, Inc/Heatherwick Studio
The landscaped pier would have an undulating surface of varying heights, supported by “pot”-style piles, fewer of which would be needed to hold up the pier than normal-style straight piles.
Continued from page 1 At its Feb. 11 board meeting, the Trust specifically approved a 20-year lease for a new nonprofit entity, Pier55, Inc., to operate the new pier. The Trust’s approval included some modifications to the lease, as well as to the project’s overall design — suggested during several public hearings — from plans first made public last November. For example, the highest point on the square-shaped pier was reduced from 71 feet to 62 feet and the number of permitted closings per year of the new pier for events was limited. Moreover, Madelyn Wils, the Trust’s president and CEO, told the directors that Kate Horton, the executive director for programming for Pier55, Inc., the entity building and operating the pier, will meet with Community Board 2 (CB2) to discuss creating a community advisory board for the pier. The limit on the number of closings of the new pier came in response to a suggestion by CB2. The agreement limits the closings to an annual average of four times a month, with no more than five closings in any single month. Responding to questions from Pamela Frederick, a Trust director,
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Wils explained that the upper limit of no more than five closings in any one month was intended to avoid more closings in a single month. The pier could close in order to set up or break down permitted events, Wils said. But it doesn’t mean it would necessarily close for each event. “If we find they’re closing the pier if they don’t need to, we will intervene,” Wils said, adding that some necessary closings might not be all day but only for an hour or two. The lease agreement calls for a minimum of 30 events annually. “We will need to work very closely with the community,” Frederick remarked. She added that the requirement that 51 percent of the events on the new pier must be free or low-cost is still not defined. “What if things don’t work out?” asked Joseph Rose, a developer and former chairperson of the City Planning Commission and a Trust director. “How is the downside protected?” Wils replied that if Pier55, Inc., defaulted on the agreement to build the pier, the Trust would be able to take funds from Pier 55, Inc. to complete the project, including $25 million for maintenance. In addition to the 20-year lease, the agreement has a provision for an optional 10-year extension. The
agreement also allows Pier55, Inc., to terminate its operation of the pier after the first 10 years upon a year’s notice and a payment to the Trust of $5 million. Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, an appointee of Mayor de Blasio’s on the Trust board, said, “Real, substantive changes have been made in the project,” and expressed the de Blasio administration’s thanks to Diller and von Furstenberg. Leslie Wright, New York City regional director of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and a Governor Cuomo appointee on the Trust board, called Pier 55 an exciting project. “The Trust worked hard to balance the issues and the project has all the potential to be a spectacular addition to the park,” Wright said. The construction timetable begins in May 2016, with completion and an opening day currently slated for spring 2019. “I hope to be able to see it,” said Franz Leichter, 84, a Trust director who, as a New York state senator, co-authored the 1998 legislation that created the Trust and the 4-mile long Hudson River Park. Leichter plans to retire as a Trust director at the end of his current term, and Diana Taylor, Trust chairperson, paid tribute to his long service to the park.
Although Trust business meetings are open to the public, only directors are permitted to speak. But that did not stop Mel Stevens from rising from the audience and interrupting the Feb. 11 session. Stevens, whose zealous opposition to building in the Hudson River Park dates back to the 1980s, made his move soon after the opening and denounced Pier55 as an invasion of the river. Wils told him he could not speak and called for help to eject him from the meeting. However, Stevens was allowed to remain, holding his protest sign, after he agreed to be silent. In other actions at last week’s board meeting, the Trust took two actions concerning the old Pier 54 and the widening of the park esplanade between Bloomfield St. — on Gansevoort Peninsula — and W. 14th St. A contract was authorized with Lomma Construction to remove the remaining deck of Pier 54 and for work on the esplanade, for a total not to exceed $1,861,200. Another contract was authorized with Skanska USA for construction management on the esplanade segment for $174,500. The esplanade widening is being done for safety purposes to accommodate the crowds that will be flocking to the new Pier55 once it is built. The Trust also focused attention on the public parking facility on Pier 40, the most significant revenue source for the entire Hudson River Park. A three-year contract with SP Plus for parking garage management services was authorized for a total of $3,304,358. The Trust also authorized a $1,439,720 contract with Structural Preservation Systems to restore the vehicular ramp that gives cars access to the second and third levels of Pier 40. In addition, the Trust authorized issuance of a $120,000 contract for the restoration of the sports court at Harrison St., the nearby dog run at Pier 26 and the playground at Pier 25, all in the park’s Tribeca section. In other actions, the contract with AKRF for environmental impact statements for the Hudson River Park was authorized to add $400,000 for additional work. The total amount of the contract is not to exceed $5,285,000. Finally, the Trust approved the amendment of its Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) contract with the city Department of Parks and Recreation. The number of PEP officers assigned to the park will be increased in stages from 12 to 14, and eventually to 17. .com
Historic Building One Step Closer To Restoration Continued from page 1 ing addition told Chelsea Now on Feb. 25 that the ruling allows for his clients to request that LPC order Mamounas to remove the alterations affecting the historical integrity of the building — a process that would take about six months. “By doing so, we will preserve the heritage of what transpired there when it was used as an Underground Railroad station, when the members of the Hopper Gibbons family acted heroically to provide shelter to the slaves,” said Fern Luskin — lecturer of art and architectural history at LaGuardia Community College and a leader of the Friends of the HopperGibbons Underground Railroad Site and Lamartine Place Historic District. That organization along, with the city, acted as respondents in the case. A spokesperson for the city Law Department praised the ruling as “proper, rational and not arbitrary.” Abigail Hopper Gibbons, a noted social reformer and outspoken aboli-
The ruling ‘sends a message to developers not to rely on illegallyissued permits and to respect the contours of the historic district,’ said Jack L. Lester, attorney for Friends of HopperGibbons, in a Feb. 25 telephone interview. Photo by Zach Williams
L to R: Fern Luskin and Julie Finch have battled Tony Mamounas, owner of the Hopper-Gibbons House, for years regarding a fifth story addition protruding above an historic roofline.
tionist, lived there before and during the Civil War. Members of her family fled to safety across the roofs of buildings on what is now W. 29th St. after rioters looted the house and set it on fire during the July 1863 New York City Draft Riots. In contrast to some controversies
surrounding alterations to historic buildings, the roof rather than facade was particularly important in the case of the Hopper-Gibbons House because of the role it played in the riot and abolitionist movement. Escaped slaves from the South would visit the site on their way to freedom
in Canada before and during the Civil War. The case was not about the historical significance of the building, but rather an ambiguous permit regime, according to Marvin B. Mitzner,
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‘100 Percent’ Solution at Former Slaughterhouse Site number of existing affordable apartments is at risk. The 421-a tax exemption that can shift affordable apartments to market rate when the exemption ends, and the use of affordable apartments as illegal hotel rentals, are causing a drop in availability. Developers who constructed residential buildings with the 421-a tax exemption incentive were only required to keep a percentage — normally 20 percent — of apartments as “affordable” for the life of the exemption, usually 20 years. In many buildings, those 20 years are coming to an end.
ACTION BEGINS ON CB4 PLAN
A page from the NYC Economic Development Corporation’s Feb. 11 presentation to CB4 (red rectangle indicates the Slaughterhouse Site).
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r o f g n i Box ess Fitn
W/ PERSONAL TRAINER
1 WEST 28TH STREET (5th Ave & Broadway) 2nd Floor
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tion’s push for mandatory inclusionary zoning, which will require developers in upzoned areas that allow for buildings with greater floor area and height (which has happened in the CB4 community) to keep a certain percentage of units in their buildings affordable. The percentages, however, would be negotiated project by project, between the city and developers, and hopefully bring about more than the traditional 80/20 split — a percentage representing market rate vs. affordable housing, which developers have long agreed to in order to obtain tax exemptions and building incentives. In recent plans for Astoria Cove, a test case for mandatory inclusionary zoning, 27 percent of apartments will be affordable in a 73/27 split. It has been announced that Carl Weisbrod, chairman of the NYC Planning Commission as well as director of the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP), will present the de Blasio administration’s latest zoning policies at the Crain’s Real Estate Conference on March 17th. These actions all land on the plus side for affordable housing. On the minus end, however, the
The site from the CB4 Affordable Housing Plan that has attracted the most attention is the city-owned land at 493 11th Ave. (btw. W. 39th & W. 40th Sts.) — the former Slaughterhouse site which is now an NYPD parking lot on 25,000 square feet of land. At a CB4 Land Use Committee meeting open to the community on Feb. 11th, Lusheena Warner, assistant vice president, Government and Community Relations, NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC), presented the city’s plan to offer the site in a Request for Proposal (RFP) to developers. Usually the HPD would be the city agency presenting a development project to the community. The EDC as main presenter with HPD as partner, with its representatives secondarily attending, is evidence of the administration’s repositioning of city agencies — some with new divisions, such as the HPD’s Office of Neighborhood Strategies, to concentrate on the priority that is affordable housing. “We see this site as an opportunity to advance the Mayor’s vision since one of the key strategies in Housing NY [the Mayor’s five-borough, decadelong plan to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing] is creating and supporting mixed use, mixed income communities with affordable housing as the anchor,” said Warner. She explained that she wanted to open the conversation with the community, to learn priorities, with the goal of releasing an RFP in the summer or fall of this year. The CB4 Plan suggested that 322 permanently affordable apartments could be built on the site, and as Joe Restuccia, co-chair of the CB4 Housing, Health, and Human Services
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City-Owned Land Eyed For Housing Continued from page 4 Committee, and executive director of the Clinton Housing Development Company (CHCD), explained, “We specifically called this site for affordable housing, and then for mixed use, which is not a hotel with housing, but housing with some sort of retail component such as a supermarket.” Board members and community residents in the audience emphasized that the site should be developed for 100 percent affordable housing for low, moderate and middle incomes. When EDC representatives spoke about having developers do research and analysis of the possibilities, Christine Berthet, chair of CB4 responded, “We are not asking them to do analysis. We know the analysis. We want 100 percent affordable for whatever turns out to be the number of units, and two floors of commercial/retail. We don’t need an analysis.” Restuccia added, “None of our public sites were used for any market-rate housing whatsoever during the Bloomberg years. Let’s continue that
Photo by Sean Egan
The Brookfield Property Partners’ 62-story residential tower under construction at 435 W. 31st St.
tradition. A mixture of incomes for us is the most important part, and it can’t be just the lowest and highest with everything in between. We need to set parameters, not the developers. We have lots of market rate housing; we don’t have affordable housing. We don’t want just one flavor; we want all flavors. Let’s have the developers respond.”
Warner responded, “Even if we have parameters we still want developers to do the research and expect them to include response and analysis.” In this opening conversation, there were no commitments: “We’re asking developers to do their homework. We obviously have to evaluate. We’re going to put them through a very rigorous process.
At the same time we’re here today so you can say what you really need, 60 percent, 80 percent, whatever it is we want to hear from you,” said Warner. The committee and the community were strong in their advocacy for 100 percent permanently affordable apartments. Restuccia explained, “The market is working in our neighborhood. We don’t need to stimulate it and in fact, our affordable sites need to counterbalance the market forces. We’re looking for you to say, ‘This is a publicly owned site, by selling it for a dollar or very little means, you have a subsidy there and other capital subsidy can make it work.’ ” Bringing affordable housing to fruition takes time, however. The EDC’s timeline for the Slaughterhouse site, proposes 2018 as the year when construction would begin. The Brookfield Property Partners’ 62-story residential tower at 435 W. 31st St., with 20 percent of its 844 units affordable, just broke ground in January, and won’t be completed until 2018. The scheduling of applications for its affordable housing lottery is
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After Tragedy, Dogged Determination and a Happy Reunion BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC A group of Good Samaritans, and microchip technology, helped to reunite a worried owner and his dog after they were separated during last month’s tragic shooting at the Home Depot in Chelsea. Morris Borock, a 77-year-old Upper East Side resident (and the twin brother of Council of Chelsea Block Associations president Bill Borock), played a pivotal role in reuniting Fritz, a wirehaired fox terrier, and his owner Orlando Straughter, who lives in East Harlem. At the Home Depot at 40 W. 23rd St. (btw. Fifth & Sixth Aves.), Borock had moved from the lighting department to another when he heard four or five shots ring out. Around 2:45 p.m. on Sun., Jan. 25, an employee, 31, used a .38 caliber revolver to shoot his supervisor, 38, who died after being rushed to Bellevue Hospital. “People started running out of the store,” Borock told Chelsea Now by phone. “For some reason, I felt calm. I don’t know why.” Borock attribute his placid demeanor to being in the army at one time. He left through the front entrance of the store. The police came seven to ten minutes later, said Borock, and after they entered the store, more shots were heard. “That’s when the perpetrator killed himself,” Borock commented. After the second set of shots, a dog — without a collar — came running out of the store. “I was able to catch the dog,” recalled Borock. “I was holding the dog. It was petrified, it was shaking.” Borock sat down at the front of the building and waited for about half an hour for the owner to show up — but they would end up missing each other. Straughter had gone to Home Depot that day for light bulbs. He had been walking down an aisle when he heard a “Pow Pow, not thinking anything of it — ’cause things fall and accidents happen,” he told Chelsea Now by phone. “So I assumed that it was like, someone dropped light bulbs. And then after another five minutes, you hear another four gunshots. As then I look up, I’m looking at people — it was like slow-motion mode — and people walking toward me, then all of sudden running.” He had bent down to pick up Fritz when he was knocked down by a second wave of people. In the melee, the .com
dog got out of his leash. Moving with the crowd, he ended up exiting at the store’s empoyee entrance on W. 22nd St. He kept calling his dog’s name and could see him through the glass door, said Straughter. “Then all of sudden he disappeared, so I was frantic,” he recalled. Straughter decided to go to the front entrance on W. 23rd St. But by that time, Borock had taken the suggestion of a woman in the crowd and they both took the dog to the New York Dog Spa & Hotel (dogspa.com) at 32 W. 25th St., two blocks away from Home Depot. Frances Scott, the Dog Spa manager, said that they brought the dog in to see if perhaps it was a regular customer that staff could recognize. Fritz wasn’t familiar, Scott said in a phone interview, but he was a “friendly, sweet” dog and “he wanted to play.” Scott put out some water for Fritz and gave a leash to Borock. She wanted to send them to a veterinarian so that a wand could read the dog’s microchip, but it was Sunday and many were closed. A microchip, about the size of a grain of rice, is usually inserted between the shoulder blades in the back of a pet, said Steve Gruber, director of communications for the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals (animalalliancenyc.org), an organization that has been encouraging the practice for the past ten years by hosting low-cost microchipping events. Gruber said in a phone interview that the procedure is usually painless. Scott said that a lot of owners use microchips for their pets, noting that it is difficult to find a lost dog in the city. She called Fifth Avenue Veterinary Specialists, located at 1 W. 15th St., and talked with the receptionist, who said to bring the dog in. Fifth Avenue Veterinary Specialist (vcaspecialtyvets.com/fifth-avenue) is open 24 hours, seven days a week and when Borock and Fritz got there, it was crowded, he said. But the vet had a wand that could scan the chip. Once scanned, information shows up on the wand itself. The information revealed where the dog had been bred, but not the owner’s phone number or name. They called the breeder, who gave the name of a pet shop in Westchester County. They then called the pet shop, which give them the information they needed, said Borock.
Courtesy of Morris Borock
Quick thinking on the part of Morris Borock (left) and other helpful humans orchestrated a happy reunion between Orlando Straughter and his wirehaired fox terrier, Fritz.
Meanwhile, Straughter remained outside of the Home Depot entrance. He approached an officer and described Fritz and the situation. The cop told him to wait with the reporters across the street. “I’m still thinking that Fritz is still roaming in the Home Depot,” he said.
After waiting for around two and a half hours, Straughter spoke with another officer, who said he had walked the floor of the store and didn’t see a lost dog. “By this time my heart throbbed,” he said. “Maybe he ran out of Home Depot and now he’s loose in Chelsea. Maybe someone picked him up and then I’ll never see him again.” Straughter said he decided to go to the Petco, at 890 Broadway in Union Square, which he frequents and “on the way there I’m looking at everyone and their dog.” When he walked inside, his phone rang and it was the receptionist at the Fifth Avenue Veterinary Specialists saying that they had Fritz. “I bolted out of Petco, ran into the clinic,” he said. “I just immediately got emotional. I hit the floor on my knees and just started crying emotionally and thanking [Borock] relentlessly. It was so amazing. It was [a] godsend that this all happened like it did.” Jennifer Kelly Newman, hospital manager, told Chelsea Now in an email statement, “It was such a joy for
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February 26 - March 11, 2015
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR THE WEST SIDE’S COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER
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not be liable for slight changes or typographical errors that do not lessen the value of an advertisement. The publisher’s liability for other errors or omissions in connection with an advertisement is strictly limited to publication of the advertisement in any subsequent issue.
Chelsea landmark deserves its own ‘Domain’ To The Editor: Re:“Hopper-Gibbons House in Limbo as Legal Gears Turn” (web news, Feb. 5, 2015): “The 2005 DOB permit was never valid and thus could not be reinstated in any form” — that fact ALONE should rationally put an end to this. BUT NO! If that is STILL not enough to get the needed action, how about the city (or even Statem for that matter!) employ Eminent Domain, to ensure that an important landmark site in American history, is restored to its legal, former state, and Mr. Mamounas can even be compensated, so he can go buy another building to wreck for profit. BUT NO! — I forgot! “Eminent Domain” is only ever employed around these parts when, say, a Russian plutocrat wants to spend blood money to house his trophy basketball team! Silly me forgetting something like that! Nick Fritsch Note: See page 1 for an update on this matter.
New Yorkers not fit for Tokyo traffic fix To The Editor: Re: “Rx for pedestrian crossings” (Letter to The Editor, Feb. 12, 2014) In response to K. Dupuys’ letter regarding pedestrian crossings: the type of pedestrian-traffic sequence she proposes would only work if the pedestrians REMAINED on the sidewalk to allow for the two cycles of traffic to proceed. Not stand halfway in the traffic lane, not cross by trying to outrun an oncoming car a half block away etc. etc...all of which I witness while driving in this city. She mentioned Tokyo, where this system works. Yes, and the Japanese are more disciplined in their actions, unlike many New York City pedestrians and bicyclists who circumvent laws made for their own safety, and for the most part go unenforced. Richie Hecht
Art park is a beautiful gift To The Editor: I have been a resident of Chelsea for 24 years. My three daughters all attend New York City public schools:
February 26 - March 11, 2015
Manhattan Academy of Technology, the Clinton School for Writers and Artists, and LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. I am so excited, as a member of this dynamic community, to welcome Pier55, another venue for arts and recreation, into the neighborhood! I love Hudson River Park and marvel at the improvement along the riverfront from what used to be there. When the kids were little, we played at Pirate Park (the Jane St. Pier) and on Pier 46 a great deal. This new park, Pier55, offers more opportunity for older kids to enjoy the beauty of our waterfront and our cityscape. I can’t wait to see what programming the people involved come up with. And I hope very much that local schools will get a chance to use these unique performance spaces, which I see as inspiring venues for dance, music and theater for young artists. I went to the first public hearing about Pier55, to learn and to listen, and came away with a very positive perspective. Most of the complaints against the project are either about noise or traffic, which I can’t see being a problem, or worries about control of the pier, which seem to have been hashed out already. I cannot come up with additional concerns, though I have tried, for the sake of being thorough. What a beautiful gift the city has been offered! Let’s move this forward! Liz Craig
A lot to fear about Pier55 To The Editor: There is little to say that is good about the Pier55 development. The organizers are real estate speculators who are making this project a linchpin of their privatization of the West Side waterfront. It is not being reviewed by anyone and is being rushed through as if the world is coming to an end. The community board, which should be protecting the area from this, is instead a front for the real estate interests in this case, just as it was in the privatization of Washington Square Park. Projects that are set up in secret are invariably bad and will not withstand extensive and professional examinations. The lack of vetting will speed things up, but not for the better. The governing structure for Pier55 is dubious and appears to be beyond
public review. This all comes because the Hudson River Park has no dedicated source of funding. We have already seen legislation passed to allow the unwanted and unnecessary transfer of air rights from Pier 40 to real estate speculators so that the Pier 40 park could be “saved.” It is a vicious and bitter blow to have $35 million suddenly appear from the state and the city for Pier55 when there was “no money” to help Pier 40. This will continue until all of the waterfront is privatized and it becomes a “destination,” like the High Line. This will be worse for everyone but a wealthy few. Projects like this in the city are engines of inequality. We are driven down by our own government. John Wetherhold
Arch is a Titanic issue To The Editor: Leaders and members of societies in the U.S., Britain, Northern Ireland, Switzerland and Scandinavia dedicated to preserving the history of R.M.S. Titanic have called for the iconic Pier 54 arch — among the last surviving vestiges of the original Pier 54 structure, and under which Titanic’s survivors, Lusitania’s final passengers and tens of thousands of American troops in two World Wars passed — to be conserved and retained. If not in its present position, the arch should be relocated to the south side of the P55 structure to serve as a “frame” through which the remains of Pier 54 might be viewed, accompanied by a commemorative plaque or tablet at long last commemorating the significance of this pier to history. In the desire to create something “new,” it is important that the history of this culturally significant feature not be forgotten. Charles Haas
E-mail letters, not longer than 250 words in length, to Scott@ChelseaNow.com or fax to 212-229-2790 or mail to Chelsea Now, Letters to the Editor, NYC Community Media, One Metrotech North, 10th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Please include phone number for confirmation purposes. Chelsea Now reserves the right to edit letters for space, grammar, clarity and libel. Chelsea Now does not publish anonymous letters. .com
Retain Newsprint Notification TALKING POINT The following is a letter from the New York State Press Association in response to a provision in Gov. Cuomo’s state budget that would eliminate the requirement to publish proposed constitutional amendments in local newspapers prior to an election. Instead, those proposals would only be published on government websties.
MEMORANDUM OF OPPOSITION Repeal of Newspaper Publication of Proposed Constitutional Amendments Public Protection and General Government Article VII Bill, Part F A.3005/S.2005 We are strongly opposed to the governor’s proposal to eliminate newspaper public notice of proposed constitutional amendments. Instead of publishing public notices, the board of elections would post an abstract and brief description of the proposed amendment somewhere on its website for three days in the week prior to the election. The secretary of state would also post a notice somewhere on its website once per month for three months.
At a time when there is general agreement that there is a need to increase transparency and accountability in state government, it is astounding that this provision is included in a budget bill. Among the many reasons this is a very bad idea are: • By all accounts, broad swathes of New York State lack access to modern Internet service. Governor Cuomo has recently unveiled a proposal to begin to narrow this digital divide, and has said it will take major investment over the course of several years. This proposal disenfranchises voters in rural areas, voters who cannot afford a home computer with broadband access, and a significant number of voters who are not highly computer literate. • This proposal assumes that New York voters sift through state agency websites when looking for news that affects them. They do not. They turn to a local newspaper. Existing law requires that constitutional amendment notices be disseminated through a newspaper in each county of the state. Most of these newspapers land on voters’ doorsteps. Obscure and little-known state agency websites do not.
• This proposal will not save money. Time after time, when advocating for legislation that would require government agencies to post information on their websites, we have been told it is too difficult or expensive. To ensure a tamper-proof publication of these most vital legislative initiatives would cost money, perhaps much more than the legislation estimates will be saved by eliminating newspaper public notice of amendments. • Newspaper publication keeps everyone honest. Knowing that a government document must be published by an outside entity helps prevent the possibility that such an important notice could be slanted or misstated. A state supreme court judge ruled in 2014 that the state board of elections included misleading language in its description of one proposed constitutional amendment. • Newspaper publication provides a historic record. Government websites may not be maintained long term. Newspapers are preserved in libraries and newspaper archives for posterity. • The governor has called for a consti-
tutional amendment to strip public pensions from legislators convicted of crimes, and yet this bill supports making the proposed language available only on obscure websites few voters will ever see. The proposed legislation says it will save $342,000. Total paid newspaper circulation in New York is approximately 8.6 million, and there are more than 10 million registered voters in New York State, so the proposal saves about three pennies per voter. This doesn’t seem like very cost-effective government.
Michelle K. Rea Executive Director New York Press Association/ New York Press Service
To register your dissatisfaction with the governor’s plan, contact his office by phone at 518-474-8390 or by writing to this address: The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo Governor of New York State NYS State Capitol Building Albany, NY 12224
Community Contacts To be listed, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE 10TH PRECINCT Located at 230 W. 20th St. (btw. 7th & 8th Aves.). Commander: Deputy Inspector Michele Irizarry. Main number: 212-741-8211. Community Affairs: 212-741-8226. Crime Prevention: 212-741-8226. Domestic Violence: 212-741-8216. Youth Officer: 212741-8211. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212741-8210. Detective Squad: 212-7418245. The Community Council meets on the last Wed. of the month, 7 p.m., at the 10th Precinct or other locations to be announced. The next meeting is March 25. COMMUNITY BOARD 4 (CB4) CB4 serves Manhattan’s West Side neighborhoods of Chelsea and Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen. Its boundaries are 14th St. on the south, 59/60th St. on the north, the Hudson River on the west, 6th Ave. on the east (south of 26th St.) and 8th Ave. on the east .com
(north of 26th St.). The monthly full board meeting, open to the public, takes place on the first Wed. of the month. The next meeting is March 4, 6:30 p.m., at Fulton Center Auditorium (119 Ninth Ave. btw. 17th & 18th Sts). Call 212-736-4536, visit nyc.gov/mcb4 or email them at info@ manhattancb4.org. COMMUNITY BOARD 5 (CB5) CB5 represents the central business district of New York City. It includes midtown Manhattan, the Fashion, Flower, Flatiron and Diamond districts, as well as Bryant Park and Union Square Park. The district is at the center of New York’s tourism industry. The Theatre District, Times Square, Carnegie Hall, the Empire State Building and two of the region’s transportation hubs (Grand Central Station and Penn Station) fall within CB5. The full board meeting, open to the public, happens on the second Thurs. of the month. The next meeting is March 12, 6 p.m., at Xavier High School (30 W. 16th St., btw. 5th & 6th
Aves., 2nd fl.). Call 212-465-0907, visit cb5.org or email them at Hoffice@ cb5.org. THE 300 WEST 23RD, 22ND & 21ST STREETS BLOCK ASSOCIATION Contact them at email@example.com. THE WEST 400 BLOCK ASSOCIATION Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org. CHELSEA GARDEN CLUB Chelsea Garden Club cares for the bike lane tree pits in Chelsea. If you want to adopt a tree pit or join the group, please contact them at email@example.com or like them on Facebook. Also visit chelseagardenclub.blogspot.com. LOWER CHELSEA ALLIANCE (LoCal) This group is committed to protecting the residential blocks of Chelsea from overscale development. Contact them at LowerChelseaAlliance@gmail.com. THE GREENWICH VILLAGE-CHELSEA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE Call 212-337-5912 or visit villagechelsea.com.
THE MEATPACKING DISTRICT IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION Visit meatpacking-district.com or call 212-633-0185. PENN SOUTH The Penn South Program for Seniors provides recreation, education and social services — and welcomes volunteers. For info, call 212-2433670 or visit pennsouthlive.org. THE BOWERY RESIDENTS’ COMMITTEE: HOMELESS HELPLINE If you know of anyone who is in need of their services, call the Homeless Helpline at 212-533-5151, and the BRC will send someone to make contact. This number is staffed by outreach team leaders 24 hours a day. Callers may remain anonymous. For more info, visit brc.org. THE LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL & TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY CENTER At 208 W. 13th St. (btw. 7th & 8th Aves.). Visit gaycenter.org or call 212620-7310. February 26 - March 11, 2015
Court Ruling Precursor To Restoring Hopper-Gibbons House Continued from page 3 attorney for Mamounas. “I think that the court really did not appreciate the nuance of this case,” Mitzner told Chelsea Now on Feb. 25. He added that he and his client have not yet decided on whether to appeal the latest ruling or to seek a permit through LPC in the future. Mitzner argued in court on Feb. 4 that a 2005 permit from the city Department of Buildings (DOB) preceded the 2009 historical designation of the site. But DOB revoked that permit shortly before the designation following the discovery that only the city Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) could waive provisions of the city Multiple Dwelling Law. Without such an exemption the renovations could not be made due to the building’s age. That process was unclear when the original permit was secured, Mitzner argued. His client should be able to bypass LPC and apply directly to BSA to have the permit reinstated, he told the court. But the appellate court instead
State Senator Brad Hoylman said in a statement that the ruling will help ensure the future integrity of the building and also ‘affirms the authority of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission and helps preserve an integral piece of American civil rights history.’
before a judgment. The speed of the court in issuing a ruling on the case was a pleasant surprise to Mamounas’ legal opponents. The ruling “sends a message to developers not to rely on illegally-issued permits and to respect the contours of the historic district,” said Jack L. Lester, attorney for Friends of Hopper-Gibbons, in a Feb. 25 telephone interview. State Senator Brad Hoylman said in a statement that the ruling will help ensure the future integrity of the building and also “affirms the authority of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission and helps preserve an integral piece of
upheld an Aug. 2013 ruling by Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Eileen Rackower. “BSA’s (2013) determination that, in order to work at the site, petitioner was required to obtain the approval of the LPC, was rational and was not arbitrary and capricious,” the latest decision states. The court did not agree with another argument from Mitzner that his client had “vested rights” in the case because his client did not have a valid permit at the time of historic designation. Attorneys from both sides told Chelsea Now on Feb. 4 that they expected several months would pass
American civil rights history.” Hoylman, Councilmember Corey Johnson and state Assemblymember Richard Gottfried have supported the ongoing legal effort by helping with fundraising and publicity. “The owner marred the building by illegally building a penthouse on the roof,” Johnson said in a statement. “The Supreme Court’s decision will help ensure that this historic building is restored to its original state and is a protected historic site in our community.”
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February 26 - March 11, 2015
Chelsea Samaritans Pool Resources To Help Pooch Continued from page 7 everyone…to help reunite Fritz with his owner. Fifth Avenue Veterinary Specialists is honored to have taken part in such a touching story!” “Fritz came out and he just ran into my lap,” said Straughter. “It was just amazing that [Borock] did what he did out of the kindness of his heart.” When asked why he went out of his way to help, Borock responded, “I’m just that type of person.” Borock said that he found money on the street and was able to track down the owner to return it. He ran after a thief who had robbed a per-
son who had just taken money out of an ATM. “I’m just that type of person that if something happened to me, I would want someone to help me out,” he explained. While talking with Chelsea Now, Borock, a social worker, was watching his daughter’s dog, Coconut. He has never owned a dog, but being around his daughter’s dog has been “an amazing experience.” “I know now the definition of a lap dog. They crawl up on your lap, they put their head down and they fall asleep. I live in New York, the only pets I’ve had have been mice and roaches before,” he said with a laugh.
How To Help Lost Dogs Find Their Way Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of research and development for the ASPCA (aspca.org), talked to Chelsea Now by phone about how to approach a lost dog. Weiss said that a common mistake people make is that they approach quickly and use what she termed “human communication,” i.e., full frontal posture — walking toward a dog tall and straight. “If a dog is fearful, all of those things are likely to push the dog further away,” she said. Weiss suggested “canine communication,” meaning you turn your body to the side, which connotes in canine terms that you have no intention to fight. Also, do not look at the animal directly, but rather use peripheral vision, kneel down and coax the dog to come to you as opposed to trying to grab or catch the animal. Be really cautious about street traffic, said Weiss, when approaching a lost dog. “Being thoughtful about how is that dog responding — is he moving towards me or away from me,” she said. The ASPCA recommends both an ID tag and microchipping. Weiss said that an ID can be read by anybody and that a pet owner should put their cell number, home number and a phone number of a friend just in case they happen to be out of town. An ID tag is “really the easiest way and most expedient way” to find a pet, she said. With microchipping, Weiss said it .com
medical research guide NYU School of Medicine Have you experienced a traumatic event? Are you depressed and anxious? Are you experiencing flashbacks? Irritability? If so, you may be eligible to participate in a study that involves taking an investigational medication or placebo for one week. This study takes place at New York University School of Medicine over the course of five visits. You must be between the ages of 18 and 60, medically healthy and currently not taking medications. You will be compensated for your time.
Courtesy of the ASPCA
Frieda was adopted last week, but many others remain at the ASPCA, in need of loving homes. See aspca. org/nyc/adoptable-dogs or visit the NYC shelter, at 424 E. 92nd St.
is important that the chip provider has the most up-to-date information for the owner. “Just having your pet microchipped isn’t enough. You need to make sure that the information with the microchip provider is updated so that people can find you,” she said. Steve Gruber, director of communications for Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, also stressed keeping information updated. His organization has lowcost microchipping events throughout the year. For more information, visit animalalliancenyc.org. The ASPCA offers a free resource app for pet owners. Go to aspca.org/blog/ new-aspca-iphone-android-app-provides-essential-resource-pet-parents for more information.
For more information, please call 646-754-4831.
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CB4’s Top Affordable Housing Sites
Photo by Sean Egan
The vacated (and city-owned) Hunter College building at 450 W. 41st St. could be demolished to make way for 239 affordable apartments.
Continued from page 5 far in the future. Meanwhile, other sites in the CB4 Affordable Housing Plan that are moving along are: • The vacated 30,000 square foot Hunter College building at 450 W. 41st St., which could be demolished for 239 affordable apartments. It is city-owned and one of the properties actively under consideration for development by the city. • Already in the pipeline for HPD development, Harborview Terrace, a two-building complex developed by the New York Housing Authority (NYCHA) at 535 W. 55th St., has been having tenant association meetings with the community board and community stakeholders for a possible third building comprised of 200 affordable apartments. Tenants want to be assured that a plan for green space around the project is agreed upon before going further. • In March 2015 CHDC will close on Site 7, a 12-story residential building at 540 W. 53rd St. which was under public review. Upon its planned completion in 2016, the building will have 103 permanently affordable units. • Another issue to be grappled with in order to move affordable housing forward in the community is the rezoning of the industrial corridor that is 11th Ave., from commercial to residential — which would allow more floor area ratio (FAR) for building. Buildings could also go higher with the use of air rights from the Hudson River Park Trust.
February 26 - March 11, 2015
• As for creating a micro park on the empty NYC Department of Sanitation (DOS) site at 136 W. 20th St., that had been proposed in the CB4 Plan as a site for 84 affordable apartments, Restuccia recently referred to the park as a “glimmer” with several areas of interest in the community needing to come together to make it happen. “They’re not far enough along yet at all, but the administration is clearly flexible,” he said. In a Feb. 23 email to Chelsea Now, Councilmember Corey Johnson acknowledged the addition of public green space on the site as “a longtime goal of the community, and I’m working collaboratively with the de Blasio Administration, the Borough President’s office, community leaders and Community Board 4 to make it a reality.”
‘AFFORDABLE’ STATUS LOST WHEN 421-A EXEMPTION EXPIRES The Association for Neighborhood Housing Development (ANHD) has reported that according to HPD, in the fiscal year 2013, approximately $1.1 billion of the 421-a Developer’s Tax Exemption was granted for 153,121 residential units. Of those, 12,748 were affordable. The 421-a tax exemption program, which was created in 1971 to stimulate building in New York City, and evolved into the 80/20 developer’s incentive for the inclusion of 20 percent of affordable housing in new construction, is expiring in June 2015. Regulated by the state government, the 421-a tax will be voted on in Albany. What the de Blasio administration thinks about 421-a has yet to be revealed, but a coalition of tenant and community organizations has already began protesting its renewal.
The way the 421-a works as an incentive is that a developer is given a tax abatement for the difference of what the land value was originally, compared to when it was fully developed. CB4 has been working to make sure the percentage of affordable apartments in the district’s new buildings are permanently affordable. However, in many buildings, the 20 percent of affordable units are only affordable for the life of the tax abatement (which can be anywhere from 20 to 35 years). As Chelsea Now has reported in the past, the community could soon lose 1,700 affordable apartments unless finding a way to make them permanently affordable. “The amount that 421-a costs for the number of affordable units it generates just doesn’t pay off,” says Sarah Desmond, executive director, Housing Conservation Coordinators (HCC). “Clearly the city is looking at it, and has historically looked at it, as something other than an affordable housing program. From the standpoint of affordable housing it doesn’t generate enough units and those units only exist for a period of time.” Moses Gates, director of planning and community development, ANHD, does not hesitate to say, “The 421-a program as it exists now is a boondoggle and really needs to be ended.” The ANHD argues that the $1.1 billion not paid in tax revenue could have been used for schools, infrastructure and affordable housing. Also, according to the ANHD, developers get to “double-dip” by counting the same 20 percent set aside as affordable units twice — once as 421-a tax break, then as part of voluntary inclusionary housing. Steven Spinola, president, Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), sees June as a time to strengthen, not terminate, 421-a: “The Mayor’s plan calls for the creation of 240,000 new market rate and affordable housing units over the next 10 years. To offset the property tax burden and construction land costs, incentives like 421-a will be necessary to create the new units.” Joe Restuccia has another idea: “The way 421-a has been applied doesn’t make sense. The tax exemption should apply just to the affordable units because you can’t carry full taxes on units that have restricted rents. The idea of applying 421-a to an entire building that has extremely high rents just means that the owner gets to have everything. We’ve set up a political, not financial, equation where most owners believe that they’re entitled to a higher return resulting from the city’s tax exemptions.” The fate of 421-a will be determined in June in Albany, as will the city’s rent regulations, which also expire in June. Summer will be a crucial time for deciding both the longevity of affordable housing in new construction, and the future of existing rent stabilized apartments. As previously reported by HCC, over 100,000 units in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen have been lost to vacancy decontrol. A provision in the state’s rent regulation law provides that if a monthly rent in a stabilized apartment can be raised to $2,500, the apartment can be deregulated. Activist groups are gearing up to be a presence in Albany to fight for rent
Continued on page 15 .com
Healthy Winter Comfort Foods BY CARLYE WAXMAN RD, CDN (sweetnutritionnyc.com) Emotional eating is a nasty byproduct of the long winter and its brutal weather. Did you ever get so depressed that the only thing keeping your mind off your real problem is a carton of ice cream? How about being so cold in your apartment at night that instead of a tiny piece of chocolate as an endof-meal treat, you end up digging into that warm apple pie you picked up on your way home to hibernate? You’re not alone. It’s important to know if your body is really hungry or if it’s all in your head. One of the best ways to avoid the sweet comfort of empty calories is to recognize the craving for what it is — and then eat something real and warm. Cold food like yogurt parfaits, sandwiches and salads just don’t cut it during winter’s freezing temperatures. But how do you avoid temptation and stay slim? Some comfort foods aren’t as bad as you think. Instead of fried chicken, buy a rotisserie chicken: 1/4 of the chicken contains 320 calories and 42g of protein — or you can have the chicken without skin and save yourself another 100 calories! Creamed spinach sides can run you around 260 calories, which isn’t terrible. If you are trying to keep your calories low, buy Bird’s Eye frozen creamed spinach (8oz are only 180 calories and 6g of protein). Mashed potatoes aren’t terrible either. If you buy a side from KFC, its 90 calories. If you buy a much larger size (like a restaurant portion), it will run you about 250 calories. Macaroni and cheese can be pretty caloric, especially when you’re ordering it as your meal instead of a side. Skip the meal portion and ask for low-fat or light cheese. Add vegetables if possible. Don’t want to spend the money eating out? Keep Kraft mac and cheese at home. Though it may not be as natural as making it from scratch, one serving is only 230 calories and 7g of protein. Complete this with a large salad or a big bowl of steamed vegetables. Avoid fries (sweet potato fries doesn’t make it healthier), lo mein, corn bread, creamy soups, pot roast, grilled cheese and spaghetti and meatballs. These foods are hard to make healthy if you are ordering them out. If .com
you want to attempt making them, find a healthy recipe online. Try the following recipes for some comfort foods that will keep you slim these last days of winter. Find more at my website: sweetnutritionnyc.com.
BUFFALO “WINGS” (serves 6)
SIMPLY AUTHENTIC LO MEIN (serves 6)
MANHATTAN CLAM CHOWDER (serves 4)
Lo mein can be healthy. Try my recipe or add any shredded vegetables you can find, like red and green cabbage.
These cauliflower creations don’t have any more bison in them than the original Buffalo wings recipe — but they’re much better for you.
Nutrition Facts: Calories 177, Protein 6g, Carbs 30g
Nutrition Facts: Calories 240, Protein 18g, Carbs 28g
Ingredients: 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets (wash and dry well) 1 cup flour 1 cup skim milk 1 cup buffalo sauce (pick lowest calorie one, I happen to like Archie Moore’s) 1 teaspoon oil garlic, salt, pepper
Ingredients: 2 bundles whole wheat Lo mein noodles (or ½ box of thin spaghetti) 1 tablespoon oil 2 cups shredded zucchini and squash (try buying this pre-prepared at Whole Foods) 1 yellow onion, sliced thin 1 small bag of shredded carrots 5 scallions, chopped 2 cloves of garlic, minced 1 2-inch ginger cube, chopped fine Sauce ingredients (combine first) ½ cup vegetable broth 2 tablespoons soy sauce 2 tablespoons oyster sauce 2 teaspoons sriracha 1 teaspoon sesame oil
Ingredients: 1 tablespoon oil 1 garlic clove 1 onion, chopped 4 celery stalks, chopped 5 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed 12 8oz can of whole peeled tomatoes 2 6 ½oz cans of chopped clams in clam juice ½ cup or more of water 1 bunch of parsley, chopped
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine milk, flour, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss the cauliflower into the bowl and toss well. Spread out the cauliflower on a casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes. Take out the dish, combine the sauce and oil together and pour it over the cauliflower. Place it back in oven about 10 minutes. Serve with celery.
Directions: Cook lo-mein noodles according to package. In a wok or large non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil on medium high until hot. Add all veggies (not scallion), ginger and garlic. In about 7-10 minutes (when the veggies are wilted), add the scallion, cooked noodles (drained) and the sauce ingredients. Mix well with tongs and cook on simmer for another 5 minutes. The sauce will thicken once the noodles get incorporated.
Cauliflower: Calories 150, Protien 2g, Carbs 18g
Photos by Carlye Waxman
You’re saving yourself 400+ calories by not having a creamy soup, and making it from scratch. Try Manhattan Clam Chowder instead of New England.
Directions: In a large pot, add oil and garlic on medium high heat for about 1 minute. Add celery, onions and potatoes. Cook on high 7 to 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender (stir frequently). Drain the clams, reserving liquid and adding water if needed, to measure 2-2 1/2 cups. Add clam liquid and tomatoes with their liquid, salt and pepper to the casserole. Cook, covered, on high 18 to 25 minutes until the potatoes are tender, stirring once. Add reserved clams. Cook, covered, on high 2 to 3 minutes until clams are heated through. Add parsley at the end and stir.
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February 26 - March 11, 2015
City/State Task Force To Investigate Tenant Harassment Continued from page 12 regulation. Says Desmond, “Vacancy decontrol has facilitated ‘for profit’ uses when you have an affordable crisis happening in the city.”
ILLEGAL HOTELS, AIRBNB AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING A recent oversight hearing at the NYC Council’s Housing and Buildings Committee brought a face-to-face meeting chaired by NYC Councilmember Jumaane Williams and attended by 10 other Councilmembers, and Airbnb’s head of global public policy, David Hantman. At issue is the fact that what could be affordable apartments rented to individuals or families are being used for private short-term rentals — which under a 2010 law, are considered illegal hotels. Single and two-family homes are exempt but a rental apartment, rented for under 30 days when the host is not present, is illegal. “There are no ‘buts’ about it,” says Gates, “The way Airbnb operates is completely and blatantly against the law. Airbnb wouldn’t be lobbying to change the law if they were currently following the law.” At the Council meeting, Hantman testified that New York City should find a way to legalize short-term rentals of entire apartments for less than 30 days (but he did not provide specifics on how this should be done). Airbnb’s public position is that it wants to change the existing law to allow the company to collect and remit taxes to the city and state, and increase penalties on unscrupulous landlords who are systematically emptying their buildings and turning vacant apartments into illegal hotels (but again, no specifics are offered). Only a few weeks after the Council meeting, however, the law as it stands was given a considerable boost when Manhattan Housing Court Judge Jack Stoller evicted a tenant who was renting his 450 W. 42nd St. rent stabilized apartment in an 80/20 building for $649 a night, while he was living with his family in a high-end home in Queens. This is the first such decision to evict a tenant. Judge Stoller wrote in his ruling that profiteering by using a residential apartment as a hotel “undermines the purpose of the Rent Stabilization Code.” The New York State Attorney General’s office did an analysis of 497,322 transactions for stays between January 2010 and June 2014 and .com
found that 72 percent were for private short-term rentals. As a result of Schneiderman’s findings, Airbnb removed 2,000 hosts from its website — but purportedly, over 2,000 hosts have been added. As Councilmember Helen Rosenthal told Chelsea Now: “In January’s Housing Committee Hearing, Airbnb representatives showed a blatant disregard for New York laws. They were unwilling to share data on how many of their users break the law, and they had no interest in changing their platform to require users to follow the law. Airbnb representatives made clear that their only interest is to continue to exploit NYC residential housing for their own profit.” Councilmember Rosenthal also pointed out that the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement has not had the resources to combat illegal short-term rentals. Judge Stoller’s ruling could be a game-changer.
TENANT HARASSMENT TASK FORCE FORMED With tenant complaints in 2014 nearly double the number from 2011, a new multiagency Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force has been formed by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. Complaints will be investigated by the HPD, the NYC Department of Buildings and the state’s Tenant Protection Unit, created by Governor Cuomo in 2012. As the real estate market is hotter than ever, city landlords have intensified their harassment of tenants to drive them out of rent-regulated apartments which the landlords could then convert into luxury rentals. Affordable housing is being eliminated for market rate apartments. This is happening right here in our community. Chelsea Now shined a spotlight on this issue last summer in relation to 222-224 W. 21st St. (visit ChelseaNow.com and search for “Tenants Rights Trashed Amidst Market-Rate Conversion”). Schneiderman urged any tenant who feels that they are being unfairly harassed or abused to get in contact with the task force either through the website (ag.ny.gov) or call 311. Last week when Mayor de Blasio announced the task force, he said with determination: “Right now, a lot of people — a lot of bad landlords — think they will not get caught. Our message today is you will get caught. All of these agencies
Photo by Sean Egan
Harborview Terrace, a NYCHA complex on W. 55th St., may add a third building comprised of 200 affordable apartments.
are going to work together. You will get caught. There will be severe penalties. You’re going to wish you had not violated the law.”
COMMUNITY PREFERENCE AND THE LOTTERY SYSTEM In 2014 there were 41 lotteries held for 2,500 affordable NYC apartments. One and a half million people applied for those 2,500 — not good odds for winning. Even though Mayor de Blasio plans to produce 80,000 affordable apartments over the next 10 years, there will still not be enough to meet the demand, which has increased since 2013 when applications began being accepted online at NYC Housing Connect (nyc.gov/housingconnect). Being one of the chosen, however, is just the beginning. Applications are randomly selected and given a log number based on order of selection. If your number is chosen to move forward
in the process, you are given an interview date and must bring a packet of documents including a birth certificate, pay stubs, tax returns, proof of address and more. There has been a tradition for a percentage of affordable units to be set-aside for community residents. That practice is now being scrutinized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for possible violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits developments or agencies that receive federal money from discriminating based on race or national origin. Could community preference lead to discrimination in a community where the population leans toward a certain group which does not represent the city as a whole? This is yet another possible detour in the road to finding affordable housing — but nevertheless, the quest continues.
February 26 - March 11, 2015
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ARTS&ENTERTAINMENT Of Bullies, Bigfoot, Haters and Hope Freeman spins a ripping yarn about rumors and reality THEATER
I WAS A SIXTH GRADE BIGFOOT Written & Performed by Cyndi Freeman Directed by Sara Peters A Frigid Festival Presentation At UNDER St. Marks 94 St. Marks Place, btw. First Ave. & Ave. A Feb 28, at 10:30 p.m. March 4 at 8:50 p.m. March 8 at 5:10 p.m. Tickets: $10, $8 for students/seniors Visit FRIGIDnewyork.info Artist info: heroicsinhotpants.com
BY SCOTT STIFFLER Whether brightening local burlesque stages as her slinky and sweet alter ego Cherry Pitz or exposing her true self on the storytelling circuit, Cyndi Freeman has an uncanny knack for coaxing epic images from intimate moments. The two-time NY Fringe Festival award-winning solo performer — whose work as an instructor with The Moth Community Outreach Program has empowered disabled adults, nurses and the incarcerated tell their stories — has a brand new tale of her own, based on old wounds and earned wisdom. A world premiere in Horse Trade Theater Group’s annual Frigid Festival, “I Was a Sixth Grade Bigfoot” charts the myths and misunderstandings that define an 11-year-old’s shattered public image. Victimized by an elaborate homeroom smear campaign and regarded as a violent pathological liar by teachers, young Cyndi draws strength from research books and “Six Million Dollar Man” episodes about a reclusive Pacific Northwest monster that lashes out only when attacked. But there’s no retreating to the forest during a school assembly, at which classmates weigh in on the emotional cost of bullying — while the target of their wrath sits on display like a captured creature. Joined on stage by a tiny Sasquatch action figure, Freeman’s heartbreaking anecdotes (filled with wry impressions of her cruel tormenters) often end .com
Photo by Ben Trivet
Elusive truths and hidden agendas abound, in Cyndi Freeman’s look back on the high price of tall tales. “I Was a Sixth Grade Bigfoot” plays the Frigid Festival through March 8.
with the performer out of breath and scanning the horizon for some sense of justice in the universe — or just going silent, letting us fill that momentary blank space with our own empathetic image of a friendless little girl who instinctively knows that oddball traits have a way of becoming great strengths. It helps, a little, that her engineering genius dad declares, “We Freemans are different” — while her mama grizzly makes a trip to principal’s office and growls, “I will tell you what I tell her...She is honest, honest to a fault.” Freeman peppers her quest to expose grade school falsehoods with accounts of hoaxes perpetrated by major players in “American Bigfootery.” Making some disturbing observations about the ease with which we check our skepticism at the door when there’s a juicy tale to help spread, she nonetheless musters a bit of admiration for the conspirators who pulled their stunts more out of opportunism and boredom than a malicious desire to destroy another human being. Revelations about the true nature of those much-hyped Sasquatch sightings are every bit as surprising as the “Where are they now?” tidbits,
Freeman peppers her quest to expose grade school falsehoods with accounts of hoaxes perpetrated by major players in “American Bigfootery.”
during which Freeman recalls accepting a string of emotional apologies that will one day enable her to reassure a troubled young girl that things change for the better — and sometimes, so do people. Occasional basketball columnist and burlesque performer Sara Peters directs, making sure the potentially depressing story moves at a brisk pace towards its hopeful and wonderfully well-adjusted conclusion. And that’s the truth! February 26 - March 11, 2015
Living Their Dream By Giving You Nightmares ‘Slice’ dissects the messy business of murder BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC Figuring out the distinction between a murder spree and serial killing is not something many would willingly dive into — but for Marzy Hart and Daniel Ferry, it was essential research for their YouTube web series. “Slice” follows protagonist Lily Drover as she fulfills her need to, ahem, well, you’ll have to watch and see. Hart, who plays Lily and produced the series, and Ferry, the director and writer, sat down with Chelsea Now to talk about their “dark comedy thriller” web series, now an official selection for two web festivals. “We knew it was going to be a female lead,” said Hart, who drew inspiration from the television show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” “I’m always super excited about being a badass girl in something.” Ferry and Hart agonized over a backstory for Lily and what drives her to commit her crimes. “And then we’re like, ‘Why does there have to be a why?’ If it’s a guy, people don’t question it,” noted Hart. With the anti-hero the character du jour, Ferry said, “It [was] not a bad angle to take.” “Also, saving the princess is so cliché now,” added Hart. Building on each other’s thoughts in conversation is second nature to the two, who met when they were teenagers in Chelsea. Ferry, 27, grew up and lives on W. 23rd St. His mom was one of the first tenants in the building 33 years ago, when the neighborhood was dramatically different, he said. Hart, 25, is originally from Volgograd, Russia. “We moved to Coney Island in ’95,
Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
“Slice” creators Marzy Hart and Daniel Ferry.
when I was six,” she explained. “When I was 13 we moved to Penn South.” Neighborhood teenagers used to congregate at what is now called Pinwheel Park, between W. 24th and 25th Sts. (and Eighth & Ninth Aves.). Ferry and Hart met one night at the park, dated briefly, and then remained friends. “We would totally still be friends ’cause we’re awesome,” said Hart as Ferry laughed. “I knew I wanted to be an actor and Dan decided he wanted to do film. And we knew that we wanted to do stuff together at some point.” Hart said that she always knew that she wanted to be an actor. “I first figured this out when we were in Russia and I didn’t think that it was a possibility,” she said. “But my parents always had this dream of going to America. So when we came
here, I knew I wanted to do it, but I was busy learning English and all that stuff.” She loved Harry Potter growing up, and said it became clear that she needed “to do things like this in my life. There’s so many things that interest me and I think with acting, you get to play so many different parts. You don’t have to be just a scientist or just a — anything. You can explore.” She studied her craft for eight years and took classes at Acting on Impulse, a small NYC school, she explained, that teaches improvisation-based scene, monologue and Shakespeare workshops. Ferry took a different route to directing, starting out as a political science major at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. While thinking about his thesis topic, he honed in on the
gentrification of neighborhoods, something that he saw firsthand in Chelsea. “Growing up in the city, I saw a lot of those mom and pop shops go,” he said. “Even now…there aren’t very many left at all. Growing up I was noticing it.” He chose Chelsea Guitars — a ground floor shop in W. 23rd St.’s Chelsea Hotel building that has been part of the neighborhood since 1989 — as an example of how Chelsea has changed. View the work at vimeo. com/31529509. “I realized, being actually interested in the subject matter and interested in potentially creating change, that writing a paper would not be as sufficient as maybe making a short film — and that’s kind of what sparked the interest in film. And then from there on, it just became the passion,” he recalled. He switched his major to communication arts and minored in political science. When he moved back to New York, he began working as a freelance editor. One of his jobs was with Greencard Pictures, an independent production company that does a lot of commercial work, he explained, “but they have a strong drive to want to put out independent, fun content and short films.” Greencard Pictures offered Ferry the use of their equipment and that lit the fire to do the web series. “They were there with me all the way,” he said, as they also helped with the script, in developing his directorial style, and securing some locations. Many scenes were fi lmed in
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February 26 - March 11, 2015
February 26 - March 11, 2015
‘Slice’ Web Series Prepping Second Season anywhere from two to five minutes. Hart said, “Web series are interesting because you have to make bitesized episodes. “There’s a difference between when you’re watching content online and when you’re watching it on TV,” she continued. “You sit down, you’re like ‘I’m going to watch a show on Netflix’ — you know you’re giving half an hour to 45 minutes. But online where you can quickly type in a new link or there’s always suggestions popping up — ‘click here’ and ‘watch this’ and ‘watch that.’ You want to be able to get your point across really fast.” “It makes more sense just [to] be short,” said Ferry. “People have two to three minutes to spend, they don’t have 12 minutes.” “Slice” isn’t their first endeavor together. Hart and Ferry worked on a web series called “Teamwork Like Wolves,” which came out in early 2013. Only the pilot was released, and it was over ten minutes, said Hart. “We learned a lot from that and that’s maybe when the interest of doing a web series kind of really start-
Photo courtesy of the filmmakers
L to R: “Slice” cast members Coby O’Brien, Michael Patrick Lane and Marzy Hart. More episodes are in the works, with the first season up on YouTube now and in two web festivals next month.
Continued from page 18 Bushwick, where Hart now lives, and her apartment was used as a set. Ferry wrote the script, although he said it was a collaborative effort. They began filming late last summer and released the first episode around Halloween. “Everything takes longer than you
think it’s going to take,” said Ferry. The duo didn’t raise money, and worked with a small budget — spending under $3,000 for the cost of locations, props and food for the cast. The actors worked for free and were either people they knew or were recommended by friends. The first season is comprised of six episodes, with the last one cut into two parts. Each episode is short, running
ed,” said Hart. “We already know what we’re getting ourselves into. We know what we did wrong and why [Wolves] didn’t really take off.” Hart, who also promotes the series on social media, submitted “Slice” to several web festivals. It was selected for the Vancouver Web Fest and HollyWeb Festival, which are both in March. “When we put out ‘Slice,’ people just started sharing it, I didn’t have to ask,” said Hart, who is writing the second season. “Here’s our first episode and then six or seven people shared it, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ It felt really good.” “[‘Slice’ is] truly driven by people who just enjoy making film,” said Ferry. “We did our best not to let financial restraints stop us. When people tell you, ‘You can’t pull it off” — that’s the time to push.” Follow “Slice” on social media. For Instagram/Twitter: @slicetheseries. Also, slicetheseries.tumblr.com and facebook.com/slicetheseries, Watch the entire first season at youtube.com/ slicetheseries.
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Just Do Art
Photo by Da Ping Luo
The Greenwich Village Orchestra returns to Washington Irving Auditorium for three Sunday afternoon concerts, on March 1, April 12 and May 17.
Courtesy of The Kitchen
Electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick (left) and Berlin-based visual artist Lillevan collaborate, at the March 4 installment of The Kitchen’s Synth Nights series.
Courtesy of the Rubin Museum of Art
Monkey see, monkey want…but what happens when monkey gets? Rubin Museum of Art’s Brainwave Festival contemplates attachment and happiness.
BY SCOTT STIFFLER
RUBIN MUSEUM OF ART’S BRAINWAVE FESTIVAL Say what you will about Taylor Swift — but even haters have to admit her “Shake It Off” song has planted in tween hearts and minds the notion that the path to inner peace begins at the point where we let go of toxic thoughts. Whether you’re still in your juice box years or a jaded adult in need of a philosophical reboot, the Rubin Museum of Art is the place to expand your mind and satisfy your soul. Now through April, their Brainwave Festival is exploring the Buddhist notion of attachment. “We’re looking at the basic idea of where satisfaction exists… through a diversity of perspectives on the very human tendency to cling to the things that we think will make us happy,” says RMA Director of Public Programs Tim McHenry, who has filled .com
the festival with on-stage conversations, films and art that further the museum’s overall mission to “break down the ego-driven behavior that we have, and recognize that we are just one element of many that are connected.” Upcoming installments of their “Conversation” series, which pairs artists with scientists, include an April 8 event at which Shaolin Master Shi Yan Ming and neuropsychologist Tracy Dennis discuss “Discipline as an Art.” Curated by Oscar-nominated writer-director Guillermo Arriaga, the “Words with Gods” series (March 4–April 22) screens short cinematic meditations on faith and consciousness, followed by dialogues between faith practitioners and scientists who study the mind. A Friday night film series addressing the theme of “fixation” includes Hal Ashby’s 1971 romp between a very young Bud Cort and a very old Ruth Gordon (“Harold and Maude” on April
17). A Wednesday lunchtime series (“Lunch Matters”) screens past recorded Brainwave events. On March 4, a 2014 conversation between Hunter College neuropsychologist Tracy Dennis and former NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski has the duo discussing the mindset required to endure extreme space missions. Brainwave Festival events take place through April 22, at the Rubin Museum of Art (150 W. 17th St. at Seventh Ave.). Ticket prices vary. Museum Hours: Mon. & Thurs., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Wed., 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Sat. Sun., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Call 212-620-5000 or visit RubinMuseum.org/brainwave.
FROM SILVER APPLES OF THE MOON TO A SKY OF CLOUDLESS SULPHUR: V This latest installment in The Kitchen’s long-running Synth Nights series — devoted to the live performance of electronic music — brings a genre pioneer to the iconic Chelsea performance venue. An extension of Morton Subotnick’s “Silver Apples of the Moon” (a 1967 work widely acknowledged as the first large-scale electronic work created for the record medium), this new multi-media piece pairs the perennial innovator with Berlin-based visual artist Lillevan.
Musical resources from Subotnick’s analog recordings are combined with recent electronic patches and techniques to create a virtual instrument — while Lillevan, similarly, spontaneously draws from old and new visual resources. Wed., March 4 at 8 p.m. At The Kitchen (512 W. 19th St. btw. 10th & 11th Aves.). For tickets ($15), visit thekitchen.org or call 212-255-6793 x 11. Like: facebook.com/TheKitchenNYC. Follow: @TheKitchen_NYC.
GREENWICH VILLAGE ORCHESTRA PRESENTS “MOMENTOUS MAHLER” It’s a case of the Fifth on the first, when Greenwich Village Orchestra’s March 1 “Momentous Mahler” program comes in like a lion and never goes the way of the lamb. “From the opening fanfare to the closing chords, through marches, dances, storms and the famous Adagietto, a love song to his wife,” promises the GVO, “Mahler’s Fifth Symphony will envelop you in an intense musical world filled with humanity, spirituality, and emotion. The classy cultural venue has yet to ban selfie sticks, so bring them to post-concert reception, in anticipation of mingling with Music Director Barbara Yahr and the musicians. GVO’s 12th season continues on April 12, when they return to Washington Irving Auditorium for an all-Tchaikovsky program led by guest conductor Pierre Vallet (from the Metropolitan Opera), and featuring young virtuoso Siwoo Kim. May 17’s “Summer in the City” program has favorites by Gershwin and Rossini, with mezzo-soprano Naomie O’Connell singing Berlioz’s song cycle “Les nuits d’été” — and “Symphonie Fantastique” anchors the orchestra’s first-ever music video. “Momentous Mahler” is performed on Sun., March 1, 3–5 p.m. at Washington Irving Auditorium (40 Irving Place, at 17th St.). Suggested donation: $20 ($10 for students/seniors). Visit gvo. org or call 212-932-0732. February 26 - March 11, 2015
February 26 - March 11, 2015
Buhmann on Art GALLERY JIM LEE: “AND THE CREAM TONES” Through March 15 At Nicelle Beauchene Gallery 327 Broome St. (btw. Bowery & Chrystie) Wed.–Sun. 11 a.m.–6 p.m. or by appointment Courtesy of Nicelle Beauchene Gallery
Installation view of “and the Cream Tones” (2015).
BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN (stephaniebuhmann.com) In the past, Lee has recast components of painting through a variety of experiments such as cutting, dismantling, slicing and sculpting. Testing the surface and structure of his canvases to the extreme, he
questions their traditional physicality and the general sense of preciousness that can be associated with the medium. Stapled seams and stacked canvases seen from the back as one sculptural piece, for example, reflect Lee’s talent in finding beauty in what many would consider mundane. In order to experience his works fully, one has to look at it closely, from various angles and while considering all perspectives.
In Lee, the viewer joins the artist’s exploration of what distinguishes image and object, surface and interior, or the visual and physical for that matter. Devoid of one-sided distinctions, this work disobeys categorization and finds its own niche somewhere between drawing, painting and sculpture. In his new exhibition we can expect Lee to continue to astonish, startle and amaze us. He will draw from the lexicon of art history without overt references to any one specific source.
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