VOLUME 27, NUMBER 23
APRIL 23-MAY 6, 2015
SILVER, MORE IN COMMAND WITH LESS POWER? B Y J O SH RO GE R S peak softly and carry a big stick, Theodore Roosevelt’s famous foreign policy philosophy, might just as well have been Sheldon Silver’s mantra during his two decades as Assembly speaker. The Albany power broker was often inaudible at public events, but his influence was unmistakable as he delivered schools and other much-needed items to his Lower Manhattan district. So it was surprising to hear how loudly — for him — he spoke at last week’s meeting of his Lower Manhattan School Overcrowding Task Force — almost three months after he was forced to give up his leadership post in the face of federal allegations that he used his office to rake in $4 million.
Continued on page 7
Downtown Express photo by Tequila Minsky
Energetic Downtown Little League players last Saturday for the league’s annual Opening Day parade from City Hall to Battery Park City.
A parade to play ball! LENORE SKENAZY PG. 18 A TALE OF PRE-K PG. 19
B Y T E Q UIL A MIN SKY ity Hall Park percolated with excitement under a bright sun on a perfect morning as Downtowners — parents and kids — crowded the sidewalk at City Hall Park ready to launch the 2015 season for the Downtown Little League last Saturday.
Arriving with their dad before joining their own teams, big brother Owen, 8, who plays shortstop with the Mariners hung out with his brother Andrew, 6 and a half, who will play with the Angels. Girls from one of the league’s two state championship softball teams —very happy ball players —
1 MET ROT E CH • NYC 112 01 • COPYR IG HT © 2015 N YC COMMU N ITY MED IA , LLC
assembled early. “We were too young — we were 11 — to go on to the regionals [that start at age 12] last year,” one piped up. The girls, with encouragement from their parents, started playing in second grade. Continued on page 12
High schooler & some parents join Community Board 1
LET THERE BE NO LIGHT Financial District residents should rejoice — the plan to light up the top floors of the new 24-story Hotel Indigo at 8-12 Maiden Lane has been nixed. Nearby residents were furious that the top floors would function as some sort of mysterious watch with each lit on the hour and then at midnight, the 240-foot upper section would be “sheathed in light, which is then extinguished as the process begins anew,” according to a press release last October. Some residents called it obnoxious at a Financial District Committee meeting earlier this month. Architect Gene Kaufman, who has become infamous in the blogosphere for his work with notorious (at least according to some community mem-
bers) hotel developer Sam Chang (who does not appear to be involved in this one), designed the interior and exterior of the hotel. LAK Public Relations, which represents Kaufman, said plans didn’t change, and the brouhaha all stems from “an incorrect description of what was always planned” in the press release, which was still being used earlier this month. A new rendering shows a thin, white pole that will now serve as the clock, but no details were given.
SEAPORT TIDBITS Henry Meer, owner of City Hall, the restaurant, not Mayor de Blasio’s office, plans to open a casual eatery on Pier 16 this July. “I live down on Fulton and William, so every day I walk my dog down to the pier and I see that it’s in need of sustenance, life and food,” Meer said Tuesday night at Community Board 1’s Seaport Committee meeting. Meer, also a chef, told us he will be serving a variety of dishes including his famed burgers, as well as gazpacho, beer and wine, with prices ranging from $5 -$12.
He is working with Jonathan Boulware, the South Street Seaport Museum’s leader, who has just been named the permanent executive director, after over a year with the “interim” moniker on his head. Catherine McVay Hughes, the board’s chairperson, said she was thrilled he finally got the permanent nod because he has been doing a great job. Boulware was also excited to talk about the museum’s opening for the season with a whole host of special events starting with Councilmember Margaret Chin ringing the majestic bell aboard the Ambrose.
The seven new members of Community Board 1 include (left to right): Elizabeth Avila, Tiffany Winbush, Patrick Kennell, Wendy Chapman, Tom Berton and Susan Wu.
Downtown Express photo by Milo Hess
STREET REP We overheard a family of tourists this week on a downtown express A train en route to Fulton St. “That’s Canal St., it’s a big shopping area, ” said the wife. “I guess that means we’re going to go back there,” was the reply. “I didn’t bring my good credit card.” Guess she wasn’t looking for any knockoffs.
“Star Wars” creator George Lucas was at B.M.C.C. last week for a Tribeca Film Festial interview with CBS-bound talk show host Stephen Colbert, who claims to be the movie’s first fan since he was able to see a screening before the premiere. Lucas volunteered that he didn’t care that some criticize the movie’s “wooden dialogue,” according to Matt Barone, a festival blogger. “I believe half of a movie is the sound,” Lucas told Colbert. “The sound is what’s important — the dialogue is not.”
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April 23-May 6, 2015
BY DUSI CA SUE M ALESEVI C Community Board 1 may have recently lost some veterans, but it has gained seven new members, which include one returning and for the first time a minor. Susan Wu is a junior at Stuyvesant High School, according to her LinkedIn page. She could not be reached for comment. C.B. 1 Chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes said in an email that the board is “fortunate to have a local high school student who lives in C.B. 1 and attends Stuyvesant to keep us all on our toes!” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer pushed for 16- and 17-year-olds to serve on community boards — something that was illegal until last summer. In addition to Wu, there is a returning member, Tiffany Winbush, 32, a Financial District resident who served two terms from 2008 to 2012. “I wanted to return just to give back to the community,” Winbush said in a phone interview. She took some time away to complete graduate school and start a family, she said, and has a two and a half year old daughter. Winbush is interested in serving on the Financial District Committee, where she has lived for ten years. Originally from Louisiana, she works in digital marketing and also does social media and public relations for women entrepreneurs. She is also considering joining the board’s Youth and Education Committee. “It is great to have an experienced member and new mom, Tiffany Winbush, back on the board so that her young parent perspective will be included — and she is up to speed already,” said Hughes, who noted that there is still no locally zoned public K-8 school in the Financial District, which has experienced a changing and growing population. Winbush previously served on the Quality of Life Committee and said she would continue to focus on those types of issues. Wendy Chapman, 48, is new to the community board, but not a new face. Chapman, who is one of the leaders of Build Schools Now, was already coming to a lot of meetings when Hughes asked if she had ever thought about joining the board. Her interest in community boards was spurred when, in April 2013, the Department of Education was set to move P.S. 150 from Tribeca to Chelsea. Chapman, who was P.T.A. president at the time and has lived in Tribeca since 1997, went to C.B. 1 for DowntownExpress.com
help. Eventually the D.O.E. relented and P.S. 150, which recently won a National Blue Ribbon Award for academic achievement, was not relocated. Her son is currently in fifth grade at P.S. 150 and her two daughters went there as well. Her eldest daughter now goes to Bronx High School of Science and her middle daughter attends NYC Lab Middle School for Collaborative Studies. Chapman will serve on the Youth and Education Committee and will continue to tackle school overcrowding. “This problem’s not going away,” she said in a phone interview. “If you’re just talking to parents in the playground — they have no idea.” Another new member is Tom Berton, 50, who runs Manhattan By Sail that operates tours in his historic schooner Shearwater. Born and raised in New York City, he has resided in Lower Manhattan since 1995 and currently lives in the Seaport. He is a P.T.A. member of Peck Slip School, whose new building is slated to open in the Seaport this fall, where his 6-year-old daughter is in kindergarten and his 4-year-old will go next year. Berton has gone to C.B. 1 a few times for assistance and support and “found board members to be diligent, caring and really engaged and helpful,” he said in a phone interview. Berton’s Shearwater was docking at North Cove Marina, but as it has recently switched operators, he is awaiting word. He will be focused on congestion and all its related issues, such as pedestrian safety, and mentioned the car that recently drove onto the curb and badly injured a woman near Spruce Street School April 13. [Police on Tuesday said they identified the car, but are unlikely to charge anyone with the misdemeanor of leaving the scene of an accident, because video does not show if the owner was the driver.] Patrick Kennell, 38, has been a public member for the Financial District Committee for a little over a year and now will be on the board. Kennell has lived in the Financial District for eight years and Downtown for 11. The major reason he got involved, he said in a phone interview, is that he saw the community going through a big period of change. He is the father of two young children, a fouryear-old son and a second grader at P.S. 11 in Chelsea. The big issue for the Financial District, he said, is getting the school that it needs and he mentioned the 456-seat elementary school, which
was announced in November 2013 but has yet to be sited. A litigator, Kennell, wants to bring his legal training perspective to the table. He will serve on the Financial District Committee and is interested in being part of the Planning and Personnel committees. Another new member is Fern Cunningham, who has lived in Lower Manhattan for 30 years and has seen numerous changes — including what name to give the neighborhood she currently lives in. She lives on Nassau St. by Pace University, which some consider Civic Center, others the Financial District. She told Downtown Express by phone that she is interested in quality of life issues, and is excited to be part of the board and learn about how decisions are made that affect the community. She has worked for the media marketing firm, Nielsen Company, for over 20 years. Originally from Lima, Peru, Elizabeth Avila, 32, has lived in the Financial District since 2012. She said in an email that growing up she split her time between Lima and New York City thanks to her father’s association with the United Nations. She said she is interested in affordable housing, city planning and education issues. Avila works at Standard Charter Bank and said she decided to join C.B. 1 because she likes to volunteer and collaborate with the community.
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April 23-May 6, 2015
Fed up with rats and pigeons in Tribeca CABBIE DIES AFTER ACCIDENT A taxi driver went into cardiac arrest and rammed into a city tour bus in Tribeca Sunday before dying, police say. Harry Laventure, 68 and from Brooklyn, was rushed to New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The accident happened at around 11 a.m. at Church and Murray Sts on April 19. No one on the bus was injured, police say.
MAN FOUND DEAD IN THE RIVER Police found a man, 23, dead and floating in the Hudson River at Battery Park on Sun., Apr. 19 at 1:45 p.m. The man was fully clothed when the police’s harbor unit pulled him out near 1 South St., where he was pronounced dead at the scene. Police have identified the man as Steven Michael Walker, who was living in the Bronx. The investigation is ongoing.
PICKPOCKET DOUBLE TEAM A female team of thieves distracted and then pickpocketed a woman while she was shopping in the Financial District on Thurs., Apr. 16 at 2 p.m., police say. The woman, 59, was at the 9 to 5 Fashion Outlet at 76 Nassau St. when one of the team approached her and asked, ”Do you like this?” While she was contemplating the question, the other member of the team bumped into her, reached into her right front pocket and snatched her wallet that had $220, police say.
IPHONE APP HELPS COPS NAB SUSPECT Police busted a woman who stole a $6,000 red Chanel bag — thanks to the “Find My iPhone” app. A woman, 28, was meeting up with a friend, 31 and from Philadelphia, at the Hilton Millenium Hotel at 55 Church St. across from the World Trade Center on Sat., Apr. 18 at 9 p.m. when the pricey purse was snatched with credit cards and an $800 iPhone inside, police say. The friend from Philly noticed a woman near the purse before it was taken.
Photo courtesy of Google Maps
Church and Murray St., site of a fatal accident Sunday. The taxi in the photo was not involved in the crash.
The police used the app to locate the phone, which lead them to 626 Broadway, where they say the suspect was there with the Chanel purse in her shopping bag. The police recovered the property, valued at $6,800, and arrested the Brooklyn woman, 54.
CHILD ABUSER ATTACKS SAMARITAN, POLICE SAY
The man had gotten on the train at Christopher St. at 4:30 p.m. on Fri., Apr. 10. The attack happened not so long after, and the man got off at Chambers St. while the two thieves stayed on the train. Inside his $140 wallet was credit and debit cards, $145 and an unlimited MetroCard. He told police that he thought he saw the two men at the same deli as him before he boarded the train.
On Sat., Apr. 11, a woman cursing and threatening at a young toddler on the A train at 9 a.m. attacked a woman who tried to intervene, police say. The attacker — her relationship to the girl is not clear — was threatening the child with a bottle when police say she turned her attention to the witness, 32. When the train stopped at the Fulton St. station, the woman walked up to the witness and struck her on the right side of her head with the bottle. She then fled. The woman who was hit sustained swelling and pain but was not hospitalized.
Perhaps it was someone with serious nicotine withdrawal or just a shoplifter with a lot of business savvy who grabbed $1,680 worth of cigarettes from a Duane Reade at 250 Broadway in the Civic Center, police say. The cases of cigarettes were taken from near the register at around 2:30 p.m. on Sun., Apr. 12, a male employee, 30, told police. Police did not say how he was able to get away with so many cases.
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A man, 21, was on a downtown 1 train, when two men approached him, sprayed him in the face with an unknown substance, pushed him to the floor and grabbed his wallet, police say. They got away with $285 worth of stuff.
A thief wasted no time after stealing a woman’s wallet, making a single purchase of $2,406 almost immediately, police say. A Seaport resident was eating lunch at a Hale and Hearty at 55 Broad St. and left her bag on the chair behind her on Tues., Apr. 7 at 1 p.m., police say. When the 33-year-old went to Starbucks nearby, she discovered her wallet, which held her credit cards and $130, was gone, and soon discovered the large charge. Police did not release where the purchase was made. Also, in the FiDi but in a separate incident, a tourist from Massachusetts was at Fika Espresso Bar at 66 Pearl St. on Fr., Apr. 10 at 10 a.m. when she realized that the strap to her handbag was in a different position then the way she left it. When she opened it, she realized that her wallet with her credit cards and $100 was gone, police say. Once she made the discovery, she went to cancel her cards and was told that $500 in purchases was already made at Duane Reade and CVS, police say.
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BY DUSI CA SUE M ALESEVI C Residents on Duane St. in Tribeca are fed up with a neighbor they say is attracting pigeons and their droppings. At 173 Duane St., a resident on the fifth floor is reportedly feeding pigeons — they are going back and forth from her apartment — incensing residents at 171 Duane St., who have been complaining to Community Board 1. There has been a long history of complaints, said Caroline Bragdon, director of neighborhood interventions for the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s pest control services program. Many inspections had been done, but it had never warranted a violation until now, she told the Quality of Life Committee at their Thurs., Apr. 16 meeting. The violation would be sent to the owner of the building, not the tenant. “Sometimes it seems unfair that we’re writing violations to the owner of the building, but we can’t go after an individual,” she said. Neighbors said the pigeon droppings are piling up on air conditioner units. The woman has also been seen feeding pigeons in Duane Park. Benjamin Flavin, lawyer for 171 Duane St., said that the tenant is an elderly woman who has been living at 173 Duane St., a co-op, for around 20 years. In addition to pigeon problems, Bragdon went over what she called
Downtown Express photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
A city health official said one planter on Greenwich St. is contributing to the rat problem in Tribeca.
favorite hot spots for rats. She started with 403 Greenwich St., which is between Beach and Hubert Sts. “Right now, it’s just a vacant lot with rat holes in it that no one is doing anything with,” she said. The lot is owned by 403 Greenwich Enterprises L.L.C. The owners have not been attending their hearings, said Bragdon, who has increased the violation from $300 to $600 to now $1,200. She said if this continues, it would go to $2,000. “They don’t care,” the city’s Bragdon said. “They’re just letting their violations default. A lot of the wealthier owners will just pay.”
“It’s nothing — it’s the cost of doing business,” said Pat Moore, chairperson of the C.B. 1 committee. The lot has been vacant for quite some time, said Bragdon, who explained that putting some bait stations costs a couple hundred dollars a month. The owners could also choose to dump gravel over the soil, which would deter the rats.
Further south at 372 Greenwich St. between Harrison and N. Moore Sts., Bragdon said it has gotten pretty ratty. At one time, it was maintained by the volunteer organization, Friends of Greenwich Street, but remains to be seen who is responsible for its upkeep now. There are several planters, said Bragdon, but it is just one, the one in front of 372 Greenwich that has the rat problem. “Rat condo,” quipped Moore. Bragdon went through one more site at 29 Harrison St., which was issued its first violation and has Rubbermaid bins filled with soil and gnaw marks on them — a sign that rats were around. She then listened to places that the committee and the public suggested to investigate. Committee member Marc Ameruso said 53 Beach St. has a raised platform with vents and “at night, [the rats] just take over the street.” C.B. 1 Chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes mentioned a problem site in the Financial District, a lot on Rector and Trinity Place. “I have never ever seen the quantity and the size of these rats,” she said. “It’s really scary.”
Lenore Skenazy joins Downtown Express Google “America’s Worst Mom” and you’ll quickly learn that Lenore Skenazy once let her 9-year-old son ride the subway alone. The columnist and reality show host got that title after writing about her boy’s remarkable experience safely getting from point A to point B without an adult by his side. But not everyone thought this was a good idea, and in response to the media blowback, she founded the blog and movement, “Free-Range Kids.” Her feisty belief that our kids are safer and smarter than our culture gives them credit for has landed her on talk shows like “Dr. Phil” and “The View.” She has lectured internationally, from Microsoft’s headquarters to the
Sydney Opera House, and she’s also host of “World’s Worst Mom,” a reality show airing on Discovery-TLC in most of the world, but, surprisingly, not the U.S. Now, Skenazy brings her brand of fun, engaging writing to the and NYC Community Media and Community News Group, where her new column, Rhymes With Crazy, will appear each issue of Downtown Express. A graduate of Yale, she lives Queens with her husband and two teen sons. Her writing has appeared in the New York Daily News, where she was a columnist for 14 years, the New York Sun, NPR, and, of course, MAD Magazine. So check out what Skenazy has to say this week on page 18.
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April 23-May 6, 2015
Space battles may pit kindergarten against middle school B Y DUS ICA SU E M A L E SE V IC Downtown K-8 principals are warning that they could soon get squeezed at both ends as they look for space for kindergarten and sixth grade students in the same building. Terri Ruyter, principal of P.S./I.S. 276, said at Assemblymember Sheldon Silver’s Overcrowding School Task Force meeting Wed., Apr. 15 that kindergarten overcrowding could have repercussions for the school’s sixth grade class. For the upcoming school year, there are 161 children, who are zoned for the school, for 100 kindergarten spots, she said. Offers were made to 105 children and there are 41 on the waitlist. There are 15 kids on the waitlist for first
grade and 14 for second grade, which is unusual as the waiting lists are typically concentrated in kindergarten. Overcrowding at the elementary level affects middle school grades at K-8 schools, like P.S./I.S. 276, twofold: classrooms are diverted to handle more sections and then there are more children for the sixth grade spots. Lower Manhattan has been plagued with kindergarten waitlists. Two years ago, 148 children were on the list for P.S. 276, P.S. 234, Peck Slip and P.S. 89. Last year, P.S. 276 also had a waitlist 41. “We have a lot of concern about fitting our middle school students in because our students are guaranteed seats,” said Ruyter. “We can take three classes of middle school — we just don’t
April 23-May 6, 2015
Silver still in command of school task force Continued from page 1
Downtown Express photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
Principal Nancy Harris, left, of a K-8, Spruce Street School, said she has her first waiting list, while Principal Ronnie Najjar of P.S. 89 said some thought should be given to enlarging her zone since her school is “shrinking.”
have room for more than that.” There are maximum 99 sixth grade spots for current fifth graders, she said. Ruyter said that works for this year but the following school year, there are 106 fourth graders. “I’m a parent of a fourth grader at 276 in this bubble year where I believe we have 15 to 20 extra kids beyond the 99 capacity,” said Matt Schneider, who Manhattan CB 1 Population Increase has also been P.T.A. president. “I’d like somebody to respond as to what will U.S. Census Estimate based on expected residential units* happen with those students who are 2000 2010 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016+ promised a seat from fifth grade to 34,420 60,978 65,450 68,086 70,090 72,088 77,402 Population Increase sixth grade.” 77% 7% 4% 3% 3% 7% Percent Increase Notes: Drew Patterson, executive director of * Residential units count tabulated by CB 1 from 2012 to 2016 and beyond. Numbers are only approximate estimation of both built and expected additional residential units. Final residential units count may vary. Residential units compiled from various news media sources in addition to the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center and strategy at the Department of Education, the NYC DOT Construction Project List said, “Students who are in the school have the right to remain.” Manhattan Community Board 1 Patterson noted there are many Estimated Residential Construction popular middle schools in District Notes: 2012 2014 2016 2 andunits it count remains toCBbe seen whether * Residential tabulated by 1 Address Units Address Units Address Units Sources: from 2012 to 2016 and beyond. Numbers are United States Census Bureau / American FactFinder. “SF1.” 2000 Census. U.S. Census Bureau, 2000. Web. 6 November 2014 <http://factfinder2.census.gov>. each child will decide to stay at the only approximate estimation of both built and 11 N. Moore Street 19 302 200 North End Ave 191 50 West United States Census Bureau / American FactFinder. “SF1.” 2010 Census. U.S. Census Bureau, 2010. Web. 6 November 2014 <http://factfinder2.census.gov>. expected additional residential units. Final ESRI forecasts for 2012 and Ave 2017. 300 North End 264 70 Pine Street 777 22 Thames Street 428 school. But if they do, the students residential units count may vary. Residential 254 Front Street 40 19 Park Place 24 233 Broadway 40 units compiled from various news media will be accommodated. 225 Rector Place 304 11 Leonard Street 6 5 Beekman 90 sources in addition to the Lower Manhattan Construction and the WeCommand wouldCenter have to NYC open a fourth sec333 Rector Place 174 401 Washington Street 35 161 Maiden Lane 80 DOT Construction Project List tion, interjected Ruyter. 460 Washington Street 107 30 Park Place 157 37 Warren Street 28 Right, said Patterson. 371 Broadway 59 80 South Street 125 416 Washington Street 67 “I’m going to push back,” said Ruyter. 46 Lispenard 11 15 Leonard St 6 396 Broadway 52 “We do not have the real estate for that.” 1033 391 Broadway 5 25 Broad Street 307 Total Increasing sixth grade sections would 372 Broadway 6 55 Murray Street 4 136 Church Street 12 361 Broadway 14 mean enlarging the kindergarten waiting 350 Broadway 66 8 Spruce Street 903 lists by reducing down to three sections, 346 Broadway 600 2305 Total which is 75 children, she said. Each kin68-74 Trinity Place 111 dergarten class can have a maximum of 101 Murray Street 129 2013 2015 25 students. Address Units Address Units 87 Chambers 18 443 Greenwich Street 100 12 Warren St 13 482 Greenwich Street 8 “There are problems here,” she said. 67 Liberty Street 14 115 Nassau Street 131 71 Laight 33 There has been “playground chat116 John Street 418 56 Leonard Street 145 20 Exchange Place 350 ter,” said Ruyter, of parents who have 99 Church Street 161 56 Fulton Street 120 137 Franklin Street 3 12 -14 Warren Street 30 2739 87-89 Leonard Street 6 Total kept their children together at other 93 Worth Street 96 112-120 Fulton Street 220 schools making the switch to 276 in 113 Nassau Street 169 112 Fulton 220 84 White Street 34 92 Fulton 10 fifth grade to ensure a guaranteed mid250 West Street 111 290 West 13 dle school seat. 1030 111 Washington 500 Total 1359 Total Ruyter said she wondered how it is going to play out down the road, and parents of current second, third and fourth Charts by Community Board 1 graders are understandably nervous. The Community Board 1 analysis of projected population growth based on expected middle school choice admission process residential development. has been described by some as “broken”
Population Change Analysis
and lacking any real choice. Many parents have found it overwhelming. “I can understand that as a parent having gone through the middle school choice process in New York City that you want to hedge your bets about middle school,” she said. “I have to respect that parents are rightfully concerned because middle school choice is really traumatic.” Later in a phone interview, Schneider said parents at P.S. 276 are in a unique situation being in a K-8 school and that the middle school choice process isn’t as stressful for parents looking to stay. “The big concern, of course, is these families who may move into the zone to help them get a spot in our middle schools,” said Schneider. Ruyter said the same problem could happen at Spruce Street School. “We have our first waitlist,” said Nancy Harris, principal of Spruce Street. Harris said that the school will have three sections of kindergartens and made 83 offers. Spruce Street has 20 students waitlisted, she said, while a D.O.E. official at the meeting seemed surprised to hear this, because she had only 10. Spruce Street will have its first sixth grade class this fall, then expand to seventh grade in fall 2016 and eighth grade in fall 2017. The school has 47 fifth graders so it has enough space and then some, said Harris, who doesn’t see it being an issue in the near future. “The concern is always there that you’re an attractive school for people to transfer into in upper elementary,” said Harris. Gentian Falstrom, senior director, admissions for kindergarten, said the D.O.E. was able to keep children who were zoned for one of the Downtown schools to stay in the area. It was a change from previous years, when the officials did not know if they’d be able to find space in Lower Manhattan when Continued on page 8
He was clearly running the meeting April 15, whereas prior to his indictment, a stranger walking into the room might have mistaken his relative silence for a lack of power. Many of the few dozen attendees applauded as he entered the smaller, cramped room. “It’s certainly a pleasure to have you back here today,” he said. “First let me assure you that I hope to continue to lead this School Overcrowding Task Force, and to continue the work with you that we have done ‘til now…I look forward to being more productive as we go forward.” The signs that things had changed were unmistakable. Silver has moved one floor down at 250 Broadway to the 22nd floor, but the real distance is much further. Attendees had to squirm to get to their seats and there weren’t even enough for Judy Rapfogel, his longtime chief of staff, and other aides, who stood for about an hour.
Many who showed up early because the meeting had been pushed back 30 minutes had to wait outside because Silver no longer has the sprawling speaker’s office on 23 with large waiting areas and conference rooms. Perhaps the main reason the task force survives is City Hall. Silver was Mayor Bill de Blasio’s most reliable ally in Albany the administration’s first year, and among New York’s political leaders, the mayor was the most supportive of Silver after the accusations surfaced in January. The task force, which formed in 2008, is made up of local principals and school advocates, who typically press city Dept. of Education officials — who always attend — to build more schools. Silver and the advocates played a leading role in the construction of Spruce Street School, P.S./I.S. 276 and Peck Slip School, which all opened in the D.O.E.’s headquarters prior to their buildings’ construction. The rapid school expansion is far from pork, the advocates argue, pointing out the fact that from 2000–2010, population within Lower Manhattan’s Community
Downtown Express photo by Josh Rogers
Assemblymember Sheldon Silver at his School Overcrowding Task Force meeting April 15. Behind him is his chief of staff, Judy Rapfogel.
Board 1, grew four times faster or more than every other part of the city. Education officials last week continued to listen closely to Silver and task force members, at least by appearances. It’s hard to imagine the same would have been true had Silver been indicted when Mayor Bloomberg was in power, since the pair had some
high-profile battles. For his part, Silver took the warm greeting in stride when he spoke briefly to reporters after the meeting. “They know what is proceeding,” he said of his supporters, “and they know that I am moving to do what I can to represent this district in the best way possible.”
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Middle school space pressures Continued from page 6
the waiting lists came out. Children who were unable to get into Spruce Street and P.S. 276 were offered a spot at P.S. 234 or Peck Slip School, which moves into their permanent building this year. P.S. 234 will have six sections of kindergarten and made 181 offers — 167 to children who are zoned for that school and 24 kids from Spruce Street and P.S. 276. P.S. 234 is calculating that some of the offers will be declined, either by children who enroll in “Gifted &Talented” programs or private school. Magda Lenski, P.S. 234’s parent coordinator, filling in for principal Lisa Ripperger, said there are six kindergarten classes this year, leading to 12 sections of kindergarten and first grade next year. “It works right now, but as the school grows and if we have to continue taking in more sections than what our school was originally built for, it eventually does create a problem down the line,” she said. Peck Slip School Principal Maggie Siena said all 90 children zoned for the school got an offer for kindergarten and
42 were made to children from 276 and Spruce Street. Siena said there could be four or five sections of kindergarten, depending on how it all shakes out. P.S. 89, which will have four sections of kindergarten, does not have a waitlist, said Ronnie Najjar, principal, and all 92 children zoned for the school were given offers. Najjar faces the opposite problem: getting smaller.
but perhaps now was the time to rezone. “It just doesn’t make sense to have these schools that are coming in below capacity and schools that are jampacked sitting in neighborhoods right next to each other,” Schneider said in the phone interview. If a location is found for the proposed 456-seat elementary school, there would need to be a rezoning, at which time officials would likely look to shrink the P.S.
‘Parents are rightfully concerned because middle school choice is really traumatic.’ “In my part of Battery Park City, we’re actually shrinking,” she said. “And shrinkage is not good for a school that’s depending on a budget to support programs. I’ve never been in a position where we’ve gotten smaller and I’m concerned about that.” Najjar suggested something that she said was “a very dirty word that people don’t like to hear:” rezoning. She acknowledged that it is not an easy solution and it does bring up emotion,
276 zone. The new elementary school was announced as part of the capital plan in November 2013. “The [School Construction Authority] is still looking for sites and speaking with property owners for the school. We unfortunately don’t have an update as of yet. But they are continuing the search,” said Ben Goodman, South Manhattan and Staten Island Borough Director for the D.O.E. Silver was more hopeful, saying, “Let
Take B or Q Train to Kings Highway
me say it this way, there are rumors that the search has been narrowed.” Community Board 1 Chairperson Catherine McVay Hughes brought up the possibility of a school at 5 World Trade Center site, and rumors have been swirling around the former Syms building at 42 Trinity Place, which reportedly could be 80 stories and 1,015 feet tall. Jeff Sun, C.B. 1 planning fellow, presented an update on population in Lower Manhattan, which Hughes said “emphasizes the need for locating a school.” There is an estimated 1,030 increase in residential units for this year, with that number jumping to 2,739 next year. Based on those numbers, the population could grow from 70,088 in 2015 to 74,402 in 2016 with over 11,800 being under the age of 19. “I’m going to sound like a broken record: These data show the need for yet another school in addition to the one that still hasn’t been sited,” said Eric Greenleaf, who has conducted detailed analyses of Lower Manhattan’s school population. “It’s physical evidence. This isn’t a projection, these buildings are going to be built.”
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TRANSIT SAM Thurs., April 23 – Wed., April 29 ALTERNATE SIDE PARKING RULES ARE IN EFFECT ALL WEEK Slow-going Thursday and Friday nights getting into Lower Manhattan! One New York-bound lane of the Holland Tunnel will close will close 11 p.m. Thursday to 5 a.m. Friday. During the same duration, the New York-bound south tube of the Lincoln Tunnel will also close. Watch for major slowdowns into Lower Manhattan and on Canal St. Springtime and warmer weather means festivals and 5Ks galore! The Tribeca Film Festival wraps up on Sunday. Watch out for extra traffic at the Tribeca Film Center on the east side of Greenwich St. between Franklin and N Moore Sts., at Tribeca Cinemas on Varick St. at Laight St., and B.M.C.C. Tribeca PAC on Chambers St. between Greenwich and West Sts. The Tribeca Family Festival (associated with the Film Festival) will close a number of streets in Lower Manhattan 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. including: Greenwich St. between Chambers and Hubert Sts., Beach St., Franklin St., Jay St., Duane St., and Reade St. between Greenwich and Hudson Sts., and North Moore St. and Harrison St. between West and Hudson Sts.
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Opening Day for the Downtown Little League
Downtown Express photos by Tequila Minsky
The Downtown Little League parade April 18. Adam Fritz on stilts, below left. Players enjoyed the sounds of the TriBattery Pops marching band before the games began, bottom right. Continued from page 1
“We were students at P.S. 89 and P.S. 234,” one said of the Battery Park City and Tribeca schools. Zoe Anderson, who now goes to I.S. 276 in B.P.C., explained what baseball is to them: “It means being a team. We stick together, we’re like family.”
How did they win? Her answer, “Our coach, Scott Morrison says, ‘the team that makes the least errors, does the best.’ That’s how we got through the tournament.” Meanwhile, Adam Fritz, 7, a student at PS 234 adjusted his stilts. He’s become quite adept with them from Children’s Tumbling and though he
doesn’t play baseball, he was part of the morning’s fun. “I’m here, just for the parade,” he said. Board member and once a Little League mom herself, parade coordinator Marijo Russell-O’Grady made sure all the police were in place to block traffic. As the sidewalk and park began to
burst with players, moms and dads, and siblings, some in strollers too young to play, were more than ready to take it to the streets April 18. Then, leaving City Hall Park, the parade began walking west to the Battery Park City ballfields where the Opening Day ceremonies began. The league has about 1,000 players.
Downtown Express photos by Tequila Minsky
The league’s 11-u softball won the state championship last year.
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Shakespeare in the dark? Summer play in doubt Downtown B Y DUS ICA SU E M A L E SE V IC Billie Andersson has tried everything and everyone — foundations, corporations, and government agencies — to get enough money together to put on “Romeo and Juliet” at Castle Clinton this summer. Andersson, artistic director for the new company and non-profit Shakespeare Downtown, is now trying a crowd-funding site, Indiegogo (Shakespeare Downtown at Castle Clinton), to raise the funds. She needs to raise $35,000 by the end of this month (she’s just under $5,000) to put on the classic Shakespeare play in historic Castle Clinton, which has served at times as a fort, entertainment and cultural facility, immigration center and an aquarium, or postpone it to next year. “We will do everything that we can to raise the money,” she said during a recent interview at a Seaport restaurant near her home. “The worst case is that we’ll have to do it the following year. It’s not like I’m going to abandon it.” It had appeared for months that the project was set for this summer. Hope Cohen, chief operating officer for the Battery Conservancy, said in an email last week that the conservancy is delighted that Shakespeare
Downtown will offer “Romeo and Juliet” at Castle Clinton. But the National Park Service, which oversees Castle Clinton, is still negotiating with Andersson about the permit to use it, Liam Strain, acting chief of operations and visitor services for the National Park Service for Manhattan sites, said by phone last week. The Castle, which is part of the National Register of Historic Places, normally closes at 5 p.m., when the ticket booth for the Statue of Liberty ferry closes. Several months ago, Andersson went before Community Board 1, which supports the performances, and to the Downtown Alliance, which has written a letter of support. In the spring of 2012, the idea to perform “Romeo and Juliet” at Castle Clinton struck her while taking a walk. She said that she knew it would be a lot of work, but didn’t know how difficult fundraising would be. She spent the summer reading books about writing proposals and wrote to the Bloomberg administration. She realized Shakespeare Downtown should be a non-profit, which required a lawyer and dealing with the I.R.S.
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The view from my window BY YVONNE COLLERY
was the last place Moises Locon ever saw, I think of him and all the others. When I look out my window I think of my neighbors who will never see their homes again, I see what isn’t there. I see an absence of life, a sobering, empty those who will never see their photo albums, brown dirt plot that screams with recent mem- college diplomas, family treasures, favorite furories of lives changed and others that were niture and a life’s worth of well-curated possessions. These are the people who were not able stamped out in an instant. to salvage even a single shoe. I heard the sound of the explosion I see the people who escaped by a when it happened. What I heard was U ARO ND hair’s breath, the neighbors that will like the soundtrack from a Hieronymus always have burn scars and — even Bosch painting. I heard screams that worse — scarred memories. When I came after a bang that you can’t look out my window and think about describe. The screams I heard came the people who were until recently my bubbling up from the depths of hell amid neighbors, I feel an overwhelming sense of the sound of thick plate glass shattering at a decibel level that was impossible to comprehend. gratitude that my building still stands. Every single one of us caught in this disaster I also see the streetscape that was ripped from us seemingly in an instant, or as if time seemed has had a hellish time. Even those of us from to have stood still like an eternity, take your pick. the buildings still standing did not know if we These moments seemed to loop around; an infin- would ever get back in. We were all displaced for the minimum of 16 days. We left with only the ity squeezed inside of a mere instant. I see the people that I always saw standing in clothes on our backs. We all had to find places front of the buildings who are not there anymore. to stay. We all cried an uncountable number of I see the lovely smiling face of Moises Locon, who tears. And we all had our moorings knocked out always exchanged a pleasant word with me, “When from under us. We felt affliction where before will it stop snowing?” “Will winter ever end?” When I see the view out my window, which Continued on page 16
WHEN I LOOK OUT MY WINDOW,
Downtown Express file photo by Milo Hess /Downtown Express inset photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
Downtowner Billie Andersson, artistic director of Shakespeare Downtown, hopes to put on “Romeo and Juliet” this summer in Castle Clinton.
She started cold-calling foundations and submitting proposals to government departments and to corporations. “As a new organization you cannot get funding,” she said. Some organizations want to see a twoyear track record, others want to know what demographics will be targeted and others require that every artist be paid, she said. All the actors and technical staff are donating their services, said Andersson, who will play Juliet. The $35,000 is needed for audio rentals for mikes so the actors can be heard, lighting, security, a generator, costumes, chairs and insurance. “There’s no other way to do the play in a space like that. It is a huge undertaking — it’s for 600 people a night,” she said. If everything goes well and the money is raised, the free performances would begin June 2 and run until June 27, Tuesday to Saturday, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Shakespeare Downtown grew out of
productions that she and her husband, Geoffrey Horne, had staged at the theater connected to the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. Horne has been teaching Shakespeare for 30 years, she said. The company is a family affair, with Horne the director, Andersson the artistic director and her sister, Amy Goossens, the designer. Her intention, she said, was to start a New York institution, similar to Joseph Papp’s Public Theater, which puts on Shakespeare in the Park every summer in Central Park. She and her husband have been living in the Seaport for over ten years and she sees Shakespeare Downtown as a cultural addition to Lower Manhattan. “If it takes me another year to build faith in this, I’ll do it — no matter what,” she said. “I don’t want people to lose heart. Whatever happens, it’s not going to be it didn’t work, but rather that it’s going to take longer.”
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Moving ahead on 75 Morton and Bleecker Street schools
Fallout from the East Village explosion the only families with children from the whole disaster site. They were eager to move back in when the vacate order was lifted. Stuart came in to clean. we felt comfort. “I found the whole thing overwhelming, disgustWe are all trying to get back to as normal a life as we can, a new changed normal. A small ing,” he said. “I didn’t know where to start, there is handful of tenants are back in 125 Second Ave. so much dirt and grit everywhere.” He found a place for Kayoko and Hannah to Some are back in 41 E. Seventh St., which was also evacuated. The people from the three lost stay while he cleans and scrubs and readies his buildings are coping the best that they can. nest, while coughing and feeling sick most of the time from the massive gas fire’s fallout. Kayoko is Change was thrown at them and they are working very hard, often until 8:30 p.m. She valiantly rising to the occasion, quietly often comes back exhausted to wherever rebuilding their now-ragged lives that U ARO ND they may be staying. were busted open in an instant. Hannah is a lively and bright 12-yearMy apartment is on the south side of old who is a topnotch student. She goes the building and we acted as “the fort” to the NEST+m School on E. Houston that saved the rest of Second Ave. when St. She is still going to karate, practicing the wind changed direction. The Fire her flute and preparing for her Bat Mitzvah Department sprayed water for hours and hours on end on our side of the building, wetting in June. Hannah is still missing her cat Ryce and it down and keeping our part safe from the rag- is struggling with this. “I know that there is something to learn in ing fire. We acted as a buffer. Because of this, our side of the tenement suffered serious water everything, but this is a very difficult lesson,” she damage. I am not back at No. 125 and won’t be said very philosophically. As for the view out their home’s window, for quite a while. Stuart, Kayoko and Hannah Lipsky have the Stuart simply said, “It is haunting.” When you walk past No. 125 at night you only apartment two floors below me. They are one of Continued from page 15
see a few lights lit, as most of the residents don’t feel comfortable enough to stay there. Some of us go in for brief periods during the day. Every time I go, I see more things thrown out: piles of stuff or large black garbage bags waiting to be picked up. The building is working double-time to fix everything, and they are doing a good job, but it is a long and arduous process. Jamil Shafi is one of only a handful of tenants who have already moved back into No. 125. He is spending a lot of his time cleaning, and then cleaning again. He also threw out lots of his clothes, his bedframe and some upholstered furniture. “I am happy to be back in my home,” he said. “I am slowly getting back to normal and I will be really happy to see all my neighbors return, as this is family.” Jamil said he is so very thankful to all of the people who have made his return possible, including the F.D.N.Y., Police and Red Cross, as well as Igor, Alex, Mikhail and Roman, our crew at No. 125! Jamil looked ruefully at the dull, empty brown dirt plot and said, “As a designer, I could help our mayor turn this into a memorial park for us until this land gets developed. It would be great if artists could come and paint pictures of what used to be here.”
BY JEANNI NE KI ELY Community Alliance held similar meetings in the past, Thanks to a long list of parent advocates and elect- which helped establish that 75 Morton would be a sined officials who have led the charge for a new middle gular middle school. In winter 2016, the D.O.E. Office of New Schools school in Greenwich Village since 2007, 75 Morton is will formally create a new school Working Group, scheduled to open in September 2017, in time for which will provide suggestions to D.O.E. students currently enrolled in third grade. U N O about 75 Morton’s programming, admissions With an opening date for the school now AR D policy and more. In addition to parent repon the horizon, Community Board 2’s goal is resentatives from the Community Alliance, to set up 75 Morton for success through conthe Working Group will include representinued parent and community engagement. tatives from the C.E.C., Presidents’ Council, Parents can see plans for the 75 Morton C.B. 2, local politicians, students, principals and Middle School on Mon., May 11, at 6:30 p.m, when the city’s School Construction Authority pres- teachers. If you would like to get more involved, please ents at a joint C.B. 2 / Community Education Council District 2 meeting at the L.G.B.T. Center, 208 W. 13th attend the May 11 C.B. 2 / C.E.C. 2 meeting or e-mail: 75Morton@gmail.com . St., between Seventh and Eighth Aves. A 177,000-square-foot, seven-story handicap-accesBLEECKER S C HOOL sible building, 75 Morton St. is undergoing a gut renovation led by The DeMatteis Organizations. In addition In December 2014, thanks to conversation and to classrooms, science labs, art and music rooms, pressure from parents, C.B. 2 and elected officials, school-wide facilities include a ground-floor light-filled N.Y.U. agreed to extend an almost-expired Bleecker cafeteria, library, double-height “gymatorium” — com- School deadline to Dec. 31, 2018. This extension gives bined gym, auditorium and theater — and an outdoor the S.C.A. more time to include the Bleecker School in play yard. its capital plan and extends the construction start date In fall 2015 and winter 2016, the 75 Morton to July 31, 2020. If this had not happened, the option Community Alliance, a volunteer group established by to build a 100,0000-square-foot school would have the community throughout C.E.C. 2, will lead a series expired by Dec. 31, 2014. of envisioning meetings for parents to provide input The school is planned for the current Morton to the Department of Education about what type of Williams supermarket site, at LaGuardia Place and middle school parents want to see at 75 Morton. The Bleecker St.
File photo by Lu Chih-Lan
Members of the 75 Morton Community Alliance outside the future middle school, including, back row, from left, state Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and C.E.C. District 2 President Shino Tanikawa.
Going forward, C.B. 2 will collaborate with D.O.E. to make sure that the Bleecker School is funded through an amendment to the D.O.E. capital plan for fiscal years 2015-2019 and that our hard-won school is built as a public school for our community. Jeannine Kiely is chairperson of the Community Board 2 Schools and Education Committee.
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Dr. Edward Rubinchik, one of the most highly experienced ocular surgeons in New York, is now offering patients a cataract surgery option that eliminates or minimizes the need for expensive post-operative eye drops, which are often required for 3-4 weeks after the procedure. “Drops are effective at reducing the risk of inflammation and infection,” said Dr. Rubinchik, a partner at Reich Medical and Surgical Eye Care, LLC and the first physician in New York to offer the dropless therapy. “However, at least 50% of patients end up missing a scheduled dose for one reason or another.” Studies show that many patients simply forget to use the drops properly and may have other medical conditions, such as arthritis, which DowntownExpress.com
make it harder for them to take the drops. The number of patients who skip eyedrop doses increases with patient age, as does the need for cataract surgery itself. “We don’t have to worry about any of this with the dropless technique,” said Dr. Rubinchik, who practices in Midwood and Bensonhurst. “Our patients are much happier going ‘dropless’, and the medical system is saving hundreds of dollars per case. It’s a win-win for everybody.” Dr. Rubinchik added that many cataract patients have longstanding vision problems such as myopia or astigmatism and may be eligible for a multifocal lens implant during the same procedure, resulting in much better vision than the patient has experienced in years.
How It Works During dropless cataract surgery, a formulation of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications is deposited in the eye following cataract removal and lens implantation. The mixture is then slowly released throughout the post-operative period, not unlike a time-release capsule.
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16 is the new 6, teens as toddlers PUBLISHER
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Milo Hess Jefferson Siegel PUBLISHER EMERITUS
John W. Sutter
B Y LE NO R E S K EN AZY When Walt Disney was 16 he forged his parents’ signatures and lied about his age so he could join the American Ambulance Corps, which was part of the Red Cross. That’s how he found himself in Europe, just after World War I ended, driving ambulances. He loved it. He said it “added up to a lifetime of experience in one package.” And as he later put it: “I know being on my own at an early age has made me more self-reliant and less of a the-world-owes-me-a-living type than I otherwise would have been.” I have to thank the book “Teen 2.0” by Robert Epstein for that story, and for putting the whole idea that teens are lazy/incompetent/irresponsible selfies on trial. Is it that “kids today” are really so immature? Or is that we treat them as if they are, and they respond the way most of us do when dissed or diminished: We disappoint. Over the past generation or two we have come to think of young people as less and less competent. I usually notice this with younger kids — how we drive them to school, as if it’s always too cold or too far. How we insert ourselves into their squabbles, as if they couldn’t sort things out by themselves. How we organize their lives for them — I’ve done this myself — as if leaving them to their own devices would mean wasted time, a teachable moment that we failed to fill.
But teens, man! Lately we act as if there’s no difference between 13 and 3. Here in New York City, there is no specific minimum age for latchkey kids, thank goodness. But Illinois law states that no one should be home alone until age 14 — an age when many kids in my generation had already been babysitting for two or three (or four!) years. Now the 14-year-olds are the babies themselves. Or how about crossing guards? My crossing guard when I was a tyke was a 10-year-old. Now, in every place I’ve lived in New York City (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens), the 10-year-olds are the tykes and the guards are all adults. Deliver newspapers? The folks who bring ours here in Jackson Heights do it by car. Most newspapers require their delivery people to have a license and liability insurance. If you’re just a kid with a bike? Too bad. And as for the laws about sex, we act as if anyone with any stirrings of anything before 18 is either a perp or a victim. Sometimes they’re both. A case in 2006 involved a 13-year-old Utah girl who had consensual sex with her 12-year-old boyfriend. I don’t know of anyone who loves the idea of kids
that young sleeping together, but here’s something worse: She was found guilty of having sex with someone under 14. And so was he! That makes them both sex offenders (and both victims). As I learned this month from Nicole Pittman, an expert on the sex offender laws I heard speak at an N.Y.U. Law School symposium: Of the 800,000 or so people on the sex offender registry nationwide, 200,000 are under age 18. That’s because teens have sex with other teens — a fact that shouldn’t be news and, when consensual, shouldn’t be considered rape. Shackling a teen with the label of Sex Offender often means they are not allowed to go to school (because there are other kids there) or even live at home, if there are younger siblings in the house. Sometimes they can’t live near a park, a church, a daycare center...even though it’s not that they ever raped a toddler. It’s that they slept with someone around their own age, as teens always have. It’s only now that we’re treating teens like toddlers themselves that we are stunting them as humans, and hunting them down for having sex. Really, it’s time for someone to grow up. Us. Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and founder of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids.”
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April 23-May 6, 2015
BRING BACK NEIGHBORHOOD MIDDLE SCHOOLS To The Editor: The extensive article concerning the muddled middle school enrollment process made no mention of the fact that the concept of the neighborhood school has been downgraded (news article, April 9-22, “Parents look for better way to apply to middle schools”). While many parents opt for schools seemingly offering a variety of specialized curriculums, others who simply want their children to transition to their neighborhood school receive no extra consideration. Much of the middle school quagmire is the result of local schools operating as separate entities with no real oversight. Middle school applicants are cherry-picked by an unsupervised selection process where principals scramble to restock their classrooms with students
they believe are the best and the brightest. This free for all selection has been sanctioned by the use of the ”screen” school with admission based upon a list of questionable standards under the heading of “criteria.” These are devices used to exclude and discriminate. Students not selected by the schools they have requested are banished without parental consent or input to a “zoned” school often requiring many hours of weekly commuting. Neighborhood schools deny seats to children of local residents yet import students from other areas of the city. Moving up from elementary to the neighborhood middle school should be a normal and expected transition. This would eliminate much confusion and uncertainty. Eleven-year-olds instead are disbursed throughout Manhattan in a grab bag placement scheme designed mainly to benefit favored
schools. Officials have ignored complaints concerning these issues. B. Wallace Cheatham
LETTERS POLICY Downtown Express welcomes letters to The Editor. They must include the writer’s first and last name, a phone number for confirmation purposes only, and any affiliation that relates directly to the letter’s subject matter. Letters should be less than 300 words. Downtown Express reserves the right to edit letters for space, clarity, civility or libel reasons. Letters should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or can be mailed to 1 Metrotech Center North, Brooklyn, NY 11201. DowntownExpress.com
Notes from the front lines of pre-K BY JOSH ROGERS
I WOKE UP LAST SEPT. 4
with a plan. It was the first day of public school in the city, but I knew the chances my 4-year-old son would be in class somewhere that day were slim to none. Slim was actually overly generous. “You can’t do that,” P.S. 11’s lovable crossing guard shouted at me after she realized I was serious. I had just told her literally in passing that I was going to try and enroll my son in pre-K there that day. I knew she was right, but when I’m not being a curmudgeonly editor, I actually have an optimistic side. I had also heard from a few parents over the years who were able to finagle a pre-K spot in another Chelsea neighborhood school, P.S. 33, despite being officially rejected. But I soon found out that either it was a loophole that has been closed, or I didn’t try hard enough. Either way we were turned away at both schools that morning after waiting in two long lines of parents sorting out school bus problems, something which I now assume is a first-day school ritual. Had the city’s pre-K number crunchers looked at our file that day they would have been confused. We were already signed up for what perhaps was called at that time a pre-K “CBO,” a community-based organization which has been central to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s massive expansion of full-day pre-K seats. (By my count, the name has been changed at least twice, and as we go to press they are now called “NYCECCs,” New York City Early Education Centers. The full-day program roughly doubled last year just a few months after nearly $300 million from Albany money came through, and it could expand by another 40 percent or so this year to over 70,000 children. As it turned out, that same fateful Thursday was our CBO’s (just call me old school) open house and our first chance to meet the program’s director and teachers. I was not concerned over the summer that the school had not yet gotten its furniture or supplies, but my wife and I did want to meet the people who would be responsible for our son before he attended. Class for him was not scheduled to start until that Monday, although DowntownExpress.com
his school did not have the permitting problems that delayed some other openings. I was surprised they were able to hire what looked to us to be a high-quality staff. My son was happy to check out the room’s new toys and meet the teachers. So with the family on board, we were in for real. We told our nursery school that we were dropping out, losing one month’s tuition, but saving the next nine. We were unusual among our peers. My son’s close friends all applied for public pre-K spots, but all stayed in their private schools. The only families I knew who enrolled in full-day Pre-K recruitment Downtown. pre-K, were either zoned for P.S. 33 — we’re one block out of The application deadline is at the the zone — or had a sibling in P.S.11, end of the week, but programs with which only has 18 spots. Our number space will still be taking students. Josh there was in the low 20s so had every Wallack, the D.O.E.’s chief strategy accepted child declined to enroll, we officer, told me this week, that he thinks the final number this year will were still unlikely to get a seat. The story was more pronounced be over the 70,000 goal, but “the main further Downtown, where some thing is to make high-quality pre-K schools actually lost pre-K seats available to everyone who wants it.” Many of the parents I’ve talked to because of kindergarten overcrowding. Many of the full-day seats avail- about pre-K, would have loved to have able in Lower Manhattan went to had their child enrolled, but only if they those with siblings already in the expect their child to stay for kinderschool, who have the highest priority. garten. Otherwise, it would’ve meant An analysis by WNYC’s SchoolBook switching schools twice in two years. Wendy Chapman, a parent leadlast year found that in parts of Lower Manhattan, there were only six seats er at Tribeca’s P.S. 150, said the small school community goes through for every 100 4-year-olds. Chinatown was the one exception an annual angst with pre-K parents where there were more seats than upset to be waitlisted for kindergar4-year-olds, so principals and others ten under a fresh application process. “We have had a crisis every year did outreach across the city. I was getting weekly calls from and there’s at least one family that the city about pre-K programs. Some takes it very personally and ends up were recorded, including one from de leaving our school because they are so angry,” she said at a Downtown Blasio, but others were live people. With a year to plan this year, the school meeting last week. “Try and D.O.E. was able to find rooms even tell a 4-year-old you can’t stay…. “ ‘Just hang on ‘til August, it always in Lower Manhattan. The new Peck Slip School, has works out,’ ” she’s tried to tell disapmade 12 rooms available, two as part pointed parents, often to no avail. City officials at the meeting of of the school and 10 in a separate pre-K center, which will be able to Assemblymember Sheldon Silver’s stay only a few years as the school School Overcrowding Task Force said fills out. The city is also opening a they would take a new look at the pricenter in its Tweed headquarters on orities, but they are reluctant to put Chambers St., and in a few existing families who lose the pre-K “lottery” at a disadvantage the next year. private nursery schools Downtown. Another concern is that some of I wonder if they will all fill up.
Downtown Express photo by Josh Rogers
the programs don’t have afterschool programs, making it undesirable to many families with two parents working full time. “We’ve made one very significant positive step but we know we can’t meet every single need of families right way,” Wallack said in a phone interview. Some of the community-based organizations are no doubt worried about filling up. At my son’s school last year, they had to lay off his terrific head teacher and others because of low enrollment. Then there were other staff changes with a few weeks of uncertainty until a new director/ head teacher came in. This year, they have much more competition as nearby P.S. 340 on Sixth Ave. is offering 72 full-day seats, when in its first full year it had none. The school apparently wanted full-day but was denied. When I visited as a prospective kindergarten parent a few weeks ago, there were only about a dozen children present in one of the half-day pre-K rooms set up for 18. Wallack said there has been a change of heart this year and the city is willing to open spots for a year or two as more space is found down the road. That attitude would have helped us last year, but all things considered, my son’s had a good school year and we’re up nine months tuition. Josh Rogers is the editor of Downtown Express. April 23-May 6, 2015
Malina, theatrical pioneer & life of Living Theatre, dies at 88 BY JUDITH MAHONEY PASTERNAK The legendary Judith Malina, co-founder of the Living Theatre, died April 10 at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey. She was 88. Diminutive in stature, immense in her influence, a passionately committed pacifist and anarchist who respected no rules but cherished everything and everyone human, Malina spent a lifetime smashing convention and breaking new ground on the world’s stage and in her personal — but never private — life. The theater company she founded with her first husband, Julian Beck, was a major force in the growth of the artistically innovative and often politically challenging anti-commercial movement that became Off and Off Off Broadway. Her political activism, on and off stage, landed her in more than one jail. The first of those occasions put her in a cell for 30 days with Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day. She observed Jewish rituals while cheerfully breaking many of the commandments. Her marriage to Beck was non-monogamous, and her pleasures famously included smoking pot. Malina and Beck founded the Living Theatre in 1947. They started with relatively conventional productions of works by Berthold Brecht and Jean Cocteau. But in 1959, their production of “The Connection,” playwright Jack Gelber’s searing drama of addiction, won “the Living” its first Obie award and its leading place in New York’s avant-garde and experimental theater. By 1963, when it produced Kenneth H. Brown’s anti-militarist “The Brig,” the Living Theatre had dedicated itself to politically-committed theater, from which it never retreated. The same year saw its first round of trouble with the federal government, when the Internal Revenue Service padlocked the troupe’s theater at 14th St. and Sixth Ave. The company went on to worldwide fame and ever-increasingly improvisational, participatory, intensely political and occasionally nude productions, from “Paradise Now” in 1968 to its 21st-century cri de coeur against capital punishment, “Not in Our Name.” Beck and Malina were arrested in Brazil — for marijuana possession, which they denied — and the company was expelled from more than one country. Yet before the end of the century, the troupe had become known across the globe as a symbol of resistance and hope. Moving from home to home over the years, buffeted by intermittently acute financial and tax problems,
April 23-May 6, 2015
Judith Malina with the two main men in her life, her two husbands, Julian Beck, right, and Hanon Reznikov. Below, a younger Judith Malina.
the Living Theatre nevertheless survived. And always, for 68 years, it existed under Malina’s leadership, first shared with Beck, and then, after his untimely death in 1985, Ha-
non Reznikov, who had been her lover during her marriage to the bisexual Beck and who became her second husband in 1988. Reznikov co-managed the Living Theatre with her until he died in 2008. Judith Malina was born in Kiel, Germany, in 1926, the daughter of an actor and a rabbi. She grew up in New York City, where her family arrived when they left Germany in 1929. She studied acting at the New School for Social Research with Erwin Piscator, one of the advocates — along with Berthold Brecht — of the politically charged drama called “epic theater.” Malina and Beck met in 1943. He was a painter, a year older than she was, but he rapidly came to share her
interest in theater, which led them to create the Living Theatre four years after they met. By then, she was a committed pacifist and anarchist. In 1955, before the young Living Theatre had made headlines, Malina was arrested — for the first time — with members of the pacifist War Resisters League and the Catholic Worker in City Hall Park for refusing to leave the park and go to a bomb shelter during one of the civil-defense drills of the time. She served 30 days for her civil disobedience, sharing a cell with Dorothy Day, now a candidate for canonization by the Catholic Church. Years later, she told an interviewer that Day’s interactions with the prostitutes and drug addicts who comprised most of the jail’s inmates had taught her that “anarchism is holiness,” because it treats all people as holy, without “dividing [them] into good ones and bad ones.” By the mid-sixties, as the Living Theatre became as much an activist project as an artistic one, the two threads of Malina’s life became one. For the rest of her life, her politics were expressed primarily in the company’s works, many of which she wrote. It was an occupation only occasionally interrupted by her forays into film and television. She played Al Pacino’s mother in “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975) and appeared in “Radio Days” (1987), “The Addams Family” (1991) and “Household Saints” (1993). On TV, she appeared in “The Sopranos,” in 2006. After Reznikov died in 2008, Malina went on to lead the company alone on the Lower East Side, until its home on Clinton St. closed and she moved into the assisted-living facility in Englewood in 2013. She is survived by her children, Isha Manna and Garrick Maxwell Beck, and by, the Living Theatre, her other child, now under Garrick Beck’s direction and still very much alive, if aging — 68 and counting — and perhaps less robust than its glory days in the ‘60s and ‘70s. But the ink devoted to Malina’s death is ample evidence that she will remain a formidable presence in the Living Theatre as long as it survives — and in theater around the world, as long as it survives. The Jewish Daily Forward wrote that one of Malina’s last public appearances was in December at the Bowery Poetry Club. She was in a wheelchair and breathing with the help of an oxygen tank as she read a poem about Eric Garner, the African-American man from Staten Island who died in a police chokehold last summer. Malina’s reading was followed by chants of “I can’t breathe.” DowntownExpress.com
THIS IS BIG NEWS FOR THE SMALLEST NEW YORKERS.
OUR KiDS EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IS NOW OPEN TO SERVE THE CHILDREN OF NEW YORK. Children get sick, children have accidents. The good news is that NYU Langone has opened the KiDS ED to provide urgent medical attention in ways only children and parents can appreciate. It’s a kids-only treatment facility. In fact, the only adults you’ll find here are some of the world’s best pediatric doctors and nurses, all specially trained to have a delicate understanding of how to treat children of all ages. To learn more, visit nyulangone.org/KiDSED.
April 23-May 6, 2015
HIGHWAY TO HEALTH FESTIVAL
Celebrate Healthy Living in NYC Live Music • Fitness Demos • Medical Screenings • Cooking Competition • Teen Talent Show • Free and open to the public
Sunday, May 17th 2015 • 10am-4pm
THURSDAY, APRIL 23–WEDNESDAY, MAY 5 LONG-RUNNING
South Street Seaport Historic District healthcorps.org
“THE TRIALS OF ALICE IN WONDERLAND” TADA! Youth Theater, 15 West 28th St. between Broadway and Fifth Avenue; (212) 252–1619 X4; tadatheater.com; Saturdays and Sundays, 2 pm and 4 pm, Now – Sun, May 17; $15 ($25 adults). Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Lewis Carroll work, Tada will present this production by talented kids.
DOWNTOWN DAY CAMPS Ages 4-13
YOUTH WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL: Chelsea Recreation Center, 430 W. 25th St. at Tenth Avenue; (212) 255–3705; Sundays, 11 am–1 pm, Now – Sun, April 26; Free with NYC center membership. Sport program for children 6 to 21 years old with physical disabilities. Learn to play wheelchair basketball with the New York Rollin’ Fury, sportchairs are available if needed.
Private Pool • Field Sports • Pier 25 • Karate • Tennis Arts & Crafts • Music & Drumming • Movement Story Pirates • Song Shows • Weekly Field Trips • Choice Time For Senior Division Campers
JAZZ FOR KIDS: Jazz Standard, 116 East 27th St. at Park Avenue South; (212) 576–2232; jazzstandard.com; Sundays, 2–3 pm, Now – Sun, May 17; Free, guests may give a $5 donation that benefits the Jazz Standard Discovery Program. The talented children’s musicians of the The Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra perform every Sunday (except for 12/21, 12/28 and 2/1).
VISIT OUR WEBSITE TO
FEBRUARY 4 , 6PM REGISTER AT OUR TH
Downtown Community Center
JUNIOR DIVISON: Grades K-3
SENIOR DIVISION: Grades 4-8
Tribeca | Battery Park City | Lower Manhattan
EXHIBITION: PIXELATED, SUM OF ITS PIECES: Children’s Museum of the Arts, 103 Charlton St. at Hudson Street; (212) 274–0986; cmany.org; Mondays and Wednesdays, Noon–5 pm, Thursdays and Fridays, Noon–6 pm, Saturdays and Sundays, 10 am–5 pm, Now – Sun, May 3; Free with $11 museum admission. This exhibition brings together emerging and mid-career artists whose work explores different means of perception and brings together visual artists whose works explore the intersection between art and technology.
April 23-May 6, 2015
STORYTIME: Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place at First Place; (646) 437–4202; mjhnyc.org; Wednesday, May 6, 3:30 pm; Wednesday, May 20, 3:30 pm; Free. Drop-in program warm, whimsical tales about traditions, holidays, and families from some of today’s best storybooks for children ages 0-4.
SAT, APRIL 25 TRIBECA FAMILY FESTIVAL STREET FAIR: Greenwich St., from Hubert to Chambers Sts.; tribecafilm.com/family; 10 a.m. to 6p.m.; Free. The festival includes “on location” filmmaking activities, live Broadway performances, video games, arts and crafts, film screenings, community merchants and restaurants, cooking demonstrations, storytelling, and so much more.
Downtown Express file photo by Milo Hess.
Last year’s Tribeca Family Fair. It returns April 25.
CRAFTERNOON: Battery Park City Library, 175 North End Avenue; (212) 790–3499; .nypl.org; 4 pm; Free. Children of all ages read Dinosaur Rescue by Penny Dale and then create a playdoh dino to take home.
WANT TO BE LISTED? Email your Lower Manhattan Youth Activity to email@example.com.
SAT, MAY 2 BLOCK PARTY: Whitney Museum of Art, 99 Gansevoort St.; (212) 570–3633; whitney.org; 10:30 am–10 pm; Free. The Witney Museum is celebrating its move with a block party and the inaugural exhibition “America is Hard to See” Activities include karaoke, map making and a performance workshop. Reservations recommended for the event.
THE SATURDAY MORNING SHOW: Hudson Eats at Brookfield Place, 200 Vesey Street, in the back seating area; brookfieldplaceny.com; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Free. A variety showcase of live music, games, story time, puppetry, magic and more, followed by a movie the whole family can enjoy. At 11 a.m. deejays Mr. Marc and Mikey Palms and 1 p.m. “Finding Nemo.”
SUN, APRIL 26 CHILDREN’S CONCERT: Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place at First Place; (646) 437–4202; mjhnyc.org; 10:30 am; $10, $7 for children 10 and under. Brooklyn band Yellow Sneaker and their puppet pals nurture family bonds and bridge connections to Jewish life and traditions through their performance.
THURS, APRIL 30 “THE EARTH AND ME”: Symphony Space. 10 am and 11:30 am. See Wednesday, April 29. April 23-May 6, 2015
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April 23-May 6, 2015
April 23-May 6, 2015
Continued from page 26
MATTHEW BRODERICK HOSTS (UN)SILENT FILM NIGHT
BY SCOTT STIFFLER
TALES OF STAGE 4 CANCER Equally adept at satire and survival — and no strangers to battling hostile forces from within and without — Chicago-based performers Judy Fabjance and Kelly Beeman make their NYC debut with “Tales of a Stage 4 Cancer.” Sketches, songs and monologues offer a defiantly unsentimental take on the grim realities and goofy pleasures of their life as newlyweds facing the ongoing struggle of breast cancer. “So many people feel like they are trapped in this depressing, scary story,” says Beeman, “but we want to help them find the humor, find the lighter side, find the release.” That means frank revelations on everything from restrictive diets to their sex life to questionable aspects of the “Big Pink” cancer support industry — and some jaunty tunes as well! Keeping things light but grounded in a respect for reality is Second City faculty member Angie McMahon, who directs. Award-winning composer Amanda Murphy does musical direction duties, and shares Second City roots with Fabiance, who has been an instructor at the famed comedy hub since 1999. Beeman can’t claim such cred, but does have a gig writing
and performing training sketches for the likes of Lambda Legal and Motorola. Somewhere along the line, these folks found room in their busy lives to make light of a devastating cancer diagnosis! Mon., May 4, 8:30 p.m. at Magnet Theater (254 W. 29th St. at Eighth Ave.). For tickets ($7), call 212-244-8824 or visit magnettheater.com. Artist info at beefabproductions.com.
What does a Broadway actor do on his one night off? If you’re Matthew Broderick — currently starring in “It’s Only a Play” as the lone voice of reason among a crew of loopy thespians — you head below 42nd Street for a tribute to kindred spirits Chaplin and Keaton. Broderick does the hosting duties, when The College of Performing Arts at The New School presents (Un)Silent Film Night. This first annual edition also marks the debut of the Mannes Theatre Orchestra. Charles Neidich conducts a new score by Craig Marks that sounds out the 1924 silent comedy “Sherlock, Jr.” Perennial underdog Buster Keaton delivers elegant slapstick, as a lovelorn projectionist whose dream world adventures gave birth to countless film-withina-film imitators. Also on the Continued on page 27
program: Barcelona-born Brooklynite Alexis Cuadrado leads the School of Jazz Improvisation Ensemble, in the premiere of his original score to Charlie Chaplin’s 1917 silent feature, “The Immigrant.” Free. Mon., April 27, 7 p.m. at the John L. Tishman Auditorium at the University Center (65 Fifth Ave., at 14th St.).
LAUNCH PARTY & POEM IN YOUR POCKET CELEBRATION With 60,000 volumes on its shelves, Poets House is uniquely positioned for National Poem in Your Pocket Day (an annual event that encourages people to carry a poem and read it — aloud, and often). On April 30, Poets House staff and volunteers will distribute pocket-sized poems in Battery Park City and Tribeca. Back at their home base, starting at 9 a.m., young authors will begin the day-long launch party for “We Are New York City: A Poetry Anthology by Lower Manhattan Students.” Their subject matter covers everything from the Brooklyn Bridge to Times Square to thoughts about 9/11, from those not yet born in 2001. At the Neighborhood
Poetry Read-In (3–6 p.m.), you can read the poem you’ve been shepherding around all day. Or, just borrow from the sizable Poets House supply. They won’t mind one bit. Free. Thurs., April 30, all day at Poets House (10 River Terrace, at Murray St.) and various locations in Battery Park City. Call 212-431-7920 or visit poetshouse.org.
PATRICIA NOWOROL DANCE THEATER: “REPLACEMENT PLACE” Choreographer Patricia Noworol puts her dance theater troupe through some all-new paces, in a
world-premiere work that blends “ferocious, fiery athleticism” with equally deft wordplay and a score that draws upon the deep-seated fears and dreams of its genre-hopping, definition-defying ensemble. And it’s a formidable ensemble. Troy Ogilvie and Nick Bruder reprise their bloody good roles as the power couple in the “Macbeth”-based immersive theater experience, “Sleep No More.” They interact with Brooklyn dancer/rapper AJ “The Animal” Jonez and electro-cellist Chris Lancaster, to depict Noworol’s alternately tense and playful exploration of competing ideas, power structures, intimacy and violence. April 30–May 1 at 7:30 p.m., May 2 at 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. At New York Live Arts (19 W. 19th St. btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). For tickets ($20$30), call 212-924-0077 or visit newyorklivearts. org. Artist info at pndance.com.
A Celebration of the
Power of Black Music
MAY 7-10, 2015 Trinity Church &
Thursday, May 7
1pm | Trinity Church
COMPOSER PORTRAIT : Mary Lou Williams Chris Pattishall Quinte t
Friday, May 8
7pm | Trinity Church
The Choir of Trinity Wa ll Street Stanley Thurston, guest conductor
Saturday, May 9
7pm | Trinity Church
COMPOSER PORTRAIT : Trevor Weston The Choir of Trinity Wa ll Street Julian Wachner, condu ctor
St. Paul’s Chapel
Sunday, May 10
11:15am | Trinity Church
CHORAL EUCHARIST: Duke Ellington’s Sacred Service The Choir of Trinity Wall Street Julian Wachner, conductor
2pm | Trinity Church FINALE: Circlesongs with
trinitywallstreet.org/babylon All events are free webcast
2 3 A C 4 5 J Z
1 2 3 A C E
53 Beach St. NYC 10013
Meditation & Mindfulness, Latin Dance & Rhythm, Yoga & Gymnastics, Storytelling, Spanish
Serving the Downtown Community for Over 10 years
Trinity Church, Broadway at Wall Street t St. Paul’s Chapel, Broadway & Fulton Stree
phone: (212) 334-0400 firstname.lastname@example.org
REGGAE DANCE PARTY
April 23-May 6, 2015
Wednesday, May 13th 5:30-6:30 pm
Art, Tae Kwon Do, Organic Cooking,
Learn more at:
9pm | St. Paul’s Chapel
Thursday, May 7th 5:30-6:30 pm
2 Gold St. NYC 10038
Bobby McFerrin and the Choir of Trinity Wall Street
Montessori Certified Teachers Full and Half Day Classes for Children 2-6 Years Yoga, Art, Spanish, and Performing Arts After School Programs:
April 23-May 6, 2015
‘Jack’ Flawed But Worth Knowing Tale of hemmed in lives manages to let in some sun BY PUMA PERL “King Jack,” the debut of writer and director Felix Thompson, takes place in the sort of depressed, rural town that nobody escapes. Everybody drinks, everybody smokes, few families are intact, and there is nothing to do. People barge into one another’s houses and lives. Violence is prevalent, even expected. The lives are as hemmed in as the town, surrounded by mountains and shot in ways that keep both external and internal scenes in shadow. A lone railroad train runs through the town without so much as a railway station in sight. Kitchens have wall phones equipped with answering machines, and clothing and hairstyles could be from one of many eras. The main device that ting revenge against the bullies who takes us into the present is the type torment him the only way he knows of cell phones that are in constant use how — spray painting an obscenity on a garage door. Naturally, he will get and serve to advance the story. When the movie opens, we see caught. He always gets caught, even 15.PR.3929_1.qxp_Layout 1 4/21/15get11:40 before AM Page he1has done anything. In his Jack, the 15-year-old protagonist,
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An authentic Spanish and Mexican restaurant located in New York’s West Village. Since 1970, Tio Pepe has been serving up Spanish cuisine at its finest. Their recently revised menu showcases the simple, traditional food flavors of Spanish culture.
6:00 PM | 1985 | 116 MIN BMCC/TRIBECA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (199 CHAMBERS STREET)
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Our Executive Chef Jose Zamora is a native of Tarragona, Spain. Beginning his career at a family friend’s restaurant, he received two culinary degrees, one from Cordon Blue in the U.S. and one from the Institution Culinario de Cambrils in Spain. His cooking is inspired by both Spanish and French cuisine. Jose is devoted to using the best ingredients and implementing a simplistic stylist technique with dynamic presentation. His goal is to provide a memorable dining experience through passionately created culinary dishes.
KING JACK TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
own home, his tired, single mother tells him to empty his pockets when he enters. “Check his shoes,” his older brother, who has also bullied Continued on page 30
s t f a r C g n i Spr elsea in Che
A Beneft for PS 11
4 00 p m 11:00am – :
treet S t s 1 2 t s e W en 8th and 9th Ave) (betwe
A HANDMADE CRAFT MARKET ORGANIZED BY
Featuring over 60 artisans selli ng and accessories for kids and ad jewelry, clothing ults, art, ceramics, housewares, bath and body an d more!
PS 11 will provide arts and crafts, and other family-friendly activities! A family run business since 1970 — and 28
March 26-April 8, 2015
still running strong! March 26-April 8, 2015
Partial Crown for ‘King Jack’ Continued from page 29
him remorselessly throughout his life, chimes in. Jack is beaten and abused so regularly that it is part of his looks, a stray dog expecting to be kicked. In one scene, his mother notices that he has black paint on his face, but does not question the fresh bruises on his lips and eyes. Early in the film, another character is introduced — Jack’s 13-year-old cousin, Ben, who will spend a few days there because his mother has had one of her habitual breakdowns. Ben is the heart of the movie, stoic and self-contained, and the only familial character who consistently displays a sense of values and self-worth. It is Jack’s job to take care of him, regardless of the unsafe environment that he must negotiate daily. The lead bully, Shane, is a classic villain shown to be relentless to the point of psychopathology. On the other hand, Ben is just a little too
amazing a 13-year-old, although this is not the fault of the actor, Cory Nichols, who is very endearing. It would have resonated more if Shane were seen a bit more humanely — terrible, but damaged, not unlike the brother, Tom, who despite his violence is a more layered character. It is also hard for an actor to pull off a one-note character such as this. In general, I did like the acting, and one can’t help but root for Jack and his family, who are shown with all of their flaws and just enough background information to understand why they are where they are. Charlie Plummer’s Jack pisses us off, while at the same time we want to save him, and Christian Madsen’s Tom presents brute strength tempered with vulnerability. The female characters are more minor, but are realistically drawn. The unnamed town, though, remains the most powerful co-star — sad and claustrophobic despite the wide landscape, dark, with just a little bit of sun.
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April 23-May 6, 2015
April 23-May 6, 2015
April 23-May 6, 2015
DOWNTOWN EXPRESS, APRIL 23, 2015