YOUR WEEKLY COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER SERVING CHELSEA, HUDSON YARDS & HELL’S KITCHEN
Weekly War Protest Enters Year 10 BY WINNIE McCROY When the U.S. invaded Iraq, a group of concerned Chelsea residents gathered at the corner of Eighth Ave. and W. 24th St. to protest the military action. Ten years later, Chelsea Neighbors United to End the War continues their weekly protest. Known as Chelsea Stands Up Against the War, it takes place every Tues. from 6–7 p.m. as the group holds banners, hands out newsletters and tells passers-by why war is ruining our country. “After the invasion of Iraq, a few of us said, ‘This is awful, we need to do something to Continued on page 4
Safer Traffic Signals Coming to Hell’s Kitchen BY ZACH WILLIAMS With plans progressing for safety improvements to streets on the west side, the next few months will determine just how far transportation activists can succeed in pushing Vision Zero initiatives to the top of city and state legislative agendas. This summer, the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) will install six to ten split-phase traffic signals in Hell’s Kitchen as well as tweak traffic flow in the surrounding area in order to ease rush hour congestion. The signals are also known as Protected Only Phase Signal (PROPS), a term coined by Community Continued on page 7
‘The Visit’ Will Stay With You See page 21.
Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art
The Whitney establishes itself as a good neighbor by throwing a free Block Party on May 2, 10:30 a.m.–10 p.m. in front of its 99 Gansevoort St. location.
A Strong Sense of Place at the Re-Invented Whitney BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN On May 1, the Whitney Museum of American Art will open its newly Renzo Piano-designed home to the public. That night, the Empire State Building will light up in its honor by re-interpreting 12 iconic works from the Whitney collection by Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol and others. It will seem as if the whole city is celebrating — and the opening certainly has the potential to become New York’s most important cultural event of the decade. However, it will also mark the beginning of a fresh chapter in the Whitney’s history, and not simply a geographical one. Considering its new location, impressive architecture and upcoming pro-
© CHELSEA NOW 2015 | NYC COMMUNITY MEDIA, LLC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
gramming, the Whitney has embarked on a major identity overhaul, readying itself for a future of growth. In contrast to the Whitney’s previous Upper East Side location at 75th St. & Madison Ave. (1966-2014), its new neighborhood is infinitely more youthful and tourist-laden. It also happens to be closer to its original address on West Eighth St. in Greenwich Village, where Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney founded it in 1931. While on the Upper East Side, the Whitney was mere walking distance from other major museums, such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Neue Galerie, the Frick
Continued on page 3 VOLUME 07, ISSUE 11 | APRIL 30 - MAY 06, 2015
Come Sale Away SELIS MANOR BAZAAR
BY SCOTT STIFFLER
Organized by the Selis Manor for the Blind Tenants Association, this Spring Bazaar brings together vendors selling electronics, gift baskets, food, jewelry, clothes and the vague but ever-popular “more.” Helping Hands for the Disabled of NYC will have a table, where you can meet that non-profit’s CEO, Alice Crespo. MaxiAids, which sells daily living, mobility, low vision and hard of hearing technology, will also be on hand. Sat., May 2, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. at Selis Manor (135 W. 23rd St. btw. Sixth & Seventh Aves.).
PENN SOUTH CERAMICS SPRING SALE Like the potter’s wheel, nature’s cycle keeps going around and around — and while it’s nice to see flowers after a long winter, when was the last time the good earth came up with a decorative platter all by itself? For that, clay isn’t enough. You need elbow grease, a kiln and the creative touch of students and instructors from the Penn South Ceramics Studio. Their Spring Sale lets you take home handmade one-of-a-kind items: bowls, plates, vases, mugs, jewelry and more — all at reasonable prices. Pick up a brochure as you shop and at this time next year, one of your own original creations could be on the shelf with a price tag. Sat. & Sun. | May 2 & 3 | 11 a.m.–5 p.m. at the Penn South Ceramics Studio (in Building 6B, 276 Ninth Ave., at the northeast corner of 26th St.). For more
Courtesy of Penn South Ceramics
If art you can drink out is your cup of tea, head to the May 2 & 3 Penn South Ceramics Spring Sale.
info, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit pennsouthceramics.com.
WESTBETH SPRING SALE Don’t call it a junk sale, because it’s most certainly not. The booty up for grabs at the Westbeth Spring Sale comes from belongings of Westbeth tenants — whose artistic bent guarantees an eclectic array of furniture,
records, CDs and everyday household items with uncommon personality. In addition to a children’s’ corner (books, toys, clothing), there will be figurative and abstract oil paintings from the estates of two artists. Proceeds go to further the work of the Westbeth Beautification Committee, which regularly plants flowers by the trees that surround the building and the Bank St. Courtyard. They also maintain the flower boxes at each side of the main entrance to the building (55 Bethune St.), thus beautifying the neighborhood for all of us. So go, browse and splurge. It’s for a good cause! Sat., May 9 & 16 and Sun., May 10 — from 11a.m.–5p.m. Also Sun., May 17, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. At 55 Bethune St. (elevator) or 137 Bank St. (stairs), both at the corner of Washington St. For more info, call 212-691-1574 or email westbethfleamarket@gmail.
The Local Angle on I Love My Park Day Flower Power for Little Sprouts The winter weather’s finally been broken, and springtime seems here to stay. What better way to celebrate the warm weather than by spending time outdoors? And where better to spend that time than at your local park? Individuals interested in venturing outside and reacquainting themselves with nature after this long, cold winter have the perfect opportunity to do so this weekend, when Chelsea Waterside Park (CWP) participates in I Love My Park Day. Observed this Saturday, I Love My Park Day is part of a statewide initiative for people to show their appreciation for New York’s parks, increase their visibility, and help improve them in a personal, hands-on way. After registering, volunteers of all ages will get the chance to get their hands dirty beautifying CWP — with tools and water provided by the park (but don’t forget to bring your own green thumb). Activities on the agenda include cutting grass, clearing out overgrown areas, planting, weeding and spreading new mulch. Particularly adventurous gardeners can help plant some of the 14 new crabapple trees the park has acquired to create much needed shady areas. And if you find yourself in need of a breather, there’s nothing like finding the simple pleasures in taking in the beauty of the great outdoors — made especially more beautiful by CWP’s thousand plus daffodils currently in bloom, planted this past fall. When all is said and done, participants can take pride in a productive day’s work that helps improve their community — and also comfort in the savory snacks that will be provided by Shake Shack in honor of the day. So shake off any residual winter
April 30 - May 06, 2015
Photo courtesy of Chelsea Waterside Park
blues this weekend, and head on out to CWP to show just how much you “Love Your Park!” Sat., May 2, 10 a.m.–1 p.m. at Chelsea Waterside Park (W. 23rd St. & 11th Ave.). To participate (registration required), visit ptny.org, choose “Parks” from the home page menu, then choose “It’s My Park Day.”
On April 24, Arbor Day, the Ryan ChelseaClinton Community Health Center (10th Ave. at W. 46th St.) hosted second-graders from nearby PS111. Among those spending time with the youngsters were Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and CEO/President of Ryan Health Network, Brian McIndoe, along with other staff and doctors of Ryan Health. Together, they planted flowers to bring home, learned about healthy eating and read and discussed the beloved children’s book, “The Giving Tree.” .com
The Whitney Achieves an Impressive Identity Overhaul Continued from page 1 Collection and the Guggenheim Museum, among others. Now, it stands proudly alone. However, situated at the southern tip of the High Line and within the buzzing Meatpacking District, the Whitney is part of a much more lively scene. It is only steps away from the Standard Hotel, the Gansevoort Hotel, the Headquarters of Diane von Furstenberg, the Chelsea Market, Google, an Apple Store and countless boutiques, fashionable restaurants, bars and clubs. Along these lines, on May 2, the Whitney Block Party (Gansevoort St., in front of the museum, 10:30 a.m.–10 p.m.) will embrace this neighborhood’s youthful spirit. Sponsored by Macy’s, just like the beloved Thanksgiving Parade and 4th of July Fireworks, this party intends to welcome visitors of all ages with free art and performances. It is further proof of the Whitney’s strong desire to embrace its new location wholeheartedly, while making its architecture a vivid experience for all. No matter how much immediate attention will be focused on the surrounding events and the Museum’s elegant outer appearance, stunning improvements are to be found on the inside. Certainly, Piano’s boat-like vision of a building deserves ample contemplation. It pays splendid homage to the Hudson River and the history of Chelsea Piers, where in the early 20th century, most major trans-Atlantic liners docked and survivors of the Titanic disembarked. It also respectfully nods to the
Frank Gehry-designed IAC building just a few blocks north, whose form is also inspired by ships. Nevertheless, the Whitney’s inaugural exhibition “America Is Hard to See” (May 1–Sept. 27, 2015), whose fantastic title was taken from a Robert Frost poem, is certainly capable of drawing its own significant attention. It is organized by a whole team of Whitney curators, led by Donna De Salvo, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs, including Carter E. Foster, Curator of Drawing; Dana Miller, Curator of the Permanent Collection; and Scott Rothkopf, Family Curator and Associate Director of Programs; with Jane Panetta, Assistant Curator; Catherine Taft, Assistant Curator; and Mia Curran, Curatorial Assistant. Spanning several floors, “America is Hard to See” celebrates the Whitney’s acclaimed permanent collection in an unprecedented way. No less than 600 works by 400 artists fill up the significantly expanded 50,000 square feet of gallery space and 13,000 square feet of terraces. The show marks the Whitney’s most ambitious presentation of and in-house reflection on its acclaimed collection, which spans from about about 1900 to the present. “America is Hard to See” is organized chronologically with the eighth and highest floor featuring the oldest work. The exhibit is also organized thematically, however. Themes are introduced as chapters, and there are 23 total. Bringing together related artworks, each is named after a
Continued on page 12
Photograph © Timothy Schenck 2015
Terraces enable visitors to leave the museum temporarily to rest and soak in the stunning textures of the neighborhood.
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April 30 - May 06, 2015
10 Years of Protests for Chelsea Neighbors United to End The War
Chelsea Neighbors United to End The War gathered on April 28, just as they have every Tuesday for the past decade.
Continued from page 1 speak out,’ ” recalled longtime member Bob Martin. “We got together for coffee at Paradise, and that’s when the idea of our weekly ‘stand-up’ started.” Martin has been a stalwart member of the peace movement, Xeroxing weekly newsletters and attending when he is able — often with his wife, Kate Abel. Martin pointed to longtime mem-
Photos by Jenny Rubin
A protester hands out the group’s weekly newsletter.
ber Roberto Rodriguez as an unflagging member, saying that they shared similar views about war as a tool of exploitation. Growing up in Honduras, which he called “the original banana republic,” Rodriguez was familiar with the exploitation of the lower classes, often paid only 50 cents a day to carry towering bunches of bananas. Rodriguez sees similarities, saying that these war efforts don’t serve the common people, but rather put money in the pockets of those who
benefit from conflicts: those who own munitions, oil and other tools of war. “Protesting is important because in my point of view, wars are not justified,” Rodriguez told Chelsea Now. “A large part of the public believes that people outside of the U.S. are their enemies, which they’re not, really. The U.S. has a history of supporting regimes that benefit whatever they want to exploit. We are actually creating the enemies that we are fighting.”
Although he doesn’t justify the behaviors of those who retaliate against the U.S., Rodriguez said fighting back was an “understandable human reaction” to having their countries occupied by foreign invaders, their villages bombed, their neighbors attacked by drones, and their children starved. “If we are doing so because of the thousands killed during 9/11, we’re out to exact the price of hundreds of thousands of lives,” said Rodriguez. “Your children and grandchildren will have to face the results.” This “artificial menace” that leaders create has allowed terror to eradicate Constitutional rights, and Homeland Security and the Patriot Act have nullified many resources U.S. citizens can use to protect themselves from authoritative oppressive practices. Participating in this weekly protest lets Rodriguez express his voice that the funds used for war would be better spent on education, healthcare and infrastructure. The recent front page article in The New York Times in which President Obama apologized for the death of
Continued on page 17
This is what happens when the 25,000 landlords of 1 million rent-stabilized apartments have the financial resources to make repairs and improvements. They re-invest the rent in their buildings and our neighborhoods. They provide work to small businesses and jobs to local residents – and, most importantly, they preserve existing affordable housing.
But some Albany and City Hall politicians, like Mayor Bill de Blasio, want to turn back the clock to old policies that failed in the past. They want stricter rent laws, and they want to freeze rents while raising property taxes and water and sewer rates. That would push affordable housing right back into the 1970’s and 80’s. We need to move forward, not backwards.
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Syphilis ‘Surge’ in Chelsea Dates Back to 2007 BY DUNCAN OSBORNE While some recent press reports claimed syphilis is surging among gay and bisexual men in Chelsea, the higher case rate in that neighborhood has existed for roughly eight years and shows no signs of declining. “From 2012 to 2014, there’s been an increase,” said Dr. Sue Blank, who heads the sexually transmitted disease unit at the city’s health department, during an April 22 meeting at the LGBT Community Center. “It’s in the context of an ongoing increase.” The city saw roughly 1,300 primary and secondary syphilis cases among men in 2014. There were 1,167 such cases in 2013 and 996 in 2012. The current higher rate of cases per 100,000 population began in 2007, when the health department reported 927 syphilis cases compared to 578 cases in 2006. Syphilis cases went from 621 in 2004 to 616 in 2005. The increase is attributable to new infections among gay and bisexual men. “The contribution among women is really small,” Blank said. “That’s been true for many years.”
Chelsea/ Clinton and the West Village are the city neighborhoods with the highest syphilis case rates among men. In 2014, there were 175 male syphilis cases per 100,000 population in those neighborhoods. There were 32 male syphilis cases per 100,000 population citywide and 65 male syphilis cases per 100,000 population in Manhattan in 2014. Chelsea/ Clinton and the West Village also have high rates of hepatitis B and C and other sexually transmitted diseases, and have consistently had the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the city. Since 2011, most of the syphilis cases among men have been diagnosed in men aged 20 to 39, while men aged 40 to 49 have seen declines in syphilis. While increases since 2011 in syphilis cases per 100,000 population were comparable among African-American, Latino, white, and Asian men, AfricanAmerican men began that period at a higher rate and ended at a higher rate. In 2014, Manhattan contributed 38 percent of the roughly 1,300 male syphilis cases followed by Brooklyn at 26 percent, the Bronx at 21 percent,
HUDSON RIVER PARK TRUST Contract ID# D034634 Category: 03 PIN No. X772.98 -‐ Bloomfield to West 14th Street – Waterfront Structures Description: The Hudson River Park Trust ("HRPT") is seeking proposals from qualified marine firms (“Bidders”) interested in performing sequenced marine construction within the Hudson River Park, extending from Bloomfield to West 14th Street along the Hudson River on Manhattan’s west side. Typical construction operations would include but not be limited to: Protection of existing structures, utilities, and features to remain; Maintenance of existing construction fencing and gates, and other temporary protection measures to facilitate project mobilization and access; Furnishing and installation of cast-‐in-‐place and pre-‐Cast concrete construction including the services of a professional engineer; pile driving; grounding; Removal of temporary protections and controls; and other finish work as may be required. Price for bid documents $200.00 per set. All payments must be made by check, and must be payable to the Hudson River Park Trust and must include the contractor’s Federal Identification Number. Document availability date Friday April 24, 2015. Documents including required submission materials for this solicitation may be obtained by the following means: Mail: Mail your requests and a check to the Hudson River Park Trust – Project Management Office, 353 West Street, Pier 40 – 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10014. In Person: Directly from the Hudson River Park Trust located at Pier 4 0. Hours 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday – Friday, except holidays. O vernight delivery via Fed Ex is available by providing your account information. Criteria for determining the lowest qualified bidder will include but is not limited to an analysis of: 1. Bidder’s marine construction experience (minimum 5 years) on similar projects, including the name, location, and construction cost of the projects (include projects within the NYC metropolitan area); 2. Bidder’s complete team (prime contractor or joint venture partners and/or sub-‐contractors) that it would commit to the project, including an analysis of the percentage of subcontracting; 3. Any NYS DOL, OSHA, A COE, or NYS DEC violations issued to Bidder or any of its principals in the last five years; 4. Bidder’s proposed New York State Professional Engineer performing delegated design; 5. Qualifications of the personnel to be utilized for this project; 6. Detailed financial statements of Bidder or, in the case of a joint venture, the detailed financial statements of the joint venture partners or principals; 7. Any debarments, litigation, and/or bankruptcy filings by Bidder or its principals in the last five years; 8. Completed and certified “Vendex” and New York State Vendor Responsibility questionnaires completed within the last three years; and 9. Bidder’s EEO policy statement and DBE Utilization Plan. Submissions will be evaluated to assess the proposer’s responsibility, p roject specific and general marine and/or waterfront construction experience construction experience, project management personnel, percentage of subcontracting, and financial stability. HRPT is an equal opportunity contracting agency. Any resulting contracts will include provisions mandating compliance with Executive Law Article 15A and the regulations p romulgated there under. DBE Sub-‐Contracting Goal: 14% Proposal Due: 05/21/2015, 1:00 p.m. Contract Term: Not Applicable Contact: Lupe Frattini Hudson River Park Trust -‐ Project Management Field Office 353 West Street, Pier 40 – 2PndP Floor New York, NY 10014 (917) 661 8740 phone (917) 661 8787 fax Submit To: Same As Above
April 30 - May 06, 2015
five percent of all visits in each of those years. The city is also expecting private providers to take up the slack. “Although we don’t have brick and mortar services in Chelsea at this time, we are funding services in the neighborhood,” Blank said. She could not say if the city was providing more cash to nearby providers, such as the CallenLorde Community Health Center, but did say, “We have provided more resources.” At the meeting, Donnie Roberts, Callen-Lorde’s senior director of Development and Communications, said his agency has added “105 new sexual health appointments” every week in an effort to cover some of the visits that will no longer happen at the city’s Chelsea clinic. Some AIDS activists are voicing concern about closing the Chelsea clinic because that could impact the plan to end AIDS, which envisions reducing new annual HIV infections from the current roughly 3,000 to 750 a year by 2020. Some of the clients at the city’s sexually transmitted disease clinics would be candidates for the biomedical interventions, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which will be used to reduce COOKWARE • KNIVES • ELECTRICS • BAKEWARE • TOOLS • AND MORE new HIV infections. “We’re trying to get more services for testing Elite Collection in the gay community 12 Cup Food and this move by the Processor * White department of health is in completely the other $129.98 Sugg Retail $365 direction,” Luis Santiago, RD FP-12WS a member of ACT UP *Off mfg sugg retail on select items while supplies last in-store only. New York, told our sisFamily Owned & Operated Since 1976 ter publication, Gay City 65 East 8th Street (off Broadway), New York NY 10003 News. Mon-Sat 11am-7pm • Thurs ‘til 8pm • Sun 11am-6pm
Queens at 14 percent, and Staten Island at one percent. The ongoing syphilis problem may be made worse by the closing of the city’s sexually transmitted disease clinic in Chelsea. The renovation of that location is expected to take two to three years, though Blank said that work should be completed in closer to two years. “We did not take that decision lightly, but there was no easy answer,” Blank said at the meeting, which was sponsored by the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City. “We still have other clinics that are a subway ride away.” In 2013, the Chelsea clinic had more visits, at 21,148, than any of the city’s other eight sexually transmitted disease clinics and contributed 23.8 percent of all visits to the nine clinics. The Chelsea clinic also led city clinics in visits in 2012. Blank said that the other city clinics, and the Riverside clinic in particular, were expected to take the visits previously handled in Chelsea. The Riverside clinic had just under 5,000 visits per year in 2012 and 2013, and contributed
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Hell’s Kitchen to Get Split-Phase Signals
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Photo by Zach Williams
New traffic signals will divide the allotted times for pedestrian crossing and vehicle turning, at troublesome intersections in Hell’s Kitchen, such as this one at W. 45 St. and Ninth Ave.
Continued from page 1 Board 4 (CB4) Chair Christine Berthet. Such devices separate the allotted times for pedestrian crossing and vehicle turning, the combination of which leads to a large share of traffic collisions. CB4 members will recommend potential intersections to the department from a list of about 15 located on Eighth and Ninth Aves., following a DOT presentation on the matter at the April 15 meeting of CB4’s Transportation Planning Committee. The intersection of W. 45th St. and Ninth Ave. was on the list of candidates, and particularly illustrative of the push to make turning vehicles wait for pedestrians as through traffic resumes with a green light. It was at that very intersection that a woman entered the crosswalk amidst the rush hour traffic as a cab sped towards a southbound turn — and a collision course with her. She spoke on a cell phone as she walked across the Ninth Ave., before the taxi driver hit the brakes a split-second before he would have run her over. Such close calls could soon be a thing of the past at the intersection, which is also a candidate for funding through District 3’s Participatory Budgeting process. Pedestrian safety activists placed a $250,000 initiative on the ballot to pilot a combination of a speed bump and pedestrian crossing there. The “speed table” would simultaneously boost visibility and slow down turning vehicles. Results of the April 11–19 election will be announced on May 9 at the West Side .com
Forum, to be held at Civic Hall (156 Fifth Ave. btw W. 20th & W. 21st Sts.) from 12–3 p.m. The office of Councilmember Corey Johnson will allocate a total of $1 million in funding to the top vote-getters. While the future improvements to the intersection at W. 45th St. and Ninth Ave. remain uncertain, an ongoing collaboration between Johnson’s staff and the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene seeks to better distribute data to city agencies about how best to allocate resources in order to further the Vision Zero initiative. “By linking crash and hospital records, we can better understand the linkages between particular crashes and injuries and help target traffic safety interventions,” he said in a statement. Recognizing the spatial needs of all streets users is an important element of the Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries in New York City by 2024. One piece of legislation before the city council this year, however, reflects a desire for legal protections for a special group of motor vehicle operators in the wake of the nearly two dozen new laws passed last year in relation to the initiative. One new city law made it a misdemeanor if a driver hurts or kills a pedestrian who has the right of way in a crosswalk. A new bill before the city council would exempt city bus drivers from the law, following uproar from organized labor that the nature of the job inherently puts drivers in tricky situ-
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8/1/02 to 7/31/03 Sunday, May 10th
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8/1/01 to 7/31/02 Sunday, May 10th
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Continued on page 14 April 30 - May 06, 2015
Enforcement Must Follow City’s Promise to Address Permit Fraud THE WEST SIDE’S COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER
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April 30 - May 06, 2015
TALKING POINT BY BILL BOROCK For The Council of Chelsea Block Associations and Save Chelsea The Council of Chelsea Block Associations (CCBA) and Save Chelsea want to thank you, Chelsea Now, for Eileen Stukane’s “Report Exposes Lying Landlords, Devious Developer” (news, April 23, 2015). Her article described the PowerPoint presentation given to Community Board 4’s Housing, Health & Human Services Committee by members of the Community and Residents Protection Task Force (CRP), a group established by CCBA and Save Chelsea for the purpose of stopping the proliferation of landlords and developers who buy buildings and then empty them by harassing the tenants and/or residents. As your article reported, one tactic they use to achieve their goal is to provide false information on their construction permit applications that they submit to the Department of Buildings (DOB). They state that the buildings are unoccupied and/ or have no rent regulated residents/tenants living in the building. As a consequence, by lying they get the permits, and they avoid providing the residents/tenants the mandated Tenant Protection Plans and other safety requirements they are supposed to provide to those living there during construction. On April 23, we sent a letter to the Department of Buildings Commissioner, Rick D. Chandler with your Chelsea Now article. The purpose of our letter related to the DOB’s 2015 Build Safe/Live Safe Conference being held on April 27. We suggested to Commissioner Chandler that the DOB was having a captive audience of developers and landlords at the conference and that they had the opportunity to give the conference attendees the message that the DOB will not tolerate the submissions of false applications for construction permits and that the Tenant Protection Plans must be submitted and followed for all tenants in the building, those rent regulated and those not rent regulated. We also reminded the Commissioner about the words in the DOB’s Mission Statement: “In all our activities our focus is on safety, service and integrity.” The response to our letter follows: “Thank you for your letter to the Commissioner. We appreciate your proactive approach and your very substantive and helpful suggestions. Additionally, we would like to commend you for organizing the task force that will address the very important quality of life issues for the
An image from the CRP’s April 16 presentation to CB4’s Housing, Health & Human Services Committee.
residents of your communities. I was asked by my supervisor Patrick Wehle to kindly inform you that the Department of Buildings will in-fact address and remind industry stakeholders and all other engaged parties at our conference on Monday; that the department holds zero-tolerance policy as it relates to the submission of false and/ or fraudulent construction permits. Again thank you for reaching out and we look forward to having a constructive and productive relationship.” The DOB’s response was sent/signed by John Waldman from the DOB’s Intergovernmental and Community Affairs office and the supervisor he refers to, Patrick Wehle, is the Assistant Commissioner of the DOB’s Office of External Affairs. The Council of Chelsea Block Associations and Save Chelsea want to point out that we appreciate the positive DOB response to our letter. However, at the same time, it is extremely important to note that telling the appropriate players what is required and what is not acceptable is only one step in the right direction. What is really needed is enforcement of the rules and regulations when not followed. The DOB response mentions a zero tolerance policy. This statement needs to be translated into action. Lack of enforcement has been a problem for far too many years. The unfortunate resulting consequence has been that bad developers and landlords have bought buildings, not only in our Chelsea community, but all over the city. By lying on their paperwork and by illegal harassment
activities, they have forced both unregulated and rent regulated tenants out of their apartments. The tenants have suffered and our city has lost thousands and thousands of affordable housing units. Other agencies also have a role to play. For example, the New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) must exert their oversight to prevent the use of construction to harass rent regulated residents. Prior DHCR review and approval is required for “alteration or demolition” before submitting a DOB application if any regulated apartments are in the building. Now is the time for the DOB to do what is needed. We don’t need slaps on the wrists like the small fines that the landlords/ developers get and consider the cost of doing business. We need meaningful enforcement, action and substantial penalties. We don’t need any more gas explosions caused by illegal work activity involving people who were already arrested for bribing the DOB and who worked on the buildings on Second Ave. that had DOB forms that falsely stated that the buildings were unoccupied and which tragically blew up with loss of life, injuries and people’s homes being destroyed. In memory of the two young men who died, and in honor of the others who were affected on Second Ave. and the countless other thousands affected all over our city by bad landlord/developers, we say enough is enough. Existing safety laws must be enforced. It’s time to get it right. .com
POLICE BLOTTER PERIODICAL ARSON Police say they caught Martin Stengel, 30, in the act of igniting a newspaper container in front of 255 W. 14th St. The San Francisco resident was arrested at about 1:30 a.m. on Sun., April 26 and charged with misdemeanor arson. His motives remain unclear. A Chelsea Now examination of the scene two days later found a partially melted Village Voice dispenser there with no other publications represented in the vicinity.
CRAZY TRAFFIC The driver of a 2009 Toyota Camry got his car jumped near the intersection of W. 34th St. and 10th Ave. in the early morning hours of Sat., April 25. The 58-year-old motorist was moving along when Chelsea resident Onur Demirek, 32, allegedly dashed into traffic and leapt onto the car causing damage to the windshield at about 3 a.m. Police say that Demirek was acting “erratically” at that time and continued doing so once they attempted to arrest him. He
was charged with criminal mischief, a misdemeanor, before being taken to Bellevue Hospital.
WEED SMOKER THROWN IN THE JOINT Relaxed police attitudes towards marijuana possession did not spare a teenager from arrest for smoking a joint in front of 408 W. 15th St. Police say Benjamin Schwartz, 19, was toking away just before 1 p.m. on Fri., April 24 as he stood on the sidewalk with the lit marijuana cigarette in his left hand. The one-man party subsequently concluded. The Upper East Side resident was arrested and charged with criminal possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor. A search of Schwartz’s possessions reportedly scored another stash of ganja.
$140 FOR OLD NEWS A discounted price for an iPad tempted a 20-year-old woman to give $140 to a stranger near the north west corner of W. 17th St. and Eighth
Ave. on Thurs., April 23. Police say the victim handed over the cash after the unknown perpetrator offered to sell the Apple tablet computer for $500. The woman discovered she’d been swindled when she opened the box at 3:30 p.m. and found all that she had purchased were old pieces of newspaper. There was no description in a police report of the suspect, who remains at large.
FORGED NYPD PARKING POWER A traffic cop reportedly knew a fake NYPD parking permit when he saw one in front of 32 W. 32nd St. on Sat., April 25. The astute parking enforcer noticed the forged document on the dashboard of a vehicle parked there at about 7:30 p.m. Rodion Shapovalov, 34, was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument, a felony. A police report did not state the model of the automobile nor Shapovalov’s alleged relationship to it.
WE’VE GONE WEEKLY!
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: 212-741-8211. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-7418210. 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 May 27.
THE 13th PRECINCT Located at 230 E. 21st St. (btw. 2nd & 3rd Aves.). Deputy Inspector: David Ehrenberg. Call 212-4777411. Community Affairs: 212477-7427. Crime Prevention: 212477-7427. Domestic Violence: 212-477-3863. Youth Officer: 212477-7411. Auxiliary Coordinator: 212-477-4380. Detective Squad: 212-477-7444. The Community Council meets on the third Tues. of the month, 6:30 p.m. The next meeting is on May 19.
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April 30 - May 06, 2015
Rhymes With Crazy
I Was a Slide Show Victim BY LENORE SKENAZY A high school friend I hadn’t seen in years was passing through New York. We had just a few precious hours to catch up, so we wandered around Central Park, exulting in its blossom overdrive, then sat on a sun-warmed rock to chat. Of course I wanted to see a picture of her kids. Or two pictures. Max? Three. But thanks to that bottomless photo album that also sends texts and makes calls, I saw them all: the kids in their play, the kids at the holidays, the kids with their friends, the kids, the kids, the blurry-but-still-apparently-worth-a-look kids! And then the husband! And the great uncle! And the husband’s brother’s wife’s mother who is sick. Or fine. Or something — really, I barely know the husband, now I’m high up out on a limb of the family tree and I can hear it cracking under the weight of my not-caring. Helllllp! Free fall! Can I really be the only person struggling to utter another, “Oh! Nice!” while plunging into photo-induced catatonia? That is the ques-
tion I asked everyone I could — that is, everyone not so absorbed in their cellphones that they could actually look up to answer me. “Technology has made it impossible to run away from slide shows,” is how Laura Srebnik, a Brooklyn-based education consultant, summed it up. “Back in the day, when someone invited you, you could say no. Or if you went, they had snacks.” Now? Neither. “It’s not that the pictures are boring,” she adds. “I kind of like looking at them. It’s when it’s like stop-motion animation: ‘Here we are, picking up a shell. Here we are, picking up another shell.’ You see 20 of practically the same image and you’re wondering, ‘Couldn’t you skip that one?’ and they’re saying, ‘I’m just getting to the good one!’” The key is the word “one,” says Marla Muni, a market researcher in Rockland County.
r o f g n i ox
“Some of the pictures don’t come out well, and they’re never organized and people start flipping through.” Meantime, you’re politely waiting or muttering some kind of pleasantry as the photos fly past. That’s why Muni’s idea of good smartphone etiquette is to have handy one single, clear photo of your children at whatever big event they just had. “So if you ask somebody, ‘Show me the picture from the prom!’ there it is” — un-blurry and, with any luck, including the whole head. After that? Time to put the device away and resume conversing. Queens-based new-media maven Dawn Siff talks about attending her Dallas high school reunion recently. “You would look around the room at any given point, and half the people were looking down at the phones, frantically scrolling through pictures to find the exact photo they wanted to show people,” she says. “So they’re seeing this person they haven’t seen in years — and immediately ignoring them to cue up the perfect picture.” It made Dawn pine for an earlier era, when people would extract a photo or two from their wallets and apologize
because the front-tooth-missing tot in the picture was actually now engaged to be married. Susan Avery, a college counselor at Harvest Collegiate High School in Manhattan, was the only gal I could find who both defended showing an album’s worth of photos to friends, and insisted she liked seeing just as many. “I’m the first one looking at those pictures,” she says. She relishes them for the same reason she relished her first profession, journalism: “I love people’s backstories.” That’s certainly a nice way to frame what we are seeing when folks start scrolling through: “Oh, here’s a pair of shoes I was thinking of buying. Here’s our vacation — well, the hotel room, anyway. It was in Antigua. No — Alabama. And here’s a cool bird from my bird feeder. Its wings are flapping so you can’t really see it. And here’s my daughter. And my daughter. And my daughter again, but two seconds later — they change so fast at that age!” As do many of us viewers — from complimentary to comatose. Knowing this, you have your choice of what to edit: Your photos, or your friends. Choose wisely. Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and founder of the book and blog FreeRange Kids (freerangekids.com).
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April 30 - May 06, 2015
Art Hovers Just Above the City on
Photographs © Timothy Schenck 2015 | Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art
Continued from page 3 work that appears in that particular section of the show. This makes for an incredibly extensive but well-structured, and therefore manageable, survey of the many different ideas, beliefs, and passions that have preoccupied American artists during the past 115 years. For those well familiar with the Museum’s collection, “America is Hard to See” holds many surprising treats. Artists rarely featured and works that have never been exhibited before are seamlessly merged with beloved icons. On the eighth floor, for example, the impact of the Industrial Revolution and urban innovation loom large. Here, one of the themes explored is titled “Machine as Ornament” and various depictions of the Chrysler Building help to illustrate an era when machines and technological advances were viewed with romantic enthusiasm. Floors seven
April 30 - May 06, 2015
n a Continuously Morphing Cloud
and six present works from the mid20th century, while five, the building’s largest and column-free space, covers the late 1960s to the present. Throughout the different floors, it is a pleasure to follow the detailed curation of the installation. There are plenty of witty pairings to be found, such as George Tooker’s “The Subway” from 1950 and Edward Hopper’s “Early Sunday Morning” from 1930. Though different in style and aesthetic, both paintings fit thematically, as well as compositionally. Both of these compositions are rooted in strong vertical lines that, not unlike prison bars, succeed in stressing an overall sense of isolation. Some chapters thrive thematically but feel somewhat cramped. One entitled “Scotch Tape,” for example, features artists, who worked with non-traditional materials. Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, Lee Bontecou and Jay DeFeo, are among those presented here. However, these works rank among .com
the most complex and significant in the Museum’s collection and finding them so closely installed to each other seems like overkill. In fact, they begin to cancel each other out. In contrast to the old Marcel Breuer building, which to me personally always felt like entering dark catacombs, the new galleries couldn’t feel lighter. Each floor features large windows and the eighth floor has some of the best skylights in town (including an elaborate shading system). Meanwhile, spaces are simple and to the point; they are functional and ready to vanish behind the works of art they are supposed to feature. The ceiling shows an elaborate grid of tracks, from which movable hanging walls can be configured freely. It is clear that Piano’s galleries are supposed to move for, and in the name of, art. It is a nice surprise, because too often museum architecture seems to defy its main purpose: to showcase the art housed inside. Other much-welcomed features include a theater-performance space on the third floor, something the Whitney has lacked thus far. On May 16, a major documentary on the legendary Eva
Hesse will premiere here in the context of a private event. The fact that the new theater also features a window with a scenic view of the Hudson River makes it especially enticing. Here, Piano, who might have taken inspiration from Jazz at Lincoln Center at the Time Warner Center, whose characteristic feature is a monumental view of Central Park, has made sure that the Whitney now owns one of the most sought after event spaces in the city — for their own purposes and luxurious private functions. Overall, the Whitney seems to strive for a new sense of openness that goes with its new youthful location. This is reflected in its fresh contemplation of its permanent collection, as well as in the architecture, which fuses art and cityscapes throughout. Terraces enable visitors to leave the museum temporarily to rest and soak in the stunning textures of the neighborhood. In addition, higher floors also allow for views into offices and storage rooms. There is something democratic about this transparency. The new version of the Whitney is no longer a dark temple for art, but rather a continuously morphing cloud, on which art hovers just above
the city. It remains a wonderful space to view modern art, but for the first time, the Whitney is a fantastic museum to view contemporary work. This will certainly aid the reputation of the Whitney Biennial (spring 2017) and assure interest of a younger generation of artists. Looking at the advance exhibition schedule, it becomes clear that there will be room for both prominent names, such as Frank Stella, whose retrospective will run from Oct. 30–Feb. 7, 2016, as well as the emerging ones, including Jared Madere, Rachel Rose and Sophia Al-Maria. There remains plenty to discover no doubt. I personally look forward to returning one evening in the near future, specifically to visit Edward Hopper’s “Railroad Sunset.” This wellknown masterpiece can be found on the seventh floor, installed right across a major window facing the Hudson. It promises to be an epic battle of the city’s two most stunning sunsets. The Whitney Museum of American Art is located at 99 Gansevoort St. (btw. 10th Ave. & Washington St.). Call 212570-3600 or visit whitney.org. April 30 - May 06, 2015
Advocates Focused on Vision Zero Initiatives Continued from page 7 ations. The bill remains before the council’s Transportation Committee with no hearing yet scheduled, according to the council’s website. Industry opposition has also stalled an effort in the state legislature to require large trucks to install metal guards, which would prevent pedestrians from falling under a striking vehicle, according to State Senator Brad Hoylman. In a telephone interview, he noted that another bill would require that taxi passengers wear a seat belt or else pay a fine. About 60 percent of taxi riders currently do not use safety belts, resulting in about a dozen injuries each day throughout the state, according to data compiled by NYU Langone Medical Center, which helped inspire the bill. The idea reiterates a common theme to Vision Zero. Ordinary New Yorkers must step out of the “safety cocoon” and recognize the role of small actions in furthering higher goals, according to Hoylman. “It always struck me that taxi customers have this false sense of security that we need to disabuse them of,” he said.
Photo by Zach Williams
MTA drivers want an exception to a law passed last year which makes it a misdemeanor to injure or kill a pedestrian who has the right of way in crosswalks, such as this one at W. 41st St. and Eighth Ave.
Both bills remain in committee for the time being. At the city level though, a pilot program will install side guards on city trucks. Several years will pass before the entire 4,700-vehicle fleet fully adopts them, according to Johnson. In the coming weeks however, the council will decide if private operators should adopt them as well, he added. “The continued deaths of cyclists and pedestrians under the carriages of trucks
speaks to the importance of a simple design change that can save lives,” he said in the statement. Meanwhile, a fight is also brewing between the city and Transportation Alternatives, a local street safety advocacy group, about whether enough municipal funding will go to Vision Zero initiatives through the city’s upcoming 2016 budget, preliminary 10-year capital plan and current DOT commitments. The
group staged a lobby day at City Hall on April 13 to convince city councilmembers to back increased funding for street improvements. Plans to complete 50 “safety-oriented operational street projects” in 2016 are less than the 60 projects completed by the DOT in 2014, Transportation Alternatives notes in policy recommendations available on their website (transalt. org). At the proposed rate of reconstructing 35 lane-miles per year of the city’s most dangerous arterial streets, Vision Zero would take a century to realize, according to the group’s analysis of the preliminary capital plan. It’s not only a question of safety but also promoting a new identity for the city, which still features a streetscape from the previous era when automobiles dominated the approach of city planners, according to Transportation Alternatives. “In New York, one of the most pedestrian-rich cities in the country, the arterial streets that crisscross a majority of neighborhoods look as automobile-centric as the highways of Houston, Phoenix or Atlanta, and the results are dangerous for everyone,” states the analysis.
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Notes From the Pre-K Front Lines
Photo by Scott Stiffler
It was a long road to PS11, for Chelsea parent Josh Rogers.
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 four-yearold son would be in class somewhere that day were slim to none. Slim was actually overly generous. “You can’t do that,” PS11’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, PS33, 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. .com
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 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, were either zoned for PS33 — we’re one block out of the zone — or had a sibling in PS11, which only has 18 spots. Our number there was in the low 20s so had every accepted child declined to enroll, we were still unlikely to get a seat. The story was more pronounced further Downtown, where some schools actually lost pre-K seats because of kindergarten overcrowding. Many of the fullday seats available in Lower Manhattan went to those with siblings already in the school, who have the highest priority. An analysis by WNYC’s SchoolBook last year found that in parts of Lower Manhattan, there were only six seats for every 100 4-year-olds.
Chinatown was the one exception where there were more seats than 4-yearolds, so principals and others did outreach across the city. I was getting weekly calls from the city about pre-K programs. Some were recorded, including one from de Blasio, but others were live people. With a year to plan this year, the Department of Education (DOE) was able to find rooms even in Lower Manhattan. The new Peck Slip School, has made 12 rooms available, two as part of the school and 10 in a separate pre-K center, which will be able to stay only a few years as the school fills out. The city is also opening a center in its Tweed headquarters on Chambers St., and in a few existing private nursery schools Downtown. I wonder if they will all fill up. The application deadline was April 24, but programs with space will still be taking students. Josh Wallack, the DOE’s chief strategy officer, told me this week, that he thinks the final number this year will be over the 70,000 goal, but “the main thing is to make high-quality pre-K available to everyone who wants it.” Many of the parents I’ve talked to about pre-K, would have loved to have had their child enrolled, but only if they expect their child to stay for kindergarten. Otherwise, it would’ve meant switching schools twice in two years. Wendy Chapman, a parent leader at Tribeca’s PS150, said the small school community goes through an annual angst with pre-K parents upset to be waitlisted for kindergarten under a fresh application process. “We have had a crisis every year and there’s at least one family that takes it very personally and ends up leaving our school because they are so angry,” she said at a Downtown school meeting last week. “Try and tell a four-year-old you can’t stay….
“ ‘Just hang on ‘til August, it always works out,’ ” she’s tried to tell disappointed parents, often to no avail. City officials at the meeting of Assemblymember Sheldon Silver’s School Overcrowding Task Force said they would take a new look at the priorities, but they are reluctant to put families who lose the pre-K “lottery” at a disadvantage the next year. Another concern is that some of 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 PS340 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. Chelsea resident Josh Rogers is the editor of our sister publication, Downtown Express.
April 30 - May 06, 2015
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Rain or Shine, Group Protests War Every Tuesday Continued from page 4 two civilians in a drone strike perfectly summarizes Anne Finkelstein’s reason for participating in the protest. Although she doesn’t make it to many protests anymore, this longtime graphic designer updates their weekly newsletter. “A lot of people consider the war over, but every week something new comes to light — for example, the news last week about the drone strikes,” said Finkelstein. “Every week, this group finds something to say about what’s going on that most people don’t know about.” Finkelstein pointed to founding member Chuck Zlatkin as someone that has been with the event since the beginning, and maintains his commitment, despite having since relocated to Washington, DC. “The first week in May marks 10 years, and we haven’t missed a week,” said Zlatkin. “Some people initially understood why we were out there in the beginning, and some were hostile to us. In time, people have seen that we serve as a beacon for them. We can’t force anyone to change, but we can be there and available for people to discuss the issues. They respect us for being out there and persistent, and over time they examine their own attitudes about the war.” Among those who stop by are young people who are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, and those who return from tours of duty; relatives of soldiers, visitors from other countries — and their neighbors, who are glad that the group has not given up. “A lot of people share these concerns, but there aren’t a lot that have the level of commitment to stand on the street in all kinds of weather,” said Finklestein, noting that the group was even out during Hurricane Sandy. “I think it’s extremely important that they continue, because although the situation changes, the basic underlying point remains, which is that our tax money is being used to kill people without our explicitly agreeing to it.” When the group began the protest, numbers were greater, but as years passed, fewer people attended — sometimes 20, sometimes just two. But hostility toward protestors has declined, said Zlatkin, with more people stopping by to ask them about the issues. .com
Photo by Bob Martin
WE’VE GONE WEEKLY
Cold doesn’t stop them: protesters at Eighth Ave. & 24th St. in January, 2014.
Having a weekly newsletter, which lists the numbers killed and injured from fighting, American dollars spent, plus a new article tackling different issues around the war, has helped the group be “accountable and transparent,” as Zlatkin said. “For each of us, there is a different reason to why we keep coming back,” said Zlatkin. “Maybe in this instant society, to be committed to something that takes a long period of time is a reward in itself.” “For me, it’s the ongoing struggle to get people to see the connections that drive the economic machinery in this world, the connections between that and war,” said Rodriguez. “I’m not a saint or a martyr, I’m just a human being doing what he can to make a change.” Their goal, said Martin, is to add their local voice to the continuing picture that our leaders aren’t getting right, saying that these conflicts were just part of the continuing stream of messes that the military gets into. Martin stressed that he did not place any fault on those serving in the military. “At this point it’s a question of people being engaged and involved in what impacts us, and not giving up and feeling their voice is meaningless,” said Zlatkin. “Citizen action is what this nation is about, and what’s done in our name affects what we do. You can stand with us, with something else, but if you don’t take a stand, then you are letting people make decisions about your lives that are not connected at all with you and your community.” Join Chelsea Stands Up Against the War every Tuesday from 6–7 p.m. at the corner of Eighth Ave. and W. 24th St.
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ARTS&ENTERTAINMENT ‘Vengeance” is Violent, Absurdist Fun Vampire tale weak at dawn, strong at dusk THEATER SIX ROUNDS OF VENGEANCE Written by Qui Nguyen Directed by Robert Ross Parker A Vampire Cowboys Production At the New Ohio Theatre 154 Christopher St. (btw. Washington & Greenwich Sts.) Through May 16, Wed.–Sun. at 8 p.m. For tickets ($18) and info: newohiotheatre.org Artist info: vampirecowboys.com BY SEAN EGAN “Six Rounds of Vengeance,” the latest offering from “geek theater” company Vampire Cowboys, is set in “Lost Vegas” — a post-apocalyptic spin on the city of sin. The stage is set with the remnants of once lively and bustling attractions and businesses abandoned and falling into disrepair, surrounded by rough-hewn wooden fences. Behind this, a video projector periodically displays the vast desert surrounding the city — and the whole stage is framed by gaudy, oversized vanity lights, creating a playful atmosphere. This rendering of the city serves as something of an apt visual metaphor for the play itself. “Six Rounds of Vengeance” provides audiences a fun diversion tinged with a sense of darkness, and an expansive sandbox for its actors to play in — but, unfortunately, also is undeniably rough around the edges. The story concerns Malcolm, a former cop, who joins forces with a duo of bounty hunters: the feisty, self-proclaimed “badass” Jess and her burly, hulking sidekick, Lucky. His goal? To avenge the fate of his husband Nathaniel by murdering Queen Mad — a leader amongst the vampires (called “longtooths” here) that have ravaged the
April 30 - May 06, 2015
Photo by Theresa Squire
Queen Mad (Nicky Schmidlein) and Jess December (Jamie Dunn) face off in one of the titular rounds of vengeance.
country. Yes, true to their name, Vampire Cowboys have produced a vampire revenge western in “Six Rounds.” The most obvious point of reference for this (which the nerdy audience Vampire Cowboys hopes to court are sure to be familiar with) is the collaborative work of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. It resembles the modern exploitation flick-style they popularized with “Grindhouse,” (which is particularly echoed in the play’s campy action and the hysterical Blaxploitation-parody cell phone PSA that runs before the show), and works from a similar plot and setting found in “From Dusk Till Dawn.” Fans of these films are sure to get a kick out of the similar aesthetic the company offers, and they get a lot of comic mileage from the set-up. Unfortunately, with such well-known forbearers, whenever Qui Nguyen’s script falters, it comes across as a pale imitation of those artists’ distinctive sensibilities. This is most notable in the front half of the play, which is burdened with excessive exposition, and pop culture
references and zippy quips that should read as effortless, but come across as laborious. Thankfully though, Nguyen seems eager, and his script is bursting with ideas. It doesn’t ever linger too long on things that aren’t working — zooming between flashbacks, video clips, action scenes, and even a surprise musical number to keep the momentum going. And in the back half, after we’ve invested time with the characters, their titular vengeance comes out in full swing. Everything snaps into place here, and the play becomes the bloody and funny romp it aims to be. The acting is uniformly great. Nicky Schmidlein has an infectious, manic energy as the psychopathic serial killer vampire, Queen Mad, camping things up to dark perfection. With their adorable chemistry Sheldon Best and John Hoche, respectively, bring Malcolm and Nathaniel’s relationship to life, which anchors the best stretches of the show with its tragic trajectory. Here, when the show pushes past its layers of irony to get to the heart of the situation, the
play becomes, against all odds, quite melancholy and touching. This makes the Jess/Lucky pairing work less well by comparison though, as Jamie Dunn and Tom Myers operate better playing them as an odd-couple comic creation, and can never quite wring the pathos out of their relationship that the show wants to. But when “Six Rounds” is firing on all cylinders — as it does in a climactic fight sequence, bringing its emotional center to the fore, and placing it in the context of a comic and intense battle rendered in slow motion — it’s highly entertaining and strangely moving. Plus, it’s hard to argue with the play’s cracked logic when it leads the uncomplicated pleasures of sword-wielding BDSM vampires, profane and demented Claymation tumbleweeds and a giant, rampaging monster puppet. When staring these things down, it’s easy to forget all the production’s flaws, and simply be swept away by the violent, absurdist humor, and be glad that something this proudly weird and, yes, geeky made it to the stage. .com
The Positive Power of Games
Festival rewards innovation, generates empathy, preps for zombie outbreak BY CHARLES BATTERSBY Videogames are sometimes viewed as mindless time-wasters and murder simulators — but games have been a narrative art form for decades. Modern game designers use their work to address social responsibility, give voice to isolated cultures, and generate empathy. Founded in 2004, the Games For Change Festival focuses on this sort of game and the people who make them. Its most recent incarnation, held last week as part of the Tribeca Film Festival, featured games from around the world that are intended to showcase the positive power of games. Held primarily at the NUY Skirball Center, this year’s festival ran for five days, and included panels given by teams of game designers and journalists. A highlight of the panels was a talk about the game development tool Twine. It is a free program that can be used to create text-based games, a form of interactive storytelling similar to “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. It is particularly effective at letting one-person development teams create short but powerful empathy games based on personal experiences. The festival included a series of 10-minute “minitalks” that addressed highly specialized topics like LGBT issues in games, how to market niche products, and creating games that explore health care and mental health. Attendees could also visit the NYU Skirball Center near Washington Square Park to get hands-on experience with over a dozen games selected by the festival for their social impact, and to celebrate game development communities in smaller nations. Among the playable games was “Never Alone.” Developed by Upper
One Games, the first Native Americanowned video game company, it won the festival’s Game of the Year Award. Based on several Native Alaskan folk tales, an Iñupiat girl goes on an adventure to save her village from an eternal blizzard, accompanied by a helpful arctic fox. Players can switch between the girl and the fox, and there is an option to have two players cooperate as they play, with each player controlling one character. Each character has their own special abilities, and they have to help each other solve puzzles. This forces players to cooperate, and use their heads, rather than relying on reflexes alone. In addition to playing through stories inspired by Native Alaskan culture, there is also a series of documentary videos included with the game. These “Cultural Insights” feature interviews with Iñupiat people, and are unlocked as the Player progresses through the game. “Never Alone” also won the award for Most Significant Impact. Games set during wartime are commonplace, but in “This War of Mine,” players aren’t lucky enough to be super soldiers. This game is about the civilians caught between two sides of a war. At the start of the game, the players are given a random group of civilians who have to scavenge for supplies in the bombed out ruins of their neighborhood. Food, medicine and fuel are extremely scarce, and players will often be put in morally challenging circumstances, like stealing food from other people, turning away survivors who are seeking shelter, or even killing innocent people to acquire badly-needed supplies. Aside from their physical needs, each character in the household faces emotional and psychological dangers. The goal of the game is to survive until
Photo by Gabi Porter
Dark Knight, bright future: the Games For Change Festival focuses on addressing social responsibility and giving voice to isolated cultures.
a ceasefire is declared, but the Player does not know when that will come. They, and the characters they control, must endure their hardships for a seemingly endless period. The characters can become so hopeless and despondent, they will lie in bed all day, unable to
work, and in some cases characters will commit suicide to escape their despair. It is an emotionally brutal experience, and most players can expect to be met with failure many times before
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Games Festival Champions Change Continued from page 19 actually surviving to the ceasefire. “This War of Mine” won the festival’s award for Best Gameplay. Dancing games have been around for decades. In the past they used special floor pads that sense when the Player steps on them. More recently they use motion-sensing cameras to track the Player’s movements. The game “Bounden” doesn’t require any special equipment. It is an app for mobile phones that requires nothing more than a phone and a dancing partner to play. The players each hold one side of the phone, and must twist and swing the device to move a spherical icon on the screen. The app uses the motion-sensing accelerometer built into the phone to sense the players’ movements. The icons on screen guide the two dancers in choreography created by the Dutch National Ballet, and players will end up dancing without even realizing it. “Bounden” won the festival’s award for Most Innovative. Also on the show floor was a selection of games called Gamedev.world
Photo by Gabi Porter
Aside from playing on computers and staring into screens, the festival also had a Public Arcade that encouraged people to play outdoors.
Arcade. These games were curated by Rami Ismail of indie developer Vlambeer, in cooperation with voice actress Sarah Elmaleh. They represent the development communities in countries with large non-English speaking populations.
end of each level, the hero plants an American flag and declares the zone “Liberated.” Beneath the action and humor is thoughtful message about addressing complex global political issues with brute force. Aside from playing on computers and staring into screens, the festival also had a “Public Arcade” that encouraged people to play outdoors. Among the experiences was a “Zombies Versus Superheroes” game that taught about real world disaster preparedness using the theme of a zombie outbreak. Attendees could dress in superhero costumes and were chased by actors dressed as zombies. The Games For Change Festival is an annual event. More about upcoming festivals can be found at GamesForChange.org.
A fun inclusion to Gamedev.world was Broforce, a satirical action game made by the South African developer Free Lives Games. It parodies American '80s action movies, and lets players take control of a “Bro” who blasts his way through levels full of bad guys. At the
Charles Battersby is a playwright, actor and video game journalist who has written for sites including Complex, Joystiq, Explosion, Automaton and Dusty Cartridges. Charles founded the organization Press XY, which presents panels and seminars on transgender issues in video games. Visit charlesbattersby.com. Twitter: @charlesbattersb.
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April 30 - May 06, 2015
‘The Visit’ Will Stay With You
Dark work by Kander and Ebb is Broadway’s brightest
THEATER THE VISIT
Book by Terrence McNally Music by John Kander Lyrics by Fred Ebb Based on the play by Friedrich Durrenmatt as adapted by Maurice Valency Directed by John Doyle Choreographed by Graciela Daniele 100 minutes (no intermission) Tues.-Thurs. at 7 p.m. Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed. & Sat. at 2 p.m. | Sun. at 3 p.m. At the Lyceum Theatre 149 W. 45th St. Btw. Sixth Ave. & Broadway Tickets: $29-$149,
Photo by Thom Kaine
Michelle Veintimillia, Matthew Deming, Roger Rees, Chita Rivera, Chris Newcomer and the cast of “The Visit.”
BY SCOTT STIFFLER “I heard it’s really dark,” said a patron who stood underneath the marquee for “The Visit” on Tuesday night. Sadly, the tone suggested this was not meant as a compliment. It should have been. You’d think that somebody lucky enough to be attending on the very day the show earned five Tony nominations could muster a bit more enthusiasm — if not for the buzz factor, then certainly in recognition of being among the first to see a new Kander and Ebb show, starring a living legend whose early career flourished long before Broadway was dominated by caramelized kiddie shows, jukebox junk food and dead on arrival revivals. Refreshingly adult in its themes and appeal, this morally conflicted battle of wills plays out in the bankrupt European town of Brachen, whose seemingly quaint citizens are in fact driven by greed and regret. Sober but engaging, “The Visit” has a well-marinated nasty streak that wraps itself around you like the vines that have overtaken scenic designer Scott Pask’s symbolically decaying wrought-iron train station — where .com
bright white rays that shine through broken windows cast shadows and, more often, an unforgiving harshness. Kander’s alternately celebratory and ominous carnival-tinged score, as the track record suggests, is a sublime fit with Ebb’s dark ride lyrics, which repeatedly stab at the heart of why desperate people so easily abandon their better nature. Terrence McNally’s book, full of icy exchanges, won’t allow for anything lighter than nervous laughter — and the transgressions committed in “The Visit” make the crimes of those murderous folks from “Chicago” seem like minor breaches of etiquette. Still reading? Then you’re the kind of person for whom “The Visit” is worth a stay, and maybe even a return. It’s a quite good show about very bad people, both the opportunistic townsfolk and the returning royalty over whom they fawn. That would be (Tony-deserving!) Chita Rivera’s Claire Zachanassian, who fled after a public smearing made the thought of staying intolerable. In the many years since, she’s widowed often, and quite well. Dripping in jewels and immac-
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April 30 - May 06, 2015
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Chita Rivera and the cast of “The Visit.”
Continued from page 21 ulately dressed, the once-shunned woman of Gypsy/Jewish heritage triumphantly returns with a butler, two blind eunuchs, tons of luggage and a sleek black coffin (which glides around the stage, serving as everything from soap box to transportation to the grim thing it was made for). Although every member of this well-traveled group walks with a support stick, the strong-willed lady who pays the bills has little tolerance for crutches — emotional or otherwise. A sparkling, steely-eyed Rivera even uses her cane to put the kibosh on thunderous audience applause, after a look washes over her face that rebuilds the fourth wall and commands the entire house to get back to the business at hand: settling old scores. Patience also wears thin as the townspeople serenade Zachanassian with “Out of the Darkness,” an ode that casts her as a descending angel. “She’s come back to save us,” the song assures, “the town that she loves.” Zachanassian is happy to oblige. Of .com
course, there’s a catch that requires them to turn on one of their own — dignified but threadbare shop owner Anton Schell (Roger Rees), who stole, broke and still holds the heart of the world’s richest woman. “Claire is one of us,” reasons Schell. “When I tell her how we’re suffering, she will listen.” Listen she does, but is it any use? Though they openly flirt and meet in secret at the trysting place of their youth, Schell has clearly overplayed his hand, betting on forgiveness and losing big. Even so, he strives to make an honorable choice as the clock ticks on Zachanassian’s sinister ultimatum. Literally haunted by the past (younger, ghostly versions of the former lovers hover about), this tense standoff between a revenge-seeker and a betrayer who still can’t keep their eyes off each another is what gives “The Visit” its wings. Late in the evening, an increasingly soaring score and piercingly introspective lyrics put the show on track to a place where greed is good, codependence is king and satisfaction belongs to the queen of mean.
LIK SOHO – Peter Lik Fine Art Gallery 419 West Broadway | (212) 941-6391 LUMAS 362 West Broadway | (212) 219-9497 Martin Lawrence Galleries 457 West Broadway | (212) 995-8865 Michael Ingbar Gallery 568 Broadway | (212) 334-1100 Michele Mariaud Gallery 153 Lafayette | (917) 783-5737 Mimi Ferzt 81 Greene | (212)343-9377 Morrison Hotel Gallery 124 Prince | (212)941-8770 Other Criteria 458 Broome | (646)762-0123 Recess 41 Grand | (646) 863-3765 Renee & Chaim Gross Foundation 526 La Guardia | (212) 529-4906 The Drawing Center 35 Wooster | (212)219-2166 Ward Nasse 178 Prince | (212) 925-6951 Lazzoni Furniture 26 Greene | (212) 242-0605 La Perla 434 West Broadway | (212) 219-0999
FOR MORE INFORMATION, GO TO ARTSTRUT.COM Tickets to exclusive pop-up gallery from 7-10pm at 110 Greene are available at artstrut.eventbrite.com April 30 - May 06, 2015
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