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They Hate the Bar Life, Don’t Wanna Boogie BY WINNIE McCROY As Hell’s Kitchen becomes a boomtown, local residents are saying enough is enough. Tired of the encroaching traffic, pedestrians, noise and sidewalk crowding in the corridor of Ninth Avenue between 40th and 50th Streets, members of the HK 50-51 Block Association testified before Community Board 4 (CB4) on the evening of June 3 at Roosevelt Hospital. Their message to business owners was simple: clear the sidewalks and tone down your loud music. “These sidewalks are full of pedestrians, dogs, bikes, sidewalk cafes and an unabatContinued on page 4

Panel Posits Hudson River Health BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC Environmental groups are calling for General Electric (GE) to continue its cleanup of a dangerous pollutant it dumped into the Hudson River. “Time is running out on [this] issue because GE’s about to pull up stakes and move on,” said New York State Senator Brad Hoylman. “They’ve considered their job done. I think a lot of us believe differently.” Hoylman hosted and moderated a panel discussion about the future health of the Hudson River on June 4, at the SVA Theatre (333 W. 23rd St. btw. Eighth and Ninth Continued on page 3


The West Chelsea Artists Open Studios Tour takes you to into the workspaces of over 30 artists. See page 21 for details.

Photo by Alicia Green

Last Picture Show for Alan’s Alley Video? Its move from Ninth Ave. to 25th St. was short-lived — so Alan Sklar is looking for a new Chelsea location, even as he sells off stock at deep discounts and preps to put the rest in storage. See page 2.

Chelsea Music Fest Fetes Finns, Leaves You ‘Hungary’ for More BY SEAN EGAN Since its inception in 2010, the Chelsea Music Festival (CMF) has been steadily gaining ground as must-attend event for serious music lovers. Using local landmarks such as St. Paul’s Church (315 W. 22nd St.) as performance venues, the Festival brings world-class music from around the globe to New York City. With events ranging from galas, to late night shows, to family friendly activities, there’s something for everyone. This time around however, as the Festival enters its fifth season, its focus has turned to the music and culture of Hungary and Finland. “The Chelsea Music Festival highlights a different


theme every year, a choice that is often based on composers’ anniversaries,” said Artistic Directors Ken David Masur and Melinda Lee Masur in a conversation with Chelsea Now. They note that this year, in particular, they are celebrating the 150th birthday of the influential Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. As for Hungary, the focus will be on works from a handful of masters, including Béla Bartók, Ernö Dohnányi, Zoltán Kodály, Joseph Joachim and Karl Goldmark. But why Finland and Hungary of all places? “The juxtaposition of the two cultures as well as their shared

Continued on page 18 VOLUME 07, ISSUE 18 | JUNE 11 - 17, 2015

Alan’s Alley Back on Street but Not Out of Steam

Photo by Alicia Green

Stock up, and help Alan avoid the need for a large storage unit.

BY SCOTT STIFFLER Alan’s Alley Video has outlasted the VHS format, bested Blockbuster and managed to swim against the tide of streaming services — but the latest challenge to its brick and mortar integrity has owner Alan Sklar prepping for summer by going into hibernation. “It’s bad news,” said Sklar in a June 4 email to Chelsea Now, confirming recent murmurs from those who’ve come to rely on his knack for matching wits, helping to refine tastes, and drawing on a 15,000+ collection to supply ad agencies and TV shows with hard-to-find clips. Less than a year after moving to a fifth floor space on W. 25th St. — after maintaining a storefront presence on Ninth Ave. for a quarter century — Alan’s Alley Video was informed that work on the building’s passenger elevator would begin July 1. “Our weekend and night hours would be impossible to maintain,” Sklar’s email noted, “since the freight elevator cannot accommodate our customers at those times.” Though not asked to leave, the news has forced Sklar to “immediately have a sale of our DVDs and put the balance into storage” while he looks (so far, unsuccessfully) for another retail space in Chelsea. “I feel like I can’t move to any other neighborhood because of my clientele. People don’t know what a video store is [anymore],” said Sklar — who made that comment not last week, but while recalling the determination

that led him from Ninth Ave. to his current location (see “For Video Rental, Our Alan Beats Their Algorithm,” a March 12, 2015 article on Although conditions at the 25th St. store were never ideal (management refused to allow window signs, fearing excessive foot traffic), “It was nice to be here and still see my customers,” says Sklar. “I feel at least we gave it a shot, gave the business a chance to survive. Things have gotten so intense in Chelsea,” he notes, referring to the $7,000 monthly rent for a storefront he just looked at. Meanwhile, the Ninth Ave. location he was forced to abandon still has a “For Rent” sign in its window. “They wanted $15,000,” recalls Sklar, who will keep looking for neighborhood retail space. For now, the only viable location in Chelsea is the storage locker he’ll be renting. You can help reduce the moving costs. DVDs are on sale “certainly through the next two weeks,” starting at $2. “Our friends can email or call me with lists of movies they would like to buy,” says Sklar, of the rental store whose stock is priced to own. Alan’s Alley Video: DVD & Video Store is located on the fifth floor (#5D) of 164 W. 25th St. (at Seventh Ave.). Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Fri. & Sat., 10 a.m.–10p.m. Sun., 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Send an email to, call 212-645-0999 or visit

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PCBs and Bakkan Crude Pose Hudson River Risk Continued from page 1 Aves.). PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, have plagued the Hudson for generations, said Daniel Raichel, staff attorney for the National Resources Defense Council. Between the mid-1940s to the mid1970s, Raichel explained, GE “dumped millions of pounds of PCBs directly into the Hudson River.” The manmade chemical was used in manufacturing because of its durability, and is non-flammable even at high heats, said Raichel. GE discharged the PCBs into the river and they went everywhere, he said. “Even though GE dumped PCBs into the river from plant sites way, way north of Albany…the flow of the river, which goes both ways, but mostly down, has brought PCBs to the entire New York area, including around Manhattan,” said Raichel. It is unclear what amount of PCBs the company put into the Hudson — but some estimate as much as 1.3 million pounds. The majority is sort of trapped in the 40-mile segment between

GE’s plant sites and the federal dam in Troy, he said. PCBs are easily absorbed into the human body and have been linked to cancer as well as reproductive, neurological and hormonal disorders, said Raichel. The chemical has contaminated the fish in the river, which come with advisories. It is recommended women under the age of 50 and children under the age of 15 do not eat fish from the Hudson River, he said. The 200-mile stretch of the Hudson River from Glens Falls, which is about Courtesy Office of State Senator Brad Hoylman 40 miles north of Albany, down to the Battery is a federal Superfund site Panelists at the June 4 event discussed time-sensitive efforts to save the because of the PCBs, said Raichel. It Hudson River from irreversible environmental damage. is one of the oldest and largest in the the damage done and then restore the country. Contaminated river sediment is Under the Superfund law called resource to its full health,” he said. dredged out of the Upper Hudson and GE is financially responsible for then is taken to a hazard waste plant. CERCLA, which stands for the Comprehensive Environmental Res- everything, including damages, which The US Environmental Protection ponse, Compensation and Liability have yet to be determined, he said. Agency (EPA) oversees the cleanup In 2009, GE began a huge dredging and what has been done so far has gone Act, if you pollute a resource, you are responsible for cleaning that resource operation to get rid of the PCBs in the well, Raichel noted. upper Hudson, which takes hundreds up, explained Raichel. “The clean up as planned by EPA “CERCLA not only makes polluters of people, very sophisticated machinery is scheduled to finish this summer,” clean up the resource, it also requiresT:8.75”and an expensive cleanup infrastructhat they compensate the public for ture, said Raichel. Continued on page 17

CON EDISON IS COMMITTED TO I M P R O V I N G G A S S A F E T Y. Nothing is more important than your safety. So at Con Edison, we’re always improving our gas safety program: • We increased our gas main patrols from once a year to 13 times a year. • We’re replacing at least 65 miles of gas mains a year through 2016. • We’re coordinating our replacement of leak-prone gas pipes with the City of New York’s replacement of water and sewer system pipes. • We created an online gas map ( that shows how we repair and monitor gas leaks. But even with all those improvements, we still need your help to be successful. So if you think you smell gas, please act fast. Don’t assume a neighbor will call 911 or 1-800-75-CONED (26633). Leave the area immediately and make the call yourself. You can even do it anonymously, if you like. The more informed you are, the safer you’ll be. For more gas safety information, visit


June 11 - 17, 2015


Congestion in Heart of Hell’s Kitchen Burns Residents

Photos by Alicia Green

Residents say Scallywag’s is a repeat offender when it comes to sidewalk advertisements and sandwich boards.

Continued from page 1 ed growth of sandwich boards, signs and whiskey barrels,” said 40-year Hell’s Kitchen resident Sherri Hotes. “Sidewalks are for pedestrian travel, not for billboard ads.” Hotes explained that the group had spoken to business owners, asking them to move A-frame sandwich boards out of the thoroughfare. They tried unsuccessfully to report the situation to 311, but were stymied when the non-emergency hotline refused to accept photo evidence — and their efforts to have the Department of Sanitation address the issue came to naught. “We are asking the community board to get an officer from the city to talk to

us, and tell us why they are not dealing with this problem,” said Hotes. Bob Minor, head of HK 50-51, asked board members to take into consideration Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” program to end traffic-related deaths on city streets, adding, “These signs are forcing pedestrians out into the streets. We understand that they can be three feet from the building and three additional feet in length. That’s six feet of sidewalk space. At least that’s what Sanitation believes are the rules.” When a representative from Councilmember Corey Johnson’s office let residents know that these sidewalk advertisements and sandwich boards were not permitted, Minor continued, “In that case, we’d like to ask CB4 to send a letter to the commissioner of Sanitation

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Delivery bikes, motorized and otherwise, are proving to be a problem for pedestrians along Ninth Ave.

and ask what exactly the law is, and how we can enforce it.” Andrew Goldstein, a 24-year resident of Hell’s Kitchen, echoes this sentiment, saying, “Bob and Holly, they are not supposed to have these signs at all.” He brought up a repeat offender, Scallywag’s (508 Ninth Ave. btw. 38th & 39th Sts.), as well as the restaurant Annabel (809 Ninth Ave. btw. 53rd & 54th Sts.). The manager of Scallywag’s did not care to comment on the matter. “I live on Ninth Avenue between 53rd and 54th, and we have some tough, loud bars and restaurants around,” said Goldstein. “Annabel is far from the worst operator, but they’ve got sidewalk tables, and they leave their windows and doors open all day and night. It’s one thing for them to not follow the stipulations, but quite another for them to be rewarded for it with a sidewalk cafe.” This news was discussed at length by CB4 members, who were concerned that Annabel had jumped the gun on their request to have a sidewalk cafe by installing the chairs and tables before being granted permission. The board rethought their letter to the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), agreeing that Annabel management had two days to submit the new drawings the DCA requires for their outdoor cafe. The business provided the necessary paperwork the following day. “We are just trying to see what the neighborhood wants. People are looking for outdoor seating, and we’re trying

to follow the rules and see how we can meet the demand for this seating while making everyone in the neighborhood happy,” said Annabel Assistant Manager Dan Kleinmann. A third HK 50-51 member, Holly Raner, spoke against bikes, motorized and otherwise, that block sidewalks, and suggested that Manhattan be treated differently from other areas regarding legislating bicycle use. “We want to know if there’s limits on how many bikes a delivery place can have, because there’s like forty to eightysix bikes chained along this stretch of Ninth Avenue,” said Raner. “We want legislation that makes them keep them in bike corrals.” Raner also testified about noise complaints at Annabel, saying, “open doors and windows must be closed. We get about 600 emails a month about this at the Block Association.” “It is so noisy that if there is any amplified sound you need to keep your windows closed — it’s the rule,” said Raner. “We’d like to see something done on a more proactive basis. There seems to be no consequences for these bad actions.” General quality of life disturbances also brought community member Raoul Lavios to speak at the public session of CB4’s June 3 full board meeting. A resident of the Hudson hotel (356 W. 58th St. btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.), he spoke

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BY LINCOLN ANDERSON Pentathletes will be competing in Hudson River Park on Sat., June 13. But they won’t be doing the long jump or throwing the discus and javelin (admittedly, just a tad dangerous in the crowded waterfront park). Rather, they will be clashing in dodgeball, beach volleyball, kayaking, flag football and a “take no prisoners” obstacle course. Also, the park pentathletes will be competing, not as individuals, but in 10-person teams. A bit like the Olympics, where there are multiple venues, the action at the first annual Hudson River Park Games will be based mainly in Tribeca at Piers 26 and 25, but Pier 40 will also see some action. Presented by Friends of Hudson River Park, the park’s main private fundraising group, the games will go on, rain or shine, from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Participants will range from elite athletes to weekend warriors. In a showdown between the 1 percent and the 99 percent, teams from Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, among others, will go up against ones from community groups, like Manhattan Youth, in reportedly “competitive but friendly” contests. No word yet on whether

Occupy Wall Street will field a squad. There will also be a 5K “Fun Run/ Walk” for adults and kids, sports clinics, sunrise yoga and — as if normal yoga wasn’t difficult enough — stand-up paddleboard yoga. At the Games Village on Pier 26, there will be food booths, live entertainment, beer (no, not a competitive event) and an expo showcasing of the latest outdoor gear. Pier 26 will also be the venue for the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies. The 5-mile-long waterfront park receives no public funding for its operations, and the games are intended to be, in addition to good fun, a major fundraising event. Registration will be open right up to the day of the Games for business teams, community groups and individuals to sign up for the events, including the pentathlon. Gregory Boroff, executive director of Friends of Hudson River Park, said participants are “super-excited” for the Games to begin. “We wanted to create a fundraising event that, like the park itself, had something for everyone and was both incredibly engaging and lots of fun,” Boroff said. “The Games do just that, and what’s been especially great about this inaugural year, is that we’re hearing from both the teams registering for the pentathlon and people signing up for the individual events, that they’re super-excited to have a chance to help support this neighborhood oasis that brings such direct benefit to their lives, businesses and homes.” Andrew Olinick, who lives in Greenwich Village, is getting psyched to dive in the sand for spikes in beach volleyball and to kayak up a storm in the pentathlon. “My wife and I love living in the Village,” he said. “It’s where we’ve always wanted to be. We love being able to raise our family here, so close to Hudson River Park and all that this area has to offer. We’re so excited the park is offering an event our whole family can enjoy, as well as a simple way for people to support this indispensable resource that’s right in our backyard.” For information on registration and fees for the Hudson River Park Games and for details, visit .com

CB4 Puts Shady Architects on Notice BY WINNIE McCROY The June 3 Community Board 4 (CB4) monthly full board meeting at Roosevelt Hospital ended on a hopeful note, when board member Joe Restuccia put into motion the first steps of a plan to battle against architects and owners who illegally harass tenants out of their homes, with the unwitting help of the Department of Buildings (DOB). The issue in question was Agenda Item 21, a letter to elected officials regarding the enforcement of tenant protection plans during the construction of occupied buildings. On its face it seems innocuous — but the real meat of the matter has to do with architects who are reporting that buildings are vacant, then harassing remaining tenants into leaving. “This is a letter about how architects are falsifying information on DOB forms,” said Restuccia. “Because if a building is listed as vacant, then no tenant protection plan is needed. But these architects are trying to game the system in order to get tenants harassed or bought out of the building.”

Photo by Winnie McCroy

His eyes may be closed in this shot from CB4’s June full board meeting, but Joe Restuccia is open to Agenda Item 21 — a letter to local elected regarding tenant protection during the construction of occupied buildings.

Restuccia continued by noting, “Four or five owners have honed this method to a science to empty out rent-regulated buildings,” in what he described as an intentional, systemic way.

Board members were affronted, with several seeking to involve the New York Police Department in the matter or to level claims at the DOB. But Restuccia told them this would not be possible. “You can’t make

claims against them [the DOB] about false filings just because the certifications are false,” he said. Instead, Restuccia recommended several friendly amendments to this letter, among them a toning down of the language, and a removal of CB4’s demand that the requested information be imparted in a specific manner. He also recommended that these architects lose self-certification privileges, which allows them to declare that a building is vacant to begin with. “They should lose their licenses,” said member John Sharp. “But the Department of Buildings doesn’t revoke licenses,” said Restuccia. “This is what they can do here.” According to Restuccia, when an architect loses self-certification privileges, not only do they have to pay for examinations of their properties, but their esteem plummets among their professional peers. These deterrents would be sufficiently daunting, he said. Chelsea Now will keep readers updated on this situation as it continues to unfold.

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June 11 - 17, 2015

TALKING POINT BY GARY ROTH With the emergence of e-hail apps like Uber and the arrival of green boro taxis, the past three years have been a time of historic change for New York City’s taxi industry. The new competitors to New York’s iconic yellow cabs have put pressure on the medallion system, to the loud protest of medallion owners. The City of New York must decide whether to move forward to embrace these changes or attempt to prop up an aging stagnant system. The medallion system was set up in the Great Depression to both stabilize driver’s wages and reduce traffic. It worked well for many years, but recently became laden with unintended consequences that work counter to the public good. The initial concept of the medallion as a protection for the working man morphed into an investment and retirement account for a fortunate few. With the supply constrained by government fiat, the price of the taxicab medallion rose above $1 million, far in excess of what was envisioned and in fact, a barrier for working-class taxi drivers who wanted to get a piece of ownership in the industry. The medallion owners profited handsomely from this government-granted monopoly, deriving phenomenal unearned riches. Instead of working to improve their industry, medallion owners hired government lobbyists and donated to political campaigns to block change while simultaneously pleading poverty. The recent decline in the medallion price begs the question, are taxi medallions obsolete? In 1937, medallions were handed out for free to all individuals then operating as taxicab drivers to prevent a further increase of the 30,000-strong fleet. As taxis flooded into the city during the Great Depression, their presence alone caused congestion as they jostled for fares. The medallion limited the number of taxis roaming the avenues. Regulations encouraged passengers to hop in the first taxi that stopped, rather than inspecting and negotiating with every driver. Standard pricing (taximeter) and quality control (frequent taxi inspections) created a world-renowned brand — the New York City yellow taxicab. These regulations both protected passengers from being overcharged and propped up driver’s income. The New York City medallion taxi became wildly popular and complete over 500,000 trips per day. Unfortunately, two factors served to roil the medallion taxi industry: financial engineering and technological progress.  

The financial engineering led to a taxi medallion price bubble. As recently as 2011, Andrew Murstein, President of Medallion Financial (stock ticker: TAXI) referred to New York City medallions as “a safe asset” and is quoted in Bloomberg Business as saying, “These are little cash cows, constantly taking in fares and spitting out money to the owners.” It was commonly believed that as there is no depreciation in the asset, as if an owner defaulted you could simply repossess by popping the medallion off the hood of the taxicab and selling it to someone else. This combined with new entrants to the industry buying huge numbers of medallions at the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission auctions led to a meteoric rise in their price from $300,000 in 2004 to $1,250,000 in 2013. As owners became richer, medallions became a financial burden to the drivers, pushing the purchase price out of range and increasing the cost to rent medallions.   Recently, smartphone applications offered a new way to hail a taxi. The traditional method of matching drivers and passengers remains unchanged since the dawn of time. Drivers “cruise” their taxicabs in locations they believe passengers are waiting. Passengers wave their arms or shout in an attempt to attract their attention. In New York City, the taxi medallion conferred permission for drivers to pick up passengers in this fashion. Some areas have too many empty taxis, while other areas have too many passengers waiting. Both drivers and passengers are constantly hunting and fighting in an attempt to connect. The density of Manhattan allows this system to work, but it is stressful for both drivers and customers due to uncertain waiting times between matches. It is also wasteful, forcing drivers to clog the streets and pollute the air as they search for a passenger.   The installation of Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment in taxis combined with the ubiquity of smartphones upended this ancient dance. Now it is possible for a match to be made electronically by an on-demand car service. Drivers simply wait for an electronic request from a passenger. There are many companies providing an electronic marketplace for matching drivers and passenger. Uber is the most popular provider in New York City, but many other competitors such as Lyft, Sidecar, Curb and Gett are fighting in this space. Matching drivers and passengers electronically reduces, possibly eliminates wasteful cruising and lowers the blood pressure for both parties. As the matchmakers brand is at risk during every trip, they have an incen-

tive to remove drivers with poor quality vehicles or sloppy driving habits. As each trip is logged, anonymous overcharging by unscrupulous taxi drivers is eliminated. While the use of variable (surge) pricing can be problematic, at least there is a record of the trip to allow resolution by the matchmaker or the city government.   The pricing model to drive a medallion taxi or for an on-demand car service also varies dramatically. If a driver does not own a medallion, he or she is able to rent one from a current owner at the rate of $1,000 per week for the medallion only, and bolt it onto their car. Alternatively, a driver can rent a taxicab from a garage for about $120 per day for a 12-hour shift. At the beginning of every shift, the driver is collecting fares to pay the medallion owner. Alternatively, under the on-demand car model, it is simply a fee split, generally about 80 percent for the driver and 20 percent for the matchmaker. This allows greater flexibility for drivers, and a potential return of the part-time driver. As more and more passengers modernize their car hailing habits, the old method of standing on the street corner and waiting for a taxi show up is bound to change. The street hail may be reduced to high volume locations such as train stations, airports and Midtown Manhattan. This may lead to a further decline in the value of the medallion, as demand for the traditional street hail is reduced. Drivers are expected to benefit through an increase in their income and a more flexible working experience. Our city should be pleased that their regulatory burden is reduced as many of their tasks are successfully privatized. The Yellow Medallion Taxicab brand is still strong. It is possible they, too, can modernize — but medallion owners constant attempts to block change including lawsuits against the Taxi of Tomorrow, green boro taxis, hybrid taxis and Uber, just to name a few, do not bode well for the future of the New York City taxi medallion industry. One thing is certain — the New York City government should not provide a bailout to the medallion owners, as their greed and unrestrained borrowing led to their current credit crunch. We should welcome the era of improved taxi service brought on by American innovation. Gary Roth was Senior Policy Analyst at the Taxi and Limousine Commission where he worked from 2006-11, and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at Columbia University in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. .com

Rhymes With Crazy

Is Punishment to the Point of Destruction Justice? BY LENORE SKENAZY Emily Horowitz spends a lot of time with people that other professors don’t. Criminals. Domestic violence victims. Domestic violence perps. Sex offenders. Guys convicted of murder. A teacher of sociology and criminology at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, she introduces her students to the same folks she is meeting in an effort to change the lives of all of them. Horowitz is one of those people who walks the walk. Before coming to St. Francis, she got her Ph.D. in sociology at Yale, concentrating in women’s studies, and decided to spend a year in Brooklyn’s domestic violence court, watching as women finally got justice. But that wasn’t what she saw. “It was just poor and unemployed men being slammed over and over,” says Horowitz, a mom of four. Horowitz agrees that if a man slapped his partner, he should be punished. But she thought the harsh sentences she witnessed weren’t designed to improve anyone’s prospects. She began to regard the criminal justice system with curiosity: How much was overkill baked into the system? To find out, she started inviting convicts who had been exonerated to speak to her class. People such as Marty Tankleff (who falsely confessed to killing his parents), Jesse Friedman (notorious from the movie “Capturing the Friedmans”) and even Bernard Baran.

Who? “Bernard was a working-class, gay teenager who dropped out of high school in the late '80s because he was bullied. He started working at a daycare center,” says Horowitz. “But a couple went to the head of the daycare and said they didn’t want a ‘homo’ watching their son. And the daycare said, ‘We can’t fire a person because of that.’ Lo and behold, the couple alleged that Baran molested their son,” says Horowitz. Baran was found guilty and given three life sentences. The judge said that putting a gay man in a daycare center was like putting a chocoholic in a candy store — as if being a gay man and being a child molester were the same thing. The National Center for Reason and Justice championed Baran’s case, and he was finally freed after more than 20 years behind bars. He told the class what it was like to be a gay man in prison who had been convicted of child molestation: They put cigarettes out on his head. He was beaten. He was raped more than 30 times.  As he told his story, students wept. Those tears — and those students — will go on to make a difference, Horowitz says, because many of her


students pursue careers in law enforcement. “Now they will have a much more nuanced view of the people they’re dealing with,” she says. A couple of years ago, Horowitz taught a women’s studies class at the Bedford Hills women’s prison in Westchester. There she learned that until the '90s, prisoners could get financial aid for college courses. New York State put an end to that, and the number of inmates getting an education plummeted — even though the recidivism rate for people who get college degrees in prison is under five percent. But a trickle of students still do manage to take classes behind bars, and Horowitz is determined to make sure that at least some of them get the chance to earn their degrees once freed. So this school year, she

arranged for five formerly incarcerated students to matriculate at St. Francis. One has already proved such an amazing scholar — straight A’s — that the school is sending her on a Franciscan pilgrimage to Assisi. After all, St. Francis was all about helping and forgiveness. Her latest project is the just-published book “Protecting Our Kids? How Sex Offender Laws are Failing Us” (Praeger, 2015).  Ever the researcher, Horowitz discovered that the belief that sex offenders must be continually monitored to keep kids safe is based on fear, not fact.  “Once people are no longer a threat, you don’t have to punish them to the point where you destroy their lives,” she says. “I’m not pro sex offender, I’m pro move-on-with-yourlife-once-you’ve-been-punished.” Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids (

Celebrating LGBTQ Leaders Harlem Pride & Public Advocate Letitia James to honor leading LGBTQ businesses, entrepreneurs, & charities.

West 139th St. & Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd

June 15 at Hyacinth’s Haven networking from 6-8pm • free appetizers drink specials • raffle prizes


June 11 - 17, 2015




d n A

! n i W


iPad Mini & a Bottle of Absolut Vodka


2 Broadway Tickets & a Bottle of Absolut Vodka


An Absolut Vodka Pride Gift Basket




Any picture you snap at a Pride celebration in June qualifies

to All those entering will automatically receive updates on the contest & Gay City News newsletters and promotions.

to visit: and vote for your picture

Winning entries will be printed in the July 9 issue of Gay City News and posted online at Entries and voting start June 1 and close at noon on July 6. Enter as many times as you like. Must be 21 or over to enter. All entries subject to approval

Visit for rules and conditions


June 11 - 17, 2015


Chelsea Clinic Protests Shift Focus to Mayor BY DUNCAN OSBORNE During a protest outside City Hall, some 30 members of ACT UP New York called on the de Blasio administration to replace the HIV and sexually transmitted disease testing services that were lost when the city closed its Chelsea sexually transmitted disease clinic for a two-year-long renovation. “This city government cannot ignore the health, the public health, of the queer community,” said James Krellenstein, a member of the AIDS activist group, during the June 3 protest. The clinic, one of nine the city health department operates, closed on March 21 for a $17 million renovation of the nearly 80-year-old building. The Chelsea clinic reported the most annual visits among the nine clinics. The health department has been criticized for either not planning to replace the lost services or for poor planning. Those services are vital because Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen have the highest rate of syphilis infections in the city. The syphilis epidemic, as activists are calling it, has gone unabated since 2007. Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen also have the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the city. The syphilis and HIV rates in those neighborhoods result almost entirely from new infections among gay and bisexual men. The two neighborhoods also have high rates of gonorrhea and hepatitis C. The Chelsea clinic was also expected to be an important resource in the Plan to End AIDS that aims to reduce HIV infections in New York State from roughly 3,000 annually to 750 a year by 2020. People who have recently contracted a sexually transmitted disease may be at high risk for acquiring HIV. Such people could be candidates for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the consistent use of anti-HIV drugs by HIV-negative people to keep them uninfected. “The hardest part is getting the highest risk population,” Krellenstein said. “They have the goldmine here.” The health department has floated various proposals for replacing the lost services, with the most recent coming the night before the protest. In an email to City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who represents Chelsea and chairs the Health Committee, Dr. Mary Bassett, the city’s health commissioner, proposed steering clients to three nearby nonprofits, placing testing vans operated by six nonprofits outside .com

the clinic and adding a permanent city testing van. Altogether, this would cover 23,000 annual visits, according to Bassett. Since 2012, the Chelsea clinic has had roughly 20,000 visits every year. The city will also expand and modernize its testing and lab facilities in its permanent van. In the original proposal, the six vans were to be at the clinic through September. It is not clear that the three nonprofits have the capacity to add thousands of new visits annually, though one of them, the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, has already added 105 sexual health visits to its weekly schedule, or just over 5,400 every year. “They suddenly have told us that these clinics will be able to do 15,000 visits a year,” said Jim Eigo, an ACT UP member. “I’m afraid the [health department] is just pulling numbers out of the air.” The Chelsea clinic testing was also free, and could be anonymous. Those services are harder to find at private nonprofits. Activists want to see sufficient cash allocated to fund “expanded HIV/STD testing and treatment at neighborhood clinics,” an “inexpensive, prefabricated temporary clinic” at the Chelsea site, “funds to expedite the renovations of the shuttered clinic,” and a community board to oversee the renovation. While earlier complaints focused on the city health department, the June 3 protest aimed some of the frustration and anger at Mayor Bill de Blasio. Some signs read “De Blasio, the blood is on your hands,” “De Blasio blasé on STDs” and “Mr. Mayor: You make us sick.” A June 3 visit to the closed Chelsea clinic showed that asbestos abatement has begun at the site, but also revealed that people continue to go there expecting the clinic to be open. A city health department employee who was stationed there to send people to another city clinic on W. 100th St. or to the nearby private providers told our sister publication, Gay City News, that she had spoken with 20 people seeking services that day. Staff from the AIDS group Harlem United, which had its mobile health van parked outside the clinic on June 3, said they saw about 10 people for sexually transmitted disease screening and three for primary health screening. Data that was distributed at a May 15 meeting of activists and senior

Courtesy Gay City News

At a June 3 protest, demonstrators called out Mayor Bill de Blasio over the city’s widely panned handling of the Chelsea STD clinic closing.

health department staff suggests that visits to city clinics are down generally through mid-April. The data also suggests the decline is attributable to the Chelsea clinic closing. Syphilis diagno-

ses also appear to have declined since the Chelsea clinic closed. This article was originally posted June 4, on

June 8-12, 2015 MarketingWeekNYC™ is a week-long initiative created by the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce to address the one of the most important small business needs: how to attract and keep customers! MarketingWeekNYC™ will include a number of events that address a variety of marketing verticals including: Marketing Strategic Planning, Social Media, Print, Radio and TV, Public Relations and Branding. Featured Event: MarketingWeekNYC Kickoff Event: June 8th 2015 How We Broke The Internet: NYC Success Stories that Change the Way We Do Business For event details and a full list of MarketingWeekNYC Events see

June 11 - 17, 2015



Photo courtesy Ballet Tech

Students from Ballet Tech aim high and land at the Joyce, June 11-14.


NEW YORK CITY COMMUNITY CHORUS PRESENTS “NICE WORK, IRA! — A TRIBUTE TO IRA GERSHWIN” Everything old is new again, when the non-sectarian New York City Community Chorus celebrates its 20th Anniversary by returning to the scene of their very first concert: Chelsea’s Church of the Holy Apostles. “Twenty years ago,” recalls chorus director and co-founder Jack Eppler, “I had this idea that anyone could sing. So we started a no-audition chorus that turns no one away. We grew organically — learning the ‘business of arts’ and how to keep ourselves going. While it can be a struggle, here we are today, in a vastly different Chelsea, and our mission of restoring singing to the community still resonates.” One thing that hasn’t changed is the door policy: come one, come all, and pay what you can. This anniversary concert, a tribute to the work of quintessential New York personality Ira Gershwin, features jazz artist Jeannine Otis as the guest soloist and chorus selections including “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “Slap That Bass” and an audience sing-along to “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” Sun., June 14, 4 p.m. at Church of the Holy Apostles (296 Ninth Ave. at 28th St.). Suggested donation: $12. For more info, visit

PANEL ON PUBLIC PARKS & PRIVATE MONEY The Chelsea Reform Democratic Club’s June general meeting, open to the public, will feature a panel on the role of private funding in the creation, and maintenance, of our parks. Discussing the issue, and taking your questions, will be Mark Levine (Chair, NYC Council Committee on Parks), Deborah Marton (Exec. Director, NY Restoration Project), Noreen Doyle (Exec. VP, Hudson River Park Trust) and Susan Lerner (Exec. Dir. Common Cause NY). Free. Thurs., June 18, 7 p.m. at the Hudson Guild’s Elliott Center (441 W. 26th St., near 10th Ave.). More info at

Photo by Zack Kron

The NYC Community Chorus celebrates its long life with a tribute to the timeless music of Ira Gershwin, June 14 at Chelsea’s Church of the Holy Apostles.

KIDS DANCE AT THE JOYCE Ranging in ages from nine to 14, over three dozen students from Ballet Tech (NYC’s tuition-free public school for dance) return to The Joyce Theater for their annual program of ensemble work choreographed by Brooklyn-born Eliot Feld. This year’s selections include the premiere of the drum and bugle fanfare “A Yankee Doodle,” along with a standout from the 2014 program: “KYDZNY” (with music by the Raya Brass Band). Also featured, the daffy “Dotty Polkas,” whose moves are set to the works of Johann Strauss II and Josef Strauss. Thurs.–Sat., June 11–13 at 7 p.m. Sat./Sun., June 13–14 at 2 p.m. At the Joyce Theater (175 Eighth Ave. at 19th St.). For tickets ($10-$39), call 212-2420800 or visit Also visit


June 11 - 17, 2015

Courtesy Pier55, Inc./Heatherwick Studio

The Diller-funded Pier55 is a certain topic, at June 18’s panel discussion on private money and public parks.


Burgeoning Bar Scene a Devil’s Bargain, Say Hell’s Kitchenites

The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce LGBTQ Network & Gay City News present Getting Married? Come to our

LGBT BoutiQ Wedding Expo FREE to attend! June 16, 6 - 8pm

Photo by Alicia Green

Pedestrians compete against Ariba Ariba’s (762 Ninth Ave. at 51st St.) sidewalk cafe, a motorized bicycle and trash cans.

Continued from page 4 on Agenda Item 1 — a letter to the hotel regarding violations of their state liquor license stipulations. “Three years ago, they asked you to support their bid for a liquor license in exchange for a series of written promises made to then-Chair Corey Johnson,” said Lavios. “These stipulations were never met. They call it a ‘misunderstanding.’ They were supposed to put sound attenuation materials on the twenty-fourth floor, but they say they read it as being for the ‘floor,’ not on the literal floor, which is what we wanted.” Lavios noted that they had asked the venue to not permit live bands and dancing, as the venue has no cabaret license. But as he noted, “every one of their parties has dancing.” He asked CB4 to take them to task for these violations. When the board discussed this issue, member Tina DeFeliciantonio said that they had written to the new manager .com

of the Hudson to inform them of the violation of stipulations, saying, “They might not know, so we are documenting the background and giving them a short time limit to respond.” CB4 is expecting a response by July 3. “They are taking this extremely seriously, so our feeling is that we want to see how they will respond,” said DeFeliciantonio. Several board members called for a harsher response, including cc’ing the Social Club Task Force on the letter, but leadership maintained that this was only the first salvo. “We are walking a careful line between slamming them and putting up an ultimatum. We want them to fix it,” said CB4 Chair Christine Berthet. “They have already stopped some of their most egregious practices, but we have to be delicate about some issues, because a portion of their space is licensed for music but another portion isn’t. It makes no sense, but we must navigate this carefully.”

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June 11 - 17, 2015


Gay Men’s Health Care Needs a Shot of Prevention BY RICHARD E. GREENE, MD & PERRY N. HALKITIS, PhD, MS, MPH Over the past 30-plus years, conversations between primary health care providers and their gay patients have focused largely on HIV prevention or treatment, along with other sexually transmitted infections. And while these are significant issues, they cannot be the only elements that define health care. Our approach must be more expansive, especially for the new generation of young gay men. As our research at NYU’s Center for Health, Identity, Behavior & Prevention Studies (CHIBPS) has shown, concern for HIV, while important, is not their primary concern. In our ongoing P18 Cohort Study, young men rank finances, appearance and job security higher than concern about HIV, which ranked 18th in a list of 40 priority factors. For this and numerous other reasons, health care must be delivered more holistically and be less HIV-centric if we are to effectively engage all gay men in active and routine care. Vaccinations are a critical, yet often overlooked element in a more expanded framework for the delivery of health care to gay men. A specific set of vaccinations is critical to preventing diseases that are more common in our population. Unfortunately, the discussion of vaccinations is often tangential, leaving many to go unvaccinated for highly preventable diseases. This missed opportunity is best exemplified with regard to Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted by skin-to-skin contact and can lead to warts or increase the risk of cancer. Strains of HPV in women increase the risk of cervical cancer, and newer research shows that HPV can increase the risk of anal cancer. There’s even some evidence to show that it may increase the risk of mouth and throat cancers in people who perform oral sex. But vaccination among gay men is sub-par. In the P18 Cohort Study, we found that of 418 young men who are currently 22 to 23 years old and meet clear criteria for vaccination, close to 61 percent have not been vaccinated for HPV. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all gay men ages 26 and under should have the HPV vaccine. Given in three separate injections, it is most effective if administered in full before someone first becomes sexually active. Ideally, it would be given to boys at 12 or 13 years old (even if you have .com

been exposed, there is evidence that vaccination can confer some protection). All three shots may be required for full vaccination. In P18, of the young men who indicate they have received Courtesy of CHIBPS HPV vaccination, In the P18 Cohort Study, young men rank concern about only 30 percent HIV as 18th in a list of 40 possible concerns, behind have received the finances, appearance, and job security. full dose. seemed to contract it during the outAnother preventable disease is Hepatitis B. As with break. There hasn’t been a case in HIV, it can be transmitted through almost a year, but the disease is quite blood and semen — but unlike HIV, serious and the vaccine is a one-time it primarily affects your liver, and can vaccine (or two shots, a month apart, if lead to liver failure or even liver cancer. you have HIV). Ultimately, these vaccinations and Occasionally, people who are infected can clear the virus before it causes any other health-promoting strategies (like not smoking cigarettes, regular exercise, ongoing problems. In 1991, the Hep B vaccine became eating well, moderating alcohol use, recommended for all children in the and seeking mental health care) are U.S. If someone is unsure of their vac- critical to enhancing the overall health cination status, there’s a simple blood of gay men since, as a population, our test to check for immunity. Screening health is defined by more than just HIV. and vaccination for Hep B has become even more important with the use of the medication Truvada for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP, the consistent use of anti-HIV drugs by HIV-negative people to keep them uninfected), since Truvada can treat Hep B as well. However, if someone’s risk for HIV goes down and they are planning to stop the Truvada, they need to discuss other treatments for Hep B with their health care provider. Like Hep B, Hep A is also highly preventable. Less scary than Hep B because it is not permanent, Hep A can, in rare cases, be fatal. Like Hep B, it has effects on the liver. Those folks who get it feel miserable, with terrible abdominal pain and possible clay-colored stool. Hep A can be transmitted by oral and anal sexual activity (including rimming). Since 1996, the CDC has recommended this vaccination for all gay men and, since 2006, for all children. Finally, about two years ago there was an outbreak of bacterial meningitis in New York City among gay men. Bacterial meningitis is serious business — it’s an infection of the lining around the brain and is often deadly if not picked up and treated early. Of the 22 cases in NYC, seven of the men died. Meningitis is not generally considered to be a sexually transmitted infection, but only those who were sexually active

However, this also requires receiving care regularly — and as our P18 study shows, close to 40 percent of young men with whom we spoke to had not received any care in the last year. So as we work towards vaccinating gay men against highly preventable diseases, we must also think through ways in which we can deliver care to gay men, especially young gay men — in places they navigate socially, and outside the clinic or doctor’s office. Such venues may not only help to enhance uptake of care and vaccinations, but may also help to more fully realize the potential of strategies like PrEP that require regular health care visits. Richard E. Greene is Assistant Professor of Medicine and Medical Director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior & Prevention Studies and Perry N. Halkitis is Professor of Applied Psychology, Global Public Health, & Medicine, and Director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior & Prevention Studies at New York University (@DrPNHalkitis; If you are interested in participating in studies or learning more about their research, visit

June 11 - 17, 2015


The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce & Chelsea Now Support


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he “East Village Loves� campaign is conceived by the East Village Independant Merchants Association (EVIMA) and encourages residents and visitors to shop local at their favorite East Village spots. Many businesses affected by the blast have re-opened and are ready for your visit.

The campaign is a celebration of the rich, diverse, and historic neighborhood in lower manhattan, characterized by a concentration of mom-and-pop establishments that are becoming less common throughout the city



June 11 - 17, 2015


Hoylman’s Panel Assesses Threats to Hudson River Ecosystem Continued from page 3 he said. “The problem is that initially [the] EPA only required GE to clean up 65 percent of the pollution in just the Upper Hudson.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that if the dredging work is stopped now, there could be the equivalent of a series of Superfund caliber sites in the Hudson River, said Raichel. With GE planning to finish soon, they could then dismantle an estimated $200 million cleanup facility, he said. “Once they break up and dismantle this facility, it may be generations before we have the opportunity to do the type of clean up that we can do right now,” he said. GE can come to the table and negotiate with all federal actors “to make sure that all New Yorkers get the safe and usable river that they deserve,” he said. One of three things is going to happen: GE is going to pay for it, the taxpayers can pay for it, or the PCBs are just going to sit there, said Raichel. Hoylman asked what’s going to get GE back to the bargaining table. “I think it’s going have to be intense public pressure and visibility of this issue,” said Raichel. “GE is kind of hoping that everybody’s going to be asleep on this issue. We’re trying to put as much pressure on the company to do the right thing.” The National Resources Defense Council, Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper and others have organized a campaign for a cleaner Hudson. (More information and a petition are at “If it weren’t for the campaign for a cleaner Hudson, GE would control this narrative,” said Raichel. “They say they’re doing the EPA clean up. They’re doing everything they possibly can and that they should have to do no more than that.” “The next two months is crucial 'cause they’re well on their way to completing their final year of currently mandated dredging,” said Paul Gallay, president and Hudson riverkeeper for Riverkeeper. Hoylman said he is circulating a letter among his senate colleagues — addressed to Governor Andrew Cuomo and GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt — “to put pressure on them to revisit the dredging and make certain that they don’t leave before the job is finished.” .com

Courtesy Office of State Senator Brad Hoylman

State Senator Brad Hoylman called crude oil trains (in spilling distance of the Hudson) a “pipeline on wheels.”

GE declined to comment. PCBs are not the only threat to the Hudson’s health. Hayley Carlock, environmental attorney for Scenic Hudson, explained that every week there are 25 to 35 trains carrying crude oil on the bank of the Hudson. Around three years ago, Bakken crude was discovered in North Dakota and production skyrocketed. The amount of crude oil shipped by rail has increased 4,000 percent since 2012, said Carlock, “and that’s why the risk has risen so greatly.” Bakken crude is unrefined petroleum that is very flammable, she explained. Much of it — over one third of the Bakken crude — goes down the Hudson River from Albany to New York City, which is destined for refineries in New Jersey and Philadelphia. Train derailment of Bakken crude could lead to devastating explosions and fire, said Carlock. If the Bakken crude were spilled in the Hudson, the bestcase scenario is 20 to 25 percent of the oil could be recovered, she said. The Hudson Valley is “the last place that something like this should be shipped,” said Carlock. “It’s basically a pipeline on wheels,” said Hoylman. “We all have to be concerned with that.”

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Chelsea Music Fest Serves Music, Food To Fit All Tastes Continued from page 1 linguistic heritage,” assert the artistic directors. In order to pay tribute to these unique musical cultures, the Masurs set out to assemble a program of diverse and talented musicians from abroad — the first of which is the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, whose members will kick the Festival off at June 12’s Opening Night Gala. Avanti!, who describe themselves as “an ensemble consisting of anything from a single player to a symphony orchestra,” that “operates freely over different eras and genres” was selected to be CMF’s Ensemble-in-Residence this year. The Masurs recalled that they wanted to offer the ensemble the position after they “Witnessed the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra in their native Finland and were thoroughly taken by their fiery music making and unorthodox interpretation,” back in 2009. “Each concert with Avanti! promises to be a breath of fresh Finnish air,” they assure, including their participation in a June 13 “Fiddle Off,” and June 15’s “Carte Blanche” evening. One of the most interesting acts booked for this year’s CMF is Loop Doctors. Representing a slight (or perhaps drastic) change of pace from the classical music and jazz that dominates the program, the Loop Doctors offer something different, and a little difficult to peg down. The Masurs describe the group’s sound as “A medley of different styles, including jazz, drum ‘n’ bass, jungle, hip-hop and rap. An overall category could be nu-jazz, but Loop Doctors can also be seen in clubs, where people actually dance to the music.” The group is set to play on June 19, at what is known as the “Late Night” event, which serves up a “cutting-edge take” on the festival’s theme. The Doctors’ distinctive brand of trippy, funky, infectious music, especially as joined by saxophonist Chris Hunter, certainly fits this bill. “For this concert only, Loop Doctors will prepare four pieces from well-known Hungarian contemporary composers and add their distinct electro-drum’n’bass-jazz touch to the compositions,” guarantee the Masurs. Equally diverse and talented performers populate the rest of the festival, from The Lee Trio (a group comprised of three string-playing sis-


June 11 - 17, 2015

Courtesy of the artists

The players of Avanti! Chamber Orchestra will be featured heavily in this year’s CMF.

Courtesy of the artists

Loop Doctors set to get you moving with their infectious beats on June 19.

ters, including Melinda Lee Masur) to the Santa Diver Trio (spearheaded by jazz-violinist Luca Kézdy). But the festival’s celebration of Finnish and Hungarian culture extends even further than the music — various events also feature authentic cuisine courtesy of Sami Tallberg and Carl Frederiksen, Culinary Artists-in-Residence. Closing out the festival on June 20 is Tuomo Uusitalo, a Finnish jazz-pianist who, as of 2012, has called New York City his home. Approached to arrange and perform some works by Sibelius himself, Uusitalo notes, “It’s a great thing for me to arrange some of

his music for the festival, which I wanted to do already for a while.” He’ll be joined by bassist Myles Sloniker, and, at the request of the Artistic Directors, by Finnish drummer Olavi Louhivuori — “Which is great because I’ve been a big fan of all of his music for years and years,” Uusitalo divulges. In arranging Sibelius’ music to suit his jazz style, Uusitalo tries to find pieces that touch him personally, and then, “try to keep the real essence of what he really meant.” “Most of Sibelius’ music is very, in a positive sense, nationalistic,” he says, noting, “There are a lot of strong

feelings about what it means to be Finnish,” and he wishes to capture that feeling, and the feeling of nature, both calm and harsh, that his music evokes. In addition to Sibelius pieces, Uusitalo plans on performing some original music as well as jazz standards, perhaps including works by famous Hungarian composer of popular songs, Sigmund Romberg. Ultimately, the Artistic Directors see the Festival as an event that will enrich the lives of Chelsea residents, which they refer to as “one of New

Continued on page 23 .com

ARTS&ENTERTAINMENT Kiss Punch Poem a Magnet for ‘Beatiful Creative Panic’ Verse and improv collide at weekly series BY PUMA PERL When I first heard about Kiss Punch Poem, a weekly series at the Magnet Theater that merges poetry and comedic improv, my initial reaction was that there were two ways this could go: painfully bad or insanely hilarious. I am pleased to report that my experience reflects the second supposition. The blend of a talented group of improvisers, known as the Kiss Punch Poem Ensemble, with featured writers performing original work, accomplishes its goal of bringing about the unexpected in both comedic and poetic ways. The event follows a specific formula, beginning with an exquisite corpse poem written in collaborative fashion by audience members prior to the show. Exquisite corpse is a poetry game that originated in the Parisian Surrealistic Movement, in which a paper is passed around and each player writes a word or image and the end result forms a poem. In this case, each participant writes a line, and a volunteer reads the finished product. The Kiss Punch Poem Ensemble then improvises a scene based on what they heard. This first improv, pretty much a warm-up for the show, is followed by the first of three featured poets. An improv takes place after each reading, and at the evening’s conclusion one or two of the poet members create a brand new end poem for the audience, inspired by the show. On the night that I attended, I was honored to be one of the three features, along with Taylor Mali, a well-known poet, educator and teacher advocate, and Mason Granger, a talented poet who decribes himself as “part comic and part hip-hop.” Both Mali and Granger were familiar with the format, so I paid close attention to their choices. And then I agonized. I had selected a poem that was rich in narrative and imagery, thinking that it would lend itself to improvisational work, but listening to Mali read a poem called “Undivided Attention,” I wondered whether my subject matter was too dark for the audience to enjoy. Learning that Granger’s piece .com

Photo by Lisa Flanagan

The Kiss Punch Poem ensemble is not afraid to make light of the darkness.

Photo by Lynn Cappiello

Performance poet Mason Granger’s Seuss-themed reading inspired the Kiss Punch Poem troupe to improvise equally farcical acts of silliness.

was entitled “Dr. Seuss” did not boost my confidence. I grabbed my book and quickly chose a lighter poem. I recited it in my head and rejected it. Selected another. Not quite right. “First thought, best thought,” Allen Ginsburg intoned in my head, and I resignedly returned to my original choice. Mali was concluding his poem, about the distraction of watching a Steinway piano being moved out a window while he was trying to give a math lesson, and ending with

the haunting line “Let me teach like the first snow, falling.” The troupe raced onto the stage as he exited. My next task would be to stay focused so I could take my place center stage just as they concluded their final improvisational skit — if my timing was off, they would return and continue. Meanwhile, troupe member Nathan was playing the part of the piano, hanging from a window that’s part of the simple set, as a combination of wit and slapstick kept the audience laughing. And thinking.

I managed to get onstage in time to read a poem called “Gallery Walls,” about the experience of viewing photographic images of my past at a gallery opening, and feeling invisible in my present. As I said, a bit dark for this sort of thing, but the audience was quiet and attentive. “Photographs lined the gallery walls,” it began. “Kids pushed carts down abandoned streets.” I finished, the troupe raced on, Kiss Punch Poem co-founder Alex Marino leaned back in his chair, crossed his legs and remarked to two troupe members, “Yeah, those little effin’ brats and their shopping carts,” and they were off. The painful aspects of my life that the poem reflected were now hilarious, as presented by The Surreal Three Stooges. When I told Alex later about my trepidations regarding my choice, he responded that they loved to be presented with serious matter, as it offers a different kind of challenge than a humorous piece, which is already funny. Perhaps a lot of money could be saved on therapy if poets simply bring their angst to the venue and watch it dissolve into the ridiculous. The final piece, “Dr. Seuss,” brilliantly performed by Mason Granger, inspired even broader dimensions of farce and silliness, sort of The Surreal Three Stooges On Acid — and then it was time for the end poem. Poets Thomas Fucaloro and Jared Singer traded off lines, creating a duet of sweet sensibility, picking up words from one another as segue. Although they are very different types of writers, a cohesive piece emerged, including elements from the poems read by the features and highlighting the Dr. Seuss character, Sam (of Sam-I-Am) as an innocent voice. “There is an angel to be found in all of us” was one of the parting lines. Kiss Punch debuted in 2011 as part of an experimental performance show the Magnet Theater called “Test Drive.” “If you had an idea for a show you could pitch it, get a slot and try it out,” Alex explained. “If it worked,

Continued on page 20 June 11 - 17, 2015


Spontaneity and Structure Give ‘Poem’ Punch

Photo by Lynn Cappiello

Riffing on Taylor Mali’s poem, troupe member Nathan plays the part of a distracting piano being moved out of a window.


Continued from page 19







June 11 - 17, 2015


you would get another chance.” Kiss Punch played to a packed audience, receiving a standing ovation and, eventually, proving its potential to capture an audience. Alex was already teaching improv at the theater when he met Meghan Plunkett, a “poet slinking around the Bowery Poetry Club,” as she put it. She started to attend the initial performances and became interested in the fusion of poetry and improv, convincing Alex to visit the Bowery Poetry Club and meet her poet friends. The two decided that their poet and actor buddies needed to get together and create something, and that’s how the improv group fused into Kiss Punch Poem, with Alex and Meghan co-producing the resulting project. They both participate in the performances as well. The popularity of the series has won it a weekly slot at the theater, and the troupe has toured around the country. When asked the ways in which improv informs her work as a poet, Meghan responded that a lot of her poems have been inspired by scenes that come from the show. “Improv allows

you to look at life with a different lens,” she said. “One of my favorite things to do is to write the end piece, a poem that is written while the show explodes on stage. Having fifty minutes to write a poem based on improv ignites a beautiful kind of creative panic. There is no time to censor yourself, and you begin to wonder, ‘Why did I ever censor myself?’” It was Alex who originally came up with the idea of the end piece. “I had always been really in love with the idea of someone watching the whole show and writing a poem on the spot. I thought it would be so cool if someone could improvise that end poem, and one night we were all playing pool at some bar and Jared Singer said, ‘You know, that’s what I do, right? I started doing poetry by improvising poems for my college improv troupe.’ So that’s sort of how he got involved.” The bonds of friendship and a shared sensibility create the trust that must exist with any group operating without a net. The cast includes performers with credits from NPR, The Onion, Second City and other respected venues. It has been favorably reviewed by Time Out Chicago and The American Reader, and praised by Mark Smith, founder of Slam Poetry. “Their performance took me back to the formative years of the slam,” he wrote. “It was exhilarating.” What I like most is the blend of the raw and the personal with the giddy feeling of jumping as high as you can without knowing where you will land — or when, or if. One of the qualities that separates a great poem from a good one is the element of surprise, and Kiss Punch Poem, on a weekly basis, aims for greatness and brings the audience and the guest features right along with them. “Kiss Punch Poem” takes place every Sat., 9 p.m., at the Magnet Theater (254 W. 29th St. at Eighth Ave.). $10 admission. For more info, visit and The next “Puma Perl’s Pandemonium” will be Fri., June 19, 7 p.m. at Bowery Electric Map Room (327 Bowery at Joey Ramone Place). No cover, no admission, 21+. Poetry and Rock and Roll featuring poets Ted Jonathan, Corrina Bain and Linda Rizzo, musicians Jeff Ward and Sarah Amina, Puma Perl and Friends and more. Visit .com

Just Do Art

© Lois Greenfield

Photo courtesy of the artist

Parsons Dance (pictured), the Paul Taylor Dance Company and Ballet Hispanico put feet to Pier 63, at June 17–18’s Hudson River Dance Festival.

Andra Gabrielle’s workspace will be among those open to the public, at June 13/14’s West Chelsea Artists Open Studio Tour.


HUDSON RIVER DANCE FESTIVAL The inaugural edition of the Hudson River Dance Festival puts its focus on modern American dance, with performances from three dynamic companies known for their frequent appearances at The Joyce Theater (a festival co-sponsor). Among the featured works: The Paul Taylor Dance Company will perform 1991’s “Company B,” which juxtaposes Andrews Sisters songs with the sacrifices made by those who lived through the vocal group’s World War II heyday. “Nascimento,” a classic from the Parsons Dance canon, is a high-flying celebration of the Brazilian spirit penned by one of that country’s premiere composers after he saw the troupe perform at Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro. More graceful athleticism is on display, when Ballet Hispanico performs “Sombrerísimo,” in which six male dancers evoke the surrealist world of the Belgian painter René Magritte (he of the paintings of men in bowler hats). Free. An identical program plays on Wed. & Thurs., June 17 & 18, 6:30 p.m. at Hudson River Park’s Pier 63 Lawn (23rd St. & the Hudson River). For the full schedule, visit

WEST CHELSEA ARTISTS OPEN STUDIOS TOUR This annual self-guided tour gives you the opportunity to enter the minds — and the work spaces — of more than 30 West Chelsea artists, in nine buildings along the High Line between Westbeth Artists building and the West Chelsea Arts building. In close proximity to the tools of the trade and the fruits of their labors, this event encourages dialogue and provides a window into the creative process. Best of all? Much of what’s on display is up for grabs, at considerably better rates than what you’d pay for in a gallery setting. Free. From 12-6 p.m. on Sat. & Sun., June 13 & 14, in the West Chelsea Gallery District. The self-guided tour starts at the West Chelsea Arts building (508-526 W. 26th St. btw. 10th & 11th Aves.), where visitors .com

Photo by Ben Trivett

On June 13, Cyndi Freeman, Erin Barker and Caitlan Brodnick bare their souls on the matter of their breasts. See “Navigating the Science of Genetic Testing for Cancer Risk.”

can pick up tour maps. For more info, visit Maps also available now at the stores of event sponsor, DaVinci Artist Supply (132 W. 21st, 137 E. 23rd & 170 E. 70th Sts.), Westbeth Artists Housing (lobby, 55 Bethune St.), Macelleria Restaurant (48 Gansevoort Ave.), Skyframe (141 W. 28th St. 12th fl.) and Vasari Classic Artists’ Oil Colors 547 W. 27th St. Suite 628).

CAITY & CYNDI’S BOOBS: NAVIGATING THE SCIENCE OF GENETIC TESTING FOR CANCER RISK A few decades ago, they would have gone to the bookstore and bought a copy of “First You Cry” — Betty Rollin’s culture-changing 1976 account of her breast cancer diagnosis. But for Caitlin Brodnick and Cyndi Freeman, coping mechanisms deployed upon testing positive for the breast cancer gene included drinking heavily, becoming a stripper, gaining new-

found respect for Angeline Jolie and coming up with a killer plan to stay alive. As science rapidly advances in its ability to predict our medical future, prevention becomes a matter of everything from surgery to preemptively choosing embryos based on genetics. Delving into everything from ethics to health care to sexuality, seasoned storytellers Brodnick and Freeman will come clean on their own diagnosis, then converse in a panel session moderated by Erin Barker (a senior producer for Story Collider, which presents true, science-themed stories). A Q&A follows the panel. All three women are veterans of The Moth and prolific autobiographers in a variety of mediums — making this an evening whose sober topic is handled with graphic honesty and a strong dose of medicinal humor. Sat., June 13, 8 p.m. at UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place btw. First Ave. & Ave. A). For tickets ($15, $12 for students), visit June 11 - 17, 2015



June 11 - 17, 2015


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Finnish jazz pianist Tuomo Uusitalo will close the Festival with arrangements of Sibelius.

Continued from page 18 York City’s most dynamic neighborhoods,” which possesses a “creative spirit.” Their eagerness to take advantage of “the unique spaces including intimate art galleries, former warehouses and beautiful historic churches” to present site-specific work, and their excitement over being able “to contribute to the fabric of the community through family events, outreach and education events at schools and other public spaces,” speaks to the special appeal that Chelsea, and New York as a whole, has for artists, and why festivals like CMF are able to thrive. Uusitalo also speaks eloquently of the city’s unique appeal. “There is no other place like New York,” he says of his adopted home. “I think there never was another place .com

that was so full of jazz — especially jazz, but also other culture. You can find, you know, all kinds of stuff. It seems like in New York you have more of everything.” And when events as exciting and illuminating as the Chelsea Music Festival happening regularly, it’s hard to disagree with him. The Chelsea Music Festival happens June 12–20, at venues including Canoe Studios, St. Paul’s German Lutheran Church, Scandinavia House, Leo Baeck Institute, Norwood, and Finnish Lutheran at St. John’s Church. Tickets range from $8-$68. Discounts available for people under 30 and seniors, with ID. For reservations and a full schedule, including info on free events, visit Twitter: @cmf_nyc. Also see facebook. com/chelseamusicfestival.


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June 11 - 17, 2015


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